15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Statement by Mr. Forgan Smith.
– Has the attention of the Acting Leader of the House been drawn to the publication in this morning’s press of the statement by the Queensland Premier, Mr. Forgan Smith, in the Parliament of that State yesterday, that he had statutory declarations, letters and documents, and photostats, proving that a dummy Australian company, purporting to have Australian directors and shareholders, had supplied information to foreign interests in regard to Australian mineral resources, waterways along the north coast, and places at which seaplanes might land, and that details of this information had been supplied to the Department of Defence? Can the right honorable gentleman say whether that department has yet received the information, and is he in a position to make any statement in regard thereto?
– This statement was brought to my notice last night. I then said that I assumed that the Premier of Queensland would at once communicate with the Commonwealth Government. So far, this communication has not been received. It will probably he in theform of a letter, and when it comes to hand it will be given the closest attention of the Government.
– Is the Minister for Defence able to inform me whether any communication from Mr. Forgan Smith has been sent to his department?
– The Acting Leader of the House has already answered that question. All I can add is that no information from Mr. Forgan Smith had been received at the head-quarters of the Defence Department up to 2.55 o’clock this afternoon. If that gentleman has made any representations to the department it must have been to a subordinate officer in Queensland.
– Has the Minister for Development any report to make on’ the efforts of his department to discover a parasite for the red-legged mite?
– The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, principally in the person of Mr. Norris, has been engaged for some time in Western Australia on research into the red-legged mite. A pamphlet on this subject was recently published by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I shall make it available to the honorable gentleman. Investigations with a view to discovering an effective parasite have been proceeding in the south of France and in the United States of America, but so far without success. These investigations are still in progress.
– Can the Acting Leader of the House furnish any information concerning the progress of the negotiations for a trade agreement between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of “America? Can he also give particulars of the progress of the negotiations for a trade agreement between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the United States of America?
– There is no definite news as to when the agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States of America will be concluded, but it is expected that that stage will be reached in a very short period. Both Australia and the United States of America are closely examining the various items in their proposed trade agreement.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House state whether any conditions are imposed by the Loan Council which prevent shires and municipalities from borrowing privately for public works?
– All State governmental loans are a matter of scrutiny and discussion by the Loan Council. Semi-governmental loans do not actually come under the terms of the Financial Agreement, but they have been the matter ofagentlemen’s agreement between the various States through the Loan Council.
Entry into Australia. .
– Has the attention of the Acting Leader of the House been drawn to the statement published in the press to-day that a refugee liner has been booked for Australia, and that 900 persecuted Europeans are coming to this country? Is the Government adopting the policy of bringing refugees to Australia to add to the increasing unemployment in this country?
– I have not seen the paragraph to which the honorable member has referred. That is not the policy of the Government.
– For a number of years, practically the whole of the butter box requirements of Australia were obtained from New Zealand, but during the regime of the Savage Government in that dominion an embargo on the export of this particular timber has been in operation. Will the Assistant Minister for Commercestate whether experiments were recently carried out by the Department of Commerce into the use of caseinsprayed and parchfoil-lined hemlock, with a view to determining its suitability or otherwise for the export butter trade? If so, when were they carried out, and were the results satisfactory?
– Experiments were carried out during the last butter export season, and several thousand boxes were shipped. Where parchfoil was used, or where the boxes were sprayed with casein and parchment was used, the results were quite satisfactory, but where certain other methods were employed the results were not so satisfactory. One result observed was that there was a greater percentage of breakage of boxes among hemlock than among other timbers. As to the future, the Commonwealth Governmentsome time in August referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report the general position in regard to supplies of Australian timber which are available for the manufacture of butter boxes. The report of the board is not yet to hand.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that numbers of public servants who were transferred to Canberra, and who have had their names on the housing list for the last five years, have not yet been accommodated ? What action does the honorable gentleman propose to take with a view to accommodating those officers and their families ?
– The honorable member’s question contains a statement which is incorrect. I recently made a pronouncement of the Government’s intentions in regard to housing in Canberra in the terms of this year’s budgetary provision.
– In view of the answer supplied to my question to-day with regard to accommodation for public servants in Canberra, if I can supply the name of an officer who has unsuccessfully made application for a home during the last four or five years will the Minister for the Interior see that this man and his family are provided with accommodation? I understand that some homes are vacant.
– Yes, I shall be glad to act on the suggestion of the honorable member. I would like to point out, however, that, in his earlier question, he said that there were public servants in the general transfer to Canberra who during the whole of the five years were not provided with a home. I do not think that that statement is correct.
– Can the Minister for Defence say whether there is any truth in the report current in Brisbane that his department “ has been approached with a request for the formation of two new regiments in Queensland, one English, and the other Welsh?
– I have no specific information on the matter, but I shall have inquiries made.
– ‘Oan the Treasurer state whether blind persons in employment will be expected by the Government to contribute under the national health and pensions insurance scheme?
– The act that was passed through this House some months ago contains a provision conferring a privilege on persons of the kind whom the honorable member has mentioned. However, if he desires more specific information, I shall be glad to get it for him.
– Can the Treasurer inform me whether invitations have been issued to representatives of all approved societies to attend the coming conference in Canberra?
– If that course had been taken a conference of unworkable size would have resulted. I have already attempted to explain to the House the procedure which the National Insurance Commission has adopted in connexion with this conference. It is not desired to hold a conference that would be so large as 10 be unworkable. No useful purpose would be served if that course were followed.
– In view of the fact that the organizations which are being established as approved societies consist of trade unions, friendly societies, and employer’s organizations, what method is to be adopted by the National Insurance Commission in the choice of delegates to the proposed conference ?
– I answered two questions relating to that matter, one without notice and one with notice. There is nothing further that I can say that would explain the matter further to the honorable gentleman.
Application fob Financial Assistance.
– by leave - On the adjournment on Friday last, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) referred to a request which had been placed before a Minister on the previous day for Commonwealth assistance for the development of the asbestos industry in Western Australia. I have consulted the Minister concerned, the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan), and he has handed to me the following statement outlining what actually took place: -
Some days before Thursday last, the President of the Senate saw me, and inquired If I would see a Mr. Urquhart from Western Australia, who, he said, was a friend «of his. He explained that Mr. Urquhart had an interest in an asbestos proposition in the northwest of Western Australia, and was desirous of obtaining an advance of fi 0,000 from the Commonwealth Government to enable its further development. He said that Mr. Urquhart had desired to sec the Prime Minister, but, owing to the latter’s absence, he had then expressed the wish to see some oilier Minister and, as the Treasurer was very much engaged, Senator Hayes suggested that he should see me.
I told the President that I saw no hope of any advance being made by the Commonwealth Government. I added that, whilst the State Government might possibly have some money to its credit under the Commonwealth Metalliferous Mining Grant, I d:d not think that lt’ was at all likely, and that in those circumstances I was not sanguine of Mr. Urquhart’s prospects of securing Government assistance. He said that Mr. Urquhart was coming to Canberra, and he pressed me to give him an interview. He further intimated that Mr. Urquhart’s request was being supported by Western Australian members.
I explained to the President that, I had heard of some inquiries for asbestos both in New Zealand and Australia and expressed the view that, if the product were of a suitable quality, money should be available in the eastern States for development.
The President fixed Thursday, the Oth October at 10.30 a.m., for Mr. Urquhart to call on mc. Subsequently, Senator Cunningham reminded me of the hour I was to Bee Mr. Urquhart on Thursday morning. Mr. Nairn, M.P., also saw me, when he said he had another engagement to keep and that he would be obliged if anything could be done to help Mr. Urquhart.
I was advised of a Cabinet meeting at 10.20 on the Thursday morning in question, and was just preparing to attend when Senator Hayes - accompanied by Senators Collett, Johnston, Cunning-hP-111 and Fraser - arrived with Mr. Urquhart. The President outlined Mr. Urquhart’s request, and some samples of asbestos were produced. In the course of the ensuing discussion I asked Mr. Urquhart a number of questions as to the accessibility of the mine, the width of the asbestos in the rock formation and the quality of the product. I reiterated the view that had already been expressed to the President, that I saw little hope of any money being available from Commonwealth sources, but intimated that I would inquire from Mr. Casey (the Treasurer), whether there were any funds, and particularly whether there was any credit to the Western Australian Government remaining in respect of the Metalliferous Mining Grant. I inquired of Mr. Urquhart what steps he had taken to secure financial support for his company in the eastern States, and whether he was aware of persons who were requiring asbestos. The President then mentioned that, as the matter had developed into a private discussion, he would he glad if I would give Mr. Urquhart letters to any persons who were likely to hiinterested. I had already mentioned the names of Hardie and the Hume Pipe Company, and T then added that I thought the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited might be looking for asbestos in Australia. I informed him of the efforts that the company I was associated with had made to secure supplies in New Zealand and explained tho uses to which asbestos was put by Hardie, and was likely to be put by the Hume Pipe Company.
No records of the deputation were taken. I knew the nature of the request from the President and I knew that, so far as the Commonwealth was concerned, it was likely to be refused. The President thanked me for receiving Mr. Urquhart, and, as I have already explained, it was from hint the request emanated that I might give Mr. Urquhart letters to persons who might be interested in the proposition.
Some one subsequently sent to my room » geological report by a State officer on the property, and a copy o£ sables received by Mr. Urquhart from his London representatives.
I reached Cabinet room at 10.45 a.m. and, in reply to my request to Mr. Casey, I was informed that no Commonwealth funds were available and that, so far as Western Australia was concerned, the Metalliferous Mining Grant had nothing to its credit. My one desire was to assist a man who had apparently spent himself and his money in endeavouring to develop in the out-back part ot Western Australia an industry for the recovery of a product which might be of value to Australian manufacturers. I did not, during the discussion) indicate that I was interested in a rival company. I informed Mr. Urquhart that in New Zealand the company in which I was interested had spent a considerable sum ot money in endeavouring to develop an asbestos proposition. I did not suggest that the proponent should get in touch with the Chairman of Directors of the Hume Pipe Company.
In amplification of the above, I desire to inform honorable members that last month the Australian Blue Asbestos Mines (No Liability), made a similar application by letter to the Commonwealth Government. This application was fully considered by the Minister in Charge of Development, and the company was informed that there were, at present, no funds available from which loans of this kind could be made.
It was pointed out that* mining, except within the territories controlled by the Commonwealth, is a State function, and although the Commonwealth Government made available a sum of £500,000 to the States - £106,400 of which was allocated to Western Australia - for assistance to metalliferous mining over a period of three years which tenni inated on 30th June, 1938, it has been decided that no further funds can be provided for this purpose or similar purposes in view of the heavy demands upon the resources of the Commonwealth entailed by the enlarged defence programme and the establishment of national insurance. The States must accordingly accept a greater share of responsibility for the financing of activities, such as mining, which come within their scope. It was also mentioned that if the company’s project were as attractive from an investment point of view as was represented, there should not be difficulty in obtaining the necessary finance through tho usual channels. Representations in support of the company’s application were also forwarded by the Premier of Western Australia, who was similarly advised.
- by leave - I assure the House and Senator A. J. McLachlan that I never at any time intended to reflect on him. I was informed, on what I considered to be reliable authority, that, in the course of the discussion which took place, Senator McLachlan had shown greater interest in the company in which he himself was concerned than in any other phase of the subject, and the statement which has just been read by the Acting Leader of the House (Sir Earle Page) shows that Mr. President apparently realized that, the discussion had gone beyond the bounds of an ordinary deputation seeking support from the Government, and had become something in the nature of a private interview. I also direct attention to the fact that it is acknowledged that no record of the deputation was taken. That, I submit, is most unusual when Ministers are receiving deputations asking for Commonwealth assistance. Mr. Urquhart’s submission was that the Government should grant aid from Commonwealth funds. The Minister for Development was not available to hear him. Senator McLachlan had been Minister for Development, and he heard Mr. Urquhart’s request. Senator McLachlan says that, before he heard Mr. Urquhart, lie told the President of the Senate that there was no possibility of aid being granted by the Commonwealth. During the interview, Senator McLachlan frankly admitted that he was interested in a certain company which was engaged in the purchase of asbestos. Senator McLachlan concluded; “I did not suggest that the proponent should get in touch with the chairman of directors of the Hume Pipe Company.” However, it is extraordinary that the newspapers, whose representatives interviewed Senator McLachlan on Friday, reported the following day that what Senator McLachlan had suggested was that the applicant should see the managing director of the company. That, I think appears in the Sydney Morning Herald. If I have in any way reflected upon Senator McLachlan without justification I deeply regret it and would unreservedly withdraw any such suggestion; but as Leader of the Opposition I am obliged to take notice of complaints made to me on authority which I regard as reliable. I regarded my informant last week as a reliable person, and it was in pursuance of what I believe to be my public duty that I raised the matter in the House last Friday.
– In view of the statements made by the Acting Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition, will the Acting Leader of the House cause inquiries to be made as to how far Ministers of the Crown should be involved in businesses that may be directly connected with negotiations with governments ?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Prime Minister.
– Have any arrangements been made to facilitate the export of Australian cherries to New Zealand! Has any good resulted from the discussions which were to have taken place between the two countries in connection with fruits in their sequence of maturity?
– At the moment I have nothing to report. As soon as information is available of a nature which can be disclosed to the House, a statement will be made.
– On the 29th September last, a conference was held at Canberra of Commonwealth and State Ministers. Will any report of the proceedings of that conference be presented; if so, when will it be made available to honorable members?
– There were two sections of that conference, one dealing with wheat, of which there will be a report, and one being a conference between the Minister for Defence and the Premiers, of which there will not be a report.
– In connexion with the recent troubles in Europe, resulting in the ceding of certain portions of Czechoslovakia to Germany, and having regard to the fact that two-thirds of the export manufacturing industries of Czechoslovakia were contained within the area ceded, will the Australian trade agreement with Czechoslovakia be somewhat altered, and if so, will proposals be. submi tted to the House in connexion with such alterations?
-I think every honorable member will hope that whatever may happen in Europe, Australia will not go back on its agreement with Czechoslovakia. There is no necessity for the agreement to be altered.
– But the area in which is manufactured a great many of the commodities the subject of the agreement has changed hands.
– -The manufacturing industries that export to Australiastill remain in the hands of the Czechs.
– That is not so; they are in the ceded area.
– Last week I directed a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs in connexion with the duty on Oregon or Douglas fir logs and was informed that recently a departmental inquiry was held in respect of the rates of duty on Oregon logs, and that two experts differed on the matter which was so technical that it was found necessary to refer it again to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report. What is the technical point at issue ? Has the Tariff Board made a further inquiry-‘ and, if so, with what result?
– The honorable member for Boothby and other honorable members have asked questions from time to time on this subject. The departmental investigation made in several of the States indicated the necessity for consideration of the following points in determining the relationship of the duties on logs and on sawn timber : -
I have therefore referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report the following questions: -
– Will the Minister in charge of Territories layon the table of the House the report presented by Mr. C. E. Lane Poole, Commonwealth Forestry Adviser, after inquiry into the timber resources of New Guinea during his recent visit to the Territory?
– I see no reason why I should not do so. I shall make arrangements to have the document laid on the table of the Library.
– There is in New South Wales an organization for the training of youth for air services, known as the Australian. Air League. I daresay that other similar organizations exist in the other States. Will the Minister for Defence inform me whether this or any kindred organization is receiving financial assistance from the Government ? In any case, will the Government consider subsidizing organizations which are rendering material assistance in the training of youth for defence purposes?
– The honorable member’s question is far-reaching. As to the first portion of it, which refers to the Australian Air League, my information is that the Royal Australian Air Force is able to train more pilots and personnel for the various branches of its service than can be placed. For this reason, while I am prepared to give consideration to the honorable member’s question, I cannot give him much hope of a favorable answer.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House inquire from the Australian Broadcasting Commission whether it proposes to arrange for additional talks over the national network in connexion with the international crisis ? If so, will he also ascertain the times during which such talks shall be broadcast, whether the talks will be similar to that broadcast last night by the Premier of New South Wales, and also whether persons equally as prominent as that honorable gentleman will be invited to express their views?
– I shall convey the honorable member’s question to the broadcasting commission and inform him of the reply received.
– Recently, the Minister for the Interior referred to an estimate of the quantity of iron ore at Yampi Sound which was given in a report by a public official. Is there any reason why that report should not be made available to the public?
– The report was not made by an officer of my department. I shall make inquiries of the department concerned concerning the possibility of releasing it for public information. .
– In view of the concern of the people of north Queensland regarding the lack of defences in that area, I ask the Minister for Defence whether the Government has taken any steps to fortify the north, particularly Torres Strait? Can he give me any information respecting the intentions of the department regarding our undefended north?
– There is no such thing as an undefended north. Every pound spent in Australia on munitions and defence services generally, whether in connexion with the Navy, the Army or the Air Force, is intended to serve the interests of the north of Australia equally with those of other parts of the continent. The defence policy of the Government is co-ordinated so as to serve every part of the country as equally as possible. It is not practicable to defend certain parts of the north coast of Queensland in the same way as certain other parts of our. coastal areas, which are more vulnerable. The object of the Government is to protect our bases in such a way as will effectively defend the whole country. Certain parts are more important from the point of view of the Navy than certain other parts.
– I noticed in a report in The Aeroplane, an aviation journal in the library, to the effect that two overseas firms are making investigations in Australia with a view to undertaking the manufacture of aeroplanes in this country. Is the Minister for Defence able to give me any information regarding the intentions of these two firms, or any other firms, in this connexion ?
– Quite a number of companies have displayed interest in the possibility of manufacturing aircraft in this country, but I cannot give the honorable member any detailed information.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform me whether it is a fact that ten Air Force machines visited Wagga for the opening of the aerodrome there, and also whether he expressed the opinion at the opening of the aerodrome that such flights were not a waste of time in that they afforded valuable experience and training to the aviators concerned? If so, will the honorable gentleman reconsider his decision to make a charge of £5 an hour in respect of each Air Force machine which visits the Ballarat Aero Club’s pageant?
– The number of Air Force machines that visited Wagga was eleven, not ten. My reference to the flights of these machines related to the cross-country flying of the pilots from Laverton to Wagga. This, I said, was valuable experience. The visit of those machines to Wagga was strictly in accordance with the policy of the Government, which is to provide pilots with as much experience in cross-country flying as possible. The charge referred to by the honorable member is still being maintained for the period that Air Force machines are in the air giving demonstrations at air pageants.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform the House whether’ any charge was made to anybody for the time occupied by Royal Australian Air Force machines while demonstrating at Wagga on Monday?
– If the honorable gentleman will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall try to supply him with detailed information.
– During the previous period of this session, following upon representations which I made to the Government, the Minister for the Interior stated that the Government intended to set up a special committee to consider all plans in connexion with the development of Canberra. I wish to know whether the committee has been appointed, and whether it has yet met?
– The committee has not yet met. It is necessary to promulgate a special ordinance setting out the duties of such a body. Owing to my absence in North Australia during the greater part of the recent recess, that ordinance has not yet been completed. It has, however, been drafted, and I hope that it will be issued in the near future.
– Some time ago I asked the Assistant Minister for Commerce whether he would have an inquiry made as to the conditions obtaining in the dairying industry of Australia and, particularly, as to the cost of production of butter. The Assistant Minister replied that such an inquiry would be made. Have any further steps been taken and when will that inquiry start?
– I discussed the matter with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) soon after his return to Australia. In due course it will go before Cabinet and Cabinet’s decision will be announced to the House as soon as it is made.
– When does the Treasurer expect that the AuditorGeneral’s report will be available to honorable members? Is it possible for that important report to be in the hands of honorable members during the discussion of the budget?
– The report for last year is available.
– That is of no use.
– It is not possible at this time of the year to get the report for the year just ended. It will not be received for some little time. I shall ask the Auditor-General the earliest possible date upon which he can make a report available.
– Was the Minister for Defence correctly reported in the press as having said that we were within an hour or an hour and a quarter of a declaration of war? In view of the fact that the Prime Minister made no such declaration in his statement on the international situation I ask the Minister whether he spoke with the authority of the Government, and from what country the declaration of war was expected?
– I have not seen the remarks attributed to me by the honorable member, but at no time have I ever referred to Australia as being within an hour or any period of time of a declaration of war.
Additions, New “Works, Buildings, etc.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the ‘7 th October (vide page 574).
Proposed vote, £7,000.
.- When the House adjourned last Friday I was advocating the provision of annexes to railway workshops for the manufacture of munitions and equipment of war in times of emergency. This matter has been given consideration by the Government of Tasmania, and the State Minister for Railways has issued a statement pointing out that the railway workshops at Launceston are very suitable for the manufacture of munitions. The need to decentralize the manufacture of munitions throughout the Commonwealth is important, and Tasmania lends itself admirably for the manufacture of defence equipment. According to experts it is almost invulnerable to attack, and, if that be the case, the argument is strengthened for having some of the munitions work done in Tasmania. I urge that the Government give this matter serious consideration.
Valuable work has been done in Bass Strait and in the waters surrounding the Furneaux Group near Tasmania by the fisheries research vessel which was built «t the order of this Government last year. The vessel has located certain kinds of surface and deep-sea fish in those waters, and its investigations have induced at least one firm seriously to explore the possibilities of development of the vessel’s discoveries. I sometimes criticize the Government for its sins of commission and omission, but, in this respect, it has done something worth while, and something that undoubtedly will be of very great value to Australia in the reduction of importations of fish.
An amount of £10,200 is to be appropriated for architectural and engineering services. The footnote says that this is not the whole of the amount that will be expended. In view of the fact that the Government estimates that £16,000 will be required for certain works under this head, the committee is entitled to be informed as to where the money is to be expended. I recall that during last year similar items were passed by the committee with very little comment oi criticism, and that subsequently works were undertaken, expenditure on which would not have been authorized by the Parliament had it been aware of their nature. I should further like to know what the estimated liability of £4,000 covers.
Under the Department of the Interior, the provision in respect of buildings, works, sites, fittings and furniture, Governor-General’s establishments, is £5,000. I should like to know what the Government ha3 ear-marked under thai head. How many establishments has the Governor-General ? I agree that His Excellency should be provided for in a reasonable manner, but I suggest that one establishment ought to be quite sufficient for him. Upon what does the Government propose to expend this fairly substantial amount? Is it to be expended in Canberra, or in some State capital? I seriously question whether the expenditure can be justified; and if it is to be incurred outside the Australian Capital Territory, I shall need a lot of convincing that it is warranted, for the reason that there is a large list of persons in the Territory who are waiting for houses, and that list should be reduced materially before any further expenditure is incurred on additional accommodation for the Governor-General. During last financial year, a house was built for a gentleman who is regarded as one of the “tall poppies.” I have voiced opposition to that ‘action on more than one occasion on the floor of this chamber, and I make no apology for doing so again. I am opposed not only to the building of thai particular house, but also to the proposed expenditure under this particular head.
I presume that before the committee passes the item relating to the provision and installation of wireless and directionfinding apparatus, a responsible Minister will explain what is proposed in this regard. Too much cannot be done in the direction of extending country aerodromes and in providing for. the installation of wireless and direction-finding apparatus, because the greater the number of aerodromes in country centres, the safer is aviation and the more complete is the confidence reposed in it by the people of this country. I have in mind requests by the State of Tasmania for the provision of aerodromes in country centres. I asked a question to-day with a view to ascertaining the intentions of the Government in regard to Western Junction aerodrome which, for something like three years, has had temporary apparatus. It is a tumbledown arrangement, which was discarded in some other part of Australia. The time ha3 arrived for the installation of a modern plant which will meet the needs of this important and centrally situated aerodrome, and I hope that the Government will give some indication of its intentions.
A further aspect is the training of pilots. Tasmania has asked to be provided with an aeroplane, so that greater encouragement may be given in this direction. The Minister has said that the department has received numerous applications for aeroplanes. I feel sure that if the Government could induce young men to devote portion of their time and money to training in their own States, with the machine under the control of the Defence Department, and more or less in the ^possession of aero clubs, the department would profit, because the pilots would be trained semiofficially and would probably prove of great advantage in the years to come. There is no doubt that there is a shortage of pilots. The more extensive use of air services for the carriage of passengers and mails has increased the demand for pilots. The Government should therefore give greater consideration to this matter
The fairly substantial amount of £29,000 is provided for buildings, works, sites, and fittings under the control of the Department of Trade and Customs. Honorable members are entitled to know where this expenditure is to be incurred. Then there is the amount of £47,000 which, most extraordinarily, is to be devoted to the purchase of vessels for the Department of Health. Why the Government needs to purchase vessels for that department, I am at a loss to understand.
I wish to revert, for a moment, to the matter of housing. There is provision oh the Estimates for a considerable housing programme in Canberra. A few days ago, I asked the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) to give the number of persons on the waiting list for houses in this territory as at the 30th August last. I compared the figure he gave with that which appeared on the list supplied at the end of the last financial year, and found that the number had increased in the last few months from 310 to 339. In a press statement the Minister indicated the Government’s proposals for the erection of houses to overcome the shortage that had accumulated over a number of years. I do not know whether the committee is to be given further information, but at least I should like to be acquainted with the complete programme in regard to the provision of homes for those whose occupation has compelled them to come to Canberra. The fact that 339 persons are waiting for houses is nothing short of a scandal in a city of this size. Because of the peculiar situation of the capital, and the nature of the employment of the majority of those who came here, the shortage can be overcome only by the Government. According to the Minister, the figure 339 refers only to Government employees. The honorable gentleman has further said that it is estimated that all permanent and temporary Government employees will be accommodated in houses by the 30th June, 1939, and that the number of persons other than Government employees who will be without housing accommodation at that date will be affected by the number accommodated by private building. That is fairly obvious, but it does not meet the point that I have raised. As I have interested myself in this matter for some time, I want to know from the Minister exactly what is proposed. How does the Government propose to overtake the shortage in the course of twelve months? I agree that the present Minister for the Interior cannot be blamed for the position, and that he recognizes the need for taking action. He is making every effort to overcome the difficulty, but a greater effort oh the part of the Government is required. It is estimated that the annual increase of population in Canberra makes it necessary that 50 new houses should be built each year.
I cannot understand why this Government, which has been in office for the last six years, has failed to take the necessary steps to transfer to Canberra the Defence Department and the Postmaster-General’s Department. If those departments were situated here it would not be necessary for Ministers to make such frequent trips to Melbourne in order to consult with their senior officers. Of course, if the departments were transferred, it would require about 800 new houses to accommodate the people. The Government should provide honorable members with more information when it is asking Parliament to agree to the Estimates. People frequently ask me what is going on, and. I have to tell them that they know just as much as I do. The fact is that members of Parliament know very little more than they read in the newspapers, due to the press being supplied with statements prior to their being tabled in the House. I hope that the estimate of the Minister that the housing shortage in Canberra will be overtaken by the end of 1939 will be borne out, but I cannot see how it is to be done in the time.
The vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department is to be increased this year by about £1,000,000. I do not object to that. I represent a scattered constituency, and I know something of the difficulties experienced by outback residents in getting telephones installed, and the heavy cost involved if they are a little off the beaten track. I hope that the department will find it possible to install automatic exchanges in country centres at a more rapid rate. I realize that there are difficulties associated with obtaining material, but every effort should be made to expedite the work. ‘ There are already several automatic exchanges in my electorate, and I know how the country people appreciate a 24-hours service.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMANThe honorable member’s time has expired.
– I can understand the desire of the Government to get the Estimates through as quickly as possible so that the works may be undertaken, and for the same reason honorable members are also anxious to avoid delay. However, I think that we should protest very strongly against the way in which we are asked to authorize the expenditure of very large sums of money when practically no information is given us as to how the money is to be expended. During the last twenty years there has been a gradual but continuous loss of power by private members of Parliament. Government is to-day carried on almost wholly by regulation instead of by legislation, and the tendency is growing to bring down Estimates, asking for enormous sums of money, unaccompanied by any ministerial statement as to how the money is to be expended. The proposed vote for the Postal Department is £3,93S,000. and a statement should have been placed before honorable members giving an outline of the works upon which it is proposed to expend this money. Honorable members owe it to their constituents to obtain this information, so that they may he in a position to approve or condemn the policy of the Government. The departments should, through the Minister in charge, submit to Parliament a list of the works which are to be undertaken.
We have heard a great deal from honorable members opposite on the subject of the manufacture of munitions in Australia. These Estimates provide large sums of money for this purpose. Honorable members opposite have suggested that much of the work could be done in the railway workshops. I know that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) has communicated with every railway workshop in Australia. I have a railway workshop in my electorate, but the question of its utilization as an armament factory is a matter between the experts of the Defence Department and the State Railways Department of Western Australia. I am convinced that the Minister must make provision for getting some, at any rate, of the work done in private factories. We have heard a lot of rubbish talked about private firms manufacturing munitions in Australia and exporting them overseas. I ask honor.able members whether there is any single item which could be manufactured here and exported at a profit under the industrial and fiscal conditions which have been developed in Australia. We need have no fear that private firms in Australia will ever develop a munitions export industry. I remember something of the conditions which prevailed at the government munitions factory at Lithgow in 1914, when, through carelessness and inefficiency, the cost of everything produced was twice as much as it should have been, and the quality was so inferior that one might as well have sent men to the war with their hands tied behind their backs as to have equipped them with the material turned out from that factory in the early stages of the war. T can give the Minister for Defence some private information of a startling nature rega’rding the quality of the equipment produced at Lithgow during the war. Why, rifles were costing as much as £12 each to manufacture ! The Government should appoint a board with power to examine all work turned out by munition factories, to keep a check on prices, and compare them with those ruling overseas. T speak with some feeling on this subject because, only a few days ago, when we were threatened with war, there was talk of strikes among munition workers, and there was a big section behind the workers urging them on. We should insist on getting service in our munition factories. The Government is also committed to heavy expenditure in connexion with its purchase of an interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australia) Limited. I do not know what is the policy of the directors of that concern, but it has always been my contention that the Government should keep right out of industry altogether. If the Government must engage in industry at least it should not allow any organization with which it is associated to organize secret cartels’ to control wholesale and retail prices. From information which I have received it appears that wireless sets in Australia cost three times more than in the United States of America where higher wages are paid. If the Government pursues this policy of engaging in business it should do everything in its power to protect the people against exploitation. The same comments apply with regard to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Company. When the Commonwealth acquired an interest in that company the people naturally ex*pected that they would receive marvellous value for the investment of their money, but to their dismay they have found that, far from any endeavour having been made to bring down costs of petrol, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Company has supported the major oil companies in retaining the high price of petrol. No recent reports have been made available regarding either of these organizations in which the people of Australia are so vitally interested. Another activity in which the people are so concerned is the River Murray works which, it was expected, would cost £4,500,000. It appears now, however, that those works will cost at least £14,000,000. If they are of great value Australia can well afford the expenditure of that amount of money, but we need to be assured on that point. The Government should, therefore, make available to the public -full information concerning the future value of these developmental works.
Every encouragement should be given to those who are engaged in remote places in the interior in an effort to develop the resources of this country. One means by which such encouragement could be afforded would be by waiving the customs duty on the necessary plant and machinery acquired for mining purposes in the outback. Unfortunately, however, every request by mining ventures for duty free admissions is met with a curt refusal by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). Recently I took up with the honorable gentleman a request for permission to import certain machinery for the development of a mine containing chrysolite asbestos. It is a mineral which can be made into cloth for theatre curtains, clothing, &c, and as far as I know’, is found’ only in Western Australia. A British manufacturer of this clothing who inspected the proposition declared that the industry could not be carried on with the obsolete plant in use, but that if the asbestos was forwarded to him in England he would supply the necessary up-to-date machinery for its extraction, taking its cost out of the material supplied. I made representations to the Minister for Trade and Customs to allow the plant to be admitted into Australia duty free. Although it would have had to he transported 200 miles inland from Carnarvon at great expense, this request to aid an industry which would give a fillip to development in that outback area, was granted only in part, the Minister declaring that certain parts could be made in Australia and duty must be paid. Another request I made was for the duty free importation of air-cooled machinery for extracting mica at a place 200 miles from Alice Springs. That request was also’ refused although about the same time the department granted a Melbourne firm about £800 for the purpose of endeavouring to find a market for mica. Time after time when requests are made for reductions of duty in order to permit mining machinery to be landed in Australia at reduced cost, they are met with the same refusal by the Minister.
I am quite easy in my mind regarding defence works because I have absolute confidence in the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby). There is not the slightest doubt that in his administration of his department he is doing his best for his country. I wish to bring under notice, however, the very unsatisfactory state of the landing grounds in the metropolitan area of Perth. They are situated in low lying country and are liable to become swampy. In my opinion provision should be made for the construction of landing grounds which would permit of use in all kinds of weather. I do not believe that aerodromes should be established in close proximity to cities. No hardship is involved on persons using aerodromes situated at a distance of from six to eight miles from a metropolitan area. Transport by motor car is very rapid, and the little time added to a journey by air by having to motor to the aerodrome is not of much moment.
I have no desire to delay the passage of these Estimates, and I shall reserve my further comments for the budget debate. I must emphasize again, however, that honorable members should stand on their dignity and urge the Government to depart from its past policy of governing by regulation. In my opinion Parliament is consulted too little these days and there is a great tendency on the part of the Government to govern by regu lation. Honorable members are also entitled to very much more information regarding the expenditure of public moneys than is disclosed in the reports and papers furnished to them. If honorable members would refuse to vote the money asked for by the Government they would quickly bring ‘Ministers to a realization that they owe it to honorable members generally to give the fullest information concerning the expenditure of public moneys. During the last three or four months Ministers have been touring the world; Heaven knows what they did while they were away. In my opinion Parliament should have met earlier and legislation could thus have been prepared earlier for submission to the Parliament.
.- I wish to draw the attention of the committee to the method adopted in recent years in financing capital expenditure in connexion with the Postal Department out of revenue. “With the present appropriation, over £10,000,000 has been expended on new works out of revenue during the last four years. Each year the department pays to the Treasury an annual interest bill amounting to over £1,400,000 - this year it is £1,423,000: - and a further sum by way of sinking fund - this year it amounts to £1,130,000. Despite these huge commitments the department during the last three or four years has annually shown a substantial profit. While the present policy is applied of meeting practically the whole of its heavy capital expenditure, and also providing for sinking fund payments, out of revenue, the public cannot look to the Postal Department for a reduction of postal or telephone charges.
– The honorable member does not suggest that sinking fund payments should be made out of loan moneys.
– No, but we should give serious consideration to the advisability of taking practically £4,000,000 out of ordinary revenue, and at the same time providing for sinking fund payments. It is not by any means clear to honorable members how this large liability to the Treasury upon which the department has to pay interest each year is made tip.
– The Postal Department pays a 2 per cent, sinking fund.
– Yes. It is not possible to ascertain from the balance-sheet of the Postal Department what its liability amounts to, although, in answer to a question which I asked earlier in the year, I have been informed that its liability to the Treasury for loans at the 30th June, 1937, was £31,000,000. I trust, in common I am sure with other honorable members, that the Treasurer will give honorable members generally an assurance that while we are spending this large sum out of revenue for postal works it is not at the same timebeingadded to the liability to the Treasury on which the department will have to pay interest. The liability of the Postal Department should be definitely stated in the balancesheet, and not included in the general capital account. I wish honorable members to believe that my remarks are not in any way to be regarded as a criticism of the administration of the Postal Department. As a matter of fact, I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the responsible officers in charge of the activities of the department for the businesslike manner in which they do their work. The department provides very efficient service to the community of which the Commonwealth Government has every reason to be proud. What I wish to emphasize is that, while we continue this policy of making the department pay for the whole of its capital expenditure out of revenue, and at the same time provide sinking fund payments each year, the public cannot hope for any reduction of either the telephone or the postal charges.
I think that the Postmaster-General should give very serious consideration to the adoption of the practice carried out by the British Government of formulating a three-years’ programme of major works for the Postal Department. This would enable those in charge of the department more effectively to plan ahead, and to secure the necessary plant and equipment. Our practice here I believe is that towards the end of June there is a fiendish haste on the part of postal officers to rush work through in order to get it completed before the 30th June, so that it may be paid for out of the current year’s vote. That, in my opinion, is bad business. I suggest that the Minister should give some consideration and investigation to the system operated in connexion with the British Post Office, because it is impossible on many large jobs either to secure the necessary equipment, which very often has to be imported, or to complete operations during the year in which the vote is passed.
– The British Post Office works under a trust fund system.
– I suggest that the Minister investigate that aspect. It would be in the best interests of efficiency if we prepared a three-years’ programme of major works, so that the officers concerned would be able to plan ahead. I make it clear that I refer only to major works. The officers would be able to plan much more effectively in such circumstances.
It has been suggested during this debate that the Commonwealth Government should proceed with a more vigorous policy of public works, as the State governments have had to curtail their loan expenditure. It is impossible to ascertain the extent to which loan works are being carried out in Australia without taking into consideration the loan expenditure of local government and semi-government organizations. The loan expenditure of the State governments during the last four years has steadily declined, whereas that of the local government and semi-government bodies has been doubled. The following comparison of the loan expenditure of State governments and semi-government bodies in recent years is illuminating. Loans arranged by the Loan Council for State governments for 1934-35 totalled £21,000,000. Figures in the following years were as follows: 1935-36, £18,000,000 ; 1936-37, £15,000,000 ; 1937-38, £13,000,000. Local government and semi-government loans in 1934-35 totalled £6,000,000. In 1936-37 the amount was almost £12,000,000. I have not been able to ascertain the figures for 1937-38, but in view of what is being done by local and semi-government bodies to-day it is safe to assume that the total will be at least equal to, if not greater than, that for 1936-37. This means that local government and semi-government bodies in Australia are now spending among them as much money as the Loan Council allocates for the State governments.
The Loan Council, created under the Financial Agreement Act 1928, -was brought into being to control public borrowing in Australia. The act provides that the various State governments shall, from time to time, submit their loan programmes to the Loan Council. If the total requirements cannot be borrowed on satisfactory terms the Loan Council allocates the amount available equitably among the States. A very serious aspect of public finance in Australia is the grave danger that exists under present conditions of the objective of the Loan Council being nullified to a certain degree. It is possible for a State, whilst accepting the allocation of the Loan Council for its own requirements, to speed up its semigovernmental loan works. I believe that that is being done in some cases. The loans, raised by semi-governmental bodies are usually at a slightly higher rate of interest and most of them are guaranteed by the State governments. They are, to all intents and purposes, State loans which, in the final analysis, the Loan Council would be compelled to guarantee. An honorable member says “No”, but I believe that the honour of Australia would demand that such a course should be taken. There could be no alternative. I do not object to the increased expenditure on the part of semi-governmental bodies, but I suggest to this committee that, if it is the objective of the Loan Council to ensure an equitable distribution of the loan money available in Australia, the time has arrived when the council should take control of and supervise this loan expenditure by local and semi-governmental bodies..
– How can it do that?
– - How does it supervise the other expenditure? It would be most interesting to ascertain where this increased expenditure by semigovernment and local government bodies is being incurred. I am not discussing this subject with a parochial outlook, but because I think the whole trend of expenditure in this direction should be very carefully investigated. If it is necessary that loan expenditure by the Commonwealth and State Governments should be carefully scrutinized by the Loan Council to ensure an equitable distribution of the money available, it is surely equally necessary that expenditure by semi-government and local government bodies should also be so scrutinized. Obviously, with the present lack of system in this regard, it may be quite possible to supervise governmental loan expenditure effectively while loan expenditure by other instrumentalities may be speeded up to an inordinate degree.
A few days ago certain honorable members suggested that expenditure on public works throughout Australia should be co-ordinated ; but without an effective supervision of the expenditure of such instrumentalities as I have in mind, proper co-ordination would be quite impossible.
– Does the honorable member suggest that expenditure by these semi-government and local government bodies is not necessary?
– Not at all. I am not objecting to the expenditure. All I say is that the same supervision should be exercised over such expenditure as the Loan Council now exercises over the expenditure of the Commonwealth and State Governments, to ensure that the interests of equity are served.
– It should be left to the State governments.
– At any rate it is beyond the control of the Loan Council at present.
– That is so. In the last analysis all such expenditure would have to be guaranteed by the Commonwealth and State Governments. There can be no other alternative. I have raised this issue because it has been suggested, in the course of this discussion, that Commonwealth loan expenditure could safely be increased because State loan expenditure, as authorized by the Loan Council, has been reduced. It is to show that such a statement does not truly reflect the position that I have referred to the expenditure of these other instrumentalities, and have pointed out that it has increased to a greater degree than State government loan expenditure has been reduced.
In view of what I have said the time has surely arrived for Parliament to give much more serious attention to these subjects that it has hitherto devoted to them. I heartily agree with the suggestion that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Accounts should be reappointed and given the duty to make a calm and careful analysis of all accounts submitted to Parliament. Such a committee would not only ensure the wise expenditure of public money, but could also give an oversight to the incidence of taxation, and recommend an equitable distribution throughout the Commonwealth of moneys raised for public works of all description.
.- Last week I had occasion to address a question to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) relative to a statement made by Mr. Chisholm, a well known Australian journalist in London, to the Australian High Commissioner, concerning a conference that he had attended in Berlin at which it was revealed that German scientists were showing marked interest in the development and resources of New Guinea. Mr. Chisholm said that it was declared in Berlin that Australia was failing in its duty in not advising the world of the resources available in New Guinea, and was leaving such work largely to Americans. Many articles have appeared in different sections of the press recently in regard to New Guinea. A careful examination of these, and of various public statements made in Australia and Great Britain within the same period will indicate that there is an opinion - badly informed in my view - that Australia should hand back the territory of New Guinea to Germany.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).I must ask the honorable gentleman to connect his remarks with the Estimates before the Chair.
– I am dealing, sir, with the proposed vote for works on Commonwealth territories. Those who have been in Germany recently will, no doubt, have obtained evidence that Germany desires its former colonies to be restored to German control. When I was in Berlin last year I could not mistake that desire. It was strongly put to me by a Nazi official that, notwithstanding the fact that the territory of New Guinea was of small value to Germany prior to the war, the time had come to restore former German colonies to its control. An examination of the trade figures in relation to German New Guinea prior to the war will reveal that German trade with that territory was only a fraction of one per cent, of the total.
– I am afraid that the honorable member will have to find another opportunity to deal with the subject which he wishes to discuss.
– I direct attention to that part of the Works Estimates which indicates that portion of the proposed vote is for expenditure on Commonwealth territories.
– But not the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. That territory is not involved in any way in these Estimates.
– I was speaking on the Commonwealth territories, but I how to your ruling. I shall take another opportunity to discuss the subject that I wish to bring under the notice of honorable members.
.- I take this opportunity again to urge that the Government take immediate steps to replace the 100-year-old and dilapidated post office at Sorell. In any other part of Australia such a building would have been condemned and replaced years ago. During the parliamentary recess, the premises were inspected by the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) and he can bear out what I am saying. The continued ignoring of the demands for a new post office building at Sorell is typical of the treatment meted out to Tasmania, not only by this Government, but also by some of its predecessors. The attitude of the department in this matter is inexplicable. With the development of motor transport, Sorell has assumed considerable importance because it is on the junction of several highways. I know that when these Estimates are passed, the reply of the Postal Department will be that it has not sufficient money to expend on the erection of a new post office building, or that the importance of the town does not warrant one. The Assistant Minister for Commerce, who was most active in Tasmania, also inspected the post office at New Norfolk, to which, a residence is attached. Both buildings are in a deplorable state and should immediately be replaced. The residence is falling to pieces. It leaks aud is constantly damp, and the people living in it have to store their clothing and blankets in a dry place each day. Argument that the importance of New Norfolk is insufficient to warrant the provision of new buildings is easily contradicted. The town is within a few miles of where a factory is being built for the manufacture of newsprint, and when the industry is in full swing the town will have a fairly large population. It would not be in order for the department to say that it will wait to see whether the new industry will go ahead, because the district does not depend on that alone. It has developed rapidly and is one of the most valuable districts in Australia. Its production on an acreage basis is greater than that of any other part of Australia. Tobacco of first-class quality, considered to be among the best in Australia, is grown there and practically all of the hops used in Australia come from New Norfolk. In addition, many other articles of produce are sent from the district. The town is assured of a considerable population for many years, but requests for the provision of better postal facilities have always fallen on deaf ears. As with the Sorell post office, the conditions that operate would not be tolerated on the mainland.
As I have frequently said in this House, Tasmania does not get a fair deal from most of the Commonwealth departments. The post office is conducted profitably in Australia and its operations in t Tasmania contribute substantially to the profits. The attitude of the department is, however, that the revenue derived from the post offices I have mentioned does not warrant expenditure on them; but I point out that when the telephone between Tasmania and the mainland was under consideration, the department took the view that the revenue that could be expected from it would not be sufficient to justify the expenditure involved in laying down the cable. The estimate of the department for the number of calls that would be made in a year was exceeded in the first three months in which the line was in operation, and in the first year the number of calls exceeded the estimate by 200 per cent. That shows that, if given the facilities, Tasmania will use them.
Another instance of the neglect of Tasmania by this Government is the allocation of expenditure on defence. An invading enemy would make as its first objective the destruction of the zinc works at Risdon. They are the only zinc works in the southern hemisphere and if they were destroyed, the Australian munitions factories would be impotent. The Government is not interested in Tasmania from a defence viewpoint. I notice the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) does not pay much attention to that State. His interests lie only in Melbourne and Sydney.
– Not much in Melbourne.
– The ammunition works are in Melbourne. They would be of no use if the zinc works were destroyed. There is not one anti-aircraft gun* in Tasmania, and it would be only necessary for a plane to drop a few bombs on those zinc works to destroy the whole of the Government’s munitions programme.
– There are only two anti-aircraft guns in Australia.
– There are many more than that. Anti-aircraft guns are being manufactured at Maribyrnong. If it were true that there were only two they should be–
– In Tasmania?
– Yes. They should be at the vital point, the zinc works. The manufacture of zinc could not be carried out in any other part of Australia. They are situated at Risdon because of the ample supply of hydro-electric power. They are not dependent on coal or industrial disturbances. Ample supplies of water are always on hand to provide the power necessary for the works to be carried on. The Minister for Defence has neglected his duty by allowing not only the zinc works, but also the whole of Tasmania, to remain practically undefended.
I recently accompanied the Public Works Committee to Darwin, where it investigated the provision of a new hospital and a new gaol. I shall not comment on either of those matters because the committee has already submitted its report in respect of the hospital and is preparing its report on the gaol. It is in respect of other works at Darwin that I have cause” for criticism of the Government. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) was in Darwin when the committee was there, and I understand that he has given orders for the work on the construction of a water supply system for Darwin to be expedited. In my opinion, the order comes too late. An adequate water supply for Darwin should have been provided many years ago. A town with a population of more than 4,000, it has no rainfall for five or six “months in each year and at present obtains its water supply from a soakage 80 feet beneath ground-level. The water thus obtained is of poor quality. The climatic conditions in Darwin are more severe than they are in any other part of Australia that I have visited - there are not many parts that I have not seen - and it is a disgrace that for so many years the residents have had to endure the lack of a proper water supply. A defence garrison is at present engaged in Darwin on the construction of fortifications. The men are working under bad conditions because the suplies of water are so limited, that; as I was told in Darwin, within a few weeks, there will not be enough even for a man to have a bath. It follows, of course, that there is no sewerage system.
The conditions under which the garrison work are bad enough, but they are worse for the civil population. The housing problem is a nightmare, and some ameliorative action should be taken by the Government. It has sent girls to act as stenographers at Darwin and has taken no trouble to find them suitable accommodation. They have had to go to hotels where the conditions are not all they should be. I do not blame the hotelkeepers, because Darwin has made rapid advances recently and a. town without a water supply scheme is at a great disadvantage. When we arrived there, the only accommodation which four or five of us could secure was on a balcony. The hotelkeeper was not blameworthy. The town is not sewered, and the open drains are a menace to health. There is no public convenience.
– A water scheme if> being provided.
– It has been needed for many years. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), as Minister for the Interior, did nothing to improve matters.
– I was responsible for the commencement of this water scheme.
– The honorable member may have initiated the scheme, but he did not put it into operation. I blame the Government for not providing the necessary facilities. If they were provided, the people could be blamed if they did not give proper service. It is likely that a fairly large garrison will shortly be stationed at Darwin. An aerodrome is being built, and I understand that the aviators and workmen will shortly number 400* or 500. The Government has placed the aerodrome in close proximity to the new native compound. Certainly the old buildings needed demolishing, and better buildings are being constructed; but the site should not have been so close to the aerodrome. .We were shown over the compound. The authorities are doing all that they can to improve the conditions of the natives, but although many of these unfortunate people are suffering from venereal disease and other diseases, the whole of them are congregated in the one compound. They will prove a m’enace to the young men who are attached to the aerodrome. .
– I received a complaint from the Northern Territory about that very thing.
– It is said that the lads are not likely to wander down to the compound, but despite that, those in the ‘ compound who are diseased will prove a menace to the health of the general community. It is known that the sale of beer is one of the best industries in Darwin. The water is not fit to drink, and as the high temperature induces thirst, some form of drinking is necessary, and the only safe drink is beer.
We have heard a great deal about the basic wage in Darwin, but it is only a few shillings above the rate fixed in the southern . States. The wages are regulated by persons in the south, who are not acquainted with the conditions of the north. I believe that the present rate is £4 13s. 9d. a week. It should definitely be not less than £6 a week, and I should advise any one who proposes to look for work there not to accept it at less than that wage. A wage of £4 in the southern States would be a much better proposition.
A further disability is the telephone service, by means of which conversation is possible only with a few inland stations. Before leaving the south I had made arrangements to transact certain business by means of the telephone, but when I arrived in Darwin I was told that I could get into communication with only one or two inland stations. Those who live in the south can speak with persons in any part of the world. The Postmaster-General should see that facilities are provided to enable telephone communication to be effected with the southern parts of Australia.
I trust that in future the Government will be more liberal in its provision of postal and defence facilities in the Northern Territory and in the smaller States of the federation. [Quorum formed.]
.- These Estimates appear to me to be the weakest feature of a very poor budget. At the present time it is utterly grotesque to ask Parliament to vote an increased expenditure from revenue of approximately £1,750,000 for postal works, while in a time of very serious emergency beyond which we have not by any means passed, the whole of the defence vote for new works from the same source is to be only £1,618,000. There is a decrease of the vote for the Prime Minister’s Department, an in-‘ creased vote for the territories of the Commonwealth, and a few other minor differences which are not of a serious character.
This year will be one of drought, difficulty, loss, and retrogression in many ways, yet it is this year which an utterly irresponsible government appears to be choosing for increased expenditure on,, postal works, which is to be met by enor mously higher taxation. I do not suggest that it would be a good thing to reduce expenditure on government works in a year such as we are now facing, when there is likely to be greater difficulty than is usually the case in finding employment. In such circumstances, governmental expenditure should be kept at full flow. But it is in the Defence Department that the greatest increase should occur. Land owners and other taxpayers would pay additional taxes, not gladly but without any serious grumbling, if the expenditure were designed to make the country secure, but they cannot be asked to pay more with an easy conscience merely for the purpose of having a record post office vote such ae that which the committee is now considering. It is going to be most difficult this year to keep people in employment on the land, no matter what is done in the direction of improving marketing facilities and stimulating prices. To add to those difficulties by additional taxes for what, after all, are comforts and extra facilities, is utterly irresponsible, and I do not think that the committee should agree to it.
In regard to defence expenditure, these Estimates display lukewarm procrastination. The Government could with a clear conscience ask the people to pay additional taxes for works which would really secure their homes, their farms, and their jobs from the danger which anyone who has common sense realizes is in existence in the world to-day. That expenditure would stimulate employment at a time when the returns from our major industries are likely to be reduced and the primary producers will probably be in difficulties.
I shall suggest offhand one or two things which are badly needed and do not await the importation of technical equipment. A great deal more might be done to provide landing grounds for the Air Force. and proper accommodation at those grounds. There is a glaring deficiency of air bases in North Queensland. Another very urgent need on the mainland is a dock capable of docking a capital ship for repair and re-fit. There is no dock on the coast of Australia capable of docking a capital ship.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– Representing as he does a maritime constituency, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) ought to be ashamed of his ignorance.
– Cockatoo Dock ia suitable for the purpose.
– Cockatoo Dock is capable of accommodating cruisers and liners, but it is not large enough to accommodate a capital ship. If the country is to be secure from the interruption of coastal traffic and the disruption of its internal economy we must have adequate naval protection. If we are too slow or too stingy to provide it for ourselves, then it must be provided for us by British capital ships. No naval protection can be very effective unless there is in Australia a dock in which the ships can be re-fitted. Probably the constituency of the honorable member for Dalley would be the best place for such a dock.
– There is one there already.
– The honorable member could learn, if he took the trouble to find out, that the Cockatoo Dock is not wide enough, a fact which is probably better known to our potential enemies than to the honorable member, who, presumably, is sent here to look after the interests of his constituency. One of the things which is delaying the training of a sufficient number of men for our adequate protection is the expense. It should be possible to forgo some of these developments in the Postal Department, and, in one act, avoid the necessity for raising taxation, or, at any rate, provide the means to carry out defence works which are so important, and for which the people would consent to pay, however hard it may be for them to find the money. I hope that some of these matters will be rectified before the end of this financial year, and that we shall not have to carry the shame of this kind of finance before our constituents.
.- There is an item in the Estimates pro- ‘viding £4,300 this year towards the cost of a memorial to His Majesty King George V. Last year, £3,903 was spent, and in a footnote it is revealed that the total expenditure is to be £21,000. I hope that a Minister will be able to give some information as to how the money is to be spent, and in what way that already spent has been used. Personally, I have no objection to the erection of a memorial to King George V., but I feel very strongly that it should have some utilitarian purpose. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) impressed upon the committee that there was a grave shortage of houses in Canberra. In my opinion, a good way in which to expend £21,000 on a memorial would be to build twenty houses, -and call them the Memorial Terrace to His Majesty, King George V. The expenditure of this money on a memorial of no utilitarian value would not, I believe, be approved by the people, or by the members of the Royal Family.
Provision is made in these Estimates for the expenditure of a large sum of money on defence, including armament annexes to engineering establishments. Even before the recent international crisis I never believed that money spent on armaments would give Australia security, but since the crisis I should think that even those who were most strongly of an opposing view would have altered their opinion. Nevertheless, the Government has announced that it proposes to incur even greater expenditure on this item in the future. In common with many other honorable members of all parties I believe that, if we are to manufacture armaments in Australia, they should not be manufactured by private firms for private profit. We are fortunately situated in Australia in that practically no armaments have ever been made by private firms, and it is regrettable that this Government has seen fit, for the first time in the history of the country, to initiate a policy which will encourage the making of profits out of defence works. In regard to the provision of armament annexes, I should like to know whether any of the money has already been expended. I have noticed that new buildings have been erected at some of the engineering works in various parts of Victoria, and I have an idea that they form the annexes under discussion, and that the money has actually been spent on them without parliamentary sanction. I also had an idea that the necessary plant and equip- ment for the manufacture of munitions has already been installed. If that is so, the Government is deserving of censure. The consent of Parliament should first have been obtained for the expenditure of this money.
While I am opposed to the expenditure of money on armaments, and their manufacture by either private enterprise or by Government institutions, if the Government is determined to carry on with this policy, it should at least see that the work is done in Government factories. I know that all the necessary facilities exist in Victoria, where the buildings and equipment are already in existence. There is the Newport workshop, and there are workshops also at Bendigo and Ballarat. The workshops in both those places were, I believe, erected at the instance of the Watt Government in furtherance of the policy of decentralization of industry in Victoria. They are equipped with the very latest machinery, and for years past have been manufacturing locomotives and other engineering equipment for the Victorian railways. The machinery and equipment are equal to that of any private engineering workshop, and they could be quite easily adapted to the manufacture of armaments. The Government should adopt a policy of spreading the manufacture of armaments as much as possible, particularly throughout inland districts. It might be possible for an enemy to force the heads of Port Phillip, steam up the bay, and blow the Maribyrnong munition works off the face of the earth, but he could not sail his ships to Ballarat or Bendigo. The Minister may point out that Port Phillip heads are mined and otherwise defended, but strange things are done by naval strategists, and the forcing of Port Phillip heads would not be the strangest of them. The Government has already admitted that the Newcastle steel works are vulnerable, and open to attack from the sea. The remarkable thing, however, is that the cost of protecting those works, which belong to private persons, is to be borne by the taxpayers of Australia. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are to be spent in providing defences, a policy to which I strenuously object. The responsibility for protecting private works of that kind should belong, not to the taxpayers of Australia or of New South Wales, but to those to whom the works belong. I suggest that there are other suitable places for the establishment of munition works. In the electorate of Indi, a firm which was engaged upon the manufacture of strawboard has ceased operations. It provided employment for 200 families in a country district about 50 miles from Melbourne, and those families are now without mean3 of subsistence. There is a very fine factory there, and it could be converted for the manufacture of munitions. Personally, I would not spend threepence on armament works or on defence works of any kind in Australia. A little while ago, at the pictures, I saw a film depicting the Minister for Defence standing well back while a 9.2 gun, which formed part of the defences of Sydney, was being fired. It was one of two such guns with which it is proposed to defend Sydney. Surely we must recognize that if an enemy proposed to attack Sydney, knowing that it was defended by 9.2 guns, he would come equipped with 12 inch guns to silence them. If we arm to our maximum capacity the potential enemy will also arm to his maximum capacity, and no one will be any better off than before. We might as well put two men on the Sydney harbour bridge armed with “ shanghais “ as to expect that we can defend Australia with a couple of 9.2 guns. The money which we are devoting to the manufacture of armaments would be much more effectively expended on the provision of roads and bridges, on the raising of the standard of living, and on encouraging the increase of population.
– Then why not cease all defence preparations?
– I would. I am, at least, consistent. If I held the opinions that the honorable member holds I should immediately join the army, and rise to the rank of colonel, if I could, or join the navy and become an admiral. I cannot see that the provision of armaments ever yet prevented a war. Last week, our leading newspapers told us that Australia, as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, had been fortunate in having at the head of affairs in Great Britain such a man as Mr. Chamberlain. We admit we were fortunate, and I pay tribute to that great man for his successful endeavours to secure the preservation of the peace of the world. Yet, no sooner had Mr. Chamberlain accomplished such a great task by negotiation than we were informed by the newspapers that the peace for which the world so hoped was achieved only because of the weakness of the British people as far as armaments are concerned. It was said that had the Empire the requisite armament strength the nation would have immediately been plunged into war with possible ultimate disaster to all concerned. It would appear, therefore, that our safety lies not in piling up armaments, but rather in reducing armaments and seeking peace by negotiation.
– The pacifists wanted to go to war.
– Tho pacifists have never wanted war. Propagandist statements such as those to which I have referred are being repeated in the Australian press daily, and are encouraged by this Government in order to bolster up its policy of increasing expenditure on armaments, and of the manufacture of armaments by private firms. If I believed that expenditure on armaments would result in the preservation of the peace of the world, I would support it to the very limit of our resources; but I believe that the building up of armaments in the past has definitely resulted, in almost all cases, in inevitable clash between rival nations. I- hope, therefore, that this policy will be abandoned, and that the Australian people will realize that, in .this respect, the Government is pursuing a wrong policy and that at least it will realize the unwisdom of handing over the manufacture of armaments to private profiteers. Let us examine the position in connexion with armament manufacture in Great Britain in recent years. It has been disclosed that the profits of the Vickers group of steel and armament manufacturers in 1937 amounted to £2,020,000. In the same year, the profits of the Vickers-Armstrong Company amounted to £1,965,000, and of the English Steel Corporation to £1,317,000. A dividend of 10 per cent, was declared on
Vickers’ ordinary shares, and 20 per cent, on English Steel Corporation deferred ordinary shares. Now that we have secured peace by negotiation, the whole of the people’s money spent in piling up the huge profits of the armament manufacturers represents so much wasteful expenditure as far as the British Empire is concerned. The conservative London Times in 1934 said -
It is obviously to their interest that nations should live, so to speak, on the brink of war.
Admiral of the Fleet Lord Wemyss said -
The inter-relation between foreign and home trade in armaments is one of the most subtle and dangerous features of the present system of private production.
I could quote the opinions of many other eminent men in the naval and military services with regard to the armament racket. All are agreed that if armament manufacture is left in the hands of private enterprise, the peace of the world is much more greatly endangered. If armaments were effective, there would not have been the threat of war recently, because everybody knows that since the world war all the European countries, and even the United States of America, have indulged in an armament race. Only by a miracle was war averted just recently.
These Estimates contain provision of £8,000 for civil aviation. I” can support this item with enthusiasm. I have no objection to defence expenditure of a character which cannot give annoyance to other countries, and which cannot be in any way construed as a threat to their safety. I believe that as much money as it is possible to provide should be made available for the development of civil aviation. More money should be made available for country aerodromes and for the assistance of country aero clubs, which perform such splendid work in training the young people of this country to be air-minded, f more money were spent in this direction, Australia could become a country of outstanding importance in the world in regard to its civil aviation services.
I do not share the doleful view of the ‘ honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) in regard to postal expenditure.
I believe that we should do everything possible to extend . our postal facilities. In many country districts, and even suburban areas, in Australia additional postal facilities are required. I am quite satisfied that many of our postal buildings in the towns and cities throughout Australia are antiquated, and need reconstructing and remodelling in order to permit the staffs who have to work and live in them to be able to carry out their duties more efficiently. I believe that the charges imposed for telephone services are too high, and that the cost of extensions should be less. I agree with the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) that money provided for telephone extension is well spent, and that the provision should be increased. I listened with very much interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) with regard to borrowing by semigovernmental bodies. Since the Loan Council was set up, nearly every State in Australia has found its borrowing activities restricted. The States have no desire to indulge in borrowing for wasteful expenditure, but they find that when demands are made for the erection or extension of public buildings and for increased social services, the Commonwealth, with the co-operation from time to time of other States, through the instrumentality of the Loan Council, restricts the provision of loan moneys for such ventures. As the result of this, almost all of the States are now adopting a policy of delegating power to semigovernmental authorities to raise loan moneys, thereby largely avoiding the curb placed on their activities by the Loan Council. I say frankly that I am not one of those who support extravagant loan expenditure programmes. I believe that all public works, whether they be municipal, State governmental or Federal governmental, should to a large degree be financed out of revenue, and that when that is not possible, they should be financed by medium of credit made available from national finances through the Commonwealth Bank. This continued practice of raising more and more loans at fairly high rates of interest is welcomed by investors and by private banking institutions. This policy of ever increasing the public indebtedness pre sents one of the social problems of major importance which this country has to face. All State governments, whether they believe in the raising of loan moneys or not, have to indulge in that policy largely because of the neglect of the Commonwealth Government to deal effectively with the problem of relieving unemployment. After all, the Commonwealth Government alone has complete power to deal with this problem ; but because of its failure to do so, the States are placed in the unfortunate invidious position of having to continue to add to their loan indebtedness in order to alleviate unemployment. I have no more to say, except to repeat the hope that the Government will abandon its policy of handing over to private enterprise the manufacture of armaments. If we have to participate to some extent in the armament race, let us at least arrange for the manufacture of armaments by governmental institutions in the various States. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) and some other honorable gentlemen opposite have discussed to some length the Government’s proposal to establish annexes at different workshops. They have shown that they misapprehend the position to some extent. They do not quite appreciate what the annexes are, or what they are intended to do. It will be noticed that this matter is referred to in connexion with the Principal Supply Officers’ Committee. The purpose of this committee is, in peace time, to prepare plans to provide essential requirements for the fighting services in war time. Consequently, supplementary methods of adding to the munitions of the country must be considered by this body. The position of an annex must depend entirely, for its success, upon the position of the parent tool room. The various tool rooms of the railway workshops of Australia are naturally of great importance in the establishment of efficient annexes, and must, in fact, determine the position of them. In a time of emergency, the railway workshops of the Commonwealth would have placed upon them a very much more severe burden than they carry to-day. Even to-day, under peace conditions, a considerable number of these workshops are working almost to capacity. If war should occur, a very much heavier call would be made upon their services and resources. These factors must be considered by the Government in establishing annexes. The method that has been adopted to achieve this purpose is designed to cause the minimum of disorganization, and the minimum of withdrawal of men from industry for government purposes. Again, the machinery proposed to be installed at the various government annexes is, for the most part, of a special type which cannot be used for other than the purpose for which it is intended in connexion with munition making. It is not proposed that the plant installed at the different annexes shall be utilized by private firms in the ordinary course of their business.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that it could not be so used ?
– I have not sufficient technical knowledge to give the honorable member a complete answer, but I understand that 90 per cent, of it could not be used.
– Are ‘these annexes already built?
– No. Typical layouts have been prepared, and in many cases the necessary machinery has been ordered ; but, speaking from memory, I do not think any of the annexes are yet in production. All that these annexes will do will be to provide certain component parts for various types of munitions. The parts will be assembled and filled in our own factories. It is not proposed that such work shall be done in the annexes. In all cases, the firms providing the annexes will also provide the land, and in. some cases they will provide the building, as well. In most cases, the Government will provide the unit of plant. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), and. other supporters of the Government, have declared, from time to time, that the Government does not intend to allow great armaments trusts to bc established in Australia. I have frequently said, from my place in this chamber, that I am opposed to the private manufacture of armaments for profit. I dislike that policy just as much as does any honorable member opposite. What the Government is seeking to do i3 to provide its own units and plant, and locate them conveniently at the railway workshops and certain civil establishments for the purpose of management and operation in time of emergency. At no time is it intended to relinquish control of what is made in the annexes or of the profits which result from what is made there. The Government is in a position to make a very close comparison of costs of all armaments that are likely to be required Last week the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) declared that the Government had “ fallen down on its job” in respect of the provision of certain surgical instruments which would be necessary for the civil population in the event of gas attacks. He said that it was doing nothing to provide these instruments, which were essential to deal with casualties following upon gas attacks. That is not so. Actually, the particular surgical instruments to which the honorable member referred are being manufactured in Australia by our own workmen in our own workshops ; but at the moment they have to be made of imported material. Perhaps they are not being made at the rate which the honorable member and I myself would desire.
Several honorable members have protested against the discontinuance of the rolling of brass and nickel sheets at Maribyrnong. All that the Government has done, however, has been to discontinue doing such work for private enterprise. It considers that private enterprise should do its own work of this description in view of the fact that the full capacity of all government workshops is required for the manufacture of certain important munitions. The Minister for Defence will have more to say on this subject - later.
It has been suggested that our railway workshops are not being sufficiently’ utilized by the Government. The fact is that they are being utilized as fully as possible. The railway workshops, both of New South Wales and Victoria, have been allotted certain definite tasks in respect of the provision of munitions.
The tool room of the railway workshops in South Australia is being added to. The Governments of Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania, have all been consulted on the subject, and have been informed of the part that it is hoped their railway workshops will be able to take in time of emergency. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) said last week that the railway workshops of Queensland were not being given their fair share of work by the Defence Department. The honorable gentleman usually takes care to see that his own State, and particularly his own electorate, are not neglected in matters of this description, but he apparently failed to ascertain, on this occasion, that the railway workshops of Queensland, so far from not working short time, are, in fact, ‘fully occupied. If that is so in peace time, what would be their condition in war time, when work might have to be ‘speeded up tremendously? In such circumstances what opportunity would there be to obtain much assistance?
– Has the Government of Queensland given any assurance that the workshops will be enlarged?
– It has been consulted as to the manner in which the State railway workshops could be utilized, and negotiations are at present proceeding between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland on this subject.
– No doubt the State Government will be willing to co-operate.
– There is no doubt at all on that subject. In no case has this Government discovered anything but the utmost willingness on the part of the State governments to co-operate on defence works.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports stated last week that the Autocraft Company at Fisherman’s Bend was anxious and willing to place the whole of its resources at the disposal of the Defence Department to assist in our re-armament programme. That sounds exactly like the co-operation that the Principal Supply Officers Committee desires, and investigations are now being made into this subject. I have no doubt that the honorable member’s representations on this subject will prove to be well founded.
The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) referred, in his speech, to. troubles that occurred in 1914 in consequence of technical men having been allowed to enlist in non-technical units. The Institute of Engineers of Australia has arranged to make available to the Government for departmental use, a complete record showing the technical and other qualifications of its members. These persons will be card-indexed, so that their services will be available in the most effective way should the need arise. A census is also being taken of all machine tools in Australia. A complete record of these will be compiled.
May I reiterate that the Government does not intend to allow great armaments trusts to be established in Australia. I share wholeheartedly the views of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports on this subject. It is intended to do everything possible to utilize all the resources of this country, industrial and otherwise, to ensure its effective defence should the need arise. At no time, however, will the Government relinquish control of the annexes which it is proposed to establish, or of the profits that may bo made therein.
The honorable member for Ballarat was at pains to say that the coastal defences at Sydney might just as well not be placed in the positions proposed. I. do not wish to misrepresent him, and I regret that the defence authorities do not seem to have consulted him on the subject. The fact, however, is that our most efficient authorities have been consulted to ascertain the best type of armament for coastal defences at Sydney and elsewhere. Apparently the Government, in its ignorance, failed to approach the honorable member for Ballarat on this subject. He may rest assured, however, that our naval and military authorities, and also the highest imperial authorities available, have been consulted on the subject, and that the defences being constructed at various ports are the most suitable that can be obtained for the purpose. The honorable member indulged ina very weak form of argument when he said that if certain powers realized we were installing 9.2-in. guns at certain points they would come along with 12-in. guns and blow ours out on the ground.I cannot quite follow the honorable member’s reasoning about the protection of Newcastle, which happens to be the centre at which a great deal of the raw materials which are essential for the well-being of this country are treated. Surely, the honorable member does not suggest that because some of it is being worked by a certain company there is no obligation upon the Commonwealth Government to defend Newcastle? I know that the honorable member is consistent in that he would abandon all defence expenditure.
– We have other means for the defence of this country.
– The honorable member may have to fight that out with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford). I do not think that the hon- orable gentleman has indicated what those other means are. How would he defend this country other than by expenditure on weapons of defence? This is no time for idealism ; we must face realities.
– There is not sufficient idealism in the world. If there we’re more, there would be more peace. It is realities that bring nations into war.
– The country that refuses to face realities cannot continue to exist. The mere fact that a thing is distasteful does not detract from its reality. It is a reality that there is a great deal of distrust and suspicion among the nations to-day, and to attempt to say, no matter how desirable it may be, that we shall disregard that distrust and suspicion and show an example to the world by leaving ourselves without arms-
– Would be a temptation to the other fellow.
– Certainly, it would be a temptation.
– The honorable gentleman is saying that, to preserve peace, countries must prepare for war.
– That, unfortunately, is a reality. The only alternative is to disarm entirely. If honorable members opposite think that complete disarmament is the best policy, I have nothing more to say other than flatly to disagree with them. But if honorable members opposite have hammered one thing, it is that they stand for the adequate defence of Australia. How shall we have adequate defence of Australia without munitions and men trained to use those munitions?
– Honorable members opposite do not want to fight and would not fight for their country.
-I do not desire to touch on that aspect. They have said that they stand for the adequate defence of Australia and we cannot have adequate defence unless we have adequate materials with which to defend us. The honorable member for Ballarat knows only too well that that is so.
– There are 900 unemployed in Ballarat. The Government can find plenty of money for guns, but none for the unemployed.
– The honorable member for Ballarat has changed his ground. I go back to the point that if we are to have adequate defence for Australia - for the purposes of this argument I leave out the question of Imperial co-operation - we must have munitions and men trained to use them. That is a fundamental fact with which no honorable member can disagree. It is a reality that must be faced.
– Is it the intention of the Government to concentrate on two States ?
– No. The honorable member is wrong in implying that the defence policy envisages only the defence of two States. That is not so.
– Why has it neglected Tasmania and those ports which I mentioned in my speech?
– It would not be good business to ask railway workshops,, say, in Western Australia, to make certain components for shells and then have to bring them all the way across the continent to fill those components into the shell cases in Victoria.
– Zinc has to be brought from Tasmania; otherwise munitions work could not continue.
– The honorable member is trying to draw me into an argument as to where money allocated for defence should be expended. The honorable member knows perfectly well that the defence policy does not take cognizance of States; it takes cognizance of the Commonwealth as a whole.
– The zinc industry in Tasmania, which is the only zinc industry in the southern hemisphere, should be protected, because its existence is essential to the manufacture of munitions.
– There must be some order of priority of work. It is obviously impossible to do everything at once. Some one must determine what is to be the order of priority. The advice tendered to the Government is sound, and the Government is justified in following it. If something in which the honorable member is interested, because it is situated in his own State, is not so high on the list as he would like it to bo, the Government is not shown to be wrong.
– I emphasize that the zinc works in Tasmania are the only zinc works in the southern hemisphere, and that they must be protected.
– I shall not allow myself to be drawn into an argument as to whether or not the zinc works should be protected. The honorable member must decide the risks to which the zinc works are subjected and then compare those risks with the risks to which certain other defence works are subjected, and decide for himself the order of priority in which they should be protected.
– My decision gives priority to the zinc works.
– The honorable member has made his decision, and it happens to disagree with the beliefs of those who advise the Government. Again I ask honorable members to remember that the annexes are to be the Government’s own units of plant. They will be in railway workshops or in certain selected civil industries, and they will be there so that they can be used in a time of emergency.
– Without profit?
– The profits willbe subject to government control. It could not be expected that the work would be done for nothing.
Sitting suspended from 6.18 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
.- I seldom find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr.
Hawker), but when, during his caustic criticism this afternoon, he claimed that the budget and Estimates are an outward and visible sign of irresponsible government, I found myself entirely in agreement with him, as must all thinking people in the community. But, whilst I give his conclusion my blessing, I cannot agree with his method of arriving at it. His ideas in arriving at that conclusion are entirely different from mine. He criticized the Government severely because it intends to spend this year in the Postal Department £1,350,000 more than it spent last year. He neglected to point out, however, that that amount is a portion of the accumulated surplus of the department. He claimed that, instead of increasing taxation for the purpose of defence, this £1,350,000 should be added to the sum that is to be spent in that direction. His desire is that this profit on the operations of the Postal Department shall be used to manufacture instruments of destruction. Defence, in his opinion, has a greater claim on the money than improvement of the facilities for social and economic intercourse. I am of the opinion that when the facilities of the Postal Department are used to such a degree or the people who use them are so overcharged that there is an accumulation of profits, it is sound and reasonable government to expend the surplus on increasing or improving the facilities available to those responsible for the surplus money. If no further facilities or improvements are needed - the honorable member for Wakefield did not appear to believe that they are urgently needed - there should be a reduction of the charges. That method of financing governmental undertakings is unchallengeable from any fair-minded point of view. I claim that those who derive the greatest profit from defence - that is, those who have the most valuable stake in the country and consequently the greatest interest to defend - should pay for it through taxation. Unfortunately, that is not the outlook of the Government. We are told that this year there is to be increased taxation, primarily for defence purposes. Instead of obtaining the major portion of the necessary finance, or for that matter, the whole of it, by a graduated tax on wealth production, it is proposed to increase the sales tax, and that will be a charge on every section of tho community. Comparatively, it will be as much a charge ou the relief worker who has part-time employment, or even ou the dole recipients, as on the wealthiest in the land. In that direction, the Government falls short of the necessities of the occasion, and criticism of its action in that regard is justifiable. It is regrettable that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) has not been in the chamber to hear the criticism that has been levelled at his administration, and also that every other member of the Ministry has absented himself from the chamber during this discussion, especially as some millions of pounds are to be expended under these Estimates without an adequate explanation of the details of the expenditure having been given. Such an explanation is particularly desirable to-day, because in this extraordinary expenditure, notably that relating to defence works, a very grave departure is being made from the principles usually applied.
In the present defence scheme it is claimed that the munitions factories under the control of the Government cannot satisfy the complete requirements of the Defence Department. Thus for the first time in ‘the history of Australia private enterprise will participate in the manufacture of munitions. It is claimed that this departure is .made because government workshops have not sufficient facilities to carry out the Government’s programme. Many hundreds of thousands of pounds will be spent in selected workshops on what the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence (Mr. Street) has described as defence annexes. How those workshops were selected, I do not know, nor has any explanation been offered. This vast amount is to be expended without adequate explanation of the method of its disposal, or of how much plant has so far been made available to private enterprise free of cost. The Minister for Defence, on numerous occasions, has voiced the desire of the Commonwealth Government to collaborate with the State governments in connexion with the defence programme. Of course, we know the reason for all this propaganda. It is intended to be a sort of sedative to those who do not entirely approve of this immensely increased expenditure on defence. Because of that disapproval, the Government endeavours to induce those who are not very enthusiastic about its defence programme to believe that much of this expenditure is justified, because it will provide work for the unemployed. So we have the Minister for Defence frequently stating that it is the intention of the Defence Department to collaborate with the works departments of the States and to use them as a recruiting ground for the necessary labour. Yet, up to date, there is no evidence whatever which can be submitted in any State to show that the Defence Department has attempted to collaborate with the States in the recruitment of the labour necessary for its defence works. Throughout the depression years, the State governments had the full responsibility of finding work and sustenance for the unemployed. Private enterprise played no part in that work, because when it sees no opportunity to make a profit it has no interest in the workers who are responsible for that profit. Numerous attempts have been’ made to induce the Commonwealth Government to become interested in the problem of providing work for the unemployed, but on every occasion we have been informed that the maintenance of the unemployed is a rightful charge on the State governments. An opportunity presents itself in this works schedule for the Commonwealth to interest itself in the problem. Approximately £1,700,000 is to be expended on works that would be suitable for the recruitment of labour through the State labour exchanges. But instead of collaborating with the State governments, as the Minister, when he introduced his original defence scheme, promised would be done, most of the work is to be given to private enterprise, which undoubtedly will rake off a handsome profit. Honorable members opposite, including the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, profess to abhor the thought that the armaments trust or private armament firms should make a profit out of the manufacture of armaments. Only to-day the Parliamentary Secretary professed himself entirely in sympathy with the Opposi- tion in its declaration that the manufacture of arms should be a monopoly of government institutions and. not of private enterprise. We would do nothing, he said, to establish an armaments combine in this country. I point out, however, that there is a very fine distinction between the actual manufacture of arms, and the work of placing those armaments. There might be some logic in the argument of the Parliamentary Secretary that the Commonwealth munitions factories are not able to cope with a peak demand for armaments. On that plea, -there might be some justification for farming out a portion of the actual manufacture of arms to those which are able to undertake the work; but no such excuse can be offered in regard to the rest of the work to which I am directing attention. There can be no such justification for the other adjuncts to our naval and military system, for which provision is made in this works programme. There is provision for gun emplacements for the defence batteries on the coast, and for the building of military barracks, &c. All of those works, apart from the actual manufacture of munitions, could be carried out by the Commonwealth Works Department. There is a Commonwealth works branch in every State; like a South American army, each consists wholly of officers. There are architects and all sorts of other officers in the Commonwealth works branches, but no rank and file. In the different States, most of the vast public works, which are much larger than are proposed in this works programme, are carried out by day labour by the State works departments, which are a replica of the Commonwealth Works Department. During the last seven years, the Commonwealth works branches have been definitely discouraged in every attempt they have made to induce “the Government to allow them to undertake even the simplest tasks that come within the purview of the Commonwealth Works Department. All of the undertakings have been let out by contract, despite the fact that works carried out in the past by the Commonwealth Works Department have been done efficiently. It has been demonstrated that both the States and the Commonwealth Works
Departments are competent to turn out a better and more reliable class of work than is private enterprise, and that tho cost has been lower. Yet the Government persists in farming out to profitmaking contractors all necessary works, particularly in connexion with the defence programme. Everybody knows that all of these contractors work on similar lines. They make allowance for a minimum profit of 10 per cent, on all costs, and that 10 per cent, has to be paid by the Commonwealth, despite the fact that it has a works department quite competent to carry them out without incurring that extra 10 per cent. If the work were given to the Commonwealth Works Department, money would go further and a better job would be done than is being performed under the existing arrangement. The Government has declared that it is its policy to collaborate with the State governments in the recruitment of labour for defence works. Therefore, if the Commonwealth were to carry out the works itself, it would be able to. recruit the necessary labour in a more orderly fashion than is possible now, and there would be less exploitation by private contractors. We have it on the authority of the labour unions, and of contractors who are prepared to do a decent thing by their employees, that it is practically impossible to get a government or private contract to-day if the contractor is to meet his obligations and pay his employeesthe proper wages. There is cutthroatscompetition in tendering for government or private jobs, and it is the employee who ultimately loses, and not the contractor.
– Did the honorable member not say that the contractor always got his 10 per cent.?
– I said that, and I meant it. Whether or not they cut the price, the contractors got their 10 per cent. ; the only difference is that most of the 10 per cent, comes out of the hides of the workers. It is my intention to move at a later stage a suitable amendment as an instruction to the Government in regard to employment on defence and other Commonwealth works.
Honorable members are justified in demanding some further explanation regarding the details of the expenditure propsed in these Estimates. The usual practice has been departed from on this occasion, and we are entitled to know why, particularly in view of the large amount of money involved. The Government should certainly honour its promise with regard to collaborating with the States in regard to recruiting labour for Commonwealth works. On Thursday last, L asked the Minister for Defence when he proposed to apply that policy in regard to defence works, and he replied that extensive defence works were in progress right throughout the Commonwealth. There is not much evidence of that at the present time. The Minister for Defence also said that his colleague, the Minister for the Interior, had advised him that there was no present intention of departing from the existing system of carrying out Commonwealth works by contract. Apparently, while the Minister for Defence makes promises, he is using the Minister for the Interior as a kind of smoke screen to avoid blame for failing to honour them.
There should also be some further explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence regarding the Government’s plan for defence annexes to engineering establishments. I challenged the honorable gentleman this afternoon to prove that the machinery which is being installed in private plants at the entire cost of the Government cannot be used by private firms for private purposes. So far as I can see, most of it is capable of being transferred to private use.
– That is not so. /
– The best evidence that it is so is that, during the last war, many private workshops were converted for the production of munitions. If they can be converted in one direction, they can be converted in the opposite direction. From what I have seen of the munition factory at Lithgow, much of the machinery can be, and has been in the past, adapted to the manufacture of commercial products. There is no evidence to show that the plant in the selected shops cannot be used for purposes other than defence purposes. Some further explanation is required from the Parliamentary Secretary as to why these particular shops were, selected, the amount of money already expended, and the quantities of work turned out in return for that expenditure. I agree with those honorable members who have protested against the way in which the Government is forcing the Estimates through Parliament without giving proper explanation regarding details of expenditure.
, - The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has said that, at a later stage, he will move an amendment as an instruction to the Government regarding certain matters associated with its defence policy. As far as I know, there is no reason why he should not move his amendment now. However, if it is the desire of the committee to debate these Estimates department by department, let us reserve our comments until the appropriate departments are before the committee. So far, the debate has been conducted on general lines.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) queried the item on the Estimates for the construction of a new boat for the Health Department. I can assure the honorable member that his fears are quite groundless, and it is not the intention of the Government to build this boat in order to send Ministers overseas. I also assure honorable members opposite that if their hopes, and the country’s fears, are fulfilled, and they should get on to the Treasury benches, this boat will be constructed to meet them on their arrival. It is for quarantine purposes. The boat at present in use has been in commission for 48 years, and it is the opinion of departmental officers that it should be replaced. That is why there is an item on the Health Estimates for the construction of one vessel for quarantine purposes.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked for information regarding the personnel of the directorate of Amalgamated “Wireless of Australia (Limited). The directorate consists of the following persons: Sir Ernest Fisk (chairman), Mr. C. P. Bartholomew, Mr.
The honorable member for Lilley (Mr Jolly) raised an important question of policy in regard to the works programme of the Post Office. He must realize that constitutional problems are involved. The Constitution provides that all revenue shall be paid into a Consolidated Revenue Fund. In this respect, the Commonwealth has not the same liberty as have other governments which are not fettered by written constitutions. However, if he presses the matter, it will be gone into, and a reply furnished to him.
– Cannot the surplus be reduced by reducing the charges for facilities ?
– It can, but in that case the total amount of revenue will he reduced, and the honorable member should say what increases of taxation he would propose in order to balance the budget for the coming year.
– I might be able to do that, too.
– Perhaps, but the honorable member would do so with the full knowledge that he would not be called upon to put his proposals into operation.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) suggested that the Minister for Defence should visit Tasmania. I assure him that his request will be placed before the Minister.
A good deal was saidby the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) regarding the manufacture of munitions and armaments, and I was not able to discover from their remarks just exactly what they had in mind. They should realize that there is no such thing in this country as vested interests in the manufacture of armaments. Members of the Opposition should also realize that if Australia were actually at war, the established government institutions would not be able to cope with the demands for munitions and armaments. The policy of the Government is quite clear, and is not open to any suspicion. It is simply a matter of preparing in advance for the expansion of output that would be required if there were war near our shores.
– How much has been spent in this direction up to date?
– I think the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence (Mr. Street) gave a considerable amount of information on that point. I put it to the honorable member for Dalley, who is a fairly reasonable man, that if we wait and debate these matters as the several departments come on for discussion we shall arrive at a better understanding of the position.
.- The debate on the first item provides an opportunity for a general discussion of the amounts provided for additions, new works, and buildings. It is rather unseemly that the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), who has been practically the only Minister in the chamber most of the time this debate has been in progress, should complain about the absence of honorable members on this side. As a matter of fact I think it can be truly said that there have been quite as many members of the Opposition present during the discussions as there have been members supporting the Government. Honorable members on this side of the House have found it necessary to call for quorums frequently in order to secure an attendance of Ministers. They have had to rely upon the Assistant Minister for Commerce and the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence (Mr. Street) to furnish information handed to them by the responsible Ministers. While I pay tribute to the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence for the courteous way in which he has devoted himself to his public duty in this chamber, I cannot extend the same approval to the Assistant Minister for Commerce who has gone out of his way to provoke members of the Opposition to discuss matters which otherwise might have passed over without comment. The works which we are called upon to vote to-day necessitate examination and analysis, and some explanation shouldbe forthcoming in regard to them from a responsible Minister. Furthermore, some explanation should have been offered by the Government regarding them during the earlier stages of the debate. If that had been done I feel sure that the debate would not have been so prolonged. The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence explained this .afternoon something of what has been done in regard to the handing over of the manufacture of arms and munitions to private enterprise in case it should become necessary to increase our supply. There are many who believe that there should be no need to employ private firms for the manufacture of armaments. If the Government had a properly planned defence programme it would have been able to utilize the existing plants of the State railway workshops for this purpose, and it can be done now. If that had been done there would be no necessity to hand over such work to private enterprise for profit, limited or otherwise. Had the Government chosen to apply that policy it could have done so with success, but it prefers to hand over this work to private interests which give it support. Let us consider what has been the effect in the past of handing over work of this sort to private enterprise. Let us take as an example the rolling mills section of the ammunition factories at Maribyrnong from which more than 100 men have been dismissed since the beginning of this year. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) said that they would be re-absorbed, and that promise has in part been carried out, but at the present time there are still 40 out of employment while others have been added to the staff. It is the stated policy of this Government to give preference to returned soldiers seeking employment. Let me remind honorable members that there are quite a number, probably 30 of whom are returned soldiers, who have been put off government work at the munition factories and are still waiting employment. The reason is that certain work formerly carried out at the government munitions establishments at Maribyrnong has been handed over to private enterprise. I want to emphasize the fact that the strip metal and sheet metal industry, both in nickel and brass, was first developed in Australia at Maribyrnong as the result of the Scullin Government’s policy of fostering industries indispensable to the manufacture of munitions. The manufacture of these metals has now been handed over to a private firm in Sydney known as the Austral Bronze Company, but that company is not willing to undertake all of the work formerly done at the munitions establishment and, as the result, so I am informed, some of the material previously manufactured in Australia has now to be imported, thus’ depriving Australians of employment. It may be said that when the munitions department relinquished the manufacture of strip and sheet metal, either nickel, brass or phosphor bronze, and handed it over to private enterprise, the men who were doing this work might have been able to make arrangements to get other job3 had the work been continued in Melbourne; and if the Government had been fair it would, in view of the change of policy have made provision beforehand for them to be absorbed elsewhere. Though the estimated expenditure on buildings, annexes, &c, set down in these Works Estimates is many thousands more than was provided in past years, no serious attempt has been made to make preparations for the absorption of the men displaced from employment at the munitions factories although they have made representations to the Government from time to time. On the other hand men entirely new to munitions work have been engaged. Whilst I admit that 60 of the men have been able to secure re-employment, the other 40 would never have been put off if the Government had properly planned its works programme. We hear from time to time that the Government i3 to grant assistance to necessitous wheat-farmers. Undoubtedly the unsatisfactory conditions under which wheat-farmers operate to-day have made such assistance desirable, but should not the Government also undertake works that would absorb these men to whom I have referred and others who are out of employment? The Opposition is continually hammering at the Government to formulate plans to provide employment for the workless; but notwithstanding the splendid example set by the government of the sister dominion of New Zealand, which, by tackling this problem in a proper way, has reduced unemploy- ment almost to nil, the Government still continues its ineffective policy. It has the majority in numbers in this Parliament, and so long as it can secure the necessary finance without criticism, it will continue that policy. We hear the same old story every time the Works Estimates or the budget is presented in this chamber. We on this side of the chamber feel that it is necessary to criticize the Government with the view, if possible, to inducing responsible Ministers to mend their ways. During this debate, we have had to rely on the Assistant Minister for Commerce to convey to responsible Ministers, who are not prepared to remain in attendance in this chamber, the justifiable criticism voiced by the Opposition.
– The New Zealand Government has not six State Parliaments with which to contend.
– It is true that in New Zealand there is an absence of those difficulties associated with the six sovereign States in Australia, but .nothing is being done here to face up to or remove those difficulties. This Government, moreover, has no planned programme for dealing with public works, and has not had one for many years. This is apparent every time the budget and the Works Estimates are presented. If the Government had a planned policy, why is it that 30 or 40 men with services ranging from two and a half years to fourteen years, all of whom are returned soldiers, should be thrown out of employment in the munitions establishments? It is obvious that something is radically wrong with a policy which permits that state of affairs to continue. I do not know whether the Minister for Defence proposes to deal with it. I understand, however, he has promised at a later stage to make a - statement in regard to it.
– T have already given that undertaking.
– We may expect some enlightenment as to what the Government proposes to do. I emphatically assert that the Government has done a great injustice to these men. It seems anomalous that at a time when the Government is asking for more money for armaments, men with years of practical experience in the munitions establishments are actually being put off, while others who have not had that experience are being put on. The dismissed men have informed their parliamentary representatives that they are quite capable of doing the work which the other men are called upon to render the service that is required. The last 40 men to be dismissed had given very good service, but it is asserted that because they had reached a certain age they are no longer able to continue to do so. Apparently when men reach the age of 40 or 50 years they are no longer wanted. That state of affairs should not be permitted to operate in a government service. A properly envisaged programme of public works in Australia should provide for employment for both young and old in times of alleged prosperity such as the present.
It is a strange anomaly that at a time such as this it has been necessary for honorable members to make representations to the PostmasterGeneral, who controls a department overflowing with revenue, not to put men out of employment, notwithstanding the fact that in Victoria alone there are 7,000 condemned telephone poles awaiting replacement. Men risk their lives in working on those poles, and accidents are by no means infrequent. The Postal Department, with its overflowing revenue, apparently cannot find work to keep these men in employment. That position needs remedying. It should be possible to keep men in employment continuously until the whole of the condemned poles are replaced.
Going back for a moment to the supply of munitions, honorable members opposite, as well as those on this side of the House, claim that more work should be done in country centres. While the major munition factories are in my electorate the Government, in my opinion, has a case to answer when it is asked by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), and other honorable members in whose electorates are railway workshops, why some of these works should not be extended to country centres. I have no desire to lose men from my electorate, particularly that class of workers, the majority of whom support the political viewpoint of my party, but there is undoubtedly a case to answer in the criticism that the Government concentrates the whole of the manufacture of munitions in areas close to the seaports.
The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence told us to-day of the possibility of training more men for the defence of this country. The Government, however, has failed absolutely to make provision for the rapid transport of troops should emergency arise. Experts who have been brought to _ this country to report on transport’ schemes have indicated time and again that if an emergency arose which required troops to be concentrated in some particular locality, it would not bt possible under our existing arrangements to transport them speedily enough. Military gentlemen opposite who have studied the problem have told us that there is a. possibility that Australia may at some time be attacked. That possibility is indicated in the money now being spent for defence purposes. I assume that it would not be merely a case of some raiding party coming here and endeavouring to destroy some of the principal works in this country, such as the Newcastle Steel Works or the Port Kembla Steel Works, or perhaps to do serious damage to some of the State capitals. What an enemy would probably endeavour to do would be to land a force and occupy a small portion of territory as a base from which to conduct further operations. What chance would we have of dealing with such an attack under our present- methods of transport ? We can so plan our works programme as to arrange properly for the defence of Australia, but until the. transport problem is attacked by a government willing to envisage the needs of the future and covering the employment of our people, no good will result. Unless that is done much of the defence expenditure which we are called upon to vote will be money thrown into the sea. The Government knows this only too well because it has analysed the reports of the experts who have been brought from overseas to guide us in these matters. A. properly planned transport programme would do more for the effective defence of this country than the manufacture, of heavy armaments and the provision of 9.2 guns at Sydney Heads.
I venture to suggest that a great deal of the material that is being used at present on works for the Defence Department is being manufactured by private enterprise, lt is inevitable thai some of it should go to private enterprise in any circumstances, but it is not right thai the shareholders of wealthy enterprises such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company limited and its subsiduaries, as well as the Imperial Chemical Industries Trust and others, should be permitted to draw large dividends out of the defence programme, while at the same time a more practical programme involving the utilization of government-owned factories and effective transport arrangements is easily within reach. I trust that every honorable member will take the opportunity to share in the general debate on the Works Estimates and criticize the policy of a government which ignores the future altogether. It has failed to evolve -plans which would permanently relieve the. spectre of unemployment, and during this debate Ministers have ignored the committee and have spent most of their time outside of the chamber during an important discussion, when they should have been present to hear what has been said.
.- I am not at all misled by the assurances of the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence (Mr. Street) that the Government is satisfied that private enterprise will not make profits out of the manufacture of munitions. If honorable members will cast their minds back they will recall that, when the Government announced its intensified defence programme, assurances were given to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) by private manufacturers that they were prepared to co-operate with the Government in the manufacture of armaments without direct profit to themselves.. It is beyond my comprehension how any government or any minister could attempt to justify expenditure of Commonwealth funds in the extension of works conducted by private enterprise, without being able to tell honorable members whether this additional machinery and plant . is to be Landed over to private enterprise as a gift and whether, when not engaged in the manufacture of munitions, it could be used for other purposes of a private nature. The Minister has not explained that up to the present. If they do not make use of this equipment except for the purpose of manufacturing munitions the machinery will be surplus in. their hands just as it would be surplus in the hands of the Government. Thus the reason given for incurring this expenditure in this way does not bear examination. lt is of no use for honorable members opposite, whether they be Ministers or private members, to say that profits are not being made in Australia out of the manufacture of war equipment. All the evidence is against them. Such statements are made merely to mislead the public. The real purpose of the Government is not to prevent, but to assist its friends to exploit the people. Honorable members opposite may declare as much as they like that there are no vested interests in the manufacture of war equipment in Australia; but we know very well that the most casual examination of recent balance sheets of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited reveals a different state of affairs. The reports issued periodically by that huge organization make no secret of the fact that its increased earnings are due to a greater degree to profits on defence orders carried out for the Commonwealth Government or on the supply of the necessary materials for the manufacture of munitions and defence equipment. These reports prove conclusively that profit is being made out of the manufacture of munitions of war. It is rather amusing in these circumstances to hear Government supporters assert that they are against the making of private profit out of contracts for war munitions.
To hear supporters of the Government speak as they do on this subject one would imagine that it is easy to forget the great burden of war debt that is crippling this country. It would be interesting to ascertain the proportion of the existing war debt that was actually expended on the net cost price of materials supplied to the Government for war purposes, and the proportion of it which represents the profits of exploiters of the public, including interest paid on money loaned for war purposes at one time or another. We know very well that the so-called patriots of this country are indifferent as to the colour, creed or race of the people from whom they were able to make profits. Their main concern is that profits shall accrue to themselves.
The Government’s purpose in submitting this plan for the establishment of annexes is undoubtedly to assist its political friends. The people who hold the controlling interest in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited support this Government by making large donations to Government party funds. We must all realize that such details as we are now discussing are settled outside this Parliament. It would never do for the Government to come forward and say boldly : - “ Our policy is designed to enable private enterprise to make profits out of the expenditure of public funds “on defence equipment “. If such a statement were made the public would rise in genuine resentment and defeat the Government. The method adopted is far more subtle than that. First the Prime Minister makes an appeal to all sections of the community to co-operate in defence preparations. Then certain manufacturers come forward and assure the Government that they have every wish to co-operate, and do not desire to make any profits at all out of such activities. The Prime Minister, or some other responsible member of the Government then congratulates these individuals upon their public spirit, and upon their magnificent offer to co-operate. The next thing we find is that the Government, by such devious means as those now being adopted; makes provision to expend large sums of public money on the installation of equipment in factories owned by private individuals. So far as we can ascertain, no provision is being made to supervise the use of this equipment in any way. Like the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), I believe that this equipment will be used for other than defence purposes. We all know very well that the small arms factory as Lithgow is used in peace times to manufacture many articles which are of general use. We are not so foolish as to believe that the machinery that is to be installed in these annexes will not also be used in that way.
This policy, as a matter of fact, is an entirely new departure. Anti-Labour governments have always protected their friends and done their best to help them to exploit the general public, but I do not believe that we have ever before had a government with a sufficiently thick hide to come forward and say : “ We propose to make Commonwealth funds available to enable our friends to equip their factories with new plant and machinery.” I, for one, refuse to believe that this plant will not be used for productive purposes in peace time.
With respect to other Commonwealth activities, I, like some other honorable members, wish to know why the work the Government has in mind cannot be carried out through the Commonwealth Works Department under the “day-labour principle. On every occasion when a fair comparison has been possible between the daylabour and contract systems, the evidence has invariably been to the effect that more satisfactory and efficient work is done under the day-labour system than under the contract system. Public officers in charge of day-labour jobs are anxious, in their own interests, to obtain satisfactory results. Contractors who tender for public works are, on the other hand, always looking for ways and means to make larger profits. They have to compete with other contractors in tendering, and, in order to secure a contract, they cut prices to the bone, and, then, unfortunately, they stoop to all sorts of ways and moans to defraud the public and to avoid fulfilling the strict letter of their contracts. No argument has been advanced by the Government to justify any departure from the day-labour system in connexion with all Commonwealth work, and we are entitled, therefore, to request that all work shall be done under that system. It has not been suggested by honorable members opposite that the Commonwealth Works Department is incapable of doing the work which has to be done. Our own officers are just as capable as private individuals of recruiting the labour to do the work. If the Government is not prepared to have this work done through its own works department, why does it continue to saddle the country with the expense of maintaining that department? The department is capable of doing the work and the Government knows it.
Personally, I request that a great deal more information bo provided about these proposed defence works than the Government has so far seen fit to furnish. Whenever we ask for information of this description we are told that it would be dangerous to make available information which might prove of value to potential enemies ; but no such argument can be justifiably advanced in this case. I want to know whether the Government proposes to control these annexes, and also whether the equipment that will be installed will remain the property of the Government, or whether it will be handed over, holus bolus, to private enterprise. The people of Australia will also want information on these points. I. therefore trust that before this discussion concludes a responsible member of the Government will clear the matter up for us.
.- I also wish to obtain some further information on one or two. matters referred to by the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence (Mr. Street). The honorable gentleman said that the. Government did not believe in the making qf private profits out of the construction of armaments. Yet the honorable gentleman must be well aware that immediately the Government decided to accelerate its defence programme the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. Limited increased the price of steel by amounts ranging from 5s. to 20s. a ton. Its balance-sheets have shown conclusively that it has made an immense rake-off in consequence of this altogether unjustified price increase. Not only did it increase the price of its raw material in this way, but it also endeavoured to place intolerable working conditions upon its employees. The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence stated that there was no branch of any armament trust in Australia. My reply is that the Broken Hill
Proprietary Company Limited is, in fact, a branch of this huge organization. We are all well aware that the whole of the raw material that will be required for defence purposes in Australia will be supplied ,by this huge organization. Is it to be for ever necessary for us to hammer home the lessons of the last war? We have been told in the course of this discussion that in time of peace, when plans are being laid- for the defence of the country, there is no need for ns to become heated over costs that are likely to prevail under war conditions. All rational people, however, realize that this is the time to concern ourselves about this vital matter, for, once war occurs, these unscrupulous organizations simply hold a pistol at the head of the country and demand whatever price they choose for the materials that, in many cases, they alone can supply. We all know very well that during the last war, in Great Britain and elsewhere, the armaments trust “ horned in “ on the nation, and demanded its own price for the materials that were needed. These so-called patriots demanded £165 each for Lewis guns which the Government was able to manufacture for itself at £25 each. Does the honorable gentleman intend that these profit-mongering private manufacturers should be able to use the annexes and tools of trade which the Government intends to provide for them for the purpose of sapping” the life-blood of the nation? Does the honorable gentleman not know that the Ministry of Munitions, which was established in Great Britain during the last war, as the result of the disclosures of profiteering, saved £500,000,000 in six months? If he does not know that he is recreant to his trust. It is treachery to the nation to allow this profiteering.
– The honorable member has heard me say time and time again that the Government does not propose to allow the control of the new operations to go out of its hands.
– But the Government has done nothing at all to prevent the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited from increasing the price of steel, which is required for its defence works, by amounts ranging from 5s. to 20s. a ton. When these annexes and tools of trade are handed over to private enterprise, the Government will have to pay higher prices for its munitions requirements because it has done nothing to create a government organization to control these matters.
The honorable gentleman pointed out that it was not possible, in times of peace, which I pray shall last for a long period, for the government munitions works to continue to produce munitions at full pressure, because there would be no demand for them. The honorable gentleman knows that the small arms factory at Lithgow proved to the Bruce-Page Government that its machinery could be adapted to turn out all sorts of tools of trade. It could have continued this work, but the Government said, “ We do not believe in competing with private enterprise “. Because the present Government does not believe in competing with private enterprise, and because it will not create a governmental concern to save this nation from profiteering, it is creating a position in which the bludgers on the nation, in time of peril, will be able to make billions of pounds of profits. That is the position. I do not care how mild-mannered honorable gentlemen opposite may seem, or how they may protest with sobbing voices that they do not believe in profit-making by private enterprise from war equipment, they will not do anything to check it. The Government has all the evidence it needs about profiteering. It has blue books, white books, red books, and green books, reports of royal commissions, and other investigators, on the subject. It has reports which tell it that private armament firms in Great Britain, France and Italy supplied the enemy country, Germany, with the basis of the gas which the Germans sent over the allied lines. All of that, and more, is known by the Government to-day. The same thing will occur again. So long as the profits are big enough, I venture the opinion that private armament firms in Australia will be willing, if the occasion arises, to supply the enemy with weapons which will be used against us. It has been done before and it will be done again; yet honorable gentlemen opposite, having all the evidence, and not being able to deny one particle of it, because it is the policy of the Government not to compete with private enterprise, will place this country in the position of having to “ muddle “ through, as Great Britain had to do in the Great War. The country will again be loaded with a huge unnecessary war debt. That is indisputable. The position is tragic. This Government is not only allowing private firms to enter into the manufacture of arms and munitions, but is also dipping its bands into the Treasury in order to provide them with new buildings and tools of trade which will enable them to batten on the country. The honorable member should tell the committee what the Government said to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited when it raised the price of steel. Did it say : “ We shall not pay the 5s., 15s., or 20s. a ton by which you have raised the price?” Of course it did not. It paid the increased price without a murmur. All the honorable gentleman’s pleading that he knows nothing about profiteering and that it will not be allowed, goes by the board when one realizes that one of the wealthiest concerns in Australia, a monopolistic combine, developed by this Parliament by means of bounty and tariff, is able as soon as an enhanced defence policy is announced, to reap huge profits as the result of increasing the price of the steel which forms almost the very backbone of that policy. This company, for whose benefit the -Treasury has been depleted by millions of pounds, must not be allowed to bushrange any longer. Of what use is it to say that the Government will not allow profiteering in war time, when it allows it to-day ? The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is making huge profits out of the Government’s defence policy, and every other company which the Government helps to develop by means of extended premises and tools . of trade will band together into a combine and bleed the country to exactly the same degree as happened in every country during the last war.
– I add my protest to that made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) against the manner in which .Parliament is being called upon to consider the Estimates for new’ works and buildings before the general discussion on the budget is completed. The piecemeal procedure of dealing with the budget, and of measures arising from it, is most unsatisfactory. Honorable members are not given a full opportunity in such a ‘debate as this, to refer to all the matters that should be discussed. 1 appeal to the Government in carrying out its works programme, both civil and defence, to use the day-labour system. When works are let on contract a great portion of the money expended is diverted to profits by the contractors. Those profits would provide a great deal of extra employment. If the works were carried out by the works branch of the Department of the Interior, there would be closer supervision, greater efficiency and less cost. In the last few years there has been considerable cause for complaint in respect of the way in which contractors have failed to carry out their contracts. The Government has had to complete work at its own expense and the original estimates have been exceeded by large amounts. The waste of money has been great. In emphasizing the virtues of the day-labour system as opposed to the contract system, I point out that the work undertaken at Mascot recently was done economically and efficiently under the control of the Commonwealth Works Branch. I believe that the whole of the Commonwealth Government’s works programme should be done in the same way.
Some of the greatest scandals in .this country have been associated with Commonwealth defence works which have been let by contract to private companies. The country has been fleeced on many occasions. .Honorable members need no reminder as to how the country was robbed of thousands of pounds in the Kidman-Mayoh contract for the building of wooden ships during the war. The contract was given to Kidman and Mayoh, but before the job was completed inquiries led to an investigation by the Parliamentary Works Committee, of which the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) was chairman. It was disclosed in evidence that only a small proportion of the rivets went through the timbers. The other rivets had been cut off close to the head and just driven in. It was shown conclusively that the vessels were unseaworthy. Thousands of - pounds of the taxpayers’ money had been wasted.
– And Kidman and Mayoh applied for compensation.
– Yes; they applied for compensation. When money needs to be expended on defence, it seems to be a harvest time for “ slick “ contractors who are not satisfied with a reasonable profit, but adopt dishonest means to increase their profits. Having the Kidman-Mayoh scandal in mind, I warn the Government to exercise the closest scrutiny over any contracts which it may let under the present programme. Gun emplacements will be needed and it may be that they will be built with insufficient cement. What has been done in the past will be done in the future. I appeal to the Government to avoid all possible trouble by carrying out these works by day labour through the Commonwealth Works Branch.
The establishment of aerodromes is a national matter and it should be treated as such by the national Parliament. Instead of that, if a municipality desires to establish an aerodrome for the purpose of utilizing the civil aviation services, it applies to the Commonwealth Government or to the Department of Civil Aviation for the money. It is referred back to the State Government, which in turn refers the matter back to the municipality itself. And so it goes round and round and no work is done. The establishment of aerodromes is no more a work for municipal councils than is the establishment of railway stations. Another analogy is between main roads and aerodromes. Main roads are built by means of money disbursed to the States by way of petrol tax collections. Some of the roads are built in part by the Main Roads Board, and in part by the shire and municipal councils. They are, on the whole, national roads, and the national Parliament provides tie money for their building out of general revenue because they are used by the whole of the citizens, not only by the citizens of the town or the village through which they run. Aerodromes are in the same category, and proceeds of the petrol tax should be allocated to their establishment because the aeroplane users pay a considerable amount of the tax.
– Does not the honorable gentleman think that we are doing that?
– No. Last year £11,445 was expended, but the amount for this year is only £8,000. A number of air services pass through my electorate. For three years I have been appealing to this Government to establish a landing ground on the Blue Mountains, to make it safe for aircraft to fly over the ranges. Frequently, when pilots are in difficulties, they have to fly back hundreds of miles to reach a satisfactory landing ground. The Government has not attempted to comply with my request, although a landing ground was promised by the former Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkhill. That is one of the most necessary national undertakings which should be carried out by this Government. It should also establish aerodromes in all centres where air services are operating. It is not a work which municipal councils should undertake, as they are not financially strong enough, but probably their assistance could be invoked in maintaining the grounds after they had been provided. At Hay, in my electorate, the Commonwealth inspector, after examining the landing ground, refused to licence the aerodrome for craft of all types unless the local municipal council expended about £3,000 on the construction of a runway. The council was not in a position to do that. Hay would not benefit alone from such a work. Aeroplanes which fly through it to Mildura, Adelaide, Melbourne and Broken Hill make use of that aerodrome. It is obvious,, therefore, that the construction of a runway would be a national service, and the money for it should be provided out of the national revenue.
Money is made available under the River Murray Waters Act for the locking of water on the Murray River. The Government is not fulfilling its obligations in regard to these works. I have a very serious complaint to make against the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen). The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has complained that the Government is not standing up to such companies as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. If my information is correct, the Minister for the Interior is definitely not prepared to stand up to the company, and has said so. Work was suspended on the Redbank weir on the Murrumbidgee River owing to a shortage of the supply of steel, and about 60 men engaged on the undertaking were discharged in one batch. A considerable number of men have lost their employment on that weir simply because of a shortage of steel. All other materials were available and all the necessary equipment is on the site. I have been informed that the Minister stated that he was not prepared to press the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to supply the Government with the necessary steel. He would rather allow those men to lose their employment, thus inflicting suffering on their families. This company has practically a monopoly of the supply of steel in Australia. If it cannot do the work demanded of it, or if it is not doing it efficiently, the Government should make sure that it does so in future. The Government should not be held up at the gunpoint by this company, or allow men to be thrown out of employment. The Minister should inform the committee of his reason for not being prepared to press the company to supply the necessary steel. I asked a question on notice on this matter, and was informed that it was one for the State Government. In these Estimates £90,000 is being voted towards the cost of these works. The expenditure last year was £102,000. The Minister for the Interior is Chairman of the River Murray Waters Commission and I understand that the Chief Engineer of the Department of the Interior is the deputy chairman. They play a prominent part in the work of the commission, and make periodical inspections of its works, for which they are responsible to a large degree. In these circumstances they should ensure that the undertakings are supplied with the necessary steel, and that those engaged on them are not thrown out of employment.
.- The committee is asked to vote £7,000 for “ The Parliament “. The expenditure last year was £2,182, although no vote was provided for the purpose. I assume, therefore, that it was defrayed out of Treasurer’s Advance, that it represents the cost of certain alterations that have been made to this building, that the item will appear some day in Supplementary Estimates, and that we are now asked to provide an additional £7,000, making a total of more than £9,000. I suggest with great respect that this expenditure, and what was done with it, are matters requiring a statement to this committee. Very important structural alterations have been effected to this building, yet the Parliament has not yet been given any information to prove that they were necessary. I do not say that they were not necessary, but I submit that the committee is entitled to an explanation by whichever Minister was responsible for them, showing why they were made, what estimates were prepared, and the amount by which the cost exceeded the estimate. After all, this is a parliament building, and not a government building, and the money for its capital cost, as well as for any alterations to it, have to be voted by this Parliament. We are now asked to vote £7,000, yet no Minister has risen to treat the committee to even the courtesy of an explanation as to why the cost of structural alterations to this building is nearly £10,000.
– I have not had an opportunity to give an explanation. This item has only now come up for consideration.
– The item would have been passed had I not debated it. The honorable gentleman appears to have become very nettled because I asked that he or some other Minister should justify the alterations that have been made. 1 intend to take similar action in regard to quite a number of items, and if the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) wishes to expedite the passage of the Works Estimates he should do what is not usual with this Government, namely, bring in the responsible Minister to give the committee an explanation of the various items before they are discussed.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has made a great display because, within ten seconds of this item having come before the committee, he las not received an explanation of it.
– The honorable gentleman did not authorize the expenditure, and the work was not carried out under his supervision.
– I speak on behalf of the Government in giving the committee an explanation of the proposed vote of £7,000.
– The amount is over £9,000, because £2,182 was expended last year without any vote being provided.
– That has to do with the Supplementary Estimates. This is the usual procedure, which has been followed by every government since the inauguration of federation.
– The complete alterations are to cost more than £9,000, and [ ask the Treasurer to justify that expenditure.
– I shall justify the expenditure of the £7,000 which appears on these Estimates, and nothing else. That £7,000 relates almost entirely to alterations and additions to Parliament House, to provide a greater and more appropriate measure of accommodation for Ministers and members. The proposals, in the main, include alterations and additions to Parliament House, £5,400. The detail of that, I think, is known by every honorable member. The other items of consequence are: Supply of fittings and furniture for the new accommodation, £600; for members’ rooms, fittings and furniture, £250; miscellaneous minor services in connexion with the items I have just given, £250; alterations to the Opposition party room, £42; and a number of minor items that make up the amount of £7,000. The necessity for this work has been evident to Ministers, and to members on both sides of the chamber, for some time. The Government believes that the proposals which have now been given effect will provide no more than the additional accommodation that is necessary for both Ministers and members to carry out their duties. The extra accommodation is by no means lavish, either in extent or in the fittings that have been provided.
.- The committee is entitled to a fuller explanation of the expenditure of £42 on alterations to the Opposition party rooms, because I do not think any member of the Opposition is aware of alterations necessitating that expenditure.
Mr. CASEY (Corio - Treasurer) have before me. The item states specifically: “Alterations to the Opposition party rooms, £42.”
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Prime Minister’s Department, £3,600 - agreed to.
Department op External Affairs.
Proposed vote, £100.
– This is more or less a nominal provision, to cover the requirements of the External Affairs Department in respect of thesupply of furniture, fittings, &c, for this year.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £13,182. Mr. CASEY (Corio- Treasurer) [9.30]. - Usually the Treasury is not a spending department to any degree, but this year several items of unusual expenditure had to be met. The Taxation Branch in Melbourne is badly ventilated, and there is a large number of fairly highly-paid public servants working there under conditions which could be considerably improved. An amount of £636 has been allocated for expenditure on improved ventilation in the Taxation offices in Melbourne. Various other items include £40 for the supply of furniture. It has also been found necessary to re-partition a number of the larger rooms, at a cost of £480.
We come now to the National Insurance offices in Canberra, for which expenditure on the main office will amount to £374. An amount of £36 is to be expended on the provision of furniture for the Superannuation Board. For the Taxation offices in the various States £1,500 is being provided for furniture and fittings. Furniture and fittings for the Invalid and. Old-age Pensions offices, and the Maternity Allowance offices, is to cost £390. For the Census and Statistics office, furniture and fittings at a cost of £160 are to he provided, while for the National Insurance Commission’s main offices in the various States furniture and fittings costing £3,870 are to be purchased. An amount of £3,990 is provided for the erection of a paper store at the Government Printing Office in Canberra.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vole, £2,500.
Mr. CASEY (Corio- Treasurer) [9.34”). - The principal amounts are £124 for the supply of office furniture, fittings, shelving and tables for the Bankruptcy Court in New South “Wales; £170 for furniture, fittings, &c, for the Queensland Bankruptcy Court; and £172 for furniture, fittings, shelvings, and improvements to the heating system, in the offices in Canberra. Throughout the various States there is a large number of relatively small items for furniture, fittings, &c, totalling just under £2,000.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department OF the INTERIOR
Proposed vole, £283,600.
– One of the big items under this heading is the Commonwealth’s contribution to the Murray River Waters Commission, the other contributors being the Governments of New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. The total amount is £94,000, and includes £2,000 for the Hume Reservoir, £2,000 for weir and lock No. 15, £30,000 for the weir at Redbank, and .£60,000 for No. 7 lock at Maud. In addition to these amounts, it is estimated that expenditure during the current year on maintenance operations and control, and on gauge stations, will be £27,900.
– Last year the vote was £90,000, but the actual expenditure was £102,0Q0.
– Expenditure cannot be gauged exactly. Maintenance is estimated as far as possible in advance, but it is expedient at times to spend rather less, and at other times to spend rather more than is budgeted for. That accounts for the apparent discrepancy between the estimate and the expenditure for last year.
There is also an amount of £5,000 for the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. This will be credited to the War Memorial Trust Account. For Commonwealth offices and other buildings in the various States, and for architectural and engineering services, a large number of small items total £10,200. For meteorological buildings and equipment, necessi tated for the most part by the expansion of civil aviation, an amount of £22,800 is provided. For the construction of a new wing to the Melbourne Meteorological Bureau, £12,750 has been set aside, £5,362 is provided for the meteorological bureau in Brisbane, and for the erection of a small meteorological building at Townsville £185 has been provided.
– Will that building be erected this financial year ?
– Yes. An amount of £270 is to be spent on the provision of meteorological and technical equipment at Nhill aerodrome, while £170 is to be spent on various other aerodromes. For the provision of meteorological equipment at a number of aerodromes and flyingboat bases in Queensland £480 has been set aside, while for the same purpose £190 ib provided for Western Australia, £5,000 for South Australia, and £190 for Tasmania. For the Northern Territory, £440 is provided for meteorological equipment at Groote Eylandt and at Darwin. Also at Groote Eylandt flying base £465 is to be spent on the installation of ceiling lights, and £80 on the installation of meteorological equipment on the aerodrome at Canberra. At Port Moresby, in Papua, £2,180 is provided for meteorological equipment, and £100 is provided for a similar purpose at Salamaua, and at Norfolk Island.
An amount of £5,000 is provided under the heading of “ Governor-General’s Establishments, Buildings, Works, .Sites, Fittings and Furniture “: Of this, £238 represents liabilities carried over from last financial year for uncompleted services, and the balance is for new services at Admiralty House, in Sydney, and at Government House, in Canberra.
– How much is to be spent on Admiralty House?
– The exact amount is not stated, but the major portion of the £5,000 is to be expended on Government House, in Canberra, in providing additional accommodation. The plans are not yet finally developed or approved, but they include alterations and extensions to the various rooms, and the erection of a number of new rooms in order to provide what is believed to be adequate accommodation for the Governor-General and his staff:
Item No. 6 makes provision for the erection of a memorial at Canberra to His late Majesty, King George V. Cabinet approved of the provision of a memorial as far back as the 10th March, 1936, and decided that it should take the form of a group of symbolic statuary, the prominent figure being that of King George V. in bronze, with other features to symbolize the association of His Majesty with the birth and first 25 years of federation, the growth of the idea of Empire unity as a Commonwealth of Nations owing allegiance to one Sovereign, and, by means of panels or bas-reliefs, the main events of Australian national life. Three prominent Australian sculptors, Messrs. Paul Montford, W. L. Bowles, and G. Rayner Hoff, were invited to submit designs, which were examined by a technical committee. That of G. Rayner Hoff, of Sydney, was finally accepted and a contract was arranged under which Mr. Hoff undertook to execute his design for the sum of £19,444. Mr. Hoff’s design provides for an architectural portion, consisting of a platform in granite and freestone, a pylon with bases for a bronze figure of King George V., and an equestrian figure of St. George. The base of the pylon is to be treated with lettering and medallions in bronze, covering the subjects I have mentioned, especially featuring Australia’s part in the Great, “War, and containing a medallion of Sir Edmund Barton, the first Prime Minister. The site selected foi the memorial is on the main city axis, in the open square in front of Parliament House.
The final details of the contract had hardly been arranged with Mr. Hoff when he died suddenly, and the Government, after providing for the position to be investigated by the technical committee of advisers, arranged that a commission should complete the memorial in accordance with Mr. Hoff’s design. Mr. J. E. Moor field, sculptor, of Sydney, who had been associated with Mr. Rayner Hoff in the preparation of the design, and. had been nominated by him in the draft contract to carry on the work in the event of his death, agreed to accept the commission anc! carry out the contract at the price and under the conditions arranged with Mr. Hoff. The State Government kindly agreed to grant Mr. Moorfield leave from his duties as instructor- in modelling at the East Sydney Technical College, to permit the contract to be carried out. The agreement with Mr. Moorfield was signed on the 16th June, 1938, and the first instalment due under the contract, £3,500 has been paid. Provision is made for an architect to be associated with the sculptor, and for this purpose Mr. Harry Foskett, of Sydney, was selected, as he also had previously been associated with Mr. Hoff. The amount of £4,300 provided for in these Estimates is to cover payments expected to fall due during the financial year. The estimated total cost of the work, including expenses of adjudication and supervision, is £21,500. The contract is due for completion within two years from the 22nd June, 1938.
Item No. 7 provides £3,800 for expenditure in connexion with the Forestry School at Canberra. Approval was granted during the latter part of the last financial year for the erection of a building adjoining the Forestry Bureau building at Canberra, consisting of a museum with accommodation for a seed and soils store, carpenter’s shop, and store for publications. The estimated cost of the work is £3,771, and a contract for it was let to Mi-. C. W. Turton on the 6th July, 1938.
The next item, £7,500 for fittings and furniture, is intended to cover the supply of fittings and furniture for the following branches of the Department of the Interior : -
Works and Services, Central and all States.
Property and Survey
Australian War Memorial
The major portion of the vote will be required to provide necessary office furniture for the growing staff of the Works and Services Branch, which is at present directly associated with the execution of a large defence programme of works, in addition to the normal works operations. The meteorological branches are also being expanded to serve civil aviation requirements. Additional fittings and furniture will be required at the bureaux in the capital cities as well as at the country observing stationswhich are being established.
I come now to the proposed expenditure under the War Service Homes Account.. The services proposed to be financed under this vote are as follows : -
– I cannot say offhand, but the amount proposed to be expended is substantial. There are, of course, two amounts which will cover additional homes. I refer to £41,000 for new homes and £35,400 for the lifting of onerous mortgages. I suppose that would cover altogether about 120 homes.
– I do not wish to harass the Treasurer, but I think the committee is entitled, in such a case as this, to be furnished with detailed information as to how the money is proposed to be expended.
– I am giving information under the main headings. I am quite sure that when the specific items come before the committee the appropriate Minister will give all the details that are desired to honorable members.
– Well, I ask for specific information as to the added number of homes that will come under the War Service Homes Commission if this expenditure is agreed to.
– No doubt that information will be available. I am dealing with the items now because the proposed vote appears under the Department of the Interior. It is under this department that the financing is done.
– How is this vote controlled in Western Australia?
– The vote is under the Department of the Interior because it is through that department that tenders are called.
.- There should be a better specification of the amount proposed to be expended in connexion with the Commonwealth offices. We ought to be told exactly how the money is to be distributed through the different States. As the matter is set out now, it is confusing in the extreme. Amounts are being provided under similar headings in different States, but it is almost impossible for us to ascertain from what the Treasurer has said what amount will be expended in each State, and on what class of work it will be spent.
I have yet to be satisfied that the Government is warranted in maintaining a residence for His Excellency the Governor-General anywhere outside the Australian Capital Territory. No doubt it is pleasant for His Excellency to be able to occupy Admiralty House, in Sydney, but if a residence is to be provided in Sydney, why not also in each of the other State capitals? I imagine that the average Victorian citizen considers that His Excellency is just as much entitled to have a residence in Melbourne as in Sydney.
– We have asked for one often enough.
– I object to the provision of a residence in Sydney because it more or less creates an obligation to provide a residence in each of the other State capitals. It should be borne in mind that Australia is a federation of States. That is a crucial principle. I agree that adequate and proper accommodation should be provided for His Excellency the Governor-General at the Seat of Government. Such accommo-
dation should be in accordance with the dignity and prestige of the office. I shall not be querulous respecting the proposed vote for alterations that are required to His Excellency’s residence at Canberra. He should have adequate room for his own purposes, and also for the purposes of his staff; but it seems to me to bo extraordinary that, while we are asked to make provision for improved accommodation at Canberra, we should also be asked to agree to increased expenditure in a State capital. There can be no justification for this duplication of residences. In my opinion, it is utterly wrong in principle to provide accommodation for His Excellency outside of Canberra. Negotiations were on foot at one time with the object of providing such accommodation in Melbourne, but the protests were apparently so strong that the idea was dropped.
I am glad that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is finding additional money for the purposes of the Australian School of Forestry at Canberra. This school should be put in the very forefront of Australia’s activities.
– Should not the timber in our forests be paying for this expenditure ?
– The commercial use that should be made of the forests in the Australian Capital Territory is another aspect of the subject: It will be regrettable if the Canberra Forestry School is not maintained and developed in accordance with the ideals of the Conservators of Forests of the various States. I believe that each State Conservator is now fully in -accord with the maintenance of the Forestry School at Canberra.
– I should be very glad if the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) could get that in writing.
– I know that Mr. Kessell, the Conservator of Forests in Western Australia, is very strongly in favour of the development of the Forestry School in Canberra.
.- I should like some additional information concerning the item, “Loans to purchasers to connect sewerage, and to discharge sewerage costs, £24,100”. This, of course, has relation to the War Ser vice Homes Department. In my electorate, many war service homes are not connected with sewerage, although the owners have applied for such connexion for periods up to four or five years. The provision of this facility is highly necessary for these homes, in the interests of public health. I .am informed that exsoldiers in Canberra are not able to obtain advances under the War Service Homes. Act. This seems to me to be unfair. Why should they be denied this benefit? There is in Canberra a crying need for additional housing accommodation. I hope, therefore, that the Government will be able to see its way clear to make money available for this purpose here in the very near future, for exsoldiers who. live in Canberra should be oh the Same footing in this respect as ex-soldiers who reside in other parts of the Commonwealth. I bring forward that suggestion because of the fact that when to-day I endeavoured to secure a house for an ex-soldier public servant in this city I was told that no housing accommodation is available. I feel very keenly with regard to the proposed expenditure of money on many items appearing in these Estimates. Very little housing accommodation is being made available for the general public in Canberra while thousands of pounds are being spent on the Vice-Regal residence. I have not seen the Governor-General’s residence, but I take it that the people housed there are much better off than a large number of people living in Canberra. I regret too that something has not been done to clear away the slum settlement at Molonglo, and to provide decent accommodation for the people now living there. As long as the people keep this Government in power just so long will the poorer people of the national capital be compelled to live in these slums. I understand that £6,000 was recently spent for repairs to the ViceRegal residence and. as honorable members know, a large amount of money was also spent more recently for the erection of a house in Canberra for the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). I do not object to the Treasurer or to any other Minister having a suitable house provided for him but, in my opinion, those people in great need of housing accommodation have first claim to consideration’ by the” Government.
– The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) referred to the absence of war service homes in the Australian Capital Territory. I have made inquiries and I find that the reason is the very simple one. As all building land in the Australian Capital Territory is held on perpetual lease, it is not practicable for the War .Service Homes Commission to erect houses here on the same terms as apply in the various States.
– Could not the act be amended?
– I suppose it could be amended, but no advantage would be gained.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) asked for particulars of the vote of £135,000 for war service homes. The total amount of £135,000 for war service homes for this financial year is made up as follows: -
The Leader of the Opposition asked how many homes were to he provided out of the total vote of £135,000. Approximately 50 new homes are to be provided, and 60 mortgages are to be discharged. About 200 applications for new homes are in hand. The amount provided in these Estimates will cover about one-half of those applications.
– The rest of the applicants will have to wait until the next financial year ?
– Tes, or until more money is voted.
– Irrespective of whether they are deserving cases or not?
– Yes. Money has been provided in ‘these Estimates to deal with only one-half of the applications.
The number of war service homes provided to the 30th June, 1938, is 37,280. Of that number, loans have been discharged in 10,193 instances, representing 27.34 per cent, of the total, and there remain 27,087 homes subject to the provisions of the act. At the end of June, 1938, the total amount of arrears represented 3.73 per cent, of the capital invested. That is a decline of a little over 1 per cent, during the last four or five years. That the economic position of the occupiers of war service homes has definitely improved during recent years is shown by the reduction of the losses incurred by the commission in respect of arrears of rent.
– The figures may prove that the treatment of the occupants of these homes has been harsher.
– There has been no complaint by the occupiers of these homes of the harshness of the conditions imposed on them. On the contrary, the commission has received a number of remarkable testimonials expressing appreciation of its administration. I shall quote one of these letters, which is dated the Sth January, 193S -
I must express the gratitude which I feel for the kindness and consideration which you have shown to me. For the first time for years I feel secure in our little home. The relief from constant worry is very great indeed.
That letter was received from a widow.
– Evidently, the agitation of honorable members on this side of the chamber has had beneficial results.
– As to the treatment of widows, I point out that relief has been extended in 375 cases in which a demand for full payment would have resulted in hardship. The total expenditure from December, 1935, to the 30th, June, 1938, on such relief to widows is £15,565. The amount covers instalments, rent, maintenance, taxes, &c. In 61 cases, relief has been discontinued, either at the request of occupants, or because of improved circumstances. Should honorable members desire further information, I shall do my best to supply it.
.- Numbers of war service homes have been forfeited during the last four or five years, and are now in the hands of the department. Some of them are being sold to persons who are not returned soldiers. I suggest that these homes be reserved for ex-soldiers or their dependants, for whom they were intended in the first place.
.- I understand that it is the practice of the War Service Homes Commission to allow a widow to remain in her home, at a nominal rental, during the course of her life. What is the position of a man who, with his wife and family, occupies a war service home, but is now totally incapacitated for work, and unable to meet his commitments? Will he be granted the same privilege as is now given to a widow?
.- I should like some information as to why work on the Redbank Weir, for which £30,000 was voted, has been held up, and more than 60 men put off in one batch because of a shortage of steel. I understand that the Minister was not prepared to press the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to continue supplies.
– Men were put off just before the election.
– I desire also some information regarding the expenditure on the Governor-General’s establishment. Last year £1,400 was voted for buildings, works, sites, fittings, &c, and £1,840 was expended. For 1938-39 an expenditure of £5,000 is proposed. In addition to a substantial salary, residences at Canberra and Sydney are provided for the GovernorGeneral. I understand that a considerable portion of this money is expended on works, such as services in and about the garden, which should be carried out from the allowance made to the Governor-General for the purpose.
.- During a recent visit to a town in my electorate I was approached by an occupier of a war service home who is over 60 years of age and no longer able to work. He said that, with the exception of a short time when he was unemployed, he had made his payments regularly, and that altogether he had paid about £800, which included approximately £200 interest, and nearly £200 over the actual cost of the home. Now that he is unable to earn money he desires to know whether the balance of his indebtedness will he written off. He contends that, as millions of pounds have been written off in respect of returned soldier settler homes, similar treatment should be given to occupiers of war service homes who fulfilled all their commitments when able to do so.
– Is he still in occupation of the home?
– Yes; he hopes to occupy it for the remainder of his life.
.- The War Service Homes Commission is descending to “ go-getting “ methods in trying to rid itself of its surplus houses by placing them in the hands of agents who are allowed to sell them to men earning the basic wage on a deposit of £25. It is a mathematical impossibility for a house worth £700 or £800 to be bought by men earning a low salary on such a low deposit. In my opinion, the minimum amount of the deposit should be £100. When I protested to the War Service Homes Commission about this system, they told me that the £25 deposit was retained as commission by the agent. When the men who are purchasing these homes lose their employment they lose their deposit.
– Eighty per cent. of the persons to whom the honorable member refers have been able to carry on.
– I defy any one who is earning £3 10s. or £4 a week to buy an £800 house and pay interest, rates and taxes on a deposit of £25, and at the same time maintain his wife and family.
– The weekly payments amount to less than what they would have to pay in rent.
– No. I have worked it out; it is an impossibility. I had to approach the commission in an endeavour to have it break a contract with one man who found himself unable to meet his obligations.
– Do not these people apply for the homes?
– No. Houses are not being built and the agents have these people in their hands. The honorable member’s interjection confirms my opinion that he knows nothing about the matter. . The agent receives the £25 commission and the War Service Homes Commission gets nothing out of the deposit. Members of the commission, however, told me that they had put the homes in the hands of agents in order to get rid of them. I hope that this “go-getting” method will be discontinued. The only security that the purchasers have is their jobs, and if they lose employment they lose what they have paid. The money would be better expended in providing the wives and children with more food and clothing.
– Are the purchasers returned soldiers ?
– No. I know that during the depression the returned soldiers who had paid £600 on houses worth £800 were turned out of their homes by the commission.
– No, no!
– I saw returned soldiers and their families being evicted from war service homes in Hobart. The War Service Homes Commission should not deceivepeople into believing that, for the payment of £25 deposit they may obtain a home which ultimately will become their own. They should be informed that it is not possible for them to become the owners of homes under these conditions. I understand that if a person, under other Commonwealth legislation relating to housing, desires to buy a home, he is required to pay a deposit of £100, in the case of a house costing approximately £1,000. This same business method should be applied by the commission to people other than returned soldiers who desire to purchase a home.
– So it is.
– No; the commission accepts a deposit of £25. I know, because I have seen contracts which the commission has cancelled. It is not fair that returned soldier occupants should be compelled to accept such long-term contracts, because whatever may be said to the contrary, the commission by garnisheeing wages, is able to force them to fulfil their obligations or forfeit their payments. Apparently the commission is determined to unload homes on to many unfortunate men who have no pros pect of fulfilling all their obligations under the contract. That is why I object to the practice. The Minister and some Government supporters should not treat this matter lightly. The War Service Homes Commission should not cooperate with agents for the sale of these homes on low deposits. I know men who paid a deposit of £25 and signed the usual contract. They fully believed that one day they would own their own homes, hut when it was pointed out to them that it would be impossible for them to complete their purchases, they claimed the right to break the contracts.
– How much do these agents receive in payment for their services ?
– I expect they get the £25. I hope that the Minister will thoroughly investigate this matter and prevent the sale of these homes by agents under such conditions. The War Service Homes Commission should tell these people that they will be unable to become the owners of homes which they take over on the payment of a deposit of £25. When the Commonwealth Government makes a contract it should he one which both parties have a reasonably good opportunity to fulfil; not as in the case of these war service homes contracts, a one-sided bargain calculated to exploit an unwary individual who desires to purchase a home. I object to the War Service Homes Commission adopting such tactics. It is time the practice was discontinued.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) referred to certain work being carried out by the New South Wales Irrigation and Water Conservation Commission, as one of the works of the River Murray Commission. The honorable member said that the work at Redbank weir was held up because some structural steel was not procurable, and he suggested that I, as president of the River Murray Commission, should take steps to get the steel in order that construction work may proceed. I point out to the honorable gentleman that the River Murray Commission is not constituted as a constructing authority. It is a body representative of the New
South Wales, Victorian, South Australian and Commonwealth governments, and the personnel comprises one member appointed by each of the three State governments, with the Commonwealth Minister for the Interior for the time being, as president. Its function is. to decide upon the general lines to be followed in the conservation of the waters of the River Murray and its tributaries. It determines where weirs shall be constructed, and the nature of such works. I t also has to decide certain matters relating to the regulation of the flow of water over these weirs, but delegates to State public works departments or irrigation commissions the construction of any weir which is to be undertaken by the River Murray Commission. In pursuance of its function the commission has delegated the construction of the Redbank weir in New South Wales to the New South Wales Public Works Department.
– Then why is a Commonwealth engineer inspecting the progress of that work from time to time?
– No Commonwealth engineer, as such, has inspected this work or any other work undertaken by the commission.
– I met a Commonwealth engineer on the job.
– An exCommonwealth director of works is deputy chairman of the River Murray Commission and in that capacity only he periodically visits constructional works, just as I do on certain occasions. It would be quite outside the function of the Commonwealth Government, and beyond my authority as president of the River Murray Commission, to take the action suggested by the honorable member.
– Is the Minister not in charge of the whole work?
– No. I am merely the chairman and Commonwealth representative on the commission. It is provided by statute that the construction of works under the jurisdiction of the River Murray Commission shall be undertaken by the works departments of the various State governments.
– Even though the actual work is delegated to the States, has not the Minister some authority to see that the construction is carried out expeditiously?
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) must realize that four governments were parties to the agreement establishing the River Murray Waters Commission, and that the commissioners who represent these various governments are reasonable men capable of discharging their obligations in a reasonable manner. The honorable member’s question seems to picture some State works authority deliberately holding up works without adequate reason. I cannot imagine the existence of such a state of affairs.
The honorable member for Darling, in stating his case, did not attempt to put it that there was any deliberate intent on the part of the State works authority in holding up the construction of this work. He said that the cause of the stoppage was the shortage of structural steel. I think we are all familiar with the fact that today there is a shortage of structural steel which is not confined to Australia.
– The honorable gentleman is prepared to allow the men to become unemployed.
– Oh, no ! This is not the only work which is delayed for the same reason. The Yarrawonga weir, another work of the. River Murray Waters Commission, with which I am more familiar because it is being constructed by the Victorian State Rivers and Water Supply Commission-
– It is in the honorable gentleman’s electorate.
– It is partly in my electorate. It has been found that, although the work is approaching completion, it will not be possible to fill the weir upon the completion of the concrete structure, because it is not possible to secure the structural steel needed for some of the lock gates. I know that every step has been taken to secure structural steel for this particular weir.
-If supplies cannot be obtained locally, why not import them?
– In the first place, it is not the policy of this Government to import material for the construction of these national works; it looks to Australian industry to supply the material needed, and is confident that every effort is being made to fulfil the demands, and that there will be no great delay in procuring the steel that is needed to complete the work.
The honorable member for Darling also referred to the provision in connexion with the Governor-General’s establishments. He has disclosed that he is under the impression that this provision, at least in part, is for maintenance work in connexion with the gardens and other surroundings. I point out that the funds provided in respect of this item and all others are for the construction of new works, and that he is under a complete misapprehension in believing that they are to be utilized in connexion with ordinary routine maintenance. The provision is for certain new work found to be necessary partly at Admiralty House, Sydney, and partly at the GovernorGeneral’s residence at Canberra, in the grounds and on the building itself.
– I am not satisfied with the explanation of either the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) or the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that a certain proportion of the proposed vote is for beautification purposes at Admiralty House, Sydney, such as the felling of trees so that His Excellency may have a better view of the harbour. Seeing that Canberra is the seat of government, and that the central administration has been established here, why should His Excellency require an establishment in Sydney or Melbourne? The general Estimates make the following provision in respect of the Governor-General’s establishments under Division 43 of the Estimates: -
The budget papers for this financial year show a further £15,560 for ad ditional upkeep, maintenance charges, &c. In addition, His Excellency receives a salary of £10,000 a year, making a total for this year of £41,160. These figures show a glaring comparison with our former Australian Governor-General, Sir Isaac Isaacs, for whom upkeep expenses for 1931-32 were £25,833, and for 1932- 33 £25,401, a difference for the years 1932-33 and 1938-39 of £15,759. Members of this Parliament were described as “ thieves in the night “ when they made a restoration of portion of what had been deducted from their allowance under the financial emergency legislation, yet no mention is made by the press or by any private individual in condemnation of this abnormal expenditure in connexion with the Governor-General. When we asked for a Commonwealth grant to provide the unemployed with better housing accommodation than the shacks they occupy, the Government said that it could do nothing for them. With so much poverty in the community, it is ridiculous to vote £41,160 for the GovernorGeneral. What does “ maintenance “ signify? The amount provided for the maintenance of grounds represents an expenditure of £80 a week. I am prepared to resign my position in this Parliament and undertake that responsibility at that figure. With all due respect, I contend that it is time we began to curtail expenditure on imported individuals. The unemployed are given one week’s work in five weeks and two weeks in seven, and are expected to live on approximately 8s. a week. Therefore, it is a. disgrace to the Government to expend such a large sum on the upkeep of the GovernorGeneral’s establishments in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. Transferred public servants are not allowed summer residences elsewhere, but have to live here throughout the year. Therefore, I take exception to this amount being expended on new works for the beautification of the State residences of the Governor-General. My remarks are directed, not against the Governor-General, for whom I have no desire to show disrespect, but against the Government.
.- The vote last year for the establishments of the Governor-General was £1,400 and the expenditure ex-
ceeded that sum by £440. This year the vote has been increased to £5,000 for certain work at Government House, Canberra, and at Admiralty House, Sydney. I claim that this proposed vote is out of all proportion to the proposed expenditure of £40,000 for the building of homes for the people of Canberra. The conditions in Canberra are not normal, and, while hundreds of residents are waiting for houses, the large expenditure proposed in connexion with the establishments of the Governnor-General should not be authorized. The sum of £7,000 is being expended in the erection of a luxury home for a member of the Government, and a further £5,000 is to be allocated for additional comforts, and even luxuries, for the Governor-General. I strongly protest against this expenditure.
.- I should like to know how many establishments are maintained for the GovernorGeneral, and what happens when His Excellency is not in occupation of them ? Is a staff kept to look after them, or are they closed ? If they are not closed, who occupies them? Extensive use is made of Admiralty House, Sydney, for parties given to the “ silver-tails “ of the community. This Government certainly cannot be said to have been niggardly in regard to the Governor-General’s establishments. As a matter of fact, they are conducted on a lavish scale, and the committee is merely told that certain expenditure is necessary for this, that and the other addition or alteration. I cannot remember an occasion when these Estimates have not included a considerable vote for additions or alterations to the Governor-General’s establishments. I fail to see why such large expenditures should be incurred in respect of premises which are already extensive and well furnished.
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) complained about the inability of certain persons with very low incomes to obtain war service homes. Honorable members will recognize that if there is any merit in providing these homes, particularly for returned soldiers, it consists in allowing those on low incomes to get the benefit of the scheme. If it were confined to persons with substantial incomes, one of the objects of the scheme would be defeated. The minimum deposit required in connexion with the erection or acquisition of a new home is 10 per cent, of the capital cost, the deposit rising to the proportion of the risk involved in regard to each proposal. For those who cannot make this deposit, homes already available for disposal by the commission are sold on deposits as low as £10, the charge increasing according to the value of the property selected. There are very few cases, such as those to which the honorable member for Denison referred, in which applicants having only £25 in their possession, could procure a war service home. AH of the circumstances would be taken into consideration, and, if it were found that a person had no assets and no prospect of carrying out the obligation involved, I doubt whether encouragement would be given to him by the commission to embark upon the purchase of a home. Apart from the advantage of low deposits, a lengthy period for repayment is provided, the maximum being 45 years. This can be reduced, of course, according to the circumstances of the occupant of the home. Altogether, the whole principle is to favour those persons, particularly returned soldiers, who are not fortunate enough to have substantial incomes. If the suggestion of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) that a substantial deposit should always be insisted upon were adopted, a great deal of hardship would be inflicted, and there would be much justifiable complaint.
The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) mentioned the case of a man who has paid on a house more than the present capital cost. The man is now old, and the honorable member suggested that the arrears might be wiped off, and the home given to him. If that were done in one case, it would have to be done in a great many others, and the commission would accumulate a big deficit that would never be liquidated. This is one of the best business undertakings of the Commonwealth, because the security is good, and the commission is run on sound business lines. Whilst, in accordance with the Government’s policy, every deserving case hae received sympathetic treatment, particularly where hardship has been encountered, there has been no flamboyant disposal of the country’s assets in order to make a political gesture. In regard to the case mentioned by the honorable member for Gwydir, it’ would be improper to expect the commission to wipe off the arrears, and present the house to the occupant just because he happens to be 60 years of age. If there is justification for the granting of lenient treatment, the repayments may be spread over a longer period, and the amount of repayment reduced. There is no need for the occupier of this house to feel any anxiety. He will never be put out of the place so long as he makes, an attempt to meet the payments.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) suggested that incapacitated soldiers who had struck hard times should be treated as leniently as widows of soldiers. It is generally realized- that the widows of returned soldiers receive very generous treatment, and a little while ago 1 submitted a written testimonial from a widow in Orange in order to show that this treatment is appreciated. The policy of the commission has always been to deal with cases on their merits. In not one case out of twenty would an incapacitated soldier be turned out of a home if there was any merit in his case at all. If he is incapacitated and out of employment, every consideration is shown to him. If, over a period, a man has made reasonable efforts to meet his obligations, the commission is never hard on him should he happen to lose his employment. If an honorable member has a case of any merit to put up, it will always receive sympathetic consideration.
Reference has been made to the disposal of reverted homes, which constitute a large part of the assets of the commission. They represent, at one stage, a partial loss to the commission, because the original owners have gone out, and the homes have reverted to the commission. Generally speaking, preference is given to returned soldiers when such homes are being disposed of. Any returned soldier who wants to get a reverted home, or a vacant home at the disposal of the commission, and who has any prospects at all, is given first preference, but the commission does not ignore the claims of a good buyer.
– What does the Minister mean by a “ good buyer “ ?
– A buyer of substance who can give the . commission a price which will recoup it for any losses sustained. It is because that policy has been applied, without inflicting injustice on returned soldier applicants, that the commission is in such a sound financial position, and that the total losses through arrears represent only 3.73 per cent., which is, I think, a record for any governmental undertaking in Australia. The commission has handled 30,000 homes, which cost this country nearly £30,000,000.
Honorable members who have grievances in regard to war service homes should, instead of ventilating individual cases in Parliament, communicate with the Minister in charge of War Service Homes, or with me, as his representative in this chamber, and their cases will be inquired into, and justice done.
.- I have listened very attentively to the explanation of the Minister regarding the treatment of the occupiers of war service homes, and I still think that the commission is applying a mistaken policy. A committee of inquiry during the depression decided that occupiers of homes were to be required to make repayments in accordance with their incomes. If a man’s income were less than £2 a week he would not be required to pay anything at all. If a. man- was in receipt of £2 10s. a week a payment of 2s. 6d. a week was accepted. Occupants of war service homes who have paid all that has been expected of them since they entered into occupation up to the present day, including the depression years, should have their debt3 written off. I know of men who have paid every penny expected of them, yet they have been asked to vacate their homes. It is unjust of the commission to capitalize back debts over a period of twenty years. Occupants of war service homes who have paid all that was expected of them should be relieved of any further responsibility.
.- Earlier in the clay I directed the attention of the Minister to the fact that provision has been made for the expenditure of £4,300 to erect a memorial to the late King George V.,, and that £3,900 had been expended during the last financial year. There is a footnote stating that the total estimated cost of this memorial is £21,000. Will tie Minister state the type of memorial proposed to be erected, and whether he does not think it would be more fitting to construct something of a utilitarian character, such as a wing or the front portion of the proposed new Canberra hospital? Money should not “be wasted on a non-utilitarian memorial. I am heartily in accord with the proposal to erect a memorial to His ate Majesty; but I trust that consideration will be given to the suggestion which I now make.
.- I am not satisfied with the meagre information which the Minister has supplied in connexion with expenditure on the Governor-General’s establishment. The cost in 1933-34 was £20,812; but the estimated cost for this financial year is £41,160. During the first year in which the present Governor-General held office the expenditure on new works and buildings was £423; in 1935-36 it was £17,274; in 1936-37, £5,S57; in 1937-3S, £1,840; and the estimated cost for 193S-39 is £5,000. When Sir Isaac Isaacs was GovernorGeneral the expenditure upon his establishment was £20,S12, whereas for the first year in which the present GovernorGeneral held office it was £45,514. In 1936-37 it was £40,102; in 1937-38, £36,907; and the estimated expenditure for this financial year is £41,160, or an1 increase of over £20,000 during the last six years. Surely honorable members are entitled to some explanation of the. increased expenditure.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department o.f Defence.
Proposed vote, £1,61S,768.
.- I move -
That the amount be reduced by £1.
I do so in order to give the committee an opportunity to instruct the Government -
That in future all public works shall be carried out by day labour under the supervision of the Commonwealth Public Works Department.
I had intended to move in this direction when the vote for the Department of the Interior was under consideration, but I believe that a better opportunity now presents itself. On buildings, works, sites, fittings and furniture in connexion with defence, it is proposed to expend various amounts totalling about £590,000 in respect of which no explanation has so far been offered. As I have already addressed myself to the suggestion that all work -should be constructed by day labour under the supervision of the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Works, I shall not delay the committee for very long at this juncture, because no doubt quite a number of honorable members desire to speak on this subject. It is customary for the Department of the Interior to call for tenders for work for the Defence Department, and, in reply to a question asked by me, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) this week stated that extensive defence works are being carried out throughout the Commonwealth by contractors whose tenders have been accepted by the Department of the Interior in accordance with the normal practice of open tender. He further stated that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) had advised him that at present there is no intention to depart from the existing practice of carrying out Commonwealth works by contract. It is mainly because such an intention has been expressed that I move my amendment, in order to test the feeling of the committee on the subject. When the defence works were first mooted, we were told that the Government intended to provide an enormous amount of work, and that, in doing so, it would co-operate with the State governments with the object of absorbing as many as possible of the unemployed. Although the Minister for Defence has admitted that extensive defence works are being carried out throughout Australia, however, we have not had any evidence up-to-date that he is, in any way, co-operating with the State governments in the provision of the labour required. Nor have we had any evidence that he intends to depart from the old system of contract. According to the Minister, the works in view include the rebuilding and remodelling of roads, landing grounds, military establishments, gun emplacements, and similar undertakings. Most of those works will provide employment for skilled and unskilled labour.
The Commonwealth works branch is similar to the works departments of the State governments. Enormous works have been carried out by the latter departments, involving the expenditure of millions of pounds of public money, and, without exception, they have been completed to the satisfaction of the governments concerned. It is agreed that such works have stood up to every test, and have resulted in a huge saving by eliminating contractors’ profits. The Commonwealth works branch is a works department in name only. Later, I suppose, we shall have brought under our notice payments amounting to thousands of pounds to high officials employed in that branch. There is an abundance of officials - I believe, capable officials - but there does not appear to be any working staff. Every job that the Commonwealth works branch has been given up to date has been carried out satisfactorily, and it was not until the advent of the Lyons Government in 1932, that a determined “set” was developed against the Works Department, which subsequently was almost completely eliminated from government contracts. We have a department capable of supervising and planning these works, and we have an abundance of skilled and unskilled labour for whom the State governments to-day are accepting the responsibility for finding work or providing sustenance. At the same time preference in respect of public works is given to private enterprise, which accepts no responsibility in respect of unemployment despite the fact that private contractors are making huge profits out of such works. We claim that the money which goes to provide profits to contractors could be more profitably utilized in the employment of the services of the Commonwealth works branch in co-operation with the works departments of the various State governments and in the recruiting of’ necessary labour. Works constructed by day labour will always be found to be more satisfactory than works done by private contract.
Mr. HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) [11.28J. - I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). Every honorable member who has had any experience whatever in respect of our public works branch, especially those who have been associated with the Public Works Committee, must be struck with the immense amount of money which is spent by the Commonwealth Government in salaries to public officers in that branch. I do not suggest that any one officer associated with the branch is getting more than his services entitle him to. I know them very well, I know a good deal about the work which they have carried out, and I am in a position to compare their work with that carried out by contractors. In many instances, contract work is undertaken without even being submitted to the architects and engineers who are employed by the Commonwealth Government. Many thousands of pounds are lost annually by the Government because of its failure to carry out the policy proposed by the mover of the amendment. We have, as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has said, works branches staffed with competent engineers and architects in each of the capital cities, and at Darwin and Alice Springs. All of these capable and efficient officers are qualified to direct the largest public undertakings which may be conceived by the Government; but owing to the policy of the Government there is little or no work for them to do, and they are rusting in their offices through lack of active occupation. They feel, and rightly, that in not being asked to submit plans and specifications for works which the Government proposes to put into operation they have been very unfairly treated. Why are they overlooked? We cannot discover that they have failed in any job they have undertaken in the past, or that plans and specifications prepared by them have resulted in increased expenditure. Furthermore, work performed under their supervision in the past has not had to be done twice, as has unfortunately so often been the case in connexion with contracts carried out by private tenderers. A considerable amount of public money could be saved by utilizing the services of our own efficient officers, who have to be paid whether they work or not. All of them are permanent Government officials who have gained the highest proficient;;;in their profession as the result of years of service in the department. They cannot he pushed out of their positions. A3 a member of the Public Works Committee I have had an opportunity to crossexamine some of them and I know that they resent being ignored by not even being asked to submit plans and specifications for proposed public works. The Commonwealth loses money, not only in that way, but also in not co-operating with the State governments and the municipalities throughout Australia in a public works programme planned to-keep as many people as possible regularly employed. If the Commonwealth Government co-operated with the States in carrying out a long-range public works policy and established a closer liaison with the States, releasing works at the appropriate time when there was no keen competition for the work between private contractors, much public money could be saved. During busy periods private contractors frequently ask their employees to work long hours of overtime in order that they might complete one job and be free to tender for the next. A properly spaced public works programme would save much money and provide regular employment in normal hours. This- would avoid the necessity to work certain men day and night for portions of the year, leaving them at other times to swell the ranks of the unemployed. As far as possible private tenderers for government contracts usually carry the same trained staff of men whom they endeavour to keep together on all jobs. The result is that the letting of contracts is delayed in order that current and impending jobs may be dovetailed, and favoured contractors be able to finish the jobs in hand and be ready for others. There is nothing wrong with that scheme except, as I have said, that it usually entails the working of many hours of overtime at certain periods of the year. For that reason public works contracts should be properly spread over the whole year. The fillip given to employment by the enlarged defence programme will not last very long; when it is finished the number of unemployed will be considerably increased. For that reason, I believe that the Commonwealth, in co-operation with the States, should adopt a public works policy which will have for its object, the spacing of public works throughout the year.
The latest report of the League of Nations states that while the aggregate turnover in employment has increased, the amount of labour to meet that extra work has not increased. The report discloses that less and less human labour will be employed as the years go on. The Government should itself undertake as many public works as possible by utilizing the services of its own works directors and employing contract labour for normal hours. It should also provide that all of its employees on such work should be granted annual leave with pay, as is done in other countries. We should seek to receive some better return from the immense wage fund which we pay to those men who staff the branches of the works departments throughout Australia. In the Works and Services Branch of the Department of the Interior at Canberra are six officers, as proficient as any other six men in Australia. Under crossexamination by a body such as the Public Works Committee, they admit that they have not sufficient work to keep them occupied, yet they are quite capable of carrying out any task which might be imposed upon them. That is true also of the first-class engineers and architects on the staffs of the branches of the department at Melbourne, Sydney, Adel- . aide, Perth, Alice Springs, Darwin and Canberra. These men have been for many years in the Commonwealth service, and must be retained until they reach the retiring age. They feel very keenly what they regard as a reflection by the Government on their qualifications to carry out efficiently the work for which they were appointed. I feel sure that if they were asked to tender for public works in competition with a private contractor they would be glad to do so. That is done by the officers of the Commonwealth Clothing Factory which would not be granted a fraction of the work it. performs if it were unable successfully to tender in competition with outside firms. That the Commonwealth Clothing Factory can beat private competitors to a frazzle is striking proof of the efficiency of its staff. I join with the mover of the motion in urging upon the Government the desirability of adopting a public works policy which will provide for all work to be undertaken by the Commonwealth by contract labour under the supervision of its own permanent officers.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). The policy of doing work by contract is a departure from the previous practice of Commonwealth Governments. The largest railway work ever undertaken in the Commonwealth was carried out by day labour during the regime of Mr. King O’Malley. Although that railway passed through desert country for 1,050 miles, the employees were provided with the best fare that out-back workers have ever enjoyed. Contractors are in business to make profits for themselves. The altered policy is not due to a desire to economize. If these works are to cost more - as they will if done by contract - the expense will be borne by the taxpayers. The Government is subjugating the interests of the people to those of private contractors. It it well known that building contractors do not depend entirely upon their contract price - they make most of their profits out of “extras”. “Where the system of payment on the basis of percentages operates, much unnecessary work is frequently done; the longer the job takes, the bigger the profits. Under the day labour system, workmen are sure of a fair deal. Even where building is brisk, as it is in Victoria and New South “Wales to-day, artisans, such as bricklayers and carpenters, find difficulty in making reasonable wages, because of the great amount of piecework performed. As far back as 3 can remember - and my knowledge of building goes back many years - piecework has acted detrimentally to the interests of tradesmen. Pieceworkers frequently do not receive as much as is paid under day labour conditions. Often under the contract system workers are sweated. The interests of the Commonwealth are being sacrificed in order that the Government may give effect to its policy of assisting private enterprise. The General Post Office in Perth was constructed several years ago under the contract system, the contractor being one of the leading builders of Perth, who ordinarily does good work. The trade unions are often accused of objecting to the employment of apprentices. When the Perth General Post Office was under construction I approached the contractor with a view to obtaining work for a friend as an apprentice, but he said that as he had had trouble with the union, he would not employ even one apprentice. If day labour were stipulated in Government contracts, the department could ensure the employment of the requisite number of apprentices, instead of tradesmen being imported from abroad, as happens to-day.
.- Under Division No. 12a - Educational orders and associated services, as recommended by the principal Supply Officers’ Committee in connexion with Supply preparations - the sum of £15,000 was voted last year, but only £7 was expended. Similarly, under Division No. 13- Building, works, sites, fittings and furniture - although £69,990 was voted last year, only £4,139 was expended. Under Division No. 16a, only £1,970 was expended, although £70,000 was voted; and of £245,970 voted for “Buildings, works, sites, fittings and furniture “, Division No. 17, only £S,254 was expended. Of a total vote of £823,670 for the Department of Defence, only £361,767 was expended. A similar state of affairs is revealed by an examination of the figures for the Royal Australian Air Force. Under Division No. 18 - “Landplane and seaplane equipment and plant, including spare parts, machinery tools, ordnance and engineering supplies and ammunition “ - of a total vote of £588,470, only £468,389 was expended. Division No. 18a shows that £15,000 was voted, but only £425 expended. Division No. 19 reveals a similar state of affairs; only £14,069 was expended out of a total vote of £162,630. The figures for the Civil Aviation Branch contain like discrepancies. Of £200,000 voted in connexion with the Empire air-mail scheme,
Division No. 22, only £74,836 was expended. For buildings, works and sites, fittings and furniture in connexion with the Munitions Supply Branch, Division No. 25, £98,750 was voted, but only £1,191 was expended. Similarly, of the £84,850 voted under Division No. 12 for “ Naval establishments - machinery, plant and wireless telegraphy equipment “ - only £4,593 was expended. We are entitled to an explanation ofthese discrepancies.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). Much of this work should be carried out by day labour. I have no information on the subject, but there is an. impression abroad that this Government has already distributed money among private firms for the purpose of enabling them to engage in the manufacture of munitions. I understand that one of the companies that has received assistance in this direction is the Electricity Meter Manufacturing Company, of which Lord McGowan is chairman of directors. Has this firm, along with others, received money with which to equip itself with modern machinery for the making of munitions?
Last year £200,000 was appropriated for the provision of radio and directionfinding equipment and control and auxiliary launches, &c., for the Empire air-mail scheme, and only £74,836 was expended. It is proposed this year that only £49,360 shall be devoted to the same purpose. I think that the Government has fallen down on its job in this respect. Those who know something about air travel tell me that the directionfinding equipment in Australia does not compare favorably with that in other countries. That is a matter which should receive the attention of the Government.
.- As the result of my recent visit to Darwin with the Public Works Committee, I am able to inform the committee that the arrangements at Darwin for the landing of passengers from the Empire flying boats are inadequate and unsafe especially for elderly passengers. The flying boats anchor 200 yards away from the landing stage, and the passengers are brought to the stage by pinnaces. The rise and fall of the tide at Darwin is 26 feet. Now, the landing stage is approached from the pinnaces by a sloping gangway. I think that the approach should be improved by the provision of steps or staging. Expenditure on such a work would be well justified. [Quorum formed.]
Sitting suspended from 11.57 p.m. to 12.30 a.m. (Thursday).
Thursday13, October 1938
– The committee needs to keep in mind all that is involved in the consideration of the works expenditure on defence in the current financial year. The provision we arc asked to make for the new works, buildings, &c., is £1,618,000; but if honorable gentlemen will look at page 299 of the Estimates they will find that the particular- ization of the items included in the amount extends to expenditure in respect of similar items from the trust fund, appropriated from revenue, and also expenditure on like items, with a few exceptions, from the loan fund, with the result that we are asked to approve of an expenditure of £1,618,000 knowing that in the current financial year there is also to be expended on now works, buildings, &c., £3,900,000 from the trust fund, and £4,400,000 from the loan fund, making a total of £9,222,000, of which £1,809,000 will be met from moneys- made available in the last financial year from trust fund, loan fund, &c. Therefore, the consideration we are now giving to the Works Estimates has, in principle, to take into account other relevant expenditure on identical items, and it must be apparent to the committee that we ought to examine this very large expenditure more carefully than we have hitherto had an opportunity to do so.
Reference has been made by several honorable gentlemen who sit behind me” to the fact that there is a carryover of very considerable dimensions from the previous year, of votes that were unexpended. I venture to say, with very great respect, that the estimated defence expenditure has every appearance of a considerable element of guesswork. I think that is true of the amounts voted in the last financial year, and I am forced to the conviction that it remains true of the proposed vote. Take armament annexes, plant, materials, and experimental work, an item which honorable gentlemen behind me have said constitutes a distinct inducement to the setting up of a private vested interest in armament activity in Australia. It will be seen that, in addition to providing £88,000, which is the amount of the specific item in the Works Estimates, we are also asked to authorize an expenditure of £235,000 from the trust fund, and £320,000 from the loan fund, making a total of £644,000. That is to be voted by this Parliament for the establishment of armament annexes, plant, materials, and experimental work. Consequently, we are approaching very close to an expenditure of three-quarters of a million pounds in the present financial year in furnishing plant and equipment of a very elaborate character in certain private manufacturing establishments in Australia. I understand that it is intended also to spend some money in establishing units in the railway workshops.
– Not very much.
– That is the point. How much of this expenditure is to be devoted to strengthening publicly-owned engineering establishments in Australia, and how much to the propping up of private industries? The Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) has not yet told us, nor has the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). It is reasonable that we should at this stage indicate in the clearest manner, by the amendment of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), that we, as an Opposition, are opposed to the principle of incubating private vested interests in Australia in connexion with the defence needs. Under the old feudal system, in return for certain baronial rights which the King gave to his favorites, those favorites undertook to raise armies on his behalf. We can say that that was a period in which, defence was established on the basis of private enterprise. At the present time, however, from the viewpoint of the community, it is made in substance a communal obligation. I submit that there ought not to be started in Australia, without the strongest justification, and because of sheer economic necessity, the new vested interests which, for the first time in Australian history, we are about to establish. I remind the Treasurer that he cannot find any support for this proposal either in the Kitchener report, or in the activities precedent to the war of 1914, when the defences of Australia were no doubt developed in the anticipation that the then state of the world would lead to a world war, involving Australia. At that time, the very considerable enlargement of the defence organization of this country was based on the principle of national responsibility, and the Government of the day established for the first time Commonwealth industrial units in order that the economic servicing of defence might be removed, as far as possible, from any semblance of private interest. I find - and I say this without any feeling, but merely as a matter of fact - that gentlemen requisitioned by the Commonwealth Government to give it advice in respect of the industrial side of the defence preparations, are personally interested in businesses, some of which are to have these armament annexes associated with them. That I know to be a positive fact. I think that we ought to be in a position to know what particular firms and enterprises have so far been included in the selected list.
– The list has been published.
– It ought to appear in the documents which we now have before us. Many statements are published, and when some of us rely upon them Ministers contradict them. As a matter of fact, I understood from what appeared in a very reliable newspaper at the week-end that the Minister for Defence intimated in Melbourne that he proposed to make in this House, during this week, an elaborate statement in respect of the details associated with the defence preparations which the nation was making because of the international situation. It is most remarkable that to-day, when we are dealing with the Defence Works Estimates - a most important part of the whole of the defence programme - the Parliamentary
Secretary for Defence (Mr. Street) is deputizing for the Minister - quite effectively, 1 admit. That does not square with the reply given to me by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) earlier in this period of the session, namely, that the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence would not answer questions; that all questions should be addressed to the Minister. I reflect neither on . the absence of the Minister nor on anybody else. I am quite sure that the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence is doing quite as well as any one else could do.
These Estimates involve the outlay of a very large amount of money. I submit that the Commonwealth of Australia has to be very watchful to see that this money is not misused, and that extravagant charges are not incurred beyond what would be necessary as the result of a prudent examination of the different items. Having regard to the amounts voted and unexpended last year, the non-expenditure perhaps being due to the fact that orders were not completed, thus leaving a carry-over of materials which were expected to be, but were not delivered, quite clearly there has been delay in carrying through the programme of defence expansion from the view point of the department’s own schedules. How far this delay prejudices the plan as such, I am not in a position to say, because no particulars have been vouchsafed to us. My colleagues and I believe that the very substantial expenditure of £644,000 on armament annexes is a dangerous departure. We should prefer the Government to expand its own munitions factories, ‘ and such other publicly-owned engineering shops as- are known to exist in Australia. It is urged that, even with all this activity, in the event of Australia being attacked it would be. necessary to be- able to engage privatelyowned instrumentalities in the production of munitions, in order to maintain supplies, and that consequently blue prints ought to be supplied to, and equipment ought to be installed in, those establishments.
– Excessive prices would be charged for the munitions manufactured, judging by what has happened abroad.
– These establishments will have the equipment provided for them, but they will quote prices for their materials to the Defence Department. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) pointed out earlier today that, under the pressure of war conditions, it would be impossible to set up a comparative standard of prices to be charged. If private enterprise is to be encouraged, a fixed schedule of prices ought to be agreed upon now, and contracts should be entered into which would definitely limit the prices charged to the. Government for the services rendered.
Let me deal with the most recent report. During the last month, the British Government had to engage in an elaborate emergency expansion of its defence organization. I think that that will be acknowledged.
The London Daily Mail of the 10th October reported that the Home Office had called a conference of contractors to consider the 500 per cent, increase of the cost of air-raid precaution materials, which occurred at the peak of the recent international crisis. This increase took place a short time prior to the success of the four-power pact at Munich, when Great Britain was threatened with a condition of affairs the nature of which must appal all of us. Yet private manufacturers, who are, no doubt, good citizens as individuals, were able to say that prices were rising, and that the cost of replacing their materials, if taken by the British Government, would have to be mpi. They, therefore, charged replacement costs on the sale of old stocks, with the result that the prices rose- 500 per cent. ! In Australia, during the Great War, the purchases of materials made by the Defence Department led to such a great increase of costs above what was legitimate that this Parliament imposed the war-time profits tax. This was done in an effort to get something back from those who had made exceptional profits out of inflated expenditure which had to be met out of loan funds, and which imposes a perpetual liability on every subsequent budget. We are still paying interest on money borrowed to give higher profits than were earned by manufacturers in Australia between 1914 and
HMS. No system of taxation can compensate for the continuous increase of ihe interest bill which this profiteering practice involves.
Therefore, the Opposition feels that a closer itemization of these Estimates than has been made should be undertaken. I think that the Estimates and the documents associated with them should be submitted to a section of this committee for scrutiny, not so that enemy countries might know what we. are doing, but so that we may not, in a sense of mistaken panic, bequeath to those who come after us an intolerable and yet avoidable burden. I am not convinced that the details of this tremendous expenditure of £9,900,000 have been the subject of careful estimation by the Defence Department. I submit with very great respect that the heads of the military, naval and air forces are qualified chiefly and trained only to manage a fighting organization while it is fighting. It is no reflection on them to say that they have had little or no business training, and that the commercial side of the organization of our defence forces should be managed by civilians who have devoted their lives to the commercial, financial and economic aspects of national life rather than to the mastery of the strategy of war. The industrial foundation of defence is a matter for industrialists and commercial men. I do not object to the recruitment by the Government of industrial advisers to assist it in industrial matters. These Estimates ought to be scrutinized either by a committee other than the committee of the whole House or by some competent committee of accountants and business men. I do not think th».i, the internal audit branch of the Defence Department audits estimates. I believe that it audits expenditure after the money has been paid. It examines receipts rather than estimates. “We in this Parliament and in this country are facing in this financial year so great an enlargement of our financial obligations for the present year, which carry with them commitments to almost similar expenditure for some years to come, that it seems to me that we should have a greater justification than we now have for each of these items, and a broad outline of what the armament annexes involve.
Several divisions of the Estimates refer to “ Buildings, works, sites, fittings and furniture “. Where are these to be fixed? Another division relates to “ Coast defences - equipment and works”. Where are they? I notice the item “Arms, armament and ammunition, mechanization, equipment and reserves “, and I confess that it is almost meaningless. I know that it signifies the storing up of ammunition, and. probably the provision of armament and arms, and that.it is additional to what is to be done by the armament annexes; but it is impossible for me to say that this money ought not to be voted, because I am not in a position to know what the Minister for Defence probably knows far better than anybody else. This Parliament, and not the Minister, is to be responsible for the expenditure, and it is our duty before we vote the money, to be convinced that what the Minister is doing and intends to do is right. The Labour party has no alternative to saying that, whatever sum of money is to be voted, a guarantee should be given that it will not enable certain sections to secure profits which in the absence of this expenditure they would not obtain. The money to be expended will have to come out of a small Commonwealth pool. The Treasurer cannot provide for social services as freely as he would like. Legislative effect cannot be given to certain Government promises in regard to national insurance, because of the gap in the budget which has’ made it necessary for the Treasurer to ask the Parliament to increase taxation. In view of the lateness of the hour I shall not delay the committee further, but I submit that the amendment should be accepted.
– I rise to oppose the amendment. Before replying in detail to the case which the honorable member for . Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has attempted to establish in support of the substitution of the day-labour system in public works for the present contract system, I express concern and surprise that the honorable member has chosen this vote for the submission of an amendment the carrying of which would have the effect of deferring urgent, and, by common consent, most important defence works. The fact that he has tabled his amendment in connexion with estimates dealing with new works, and that he has deliberately selected the Defence Department, although the principle of his amendment could have been considered equally well under any other department, fills me with amazement and concern. I note that, following the honorable member for Dalley, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) said nothing at all on the subject of the amendment to indicate his support of it. Everything that the Leader of the Opposition has said has related to an entirely different subject. I can only construe that as indicating that the honorable member for Dalley submitted his amendment without consulting his leader.
– Not at all. He acted under my direction.
– At the unanimous request of the party.
– Instead of moving the amendment in connexion with the vote for the Parliament, or that for the Department of the Prime Minister, we selected the Department of Defence, in regard to which the largest expenditure is contemplated.
– Of course, I accept the statement by the Leader of the Opposition that he and all other members of his party are associated with the amendment, but that merely serves to emphasize the seriousness of the step taken in selecting from among all these Estimates those of the Department of Defence upon which to submit an argument that could have been applied just as appropriately to any other section of the Estimates. In opposing the general principle of the amendment, I point out that it is in direct conflict with the accepted policy of the Government for the construction of all major works under the contract system. The reason which impels the Government to pursue this policy is its desire to obtain for the people of Australia the best service for the lowest possible expenditure. The honorable member for Dalley proposes that the huge works programme now submitted to the Parliament should be carried out by day labour, thus implying that the Government, by such a change of policy, should bring about an enormous expansion of the Works Department. Of course, it would be impossible to adopt the policy involved in the amendment without at the same time deciding to expand the Works Department to a degree which I, as the responsible Minister, cannot estimate. It would be necessary to engage a veritable army of workmen, and the department would require the services of a substantial number of officers to supervise the construction of the works. It would be necessary, not only to engage the men, but also to purchase an enormous quantity of equipment. There is involved in the proposal of the honorable member a reversal of government policy, and also an outlay of some hundreds of thousands of pounds for essential equipment.
– The contractor gets the price of his equipment out of every job he does.
– That is not so. If the Government were to become directly responsible for the employment of thousands of men on public works, it would inevitably follow that, when a job was completed in one locality, there would be a demand that the Government should undertake further works in the same locality in order to provide continuity of employment. We know that the political pressure which would be brought to bear on the Government would lead to a decision to institute new works, not because they were necessary, but merely to provide employment.
– Does the Minister think that political pressure should not be exerted in order to provide employment ?
– The honorable member is seeking to twist my words in an entirely unjustifiable way. I would oppose the application of political pressure to force the Government to devise work merely for the purpose of providing continuity of employment. The determining factor must surely be the necessity for the work. The objectiveof the Government should be to give the most efficient service at the lowest cost to the taxpayers. One has only to point out the wide disbursement of Commonwealth works to make it clear that it must be more efficient and economical to engage private contractors than to do the work by day labour under direct government control. When a job is completed under the contract system, the contractor is able to turn, with his team of men and all his equipment, to a new job for private enterprise. 1 am able to say from my own knowledge that government contracts are being taken by contractors who bring to the job a complete team of men and a complete set of equipment. They finish the job, and take the team and the equipment immediately to some private job.
– What about the fellow who does not get a job at all?
– The honorable member knows me well enough to understand that I am not without regard for the man who is out of a job, but that is not to be confused with the matter under discussion. If Parliament were to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), the Government would be obliged immediately to engage teams of workmen, and also a large body of supervisors, as distinct from engineers and architects. It would also have to purchase expensive and elaborate equipment such as cranes, engines, trucks, drays and concrete-mixers. Then, when a job was finished, the men would be out of employment, and the equipment would be of no further immediate use. Surely honorable members cannot believe that it would be more efficient or cheaper to institute a policy that must necessarily involve the dismissal of large numbers of men, and the storing of equipment when a job was completed. It would be necessary to establish in every State a huge works organization, and to engage an army of supervisers and skilled artisans. It would be almost impossible to get enough of them.
– Does the Minister forget that there are six State governments with six State works departments, and that a little co-ordination between the Commonwealth Government and those State departments would remove all the difficulties of which he has been speaking?
– What the honorable member has put forward as a fact is merely an opinion, and I do not share it. There is a very considerable amount of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State works departments as it is. For instance, the Commonwealth has no works department in Tasmania, where the State Works Department acts for the Commonwealth.
– That merely proves the contention of the Leader of the Opposition.
– It proves that, wherever possible, we already co-operate with the State authorities.
– Some of the State governments carry out all public works with day labour.
– And some of them do not; it is a matter of policy. A comparison of the two systems discloses that it is cheaper and more efficient to do work by contract. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) stated that we had in our employ many skilled architects, engineers and technical men who were sitting idle in their offices for want of something to do. He suggested that, if we were to change to the daylabour system, these men would be in a position to earn their salaries which, however willing they might be, they could not do at present. If the honorable member really believes that he has pictured the actual state of affairs I hasten to disillusion him. Within the last few months we have found it necessary, because of the tremendous pressure of work on the architectural staff, to engage in: Canberra alone 20 architects. In every State, besides, additional engineers, quantity surveyors and electrical engineers have been engaged. The officers who carry the responsibility of administering the works service are not idle; they are actually working under extremely high pressure.
– Were those positions advertised ?
– Yes, and in some instances difficulty was experienced in filling them.
– What are the electrical engineers doing when the Commonwealth is not carrying out its own works ?
– The electrical engineers are engaged on their own jobs, just as the Commonwealth architects are engaged on their architectural activities. As so often happens, it has been found in regard to the contract versus day labour controversy, that practice does not coincide with theory. The day labour system is employed in connexion with works of an urgent character, small works and other undertakings the labour for which is largely of an unskilled nature.
– What does the Minister mean by “ small works “ ?
– Alterations and renovations to post offices and other government buildings throughout the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Dalley has not only not made out a case for the substitution of day labour for the contract system, but he has also failed to show why the Government should change its policy in that respect. Under the present system we are able to make a comparison between the cost of day labour and that of the contract system which shows that the latter is definitely cheaper.
– How can a comparison be instituted if the department does not carry out work by day labour?
– Previous governments have had works done under that system and prices are available for purposes of comparison. I again express my surprise that the defence estimates should have been selected on which to move the amendment, the carrying of which would have the immediate effect of delaying the carrying out of these works unduly.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) because I believe that defence works should be carried out by day labour so that the workmanship will be of the” highest possible quality, the men will have reasonable conditions and be assured of continuity of employment, the public will know that the quality of the work is the best, and safety will be assured. It can be asserted without fear of contradiction that if a comparison were made of the work carried out under the contract system and that carried out by day labour it would be found that that done by day labour has always been more satisfactory than that done by contract. That has been the experience, not only of Labour governments but also of Conservative governmental and semi-governmental bodies. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, a conservative body, when con structing reservoirs which have to withstand great pressure and where the quality of the work as well as the safety of the people is a factor, always carries out such work by day labour. The Railways Construction Branch in Victoria, which is not a branch of the Victorian States Railways Department but is an instrumentality operating under the Victorian Board of Land and Works, has built many miles of railway in that State, and constructed bridges all of which have been efficiently designed by its officers. The quality of the work done by that department has been such that no major disaster has ever occurred. That branch has carried on under every government that has been in office for many years, and has successfully tendered for other works in competition with contractors. It was allotted the work of constructing the Spencer-street bridge over the Yarra in Melbourne. At present it is building wheat silos for the Victorian Government, having submitted a price which was more attractive than that of private tenders, and it is doing much better work than any contractor would do. The State Rivers and Water Supply Commission has undertaken extensive schemes along the river Murray all of which have been done by day labour, and the quality of which has never been questioned.For instance, the commission constructed the Eildon Weir under the day labour system, and the safety and the quality of that work has never been questioned.
– The honorable member does not include the Waranga Basin?
– The threatened disaster to that weir was due not to defective material or to bad workmanship, but to the design of the structure, and had the work been carried out by contract the same design would have been used. If it is necessary to carry out such important undertakings as I have mentioned by day labour, surely it is essential that our defence works should be done under the reliable day-labour system, in order to ensure efficiency, instead of tempting contractors to use inferior materials, incorrect quantities and generally to slum the job? If the Government has an adequate staff of architects, engineers and electricians to design the work to be undertaken by contractors, it is only reasonable to suggest that it should complete the job under the day labour system. -Why should the Government have a staff to prepare plans, to give technical advice, and to instruct contractors and then give the work to some one else? It should not be beyond the capacity of the Minister to arrange for the Commonwealth staff to co-operate with the State staffs and to switch them over to essential defence works. The Minister must realize that possibly within six months the Railway Construction Branch will have completed the erection of wheat silos in Victoria, and that its technical and general staff could then undertake defence works on the day-labour system. When the Yarrawonga Weir is completed the staff of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission engaged on that undertaking could be employed in erecting fortifications on the coast of Victoria or New South Wales, where the Government is wasting large sums of money. So far as I can recall, all of the works undertaken by day labour have been of the most substantial character, and their safety has never been questioned. When work in the United States of America is done under the contract system, dams have burst and railway bridges have collapsed. This indicates that contractors have undertaken work at an unnecessarily low price, and in order to make a profit have used inferior materials.
– They do not do much better when they get a good price.
– That is so.” Under the day-labour system the work would-be well done, and the lives of the workmen and others would not be endangered. It is unreasonable for the Minister to suggest that the Government would have to maintain a huge staff. The experience in Victoria has been that, even during slack periods, departments such as the Railway Construction Branch have, reduced their staff to five or six skilled executive officers; but within a few weeks they have been able to increase their staff to the full strength required and secure the necessary plant to carry out major works at prices more favorable than those submitted by contractors. What applies in that case applies in all cases of the kind now under discussion by the committee. I hope that the Government will reconsider the position and will call a conference of representatives of public works departments throughout the Commonwealth, or even a conference of Ministers of Works in the various States with the object of formulating a policy of co-operation under which, when a State government job is finished, the men engaged on it will be transferred to Commonwealth public works. I hope that we shall see the end of the rotten system of contract labour which encourages sweating conditions, and endangers the lives of workmen, as’ well as involving the waste of public money on works which are not carried out as efficiently as they should be.
.I support the amendment. The Opposition would be wanting in its duty if it allowed this proposed expenditure to go through without criticism. The proposals involving this huge expenditure have been brought forward in a time of panic, and honorable members on this side wish the public to realize that fact. I agree with the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that a committee representative of all parties should be set up to analyse this expenditure in order that this country may derive the fullest possible benefit from it. It is easy for the Government to ask the committee to agree to it without criticism, merely on its promise that it will enable the Government to provide for the proper defence of this country. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) , who is directly concerned with this expenditure and who must know that honorable members generally would require information concerning it, has absented himself from this discussion. Apparently he has been content that the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence (Mr. Street) should deputize for him in this respect. The Minister again1 has failed in his capacity as head of this important department. He has made a bungle of everything he has undertaken.
I understand that large sums will be expended on defence in the Northern Territory and that the Government intends to resume practically half of the land contained in the town of Darwin.
For some time now, many people in Darwin have been intending to build and have placed timber on various sites in preparation for construction work, but they have been told officially not to commence operations because in all probability their laud will be required by the Navy. Although the naval personnel stationed at Darwin will not exceed 100, it is intended to resume half of the land in Darwin for naval purposes.
– That is not correct.
– It is proposed to expend approximately £250,000 on naval defence works. That money, I suggest, will be practically wasted. I understand also that the military authorities intend to resume the site of the old Darwin hospital. The Government apparently requires almost three parts of the land adjacent to the harbour, whilst the land which it is proposed to resume for naval defence purposes includes one of the most thickly populated sections of the town. That land, it has been stated, is mainly required as a site for stores. Apparently, uo consideration whatever is being given to the owners of the land, who are left in a state of uncertainty as to the intentions of the department. On whose advice does the Government intend to resume this land?
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the item under consideration. There is no provision in these Estimates for land resumptions at Darwin.
– All public works should be carried out by day labour. Tasmania offers an excellent illustration of the benefits accruing from this policy, works in that State which have been constructed by day labour, including the hydroelectric works at. Tarraleah, on which from 1,500 to 1,600 men have been employed for the last four years. To-day, practically all of the public works in Tasmania are carried out by day labour. T can speak from practical experience as, at one time, I myself was a contractor, and I assure honorable members that no individual enters business as a contractor merely for the good of his health. He does so for the purpose of making money, and under the present system which this Government has adopted, he is being given every opportunity to do so. Honor able members generally are aware of the fortunes made in Canberra when most of the original works here were carried out under the contract system. Many of the earliest buildings to be constructed in this city to-day reveal inferior construction and material of inferior quality, and are a disgrace to the contractors. I recall that when we first entered this building, water used to pour through the roof of the ministerial room whenever a heavy shower fell. Similar examples of inferior construction are to be found in numerous public buildings erected under the contract system, and there can be no doubt that that system suffers in comparison with the system of day labour. I support the amendment, and I trust it will be carried.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) [1.40 a.m.J. - I congratulate the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) on moving his amendment and thereby giving the committee an opportunity to examine the Government’s policy of constructing public works by contract. I suggest that it is adopting that policy regardless of the will of the people. At the present time, a number of factories are being constructed in my electorate for the Munitions Supply branch, and I understand that practically all of that work is being done by contract. Quite a number of men imagined that, in connexion with that work, the Government was taking the opportunity directly to provide employment, and many of those, who applied for jobs held the impression that, temporarily at any rate, they would be government employees. On applying for work on the job, however, they were referred to a contractor, and they found that the work was being done by contract to such an extent that the supervising officers of the Commonwealth Works Department had very little to do indeed with employment. It is a matter for regret that this Government is not taking full advantage of the services of the very competent staff of experts available in its Works Department The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) is to be congratuated on his very enlightening speech. He gave several illustrations of excellent work done under the day-labour system in Victoria, and confirmation of his statements is to be found in Hansard reports of debates on this subject in the Victorian Parliament. Those reports show that, in every case, work done by day labour was done more efficiently and at less cost than comparative works constructed under the contract system. For some years now, the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works has adopted the day-labour policy, and every comparison which has been made in respect of those works between the daylabour and the contract system on the basis of quality of construction and expense, has favored the former system. The Spencer-street Bridge offers another excellent example of the system of constructing public works by day labour under government supervision. Wherever possible, public works should be constructed under this system, because only by that means can the people rest assured that they will receive full value for their money in respect of material and workmanship.
The Government proposes to spend vast sums on machinery and plant for the manufacture of munitions, the items covered by Divisions 24 and 25 amounting to £214,701. I am very concerned as to the way in which that money will be spent. Honorable members on this side arc entitled to more information in this respect. I suggest that if, at the outset, more ‘details had been furnished regarding this expenditure, the Government probably would have found honorable members on this side more disposed to agree to it. If I could be sure that the Government would get its money’s worth I would be satisfied.
I feel obliged to support the amendment, as it is an indication not only to honorable members, but also to the people as a whole, that the Government’s policy of constructing public works under the contract system is entirely wrong. Of course, one would be expecting too much of this Government to deprive its friends of any opportunity to make profits in return for the financial help which those interests give in contrabuting to the party campaign funds of honorable members opposite. For that reason it will, no doubt, adhere to the contract system despite the fact that such a system is detrimental to the welfare of the people as a. whole. No one can deny that many private firms contribute to the Government’s campaign party funds, and, I suppose, in repayment for that help, the Government feels itself more or less obliged to hand over to those interests the right to make profits under contracts of this kind. That is its policy, and I feel that the more we expose it by our criticism, the more readily will the public awaken to the necessity for abandoning it. I again congratulate the honorable member for Dalley on launching his amendment. Because of the rigid attitude already apparent on the part of honorable members opposite, I cannot hope that it will be carried, but I, nevertheless, heartily support it. I trust that at least some honorable members opposite will feel it their duty to vote for the amendment, and thus restore a condition of affairs which will result in great benefit to the people of Australia generally.
– The Minister - for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) went to a good deal of trouble to tell us that his department is in possession of facts which fortified him in asserting that the day-labour system is more expensive than the contract system. I remind him, however, that a Minister of a former Queensland government of similar political complexion to this Government - I refer to Mr* Paget - admitted on the floor of the State House that the contrary was the fact. I should be glad if the Minister could produce some concrete evidence to back up his assertion that day labour is not cheaper than contract labour. In this Territory some years ago a great amount of dissatisfaction was manifested by a body of public servants who were shifted from the Hotel Acton to the Hotel Kurrajong when the former was closed down. Prominent amongst those who voiced their dissatisfaction at the conditions they found at the Hotel Kurrajong were the “then Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Irwin, and the former Principal Parliamentary Reporter, Mr. Robinson. I said to the manageress of the Hotel Kurrajong that as complaints came from these gentlemen it seemed that there was some justification for them. She informed me that the Hotel Acton, which had been built by day labour, was a much better residential building than the Hotel Kurrajong which was built by contract labour. It was not so noisy. Quite a number of jobs carried out by day labour in the Territory bear very favorable comparison with those constructed under the contract system.
– Parliament House was built by day labour.
– I admit that the parliamentary building was a jerry-built job. That was largely due to the fact that the Government of the day insisted that it be completed at a specified date in order that the programme for the ceremonial opening might proceed according to plan. The completion of the building was rushed, and a considerable amount of trouble has resulted ever since. Because of the speed at which the work had to be accomplished, the roof was found to be in a very unsatisfactory condition.
The Minister was at some pains to tell us something of the nature of the works that are to be undertaken by his department. I draw attention to the fact that of the amount of £69,990 voted last year under Division 13, build.ings, works, sites, fittings and furniture, only £4,139 was expended. Apparently the estimate was a bad one, or the guess, if it were such, was a very rough one.
– Although only a little over £4.000 was actually expended the remainder of the provision is committed.
– It will be spent this year ?
– The amount voted last year under Division 19, buildings, works, sites, fittings and furniture was £162,630 of which only £14,069 was expended.
– The same remark applies also in regard to that vote.
– Apparently, then, at some time in the distant future the balance of the appropriation will be expended. Again, in Division 25, covering the same services, the amount provided last year was £95,750, and only £1,191 was expended. At that rate of expenditure it will be a very long time before the total vote last year is exhausted. I have no hesitation in saying that justification for the amendment is to be found in the statements of the Minister for the Interior who has given us no grounds for accepting his assertion that contract labour is better and cheaper than day labour. That assertion will not stand investigation in any department of the States or the Commonwealth. Furthermore, nothing like the co-ordination exists between the Commonwealth and the States that the honorable gentleman would have us believe. Many State employees have to be dismissed temporarily because of the absence of continuity of work. The services of these men should be availed of because they can supervise the undertaking of public works in an efficient manner. I challenge the Minister to produce concrete proof of his extraordinary contention that day labour is cheaper or better than contract labour.
– Seeing that the department under the control of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) i3 under fire I should have thought that the honorable gentleman would have given us some explanation of the matters raised; but apparently, as usual when he is attacked, he either retreats behind expressed resentment of the attack or hides in the ammunition van. On this occasion, however, he has deputed the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) to reply on his behalf, and that honorable gentleman has certainly made out a very poor case. First of all he asserted that the mere moving of this amendment would result in delaying the defence works. That is the- usual bunkum trotted out when the Opposition criticizes Estimates of this kind and seeks to amend them. The same course is pursued in connexion with criticism of all government activities. If it is a matter of pensions the Opposition is accused of holding up the payment of pensions; if it is a matter of public service salaries the Opposition is accused of endeavouring to hold up the payment of public servants wages; if it is a matter of the wheat bounty we are accused of endeavouring to prevent the wheatgrowers from obtaining the bounty. All of this is the usual humbug to which we are accustomed when a Minister wishes to avoid giving an adequate explanation of Government policy. The Minister asked why the Opposition selected the vote for the works under the control of the Defence Department in particular for opposition of this sort. We did so because that department offers the greatest facilities for boodling contractors. I say that because of the many promises that have been made regarding the intention of the Minister to collaborate with the States in the matter of providing employment under the defence plan. 1 say definitely that no attempt at such collaboration has been made up to date, nor has the Commonwealth Government made use of the organization of, and the skilled and unskilled labour available in, the State works departments. It has not made any advance to the State works departments for the use of their technical staffs or tradesmen ; it has made no representations to the States that it should utilize tie gear possessed by the various State works departments. Not the slightest effort has been made by the Commonwealth Government to collaborate with the State governments in the actual carrying out of the necessary works under the defence plan, nor has any attempt been made to engage labour through the State labour exchanges. One argument advanced by the Minister in favour of his policy is that the Government wishes to get the best results from the expenditure of the people’s money. If that be so I suggest that he should go a little further and endeavour to induce’ the State governments to abandon their State works departments. It is significant that of all the governments in Australia, whether Labour or antiLabour, this is the only government that believes it can secure the best results for the expenditure of the people’s money by adopting the contract system. If the Minister’s argument has any virtue about it, surely all of the State governments would long since have awakened to the fact that they get less results from day labour than from contract labour. I cannot understand why the Minister should subscribe to his policy in view of the fact, which must stare him in the face, that some of the largest public works ever undertaken in Australia have been carried out by day labour. As the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has pointed out,, there has been no conspicuous failure among the great volume of public works undertaken by day labour, whether in connexion with water conservation, irrigation or public building proposals. On every occasion the evidence in favour of day labour is so satisfactory that the States have continued to use that system in connexion with their public works programmes. The Minister would have us believe that the Government has suddenly discovered - and in this it stands alone among the seven governments in Australia - that contract labour gives the best return for the people’s money. He also complains that, if my amendment were carried, and if the Government endeavoured to carry out the policy I have enunciated, it would mean a great expansion of the activities of his department. What, is the objection to that? Has he any rooted objection to that, or does he object to it merely on the ground that it would involve the provision of more labour. After all, this Government was returned at the last election because of the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that his Government would take an increased interest in the unemployment problem in Australia. If the adoption of a system of day labour would result in the expansion of a Commonwealth department, surely that would provide an opportunity for the Government to redeem one of its outstanding promises during the election campaign.
The Minister has also said that such a policy would mean that his department would have to secure more equipment. Why not? Why should not the government department secure more equipment in the same way as a private contractor has to add constantly to his equipment? The private contractor uses his equipment over and over again; the department could do likewise. The Minister says that if my policy were given effect his department would have to amass a large working plant. What is wrong with that? If the work were carried out by a private contractor he would have to amass the same amount of plant. In tendering for works of this description a private contractor makes allowance for that; furthermore, every contractor who successfully tenders for public works, especially of the magnitude of some of those envisaged in this programme, would undoubtedly have to make some allowance for depreciation of existing plant, or for the purchase of new plant, and the Government would have to pay. I cannot understand the Minister’s statement that, if his department undertook public works by day labour it would necessitate an enormous increase of staff, and that when the work slackened off political pressure would be exerted to find work for those men whose services had to be dispensed with. I suggest that it has taken a long time for political pressure to force the Government to redeem its election promise to provide more work for the unemployed.
Another objection of the Minister was that the Government would have to move its plant from place to place whenever new work had to be undertaken. But does not every contractor do that now? I fail to see why the Government could not do what a contractor does. Moreover, I assume that the Government, like every contractor who has no further work in hand, would have to dispense with its employees on the completion of a job. The Opposition is not asking the Government to provide wages for men who have no work to do, but it does suggest that the Government would get a better job done without having to pay enormous profits to contractors.
The subject of collaborating with the States has been raised. A private contractor who has a job which requires a certain kind of plant, arranges with another contractor for the loan of his equipment should he not desire to incur further capital expenditure in providing additional plant. As there has been a promise of collaboration between the Commonwealth and the State governments in regard to their public works programmes under the defence scheme of the Commonwealth, why should they not confer as to the use of plant? The Minister also said that small and urgent works are carried out by day labour. I do not know where those works are. I do know, however, that whenever inquiries are made from his department in Sydney, the reply is that no work is available, and that there are no prospects of work. The only small and urgent works undertaken by the Government by day labour of which I know are those associated with Christmas relief undertakings.
The Minister told us that he had made comparisons between the works performed some years ago by Labour governments under the day-labour system and the prices quoted lor modern work. I am not clear whether he compared the estimates of his department for certain works with the prices quoted by contractors, but if so I point out that his estimates might easily be a long way out, because frequently departmental estimates have been excessive. That would not be a fair basis of- comparison. Nov would it be fair to compare the prices of building construction in the days when a Labour government was in power in the Commonwealth with the cost under modern methods. The Minister is reasonable enough to understand that since the Labour party was last in office in the Commonwealth there has been an immense advance in building methods. It is unfair for him to say that -he has compared prices ten years ago with prices to-day. As one who has had an extensive experience of the building trade, I say that such a comparison would be ridiculous. There is no reason to believe that the architects, overseers, foremen and other specialists mentioned by the Minister as being attached to the Commonwealth Works Department could not carry out these works and save the money which now represents contractors’ profits. If what the Minister said to-night in connexion with Government contracts be correct, it constitutes a scathing condemnation of every government in the Commonwealth, both Labour and anti-Labour. If it be correct, as he says, that the people get better value, for their money by contract labour than by day labour, every administration in Australia which continues to carry out works programmes with its own works department, under day labour conditions, is deserving of censure. Should the Minister want evidence of the way in which a Government can be exploited by contractors, particularly in relation to matters connected with war or preparation for war, he has only to recall the scandal associated with the Kidman and Mayoh contract for wooden ships during the last war. The very building iu which we meet this morning has been a constant drain on the revenue of the Commonwealth iin order to attempt to remedy defects of construction by contractors. Those two examples and the early experiences of the War Service Homes department constitute some of the gravest scandals associated with Government contracts in Australia.
The Minister wishes to know whether I had the approval of my leader in moving ibis amendment. I assure him that I had not only his approval, but also that of every other member of the Labour party. If he wants further evidence of the unanimity of members of the Opposition in this connexion, a few more speakers from this side will rise and convince him. When the vote is taken there will be no room to doubt that all the members of the Opposition, and, perhaps, some of the intelligent members on the other side, will support it.
The Minister stated that, although the Leader of the Opposition had said that he had approved of the amendment, he proceeded to discuss other portions of the Estimates. I. now draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that he himself discussed what I had said, but said nothing in reply to matters raised by my leader. We have endeavoured to secure from the Government information regarding these costly items which are to be paid for by the Government. So far, two efforts at reply have been made - one by the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, and one by the Minister for the Interior - but neither honorable gentleman gave the information desired. On this subject members of the -Opposition want an answer from the Minister for Defence himself. We have not yet been informed of the cost of this plant which is to be provided free to private contractors; of the method adopted in selecting suitable shops; of the quantity of munitions manufactured by this costly plant; or of the method adopted in the fixing of prices for that product. These things the Minister for the Interior studiously avoided, but I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence mav yet supply the details. Unless satisfactory answers to those questions be given, there must continue to be grave doubt in this connexion. The absence of an explanation strengthens the desire of the Opposition that a committee should be set up to peruse every item of defence expenditure, particularly those items that are outside the ordinary routine procedure of the Defence Department, in order, first, to ensure that no “ boodling “ “ shall take place in regard to defence contracts and secondly, that these private self-sacrificing patriots will not use government plant for the manufacture of private goods. The Minister for Defence has again taken refuge in the ammunition van when bis department is under fire.
– The honorable member ‘ cannot say that the Minister for Defence runs away from criticism.
– Unless the Minister is shirking the issue, he should be here to defend his department.
– That remark, is not justified.
– I give to the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence credit for having performed his part well, even if facetiously. In my opinion, he would make a better Minister for Defence than the present Minister. The present occupant of the office would be an ideal war minister, because if - he could not find some one else to fight, he would fight his own shadow, and the Government would never be out of trouble. As to the arguments of the Minister for the Interior, all I have to say is that if the Government’s defence policy is as weak as is his defence of it,, then heaven help Australia.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). In its own interests, the Government should adopt a system of day labour in preference to contract. Every one knows the scandal associated with the contract system, and of. the evidence of graft in the past, especially in connexion with government and local government contracts. What do we find in regard to defence works contracts to-day? One contractor from Glebe, New .South Wales, has been given the contract for the construction of a hangar at Rose Bay and also for the barracks to be erected at Moore Park.
It would appear that there are certain individuals whom the Government favours with its contracts. If this policy i3 to be pursued, why should not government contracts be distributed more generally? It is certain that more than one contractor submits tenders for the different government works. At election times government supporters have exhorted the electors to vote for them, promising that if returned to power the Lyons Government would find a solution of the unemployment problem. Yet, when there is any government work to be done, it is given to favoured contractors who have their regular staffs, whom they always engage, in addition to a few men who are recommended to them by Cabinet Ministers. No one else can obtain employment, irrespective of the number of unemployed there may be in the district where the undertakings are in progress. It is entirely wrong for the Minister to argue that a comparison between day labour and contract methods has proved the superiority of the contract system. Even in Canberra there are shoddy buildings. Foundations for a secretariat, costing approximately £80,000, were laid here, and afterwards condemned. That building has never been completed. Numbers of shoddy buildings have also been built for the War Service Homes Commission. At Weston, in my own electorate, homes were erected for a soldier settlement with money that was allocated by the Commonwealth Government to the States. That settlement is non-existent to-day. What the white ants have not eaten, some of the people of the district have carried away. The remains of houses which were to have cost returned soldier settlers from £800 to £1,000 have been sold by the State Government for only £30 or £40. Those houses were built under the contract system, without adequate precautions being taken against the ravages of white ants.
Recently a great friend of mine, the New Zealand Minister for Works, Mr. Semple visited Australia. Before going to New Zealand he worked in mines in New South Wales, Western Australia, and Victoria. During his visit I heard him lecture on the conditions that obtained in New Zealand under the con tract system which prevailed before a Labour government took office in that dominion. He told us of a bridge which eventually was carried out by day labour at a cost of £10,000 less than the figure quoted by the lowest tenderer. Moreover the work was completed 14 days before the date specified by the lowest tenderer. Undoubtedly it was a better job than would have been done by the contractor. Any one who has had experience of buildings, whether public or semi-public, knows that contractors frequently do shoddy work, particularly in connexion with the foundations. As a director of a co-operative wholesale society at a time when many building extensions were being carried out in New South Wales, I had evidence of poor work being performed under the contract system. It is known that foundations have been condemned because the contractor has not fulfilled the requirements of the specifications to provide concrete to a depth of 5 feet, tests having disclosed that on the first layer no cement had been mixed with the metal and sand. There has always been a good deal of scandal associated with works undertaken ‘ for governments by contractors, with the result that to-day the people are always suspicious of them. There is ground for suspicion when it is found that certain contractors are favoured by the Defence Department. These contractors employ the same men on every work that they undertake; no matter for what length of time a man may have been unemployed, or how efficient a tradesman he may be, he has no chance of securing employment with them. I say definitely that Ministers in this Cabinet have made representations to these contractors on behalf of their friends. As the contractors always make a “ rake-off “ of from 15 per cent. to. 20 per cent., they are in a position to give some “handouts”. I do not accuse any Minister of being associated with this practice, but such things have happened in the past, and the public, therefore, are naturally suspicious. Consequently, in the interests of both the Government and the Parliament, these works should be carried out by day labour. This would enable the employment to be shared more equitably, instead of being confined to the particular friends of the contractors. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence (Mr. Street) to give consideration to the amendment of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), so that at least there will be no suspicion of “ graft “ in connexion with these contracts. [ Quorum formed]
– One thought is exerci sing my mind. Had this country been faced with the necessity to make the defence preparations which had to be made in London during the last couple of weeks, would the department have called tenders for the necessary works?
– I have said that urgent works are now carried out by day labour.
– It would be interesting if the honorable gentleman were to mention any works, urgent or otherwise, that are being carried out by day labour in the different States. I know of none.
– The honorable member is now standing within 50 yards of a work of considerable magnitude that was done in this building by day labour.
– Doubtless a contractor was not available to undertake that work.
– It was urgent.
– It was done very efficiently and satisfactorily, and I suppose at least as cheaply as if it had been done by contract. That establishes the efficiency of the day-labour system. I submit that in defence measures, it has been the custom of governments to marshal all the resources of the country in order that proper provision may be made. Therefore, the Parliamentary Secretary’s defence of the contractors was very weak, and has not earned the support of the committee. The matter of the continuity of employment provided by contractors has caused me concern for some time, because of the number of workers who are not so fortunate as to be included in the ranks of their employees. In this regard the Commonwealth has a definite responsibility. It has declared its readiness to provide an increasing measure of employment, and thus relieve the States in that direction. Every taxpayer has an equal right to benefit from the expenditure on defence works. That benefit should not be made the close preserve of any section of workers or contractors. I am not one who seeks the rationing of employment as a general principle, but circumstances cause the men to put a case which under normal conditions they would not entertain for a moment. The Government’s works policy confines employment to those who come within the control of certain contractors. The jobs are allocated by the department in such a way that a contractor may go from “A” job to “B” job and then to “C” job, and take with him his whole team of men. The work becomes a close preserve for them. That is not just or fair to those who are entitled to share in this Commonwealth revenue and to get some chance of employment, particularly on defence works. I have discussed this matter personally with the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) in Sydney, and appealed to him to allow such jobs as excavations and foundations for the fortifications at North and South Heads, in which the question of abnormal plant or of extra supervision would not arise, to be undertaken by the department. The existing staff in the department would be able to do all the supervision necessary, and hundreds of persons who at present have no chance of participating in the works undertaken on behalf of the Commonwealth would have an opportunity of work. The Minister has listened to my pleas with, I think, sympathy, and has seen the justness of my case, but he has tied himself hand and foot to the contract system, and accordingly has no regard for those men who so badly need jobs. I do not know why the Government is so adamant on its policy of giving all work to contractors. It is undoubtedly a fact that special equipment for jobs is a charge against the job. Jobs pay for the equipment. To every tender a percentage is added for equipment in case it should not be needed again by the contractors. They are not prepared to buy it and then let it lie idle, unless they are in some way recouped for it. The Commonwealth Government, therefore, pays for the contractor’s equipment and they are allowed to take it away from the jobs as their property, whereas, if the Commonwealth Government itself, through the works branch, undertook the jobs, tlie equipment, alter each job, would be stored until needed again, and would remain government property.
I emphasize that the defence programme involves a long range policy of development. It is not the policy just of this Government; it must be the policy of any other government that succeeds it. It becomes, therefore, more desirable that our own Commonwealth organization should be developed, because it seems to me, according to the development of world conditions, that our policy to-day will be spread over the next ten years. Any equipment, therefore, that might be required for this programme, could be used for continuing the programme, which, I repeat, a succeeding Government would be required to do. Consequently there would be no loss in accumulating supplies of equipment. Moreover, even if a corps of technicians and other skilled men had to be formed to supervise work* carried out by the works branch there would be no loss. It is the unfortunate history of this country that it has trained men for particular services and then allowed them to drift away to other employment. I well remember my own experience of the Commonwealth dockyard in 1919-1920. Men were sent away to Great Britain to obtain electrical experience in connexion with cruiser and submarine work. They remained abroad for two or three years, - acquiring knowledge and skill and when they came back they were sacked because their services were no longer required. The experience gained by technical men, which is a vital factor in a defence works programme, time and time again, has been lost to the service of the Commonwealth because no policy has been laid down whereby their services can be retained and utilized. Their services can only be utilized if the Commonwealth supervises its own policy. It is a short-sighted policy of economy for the Commonwealth Government not to have a number of skilled men in its employ, especially when one considers the national defence aspect. If it happened to-morrow that as the result of a national emergency the necessity arose to provide for works .of a widespread nature, the money question would not be given a moment’s consideration. The major consideration would be defence, no matter what the cost. But when it comes to the calm deliberate question of planning and organizing and of having an organization at our disposal, not at the disposal of the contractor whose patriotism and loyalty are concentrated on his own pocket, it is a different matter. The Leader of the Opposition .to-night gave an example of the patriotism and loyalty of contractors in Great Britain during the recent crisis when costs rose 500 per cent, although Great Britain had its back to the wall.
– And to what heights, would costs have risen had the war occurred ?
– It is too horrible to contemplate what would have happened if war had broken out. This matter has to be looked at from a viewpoint different from that of the ordinary business man. The Minister said to-night that if the Government undertook a job the employees’ services would be no longer required at the conclusion of the job, and there would be a demand in this Parliament for continuity of employment for them. What a horrible thing it would be, he said, to demand in Parliament that continuous employment be .given to the men. The Minister said that he was us much concerned about giving the unemployed jobs as I am. I do not deny that. I do not say that I have a monopoly of the sympathy for the unemployed, but the Minister is tied to the traditional policy in which the main consideration is pounds, shillings, and pence, which, to my mind, should be a secondary consideration in this matter.
– Pounds, shillings and pence always weigh most with private enterprise.
– Yes. In the depth of the depression, in 1930-31, private enterprise found it no longer profitable to keep men engaged on works. They closed their gates and left the men on the street. They took no further responsibility for them when they could no longer employ them profitably. No Government could take that step and say that it was not possible longer to keep men in employment. If it did so, the increase of the number of unemployed would result in the Government being overthrown, I emphasize that the Government cannot look at unemployment as a mere matter of pounds, shillings and pence, as would a business man. It has a different problem; it depends on the goodwill of the majority, and, if its failure to provide work denied to sufficiently large numbers of men the necessaries of life, the next happening would be the overthrow of the Government. That is why, in a humble way, I point out, that there are thousands of men in the unskilled ranks who come within that category. All the statistics the Government may produce cannot disprove the fact that the field of unemployed in regard to unskilled persons is increasing alarmingly. Consequently, I appeal to the Government to spread its employment and to spread the money proposed to be spent over the largest possible number. It should take steps to ensure at least that it shall be shared by the thousands of men who need work to-day. That can be done only by getting away from the hard-and-fast contract system and having some of the work done by day labour. I am now watering down the demands made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). The honorable member’s case is strong and he sustained every point of it, and it is wrong for me tobreak it down in any way, but it is my desire, if we cannot get the whole loaf, to get half a loaf. “What I am now putting before the Government may be a form of compromise to ensure that the Government will utilize its own works branch so that in connexion with the defence programme, the works directors in the various States shall carry out the unskilled jobs by day labour and see that employment is spread as widely as possible amongst the unskilled workers.
Question put -
That the item be reduced by £1 (Mr.Rosevear’s amendment. )
The. committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Collins.)
Ayes ….. . . 19
Noes .. .. ..26
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Department of Trade and Customs, £29,000 - agreed to.
Department of Health
Proposed vole, £47,000.
.This item relates to the provision of buildings, works, sites, fittings, furniture and the purchase of vessels. I have previously asked for information regarding the class of vessels to be provided, and I now repeat the question.
– I have already explained that a new quarantine boarding vessel is required forSydney, as the ship now in use has been in service for 48 years, and should he replaced.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Repatriation, £78,000, and Department of Commerce, £22,250 - agreed to.
Proposed vote, £154,000.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) [2.52 a.m. J. - The committee is entitled to information as to how this vote is to be expended. I recently visited the EastWest Railway line with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), and found the housing conditions of the railway employees to be very unsatisfactory. I should like to know how much of this vote is to be used in replacing the present completely out-of-date dwellings. A considerable expenditure is necessary properly to re-condition the line and to put it into a state which would provide the passengers with comf ortable transport. The housing conditions along the line have been the subject of criticism by an independent authority, audi trust that no more houses will be built of the kind that have been erected for railway employees in the past. The employees’ dwellings can hardly be described as providing reasonable accommodation, and some of them are indescribably inadequate. The houses provided for postal employees, who are not called upon to pay more than 10 per cent, of their total salary in rent, are incomparably superior to those occupied by railway employees. Consideration should be given to the erection of houses similar to those in which the postal employees live. At Port Pirie houses of a new kind have been built. They are constructed largely of straw and plaster, and, although they appear to be comfortable, they are more costly than those occupied by the employees of the South Australian Government, and the rent is higher. I shall reserve further comments for another occasion when I hope to deal with the matter fully, but I shall be glad to know whether provision can be made for the housing of the railway employees to be on an equality with that of the postal employees.
– Considerable expenditure has been incurred in recent years in improving the track on the transAustralian line, and this year it is proposed to continue the work of resleepering and ballasting the line as a further step in the direction of bringing it up to the standard required to enable the fast time-table on that line to be maintained.
– Does the proposed vote of £154,000 include provision for that work ?
– Yes. The Estimates include £68,000 for the ballasting of the East-West line.
The. type of dwelling for the housing of railway employees was decided upon at the time of the construction of the line, when it was apparently regarded as suitable for the purpose. These houses were particularly cheap to construct, and consequently the rent was exceedingly low. The average cottage provided for a married couple consists of two fully walled rooms in the main part of the building. There is a lattice-work living room between them, and also a detached kitchen. The rent is from ls. to 2s. a week. I am informed by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner that when the nature of these dwellings was criticized the occupants themselves wore given an opportunity to say whether they would prefer to continue in this cheap type of dwelling at the present low rates or pay higher rentals for a superior type of building. The vote of the employees showed that they preferred their present homes, with the low rents prevailing. I recently inspected some of the cottages which had been built at Port Pirie, and, by personal contact, obtained from several of the residents an expression of opinion regarding their homes. From my own observations I should say that these cottages are of a desirable kind. The occupants whom I met expressed their approval of the type, and advised me that the rental-charge was incomparably lower than that of the cottages ordinarily available for renting at Port Pirie. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has just returned from a trip over the East- West line. He has made further inquiries regarding housing conditions, and I shall shortly be in a position to inform the honorable member whether there has been any change in the attitude of the men as he suggests.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £3,938,000.
– I desire to enter my emphatic protest against the manner in which the Estimates have been presented to Parliament. Honorable members have to wait until the Minister has replied before they know what is provided for any particular item. In these estimates for new works and buildings a sum of £455,000 is provided, which is totally inadequate for the works necessary in Brisbane and other capital cities. Last year, the vote was £500,000, but only £246,000 was expended. I am deeply interested in the erection of a new post office building in Brisbane, and I say emphatically that the citizens are sick and tired of listening to the promises of the Government over the last six or, seven years in regard to this matter. When the Estimates were being discussed as long ago as 1934, the then Postmaster-General promised definitely that the work would be commenced before the end of that financial year. Unfortunately, the people of Brisbane are just as far off as ever from getting the new post office. At the moment I do not know what amount, if any, is provided in the Estimates this year for the work. The continued use of the present post office buildings in Brisbane is a scandal and a disgrace to the Government. Fifty years ago the Postmaster-General in Queensland recommended that a new building should be erected because the one then in use - andit is still the same building - was inadequate. Since then very little has been done to provide decent working conditions for the employees, or to meet the convenience of the public. Thirty-eight years ago, plans and specifications were prepared for a new post office, yet we are still being told by the Postmaster-General that the plans are not completed. In January of this year the Postmaster-General, in an interview published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail, definitely promised that work on the new building would be commenced before the end of June this year. That promise has been broken, as have so many promises made by members of this Government. When the Federal Cabinet met in Brisbane two years ago it agreed that the present building was a disgrace to the
Government, and to the city of Brisbane. The Postmaster-General and the Prime Minister both made public statements to the effect that they were convinced that a new building should be erected, and they promised that the work would be undertaken without delay.
The people of Brisbane are also agitated regarding the alignment upon which the new building is to be erected. Some four or five months ago, the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Brisbane stated through the press that plans were in course of preparation for a building which would be on the alignment of the Commonwealth Bank on the one side, and the new insurance building on the other. The present post office building is set back 16 feet from the building line, and, immediately the statement of the Deputy Director was published, the Brisbane City Council, the Town Planning Association and other organizations ‘protested vigorously against the proposal. Those who have visited Brisbane will recognize how necessary it is that the present alignment of the post office be preserved when the new building is erected. For weeks a controversy on this question was waged in the newspapers between the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Brisbane and various public organizations. A deputation, consisting of all the Queensland members of the Federal Parliament in both Houses waited upon the PostmasterGeneral, and we were able to satisfy him that it was necessary to preserve for the people the space in front of the post office of which they had had the use for 60 years. The PostmasterGeneral decided to compromise by setting the post office back 10 feet instead of 16 feet as at present. The citizens Brisbane appreciate the compromise, but are still of the opinion that the full 16 feet should be retained. The post office is situated in a very busy thoroughfare immediately opposite a tram stop, and if the new building were erected upon the street alignment the congestion of traffic would be very great. I trust that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thompson) will bring this matter under the notice of the Postmaster-General. I also hope that he will be able to state definitely what are the intentions of the Government in regard to the new post office; whether it proposes to begin work on the new building during this financial year, on what part it will begin, whether the plans and specifications are yet completed, and upon what alignment the new building will be erected. I also want to know the amount that has been placed on the Estimates for the work. The only information which we can obtain is through the newspapers. It has been stated in the press that the Government has placed £50,000 on the Estimates this year towards the construction of a new post office, but if that be true that amount would be insufficient to defray the cost of demolishing the parcels post office in Elizabeth-street. That is a disgraceful and unhealthy building which in the days when telegraph messengers delivered telegrams on horseback was used as a stable. The stench associated with stables is still noticeable, particularly in hot weather. I trust that the Assistant Minister will give me a definite reply to the questions which I have submitted to him this morning.
I have had numerous complaints recently concerning the abuse of public telephones installed in the main streets of Brisbane. The Assistant Minister and other honorable members know that public telephones installed in the city and suburban streets are a great convenience to the travelling public and to those who have not telephones connected to their places of business or private residences; but unfortunately many persons abuse the privilege. I have been informed that one person, anxious to use a public telephone, had to wait 19 minutes until the person using the booth had completed a conversation, and that on another occasion one caller occupied the booth for 15 minutes. I understand that 3 minutes only is allowed for each conversation on a public telephone. I brought the matter under the notice of the Superintendent of Telephone Services in Brisbane, who informed me that such abuses occur and that one person was known to use a public telephone for 35 minutes each morning on other than a business conversation. Although inspectors have tried to detect such offenders, they cannot, do so unless they listen in to the conversation. [Quorum formed].I asked whether some check could not be made upon the length of conversations and I was told that an instrument has been invented which automatically cuts off the conversation after 3 minutes, but that the installation of this equipment on each public telephone would be costly. Whatever the expense may be, the public is entitled to a fair deal, and every effort should be made to prevent the abuse of public telephones.
– The honorable member would not limit a lady to 3 minutes?
– Those who use the public telephones provided in the streets should be allowed only the same time as they are allowed at a public telephone in a post office, where a check is kept on the length of each conversation.. I trust that the Assistant Minister will bring this matter under the notice of the Postmaster-General, and I ask that some restriction be placed upon those who abuse public facilities of this kind.
.For some time I have been urging the Postmaster-General’s Department to construct a new post office at Leeton, because the progress of the town and the district justifies the provision of better accommodation. I understand that the departmental officers have recommended extensive renovations to the existing building; but, considering its present condition, it would be preferable to expend on a new building the money that such renovations would cost. Several new banks have been erected in Leeton, the Water Conservation and Irrigation -Commission has just erected a building costing £17,700, and a new fire station also has been built quite recently. I trust that the Assistant Minister will ask the Postmaster-General to authorize the building of a new post office, instead of renovating the existing structure. The future of the town warrants this action.
– No Commonwealth department more directly affects the life of the Australian people than does the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and I strongly urge the Minister to be more generous in granting additional telephonic and postal facilities, particularly to the people in country districts. Will the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thompson) explain why only £246,023 of the £500,000 voted for buildings, works, &c, for 1937-38 was expended, leaving an unexpended balance of £253,977? During the last financial year honorable members received letters from . the PostmasterGeneral’s Department stating that new post offices, automatic telephone exchanges and other postal facilities could not be provided owing to the scarcity of funds. Yet over £253,000 was unexpended ! The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has again brought forward the perennial subject of a new general po§t office at Brisbane. This building is long overdue. The erection of an automatic telephone exchange at Rockhampton was promised years ago, but the work has not yet been proceeded with. It cannot be said that sufficient money has not been available, because over £250,000 of the amount voted last year was unexpended. Of the £107,000 provided for national broadcasting services last year, only £66,567 was expended, leaving an unexpended balance of £40,433. I presume that this money was provided in last year’s Estimates for the erection of regional broadcasting stations throughout Australia. Quite a number of centres are in “ fading “ zones, and need relay stations urgently, and as the money was available, why was not this necessary work carried out? In the Bundaberg area those owning wireless sets find it impossible to obtain good reception from existing “A” class stations, but they still have to pay the” full licence-fee. When does the department intend to erect a relay station at Bundaberg, and other centres throughout Queensland situated in what are known as fading zones? I also wish to know the reason for the subscription to the share capital of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited?
I urge the department to construct buildings for the housing of post offices in the established towns ‘ in country centres throughout Australia. At present it usually calls upon private enterprise to erect these buildings in such centres. At Monto and Biloela, for instance, it has rejected the claims of the local people for a departmental building. In those centres the department has called upon private enterprise to erect a building, and it has signed a lease with the owners of the new buildings for a number of years, despite the fact that such buildings are inadequate to meet the needs of a growing community. It cannot be said that money is not available for this purpose, because £250,000 of. the amount provided in respect of buildings and works last year remained unexpended at the 30th June last. The importance of these towns and the surrounding districts warrants the construction of official post office buildings by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I should also like an explanation as to when work on the automatic telephone exchange at Rockhampton will be commenced, and I hope that the Assistant Minister will not advance the usual excuse that no money has been provided for that purpose. No details of the proposed expenditure are given in the Estimates.
– At this late hour I propose to confine myself to the main points raised by honorable members in the course of this debate. This section of the Estimates does, not call f or a very wide discussion, because honorable members will have an opportunity later to discuss the various phases of postal administration, such as non-official post offices and official telephone services. This particular section contains only three or four headings which need concern honorable members, at this juncture, and there is not very much to say about any of them. The first section, telephone exchange services; comprises automatic and other exchanges, involving a total expenditure of £2,453,999, which is a very big increase upon the amount allocated for this purpose last year. I have in my hand a list of all the works of this kind which it is proposed to undertake, and if any honorable member wishes to know if any particular proposal is included I shall be pleased to give him the information. The second section, trunk line services, involves an expenditure of £774,000. As a rule honorable members are not very much interested in such services, which are mainly of departmental interest. In respect of the third section, telegraph and miscellaneous services, the sum of £80,000 is allocated as compared with the sum of £57,000 voted for this purpose last year, whilst the amount proposed to be allocated in respect of national broadcasting services is £100,000, as compared with £107,000 voted for this purpose last year. The fifth section, in which honorable members are particularly interested, covers buildings, works, sites, fittings and furniture, and involves an expenditure of £455,000, as compared with £500,000 voted for this purpose last year. The actual amount to be spent on buildings and sites this year is £600.000 including a carry-over from last year to which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) referred. In respect of all departments, varying proportions of the amounts actually voted usually remain unexpended at the end of the financial year. That is due partly to the non-completion of works, and to such factors as unforeseen delays and the inability to secure material. In no case, however, is the carry-over cancelled; it always goes into the following year’s Estimates. Under this item there has to bc added to the sum of £455,000 an amount of £145,000 to be derived from a trust fund established for the purpose of securing post office sites. I have a list of the proposed buildings, and I shall give to any honorable member information about particular districts in which he may be interested. In regard to the sixth item, subscription to share capital of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, I remind the honorable member for Capricornia that the Commonwealth Government holds 500,001 shares, a majority of the shares in the company. The amount of £75,001 represents the cost of three calls at ls. a share and this expenditure will fulfill an obligation which the Commonwealth Government has entered into with the company. The honorable member also wanted to know what new broadcasting services were covered by these Estimates. The main proposals are - New South “Wales; Liverpool station, £4,500; Canberra station, £14,500; regional station at Manilla, £1,000; regional station at Broken Hill, £5,000; and station. 2NO, £5,000. Victoria : Sydenham station, to complete, £5,000; replacement of 3AR, part cost, £11,000. Queensland: Regional station at Dalby, to complete, £11,000; regional station at Cairns, part cost, £5,000; and replacement of station 4QG, part cost, £4,000. Western Australia : A short-wave transmitting station near Perth, part cost, £5,000 ; alterations and additions to 6WF, £2,000. Tasmania : Replacement of station 7ZL, part cost, £1,500.
– Will the Assistant Minister bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the claims of Bundaberg for. a regional station?
– Yes. No expenditure is allocated to South Australia.
As he has done on many previous occasions, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has again eloquently advanced the claims of Brisbane for a new general post office. I was sorry to hear the honorable member say that he is disappointed that only £50,000 has been provided on this year’s Estimates for that work. He stated that that amount would be insufficient to demolish even the old parcels office. I point out that the whole of the existing general post office cannot be demolished at once; it has to be demolished iu sections, and this £50,000 is the first contribution towards the building of the new structure which will be commenced this year, and, I hope, very soon. It must be obvious to the honorable gentleman that the department will not unnecessarily delay important work of this kind. Once the workmen commence, every effort will be made to finish the job as soon as possible. Personally, I believe that once the project is started Brisbane will not have to wait for very’ long for its new general post office. At the moment I cannot give the total estimated cost of tho completed building. Neither am I able to say whether the request of the Brisbane people for the retention of the existing recess of 16 feet between the post office and the ordinary building alignment will be granted, but I shall certainly do what I can to have that matter reviewed before final action is taken. A sum of £10,000 has also been provided for the purchase of the site for a new parcels office. The honorable member also dealt with the abuse of automatic telephones. I shall bring his remarks under the notice of the Postmaster.General. It seems to me, however, that until we can secure some device of the type mentioned by the honorable member, which will automatically disconnect a subscriber after three minutes conversation, the abuse which he mentioned cannot be overcome.
The honorable member for Riverina. (Mr. Nock) asked for information regarding the post office at Leeton. Provision of £1,000 has been made for the remodelling of the Leeton post office. It is estimated that the ultimate cost of the work will be £1,425. The honorable member may rest assured that the department will see that the remodelled office will be quite in keeping with the importance and dignity of that town.
It is proposed to provide nineteen new rural automatic telephone exchanges in New South Wales at a total cost of £15,600.
– ‘Where will they be provided?
– At Burrumbuttock, Murrami, Wamoon, Borenore, Pa llamallawa, Pleasant I Hills, Kingsvale, Repton, Clunes, Muttama, Uki, Purlewaugh, Kootingal, Gurley, Cooranbong, Cargo, Junee Reefs, Milbrulong and Stuart Town. Twelve rural automatic exchanges are to be provided in Victoria at an estimated cost of £S,650. These will be situated at Clydebank, Wyuna Town, Moyhu, Allansford, Cowarr, Myrniong, Riddell’s Creek, Pirron Yaloak, Byaduk, Darlington, Mannula and Grassmere. Nine rural automatic exchanges are to be provided in Queensland at an estimated cost of £8*,700. These will be located at Baragara, South Nanango, Byee, Miriwinni, Jarvisfield, Marburg, Glen Aplin, Sunnybank, and Freshwater. Six rural automatic exchanges are to be provided in South Australia at an estimated cost of £5,200, and will be located at Springton, Stockport, Port Noarlunga, Belalie, Smithfield and Palmer. Five new rural automatic exchanges will be constructed in Western Australia at an estimated cost of £3,700 and will be situated at Narembeen, Three Springs, Koorda, Gosnells and- Rockingham.
Six rural automatic exchanges are to be provided in Tasmania at an estimated cost of £5,000 and will be situated at Ridgeley Grove, Moriarty, Irishtown, Grove, Ferntree and Clermont. Provision has also been made for a large number of extensions of existing automatic exchanges in the various capital cities and suburban areas. The estimated cost of this work is £45,000 in New South Wales, £67,000 in Victoria, £42,000 in Queensland, £2,300 in South Australia and £4,880 in Tasmania. If honorable members desire further information regarding the activities of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department I shall be glad to obtain it for them.
.There is little need for me to point out that I wholeheartedly support the request of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Lawson) that a new general post office be provided at Brisbane. If my memory serves me aright this important matter has been brought prominently under the notice of the Parliament on numerous occasions.
I desire to give my wholehearted support to the efforts of the honorable member for Brisbane to have this work put in hand without delay. I hope that the Government will see fit as early as possible to provide not a paltry sum of £50,000 for this purpose but a really worth-while amount. I refer honorable members to a speech which I made in this chamber on the 3rd December last in which I suggested that I had considerable doubt as to whether this Government would ever undertake the erection of a new General Post Office building at Brisbane. I then expressed the view that if and when the building was erected it would be a fitting tribute to the indefatigible efforts of the honorable member for Brisbane if his name were associated in some way with the new building.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad that the Minister for Trade and Customs sees the wisdom of that suggestion. I feel sure that, if the honorable gentleman were controlling the destinies of the. PostmasterGeneral’s Department, people would not have to voice continual complaints of the delay that has taken place in connexion with the erection of the new building. In the speech to which I have referred, I suggested that as Sydney has its Martin Place, so might the place in front of the proposed new post office at Brisbane be appropriately named George Lawson Place. Seldom has such a tribute been so well deserved. The honorable member has fought a worthy tight for a good cause. When Sir Archdale Parkhill was Postmaster-General, he was always ready to listen to representations made by honorable members. Today, however, the portfolio of PostmasterGeneral is held by a Minister in the Senate, and as the result, our protests often fall upon deaf ears or upon ears that are not so attuned to hear them as were those of Sir Archdale Parkdale when the destinies of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department were in his hands. That honorable gentleman was always prepared to face up to a problem and to listen to a good argument.
For many years, the honorable member for Brisbane and I have also been battling for the provision of a new post office at South Brisbane. I now ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General if out of the largeness of his heart, or if not from that source, out of the revenues of the Government, he can possibly provide the finance necessary for the erection of that building this year. The honorable gentleman and other members of the Government may not realize, either through a lack of interest or for some other reason, that this is a matter of national importance in the national life of Australia. In justification of my claim I call as my witness one whom I regard as possibly the best witness pf all - I refer to the Prime Minister of Australia. The right honorable gentleman considered this matter of sufficient importance to meet h deputation representative of all sections of the business community in South Brisbane which waited on him to urge the desirability of constructing a new jjost office without delay. On the 3rd December last I said : -
The majority of people visiting South Brisbane, and wishing to reach a post office, travel by tram for a couple of miles past the Stanley Street building until they reach the Woolloongabba post office.
At the deputation I said that it was almost impossible for even a resident of Brisbane to find the South Brisbane post office.
– The deputation could not find it.
– The Prime Minister decided to see the post office for himself, and drove off in a motor car which was in charge of a local taxi driver who knew South Brisbane well. With him in the car was a Queensland senator, the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator Foll). As they drove along they searched for the South Brisbane post office, the second most important post office in Queensland. With some others, I followed in a less speedy car.
– I suggest that the honorable member curtail .his narrative.
– When we arrived at the South Brisbane post office the Prime Minister was not to be seen. We then consulted with the postmaster, and decided that as the Prime Minister was not there, he would in all probability be found at the Woolloongabba post office. While we were considering whether or not we should spend 2d. of our own money to telephone the Woolloongabba post office we were informed that the Prime Minister had arrived. He had been given clear directions by the postmaster at Woolloongabba. I emphasize that the Primo Minister of Australia, who had available to him the resources of the Commonwealth and. of Queensland, was unable to find the South Brisbane post office, thereby proving the correctness of my speech of December last. That experience should be sufficient to convince honorable members of the need for a new post office in the city of South Brisbane. I agree that a general post office in Brisbane, which has been consistently advocated by the honorable member for Bris- » bane (Mr. George Lawson) is even more urgently necessary, and in this connexion I suggest that when the new building has been erected there the street in front of it be re-named “ George Lawson-place “. Honorable members will be interested to know that, as the car in which the Prime Minister travelled passed along the street, Senator Foll said, “I think that is the South Brisbane post office “, but the driver of the car said “No; that is only a place where old parcels are kept “. Later, when the car stopped outside the building for which he was searching, the Prime Minister said, “Is there not a place down the street where rubbish is deposited ? “ I said, “ This is the place you have in mind”. If honorable members be tired of hearing me stress the importance of providing South Brisbane with a new p’ost office, they can obtain relief from further repetition by assisting me to get the post office erected. Twenty years ago South Brisbane had, for its post office, a good building of two stories, situated at the corner of Melbourne and Grey streets. The building was taken over by Bayard’s Limited, and the post office was removed to temporary premises, where the business is still conducted. That happened a fifth of a century ago, when the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) was about ten years old.
– Does the honorable member suggest that when the South Brisbane post office has been erected the street which it faces should be re-named “Baker-place”?
– I should have no objection to the change, but I do not press for it. I do, however, urge that in front of the Brisbane General Post Office, when erected, should be a tablet indicating that the street is to be known as “ George Lawson-place “. I specially emphasize the word “ George “ in order to avoid the possibility of confusion with Henry Lawson. It may not be generally known that the existing post office at South Brisbane is at the back of an hotel, and that persons wishing to transact postal business there have to pass through the back entrance to the hotel premises. Such conditions might, perhaps, be permissible in a small country town, but there is no excuse for them in such an important city of South Brisbane. When they bring in the mail they sneak in the backyard of the hotel just as if they have ulterior motives. They then have to carry their mail bags upstairs on their backs. There is no lift. This Government, which has more than £90,000.000 a year with which to play, cannot afford to provide a lift for its mailmen. As I pointed out on the 3rd December last, the post office at the west end, north end and every end of Brisbane except the south end are better than the South Brisbane post office. If the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) were present, he would support me in this matter because he is just as keen as I am. Although a country member, I am sure that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), self-confessedly prejudiced against my constant requests for the provision of better post office facilities at South Brisbane, if he were present, would also support me. That honorable member told me that he was surprised and disgusted at the miserable and paltry building that masqueraded as a post office in South Brisbane.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– More than two years ago when Sir Archdale Parkhill was PostmasterGeneral, money was placed on the Estimates for the provision of a new jjost office at Mackay. Nothing has yet been done. This year Ave have the spectacle again of money being on the Estimates for this work. I want to know when it will be proceeded with?
– On the Estimates there is an amount of £8,000 for a post office at Mackay.
– Yes, but when does the Government intend to go on with the work? The post office building at Mackay is an everlasting disgrace to the Government. ‘ The Director of Works in Queensland, Mr. Orwin, told me that the department would go ahead with the work if he could get an architect to draw up the plans and specifications. The inability of the department to obtain the services of architects for this work is due to the demands made upon the Commonwealth architects by the defence programme. I remind the Government, however, that it is only in the last two years that defence has made such demands upon the Commonwealth architectural services, whereas the cry for a new post office at Mackay has been raised for many years. In order to show the unsuitability of the existing building in a town of growing importance, it is necessary only to point out that the counter is barely 24-ft long and there is little room between it and the portion where the public write telegrams.
Before last June, £1,000 was to have been expended towards the provision of a new post office at Proserpine.
– The Estimates provide for an expenditure of £2,000 on the Proserpine post office this year.
– I know, but when plans and specifications were drawn up for the building that was to have been started last year, it was found that it was proposed to erect a wooden building.
– The estimated cost of the new building is £3,000 and it would not appear from that that a wooden building is contemplated.
– The original plans and specifications were for a wooden building, but the department retreated in the face of strong opposition from the town council and called for a fresh design. 1 hope that we shall not have to wait years before the department is able to obtain architectural services for the Proserpine post office.
I was promised that money would be provided for the erection of a new post office at Collinsville. The existing building is worse, I think, than any other post office building in any other town of similar size. The post office business is carried on in a shop which has stood for God knows how many years.
– The Estimates contain provision for the expenditure of £500 towards the provision of a new building this year.
– I do not know what could be provided for £500. I doubt whether that would cover the foundations. At any rate, the existing “building is entirely unsuitable. There is no furniture in it and there is no room to put furniture. The only accommodation for documents is a number of empty kerosene cases which were provided by the present postmaster’s predecessor. Conditions are so primitive that the wash-basin for the staff is within sight of the general public. The postmaster, two assistants and a girl telephonist are required to work in a room which is barely 24 feet by 16 feet wide.
– That is to be altered.
– I hope so, but £500 will not go very far.
– The estimated total cost is £3,000.
– It would* be interesting to know when a start is to be made. Is it intended that only the foundations shall be laid down and the rest of the building allowed to await further finance? The residents of Collinsville have a genuine grievance.
The Assistant Minister (Mr. Thompson) read a list of the proposed new automatic telephone exchanges, and I was deeply interested to ‘ hear what it was intended should be done. I point out, however, that the building for the new automatic exchange at Midgenoo has been ready for some time, ‘ but the department is unable to obtain machinery from England. If it is unable to obtain machinery for buildings that are already erected, what hope is there of obtaining it for proposed new buildings? I have been pressing the need for the new service at Feluga for a considerable time, and I urge that everything should be done to expedite the matter.
It is a pity that men who hold up jobs in the Postal Department, men like the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Sir Harry Brown, and the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) and his assistants, do not have to spend a summer in towns in the north of Queensland. If they did, they perhaps would be more sympathetic towards the claims of those places for better postal and telephonic facilities. The post office at Proserpine was taken over from the State Government at the time of federation. To it is attached a residence for the postmaster. It is separated from the post office by a three-ply partition. I do not know whether a house is to be provided under the new scheme for the postmaster in that town, but I impress upon the Government that, unless one is provided, he will have to shift for himself, with possible deterioration of the postal services. All of the available houses are already occupied. The postmasters are entitled to have proper housing provided for them.
.- I do not usually discuss parochial matters in this Parliament, but i am bitterly disappointed at the attitude that has been adopted by the Government and the Postal Department towards the provision of a post office at Brisbane. Have plans and specifications for the proposed new post office been drawn up? For years past the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has been promised that the department would proceed with the erection of a new building, but all that it is doing at ‘present is to demolish the building in a back street. That does not build a new post office. If £50,000 a year is all that is to be expended, it will be a long time before the new building is completed. _ The existing post office is neither a credit to the Commonwealth Government, nor worthy of a city of the size of Brisbane. All other nearby institutions - banks, business houses, and the premises of the civic authorities and of the State Government - are fine buildings. I want an assurance that the whole scheme for the new Brisbane post office will be put in hand. The honorable member .for Brisbane has grounds for complaint, because he has had promises made to him for many years past and they have not been kept.
.Today I received a reply from the Postmaster-General in reference to representations concerning the Moree post office. Needless to say, I was very disappointed with it. I have had petitions forwarded to the Postmaster-General by the municipal council and others, stressing the unhygienic state of this post ‘ office, especially that portion of the building in which most of the work has to be done, and the residence in which the postmaster has to live. It is a galvanised iron building, which is very hot in the summer months of the year. It is a definite reflection on the Postal Department, because Moree is probably one of the mo3t important inland towns in New South Wales.
For a number of years there has been an agitation for the renovation of the post office building at Pilligo. Repeated applications to have this work put in hand have been made to the PostmasterGeneral by the progress association and residents of the town, but only quite recently there has been a definite refusal to do anything.
For quite a considerable time the people of Binnaway have been urging that they be provided with improved postal facilities and an official post office. This is an important township, and a railway junction. Much better postal facilities are warranted, and I trust that’ the Government will consider the appllication that has been frequently made for them on behalf of the people. The post office about which I am mostly concerned is at Willow Tree.
– There is an amount of £500 on the estimates for a new post office at Willow. Tree, the estimated cost of which is £2,0*00.
– I am very pleased to hear that. Since I have been member for the district there has been a ceaseless agitation for this work to be put in hand. Furthermore, I am very pleased to learn that rural automatic telephonic exchanges are to be installed at Gurley and Pallamallawa.
I very much regre”t that there is no provision on the estimates for a new post office at Harvey, Western Australia. For very many years, considerable dissatisfaction has been felt in regard to the existing building. In the first place, the situation is unsuitable, and is very dangerous to children, because they have to cross the railway line to collect the mail.
– There is an amount of £450 on the Estimates for alterations.
– I am sorry that further alterations are to be made. The department has adopted this palpably mistaken policy in the past. The cost of the “ rags and patches “ has been sufficient to” enable a splendid new post office to be erected. Only recently a highly suitable piece of land in the centre of the town was offered for one half of its recognized value. One lot of alterations cost £800, and now there is to be further patching at a cost of £450. The post office will still be in the wrong situation, and in no sense up-to-date. Harvey is one of the finest and most progressive towns in the west. The Government should consider the advisability of doing the sane thing, namely having a new post office erected.
– I am very pleased to learn that it is tlie intention of the Postmaster-General to erect a new post office at Cairns. This will prove of great benefit to the people and’ will be an improvement in what is undoubtedly one of the most progressive towns in Queensland.
Additions are to be made to the post office at Longreach. These are the only places in an electorate comprising one-half of the total area of Queensland which are to receive any consideration from the Government. . The Postmaster-General should endeavour to disburse in’ Queensland a little more of the revenue which the department collects. Year in and year out, the revenue has reached record dimensions, but only a small proportion of it is returned in the form of improved facilities to those who provide it in the towns and cities of Australia. The honorable members for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) and Griffith (Mr. Baker) have referred respectively to the Brisbane and South Brisbane post offices. The Mossman post office is over 70 years old. It was built of wood brought from Port Douglas. Yet when the department is urged to give favorable consideration to the request of the Mossman people for the erection of a new post office in keeping with the reconstruction of the town with, in recent years, the reply is that the funds available will not permit of this work being put in hand. The desire is for a post office which will do as much credit to the town as the magnificent town hall that has been erected. .
At Mount Isa, one of the most progressive mining towns in Queensland, the post office is a ramshackle, corrugated iron building. A new building has been promised for quite a considerable time.
– There is provision on the Estimates for the expenditure of £2,000 on a new post office and quarters. The estimated total cost is £6,000.
– I thank the honorable gentleman for that information.
I was pleased to hear the Assistant Minister say that a regional wireless station is to be erected at Cairns. This will prove of great benefit to those who, for some considerable time, have had wireless sets on which they hoped to ‘ experience good reception when the station was erected at Townsville. Unfortunately, however, that station was not a success from the aspect of those who reside in’ Cairns “and its hinterland. The proposed new station will provide a much better service.
I am disgusted at the scant consideration that has been given to the numerous requests for the provision of a regional station to serve the central and northwestern portions of Queensland. The Postmaster-General must have well over 200 letters on the subject. During the recent tour of these parts by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), deputations which waited on him stressed the disabilities under which the people are labouring in regard to wireless reception. Many of the children in isolated area3 aTe far removed from schools, and are entirely dependent on the correspondence courses of the Department of Education. The only amusement of these people is the wireless, but in the summer months, the reception is more static than musical. The Prime Minister had not left my electorate a week when ihe announcement appeared in the Townsville press that Western Queensland would have to wait for a very long time before it could hope to have a regional station, the reason advanced by the Director-General of Post and Telegraphs being that it did not contain a sufficiently large population. Senator Foll, representing the Prime Minister, received a deputation at Hughenden. I pointed out to him that the reason for the refusal of the request of the western people was insufficiency of population, and he replied that that was contrary to Government policy. After I had returned to Canberra, I received from him a letter informing me that the request for the station had been refused. All sections of the people of Western Queensland are united in their desire for this station. It would mean a great deal, particularly to those who are engaged on the mining fields and in the pastoral industry, and would be a wonderful boon to the women and children who are depriving themselves of the conveniences and comforts of the cities and coastal towns, but this Government, which contains representatives of the Country party, has refused their request for a most desirable institution which would provide them with a little comfort and would be the means of bringing them into daily contact with events that are occurring outside their own particular area.
Requests have come from mining centres and grazing districts in’ various parts of. north and western Queensland for the erection of telegraph and telephone lines, but in each instance the unsatisfactory reply has been received from the department that the project would not return sufficient revenue to warrant the expenditure that would have to be incurred. One would imagine that the department was merely a profit-making business concern, and that it was not called upon to render service to the community. The Government and its supporters declare that migrants should be brought to this country to help in its development, but, when requests are submitted for services which would improve the lot of those engaged in the development of outback areas, no consideration is shown for- them, despite the large profits of the department. Some time ago an application came from an outpost of the dairying industry in the far north of Queensland. I refer to Daintree, which is 60 miles north of Mossman and over 100 miles north of Cairns. The residents had a telephone service which continued until 8 p.m. and were required to give a guarantee that the revenue would not fall below £100 a year. This is only a tree line, and it is frequently out of order. This year the revenue dropped to an amount £8 below the guaranteed minimum, and the department immediately curtailed the evening service by two hours by withdrawing its attendant at 6 p.m. The dairymen would much prefer to have the telephone office open until 8 p.m., as it is not convenient for them to cease their ordinary work prior to 6 p.m. This line passes through dense scrub, and a request was made that it should be erected on poles, but this application was refused
The department spends large sums of money in the cities but shows a complete lack of sympathy with the outback settlers engaged in agricultural, pastoral and mining pursuits. When similar applications are made for telephone services for gold, tin or copper fields, the reply mostly received is that the department regrets its inability to grant the request, because, if it did so, insufficient revenue would be received to justify the outlay. Mining is a Hazardous occupation, and the risk of fatal’ accidents is ever present to a greater degree than in other industries. Requests for telephones should not. be dealt with merely oh the basis of the estimated financial return. Some time ago an accident occurred on a tin field in an outlying locality back from Cairns. The services of an ambulance man had to be obtained from a neighbouring town. The request was conveyed to him by a messenger mounted on horseback, and he, too, had to make the journey by that means. Had a telephone service been installed the injured person would have received attention within half the time occupied. Such conditions are due entirely to the department’s want of consideration for the requirements and welfare of those carrying on the work of this country in isolated districts
.An application has been made for a new post office at Flinders Island in the Furneaux Group. After investigation of the matter the department replied that the expenditure would not be justified owing to the fact that the revenue would be below the required amount.
– I notice that the sum of £100 has been placed on the Estimates for a post office at Whitemark, on Flinders Island.
– That sum is insufficient. Owing to the isolation of the settlers an official post office should be erected.
The provision of a two-way wireless telephone is under the consideration of the department. I have always been courteously received by officials at the head office when I have approached them on departmental business, but I now mention the need for a wireless telephone service in the hope that the matter will not be delayed longer than necessary. I understand that certain technical difficulties prevent immediate compliance with the request of the residents. The Furneaux group is in close proximity to the direct route of the commercial aeroplanes flying between Tasmania and the mainland, and it is highly important that the telephone service asked for should be provided without delay. A plane flew off its course in this locality some time ago, and on such .occasions it is essentia] that facilities should be available for getting into contact with the islands. Recently, owing to the courtesy of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, whose wireless telephone links these islands with the rest of Australia, a plane was diverted from its usual course and was able to land and remove to hospital a person who was seriously ill. If it is impossible to complete at an early date the experiment already undertaken in connexion with the proposal for a twoway telephone service, consideration should be given to the laying of a duplicate cable to cross Bass Strait via Flinders Island.
– In the city of Ballarat there is a very fine post office building, but so great has been the increase in the volume of traffic, which has practically doubled during the last ten years, that the accommodation is now quite inadequate to meet the demands upon it.
– I am pleased to be able to inform the honorable member that there is £1,000 upon the Estimates for alterations to the post office building at Ballarat.
– I hope that the money to be made available will be sufficient for the job. The sale of stamps, in particular, has increased enormously in recent years. Recent State legislation has increased the demand for stamps, and the public now requires cattle compensation stamps, and income tax stamps, and, after the 1st January, 1939, they will also be buying national insurance stamps. In addition, business in connexion with the payment of invalid and old-age pensions and of war pensions has increased greatly. The post office staff is cramped at the counter, and the public arc cramped in the space provided for them. They are compelled to wait for attention, not through any fault of the staff,, but because of the inadequate accommodation. There is a room at the rear of the post office for the use of the letter carriers when they are not out on their rounds. The winter climate in Ballarat is very severe, and there is a fairly large staff of letter carriers. The accom modation provided in this room is inadequate and unsatisfactory. The walls are pf galvanized iron nailed -to a wooden frame. There is a fire place, certainly, but the furniture is rough and scanty, and the floor is of asphalt. Improved accommodation is urgently required.
I have frequently asked that improved post office accommodation be provided at Daylesford.
– The honorable member seems to be particularly fortunate in his requests. An amount of £500 is on the Estimates for that work.
– Daylesford is an important mineral spa, and people visit it from all over the State to recover their health. The existing post office is unsightly and inconvenient, and, for tha sake of local residents as well as of visitors, it should be improved.
.- It is a tragedy that a democratic institution such as this Parliament will persist in trying to force legisaltion through by process of exhaustion, particularly when it goes into recess for such long periods. Practically every honorable member in the chamber is asleep. This method of legislation is particularly unfortunate when we observe that other countries of the . world have become disgusted with democratic institutions, largely because of practices such as 1 am now condemning.
Improved post office accommodation is urgently needed at West Maitland. In the district surrounding that town there is a population of 15©,000 people, yet it is served by a post office which was built in pre-federation days. The stables in which were housed the horses used for deliveries have been converted into a carrier room to boost up the telephone service. I have taken departmental officers to visit the building, and they have recognized that improvements were long overdue. In fact, they promised that new premises would be provided; Plans and specifications were prepared, but the work has not been done. [Quorum called.”)
– An amount of £3,945 is on the Estimates for West Maitland post office, and there is an additional £900 for a line staff building.
– The amount of £3,945 has been on the Estimates for the last four years. Due to the political alliance that keeps the Government in office, improved postal facilities have been provided in one-horse towns in various parts of the country, but nothing has been donein West Maitland. The Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) has visited the town on several occasions, and has made promises, but they have not been kept. At the request of the State member for the district, who is a member of the United Australia party, I have taken the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs to inspect the post office, and he was disgusted to learn that men were required to work in a disused stable. Plans and specifications were prepared six years ago, but that is as far as the matter has gone.
Representations are made from time to time by local authorities for the installation of public telephones in various country districts. Always the department insists that a guarantee of £16 revenue per annum shall be given before the telephone is installed. Requests have been made in respect to Bellbird, Pelton, Birmingham Gardens, and other places on the coal-fields, but in every instance the £16 guarantee has been insisted upon. In the cities, however, no such guarantee is required. On many occasions I have written to the department pointing out that the installation of a public telephone is necessary in certain districts on the coal-fields because of the possibility of serious or fatal accidents. Such a request was made in respect of Pelton, but the application was refused because the guarantee was not forthcoming. I have also asked that public telephones be installed at pleasure resorts where drowning accidents have taken place in the past. If there had been telephone communication with an ambulance and doctor lives might have been saved on those occasions. Such facilities should be provided so that in the event of sickness or in urgent maternity cases messages can be despatched promptly. In view of the huge surplus which the Postal Department shows each year, they should be provided even if the estimated revenue does not reach the amount which the department considers necessary. Surely country districts are entitled to facilities similar to those provided in the metropolitan areas.
At New Lambton, adjacent to Newcastle, where there’ is a population of approximately 10,000 persons, the post office, an old gabled weatherboard cottage used in pre-federation days, is being eaten by white ants. The Assistant Minister, who does not appear to be listening to whatI have to say, would take immediate steps to have a new building erected, if it were in a “ one-horse town “ in his electorate.
– An amount of £2,750 is provided for the erection of a new post office at New Lambton.
– That may be so, but, a similar amount has been on the Estimates for three years, and nothing has been done. Before the municipality of New Lambton was included in the Greater Newcastle area, I received a letter from that municipality expressing its appreciation of the action which the Government proposed to take, but owing to the delay which has occurred the Government is now condemned because it has not gone on with the job. Of what use is it to make money available if the work is not undertaken? In New Lambton, which has many fine brick structures; the oost office which has been in use since pre-federation days, . is the most dilapidated building in the town. I informed the Health Inspector of New Lambton that the building is a disgrace to the Commonwealth and should be condemned.
On numerous occasions, I have asked for a new post office at Abermain, where there is a population of 7,000 persons, because the present building is inadequate, particularly when we remember that country centres with populations of only 3,000 persons have beautiful new post offices. It would appear that when the representative of an electorate in which new works are required is not of the same political faith as the party in power, it is difficult to get anything done. Regardless of political considerations, proper postal and telephone facilities should be provided in the interests of the people.
I also have a complaint to make with respect to the delivery of mail matter. The mails of persons living just beyond a mile from the post office are not de- livered. Representations have been made that the delivery should be extended at Cardiff and Kurri Kurri. In Kurri Kurri where I reside there are two deliveries daily in the main street, but iii. the residential portion there is only one delivery. I represent 54,000 electors, but because I reside outside the. business area my letters are delivered only once daily.
I regret that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) is ill and therefore unable to speak on behalf of his constituents concerning postal matters. He has, however, asked me to make representations on his behalf for the installation of an automatic telephone at Newcastle. If an automatic exchange is to be established as promised at Newcastle, exchanges could also be installed at Maitland and Cessnock atv the same time. The Assistant Minister read out a long list of email rural towns where automatic exchanges are to be installed, and if such facilities are to be provided at unimportant centres,* why cannot they be provided at Newcastle, Maitland and Cessnock? There appears to be a “ hand-out “ in rural districts in order to show that the representations of Government supporters have borne fruit ; but it is unfair that such an important industrial centre as Newcastle cannot be provided with similar conveniences. For a long period the late Mr. David Watkins advocated the installation of an automatic telephone exchange at Newcastle, and when we recall the amount which the Government is expending in other directions,, it is difficult to understand why this facility is not provided. The GovernorGeneral’s establishment is to cost £41,160 this year, and for that amount an automatic telephone exchange could be established in the Newcastle district. I am sufficiently honest to say that Newcastle is more entitled to an automatic exchange than any district outside of the metropolitan area. Although the department has recommended that these facilities should be provided, the work has not been proceeded with.
– The sum of £22,000 has been provided for Newcastle.
– Yes, that , amount has been there for years but the work has not been done. I have already brought these matters under the notice of the department, and it is only when 1 cannot get redress that I ventilate them in this chamber.
For some time the dairy-farmers living between Morpeth and East Maitland have been asking for a telephone connexion with Morpeth. As the cost of making the connexion at Morpeth would be only £3, these people want the connexion made with that exchange, but the explanation offered by the department is that as a line has been installed from the West Maitland post office to East Maitland, the connexion must be made with East Maitland. The department then makes its mileage charge on the line from West Maitland, via East Maitland, to the homes of subscribers, and on that basis the cost is approximately £6. I introduced deputations on. this matter to the cx-Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Duncan, who was sympathetic to their request. Nevertheless, he put up the argument that the department was obliged to charge mileage to compensate it for the’ cost of installing the line to East Maitland. Why cannot the connexion be made close to Morpeth ? The department’s publicity constantly urges the people to make more use of the telephone, but owing to its stupid attitude in this instance, fifteen householders in the district absolutely refuse to install a telephone connected with the West Maitland exchange.
Every honorable member, I believe, will agree that some expenditure is warranted in the provision of shelters and seating accommodation on the verandahs of post, offices for the old people who are compelled to collect their pensions through the Postal Department. In all kinds of weather - cold, wet, or hot - they are forced to wait outside post offices in populous centres. It does not seem to .trouble the department if many of them are on crutches, whether they are sick or infirm. I urge the Postmaster-General to give serious consideration to my request.
.I protest against the process of exhaustion employed by the Government in its attempt to rush through these Estimates. I take this opportunity to supplement my earlier remarks regarding the need for a new post office at South Brisbane. That need has been accentuated by the construction of the Story bridge across the Brisbane River from New Farm to Kangaroo Point. This work, which is now nearing completion, prevents overseas and interstate shipping from proceeding upstream nearer than a point two miles from the present post office. For this reason, the Adelaide Steamship Company has already transferred its berths for the Manunda and Manoora to New Farm, whilst other shipping companies have shifted their berths lower down the river to Hamilton. Sir Archdale Parkhill, when he was Postmaster-General, gave me to understand that a new post office would be erected at South Brisbane upon a site which had already been purchased for that purpose, and admitted that the only argument for the retention of the present building was its convenience to the shipping wharfs at South Brisbane. Owing to the circumstances which I have mentioned these wharfs can no longer be used by overseas and interstate shipping, so that argument disappears. I. feel sure that had Sir Archdale Parkhill remained Postmaster-General he would have proceeded with the new post office as the result of this change. I point out further that the proposed new site is opposite the Melbourne-street railway station in the busiest part of South Brisbane. It is adjacent to the Commonwealth Bank which makes it very convenient for the transfer of money and for the payment of pensions. The four main business banks are also within a few hundred yards of the site. The junction of Melbourne and Grey streets is the busiest traffic centre in Brisbane, being the outlet for all traffic going to thecity via Victoria-street and Grey-street bridges. The land on which it is proposed to erect the new building was purchased by the Commonwealth Government some years ago, which indicates that, in its opinion, the present site is regarded as unsuitable. The post office at South Brisbane is second in importance amongst the post offices in the metropolitan area, yet the Prime Minister was not able to find it.
I also wish to congratulate the Minister for the Interior upon the arrangements he has made to permit country members to use the trunk line telephone service.
I desire now to deal with the proposed vote “ Subscription to share capital Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited £75,001.”
– I gave full information to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) in regard to that matter.
– I shall be glad if the Minister will supply details in regard of that item.
.I wish to refer briefly to what I regard as the discrimination exercised by the Postal Department in connexion with the granting of a wireless broadcasting licence at Cessnock.
– That matter has nothing to do with the question before the Chair.
– It has relation to a new work at Cessnock. I was about to refer to the new station at Cessnock known as 2CK, which shares a channel with the Tasmanian station 7ZL.
– On a point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I submit that the granting of a wireless broadcasting licence is not a new work.
– That matter may not be discussed during the consideration of these Estimates.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Northern Territory, £300,000- agreed to.
Proposed vote - Australian Capital Territory, £545,000.
.I should like the Minister to give the committee some information concerning the items “ Architectural Services, fittings and furniture”, “Engineering services “, and “ Forestry “. As a substantial sum of money is involved in those items the committee is entitled to fuller information regarding them before they are passed.
– “Architectural services, fittings and furniture “ involve an amount of £401,000. The principal item in that amount is a provision of £170,000 for the erection of a large number of cottages as a portion of housing programme involving an expenditure of £250,000. An amount of £30,000 is also provided towards the cost of erecting the new Patent Office building, the total cost of which is to be £130,000. The balance consists of a large number of relatively small items.
– How many houses are to be erected?
– About 175, or, possibly, 200.
– What will be the average cost?
– The total cost will be about £170,000.
– Will the construction of those houses satisfy the demand for homes ?
– Probably not, but these houses will go a considerable way to relieve the pressure. That is as many as can be completed during this financial year.
. -Whilst I agree with the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that the erection of these cottages will go a good way towards easing the housing problem in Canberra, the position will still be acute. I do not know whether the sum to be provided under item 35 will provide any more money for additional houses, but I predict that there will be a good deal of heart-burning in Canberra after this vote has been expended. For a number of years the position has gradually become worse. The waiting list of persons desiring houses in Juno contained 310 names; at the end of August, according to the reply given to a questionwhich I asked, 27 permanent officers, 97 other government employees, 89 relief workers and 128 other employees, making a total of 339, were seeking houses. It will be seen, therefore, that between June and August the position became worse to the extent of 29 unsatisfied applicants for homes. . The accommodation required consists of 146 cottages of four rooms, 181 of five rooms, and twelve of six rooms. When it is remembered that 50 houses are required each year to meet the normal growth, the seriousness of the position will be realized. I am bitterly disappointed that the Government does not propose to do more this year. In reply to a question which I asked during the last fortnight, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) advised that it was estimated that all permanent and temporary employees of the Government would be accommodated with houses by the 30th June 1939, and that the number of persons other than government employees who would be without housing accommodation at that date would be affected by the number accommodated by private builders. The amount provided in this year’s Estimates covers the provision of accommodation for some persons who are well able to provide for themselves. For instance, a house of fourteen rooms has been erected for a member of the Government, and £5,000 is to be set apart for improvements to an already fairly large house. I register my emphatic protest against such maladministration. If the Commonwealth Government does not provide money for the building of homes in Canberra, I do not know who can be expected to do so. The committee is entitled to a full statement on this subject, and I hope that it will be forthcoming. The Minister for the Interior indicated his intention to make a statement, but apparently that is not now to be done. It is true that there have been references to the subject in the press, but such statements cannot always be relied on, and, in any case, that is not the way in which members of this Parliament should be supplied with information. I protest against the inadequate sum of money provided for Canberra housing.
– I wish to refer to the re-enforcement of the trading hours ordinance of 1926 which has remained dormant for twelve years.
– That matter had nothing to do with what is before the committee.
– I am referring to Division 34 which contains five subdivisions. The first covers architectural services, fittings and furniture; the second, engineering services; the third, forestry; the fourth, sundry works and services and the fifth, the Canberra Cemetery. I suggest that the ordinance to which I have referred may possibly be covered by that item 4.
-The item is not sufficiently wide to cover the subject re- ferred to by the honorable member.
– I do not think that any one in this chamber cansay what the item covers. The ordinance to which I have referred has not been enforced for twelve years.
– If the honorable member continues to argue with the Chair, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Chairman. A considerable sum of money is to be paid to the credit of the Canberra Cemetery trust account. I should like to know the nature of the minor services referred to in the item. The general theory of parliamentary government is that the Parliament shall control the public purse. That is the theory upon which the Parliament of Great Britain was developed.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! The honorable member is not in order in discussing that historical fact.
– I had not the slightest intention of discussing it. The point I wish to make is one which I think is relevant. It is that £126,800 of the vote for the Australian Capital Territory remained unexpended last year. That is a serious matter. All that is to be added to that amount is £30,000. The money amounts to only one-eighth of a million pounds and that may not seem much to a Government which has £90,000,000 to spend now, and in a few years will have about £100,000,000 a year. A number of people think that it is important.
– The honorable member is entirely misinformed. I refer him to the figures from which he is reading. The item refers to the current year, not the last year. I fail to understand the honorable member’s misreading of the figures.
– The reason may be apparent. The budget lays down an amount estimated to be unexpended.
– At the close of this year, not last year. The honorable member said that the amount was unexpended at the end of last year.
– I have thefigures in front of me.
– The honorable member has the figures in front of him, but he apparently cannot understand them. If he will sit down I shall explain them to him.
– Explain to me now. I intend to use my full time. I am dealing with the budget for 1938-39.
– One would not think so.
– I am doing my best to help the honorable gentleman. It is not my fault-
– Order! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) is wasting time.
– That is not for the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to say. I am entitled to address myself to this matter. Certain amounts are laid down for 1938-39, less an amount estimated to remain unexpended at the close of the year. I can now see that that may apply to this year. How is it possible for the Government to discover at this time of the year that it will have about £126,000 unexpended at the end of the year? I am entitled to an answer to that question. As a member of the Opposition I have not the facilities that are possessed by Ministers to get this information.
– The honorable member needs only two eyes.
– With all respect, my eyes are just as good as yours. My idea in this discussion-
– Is just to waste time.
– I am not wasting time.
– Order ! Unless the honorable member addresses the Chair he will be ordered to sit down.
– Why not stop the Treasurer? I am endeavouring to get. information, and the Treasurer continually interjects.
– If thehonorable member will not recognize the Chair-
– I am prepared to obey the directions of the Chair, but I think that you, sir, should treat both sides alike. “ The CHAIRMAN. - The honorable member will resume his seat.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty for the service of the year 1038-39, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c., a sum not exceeding £7,042,000.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Sir Earle Page do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
House adjourned at6.26 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Oregon in sizes of 12 inches by6 inches (or its equivalent) and over, for use underground for mining purposes, is admitted free of duty. Imports were - 1935-36, 21,246,000 super feet; 1936-37, 4,787,570 super feet.
Retail prices of Oregon and Australian hardwood timbers in Australian capital cities : -
Hoop Pine and Cedar.
n asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
n asked the Minister in Charge of Territories, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
Representations have been made by organizations and citizens of Wau urging its claims as a suitable site for the administrative head-quarters of the Territory of New Guinea. All the points mentioned by the honorable member,’ and all other aspects: of the matter, will be taken into” consideration in connexion with the review of the selection of a suitable site for the administrativeheadquarters.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr. Lyons (through Sir Earle Page). - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Re-naming of Mascot Aerodrome.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
y. - The matter is under the consideration of the Government.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Does insurable employment cover the following: -
a person whose wages are fixed at so much a yard instead of payment by the hour;
a person who takes work by way of sub-contract from a builder to do, for instance, plastering work at a certain price (labour only); and
a person who takes work by subcontract, labour and material?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
May I suggest to honorable members that, since problems of insurability involve questions of fact and of law, and therefore, require the fullest possible information to determine whether the employments concerned are insurable or not, honorable members should direct such questions in writing to the National Insurance Commission, which is charged with the administration of the National Insurance Act, giving the fullest possible particulars, rather than ask questions in this House. In some cases legal opinion is necessary before decisions can be given, but the commission will deal with all questions submitted as promptly as possible.
y. - On Friday, the 7th October, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked whether it was the intention of the National Insurance Commission to constitute the Approved Societies Consultative Council before the 1st January next?
I am now advised that this is one of the subjects for discussion at the conference of representatives of approved societies, which is to be held in Canberra on the 24th and the 25th October. The commission proposes to seek the views of the representatives present on the method of selection of names for appointment by the Minister, in accordance with section 151 of the National Insurance Act, and the terms and conditions of appointment which are to be the subject of regulations. At the same time it is hoped to reach a decision on the most suitable date the Consultative Council should meet.
Employment in Industry.
– On Friday, the 7th October, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The following information is supplied in reply to the honorable member’s questions : -
Considerable difficulty is experienced in securing accuracy in the returns of females employed in primary industry, partly because of the impossibility of satisfactorily distinguishing between domestic and farm duties. For this reason the results secured from the two methods of collection cannot be compared directly.
British Commonwealth Relations.
– On the 6th October, 1938. the honorable member for East
Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked the following question, without notice -
Can the Acting Prime Minister give any information regarding the recent conference -
I think it was called the British Commonwealth Relations Conference - which met at Lapstone in New South Wales? Was that conference composed of representatives of governments, or of particular organizations? Who appointed the delegates, and was the Government involved, in any expense in connexion with it? What were the subjects discussed, and does the honorable gentleman know
of any reasons why they should have been discussed in secret?
I desire to inform the honorable member that the British Commonwealth Relations Conference, recently held in New South Wales, was attended by representatives of the Institutes of International Affairs in the various countries comprising the British Commonwealth. It was unofficial in character and no delegates were appointed by the Commonwealth or other Empire governments.
The conference was arranged to take place in Now South Wales in association with the 150th anniversary celebrations. The Commonwealth Government allocated towards the cost of the conference, the sum of £2,000. which was provided out of the total sum of £20,000 made available by the Commonwealth in connexion with the 150th anniversary celebrations held in New South Wales this year.
The following extracts from the “Report of Committee on Arrangements and Agenda “ are quoted for the information of the honorable member : - “ Objects of The Conference.
It was decided that the objects of the con ference should include, and the committee should make provision for -
The conference shall be unofficial and private. No member of the conference may be a member of the ministry in office in the national or” federal government of any participating country. Every member shall attend in a purely private capacity and not in any case as a spokesman of, or observer for, any government.
The conference shall conform to the restrictions binding the Institutes of International Affairs with regard to the expression of collective opinion and shall not express by resolution or in any other manner an opinion on any aspect of British Commonwealth relations or of domestic or international affairs. This shall not preclude a recorder from attempting to assess in his report views of members of the conference on a particular question, nor shall this preclude expressions of opinions in papers, group reports or other preparatory material submitted to the conference.
In order that those present at meetingsof the conference may feel free to speak with frankness, all meetings of the conference shall bo strictly private, unless otherwise determined by the Conference Steering Committee and so announced at the beginning of the meeting. Members of the conference may, however, use information received, at the conference pro- vided they do not disclose the name of any speaker.”
Export of Iron Ore.
– On the 7th October, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked a question, without notice, as to the reason for the amendment of the regulation dealing with the prohibition of the exportation of iron ore from Australia.
In reply, I desire to inform the honorable member that since the prohibition was imposed requests were received by the Government for permission to export certain minerals which, although technically coining within the category of iron-bearing minerals, are not commercially used for the recovery of iron. These minerals, which includelimonite (hydra ted oxide of iron) and micaceous haematite, are processed in Australia and are shipped abroad in small quantities for use as gas purifiers, as ochres and umbers for pigments and for decorative purposes.
As the exportation of the classes of minerals mentioned would not in any way affect the objective of the Government to conserve for Australian industry supplies of iron ores, approval was given to the issue of an amended regulation to meet. the situation.
The position under the new regulation, which is No. 80, is that there still will be an absolute prohibition of the exportation of haematite (other than micaceous haematite) and magnetite, the two ores of iron which are in general use for the production of iron and steel, subject to the provision made in the original regulation No. 65, for the exportation of certain quantities covered by actual contracts.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 October 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19381012_reps_15_157/>.