1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice, if he is aware -
– The answer to the honorable and learned senator’s questions is as follows : -
The Customs officer hoards theLaunceston steamers in connexion with his duties us Immigration officer, and in carrying out the provisions of the Marine Act and Chinese Restriction Act of the State of Victoria and the Immigration Restriction Act ofthe Commonwealth. The officer remains on board anddelays the steamer as short a time as possible, and is not usually longer than ten to fifteen minutes in performing his duties. All Inter-State vessels are liable to be boarded by the Customs officers.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is the usual interim Supply Bill for one month. The amount it appropriates is in excess of that which was asked for last month. It includes not only the ordinary supply for the month, but also one or two large items. One is a sum of ?20,000 for the government of New Guinea. Seeing that that is the total amount required for the year, and that it is wanted now in order to meet payments which have been made by the Queensland Government, it was not con- . sidered desirable to ask for a smaller vote. If, for instance, we were to ask for ?18,000 now, it would necessitate our asking for the balance within a short time. As we hope that the Appropriation Bill will be put through in the course of next month, it is not necessary, we think, to divide the sum. Then there is a sum of ?25,000 required to meet the payments in London for new magazine rifles which have been ordered. Under the head of Defence there are some larger items than” usual. These amounts are required for annual payments, which are due during next month. The Treasurer is endeavouring to clear off all these accounts before the end of the financial year, in order that in future theremay be no arrears.
– What do these extraordinary payments total?
– It will be more convenient, perhaps, to take these items in committee, because they are scattered through the schedule. They are to be found under the headings of the different States, and also under the headings of the different arms of the service. For instance, there is a payment for capitation to volunteers. The pay for the militia, I think, is made yearly in some cases and half-yearly in others, but in most cases it is annual. The large payments for the whole of the year will have to be made during next month, and therefore they are included iu this Bill. I do not think that there are any other matters to which it is necessary for me to refer at this stage. In committee I think I shall be able to answer any inquiries which may be made.
-The Postmaster-General has pointed out a fact which must have struck us all, that the Bill appropriates an amount very much in excess of that deemed sufficient for the expenditure in previous months. He has recognised that some explanation was necessary. So far as I was able to follow him, he dealt with only a very small portion of the increased amount. The Bill appropriates a sum of £493,944, which represents an annual expenditure of over £6,000,000. Surely we have a right to know before we pass the Bill why this increased amount is necessary. The honorable and learned senator has referred to an item of £20,000 for New Guinea, and an item of £25,000 for payment for rifles in London, and he has mentioned that the Bill provides for some additional expenses in connexion with the defence force, which are really payments for the whole year. But even if we write down the amount we are asked to vote by £50,000 or £60,000, or even £1.00,000, it will be seen at once that it represents an annual expenditure far in excess of that which we have been led to believe is necessary, or which, indeed, the Commonwealth can stand. I gathered from the honorable and learned senator that in committee he will endeavour to explain some of the items, but I, at least, would like, and I feel certain that the Senate would like, to get some definite explanation as to the various items which make up this very excessive increased cost.
– The Postmaster-General has pointed out certain matters relating to the expenditure in the Defence department, and I must own that there are some features of the Bill connected with that department which are eminently unsatisfactory. For instance, in division 69, there is an item of £50 for the salary of staff officer of volunteer forces. I beg to inform the Postmaster-General, in the language of Mrs. Prig, that “there’s no sich a person.” I do not know why we should be required to vote this salary. Such an officer did exist once, but he has not existed for a long time. The gentleman who occupied that position is now Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General, and is, I suppose, provided for in that capacity somewhere else. Certainly £50 would not pay him for his services. In the case of each volunteerregiment there is a sum of £500 put down for salaries. I find on inquiry from the: officer representing the finance department here that these sums are not forsalaries at all, but to pay for clothing,, rent, and lighting of orderly rooms, furniture, printing, stationery, and a long list of articles which have to be provided out of the capitation grant of £3 per head for every efficient member of the regiments. I do not know who is responsible for this error.. InSydney they could not possibly have madesuch a blunder, because such a thing never happened before in connexion with New South Wales Estimates, and I suppose someone has blundered in Melbourne. Whether it is the Military department here, or the Treasury, I do not know, but I think it is rather too bad that such a mistake should be made, and that volunteers who give their services without the smallest remuneration, and at very considerable personal loss should, in one Supply Bill after another, be represented as receiving salaries. Apparently these regiments are pretty expensive toys if the people .are all getting paid in the manner indicated. These sums of £500 go for clothing, and it is outside the law that any part of the amount should be paid to the members of the regiments. I find that for head-quarters defence staff inSydney there is a sum of £1,000 for salaries and £300 for contingencies.
– What are these contingencies t
.- That is what I do not know, and I suppose nobody can tell us.
– I shall be very happy to tell the honorable senator in committee.
– I shall be glad to learn, because I find a most extraordinary sum for contingencies in each
Supply Bill. I do not know why these contingencies are required in connexion with the volunteer branch, because we do not know anything about them at the other end. The head-quarters staff of New South “Wales has been largely transferred to Melbourne and constitutes a very large part, of the Commanding Officer’s staff. Therefore the sums that are asked for in this Bill to pay a head-quarters staff in Sydney will not be required for paying those officers foi- services in Sydney, but for services in Melbourne.
– Is that what the trouble is ?
-Col. NEILD. - I do not know that there is any particular trouble, but still I think that the amounts, as far as possible, should be allocated to the right branch of the service. I shall take the case of one regiment referred to here. The salary of the adjutant is voted for services in New South Wales. He is employed in Melbourne, and the unpaid commanding officer has to do the work for nothing. I am doing the work myself, and I think that 1 have a fairly good knowledge of the subject. Of course, we have to vote these amounts, but I should like to see them submitted in a form in which they would be more capable of being understood. As a man in the. know, as the phrase goes, I own that I cannot make head or tail of the estimates in the manner in which they are made up. I have taken the different Supply Bills and tried to make some sense out of them, but it is absolutely impossible to do so. If a man who is concerned in the working of the Defence force cannot make them out for himself, they must be the most absolute Sanscrit to the majority of persons. We are practically voting these moneys blindfold. There is no earthly need to put the Commonwealth to the expense of printing page after page of such matter. Let the Government put down a lump sum and be done with the thing, because neither the Senate nor the other House can possibly form the faintest idea of what the expenditure is by studying the various Bills as they are presented.
– I take this opportunity of ventilating a grievance. Honorable senators will recollect that on various occasions during the last three months the question of the standing orders has been raised, and the Senate has been urged to deal with them because trouble may arise at some time or other between this Chamber and another place in regard to the Tariff. As yet we have done nothing in the matter. Repeatedly, when the Senate was about to adjourn for a week or a fortnight, I have brought up the question, and stated that the time would come when there would be difficulties with the other Chamber, and that it would be well to have some machinery to cope with those difficulties. We have made arrangements with regard to ordinary Bills so that everything would go on swimmingly in connexion with any disagreement; but in connexion with money Bills we have made no arrangement whatever. That is a great misfortune. The nearer we get to the time when a disagreement may arise, the more difficult it will be to arrive at an understanding in regard to our standing orders. I refer honorable senators to the Arrets of yesterday, which discusses this question in an article headed “ Questions of Procedure : large Issues involved “ -
The first Supply Bill presented was returned by the Senate to the House of Representatives, when the point in dispute was settled, and the measure went back again to the second Chamber. This is a precedent for one exchange between the two branches of the Legislature, but no more. If this course wei-e followed, all would go well until the Senate had received the schedule a second time, but nobody would know what to do afterwards if the two Houses were still in conflict on particular items. There is, consequently, a proposal on foot to draw up joint standing orders specifying the procedure to be followed where money Bills are concerned.
There is, however, said to be a difference of opinion as to whether these should specify that a Bill could be returned from the Senate once, or three times, in the same manner as amendments on ordinary legislation. It is by no means certain either that, whatever the decision, the new joint rules would be accompanied by machinery fora “ free conference “ incase the two Houses failed to come to terms. If standing orders to this effect were provided, the possibility of a dead-lock would be considerably minimized.
It is rumoured that the Speaker of the House of Representatives inclines to the opinion that there should be only one exchange of the requests for changes in the Tariff, but the President of the Senate favours the adoption of the rules in regard to amendments, when messages could pass between the Houses three times before a free conference would become necessary. It is argued that both Chambers would be less inclined to come to some amicable arrangement speedily if they knew that they still had two more chances to hit upon a modus virendi after the first submission of the Senate’s suggestions to the House of Representatives. On the other hand, it is contended that the compromises effected in the first two exchanges would lead to peace, with honour, on the third and final message.
– I may state that there is no foundation for that paragraph so far as I am concerned, and I believe there is no foundation for it so far as the Speaker is concerned.
– Of course we know that pressmen sometimes assume a great deal, but, although the Argus may have exceeded the bounds of propriety and accuracy in publishing opinions which it had no right to quote, and had no foundation for mentioning, still there is a great deal in the contention.
– I do not say that that is not my opinion, or what my opinion is. All I say ,is that I have never expressed any opinion.
– I think this is a fitting time to urge upon the Government that they should set apart a portion of the Week for the discussion of our standing orders. I think the Senate would agree to allow honorable senators to give notice of any objections they had to particular portions of them. The draft standing orders have been prepared hy a standing orders committee composed of representatives of all parties in the Senate. That committee sat for several months, and I believe the Senate would be quite willing to accept the result of their work temporarily. If that were done, great loss of time might be prevented. Suppose the Senate sends to the other Chamber 100 motions suggesting amendments in the Tariff, and that the other Chamber rejects 50 and accepts 50. When the Bill comes back, ‘ according to our present machinery, it appears that we shall have either to hack down or to reject the Tariff Bill.
– We have no practice, no procedure, and no machinery ; but we can make practice and machinery as we go along.
– Surely it would be better for the Senate, and for the House of Representatives, for us to come to an early decision, rather than leave the situation in a state of uncertainty? At the present rate we are likely to pass 60 or 70 resolutions requesting amendments in the Tariff. It is better that we should make some arrangements as to procedure than that we should wait till the time comes when we send our resolutions to the other place, and when there may be friction. Certainly there will be greater speed in arriving at a decision between the two
Houses if we determine what shall be the method of procedure. It would be a public calamity if, through the want of standing orders to meet the case, the Senate should reject the whole Bill, whereas a free conference between the two Houses might bring about a compromise. A rejection of the Bill would bring untold loss upon the general community, . and cause the very greatest dissatisfaction. I therefore urge upon the Government that they should set apart a portion of our time for dealing with this question at an early date.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Senate to the administration of the PostmasterGeneral’s department in Western Australia, particular!)7 with regard to the action taken in respect to the telephone service. I do not know whether the blame rests with the Postmaster-General or with the Deputy Postmaster-General in Western Australia, but at any rate great irritation has been caused, particularly in the coastal districts of my State, and the revenue of the department is being very seriously injured. The particular matter to which I refer is that of connecting new subscribers with the telephone system. It seems to me that the Postal department has taken up the position that new subscribers cannot be connected, because the revenue derived from the department in Western Australia does not balance the expenditure.
– Oh, no !
– I want the PostmasterGeneral to clear up the matter, because what I have stated is the impression in Western Australia, and after reading the correspondence which has passed between the Postmaster-General and the Deputy Postmaster-General in Western Australia on the subject, that is the impression left on my mind. I have already asked questions on the subject in the. Senate. They were these : - 1
The reply to the first question was -
I contend that the answer to that question bears out my contention.
– Does the honorable senator state that it is on account of the revenue not being equal to the expenditure ?
– If the revenue is equal to the expenditure why wait for loan money ? Why not make the connexions out of revenue? I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will allow me to make out thecase that has already been made out by the people of Western Australia, in the press of that State, and will give a full and effective answer, so as to remove any misapprehension in the minds of the people. The answer to the second question was -
In thecase referred to there was no refusal, and connexion with the telephone system was completed within four days of the receipt of the application.
I do not like to charge the Deputy Postmaster-General of Western Australia with twisting the facts, or with making a mendacious statement, but certainly he has not given the true facts of the case. The facts are these. Mr. Darbyshire is a medical practitioner, and therefore it was urgent that he should be connected with the telephone system. He made his application, and tendered his subscription for the purpose of being connected, but he was informed that it was not possible to connect him. He then wrote to the papers in Perth, complaining of his treatment, and also wrote to the Chamber of Commerce. The Deputy Postmaster-General then, on account of Mr. Darbyshire being a medical practitioner, arrived at the determination that special efforts should be made to connect him with the telephone system, and a connexion was made with Mr. Darbyshire’s house by using a discarded and condemned telephone instrument.
– That is a fact, and also by using some old wire, which the department happened to have by, and which was looked upon as useless. This was done owing to there being no funds available.
– Does the honorable senator get that information out of the papers ?
– Not altogether. But there are statements in the papers which, to a certain extent, bear out the facts I have stated. There are admissions in the correspondence which prove that a new and efficient instrument was not given to this particular subscriber, and that only on account of his being a medical practitioner was he connected with the telephone system. A statement has been made in the Western Australian press that over 30 applications have been refused, on the ground that no funds will be available until a Loan Bill is passed. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will be in a position either to explain whether that is so, or to give us a refutation of the statements made in Western Australia. They have not been contradicted by the Deputy PostmasterGeneral. Therefore, there seems to be some justification for them. The accounts of the expenditure of the postal department of Western Australia for 1901 show that £45,388 had to be made up out of the consolidated revenue. I believe that in every State, except South Australia, the position is that the Post and Telegraph department does not pay, and it is looked upon as a proper procedure to make up the deficit out of the consolidated revenue. It has not been the practice in the States to wait for a Loan Bill to make up a deficiency. I believe it has also been the practice, where there was a telephone system established, for extensions of connexions between subscribers and the exchange to be made out of the maintenance account ; and in the Estimates we find that there is a sum of £5,500 for the repair and maintenance of telephones and telegraphs, in Western Australia. In our State an attempt seems to have been made to save on this particular item, because in 1901 the sum of £6,004 was voted for the purpose. In a growing State like Western Australia it is ridiculous to expect to limit this branch of the Post and Telegraph department. It must be expected in a progressive’ State that repairs, maintenance, and the expenses of the service will increase rather than decrease ; and it seems to me that whether the Postmaster-General or the Deputy Postmaster-General is responsible for this attempt to save money, it is a bad stroke of policy altogether to attempt to save in this direction in a country where the population is growing, and where there is a continual increase in the number of subscribers to the telephone system. More than that, we have to bear in mind the fact that the telephone system, so far as Western Australia is concerned, is the best paying branch of the Post and Telegraph department, and that any starving of that branch hits at the particular portion of the service which pays best. Correspondence on this subject has passed between the Premier of Western Australia and the PostmasterGeneral, between the Chamber of Commerce and the Premier, between the Chamber of Commerce and Mr. Fowler, M.H.R., and between Mr. Darbyshire and Mr Fowler. There has also been correspondence between the Postmaster-General and the Deputy Postmaster-General, to which the PostmasterGeneral has been kind enough to give me access. This correspondence seems to indicate either that the PostmasterGeneral is laying it down as a rule that extensions of this particular branch of the service should be paid for out of loan money, or that the Deputy Postmaster-General of Western Australia is endeavouring to make the telephone branch of the service unpopular in that State. The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, in one of his telegrams to the PostmasterGeneral, points out that extensions of the telephone service in the past have been undertaken out of revenue, and that even when he was deficient in his revenue, and wished to extend the service, he was able to get a grant out of the consolidated revenue. Even when loan moneys were to be spent, but were not available, and certain work was required to be done, he was able to obtain a grant out of the consolidated revenue, and to refund the money afterwards when the loan money was available. If the Postmaster-General is going to continue the policy that existed in Western Australia previous to the transfer of the department to the Commonwealth, why should not the Deputy Postmaster-General still be able to get a grant out of the consolidated revenue to carry out these necessary connexions ? One case the Deputy Postmaster-General mentions, is that in which, at a town called Geraldton, some 200 or 300 miles from Perth, and which is the port for the Murchison gold-fields, a telephone fitter was taken ill. The system got out of order, and the postmaster at Geraldton wired for a telephone fitter to be sent up to take the place of the officer who was sick, so as to put the service in order. But the Deputy Postmaster-General made the statement that there were no funds available for sending up a substitute for the sick man. In the meantime the telephone service at Geraldton was disorganized, and people were put to great inconvenience and loss until the officer recovered from his sickness. There is nothing in the correspondence to show whether later on a man was sent up to take the place of the sick telephone fitter. These facts seem to show that the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of Western Australia is obliged to rely upon the revenue he is receiving from his department to enable him to carry on its administration. When I have stated that in 1901 a deficit of £45,000 in that department had to be made up out of the consolidated revenue, it will be seen that it is impossible for him to cany on the department from revenue, and he must be given grants out of the consolidated revenue fund. Our experience of the administration of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of Western Australia is that it is by no means up to date. He is no doubt putting the best face upon his own case in this correspondence ; but I> am raising the question, in order that the public may know who is to blame - the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of Western Australia, or the Federal authorities in Melbourne. The Deputy Postmaster- General of Western Australia has made a statement, which has appeared in the press, that, whereas under the State administration he could always get the funds necessary for the extension of the telephonic and telegraphic system, and its proper maintenance, he has now to wait until it suits the people in Melbourne to grant him the necessary supply. The inference to be drawn from that is that the dislocation of the service, and the complaints made by the people interested, are due to the removal of the department from State to Federal administration. I am sure we have no desire to. allow anything to exist which will bring the Federal administration into bad odour with the public. We have enough enemies of federation ul ready, and we can have no desire to create more by our administration. I must say that I consider the answers given to the questions put by me, are totally inadequate, and they do not state the facts of the case. The PostmasterGeneral will find from the correspondence, that a disused instrument was placed at the disposal of Dr. Darbyshire, and on the ground that he was a medical practitioner, exceptional steps were taken to connect him. As to the statement that the telephone system of Western Australia is not to be extended until a loan fund is created, I contend that the extension of the existing telephone system should be carried on out of revenues. In this case, wires are already carried down the street, and all that was asked was that the houses should he connected with those wires. Surely a matter of that kind should not be allowed to stand over until this Parliament has discussed the advisability of entering upon a loan policy and until. a loan fund has been raised ? Though these are matters which I consider should be dealt with out of revenue, if Ministers decide that they should be paid for out of loan, I say, that rather than sacrifice departmental revenue and hamper the development of the States, these telephonic communications should be extended out of revenue, and a refund made out of loan when the loan money is available. I have brought these matters forward in the hope that the PostmasterGeneral may be able to clear up the questions involved, and may have an opportunity of defending himself against the attacks made upon his department in Western Australia.
– Last evening I called attention to the unsatisfactory position in which the Senate finds itself in regard to financial matters. I pointed out that these Supply Bills are brought forward with votes in the lump, which we are asked to agree to upon very short notice, and without proper information. The Postmaster-General mentioned that the whole of the necessary information has been at the disposal of members of the Senate for many months, in the Estimates. I questioned the statement, because I had no recollection of the Estimates ever having been laid upon the table of the Senate. I find I was quite correct. They never have been laid upon the table of the Senate, though they were circulated to honorable senators with papers printed and circulated in another place. Inasmuch as they have never been laid upon the table in the Senate honorable senators have not been able to deal, with them.
– What difference does it make so long as they reached honorable senators ?
– The difference is that if they had been laid on the table of the Senate we could deal, with them. In this Supply Bill I find a total amount of £107,400 put down for contingencies without a single word of explanation. Honorable senators accustomed to consider Estimates might, upon hunting through them, be able to find out the particulars, but it would be an endless job, and I think it is due to the Senate that more information should be given. With regard to the mode of dealing with the Estimates, I should like again to call attention to the utter violation of all common sense and practical finance displayed by the way in which public expenditure is being managed. It is supposed that another place has the power of the purse, but what happened ? The Estimates were brought forward by the Treasurer who made his financial statement. , Naturally any one would suppose that when the financial statement was placed before honorable members, they would there and then proceed to examine them to discover whether the expenditure proposed was wise, and, if necessary, to make amendments. But nothing of the kind happened. Those Estimates, and all pertaining to them, have been laid aside for months.
– That gives honorable members plenty of time to consider them.
– It may do so, but it gives Ministers plenty of time to spend money without any check. The Estimates were laid aside, and Supply Bills have been brought forward with schedules of lump items, and passed in a few minutes. They are sent on to the Senate, and passed here practically without any discussion. A few days before the end of the session, the Estimates will be taken in hand and rushed through, and if some young member in another place thinks to distinguish himself by calling attention to some special item, he will be coolly told “There is no use in your protesting, because the money has been spent.” That is what is called exercising judicious control over public expenditure, and another place having the power of the purse. A greater farce cannot be conceived. The present Treasurer did, in connexion with the first Budget he delivered in the State Parliament of Victoria, endeavour to carry out a proper practice, and as soon as he had submitted his Estimates, the Legislative Assembly commenced discussing them department by department. But that practice did not suit the Treasurer or Ministers, and Sir George Turner vowed that he would never do it again, and he has never done it again. He has returned to the old objectionable plan of bringing in Supply Bills, and rushing the Estimates through at the end of the session. We have in the Commonwealth only a few public departments, and in starting our system of finance there should be some means devised to provide an absolute and proper control over expenditure, not by one House only, but by both Houses, because we are in a different position to that occupied by the second Chambers in the State Parliaments. It is due to the public that the Senate should endeavour to exercise a proper supervision over expenditure, and I think it might be well to appoint a committee to consider how this very desirable power of control could be best secured. Of course, I have not the slightest intention of objecting to the passing of this Supply Bill, but I do think it is due to honorable senators that we should have longer notice of these Bills. There are peculiar circumstances connected with this Bill, I admit. In consequence of an adjournment of another place for three weeks, it had to be brought on here as quickly as possible ; but that has not been the case with previous Supply Bills I do not see why we should not adopt the rule that we should have a, certain stated notice of Supply Bills. Honorable senators are probably aware that the House of Lords will -not deal with Bills which come up to them after a certain date. I think the public would be benefited by the Senate having, say, a week’s notice of Supply Bills, in order that we might have an opportunity of comparing them -with the Estimates.
– Some months ago I drew the attention of the Postmaster-General to the way in which statements were made of Estimates connected with his own department. I specially drew attention to the matter of contingencies, and the various headings or divisions into which expenditure was classified in the various States, showing that no uniform method was adopted. The honorable and learned senator at that time promised that the matter would be looked into and rectified in the future, but I am not aware that any alteration has been made.
– There have been no Estimates since.
– We have had Supply Bills since, and matters should be made reasonably clear in them. At page 19 of the schedule honorable senators will see contingencies for New South Wales stated at £7,000, Victoria £8,000. Queensland £S00, South Australia. £3,700, Western Australia £7,000 and Tasmania nil. The contingencies run from nothing up to 33 per cent, of the total amount. In the case of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland we have the total expenditure given under four headings, and in two of the States under only two headings. With regard to contingencies, the greatest absurdity in connexion with them is shown in division 1 1, where we have a total of £1*811 divided thus - “Salaries, £11 : contingencies, £1,800.” No junior clerk in a mercantile establishment would make out a statement in. so ridiculous a manner as that. When attention has been called to the misleading character of these figures, and when some amendment has been promised, surely honorable senators ought not to have to ask a second time that these simple alterations, which are required for any common-sense understanding of these Estimates, should be made. There is another matter to which I desire to draw attention. At page 5 of the schedule in the Department of Home Affairs we have one lump sum put clown of £15,000 under the heading “Rent, repairs, maintenance, fittings, and furniture.” Then another “ Electric lighting and telephonic communication, £3,300.” I notice that in most of the other departments the expenditure of the different States is separated, but here there is no division made. Those who know anything about the autocratic way in which Sir William Lyne is wont to conduct his affairs when allowed will not wonder at this arrangement. I point out that under the system which is adopted in his department we have no opportunity of discovering the States in which the expenditure is occurring. This is an objectionable method, and we should have some statement which will show the States in which expenditure is taking place. We ought not to be asked to vote these lump suras in this indiscriminate and uncertain way. If no alteration is made in the future in the way in which supply Bills are brought before us the Senate will have to take the bit between its teeth, and be more firm in the matter than it has been in the past.
– I, as well as Senator Pearce, have some complaints to make about the manner ill which questions are answered in the Senate. On the 11th April we had a debate on the Coronation vote, when an amount o£ £5,500 was voted by Parliament for the purpose of illuminations. I should have opposed that vote had it not been for a statement made by Senator O’Connor. The honorable and learned senator volunteered the information that, taking about £900 as the expenditure in each capital, it had been estimated that the illuminations would cost so much. I then put the question to him whether he intended that there should be an expenditure of £900 in each State, because I thought he had made a slip, and he said - “Yes; irrespective of population.” I should have opposed the vote if the intention had been to distribute the amount on a population basis, because on that basis Western Australia and Tasmania would receive so very little that it would practically be useless to make them any grant for the purpose. Understanding that the matter was going to be dealt with in a way which would secure to all the States a certain amount of flare-up and g>is, I raised no objection. Subsequently, however, statements appeared in all the Melbourne papers that the amount was to be distributed in a certain way, and that Melbourne and Sydney would receive the major portion of the vote. Following upon that Senator Smith, on the 21st May, put a question to the Vice-President of the Executive Council as to whether any allocation of the vote had been made. The reply was that no allocation had then been made, though the newspapers had made a statement to the contrary. I was obliged to accept the reply as being accurate, and desiring that the position should be brought before the Minister for Home Affairs, and that he should have no opportunity of evading the distinct pledge made by his honorable colleague in the Senate, I put the following questions to Senator O’Connor on the 23rd May : -
The only reply I received was that no allocation had been made. Senator O’Connor did not attempt to answer my questions, and parliamentary procedure gave me no opportunity of remonstrating with him on his want of courtesy. That is the complaint I wish to bring before the Senate. When an honorable senator puts a question to a Minister, he is entitled to get a definite answer. My experience is that he rarely gets a definite answer. Some Jesuitical phrase or expression is used which leaves the matter absolutely in abeyance. One knows no more than he did when he put the question. That procedure is treating the Senate with absolute contempt. I appeal to the Postmaster-General to give the Senate some definite information as to the position of that vote. It was passed on a distinct pledge given by Senator O’Connor, and we now understand that the pledge has been departed from by another Minister. I propose in committee to nsk Senator Drake for some information a.s to the method by which the orders for the rifles were placed in London, and also as to the mode of distribution which the Government propose to adopt. I was assured when I was in Western Australia, that there are no rifles there fit for use. I trust that that State will receive its fair proportion of these 5,000 rifles, and that they will not be kept entirely for Victoria and New South Wales. It seems to me that £5 is an exorbitant price to pay for a rifle. The most important question I desire to raise relates to a statement by Senator O’Connor that when Parliament is not sitting, it is competent for a Minister to remove the headquarters of his department to the State in which he lives. That is an expression of opinion to which I take direct exception. Melbourne is at the present moment the seat of government, and I contend that the head of each department is required by the Constitution to conduct its business in Melbourne, and nowhere else. In committee, I propose to submit a motion in order to get a direct vote on the question. There is another point to which I wish to draw attention, but as Senator O’Connor is not here, I shall wait until we get into committee.
– The vote for a supply of rifles is a step in the right direction. For a long time we have realized that our defence forces are not armed with modern weapons. Whether on the eastern, the western, or the southern coast, the nien who are called upon to defend the country should be armed with the latest and best implements of warfare. I feel confident that no honorable senators will ever object to such a sensible course as that being adopted. The purchase of 5,000 rifles at the present time can only be regarded as the initiation of a scheme which intends, ultimately, and at an early date, too, to have all our men aimed with uptodate weapons. Of course the allocation of the first supply must be left practically in the hands of the Commandant, who no doubt will, make the best possible use of them in the interests of Australia as a whole. I wish to ascertain under what power the regulations were recently made for the retirement of officers serving in the permanent branches of the defence force. I doubt very much whether, under the New South Wales Act, there is power to pass such a regulation. I am aware that in the Defence Bill, which was submitted to Parliament some time ago, provision was made for the retirement of officers at certain periods. While it may be very necessary and desirable to have such regulations made, at the same time we ought to be perfectly clear as to the lines on which we are going, and to remember that the conditions 0 service of colonial and Imperial officers are not the same. In the Imperial service, at certain ages, men are compelled to retire, to make room for younger men, but provision is made for retiring allowances or pensions. The ages of retirement are dependent on the rank a man holds. As he is promoted, so is raised the age at which he may be called upon to retire. Under our existing regulations, men are being called upon to retire who are still in the vigour of life, and quite capable of continuing to discharge their duties. A civil officer is not called upon toretire at so earl)’ an age as is a military officer. He has the right to retire at 60 ; he ma)’ be called on to retire at any time between 60 and 65, but his retirement at 65 is compulsory unless he is specially requested to remain. Under the existing regulations, military men who have reached the ages of 50, 55, 58, and so on, are being called on to retire when there is any amount of good work in them, and the question at once arises - what are we to do with those men who have efficiently served the public year after year? I presume that the
Government naturally would endeavour to make provision to enable these men to take some other positions in the public service which they would be qualified to fill, but there is always this difficulty - that the clerical branch of the public service seem to regard the highest positions in that branch as positions to which they alone have the right to aspire. They do not like to see men coming from the military branch of the public service, and taking these positions over their heads. This question should be very carefully thought out, in order to see that no injustice is done to any member of the community. In whatever branch a man is serving, he is a servant of the Commonwealth ; and when he is doing his work efficiently, it is a mistake that he should be called upon to retire at an age while there is still plenty of work for him to do. Assuming that there is the fullest power under the State Acts to make these regulations for retirement, I think that some fair provision ought to be made, so that persons who have served the Commonwealth for very many years shall not be thrown out in the cold at last. No provision has been made for pensions or retiring allowances, and whatever may be said to the contrary, the salaries have never been very extravagant, and, no doubt, they have been absorbed by the men during the period of their service. My appeal is made on behalf of not only the commissioned officers, but also the warrant and non commissioned officers.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General why it is, that so many as 450 persons have been employed lately in the Post and Telegraph services ? It is stated in both newspapers this morning, that 450 extra persons have been employed from outside the State services.
– What does the honorable and learned senator mean when he says outside the State services 1
– In an important return which has been laid before the other House, it is stated that, in the department of Homo Affairs, one or two officers have been appointed who have, not been in a State service, that 450 extra persons have been appointed in a similar way in the Post and Telegraph departments, and that the bulk of them are operators and messengers. I desire to know whether the business of the department has increased during the last twelve months to such an extent as to justify the appointment of this seemingly large number of officers ; and if it has, what steps were taken by the Minister to ascertain whether any of the States had officials whom they desired to get rid of, or who might have to be retrenched, and whether any of these 450 posts were offered to State officers. There is a kind of unwritten rule that no appointment should be made to the Commonwealth service until it is seen that there is no State officer who is fitted to take the place, and whose services can be dispensed with by the State. Reform, retrenchment, and economy must be carried out to a reasonable extent, and never be lost sight of. But it is impossible to talk about reduction and retrenchment - and we know that Queensland and one or two other Stateswill have to retire faithful officers - if at the same moment the Commonwealth is employing men by the score and the hundred without ever asking the States if they can supply the necessary officers. I noticed lately that 160 or180 men had been discharged from the railway service of Victoria. Although most of those men may not be fit to be operators, some of them may be eminently fitted to be messengers. It strikes me that all these men who had. been for any time in a State service ought to have been offered these positions before they were given to outsiders. If the Postmaster-General can show that 400 men have left the service of the department or have died, and that slightly over 400 men have been taken on, accounting for a moderate increase, that is all very well. But the report in the press rather startled me, and I think we shall all be glad to hear some explanation from the honorable and learned gentleman. With reference to the keeping of the Commonwealth accounts and the way they are presented in Supply Bills, I desire to confirm every word Senator Sargood has said, but I think that, to some extent, the reason for it lies in the peculiar circumstances of the case. It must stand to reason that when week after week new departments have been formed, notably the Public Works department, and the Public Service Commissioner’s department, and when week after week fresh officers are found, any estimate framed some months ago will give no correct account of the position as it exists to-day. I quite agree with my honorable friend that from a perusal of this Supply Bill it is quite impossible to get any grip of how much our expenditure is or what it is going to be. I hope that in future the practice which has obtained in the States will be adopted - that the Estimates for the year will be presented when the Budget speech is delivered, and that shortly afterwards we shall have an opportunity of considering them. And if it becomes necessary to ask for supply for three months, six months, or even one month, we can easily ascertain what each department is costing and where the money is going.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).I also object to the way in which these Supply Bills are brought to the Senate. It is improper that in a Supply Bill which is appropriating £493,944 for the services of one month, a sum of £107,000 should be distributed under the heading of “ contingencies.” After twelve or fourteen months’ administration it is not treating the Senate with fair respect to deal with so large an amount in that way. We talk much about economy, and I must raise my voice against the increasing expenditure of the Federal Government.
Every month it is increasing largely.
– In what direction ?
– The Houses of Parliament, for instance, have ten doorkeepers. It may be necessary, but it seems extraordinary.
– Let me explain to the honorable senator that the term “ doorkeeper “ includes messengers and cleaners.
– Theycost £1,750. In addition, there are three permanent messengers for the Senate at about £800, and there are also what are called sessional messengers. Wehave to pay £2,500 for doorkeepers and messengers. I only mention that by way of illustration, thinking that as we have been talking a good deal of economy we should begin at home. I hope that some details will be given to us with regard to contingencies. I am not satisfied that almost one-fourth of the expenditure should be put under that heading
Senator DRAKE (Queensland - PostmasterGeneral). - (In reply). I have rather a long string of criticisms toanswer. In regard to Senator Millen’s remarks, I have totted up some amounts for ammunition, and for annual or half-yearly pay ; that is to say, representing votes not covering one month, but a number of months. They amount to nearly £90,000. In addition to that, there is the vote for the defence of Thursday Island and King George’s Sound, and there is a large amount covering a considerable variety of expenditure. For instance, the electric lighting of Parliament House costs £900. That means eleven months of lighting. The money is clue, and has to be paid. These are the reasons why this Supply Bill is larger than the previous Supply Bills have been. In reference to the observations of my honorable friend, Senator Neild, I would point out that we are adopting the form of Estimates which came to us from New South “Wales. If the honorable senator will look up the Estimates for the year, which have been laid upon the table, he will see that the particular payments referred to are put under the heading of salary. It may not be accurate, and perhaps it would be well in future to alter the practice ; but apparently this has been the practice in that State in the past, and it has- been carefully continued upon these Estimates.
– That has not been the practice in New South “Wales.
– I can assure the honorable senator that in the framing of these Estimates we have followed the Estimates sent over from New South Wales.
– Then somebody ought to be dismissed.
– That would be too severe altogether. Just at this period of the history of the Commonwealth, we must expect things to be somewhat lacking in uniformity, but we hope in the future to get matters straightened out, and to secure uniformity. ‘ With regard to the officers appointed to the general staff, the honorable senator is aware that from the date of their appointments their salaries and other expenditure in connexion with them will be charged to the whole Commonwealth on a population basis. What I want to make clear is that the actual expenditure is “other” expenditure from the time of appointment, and will not be debited to the State, but the amounts will be contributed equally by the whole of the States upon a population basis. Senator Higgs has asked me a question about the temporary standing: orders. He thinks that the Senate would be willing to adopt the standing orders recommended by the Standing Orders Committee, so that they might be temporarily used. If that be so, the mind of the Senate on the subject has changed. I do not know whether the honorable senator is right as to the general feeling of the Senate, but at any rate some months ago I tabled a motion and moved it, for the temporary adoption of the standing orders, but I was informed by several honorable senators who appeared to me to have a considerable amount of influence, that it would be impossible to carry that motion, except after a very long discussion - that is to say, that the standing orders would not be accepted even temporarily without a discussion which might perhaps last for many days. I am not satisfied that the Government would be justified in asking the Senate at the present time, to lay aside the Tiu-ifF in order to discuss the standing orders; Indeed, if we were to make such a proposition I feel sure that it would not be agreed to.
– Does not the honorable and learned senator see any disadvantage in the absence of proper machinery 1
– There may be, and that is a matter which will probably have to be discussed at some period - perhaps when the occasion arises. But it appears to me that there will be no saving in discussing it beforehand, because we might have a large amount of time taken up in debating some course of action to meet events that after all would not arise. Under the circumstances, seeing that time is very valuable, and that it is desirable in the interests of the Commonwealth that we should proceed with the Tariff as soon as possible, it is wise for us to push on with that work. I hope there will be no necessity for any special machinery. If there is, I trust that when the occasion arises we shall be able -to deal with it satisfactorily. Senator Pearce has raised a question in connexion, with the administration of the Post and Telegraph department in. Western Australia, especially in. regard to telephones. I can assure the honorable senator and the Senate generally, that I am not desirous of blocking business in regard to the Post and Telegraph, department, or of preventing new subscribers being connected with the telephone exchange. It is one of my troubles that difficulties have arisen, and I have been trying my utmost, the whole time I have occupied my position, to make arrangements so that there shall be no delay whatever. From the papers to which Senator Pearce has referred, and from which he got his information, it will be seen that so long ago as November 9, 1901, the telegram which I will read was sent by the Secretary of the department to the Deputy Postmaster-General, Perth. What I want to show is that we have made every effort to cope with the difficulties that have arisen in consequence of the absence of available loan funds. The telephone work in Western Australia, as well as in most of the States, has previously been carried on out of loan money and we propose to follow that practice. But, as honorable senators know, up to the. present time no Loan Bill has been passed. Consequently there is no loan money available. We have under the circumstances, so far as we could, used ordinary revenue for the purpose, with the intention of recouping the revenue from loans when loan money is available.
– Does that apply to connecting subscribers ?
– Yes. This is the telegram to which I have referred -
Re your wire of 31st ultimo, inquiring if cost of connecting new subscribers to various telephone exchanges may be paid from the £5,500 on revenue Estimate;, repairs, and maintenance, telegraph lines, recouping same when loan funds are available, Treasurer advises he has no objection to the vote being charged temporarily as suggested, and expenditure afterwards transferred to loans.
That was as far back as last November. That practice was followed. I have another telegram from the Secretary to the Department of the Postmaster-General -
Inform that sufficient money should be asked for from time to time in Supply Bill to cover cost of repairs and maintenance. No money is now available for new work, or instruments, chargeable to loan as already advised, but if he has any provided for ordinary expenditure it can be used for this purpose, subject to future adjustments.
That was also communicated to Mr. Sholl. I must say that Mr. Sholl, in my opinion, has done his best to cany out his instructions, but his difficulty has been that he has been drawing on revenue to such an extent to cany on work that should have been paid for out of loans, that his revenue account is now depleted. He says in one telegram -
Assistant superintendent informs me that present demands are general, and he is powerless to do anything. Can you not make some effort to recoup me the amount already taken for loan purposes, repairs, and maintenance, or am I to be driven to thenecessity of informing the public that their works cannot possibly be attended to?
So that the position is this - That, not having any loan funds available, we have instructed the Deputy. Postmaster-General in Western Australia to cany on these works out of revenue, with a view of recouping the revenue out of loan funds subsequently ; and he has been doing that until his revenue has become so far depleted that he now says - “ I cannot go on unless I can get loan money to make up the money taken from revenue that has been already used for this purpose.”
-Does he not ask to be allowed to take money from the consolidated revenue?
– We cannot do that. We might have been able to do it under the State Government ; but at the present time every effort has been made in that way to the full extent, and the funds available for carrying on the work have been exhausted. Of course, if we had a larger vote, we should go on drawing on that revenue, with a view of making it up afterwards from loan money, but in consequence of the extraordinary circumstances of this session, we have been carrying on in the manner I have describedfor fourteen months, and we have had no loan money available. There is one other matter which Senator Pearce referred to, and that is with regard to Dr. Darbyshire’s telephone. The connexion in that case was made quickly, because Dr. Darbyshire was a medical man. But I am afraid that the honorable senator attributed a wrong meaning to the telegram of the Deputy Postmaster - General where he speaks of a “ dead wire, “ and a “ discarded telephone.” A”dead wire “does not mean a wire that is no good. What is professionally meant by a “ dead wire “ in the department, is a wire to which no telephone is attached. If a wire is taken to a building, and a telephone is attached to it, and then perhaps next week the owner gives up the telephone, the telephone is cut off and the wire to the building is called a “ dead wire “ until it is again connected with an instrument. Although I am not acquainted with the term “ discarded telephone,” and have not met with it before, I think that what is meant is a telephone which has been discarded by a subscriber who has declined to go on paying his rent and who is cut off. But a “discarded telephone “ is not an out-of-date telephone.
– It is a very misleading term then.
– These terms have been adop’ted iri the professional branch of the service, and were, of course never intended for the public. They may seem misleading to a non-professional man, but I think it will be found on inquiry that what I have stated is their meaning. I know that what I have described is the meaning of the term “ dead wire “ and I believe that a “discarded telephone” simply means a telephone that is given up by a subscriber. As to the Geraldton matter, I think there must be some misunderstanding. I should hope that the DeputyPostmasterGeneral did not send such a telegram as Senator Pearce has mentioned. Unless I saw it I could hardly believe such a thing, because there cannot be any possible excuse for neglecting to send a fitter to take the place of a sick officer, unless, of course, it was necessary for some fresh officer to be appointed, which I think is unlikely. Senator Sargood has raised a question about the method in which Supply Bills are framed and brought up. The original Estimates for the year, laid upon the table of the House of Representatives in October last, were also laid upon the table of the Senate, and ordered to be printed. I mention that to show that the principle has been accepted that the Estimates shall be laid upon the table of the Senate, so that they may be officially before honorable senators, who can make use of them. I understand that the revised Estimates, laid upon the table of the House of Representatives in April last, were not laid upon the table of the Senate. I regret that. It was an oversight. When a Supply Bill is brought up, the Treasurer having made his statement, and laid his Estimates upon the table, every member of both Houses has an opportunity to criticise any proposed expenditure with regard to any item.
– Provided there is time.
– The opportunity for effective criticism occurs the first time a Supply Bill is brought before Parliament. Senator Pulsford seems to think that I have not given effect to some promise which I made. That, again, is a misapprehension. What I understood the honorable senator to object to was the form in which the items appeared in the Supply Bill, and I explained to him that we were adopting the divisions that appeared in the Estimates.
I admitted at once that it was not desirable that a form should be adopted in the caseof one State different from that adopted in the case of others. I admitted that it was desirable that the system should be uniform, and I said that I would speak to my colleague, the Treasurer, on the subject. I havedone so, and I understand that the next Estimates that are laid upon the table will be framed upon some uniform plan. So far as the Postmaster-General’s Estimates are concerned, I can absolutely promise that the same form will be adopted for the different States. That is all I thought I was promising Senator Pulsford. But it certainly would not be helpful to us to alter the form in a Supply Bill, which has constant reference to the Estimates. Every line that appears in a Supply Bill refers to the Estimates, and if we adopted in a Supply Bill a different plan from that adopted in theEstimates, it would not be helpful, but misleading. Senator Matheson has raised a question about the illuminations, which I understood him to say he would bring up again in committee.
– No, I cannot, because there is no vote.
– Then I will tell the honorable senator, so far as I can, how matters stand. I am sure that the vote will not be distributed on an)’ hard and fast lines, such as the honorable senatordescribes, and as he understood from’ the answer of my colleague, the “VicePresident of the Executive Council. An expression of opinion like that in debate should not, I think, be looked upon as a pledge. It would not be reasonable to divide a sum voted for such a- . purpose in that way. I should say that the clear principle upon which the allocation of such a vote would be determined’ would be to carry out in the best mannerpossible the illumination of the federal buildings in each of the capitals, and the allocation must depend, therefore, in a great measure, upon the character of the.buildings. It would be quite unreasonable in a State in which there might be few and small federal buildings to spend the same amount of money in their illumination as would be spent in the illumination of very large buildings in another State. If the nature of the buildings to be illuminated is considered in the allocation of the vote, I think the result will not be found to be very different from its allocation on a population basis. Senator Gould asked me something about the retirement of officers. I believe there is a power in the Defence Acts of each of the States to make a regulation such as that which has been made. I quite agree with every word which the honorable and learned senator has said as to the desirability in cases of that kind of making some allowance, and that is a matter which is under the consideration of the Government. It is certainly very hard upon men whose profession and living it is, that they should lose their positions in this way. Senator Dobson referred to a return showing that 450 officers had been appointed to the Commonwealth service who had not previously been in any State service. I have not seen that return yet. But it appears to me that there cannot be anything very extraordinary about it, if it includes operatives and messengers in the Post and Telegraph department, which comprises so large a proportion of the transferred servants. So far as operatives are concerned, I may say that in nearly all the States they are so scarce that the department is always searching for expert operators, and we take them from anywhere, if they are sufficiently capable and are able to pass the examinations. I do not know how many we have been able to get during the past twelve months, but it is probably a very small number, and most of the officers referred to in the return must be messenger boys, who are simply the raw material, and have not been in any State or other service before, because they have probably only just left school. I have here figures and estimates from which it will be seen that the increase in the number of officers provided for on the Estimates of the departments cannot be considered excessive, considering that the service is one which is continually growing. In New South “Wales I find that on the previous year’s Estimates 5,349 officers were provided for, and we are asking now for provision for 5,436. The figures for Victoria are 2,461 and 2,594, for Queensland 1,067 and 1,132, for South Australia 1,623 and 1,654, for Western Australia 1,304 and 1,399, and for Tasmania 609 and 690. Senator Macfarlane referred to the doorkeepers, but that is not, I think, a burning question, and the honorable senator will not delay the passage of the Bill on that account.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a. second time.
Clauses 1, 2, and 3 agreed to.
– The Postmaster-General promised on the second reading ofthe Bill to refer to certain matters, more particularly in committee. Comparing this Supply Bill with the previous one I find that the amount set down for contingencies in division 1 of the vote for the Parliament has gone up from £100 to £172. In division 4 it has gone up from nothing to £180, and the same thing occurs in divisions 5, 6, and 7, where there are votes for contingencies which did not appear in previous Supply Bills. The same thing is shown also in division 9, and there the vote for contingencies has gone up to £384, while the amount previously appearing was £35. I have no doubt that some explanation of these matters can be given, but the committee is entitled to that explanation.
– Perhaps I can give the explanation. The contingencies that are put on these Supplemental Estimates are for the amounts due, and not necessarily for the amount spent in the particular month. For instance, if we take the item forelectricity and electric lighting, the vote is really for eleven months, and, as a matter of fact, we have not paid anything during this year, or since we took possession of these buildings, for electric lighting. Take the last item referred to as an illustration - an amount for £384set down for contingencies, under the heading of “miscellaneous.” That includes gas, fuel, and a great many other items, and £384 is the amount which is now due in respect of those items, not necessarily for this month, last month, or the month before, because during some months nothing whatever has been paid in respect of them. So far as salaries are concerned we can divide by twelve and get at the amount, but sofar as contingencies are concerned it is a false assumption to suppose that the amount set down under that heading is for the particular month. It may be for several months, and some particular item may come in for some month which will not occur again. For instance, honorable senators asked for some accommodation in their club-room. That accommodation will be provided and paid for, and the amount comes out of contingencies, but, though it will not occur again this year, and perhaps not at all, it will appear in the vote for some particular month.
– I propose to bring a rather serious question before the committee. I find that amongst contingencies there is, in division 1, an item of £250 for officecleaners. I find different sums for lighting, fuel, and maintaining the gardens. I desire to bring before the committee the fact that certain Ministers of the Crown have for the last twelve months been enjoying something in the shape of an honorarium, beyond the sum stipulated as due to their offices. They have been, in my view, very seriously trenching upon sub-section 3 of section 45 of the Constitution, which specifies reasons for which members of either Chamber may be called upon to forfeit their seats. It is well known that certain Ministers have allotted themselves living accommodation in the Parliamentbuildings, where they are entirely free of hotel expenditure. Though the GovernorGeneral is required to pay for light, fuel, and gardening, we find Ministers of the Crown living here with free light, fuel, and gardening, and apparently, also with free attendance, and entirely outside the emoluments provided for them by the Constitution. I will not quote the old phrase about “ what is sauce,” &c, but if it is proper to charge the Governor-General for light, fuel, cleaning, and gardening, it is a proper charge to be made against these Ministers. It is rather a serious affair that certain Ministers of the Crown should be taking the right of providing themselves with free lodgings, in contravention of the Constitution Act ; because, if they can occupy a portion of these buildings, or any other buildings’ in the charge or ownership of the Commonwealth, they may, on the same principle, occupy three-fourths or the whole of those buildings. Who cleans the rooms occupied by Ministers, and who maintains the garden which they have the right to use 1 I think we should know something about these matters before we vote large sums for contingencies involving benefits to certain members of the Cabinet. Sub-section 3 of section 45 of the Constitution is very plain, and it provides that a member of either House of the Federal Parliament may lose his seat if he “directly or indirectly takes or agrees to take any fee or honorarium for services, rendered to the Commonwealth, or for- services 37 i 2 rendered in the Parliament to any person orState.” There is no interpretation clause to tell us what an honorarium is, but it is usually assumed to be a monetary consideration. I submit, however, that it may be in kind as well as in money, and if it is possible to occupy a part of these buildings, it is equally possible to occupy the whole.
– Would that cover getting our luggage sent to the station 1
.- That is a convenience which all members may share alike. What I am submitting now is an entirely different thing, because it is for the separate benefit of certain persons. I point out that at the present time the Commonwealth Government occupy only a limited number of buildings for administrative purposes, but in the maintaining of buildings or the erection of others, if this plan is to be applied, why should not buildings with sufficient capacity be obtained either by lease or by construction to afford free quarters for every Minister to live in 1 The matter may be regarded as of no importance at the present time, but it may become of very serious importance in putting the Commonwealth to the expense of premises, nominally for purposes of administration, but actually for purposes of ministerial residence. I point out that two or three members of the Cabinet obtain an actual monetary advantage in the shape of free quarters, light, fuel, and cleaning, which other members of the Legislature do not possess.
– Although I have a great deal of admiration for Senator Neild; I think it was paltry on his part to bring* this matter before the committee. He must know that in every Parliament House in the world, certain rooms are provided for the use of Ministers who, in the discharge of their onerous duties, are very often detained long after the members have retired to their homes.
– In the Parliament House of New South Wales nine special rooms are provided for the use of Ministers, and every one of them is furnished with a bed.
– In this building, which is said to have cost £1,000,000, a Minister is occupying a room in the cellar, or what is called the ground floor. It is- a cold and cheerless room that I should not care to occupy, and probably it is only occupied by the Minister on account of the heavy demands made on his time.
– And an unsalaried Minister, too.
– The work which this Minister performs for the Commonwealth makes a very great demand on his finances. The remuneration he receives as a member of Parliament, does not in any way compensate him for his services as a Minister. It is a paltry thing to bring up a question of this kind in the Senate, and give the public a very wrong impression. The impression which is created by such speeches is that the members of this Parliament are really living on the taxpayers of the country, whereas such is not the case. The speech of Senator Neild would lead the public to believe that some members of the Ministry are receiving something which they should not receive at the hands of the taxpayers. I do not think that the people of Victoria, to whom this building belongs, would begrudge those Ministers the accommodation which some of these rooms afford. In the building there are many rooms which are absolutely empty, and which might very well be used. It strikes me that if Senator Neild were a member of the Ministry he would not be loath to occupy a room in the building. I suppose it costs more to take his luggage to the station than it does to keep up the room which is occupied by a Minister.
– I understood that the question which is being discussed was definitely settled by an agreement between the Federal Government and theVictorian Government. I take it that, subject to the terms of that agreement being properly complied with, there should be no grievance of this kind to be ventilatedhere. I am told that considerable friction is on the point of being created between the Federal Parliament and the State Parliament with regard to certain apartments in which most important State documents have been kept. If I am rightly informed, an attempt is being made by the Ministry to interfere with some apartments which were reserved for the use of the State Parliament, in such a way as to create considerable annoyance. The old documents have lately been removed without the consent or the knowledge of the State Parliament and placed in other rooms in order that the reserved rooms might be occupied by somebody or other whom I do not know. My remarks are equally applicable whoever the person is.
– The Ministers occupy the upper floor, not the basement.
– This information was given to me by some members of the State Parliament, who know that the documents have been removed.
– I think the honorable and learned senator has been misinformed.
– There is certainly a sense of grievance which many members of the State Parliament believe to be well founded. I shall only be too glad if my remarks should have the effect of dispelling that grievance, and showing that what they regard at present as an insult to them, has no substantial basis in fact. I hope that withoutthrowing any acrimony into the discussion, Senator Drake will be able to explain this very unpleasant business.
Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER (South Australia). - This is a matter with which the Ministry have nothing to do. If any blame is attachable toany one it is attachable to me, but I can assure Senator Clemons that he has been misinformed.
– I am glad to hear it.
Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER.I do not wish to say anything about the matter, because I think it is in progress of amicable settlement. I admit that through an inadvertence I made a mistake, for which I have apologized, and I have offered to put the documents back again. I am quite sure that if the correspondence were seen honorable senators would come to the conclusion that no harm has been done, and that there will be no friction.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).The vote for contingencies for the administrative staff of the department of External Affairs has risen from £100 to £3,000, and the vote for contingencies for the Federal Executive Council has risen from £50 to £1,800, while the vote for salaries is only £11. That reminds me of the story of the boy who was given a sovereign to spend on the condition that he kept an account of the items, and whose bill was made up thus - “Tramfares 6d., extras 19s. 6d.” When the Government ask the committee to vote £11 as a fixed charge for salaries, and £1,800 for contingencies, which have risen from £50, they should offer an explanation.
– If my honorable friend had referred to the Estimates, he would have found an explanation. The vote of £3,000 for contingencies in the department of External Affairs covers cablegrams - a very expensive item - and payments to the Government Printer for the Commonwealth Gazette. On the Estimates there is £1,500 for cablegrams, a vote for stores and stationery, £175 for general printing, and £1,350 for printing the Commonwealth Gazette. The total amount which is asked for under the head of contingencies for the year is £4,355, and the reason why a large sum is required this month is because there is a large payment to be made for cablegrams, and the Government Printer has sent in his account for the printing of the Commonwealth Gazette. The item of £1,S00 for contingencies under the head of Federal Executive Council was referred to last night. It is required to pay, amongst other things, a large account for printing and stationery on account of the GovernorGeneral. Both these large amounts are accounted for, to a very great extent, by the payments which have to be made to the Government Printer of Victoria this month.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).I was under the impression that the item of £5,049 in the Treasury division represented the total printing- bill, but now I find that further payments have to be made to the Government Printer. I wish to know whether the votes for any of the other departments include any payments to the Government Printer, and what is the total amount of the printing bill.
– The vote of £5,049 in the Treasury division is required to pay for the work that the Government Printer does for the Parliament - that is, for printing /rannard and the parliamentary papers. The printing of the Commonwealth Gazette and the printing for the Governor-General are quite separate from the parliamentary printing.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I desire to obtain some information about the item of £20,000 for the administration of New Guinea. In his second-reading speech the Postmaster-General said that payments had been made by Queensland on behalf of New Guinea. In November last the chief reason adduced for our biking over the administration of this possession was the stress and urgency of financial matters. We were told that its administration was then in a most parlous condition, and that a bank had gone so far as to refuse a very small overdraft. It is strange that so many months have been allowed to elapse before asking Parliament to vote a single penny. I wish to know if the Queensland Government has been willingly or compulsorily financing the Commonwealth Government in respect of this fairly large item.
– Up to a short period before November last the Queensland Government had been administering the affairs of New Guinea and paying all the expenditure. Under an agreement between Queensland and Victoria and New South Wales the expenditure was borne in equal proportions. That arrangement only continued up to the 30th June, 1901, and since that time Queensland has been financing New Guinea under protest. An arrangement was made that if the Commonwealth took over the possession as a territory it would make good to Queensland all the expenditure it had incurred from the 1st July, 1901. Since that time the Queensland Government has continued to honour the drafts of New Guinea.
– Willingly ?
– During the last week or fortnight, I believe representations have been made by the Queensland Government to the Minister representing the PrimeMinister.
– For the first time within the lust fortnight ?
– I am not aware that they asked for any settlement of the account before. That was the first time that it came under my notice, and then only through the medium of the press. So that the accounts are due, and the amount we are asking for is £20,000 for the whole year. It was hardly worth while asking for £18,000 on account of the £20,000. The bulk of the money will be required to meet the expenditure already incurred by the Queensland Government.
– The explanation of the PostmasterGeneral on this point seems to raise another matter. It indicates that the statements which have appeared in the press as to the rather shabby treatment of Queensland, are to some extent justified. If the Commonwealth has allowed Queensland to go on financing New Guinea until eleven months have passed, without making any payments, and only pays when pressed by the Queensland Government to do so, it indicates a lack of justice ; and Queensland has some show of right in complaining, as she has done on several occasions, of the slowness of the payments made by the Federal Government. I hope there are no other items in a similar position, and that there is no other ground of complaint on the part of Queensland, or the other States.
– I do not think that the Queensland Government feel any grievance in regard to this matter”. They were quite satisfied with the arrangement made with the Commonwealth to take over the possession as from the 1st of July. As soon as the Queensland Government were assured that the expenditure would be met by the Commonwealth Government, they were satisfied.
– The Government said a few months ago that it was absolutely urgent to make provision.
– It was urgent to make the arrangement then referred to, for the reason that the Queensland Government said, that unless this arrangement were made they would not continue meeting the drafts. As soon as the agreement was made, and Queensland was assured that the Commonwealth would meet the expenditure, there was no great objection to continuing to carry on. The matter is a mere trifle.
– It is a trifle which, extended over the other States, would amount to avery great sum.
– But it does not extend over the other States, and Queensland, being a great State, is not distressed at being £18,000 out of pocket for a few months with the knowledge that the money will be recouped. I have not the details of expenditure. I believe that the Acting Prime Minister has a statement made out showing what the estimates are for the next year, but I have not the particulars available at the moment. The expenditure is, however, on the same lines as for some time past, the principal items being the expenses of the resident magistrate, and of the steamer Merrie England which plies between Queensland and New Guinea.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I should like to hear from the Postmaster-General something about the expenditure of the money in connexion with the New Hebrides. I saw some time ago that the Government were subsidizing Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. for the purpose of bringing about increased trade between Australia and the islands. If the Government wish to encourage land settlement we have several millions of acres in Queensland which we should like to see taken up by farmers. It is a very wrongful expenditure of public money to subsidize Burns, Philp, and Co. in order to bring about settlement in the New Hebrides. This policy takes people from Australia, where we shall have plenty of room for centuries to come, in order that Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. may increase their trade with the islands.
– Is not that a proper thing to do ?
– I think it is time that Australia commenced to feel satisfied with the immense territory she already has, without attempting to acquire islands which can be nothing but an expense to us for centuries to come. The French have been unable to settle the New Hebrides. A company has been granting land to settlers, but the settlement is very poor indeed, and the settlers have to be assisted, not only with land, but with money. But the Government have given way to Burns, Philp, and Co. in a manner I do not like, and which would not be approved of by the whole Commonwealth if the people knew of all the circumstances. I, for one, beg to make a protest against the expenditure of Commonwealth money in the New Hebrides in this way.
– I think it is a very good thing that we should endeavour to maintain and extend our influence over the islands of the Pacific. . An expenditure at this time may lead to a profitable connexion in the future. For some time past there has been a mail service between Australia and the New Hebrides, which has been maintained by New South Wales. That has now been taken over by the Commonwealth as a transferred service, and, of course, the expenditure is debited to New South Wales. What we have done, is to agree to an additional subsidy, first of all, of £400 per annum, on the condition, that in future nothing but white labour shall be employed in the service. That is to say, we have converted it from a coloured labour service to a white labour service.Weare paying in addition £2,000 as a consideration for a much better, and more frequent, mail service.
– How many letters and documents are carried ?
– I am not prepared to justify it as a mail service, and, in fact, many of our subsidized services are not in reality mail services. They are really services for the development of the trade and commerce of the country. At some future time I venture to hope that the practice wille adopted oof having a fund that can be drawn upon for the purpose of maintaining services required for other than postal reasons. At present we have not such a fund, and we are adopting the practice which has been followed through the whole of the States, of subsidizing mail services which are really for the purpose of developing territory.
– It is rather an unfair thing to object to the small amount to be devoted to the steamship line to the New Hebrides, inasmuch as the Commonwealth is undertaking new expenditure in regard to New Guinea. The New Guinea expenditure is of value to Queensland, whereas the other States will not profit by it.
– What advantage shall we get in Queensland ?
– I know that it is an abstract advantage, but by these votes we shall tend to prevent antagonistic settlement, and that is a great thing for Australia. I quite agree that in regard to New Guinea the details of a large expenditure like £20,000 should be given. It is a considerable sum, and I doubt whether the money could not be better spent on the mainland. But we have committed ourselves to the expenditure, and I shall not take exception to it. I trust, nevertheless, that we shall not drift into a very large expenditure in this direction.
– Some reference has been made to the subsidized mail services, and to the New Hebrides. I, for one, congratulate the Government on the action they have taken in this respect, because I recognise that it will be to the advantage of Australia to open up trade and commerce with the islands of the Pacific. It is a recognition of the fact that we cannot be absolutely selfcontained. We must assist trade and commerce so far as we can. It has been suggested that we do not want to have anything to do with the New Hebrides. But there was a general demand on the part of the people, especially in New South W ales and Victoria, some time ago, when there was a possibility of the New Hebrides falling into the hands of the French, that we should not allow the control of these islands to pass away from Great Britain. It is due to a large extent to the earnest and strenuous agitation then started that the present system of dual control over the NewHebrides has been commenced. We should do all we can to strengthen our position, not only in relation to the New Hebrides, but also as to the ‘other islands in the< Pacific. They should be led to regard Australia as the “ country they are to trade with primarily. The trade of the islands must grow year by year, and if we secure it our position will be strengthened,, and large numbers of our own people will obtain employment.
– Does the honorable senator regard the trade or the defencepoint of view as the more important 1
– Defence is a most important element in the matter, but trade is also very important. We know perfectly well that to have various fforeign nations settled near our shores is a menace to us ; and that is one of the reasons that led the British authorities to take control over as much of the territory of New Guinea as they could get. The representatives of Queensland recognise that it is to the advantage of the Commonwealth that we should retainNew Guinea. I understand from the PostmasterGeneral that the administration of New Guinea is carried on by the Queensland Government. That being the case, wecan very well vote this money, expecting the Government to give us details in future with regard to the administration of the* country, so that we may know in what direction the money is being spent - whether it is going in the right direction, or is being squandered in a way that would not meet with the approval of Parliament.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I again protest against what I consider to be a waste of money. We have sufficient natural resources in Australia to occupy all the energy we can expend. I look upon the desire of some honorable senators to annex the islands of the Pacific as merely due to a mistaken military ardour, which has been responsible for a great deal of expenditure and many evils that have already overtaken the Commonwealth. The trade that will be opened up with the islands - which are unfit’ for many white people to live in - would be quite infinitesimal, and the money we are spending would be better laid out in inducing settlement in our own country. We have an immense territory, which will demand all our energy and capital for the next century at least. This desire for expansion is due to an earth hunger, and to a grabbing policy, which is not in the interests of the Commonwealth. I hope to see created in Australia a feeling that we should devote our energies to the development of our own territory.
– According to Senator Higgs, if we were living on a two-penny half-penny island we should confine ourselves to its limits !
– But Australia is not a two-penny half-penny island.
– I do not say that it is. Australia is a great and fertile country. But it is not to our interests to put a barbed wire fence round it in order to stop our trade with the rest of the world. The trade of New Guinea is growing.
– A black labour trade.
– The honorable senator is mad on black labour.
– He is not mad on Imperialism !
– He is mad on antiImperialism ; he is a crank on the subject. Let us expand wherever we can do so legitimately and honestly.
– Absolute greed !
– What is human nature after all % We are all greedy more or less. Nations should be anxious to make headway as well as individuals. As for what has been said in regard to military ardour being an evil, I ask what has brought the British Empire its new territory lately but military ardour?
-1- It has brought a big bill also.
– The bill I regret most is that of the lives that have been lost. The monetary bill is not worth considering. I protest against the statement of a few honorable senators who are misguide, lt should not be allowed to go forth that they express the sentiments of the Senate.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - We have all heard of the term “ Little Englander,” and we shall be able now to speak of the “ Little Australian.” It appears to me that we have in our midst a number of gentlemen who have no great ambition concerning the future Australia, or - who, at least, do not desire that she should appear to great advantage outside our own borders. I do not think that is either a wise or a noble policy. On the contrary, I think we should follow the lines followed all along by the British Empire, and we should try legitimately, honestly, and honorably to extend our influence, our name, and our power. So long as we d’j it honorably in open and fair competition with the work!, we have nothing to fear. I protest against any small-minded policy which will not permit Australia to look big on the pages of future history. With regard to the trade with the Pacific Islands and New Guinea, I venture to say that the firms engaged in it have so far done .little but lose money, and we ought to look with gratification upon the efforts which trading firms in Australia have made in the past, and are making to-day, to extend the trade between Australia and the Pacific Islands.
– I am not going to enter into this very wide field of Imperialism. But I, shall just pass the remark that Senator Fraser wishes to impress upon Australia, as a community, the policy which he has himself pursued as a squatter. The honorable senator has been eternally on the grab for laud.
– I must ask the honorable senator to withdraw that remark, which I consider a reflection upon an honorable senator.
– I think it is not a reflection, because the honorable senator has himself admitted that he has snavelled everything he could lay his hands on.
– I regard it as a reflection, and I hope the honorable senator will withdraw it.
– I withdraw the reflection. We shall, perhaps, have an opportunity of discussing this question of the little Australian and the big wind-blown bubble of Australian Imperialism on some future occasion. I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral how he expects to administer New Guinea for £20,000 a year, seeing that it has cost rather over than under £30,000 per annum for some years back. Is it intended that the equipment of the Territory shall be cut down 1 In what way is the reduction to be brought about ?
– I think Senator Higgs has not grasped the full significance and importance of our trade in the Pacific. Our desire is not to maintain suzerainty over those islands, but to. see that other nations do not annex them. I have before said that the preponderance of trade with those islands will really decide the preponderence of influence there. It is really only a question of trade. We know that at the present time it is undecided whether the New Hebrides shall belong to Great Britain or to France, and that will be decided only by the preponderance of trade with those islands. I agree with Senator Higgs that for hundreds of years to come we have plenty to do within the borders of Australia, but if we restrict our mental horizon to the shores of Australia, and permit the islands of the Pacific to come under the rule of foreign nations we shall be doing a very great injustice to Australia. Those islands may not only be used by foreign nations as coaling stations, and bases from which they they may attack Australia, but as places to which they may send their convicts. It is, in my opinion, our duty to secure sufficient influence in those islands to prevent their annexation by other nations. With regard to New Guinea, honorable senators will recollect that I opposed as premature the proposal that we should take over the Territory. In my opinion it would have been far better for the present to have allowed - British New Guinea to remain under the control of Great Britain, even though we had to pay a subsidy towards its administration. There are important questions to be considered with regard to the black population there, and with regard to trade and expenditure with the Territory. By taking over that territory, we have for the first time for 1,000 miles of our border been brought into contact with two foreign nations, whereas we were formerly surronnded by the sea, and in that respect we have taken a very momentous step in the history of Australia. We have received no information from the Government as to their intentions with regard to New Guinea, and it is not possible for a Bill to be introduced this session dealing with the matter. I remind honorable senators that there is a movement throughout the world at the present time to devote an enormous amount of attention to naval defence. All the nations of the world are subsidizing steamers to secure a preponderance of trade and increase their mercantile marine for use in time of war. In view of the importance of a preponderance of trade in the New Hebrides and Pacific Islands the Government are justified in subsidizing mail steamers to cany on this trade so long as it is done upon proper lines. What I object to in connexion with the subsidy to Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co.’s steamers is that the matter has not been brought before the Senate or the other House, and Parliament has been given no explanation with regard to the subsidy. We have had to gather from the press some information as to the arrangements which have been made.
– I gave information upon the subject to-day, and the particulars appear on the Estimates, which were issued in last April.
– The Estimates have not been officially before us, and we have no right to discuss them in the Senate. AVe have had to get information on the subject in a roundabout way, when the fullest information should have been supplied b)’ Ministers.
– Senator Stewart desired some information with regard to New Guinea. I am sorry that I am not able to give him full details of the expenditure now. But I should like to add to what I have already said, that the position of affairs before federation was. that Queensland was administering the affairs of New Guinea, and the revenue amounted to about £40,000, which met the expenditure. That amount was made up of the revenue derived within the possession from Customs duties, and of a subsidy of £15,000 contributed by three of the colonies, and a subsidy of £7,000 from the Imperial Government for the upkeep of the steamer Merrie England. First of all, the Imperial Government absolutely declined to continue that subsidy of £7,000. The administration of the possession then went on under an agreement between Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria, the contributing colonies, until that agreement ran out on the 30th June last. Then Queensland declined to carry on any further alone, and that is what constituted the urgency for deciding whether the Commonwealth should step in, and with the consent of the Imperial Government assume control of the territory, or whether it should pass under the control of Great Britain in some other form. The general opinion was that it was desirable that the Commonwealth should have control over New Guinea. The amount previously contributed towards its administration was £22,000 per annum, £15,000 by the colonies, and £7,000 by the Imperial Government, and the first proposition was that the Commonwealth should guarantee that amount of £22,000. Ultimately it was agreed that the Commonwealth should provide £20,000, and endeavour to make that do with the revenue collected in New Guinea. Until the Commonwealth Parliament has time to consider a measure for the future government of New Guinea, the administration is being carried on on exactly the same lines as before it was transferred to the Commonwealth. The principal items of expenditure are, of course, for the Administrator, police, and the usual expenses in connexion with administration and the upkeep of the steamer Merrie England, which is necessary in order to maintain communication between New Guinea and the mainland.
– The revenue from New Guinea will not form a part of the income of the Commonwealth, but will be kept separate 1
– It will be kept entirely separate. New Guinea is now being administered by Mr. Le Hunte, the Administrator, on exactly the same lines as when it was under the control of Queensland. That will continue until Parliament has had an opportunity of declaring the particular form of government under which the Possession shall be administered in the future.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I trust the Government will not lose sight of the desirability, wherever an opportunity presents itself, of entering into negotiations to secure to the Commonwealth the control of the whole of New Guinea. I know it is not a matter to be pushed, but I desire that the Government should continually look for an opportunity, by means of negotiations between the Imperial authorities and the foreign powers interested, to see if it is not possible for the whole of New Guinea to be brought under the British flag, and under Australian control. For the very reason that I desire to see that brought about, I am extremely pleased that the Government have decided to try and develop the trade with the New Hebrides. I was inclined to regard their efforts in that direction as evidence of good statesmanship, but it has struck me that perhaps they have been due to the promptings of remorse, and that, having attempted to destroy the trade of Fiji, they are seeking to afford some compensation by developing trade with the New Hebrides. Without inquiring too closely into their motives, I am very glad they have don 3 so. We recognise that these islands must be developed, and the question is whether they shall be developed by trade with Australia, or whether we shall stand by while other, and possibly hostile, powers secure establishments in those places. As a matter of protection alone, I venture to say that the amount now being expended to develop trade with the New Hebrides is very much less than we might be called upon to expend if it were necessary that our defence force should be put upon an effective footing. With regard to those who contend that we should limit our efforts within the boundaries of our own Commonwealth, I might remind honorable senators who advocate that policy that if England had acted upon such a policy there would have been no such discovery as that of Australia; there would have been no British settlement here, no Federal Parliament, and no Senator Higgs ! I could multiply the list of catastrophies which would have followed, but I shall only add that any one who attempts to confine the Britisher to the limits of his own particular country must first undermine the peculiar characteristics and genius of our race.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- I have no wish to enter into the question of extending the territory of Australia at any length just now, but it appears to me that an attempt is being made to commit the Commonwealth to a policy of acquisition in the Pacific, which, in my opinion, is not justified.
– The honorable senator voted for the acquisition of New Guinea.
– I believed in the acquisition of New. Guinea by the Commonwealth, but I think we ought to stop there. The people of Great Britain did not begin exploring the world for other territories until they at least imagined they were being crowded out in their own country. What is our position in Australia? We have a territory as large as the United States of America, and we have barely 4,000,000 of people in it - not nearly a soul to the square mile. We have any amount of development work to do within our own borders if we only turn our attention to it.
The Postal department is spending £4,000 per annum in encouraging trade with the New Hebrides, but I am quite certain that ,money could be much more profitably spent within the borders of the Commonwealth. There are numbers of people who have not even a mail delivery once a week or once a month, and the greatest obstacles are placed in the way of their communication with the outer world. Nothing promotes settlement so much in the interior of Australia, and especially where the soil is good, as postal and educational facilities. Wherever we have a school and a post-office conveniently placed, people are willing to settle. We have in the Commonwealth a vast wilderness howling for population, and here it is proposed that we should embark upon a career of Imperialism and acquisition, as if people in Australia were swearing at each other to stand around for room. When Australia is filled with a population of 100,000,000 people, if I am alive, winch is not likely, I shall go hand in hand with our friends who call themselves “ big Australians.” I observe that natives of New Guinea are permitted to work as seamen on vessels in the ports of the Commonwealth. I desire to know from Senator Drake if our steam-ship companies after they have been deprived of the services of the coolie and the Iascar will be permitted to go up to New Guinea and man their ships there?
– I think that the Immigration Restriction Act exempts the crews of vessels. If the honorable senator is referring to the Post and Telegraph Act he will remember that the prohibition there is against the employment of coloured crews, and of course it applies to natives of New Guinea.
– I wish to call attention to the item of £J5,30.0 under the head of “ Works and Buildings” in the Department of Home Affairs, and I propose to conclude my remarks with a motion. It forms part of a vote of £15,000 in the Estimates, and out of that sum £2,72S is allocated to various charges in connexion with the offices which the Government have chosen to lease in Macquarie-street, Sydney. The amounts that figure on the Estimates in respect of this- building are £500 for rent, £1,200 for repairs, £976 for furniture, and £52 for telephones.
– Where did the honorable senator get that information from ?
– From page 3 of the papers distributed by the Treasurer for the information of the members of the House of Representatives after submitting the first Federal Budget.
– Those amounts are not shown in the Estimates.
– In the Estimates they are lumped together, so that nobody can pick them out. When I came to look into the matter I found that the office was empty, with the exception of a caretaker and a messenger, whose salaries amount to £45 and £52 respectively. The point is that the Commonwealth has been put to this expense and this yearly rent, and the building remains empty. I asked my informant ‘ for what purpose the offices were used, and I must say that I discredited the reason which was given to me. I was told that it contains sleeping accommodation for the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs. I think that the statement should be contradicted by the Postmaster-General if it is a fact that there is no sleeping accommodation provided in the building. I believe that the building was taken, and the alterations made with the intention that, as as soon as the Parliament is prorogued, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs should transfer the greater portion of their office staffs from Melbourne to Sydney.
– A very sensible proposal, too.
– It no doubt is a sensible proposal from the honorable and learned senator’s point of view, but I submit that it is a most detrimental arrangement for the Commonwealth.
– Sir John Forrestis going to administer the Defence department from Perth.
– We are here to protect the interests of the Commonwealth, and not the interests of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs. My interpretation of the position is very much borne out by a statement made openly here by Senator O’Connor. When a quesT tion was raised about the head-quarters of the Government being in Melbourne, he distinctly stated that in his opinion every Minister was entitled to carry on the business of his office in any of the capitals of Australia, when the Parliament was, not sitting.
– Is the honorable senator quite sure that he is quoting correctly ?
– What he said was that a Minister might transact his official business, when the House was not sitting, in the capital in which he lived, and have the head-quarters of his department there. I dissent from that contention ; and I say that no Minister has any right to remove either his head-quarters or any portion of his staff from Melbourne till the federal capital is established. The Commonwealth has already incurred a heavy expense in transporting to Melbourne the various officials and their wives and furniture who were transferred from other State services to the Commonwealth service ; but if during the recess the head-quarters of the various departments are removed to other cities, many of these clerks will have to be taken there, and the Commonwealth will have to bear the further heavy expense of their travelling and the cost of their living while away from Melbourne. If it is right that the Prime Minister should remove his head-quarters to Sydney, the Minister for Defence might equally well remove the head-quarters of the Defence department to Perth, and the PostmasterGeneral transport the head-quarters of the Postal department to Brisbane. It is already detrimental to the business of the Common wealth that Ministers like the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs should reside out of Melbourne. I maintain that the salary which has been provided for them by the Constitution is paid to them to enable them to reside at the capital.
– Where is it?
– In Melbourne until it is removed to New South Wales.
– Not according to the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– I have not the slightest regard for the opinions of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, because he is nearly always wrong, and in more cases than one has had to eat his own words. My opinion is that of almost everybody outside this Chamber.
I am Sir Oracle,
And, when I ope my lips, let no dog bark.
– The honorable senator is very fond of laying down the law himself, but I do not think he has to complain of my interruptions. I find upon the Estimates for the year the sum of £1,900 for the furniture and fittings of the Sydney and Melbourne offices, and that is by no means the limit of the expenditure. Hitherto we have had to pass by these matters because it was almost impossible to discover how the money was being spent ; but now that attention has been drawn to the subject, I hope that honorable senators will join with me in suggesting to the House of Representatives a reduction of this vote. The office in Sydney has been empty since the 1st June last, because. Ministers and their officers have been here in Melbourne. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend Division IV. , The Department of Home Affairs,by reducing the item “ Works and Buildings . . . “ £3,300” by £1.
– I have not had an opportunity to check the statements of the honorable senator, but, although it appears from the papers circulated by the Treasurer that money has been spent upon rent and the fittings and furniture of the Commonwealth offices in Sydney, the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth was conducted from Sydney for a considerable period before the opening of Parliament. It was therefore necessary to have offices there. The honorable senator, no doubt, contends that those offices should have been abandoned directly Parliament met, and he would not even allow Ministers who live in New South Wales, and go over to Sydney occasionally at the weekend, to have an office there in which they could transact Commonwealth business. Surely that is unreasonable. I am perfectly satisfied that the Vice-President of the Executive Council did not say that at the end of the session Ministers would remove their departmental staffs to other States. My honorable colleague said nothing that could be twisted into meaning that when the Minister for Defence went to Perth he would take with him the head-quarter’s staff and every one connected with the administration of his department. If a Minister’s home is in another State, surely honorable senators would not raise any objection to his spending some time there after the session had closed. Surely such a Minister should have an office in his own city in which to transact the business of his department. It does not follow that he would take his staff with him. I had to administer my department for several months without any staff whatever, and I travelled through the country receiving telegrams at one station and answering them from the next one. It is not absolutely necessary that a Minister should be located in the same building as his staff in order to carry out the work of administration. At the end of this. session, which has lasted for upwards of a year, I suppose that I shall be permitted to pay a visit to my own State, which I have not seen’ for twelve months, and to administer my department from Brisbane.
– But the Minister has not rented an office there.
– I have my office at the General Post-office in Brisbane, and can communicate with my staff in Melbourne by means of telegrams. It is one of the necessities of federation that members should sometimes conduct the business of their departments from their home cities, because they* cannot be expected to live away from their homes the whole time.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).Without saying that the expenditure for which we arc asked to provide is reasonable or otherwise, I thoroughly indorse what the Postmaster-General has just said. The consideration that must determine a question of this kind is the general public convenience, and that of the gentlemen called upon to administer the Government departments. It has been a very common practice for Ministers in the States to administer their departments for days, and even weeks, together without going near them. If a Minister of the Crown were always to be found in his office his .action would constitute a public grievance, because the people require that Ministers should move about amongst them, in order that they may make themselves acquainted with public requirements. Every reasonable latitude should be allowed Ministers in this respect. One honorable senator from Western Australia, whose view of this matter is of the same order as those associated with parish-pump politicians, remarked that I supported the Government because the offices referred to happen to be located in Sydney. I will now ask that honorable senator what he thinks about the appointment of a special Federal officer in Perth? Representations have been made regarding the necessity of appointing a Federal commissioner, or ambassador, or something of that kind, at Perth.
– I have had nothing whatever to do with that, and I know nothing about it.
– Does the honorable senator object to the proposal ? If the honorable senator does not know anything about the matter, I may tell him that communications have been opened up between the Western Australian Government and ; the Federal Government with regard to ! the appointment of a Commonwealth old. cer at Perth, as a kind of agent to transact business passing between the : State and Federal Governments. No doubt convenience in the despatch of public business necessitates some such arrangement, and that such an officer should have the assistance of a small staff.
The proposal is to be commended if it will i have the effect of expediting public business, and I do not object to it because it happens j that the proposed officer is to be located in i Western Australia. Nor should I take ex- ception to any similar appointments that I may be necessary in the capitals of other ; States. I desire to know why there should be such large increases in the votes proposed 1 i In the previous Bill, in the vote for the Department of Home Affairs, an amount of £1,000 was provided for in the column “other expenses.” This has now been increased to £3,300. Then in the column “expenditure solely for the maintenance or continuance of the departments as at the time of transfer “ £1 5,000 appears instead of £7,000. These increases are so great, and so far in excess of the Estimates as originally presented, that I hope the Postmaster-General will see the desirability of giving some information with regard to them.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia). - I have listened very attentively to the remarks of the Ministerial apologist who has just sat down. I notice that the honorable senator supports the Government only when some extravagant expenditure in Sydney is proposed. He agrees that any Ministers who happen to go to Sydney should have provided for their convenience special suites of offices, which have to be maintained at great expense.
– I do not say that they should have them in Sydney alone, but wherever they may be necessary.
– -Any such proposition is absurd. Senator Matheson has pointed out that £2,728 is to be expended in rent, repairs, and furniture in connexion with suites of offices in Sydney, quite irrespective of those which have been provided in Melbourne. These offices are to be maintained throughout the year because a Minister happens to go to Sydney now and again while Parliament is sitting, and because he desires to retire there during the recess, and to take his private secretary with him. I do not say that a Minister should not live in Sydney during the recess, but he should not require a magnificent suite of offices there. Senator Millen has got hold of some “cock-and-bull story” about the appointment of a special representative of the Commonwealth, who is to reside in Perth. I know nothing about any such proposal.
– That is why the honorable senator calls it a “cock-and-bull story.”
– When the honorable senator was endeavouring to explain the matter he showed that he did not know much about it. I think Senator Matheson’s proposal should be supported, and that we should show our disapproval of Ministers’ extravagant Oriental conceptions of expenditure. The sooner the seat of the federal capital site is fixed on, and the seat of government is removed there, the better. We shall then see the end of the provincial jealousies which are apparently bound to exist whilst the seat of government is in Melbourne.
– The jealousy is all on the one side. Senator Millen, in common with other reformers, is very anxious to keep down expenditure, and yet we find him supporting a gross piece of extravagance. If the arguments now used in support of Ministers travelling about and administering their departments in all sorts of places have any force, they will also hold good byandby, when the seat of government is established in the federal capital, and expensive suites of offices will be maintained in a number of different places. I do not understand how it is that a prominent member of the Opposition should be in the confidence of the Government with regard to a suggested appointment in Western Australia, about which the representatives of that State know nothing.
– The honorable member did not obtain any information from the Government. He is referring to a report which appeared in the newspapers.
– I agree with Senator Matheson, who deserves the thanks of those who desire to see economy practised, for directing attention to this wasteful expenditure. If this action on the part of the Government is to be approved, we shall find a large portion of the Commonwealth revenue frittered away in paying rent for empty buildings.
– I might explain that I saw a report in one of the newspapers that a movement was on foot to secure the appointment of a special Commonwealth officer at Perth.
– The suggestion was made at the State Premiers’ Conference.
– The Government know nothing about it.
Senator EWING (Western Australia).Senator Matheson does not suggest that it is undesirable that there should be Commonwealth offices in the various States, but his protest is entered against unnecessary provision being made for the convenience of Ministers. No one will deny that offices should be engaged for the accommodation of those officers who have to transact Commonwealth business in the various States ; but there is no reason why expensive buildings should be rented and be allowed to remain practically unoccupied during the whole of the time that Parliament is sitting. There are practically no Federal officers in Sydney who come under this heading, and it is manifest that this expensive building and furniture cannot be wanted there. In Western Australia and Tasmania there are no such Federal officers that I know of, though Western Australia is- the State most removed from the seat of government, and should, of all others, have this accommodation if it be found necessary elsewhere.
– There are defence force head-quarters in Western Australia.
– There are defence force offices in Sydney quite independent of this item.
– Those offices “are included in the item, as is seen from the provision of £2,713 for rent of defence force premises.
– The items connected with the defence force come under the expenditure of the Minister for Defence.
– There is an item of £400 for rent of premises for the defence force in Western Australia.
– That is a federal office.
– That is what I say. There are federal offices in all the States.
– I merely said that I was not aware of the existence of any federal offices, independent of the ordinary departments of the Government. I know very well that there are large federal offices, such as the post-offices and defence buildings in Western Australia, but there are no independent offices, apparently used for no specific purpose. These items represent a very large sum of money, but if the Postmaster-General can give an assurance that the offices are kept and used for the department, and are absolutely necessary to the conduct of Commonwealth business in New South Wales, I shall not vote with Senator Matheson. But until I receive an assurance that these offices are both reasonable in extent and absolutely necessary, my intention is to vote for the suggested amendment.
– My sympathies are with the Postmaster-General, but my judgment is with the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, whom I am bound to protect. My sympathies are with the PostmasterGeneral, because he is here without his colleague. This is grievance day, and we have been here since half-past ten o’clock this morning. Each honorable senator has prepared his own particular shot, and it is quite impossible that the Minister can be fully informed on all the twenty or thirty items which have been hurled at his head. At the same time, I am in absolute accord with Senator Matheson in the step he has taken, and unless I hear some good reason to the contrary, I shall support the suggested amendment, which I hope will be carried in order to show to the Cabinet that we will not tolerate extravagant allowance expenses. The question of expenses has been before the Commonwealth for some weeks or, indeed, some months, and Ministers have already been warned that they cannot be allowed. We all desire to treat our federal officerswith the utmost fairness ; but are we to be always in a state of unsettlement, caused by this dodging about, in view of some capital to be erected five years or fifteen years hence? Are these officers, during all that time, to have no settled place, and, whenever they make a journey or want a meal, to have the expense paid by the Commonwealth? That is a most unsatisfactory way of doing business. It must be apparent to the most junior or thick-headed officer - though I hope we have none of the latter - that for the next five years Parliament must sit in Melbourne.
– Say ten years.
– I should like to be able to say twenty years. When an officer in Tasmania, New South Wales, or Queensland gets the offer of an appointment in the Federal service, the question he has to consider is whether it will suit him to take the increased salary and live for at least five years in Melbourne. If such an arrangement will not suit him, he has no right to take the appointment. The Federal public servants, most of whom are capable and efficient men, whom we are going to treat with every liberality, must not consider themselves “rolling stones” between Melbourne and Sydney, but must make up their minds to settle at the temporary seat of government. If we once give up control over allowances and expenses, we shall spend thousands of pounds of the taxpayers’ money. We are told that these buildings in Sydney are necessary, in order that Ministers and their officials may have a place in which to sleep.
– Nobody said that.
– If the PostmasterGeneral has not sufficient information to satisfy us as to the facts, the item had better be postponed. This is the thin end of the wedge - the beginning of extravagance to which we desire to put an end - and I hope the Postmaster-General will either ask. for a postponement, or furnish us with facts on which we can give a decision. I am a supporter of the Barton Government, but I regard my honorable friend, Sir William Lyne, who is a brother Tasmanian, as a very extravagant Minister. The position he has won shows that he has been an efficient administrator in the mother State of New South Wales. At the same time, there are States in the Commonwealth which cannot and will not afford the extravagant expenditure to which the mother colony has been accustomed under Sir William Lyne. and other Ministers. If the Government are to stand well in the opinion of the Commonwealth, and are to retain the confidence of a majority of honorable senators and representatives in another House, it is absolutely necessary that they should exercise economy, and that they should not give to themselves or their officials not only constitutional rights, but a lot of perquisites which are unfair to the citizens generally. I make no complaint whatever of Ministers receiving their salaries under the Constitution, andalso the member’s allowance of £400 per year. I regard the remuneration as little enough, but it is meant to cover the whole of the expenses to which they may be put in attending Parliament, whether for six or twelve months. Ministers have no right to bedrooms at places where they may take up temporary residence at the expense of the Commonwealth. It is the beginning of their getting something to which they are not entitled, and a Minister ought to be above that sort of thing. If they are not above taking those extra advantages, that very moment some of us begin to lose confidence in them.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I take it that Senator Matheson has submitted his suggested amendment as a protest against a proposal that during the recess, or at any other time, the administration of any Federal department shall be shifted from Melbourne to Sydney. If I understand aright, that is theintention of at least one Minister ; and, if that be so, I shall vote with Senator Matheson. So far as my vote can determine the matter, the seat of administration must be in Melbourne until Parliament moves to the Federal capital. Representatives of all the States have a right to be consulted, and if we desire to lay our views before the Federal Government, we do not want to have to chase a Minister and his department to Sydney.
– Does the honorable senator want Ministers to stop in Melbourne all through the recess ?
– I want the departments, at any rate, to stop in Melbourne. I am not concerned whether or not a Minister and his private secretary go to New South Wales. My vote will be swayed entirely by the consideration that until the site of the Federal capital is chosen the seat of administration shall be in Melbourne.
– I am sorry Senator Dobson has brought up the question of allowances to officers, because it has nothing to do with the item before us. As usual, I do not agree with the honorable senator. I think the principle of making allowances to officers who came from distant States was a correct one. It was a principle truly federal, because it placed officers in the various States on something like equality, but Parliament disapproved of the payment of allowances, and no allowances are now granted.
– Does the principle apply to Members of Parliament?
– Members of Parliament get their allowances. Senator Millen inquired why £15,000 was asked for this month, and I have to say in reply that it is on account of a vote of £91,856. The reason why it is in excess of the twelfth portion is that a considerable amount of the money voted in the early Supply Bills was used for the payment of arrears, and, consequently, a larger amount is now required. But about £85,000 of this £91,000 will now have been voted, so that all that will be left will be only aboutan ordinary month’ssupply. It is for paying such accounts as rents, repairs, maintenance, fittings, furniture, and so on.
– Does the honorable and learned senator mean that it costs £91,000 for the administration, offices, and fittings of the Home Affairs department ?
– No ; the department of Home Affairs is the Works department for the whole of the service. The Home department attends to the repairs of all the other departments and has control of their buildings. With regard to the External and Home Affairs departments, provision is made for accommodation in Sydney, as well as in Melbourne. There lies theroot of the trouble. But it is not unreasonable that there should be office accommodation in Sydney for the Ministers who reside in New South Wales, and who, I think, after a long session, have a right to administer their departments from their place of residence. As to my own department, it is not my intention to move any officer from Melbourne. I intend to stay here. I am not in a position to speak for any other Minister, but I certainly think that a Minister who resides in New South Wales has a right during the recess to live in his own State ; and in order to administer his department in his own State he may probably find it necessary to take over some officers.
Senator Major GOULD (New South Wales). - I suggest to Senator Matheson that he should withdraw his motion. He will have an opportunity when the Estimates are under discussion of treating the matter properly. If we make any suggestion now in regard to this Bill, it will only give rise to a good deal of delay, and it must be remembered that the liability has already been incurred. It would expedite business if, this discussion having taken place, we had the whole facts brought out while the Estimates in chief are under consideration, when Ministers can be prepared with a full explanation.
– I would urge Senator Matheson to withdraw his , motion, and I promise him that, to a great extent, I shall be with him if he takes similar action upon the Estimates. That will be a more fitting opportunity for discussing the question.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).-I do not know what Senator Matheson’s intention is, but I hope he will not withdraw his motion. A desire has been shown by more than one Minister to transfer his department bodily to Sydney during the recess. When the Estimates come before us we shall probably be told that the money has been spent, and it is of no use talking about it. The sooner we “ take the bull by the horns “ the better, and the committee will only be doing its duty in expressing its disapproval of any action of the character complained of. Imagine the position if Sir William Lyne transfers himself with his entire retinue of officers to Sydney during the recess . ‘ There will be the cost of taking the officers to Sydney, the expense of the offices there, and all the allowances, in addition to the disturbance caused in the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth. Some honorable senators appear disposed to excuse this sort of thing. It would be just as reasonable if there were a Victorian Minister who lived in some remote part of this State, and who, during the recess, transferred the whole of his department to his residence in the Mallee, for instance ! So far as I can gather from the Constitution, Melbourne is the capital for the time being. Wherever the Parliament sits is the capital of the Commonwealth until the capital is definitely fixed by Act of Parliament. I shall not support any proposal to have a movable seat of government, and movable Ministers and officers, with their allowances and all their other paraphernalia heaped on the top of the Commonwealth.
– The serious matter just now seems to me to be that if we do not pass this Bill the members of the civil service will not be paid. I think Senator Matheson might be satisfied with having ventilated the subject, and having obtained an expression of opinion from honorable senators, with a knowledge that an opportunity must occur shortly when it can be discussed upon the Estimates.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - Time after time when any one raises a question upon the Supply Bill we are met with the same objection that it is approaching four o’clock, that the other House is waiting for the Bill, and that we should not do anything which might make us unpopular with the public service. I consider this matter one of extreme urgency. It is one which should be considered and dealt with once for all; but I am willing, with the consent of honorable senators who have supported me, to withdraw my motion on the understanding that I shall discuss it on Tuesday upona motion - “That the Senate do now adjourn.”
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- I have a veal grievance to submit in connexion with the Department of Trade and Customs, but I know there is not time to deal with it this afternoon, and I must content myself with mentioning the matter to the PostmasterGeneral. I speak with special reference to my own State, but I know that my remarks are equally applicable to the other States of the Commonwealth. I call the attention of the Postmaster-General to the fact that the civil servants employed in the Customs department have been outrageously over-worked since the 8th October last. I ask the honorable and learned senator to make a note of that, and to consider the necessity of making some provision as soon as possible for paying them for that overtime.
– I shall be glad to represent the matter to my colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - On this point I may mention that the answers given to questions upon the subject have been to the effect that moreholidays are to be given to compensate for the overtime. That only makes the work additionally hard, and there should be some compensation for the sweating which has taken place in the Customs department.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I had intended, on this matter coming before us, to review the whole administration of the Customs department, and to voice the serious and well-founded complaints of the merchant and trading community upon the treatment they have been receiving at the hands of the Minister for Trade and Customs. In view of the position in which we stand with regard to this Bill, and the effect of adopting that course now, I merely mention the subject, and when the Estimates themselves come on I shall invite the attention of the Senate to what I regard as an extremely serious matter. I should like now to ask whether the Estimates put before us in connexion with the Department of Defence ure upon the scale originally adopted by the Government, or whether the substantial reduction which the Government, apparently with some reluctance, consented to make in connexion with the department is given effect to in the schedule to the Bill before us.
– No ; these items are on the basis of the Estimates.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - On the 14th May I asked the Postmaster-General the following questions : -
To these questions the honorable and learned senator made the following replies : -
I should now like to ask whether the Federal Government is not surrendering itself into the hands of the Eastern Extension Company, by agreeing to any compromise whatever. For twenty years past this company, which is one of the most powerful monopolies in the world, attempted to block the establishment of a State-owned cable. When. after repeated efforts, we have now succeeded in getting a State-owned cable, the Government appear to me to be playing into the hands of the Eastern Extension Company. The object of having a Stateowned cable is to supply the people of the Commonwealth at the cheapest possible rate, but the proposal evidently on the boards is that the Government shall come to an agreement with the Eastern Extension Company as to .the prices to be charged to the public for the next twenty years or so. I submit that if the Prime Minister agrees with the company to fix any price that shall be charged, it will be a very great mistake. It has made so much money out of its monopoly that it has provided an immense reserve fund - no less than £800,000 - which its agents said would be spent in toying to block the State-owned cable. I believe that they are capable of adopting any means to retain the cable business of Australia for their lines. The company will have the chief advantage under any agreement that is entered into. It has made all its preparations ; it has probably secured a great part of the business, and, if the Government enter into an agreement to charge 3s. per word, the Commonwealth will be burdened with the expensive upkeep of a cable, while the company will enjoy a monopoly of the business. How is the Government to compete successfully with a company which will, adopt the methods it adopts ? Has the Government any reason to suppose that such an unscrupulous company will adopt fair methods in dealing with the Commonwealth ? Has the Postmaster-General any idea of the methods that will be adopted by the company to get hold of business ? Will there be any provision to -restrain the company from granting to cable-users concessions that our agreement will not interfere with in any -way 1 I consider that the Government are making a great mistake in having anything to do with a company which fought the States for twenty years or more, and which I understand has money at its disposal to entertain people in very great style. It would appear that it has been able to bring influence to bear, by what means I know not, to get an agreement with the Government.
– Is there not a temporary agreement with the Company?
– I think the Senate ought to express the opinion that the Prime Minister should not pledge the Commonwealth before Parliament has an idea of the details of the agreement to be entered into.
– I am rather sorry that Senator Higgs has selected this time to raise this question, because it does not give him a fair opportunity to express his views, and it leaves me hardly sufficient time to reply as fully as I should like to do. I can assure him that we have made no concession to the Eastern Extension Company. It had made with four of the colonies - now States - an agreement under which, in consideration of certain concessions being made, it reduced its rates and the landing and terminal charges were correspondingly reduced. I was pressed by some portions of the community, especially the mercantile community, to consent to a similar agreement on behalf of Queensland and Victoria. Those States had always declined to make any such agreement, and the Commonwealth has not made an agreement on their behalf , or any agreement at all. The company has decided that from this time until a conference takes place in London it will charge to the non-contracting States the same rates as it charges to the contracting States, and, of course, the transit and terminal charges have been made uniform in the same way, so that now a telegram going from or coming to any of the States costs exactly the same amount. If no understanding is arrived atas the outcome of a conference in London, then the company will be at liberty to charge a lower rate to the contracting States than to the non-contracting States.
– If an understanding is arrived at, what will happen ?
SenatorDRAKE. - I cannot say. I do not think it is an undesirable thing that a conference should take place, at which the Eastern Extension Company and the Pacific Cable Board will both be represented. The honorable senator has a very strong opinion in regard to the Eastern Extension Company, but I would remind him that in the Pacific Cable Board wehave a very powerful and intelligent body, who are not likely in any negotiations to sacrifice the interests of the board orthe interests of the States that are the proprietors of the Pacific cable. From what he knows of the past history of these negotiations he may be perfectly sure that the interests of Australia are quite safe in the hands of the present Government.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South
Wales).- There was a question that I was going to bring before the committee ; but in view of the urgent necessity of getting this Bill passed I shall deal with it at some other- time.
Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, and passed through its remaining stages,
Senator O’CONNOR presented the reportof the committee appointed to prepare reasons for disagreeing with part of amendment No. 6 of the House of Representatives in this Bill.
Senate adjourned at 3.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 May 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020530_senate_1_10/>.