1st Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, if he can state either now, or during the morning; what course it is intended to adopt with regard to Government business during the ensuing week, and the probable date of the closing of the session?
– I cannot give a reply to the question, because I do not know how long the other House will take to dispose of the Seat of Government Bill, or for how long it may be discussed in the Senate. When the various Appropriation Bills are disposed of - early next week, we hope - there will be no other business for the Senate to consider except the Seat of Government Bill, and probably a message from the other House relating to the Defence Bill. It is very likely that the other House will agree to certain amendments of the Senate in that Bill, and disagree with the others, but I do not think that the consideration of the message will take up much time. I was hoping that the prorogation of Parliament would take place by the end of next week, but the date will all depend upon the progress made with the Seat of Government Bill.
Senator DRAKE laid upon the table the following paper: -
Report on charges against Electoral Commissioner for Queensland.
Ordered to be printed.
-I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether any regulations to allow electors to vote at any polling place have yet been compiled, and, if so, when they will be laid on the tablet
– I am informed by the Attorney-General that the regulations are not quite completed, but that they will be completed in time to be laid on the table before the end of the session.
asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Will be take steps to cause to be laid on the table of the House any correspondence - not already tabled - with reference to the Pacific Cable and the proposed Conference?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The Government is still in cable communication with the Colonial Office, Canada, and New Zealand, as to the time, place, and subject of the Conference. As soon as these communications are completed they will be laid upon the table of the Senate.
It is possible that the communications may not be completed before the Parliament is prorogued, and in that case I promise the honorable senator that I shall lay all the papers on the table before the end of the session.
– I move -
That during the remainder of the present session Government business take precedence of all other business, except questions and formal business.
This course is usually taken towards the end of a session. It is my intention to allow the private business in charge of Senators Dobson and Higgs totake precedence on Wednesday next.My object in moving the motion is to avoid the delay which might be caused by any merely academical discussion of an abstract question, because I think it is the desire of the majority of honorable senators that Government business should take precedence of any business of that kind on that day.
– I am very much obliged to Senator Playford for the promise he has made. I can assure him that I shall not attempt during the next week or two to bring forward any academical propositions for discussion on Wednesday afternoon, because I am only too anxious for the session to be closed as early as possible, in order to allow certain honorable senators an opportunity to meet their constituents. I think that the Parliament ought to have been prorogued by this time. I desire to know if Senator Playford can see his way clear to give the Senate an opportunity of dealing with a measure relating to the Federal territory if a Bill for the same purpose is not introduced in the other House. If the Government will take up this question, I shall be only too glad to ask leave to withdraw my Bill. I believe it is really necessary to pass a Bill providing for the area of the Federal territory, and the basis of resumption. It would be agreat shame if we selected a capital site, and the value of the land were increased to such an extent as to delay the establishment of the seat of government for years. I shall be very glad if the honorable senator will give the Senate an opportunity to deal with my Bill, providing that the Government have no time to introduce a similar Bill in the other House.
– I desire to ask Senator Playford what will be the value of the motion if he intends to give up Wednesday afternoon for the consideration of two private Bills.
– It will prevent any notices of motion from being given for next Wednesday which would block Government business.
– The Bills in the names of Senators Dobson and Higgsare quite sufficient to block Government business on that day. What useful purpose can be served by Senator Dobson in going on with the Post and Telegraph Act Amendment Bill, when he knows that there is not the slightest possibility of it being carried 1 I intend to occupy as much time as he did in discussing its second reading, and I understand that several honorable senators wish’ to speak to the question. The honorable and learned senator knows that even if it were passed by the Senate there would be no possibility of the other House assenting to it.
– Has that anything to do with this question?
– It is merely an illustration to show that Senator Playford, by the promise which he has given, has practically destroyed the value of his motion. I should like to see the Federal Territory Bill in the name of Senator Higgs passed, but, . I understand, from a hint which was given by the Prime Minister, that there is a possibility of a similar Bill being introducedin another place. If so, why should we discuss the Bill in the name of Senator Higgs ?
– Senator Higgs has said that in those . circumstances he will not go on with his Bill.
– If the Government do intend to introduce a Bill we need not waste Wednesday afternoon in discussing the Bill in the name of Senator Higgs. I should like to ask Senator Playford toconsider whether he is wise in making such a promise, and whether it would not be better to state what the Government intend to do about the Federal territory. It is advisable that the whole of Wednesday’s sitting should be devoted to the consideration of Government business on the understanding that we shall be afforded an opportunity to deal with the questions involved in the Bill of Senator Higgs.
– I was about to draw attention to the point which has been raised by Senator Pearce. It does seem to me to be an extraordinary thing that we should be asked to pass a motion to give precedence to Government business, and at the same time to be told that it may be ignored. A motion should be carried with the intention of being observed. I take it for granted, sir, that if this motion is carried you will see that no other business is allowed to be taken on Wednesday, in spite of any promise which Senator Playford has made.
– The Government can give way if they like.
– I do not feel satisfied with the position.
– I wish to say a few words on the subject of the usefulness of the motion. It is brought forward in order to block the discussion of any academic questions which might be placed on the business-paper subsequently. I would not move a motion of this- kind for the purpose of ‘blocking any one who had gone to the trouble of preparing a speech on a subject in which he took a deep interest for the purpose of moving the second reading of a Bill. I shall not make use of the motion next Wednesday for the purpose of blocking the Bills in charge of Senators Dobson and Higgs if they desire to proceed, but I trust that Senator Dobson will ask leave to withdraw his Bill. I believe that, after consideration, he will take that course, because he will see how futile it would be to proceed.
– Because I am in the right ?
– The honorable and learned senator may be in the right or the wrong, but he has no possible chance of carrying his Bill, so that no good object would be served by resuming the debate on its second reading next Wednesday. He must know that even if it were carried through the Senate it could not be carried through the other
House, and that, therefore, any discussion on its second reading next Wednesday would be a waste of time. I have told Senator Higgs privately, and it has been stated in another place, that the Ministry intend to introduce into the Seat of Government Bill a clause which will cover nearly all the points which he has raised in his Bill, especially that of speculation in land. I have seen a rough draft of the clause. By next Wednesday he will know what has been done, and he will then be in a position to say whether he intends to proceed with his Bill, and if he expresses a desire to that effect I shall keep my promise to him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Government business will appearfirst on the notice-paper in accordance with the resolution of the Senate, but the Government can give way if they” desire to do so.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 8th October, vide page 5878) :
Department of Home Affairs.
Divisions 18 to 24, £213,739.
Upon which Senator Dobson had moved -
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the item ‘ ‘ Inspector-General of Works, £1,000.”
– I think we ought to have some information as to the record of Colonel Owen. This matter is of very great importance. Colonel Owen is to be paid a very high’ salary, and is to be charged with very responsible duties. The head of this Department should be a thoroughly competentman. Hithertowehave had nothing but a very vague statement from the Vice-President of the Executive Council that Colonel Owen is a capable man, that he is thoroughly trustworthy, a good organizer, and many other fine things. But we want to know whether he is competent to supervise the erection of buildings. If he is not why appoint him ? I say without fear of contradiction that the presumption is all against Colonel Owen having the necessary qualifications for the position into which apparently the Government desire to pitchfork him. Whose particular pet is he ? Is he one of Sir John Forrest’sproteges, or to whom does he belong? Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council know anything about him ? I will be no party to agreeing to this vote until I know more about Colonel Owen. He has been in the Defence Force, and is skilled in the erection of fortifications. Do the Government intend to fortify all the Customshouses, Post-offices, and all other public buildings’? It looks very like it. If not, why should they select a man who is specially qualified for erecting forts? The Vice-President of the Executive Council knows as well as any man that a civil engineer is never employed to erect buildings. That is not his work, any more than it is the work of a carpenter to do plumbing. An architect, or a man skilled in the erection of buildings, is the person to employ for such purposes. A civil engineer knows nothing about the erection of buildings, and if he is an honest man will not undertake such work. If that is the case with regard to an ordinary civil engineer, it is much more the case with regard to a military engineer. Why is this man to be appointed ?
– Because he is eminently fit for the position.
– How does the honorable senator know that ?
– From those who are intimately acquainted with him.
– That is merely one of those vague general statements which we constantly hear from the Government when they have made up their mind to put a man into a certain position.
– If the honorable senator cannot show that Colonel Owen is unfit for the position why does he make these statements t
– We have no evidence. Why not give us some evidence? This is another of the jobs which the Government is continually perpetrating. We have overlooked this sort of thing quite often enough. It is high time that a period was put to this jobbery and favoritism.
– There is neither jobbery nor favoritism in it.
– There is on the face of it. This man is no more competent to supervise the erection of buildings than I am.
– Yet the honorable senator says he knows nothing about Colonel Owen’s qualifications.
– The presumption is that he is not qualified. The burden of proof lies on the Government. Can the - Vice-President of the Executive Council show the Committee that Colonel Owen has been engaged either in the erection or thesupervision of buildings ?
– Yes ; in connexion with fortifications. Wherever there arefortifications there have to be buildings for the soldiers,
– What kind of buildings 1
– Buildings for peopleto live in.
– These proceedingsare becoming irregular. There are too many interjections.
– Am I to sit hereand see the country’s money voted away in this fashion to create a billet for somebody the Government wish to provide for? I do not wish to traverse the whole ground from the beginning, but my opinion is that the attempt to establish a Department of this kind at the present period of the existence of the Commonwealth is a mistake. Of necessity we must trust in a very great measure to the Public Works Department of the States to supervise the erection of Commonwealth buildings. We have nooption. It may be desirable that the Commonwealth should have direct control over the erection of its buildings, but that is unworkable at the present stage of our existence. The Government proposes tocontinue the old system of paying 6 per cent, to the States, and side by side with that to appoint an Inspector-General. What is he to do ? Suppose Colonel Owen to be competent, what are his duties ? Will he have any control over the States’ officers, and the Works Departments of the States? He will have none whatever. It is simply ridiculous to suppose that one man can roam up and down the Commonwealth overlooking the erection of public buildings here, there, and everywhere. It would be much better to throw the responsibility for the erection of buildings on the States. When it is demonstrated that that method of doing the work is notpracticable, evidence to that effect can be brought before Parliament, and then I claim that it will be time enough for us to establish a new departure. That consideration is, however, altogether apart from Colonel Owen’s fitness or unfitness for the position of InspectorGeneral. I should like the VicePresident of the Executive Council to give us some tangible evidence - something more than a mere vague assertion - of Colonel Owen’s fitness. Ho one expects the honorable senator to admit that Colonel Owen is unfit. That would be ridiculous on our part. But what we do ask is that he shall give us some evidence of fitness. We have had none yet ; and I for one expect to have some before I agree to this vote.
– I hardly know how to answer an honorable senator who takes such extreme views in matters of this sort, and whose suspicions are such that he makes the assertion that the presumption is that a man of Colonel Owen’s attainments is unfit for the position to which he is to be appointed. I have made inquiries respecting this gentleman. I learn that he is one of our own Australian boys. He was brought up in Sydney. He originally served at Mort’s Dock, and has been for about ten years in the service of the State of New South Wales and of the Commonwealth. He has had experience as a civil engineer in connexion with the defences of New South Wales. He has designed works, buildings, forts, and so on. He has supervised their construction with eminent satisfaction to the country. He is one of those men who, although he may be technically a civil engineer and not an architect, has had such a wide experience that he is entitled to be considered as eminently fitted for the position to which the Government intend to appoint him. If we were to appoint an ordinary architect he would not have had the wide experience which Colonel Owen has had, and which will make him a very valuable officer in this position. We are not creating a new Department. The Department of Public Works has been created. We are simply proposing to appoint a head for that Department. What is that head wanted to do ? He is first of all wanted to organize the works branch, with a view to securing uniformity of action and to reduce the ever-increasing demands to some regular system.’ It is all very well to say, “ Give the work to the States to do j” but we must have some officer to supervise the work done by the States officers for us. The appointment is also needed for the introduction of a system for the efficient and economical maintenance of the transferred properties, which represent some £12,000,000. Those properties have to be looked after and kept in order. His services are further required for the introduction of a system for uniform action in dealing with lands or properties which are being acquired from time to time, or exchanged to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth service. He is also required generally to overlook the design and specifications for all new works, fortifications, &c, and to supervise the design and specifications of all alterations and additions to existing buildings, fortifications, and works. That is one of the most important things he has to do. He is required to scrutinize and revise the estimates of expenditure for all works. Honorable senators who have had any experience will know that a competent and experienced officer can save thousands and thousands of pounds by a careful scrutiny and revision of estimates of expenditure. He is also required to open at once the “Property Register,” containing a complete record and description of each property now vested in the Commonwealth. We want an officer to look after all these things in the interests of the Commonwealth. We must have a head to our Public Works Department. We cannot go on, I will not say in the blundering way in which our public works have hitherto been conducted, although we know that there has been a considerable amount of blundering in consequence of our having no proper head of our Public Works staff. I am satisfied that we shall save a large amount of money by having a competent head for this Department.
– It is a matter of “ goasyouplease “ without a head.
– I have looked through the Estimates carefully, and am thoroughly satisfied of the necessity for the appointment. Therefore, I ask Senator Dobson not to persist in his motion. But on making inquiries as to the absolute necessity for all the officers of the Public Works staff whose salaries are provided for on the Esti- mates, I find that though four superintendents of works are provided for at salaries not exceeding £600 per annum, we can do with two. If the honorable and learned senator will propose that provision shall be made for two superintendents instead of four, the Government will not oppose an alteration to that effect. It will bring about an economy. But I do press the Committee not to strike out the salary for the head of the Department. We have found that to work without a head is unsatisfactory. Without a head it is not possible to do very much.
– I should like to offer a word of criticismupon what we have just heard from the VicePresident of the Executive Council. His argument assumes that we are convinced that a Public Works Department for the Commonwealth is required. I do not suppose that any one will object to the proposition that, if we inaugurate a Public Works Department, some one must be at the head of it. It is an insult to our intelligence to presume that we are going to have a Public Works staff, and that there shall be no head to it. We want a head if we have a staff. But, looking through the Estimates for Works and Buildings, I find that the capital expenditure in every Department is £80,000.
– If the honorable senator looks at the end of the Estimates, he will find that the amount is £422,283.
– That is not the capital expenditure. The whole capital expenditure involved, which this Public Works staff, as well as the Public Works staffs now employed by the States, will be concerned with, is £80,000. The cost of supervision in connexion with that capital expenditure of £80,000 per annum is £14,600. Is Senator Eraser, as a business man, prepared to sanction that kind of thing?
– The total proposed expenditure is £422,283, and not £80,000.
– Where does the honorable senator get that?
– The honorable and learned senator will find that on page 5 of the Estimates, in the abstract of expenditure there given.
– We are not dealing with the Estimates, but with the Appropriation Bill.
– We are certainly dealing with the Estimates.
– We are discussing the Appropriation Bill, and if honorable senators will look to the vote for works and buildings, at page 21, they will see there the total amount of capital expenditure proposed in connexion with works and buildings in every State. A total expenditure is given there of £74,000, and on the next page the total expenditure is given at £80,807.
– The honorable and learned senator is overlooking expenditure connected with the Defence Department.
– That will not be supervised by the Public Works staff. Senator Pearce surely does not suppose that the Public Works staff will look after the disbursements of pay to men in the Defence Force 1 The total capital expenditure proposed is £80,807, and we are asked to spend £14,600 in supervising it. I shall vote against the whole of this vote.
– That is a more sensible plan than the proposal to knock off the head.
- Senator Clemons has been enlarging upon an important point which I raised yesterday, in referring to the amount of capital construction which will pass through the hands of the officers of this Department. The honorable and learned senator, however, overlooks the fact that work is carried over from one year to another. At the present time there are so many new buildings going on, so many additions being made, and so many new buildings proposed, and, according to a return shown to me by the VicePresident of the Executive Council, the capital expenditure proposed amounts to £137,000. There is a vote of £40,000 for repairs and maintenance, which will not require other superintendence than that which can be given by local officers. There is a vote also for office fittings, which does not require the supervision of the Public Works staff, and 5 per cent. on the expenditure proposed will give £7,000 a year as the cost of supervision. We can go into the market and get the best professional assistance in the Commonwealth, paying ordinary prices, and still save a large part of this expenditure. Members should take that into consideration. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that if we let this item pass the Government will dispense with two superintendents of works. If that is so, the discussion has resulted in some economy. I admit that there must be a head of this Department, and the objection, in my opinion, is not that there will be a dual command, but that we shall continue a dual system. It is proposed that we should continue to pay £8,000 to States officials fordoing the greater part of the work, and at the same time have a separate Commonwealth Department costing £6,685. I am not prepared to support the little party who desire to strike out the first item : but I think the salary of the Inspector-General of Works should be reduced from £1,000 to £800. I regret that there should have been so much talk of the efficiency of the officer. It is not a part of the duty of honorable senators to discuss that. The responsibility for that rests with the Government. But if this officer has in the past been getting £650, and we give him £800 to start with in this position, he will do very well.
SenatorClemons. - The honorable and learned senator is now doing what he objects to in others ; he is interfering with the Government in the selection of an officer.
– No. I think that £1,000 a year is a very good salary to pay a man who has been in office for some time, and has given proof of his efficiency. I do not care who the officer is. I think he should commence at £800 a year. If the proposal to strike this item out is not carried, I shall move in that direction. I should like to hear what honorable senators have to say on the compromise suggested by the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– My object in rising is to point out that it’ is not advisable to have State officials carrying out Federal public works. I have had some little experience in this connexion, and it has not been a very pleasant experience. With States Public Works Departments Federal works have to take a back seat every time.
– Yet the honorable senator is prepared to vote £8,000 for the payment of States officials.
– Because we cannot help it. The Government are not prepared to carry out the whole of the work with a separate Commonwealth staff, though I think it would be true economy if they did so.
– We shall do that by degrees.
– The States officials are paid by the States Governments, and they will look after the interests of the Governments by whom they are paid before those of the Federal Government, whopay merely a commission for the work done under their supervision. That commission does not go into the pockets of the officials, but into the State Treasury. Sena tor Charleston criticised the qualificationsof a civil engineer to look afterordinary building construction, and then the honorable senator, who is a marine engineer, made a startling statement about an architect being sent hundreds of miles up country to look after a leak in a country post-office.
– I said that one of the public works staff was sent.
– I am sure the honorable senator cannot mention a single instance in which an officer of either a State Public Works staff or the Commonwealth staff has been sent 100 miles to inspect a leak in a post-office. Although there is a lot of red tape in Government Departments, there is some common-sense as well. I can give an illustration from Western Australia to show the disadvantage of leaving Federal public works in the hands of State officials. The Postmaster-General sanctioned the building of two post-offices in that State, and the Home Affairs Office communicated with the Public Works Department of Western Australia, asking that plans should be got out. The Public Works Department of Western Australia kept the Home Affairs Department waiting for months before they got out plans to enable the work to be proceeded with. Then the Lands Department of Western Australia assisted other States Departments to hinder the construction of these post-offices to the utmost extent. If there had been an officer of the Commonwealth in charge of public works in Western Australia, the whole of this work could have been done in a fortnight. Under the system at present adopted of getting States officials to do work of this kind, there is a delay of months before two post-offices, which would cost about £500 each, can be constructed. The reason is that the Public Works officers of the States have plenty of their own work to do, and in every instance they will do it first.
– I do not think that that can be proved.
– If the honorable and learned senator will refer to the Home Affairs Department he will find that what I have stated is correct. The post-offices in question were those at Brown Hill and Trafalgar. The difficulty is that the States Governments are spending their own money, and are not anxious to push on with the work of the Federal Government, when they know that they will not get the discredit if Federal works are in arrear.
– They may be extravagant with Federal works.
– That is so. The States Governments will not worry themselves to see that Federal works are carried out economically, because they will not be discredited if there is extravagance in connexion with those works.
– The -illustration which the honorable senator has given, is not a solitary instance.
– I am quite aware of that, and I wish that the Government could enlarge the Public Works staff of the Commonwealth. T think we could get a competent man as Inspector-General of Works for less than £1,000 a year. Senator Clemons has been a little astray in dealing with the capital expenditure upon public works. If the honorable and learned senator will look at another Bill which is before the Senate, he will find that the expenditure upon public works is given at £194,000. The honorable and learned senator has overlooked expenditure connected with the Defence Department. I give the honorable and learned senator the instance of the construction of a fort at Fremantle. Who is to get out the plans and supervise the construction of that fort 1
– The officers of the Defence Department, and not of the Public Works staff.
– The officers of the Defence Department will not undertake the construction of works. This is work which must be done by the Department for Home Affairs, and I understand that it is to be supervised by the officer whom it is proposed to appoint as InspectorGeneral of Works.
– I cannot possibly see how the Commonwealth can get on without a head of this Department. Where a large expenditure is made there must be a supervising officer. A large amount of money, £8,000, is spent in commission to officers of the States Public Works staffs, and that expenditure must be supervised. The Minister cannot supervise, because he has to remain in his office to attend to political matters. There ought to be economy in every branch of Federal administration.
– I should like to point out that the head of this alleged Department will receive a salary of £1,000 per annum for supervising the work of eleven officers. I shall not discuss the qualifications of the gentleman whose name, it is to be regretted, has been introduced into the discussion.
– But the InspectorGeneral will have to supervise State expenditure.
– That will be done by the Inspector - General’s officers, amongst whom, so far as I can see, there is not an architect. If the Inspector-General is not an architect he will be bound to depend, in a multitude of matters of detail, on the architects representing the State. ‘ Senator Clemons pointed out that in this schedule £80,807 is provided for works and buildings ; but of this, £22,994 is for rent, and ±’11,790 for furniture and fittings. Will the Inspector-General be expected to supervise the purchase and repair furniture and fittings ?
– Will furniture be bought without supervision 1
– Is it expected that the Inspector-General will condescend to ascertain whether the table legs are- all of one length ? That is work which is carried out by a mechanic, as Senator Pearce, who is a mechanic himself, must know.
– I know that whereever a number of men are employed there is always a foreman.
– It is the foreman who looks after the furniture and fittings, and that work is carried out in the Public Works Departments of the States by mechanics at salaries of £3 a week. Then, in the £80,807, some £43,471 is for repairs and maintenance, which has reference to the plumber, of whom we have heard, and to the painter, carpenter, and glazier. If we deduct the three items I have mentioned, there is left £2,552 as the cost of the works which the Inspector-General will have to supervise so far as this schedule shows.
– In another part of the Estimates, £422,283 is provided for works and buildings.
– I am dealing with the schedule which is before us, and to which my attention was particularly directed.
– There is a second supplementary Appropriation Bill.
– I do not know what the additional expenditure may be, but, in my opinion, the charge of 6 per cent, ought to cover all costs. Although, as it were, it is a matter of taking money out of one pocket and putting it into another, I think the work might be supervised for 5 per cent. I recognise that 6 per cent., or even 20 per cent., might not be found to be enough in the case of a lot of small works ; but in reference to large works, the ordinary charge of 5 per cent, made by architects and engineers ought to be sufficient. For that commission architects make all plans and exercise supervision, and in some cases take even less remuneration. This particular schedule seems to be misleading, if there are other works which the officers will have to supervise. But I object to the whole system proposed. We are told that the system which has prevailed hitherto is not satisfactory, and yet it is proposed to continue it, and to still further increase the burden on the Commonwealth taxpayer. If we are to have a Department, let us have one thoroughly organized with a man of recognised ability at the head.
– That is what we want.
– But apparently that is not what we are to get. It is said that the proposal for a Federal Public Works Department is premature, and perhaps it is ; but as a practical man, I do not like the present hybrid arrangement. I do not believe for one moment that the State officers would run the Commonwealth into any undue expenditure. I know several of the States officers personally, as, no doubt, other honorable senators do ; and I am certain that those officers, who hold responsible positions, would not stoop to such conduct as has been suggested. It is most unfair that on behalf of the Government the sweeping assertion should be made that the States officers would, in the absence of supervision, cause money to be wasted. We know that money has been wasted, and is being wasted in all the States every day, and that cannot very well be avoided : but it is unjust to say that the States officers would by their carelessness or indifference involve the Commonwealth in unnecessary expenditure.
– Reference was made to only some of the States officers.
– There are “black sheep in all flocks.”
– And there will be in the new Department.
– Of course ; and if the supervision of buildings is to be part of the work, I cannot understand why an architect is not included in the staff. Provision is made for a chief draughtsman at £300 per annum, but it does not say whether that officer has to be an engineering draughtsman or an architectural draughtsman. In my opinion the proper course would be to appoint an architect, and, as one having practical acquaintance with public works, I throw out the suggestion that if the Government do appoint two officers, they could not do better than select skilled architects.
– The delay which Senator Pearce has condemned arose very largely from the fact that nearly eighteen months elapsed from the meeting of Parliament before the first Estimates of 1901-2 were passed. The authority for the erection of the buildings had been passed by the States
– They never came before the States Governments.
– Some of the works were agreed to by the States Parliament ; but it was arranged that they should be carried out by the Federal Government. The then Minister for Home Affairs, Sir William Lyne, sent instructions to South Australia for work to be carried out, but no answer was given to the question by the State Government as to on whom they should draw for the necessary funds. The work was delayed because the necessary money was not placed at the disposal of the Treasurer of South Australia.
– I never mentioned South Australia.
-The honorable senator attributed the delay to the States officers ; but in South Australia the delay was not because the State officers or the State Government were unwilling to carry out the work. It was, as I say, because the necessary money was not placed at the disposal of the Treasurer. We have now, however, got into smooth running, and may expect the Estimates to be passed in proper time, so that the works will in future be carried out by the States, officers without delay or unnecessary expenditure. I am afraid that the proposed re-organization of the staff will prove expensive, and have the effect of duplicating work.
– I did not hear Senator Pearce say anything about the method adopted in South Australia, and I know for a fact that there never was any delay in that State. The officer in charge of public works and public buildings in South Australia carries out the Federal works as honestly and economically as he has always carried out works for his own Government. Every penny of the commission charged by the South Australian Government was necessary in order to carry out the works required by the Commonwealth. Although in the case of South Australia the money may not have been provided as promptly as it might have been, there never was any delay.
– I made inquiries at the time, and found that there had been delay.
– I also made inquiries, and found that there had been no delay. If there was any delay, it was in the ordering of the work ; as soon as the Federal Government gave the necessary authority, the buildingswere carried out irrespective of any consideration as to when the money was to be paid. Senator Styles expressed the opinion that the Inspector-General would have to supervise Mr. Owen Smith. But I can tell Senator Styles that Mr. Owen Smith is a man who ought to have the duty of supervising a good many other officials in the interests of the Commonwealth. More than twenty years ago the public buildings of South Australia were placed under the supervision of that gentleman, who has carried out his duties with such effect that he must have saved hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Government, and have paid his own salary a hundred times over. That result was achieved not because of Mr. Owen Smith’s knowledge of building forts, or his knowledge of architecture, but because of his great organizing ability. What we want to see ultimately is a Department which will do all Federal work and save money to the Commonwealth. I have nothing to say against Colonel Owen or any one else. I hope that he is a man who can be selected, but I still maintain that a salary of £1,000 a year is not too much for the Commonwealth to pay a man of the description I have indicated, if his services can be obtained, because, in less than ten years, he would save his salary more than a hundred times over. If I were confident that Colonel
Owen were a man of the same type as the Superintendent of Public Buildings in South Australia, I should be quite satisfied to vote, not £1,000 but £1,500 a year for his services, in the belief that the Commonwealth had made a good bargain. I hope that if the Government do not carry out’ this business in the best interests of the Commonwealth, honorable senators, next session, will keep a close eye upon the administration of this Department.
– If I could possibly strain a point, in favour of voting for the proposal of the Government I should do so; but the longer I have listened to this discussion the more convinced have I become that there is no necessity to create this office, and to appoint Colonel Owen. I believe that the time has not yet arrived when an expensive Department of Public Works should be organized. It has been proved over and over again during the course of this discussion that its creation is not yet called for. It has been charged here over and over again that in these matters the States officers neglect the interests of the Commonwealth. But I think it has been proved by Senators McGregor, Styles and others that the charge is groundless. In my opinion, the officers of the Public Works Department in this State are not only capable but willing to carry out these works in the interests of the Commonwealth and the people whom they serve. I deprecate the duplicating of Departments throughout the Commonwealth. It is the people of the Commonwealth who have to be served and who have to foot the bill in the end, and therefore there is not the slightest necessity to pile up the expenditure as the Government propose. It seems to me that there is something behind this proposal. Colonel Owen is in receipt of a salary of £650. Apparently his only qualification is that he has had some experience in the construction of military works, and, therefore, the Government think he is capable of taking charge of a Department of this description.
– The Defence Department also want his services.
– Surely in that expensive Department there is a man who is capable and willing to plan military buildings, without bringing in an officer of this description. P shall feel constrained, unless good reason to the contrary is shown, to vote against the item.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).For several hours we have been discussing whether the salary for this office should be voted or reduced.. That seems to me to be a great waste of time. We shall never dispose of our business next week if we proceed at this slow rate. I desire to know from Senator Playford if it is intended to keep up the payment of £8,000 a year to the States for the services of professional and clerical officers in their employ?
– Yes ; they have to be paid when they do work for the Commonwealth.
– Then why do we require four:draughtsmen to draw plans of public works ?
– Because Ave shall have to carry out some of the works.
SenatorMACFARLANE. - Isit intended to employ four draughtsmen and to pay £8,000 a year to the States for the services of their officers ?
– Very likely, it is only a small amount.
– It seems to me that the whole thing is too expensive and is overdone. I shall certainly vote for a reduction.
SenatorDRAKE (Queensland - AttorneyGeneral). - Up to the present time we have adopted a practice which is found to be unsatisfactory. Most honorable senators will agree that it is, because it allows for no Federal control over Federal expenditure. We propose to introduce a system by which Federal works shall be carried out under Federal control. We are not going to the opposite extreme of proposing that in future all the works shall be done by Federal officers - which, no doubt, would involve a very large expense - but we propose to proceed gradually. We desire now to appoint an Inspector-General, and at least two superintendents, who, in the big towns, will enable the Department to carry out these works ; but in the outlying parts of the continent we must continue the practice of having the works carried out by States officials ; and in those cases we shall have to pay a charge of 6 per cent. as before. It is therefore necessary to have a vote for paying commission to States officers, whilst continuing the vote for the Federal officers ; but there will be no double-banking. We shall not be doing the work ourselves, and also paying the States officers for doing it. I have no doubt that if this plan is found to succeed - and I believe it will - we shall gradually adopt the principle of Federal control in its entirety, and carry on nearly all, if not all, Federal works by Federal officers. It has been urged that the Inspector - General of Works should be an architect. The two existing superintendents of works - in Victoria and New South Wales - are practical architects. We consider that it is no objection to his appointment that Colonel Owen is not an architect by profession. He is particularly qualified for the work he is required to do. No appointment has yet been made, but it will be the duty of the Government to see that the best man obtainable is secured. The Department, after having looked all round, have come to the conclusion that they cannot find a man who is better fitted for the performance of the work than a gentleman who is at the present time in the Defence Department, which does not wish to give him up.
– It is not going to give him up.
– It is proposed that he shall continue to advise for the Defence Department.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I am willing to meet the desire of those honorable senators who wish to take a vote.Thef urther the discussion has proceeded, the more convinced have I been that this matter requires the most careful consideration. I do not think that the Government have yet hit on a way to carry out Federal works. It seems to me to be a monstrous thing to create a Public Works Department, and at the same time to pay £8,000 a year to States officials for their services.
Question - That the request be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I am told that Colonel Owen, whom I believe to be a competent military man, is in receipt of a salary of £650. If we vote a salary of £800 for the office of Inspector-General of Works in the first instance we shall be providing a fair salary, and it can very easily be increased when his work has become more onerous and his duties more responsible. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item “ Inspector-General of Works £1,000,” to £800.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the number of superintendents of works to two, and the aggregate salaries to £1,200.
I do not bind the Vice-President of the Executive Council to’ accept this request, but I hope he will support it.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - I trust that the Committee will agree to the request. If we are to spend £8,000 a year, and employ States officers, let us employ them wherever possible, and reduce the growing expenditure as much as we can.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- We appear to be in a very peculiar position just now. A few minutes ago, when the VicePresident of the Executive Council was uncertain as to the result of the last division, he was prepared to jettison two of the superintendents in order to save the InspectorGeneral. But now he has saved the Inspector-General, he wishes to retain the four superintendents.
Senator BARRETT(Victoria). - I should like to hear a statement from the VicePresident of the Executive Council with regard to this vote. He told the Committee distinctly that four superintendents were not required.
Senator STYLES (Victoria).- The statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council is the most extraordinary I have ever heard. We are told that we can do with two superintendents, and yet we are asked to vote salaries for four. If that is not an extraordinary statement, coming from a responsible Minister of the Crown, I have never heard one. Senator Playford told the Committee a few minutes ago that if Senator Dobson would withdraw his motion for striking out the salary of the Inspector-General of Works, the Government would do without two superintendents. Because Senator Dobson did not see his way to withdraw his motion, the VicePresident of the Executive Council asks us to vote the salaries of the four superintendents, but on the understanding that the money will not be expended. Why vote it 1 We shall be told next session by the representatives of the Government that the whole of the money has been spent if we vote it. That is the sort of game that Governments play. Because the Vice-President of the Executive Councilcould not frighten Senator Dobson, he now says that the country shall pay the salaries of four superintendents.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - I object to that remark. I contend that we are justified in our criticism from the very fact that Ministers sat down with the heads of their Departments and said calmly that they required four superintendents of works and now inform us that they can do with two. That shows the necessity for the fight we have had upon the Estimates, and how essential it is that we should look through them line by line ; because the heads of Departments cannot be trusted with the expenditure of public money.
– The statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council is the most extraordinary that I have ever heard in a Parliament. What can we think of the Estimates when the representative of the Government deliberately proposes to sacrifice one-half of a proposed vote? It shows the rotten state of the Ministry. I have come to the conclusion that this Public Works Department is not required. It seems to me that the whole aim and purpose of the existence of this Government is to spend the money of the taxpayers. Look at what they have done. Look at the recent expenditure on the Federal High Court. The first case that came before it was a paltry little matter about a twopenny stamp on the receipt of a Federal officer’s salary. That is the sort of thing that this great Court has been constituted for. I heard one of the leading barristers of this State say the other day that its commencement was the most ghastly failure he had ever witnessed in his life.
– Because he did not get a brief.
– The Government bring forward Estimates, and their representative in the Senate calmly tells us that they can dispense with one-half the vote on a certain line. That is how we are being hoodwinked. I should support the striking out of the whole vote. Ministers are preparing for the coming elections, and they are putting into office as many of their friends as they can. I ask honorable senators to agree to the motion.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). - I have been surprised at the enthusiasm exhibited by Senator Zeal. What the constitution of the High Court has to do with the Estimates we are discussing I cannot understand. I believe that four superintendents will very shortly be required to supervise the Commonwealth public works. I should like honorable members, who heaped the expense of a Public Service Commissioner and six inspectors under the Public Service Act on the Commonwealth, to remember that these four superintendents of public works will ultimately have very much larger sums to deal with, and may save a lot more money for the Commonwealth than is likely to be saved by the inspectors under the Public Service Act. In proposing to reduce the number of superintendents, to two, the Vice-President of the Executive Council has really acted in a generous manner in order to meet the wishes of the Committee.
– Then what is the value of the Estimates 1
– I do not approve of the proposal, and I am prepared to vote for retaining the items as they are, in the interests of economy and of the public of the Commonwealth, in order that money spent upon public works shall be spent to the best advantage.
Request agreed to.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania).- I should be glad of some further information in connexion with this vote. We should naturally expect that an engineer or architect would get a higher salary than any clerk, but whilst the Chief Draughtsman gets £300 per annum, and another draughtsman £175, the senior clerk is paid £400. It would be reasonable to suppose that an engineer or some professional man would be the head of this Department, but from the Estimates it would appear that the senior clerk is the head of the Department.
– This senior clerk has special and exceptionally important duties to perform. He is required to keep an account of all transferred properties. He is now engaged in very much more important work than is usually performed by clerks, in connexion with the buildings taken over from the States.
Senator Clemons (Tasmania). - I notice that the Chairman has put division No. 22 without having declared that division 21 is passed.
– I am submitting these divisions in greater detail than usual. As I indicated at the outset, I propose to call each division, and to stop at those in connexion with which honorable senators express a desire to discuss any of the items.
– With all - respect to you, sir, the decision as to the way in which these votes shall be submitted to the . Committee rests with honorable senators. If it is found to suit the convenience of the Committee that each Department shall be submitted separately, it becomes your duty to submit the votes in that way.
– The Chairman’s action has been taken with the consent of the Committee.
– I was not aware of that. The divisions should not be put so abruptly. If a division is submitted to the Committee without any remark, honorable senators have no means of challenging it. I have never known such a practice to be adopted before.
– The honorable senator must be aware that the practice hitherto adopted has been to put the vote for the whole of a Department, and then, if any honorable senator indicated that he desired to raise a discussion on any particular item, we stopped at that item. On this occasion, as honorable senators expressed a desire to have a more detailed discussion of the Estimates, I stated at the outset that, with the consent of the Committee, I would merely call the divisions, and if any honorable senator desired to speak on any particular division, we should stop there and take the discussion. I propose to follow that course.
– I still say, with all respect to you, sir, that to foi low that course will be to take an unfair advantage of the Committee, because unless every honorable senator is paying strict attention to what is put before the Committee, he will have no means of challenging particular divisions.
– I desire to understand the position. I -wish to know whether when you call out each division it is open to any member of the Committee to discuss the details of it. That is what we did, for instance, in discussing the vote for the Inspector-General of Works. I put it to you, sir, that after a discussion of that kind is concluded the division should be again submitted to the Committee, with or without any alteration which may have been suggested, in order that the Committee may pass it.
– We do not pass it.
– I am not disputing the ruling of the Chairman, but I desire to ascertain the procedure. It appears to me desirable that when a discussion has been initiated upon a division the question should be put to the Committee that that division be agreed to, with or without requests, as the case may be. That course has not been followed. As soon as a decision had been given in connexion with an item in division 21 you called division 22, without putting division 21, as requested to be amended, to the Committee. Surely we should pass division 21 before proceeding to division 22.
– The standing order No. 244, which regulates this matter, is as follows : -
The Committee shall be empowered to recommend the Senate to make, press, modify, and generally deal with requests on the Bill. The proceedings in Committee shall be as follow : - The Chairman shall (unless otherwise ordered) call on each clause or item, and ask if any senator has any request to move thereon. If no motion for a request is moved, or moved and negatived, the Chairman shall declare that clause or item passed.
– The Chairman did not declare it passed.
– What is a clause or item?
– For the purpose of considering this Bill I have declared a division as a clause. As a matter of fact, strictly speaking, I should regard the whole schedule as a clause. It is a matter of the merest form whether I declare the division passed or not. The question really cannot be put in the form “ that the division stand as printed,” or “ be agreed to.” A substantive motion for a request may be put, but there is no object in putting the question that a clause be agreed to when we have not the power to amend. It is merely a formal matter to declare that it is passed.
– Why did not the Chairman declare the division passed?
– I shall do so when we get to the end of the votes for the Department.
– I respectfully submit that there should be some notice to the Committee that a division is carried. I observed that Senator Pearce rose to speak on division 22, but you have decided that it has been carried, and Senator Pearce has lost his opportunity to speak on that division. If an honorable senator desires that a clause of a Bill as amended shall be put to the Committee, or even that it shall be read, it is the duty of the Chairman to have it read. That is my experience after nearly a life-time spent in Parliament.
– That is not doubted.
– With all respect to you, sir, it does appear to be doubted, becauseyou have decided that this division has been carried. With every respect for you, and with all good feeling towards you, I submit that you are putting the divisions abruptly, and they are being rushed through without time being given to honorable senators to consider them.
– Shall I be in order in moving that subdivision 1 of division 21 be left out?
– On the point of order I submit that we have passed division 21. You, sir, have called division 22, and we have, therefore, passed division 21. The honorable senator will therefore not be in order in moving that a subdivision of division No. 21 be left out. I further point out that we have requested an alteration in subdivision 1, and, as the Committee has already given a decision upon part of that subdivision, the honorable senator will not now be in order in proposing that the whole of it should be left out..
– I have no doubt whatever that we can make any request we like upon a division. If Senator Macfarlane assures me that, by reason of the divisions being put too rapidly he had no opportunity of moving a request he desired to move in connexion with division 21,I shall not take advantage of that circumstance. However, honorable senators must see that unless they make up their minds as to requests for alterations I must proceed with the business of the Committee.
Motion (by Senator Macfarlane) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend division No. 21 “Public Works Staff” by leaving out subdivision No. 1 “Salaries.”
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
In Division :
– Senator Fraser has done so.
– I see that a sum of £12,410 is paid in rentals in New South Wales. Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council give some explanation of the item?
– The following rentals are paid in New South Wales : - Post and Telegraph Department, £9,500 ; Defence Department, £2,383 ; and the Department of Trade and Customs, £527.
– That is no information.
– A sum of £100 is provided for insurance in connexion with Sydney Government House, and £1 26 for a similar purpose in connexion with Melbourne Government House. It appears to me quite unnecessary for the Commonwealth to pay insurance on these buildings. This expenditure ought to be met by the States.
– These insurance payments are made under the agreements with the States.
Department of the Treasury.
Divisions 25 to 30, £290,678.
– This is the time to ask the Government why we have not yet received the report of the Auditor-General. The Commonwealth accounts closed in June last, and, now three months later, no report is available, although it might contain recommendations to which effect could be given in the consideration of the Estimates. By the time the report does reach us the Estimates will have been passed, and there will be no opportunity of bringing the Government to book if such a course should be considered necessary. The report of the AuditorGeneral becomes a perfect farce unless we have it in our possession before the Estimates are laid upon the table ; at any rate, the report ought to reach us at a time when we can deal with it effectively. There has been great delay, which I ask the Minister to explain.
– Before submitting the Appropriation Bill to the House, I made inquiries as to the Auditor-General’s report ; and I agree with Senator Pearce that it is a farce to have that report submitted at a time when it can be of no assistance in the consideration of the Estimates. The Auditor-General is specially appointed to inform Parliament whether the Executive, in the expenditure of public moneys, have carried out the provisions of the Audit Act ; and his report ought certainly to be presented at an earlier date. On inquiry I found that the cause of the delay is the great difficulty in obtaining vouchers from outlying portions of the Commonwealth. This delay has occurred in the Department of Home Affairs more, I believe, than in any other Department; and I understand that it will be a month or so before the Auditor-General is able to submit his report.
– Is it in the Department for Home Affairs where the delay has occurred?
– I think that the delay has occurred more in that Department, owing to the fact that certain particulars of accounts in far away places could not be obtained.
– I do not think that any member of the Committee will be surprised that the delay has been in the Department for Home Affairs.
– It must not be forgotten that the Department for Home Affairs has to deal with the whole of the Commonwealth, and that great difficulty is experienced in getting in the accounts. When 1 was Treasurer of South Australia I used to hurry up the Auditor-General as much as possible, but it was generally towards the end of October before his report was available.
– -When does the Minister expect that we shall see the report?
– About the end of October or the beginning.of November.
– The report will then be of no use.
– That is the position ; and I am sorry that the report will be of no use. Of course, the report will be of some use next session, though it is when we are passing the Estimates that it is wanted most. The Auditor-General deals with the expenditure of the previous year, criticises the financial administration, and makes suggestions where he thinks that the administration can be improved. Under the circumstances, I am sorry that we have not the report before us.
– Any person reading the remarks made by Senator Pearce and Senator Playford might gather that the Auditor-General is to blame for the delay.
– I did not say so.
– I do not think that that meaning was intended to be conveyed.
– Although the AuditorGeneral comes from Tasmania, let him be blamed if he deserves it.
– But the- AuditorGeneral does not deserve blame in any sense whatever. It is true he comes from Tasmania. He is a most efficient officer, and, therefore, I desire to show why he is Dot to blame. Section 50 of the Audit Act provides -
The Treasurer shall, as soon as practicable after the end of every financial year, prepare a full and particular statement in detail of the expenditure of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for such year (classified and arranged in the same form, and under the same divisions and subdivisions as shall have been employed in the appropriation thereof, and showing all votes which shall have lapsed)
. and shall transmit such statement to the Auditor-General.
Section 51 of the Act provides -
The Auditor-General shall forthwith examine such statement, and prepare and sign a report explaining such statement in full…..
The report has to show a number of particulars. I gather that it is because the vouchers have not been collected that the Treasurer has not forwarded to the AuditorGeneral the material on which the report of the latter must be based.
– That is the position.
– The Auditor-General has nothing before him on which to even commence his work at the present moment
– We are indebted to Senator Pearce for bringing this matter before the Committee. The Auditor-General is appointed to review the accounts of expenditure during the previous twelve months ; and although the financial year closes on the 30th J une we are now, in the middle of October, told that the accounts are not forthcoming, and the report cannot be completed. But what is to prevent the Government having an interim report dealing with the nineteen-twentieths of the vouchers which have come to hand ? In the case of a public company such an excuse1 as that made by the Government would be perfectly useless, and under the circumstances a severe fine would be inflicted. Sens.tor Dobson is altogether wrong in saying that there has been any charge made against the Auditor-General by Senator Pearce.
– All I said was that it might be thought that a charge had been made.
– Senator Pearce merely asked a very pertinent question about the delay in the submission of the report.
– Sir George Turner is not the man to neglect his work.
– Sir George Turner has nothing on earth to do with the matter, and the interjection merely shows Senator Dobson’s entire ignorance of public affairs.
– I know something of the Audit Act.
– The Auditor-General is the officer appointed to review the expenditure of the Government, and he is paid for gathering in the particulars; and if he does not do his duty he ought to be censured by the House. I believe, however, that the Auditor-General has done his duty.
– Then why talk about censure ?
– Because of the stupid remark made by the honorable senator just now.
– I should like to direct attention to the importance of this matter, as it affects Western Australia. Paragraphs have appeared in the press to the effect that there has not been a thorough audit of the Post and Telegraph Department in that State for very many years. I do not know how much, if any, truth there is in the statement, but there appears to be some foundation for it, because it is affirmed that for the last ten years the audit has been of no use. Such paragraphs create “ doubt as to whether there is proper management in the Department, and in the absence of the Auditor-General’s report the suspicions I have indicated will be accentuated. I hope the Government will do everything possible to have the report laid before us at an early date, because the rumours which have been circulated have received no public contradiction.
– I should like Senator Playford to explain the method by which the Government arrived at the proportion of salaries of the State classified staff of the Government Printing Office, Melbourne, for which a vote of £2,100 is required ; and to furnish some information about the item of £500 for gratuities to officers engaged in excess of office hours.
– J[ presume that the usual practice was adopted of the two parties conferring together, and deciding the proportions payable by the Commonwealth and the State.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I desire to know why the vote for printing has risen from £10,192 for last year to £14,193 for this year. I know that the printing is a very expensive item, but I understood that the Printing Committee had made certain recommendations which would to some extent decrease the expenditure. But here we are asked to vote an increase of exactly £4,000.
– The honorable and learned senator must recollect that the cost of parliamentary printing is a very small item. I think it will be found that this increase in the expenditure is chiefly due to the printing of electoral matter.
– It is caused by the printing of the electoral rolls.
Department of Trade and Customs.
Divisions 31 to 37, £260,196.
– Some time ago .a complaint was made .to me by a chemist that he was not allowed by Customs regulation, No. 14, to import a less quantity of opium at a time than 30 lbs. I was under the impression that we desired to keep this deadly drug out of the Commonwealth.
– One way of limiting its importation is by not allowing too small quantities to be brought in.
– The average consumption of powdered opium by a chemist is about 1 lb. per annum. Therefore, if he is compelled to import 30 lbs. at a time, he is really forced to obtain a supply of the article for thirty years.
– Thirty chemists can club together and import what they need.
– What I complain of is that the chemists are not allowed to import powdered opium in the 8 oz. bottles in which it is usually packed. According to Senator Playford, thirty chemists will have to meet together and decide to import 30 lbs.
– Only one chemist out of every eight is his own importer.
– Precisely, and the chemists are compelled to go to the wholesale importers and pay whatever price is demanded. Why should they not be allowed to import their own powdered opium ? If it is a deadly poison, why should we compel men to import a supply of 30 lbs. instead of 1 lb. 1 I desire to facilitate its importation in a powdered form. If I am correctly informed, the chemists are labouring under a disability im this regard. I understand that 1 lb. of powdered opium will last a small shop for two or three years. I should like to hear from Senator Playford whether there is any good reason for adhering to the regulation.
– There is a very good reason why an article which is subject to a very heavy duty should only be imported in specified packages. The duty on opium is 30s. per pound, or about 2s. per ounce, and if there were no regulations with regard to the size of the packages, it would be possible for chemists to receive their supply an ounce at a time in letters. In England tobacco has to be imported in packages of a given weight. Whenever an exceedingly heavy duty is imposed on a commodity, the necessity of safeguarding the revenue compels the Customs authorities to prescribe a minimum package. Unless the regulation is adhered to, the duty on opium will yield no revenue.
– That is the answer to the question.
– In my second reading speech, I said that there was a large increase in the Customs staff ; but apparently Senator Playford did not think that the statement was correct. An examination of the Estimates, however, discloses that the staff has been increased by twelve in New South Wales, four in South Australia, two in Western Australia, one in Tasmania, and thirty-four men in Queensland, and decreased by one in Victoria. I desire to know if Senator Playford has inquired into this matter as he promised to do?
– The staff has been increased, especially in New South Wales, where the increased business necessitated the provision of extra assistance, and temporary employes have received permanent appointments.
– Why is it necessary to have thirty - four additional officers in Queensland?
– It is stated in the Estimates that the vote of £1,415 for twenty-two officers is to cover a period of only three months. These men were temporarily appointed to carry on certain work which will not be repuired to de done when the employment of “ Border ‘* officers is discontinued. I shall be able to tell the honorable senator in a moment or two why the appointment of the other twelve men has been rendered necessary.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - I am very much surprised to . see this increase in the Queensland staff. While New South Wales and Victoria are -debited for postage and telegrams with £350 and £400 respectively, Queensland is debited with £900. I should think that some other charge is included under that head. Queensland, with a Customs business which must be less than one-half of that of Victoria, is provided with exactly the same number of officers - 263. The explanation of Senator Playford does not approach the subject. Queensland, as we all know, needs economy. Its extensive coastline necessitates more Customs-houses and a number of additional officers, but not as many as are employed in Victoria.
– Queensland has a great many more ports than either Victoria or New South Wales, and therefore a larger vote is required for postage and telegrams. It is necessary to telegraph because it would take too long to communicate by letter. When it is borne in mind that Queensland has so many ports along her extensive coastline, and that Victoria has only two or three ports, it will be recognised at once that the Customs staff in the former must be considerably larger, and consequently more expensive than in the latter, but shortly the services of twenty-five officers will not be required.
– I desire to draw the attention of Senator Playford to the fact that office requisites, exclusive of writingpaper and envelopes, cost £275 in Queensland and £60 in New South Wales. Writing paper and envelopes cost £130 in Queensland and £86 in New South Wales. It seems to me that either the amount for New South Wales is under-estimated, or that there is a larger amount than ought to be provided for Queensland. If honorable senators look down the Estimates they will find that there are larger sums provided for Queensland than for any other State. Undoubtedly the territory of Queensland is very extensive, but Western Australia is even larger, and the expenses are not so great. The amount for the Northern Territory is comparatively small. Therefore I think Senator Pearce is justified in his inquiry.
– The same reasons as I have already given apply to the items that have just been mentioned. In Queensland there are more ports to look after, and consequently there are more expenses. In New South Wales there are very few ports ; in fact, practically the whole of the duties are collected in Sydney. But in Queensland there is a long coast-line, thousands of miles in extent. There have to be more Customs officers at each, and consequently more office requisites are needed.
– I wish to direct attention to the item - “ Temporary assistance, including £2,500 for sugar for excise expenses, £3,300.” I want to know how many temporary assistants there are, and who has appointed them ?
– There are thirtyfour men employed, and ten are glut hands.
– Do I understand that twenty-four out of the thirty-four men are permanent hands, and that ten are temporary employes’?
– That is about it.
– Who engages them?
– The Customs authorities in Brisbane engage them subject to the approval of the Minister.
– All I have to say is that the authorities have invariably appointed men who are opposed to the principle of a white Australia, and who are out of sympathy with the legislation they assist to administer. That is a fact.
– I do not know how that could have been a fact under the administration of Charles Cameron Kingston.
– I do not know how it came about, but it is a fact. Evidently Mr. Kingston allowed the Chief Customs officers in Brisbane to work the appointments. As far as I can gather the authorities were pulled by the Philp Government, and appointed broken-down politicians and bankrupt people who are in sympathy with the black labour traffic, to look after the administration of the Act. I do not know whether these folks have placed any obstructions in the way of carrying out the Act, but we might almost expect such a thing to happen. My impression is that the Customs Department has allowed itself to be manipulated in this matter by the black labour party in Queensland. My experience of administration is that, if we want a particular idea to be carried out, we must have officers who are in sympathy with it. Unsympathetic administration may lead to the defeat of the very best legislation ; and the Government should see that in future men who are in sympathy with our legislation are appointed to these positions.
– What is the meaning of the item *’ Protection of the revenue,£l,800 ?” Is the money paid to detectives?
– It means’ the protection of the Customs revenue. Very possibly officers like detectives or officials in plain clothes are employed.
Divisions 38 to 173, £677,579.
– I draw attention to the *f act that there is a decrease in the number of permanent men in the naval forces. The number now is less by 341 than it was last year. The actual naval expenditure last year was £43,792 ; the estimate this year is £42,416 - a saving of £1,376. Is not that a ridiculous saving when considered seriously? We have impaired the efficiency of our naval forces, and have saved £4 per man dispensed with. It shows that while we have been dispensing with the rank and file we have not dispensed with the men who cost the money. The officers still remain on the staff, and the principal expenses are going on the same as ever. The Government have sacrificed onefourth of the naval forces, and have effected no corresponding saving.
– The honorable senator’s statement is not quite correct, for the reason that last year, anticipating a reduction in the vote, vacancies were not filled up. Consequently the numbers are not so great as they were. The reason why we have not been increasing the forces is obvious. We have adopted the principle of paying an increased subsidy for the Australian Squadron, and now we have an opportunity of reorganizing our naval forces. There is no intention to sacrifice them. If Parliament is willing to vote the money for the purpose we shall maintain our own naval defence forces upon, I hope, better lines than before.
Motion (by Senator Playford) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I intend to vote against an adjournment at this hour. No reason has been given why we should not continue the sitting’ until 4 o’clock. We know that there is a garden party this afternoon which many honorable senators wish to attend. I have no desire to interfere with their convenience, but that garden party is not open for the reception of honorable senators until 3.30 p.m. The invitations are for that hour. If any one wants to go to the garden party there will be plenty of time if we adjourn at the usual hour. The work of the Senate has been delayed already. We did not sit on Tuesday as we might have done, and we have not made much progress with the Appropriation Bill. Those honorable senators, who are retiring, wish to see the session brought to a speedy conclusion, and if the convenience of the majority is to be considered we should endeavour to do as much work as possible before adjourning.
SenatorDRAKE. - If we donotadjournnow, we shall have nothing to do this afternoon, because the Appropriation Bill has been made an order of the day for Tuesday.
– I do not care. That is the Government’s concern. The Government are neglecting public business in a disgraceful way. They show no desire to get through the work, except that, when in Committee, they try to burk discussion. When any honorable senator wants any information, we have nothing but mutterings fromthe Vice-President of the Executive Council to the effect that business is being delayed; but the moment there is an opportunity of getting through with it, the Government propose to. adjourn. This procedure is bringing the Senate into contempt.
– I also should like to say that I view with very great regret the step taken by the Government. The Senate ought to sit this afternoon, and proceed with the Appropriation Bill, with which we have made very slow progress indeed. The Senate must be very anxious to see the session concluded. Most of the Estimates are still unconsidered, and here at noon on Friday we are coolly asked to adjourn. I think this is a very regrettable proceeding.
– All that I can say is that I am anxious at all times to study the convenience of honorable senators as much as possible. Two or three of the members of the Senate, who are most consistent in their attendance in this Chamber, have asked me whether it would not be possible to adjourn over this afternoon.
– Who are they?
– I may mention SenatorHiggs for one. I have frankly told honorable senators what is the object of the adjournment. They are aware that a garden party is to be given by the Governor-General, and honorable senators have to escort their wives and the members of their families who desire to attend it. Under the circumstances, as the Appropriation Bill is practically the only measure before the Senate, and as we have made satisfactory progress with it, I think we may study the convenience of honorable senators, who desire to attend this function, without detriment to public business.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 October 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1903/19031009_senate_1_17/>.