1st Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South
Wales). - As owing to delay in the running of a train a large number of honorable senators have arrived in Melbourne only in time to rush up here to prevent the meeting of the Senate from lapsing forwant of a quorum, I think it would meet their wishes if you, sir, would leave the chair for an hour.
– Senator Glassey brought this matter before my notice prior to the meeting of the Senate ; but I explained to him that I have no power to suspend the sittings at my own will - that it is a matter for the Senate to determine. If it be the desire of honorable senators that there shall be a suspension of the sitting for an hour, I suggest to the Vice-President of the Executive Council that he should move a motion to that effect.
Motion (by Senator Playford) agreed to-
That the Bitting be suspended for an hour.
– Before the business of the day is called on, I have to inform the Senate that a vacancy has occurred in the representation of the State of Queensland. I have received the following certificate from the Clerk of the Parliaments : -
It appears by the Journals of the Senate that Senator Ferguson was absent on August 6th, 1903, and that no leave of absence has been granted to him since that date. Senator Ferguson has therefore been absent for two consecutive months this session without the permission of the Senate.
Under those circumstances I have no option but to certify to the Governor of the State of Queensland that a vacancy has occurred in the representation of that State.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Drake) read a first time.
asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Do the Ministry intend to ask Parliament this session to vote a sum of money for the purpose of having a survey made of the proposed transcontinental railway uniting the railway systems of Western Australia and the eastern States ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The Ministry are at present engaged in correspondence , with the States through which the proposed railway is to be made.Itw ill not be necessary to ask for a vote this session for any particular purpose. This will not involve delay.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 9th October, vide page 5958) :
Department of Defence.
Divisions 3S to 173, £677,579.
– I notice that this year only twenty-six gunners are provided for the Albany forts, whereas the number of gunners last year was thirty.
– But there is an additional corporal.
– As in other branches of the service, the Government, while decreasing the men, are increasing the officers, so that we shall have a sort of comic opera army directly.
– A corporal is only a non-commissioned officer.
– Although the number of men employed at Albany has been decreased, the proposed expenditure is £941 more than was spent last year. I should like to know how that increase is accounted for. I understand that under the terms of an agreement with the Imperial Government, the Governments of the various States bound themselves to keep thirty gunners in the Albany forts.
– A recommendation was made by the Imperial Government in regard to the strength of the garrison at King George’s Sound ; but there is’ no agreement on the subject. The Government have endeavoured to retrench the military expenditure generally, though the reduction in numbers here is very small - practically only three men, because there is one more corporal this year than last year. I presume, however, that the military authorities consider that the garrison is relatively as strong as other branches of the Defence Force in other parts of Australia. With regard’ to the slight increase in the estimate, I would point out that Parliament is asked this year to vote £900 for rations, whereas the vote last year was only £600, and the whole of that amount was not expended. Several small items, such as the vote for the signallers, and the vote for fuel and light, have been slightly increased, and £100 has been provided for passage money.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - In view of the fact that provision is to be made for more rations than were required last year for thirty men, I should like the Minister to give us an undertaking that the garrison will be brought up to its proper strength.
– We may be able to do that ; but we must make provision for the necessary rations.
– I think that some undertaking should be given, seeing that we are being asked to increase the expenditure whilst the forces are being reduced.
– Of course, if the amount is not required it will not be expended. The question whether the strength of the garrison should stand at twenty-six or thirty men is one that might fairly be left to the military authorities.
– Do the military authorities recommend the decrease?
– I think that the three principal strategic bases at Thursday Island, Sydney, and King George’s Sound are undermanned. The Attorney-General has stated that the General Officer Commanding thinks that a reduction of the garrison can be safely made; but he made no such recommendation. In his report he says -
This further reduction can only be viewed with the most serious apprehension, as the numbers now laid down are quite inadequate for the duties required of them.
It is therefore absurd to say that the reduction was recommended by the General . Officer. Commanding, because he protested against it as strongly as possible. The minimum for safety at Thursday Island is 101 men, and the garrison has been reduced to fifty-three. At Albany the minimum for safety is forty men, and the garrison has been reduced to thirty, whilst at Sydney the forces have been reduced from 278 to 217. These fortifications are most important, and should be manned by trained men. If vessels belonging to an enemy were to obtain access to any of the harbors referred to they could inflict irreparable damage. It is, therefore, foolish to reduce the number of gunners and other trained men below the minimum of safety. The expenditure involved in maintaining an effective force would not be very large, and I think we should satisfy our selves that our most important strategic bases are properly manned.
– I desire to obtain some information with regard to the fortifications and garrison at Thursday Island ; but I understand that the item bearing upon that military station has been passed during my temporary absence from the Chamber. I should like to know how many guns they have at Thursday Island, whether the guns are ancient or modern, the extent of their range, whether there is an ample supply of ammunition, and whether there are sufficient general stores. We are spending over £10,000 per annum upon that station, and I question whether there is any use in having a small garrison in such a place. The Estimates are being dealt with so hurriedly that it is not safe for a senator to leave the Chamber for even a few minutes. I think that it is desirable that we should know whether we are really getting any value for the £10,000 per annum we are spending upon the garrison at Thursday Island.
– No doubt it is desirable from a military point of view that that we should keep up garrisons at King George’s Sound and Thursday Island, and other places at such a strength as to afford full security. Honorable senators understand, however, that in defence matters retrenchment is the order of the day, and that we cannot keep up any branch of the Defence Forces at a strength sufficient to afford absolute security. It is not intended to reduce the garrison at King George’s Sound. Although last year provision was made for thirty men, the number fell as low as eighteen or twenty, and therefore we are really now proposing to strengthen the garrison by bringing it up to an establishment of twenty-six men. That will be an increase upon the number maintained last year.
– Then the figures which appear in the Estimates are unreliable.
– No; the figures show that provision was made for an establishment of thirty men, but the garrison was not maintained at its full strength. Now we are proposing to bring the garrison up to a strength of twenty-six men.
– It is very unsatisfactory to hear the admission of the Minister that our garrisons ( are not sufficient to afford absolute security. ‘ A force of twenty-six or thirty men at a place j like Albany is absurdly inadequate. I realize the difficulties by which the Government 1 are beset. If Parliament will insist upon: cutting down the Estimates by large sums, it will be impossible for us to maintain an adequate Defence Force. I think a very strong effort should be made by Ministers to impress this fact upon honorable members so that they may realize the necessity of voting more money. I have no sympathy with those who desire to spend money unnecessarily upon our military forces ; but at the same time we should not reduce the whole of our military arrangements to a. farce. At our naval bases we should have a sufficient number of men to constitute a. reasonable force upon a peace establishment. It is a notorious fact that the number of the rank and file of the permanent forces throughout the States is utterly inadequate. We have not sufficient men to properly care for the guns and fortifications in the different States of the Commonwealth.
An Honorable Senator. - The fortifications have not yet been paid for.
– I do not know whether that is so. It is notorious that we have not sufficient paid gunners to properly supervise the guns and fortifications which have been placed under their control, and for’ which they are responsible. If honorable senators entertain the belief that we possess a force capable of defending our shores in case of attack they may as well realize at once that they are living in a fool’s paradise. Probably it will be urged that there is sufficient manhood in Australia to repel any attempt at invasion. That might be true if we had a sufficient number of trained men to form the nucleus of an organized force, and if we possessed the requisite guns, rifles, and munitions of war. But it is a farce for honorable senators to argue that at the present time we have a sufficient number of men, even upon an ordinary peace establishment. I trust that Ministers will urge not only in this House, but in the other Chamber, that adequate provision shall be made in this respect, and that they will not be content with the absurdly insufficient number of men that is proposed for this particular naval base.
– We have some militia there as well as garrison artillery.
.- But the AttorneyGeneral must recollect that these are only partially-paid men - men out of whom all the heart has been taken by the new regulations. When the present General assumed command of the Forces the total number of permanent artillery in the six States comprised 50 officers and 1,170 men. Even prior to that period the States had out down the number to a very dangerous degree. But what do we find now 1 First a reduction was made to 43 officers and 902 of other ranks ; then a further reduction to 38 officers and 820 men was recommended, but only as a temporary measure.
– The honorable senator is speaking generally,and is not confining his remarks to the item which is under consideration.
– I desire to connect my remarks with the establishment which it is proposed to provide at King George’s Sound. The Government propose to station twenty-six or thirty men there. My contention is that, in consequence of the total of the forces having been so largely reduced, it is impossible to station an adequate number of men at that base. Although the permanent artillery of the States originally numbered 1,200, their strength has since been reduced to 750. It is therefore very necessary that the Government should urge upon Parliament the importance of adequately manning the forts at King George’s Sound and other bases. I have no desire to make a second reading speech, because I have no right to do so in connexion with the division which is under discussion. I presume that we cannot add to the number of men for whom provision has been made in these Estimates. Such a proposal must come from the Government in the first instance. Whilst honorable senators are anxious to retrench as far as possible, I believe that their good sense will prompt them to vote whatever sum may be necessary for the efficient defence of the Commonwealth.
– I regret very much that I had not an opportunity to discuss the vote for the defence of Thursday Island. I merely desire to ask the Minister in charge of these Estimates if he will be good enough to give honorable senators some information as to the type of weapons which are in use at King George’s Sound. Are they up-to-date and fit to repel any attack ? I think that we should know whether they are muzzle-loaders or breechloaders, and also when they were mounted there. It is of no use maintaining gunners if they are not provided with good weapons for use in case of emergency. In this respect there is considerable room for improvement at Thursday Island.
– The guns there would not kill mosquitoes.
– The guns- at King George’s Sound are modern 6 -in. breechloaders, which are quite up-to-date.
– When were they erected ?
– I do not know. They are quite modern, and the garrison which is stationed there is sufficiently strong to work them.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce division 65, “District Head -quarters Staff, £3,890,” to £3,S28.
The reduction which I move represents the difference between the proposed vote and the sum actually expended in 1902-3. In that year we spent £3,828 upon the New South Wales Head-quarters Staff. The increase which is here proposed forms only part of a general increase in the expenditure upon the Head-quarters’ Staffs of the various States. For instance, in the case of Victoria there is an increase of £8, in Queensland of £197, in South Australia of £39, and- in Western Australia of £166.
– Is the honorable senator comparing the expenditure of last year with the amount which we are asked to vote?
– That is scarcely fair.
– When we are dealing with fixed salaries, why should the Government ask for more than was expended last year ?
– Because some increases have to be provided for. There are clerks, etc., who must receive increments.
– Does the VicePresident of the Executive Council assure me that that is so ?
– I have not the figures before me.
– Honorable senators will see that in the case of Tasmania there is an increase of £376.
– We have not yet reached that item.
– But if I allowed this vote to pass unchallenged I should be told when we reached that item that I had already assented to the principle which is involved.
– A man may retire, and his position may not be filled for several months. In the meantime his salary is saved.
– It is singular that all these savings are on the wrong side. The fact remains, that an increase is provided for in the expenditure of the headquarters staff in each State.
– The head-quarters staffs in the various States are to cost £84S more than they cost last year.
– The vote provides for £84S in excess of the amount actually expended last year ; but that does not suggest that this year’s expenditure will be in excess of that amount.
– There are two columns in the Estimates, one showing the amount to be appropriated and the other the expenditure for the year 1902-3; but there are no detailed figures in the column relating to expenditure, and we have nothing before us to show why the expenditure was less than the amount appropriated. As a matter of fact; the expenditure was below the amount appropriated.
– That is always the case.
– It is a bad principle to allow when dealing with fixed salaries. Surely the Committee should know whose salaries are to be increased, and, if the officers concerned are under the Public Service Commissioner, whether the increases have been recommended by the Public Service Commissioner. Such information would be useful to the Committee. It is evidently proposed to raise the salaries of certain officers on the head-quarters staffs to the extent of £848.
– That does not follow.
– If the honorable and learned senator will give the Committee a guarantee that no increased salary is to be paid 1 shall be satisfied.
– I should like to say a word or two as to the principle which the honorable senator, who states that he is endeavouring to protect the Committee, desires to establish. The principle enunciated, by him is that the Committee should not vote this year a sum in excess of last year’s expenditure. That would be a very unfair position to take up, because the expenditure of any Department for any given year is invariably less than the amount actually appropriated for its service. It must necessarily be less. A Department cannot expend more than the amount voted for its use ; but it may expend less. It would be impossible to ask the Committee to vote the exact amount to be expended, because various changes must take place even in connexion with the working of a staff” of clerks. A clerk receiving a certain salary may be replaced by another clerk in receipt of a lower remuneration, and thus each item of expenditure cannot be given. They would overlap to a great extent, and if an attempt were made to put such information before the Committee, honorable senators would have a right to say - “ The Government are attempting to deceive us.” We might, for example, have the sum of,£400 in one line, when as a matter of fact only a portion of that amount would relate to the corresponding figures in the second column. It is impossible to show why out of a total of £4,109 appropriated last year for the district head-quarters’ staff of New South Wales, only £3,828 was expended. The men whose offices are described were employed, and received their customary salaries ; but from various causes the amount required was less than the sum actually appropriated. The sum which we are now asking Parliament to vote is- less than the amount appropriated last year, but it is necessarily iri excess of the actual expenditure for 1902-3. We must always make provision for contingencies, and it is unreasonable for the honorable senator to ask the Committee to request that the vote shall not be in excess of the sum expended last year. I can say from my knowledge of the working of the Department that it would be exceedingly unwise for the Parliament to adopt such a policy. It ‘ would tend to discourage all savings on the Estimates. At present a Department endeavours to work as economically as possible, in order to be able to show a good result ; but the honorable senator would introduce a principle which would penalise a Department which evinced a desire to effect savings. The more it saved, the less would be the sum voted for its maintenance in the following year. That would certainly be most undesirable. So far as I can gather there were no increases last year. The savings effected were due simply to changes that took place owing to various circumstances. The amount actually voted was not required. The same thing must invariably happen in relation to a given vote.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- I rise to complain of the want of information conveyed in the summary prefixed to this vote. I wish to ascertain the cost of the permanent forces, the militia, the volunteers, the cadets, and the rifle clubs separately.
– Has not the honorable senator the information which he seeks 1
– No. If the honorable and learned senator will refer to the Estimates, he will find that a sum of £73,585 is set apart for the permanent forces in New South Wales, £51,544 for the militia or partially paid forces, and £7, 309 for the volunteer forces. Then we have an item of £12,669 for ammunition. I wish to know how that ammunition is to be distributed. There is a further item relating to general contingencies, and I also desire to obtain some detailed information in regard to that vote.
– The honorable senator is going beyond the items in the division immediately before the Committee.
– We should be able to gain this information.
– The honorable senator will be able to obtain it when we come to the division to which it relates.
– We have now an opportunity to obtain general information as to the way in which the Estimates are framed. They should be so framed as to clearly show at a glance the way in which the items are distributed.
– The honorable senator is on the wrong track.
– We have here a summary of the expenditure.
– But we do not vote the expenditure.
– Surely the summary should be so drawn as to enable honorable senators to see clearly how the money goes.
– So it is.
– With all respect to the honorable senator I say that it is mot.
– The honorable senator knows, of course, that on the second reading of- the Bill he had the right to discuss the Estimates generally, and to deal with the way in which they are framed. When we reach the several Departments, honorable senators are generally allowed at least some latitude in discussing the first division ; but once that division has been passed, honorable senators must confine themselves strictly to the division immediately before the Committee.
– I would refer Senator Stewart to division 80, which we have not yet reached, but which will probably give him the information that he desires.
– When we were discussing division 21, in which a sum of £1,000 was appropriated for the Inspector-General of Works, we were told that that gentleman would also discharge the duties of Assistant AdjutantGeneral. I find, however, that a sum of £700 is provided in this division for the “Assistant Adjutant-General and Chief Staff Officer,” and I wish to know whether this gentleman is to receive a salary of £1,000 per annum as Inspector-General of Works as well as £700 a year as Assistant Adjutant-General and Chief Staff Officer.
– The salary of Colonel Owen is not there.
– We were told last week by Senator Smith, who obtained the information from official quarters, that the officer who is to be Inspector-General of Works, with a salary of £1,000 per annum, was also to be Assistant Adjutant- General, or was to be at the disposal of the General Officer Commanding.
– That has nothing to do with this division; this salary is for the New South Wales Assistant AdjutantGeneral and the Chief Staff Officer.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - I must again return to the charge. It is highly desirable that honorable senators should be able to find out at a glance exactly how much our Permanent Forces are costing. Of course, by wading laboriously through the Estimates, I can find that out for myself; but surely the clerks of the Defence Department ought to relieve honorable senators of this superfluous labour, and frame their accounts in such a way as to show at once how the money has been expended. That is my complaint, and I think it is a legitimate one.
– I do not think that the honorable senator’s complaint is legitimate. I would refer him to the statement furnished by the Minister for Defence in connexion with the Estimates of the Defence Department for the year 1903-4. It has been laid on the table, and I have no doubt that the honorable senator, with his usual diligence, has read it. He will find on pages 14 and 15 a most elaborate tabulated
– Why should we not have the information on the Estimates 1
– The tabulated statements are so bulky that they could not be incorporated with the Estimates.
– The AttorneyGeneral wishes to confuse us with a multiplicity of figures.
– But the information has been supplied.
– I wish to call attention to the item in division 66 “ Gunnery Instruction in England, £125.” What is the meaning of that? Is it proposed to send gunners to England, and is the instruction such as cannot be obtained in the Commonwealth. Who are the gunners who are to be sent 1
– I answered the question a few days ago, when I stated that a couple of officers are to be sent to England for gunnery instruction.
– They are to go through a course at Shoeburyness.
– What are the names of the officers 1
– The official recommendation has not yet been made.
– Cannot the instruction be given in Australia ?
– No: we are not advanced enough for that yet.
– Is it a fact that members of the New South Wales Engineer Corps have refused to attend drills on account of the reductions made in their pay 1
– We have not the slightest information on the point.
– I wish to refer to the position of the partially-paid militia infantry and volunteer infantry of New South Wales. First of all, I draw attention to the material reduction in the numbers of the four volunteer regiments and the four militia regiments. The Attorney - General has already indicated that, in his opinion - and I suppose he was voicing the opinion of his colleagues - the forces are not adequate for our defence.
– “For absolute safety,” was my expression.
– “ Absolute safety “ means a great many things. In the four militia regiments alone there has been a reduction of no fewer than 500 men, and of £5,000 in pay. I turn to another page of the Estimates, and I find that in connexion with the volunteers there has been a much larger reduction. The volunteers in New South Wales have been reduced by over 1,000 - from 3,544 to 2,482. In the unpaid forces, for mere clothing and management, there is a reduction from £11,300 to £7,300- a decrease of no less than £4,000. Can Ministers give the Senate an assurance that it is possible to maintain in adequate order the forces when such reductions are made in the expenditure not for pay - not one penny piece is for pay - but merely for clothing and contingencies 1 It will be within the recollection of the Senate that a return, laid upon the table upon my motion a. little while ago, showed that the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth had been reduced by 25 per cent, in the two years during which the Commonwealth Government have had charge of them; the reduction being 7,000 out of 28,000. There has been no recruiting for a length of time. I do not know how long that regulation has been in force ; but, in addition, an extra number of men have left the force, and a great number have been discharged, while companies and corps have been broken up and disbanded. If inquiries were made, I think it would be found that at the present time the effective strength of the Defence Force is not much more than half of what it was when taken over by the Commonwealth. If one-quarter of the men had gone by 31st March, and there has been no recruiting, while companies and corps have been disbanded all over the States, the remaining three-quarters must have been materially reduced. When we come to consider the Estimates next year, we may find that, with those wholesale reductions, the amount required will be materially less than that for this year, for the simple reason that men are not available. It is mere affectation to close one’s eyes to the figures given in these documents placed before us. There has been a tremendous reduction in the number of the citizen forces and in the amount expended on their equipment and maintenance. I have already shown a reduction of practically £1,000 for each of four volunteer regiments, the difference in the total expendiiture being as between £11,300 and £7,300. i The number of troops, as I pointed out, has been cut down by about 1,100 men.
– There seems to be six companies instead of ten in each regiment.
– There are now eight companies instead of six in each regiment, but the strength of the company has been cut down from 100 men to sixty men. I am now referring to the reorganization scheme which was recently laid on the table of the Senate, and has been published in the press throughout the Commonwealth. The number of each regiment in both the militia and the volunteers has been reduced by 125 men ; and, in addition, several companies of volunteers have been disbanded. While four regiments of the partially-paid or militia forces have been reduced by 125 men each, the volunteer division lias been reduced not by 500 men, but by 1,100 men. When we are voting these amounts for both the partially-paid and volunteer forces, is, I think, the proper time to express an opinion as to whether it is desirable to continue the two branches - whether or not the force should be all partiallypaid or all volunteers. The present state of affairs is, I believe, admitted on all hands to be unsatisfactory. I believe it was desired on the part of the Government, and possibly on the part of their military advisers, when the Commonwealth was first established, to change the volunteer force into a partially-paid force. I believe that was in contemplation ; but whether it was ever more than contemplated I do not know. Judging by the Estimates, it seems extraordinary that the volunteer force, the members of which receive no pay, are the most “ slaughtered “ in the’ way of reductions. The retrenchment falls most heavily on the unpaid men, and most lightly on the professional soldier. I shall not discuss the professional branch of the forces, because the Estimates in regard to these have already been passed. We have before us, however, the question of the partially-paid and volunteer forces, and in regard to the former the expenditure has been very materially reduced. The volunteers, however, suffer in that their clothing allowance has been reduced to 30s. per annum per man. It is an interesting problem whether it is possible for a uniform to be provided for that amount, when we consider the wear and tear in camp, and on parade. All kinds of weather have to be faced, and uniforms have to be slept in, on the ground, when in camp, and as straw is very seldom permitted, a single blanket does not afford much protection from the dirt of an earthen floor. Under the circumstances, I am inclined to think that as in the past, it will not be found possible to provide a uniform for the amount mentioned, though of course if it were, it would be all the better for the pockets of the Commonwealth taxpayers. The Government appear to take considerable credit for not expending the total amount of the Parliamentary vote. I take exception to such an attitude, because in my opinion Parliament, having voted the money, desires that it shall be expended, and not that the defence forces shall be starved. In view of not only the large reductions made in the Estimates by the other branch of the Legislature, but also of the large savings effected by the administration of the Government, it seems to me that by voting the enormously reduced sum on the Estimates, we run a risk which is not in accordance with public interest. To reduce expenditure too far, especially in the case of the wholly unpaid men, would be to expose us to the danger that the Commonwealth may not get the efficient working force which the people would desire. It is true that we are voting, in round figures, about £500,000. How much of this will be treated as savings, I do not know ; but it is wholly undesirable to vote such a sum unless an adequate force is the. outcome. I am very much afraid, however, that we shall not get the adequate force for which Ministers hope. I know the difficulties caused by the reductions of expenditure which have taken place from time to time,, and my object is to urge on Ministers the unwisdom of paring down, in administration, the paltry amounts we are now asked to vote. Had I thought of the matter, I should have given notice of a question, with a view to ascertain how many men are available for the defence of the Commonwealth at the present time. I fear that the numbers have been very seriously reduced, and that they will be still more reduced, unless the citizen forces are encouraged by a little more of that generosity which they have a right to expect at the hands of those to whom they give gratuitous services, or services paid for by a remuneration so paltry as to be hardly worth discussing.
– No one can regret more than I do the necessity for having to retrench in the Defence Force generally, and in this branch of it particularly. Senator Neild of course recognises the peculiar circumstances of the present position. The necessity for economy has been strongly impressed upon the Government, and we have asked the General Officer Commanding to prepare a scheme of re-organization which will fit the economical desires of Parliament. Having to re-organize on the basis of the amount voted by Parliament, he has proposed a certain strength with regard to each of the divisions of the Defence Force. Some honorable senators have been deprecating any reduction in the permanent force ; Senator Neild objects to a reduction in the partially-paid and volunteer branches of the Defence Forces ; and, no doubt, other honorable senators will separately object to reductions in other directions. But when we have considered all these matters we get back to the position in which the General Officer Commanding is placed, and remember that we have required him to re-organize the Defence Force on a certain financial basis. I very much regret the necessity for reducing the number of partially-paid forces1., but the reduction is carried out in accordance with a scheme of re-organization which, I think, should have a fair trial, and which we all hope will be successful. After the scheme is accepted and in working order, it will be for Parliament to say to what extent it will go in voting supplies for this Department. Whatever the Parliament may be willing to vote the Defence Department will be glad to expend in the most profitable manner.
– ! sympathize very much with Senator Neild in the strictures he has just passed upon the cutting down that has been going on in the volunteer forces. It is necessary, to begin with, that we shall have a clear idea as to the kind of Defence Force which the people of the Commonwealth desire to have. So far as I have been able to gather, it is the desire of the people that the Defence Force should be composed of a small nucleus of permanent men, together with a citizen force of volunteers. Apparently the Commandant and the Government cling to the idea of maintaining a partially- paid force in a comparatively strong position. I do not think that is in accordance with the wishes of the people. As far as I have been able to interpret their desire,it is that the partially-paid force should be subjected to a reduction - should gradually disappear, and should be replaced by a volunteer force. In comparing the cost of the permanent men with that of the partially-paid men and volunteers, I find that the permanent men cost nearly £200 ; the partially-paid men nearly £15 ; and the volunteers between £4 and £5 per head per annum. I put it to honorable senators, whether it would not be better to spend any sum between £5 and £7 per head per annum upon our volunteers, and have a much larger number of them, than to spend so large a, sum on our partially-paid forces, and have so very few men to show for our expenditure. For an expenditure in. pay of £51,544 we have only 4,966 partially-paid men, whilst, for an expenditure of £7,309, we have 2,482 volunteers. During the past year, as Senator Neild has pointed out, the numbers of the volunteer force have been reduced by 1,100. Honorable senators may fairly ask why the volunteer arm of the service is being reduced to such an extent. Have the people of the Commonwealth not stated their desire to be that our army should be composed as largely as possible of volunteer forces? That being generally accepted as the desire of the people, it was the duty of the Government and of the Commandant to reduce the expenditure on the partially-paid forces, and to offer every encouragement to our young men to join the volunteer forces. We must have a. definite policy of some kind in connexion with our Defence Force. As the AttorneyGeneral has pointed out, honorable senators complain that this or that branch of the Defence Force is not sufficiently, considered, but we are always bound by the condition that the money which we are able to spend on a Defence Force is limited. That being the case, it becomes the paramount duty of the Government to get as much as they possibly can for the money they spend. What is the best way to do that? I do not know whether Senator Neild favours an increase in the partiallypaid forges, but my opinion is that we cannot afford to add very largely to the numbers of that branch of the service. I think our policy should rather be the reverse of that, and that we ought to increase our volunteer forces. I have heard it stated that young men will not join the volunteers, and do not : take any interest in military service, unless 1 they are paid. I do not know whether that is the case, but I know that when I was a young man, thousands of young men in Great Britain took part in the volunteer movement without ever getting a single shilling out of it. I am sure that we have in Australia large numbers of young men who would be glad to join our volunteer forces if sufficient inducement were offered to them - if only in the way of free ammunition.
– Is notthat another form of pay?
– Yes ; but surely it is better to get men in that way than by merely giving them money ?
– We are giving free ammunition to the rifle clubs.
– We ought to very largely add to that method of establishing a Defence force. Let us contrast the numbers. Including everything, the volunteers cost between £4 and £5 per head, while the militia cost about £15 per head. In New South Wales, for instance, we have 4,966 militia, costing £15 per head, and 2,842 volunteers costing between £4 and £5 per head. Would it not be much better to have 12,000 or 13,000 volunteers in that State for exactly the same sum as is now spent on 4,966 militia and 2,482 volunteers? By adopting the system I advocate, we should double the number of men available for service when required, and train a very large number of our people to shoot well. The Government should take seriously into consideration the question of whether it ought not to encourage the rifle clubs and volunteer arm of the service in the way suggested. I know that the General Officer Commanding is opposed to a citizen army, and is in favour of a permanent force.
– He is not getting a very large permanent force.
– I know that he is not getting a large force, and that we are not able to give him it ; but, as I said before, we have to cut our coat according to our cloth, and I think we could get the best service by encouraging volunteers. In my opinion the Government ought to put down its foot, and tell the General Officer Commanding that that branch of the service must be encouraged. The excuse has been given that men will not take an interest in the defence of their country unless they are paid, that the only way to bring them into the service is to enrol them as militia. I do not know whether that is the case or not. But it is very desirable that the other method should be given a fair trial. I feel almost certain that we should get a very large number of young men to join the volunteer force if they were given the encouragement which I think ought to be given. Why not offer prizes for the best shots, why not have shooting tournaments all over the. Commonwealth every year, in addition to giving each efficient volunteer a certain quantity of free ammunition, and supplying any additional quantity at the lowest possible price? . I believe that if that were done a considerable number of young men would gladly join the volunteer force. I have nothing to say against the partially-paid force. I know that it includes a very large number of worthy men; but I also know that so far as a certain section of the force is concerned, membership is looked upon more as a pot-boiling expedient than anything else. Senator Neild said that in his opinion the Committee ought to express its opinion as to whether the partially-paid or the volunteer force should be encouraged, and in order to afford an opportunity for the expression of its opinion I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce division 74, “New South Wales Militia, or partially paid, £51,544,” by £1.
This proposal, if carried, will be an instruction to the Government to reduce the number of the partially-paid force and to increase the number of volunteers.
– I cannot say that I agree with Senator Stewart. I do not think that his proposition will meet with the support of Senator Neild, whose trouble is that we are reducing the partially-paid forces too much.
– No ; reducing; both branches.
– I do not agree with Senator Stewart in endeavouring to show that we ought to depress one branch of the Defence Force in favour of another. The position is that we want all these branches. We recognise that one man may be able to render better service to the country by becoming a member of the partially-paid force ; that a second man, who cannot spare so much time, may be able to do better by joining the volunteer force; and that a third man, who, perhaps, cannot join either of those branches, may be an excellent member of a rifle club. We are not discouraging any of these branches. We are giving more consideration to the rifle clubs than was previously given. We are giving just as much consideration to the volunteer forces as was previously given. And with regard to the partially-paid force, we are reducing the number in consequence of the desire for economy. But what is happening, in many cases, is that we are converting volunteers into partially-paid forces. It is contrary to Senator Stewart’s ideas, but I think it is a perfectly wise course to take. We recognise that these volunteers are performing certain service now ; we believe that they are in a position to qualify as militia ; and we say that if they do they shall be paid. That is the reason why the Estimates provide for a smaller reduction in the partially-paid than in the volunteer forces.
– The Minister is quite wrong.
– The honorable senator has been quoting figures at large ; but I have the figures in my hand. I am speaking of the re-organization scheme.
– I shall show the Minister that he is wrong.
– I am not. Senator Stewart spoke about the policy which has been adopted with regard to the partiallypaid and volunteer forces. I am not talking about what may happen in a particular locality, because in some cases there may be more volunteers, and in other cases more partially-paid men. What has happened throughout the Commonwealth under the re-organization scheme is that in many cases we have converted volunteers into partially-paid forces, and, consequently, men who were not paid before for their services will get payment in future. I think that the principle of partially-paid service is sounder and more wholesome than that of volunteer service.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I should be at once ruled out of order if I were to proceed to discuss any question not relevant to the division of the Estimates before the Committee. While I am not going to contest the Attorney-General’s sweeping statement with regard to the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth I shall discuss the position in New South Wales. My honorable and learned friend was entirely wrong, except in regard to one small matter. One company of sixty volunteers was transferred to the partially-paid branch, but that is the sum total of the transfers in
New South Wales connected with the items which we are now discussing. The AttorneyGeneral has stated that the same inducements are being offered, and the same consideration shown to the volunteer forces at the present time as were given in the past ; but, as to that, he is entirely mistaken. To begin with, for many years in New South Wales an allowance of £3 per man was given for clothing and sundries. The allowance now given is £1 10s. for clothing and £1 for sundries, and under the heading of sundries are included a large number of expenses which formerly were not charged against the £3 allowance. As a matter of fact, the men are worse off to the amount of £1 per head per annum now than they were formerly, and a difference such as that is likely to go a long way in accounting for the difference between efficiency and inefficiency. IF Senator Stewart will again look at the figures, he. will see that he rather overstated the cost of the volunteer forces. The total sum provided for 2482 men is £7,300, or less than £3 per head. With some little knowledge of what lam speaking about, I venture to say that that amount is materially less than was voted for the volunteer service some time ago. Referring to the re-organization scheme, I would point out that these volunteers - these particularly cheap soldiers - have allotted to them in the defence scheme which has been published everywhere the defence of the ports of Australia, apart from artillery defence. They will act as garrison troops, while the other branch of the service will act as a field force, and will roam about the Commonwealth, meeting the enemy if he goes sufficiently far inland. It is the volunteers who will have to bear the entire brunt of his attack. Therefore the policy of the Government should be, not to make this service less attractive, but to make it more attractive, and to induce the best men to enter it. I do not agree with the AttorneyGeneral that the responsibility for this policy is to be thrown upon the General Officer Commanding. I do not throw the responsibility upon him at all ; I throw it upon the Ministers. It is their policy that I am discussing. The General Officer Commanding no doubt does the best he can with the limited sum placed at his disposal ; but I am discussing the public policy of the Ministry, not the military details for which the General Officer Commanding is, no doubt, responsible. I have made these remarks, not because I believe that we have now an opportunity to alter affairs, for I know that that is not so, but because if nothing is said, if our opinions are never expressed, the Ministry will have nothing to guide it as to the views of Parliament. I cannot support the request for a reduction. I do not wish to set up the volunteer forces as against the partially-paid forces. In my opinion neither the one nor the other branch of the service is receiving adequate attention. I am afraid that experience will prove that the small sum which the partially-paid troops are to receive in the future will be insufficient to induce the attendance that is expected. I feel sure, too, that the volunteer force will be so pinched in ways and means that service in it will lose its attraction for suitable men. What will be the use of spending money upon training the members of rifle clubs and cadets if the partially-paid and volunteer services are so inadequately provided for that trained men will have no inducement to join them ? The Government should look the position straight in the face. If they desire to have a useful Defence Force they must find the necessary money, and must not accept a negative vote in Parliament without daring the consequences of a division. I have made these remarks because I think it a duty I owe to the Commonwealth to say what, in my opinion, is desirable in the public interest in connexion with defence expenditure. I should like to have a vote which will give some indication of the wishes of the Committee, but as I do not wish to see the partially-paid forces reduced or discouraged in any way, I cannot vote for the motion of Senator Stewart. I would rather see him move a request for an increase of £1 in the vote than a request for a reduction. If he did so, I would vote with him with the greatest pleasure, in order to obtain an indication of the views of the Committee on this subject.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - I am afraid that Senator Neild and myself look at this matter from different points of view. He thinks that we are spending too little upon both the volunteer and the partiallypaid forces, whereas my opinion is that we are spending quite enough on defence, and cannot afford to spend more. I desire that we shall get the very best value for the money that we consider we are able to afford.
– We want a better allocation of it.
– Yes. I wish to see more money spent on the volunteers and less on the partially-paid or militia forces. Senator Neild would like to see more money spent on both branches of the service.
– I wish to see enough money spent to make them efficient.
– The honorable senator would like to increase the defence vote all round.
– I have not said that.
– That is the only inference to be drawn from the honorable senator’s remarks. In my opinion the resources of the Commonwealth will not permit us to increase our defence expenditure, and therefore I say that we should get the best value for the money we vote. That, I think, can be done by allotting more to the volunteers and less to the militia. It is for that reason that I have moved the motion. It is extremely desirable that we should express an opinion upon the subject. Any uncertainty or hesitancy as to the adoption of a particular course is likely to be fatal to the formation of an efficient Defence Force. We ought to make up our minds on the subject, and express our opinions clearly for the benefit of the Government and of the Commonwealth. I ask honorable senators, whatever their views may be, to give the Government an expression of opinion which will be a guide to them in this matter. If we desire that more money shall be spent upon defence, let us say so. I think we cannot afford to spend more ; but a better allocation of the money voted is necessary.
Question - That the request be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - Under the head of general contingencies in connexion with the vote for the New South Wales military forces I find that provision is made for railway fares and railway freights, £3,000 ; steamer fares and freights, £150 ; other travelling expenses, £2,000; incidentals, £1,000; bank exchange, £100; fuel and light, £550 and so on. I think that some explanation should be given regarding these items, because the total is a very large one, amounting to £7,925. Then again, I notice that £500 is provided for postage and telegrams. I should like to have some explanation regarding that item.
– Comm unications by post and telegram have to be exchanged by the various divisions of the Defence Forces, and, therefore, it is necessaryto make some such provision.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I think that I can throw some light upon the matter. The letters and telegrams sent by regiments and corps have to be paid for out of the vote previously dealt with, which is a very paltry allowance. This item must have reference to the expense incurred upon postage and telegrams by the staff officials.
– I should like to know whether any further development has taken place in connexion with the request that the officers and men of the Tasmanian Defence Forces should be placed upon a footing similar to that of the forces in other States in regard to pay. It will be remembered that Senator Cameron moved the adjournment of the Senate upon this question, and that the feeling of the Senate was very strongly in favour of the view which he put forward. The AttorneyGeneral then promised that the allowance for encampments should be increased. I desire to know whether that increase is provided for.
– Not upon these Estimates; but provision will be made upon the Supplementary Estimates.
– I wish to enter a strong protest against the discrepancy between the pay of the Tasmanian Forces, and that provided for in the other States. We have been told that this distinction was made in the interests of economy at the request of the Tasmanian Government. The Minister was unable to tell me who made this request. It appears, however, that it formed part of the general request made two or three years ago, that the expenditure in every department should be kept down to the lowest possible limit. I cannot be charged with having any great love for militarism, but I feel that if we are to have a Defence Force in Tasmania, the officers and men should be placed on exactly the same footing as those occupying similar positions in other States. So far as defence matters are concerned, , Tasmania has derived no benefit from entering the Federation. I cannot understand why Ministers should have allowed themselves to be so far led away from their obvious duty as to listen to a request such as that referred to. They should not have consented to perpetrate an unfederal act and to inflict a manifest injustice upon the members of the Tasmanian Defence Forces. It has been admitted by the Treasurer that injustice has been done, and we have no distinct assurance that the present grievance will be redressed. I am sure that this question is likely to occupy a prominent place in Tasmania during the forthcoming electoral campaign.
– Provision will be made to carry out exactly what I promised.
– But the Minister’s promise to Senator Cameron related only to an item of some £600 or £700.
– I promised all that was asked, namely, that the rates of pay for the men when in camp would be upon the some scale as in the other States.
– Although Senator Cameron specifically called attention to that matter, he also spoke of the discrepancy between the rates of pay in Tasmania and in other States at ordinary times. He went so far as to say that the grievance was such an old one that the members of the Defence Forces were disgusted, and strongly inclined to resign. In regard to the increase of the expenditure upon the head-quarters staff in Tasmania, I would remind Senator Pearce, who called attention to the matter, that the six staff officers, who constitute the District Head-quarters Staff in Tasmania, draw salaries amounting to £1,460, representing an average of only £243 each, whereas in Western Australia - a State with which I think I may fairly institute a comparison - there are five staff officers drawing salaries amounting to £1.510 per annum, or an average of £302 each. I wish to ascertain why the Tasmanian officers - for whom I do not hold any particular brief - should perform the same work for an average of £243 per annum that the Western Australian officers perform for an average of £302 ? I ask Senator Dobson if he can justify that anomaly ? Why should the six officers in Tasmania discharge duties for £243 annually, for the performance of which the five officers of the district headquarters’ staff in Western Australia receive £302?
– Does not the honorable senator think that the difference between the size of the States imposes more work upon the Western Australian officers?
– I do not think so. They are engaged exclusively in the discharge of military duties. The relative size of the States has nothing whatever to do with the question. If the officers are fully employed they night as well be travelling over a large State as over a small State. Again, the Tasmanian Defence Forces, including the cadet corps, number 2,555, and the total expenditure upon them is £21,233, whereas in Western Australia the Defence Forces number only 2,181, and the total expenditure upon them is £28,348. Thus the Tasmanian forces number approximately 400 more than do those of Western Australia, and yet the expenditure upon them is £7,000 less. I put this illustration to show the discrepancies which exist. I trust that we shall have some further assurance from Ministers that these anomalies will be removed, and that the Tasmanian forces will be placed upon an equal footing with those of the otherStates. It is all very well to say that provision will be made to remedy them in the Estimates which will be submitted twelve months hence. That is not the right way to look at the matter. It is quite possible for Ministers to remedy these evils immediately, even if we pass the Estimates in their present form. I do not intend to move any request, although the serious injustice under which the Tasmanian forces have laboured for some time past would justify the adoption of that course.
– I rise with considerable misgiving to deal with this matter, not because I entertain any doubts as to its merits, but because I doubt my ability to interfere successfully. Since this question was previously debated upon a motion for adjournment by Senator Cameron, I have devoted some time to investigating the state of affairs which he described. I trust therefore that Ministers will give me their attention, because what I have to say is, at least, accurate. The Attorney-General has stated, by way of interjection, that on the occasion in question he promised Senator Cameron that the grievances which he brought forward would be remedied. He is quite correct in that statement, and I have no doubt that he will carry out his promise. The unfortunate feature of the matter is that Senator Cameron asked for very much less than he ought to have done.
– But I told him what the Tasmanian Defence Forces wanted.
– I am not blaming the Attorney-General for what he did. I simply desire to show that Senator Cameron, to put it mildly, made a blunder. The history of the condition of the Defence Forces in Tasmania is briefly this : Many years ago Tasmania annually spent upon those forces more than the amount which appears upon these Estimates. At that time they were a fairly effective body. But, later on, bad times were experienced, and, as a result, the Defence Forces had to be retrenched. They were retrenched to such an extent that their members grew disaffected - a condition of affairs which was dissipated only by the South African war. That war gave a fillip to the volunteer movement in Tasmania, and while it lasted things were all right. When it terminated, however, a reaction occurred, and the men again grew discontented. At that time Federation was on the eve of accomplishment, and accordingly they were told that when the Commonwealth assumed control of the Defence Department their grievances would be redressed. But the year 1901 passed without any alteration being effected. The same remark is applicable to the year 1902. Towards the end of that year Major-General Hutton visited Tasmania, and informed the officers and men that upon the Estimates for 1903 provision would be made to redress the disabilities under which they laboured. He therefore urged them to possess their souls in patience for a little longer, promising that justice would be done to them. Evidently something has intervened between the promise made by him and its performance, because nothing has since been done, and the men have now been asked to wait a year longer.
– Why should they wait?
– The matter is complicated by the financial necessities of Tasmania. I admit the financial difficulty, and that it would be useless for me to talk upon this question if I were not prepared to make a practical suggestion with a view to remedy the existing state of affairs. I am, however, ready to offer such a suggestion, and I trust that Ministers will give effect to it, because I know that it will meet with practically the unanimous approval of the Defence Forces of Tasmania. MajorGeneral Hutton has divided the forces of that State - apart from the permanent men - into the field force and the garrison force. As Ministers are aware, the members of the Tasmanian field force are not paid upon the same scale as are those of the rest of the the field forces of the Commonwealth. In contradistinction to the garrison forces which remain in each particular State, those forces may be called upon to serve anywhere within the Commonwealth. Tasmania’s grievance has reference to her field force. The position is briefly this : 500 men belonging to that force may be drafted from Tasmania to Queensland, there to serve side by side with others forming part of the same division who would be receiving a higher rate of pay. That state of things is not conducive to discipline. I know that the Attorney-General recognises that fact as fully as I do. The difficulty is to decide how an alteration can be effected. The field force of Tasmania aggregates about 882 men. Her total number of volunteers - using the term in its generic sense - is roughly speaking about 2,000. An attempt is now being made to spread a certain vote which appears upon these Estimates over the whole of these forces. Under that plan the Tasmanian field force does not receive the same rate of pay as do the field forces in any of the other States. Whilst I do not think I should be justified in asking for any additional expenditure, I claim that the sum which it is proposed to vote should be spent more economically, and that the 882 men comprising the Tasmanian field force I should be paid exactly the same rate as ^ are the rest of the field forces throughout I the Commonwealth.’ To permit of that being done we must effect economies in the other brandies of the Tasmanian Defence Force. If we do that we shall be studying the true interests of economy, because honorable senators will recognise that that term does not necessarily imply limiting our, expenditure so much as insisting that we receive good value for it. I admit that there are a few other men in the Defence Force of that State who do not quite come within the category of a “ field “ force and to whom it is desirable to offer more pay. These number about a hundred, and include a few members of the artillery and some of the engineers. The reason why it is desirable to grant the members of the Tasmanian field force extra pay is to insure that they shall engage in daylight training. Senator Cameron’s claim a little while ago for the expenditure of an additional £692 was based upon a demand for camp pay to the men during a fortnight in each year. But if we desire them to become efficient, that is not all that is required. What is wanted isdaylight parade or training ; and we cannot obtain that unless we pay men to engage in it. It is quite unfair toexpect members of the Tasmanian field force to undertake daylight training if they are not paid equally with those in the other States. In order that we may offer the S82 men who comprise that force the same rate of pay for daylight work that is enjoyed by the rest of the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth, I urge the Ministry to adopt the suggestion which I have made. Let us save the money upon the remainder of the Tasmanian forces - let them remain volunteers - and I can assure the Ministry that both officers and men will be perfectly satisfied. If we can arrange to place some 900 men in Tasmania upon the same footing as their comrades upon the mainland, the rest of the force will remain perfectly loyal as volunteers.
– What would be the cost over and above the additional £600?
– I am not asking for any further expenditure. I admit the financial difficulty, and I simply urge the
Government to distribute the money in a different way. I suggest that they should give full pay to say 900 men, in order that they may become equally efficient with the field forces in the rest of the Commonwealth ; and in order to provide the funds necessary for this purpose they should effect savings in respect of the remaining Tasmanian Forces, comprising over 1,000 men. The Defence Forces in that State would be. abundantly satisfied with such an arrangement. I trust that the Ministry will accept my assurance, because I have taken pains to ascertain the opinion of the forces in Tasmania, and I am sure that this would be a reasonable solution of the difficulty. The better system to adopt would be, of course, to treat all the Commonwealth Forces alike ; but the men in the Tasmanian Defence Forces are just as willing as we are to recognise that there is a difficulty in relation to that State, and they would be well pleased if the field forces there were adequately paid, and raised to the state of efficiency which prevails in other parts of the Commonwealth. I do not wish to embroil the State of Tasmania with the Commonwealth Government, but it is obvious that this is an instance, which will probably recur during the history of Federation, of a State endeavouring to retrench, not in connexion with some Department which it wholly controls, but in connexion with one controlled by the Federal Government. Tasmania is engaged in a financial struggle, and the Government there find it difficult to retrench.
– They should impose a Land Tax.
– Thehonorable senator will readily understand that in present circumstances the State Government is strongly tempted to refrain from practising any further economies in Departments which it wholly controls, and, during the bookkeeping period, to effect indirect retrenchment in a Department controlled by the Commonwealth. I have no desire to deal bitterly with the subject ; but that is what the Tasmanian Government is doing, and it is for that reason that the Commonwealth Government have been induced by the Ministry of the State to cut down the pay of the Defence Forces in Tasmania. To put the position in a nutshell, the Tasmanian Government has used the Federal Government for its own purposes of retrenchment. Politically, the Federal Government has been of service to the Tasmanian Government. The State Government has avoided the odium which it would possibly have incurred if, instead of effecting retrenchment in relation to a Commonwealth Department, it had retrenched nearer home. I frankly admit that I cannot move any motion on this Bill which would further the object that I have in view ; but I feel certain that Ministers, in this Chamber at all events, will give the matter some consideration. I firmly believe that they will find ray proposition not only practicable, but one that will meet with the hearty approbation of the Defence Forces in Tasmania.
– I do not think that the honorable and learned senator has grasped this question in all its details. I have a very clear recollection of what took place upon the occasion of the recent debate on this subject, and I shall endeavour, as briefly as possible, to give honorable senators an idea of how the matter stands. The General Officer Commanding was requested to draw up a re-organization scheme for the whole of the Commonwealth, and he provided that the Defence Forces in each State should bear a reasonable proportion to the population of that State. The scheme allots a certain proportion of the forces to Tasmania, and, in order to give effect to it, we should require about £4,000 more than we are now asking Parliament to vote for the Defence Forces in that State.
– There is no occasion to do that ; we might have a smaller number of men there.
– If we have a Defence scheme for the whole of the Commonwealth, we cannot keep cutting and hacking it about in order to meet the exigencies of this or that State. The honorable and learned senator really complains of our failure to carry out the re-organization scheme in Tasmania, and that failure is due to our desire to meet the financial exigencies of the State. In order to carry out the scheme of the General Officer Commanding in its entirety, we should require about £4,000 more than we are asking for the Defence Forces in Tasmania. As I pointed out on the occasion of the debate to which I have referred, no specific request for retrenchment was made to us by the Tasmanian Government ; but there has been a general desire that we should endeavour to so make our arrangements as to suit more particularly the financial exigencies of Tasmania and Queensland. That was the reason why it was considered desirable, if possible, that we should lessen Tasmania’s burden in connexion with the Defence Forces. As I pointed out before, there was another peculiarity, inasmuch as the Defence Forces in Tasmania, although technically militia, had almost ceased to be paid. They received only a small amount in respect of camp pay.
– That was the great grievance.
– It was because they were treated as volunteers that the number of men enlisted in the forces there is in excess of the limit fixed by the Act. I believe that the Act expressly limits the number to 1,200, and at present they are about-
– Two thousand.
– Something like that number. The Act gives no authority for the enrolment of so large a number. If it is said that all these men, because of their enrolment, are militia, we shall have to reply that there was no authority for the enrolment of so large a number.
– We do not require that number.
– That is the position. I pointed out, in connexion with the last debate on this question, that we should have to incur an increased expenditure of £15,000, in order to allow all the members of the Defence Forces in Tasmania militia rates of pay.
– I recognise that we could not do that.
– The honorable and learned senator will remember that Senator McGregor remarked on that occasion that I was confusing the issue in relation to the two sums of £4,000 and £15,000, and that all that would be required was a sum of about £620. Then Senator Clemons said that he would resume his seat.
– I foolishly accepted Senator Cameron’s statement.
– Believing that was the amount asked for, I said that we should find the additional £620. As it is, a much larger sum will be required in order that these men, while in camp, may receive the rates of pay which prevail in other parts of the Commonwealth.
– It is not nearly sufficient.
– Quite so. I knew at the time, and I said so, that such a sum would be insufficient to place the Defence Forces in Tasmania in the same position as the forces in the other States.
– Could not the Government put the Tasmanian field forces, numbering some 882 men, on a position of equality with those in the other States?
– The honorable and learned senator is unable to tell me how his proposal would work out. I am not quite sure what number of men Major-General Hutton proposed to provide for Tasmania; but if we were now going to make any alteration - if we thought that the general desire to conserve the finances of Tasmania should not be considered any further - we should have to carry out his scheme.
– I do not ask for that.
– The Defence Department desired to carry out the scheme proposed by the General Officer Commanding, and it was only because of the position of the finances of Tasmania that we were induced to make an exception in the case of that State. It was not the desire of the Defence Department that such an exception should be made ; it would be only too pleased to have the scheme carried out in its integrity.
– The question is whether the Defence Forces are under the control of the Tasmanian or the Commonwealth Government.
– They are certainly under the control of the Federal Government ; but, in dealing with very many matters, we have had regard to the financial exigencies of the various States. We have done so in the case of Queensland and Tasmania.
– Is the Tasmanian Government still asking the Commonwealth Government to have special regard to the finances of that State?
– As I have already stated, I am not aware that any specific request has been preferred by the Tasmanian Government to the Government of the Commonwealth ; but there is a general desire that we should have regard to the financial position of that State. If we thought that Tasmania should be asked to bear this additional expenditure, it would be necessary for us to provide a further sum of £4,000. I should certainly object to the honorable and learned senator’s proposal, although I do not know whether it would involve an increased or reduced expenditure. If Tasmania could afford to bear the increased expenditure, the scheme prepared by the General Officer Commanding should be carried out there as in the other States.
– That is shifting the point.
– We are not going to be guided by the honorable and learned senator in regard to the details of military expenditure. I have every respect for Senator Clemons, but he does not know himself the exact meaning of his proposal. Who are the 882 men ?
– I wish the Government to expend only the amount which they now propose to expend on the Defence Forces in Tasmania ; but to distribute it among fewer men, so that the reduced number will receive the rates of pay given in the other States.
– The number of men would be the number recommended in the General Officer Commanding’s reorganization scheme.
– Not at all.
– If that scheme were carried out, a small number of the men in Tasmania would become partially-paid forces of the Commonwealth, and would receive the rates of pay that are given in the other States ; but the remaining forces in the State, who did not belong to the partiallypaid forces, would not receive anything.
– That is what I desire.
– That is the reorganization scheme, which proposes that the number of men in the Defence Forces in Tasmania, as in the other States, shall be in proportion to the population. As members of the partially-paid forces they would receive the ordinary rates of pay, namely, 8s. per day, while the others would receive nothing. The scheme would require an additional expenditure of £4,000.
– Where are the details of that scheme to be found ?
– The scheme has been printed in full and laid on the table of the Senate. It details the exact number of troops proposed to be maintained in each State. In the statement by the Minister, which has also been laid upon the table, it is set forth that in consequence of the position of the finances of Tasmania, it is considered better to retain the services of the
Defence Forces there as before. There may have been some misunderstanding in connexion with the recent discussion of this question ; but it was certainly not on my part. The request then made by Senator Cameron, and supported, I believe, by other honorable senators from Tasmania, was that for this year we should give the whole of these men full rates of pay during the time that they are in camp. It was estimated that that would entail an expenditure of £600, but the outlay would be much more. Whatever it is, we proposeto provide for it out of the Treasurer’s advance, and subsequently to ask Parliament to vote the money. I think that the other matter might be allowed to stand over until next year. I thoroughly recognise the force of the case made out on behalf of the forces of Tasmania, and naturally the Defence Department very much regret that the reorganization scheme has not been carried out in its integrity in all the States. I think that honorable senators may rest assured that every effort will be made in the next Estimates to provide for that scheme.
– The finances of Tasmania next year will probably be as unsatisfactory as they are to-day.
– I hope not.
– Under the heading of General Contingencies, we find the items -
Railway fares and freight, £350 ; steamer fares and freight, £50 ; othertravelling expenses, £550.
I wish to know whether the Vice-President of the Executive Council has any information to give the Committee in regard to these items ?
– No ; except that the appropriation is the same as last year.
– Only £904 was spent last year, and we are now asking for £950. The honorable senator needs to add the three items together.
Postmaster-General’s Departm ent.
Divisions 174 to 180, £2,460,299.
– I desire to call attention to one or two matters which ought to be remedied. The first concerns the relationship between the Public Service Commissioner and the Post and Telegraph Department. The attention of the Committee ought to be called to the way in which officers who are doing permanent work are left in temporary positions. I believe that when the
Public Service Bill was introduced attention was called to this very question, and it was pointed out that where officers were doing a sufficient amount of work to keep them permanently employed, they should be placed upon the permanent staff. Has that been done?
– In a good many instances.
– In all instances where the services of an officer are permanently required, he ought to be given a permanent position. Neither male nor female officers have been treated fairly in this respect. I have had communications from officers who have been classed as temporary, although they are practically permanently employed. Under the Public Service Act, they can only be retained in temporary positions for a certain time, and then they have to be discharged. But what takes place 1 Some other persons with less experience are put in their places, and the work is not done so efficiently. That system is going on at the present time. I will take the instrument fitters by way of illustration. In a mechanical business of this description, men who have been engaged for a considerable time, and know the routine of the work, should hold permanent positions. But, instead of that, there are twenty or thirty of these officers who, although there is enough work to keep them permanently employed, are not placed upon the permanent staff, their services being dispensed with at the end of six months. I believe that three months’ grace has been given ; and, when that has expired, these men must go and make room for others, who will be permanently appointed. If they were really temporary hands, when their term of employment expired it would not be necessary to put others in their places. The very fact that it is necessary to replace them in order to carry on the work, is, as the lawyers would say prima facie evidence that they ought to be on the permanent staff. I want to know why they are not appointed, or whether the business of the Commonwealth is to be carried on as it has been in some of the States, where men have been discharged simply for the purpose of enabling others to be put in their places. Of course, if the officers in question were incompetent, they should be sent away forthwith, and competent officers should replace them. But, under our legislation, it appears that competent men have to be replaced by persons of less experience. While that is the case our affairs are not being managed as they should be.
– Can the honorable senator give any specific cases ?
– I can name thirty cases at least.
– Where men have been put off and others have been appointed in their places ?
– Others have been appointed, or are about to be appointed. Another point to which I wish to direct attention is that when we entered into Federation certain conditions were imposed on the Federal Government in regard to taking over men and women who were in the employment of the States. Has that been done in all cases ? Has every man and woman who was employed in the transferred departments before Federation been taken over? That question arises in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department. Before Federation there were a number of persons employed in the cleaning of the central offices. In the majority of instances the charing and cleaning are done by widows. Some time ago I asked a series of questions as to the number of persons employed in the cleaning of the postoffices in the capitals of the States. The replies showed that these cleaners were not taken over, although they were doing work for the Commonwealth. In most of the States, with the exception of South Australia, a system of sweating has been carrried on concerning the payment of the cleaners. That system ought to be considered a disgrace to the Commonwealth. I do not wish to enter into the particulars, but honorable senators have only to turn to the answers given to my questions, and they will find that unfortunate women, some of whom are widows, who have families to bring up in a respectable manner, have had to work for not more than 1 5s. a week.
– Where is that ?
– Either in New South Wales or in Western Australia; the honorable and learned senator can ascertain by turning to the answers given to my questions. South Australia is the only State in which a respectable amount has been paid for the services rendered. Why were not those unfortunate widows taken over and made permanent employes just as were the other officers ? There must have been some reason for declining to take them over, and I should like to know what those reasons are. There have also been several instances where young women have been employed by the States in the Post and Telegraph Depart- : ment for a number of years, and because ( they were not permanent officers they were ; discharged when the Department was transferred, ether officers being put in their places. When anomalies of that description creep into our administration it is time that 1 some inquiry was made, and something done to render justice to those who have served the States in the past and who are prepared to serve the Commonwealth in the future. I hope that when the Attorney-General or the Vice-President of the Executive Council replies, some explanation will be given of the anomalies which I have indicated.
– When the Departments of the various States were taken over the officers were, of course, transferred from State control to Federal control. The permanent officers came over as permanent, and the temporary officers as temporary ; but afterwards the Public Service Act was passed, and it is the administration of that Act with which apparently Senator McGregor has been dealing. Strictly speaking, this matter ought to have been discussed when another Department was before the Committee. That, however, is a question I do not raise.
– I discussed the Department in which anomalies exist.
– I presume that if such anomalies exist in the Post and Telegraph Department they exist in other Departments : and what the honorable senator has discussed is the action of the Public Service Commissioner in relation to the Post and Telegraph Department. The Public Service Act provides that the rights and privileges of all permanent officers shall be the same as they were under the States Acts, and that in certain cases temporary officers shall be made permanent, with all attendant rights and privileges. In other cases the Act deliberately provides that a person temporarily employed shall not be employed for more than six months, or, at most, nine months, and shall not be re-employed until after an interval of six months. That provision was deliberately adopted by Parliament in order to carry out the principle of rotation, and in order that permanent work shall not be monopolized by one set of persons - that temporary employes should not by continual employment become practically the holders of permanent positions without complying with the requirements of the Public Service Act. Section 33 of the Act provides that where a person was in the employment of any State at the time of the establishment of the Commonwealth, he may, on the certificate of the Public Service Commissioner, be appointed to a permanent position without complying with the requirements as to age or as to examination. These were the provisions on which the Public Service Commissioner had to act, and he was supplied by the heads of Departments with a list of the officers employed temporarily, and also with a report as to any necessity there might be for making certain positions permanent. Upon the information supplied, the Public Service Commissioner recommended that in certain cases offices previously filled by temporary employes should in future be considered permanent and filled by permanent officers. In such cases the temporary officers employed were for the future employed permanently. Senator McGregor’s complaint is that the power given to the Commissioner was not exercised in a sufficiently full and free manner.
– My complaint is that the power was not exercised to the advantage of the servants.
– The honorable senator’s idea is that the power was not exercised to a proper extent ; he thinks that a great deal of work at present performed by temporary officers should be regarded as of a permanent character - that it should be done by permanent officers appointed with all the rights and privileges of the position.
– I complain that men who ought to be made permanent officers are still considered temporary officers.
– That is how I understood the honorable senator. But surely that is an impeachment .of the Public Service Commissioner ?
– I do not care whom I impeach so long as justice is done.
– That may be; but how can a Minister, representing the Post and Telegraph Department, answer a charge or complaint which originates solely in the action of the Commissioner - a charge or complaint that the Commissioner has not exercised his judgment or discretion in the direction in which the honorable senator thinks it should have been exercised ? How are we possibly to discuss this matter unless we have specific instances 1 It rests with the Commissioner to say whether or not works shall be carried out by permanent officers or by temporary employes ; and Senator McGregor is of opinion that the Public Service Commissioner should have made more appointments of a permanent character. It is possible, however, that honorable senators may be of the contrary opinion, namely, that too many officers have been given permanent positions. How can -we discuss the matter and come to an intelligent conclusion if we have not the facts before us t
– I can give the Minister particular cases.
– In that case, I had better sit down, and wait for specific instances if this matter is to be satisfactorily discussed.
– The Attorney-General, it seems to me, is not dealing with the objection which was raised by Senator McGregor. What Senator McGregor asks is not that work now being done by temporary officers shall be done by permanent officers, but that fresh permanent officers, shall not be appointed to do work which is now being done by temporary officers. I shall give a case in which it was decided to appoint a permanent officer in the place of a temporary officer, who had been doing exactly the same kind of work for a year or two, but whose services had been dispensed with.
– AVas the temporary man eligible under section 33 of the Public Service Act 1
– In my opinion he was, although by a quibble it was held that he was not. The Public Service Commissioner may, nominally, decide as to these appointments; but as a matter of fact it is the ganger who decides.
– Who, under the Act, has to decide 1
– The Commissioner ; but, as a matter of fact, it is not the Commissioner who decides. The case I have in my mind is that of a Victorian telegraph line repairer, named Tucker, who had been in the service for two years. This man was in the service as a temporary employ^ when the Department was transferred, and along with all the telegraph line repairers in the various States was by proclamation exempt from the section of the Public Service Act which limit their employment to a period of six months. The object of the exemption was to enable the Public Service Commissioner to determine which of the men should be appointed as permanent telegraph line repairers. During the whole time of his employment, no fault whatever was found with this man Tucker, or with the way in which he performed his work ; but when the list was issued by the Commissioner showing- the men who were to be permanently employed, this man alone was excluded ; and therefore his services had to be dispensed with. Tucker did not know why he should not be made a permanent employe, and his ganger, on being appealed to, said he knew of no reason why Tucker’s services should be dispensed with. Eventually Tucker appealed to the Commissioner, and then learned that the reason he had not been recommended for permanent employment was that he had been reported as physically unfit. But Tucker had been employed by the Department for two or three : years, and he never, during that time, had been found physically unfit to perform his duties. It must be remembered that permanent employment would carry no more wages, though, of course, it means certain rights and privileges. So confident was Tucker that he was not physically unfit, that he offered to undergo a special medical examination ; but the Department refused to allow that test to be applied. Here we have the sort of case referred to by Senator McGregor. The services of a line repairer, who had been employed for two or three years was dispensed with, although during the last three months or so the Government have been assiduously advertising in the Gazette for a permanent line repairer to fill the position. Under the circumstances, it is idle to say that there was no vacancy for Tucker. If the man is physically unfit, how is it that he was employed b)’ the Government for the period I have named 1 If the Government are sure that the man is physically unfit, why is it that objection was raised to his undergoing a medical examination?
-Do not blame the Government.
– I ought to have said the Commissioner.
– And he is the man authorized to consider these matters.
– My vote was against the appointment of a Commissioner.
– But Parliament has appointed him.
– We are told that we must depend on the Commissioner ; but on whom does the Commissioner depend? In the case I have mentioned the Commissioner depends absolutely on the report of the ganger, who may get rid of a man for whom he has a dislike. Instead of these branches of the Public Service being managed by the Commissioner they are managed by the gangers ; and in the place of political influence we have the influence of personal dislike and personal spleen. The ganger shields himself behind a charge of physical disability, which may mean something or may mean nothing. It is a commentary on the ganger that it took him two or three years to find out that Tucker was physically unfit ; and, as a matter of fact, Tucker is in as good health now as ever he was.
– What is the age of Tucker?
– About thirty ; and his case is typical of dozens.
– I could cite thirty or forty cases.
– No doubt a great number of cases might be brought forward ; but men do not like to have their names mentioned in Parliament in connexion with such complaints. As a matter of fact, I have no authority for using the name of the man Tucker ; and I may be doing him an injustice.
– The honorable senator is doubtless putting a “ black mark “ against Tucker.
– If permanent men are required, surely men who have been trained to the work ought to be appointed. Instead, however, the services of a line repairer are being dispensed with, and a man appointed who knows absolutely nothing about telegraph lines.
– When has that been done 1
– I presume it is being done as a man has been advertised for.
– Does the honorable senator presume that a man will be appointed who knows nothing about the work ?
– According to the Attorney-General, the whole of the temporary hands are debarred from appointment to the permanent position.
– I do not say that.
– My contention is that the temporary employes should have the opportunity of being employed permanently.
– The Act says that they shall be eligible.
– Where is the eligibility of the man who is being discharged because he is physically unfit?
– It was not provided in the Act that the temporary hands must be employed permanently.
– I am showing that it is not the Commissioner, but the ganger who makes the appointment.
– The Public Service Commissioner cannot personally know every man in the service.
– That is just what was said at the time the Public Service Bill was going through. I am glad the AttorneyGeneral now understands that it is impossible for the Public Service Commissioner to know every man in the service.
– I never thought he would. We appointed inspectors to assist him.
– We were invited to believe that the Commissioner would be all eyes. The case to which I have referred is typical of dozens of cases that might be quoted. I am constantly receiving similar complaints from men in my own State. Temporary employes are dispensed with, and they find that within the year appointments are made in the Departments from which they have been discharged. After these men are dispensed with they are debarred from obtaining employment in the service for twelve months, and they can only assume that appointments are made of men who are altogether outside the service.
– They are debarred from temporary employment.
– It should not be temporary, if men have to be put on in their places.
– If men are required, those who have given satisfaction in temporary employment should have the- preference when permanent appointments are made, if any preference at all is to be shown.
-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I rise to make no animadversions upon the Public Service Commissioner or upon any one in the service; but as this matter has been broached, I should like . to say that we have had sufficient experience of the Act to enable us to suggest that the amendment of the section referred to is worthy of Ministerial consideration. I shall cite a case for honorable senators. Some little time ago there were sixteen persons doing temporary work in one of the Departments. The officer in charge of the Department urged the Minister to put the whole of these men on the permanent staff as he considered their services necessary. For some reason or another the Minister put six of the men on the permanent staff, and the other ten have been employed temporarily, from time to time. They have been discharged on the day before every public holiday, and taken on again the day after the holiday in order to save the pittance to which they would be entitled for the holiday under the Act. That discloses a beggarly state of things, and it is a scandalous proceeding for any Minister to consent to. After a great deal of trouble I managed to secure official recognition of the fact that these temporary employes were entitled to be paid for public holidays under the Act; but, as soon as ever I succeeded in getting their legal rights in this respect acknowledged, the practice was adopted of dismissing them before each holiday and taking them on again the day after the holidays, for the sake of the day’s pay of about half a sovereign each. Now all these men are to go, and Johnny Raws are to be taken on to do the work which these men have been doing for nine months. I submit that it is not in the public interest that such changes should take place. These men could go to work without oversight, whilst new men will require to be trained, and the business of the country will be thrown into arrears. I am urging that Ministers should take notice of the discussion, and consider whether it is not in the public interest that the section of the Act referred to should be amended in such a way as to provide that appointments made for the performance of duties which are permanent should also be permanent. Ministers are welcome to the particulars of the case I have cited, and I am prepared to supply names.
– Senator Neild has practically said by implication what I wish to say. We passed a Public Service Bill because we thought the political arena was not a good place in which to discuss the conduct of the Civil Service. We desired to remove the service from any political environment, but having done that, honorable senators proceeded at once to try to bring the question of administration back into the political arena from which we industrially sought to set it apart. Personally, I agree entirely with the policy of removing these questions from the political arena. If any attack is to be made, it should be directed to the Public Service Department, and we should not have irregular discussions upon particular instances. Whether names are mentioned or not, is a matter of no consequence : but these references to particular instances, while they interfere with the efficiency and independence of the Public Service Department, insidiously avoid the direct attack which is implied, but is not made.
– I made no attack upon the Public Service Department.
– I am not complaining of the honorable senator. Whilst the Public Service Act continues in force it should be supported, and honorable senators should not insidiously undermine it by bringing again into the political arena the very discussions which it was our object in passing that measure to avoid.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I desire to elicit some information from the Government on several matters relating to the Post and Telegraph Department. For nearly eighteen months the Public Service Commissioner has been in office, and during this period he has been engaged with the inspectors in drawing up a reclassification scheme. I desire to know whether it is nearly completed. I am aware that some months ago a large amount of information had reached the Commissioner from the inspectors, and I should have thought that by this time the Government would have been placed in possession of the scheme. In Western Australia there are officers in the Post and Telegraph Department who consider that they are entitled to increments of salary, but whenever the question is raised they are told to wait until the classification scheme is completed. More than 11,000 men and women are concerned in this work, and we, as their representatives, are entitled to urge upon the Government that it should be done within a reasonable period. Another question in which the officers of this Department, particularly in Western Australia, are interested is the scheme of allowances which is being drawn up by the inspectors and the Commissioner. I understand that it is the intention of the Government to practically give equal wages and conditions in the capitals of the States, and on that foundation to build a scheme of allowances. In other words, the proposal is to give those officers who live in distant parts of a State or in the tropics an allowance which is based on the minimum in the capital. That is not a fair basis to adopt. The Government in this respect ought not to be in a different position from private employers. In Perth and Melbourne, for instance, private employers do not commence on the same basis. Taking any trade
Or occupation, it will be found that the employes receive a higher wage in Perth than in Melbourne owing to the difference in the cost of living. And yet the Commonwealth is trying to run its Public Service on quite a different line. It is proposed that £110 a year shall be the minimum wage in all the capitals, quite overlooking the fact that the cost of living is 20 per cent, higher in Perth than in Melbourne. I hope that that fact will be considered in devising the scale of allowances. I desire to know on what rule increases of salaries are being given this year ? A statement has been made to me that certain increases in Western Australia were recommended by the Deputy Postmaster-General, and that his recommendations were referred back to him. I desire to elicit from Senator Playford either a confirmation or a contradiction of the report. It seems to lue that if the Government have taken this course thev are doing either too much or too little. When we bring other grievances before the attention of the Government, they tell us that they must abide by what the Commissioner has recommended. They apply the rule of Government responsibility to one case, but not to the other. I desire to know whether certain increases have been recommended to a far greater extent than is disclosed by the Estimates? I wish to refer also to the system of promotion in the Post and Telegraph Department. In framing the Public Service Act we attempted to make it possible for a man to start in the general division at the lowest grade, and gradually to work his way to the top grade by displaying sufficient merit. We thought that, under its provisions, a man would be able to pass from the general to the clerical division, and subsequently from the clerical division to the professional division ; but we find that the law is not being administered in that way. If, for instance, a man is classed as a letter carrier, his salary is increased until it reaches £140, and there he seems to stop. Suppose that the position of letter sorter, carrying a. salary of £120 is vacant, and the letter carrier, who is ‘ receiving a salary of £140, wishes to become a letter sorter, he is called upon to sacrifice £20 a year in order to get into a different grade of the service. It may be argued by the Government that they cannot afford to increase the salary of the office in that case, but I wish to polO t out that no increase of expenditure is involved. When a letter-carrier becomes a letter-sorter, it does not necessarily follow that his successor will get the same salary as he received. I know a case where a letter-carrier who was receiving a salary of £140, desired to obtain a vacant position of letter-sorter. If he had obtained the position he would have had to sacrifice £20 a year, but the Government would not have been called upon to pay any more money to have the amount of work done, because he would have been succeeded by a man at a salary of £70 or £80, or if he had been three years in the service, £110. The letter-carrier would have obtained real promotion, and had his merits recognised, and the Government would have effected a saving. It seems to me that it was the will of the Senate that letter-carriers should have an opportunity of becoming letter-sorters, and finally passing from the general to the clerical division without being called upon to make a pecuniary sacrifice. That object, I submit, could be achieved without entailing the expenditure of an additional £1. The question of transfers from the general to the clerical division is another matter that demands attention. Suppose that an officer in the general division is getting a salary of £140, and that an office in the clerical division becomes vacant. No matter what salary may be attached to the vacant office that officer is required to start as a probationer, so that the provision in the Act relating to transfers is a delusion. Of course it is said that a man should not be appointed over the heads of others ; but the Act contains a provision which enables the Commissioner in certain contingencies to promote over the heads of others any officer who has shown superior merit. Our object in making that provision for transfer from the general to the clerical division was to give an officer in the general division, who had shown ability and merit, an equal chance with an officer in the clerical division, but the Commissioner is not interpreting the Act in that spirit ; and, practically, by his administration, he is shutting off all transfers from the general to the clerical division unless an officer is prepared to make a pecuniary sacrifice and commence again as a probationer. I shall deal with some other questions when we come to the divisions of the Estimates relating to this Department in Western Australia. I hope that in his reply Senator Playford will be able to furnish satisfactory information on the points which I have raised.
– The officers in the Post and Telegraph Department in Tasmania are not being paid for Sunday work, although a regulation under the Public Service Act says that all Sunday work shall be paid for at overtime rates as from the 1st January last. I understand that all officers in the Post and Telegraph Department of other States are being paid for Sunday work, if not at overtime rates. Some little time ago a representative of Tasmania complained of this act of injustice, and the permanent head in Melbourne said that he did not see why the officers should not be paid for Sunday work, and that the matter would be attended to. The Deputy Postmaster-General for Tasmania has since been approached by some of these officers, but he has informed them that he has never had, and has not now, authority to pay overtime fur Sunday work. This seems an anomalous state of affairs. I do not know if the reason for it is that the Ministry have been asked because of the financial state of Tasmania - of which we have heard too much - to keep down expenses in the Post and Telegraph Department as well as in the Defence Department ; but, if so, it is not fair to save money at the cost of fair play to the officers concerned. I am satisfied that I have only to bring the matter before the Vice-President of the Executive Council to be assured that he will give it his fullest consideration. I hope that he will look into the matter. If he does, he will find that what I say is correct - that the Tasmanian officers of the Post and Telegraph Department, and perhaps those of the Customs Department, too, are not being treated in regard to payment for Sunday work in the same manner as the officers of those Departments employed in the other States have been treated. I am sure that it is not the desire of any member of Parliament that there shall be differential treatment. The Department, being a Federal one, should be administered in a Federal spirit. ,
– I am informed that the employes in the Post and Telegraph Department in Tasmania are treated in precisely the same manner as other employes of the Department elsewhere. If they are not, they certainly should be so treated, because it is the wish of the Government to deal with all its officers alike. I am informed that the officers of the Department concerned have to work a certain number of hours during the week to entitle them to . overtime on Sunday ; but that the Tasmanian officers are treated in exactly the same way as the officers employed in the other States. Senator Pearce has complained that an officer of the general division who is transferred to the clerical division has to commence at the lowest rung of the ladder in that division, but I am told that that is not so. Such an officer is required to pass an examination to show that he is qualified for the position to which he aspires, and if he does that, and is appointed to the position, he is given the salary appertaining to it.
– Is a member of the general division entitled to present himself for examination for positions in the clerical division ?
– I have been told of a case in Western Australia in which such an officer was not allowed to present himself for examination.
– Whenever a vacancy occurs, officers are notified of the fact, and all who desire to do so, no matter to what division of the service they belong, may apply for the position. Those who belong to the general division are required to pass an examination to show that they are fitted to enter the clerical division, and regard is of course had to length of service and qualifications generally ; but all applicants are treated alike. I am informed that this rule applies to the promotion of letter carriers to be sorters, but that a number of letter carriers receive higher salaries than some of the lower paid sorters. If a letter carrier applies for a position vacated by a sorter receiving a lower salary than he receives, and obtains the sorter’s’ position, he receives the sorter’s salary. Why should he receive a higher salary ?
– It would not entail any extra expense upon the Government to continue to pay him the rate of salary he received as a letter carrier.
– I believe that the rule is a fair one. If a letter carrier receiving £140 a year applied for and obtained a position vacated by a sorter receiving £120 a year, he would have to accept with the position the lower salary ; but if he applied for and obtained a position vacated by a sorter receiving £150 a year, he would be entitled to the higher salary.
– The practical effect of the rule is that letter carriers are prevented from applying for sorters’ positions.
– I have not inquired as to the effect. The matter is left entirely to the Commissioner ; the Government do not interfere. All we wish is that every man shall be treated fairly, and we believe that the Commissioner is doing his best to provide for fair treatment. The honorable senator also referred to the fact that the Deputy Postmaster-General for Western Australia has recommended the payment of certain increases to the officers in the Post and Telegraph Department of that State, and the Government have been blamed for not granting those increases. The position is this : The officer referred to recommended an all-round increase for his subordinate officers. That is a common trick of men high in the service who want to curry favour with their subordinates, because they know that nothing will make them more popular. I have on many occasions, when Treasurer of South Australia, had to deal with cases of that kind.
– AVas that recommendation made this year or last year ?
– I am “not sure. The Commissioner looked into the matter, and decided that certain increases which he considered fair and just, and on the same basis as increases granted to other branches of the service, should be paid, and they have been paid ; but the recommendations of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral for Western Australia were not accepted. With regard to the statement made about the scheme of allowances in addition to salary, I am informed that these allowances have not been absolutely decided upon yet ; but they will short!)7 come before the Cabinet, and, when they do, due consideration will be given to the claims of officers who are forced to reside in places where living expenses are much higher than they are in the Commonwealth generally. That is the rule adopted in South Australia in regard to public servants who have to reside in the Northern Territory, where the cost of living is higher than it is in Adelaide, and the climate is not the most pleasant in the world. It is only fair and just that such officers should receive higher salaries, and obtain longer leave of absence from duty, than officers elsewhere. I have been asked if the classification of officers is yet complete. I am sorry to say that it is not ; and that we anticipate that it will not be complete until next year. The inspectors have been hard at work in the different States obtaining the necessary information, and, when that work is finished, they will be called together in Melbourne, where a conference will be held between them and the Commissioner, and the scheme finally recommended will be submitted to the Government for consideration and adoption.
– I do not know whether a certain case which has been brought under my notice has been accurately stated ; but, as it involves a very grave charge against the Commissioner, I think I should bring it before the Minister, so that the officer concerned may have an opportunity to clear himself. I know that it would not be fair to condemn him upon hearsay evidence, because I dare say many things are done in the service of which he knows nothing, although his understrappers may say that the matter was referred to him, and his reply was so-and-so. The case which I am about to mention may be one of that kind. A lettercarrier in Western Australia applied to be examined, so that he might be transferred from the general to the clerical division. He therefore filled in an entry form and forwarded it, with the prescribed fee, to the proper authority. But, instead of being afforded an opportunity to rise in the service - an opportunity for which we thought we were providing when we went through the Public Service Bill in this Chamber - both the application and the fee were returned to him, with the information that he could not be permitted to go up for examination.
– Was no reason assigned 1
– No reason was assigned. The man was prepared to submit himself for examination, but an opportunity was refused him. If this statement of the case is accurate, a grave injustice has been done to the officer concerned, though I can scarcely think that any one occupying a position such as that of the Commissioner would be guilty of such injustice towards a subordinate, no matter how humble. I mention the case in order to give him an opportunity to contradict what I have said, if he can do so. Other cases, which are nearly as bad, have been brought under my notice j and I have heard of many instances in which favouritism has been shown - men who should be given promotion being put on one side to allow of the advancement of the favourites of heads of Departments. If attention is not drawn to cases of that kind upon occasions like this, they are passed over, and grave injustice is done. I hope that the Government will inquire into these matters, and that a full explanation will be given of the case to which I have referred, when I hope it will be shown that there is no foundation for a charge of injustice.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). - I wish to supplement a complaint which I have already brought before the Committee. I referred to a class of persons known as instrument fitters, and showed that certain men were to be dispensed with, although it was necessary to obtain other men to fill their places.
– In what State is this happening?
– In Victoria. I have a list here of twenty-nine or thirty names, of which the first two are those of a Mr. Myers and a Mr. Brownrigg. I will not weary the Committee by reading all the names. They are men who have had a long term of service in the Department, and it was not the intention of Parliament that nien who were engaged upon practically permanent work should be discharged under the operation of the Public Service Act. These men should be classed as permanent employes if their’ work is of a permanent character. I wish to point out to the Government, and to the Public Service Commissioner, that the Act should be interpreted and administered in accordance with the rules of common-sense. When I stated that a number of poor unfortunate employes, who have very little influence in the Commonwealth, were engaged in the post-offices of some of the capital cities at a weekly wage of 15s., the Attorney-General asked where they were to be found. I said they were in either New South Wales or Western Australia. I can now tell the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the position of affairs in New South Wales is bad enough, but that the State in which these women are engaged at the small wage of 1 5s. per week is Western Australia. That is the State in which Senator Pearce represents the cost of living to be so high, and which produces £8^000,000 worth of gold per annum. These unfortunate women, many of whom have families to maintain, are receiving only £3 per month. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council has any desire to investigate this matter any further, he might refer to the question asked by me on the 2nd September, 1903. Of course I had no idea when I mentioned this matter that I should be called upon to supply the names of the individuals affected, and the exact amounts received by them, because my statement had reference to the question which I had already asked. I should like the Minister to explain why instrumentfitters, possessing special skill and knowledge, are being dispensed with, whilst other men, without their special skill or lengthened experience in the service, are being taken on in their places ; and also why the unfortunate cleaners in the post-offices are not treated in the same manner as other servants in the Department.
– Perhaps this will be an opportune time to again refer to a question which I have raised on more than one occasion in this Chamber, namely, the overtime paid to letter-carriers and officers employed in the mail branch of the postal service in Queensland. For many years it has been the practice in Brisbane to make certain payments in the form of overtime allowances. For the last thirty years it has also been the practice to make special allowances to letter-carriers and others engaged in the mail branch for services rendered in connexion with the sorting of the English and American mails. Furthermore, fees have been paid according to a fixed scale for Sunday work. These fees were paidup to the 30th June last. Just prior to that date, an intimation was made that new regulations would be framed to provide for similar payments, but under a new system. When the question of entering the Commonwealth was being discussed in Queensland, special attention was directed to the fact that the Constitution contained a provision that officers transferred from the State to the Commonwealth service would have preserved to them their existing and accruing rights and privileges. A serious inroad has, however, now been made upon these rights. The salary and allowances of the officers referred to, when taken together, do not amount to very much ; in fact, I consider that the remuneration is insufficient. Yet under the new regulations, which have been in operation since 30th June, a considerable reduction has been made. The men strongly object to the change, and intend to hold fast to all those rights and privileges which they believe to be safeguarded by the Constitution. It is perfectly clear that those who framed the regulations now in force either were woefully ignorant of the conditions prevailing in Queensland, or wilfully omitted to embody in them the provisions necessary to preserve to the Post-office employes concerned the rights and privileges to which they were entitled as transferred officers. I was at first inclined to believe that owing to the illness of the Public Service Inspector for Queensland, the regulations had been framed by some one without knowledge of the conditions existing in that State, but I ascertained from the Public Service Commissioner that that was not the case. I do not wish to say anything harsh regarding the Inspector, because, unfortunately, he is still on the sick list ; but if the new regulations afford any indication of that gentleman’s capacity, I am afraid that there is much room for improvement, if not for the appointment of an officer more competent to discharge the duties attached to his position. A resolution has already been passed in this Chamber condemning the system of paying for Sunday labour as if Sunday were an ordinary working day, and there were 365 working days in the year. Under this system, those who have Sunday work to perform, receive far less for it than for their services on an ordinary working day. I am sure that that is not in accord with public sentiment. I cannot say whether the continuance of this system is due to any fault of the Commissioner. If the fault lies with the Treasurer or the Ministry, the sooner matters are rectified, the better. Sunday labour should be paid for at a higher rate, and not at a lower rate than that applied to work performed upon ordinary days. The employes in the Queensland Post-office, to whom I have referred, have not drawn the allowances to which they are entitled under the new regulation, lest they might compromise themselves. They do not intend to permit their rights and privileges to be taken away from them without contesting every inch of the ground.
– Matters in connexion with the computation of pay for Sunday work are being rectified.
– Up to the time I left Brisbane on Saturday no intimation to that effect had been conveyed to the men, and the other matters to which I have referred were still unsettled. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has mentioned that the Public Service Commissioner and the inspectors are hard at work classifying the officers and framing regulations which will meet the requirements of the conditions which prevail in the different States. I desire to direct attention to the regulations intended to apply to officers who are stationed in outlying districts. It is provided that officers in remote parts of the Commonwealth shall receive a special allowance equivalent to 5 per cent. of their salary. For instance, an officer in receiptof a salary of £100 per annum would if transferred to some remote part, be entitled to £105 per annum. An increase of salary to even £150 per annum would not afford such an officer more than sufficient compensation if he were sent to some parts of north-western Queensland, because the conditions of life bear no comparison, so far as health, comfort, or the cost of living are concerned, with those which prevail in the more settled parts of the Continent. I am sorry that the Public Service Commissioner did not adopt the course which I suggested some time ago,of enlisting the assistance of officers from the different States, who would bring practical knowledge and experience to bear upon the framing of the regulations. He would have found such assistance of extreme value, because it would have enabled him to avoid many difficulties. I mention these facts in order that the Vice-President of the Executive Council may have an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Postmaster-General with whom I have already freely debated it. I have no doubt whatever that if the Department adopt some method of the kind I have suggested, it will prove beneficial to all concerned. For the Public Service Commissioner a.nd his staff to devise any uniform system which will operate satisfactorily or justly all round is absolutely impossible.
– Several matters to which I wish to refer have been touched upon by other senators. There is one question, however, to which I desire to direct the special attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. It is the attempt which is being made to create what is termed “ uniformity “ in the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department. The idea seems to have got abroad that a uniform system should be adopted throughout Australia. Now, although uniformity may be very good in its way, it is an extremely dangerous thing if we make ourselves slaves to it. For instance, according to that doctrine, a man coming to Melbourne from Northern Queensland would still clothe himself in the way that he did up there, and mee versa, lt must be apparent to everybody that, whilst the administration should revolve round one central idea, latitude and longitude, climate and other conditions, ought to be taken into consideration.
– So they are.
– Probably they are, but not to a sufficient extent. Some little time ago I had an interview with the Public Service Commissioner, and the whole burden of his contention was that the Government desired him to bring about a uniform system of administration in the Post and Telegraph Department. Uniformity was the keynote of his remarks. I pointed out that the conditions which obtained in Sydney were different from those which prevailed in Melbourne or Brisbane, and that in Tasmania still other conditions were operative. How, in the name of common-sense, is it .possible to effect uniformity without inflicting serious injustice upon the employes of the Department, or without hampering the Department itself in carrying on its business ? I do not think that we ought to become the slaves of any idea of that kind in the administration of this great Department. We ought to conduct it upon common-sense lines. I am very sorry to note that, in the administration of most of our public Departments, the ordinary garden variety of common-sense is conspicuous by its absence. What private individuals are able to do without any difficulty appears to be impossible in these Departments. This is a condition of affairs which is not creditable to us, and we ought to attempt, in some way or other, to effect an alteration. I trust that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will impress upon the Commissioner the absolute necessity of dealing not only with each State but with each portion of the Commonwealth, according to the climatic conditions which prevail there, and that he will throw entirely to the winds the idea of grinding the service down to one uniform likeness. Other honorable senators have spoken on the subject of Sunday labour ; but, in my opinion, it is a matter which cannot be mentioned too often. It was thoroughly thrashed out in this Chamber, and we arrived at the conclusion that Sunday labour should be paid for at the rate of time and a half. Nevertheless I have not heard that the Public Service Commissioner has done anything in the direction of giving effect to the wishes of the Senate.
– Did not the honorable senator send his resolutions to another place for its concurrence?
– I did. At the same time those resolutions were adopted by the Senate at such a late period of the session that there is very little likelihood that they will receive consideration in another place during the present Parliament.
– It would not be polite of us to act upon that assumption.
– I am not discussing what is polite or impolite, but what is just and unjust. Is it fair to ask the employes of the Commonwealth to work at a lower rate on Sunday than that which they receive upon other days of the week ? A private employer would not dream of making such a proposal. Most private employers pay their workmen either double rates or time and a half for Sunday labour. Everybody pays more for Sunday work except the Commonwealth. I do not know who is to blame for this state of affairs - whether it is the Public Service Commissioner or the officials of the Post Office, or the Postmaster-General, or the Government, but surely somebody must be blamable. I know, however, that Parliament is responsible. One House of the legislature has already expressed its opinions upon this matter, and I hold that some effect should be given to its views. I wish also to say a word or two upon the question of “ mail “ money to which Senator Glassey has referred. For thirty years certain officers engaged in the Post and Telegraph Department at Brisbane have been in receipt of a specific allowance for what is known as “ mail “ money. That allowance was discontinued on 30th June last, and as a result, a large number of men find their incomes reduced to the extent of £18 or £20 a year. That is a very serious item to men who receive comparatively small salaries - salaries which range from £120 to £150 a year. Repeated representations have been made to the Department and the Public Service Commissioner upon the matter, but up to date, no relief has been afforded. Instead of being paid a lump sum for Sunday work - as was prievously the case - these men are now paid actually less than they received for labour performed upon other days of the week. I do not know whether this “ mail “ money can be regarded as one of their rights and privileges.
– Undoubtedly it can.
– It is a matter for the lawyers to decide. Possibly we may have a case before the High Court in connexion with it.
– It is part of the men’s wages.
– Long custom has induced these employes to regard this money as a part of their regular income, but whether they are entitled to it under the Constitution is a matter which must be decided by the Courts or by some higher authority than I profess to be. I have also received a complaint from the western portion of Queensland in connexion with this question of Sunday work. Out there it appears that some officers act both as telegraph operators and post-office assistants. A telegraph operator works only six hours upon a Sunday, whereas a post-office assistant is required to work seven and a half hours upon that day.
– Have these complaints been made to the Public Service
Commissioner ? What is the use of creating a Department which costs £15,000 a year if we are to air such complaints here?
– If a complaint has been made, it has not been attended with success. In such circumstances to where should Commonwealth employes go for redress of their grievances but to Parliament? All that these officers claim is that where they act as operators and post-office assistants, the)’ ought to be placed upon a level with operators, and that their Sunday’s labour should consist of six hours only. I should like the Vice-President of the Executive Council to tell me how many officers there are in the service over sixty years of age. I am informed that in this Department promotion is blocked, and unnecessary expense incurred by the retention of a very considerable number of men who are over sixty years of age, and who are really not as capable as they were formerly.
– That is not a very good complaint.
– I do not know whether it is a good or a bad one. There is a Public Service regulation which declares that, unless for some very good reason, a member of the Public Service should retire on reaching the age of sixty years. After a man has been in the service for forty years, he ought to be retired. He has earned a pension, and should receive one from the State.
– Public servants do not receive pensions in South Australia.
– It is a pity to see men at that age hanging on to their positions. There are some positions which such men can fill perfectly well ; but there are others we are not so sure about.
– Does the honorable senator think that I could not carry letters, and yet I am sixty years of age.
– I dare say that the honorable senator could ; but he is much more active than are a great number of men who have reached his age. He should also remember that we have some better work for him to do than carry letters. Some honorable senators have referred to the scanty encouragement which is given to men to endeavour to rise in the service. I presume that most honorable senators have heard of Napoleon’s famous saying that he created his generals out of mud - in other words, that he promoted them from the ranks; but it appears to be almost impossible for a young man entering the Post and Telegraph Department, more especially if he enters by the gate of the general division, to ever rise to anything superior to the position of a letter-carrier or a sorter. The intention of honorable senators when the Public Service Bill was before us was that every facility should be given to the humblest letter-carrier or sorter to rise, if he had the ability, to the highest position in the service. My information is that instead of encouragement being given to those men in the general division who are ambitious to rise, every impediment is thrown in their way ; every obstacle that can be raised against them is raised. Why should that be the case? The Government say that they are not responsible. These evils have their rise mostly, I believe, within the service. There is a feeling of jealousy between the members of the clerical division and the general division, and probably between the professional division and all the other divisions. What the people want is efficiency, and I think it must be apparent to every one that a young lad who enters the Department as a messenger, who becomes in time a letter- - carrier or a sorter, and rises step by step in the service, is likely to be a much more efficient post-office employe than is a man who hai been confined during the whole of his career merely to one branch of it. The Government ought to make a representation not only to the Public Service Commissioner, but to the heads of Departments, that every inducement should be given to young men to endeavour to rise in the service. There is one other matter to which I desire to refer, and that is the fact that employes in the Post and Telegraph Department are not permitted to take an active part in politics. My opinion is that that is very wrong, and the framing of a regulation of this character is discreditable, to say the least of it, not only to the Government and to the parties who framed it, but to the Parliament which permits it to go unchallenged.. Why should we seek to deprive an employe of the Commonwealth of any portion of his political rights ?
– According to the electoral law it is ultra vires.
– I believe that another question on which we may probably require the opinion of the High Court is whether it is in the power of the Parliament, or of the Public Service Commissioner, or any other person to take even the least particle of his political power from any citizen of the Commonwealth. What is the good of giving men votes with one hand and taking their political power away from them with the other ? 1 am familiar, of course, with the arguments which are raised in support of regulations of this kind ; but they are altogether unworthy of a free people. What should we think of any private company which deprived its shareholders, if they happened to be employed by it, of the right to have a voice at a meeting of its shareholder ? Such a thing could not be done according to law. If a man is a shareholder in a company and attends a meeting of shareholders in that company, he has rights equal to those of every other shareholder, whether he is an employe of it or not. When he is engaged in the work of the company he is under the orders of his superior officer ; he is acting then not as a shareholder but as an employe. When he attends a meeting of shareholders, however, he does so not in his capacity as an employe, but as a shareholder, and I contend that he is entitled to have a voice and vote in the management of the affairs of that company, just as much as is a shareholder who is not an employe. If that is the position with regard to a private company, should it not apply also to the Commonwealth ? Are not public servants citizens of the Commonwealth as well as employes of it ? Have they not the same interest in the welfare of the Commonwealth as have men who are not in the employ of the State 1 Why, then, should they, under a regulation such as that to which I have referred, be deprived of any portion of their rights as citizens which have been conferred upon them by the Constitution? I hope that the Government, at an early date, will take this matter into their very serious consideration, and will see that a reactionary regulation such as this is swept away. I have very little hope of much improvement being effected for some considerable time. We are told that the work of classifying the service will extend over another year, and after it has been completed there will still be endless trouble and confusion. I was one of those who strongly supported the appointment of a Public Service Commissioner. I am not very sure that I was right in doing so ; but as Senator Glassey has said, we must not condemn the principle until it has had a fair trial. While I have cast some strictures upon the Commissioner, I must confess that his task has been an exceedingly difficult one. He has had to fuse, so to speak, six different systems. He has had to bring about, in his own words, a certain uniformity, and his task has undoubtedly been one of extreme difficulty. For that reason we must not condemn the system too hastily. I trust that before all is over it will be found to be an advantageous one - beneficial, not only to the Commonwealth as a whole, but to those who serve the Commonwealth. I am hopeful also that as time goes on, and as the Commissioner gains more and more experience, he will be able to deal in a more liberal and truly national spirit with the various Departments than he appears yet to have done.
– The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat has told us that he strongly supported the provision for the appointment of a Public Service Commissioner. All that I have to say in reply is that I think I did wrong when I voted against it. It appears to me that the Commissioner is an exceedingly useful buffer between the Government and Parliament. He saves the Government from a good deal of hostile criticism, and certainly from a considerable amount of hostile criticism on the part of the honorable senator. Senator Stewart opened his speech by dressing down the Commissioner in a very severe manner, but concluded with a few remarks to the effect that after all the Commissioner had had an exceedingly difficult task to perform, and perhaps had not done badly after all. The honorable senator has given us a re-hash of the speech made by him on the Public Service Regulations. One of the matters to which he has referred is the question of uniformity in relation to the rates of pay in the service. I do not believe in that uniformity. If he had listened to what I had to say shortly before the adjournment for dinner, he would have found that neither I nor my colleagues believe in it. We believe that the cost of living and various other circumstances which increase the expenditure of civil servants in certain parts of the Commonwealth should be taken into consideration, and that their salaries should be raised to meet additional expenses which public servants in more favoured positions do not have to incur. It seems to me that it would be a very cruel thing to turn men out of the service simply because they have reached the age of sixty years. We have at theheadof the Post and Telegraph Department in South Australia Sir Charles Todd, who is seventyseven years of age, and yet to-day is as able as ever I knew him to be. He is better able to manage the affairs of the Department there than is any man of whom I know, and in view of the fact that he is in full possession of all his faculties, that he has been brought up in the Department, and is a skilled and intelligent gentleman, it would be a most unwarrantable procedure to retire him from the service simply because he is over sixty years of age. To turn out of the service a letter sorter, or any other officer, who had reached the age of sixty years, but who was still able to perform the duties of his office, would be simply shameful. Many of these men, because of family affliction and other causes, have not been able to save much money. In more than one State they are not entitled to pensions, and it would be cruel to turn them out on the world simply to make room for younger men, who would not be more efficient, and certainly not as discreet as they are. The honorable senator has also repeated remarks previously made by him as to the political rights of public servants. The Honorable senator has drawn a parallel between the position of a shareholder of a company, who happens to be an employe of that company, and that of an officer in the Commonwealth service. All that we say is practically that a public servant shall not take an active part in politics ; but Senator Stewart holds that because an employe of a company, who happened to hold shares in it, would be allowed to take an active part in its meetings, a civil servant ought also to be allowed to take an active part in political warfare. Would the honorable senator say that an employe of a company who was also a shareholder in it should have a right to take a prominent part in a meeting of its shareholders; and possibly to abuse his own directors ?
– Why not?
– If he did, he would soon get the sack. I should certainly sack him if I were a director of the company, and he failed to behave himself. What should we say if the head of any Department stood on a public platform and abused the Ministry ? We may go down to the lowest man in the service, and it will be seen that it is inadvisable that public servants should take part in political matters. Especially is this the case with regard to the employes of the Post-office, who have means of influencing the electors in country districts to a considerable extent. We do not deprive public servants of their votes, and we do not intend to do so. They have every right and privilege which is enjoyed by ordinary citizens. We do not propose to treat them as the railway servants of Victoria are treated, and to put them in a special class. If we did that we might have to allow them to talk politics to their hearts’ content, although it would still be a most undesirable thing that they should stand up and oppose the Government of the day’ One or two questions have been put to me, and I will reply to them before sitting down. With regard to Sunday labour we have made an alteration so as to make the payment equivalent to what is paid for ordinary overtime. That is to say, instead of reckoning 365 days for the year, we reckon the usual number of working days, excluding Sundays. Therefore, that grievance is remedied. With regard to payment for overtime, all the officers in the Post-office have been paid up to theend of June under the old scale. A new regulation has been introduced which reduces the amount of payment for overtime. In Queensland the officers say they will not accept it, and the whole question is being considered by the Commissioner with a “view to meet the case as fairly as he can. With respect to what Senator McGregor has said regarding the instrument fitters, and what Senator De Largie has said as to the refusal to give permission to certain officers to be examined for the higher grades, I promise the honorable senators that I will have their speeches cut out of Mansard and forwarded to the Public Service Commissioner for his explanation, and when I receive it I will show it to them. The matter will thus be gone into fairly. I can say no more, because I do not know anything about the cases. Possibly, however, we shall find, when the matter is investigated, that there is some reason for the action which has been taken.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia).With respect to the vote for the salary of the Deputy Postmaster-General at Perth, I wish to know whether the Government have yet made arrangements for the retirement of this officer ? Negotiations have been in progress for some time between the State and the Federal Government. There is some trouble with regard to the liability for pension rights, and I understand that the Federal Government is hesitating as to whether the officer shall be retired or not.
– Negotiations are still proceeding between the State Government and the Federal Government in relation to the matter, but no conclusion has yet been arrived at.
Schedule agreed to with requests.
Bill reported with requests; report adopted.
– I have to announce that I have received a communication from the Governor-General, which I will read. It is as follows : -
I have the honour to inform you that the Honorable Charles Kinnaird Mackellar, M.B., CM., M.L.C., has been chosen to hold the place in the Senate rendered vacant by the resignation of Senator Richard Edward O’Connor, K.C., and to enclose the certificate which has been received from His Excellency the Governor of New South Wales, announcing the appointment.
I have the honour to be,
Your most obedient servant,
President of the Senate.
– In moving the second reading of the Appropriation Bill I explained the reasons why the various financial Bills were brought in separately. The measure now before us provides for the appropriation of £422,283 for new works and buildings. It is not included in the ordinary Appropriation Bill for the year, but is a separate m asure, because it affords an opportunity to the Senate to make amendments, which we could not make in an ordinary Appropriation Bill. I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I am ~verv sorry that at this early period of the career of the new -Government they have done something which I think is very much in the nature of a trick or a subterfuge. I am very anxious to give the new Government a fair trial. 1 have a very great respect for the Prime Minister. He is an ornament to the Legislature. I quite believe that he has had to take over something in the nature of a legacy of wrong doing. But the Prime Minister and his Government should meet the case boldly, and refuse to carry on any negotiations or to incur any expenditure which meets with strong objection in the Senate and in the other Chamber. Every one knows that the present Parliament is about to close its work, and that many members of it are about to go before their constituents. Bills are brought forward dealing with the expenditure of millions of money, and one can well imagine that it would be possible to pass through the Senate proposals for the expenditure of several thousands of pounds with very little opposition, because honorable senators are in such a hurry to get away that they may not notice the items in the schedule. What can we think of a Government, which, having consented to a Conference with the protesting partners in the Pacific Cable, proposes in this Bill expenditure to the extent of over £22,000, which, if agreed to, will render absolutely nugatory any proceedings which may take place at the Conference? If honorable senators will look at page 9 of the Bill they will see that the expenditure to which I object is as follows : - For New South “Wales, “ Telegraphic line from Sydney to South Australian border, owing to the use of line having been granted to the Eastern Extension Company in connexion with international traffic, £11,100 ;” Victoria, “ Telegraph line from Melbourne to South Australian border, owing to the use of a line having been granted to the Eastern Extension Company in connexion with international traffic, £5,043 ;” South Australia, “ Additional wires from Adelaide to New South Wales and Victorian borders, owing to the use of lines having been granted t» the Eastern Extension Company in connexion with international traffic, £6,000.” These sums make up a total of £22,143. What use will it be for the protesting partners to the Pacific Cable to make any protest at the proposed Conference if we sanction the expenditure of £22,143 for the construction of wires to carry out the proposed agreement with the Eastern Extension Company?
– It will not make the slightest difference - not the slightest.
– I am not prepared to accept the honorable and learned senator’s statement, because, unfortunately, he has turned a political summersault in connexion with the Eastern Extension Company When the Post and Telegraph Act was before the Senate, he pointed out how unfair it would be to the Pacific Cable to permit the Eastern Extension, or any other company, to enjoy the privilege that some honorable senators desired to give to them.
– Not this privilege ; this was not mentioned.
– This is a part of the privilege. This is the scheme which is going to make the Pacific Cable a financial burden on the Commonwealth.
– The other was a different matter altogether.
– It was not at all a different matter. The proposal was in connexion with allowing senders of messages to send them by whatever route they wished. Senator Drake then said that that would be disadvantageous to. the Pacific Cable. Now, however, it is proposed to give the company special wires and opportunities of transacting business in Victoria and Queensland to the great disadvantage of the Pacific Cable.
– No ; the Pacific Cable Board does not regard this as a concession.
– What is this that we hear from the honorable and learned senator ? Are we to understand that the Pacific Cable Board does not regard this as a concession to the Eastern Extension Company ? Have not the partners -Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain - been protesting all along against the proposed agreement because it extends the concession granted to the Eastern Extension Company in New South Wales, to Queensland, and Victoria? The late Prime Minister and also Senator Drake know the Eastern Extension Company well enough, as I shall show the Senate at a later stage ; and both know that no one has up to the present been able to “gain a point “ over that corporation. So astute and clever, and so insinuating and iinsidious, are the company in their methods that they are able to gain an advantage over any Government with whom they do business. Their history shows that their social and other influences are so great that they have been able to manipulate in their own interests the Governments of half-a-dozen nationalities. To allow this company to enter Victoria and Queensland would be to disadvantage the whole of the Commonwealth, and the partners in the Pacific Cable. Once this Parliament passes a Bill authorizing the expenditure of £22,143 in order to give this company special wires to Adelaide, so that they may send messages along their wires by the Cape or by Port Darwin, from that moment we give the company a legal status, and any effort to expel them from their position at a later stage may mean heavy damages awarded against the Commonwealth by the High Court. By passing this Bill we should give the company a footing, and they would be able to plead that they had been led into a considerable, expenditure of money, because the Commonwealth had to all intents and purposes ratified the agreement entered into with them by the Prime Minister. It appears to be a very wrong proceeding - to call it by no harsher term - on the part of the Government, to sneak in a provision of this kind in order that the Eastern Extension Company may claim that the agreement has been ratified.
– There is no sneaking about the Bill, which has been passed by another place.
– If it is not proposed that the money shall be expended, why bring in the Bill ?
– The Government propose to expend the money.
– Is it not a fact that to a certain extent the wires are now being laid, and that the Government in this matter have acted without the authority of Parliament? The proposed agreement was brought before Parliament in such a way that the members of the House of Representatives had not the time, or did not care to take the trouble, to study the details, and the measure was pushed through. It is claimed that there is a majority in Parliament in favour of the Eastern Extension Company’s agreement.
– It is claimed that there is a majority in the Senate.
– That is so. I urge those honorable senators who, through their sense of justice and fair play, signed a requisition to Mr. Reynolds, the manager of the Pacific Cable Board, asking him to cable to his board the fact that there is a majority of the Senate i ho will not ratify the agreement until the Conference asked for is held, to stand firm and reject this Bill. The Attorney-General says that the Pacific Cable Board do not object to this expenditure.
– No ; I said that the Cable Board do not want it themselves. The honorable senator should not misquote me.
– That the Pacific Cable do not want the expenditure themselves ?
– The Pacific Cable Board are not asking for any such concession themselves, because they do not regard it as valuable.
– When I said that this was a concession to the Eastern Extension Company, I understood the AttorneyGeneral to say that the Pacific Cable Board did not consider it a concession.
– I shall tell the honorable senator what I said when he has done.
– If that be what the Attorney-General said, I come to the conclusion that there must be something in the rumour that two or three members of the Cable Board, instead of being loyal to that Board, are pro-Eastern ; and their conduct ought to be severely criticised and watched. Mr. Reynolds, when in Melbourne, appears to have been overawed or hypnotized by the influence of the Eastern Extension Company. Honorable senators will remember that a requisition, signed by twenty members of the Senate, was sent to Mr. Reynolds, asking him to cable to his Board the fact that this Chamber was not favorable to the ratification of the agreement with the Eastern Extension Company until the desired Conference was held, and to also inform his Board that what was tantamount 1 to a motion of censure had been carried against the Government in the Senate Will honorable senators believe that Mr.
Reynolds did not cable that information at i once, but wrote to me pointing out that when he last cabled he had instructions from his Board to say that the majority wanted a Conference, and that he had that very day i received a cable stating that the Board were still in favour of a Conference, and he had informed the Prime Minister to that effect, and asking me whether, under the circumstances, I still considered that a cable message was necessary ? I had thought that Mr. Reynolds would be only too anxious to let his Board know exactly how the matter stood ; and in order to find out whether the Government were still adamant, Senator Smith and myself endeavoured to see the present Prime Minister in order, if possible, to bring about a Conference. We could get no reply : but on the very day on which a reply had been promised, Mr. Warren, the manager of the Eastern Extension Company, dined with the Postmaster-General and Mr. Reynolds in Parliament House. I immediately wrote to Mr. Reynolds, asking him to be good enough to cable his Board in the terms of the requisition, and I got a reply stating that Mr. Reynolds had done so. But Mr. Reynolds cabled only a part of the requisition ; and it seems to me that he was overawed by the Eastern Extension Company and the influences at work. The business of the Eastern Extension Company appears to be transacted mostly at dinners, and, of course, if the Postmaster-General gives a dinner to the representative of the Company, that representative must give the Postmaster-General a dinner in return.
– It is the “lion and the lamb.”
– On all these occasions the “ lamb “ appears to have been the Government. I do not know the object of the Government in proposing this expenditure at the present moment.
– Why does the honorable senator not give me a chance of telling the Senate the reason ?
– What is the use? What did Senator Drake say when I introduced the matter of the Pacific Cable some time ago ? The honorable gentleman had a a great number of notes, but we have not yet had his reply. When he does have the opportunity of speaking, I hope he will reply to some statements which I am about to lay before the Senate. I should like Senator Drake to explain this article, which he wrote in Progress, a paper published by him at Brisbane, on 3rd February, 1900. The article is as follows : -
A question which is going to play a very big part in the immediate politics .of Australasia is’ beginning to show itself on the horizon. As most, if not all, of our readers are aware, this continent has to depend solely upon a private company for the transmission of nil cable news to and from
I Europe. The price per word, the rate and regu-I larity of transmission, and the accuracy of the
I messages received and despatched depend entirely I upon the officers of the Eastern Extension Tele- I graph Compaq1 - a gigantic corporation making i hundreds of thousands per annum, and storing up millions in a reserve fund. This enormously wealthy company has received considerably over £3,000,000 from the different Governments of Australasia in the way of subsidies, and has conducted itself generally in the most approved monopolistic fashion by grabbing all it could get, demanding the highest rates procurable and paying the largest dividends possible. The interest on its capital has been guaranteed by some of our governments, and it has run practically no risk, while it has built up a monopoly which has become a crushing load upon the community, and threatens to dominate the governments of some of the southern colonies. The extortionate cable rates charged by this octopus combination have crippled free telegraphic intercourse between Australia and Europe, and been the primary cause of the meagreness of the daily newspaper information received from London. No country in the world of our commercial and political importance is so badly served with news as Australia, and the trouble is wholly due to the fact that all our cables must pass along the lines of a private company, which charges and does what it likes - and reaps a golden harvest in the process.
The selfishness and extortion of this mammoth monopoly at last became so apparent and intolerable that the statesmen of the continent were forced to look round for some means of escape from its clutches, and when the Pacific Cable project was mooted they welcomed the scheme as a possible liberation from the monopoly’s growing power and influence. At last, after many conferences and much deliberation, it was decided that an All British cable should be laid, the cost to be borne in fair proportions by Great Britain, Canada, and Australasia. The main object of the proposed scheme was to have a cable touching only British territory, and owned solely by the State. The existing privately-owned cable is inadequate for present-day requirements, and, provision having to be made for the future, it was deemed ad visable to seize the opportunity of breaking a monopoly which was yearly becoming troublesome, and would eventually become quite intolerable. But the proposed innovation no sooner began to take practical shape than the Eastern Extension Compaq- brought pressure to bear upon the Imperial authorities, on the ground that the new cable was not at present necessary and that when the requirements of trade demanded it, they were prepared to lay another to the Cape. But by this time Canada and Australia had entered into the idea of a State-owned All-British cable with enthusiasm, and had obtained the report of an independent Commission in favour of its practicability, economy, and necessity. And the British Government, wisely putting the appeals of the colonies before the interested claims of a private syndicate, consented to bear a share of the cost. Finding that no help in bolstering their gold-producing monopoly could he obtained from the Home Government, the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company set to work to undermine the opposing project by offering to reduce the rates and construct another cable. The proposal, as given by Mr. J. E. Squier, acting manager for the company in Australia, was: “The company will entirely waive the renewal of subsidy and guarantee against competition, and in addition to providing a cable from the Cape all the way to Glenelg via Perth will at once reduce Tariff to 4s. for the whole of Australasia and make further reductions on a sliding scale as traffic increases until the reduction reaches 2s. 6d. per word in 1903. In return for the above the Company would only require the same .privilege in Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne as the)’ have hitherto enjoyed in Great Britain of directly distributing their international telegrams to and from the public.” The proposal of the company looks harmless, but when it is inquired into it is found to deal a death blow to the Pacific scheme. If the monopoly is permitted to collect and deliver messages throughout Australia it will doubtless force the large cabling firms to enter into long contracts, and when the State cable comes along it will find the best part of the profitable business absorbed by the syndicate. In this connexion we must remember that we are dealing with an immensely powerful and wealthy combination, which has millions to spare in fighting the opposition. If the company can secure specially favorable conditions now it will go on its way rejoicing, and the fortunate shareholders will continue to grow .fat on the dividends provided by deluded Australians. It is clearly our duty to resist all concessions to the company and push ahead with the Pacific scheme, which would have its Australian terminal station in Queensland, which would grow into a valuable national asset and a rich source of revenue.
The question that now confronts the people of Australasia is whether the)’ are going to remain at the mercy of this private company or construct and maintain an All-British cable to be owned and controlled by the people themselves. Apart from the fact that the Pacific line would only touch on British territory, and thus remove the risk of our being cut off from all European intercourse in time of war, the proposed line would be a strong binding link between Great Britain, Canada, and Australasia, inasmuch as it would form a valuable part of our joint national property and be wholly under the control of the people who could regulate the transmission rates and all other matters connected with the new department. The only argument that we have heard against the proposal - the argument of the company’s special pleaders - is that it would ruin the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company - a private monopoly which is only now, after years of extortion, beginning to suggest reasonable rates and give a thought to public petitions. We submit that a new cable is necessary in the interest of Australasia, in order that we may be adequately supplied with old world news, in order that communication between this continent and Europe may not depend upon the caprice or business exigencies of a private company, in order that reasonable rates of transmission may be assured, and in order that the power of an unscrupulous and grasping monopoly may be broken. In this matter the interests of the people are paramount. In Great Britain and Australia postal and telegraphic affairs are controlled by the Governments, and private enterprise is not permitted to interfere with the Statemonopolies, and it is anomalous to permit all telegraphic intercourse between the Southern hemisphere and the heart of the world to be monopolized by a private, profit-mongering concern, the alpha and omega of whose existence isdividends, no matter who pa3’s them. We contend that no offer of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company can possibly be so satisfactory to thepublic as the results sure to follow the inauguration of the Pacific Cable under State control. Thechairman of directors of the monopoly told hisshareholders, at the last meeting in London, that if the Pacific Cable were laid it would mean a loss of £250,000 per annum to his company. Presumably, he was then reckoning on still retaining a. share of the Australian trade, so it is clear that this country has been a fine healthy milch cow toa number of fortunate European speculators. Is it not time the people took this profitable source of revenue into their own hands ?
– Was I editor of thenewspaper at that time? The honorable senator will be able to see from the front page.
– I have no desire to dothe honorable and learned senator any injustice. I find that this is the title of the* newspaper - “ Progress : a journal devoted to the advancement and prosperity of Queensland as a Colony, and as a State of the Commonwealth. Proprietor, James G.. Drake.”
– As the name of theeditor is not given, I was not editing thenewspaper at that time, and why does the honorable senator say that I wrote thearticle ?
– Does the honorable and learned senator deny having written thearticle ?
– I do deny it, and I was not editing the newspaper at the time.
– The honorable and learned senator was the proprietor of th& paper. “Will he deny that every speech which he made upon the subject was in the same strain as the article I have read t
– I do not know what th& honorable senator may mean by the same strain. I have always advocated the Pacific.Cable, and I do so still.
– The honorable and learned senator denies that he wrote thearticle, and we must accept his denial. Hewas the proprietor of the paper, and, though, no editor’s name is published, it was generally understood at that time that SenatorDrake was editor as well as proprietor. H& must take the responsibility of that article-
It is a good one, and the honorable and learned senator need not be ashamed of it ; nor need the writer. The article is written by a man who knows the ways of the Eastern Extension Company, and who understands the position. Senator Drake knows the insidious influence of the company, and that if it is allowed to get a footing the Pacific Cable will be a failure. He knows that if we permit the expenditure of this money, which is to give the Eastern Extension Company special facilities for sending cablegrams by their line, the loss on the Pacific Cable will continue for another period of at least ten or twelve years. It is the duty of every one who talks about the Pacific Cable being a binding link between us and the sister Federation of Canada, to do all he can to keep the Eastern Extension Company out of Victoria and Queensland. That can be done under section 80 of the Post and Telegraph Act, which provides that the Postmaster- General shall have the exclusive privilege of collecting telegrams, and performing all the incidental services connected therewith. If the Department is careful to guard its privileges, no person other than the Postmaster-General can collect, receive, or deliver telegrams in Victoria or Queensland. We have a right to keep the Eastern Extension Company out. Senator Drake denies having written the article which I have read, but he will not deny the speech which he made in the Senate when the Post and Telegraph Bill was under consideration. The honorable senator will not deny that he said then that the Pacific Cable, owned and controlled by the State, could not possibly compete with an outside private company. He will not deny having said that State ownership is a handicap, because the State must do its business in an open way. He will not deny that he said the opposing company would give rebates to cable users, and he will not deny that the Eastern Extension Company, if permitted to come into Victoria and Queensland, will make secret agreements with cable users to the detriment of the Pacific Cable, and the loss of all the partners connected with it. What are the figures published in connexion with this 1 From statements received from the British Treasury by the Postmaster-General, and published in the Argus newspaper of 1st July, it appears that, in connexion with the Pacific Cable for the year ending 31st March, 1903, the disbursements are set out thus -
The cable was only opened for traffic in December last. Consequently three months’ revenue was all that could be set off against this heavy annual charge. No exact statement of the receipts for this period has been supplied by the British Treasury, but in one despatch it was estimated that the revenue would average about £1,150 per week for one class of business, and £13,600 per annum for another class. These calculations indicate that the receipts for the quarter mentioned probably aggregated £18,910, so that the accounts for last financial year possibly read -
This loss would have to be made good by the parties to the scheme somewhat as follows : -
The estimates for next financial year - to 31st March, 1904- are-
It is anticipated that the receipts for the year will amount to £73,400. The result of the year’s operations will therefore probably be -
This loss will have to be apportioned amongst the Governments concerned in these propor tions -
The total loss for the two years will therefore not fall far short of £193,790, of which Victoria’s share will be £21,394. The interest charge, £77,500, will remain stationary for 50 years, but at the expiration of that period the money borrowed to construct the cable will have been repaid, and this annual charge will thereupon cease.
When the promoters of the Pacific Cable, Sir Sandford Fleming and others, were casting up their estimates, they calculated that, given a fair share of the traffic, say one-half, the Pacific Cable would pay well, but the Pacific Cable Board have not been able to get one-half of the traffic, and why 1
– We have got half of the traffic to Europe ; we cannot get it to the East.
– Because in the first place the insidious influence of this company was able to find its way into the Departments of the State, and in the next place the Federal Government, who should have done their duty by their partners in the Pacific Cable, allowed the Eastern Extension Company to come into Melbourne, where fully one-third of the cable business is done, open their offices, and canvass for business. Do members of the Ministry mean to say for a moment that that was fair treatment to the other partners in the Pacific Cable? Was it fair treatment to the public men of Canada 1 Every one, including Sir George Turner, the late Prime Minister, the present Prime Minister, and Senator Drake himself, admits that Canada, by its success in securing the construction of the Pacific Cable, has saved Australian cable users £750,000. Was it fair treatment to Canada to allow the Eastern Extension Company to find their way into Victoria? Senator Drake will tell us this evening or to-morrow that it will probably turn out to be a very good thing to allow the Eastern Extension Company these privileges, as we shall be able to get rid of them in twelve years time. When he was advocating that privileges should be given to the Eastern Extension Company he said that we could terminate the contract in twelve years if we pleased, or we could make another contract with the company. Evidently the honorable senator was not then of the same mind as he was when proprietor of Progress in 1900.
– The honorable senator is back upon that, is he 1
– The honorable and learned senator has changed his mind. I am sure that any one who will take the trouble to go into this matter must confess that it is our duty to ourselves, as well as to our partners in the Pacific Cable, not to permit this expenditure on behalf of the Eastern Extension Company. This company is a most gigantic monopoly. Honorable senators will get some idea of the extent of the monopoly when they read a little book which is issued by the Eastern Extension Company, and which gives a list of the various companies which, with the Eastern Extension Company, are amalgamated in a company called “ The Globe Telegraph and Trust Company.” One of the most prominent individuals connected with the Eastern Extension Company, a son of the first Sir John Pender, Sir John Denison Pender, is a director of the Eastern Telegraph Company Limited, the Eastern Extension Australasia and China Telegraph Company Limited, the Western Telegraph Company Limited, the Eastern and South African Telegraph Company Limited, the West African Telegraph Company Limited, the West Coast of America Telegraph Company Limited, the Europe and Azores Telegraph Company Limited, the Direct Spanish Telegraph Company Limited, the Black Sea Telegraph Company Limited, and the Globe Telegraph and Trust Company Limited.
– They have spun a web round the world.
– The honorable senatorputs it nicely ; they have spun a web round the world. The reason this company is fighting so hard in Australia to-day is because they see that their gigantic monopoly is threatened. They see that if this Pacific Cable, which is a State-owned scheme, is a success, other nations will be following the example of Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom. They see that that is inevitable. It took nearly two months’ hard fighting on the part of the friends of the Pacific Cable iu the Senate to secure a Conference for the protesting partners. I believe that the Government would have done almost anything to thwart our efforts in that regard, and it is fortunate that they did not succeed. The Eastern Extension Telegraph Company have a fighting fund of £800,000 or more to look after their special interests in all parts of the world. It will pay them to expend that sum in reducing the rates to- cable users in Australia, so as to attract I most of the business which is going to the Pacific Cable. That result is inevitable, i The late Government, through the AttorneyGeneral, led us to believe that the agreement which they were entering into was one to prevent the cutting of rates, j The paragraphs to that effect in the Melbourne press were not denied. They were lulling us into a sense of false security. There is nothing in the proposed agreement to prevent the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company from reducing their rates. On the contrary, every privilege is given to them when there is any competition from the Pacific, or any other cable, to reduce their rates to whatever sum they like, and it will pay them to do so. Senator Drake knows that if the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company were to reduce their word from 3s. to 2s. 6d., and the Pacific Cable Board were to charge 3s., the whole of the business would go to the former. Because business people would not be so foolish as to pay 3s. a word when they could pay 2s. 6d. If the Pacific Cable Board found that they could reduce their rate to 2s. 6d. per word, the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company would come down to 2s. a word ; and if the Pacific Cable Board reduced their charge to 2s. a word, the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company would come down to ls. 6d., thence to ls. per word - in fact, to any sum, I believe, to make the Pacific Cable such a huge burdell on the general taxpayer in the Commonwealth, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, that the State proprietors and the taxpayers would say, “The Government stroke is not a business stroke. The Government cannot run this concern successfully. Let us sell the cable to the Eastern Extension Company as old wire.” The representatives of the Government in the Senate are not so unintelligent that they cannot see through this thing. They see through it well enough, but for some reason - I cannot give the reason, and I am sure that they cannot give a satisfactory reason to the public - they are prepared to allow the company to come in here and do this thing.
– I desire, sir, to draw your attention to the absence of a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– The Senate has a splendid opportunity of saving the position for Australia, as well as the protesting partners. We have committed ourselves,
I together with Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, to an expenditure of, i at the very least, £77,500, for a period of fifty years - that is, to pay interest and to provide a sinking fund - in connexion with the establishment of the Pacific Cable. If j the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company are allowed to come in here in this way, undoubtedly they will make the Pacific Cable a financial failure ; no other result can follow, as Senator Drake knows. I explained to him the other day how a telegram company in this “city were giving rebates to their customers, and registering indicators free of charge, and I expressed the opinion that they are under an agreement to influence business over the lines of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, and that the inevitable result will be that, once the latter company get a legal footing in Victoria and Queensland, down will come their rates, and the loss on the Pacific Cable will be greater. It may appeal to some honorable senators who use the cable to a great extent that that company will reduce their rate from 3s. to 2s. 6d., from 2s. 6d. to ls. 6d., and from ls. 6d. to ls.; but they should remember that the States which have entered into this partnership have already saved Australian cable users £750,000 ; that if there is to be a big loss on the Pacific Cable, those of us who desire to protect the general taxpayer against this burden will try to get a stamp duty imposed on all cables sent through the PostOffice, and that, for the sake of securing a merely temporary gain - cheap cables at the expense of the Pacific Cable Board - they might have to pay a greater sum later on. As soon as the Pacific Cable Board had been made a mockery, and their lines taken up or parted with to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, the rate would be put back, if not to 9s. 4d. a word, to at least one-half of that sum, and a monopoly re-established. Twenty members of the Senate signed a document to the effect that they would not ratify any agreement until the desired Conference had been held. Other honorable senators declined to sign the requisition, but they said that they were in favour of a Conference being held. Dismissing for the present all the arguments against allowing the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company any footing in Victoria and Queensland, and appealing to honorable senators on the single ground of the rights of the protesting partners, I hope that they will reject this proposed expenditure. I do not ask them to reject the Bill, because it provides for the construction of justifiable works, but to omit the items to which I have called attention. We have a perfect right to make that amendment, because it is in the direction of reducing a burden or charge on the people. I submit that in order to carry out the spirit of the promise made by the Government we must reject the items. It would be of no use to pass the items and then to hold a Conference ; “it would be tying the hands of the other partners.
– But the Government have agreed to hold a Conference.
– Yes. I hope that the honorable senator has been convinced by my remarks that the proposal of the Government to expend £22,153 on special lines for the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, if enacted in this Bill, would be used as an argument by their friends, as has been done already, that the negotiations had gone too far for the Commonwealth to recede from the agreement. Mr. Chamberlain made the suggestion in his telegram the other day, but the members of the Senate know that it is not the case. We know, and the Government know on the best authority - the signatures of honorable senators - that twenty senators desire a Conference to be held before the agreement is ratified. If we pass these items, undoubtedly we shall assist the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company to get a hold, which they would not otherwise have. But if we refuse to vote this money the protesting partners will get fair play, the agreement will be discussed on its merits, the absence of certain necessary clauses will be pointed out, and satisfaction will be given. There is no doubt in my mind that a Conference, if held, would have a beneficial result. I am very hopeful that after a Conference has been held the Government will not ask us to vote an expenditure of this kind. But the point before the Senate at the present time is that we have no right to spend £22,153 in the interests of that company, in giving them special privileges to carry out the proposed agreement, until a Conference has been held.
– Senator Higgs, as usual, has indulged in a very long preamble, and introduced a number of matters which he brought forward in the discussion on the proposed agreement between the Government and the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. I think it would be quite out of place for me to go in for another discussion on the subject now, seeing that it has been arranged that a> Conference shall be held.
– I thought that the Minister was going to reply to me if I gave him a chance.
– I am going to reply to some points, but not to enter into a, general discussion with regard to the advantages of the proposed agreement, because we have already agreed to a Conference on the subject. The point I wish to make clear to Senator Higgs and the Senate generally, is that in voting this money we shall do nothing in the way of ratifying the agreement - that is where he is wrong - and his whole justification, if it were any justification for rediscussing the matter, falls to the ground.
– If the agreement is not ratified, will the Commonwealth require these lines 1
– Yes-; weshall require them in any case. The amounts set down for the construction of lines from Sydney to the South Australian border, and from Adelaide to the New South Wales and Victorian borders is required for expenditure in accordance with the agreements entered into, prior to Federation, between the Governments of New South Wales and South Australia and the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company - agreements which have been superseded by the Commonwealth agreement now awaiting ratification. Furthermore, a point which has been overlooked is that the wire is required to carry the existing business. The number of telegrams sent is constantly increasing, and we, therefore, require additional wires. These telegrams will be sent over the wires whether the lines are used by the officials of the Department or by the staff of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. The honorable senator spoke as though we were asking for money to erect lines especially for the benefit of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company.
– The words of the item seem to indicate that.
– An agreement has been made with the company, under which a wire must be reserved to them, and if we reserve a wire to them we must erect another for ourselves. We should require this additional wire if the business now transmitted by the staff of the Eastern Extension Company were sent by our own officials. We have not reserved for the company a wire for the transmission of business which would not, under ordinary circumstances, be sent. The company have asked for a special wire, because they believe it to be of advantage to them to have one. Instead of their messages being transmitted by our operators over our own wires, at the expense of the persons sending the cablegrams, the company have asked to be allowed to transmit the messages over our wires by their own operators, paying us the ordinary rate of 5d. per word. The Pacific Cable Board pay us 5d. per word for transmitting their messages over our wires by our own operators, and the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company pay us exactly the same rate for transmitting their messages over our wires by their operators, we reserving a particular line for their use.
– But is it not a fact that the company can not have that right unless the Commonwealth gives it to them under a special agreement, since the Post and Telegraph Act provides that the Government shall have a monopoly of telegraph business within the Commonwealth 1
– Even a special agreement, if contrary to the provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act, would be illegal. The company would have liked a new wire erected for their use, but we declined to give that. We have, however, reserved a wire for them, and we have to erect a new wire for ourselves to take its place. The Pacific Cable Board employ our operators for sending their messages over our wires, whereas the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company employ their own operators, but pay the same rate per word.
– Do the messages of the Pacific Cable Board go over the same wire as is used for the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company’s messages ‘
– No ; the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company have a special wire, and employ their own operators at each end of it.
– Does the Pacific Cable Board enjoy a similar concession ?
– We have offered the same concession to the Pacific Cable Board. When Senator Higgs was trying to show that we were doing a great wrong to the Pacific Cable Board by giving this concession to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, I pointed out that the directors of the Pacific Cable Board do not seem to think so, because they have distinctly stated that they do not desire such a concession for them selves.
– Because they have not a sufficient volume of business to transmit.
– I do not know that that is the reason. We have intimated to the directors of the Pacific Cable Board that they can have the same advantage asis given to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, but they have said - “No, we prefer that our messages shall be sent over your wires by your operators.” Therefore, it cannot be rightly suggested that the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company is given a special advantage in this matter. We shall require these wires in any case, whether the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company continues to transmit the messages by their own operators, or the messages are transmitted by the postal officials. We must proceed with the erection of the wires, and we do not prejudice our position in regard to the company by erecting them. The immediate necessity for these wires arose in consequence of the agreement of the New South Wales Government with the company to provide it with a special wire. Of course, when a wire is set apart for a particular service it is sometimes necessary to have more wires for the remaining business, because a wire set apart may not be fully used. Still, it is a great advantage to the Department to have a number of wires, in order to prevent delay in the transmission of business.
– Has there been any serious delay between Melbourne and Adelaide so far 1
– There has been delay in the transmission of messages between Melbourne and Western Australia.
– Between Adelaide and Western Australia.
– A wire must be provided between Adelaide and the New South Wales bolder, under the agreement between the State Government and the company. The Department would erect a great many more wires if it could obtain the necessary money. It will be of advantage to have additional wires from Melbourne to Sydney, from Melbourne to Adelaide, and in other directions, and, so far as I can see, it is of no disadvantage to the Department to, reserve one line for the transmission of the messages of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company by their own operators.
– How long is it since the use of a wire was granted to the company ?
– The agreements with the Governments of New South W ales and South Australia were signed in January, 1901, but the company did not ask for a wire until recently. The Commonwealth agreement was signed about May last.
– If we struck out the item, would our action amount to repudiation 1
– It would be a repudiation of the agreement made by the Government of New South Wales with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. That is one of the terms. As I have already pointed out, this cannot prejudice the Commonwealth in the slightest degree.
– What about the Victorian item of £5,043 1
– That is under the new agreement.
– There is no agreement.
– An agreement was made, subject to ratification by Parliament ; but it will not now be submitted for ratification until a Conference has been held.
– Is it on the same basis as the other agreement ?
– Under the proposed agreement a special line would be given to the Eastern Extension Company in the same way that is provided for in the New South Wales agreement.
– Has the construction of the Victorian line yet been commenced 1
– I do not think so, because we do not usually commence to construct works until the money is voted.
– Was the agreement for the construction of the line from Melbourne to the South Australian border entered into after the transfer of the Department to the Commonwealth t
– Yes. I find that there have been delays between Melbourne and Adelaide, owing to the increase of business arising from the lower rates : so that we really require the line, whether the agreement stands or otherwise. I do not know whether I should reply to the remarks of Senator Higgs with regard to the newspaper article which he so confidently attributed to me, because he has since cheerfully withdrawn his statement. I think it is hardly fair, however, for the honorable senator to make rash and bold statements on the chance that they may be correct. The honorable senator should have known that at the time the article appeared I had ceased to be the editor of the newspaper to which he has referred. At any rate he might have found that out if he had made inquiries. It was difficult to say off-hand, after such a lapse of time, whether I had written such an article; but, owing to some peculiarities of style on the part of the writer, I came to the conclusion that the contribution quoted was not my handiwork. At the same time part of the article is correct. I have always advocated the Pacific Cable, because I considered that it would have the effect of reducing the cable rates. That result has been brought about, and the portions of the article referring to that point are absolutely correct. We were paying higher rates than we should have paid, and there is no doubt that the construction of the Pacific Cable resulted in a reduction. The proposed new lines have nothing to do with the agreement with the Eastern Extension Company. They must be constructed, and it is just as well that the money should be voted.
– Why should it be necessary to refer to the agreement ?
– There is no objection to striking out the reference to the proposed agreement with the Eastern Extension Company.
– The items of expenditure mentioned as being necessitated by the agree.ment entered into with the Eastern Extension Company are so mixed up with the ordinary votes that it is very difficult to distinguish one from the other. As the AttorneyGeneral has stated, the construction of the telegraph line from Sydney to the South Australian border was authorized by a State Act of New South Wales, and the construction of the line from Adelaide to the Victorian border was authorized by a State Act of South Australia. Therefore we have to carry out the engagements into which those States have entered. There is, however, an amount of £5,043 set down for the construction of a line from the South Australian border to Melbourne. That work has not been authorized by either State or Commonwealth. A special line is now placed at the disposal of the Eastern Extension Company against the express wish of the Victorian Government. When Sir George Turner was Premier of Victoria he absolutely refused to give to the Eastern Extension Company the facilities now proposed, and the Commonwealth Government have not only agreed to incur certain expenditure j in order to enable the company to divert busi-I ness from the Pacific Cable, but have allowed the company to open offices in Melbourne against the. wish of the State Government, and without authority from the Commonwealth Parliament. Their action has been quite unwarrantable. On the pure supposition that the proposed agreement with the Eastern Extension Company would be ratified, they have placed at the disposal of the company a special line from Melbourne to the South Australian border, and have thus placed the Pacific Cable Company at a disadvantage. It was very amusing to hear the reasons urged by the Attorney-General for the construction of the proposed new line. He stated that it would be necessary whether the agreement with the Eastern Extension Company were ratified or otherwise. He thereby admitted that for ordinary Inter-State traffic another line beyond those now available was required, and yet in the same breath he stated that one of the existing lines was placed exclusively at the disposal of the Eastern Extension Company. The Attorney-General declares that in any case we require this additional line for the purposes of our Inter-State traffic. Yet the exclusive use of one of the existing lines has been handed over to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. If that agreement is not ratified we shall probably close this line to the Eastern Extension Company altogether by charging differentia] rates, so that the traffic may be diverted to the Pacific Cable. The statement made by the Attorney-General is one of the most extraordinary which I have ever heard fall from a Minister. I would remind honorable senators that Mr. Larke, the representative of Canada, recently pointed out what are the desires of the Eastern Extension Company. Their object is to make the Pacific Cable absolutely unprofitable. We all know that in Great Britain the people have not adopted State socialism to anything like the extent that we have in Australia. Consequently we are apt to form an altogether erroneous idea of their views regarding the Pacific Cable. They look upon it as a rash experiment, the success of which is very doubtful. Mr. Larke points out that if this line does not pay within the next few years it is exceedingly probable that the people of Great Britain will say - “ We must sell it to a private company.” That will afford the very opportunity which the Eastern Extension Company desires. If they can purchase it, they will practically control all means of communication with Australia, and will be able to treat us just as they choose. If they get rid of their present competitor by making the Pacific Cable a non-paying concern they will be in a position to exploit Australia to their heart’s content. I trust that this item of £5,043 will be eliminated. Some time ago I declared my belief that the Eastern Extension Company granted rebates. I have since received a letter from Mr. Warren, in which he denies the accuracy of my statement. I am bound to accept his word, and therefore I have pleasure in mentioning the matter to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
– The expenditure upon the works which are contained in the schedule to this Bill amounts to £422,283. I glean from page 9 of the measure that the sum of £11,100 which it is proposed to spend in constructing a telegraph line from Sydney to the South Australian border is rendered necessary by the agreement which was entered into between New South Wales and the Eastern Extension Company, and which the Common-^ wealth has taken over. I also understand that the £5,043 which is required for the construction of a telegraph line from Melbourne to the South Australian border, and the £6,000 which is set down, for additional wires from Adelaide to the New South Wales and Victorian borders, are necessary altogether apart from any business passing beyond the limits of Commonwealth territory. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council assures me that this money is required to construct these lines for the purpose of carrying Commonwealth traffic, I shall agree to the clause without any opposition, but when the schedule is under discussion I shall ask him to agree to strike out the words “ owing to the use of a line having been granted to the Eastern
Extension Company in connexion with international traffic. “
– I am assured by the Department that these two lines are absolutely necessary for its proper working, and I am quite prepared to agree to the omission of the words “ owing to the use of a line having been granted to the Eastern Extension Company in connexion with international traffic” in both instances. At the present time considerable delays occur between Adelaide and Melbourne because we have not sufficient wires.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
– I desire to ask where the “ machinery and plant for printing-office,” the expenditure upon which is set down at £15,000, is to be set up 1
– That machinery is intended for the city of Melbourne.
– I move -
That the item “Victoria - . . . Telegraph line from Melbourne to South Australian border, owing to the use of a line having been granted to the Eastern Extension Company in connexion with international traffic, £5,043,” be amended by leaving out all the words after the word “-border.”
I may say that I am grateful to the VicePresident of the Executive Council for the open and frank manner in which he has met us. It is only in keeping with his characteristics.
– I think this will be a distinction without a difference. Senator Higgs has expressed his gratitude to the Vice-President of the Executive Council for his action in agreeing to the omission of these words ; but honorable senators must realize that the position will be exactly the same as before.
– But Senator Playford now asks for the money on different grounds.
– If an additional telegraph line be erected it will be immediately handed over to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. The Attorney-General has said that in any case we require a new line for our own Inter-State traffic ; but what is the position ? According to the honorable and learned senator the Department at the present time is working with two lines short of the number which it actually requires - namely, the one proposed to be erected, and one the use of which has been granted to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. If that be so a very great injustice is being done to the people of Western Australia and South Australia, who require the use of the line handed over to the Eastern Extension Company. I should like to see the item of £5,043 provided for this line struck out.
– The honorable senator knows that the Committee would not agree to that being done.
– In the interests of the Commonwealth we must have this line more than the other two. It is the one that we require.
– For Inter-State purposes ?
– We must remember that without the consent of the Commonwealth Parliament, or of the State Parliament concerned, the Government have handed over one of the existing lines to the exclusive control of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. This line will be used for exactly the same purpose, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council cannot deny my assertion. We are, therefore, making a distinction without a difference. I should like to see Senator Higgs move that the figures £5,043 be omitted.
– He has acted very fairly.
– Of course the honorable senator thinks so, because this amendment will not alter the position in the slightest degree.
– I disagree entirely from the position taken up by Senator Smith, and I accept the assurance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the additional line is required. It will be necessary whether we grant the use of an existing line or of a new one to the Eastern Extension Company. If the postal authorities tell us that the business is so large that we require another line in order to cope with it, it matters not to us whether the line be handed over to the Eastern Extension Company or not.
– The honorable senator does not understand the position.
– I understand it as well as does the honorable’ senator, who seems to imagine that the handing over of a line to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company has not relieved the business done by the Department. There will be work for this line, whether the agreement be ratified or not. Our internal business, and more especially the telegraphic business between Melbourne and Western Australia, is increasing so rapidly that I believe the wire will be required, and that is why I. should like this sum to stand. I do not think we have a right to suggest that we are passing this item because of any agreement with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. We are granting it because we believe that our business warrants the construction of another line.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland).-I should not like to think that the Vice-President of the Executive Council was guilty of the fraudand deception of which he would be guilty if he were endeavouring to pass this vote, in order that he might point to it later on as an indication of some sanction having been given by the Senate to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company’s operations. I do not believe that he would do such a thing. He has informed us that he requires this money for the construction of a telegraph line, and that we shall want it whether any proposed arrangement with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company be ratified or not. We shall agree to the. item on that understanding.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (West ern Australia). - If the agreement with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company be not ratified, the inference is that all “Victorian cables from Victoria will be sent via the Pacific Cable. That being the case, the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company will not send any cables from Melbourne to Adelaide, and therefore that traffic will be suspended.
– They must send some messages.
– But by means of the differential terminal rates we shall be able to stop them from sending any messages to Adelaide. The public will send their messages by the Pacific Cable. It is thus proposed to build a line which, in these circumstances, must be absolutely useless, unless Senator Playford is prepared to admit that the Department is at present working with two lines short of the actual number required between Melbourne and Adelaide. If that be so, it is a scandal that a line should be placed at the exclusive order of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. Any one who is at all familiar with the transmission of cables to Europe knows that, owing to the difference in time, scarcely any messages are despatched in the morning. If a message were sent from here in the morning it would be of no service; but, if it were despatched at midday, the person to whom it was addressed would receive it in London when he went to his office at 9 a.m. If the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company has the exclusive use of a line, that line must remain absolutely idle every morning.
– But messages are sent from here to South Africa and other places.
– Most of them are sent to Great Britain and Europe. To give the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company the exclusive use of one of our lines, when business is clogged as at present, is most unfair. It gives them a distinct advantage over the Pacific Cable Board, which has not the exclusive use of a line.
– It is open to the Pacific Cable Board to obtain one.
– They may do so if they go to the expense of putting officers in charge here. If the agreement be ratified, the traffic from Melbourne to Adelaide of the Eastern Extension Company will stop, and in those circumstances we shall build a line which will be absolutely useless.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Higgs) agreed to-
That the item “South Australia …. Additional wires from Adelaide to New South Wales and Victorian borders, owing to the use of lines having been granted to the Eastern Extension Company in connexion with international traffic, £6,000,” be amended by leaving out all the words after the word “ borders.”
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is for the purpose of legalizing grants made in excess of votes for the years 1901-2 and 1902-3. The money has all been spent, and if honorable senators strike out any items, I do not know that they will be any better off. The other House passed the measure without a word of objection. The object of it is to give parliamentary authority to expenditure incurred by the Treasurer out of a sum which he receives by way of an advance. Parliament votes the Treasurer about £200,000, from which advances may be made, and this Bill gives legal authority for the payments he has made out of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported with out requests ; report adopted.
– I move -
That the Bill bo now read a second time.
The purpose of the measure is to make legal excesses on votes for new works and buildings for 1901-2 and 1902-3. It is precisely similar to the last measure which we passed, except that it is a measure which the Senate can amend. The money, however, has all been spent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 to 6 and Schedule 1 agreed to.
Schedule 2 (Expenditure for additions, new works and buildings for the year ended 30th June, 1903).
– I desire to call attention to the expenditure on account of the Melbourne Printingoffice. I find that the expenditure on this office amounts altogether to £23,000. That money has been spent for machinery and plant in two years.
– Only £2,155 is voted under this Bill.
– I was under the impression that the Victorian Government Printing-office did the Commonwealth work.
– This expenditure is for new plant.
Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Senate adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 October 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1903/19031013_senate_1_17/>.