2nd Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice-
Whether any steps have been taken to give effect to a resolution recently carried in the House of Representatives affirming that an improved mail service should be provided for the’ residents of King Island, in Bass Straits?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows .: -
With respect to the resolution, “ That the PostmasterGeneral should endeavour to make better arrangements for the landing of the mails at Currie Harbor or Sea Elephant Bay,” further inquiries have been made, and the PostmasterGeneral has been advised that there is very little population on the east coast of King Island, that the mining industry which employs most of the people settled there is at present at a very low ebb; and that it is, therefore, not advisable to incur any considerable expense in endeavouring to land mails oh the east coast of King Island.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable and learned senator’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. No information can be given as to the intention of Ministers with respect to. acceptance of any tender until the tenders invited have been received and considered. The statutoryprovision contained in section16 of the Post . and Telegraph Act as to white labour will, of course, be observed.
Senator GUTHRIE called the attention of the Government to paragraph 8 of the Speech of His Excellency the Governor of South Australia at the opening of Parliament as follows : -
The Federal Government in not accepting tenders for the carriage of mails to Northern Territory placed that part of this State at a . great disadvantage. My Ministers, in order to conserve the trade, convenience of the’ people, and importance of the place, have agreed to . subsidize the service for a period of twelve months, for carrying goods and passengers both forthe Government and the public; the boats call at Port Darwin at least sixteen (16) times during the year. All the, vessels are obliged by the Federal Government to carry mails under the poundage- system - and asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice- -
If the South Australian Government were consulted as to the acceptance or otherwise of the contract for Northern Territory mails?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
The South Australian Government made repre? sentations to the Prime Minister with, respect to the tenders . for the conveyance of the mails to and from the Northern Territory. On March 3 the honorable the Premier of South Australia telegraphed as follows : - “ Replying your favour of 4th inst., strongly urge that no tender for Port Darwin mails should be accepted that would lessen privileges and accommodation of passengers or increase cost to this State.”
Again, on March 24, as follows : - ” Re tenders for mail for Port Darwin, strongly urge non-acceptance of any . tender which will involve additional’ expenditure for this State if possibility of sending mails by poundage system with vessels now calling Port Darwin. If any tender accepted, think expenditure should at least be divided’ between New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.”
As the only tender providing- for compliance wilh the statute as to’white labour was £7,500 per annum, effect was given to the expressed desire of the Premier, no tender was accepted, and arrangements were made to send the mails under the poundage system, and also to send them via Wyndham by steamers under contract, that is, by a steamer from Fremantle to Wyndham, and anotherfrom Wyndham to Port Darwin.
Motion (by Senator Guthrie) agreed to -
That one month’s leave of absence be granted to Senator Symon, on account o f urgent private business.
Motion (by Senator Pulsford) agreed to -
That one month’s leave of absence be granted to Senator Millen, on account of urgent private business.
Motion (by SenatorO ‘Keefe)- agreed to-
That one month’s leave of absence be granted to Senator Turley, on account of urgent private business.
Motion (by Senator Staniforth Smith) agreed to -
That a message bc sent to the House of Representatives, requesting that the House of Representatives give leave to the Honorable Austin Chapman to attend and be examined by the Select Committee on the case of Major J. W. M. Carroll.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to Trade, Marks.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– I move -
That a’ Return be laid upon the Table of the Senate showing -
The quantity or value of goods imported into the Commonwealth (showing each State separately), as specified in the Customs Tariff Act in each of the following divisions and items : -
Division VI. -
Agricultural, Horticultural, and Vitivultural Machinery and Implements, n.e.i., &c.
Mould Boards, Sheep-shearing Machines, Engines, Portable, Traction Engines.
Engines, Cas and Oil, and High-speed Engines and Turbines.
Boilers, Pumps, Machines, and Machinery.
Axles and Springs.
Electrical Appliances, n.e.i. 80. (A) Rolled lion or Steel Beams, &c: 110. Timber as specified in sub-sections A, B, C, D, E, and F.
Division XIV.- Vehicles-
Items 126, A, B, C, D, E, and F.
Division XII.- Boots and Shoes, showing’ sub-sections. A to G, under Item 116, together. ,
Item 121. Leather, including Green Hide for Belting. -
Also showing the exports from each State toother States of the above items, and “to countries outside the Commonwealth.
The Return to show the particulars so far asthey are available for the years ending December, 1900, and December, 1003.
My reason for submitting this motion is, that an attempt is being made through the; medium of the press, notably by one powerful organ in Victoria, to show by a devioususe of figures, that the present Tariff is operating injuriously to the industries of the Commonwealth, and particularly to certain industries in Victoria. The Victorian Year Book, as pointed out by that very journal in its leading columns to-day, shows that the facts are quite to the contrary j but still the assertion is being made, and, in certain circles, is giving rise to the belief that the existing depression in Victoria is partly due to the Federal Tariff ; (Hat the Federal Parliament,, having in its wisdom reduced a number of the duties, which were previously very high in Victoria, suffering has resulted to the industries of that State. If that be the fact, it is well that the people of the , Commonwealth should know it ; at any rate, the matter is of sufficient importance to warrant the production of accurate figures on which to base an opinion.- It is within my own knowledge that the figures published by the press are creating a disturbed feeling in the minds of a large number of people. This movement oil the part of the journal to which I. have referred is evidently inaugurated for the purpose of causing a revival of the Tariff struggle, and the re-casting of the Federal Tariff in certain particulars ; and it is well that before the agitation grows to any dimensions the’ true official figures should be placed before both Parliament and the people. It should be shown whether or not the figures which are now being published by interested parties - that is, by both the revenue tariff organ and the Protectionist organ - truly represent the facts. The return can be prepared at small cost, seeing ‘that the details are in the possession of the Department of Trade and Customs ; and there is not the slightest doubt that such information will be most valuable to Parliament, and instructive to the community. I think the Senate might very well accept the motion, in order to> ascertain what has been the effect of the
Tariff - whether the duties which were lowered in Victoria and raised in some other States, are operating injuriously to particular industries.
– I do not oppose the motion. The Customs Department have raised no objection to it ; and every Government ought to endeavour, as far as possible, at limited expense, to furnish all such information as is at their command. The figures, as Senator Pearce has said, are in the possession of the Department, and any little trouble involved will probably be repaid by the information elicited.
– There can be no objection to the motion ; but I must express regret that any such step is necessary in order to obtain the information desired. I take this opportunity to draw the attention of the Government to the desirability of this’ and other information with regard to the imports and exports of Australia being compiled and made available to honorable senators in readily accessible official books*
– That will be done when the information is prepared.
– But the information is not prepared.
– Well, it cannot be prepared until it is available.
– If “ the Government had made proper arrangements, this information would have been made available long since. If. we go into the Library all the information with regard to the United Kingdom can be obtained in print; and yet we are absolutely ignorant in this respect as to Australia. The Commonwealth has not yet undertaken the formation of a Statistical Department.
– The honorable senator’s own State is the most backward in furnishing information.
– That is very likely, but that fact only makes it the more necessary that there should be a central source of information. It is too bad that in the month of July, it is not possible to get full details of the Commonwealth imports -and exports for last year. Senator Pearce, in his motion, speaks of exports from one State to another. Strictly speaking, there can be no exports from one State to another, and no imports into one State from another. Such exchange is internal trade ; and it is desirable that the difference should be’ recognised. On this point I can
give a little information, which may be useful to honorable senators. For goods passing from one State to another entries have to be passed giving the value ; but the value given includes the duty paid. A large quantity of tobacco and cigars are sent from New South Wales and Victoria to other States, and the value of these goods is increased three or four times over by reason of the fact I have mentioned, so that the returns are very unreliable. The statistics relating to goods passing from State to State should be kept distinct from those relating to exports and imports, the latter being limited to trade with the external world.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 30th June (vide page 2873), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, wherever practicable, the public works undertaken by the Commonwealth should be constructed under the day labour system.
Upon which Senator Playford had moved, by way of amendment -
That the words “ wherever practicable” be left out, with a view to adding the words “ wherever it can be done effectively and economically.”
– When this motion was last before the Senate it was debated at considerable length, but it was thought desirable that a division should not be taken, because there was a very small attendance of senators, and that was my reason for moving the adjournment of the debate. I felt satisfied at the time that the majority were in favour of the motion, but. I considered it would be more satisfactory to the mover, and those who thought with him, as well as fairer to the other side, that a division should not be taken until honorable senators who were then absent had an opportunity of dis-‘ cussing the question. The arguments that were advanced on that occasion were mainly in favour of Senator Pearce’s motion. Very few were advanced in opposition to it. The bitterest opponent of day labour was Senator Dobson, and his position seemed to be based more upon theory than upon actual facts. He adduced verv few facts to show that Senator Pearce’s contention was incorrect, and that contract labour is preferable to day labour in connexion with Government works. I would call Senator Dobson’s attention to two very important works in his own State, the facts in connexion with which should show him that the con- tention which he advanced is entirely wrong. I would recall to his mind, first of all, the work known as the North East Dundas Tramway. It is really a 2 -ft. railway. It is seventeen and three-quarter miles in length, exclusive of sidings, and the total cost was £46,776, or ,£2,775 Per mile. An estimate was made before the work was commenced by competent experts in the employment of the Government. It was what might be called a flying estimate, based upon a rough survey of the route which the line was to traverse. The estimated cost of the work was £2,000 a mile. The estimated cost of the earthworks was 2s. per cubic yard. The surveyors went ahead of the construction gang, and, after a more careful survey was made, it was discovered that the country was very much rougher in character, and the timber very much denser, than had at first been thought. As a matter of fact, the work altogether was discovered to be very much more difficult and expensive than had been originally estimated. The chief fact which I wish to impress upon the minds of honorable senators who favour contract as against day labour is that the actual cost per cubic yard of the earthworks, including rock cuttings, was is. nd., as against the engineers’ estimate of 2s. a yard. There were some seven and three-quarter miles where the earthwork consisted chiefly of rock cuttings. These earthworks cost £3,600 per mile. The construction of that line by day labour proved conclusively that the day-labour system was cheaper than the contract system. It has been proved beyond dispute, since the work was completed, that the work done upon the line, such as bridge construction, was certainly very much better performed than it would have been under the contract system. That railway stands as a strong argument in favour of Senator Pearce’s contention that day labour is preferable to contract labour in the construction of Government works.
– If there is no political influence.
– I am quite as anxious as Senator Dobson, or any other senator, can be to exclude political influence in regard to the construction of public works.
– We cannot do impossibilities.
– It is not impossible to keep work of this character free from political influence.
– Quite impossible.
- Senator Dobson does not dispute the figures that I have given.
– It is always possible to do good work bv picking the men.
– It has been proved as an actual fact that the work which I have instanced was better done by’ day labour than it would have been by contract labour. Political influence was not exerted on that occasion, and it will be possible to exclude it in all cases.
– There has been no political influence in South Australia.
– I do not admit the honorable senator’s premises that work can be. done cheaper by day labour.
– The honorable and learned senator is, I am inclined to think, so saturated with prejudice against any proposal put forward by. the Labour Party, and so much against the working man, that he would not give the earnest consideration to a proposal of this sort which- it deserves.
– I have been through the two New South Wales reports, and probably know more about the subject than the honorable senator.
– But Senator Dobson likes to ‘read documents of this kind with one eye shut.
– The labour people read them with both eyes shut sometimes.
– It would be better for Senator Dobson to endeavour to prove his case from instances from his own State, rather than choose them from another State. I intend to confine myself to cases occurring in the State which I have the honour to represent, and to works of which I have, personal knowledge, and which I have seen. I leave it to others to adduce instances from their own States. Another instance in Tasmania is furnished by what are known as the Macquarie Harbor Improvement Works. No doubt Senator Dobson is conversant with that work, the object of which was to deepen the navigable channel at Macquarie Harbor by building a breakwater at the entrance. A large contract was let and was partly carried out, but before the work was completed it was found advisable by! the Macquarie Harbor Board, which had control, to depart from the contract system and adopt day labour.
– Is not , the Board pretty well bankrupt?
– Whether the Board is bankrupt or not has nothing to do with the case. If it is bankrupt it is because it now has no revenue. It was indubitably proved that the portions of the work which were constructed under the day-labour system were carried out more cheaply, yard for yard, than the portion constructed under the contract system, and what is of infinitely greater importance in a work of this kind - a breakwater being subject to the swell of the ocean and to the -force of storms - they were infinitely better carried out. That fact is being confirmed by the tremendously severe storms which recur every few months.
– The saving in cost has been stated, but I do not know that it has been proved, or can be proved.
– If the honorable and learned senator, next time he is in Hobart, will make inquiries, he will find that there was a saving over the estimated cost of completing the work ; and, of course, that estimate was based upon the cost of the work that had already been done under the contract system. It has also to be remembered that the -work done by day labour was infinitely more difficult and important than the work done by contract, because it was the end of the breakwater going farthest out into the sea. The difficulty and importance of that part of the work must- be palpable to any one who is at all conversant with works of the kind.
– The estimate must have been a rough one.
– It was based upon the price per yard of the work done under the contract system. That goes to prove my contention that had the whole of the work been done by day labour, instead of by contract, a greater saving would have been effected.
– How does the honorable senator account for that?
– By the wellknown fact that there are too many leakages in connexion with contracts, and that contractors do not carry on business from motives of philanthropy, but to make as much profit as they can out of the works which they carry out. The State, by carrying out the works itself, saves the contractor’s profit. Those honorable senators who, like Senator Dobson, are utterly opposed to the day-labour system, cannot get over the fact that in many instances the re lations’ between contractors and officials supervising Government works have not been what could be called clean.
-Col. Gould. - The same thing may occur under the day-labour system.
– It may, but to a much smaller extent, because the same inducement does not exist. What inducement is there for an officer who is supervising a Government work under the day-labour system to allow the work to be slummed? There is no inducement whatever. But certainly there might be an inducement held out to an officer who is supervising a contract on behalf of the Government to “ wink the other eye” when the contractor is slumming his work.
– How did we get the phrase “ Government stroke?”
– I admit that men who do work under the day-labour system are not perfect, and I am sure that Senator Dobson will admit that contractors are not perfect.
– Quite so.
-“ One swallow does not make a summer.” We have heard a great deal of the “ Ca’ canny system,” and “the day labour stroke,” but Senator Dobson might remember that there is such a thing as what has been termed “ the perverse ingenuity of unprincipled avarice” on the part of contractors. The subject is an important one, seeing that the Commonwealth will, in the near future, have large works to carry out. It is important that we should determine whether those works shall be done under contract or under the day-labour system. But, so far as the arguments used in this debate have gone, they prove that Senator Pearce’s contention is correct, and that the day-labour system is preferable to the contract system in the construction of Government works. I trust that the motion will be carried.
– At first sight, in considering a subject of this character, one might assume that the Government would save money in carrying out works by day labour, as there would be no contractors’ profit. But, after all, we have to be guided by the experience that has been gained by the different States which have adopted the day-labour principle. I cannot speak of the experience of other’ States than New South Wales. But I know that New South Wales has had a very bitter experience of the results of the day-labour system.
5 T 2
– How long ago?
.- During the last two or three years.
– Since the honorable and learned senator’s party went out of office.
.- The system has grown since the party to which I had the honour to belong went out of office. Very little day-labour work was done before that time. But since then we have had notorious cases, in which scandals occurred, so that it . became necessary to make full inquiry into them. The cases have been alluded to by Senator Dobson, who has had the papers before him. One is what is known as the Fitzroy Dock case, and the other the Prince Alfred Hospital case. They afford glaring examples of the results of the day-labour system. I am perfectly willing to admit that the reply may be made that the scandals were in consequence of the unsatisfactory way in which the departmental officials, members of Parliament, and Ministers dealt with the matters that came before them. But it must be recognised that while we have Ministers, who are dependent upon political support for their tenure of office, we shall be likely to have such abuses. The more important the work, the more liability will there be to have the day-labour system abused. It was found by the Fitzroy Dock Inquiry that really no control was exercised by the superintendent of the works over his men.” If he saw fit to dismiss a man all that the man had to do, if he had amember of Parliament at his back, was to get that member to interview the Minister, when he was sent back to work again.
– They must be very immoral people in New South Wales.
.- What I have stated has been shown in evidence. If the dismissal had been made by a contractor for any good ‘reason the man would not have been taken back. The contractor would not have had any member of Parliament wielding political influence behind him. Under this system, if a man chose to do an honest day’s’work he did it j but if he chose to shirk his work he shirked it. If he was dismissed, he quietly went to the member for the district, the member went to the Minister, and the Minister insisted upon the man going back to work again. ‘ In this way it became known that the superintendent had lost all control over the men.
– These are -mere general assertions.
.- If the honorable senator will take the trouble to read the report of the inquiry he will find the facts set out, and reasons given to show that such scandals were entailed by the day-labour system.
– I quote,d authorities for my statements ; why does not the honorable and learned senator do the same?
.- The honorable senator’s authorities have since been contradicted.
– Not effectively.
.- If Senator Pearce would read the report for himself he would find that my statements are absolutely correct.
– I would like the honorable and learned senator to do so for the benefit of the readers of Hansard.
.- An honorable senator who is provided with these extracts will probably read them to the Senate at a later stage. Take the case of the additions to the Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. The result of the inquiry was to show that, owing to the employment of day labour, the estimated cost of the work had been vastly increased. The estimated cost of the stone work had been increased by 25 per cent. These are two notorious instances. Again, take the post office which was erected at Newcastle. Although it was tendered for at less than£20,000, it has cost nearly . £35,000 to complete the building by day labour.
– Does the honorable and learned senator know anything about the telephone tunnels?
.- Yes ; I know that the telephone tunnels were constructed by day labour, and very unsatisfactorily constructed, too.
– At about half the cost of the tenders.
– There is a pneumatic tube which the Post and Telegraph Department do not wish to take over from New South Wales, because of its excessive cost, and of tEe inferior way in which it was carried out. Honorable senators must not think that I am saying that day labour should not under any circumstances be employed by the Government, but I submit that it is very difficult to supervise such work, and to see that it is done in the manner in which it should be. We know quite well that there is a tendency to lessen the amount of work done in a given time. Senator Dobson quoted from an English publication the other day evidence that owing to the action of the trades unions the number of bricks laid in building in a day has been decreased.
– That was all exploded long ago. That was work for contractors also.
– Perhaps it was, but it shows a tendency to minimize, as far as possible, the quantity of work which should be done within a given time. The Government will be utterly unable to control- the work as it should be controlled if they employ day labour on all occasions. I admit that there are some works which probably can be carried out most efficiently under the supervision of their officers with day labour ; but ,works which involve a great many operations, and entail a vast expenditure, do not come under that category.
– In South Australia we have most satisfactorily carried out. works costing over £500,000 by Hay labour.
.- I am glad to hear that in the model State the trial of the system has been so successful.
– We do not allow members of Parliament to recommend men, and prevent the overseer from dismissing them if they do -not do their work.
.- Why have the railways of New South Wales and Victoria been placed under Commissioners who are independent of members of Parliament? Because it was found that the pressure of members of Parliament was of .such a character that the works were unduly expensive. There was more trouble and expense in carrying out works by the multiplicity of officers who were thrown upon the Government by means of political influence.
– The difficulty was to prevent the construction of railways which were unnecessary.
– We do not defend political corruption.
.- I do not say that the honorable senator does; but I ask him if he would not feel inclined to use his influence if a constituent came to him and said, “ I have been dealt with rather hardly by a certain officer, and I think that I ought to get another chance to do the work “ ?
– I would refer him to the Appeal Board, provided for in the Public Service Act, as I have referred a number of men.
.- The probability is that the honorable senator would do what he could to assist a constituent if he thought, from the statement made to him, that he had been unfairly treated.
– I have referred dozens of men to the Appeal Board.
– We each have our opinion as to what is best in the interests of the community generally. I would rather have no resolution of this character placed on our records. I do not wish to see the motion either affirmed or negatived, because I recognise that it is very much better that the Government should be left free and untrammelled in dealing with the construction of public works from time to time. They should have the opportunity of placing work either in the hands of a contractor, or of carrying it out under their own officers with day labour, as they think best. In that way, each system could be given a trial. Each case ought to be -dealt with on its merits. I am not going, either to unduly praise or run down contractors. I recognise that contractors are like everybody else. If a contractor takes a contract, he wants to make money. When any one does any work, does he not want to be paid for it ?
– Contractors are quite unnecessary; they come between the employer and the employed
.- I do not. think they are quite unnecessary. In every State of the Commonwealth, in every part of the world, contractors have been very necessary, and have done very good work for governments, communities, and citizens, as they will continue to do. Apparently, Senator Pearce wishes to wipe the contractor out of existence. A contractor is just the same as any other’ individual. He has to spend his money in “the community in which it was earned, and the community are assisted by the presence of a larger number of persons in their midst than would otherwise be the case.
– The advantages to the community will be much greater when the contractor is abolished, because then they . will get the profits which he would otherwise pocket.
– If we could manage to bring about an ideal system, we might be able to carry out the views of the honorable senator; but we have to take human nature as it is. We have to recognise that we cannot perfect human nature all at once, and that we are not going to achieve that result by adopting a hard-and-fast rule for the employment of day labour. If Senator Pearce could see his way . to do so, after the discussion/ of this very important question, he would be consulting the interests of not only this, but any future Government, by withdrawing the motion. Let a Government be responsible for the way in which a work is carried out. If it can be shown that in the case of any work the Government have thrown away money which could have been saved by adopting either one system or the other, let them answer for their mistakes, if of a serious nature, but do not tie their hands. I was asked to give concrete instances. Well, I have stated some notorious facts which have, I believe, been published in the press from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. If honorable senators wish to see the authority for these statements, .let me refer them to the report of the inquiries held concerning the Fitzroy Dock, and the Prince Alfred Hospital.
– In one State.
-Col. GOULD. - The most populous State.
– The experience of the other States is quite different.
.- A little time ago, it was proposed that certain locomotives should be built in New South Wales. The Fitzroy Dock sent in a tender, and when an inquiry was held it was found that the price had been fixed by a rule-of -thumb. They had taken the amount which it cost to land engines in New South Wales, and “added a certain percentage, and, without making further inquiry, said, “We will tender at that rate.” Of course, they tendered in open competition with others. If the contract had been given to the Dock and the work had cost double the amount of the tender, who would have lost? The State, not a contractor.
– In Victoria they are making locomotives without tender or estimate cheaper than the Phoenix foundry can make them.
.- If they are doing it, well and good. This shows the tendency that there is under the system for abuses to creep in, and a large expenditure to be cast on the State unnecessarily.
– Did the Commission which reported on the Fitzroy Dock’s tender for engines recommend that they should be built by contract?
.- I do not think that that was the recommendation.
– No; it was very different.
– I could not say exactly what it was, because the papers have not yet been laid before the Parliament. I endeavoured to obtain a copy of the papers, but I found that they had not been tabled. Whether this motion is carried or not, I dare say that the Government will very probably to a large extent act upon the suggestion.- Perhaps their own ideas will lead them in that direction. Let them be given full liberty to do what they see fit. If the Government should carry out works with day labour, I should be very pleased to find that the trial of the system had been a success, and that money had been saved to the Commonwealth. It is out of no spirit of hostility to the Government, or to Senator Pearce, that I have spoken in this way.
– I intend to support the motion. I recognise that it embodies a great principle. I agree with Senator Gould that we should have some regard for the experience of the various States in this matter. And if we are guided by the experience of Western Australia, we shall come to the conclusion that it will be a wise thing for the Federal Government “to adopt the principle of day labour. Senator Gould mentioned that, while a contractor offered to erect the Newcastle Post Office for £20,000, the cost of its construction by day labour was £35,000. Even if that were the case, I could instance contractors in Western Australia who have received three times the amount of their tender. I could also instance jerry buildings which in a very few years will be falling to pieces, and which are held up to public ridicule. To the Law Courts, for instance, crowds of men in the building trade go on Sunday to examine the jerry work which was put into its construction. The Newcastle post-office is now regarded as one of the finest stone buildings in New South Wales; and, having travelled nearly round the Continent, I would go so far as to say that it is one of the finest stone buildings in the Commonwealth. That confirms me in the belief that the extra expenditure on the building was well incurred.
– Nobody in New South Wales thinks so.
– Not any one with the honorable senator’s views. Let us now take the experience of Western Australia in several instances. The tender for Government House ball-room was £12,666 2s.1d., while the cheque received by the contractors was £46.208 7s. 7d.
– There was a great deal of additional work, though.
– In this particular instance, the alterations were for the benefit of the contractors. The alteration of a slate roof to an iron roof, for example, helped the contractors to make a greater profit. On this contract, let at £12,666 2s.1d., there was a difference of £33,542 5s. 6d.
– Does the honorable senator know the name of the contractors ?
– Atkins and Law, I believe.
– One of the contractors who were so indignant the other day ?
– In his speech, Senator Pearce referred to contractors and their ways. A meeting of the Contractors’ Association was held in Perth a few nights afterwards, and a small committee of, I think, four members was appointed to reply to his statements, not in the press of the State, where the people know the facts of the case, but in the press of the Eastern States. A reply, drawn up by these four gentlemen, was duly wired to the press of Sydney, where I read it.
– And to the press of Melbourne, too.
– I believe so. It is ! remarkable that a member of the firm which drew the extra £33,000 odd in the case of the Government House, ball-room contract should have been the person chosen to point out to the public how little Senator Pearce knew of the subject. The Western Australian Mint furnishes another instance of the way in which contractors derive large profits. The original price in the tender foi this work was £22,199 8 s. 3d.> while the cheque drawn by the contractors was £55,888 ns. 3d., or an increase of £33-689 3s.
– Why was it paid?
– Because in those days the Government were perfectly pre- pared to recognise how beneficent the contract system was as compared with day labour under departmental supervision.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that in those days the Government were corrupt?
– They did not recognise that an organized state of society represented by a Parliament should construct its own works where practicable. They preferred to give the contracts, not necessarily to the lowest tenderers, but to their friends, and frequently to themselves, for members of contracting firms were also members of Parliament.
– If people are corrupt, that has nothing to do with the contract system.
– By carrying the motion, can we not remove many of the means by which corruption is brought about ? Let me describe the system of contracting in Western Australia. Contractors are asked to send in alternative tenders. They send in one tender to erect a building chiefly of stone, and another tender to erect the building chiefly of brick. Having ascertained beforehand that the” building is intended to be erected with brick, they put in the lowest possible tender for the stone building, and the highest tender for the brick building. The tender for the stone building is accepted. The work is commenced, but as soon as a little time has elapsed, the Government Architect ‘ finds out, after consulting with the contractors, that it is inadvisable to continue the building with stone. Consequently, they make the alteration, and so give the high price which the contractor knew before he contracted he would ultimately receive. This is corruption of a very bad order. I am pleased to say, although it may not gratify every member of the Senate, that a party is coming into power which will do away with a great deal of that corruption. Senator Pearce referred to the Coolgardie water scheme. I notice that in some criticisms it has been stated that it was a very costly job, and could have been done more cheaply by contract. Corruption was so rife during the progress of that job, that it had to carry on its shoulders an expert called Couston. For what reason he was employed, and of what use he was, I do not know. He was supposed to be the inventor of a patent caulking machine, in respect of which he received a large sum of money from the Government, in addition to a salary of , £10 per week for supervising the work. It was found, however, that the machine, when handed over, was absolutely useless - that when it was employed, the work had to be done over again by hand. For two years, or thereabouts, the Government kept the workshop going with two mechanics and one labourer, testing and experimenting with the machine until it was rendered serviceable, and quite a different machine from that which had been handed over by Mr. Couston. Nevertheless, the Government continued to pay this man for his services, and for the use of his “ patent.” As an indication of the scheming which went on over this work, I may say that the engineer had to be dismissed, and the position of affairs became such that the EngineerinChief was impelled to take his own life. If the Coolgardie water scheme appears to have been a costly job, it will be seen that there were other reasons for that than the employment of day labour. Senator Pearce, in reply to observations made in the press regarding his observations when he introduced this motion, wrote the following letter, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald of Saturday last: -
My attention has been called to a report telegraphed from Perth of a meeting of contractors conveying a resolution passed by them expressing surprise at my “ daring effrontery “ in quoting the Coolgardie water scheme in support of my motion in favour of public works being carried out under the day labour system. A somewhat similar report was published in the Melbourne daily press, but in the case of the Argus, the public and myself were given trie advantage of knowing the names of the mover and seconder of the above resolution, Messrs. Hedges and Atkins.
I might explain that these two gentlemen have been conspicuous in Western Australia for their success in piling on extras in every contract with which they have been connected.
When the public know, as Western Australian people will, that these gentlemen have a personal interest in the matter, both being large Government contractors in the past, and, further, that both of them are suffering^ the after-effects of a severe defeat, at the recent State elections (W.A.) - one (Mr. Hedges) receiving a very severe defeat at the hands of a labour representative - the public of the Eastern States will appreciate the reason for the vitriolic nature of the attack. Now as to their statements. First, a reference to Hansard will show that I never claimed that the Coolgardie water scheme proved that day labour was cheaper than contract ; in fact, in reply to Senator Playford, I admitted that, no tenders having been called, it was impossible to make a comparison. My critics have picked out one portion, that of the pipe-caulking, which cost about £150,000 out of a total expenditure of £2,500,000. A reference to Hansard will show that I also called attention to the fact that the Commission had unsparingly condemned this portion of the work, but on the authority of the Commission report, Part IV., claimed that the excessive cost was largely due to the “ contract “ entered into for the supply of patent caulking machines.
– The Royal Commission also made a statement on the point ?
– But what kind of Royal Commission was it?
– Was it not appointed by the Government?
– Possibly members of the Commission were shareholders in the firms of contractors interested.
– That is a serious reflection, unless the statement can be proved.
– The contractors in New South Wales may be open to the same reflection, but I do not know the conditions there as well as I know the conditions in Western Australia.
– Then Western Australia is worse than New South Wales.
– That would be impossible. Senator Pearce’s letter went on -
Of the weir, a most important part of the scheme, which cost £300,000, the Commission report (paragraph 1) “That the work has been done at a reasonable cost.” The statement is made that the Engineer-in-Chief, Mr. C. Y. O’Connor, before his death, had to confess “ that the day labour system was a failure.” I defy these persons to produce any such statement of his. On the contrary,’ on page 351 of the Commission’s report, in answer to a similar statement made in the Assembly, will be found a memo, written by him, in which he emphatically denies that he has ever gone back on his previous convictions, which were that day labour was1 the best. Another statement - that the State Government, after building a number of railways by day labour, being convinced of the excessive cost, were constructing all railways now by contract. This is a very ingenious argument, for the reason that the Western Australian Government are not at present, as far as I am aware, constructing any railway by either system. The statement re Fremantle wharf is exactly the opposite of what occurred, as it was the contract portion winch proved faulty, and the same is true of the Bunbury jetty.
In view of the importance of this question to all the States, I trust you will allow me to put my reply before the people of your State.
Towards the close of the work on the Coolgardie water scheme, Mr. Couston wrote to the Minister of Public Works, and, although he was supervisor in full control, stated that if he were given the contract for what remained to be done, he would be able to save the Government something like ^20,000, and complete the work two months earlier than would be the case if he remained supervisor. This man, in effect, said, “ If you. do not give me the contract I shall make the job spin out, and cause it to cost £20,000 more, and shall let the people on the gold-fields’, even at this time of the year, remain another two months without water.” Senator Gould contends that we should consider the question very carefully, inasmuch as no other countries have ever thought of adopting the principle of day labour.
– I did not say that.
– Did the honorable and learned senator not say that other countries do not adopt day labour?
– I said that a large amount of work was done by contract in every country in the world ; that all important works were done by contract.
– We can refer to the experience of big corporations like those of Liverpool and Manchester, who have found it absolutely necessary, by reason of the jerry work and expense entailed by the employment of contractors, to themselves undertake sewerage and other works by day labour.
– By sub-letting.
– I do not say that it is impossible to do any work by day labour, because, in some cases, though not in all, day labour may be a. good thing. I should leave the hands of the Government absolutely unfettered.
– In Liverpool, at the present time, the whole of the municipal work under the city engineer is carried out by day labour; and as far back as 1896, the Manchester Corporation, who had let thirty-five miles of sewer construction, in small parcels, to thirty-four contractors–
– That is what I mean by sub-letting.
– The Manchester Corporation, after hearing the reports of the city engineers, found it necessary to stop the contract work and complete the sewers by day labour, but that was not before the contractors had drawn some £600,000. It was found that instead of double layers of bricks, there were only single lavers, except at points which were being constructed at a time when it was known that the inspectors were about. These municipal bodies are composed largely of crusted Conservatives like my friends, Senator Gould and Senator Dobson. It is on record that in Great Britain thirty separate local Government bodies directly administer £400,000,000 of capital invested in works, and directly employ over 300,000 workmen. Those governing bodies have laid out £88,000,000 in various municipal works, and are receiving annually a net profit of £3,613,668. This capital is invested in water works, ;gas works, electric lighting works, and similar undertakings. The total capital invested in water works is £48,434,890.
– It would be interesting to know the authority for those figures.
– I have not the authority with me, but I could give it later on.
– What is the name of the authority?
– Do I understand Senator Croft to mean that this money is spent on day labour?
– The municipalities have invested this money in these particular works.
– But were the works constructed by day labour?
– These governing bodies are running the works now with their own labour.
– Can the honorable senator give us the names of all the towns ?
– I cannot, but I have instanced Liverpool and Manchester.
– The honorable senator has not specified what amounts are spent in those two cities.
– I have not the figures. I have, however, given the facts and figures in regard to Western Australia, though I confess I have not gone very deeply into the matter as it affects England. I may say that the total amount invested in Great Britain by those bodies in water works is ,-£48,434,890, and the average annual net profit received is £1,744,361. The amount invested in gas works is £20,175,764, and the average annual net profit is £1,180,208. In tramways the capital invested is £3,213,654, and the annual net profit is £133,390.
– Are those tramways worked by day labour?
– They are under the control of the municipalities.
– Were the tramways built by day labour?
– I do not know; but if they were not, I suppose the municipalities have found out how foolish they were to have had them constructed by contract.
– What is the value of those figures, if the works were not built by day. labour?
– The municipalities are not trusting contractors to supply water, at any rate.
– It is peculiar that honorable senators on the other side, as business men, should object to this principle, when others, with large sums invested in various ways in Australia, adopt it’ for their own profit. Messrs. Sargood, Butler, and Nichol built their Western Australian warehouse by day labour, in order to secure for themselves the profits which would otherwise have gone to the contractor, and that warehouse is one of the best buildings of the kind in Western Australia. . Mr. Anthony Hordern, of Sydney, is now engaged erecting his new warehouses by day labour, and I doubt whether any honorable senators opposite can claim to have the business experience of that gentleman.
– I do not think the honorable senator would agree with Mr. Hordern’s views on some points regarding day labour.
– I dare say not.
– Mr. Hordern is sane on one point, at any rate.
– Mr. Hordern understands that contractors can make high profits, and he proposes to keep those profits for himself. I hope the motion will not be withdrawn.
– I regret that I was not here when the motion was submitted, but I have read the report in Hansard, and I am well in touch with the arguments then advanced. I am totally against day labour, except under special conditions. If I want to engage a gardener, whose work I can see, I employ day labour because I can make sure that he is worth his shilling.
– Does the honorable senator give his gardener only a shilling a day?
– The Minister of External Affairs is able to give to any senator my character as an employer of labour. That gentleman will, at all events, say that I bear a good name in New South Wales. Of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men I have employed, I do not know of one who would not be glad to return to my service.
– That proves that none of them have made a pile.
– I have always acted on the principle that I can get most profitable work out of men who are well paid, and who are interested in the firm by whom they are employed.
– I thought the honorable senator let all work by contract?
– So I do. I let one contract for .£200,000, and there are no better works in the whole of Australasia, the contractor having done justice to his principals in every way. As Senator Pearce grows older and gets a little more experience, his views will be broader, and he will not castigate a set of men as he did contractors.
– I did not castigate contractors.
– According to the report of his remarks, Senator Pearce apparently assumes that contractors as a body are dishonest, and that the only idea they have is to make as much as they can out of every contract.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator is misrepresenting me when he says I described all contractors as dishonest.
– That is not a point of order. The honorable senator may make a personal explanation.
– Then, I wish to tell the Senate that I never made such a statement as is imputed to me by Senator Gray. I do not think that all contractors are dishonest, and I ask the honorable senator not to fasten such views on me.
– I am pleased to retract my words, but I can only go by the report of the debate. I join in the appeal made by Senator Gould to Senator Pearce to withdraw the motion- after it has been debated. I recognise that- on a division the vote would be in favour of the motion, but I think there is a higher consideration. The responsibility for the expenditure of public money lies with the Minister in charge of public works, as the trustee for the people of the Commonwealth. This motion is proposed by a Ministerial supporter, and he ought to recognise that if the Minister desires, in the interests of the Commonwealth, to expend money on a particular work, he should be left to exercise the responsibility of determining upon the system of labour to be adopted. If he thought it wise, he might employ day labour. But he should not be compelled to do so otherwise. Therefore, if Senator Pearce could see his way to allow the debate to close without taking a division, he would be doing a kindness both to the Ministry and to the Commonwealth .
– Does the honorable senator think that the Ministry represents the Commonwealth?
– I think that the Ministry is, for the time being, the trustee of the Commonwealth in administering its affairs, and I contend that that position carries with it a great responsibility. Although my political experience has not been so great as that of many honorable senators, I cannot recall a case in which anyParlia ment has interfered by directing how an expenditure should be carried out by the Government. It is especially strange that a direction of that kind should be given at the instance of a member of the Government’s party.
– Has not the Government in the honorable senator’s own State abolished the contract system?
– It has not been done bv direction of a parliamentary resolution: Ministers have done it on their own responsibility. That is what I ask for on this occasion.
– It has evidently been done to the satisfaction of the people.
– I hope to convince the honorable senator that that is not the case. I do not know what is the meaning of the word “ practicable “ in this motion. Senator Zeal interprets it in the ordinary business acceptation of the term, but I take it. that Senator Pearce puts a very much broader construction upon it. The examples by which he supported his motion included one in which the Western Australian Government undertook a work involving the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds without any estimate having previously been given as to what the cost would be by contract as against day labour. Such a- course as that is not business-like. If Senator Pearce does not see his way to withdraw the motion, he should at all events modify it, so as to fall in with Senator Playford’s idea that we should know exactly what we are to spend before we undertake a public work. The whole of the facts with reference to the contract which Senator Pearce mentioned have not been stated, and I propose to read at length the indictment that has been made against his case. I was rather disappointed that, when Senator Pearce gave the Senate the illustration to which I refer, he did not inform the Senate that a
Royal Commission had been appointed with reference to the work in question.
– I did.
– But the honorable senator did not give all the facts, and did not show that there had been any grave dissatisfaction as to the expenditure. He did not inform us that a Royal Commission had absolutely condemned the expenditure as being to a very large extent extravagant.
– Because the Royal Commission did not say that concerning the whole work, but only as to one small section of it. The Commission said that the money had been wisely expended on by far the greater portion of the work.
– I will read what was said at “ a well-attended and representative meeting of business and commercial men, held in Perth.” Senator Pearce distinctly told the Senate that the meeting was one of contractors.
– I affirmed that from the names of those present.
– The report from which I shall quote states that it was a meeting of “ business and commercial men. ‘ ‘ ‘
– Does the honorable senator believe that?
– If .Senator Pearce assures me that there was not a business man present except a contractor I shall take his word.
– I say that every name in the Western Australian report of the meeting was that of a contractor.
– Was it a meeting of contractors only, or was it a general meeting of business men?
– It was a meeting of contractors only.
– Called by contractors only ?
– I believe so, judging from the Western Australian reports.
– If that be the case, the report which I hold in my hand cannot be true. At this meeting it was resolved - “ That this meeting expresses its surprise at the daring effrontery of Senator Pearce in quoting the Coolgardie Water Scheme in supporting his motion in favour of day labour for the construction of public works, as’ against the contract system. We refer him to the report of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the cost and management of the above works, and especially to section 14, which reads as follows : - “ The question of contract work versus departmental day labour has been the battle-ground of rival forces for years past, and has been prominent in this connection. So far, however, as this undertaking is concerned, it may be safely said that it will never be cited by the advocates of departmental day labour as an example in support of their principles; whereas their opponents have strong . testimony in their favour when they can point to the pipe trench and manhole excavations as having cost about 3s. per cubic yard on this work, instead of is. 6d., for which it could have been done under contract. How much of this excessive cost was due to weak supervision, and how much to Government stroke the Commission is unable to decide.”
Could a more serious condemnation of day labour as applied to that particular work be made? Here is a Royal Commission absolutely stating that the work cost double what it ought to have cost. Yet Senator Pearce never told us a word about that.
– Yes, I .did.
– I read the honorable senator’s speech in Hansard. If he will point out where he stated these facts I shall be very pleased to be corrected. The report goes on -
Also the concluding portion of section 4 (pipelaying and jointing) : “It seems probable that the ultimate cost of this branch of the work will be about £100,000 more than the estimate, which appears to have been fair “ ; and to section 13, paragraph 5 : “To crown all, the system of payment by time and not by work threw the temptation in the way of all (other than those engaged in the supply of pipes and machinery), to aid in prolonging the period of construction.” Our State Government has in the past given the day labour system an exhaustive trial in connexion with the construction of railways.
– Is the honorable senator reading from the report of the Commission, or from a statement of these contractors ?
– I am reading the statement published at the foot of the report of the meeting. I shall be pleased to know whether those present at the meeting were contractors, because I have so much respect for Senator Pearce that I should like to be assured that what he has said is absolutely the truth. But I cannot at present disbelieve what appears in print.
– Of course I cannot expect the honorable senator to believe me as against the Sydney Morning Herald.
– The report goes on - . . namely, the Boulder-Brown Hill, completed in 1902 ; Northam-Goomalling, completed in 1902 ; Menzies-Leonora, completed in 1902 ; Cue-Nannine completed in 1903 ; Owen’s Anchorage, Woodman’s Point, completed in 1902 ; and, being convinced of the excessive cost of the day labour system, are now constructing railways by contract. The Fremantle Wharf, constructed by day labour, subsided, and left its alignment, whilst the contract work has proved to be of excellent character. We also ask him to read the Royal Commission’s reports on the Fitzroy Dock and Prince Alfred Hospital pavilions, Sydney, both reports being strongly condemnatory of the system he wishes to impose on the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. The late Engineer-in-Chief had to confess before the completion of the Coolgardie Water Scheme that the day labour system was a failure.
– Which he never did.
– Is the honorable senator quoting from the Sydney Morning H Herald ?
– I am. Upon so serious a question I would not, under any circumstances - no matter what my own personal views Were - exaggerate one way or the other in order to attain political ends. I want to get at the truth of the matter as far as I can. Senator Pearce was wise when he stated, at the commencement of his speech, that he brought the matter forward at this stage because at present there are no great Commonwealth works in progress, and because the subject is one that ought to be well debated. It will be a benefit to the Commonwealth to discuss the subject in that spirit. My contention is; that Senator Pearce would be wise to leave the matter to be determined by the Government themselves, allowing them to take the responsibility of carrying out works by day labour if they choose. I would point out that whilst there may be a number of irresponsible bodies, who are not spending their own money, who are prepared to carry out works by day labour, it is very rare indeed that business people,, in a large way, undertake buildings by day labour in preference to contract. Why is that so? Why is it that all the world over it is believed that building work should be carried out by contract? It is because, in the present condition of affairs - especially in these States, as distinct from the condition of affairs in old established countries - we have a Labour Party, which has. a larger domination here than elsewhere. It is, to a great extent, on .those grounds that it will be found that irresponsible bodies of men are prepared to spend money by day labour in preference to having work done by contract. I venture to say that if honorable senators had saved money, and were’ able to undertake works of their own, there is but a very small percentage of them who would not want to know in advance what their buildings were likely te cost. They would obtain tenders for the works. But honorable senators who support this motion wish to compel the Government to carry out works without an estimate being formed in advance as to the price for which they could be done by contract. Of course there may be persons who could profitably carry out works by day labour. Senator Styles is one who would probably be able to do that, because he has a knowledge of all the details which are necessary in the carrying out of large works successfully. He knows where to put his hands upon foremen and upon first-class workmen, and he knows where he can obtain materials at bedrock prices. Where an individual can set to work with that knowledge, I have no doubt that day labour is profitable. I have never heard any one who would venture to say that day labour in itself means bad labour. Day labour means absolutely the best of labour. I do not hesitate for a moment to say that. It would be nonsense to suppose that the case was otherwise. But with human nature as it is - in Australia, at all events - I venture to say that he would indeed be a bold man who would spend his own money upon any large buildings without entering into a contract for carrying them out.
– Then why is Anthony Hordern, in Sydney, erecting large buildings by day labour?
– I could give a reason for that, but do not care to do so. I am not sufficiently strong in my knowledge of the circumstances to say whether what I believe to be the case is absolutely the truth. But I will say that I have every reason to believe that there were influences at work; and it must be remembered also that Anthony Hordern is able to buy materials at bed-rock prices.
– Could not the Government do so?
– I do not know of any Government that does it. I do know of a Government that has spent upon materials from 30 to 40 per cent, more than the price for which they could be purchased by other people. If our Governments were composed of men who would be absolutely certain to safeguard the interests of the taxpayers in regard to the purchase of materials. I should say that it would be safe to employ day labour ; but, things being; as they are, and with the knowledge that we have, a man would be a fool to intrust his money, or to vote for a Government spending money, for carrying out works by day labour without having estimates made in advance, and without surrounding the work with safeguards. If such precautions were not taken, we should under present conditions simply give every encouragement to wasteful extravagance, and should also, I an-, bound to say, run a great risk of political corruption. That is a strong word to use. But I venture to say that no one can read the evidence which is contained in these two reports without coming to the conclusion that for years there has been absolute corruption in New South Wales, and, from what I can hear, in Western Australia as well, with regard to the expenditure of public moneys. Do honorable senators suppose that in its initiatory stage the Commonwealth can safely say - “We will dc without all safeguards, we will take no notice of what has occurred in certain States, and will give carte blanche to a Government which is supported by the party who were the principal means of allowing all this corruption to take place in New South Wales.” Honorable senators may smile at my remarks-
– It has been going on for years, and the Labour Party has been here only two years.
– The evidence contained in these reports shows that all this corruption has taken place within the last four years.
– The Labour Party have not a majority in the New South Wales’ Parliament.
– It commenced under the Lyne-See Government, and has been continued ever since.
– There is not a Labour Government in New South Wales.
– The Government which expended all this money wastefully would have been thrown out any day during the four years if the Labour Party had been against them; but the Labour Party, on the contrarv, absolutely revelled in the expenditure. I wish to cite a few authentic examples from New South Wales. Take the case of the Bogan scrub. The work was commenced at £3peracre, and was increased, owing to the demands made by the men, to £12 10s. per acrej whilst the cleared land was worth only £2 10s. per acre.
– From what publication are those figures taken?
– These figures are all taken from official documents ; but here are some figures which are not taken from an official document.
– Will the honorable senator tell us where he got those figures from?
– I cannot say at the present moment, but I can supply the information to the honorable senator. Let me now give some unofficial figures regarding the additions to the Trades Hall. The work cost £5,122, namely, £2,202 for materials, £2,713 for wages, and ,£207 for incidentals. The most skilful and able surveyor estimates that the amount spent in materials, and the wages, at full union rates, should have been £1,468, whereas they amounted to £2,713.
– Who makes that statement ?
– That is not an official statement, but it was tested by a competent person.
– It is of no value, practically.
– The Prince Alfred Hospital Commission found that a loss of £3,181 was made by adopting day labour - that is. the stonework, which should have cost £6,640, actually cost £9,821.
– Was that due to day labour ? “
– Or was it due to the discovery of a defect in the stone.
– No ; “ Purgatory “ stone was used. In the case of the Iron Cove Bridge, day labour cost £2,940, as against the estimated cost of £1,200, and while the time by tender was four months, the work lasted nine months. The car-sheds at Fort Macquarie, which were estimated to cost by tender £17,000, actually cost by day labour £37,000. The Tabulam bridge, across Clarence River, estimated to cost by tender, £9,879, cost by day labour, £15,667, the loss being £5,788. The Pyrmont post-office, estimated to cost by tender, £2,660, cost by day labour, £4,509, the loss being £1,849. The Newcastle post-office, estimated to cost by tender, £I9>385> cost £33.000 by day labour up to the time when it was handed over to the Federal Government, so that the loss amounted to £13,615.
– But there w.ere some additions authorized.
– The building was not finished ; it would have cost a great deal more if it had been allowed to go on. Lyne Park, estimated to cost by tender £7,000, cost by day labour £11,427.
Camden bridge, estimated to cost by tender, £8,238, cost by day labour, £10,284, showing a loss of £2,046. The Berry waterworks, estimated to cost by tender £2,000, cost by day labour £4,172. In the case of the sewer in Woolloomooloo, carters by day labour were paid at equal to 3s. per yard ; a contractor offered to do the work for is. 4d. per yard, but his offer was refused.
– He was a sweater.
– No; there was no sweating about the work. In the case of the Technical College, at Broken Hill, Mr. Perry, the Minister of Justice, in the Labour-Lyne-See Government, stated that the work was done by day labour, and exceeded the estimate by 50 per cent. I have here Sir William Lyne’s parliamentary estimate of the cost of the Commonwealth celebrations, but I do not think it is fair to publish the figures, because, although it was an extraordinary expenditure, still only a certain part of the work must be put down to day labour. These are all the cases I have been able to obtain up to the present time, as I have been sick. But the day-labour principle has been in vogue in New South Wales for four years, and it has simply led to waste, corruption, and demoralization.
– Is there no corruption under the contract system?
– I daresay that there has been plenty of corruption under the contract system; but, as a business man, I submit that a contractor can only do what is wrong by collusion with somebody else, and that other person is just as likely to do wrong if he has a chance, under either system. What is the difference between day labour and contracting? In the case of the Government of -a State, the contractor who submits the lowest estimate gets the work, and then, perhaps, owing to competition, he is not able to fulfil the conditions of the contract unless he has recourse to indirect means. A business man who proposes to build large works, acts in an entirely different manner. He goes to a responsible architect, and authorizes the number of tenders to be called. As a business man, he takes care to ascertain the character of the tenderers, and that a contractor will be able to carry out the contract at the amount tendered. In no case have I accepted the lowest tender from the architect. When the tenders have been received, the business man inquires as to the character and position of the tenderer, and if the result of the inquiry is satisfactory, a contract is let. But in the case of a Government, the lowest tenderer gets the work, whether he is a good man or not.
– No; there is always a list of good and bad tenderers kept in all Government offices.
– There may be; but, so far as my experience goes, most of the contractors who have made money have been engaged on Government works. The advantage which a reputable contractor has over the day labour system, is that h’e knows exactly where to pick men. He knows that a certain number of men can be relied upon as being able and skilful workmen. He knows, too, that he can get more work out of those men than he could by engaging indiscriminately a number of workmen. If one thing is emphasized more than another in the reports of these Royal Commissions, it is that when an inexperienced man has been put on to work alongside one of the best men, the latter has been brought down to the level of the former. Let me state what is going on in the catchment area outside Sydney. In the report of this Royal Commission, it is stated that Mr. Kidd - who is a member of the Government - and Mr. Storey - who is a Labour member - have during the last fifteen months nominated over 2,000 men for employment in that catchment area, which is in Mr. Kidd’s electorate. The Engineer-in-Chief states in this report that he could have saved £25,000 on that work if he had been authorized to engage the men, instead of their being put on under the pressure of political influence. There is a case of indiscriminate labour being, put together. One man is able to do four shillings’ worth of work-
– That does not apply to the Commonwealth in the slightest degree.
– It does not apply, because my honorable friends have not yet had an opportunity to bring the system into play. We on this side wish to -prevent them from getting that opportunity. We ask honorable senators whether they can shut their eyes to what is going on in New South Wales.
– We have a Public Service Act.
– Why did not Senator Pearce embody in his motion those safe guards which are suggested by the experience of several States?
– They are there already. Has the honorable senator ever read our Public Service Act?
– I am only speaking as a business man.
– The honorable senator is speaking as a New South Welshman, and that makes all the difference.
– No. I love New South Wales, which, to my mind, is the premier State’.
– The honorable senator is speaking as a politician.
– I am speaking as a man who is anxious that Australia should progress.
– Hear, hear.
– Never mind that “hear, hear.” The honorable senator may think, now that he has got into a good position -
– I was helping the honorable senator.
– It was a peculiar tone to employ for that purpose. Speaking as a man who is anxious that not only New South Wales, but all the States, should progress, I believe honestly that if it goes forth to the civilized world that the Senate of the Commonwealth has passed a resolution of this kind without any safeguard, giving a sort of instruction to Ministers to spend the people’s money on day labour, it will have a most injurious effect on the already weak financial position of the States.
– Does not the honorable senator realize the difference between the conditions in New South Wales and the conditions in the Commonwealth, under the Public Service Act?
– It has been stated here this afternoon that Western Australia is as bad as New South Wales. Do honorable senators imagine that their party comprises all the “ white “ men, and that they can do no wrong? What they are trying to do is to bring this day-labour system into the political arena. Day labour is a secondary consideration with them.
– Under the Public Service Act, the use of political influence is absolutely prohibited.
– The Public Service Act has nothing to do with this question ; but if it has, that is all the more reason why Senator Pearce should have worded his motion in such a manner that it would guard the Commonwealth from the mischief which has caused so much wasteful expenditure of public money in the mother State.
– Is the honorable senator aware that under the Public Service Act a Minister cannot appoint a single person to the Public Service of the Commonwealth ?
– So far so good.
– But that is against the argument of the honorable senator.
– It is not against my argument. If the proposal is that there shall be a body similar to the. Railway Commissioners of New South Wales, who are absolutely free from all political control, then I may be able to give it my support to a certain extent.
– Is not the Public Service Commissioner of the Commonwealth in exactly the same position as the Railway Commissioners of New South Wales?
– I do not think so.
– Read the Public Service Act.
– If that be so, where is the necessity for this motion ? Would not the same set of individuals, who now supervise the works done by contractors, supervise the work done by day labour ?
– Under the day labour principle there would be no contractors to bribe.
– Who would have the overcharge of all the thousands of men who would be employed ?
– The staff of the Public Works Department.
– To whom would the men look for employment?
– To the Public Service Commissioner, and not to the Ministry.
– The Public Service Commissioner has more work now than he can manage.
– If men are appointed, who will be under the Commonwealth Government
– They will not be under the Commonwealth- Government ; they will be under the Public Service Commissioner.
– I hope that is so, and I also hope that the Public Service Commissioner is as free from political influence as are the New South Wales Railway Commissioners. However, that does not alter my view of day labour one iota.
– Would anything alter the honorable senator’s view?
– Nothing; human nature is just what it is, and I go by human nature. I have here the report of the Royal Commission, appointed by the Government of New South Wales, to inquire into the working and administration of the Government docks and workshops at Cockatoo Island. According to that report the complaints which led to the appointment of the Commission indicated that affairs at the dock were very unsatisfactory, inasmuch as there appeared to be a “ lack of discipline, and symptoms of general disorganization.” In that portion of the ieport which deals with hindrances to efficient and economical management, and with the political influence that was exerted, there is a paragraph as follows -
Effective control of an industrial establishment depends chiefly upon the power of its manager to select his own workmen, to reward the best of them by increase of pay and permanence of work, and to deal with the comparatively inefficient by reduction of pay or dismissal.
It was proved that Mr. Grant, the secretary of one union, was given the privilege of appointing 85 per cent, of the men employed, who were taken in rotation, irrespective of their qualifications or want of qualifications. The next paragraph in the report is -
In a place where the work is fluctuating, dismissal is, of course, often necessary for economic reasons, and in such cases a manager, who has to conduct his operations in the most profitable way, will necessarily seek to retain the best workmen and dismiss the less efficient.
It was proved before the Commission that the foreman had no control over the men.
– Where is the proof?
– I shall give the proof. It was proved that the Minister of Public Works gave employment to men who were between 70 and 80 years of age, arid men who had been dismissed, brought back to the foreman letters from the Minister, stating that they were to be re-engaged. That occurred over and over again.
– Such conduct is absolutely wrong.
– That portion of the Commission’s report with which I am at present, dealing goes on to say -
The evidence shows that on occasions, when it has become necessary to reduce hands, the practice has grown up amongst some of the workmen of invoking political influence, and thus bringing pressure to bear upon the superintendent to reinstate them.
– That could not be done under the Commonwealth Public Service Act
– The report proceeds-
The desire to act in this way is rather general, and much of the Minister’s time has on occasions been occupied in listening to appeals of this kind, many of which obtained his practical sympathy. The office of superintendent is thus deprived of the dignity and respect which it should command from the workmen, and the superintendent himself becomes disheartened, so that he finally ceases to urge necessary economies, lest he should suffer the further humiliation of seeing his recommendations ignored. This power of a manager to select, to reward, to dispense with men, uncontrolled by any ‘other considerations than the maintenance of the establishment in a state of highest efficiency, is of the most vital importance.
The following is an extract from the evidence of Mr. Broad, the superintendent : -
On Mr. Broad’s evidence the Minister of Public Works made the following comment : -
I would like to point out that the practice of members of Parliament asking for positions for men, has been going on for a great many years. It is not the growth of a few years. You can see from some of the evidence which has been quoted, that it was in existence then. I think it has -always been in existence, and that is one of the reasons why there has always been a want of discipline. I am quite willing to admit that it would be better if this power.were taken out of the hands of the Minister altogether. I would be glad to have it taken from me.
But the evidence disclosed that the practice of giving men work was resorted to over and over again by the Minister. Mr. Broad, in bis evidence, stated that the men did 15 or 20 per cent, less work while this was going on, and he attributed that “result to political influence.
– Somebody else might attribute it to bad management.
– Mr. Keele, principal Engineer for Harbors and Rivers in New South Wales, was trie principal departmental officer, and Mr. Broad’s superior. Mr. Keele gave evidence as follows : - 3901. Will you tell us now how far you control the dock? - At the present time I am pretty much of a figure head. 3902. How is that? - In the first place, the Minister takes a direct and active interest in all matters connected with the employment and control of the men. 3903. Interest in what way? - The interest amounts to an interference with the head of the branch controlling the dock. For instance, the Minister does not hesitate to communicate directly with the superintendent of the dock with regard to the men. I must say he does not interfere with the actual work in any way directly. Of course, there is an indirect interference through interfering with the men, but, as I say, he communicates direct with Mr. Broad apart from me altogether, and I never know what has been done until some days and weeks afterwards.
I could give a number of similar extracts from the report, but I am afraid I might weary the Senate.
– And all this occurred in New South Wales?
– I am sorry to say these events did occur in New South Wales; but my regret would have been as deep if they had occurred in Victoria or any other State. With the knowledge thus gained of what has been done under the domination of the unions in Sydney - with the knowledge that the unionists dominate the Labour Party, and that the Labour Party dominate the Ministry - I ask the representatives of that party in the Senate, in these early years of the Commonwealth, to take a higher than a mere party view. We should take care to establish safeguards against political interference under any circumstances in connexion with public works undertaken by the Commonwealth. It is impossible for a thoughtful person not to see that in the Commonwealth there is a rising tide of political domination, engineered by a certain section of the Labour Party. I believe that the members of that party desire the best interests of the Commonwealth, as those interests reveal themselves from their point of view; but interference in matters beyond the sphere of trades unions must work irreparable mischief to the Commonwealth, if any loop-hole be left for the exercise of political influence in any form, either by the Labour Party, or any other party, I care not which. The Labour Party, if they are sincere in their anxiety to do what is best for labour, broadly speaking, throughout the Commonwealth, will do their utmost to prevent any repetition of what we have witnessed in some of the States.
– New South Wales, for example.
– I was about to mention Western Australia; and I am sure that, to a small extent, at all events, Victoria is “tarred with the same brush.” The first Labour Ministry in the Commonwealth have cast upon them the responsibility of doing what they believe to be right in the interests of the community at large. The public are watching the present Government in their initiatory steps; and it would be cruel if the industrial conditions of the Commonwealth, which are already suffering so much-
– Not from the Labour Party.
– -Yes, absolutely from the Labour Party. In Sydney at the present time there are 20,000 unemployed, and the State 3 per cent, stocks, which four years ago stood at £104, and were the highest in Australia, are now at £86. I say deliberately that that state of affairs has been brought about, if not altogether, in a great measure by political influence, which has forced the Government to do that which is not right, but that which is necessary to placate the Labour Party, by whom the local Parliament is dominated.
– Do contractors never exercise any political influence?
– A contractor is a citizen, just the same as is a labour man,, and there are bad contractors just as there are bad labour men.
– There ‘ are no bad labour men.
– I should like to think that that is the fact; at any rate, I am sure we have no bad labour representatives in this Chamber. It is for the first Labour Government to prove that they are worthy of their position, because by that means they may to a certain1 extent relieve Australia of the discredit it has earned in consequence of the class of legislation which has characterized the last few years. I am sure there is no honorable senator who really believes in his heart that Australia has now the good name she enjoyed four years ago.
– Australia has a better name now than she had four, or even ten ‘ years ago.
– “The proof of the pudding is in the eating;” and the condition of affairs in Sydney prevails in spite of the large extra amount of money which New South Wales has received under the Commonwealth Tariff. When we see the Western Australia 3 per cent, stock standing the lowest amongst the stocks of the States, we must come to the conclusion that the position of the Commonwealth is not what it should be. As a business man, I should like to be able to draw a different picture; but I cannot. The future depends to a very great extent on the manner in which the Government conduct the affairs of the Commonwealth. This motion I regard as the first attempt on the part of the Labour Party to bring pressure on the Government to depart from a mode of business which’ has proved most effective throughout the world. Whatever exception there may be in the case of private people with large means, the fact remains that all the great works in the world are carried out by contract. I ask /Senator Pearce to with’draw his motion when the debate has been closed. The responsibility for the expenditure of money on public works ought to be left with the Government, and then it would be impossible for political influence to obtain a footing.
Debate (on motion by Senator Givens) adjourned.
The PRESIDENT .reported the receipt of a message from the House of Representatives, acquainting the Senate that it had authorized the Honorable Austin Chapman, a member of the House, to attend, if he thought fit, before the Select Committee of the Senate on the case of Major *J. W. M. Carroll, as requested in the Senate’s message.
– The Senate permitted this Bill to stand over until to-day, in order that I might consider whether or not, in my opinion, the ruling of the Acting Chairman of Committees was correct.
– Before you give your ruling, sir, may I request that the bells be rung?(Quorum formed.)
– The question I have to decide is whether or not the ruling given by the Acting Chairman of Committees is, in my opinion, correct That ruling was that a certain amendment, which it was suggested should be made, was not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill. But, before dealing with the question as to whether the suggested amendment can or can not be entertained by the Committee, it would appear desirable to state what is the test of the powers of such Committee.. There are different tests as to what ought or ought not to be in a Bill at. different stages.- When a Bill is first introduced, it is provided by standing orders 179 and 180 - 179. The title shall agree with the order of leave, -and no clause shall be inserted in any such Bill foreign to its title. 180. Every Bill not prepared pursuant to the order of leave, or. according to the Rules and Orders of the Senate, shall be ordered to be withdrawn.
These are limitations on the senator who has obtained leave to introduce the Bill, and do not in any way refer to or restrict the powers of the Committee on the Bill. When the Bill has been read a second time, it has become a Bill of the House, and the House - for convenience of procedure - refers it to a Committee of the whole. The Senate affirms, on the second reading, the principles of the Bill, and refers it to a Committee to consider the details, and delegates to that Committee certain powers. That Committee is an inferior, subsidiary body, and has a delegated’ authority only. Its resolutions have no effect unless and until adopted by the Senate. Amongst other powers given to the Committee, is that of making amendments. Standing order 194 says -
Provided the same be relevant to the subjectmatter of the- Bill, and be otherwise in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the Senate.
Our Standing Orders and practice on this point are the same as the Standing Orders and practice of the British House of Commons, and of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, and I will read from a parliamentary paper of New South Wales of 1894, which illustrates with great clearness the rule I have just enunciated. The following is a letter from Sir Joseph Abbott, the Speaker of the Legislative
Assembly of New South Wales, to the Clerk of the House of Commons : -
The Speaker’s Room, Legislative Assembly,
Sydney, 29th June, 1894.
Dear Sir, -
On the 16th May last a ruling was given by me in our Legislative Assembly, which has been taken by some honorable members as initiating a new practice, and the correctness of which has been privately questioned by one or two members of the House, whose standing makes their opinion worthy of grave consideration ; I should, therefore, though hesitating to again encroach upon your time, be glad if you would ‘give your opinion upon the ruling given.
The Point of Order submitted from the Committee of the Whole was whether it was regular to consider an amendment or new clause which, though fairly covered by the title, was not relevant to the provisions of the Bill itself, as brought - in and read a second time. The Chairman of Committees had ruled the new clause out of order, and I, for the reasons which you will see fully stated in the Parliamentary Debates sent herewith, sustained his decision.
Sir Joseph Abbott then refers to papers and reports which he had forwarded with his letter. Sir Reginald Palgrave, Clerk of the House of Commons; replied -
Dear Mr. Speaker, -
The only reply that I can make to your letter of the 29th June is to felicitate you on the clear, concise, and able decision, you gave on’ Mr. Haynes’ proposed amendment to’ the Parliamentary Electorates Act’s Amendment Bill.
You stated conclusively that the relevancy of an amendment to a Bill must be tested not by the title of the Bill, but by its “subject-matter ; in. deed, it was to establish this principle that the House of Commons passed our standing order No. 34.
So that it is quite clear that the test, and the only test, which we have to apply, is : Is this amendment, or suggested amendment, relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill?’ We have to lay aside all considerations as to the title of the Bill, the scope of the Bill, or of the order of leave, as to whether the amendment is in accordance with the provisions of our Constitution, and as to whether it is a good amendment of a bad one. Those considerations have nothing to do with the question I am asked to decide. The question is simply as to what was the power delegated by the Senate to the Committee. The Committee had power to make amendments. Therefore, the only question is : Is this amendment relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill, as disclosed by the Bill itself? The Bill is a Bill to impose penalties on anv one who - applies a false trade mark or a false trade description to goods.
The punishment may be either by way of fine, imprisonment, or by prohibition of the importation of the goods. This is the subjectmatter of ‘the Bill. The Bill does not provide or contemplate that the owner of any goods shall be obliged to apply any trade mark or trade description, except so far as is necessary to prevent an imitation of trade marks or trade descriptions which have been acquired in Australia. This exception is in no way contradictory to the principles and objects of the Bill. The amendment is intended to prohibit the importation of - all goods to which a trade description is required by regulation to be applied, and to which the prescribed trade description is not applied.
This introduces a principle not contained in the Bill, as read a second time, namely, that the Executive may by regulation prohibit the importation of goods to which no trade mark or trade description has been applied, to make it compulsory on an importer to apply a trade mark or a trade description to goods, if a proclamation has been issued requiring him so to do. It is true that a trade description under the Bill includes a “ Customs entry,” and that’ therefore a false Customs entry is a false trade description. So that, by paragraph a of clause 13, goods concerning which a false Customs entry has been made may be prohibited from importation. But the proposed amendment goes far beyond this, and seeks to compel the owners of the goods to apply to the. goods themselves a trade mark- or a trade description, if required so to do by proclamation. I have come to the conclusion, therefore - I may say with considerable doubt and considerable difficulty - that the amendment is not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, and uphold the Acting Chairman’s ruling. 1 may, however, in addition, point out that the Executive, in all probability, already have the power which the proposed amendment seeks to give them. By sub-section g of section 52 of the Customs ‘Act 1901, prohibited imports’ include “ all goods the importation of which may be prohibited by proclamation “ ; and section 56 provides that-
The power of prohibiting importation of goods shall authorize prohibition subject to any- specified condition or restriction, and goods imported contrary to any such condition cr restriction shall be prohibited imports.
So that the Executive may by proclamation prohibit the importation of any goods or class of goods subject to a specified condition, such condition being the marking of such goods in a specified manner.
Clause13 agreed to.
Bill reported,’ without further amendment.; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday, 27th July.
Senate adjourned nt 5.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 July 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1904/19040714_senate_2_20/>.