2nd Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Yes, the honorable senator had.
– Permit me, sir, to draw your attention to the fact that what Senator Neild did ask was not to be allowed to give notice of a motion, but to be allowed to re-arrange certain business standing in his name; that you drew his attention to the standing order regulating the routine of business, and mentioned that the time for re-arranging private business had not yet arrived, but that when it did arrive he could re-arrange’ the business standing in his name j and that he did not give fresh notice.
– Yes, he did give notice then.
– I think that what he wished to do was met by your objection, and he sat- down satisfied with your statement that the time had not arrived, and when the notice of motion was called on the Senate decided that it should be dealt with. Although he did not move the notice of motion, and did not subsequently give notice of it, yet it appears on the noticepaper for the 15th December.
– Senator Neild gave notice, in accordance with standing order 102, that he would call attention -to the report of the Select Committee, and move a motion. He was perfectly justified in doing that, and he did it at the proper time.
– What relates not to this notice of motion, but to notice of motion Nol 4.
– I have nothing to do with notice of motion No. 4. Senator Neild gave notice that he would call attention to the report of the Select Committee and move a motion. What the nature of that motion was he did not state.
– That is not the. one to which Senator Pearce is alluding.
What he is alluding to is the notice of motion as to it being the inherent right of every party to an inquiry to call witnesses.
– Oh, but Senator Neild gave notice that he would move that motion on a future day. as he had a perfect right to do. He. gave the notice of motion before the business of the day was called on. I think the honorable senator will find that stated in Hansard.
– I understand, sir, from your remarks, that you have practically ruled that because Senator Neild gave notice of his intention to move this motion, the notice of motion is therefore rightly on the business-paper to-day.
– Admitting, with you, that Senator Neild gave that notice, the Senate, by a vote, subsequently decided, to all intents and purposes, that this should not appear on the notice-paper.
– No. it did not decide that.
– Practically, it did. It decided that Senator Neild should not have the right topostpone the notice of motion. If nothing else had been done, sir, I think you will agree with me that only two courses were then open. One was that . he should thereupon move the motion, and the other was that it should be withdrawn. With regard to the fact that prior to that division being taken. Senator Neild had given notice of a motion, I would submit to you, with the greatest respect, that the decision of the Senate, that one of those, two things must happen, cannot be overruled by that previous notice.
– The previous notice was given as regards something else.
– Admitting, for the sake of argument, that previous notice was given, I submit to you, sir, that the subsequent decision of the Senate must ove’rrule anything previously done, and that, until that vote be reversed, this notice should not appear on the paper. I ask you, sir, to inform the Senate whether, under such circumstances, it is right that the decision of the Senate should be overridden, and that this motion should now appear on the business-paper ?
– Before the business was called on, Senator Neild gave notice that he would move notice of motion No. 1 on a future day. He was perfectly justified in doing that; it has often been done, and it is within the rules.
– But you, sir, did not allow him to do so.
– The honorable senator will permit me to state my reasons ; it is not in order to interrupt any one, especially the President. Senator Neild gave his notice of motion in order before the business was called on, and by inadvertence, when the notice of motion, on the businesspaper came on, he moved that it be postponed. The whole of the proceedings were irregular. There ought to have been no motion, and there ought to have been no division. I looked upon the whole of the proceedings as an irregularity, and therefore allowed the motion to” appear on. the notice-paper.
– May I ask you, sir, whether you rule that that division of the Senate was an irregularity ?
– May I ask you, sir, whether you rule that, without the Senate doing anything more, it can be subject to that stigma ; that a division in the Senate can be termed an irregularity, and set aside.
– There is no stigma about the matter. It is a mere question of procedure. Senator Neild made a mistake in moving that his notice of motion be postponed, because it was really off the noticepaper ; as a matter of fact, it was to be put on the notice-paper for another day. In consequence of the previous notice which had been given, it was an irregularity, and I do not see that there is anything to complain about, or any reason to raise any question. It is really not a matter of any great importance, because, if Senator Neild had not given that notice of motion, he could have given another notice of motion for another day. The matter had not been disposed of.
– I wish to point out to you, sir, that your ruling practically amounts to. this : that if I had given notice of a motion, and it appeared on the noticepaper for to-day, I could, when notices of motion were called on, give notice of that same motion fornext week.
– No; before the business was called on, if the honorable senator had a notice of motion on the paper for to-day, and he wished to give notice that he would move that notice of motion on some future date, ‘he could do so.
– I am afraid, sir, that there is some confusion, because there are two notices of motion standing in the name of Senator Neild. The notice of motion which he wished to give in general terms was not No.1, but No. 4. If you will read the heading, you will remember the words which he read from notice of motion No. 4.
– We are not discussing notice of motion No. 4 at all.
– No ; but it was Senator Neild’s attempt to re-arrange his business
– The honorable senator’s memory is at fault, I think.
– Will you, sir, allow me to read the heading of notice of motion No. 4?
– Yes; but Senator Neild had a great many notices of motion on the paper, and beforethe business was called on he took advantage of standing order 102, which reads as . follows: -
A senator desiring to change the day for bringing on a motion, may give notice of such motion for any day subsequent to that first named, but not earlier.
The honorable senator complied with that standing order, and gave notice of motion. Notice of motion No. 4 has nothing to do with this matter.It deals with another question.
-I agree, sir,’ “with what you have said, but it was not in -regard to notice of motion No. 4 that Senator Neild did that.
– I beg the honorable senator’s pardon.
– These are the words which Senator Neild started to read-
– I know (that he started to do something in reference to notice of motion No. 4, but I am not talking about that notice of motion at all.
– Allow me to submit, sir, that it was not motion No. 1 that he gave notice of at all.
– I beg the honorable senator’s pardon. The clerks took it down, I did not.
– Hansard will show that it was notice of motion No. 4 which he started to read, and which he wished to re-arrange.
– I do not think that there ought to be any further discussion. The clerks took down the notice, and I heard the honorable senator read it.
– I do not rise to prolong the discussion, but in the interests of the Senate, I wish to point out to you, sir, that under standing order 70- the one I drew your attention to yesterday - if an honorable senator wishes to postpone the business standing in his name to another date, a division is possible. It seems to me that standing order 102 brings about exactly the same result as far as he is concerned if he wishes to postpone his business, except that there is no division. The two standing orders are in absolute conflict on that point.
– No, they are cumulative.
– I submit, sir, that exactly the same result, so far as postponement is concerned, is brought about, and that while under standing order 102 the Senate has no opportunity to divide, under standing order 70 it has. In similar circumstances, sir, will you rule that that means of giving the Senate an opportunity of going to a division can always be evaded by proceeding under standing order 102, instead of standing order 70?
– The honorable and learned senator will see that the standing order provides’ that an honorable senator has a right to do a certain thing. I am not going to say that a standing order is null and void. If, before the business of the day is called on - and it has been done here dozens of times - an honorable senator gives notice that he is going, to move a motion standing in His name on a future date, it is put down for that date by the clerks, as a matter of course, and is put on the noticepaper.
– That has always been done under standing order No. 70, and until I pointed it out yesterday, the Senate had not recognised that it had the. opportunity to go to a division.
– An honorable senator can proceed in either one way or the other. If the Standing Orders are wrong, they ought to be altered. It is not for me to say that they are wrong. I do not think that this discussion ought to be continued.
– Are we to understand, sir, that if the question again arises, an honorable senator can proceed under standing order 102, and no division can be taken ?
– If the standing order is not approved of by the Senate, it can be altered, but until then it is my duty to carry it out.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
” NEW SOUTH WALES.
” Premier Resents Slanders. “An Intelligence Bureau. “ Sydney, Monday. “ The Premier, Mr. Carruthers, complains ibitterly of the misstatements abroad with, regard to the affairs of New South Wales. “ He refers specially to a pamphlet recently published in the Argentine, in which Australia is described as a ruined country ; also to statements made by certain newspapers, including the Economist, a London paper. “The Premier says that extracts from our own papers which condemn this State are published and commented upon, while facts favouring us are not published, and Mr. Coghlan’s splendid compilations appear to be but little Unown. “ In order to counteract these statements Mr. Carruthers has decided to establish an Intelligence Bureau, under the guidance of Mr. Coghlan. Associated with it will be such sub-departments as have hitherto disseminated information in connexion with lands, mining, and agriculture. “ The bureau, Mr. Carruthers says, will entail very little extra expense.”
Australia : its area and physical configuration.
Climatic conditions, rainfall, &c, of the States.
Population of the States.
The Commonwealth and States Constitution Acts.
Immigration laws and immigration statistics.
Land settlement and the States Land Acts.
Mineral and agricultural resources of the States.
Railways and tramways - State-owned and private.
Post and telegraphs - State-owned and private.
Social condition of the people.
Food supply and cost of living.
States industrial legislation.
The manufacturing industry.
Commerce, employment, and production. Shipping.
Commonwealth and State finance, &c, &c.
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is. as follows : -
The Attorney-General is in full sympathy with the desireto dissipate erroneous notions with regard to Australia which may prevail in Britain, and to promote a fuller and better understanding of the facts as to her political and social conditions and resources, and the Government have already given the matter attention and taken steps in the direction indicated.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Sir Josiah Symon) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Sir Josiah Symon) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the Bill to be passed through all its stages without delay.
– I object to this method of dealing with a measure of this character. A Bill is placed in our hands dealing, not only with the expenditure of a very considerable sum of money, but with the construction of a variety of public works in various parts of the Commonwealth, and we have had no opportunity to inquire as to the necessity or utility of those works.
– The Bill is put into our hands, and we are asked to suspend discussion.
– No, not to suspend discussion.
– I have often objected to this method of doing business. It is extremely undesirable in dealing with Money Bills that the Standing Orders should be suspended, and the measures passed through without opportunity being given to consider them in a rational manner. There is no reason why this measure should not have been placed before the Senate’ at an earlier date.
– There was the very good reason that we could not get it.
– That is no reason why we should scamp discussion of it now. I am going to vote against the suspension of the Standing Orders in this case, because if we are to discharge our duty to the country it is necessary that we should be given an opportunity to consider the various items dealt with in the Bill.
– I think the Attorney-General should tell the Senate whether this Bill is based on last year’s Estimates. Looking hurriedly through the schedule, I am under the impression that it anticipates this year’s Estimates. If that be so, good reason should be given for the suspension of the Standing Orders. We have before suspended the Standing Orders under protest in the case of Bills of this nature, based on Estimates previously considered. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that this Bill deals with works which did not appear on’ last year’s Estimates, and it is therefore an unparalleled departure in the history of finance in the Commonwealth that the Standing Orders should be suspended for the passage of such a measure. We have not so far passed a Supply Bill involving Estimates which have still to come before us. If this measure is prophetic, and is based on Estimates which have still to come before us, by passing it we shall deprive ourselves of anv effectual means of dealing with those Estimates, because we shall have committed ourselves to the leading votes affecting public works, appearing in them. If I state the case correctly the Attorney-General (must show urgency in support of his motion, or I shall otherwise be inclined to support Senator Stewart.
– The Senate is not fairly treated with respect to financial Bills. There has been a continual complaint since the inauguration of this Parliament that money Bills have been brought up to the Senate on very short notice, and that because of delay in another place the time for their discussion in the Senate has been curtailed. It appears to me that in this Bill the cart is put before the horse. The AttorneyGeneral asks us to grant a large sum of money for new works and buildings before we have had an opportunity, to consider the Estimates for the ordinary services of the year. I notice that in this Bill provision is made fornew works and services connected with the Post and Telegraph Department, involving _ an expenditure of£155.000. A sum of , £130,000 is set down for new works and services in connexion with the Defence Department. There are also other items appertaining to those Departments which come under the heading of Home Affairs. It is asking rather too much of honorable senators to claim that a Bill introduced here at ten minutes to 11 o’clock, should be proceeded with five minutes- later, before we have had an opportunity to consider the proposals contained in it.
– I am sure that no honorable senator will impute to me any desire that the Senate shall not have the fullest opportunity to deal with financial questions, or any wish to take awav one iota of the very great powers which. I have always contended, and I think, rightly, that the Senate possesses in dealing with money matters.
– We do not impute that desire to the honorable and learned senator personally, but the fact remainsthat, as the result of -the action of the Government of which he is a member, we are given no opportunity to deal with this Bill as it deserves to be . dealt, with.
– I am obliged to my. honorable friend for his. statement that such . an idea . would not be attributed to me personally, . but I have been induced to make these remarks because of several expressions which have been used, beginning with “ robbing the
Senate of its just rights,” and going down, I think, to a charge of “cheekiness. “ I. Cannot be charged with any endeavour to lessen the control, and, for that matter, the interest of the Senate in connexion with these questions.
– We all know how ‘the honorable senator stood up for the Senate when on this side. ‘
– I intend to do so on this side also. The present motion to suspend the Standing Orders does not mean that discussion will be prevented.
– The honorable and learned senator is aware that it will curtail the opportunity to consider the measure. ,
– If the honorable senator will accept my assurance, it merely means that I shall be enabled to move the second reading of the Bill to-day, and if we can carry it through all its stages, so much the better. But I say quite frankly that if it be “found that there is in the Bill any matter which requires further consideration, and which honorable senators desire to discuss in Committee, I shall offer no objection to the Bill being allowed to stand over if good reason for the adoption of such a course is given. But I appeal to honorable senators not to adopt such a course lightly, or unless they feel that the public interest, or the satisfaction of their own judgment, imperatively demands it. Senator Pearce has referred to the practice in connexion with Supply Bills, but this is not a Supply Bill. Supply Bills rest, as my honorable friend has rightly said, upon Estimates which have to be passed. This is an appropriation for works and buildings in order to prevent any stoppage in the construction of public works, and to enable them to be proceeded with without delay. For that reason the other Chamber was unanimous in passing this Bill through all its stages yesterday.
– There is nothing on this Bill to show that it came from the other Chamber. Apparently the printer has been hurried also.
– That just shows the extreme desire of the Government that nobody should be thrown out of employment. (
– Is this Bill submitted in the interests of the unemployed?
– It has been stated in another place, and I am personally aware of the fact, that representations have been made to the Government that, however long the Appropriation* Bill may stand over, .it is desirable that this measure should be carried throughat the earliest possible moment in order that there shall be no delay, and no gapin the employment of people on these works. I think honorable senators should at least give me an opportunity to explain the details of the expenditure. The object of suspending the Standing Orders is merely to enable the second reading to be moved, and steps to be taken to consider the Bill in detail.
– Suspending theStanding Orders also means going into Committee, and reading the Bill a third time to-day.
– Not if honorable senators object. If even one honorable senator gives satisfactory reasons why there should be further consideration of any item, I shall acquiesce.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral give reasons for urgency ?
– It is imperative that there should be no hiatus in proceeding with these works. It was very inconvenient to have to press the measure forward in the House of Representatives yesterday ; but the desire was that there should be no suspension of work.
– Is not the real reason to get supply, and rush into recess?
– No; this Bill has nothing to do with that. It merely authorizes the expenditure of money on works and buildings. These are not the general Estimates. The Appropriation Bill proper will be dealt with at a later stage. Last year, a similar Bill was introduced on the i st October. We are following the same precedent now. Indeed, the Bill may be compared with measures that are introduced in the States Parliaments to authorize the construction of railways and other public works. I hope that honorable senators will enable us to advance the Bill a stage, and if they give reasons why there should be further consideration of details,, we shall offer no objection.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia - Attorney-General). - I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a measure which is more appropriate for consideration in Committee, when honorable senators will have an opportunity to speak more than once, and to apply their minds to particular items, than for debate on the motion for the second reading. So far as I am concerned,, the amplest information will be supplied, and the figures will be explained in the fullest possible, way. One reason why this Bill is brought in separately is that , it is a Bill which the Senate may amend. It is differentiated in that respect from an ordinary Appropriation Bill as to which we can only make requests. Honorable senators have the freest possible hand in regard to this expenditure. The amount covered by the Bill is £404,240, and I think the most convenient elucidation I can offer is a comparison with the actual expenditure of last year. That bears on the point to which Senator Pearce alluded, in reference to new expenditure and excess; but, of course, there must always be new works each year, not in the sense of somethingbeyond the ordinary scope, but simply because great departments like that of the Post and Telegraph Department must always be providing additional conveniences for the community. We must provide additional works to enable the outlying parts of the country to be served with telephones, telegraphs, and post-offices, just in the same way as every business man, as his connexions increase, must extend his operations. The new works mentioned are required to provide for the growing wants of the community from day to day ; and, from that point of view, we can apply our best judgment in the consideration of the measure. It is desirable that there should be no stoppage of those works, and that the Government should know as early as possible what authority they have for incurring the expenditure. The works extend all over this vast continent, and are directed to providing conveniences in districts which cannot be reached in an hour or a day ; and it is not desirable that there should be any suspense on the part of the public, or of contractors and employes, as to whether there is to be a continuance of operations. The actualexpenditure last’ year was £325,009, as against an estimated expenditure this year of £404,240. That actual expenditure last year was incurred under the Estimates submitted to the Senate by the then Vice-President of the Executive Council, Senator Playford, in a very interesting speech. An apparent increase of £79,231 is shown, made up chiefly of two items, to which I shall direct the attention of honorable senators, and which contain the only proposals calling, I think, for any criticism in Committee.
Commonwealth is on the right side, so far as regards the amount claimed for land. These claims have not been assented to, and are not likely to be more, while they may be less.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
– I wish to draw attention to the fact that this Bill does not bear on its face a notification that it has been received from the House of Representatives. I suggest that the Government Printer be informed that that notification should be printed on the face of a Bill whenever it is possible. Of course, there may be circumstances to account for its omission from, this Bill. It is desirable that we should be able to ascertain by a glance at a Bill where it originated.
– I am not aware of any rule requiring that notification to be printed on the face of the Bill. Of course, the knowledge that it comes from the House of Representatives is communicated tp us by message. I shall make a note of my honorable friend’s remark, and ascertain what the practice is. I do not know that it is not a matter for the officers of the Senate. I think it is desirable that it should be done.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
– I desire to obtain some information about a rifle range at Brisbane, which, exclusive of the land, is estimated to cost £5,000. That seems a very large amount to spend on a rifle range for metropolitan troops.
– I think that Senator Stewart is aware of the difficulty which occurred in connexion with the Toowong Rifle Range. It is a verygood range in many respects, but it was found that the bullets sometimes ricochetted and went straight over the hill at the back, and the consequence was that more than one action for damages was brought against the Department. It had to pay damages in one case, and therefore it became absolutely necessary to obtain another rifle range.
– A few instructors could teach the men to shoot straight.
– In Brisbane the men shoot very well indeed. An accident of that kind may occur on almost any range.
– Have they not targets there?
– Shots that ricochet will sometimes go over the natural hill at the back of a rifle range.
– Where is the new rifle range?
– In Enoggera.
– Enoggera is a healthy and picturesque place, and no doubt’ a very fine site will be found. When the new rifle range is provided the present rifle range at Toowong will be available for other purposes, and ultimately no loss will result.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- I should like to know whether Senator Drake can tell the Committee from whom the land has been bought, and the price to be paid for it.
– The land was granted bv the State, and is held in trust.
– Then what about the price?
-There is no price stated. The estimated cost, “exclusive of the land,” does not mean that there is any land to be paid for.
– It implies it.
– It is implied that the expenditure will be £5,000, without reference to the value of the land. It might perhaps have been differentlv stated.
– I think we should also get some information about the land which is to be purchased by the Commonwealth at Fremantle. £24,000 is a large sum to pay for land, and I understood the Attorney-General to say that the area to be resumed is about 2 acres.
– I did not say that. I do not know what the area is.
– We are asked to vote £24,000 for the purchase of this land at Fremantle. That is the price asked bv the Western Australian Government, but the Attorney-General has said that the Commonwealth Government has not agreed to pay that price. Before voting so large a. sum, the Committee should be informed as to where this land is situated, what it is at present used for, and whether it is the property of the State Government.
– I take it that £24,000 is the Western Australian Government’s estimate of the value of the land. For the information of Senator Stewart, I might say that the harbor to be defended at Fremantle is right in the centre of the town, which lies on either side of it. Outside the harbor there is an open roadstead, and for the defence of the place it is necessary that forts should be constructed on either side of the harbor. The land on one side of the harbor, on which it is necessary to construct a fort, is practically in the centre of the town, and is therefore very costly.
– What is it at present used for?
– There are various Government buildings upon it. I believe that one portion of it, on which the Customs House is erected, has already been transferred to the Commonwealth. The military authorities state that it is absolutely essential for the defence of Fremantle that a fort should be constructed on this land. The land at the place selected for a fort on the other side of the harbor is the property of private individuals, and is not nearly so valuable, because it is not so near the centre of the town.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).There is, in addition to the amount set down for the purchase of the land, a sum of £3.800 required for the removal and re-erection of buildings. That brings the expenditure proposed for this land up to nearly £30,000. I wonder whether that is all that will be required. I understand fromSenator Pearce that there are public buildings erected on the land to be resumed, and it does not appear to be land which would ever have been built upon by ordinary business people.
– It would if they had the chance.
– It has evidentlybeen reserved for public purposes, and the Commonwealth is now asked to vote £24,000 for it. The public buildings erected on it cannot be of a very important character, when they can be removed and re-erected for £3,800. As far as I can gather, the Commonwealth is being taken advantage of in this matter.
– That is a serious charge ?
– We know that each State is in exactly the same position in regard to the Commonwealth that State electorates are in with regard to the States Governments. Each State looks upon the Commonwealth Government as fair game. It appears to me that the Western Australian Government has taken up that attitude in connexion with this matter. If honorable senators -recognise that it is the duty of the States to get all they can out of the Commonwealth, it is also the duty of the Commonwealth to give as little as it can. We should remember that we are dealing with the money of the whole of the people of Australia. No matter what arrangement is come to with the Western Australian Government, the people of Australia will ultimately have to find the money. I do not know who is to blame in this matter, whether it is the present Government or past Governments.
– Does the honorable senator think that any one is to blame?
– Some one is undoubtedly to blame. The honorable and learned senator would not conduct his private business in such a fashion. If he arranged to take over a property, he would make sure of the terms on which it was to be transferred to him before he took possession. The Commonwealth Government appears to deal with these matters in a large, vague, and airy fashion. The Western Australian Government makes a demand for £24,000 for this land, and the Commonwealth Government, while it does not say that it will agree to pay that price, says, “All right, we shall take possession, and we can settle that matter afterwards.”
– Why does the honorable senator assume that ?
– I do not ‘assume that at all. If Senator Pulsford had been listening, he would have heard the AttorneyGeneral tell the Committee that the Commonwealth Government had not agreed to pay this £24,000. I should like to know why this sum appears on the Estimates.
– The Committee is asked only to give authority to spend up to that amount.
– The honorable and learned- senator, if he should continue to occupy his present position, may ask next year for another £24,000 for this purpose. My experience as a member of a State Parliament has taught me that Governments deal very loosely with matters of finance. I am extremely anxious that as the Commonwealth Government is a pattern for the States Governments in everything else, it should be their model also in the conduct of financial affairs. We should not be asked to vote money until a definite arrangement has been come to with the people who are to get it. The Government have no information on this matter.
– The whole thing is a “ swap,” with the possibility of £24,000 to boot.
– This is a new version. On whose foot will the boot be?
– Josiah Symon. - Senator Dawson suggests the Commonwealth Government.
– If that be so, why is this sum asked for ?
– The. matter cannot be gone on with unless some amount is voted.
– We are told that a certain area of land has been exchanged.
– Proposed to be exchanged.
– The whole thing seems to be in a nebulous condition. Nothing is certain and definite, and everything about’ it is unbusiness-like. I am disposed to move that the vote should be struck out, in order that some trustworthy information on the subject might be placed before the Committee.
– What item is the honorable senator discussing now?
- Senator Givens should be a member of the Government. The honorable senator evidently knows as little about the subject as do the members i of the Government in this Chamber.
– The honorable senator has not got hold of the right matter.
– Then I hope the Attorney-General will tell me how to get hold of it.
– I direct Senator Stewart’s attention to the fact that he is assuming that the £24,000 which is being voted is to be expended in the purchase of land, and that it is an actual expenditure. But it is not so at all. The land to which he has directed his very clear remarks involves only a portion of the total estimated cost of £87.000 on these fortifications at Arthur Head, North Fremantle. The expenditure in respect of land is estimated’ at £34,000. We are now authorizing the expenditure of £24,000, not necessarily in respect of the land, but towards going on with the work.
– That commits us- to the whole expenditure.
– Oh, yes, but it must not be assumed that the £24,000, or any of it, has to be spent on land. In any case, it- has been agreed between the Western Australian Government and the Commonwealth that their land is to be treated as part of the transferred properties. Items 8, 9, and 10, under the heading of Western Australia, in division 2, make up a total of £16,800, and there is a note at thebottom of the page showing that £7,600 has to be added to that, representing expenditure which is provided for under division 6, sub-division 1, item 15. That makes up the total of £24,000, which is merely the amount which Parliament authorizes to be spent during the current year.
– That is the absolute outside limit to which the Government can go.
– Yes ; having spent that amount, we must come to Parliament for a further authorization. My honorable friend Senator Stewart seems to be under the impression that we are going to pay . £24,000 for land of which we do not know the area or the value.
SenatorGivens. - We are committing ourselves to that ultimate expenditure.
– What we are committing ourselves to is the construction of these fortifications at a maximum cost of £87,000. But we are not committing ourselves to give £24,000 in cash for land. The land is the subject of a transaction between the State and the Commonwealth, which is beneficial to both parties. With this explanation, I think that Senator Stewart will admit that the position is simple ; and I should like also to assure him with regard to the general military expenditure that there has been no large increase. The estimated expenditure on defence last year was £581,262. The estimated expenditure provided for this year is £571,114. There is also this to be said - which I feel sure Senator Dawson will bear me out in stating - that every effort is made consistent with efficiency, to keep down the actual expenditure. Last year, as aeainst an appropriation of £581,262, the actuai expenditure was £519,170. That, of course, is irrespective of works and buildings, and expenditure on the Im perial Squadron. The expenditure this year on the works and buildings with which we are now concerned, is £130,000. Last year the amount was , £97,000; but the difference is due to the cost of the Fremantle undertaking.
– My honorable friend Senator Stewart, with his native shrewdness and caution, appears to be haunted with the idea that we are not driving a sufficiently hard bargain with respect to the land for the Fremantle fortifications. The question of the value of the land has not been finally decided., but it must be remembered that the Commonwealth will be in possession, and that if there is any dispute as to the actual value of the land, it will be settled fairly, probably by arbitration. The Attorney-General has stated that the Western Australian Government have agreed to consider this land, which they own, as similar to the transferred properties. The Western Australian Government are to be commended for their action in that respect. I believe this is the first time in the history of the relations between Commonwealth and States when that has been done. It’ shows a proper spirit of reciprocity, and it would be advantageous if it were followed to a greater extent. It would indicate good feeling with regard to great national works which are beneficial- alike to both the Commonwealth and the States. I do not wish to mention instances in the contrary direction, but there are cases in which, even in regard to handing over transferred properties, a good deal of friction between States and Commonwealth has been occasioned. I am of opinion that the transferred properties will never be paid for by the Commonwealth in cash. If we succeed in consolidating the States debts, we shall practically take over the whole of the debts that accrued in the creation of the large assets of the States which have not been taken over by the Commonwealth. In the case of the transferred services, -it merely means that if we take over States debts we shall take over the property as well as the debts. If we take over the debts of the States we shall, to that extent - perhaps the amount may be £12,000,000 - take over the assets with the liabilities; and, as to the larger indebtedness of £200,000,000, the assets remain under the control of the States. It is exceedingly improbable that the States will ever receive payment in cash for the transferred services, and therefore this land is practically a gift from the Western Australian Government to the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator misunderstands the position altogether.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.My point is that we shall probably take over the debts that were created in establishing the properties transferred to the Commonwealth, and that it will never be necessary for the Commonwealth to pay for them in cash.
– We shall have to pay interest on the debt.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.Undoubtedly there will have to be a bookkeeping system, by which each State will have to pay interest on its own debt, which is transferred to the central authority. But I say again that as far as this land question is concerned, the value of it will probably never be paid by the Commonwealth in cash, though no doubt the transaction will be adjusted in some other direction. It seems to’ me that the objection taken to these items is not to the construction of the forts, but to the purchase of the land, and when it is pointed out that the land is handed over as a portion of the transferred services, the difficulty is practically overcome. ‘
– It seems rather strange for Senator Smith to tell the Committee that if the Commonwealth takes over land, and pays double what it is worth, in the shape of interest on State debt, we get the land for nothing. It does not matter whether we pay cash for land, or take over a portion of a State’s debt to the extent of its value ; we have to pay for it just the same. I think th-it if the Attorney-General will explain one point, it will remove all the difficulties with respect to the items under discussion. Honorable senators will observe in connexion with the military expenditure on works and buildings, that more money is to be spent in Western Australia than in all the other States put together. That fact might alarm the citizens of the other States, who might say, “ Why should all this be done in Western Australia, when so little is done in the other States?” But I think that if honorable senators examine the facts closely, they will find that the expenditure is not to be considered new expenditure, which would have to be paid for on .a per capita basis, but is expenditure which Western Australia will have to bear.
– Not for these forts ; they are paid for per capita.
– If the Commonwealth is to sustain this expenditure on a per capita basis, it is very unfair to the other States which have already carried out their defence works. If it is necessary to spend these large sums in Western Australia, and the whole of the Commonwealth has to pay for them, Western Australia will reap an immense advantage. Western Australia is having works constructed, for which the other States have to pay.
– Were the defences of Thursday Island not paid for by the other States?
– But objection might be raised to the expenditure on fortifications and other works in a State being distributed on a per capita basis, while other States have had to pay for similar works out of their own resources. My desire is that the Attorney-General should explain the position.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - Senator Stewart ‘has, though, of course, not purposely, conveyed a false impression as to the attitude of Western Australia on this question. That honorable senator refers to the costliness of this land, and assumes that the people of Western Australia are anxious to drive the Commonwealth into the. bargain. The fact is, however, that -when the military authorities selected this site, the Fremantle people held a public meeting of protest, and asked that the fort should be removed as far away as possible, so that ‘in case of war the enemy’s fire would not be directed to the centre of the town. The British Admiral on the Australian Station was requested to go to Fremantle and report, and, after making an inspection, in conjunction with military officers, who did not belong to Western Australia, the present site was selected as the best. In the face of these facts, it is idle to attempt to assert that the people or the Government of Western Australia are trying to induce the Government to expend £24,000.
– It might not be desired to sell the land, but if there was a compulsory sale, the owners might ask an exorbitant price.
– Just so, but it is not the wish of the people of Fremantle that the fort should be placed right in the middle of the town. I think it is correct to say that this expenditure must be borne per capita.
– Then I ask when the objection should have been raised to such an arrangement ? Should the objection be raised now, or should it not have been raised when the Constitution was under consideration ?
– If the works form part of the general defences of the Commonwealth they must be paid for per capita:
– Were not the defences made a Federal matter in order that they might be removed from the arena of States politics? If Senator Dawson’s objection be as I imagine, it is somewhat belated ; at any rate, it would certainly have had much more force when the Constitution Bill was before us. That was the time to say that each State should be responsible for its own defences.
– That would be absurd in a Federation.
– It is only a circumstance that Western Australia, as a new State, has arrived at that stage of development when it is necessary that its ports should be defended ; there was nothing to defend at Fremantle previously. I suppose that if South Australia were at the same stage of development as Western Australia is now, Senator McGregor would be urging the erection of forts at Largs Bay
- Senator Pearce has practically explained the matter, but I should like to say that, in regard to the fortifications erected at Largs Bay and other places before the establishment of the Union. I feel no apprehension whatever. All such works are transferred properties, and in the end the taxpayer of the Commonwealth must pay for them. New fortifications are national works which must be paid for by the whole Commonwealth per capita, and all fortifications previously erected out of the funds of the States will also have to be paid by the Commonwealth per capita. As Senator McGregor pointed out, there are two distinct positions, one where there is expenditure for the benefit of the State, and the other where it is for the benefit of the Commonwealth ; and the present instance comes within the latter category.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). - I am quite satisfied with the explanation that has been, given, and I have no objection to the item being passed. I know, however, that there are a great many people who, in comparing the amounts to be spent in the different States, take the view I indicated previously. Transferred services, of course, stand in a different relation from that of other, services; and I raised the question merely in order to give the Attorney-General an opportunity to make an explanation, so that not only honorable senators, but people outside, may understand the position. I quite agree with the Attorney-General that the States which have already carried out such works are in no worse position than are the States in which such works have now to be dealt with, because the .former States will be recouped by the Commonwealth. I wanted the position made as public as possible, so that we may not be subject to unjust criticism.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- My remarks were intended to apply to the transfer of the land, and I desired some definite information as to area and price. The Government ought to be in possession of the facts, and should lay them before the Committee. I have no intention to refer to Senator Smith’s remarks about payment not being required, because we all know that the Commonwealth .will have Ito pay for the land. Either this or a previous Go,vernment, or the Government before that, are to blame for the very unbusinesslike fashion in which this transaction has been carried out. There is another matter on which I desire some information. I see that a sum of £3,800 is set down for removing and re-erecting buildings, and it would appear that that is a re-vote - that a similar sum was provided last year and was not expended.
– The matter of the £3,800 was explained a good many weeks ago. The money was not expended, because the whole matter was left in abeyance until Parliament had been fully informed of the maximum estimated cost of the works. As I have already said, I cannot tell the honorable senator the price agreed upon, because no price has been fixed. All that Parliament is asked to do is to authorize an amount to be applied in a particular way, and I have stated the maximum, which cannot be exceeded, but may be reduced. The matter is still subject to adjustment.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). - There is an item of £600 for the pro- vision of additional post-office accommodation at Mount Gambier, but I have had a communication from the Post and Telegraph Department to say that the amount has been increased to £1,200. I should like some explanation why the larger amount does not appear in the Estimates.
– I am unable to give the information asked. I was not aware that the honorable senator had received any intimation as to the increase of the cost. Do I understand that it will require £1,200 to make the intended improvements ?
– Yes, or thereabouts.
– To provide £600 for such a work is ridiculous.
– The Senate, of course, is committed to an expenditure of only £600 ; but I shall make inquiries next week, and endeavour to give the honorable senator the information desired.
– In the Estimates for the Post and Telegraph Department there are a number of items which might well engage the attention of the Committee. The amounts set down for the completion of post offices in a number of the States are very large, and honorable senators must have been struck with surprise at the costly buildings which some towns ‘ seem to require, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria. Honorable senators, like myself, must have noticed in travelling through the States how great a tendency there is to extravagance in the matter of public buildings, especially post-offices. Where a building, sufficiently large and convenient to meet the requirements of a small town and district, might have been erected for £400 or £500, the cost has amounted to , £4,000 or £5,000.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the General Post Office at Hobart ?
– I admit that Tasmania has been a sinner in that respect, too, and if I wished to draw a distinction, I might point to the Fremantle Post Office. It is a most peculiar thing that a sum of £1,500 or £1,600 should be required to complete the post-office at a small town. For instance, £1,499is required to complete the post-office at Minyip, in Victoria.
– That is a re-vote.
– Whether it is a revote or not, the ideas of the designer of the building must have been very extravagant.
– Minyip is an important town, near Murtoa.
– It may be an important town, but when I see that £1,499is required to complete the post-office there, it strikes me either that it was in a bad state when it was taken over by the Commonwealth, or that there is a tendency towards extravagance.
– It is nothing, compared with the item of £20,000 for the Fremantle Post Office.
– That is held out as a horrible example; but every honorable senator will find that in his own State the same thinghas occurred, and is recurring. I assume that the general desire is to curb any tendency towards extravagance. In travelling through the different States, honorable senators must have noticed that there Kas always been a tendency to extravagance in the direction of erecting far more costly buildings than were necessary.
– In bricks and mortar.
– In the size, and very often in the design, of the building. In Tasmania, just prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth, some postoffices and other public buildings were erected, which were quite out of proportion to the requirements of the town or district to be served. That has also occurred in the other States. If honorable senators will refer to the items for New South Wales and Victoria, they will perceive that very large sums, indeed, are required to complete the post-offices in small places. Either the buildings must have been very small ones when they were handed over to the Commonwealth, or the necessity for these large additions has arisen very quicklv.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I wish to give some information with regard to the Fremantle Post Office. When the present post-office was erected all the shipping was done in the open roadstead. Fremantle harbor was not made, and, naturally, the town grew round the open roadstead. The post-office was a small one, but it fulfilled the then requirements of the place. After the completion of the inner harbor the town naturally grew round the inner harbor, and the post-office is now quite three-quarters of a mile away from the principal portion of the town. Moreover, it is too small for present requirements.
The foot-note to the item is somewhat misleading, because the post-office was taken over as a transferred property. What is proposed now is that a new site shall be purchased in the present business portion of the town, and a building erected there. This sum of £20,000 is required to purchase the land, and erect a building thereon, but against that sum ought to be placed the amount which will be realized by the sale of the present building and the site.
– It is not necessary to spend more than £2,000 for the land. Half-an-acre would be quite enough for the purpose.
– The land is veryvaluable, as it is situated in the, main street of Fremantle.
– The people might desire the present post-office to be kept open.
– It would be absolutely useless, because it does not serve a residential area. It is situated by the water-side, and is practically abandoned. I believe that not twenty persons would request that it should be kept open. It is too large a building for the few persons who live in the locality, and the proposed new building would suit them just as well.
– I desire to support the remarks made by Senator O’Keefe. For many years I have felt, and several times I have expressed the feeling, that the expenditure on post-offices is exceedingly unwise.I do not think that this matter can be referred to too often. The fault is not peculiar to any one State. It has been common to all of them, and I fear that it has been unduly continued under the regime of the Commonwealth. It is very desirable that the Government should understand that there is room for very material economy in this direction.
– I am very greatly in sympathy with what Senators O’Keefe and Pulsford have said. There has been for a long time too much tendency in the States - and I hope it is not likely to prevail under the Commonwealth - to be just a little extravagant in the way of bricks and mortar, in buildings such as post-offices and railway stations.
– For instance, the railway stations at Melbourne and Sydney?
– Apparently more luxury is required on the line from’ Sydney to Melbourne, and therefore I shall say no more on that point. . I know that a good many years ago, in South Aus tralia, when we were very flush of cash and built railways in various directions with borrowed money, there was far too much expenditure on elaborate railway stations in out-of-the-way places. Solid cut stone and all that sort of thing were used when a good galvanized shed and a wooden platform such as exists at a station with which I am very familiar, would have amply’ met all the requirements of the traffic. The residents in that locality have been a standing pattern to all Australia as regards station accommodation.
– Adelaide has the most elaborate station in Australia.
– The station is very commodious ; but I do not think it is very elaborate. I quite agree that great- scrutiny should be exercised in respect to the expenditure on public buildings, and that it should bear perhaps more relation than it has done to the necessities of the case - to the actual accommodation required, as well as to the revenueproducing resources of the locality. The great bulk of these items for New South Wales are re-votes, because the greater portion of last year’s votes has not been expended.
– Whv not?
– We cannot shovel out the money within a day or two. Three or four Governments have done their very best to comply with the necessities of the public in these places. If a part of the expenditure has been undertaken, the work must be completed. We are practically asked to re-affirm some votes of last year, in order to complete buildings which are in course of erection. We cannot allow unfinished buildings to go to waste. In Victoria it is largely the same, because, with two exceptions, there are no new votes. Recent Governments have been exhibiting that care which is so much required, and only two new votes for Victoria find a place in this Bill. The expenditure at Minyip is practically in that category, because very little of last year’s vote has been spent. When we consider how much has to be spent in completing a building, we must keep in view the amount voted for the entire building. I have not seen the plan, and do not know the character of the building to be erected at Minyip. So far practically nothing has been spent for this purpose, but £1,500 will not provide a very large building for post-office purposes.
– This is only a portion of the expenditure.
– It is substantially a re-vote of the whole amount required. Senator Pearce has dealt with the Fremantle Post Office, and has informed the Committee that the area of land to be taken for the new building is about one acre. The site is a very valuable one, in the centre of the town, and so long as land is what it is, and the method of buying and selling it what it is, we must expect to have to pay a fair price for land so situated. Honorable senators should take into consideration the fact that the old building on this site will produce something which will go to the credit of this vote.
Senator STEWART (Queensland^. - I do not suppose that we can accomplish very much by talking about extravagance in .the const;uction of public buildings, but it is extremely desirable that we should ‘let the country know that the Senate has its eye on public expenditure, and is determined to cut it down where possible. I have taken the trouble to ascertain the population of Minyip. We are asked to vote the sum of £1,499 to complete the post-office at this place, and no one appears to know what sum has already been spent for this purpose.
-/A few pounds.
– That is to say, we are to expend £1,500 on a post-office at a place which has a population of 385.
– What is the population of the district?
– The honorable senator should consider the district which is to be served by it.
– Imagine spending £1,500 on a post-office in such a small place as that I The expenditure proposed would be extravagant if the place contained ten times its present population. The discussion which has taken place should have proved to the Committee the necessity for time being given to consider these measures, and to enable honorable senators to obtain information on the various items before they are asked to vote the money.
– The Senate voted this money last year.
– The .longer we live the more we learn. The probability is that on ihat occasion also the StandingOrders were suspended, and we were given no opportunity to consider the items submitted. What appears to me to be one of the most serious pieces of extravagance disclosed in this Bill is the vote of £20,000 proposed for the post-office at Fremantle. They do things in a very grand fashion at Fremantle, and have not yet learned from hard experience how wise it is to avoid spending money lavishly on public buildings. 1 admit that in Queensland we committed the very same mistake, and we are now repenting in sackcloth and ashes. I really believe that a post-office very much less imposing than one which should cost £20,000 for buildings and land should suffice for a small town like Fremantle, with a population of about 15,000, and within a few miles of Perth, the capital of the State. £5,000 should be quite sufficient for a post-office in such a place. I suppose that the matter is settled, and it is useless to make any objection now. We can Only give a hint to the present Government, and to any Government that may succeed them, that we are altogether opposed to this extravagance on public buildings.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). - I have no desire to find fault with what is proposed to be spent in Victoria or New South Wales. I expect honorable senators representing those States to have an eye to the local expenditure. I wish to refer to the expenditure proposed at Mount Gambier. We have been told that Minyip is a district where there is a great deal of settlement, in addition to the actual population of the town, but from what I have seen of that part of the country, it is not very closely settled. At Mount Gambier there is considerable settlement, and there is a population of between 3,000 and 4,000 in the town itself:
– What justifies the expenditure of .£2,100 there?
– Only £600 is asked for. What I desire to point out is that it is proposed to incur this expenditure in connexion with old buildings, which in the near future will have to be pulled down altogether. A very large section of the people of Mount Gambier is of opinion that the present post and telegraph office is not in the best position, and that it should be in the position originally selected for the purpose, and on which a fairly substantial building was erected. .By some manoeuvring, whether municipal, political, or social, t am unable to say, the post-office was removed from its original position to the site which it now occupies. I am given to understand, by people in Mount Gambier, that it would be quite possible to dispose of the present post-office and site. It would be far better to do that, and expend this money on the construction of a postoffice on the original site,, where it would give satisfaction to the majority of the people. The difficulty is that it is impossible to secure unanimity amongst the local people. Self-interest creeps in, every man wishes to have a post-office or a railway station at his own door, and Governments are sometimes prevented from doing what is right on that account. I have drawn attention to the matter in order that the Attorney-General, who knows something of Mount Gambier, and has favorable recollections of the place, might induce the Department to make further inquiries, and see whether it would not he advisable to dispose of the present building and site, and meet the convenience of the majority of the people at that place. ‘by transferring the post-office to the original site.
– I have noticed that honorable senators from other States have taken a great interest in imaginary extravagance , which is said to have taken place in the State of Victoria in regard to its public buildings.
– We have an example of it in the building which we occupy now.
– Senator Stewart called particular attention to Minyip, and went to some little pains to ascertain . the population pf the place. The honorable senator did not state the case fairly in saying that the population of Minyip is a little over 300, because it is the centre of a very important agricultural district. I wish to say a word or two with regard to Queensland. My attention has been directed to the proposed expenditure of £537 for the post-office at Killarney. I am told that there is not a tree within ten miles, or a water-hole within twenty miles of Killarney, and that the railway running to the place does not pay for axle-grease. I have learned also that a nomad travelling to Killarney and anticipating that he would find beautiful scenery there, said to the proprietor of the lonely bush shanty at the place, “ I thought that Killarney was noted for its beauty spots?” and received the reply, “ So it was, “sir, but yesterday a wandering goat made its appearance and consumed all the beauty spots there were about the place.”
– The honorable senator must be speaking about some other Killarney.
– I am speaking of. the Queensland Killarney. If it is thought that , £1,400 should not be voted for a post-office at an important place like Minyip, I should like to know why we should be asked to vote this money for a postoffice at a place like Killarney ?
– I wish to say that Senator Findley’s remarks on a portion of southern Queensland, which he has never seen, and about which he has no accurate information, are a pure libel. The honorable senator will himself be the first to admit that when he receives the accurate information, without which he should not have spoken.
– The population of Killarney is three times as great as is. that of Miynip, and only one-fourth of the sum asked for the post-office at Minyip is asked for the. post-office at Killarney.
Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Sir Josiah Symon) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
Senate adjourned at 1.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 November 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1904/19041125_senate_2_24/>.