3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether he has seen in the Melbourne newspapers to-day a report concerning the Coal Vend, in which Mr. Scott Fell and others give, with great circumstantiality, many definite statements, and, if so, whether he will bring those statements, with the other information supplied to him, under the notice of the Crown Law officers ?
– I have not- read the information to which the honorable senator has referred, but I have observed the statements in the newspapers. I shall be very happy to bring both under the notice of the Department, but I may explain to the honorable senator that it is already actively engaged in making the inquiry which I promised.
– Before the honorable senator resumes his seat, will he allow me to mention that in those statements the gentlemen concerned expressed a willingness to supply the Department with all information on the subject?
– Undoubtedly it will be availed of.
– Arising out of the answer, I beg to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether he can explain how it is that the AttorneyGeneral’s Department has already found time to make an active, inquiry into this matter, notwithstanding that he informed the Senate a few days ago that during the course of the preceding four weeks it had been too busy to make any inquiry into .the allegations against the tobacco companies in respect of which he made a similar promise to the Chamber.
– My honorable friend’ may not perhaps be aware that this inquiry did not start with the bringing of the matter under the notice of the Senate. An inquiry was being pursued prior to that event. I took the opportunity of discussing the matter with my honorable colleagues after I gave the promise, and I am now aware that in regard to this case an active inquiry is going on.
-I know nothing of the communication referred to by Senator Neild, but I shall refer ray honorable colleague to it, and ask that a reply be expedited.
– I thank the honorable senator.
asked the Vice-Presi dent of the Executive Council, upon notice -
IMMIGRATION TO QUEENSLAND.
Great Reduction in Rates.
Persons resident in Queensland wishing to obtain passages for their friends or relatives in the United Kingdom or the ‘Continent of Europe may do so under the provisions of the Immigration Act at the following rates : -
Males between one and twelve years, £2.
Males between twelve and forty years, £4.
Malesover forty and under fifty-five years, £8.
Females between one and twelve years, £1.
Females between twelve and forty years, £2. females over forty and under fifty-five years,£8. (N.B. - Infants under one year are free.) Half the fees paid will be returned to the nominor upon satisfactory proof being shown to the Immigration Agent that the nominees have been suitably provided for, and are not likelyto be of any further expense to the State.
Applications and payments to be made, according to the locality of the applicant, to the following officers : -
Immigration Agent, Brisbane.
Assistant Immigration Agent : - Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville.
At other places in the State- the nearest Clerk of Petty Sessions.
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
Full information respecting the proposals of the Government will be given when the Estimates are being discussed.
– Arising out of the answer, I desire to ask the Minister whether he has noticed in the press the following cablegram from London, under date the 23rd September : -
Emigration statistics show that in 1906 91,263 emigrants went from Great Britain and Ireland to Canada, 83,941 to the United States, and only 9,920 to Australia and New Zealand.
I am afraid that the great bulk of those persons went to New Zealand.
– I thank my honorable friend for bringing under my notice the telegram, which I may say I observed at the time. Certainly it indicates the desirability of offering special attractions to emigrants from Great Britain to come to these shores.
– Nearly the whole of the 9,920 emigrants referred to went to New South Wales, not to New Zealand.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Has the Government any intention of ascertaining from Morrissey, the snake charmer, the nature of his alleged antidote to snake-bite, and testing the same with a view to its publication in the general interest, if found to be effective ?
– This matter hardly comes within the immediate province of the Commonwealth Government. I am quite certain that if Mr. Morrissey’s claims are bonâ fide, there are experts and officials in the Departments of the Commonwealth and the States who will not overlook them.
– Arising out of the answer, may I ask the honorable senator whether it is to be left to the officials themselves to act, or whether the Government intend to direct that inquiries be made ?
– As I have said, this matter does not come within the immediate province of the Commonwealth Government.
– Why not, when it is a Federal matter?
– It oomes within the province of the States. The Health Departments, as the honorable senator must know, are under the control of the States, and I am quite certain that they will not overlook the matter. Moreover, I do not think that there are many persons who believe that Mr. Morrissey has established a bonâ fide claim to serious recognition.
– Arising out of the answer, I beg to ask the Minister whether, in his opinion, it will be advisable to submit the matter of Morrissey’s snakes to the officials who are now engaged in investigating the mysteries of voting machines ?
Mr. Garran’s Visit to London.
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with an amendment.
Debate resumed from 26th September (vide page 3850) on motion by Senator Best -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I congratulate Senators Millen and Pearce upon the very able speeches which they have contributed to this debate. I hope that the Government will seriously consider their suggestions for the solution of the financial problem. I cannot find any fault with tne items in this Bill except the item for defence. In my opinion, the Government do not seem “to realize the importance of the question of providing for our defence, and the proposed appropriation is framed on the most economical lines. I intend to speak hereafter with, regard to the item for the acquisition of a site in London for Commonwealth offices. Every thoughtful senator must recognise that the problem of the finances demands most earnest and prompt consideration, not only as regards the continuation of the Braddon “ blot,” but also as regards our ability to meet accruing obligations.
– Why does the honorable senator continue to call the Braddon section of the Constitution a “blot”?
– If by a slip of the tongue I used the word “ blot “ I do not wish it to be imagined that I consider the provision a blot on the Constitution. I think that it contains elements of good as well as elements of weakness, and the only question to my mind is which elements preponderate. The necessity of dealing with the financial problem will be seen to be a very serious one when we recollect the various proposals that are in contemplation for public expenditure. Having regard to the sums which are to be spent upon the establishment of a system of oldage pensions, the erection of a Federal Capital, the construction of a transcontinental railway to Western Australia, the development of the Northern Territorv, and the office of High Commissioner, the Senate is entitled to ask the Government how it proposes to meet the expenditure.
– Would the honorable senator wait until the money was available for those purposes before he proceeded with the erection of a building in London ?
– Two factors which affect our financial position require to be carefully considered. In agricultural, pastoral, and business centres there is at the present time a feeling of great anxiety with respect to the immediate future of Australia. It is idle for us to assume that, because we have had three years of plenty, our prosperity will continue indefinitely. I believe that Australia has a great future before it, but, as a business man, I know that just as there are cycles of depression alternating with periods of prosperity in business, so we have & right to expect vicissitudes of fortune dependent upon varying climatic conditions prevailing in a great continent like Australia. I wonder if people generally realize the causes of our great prosperity during the last three or four years. It cannot be contended that during that time Australia has developed as she ought to have done. Our population has been practically stationary, and the area of our lands under cultivation has not been materially increased. I go further, and say that in connexion with many industries to .which we look for the material prosperity of Australia our exports have actually decreased. We require more and more to realize that the value of our exports is a principal factor in our prosperity. During the last three or four years Europe and America have enjoyed a greater advance in prosperity than they experienced in, perhaps, the previous fifty years. As a result, the purchasing power of great masses of the people of those countries has been increased. This has caused an advance in the prices obtained for our principal exports, and Australia has thereby benefited. But in six months, dating from January last, the value of American securities dropped by ,£136,000,000. This is reflected in the set-back experienced in the price of many of our minerals. It is further to be noted that in different commercial industries depression is already beginning to be felt in Germany and some of the other Continental countries. Should that depression assume serious proportions, it must have its effect in reducing the value of our exports. I do not believe there is a country on earth possessing greater possibilities of future success than Australia, and it cannot, therefore, be said that I am disposed to take an unduly pessimistic view of the future, but I do say that the circumstances to which I have referred should be taken into careful consideration in estimating our immediate financial prospects.
There is another factor to be reckoned with, and that is the Tariff. The Treasurer estimates an increase of revenue as compared with that received last year of about £800,000, and that having met all his engagements he will have about ,£100,000 to play with. From all that we can learn-, this is a purely speculative estimate, and has no sound financial basis. If the party which dominates the Government are able to carry out their views in regard to the Tariff, the Treasurer’s estimate of revenuemust be very considerably reduced indeed. Rumour has it that the members of the Labour Party propose to cast their votes and influence against al 1 duties on thenecessaries of life that may be in excess of revenue requirements.
– That should suit thehonorable senator as a free-trader.
– I shall support the Labour Party in that course with all my power, but I repeat that if labour idealsare given effect in dealing with the Tariff, the result will be to seriously reduce theTreasurer’s estimate of revenue. I understand that the members of the Labour Party propose to vote for absolute prohibition onall goods the. products of industries whichthey believe can be carried on in’ Australia.
– I am glad to hear that the honorable senator will assist theLabour Party to get more revenue iri a direct, and less in an indirect, manner:
– I shall use my ownjudgment when the Tariff is before me as to what I ought to do to conserve the best interests of the Commonwealth. I do not commit myself to anything at this Stage,, but honorable senators may judge what my vote is likely to be from- their knowledgeof the political views I hold. Honorablesenators opposite take very great pride in the fact that the Commonwealth has not entered upon a loan policy. I am pleased that our revenue has been sufficient to enable us to meet all our engagements so far, but I am one of those who consider that it is absurd to suppose that we can develop this great continent without the assistance which we would derive from a loan policy. There are times when even if we had revenue sufficient to meet a particular expenditure, it would be advantageous to borrow the money required. I’ should like to say a word or two with< reference to the proposed site for Common-‘ wealth offices in London. I realize that theCommonwealth should be represented in-
London in a manner worthy of its status -and dignity. Having lived in London for many years, I would say that the site which has been suggested may be considered from two points of view. If the Commonwealth offices in London are to be established for the commercial and higher financial purposes for which provision must be made, the site suggested is in an absurd position. I go so far as to say that if this site is acquired with any idea that it will be suitable for the purposes to which I have referred, we shall, later on, find the Treasurer of the Commonwealth insisting that -we should have another office in the city.On the question as to whether the Strand site is the best that could be selected as an advertisement in the general interests of Australia, I should like to say that the Strand is not a thoroughfare for business or pleasure in the ordinary acceptation of the term. There can be no doubt that it is a great thoroughfare between the East and West of London, and during certain hours the traffic there is very great. I should not consider the Strand site as suitable as sites which might be selected in streets which, perhaps, other honorable senators might not think so much of as I do. The Strand is not a business thoroughfare like Oxford-street, Regentstreet, or Tottenham Court-road, in which streets the great masses of the visitors to London do their shopping.
– -More people pass through the Strand in a week than pass through Oxford-street in a month..
– I lived there, and had premises there, and I know what I am talking about. In the morning and afternoon there is not a great number of people passing through the Strand, but from 6 o’clock in the evening until midnight there is always a busy throng of people there. Restaurants, oyster shops, and other places, provided for the gratification of the tastes of the public before the theatres open and after they close, are to be found in the Strand, and this accounts for the throng of people to be found there during the hours I have mentioned. View: ing the Strand site as affording an opportunity for advertising the Commonwealth, my only feeling in favour of it is that if that site be selected we shall have Canada as our near, neighbour. That has con.siderable weight with me, because I realize that the great advertising enterprise of Canada may have some little reflex influence upon the Commonwealth. With the aid of their push. and energy, no doubt a large number of people in England will be induced to view their products, and a few of them will thereby be led to visit the Commonwealth offices.
– The honorable senator believes in borrowed influence.
– I cannot conceive of any site that could be acquired having the same frontage, and presenting the same advertising facilities as are offered by the site under consideration. At any rate, there would be great difficulty in obtaining suitable premises elsewhere. The price of land in the city of London is almost prohibitive. And perhaps after’ all a site in the city would not be so suitable from a Commonwealth point of view.
– Some land in St. Paul’s Churchyard was sold at ^1,000,000 per foot frontage.
– I feel very keenly the manner in which the vote has been brought before the Senate. To my mind, whilst the site question is a. very important one, there would be no serious loss from waiting. But there is a loss of dignity to the Senate- occasioned by the manner in which the matter has been brought before us. Whilst I look upon the recent mail contract as one of the most unbusinesslike pieces of work that we. have had to consider, ‘this is even a worse exhibition of business incapacity. I am not going to blame either the Prime Minister, Mr. Deakin, or Sir William Lyne. I believe they did their best. But as representatives of the Commonwealth I cannot absolve them from .some amount of discredit for not having obtained details, so as to be able to place before Parliament the whole of the facts, regarding the obligations which we are asked to undertake. It is most unbusinesslike and unfair for the Treasurer to have brought the matter forward in such a way that it has had to be submitted to the Senate after definite steps to acquire the .property have been taken. I cannot conceive of any business man not knowing that the £1,000 would be forfeited at a particular time if the business were not concluded. I should very much like to know the truth arid the whole truth in regard to the negotiations which have taken place. I speak from a knowledge of what sometimes occurs in business relations. We know of the ways and means by which such negotiations are brought to a head. I cannot interpret the words uttered by the Treasurer in the other House in any other way; than according to their plain meaning, namely, that at a particular time a particular sum of money would have to be put up or a similar amount would be forfeited. That is the only interpretation of the Treasurer’s language. Regarding the matter in the light of the explanation that has been given by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, the words of “the Treasurer in the other House offer an indignity to the Senate. Such conduct must have been due either to forgetfulness or negligence - 1 do not know which. Such a large business undertaking as this should not have been left to the very last day. The Senate should not have been placed in the . position of being forced to vote upon the matter without having the knowledge that we ought to have owing to the fact that there is a risk of the option falling through.
– It is quite clear that both Ministers cannot be correct.
– That is. quite clear. I should like to know the whole truth.
– The honorable . senator has heard a very absolute statement from me.
– I must give the Minister the fullest credit for the frank manner in which he, at all events, has brought the matter before the Senate.
– What he said was only another way of saying that Sir William Lyne made an incorrect statement.
– He has been misinterpreted.
– The statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council does not prevent me from placing my own interpretation upon what was said by Sir William Lyne ; and I say plainly, and without any reservation, that the language used by him in the other House was not consistent with the explanation given in perfect good faith bv the Minister in the Senate.
– The Treasurer was misunderstood.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [n.8]. - What I have to say upon this Bill will perhaps present no very remarkable features, but I shall conclude bv moving an amendment which I trust will meet with acceptance at the hands of the Senate. The position in which we find ourselves is that whilst being asked to incur all kinds of financial responsibilities, many of them very serious, we know that the money voted involves still further expenditure in the future. Though the sum total asked for in this Bill is less than three-quarters of a million, which does not amount to much if you say it quickly, still, an examination of the details shows that the sum involved is very much greater. For instance, though we find the sum of £7,000 set down for one purpose, a footnote tells us that the total sum required is £40,000 - a small addition of £33,000. There is another item, £17,000, in the schedule, and a foot-note tells us that £10,000 more is necessary. I do not wish to criticise the schedule at length, but certainly a great deal more money than we are now asked to vote will be required to make these votes of any value. Another item which strikes me is one. of £32,000, whilst the total cost of the work in question is to be £65,000. I allude to the item in reference to a small arms factory. Yet the Minister tells us that the £32,000 we are asked to vote includes no sum for the necessary building. Apparently we are going to spend £32,000 in the purchase of machinery without having a roof to cover it. I do riot know whether it will be like the battery of howitzers that was discovered stowed away in a shed in Sydney some time ago. The military authorities seemed io be unaware of its very existence, and I do not think that we in the Senate ever heard of it. I know what was the result of such treatment on a number of cannon stored ir» Svdney years ago. They got rusty and seriously damaged, some or them being utterly ruined. I do not know whether a similar fate may not have overtaken the battery of howitzers.
– Extraordinary things sometimes happen in Sydney.
– Under Melbourne administration, the honorable senator means.
– And extraordinary people sometimes come there. A sum of . £50,000 is set down - for guns, lights and implacements for fixed defences.* It will be interesting to know whether the recently discovered battery is to be paid for out of this money. Of course, I am asking questions rather than criticising these items. We can’ discuss them in Committee if we desire to do so- I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that a sum of ,£230 is set down for drill halls in New South Wales. Of that sum £132 has been spent, and the balance is £98. How many drill halls a re -going to be put up for ^230? Later on there is a sum of ^2,000 required J or one drill hall. In other places in the schedule there are even larger sums. What the item of £230 may mean I do not know. Possibly, it may be for repairs. There is also the item under “ new works “ - drill halls, .£413- How on earth can the plural be right ? Surely it must mean one drill hall in a locality not specified. There is an . important item on the fifth page in reference to the cost of a rifle range. I take it that that means either the acquisition” of a new range in place of the present Randwick range, which has been a source of serious injury to property-owners in the vicinity, or it is proposed to obtain what is very much required, a suitable range for company firing, volley firing, . and so on - a very necessary thing. If that is the object it is very ‘ desirable expenditure. 1 desire to draw attention to a few other matters connected with defence. I should like to know, for instance, whether any of the sums of money mentioned in the schedule are intended to cover expenditure for revolvers for our mounted troops. It may be within the recollection of some honorable senators that the late Commandant, Major-General Hutton, recommended a single-barrelled weapon made by a private firm, which fired ammunition made by no other firm in the world, nor by any Government Department. There was a very hot exchange of compliments, and things that were not compliments, between Major-
General Hutton and the Minister qf the day. The ‘Minister, although, a layman, was eventually backed up by the Imperial War Office, in his refusal to accept MajorGeneral Hutton’s recommendation for a single-barrelled pistol that represented no army pattern in the world, and was of a calibre that could be fitted with no service ammunition in the world. Since that refusal of ex-Senator Dawson, the then Minister, no attempt has been made, so far as I know, to supply the mounted regiments, of which I think there are eighteen in the Commonwealth, with any second weapon. They have only their rifles. They are called “ light horse,” but that is a mere fad, because they are purely mounted rifles. It is always’ considered necessary in other parts of the world for a mounted man to have a second weapon. Ours have none. I do not know whether there is any sum in these Estimates .to provide for it. There ought to be. It is a most serious thing that the principal division of our Defence Forces should be only half-armed. In America, mounted regiments carry revolvers. In other parts of the world, a sword is customary, and, in some instances, a revolver as well. Is it proposed to do anything towards the proper arming of our mounted regiments, or are we to wait for the erection of the small arms factory to manufac- ‘ture our own? The sum of .£32,000 is asked for for the small arms- factory, but, as the total expenditure is to be something more than double that amount, it is clear that we cannot hope to start the manufacture of small arms in the Commonwealth for a long time to come. Therefore, the Government, in these Estimates, should make some provision in the direction I have indicated. I wish to refer incidentally to the fact that, as has been the case for many years, the efficiency of’ the regiments that are to use whatever weapons they are pro’vided with, has been seriously damaged, and the regiments are suffering very greatly, through the lack of sufficient officers. This is notorious in the higher grades. It is only necessary to .look through the officers’ list, which was published only a few weeks ago, to see that the votes in this schedule for military purposes contain amounts that cannot be profitably utilized unless we have proper forces. It is of no earthly use to pile up a large quantity of war materiel unless we have adequately established forces to make use of it. I see that there is a vote for additional rifles. There was a time when it was considered a perfect public outrage even to suggest that there were not enough rifles in the Commonwealth. The fact that once upon a time, in a London magazine, I stated that there was a shortage of rifles on the peace establishment, was sufficient to cause inquiries to be publicly made in another place as to whether I could not be court-martialed, and one enthusiast even wanted me shot before breakfast. What a change has come over the scene ! Every Minister and newspaper - the newspapers in particular - seem ‘to gloat over the fact that we are short of this, that, and the other. For years I was a sort of political John the Baptist - a voice crying in the wilderness- but there is quite a boom now in the denunciation of the Department for not having enough weapons.
Some of these are to be imported^ and, so far, that will be an advantage.’ I was mentioning, incidentally, the question of officers. The present dearth is attributed, most improperly, to the Military Board. I hold in my hand Hansard of 3rd March, 1904 - three and a-half years ago - and if honorable senators will look it up, they will find that, standing in my place here, I showed that in New South Wales at that date there was a shortage of about 12b officers, so then it had nothing to do with the Military Board. There was no Military Board in existence then. I think that the Board, who are charged with the preparation of these Estimates and the expenditure of the money, have met with ungenerous treatment. Whatever their defects are, it is quite bad enough for them to bear the responsibility of their acts, and not to be burdened with the crimes of their predecessors. Some time ago, tenders were called for £20,000 worth of ammunition waggons. It was absolutely needful, I learned, that tenderers should have a waggon to refer to frequently in making up their tenders, because it was an entirely new vehicle. I blame the Department for what they did. They had a sample waggon in Melbourne. There were would-be tenderers in New South Wales, and I wrote to the Department urging that the vehicle should be sent to Sydney, so that they might have a chance of tendering. I was told that there was only one waggon, which could not be moved about, as it was wanted in Melbourne. The outcome was that, so far as I know, no tenders came from New South Wales, and a contract for £20,000 was let practically without competition. Now we have a proposal to spend £29,000, and it will be a scandal of a serious character if one of those waggons is not made available for tendering purposes in “other large centres than the one of Victoria. Before passing from these military items, I should like to refer to a statement made by Senator E. J. Russell last night, that a man who had no property, and had only a wife and children, was not interested in the matter of defence.
– I said that he had not the same interest as a propertied man.
– A man who has a wife and children .has a very much greater interest in the question of defence than a batchelor^ be he as wealthy as possible. My idea is that we want defence for our lives and limbs and for those that we are bound to do our utmost to defend. That view of defence interests me a vast deal more than the protection of any man’s ill-gotten hoard. ‘ .
– Why say “illgotten ‘ ‘ ? The honorable senator is becoming, a. Labour man.
– A great deal of the wealth of the world has been illgotten. One has only to look at the list of millionaires of the United States, to> find transparent evidence that much of their wealth is ill-gotten, at least from the standpoint that it has been gotten at the expense cf unfortunate humanity.
– A Judge in that country described them lately as worse than mail-bag thieves.
– I do not want to say anything unpleasant about th& millionaires, where they have obtained their wealth, as many have, righteously. But it has often been more by flukes than by hard work. Men have become millionairesthrough a fortunate investment in a mine. That is a perfectly legitimate thing.
– I* ask the honor-.” able senator not to pursue that subject.
– The method of evolving millionaires from chaos is probably outside the scope of this Bill. I shall say no more about the military vote, believing that a large number of these items are most necessary and desirable, but I do take this exception to all of them, that we are proposing expenditure on works, buildings, and material, while a most important part of our defence - the men part of it - is dwindling under very unhappy conditions. There is no doubt that the forces, are dwindling. The InspectorGeneral complained the other day that hemet with, two companies of ‘ the Scottish Regiment at Newcastle that had not an. officer attached to them, and companies of the Irish Regiment were in the same position. That is the sort of thing that does not encourage one tovote supply for munitions and armament, because we want to know who is going tohave the handling of them. One of themistakes made in the past was to fix the retiring age of officers at five years below the_ British standard, so that in many casesregiments have been bereft of their senior officers, and there has been no one to taketheir places. We had a lot of men and nomaterial ; now we aire threatened ‘ with anarmy of material and no men. Much has. been said with reference to the large sumof money that the Commonwealth has returned to the States.
– That question* does not. arise in connexion with this Bill.
– It has been discussed during this debate. I was only referring 10 the statement that has been made by others, and if you, Mr. President, did not think me out of order, I was going to make a passing reference to it as connected with the general question of raising money for the purpose of discharging these obligations, which, of course, would be in order.
– If the honorable senator is going to connect it with the Bill, and can show that it has relation to the Bill, and to the power of the Government to pay for these materials, he will be in order. But I should like to point out to the honorable senator, and to the Senate generally, that the discussion should, strictly . speaking, be confined to subjects that are dealt with in the Bill ; that are relevant to the Bill an3 the items contained in the schedule. That gives honorable senators great latitude in alluding in passing to other subjects which may have a bearing upon the measure, but I wish them to realize that there cannot be a general discussion upon the financial policy that may or may not be evolved by the Government in the future. ‘ I desire honorable senators to confine themselves, so far as they possibly can, to the subjectmatter of the Bill. I admit’ that there has been a certain amount of irrelevancy in the debate owing to subjects having been allowed to be introduced in the first instance by means of interjections. I do not object to the honorable senator making aassing reference to such subjects as others ave done.
– I do not wish to elaborate the point, sir. A great deal has been said with reference to the amount which the Commonwealth has paid to the States in excess of the obligation imposed by the Braddon section, and I simply desire to point out that as the Commonwealth has not paid the States the interest on the enormous sum which represents the value of the transferred properties, the probability is that if the two accounts were balanced, it would be found that it had not returned anything over the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– Yes, but it is still responsible for the payment of that interest.
– The Commonwealth is responsible for the payment of the principal, and does not show any disposition to pay it, but rather to launch out into all kinds of extravagant expenditures, with one of which I shall deal.
– New South Wales is enabled to ‘abolish the income tax.
– Yes, but the people of New South Wales are bearing a heavier burden of taxation under the Commonwealth than ever they bore previously. I point out, in passing, as others have done, that whilst we have no knowledge of the Government’s fiscal policy, if it has one, which I seriously doubt, we are asked to vote practically ,£750,000, with more to follow, on a number of the items, and, according to the Minister’s statement last night, to incur, in connexion with the proposed building in London, obligations to spend practically anything which the Government may choose. Per contra, there are other obligations to be met. There is before the Senate a measure for the payment of a large sum in bounties. There is a proposal for the creation of an Australian Navy, which will cost a vast deal of money. There are schemes for railway construction to the west and to the north, and for taking over all the financial obligations of the Northern Territory, and the northern railway line from Adelaide towards Oodnadatta. Al! those proposals involve enormous sums, so that we cannot look at the expenditure proposed in this Bill by itself. We must link it in our minds with the transparent obligations of the near future.
– Look at those which are before us, and wait until the others come along.
– Exactly. If the honorable senator, simply because he had some money in his pocket, spent it without any regard to the obligations which would come along later on, he might find that a course of that kind would be so unhappy that it might even imperil his remaining a member of this Chamber.
-r-The construction of a railway to Western Australia is not an obligation, because it has not been assented to, nor is the railway to the- Northern Territory.
– That question has already been discussed, and I do not wish to repeat, more than I can avoid, what others have said, perhaps very much better than I could say it. But, as was pointed out only yesterday, the construction of a railway to Western Australia is an obligation from the Government stand-point, because the only reason which was given for voting the money for a survey was that, prior to Federation, there had been a promise made, not to survey the line, but to build it. *
– We have heard that statement several times.
– No doubt the honorable senator has, and I would not have repeated it but for the interjection. I now come to the question of this building in London, in respect of which, as I have said, I propose to move an amendment. We are light-heartedly asked to approve of an expenditure which cannot te much under £500,000. We are lightly invited to consider the erection of a palace in London, and’ think nothing about the fulfilment of the obligation of the Constitution in respect of the establishment, somewhere, of a home of our own. I grant honorable senators that it would be a very handsome thing for Australia to be well represented in England. But what about its being definitely represented in the Commonwealth itself ?
– Is no* the honorable senator happy here?
– We are here as tenants-at-will of a Government and a people who have been exceedingly kind in giving us the occupation of these buildings, but if the honorable senator finds a pleasure in the idea of a Parliament and a Government being a dead-head at the expense of Victoria, it is a position which does not commend itself to any thinking or upright man. It is not a decent condition of affairs for a Government or a Parliament to be content, year in and year out, to live at the mercy, the generosity, the expense of one State in the Commonwealth, while it is happily off to London to obtain a large area on which to erect .a monumental structure - to do what? - to induce as far as possible emigration to Australia contrary to the wish of many of those who are supporting the item. If it is not to be utilized as an attraction to emigrants, why is it to be built at all ? The very argument in favour of the proposal is because it is a fine site for a hoarding. The . building is to be a Commonwealth hoarding for advertising purposes, and the most extravagant hoarding ever proposed under heaven.
– Does the honorable senator want a building in London at all?
– I do not know that it is necessary to erect a build ing, but I am perfectly sure that, unless for the purpose of attracting immigrants, there is no excuse for erecting a large building in that particular place. Now, what is the site? It is in what is nothing but a locality of small unimportant shops and taverns.
– The biggest book shop in London is within a stone’s throw of it.
– My honorable friend probably refers to W. H. Smith and Sons, in Arundel-street, but that is a wholesale store.
– It is a store in which a person can buy a threepenny book if he wants it.
– That can be done in Australia.
– I believe it is possible to buy threepenny books in a great many places. If there is no better argument in favour of the selection of the site than that- it is in the vicinity of a store where a person can buy a threepenny book, I think that my honorable friend has rather exaggerated the case. I have just been looking at a scale map of London in the Library, and reviving my memory as to distances. We are told that this is a central site. It isi materially over half a mile from Trafalgar-square, and a good mile and a quarter from the Bank of England, which, of course, is the centre of the business of the world.
– A person can go there for one penny.
– Of course a person can ride anywhere along the Strand1 for a pen,ny. There are other places in the world to which a person can go for a penny. But surely that is not a sine qua nott in the selection of a business site. The proposed site is outside the city. I repeat that it is in a locality of small shops. If Canada is going to establish its offices there, that will create some attraction. But I want to know for what purpose the building is to be used. It cannot be required for financial purposes, because the site is at least a mile and a quarter from the city where financial business is transacted.
– It is not so far as Westminster, where all the financial business of New South Wales is transacted. Westminster is a mile and a half further away.
– Yes. and a most inconvenient place it is. But the financial business of New South Wales is not transacted there. Ex-Senator Playford, when he was representative of South Australia in England, opened offices right in the heart of the city, at St. Mary Axe, I think. I have been there, and can say that it is a suitable place for conducting business. But the proposed site for the Commonwealth offices is of no use for financial purposes. Coming to th? transaction itself, I submit that no other Government in this world ever brought before a Parliament so haplessly and so indifferently executed a. business project. For the last thirty-three years I have had to do with ninety-nine years’ Teases. My home stands on a ninety-nine years’ lease. When one proposes to deal with a leasehold what are the initial questions which he asks? The first inquiry is, what is the length of .the lease; the second is, what is the rent; the third is, what are the building covenants ; and the fourth is, what are the taxes. It appears from a statement which has been circulated that the Acting Prime Minister was in London last May, and busied himself with an inquiry into this affair. It is only on the very last day when what he calls an option, and what the Vice-President of the Executive Council says is no option, is on the point of expiry - it is on the very last gasp of this alleged option, even by counting the difference in time between the Commonwealth and England - that it suddenly occurs to the honorable gentleman that he does not know what the rent, or the taxes, are to be, has no kind of idea about the building covenants, and whether at the end of ninety-nine years he would be allowed to renew, or to have a reappraisement. I believe it is about the most discreditable piece of business bungling that could be conceived. I am happy, however, to think that it has none of the discreditable aspects associated with the mail contract option. We cannot suggest that in this matter any one has been seeking to get at the Commonwealth, as was certainly the case in connexion with the other affair, because in that matter some people were attempting to use the Commonwealth for exploitation purposes. Here we have only the most hap- less piece of business bungling that was ever heard of in connexion with a larger transaction than the purchase of a boy’s spinning top or a bag of marbles. A whole troupe of gentlemen went to London, and they forgot to ask what the rental would be. They made some tentative inquiries about it, but as to the building covenants, they knew no more about them than did the Grand Llama of Thibet. They know no more about them now. Yet the VicePresident yesterday had the splendid temerity to say that if we vote this £1,000 the Government will assume that thev have been authorized by Parliament to do exactly as they please in connexion with this particular matter. “ Never mind the rent ; hang, the expense ! We have the consent of Parliament, and we are going to spend just as much as we please.” That is a proposition which would not commend itself to any sensible human being.
– The honorable senator must know that the land is offered at 18s. per foot rental, that it is possible by negotiation to get it for less, and that the rental will be something between 13s. and 18s. per foot.
– It is so trifling a matter as a difference of 5s. per superficial foot - £2,500 per annum at least. The Government claim that if we agree to this vote, they will be at liberty to select a site of any area they please, and tha.t there will be nothing to bind them to take 10,000 or 100,000 superficial feet. There is no limitation to the sum which the Government claim that they will be en-‘ titled to spend if this innocent-looking vote is agreed to. I shall tell the VicePresident of the Executive Council exactly what I mean in this matter, that there may be no misunderstanding. I do not object to a vote of £1,000 for the purpose of obtaining an option. That would be quite as legitimate as, and perhaps more appropriate expenditure than, a vote of ,£20,000 or £40.000 for a railway survey. In the one instance, we might save the £1,000 by going on with the matter proposed, and in the other we might lose the larger sum by not going on with it, and besides the total amount involved in this case is smaller than might be involved in the other. ‘But I do entirely object to the attitude which the Vice-President took up last night in declaring that no matter what was done by the Government in this matter, the vote of £1,000 would be sufficient warranty from Parliament to permit them to “ go loose “ with this proposal in London. With a view to discharging my duty and testing the feeling of the Senate on this’ matter, I move -
That all the words after the word “ That “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ this Senate, while at al’ times ready to vote supplies for the Public
Service, declines to proceed with the consideration of the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill until satisfied that the Government will not tom, mit the Commonwealth to the leasing of certain property in London without first obtaining the consent of the Parliament.”
I say that I. do not object to the voting of this £1,000 for the purpose of obtaining an option, but I do object to agreement with the vote being considered as giving leave and licence to the Government to spend what they please. It is an unheardof proposition for a Government to claim any such right in any such circumstances. If this £1,000 is spent in obtaining an option, there will be abundance of time to consult Parliament before the .last toll of the clock, in order that the scheme may be passed in a proper manner, and not in a way unworthy of any self-respecting Government in dealing with public finance. We should have a positive assurance from the Ministry that this vote will not be taken to imply any more than the obtaining of a legitimate and effective option. If the Government could secure a four-months’ option for nothing, they surely can secure a fortnight’s option for £1,000, and so permit . this matter to be submitted in a manner that will be satisfactory to Parliament, to Ministers, and to the taxpayers who have to pay the piper. I have moved my amendment in the belief that it is my bounden duty, so far as my vote and voice will go, to put a check upon reckless public expenditure. If ever there was reckless public expenditure suggested, it is that which is here proposed. There is to be no limitation as to area, none as to rent, except that it is not to be more than 18s. per foot, none as to the character of the building to be erected, and the amount to be expended upon it. and no particulars of any kind supplied. We have merely had a plan submitted, .which we are told is something like it. The plan produced is seriously misleading. The site is represented in that plan as possessing advantages which everybody who has been in London knows that it does not possess. I shall not take up time in making a longer speech, but I feel very strongly that it is the duty of every member of the Senate who desires to conserve the public interest and the reputation of Parliament to support the amendment, and not to permit the Commonwealth to be hurried, without proper notice and without information, into a scheme of expenditure which is the largest the Commonwealth Parliament has yet attempted to consider, and which might lead us into financial diffi- culties ro the future iri a manner not only undesirable but positively wrong.
– It seems to me that the work of the Senate is proceeding at a slower rate this session than I have ever known it to proceed before. With the object of accelerating the progress of business, I have remained silent during the past two days. I rise now only to protest as strongly as I can against the proposed vote of £1,000 for Commonwealth offices in London. As Senator Neild has given me an opportunity to record my protest against it, I shall support his amendment, unless some better way of opposing it can be discovered. The honorable senator has anticipated several of the arguments I proposed to use, and has stated them in forcible language, which should carry conviction to the. minds of honorable senators who have listened to him. It is a matter of surprise to me that such a momentous project as that which is involved in this vote should have been introduced by Sir William Lyne, or by any responsible Minister, in such a slipshod fashion. I do’ not blame Sir William Lyne for not having had time to attend to many things in London. The honorable gentleman was there on an important mission, which he carried out exceedingly well. But the whole of the circumstances connected ‘ with this vote go to show that the Minister never gave five minutes’ consideration to a most important business matter. If he did, he must be a fool. We know that the Treasurer is’ not a fool, and so I believe that until the last few hours this matter has scarcely entered his head. 1 believe that when the honorable gentleman found that the Premier of Victoria was buying a site, he thought it would be a good thing for him to come .back to’ Australia with the offer of a site in his pocket. Can any business man understand Ministers leaving London, with the intention of submitting this proposition to Parliament, without knowing even the salient features connected with it. Fancy having to send a cablegram to London now to find out the rent that will be asked, the rates and taxes, and all the conditions surrounding this purchase ! I cannot conceive any Ministry expecting to bullock through a project, of this sort. I ask the’ Vice-President of the Executive Council if he can justify a proposal to purchase a site in London at such an enormous expense, and to build a palatial building thereon ? Will the honorable senator tell me that a single step has , been taken recently to arrange with the States Governments as to what is to be done about their representation, and the representation of the Commonwealth of Australia, in London? Have the Government any idea of the way in which the States Governments view this proposal? Is the building which it is proposed to erect to house the States representatives, or are they, as well as the Commonwealth Government, to have offices of their own in London? Are the States Governments going to follow our extravagant example, or are we to have their secretaries and commercial agents housed in one building with the representative of the Commonwealth? Can the Vice-President of the Executive Council assure the Senate that this project has been arranged with the knowledge and approval of the States Governments? Does he not see the absolute necessity of working in unison with the States ? I have already said many times that no matter was so dinned into the ears of the electors, when we were proposing to federate, as the anticipation that Federation would save the cost of the Agents-General’s Departments of the States. ‘ So far from saving expense in that direction, we are absolutely proposing to increase it. We are setting the States a bad example, and seem to be influenced by the silly idea that if we only put up a building we shall be able to increase our prosperity. I submit to the ruling that the subject of immigration is not open to discussion, in connexion with this vote, but I hope I shall be permitted to mention that it is understood that the great object in erecting a huge Commonwealth building in London is that it will serve as an advertisement to attract emigrants. If we wish to attract emigrants to Australia, it is not necessary that we should erect a palace in London. Such a building would be an advertisement for the Commonwealth in a certain sense, but as a means of attracting emigrants, I would prefer to have a brainy man at work outside the building, even if he had to take the names of intending emigrants on a sheet of paper and live in a room at a coffee palace. We must depend on brains, tact, skill, and business experience if we wish to increase our population, and not on the erection of a fine building at enormous expense, even though it might be considered creditable to the Commonwealth.
– Everything depends on whether Australia says that she requires immigrants.
– Without entering on a discussion of an immigration policy, I would ask whether we are to believe that the Government are sincere in professing to attract population to Australia by spending thousands of pounds in this direction when they know that a large number of those who are keeping them in office do not believe in their immigration policy.
– That is not correct.
– I do not wish to make an incorrect statement, but they do not believe inthe policy in the same way that the Prime Minister believes in it, nor in the same way as the Opposition do. Here is the Prime Minister going in for enormous expenditure to carry out a great policy when he knows that his supporters have no belief in it. My argument can be sheeted home by a dozen illustrations, which show that the Labour Party are not at one with the Prime Minister as to immigration.
– I have already ruled that I cannot permit a debate to take place with regard to the desirableness or otherwise of immigration. That is not the question before us now. Of course, the honorable senator can allude to immigration as being affected by such a building as it is proposed to erect, but he cannot go into the question of the immigration policy of the Government. It is irrelevant to the Bill.
– I have been led into this groove because I understand that Ministers defend the vote of£1,000 by saying that they want to put up a building which will attract emigrants. I shall wind up by adding that I look upon it as canting humbug for this Government to pretend to go in for a policy of this sort when they know that they cannot carry their supporters with them. My honorable friend the Vice-President of the Executive Council was most sincere and outspoken in his assurance that before any building is erected Parliament will be consulted. But should we not be consulted about a piece of land which is going to cost£10,000 or £12,000 per annum for rent alone,£8,000 or£9,000per annum for taxes, and . £3,000 or £4,000 per annum for upkeep? What is. the use of asking us to give authority to put up any building involving an expenditure of £20,000 or £30,000 a year for ninety-nine years and telling us that we shall be consulted about the building? Did any one ever hear of such a statement from a responsible Minister? Does he think that we are to beculled in that way? Does he hope by such statements to lure us from doing our duty to the people who sent us here ? This matter affords a further illustration of the fact that we cannot have any belief in the business capacity of the Government. I have on several occasions said that what we require now is a strong leader - some strong man who will insist upon withdrawing from the political arena a number of enormous schemes which would cost a great deal of money. We know perfectly well that some of them cannot possibly be carried out. But instead of trying to eliminate them and to concentrate our attention upon matters that are within the range of practical politics, we are incurring expenditure right and left and penalizing States which really cannot afford such expenditure. We are being driven into expenditure in fifty different directions. This sort of thing would not happen if w.e had a Ministry strong enough to control affairs. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, who has on former occasions shown great sympathy with the position of Tasmania, should pay attention to these points. He read to us one of the cable messages in reference to the London site. One of them inquired, “ What is to happen at the end of the ninety-nine years?” I fancy that any London solicitor or business man would smile at such a question. At the end of the lease, out we go. I believe that the building will be a very expensive business before we have done with it. There is one other matter to which I should like to allude. Can my honorable friend, in replying, .give us the slightest idea as to the manner in which proposed works find- their place upon the Estimates ? Who is it that suggests that all these postoffices are required, that barracks ought to be built, and that repairs are needed in this place and that? Is there any uniform wah of doing this business? Is there anything to prevent the officers who make these recommendations in one State being grossly extravagant, and recommending the erection of post-offices which are not really required for four or five years j and are there in other States officers who recognise the necessity for economy and strike out of their lists everything that is not absolutely urgent? Are there officers in some States who try to get as much money as they can, whilst in other States officers regard themselves as being trustees for the public, and give the best advice they can and make economical recommendations? I have had years of experience in the Parliament of my State, and know what a fallacious document a works schedule is, and how items get into it. Sometimes if a man in a back-blocks place suggests a road or a bridge he can get it constructed if he has an experienced and energetic member of Parliament to help him. I believe that the practice under the Commonwealth is looser than that to which I was accustomed in State politics. It is a most difficult matter to deal with, and I can quite understand that Ministers must have great trouble over the works Estimates. I want to know what tribunal there is for the consideration of recommendations for works. The present state of our finances does not allow us to build post-offices merely because they are desirable. We can only afford to undertake urgent works. Yet we usually find that we have voted money in advance of the actual expenditure. We vote money so fast that our officers cannot spend it. That’ seems to show a desire on the part of those who suggest works to get more money than is really needed. We find that, notwithstanding the desire of the Treasurer to cut down expenditure, the Works Estimates ‘ are £347,000 more than thev were last year, although that sum includes £216,000 for new special defence provision. The Minister told us yesterday that the Departments recommended works to the extent of £1,107,000, and that this sum was cut down bv £287,000. What is the meaning of the Departments suggesting expenditure to the extent of £1,107,000? The big reduction is in the Post and Telegraph Department. Does it mean that the head of that Department in every State sends to the Postmaster-General a, list of the postoffices and other works which he thinks are required, without any check, and without any responsible Federal officer inspecting the localities to see whether the works are necessary? Is there a uniform practice in reference to meeting the requirements of each State? -The Vice-President of the Executive Council told us that the Post and Telegraph Department .alone suggested works to the extent of £511,027, but that the Estimates were cut down by .£211,000. It seems to me that the demand of the Department for an expenditure of halfa:million was exceedingly extravagant; otherwise it could not have been cut down by £211,000. It is more than likely that that amount was taken off by some gentleman sitting in his chair in the Commonwealth offices, or that the Treasurer handed over the Estimates to his secretary and said, “ Take off a couple of hundred thousand.”
– Let the honorable senator look up the reports of the officers who visit post-offices.
– Well, I myself could make a report that would read very well. If I knew in which direction the report was wanted there would be no difficulty in furnishing it. I could even furnish a report recommending a pension to my honorable friend for his great services. I have no doubt that the reports of the officers read exceedingly well. But why was it that the Treasurer was able to reduce the Post Office Estimates by so large a sum as £211,000?
– A number of people have to do without telephone communication and postal facilities.
– Has the honorable senator visited any of the other States ?
– It is extraordinary that the Estimates should have to be cut down in this way.
– Does the honorable senator impugn the honesty of the officers who sent in the reports ?
– My honorable friend is too old a politician to ask me that.
– The officials have not to consider the financial position.
– They have no financial responsibility.
– The honorable senator suggested just now that all those reports were written to order.
– I have said that some reports are written to order. I dare say that every one of these reports, suggesting every single item, was written with a knowledge that some little clique, or big clique, expected a post-office at suchandsuch a plaice.
– Then the inspectors were not acting honestly.
– I did not say so. What I say is that the officers in a State Department know that a post-office has been spoken of for the township of A for some little time. Thev say, “ Here are the Estimates coming along; we will see if we cannot give ‘A a post-office.”
– It is notorious that at last one-third has always been knocked off the original recommendations. What is the Cabinet” for if not to reduce the draft Estimates?
– The Cabinet do reduce them.
– It does not mean that the people who make the original recommendations are dishonest.
– That is the inference from what Senator Dobson said.
– I did not desire to make any such suggestion. I am pointing out the difficulty that the Minister has to face in dealing with six States. It is quite difficult enough to deal with the Estimates of one State, but when you have six, and want uniformity, the difficulty is very much greater. The statement of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, that £211,000 was cut off £5 1 1, 000, shows at once that the men who suggested these works have £io responsibility, that they were- a little extravagant, and too fax in advance of their time. The fact that we always vote some thousands of pounds more than we ever spend shows that we err on the side of extravagance. I hope that my honorable friend, in reply, will deal with this important point.
– I am very sorry to find it mv duty to speak on this occasion, especially in view of the length of time for which the debate has continued. But it is very hard to listen to the remarks of some honorable senators, either on this or the other side, without exercising a good deal of self-control. I desired fo secure the attention of Senator Dobson for one moment when I interjected, with reference to the question of post-offices, “ Has the honorable senator visited any of the other States “ ?
– Yes, and I have seen large buildings there in very small townships.
– Does the honorable senator think he is justified in suggesting that honorable senators are given to log-rolling, and that the end does not justify the means ? If the honorable senator will come to South Australia, I can show him Port Pirie, Unley, and a hundred and one other places, including Jamestown, which I have known for over thirty years, where money has been spent in postoffices, but where far better accommodation is required, unless the honorable senator wants to take up the attitude of “ Stand to the good old past; the buildings of fifty years ago are equal to modern requirements.”
– Has there been an expansion in those places in the last six vears ?
– Undoubtedly. Unley has doubled itself, and is likely to do so again. I will tell Senator Dobson a little experience of my own, which may, to some extent, alla’y his fears, and relieve him of that dread of extravagance from which he so evidently suffers. On the road betwixt Adelaide and Mitcham, practically within a mile of one pillar-box, there is another, near Mitcham, but on account of the extraordinary expense that was likely to be incurred, it could not be cleared in the morning before io o’clock. I had the pleasure, in the absence in the Northern Territory of Mx. Batchelor, the member for the district, of introducing a deputation, including a parson and fee editor of a newspaper, on the question of the clearing of that pillar-box. The Deputy PostmasterGeneral happened to be away in Melbourne at the time, and the deputation waited upon the Acting Deputy PostmasterGeneral, who told us, in all seriousness, that he could not see his way clear to meet our wishes, because, said he, a vote must be placed on the Estimates to provide for the work, and it would necessitate engaging a special trap to do the work. He said that he did not feel justified in ordering the pillar-box to be cleared oftener, until an item was passed on the Estimates, or until the inclusion of the work in a new contract, in the event of new tenders being called. Would Senator Dobson believe that I had to make four different trips to Adelaide to interview the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, or his subordinates, and that they still persisted that they could not, or would not, do the work. Then my Scotch blood got a little bit warm. I said, “I do not want to be made a fool of any longer. Will you give me your reply in writing, so that I may submit it to the Ministerial head of the Department”? After all that trouble, I had an interview with the ex-Postmaster-General, Mr. Austin Chapman, who, I can assure honorable senators, is a splendid gentleman to deal with, and a good business man. I pointed out the position to him, and showed him that I, as a senator representing South Australia, had had such a long struggle to get that little act of justice done. He at once called in a gentleman under him, and said, “ We cannot stand this sort of thing. Wire at once to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, and tell him that the granting of this request will not break the Commonwealth even if he has to make some special arrangement.”. This matter isof interest not only to that suburb, but to the country, because through the pillar-box not being cleared before 10 o’clock in the morning, a letter posted there on one day lay practically for two days before it could reach the north. And that is how things have been managed up to the present in South Australia. Senator Dobson can call’ it log-rolling if he likes, but when the ex- Postmaster-General came over and saw for himself, he was astonished to find how things really were. I intend to shorten my remarks on this measure as much as possible, but, at the same time, I mean to show my independence, as I am in the habit of doing. Although. I sit behind the leader of the Senate, he does not often maviage to convert me. I am not satisfied with the manner in which the Senate has beer* treated in the matter of the proposal to secure a site for Commonwealth offices inLondon. No doubt, if the scheme- does not turn out as the Government expect, honorable senators on the other side will say that the abominable socialistic party, was the cause. I take the stand that the Senate should be consulted in everything. It is too . much to ask us to give the power which the Government want, after the way in which the information was given to us, practically on the last day of grace, and late in the afternoon at that. C was particularly astonished at the speech’ of Senator McColl. I thought at first that he was going to foe a strong opponent of the attitude taken up by the Government, because he began, as he usually does, with, an attack upon the Labour Party. Yet,, at the end of his speech, he became such a? strong Government’ supporter on this doubtful question that I suggested that he and! I should- change sides. That was inconsistency with a vengeance. We ought tobe cautious in financial matters, and,, although I belong to the Labour Party, I do not hold with the policy of ‘ ‘ Taxand spend.”
– Does the Labour Party do . that ?
– That is what Senator McColl says, but it is not true of” the Labour Party. The passage of thisitem of1 , £1,000 means the giving by theSenate to the Government of an authority practically without notice and without due time for consideration. The Government ask for a free hand to spend, God only knows how much, on that London institution. It sounds very nice to say, as one honorable senator put it last night, that “We dinna need to pay much the firstyear, or the second year.” But if that block of land is taken up, as suggested, at anything like 18s. per foot, we shall have to pay, in a few years’ time, at least between £7,000 and -,£8,000 per annum.
– And Tares and taxes.
– And rates and taxes. That strikes me as a large sum. We are asked to empower - perhaps not this Government, but a worse Government - and I am not sure that we could have a worse Government-
– Save me from mv friends !
– Extravagance may be practised, and we may spend in connexion with the building - which I remind Senator Walker we can never make our own - £500,000, or even £1,000,000. It has been suggested here that the Commonwealth should erect a handsome building six stories high. Having listened care.fully to the speech of Senator Millen, and making a little allowance for him, I do not think that the Commonwealth is in a position to indulge in such extravagance. As a senator, I intend to take the stand which Senator McColl took. He urged that, rather than run any risk, it will be better for the Commonwealth to rent a suitable building. I believe that if that course were taken, a very large saving would be effected.
– We do not know that we could get a building cheaper than, or as cheap as, the proposed building.
Senator W. RUSSELL. In my opinion, much inquiry has not been given to that question. If Sir William Lyne had taken the trouble, he could have brought back from England some of the information for which he is now telegraphing.
– It has been claimed on the other side that the Premier of Victoria made very full inquiries, but even he did not bring back all the requisite information.
– The Premier’ of Victoria is rather a peculiar man ; he takes fits and starts, and we never know where we shall find him next. Last night Senator McColl said that the policy of the Labour Party might be described as one of “ tax and spend. “ It will take me about only half a minute to read the policy of the United Labour Party - the one on which every labour man here was returned.
– On this Bill, it is not possible for the honorable senator to bring the policy of the Labour Party before the Senate, and therefore I ask him not to read it.
– Last night, Senator McColl said that ours is a policy of “tax and spend.” It is nothing of the sort. It has also been said that we advocate the nationalization of industries.
– The honorable senator is not called upon just now to defend the policy of the Labour Party. The nationalization of industries is not touched upon by this Bill, and therefore I must ask the honorable senator not to deal with that question.
– Of course, sir, I bow to your ruling, but as Senator McColl made an attack on the Labour Party last night, I - perhaps through not understanding the rules of the Senate - thought that if he could state his idea of our policy, and his statement was absolutely incorrect, I could show, by means of a printed statement, what our policy is in that respect.
– Save the ammunition for another occasion.
– I can save the ammunition for a time when Senator McColl is present. At any rate, if I cannot speak on behalf of the Labour Party, I can speak on behalf of William Russell. I am, and always have been, opposed to extravagance in every shape and form. I have been elected with my colleagues to look after the interests of South Australia, and to see that they are properly protected. I do not think that any honorable senator has ever heard me refer to such a thing as the Braddon “ blot.” I am not afraid to oppose even the continuance of the Braddon “ blot,” because I have a free hand. Judging from early Hansard reports, had it not been for the opposition of the Labour Party, a number of buildings and works which have been erected OUt of general revenue, would have been paid for with borrowed money. Now, connected with, taxation is the Tariff. Whenever the burdens which it is supposed to impose are referred to, honorable senators on the other side look over at me, and other members of our party, with the fiercest indignation. Whether they mean it, or are playing to the people outside, I do not profess to know, but if the Tariff is not remedied considerably before it comes here our recommendations will at least have some influence and effect, and will be in the interests of the primary producer. Of course, I am not responsible for those who take extreme views, and I do not represent Senator Findley, on the one hand, nor Senator Pearce on the other. The Tariff is purely an open question with the Labour Party. I think I have spoken quite long enough, and I do not want to kick over the traces. From the other side I am accused of jump ing exactly as the Government may pull the wires;.
– Who said that?
– The honorable senator dare not say it, but others have made that suggestion. The position, I take it, is that the Government must pledge themselves to consult the Senate once mort before they proceed with the building in London. If they fail to give us that pledge, I shall take the liberty and the responsibility - and mind, there has been no caucus held in this matter - of voting with my worthy friend, Senator Neild.
Senator LYNCH (Western Australia; [12.41]. - I have no reason to look upon the financial outlook with any misgiving. I do not share the feelings of those who say that it is not nice to contemplate the possibility of the Commonwealth being unable to make ends meet in the immediate future. I look upon the possession of a surplus as a very strong inducement sometimes to reckless politicians to indulge in an extravagant policy.
– Has that been the honorable senator’s experience of a surplus?
– It is not confined particularly to Western. Australia, though I may say that in that State the possession of a surplus has been the direct means of money being squandered, and thus saddling the people with a burden of interest. Very substantial buildings have been erected in places when the surrounding circumstances in no sense warranted their erection. I, for my part, would rather see a slight deficit than a surplus which might tempt statesmen to indulge in extravagance. The happy mean, I think, is for the Commonwealth to be able to make ends meet, and no more, and in that case all will be achieved that we desire in the interests of the people. On the one hand the existence of a deficit offers a strong inducement to politicians to go in for a loan policy, and on the other hand, the possession of a surplus offers an equally strong inducement to politicians or statesmen to indulge in extravagance. Both extremes we want to avoid, and the true and sensible mean will be to persevere in the direction in which we are heading, and that is to secure a balancing of the accounts, nothing more nor less. Glancing at its brief history, I venture to say that the Commonwealth has been parsimonious, even to the extent of meanness, in some directions. I cannot complain very much of its attitude on that score. But some senators state that the Government has been keen and circumspect, even to the point of retarding development in some new districts. The rising centre of Black Range, in Western Australia, with a population of 6,000 persons, has existed for two or three years. It was only after repeated representations that the Government connected that important centre with the telegraphic system of the Commonwealth. Honorable senators can imagine how the progress of the place was retarded, and the cost of living there increased as a result of the tardy recognition of its importance. From the reply to a question which I asked on the subject, I find that the revenue from the office established there has been double what was anticipated. The standing objection urged against the connexion of that important centre with the rest of the Commonwealth by telegraph was the need for a guarantee as to the revenuewhich would be derived. Since the establishment of the office, the receipts have proved that centre to have been of sufficient importance to warrant its connexion with the telegraphic system of the Commonwealth without any guarantee. This is a case which proves that in some cases the Government of the Commonwealth have been somewhat too keen critics of the business aspect of proposals, and as a result have permitted themselves to retard the progress of rising centres. There are, however, some directions in which the Government might fairly be expected to economize. I refer, for instance, to an economy which might be brought about in connexion with the cadet system
– Order. The honorable senator was able to connect his previous remarks with the Bill, but the question of cadets does ‘ not arise under it. Honorable senators must bear in mind that they are not now engaged in a financial’ debate in the sense that they are at liberty to enter upon a discussion of the whole financial policy of the Commonwealth.
– I have noticed in the schedule some reference to cadets, and I direct attention to a vote for spare parts for cadets’ rifles.
– There are cer- . tain votes proposed for expenditure in connexion with cadets. There is, for instance, a vote for a miniature rifle range, for’ cadets, and there might be a discussion as to whether it is desirable that money should be spent on such rifle ranges. There may be one or two other votes in connexion with cadets.
– There is a vote for accoutrements and equipment.
– To a certain extent, the matter may be discussed, but I do not wish the honorable senator to enter upon a general discussion of the policy of establishing cadet forces.
– I should not have proposed to refer to the subject if I had not believed that certain votes appearing in the schedule justified such a reference. I believe that in the warmer portions of Australia, and also in the sub-tropical districts, it is entirely unnecessary to provide such uniforms for cadets as the Defence Department has provided in the past. After about twelve months’ wear the lads entirely outgrow the uniforms supplied to them. I think that if we were to provide cadets with caps and belts that would be sufficient to induce them to undergo training for the defence of their country in the future. I believe that it is possible for the Defence Department to effect a substantial saving in this direction. In connexion with the expenditure on public works, I feel that in some instances the Government can be charged with parsimony. I can refer honorable senators to the fact that they have erected a post-office building of a most flimsy character in Boulder City. Any one impressed with the popular idea that public buldings are always constructed on extravagant lines would find how mistaken that is if he noted the slip-shod, haphazard way in which the building I refer to has been constructed. It has been erected now for not more than three years, and the flimsy compartment walls have been broken through, and one can see from one room to another. The counters provided in the building were made from timber that was not properly shrunk, and altogether the structure does not reflect credit upon the Works Department. Viewing this building, I am led to believe that the Department has adopted the cheap and nasty style of public buildings instead of making provision for substantial structures that will last a considerable time. I wish now to make some reference to the vote of £1,000 in connexion with the site proposed for Commonwealth offices in London. I judge, by the criticism offered by honorable senators opposite, that even if they know what they are talking about, they do not know what they want. They have condemned the Government for submitting this proposal without sufficient information, although they have been told that the last of the correspondence in connexion with the matter has been a request for further particulars, and that the Government have submitted to Parliament all the information at their disposal. The action of honorable senators opposite, in connexion with this matter, reminds me of the story told of a truant child who, standing in the middle of a road, was told by his mother that if he came in he would Le beaten’ and if he stopped out he would be beaten. It seems that because the Government have consulted Parliament in this matter they are to blame, and we know well that if they had followed the course taken by Mr. Bent in a similar matter, they would have been held to be equally to blame.
– They have said that Mr. Bent is a statesman because of the action he took.
– That is so, and it only makes it all the more difficult to understand why they should object to the Government giving Parliament all the information at their disposal. If the Government had carried out the proposal as an Executive act, their critics would have been just as dissatisfied as they profess to be now.
– Does the honorable senator think that information obtained last May should not Le supplied until the last day on. which the matter can be settled ?
– I agree that the proposal might have been brought forward at an earlier stage, but the fact remains that if we pass this vote of £1,000, we shall still be at liberty to consider whether or not we shall strike a bargain with the London County Council.
– No ; we shall give the Government absolute authority to purchase the lease, without consulting us.
– Then I have entirely misunderstood the position. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has explained that this vote is required only for the purpose of enabling the Government to negotiate for the site with the London County Council.
– And to purchase the lease without consulting us.
– Even if they should purchase the lease, the Vice-President of the Executive Council has told us what the maximum rental will be.
– -We have been told that inquiries are still being made for information, and that surely involves the freedom of one party to accept or reject the proposal. If this vote absolutely binds us to the proposal, I entirely misunderstand the position.
– It will give the Government power to bind us absolutely.
– The honorable senator wilT see that this is a vote towards the erection of a building.
– The vote could only have been expressed in such general terms. Honorable senators must admit that the latest correspondence that has passed has been a request for further information as to the taxes to be paid, and what will happen after the term of the lease expires. The correspondence shows that the Acting Prime Minister is yet in the dark as to some of the conditions.
– Will the Minister tell us that the expenditure of this £1,000 will not commit us to the purchase of the property ?
– The vote authorizes the Government to negotiate for the purchase of the property.
– Will the result of the negotiations be subsequently submitted to Parliament?
– Not the negotiations for the lease, but Parliament will be consulted in connexion with the building.
– Leaving all that on one side, I should like to ask, on the general aspect of the vote, whether the critics of the Government are prepared to take the responsibility of saying that we require no office in London, and should continue to go on as we have done in the past ? I look upon the action of the Opposition in this matter as a thinly-veiled expression of want of confidence in the Government. There are two ways of defeating a proposal. One is the straightforward manly course of openly opposing “it and voting it down, and the other is the more cunning course of attempting to defeat it by some manoeuvre.
– Is there not also an honest straightforward way of bringing a proposal before Parliament ?
– We have been informed that afl the information concerning this matter, in possession of the Government, has been placed before Parliament, and the Acting Prime Minister is now seeking for further information to enable him to decide whether or not the Government should enter into a bargain with the London County Council. I have dealt with the inexplicable opposition to the proposal by honorable senators who would complain if they were given no information, and who complain when they have been given all the information in the possession of the Government.
Sitting suspended from i to 2 p.m.
– If there is any item of expenditure about which we should be less circumspect than another it is this. We ought not to look upon the establishment of the Commonwealth offices in London as a commercial enterprise. After all, the people in London, like the people in any other country, are more or less influenced by appearances. If we have in London a building that is not commensurate with our importance as a country with a large population and vast resources - if we have a place constituted on a mean scale - it must necessarily reflect ‘ upon us as a Commonwealth in some degree. While it is our duty to scrutinize every shilling of expenditure, yet I believe the expenditure of money for such a purpose is so important that we should not be influenced altogether by considerations of £ s. d. We should have an office that will at least convey an idea of our importance. London is, after all, something more than the hub of the British Empire. It is the commercial centre of the world. It is the main chan.nel through which intercourse between Australia and European countries flows. If we do not erect a building of reasonable dimensions, we shall make a bad bargain: I ami not prepared to approach this subject from the point of view of expecting a return on our outlay.. What has been done in the case of the offices of the AgentsGeneral of the States? They have been maintained for the purpose of advertising the States.
– According to a former Agent-General of Tasmania, they have nothing to do.
– I am sorry to hear that that is the case so far as Tasmania is concerned. But I am not prepared to view the representation of the Commonwealth in that light. Our High Commissioner should be housed in an edifice commensurate with our importance. We do not want to have in that great commercial capital a small building, stowed away in an insignificant corner of the city. .If we do, it will be looked upon very much as the small office of some foreign company in Melbourne would be regarded. We cannot afford to pursue a parsimonious policy. Will the critics of this proposal stand up and say that they are opposed to the erection Of a commodious building ? I venture to say that they are following the tactics which have been pursued during this debate, mainly from a party point of view.
– All they want is a cross upon which to nail the Ministry.
– I believe that there is an admixture of truth in that statement, even if it is’ not all true. Advantage is being taken of this opportunity to place the Government in an embarrassed position. I should have expected something different from honorable senators opposite. They belong to a party that professes to be advanced in its ideas, and pretends to enunciate correct notions as to what ought to be done in the interests of the Commonwealth. Yet when it comes to taking a step forward in the direction of making known the importance of Australia, the opponents of the proposal cannot help trying by devious means to defeat it.
– Who claims thathonorable senators opposite are progressive?
– They have persistently said so themselves.
– They are “ standstills. “
– If on this occasion they wish to be regarded as progressive, thev must recognise that we cannot secure in London such a habitation as will impress people with the importance of Australia if we are to keep an eye solely on the question of £. s. d. Personally I do not expect the London offices to pay. It would be foolish to do so. I want to secure the best possible advertisement for Australia. Look at what Victoria has done. The Premier of that State has leased a small portion of the land for which the Commonwealth was negotiating - a 2 5 -foot frontage - without the slightest reference to the State Parliament. The Commonwealth Government has proceeded in an entirely different fashion. Yet the critics of the Government complain that they have not furnished full information. The proposal of the Government is to secure A frontage of 170 feet. The Commonwealth represents six States,, and being at least six times as important as Victoria, is fully justified in securing, so large an area. By the erection of a suitable building we shall be able to give people in that great commercial centre a just idea of the importance of Australia, and a reasonable suggestion of the possibilities of development here. I shall support the item as it stands.
– The Bill with which we are dealing is more important on account of what it involves than of what it proposes. Although it is a Bill for a large expenditure of money, it means even more expenditure than we are now asked to vote. It is proposed under it to spend £686,824 on certain public works. But that sum must be . considered in connexion with the Budget papers and the Estimates for the year 1907-8. According to the figures supplied to us, we are proceeding to increase our expenditure on public works by £347,000. That is to say we are going to increase our expenditure in this respect to £819,874. In other words, the £686,824 involved ir» this Bill is really part of an expenditure of ,£819,874, which it is proposed to expend this year. It is very important, therefore, to know to what we are committing ourselves. Though I admit that it isnecessary at various times to deal with matters of policy piecemeal, I contend that a Bill like this ought to have been brought forward with a full explanation of the probable future financial position of the Commonwealth. But, unfortunately, that is not possible just now.
– Why is it not possible ?
– Because the Tariff has not yet been dealt with. The Government estimate an increase of receipts under the new Tariff of £920,000, and’ the Federal Treasurer feels himself justified in recommending Parliament to increase expenditure by £980,000 during next year.
– Surely it was possible to tell us what was the anticipated revenue from the Tariff?
– I made a statement on that point.
– But it has to be recollected that though the new Tariff has been introduced it is not to be expected that it will be passed in its present form. If by any means this Bill could have been postponed until we were in possession of better data on which to calculate our actual revenue for the coming year it would have been much better.
– That is a matter for estimation next June.
– It need not be. If the Government had carried out their announced policy the Tariff would have been proceeded with immediately instead of being hung up in another place for weeks. But my point is that we really do not know whether we shall have this money to spend.
– If we have not got it to spend it will not be spent.
– Is that the honorable senator’s experience of Governments? It is not mine.
– We have had no experience of the Tasmanian Government.
– The honorable senator has been trained in a bad school.
– If Parliament authorizes the Government to spend so much money it will spend all of it and probably more.
– The Tasmanian school is one where they paid for cartridges to be fired off by their troops out of loan money.
– Tasmania did not do that sort of thing any more than any other State did. Tasmania has been about as straight in its finances as most of the other States. What applies to the Bill as a whole applies also to the item of £1,000 upon which a great deal of the discussion has been focussed. Some honorable senators have the utterly mistaken notion that we are simply giving the Government the power to expend £1,000, although in a vague and indefinite way. Nothing has been more prominent in the debate than the phrase “ power for the Government to negotiate.” It is an utter misconception to take that limited view of what we are doing. We are really giving the Government power to close a big bargain, without its terms being discussed in the way in which they should be discussed by the Parliament of Australia before it is autho rized. We are asked by some honorable senators to believe that the Government only intend to keep the matter open for a little time. That is not said by the Government, for they have been perfectly straightforward. The leader of the Senate has told us plainly and clearly that the Government will go on. It was stated in another place that the Government would take the passing of this item as a consent by Parliament to the committal of the Commonwealth, not only to the expenditure of £1,000, but to a very much larger expenditure in the acquiring of the lease and erection of Commonwealth offices in London. No one is more anxious to see the association of the Australian Commonwealth with the heart of the British Empire perpetuated than myself. I know that such a building as we are contemplating will have to be erected in London at some time. But we should be given a fair deal, and allowed to know to what extent we are committing ourselves. We have heard all sorts of statements as to the enormous rental which will be asked for the property, and to which we may presently find ourselves committed. Although we appear simply to be voting a sum of £1,000, I want to know what we are really doing. That is what I ask the Government to enlighten the Senate about, but the Government frankly are not able to do so. Before they submitted the item to Parliament, they should have been in a position to do so. It should have been introduced months ago, because the subject has been before the public for the last four months. As a matter of fact, it was before the public before the Prime Minister returned from England, yet it is before us to-day in a very immature state, and we are asked to commit ourselves to the ultimate expenditure of a very large sum, usefully it may be, or perhaps not so usefully as it really ought to be. We are actually in the dark. I protest against the large expenditure involved in the Bill, not merely on behalf of Tasmania, which just now happens to be in a position which demands caution in public expenditure, but on behalf of other States, which in their turn will be in the same position and need the same consideration. Notwithstanding the great wealth of South Australia and Western Australia, their time will come, as it comes always. The dawn of a depression is coming even in the great State of Victoria. The business people of Melbourne, the smartest and shrewdest south of the line, if asked for their opinion of coming events, and of the outlook for Victoria in particular, and Australia in genral
– A shower of rain would change their opinion.
– No doubt twentyfour hours of rain would, but what if it does not come?
– Is it not the Tariff that they are concerned about?
– I am not speaking about the Tariff, but about the present outlook, which we have to view in conjunction with the proposed increased expenditure of nearly £1,000,000 in most unwise circumstances.
.- Almost every subject that has been considered by the Parliament since the inauguration of the Commonwealth has been discussed in connexion with this Bill, but the debate has mainly centred around the item of £1,000 to enable the Government ofl the day to negotiate for a site on which, in the course of time, there will be erected, after the negotiations are completed, a building which will not only accommodate the High Commissioner, but, it is hoped, convenience and accommodate the Agents-General of the States.
– The Bill specifies that the site must be in the Strand.
– As I have not had an opportunity to visit the old country, I ant not in a position to say whether the site named is suitable or not. But if I am to be guided by the opinions expressed by far-seeing, competent business men who have recently visited London, I have no hesitation in saying that it is a suitable site for the erection of a building that will do justice to Australia and Australia’s interests. The Constitution provides for the appointment of a High Commissioner. It is necessary, in the interests of Australia, that the appointment should be made as quickly as possible, and so it is necessary to make arrangements for a building to accommodate him There are some smallminded Australians who think that a miamia, or, as Senator Trenwith facetiously suggests, an umbrella, would be good enough to accommodate the man who occupies that post. Neither I, nor any other member of the party to which I belong, desire extravagance. We are not a party, as has been alleged bv one honorable senator, that desires to spend and tax. No party in this Chamber, or in another place, has been more careful and watchful in regard to the expenditure of public money.
– Personally, I admit the economy of the honorable senator’s party in administration. It is the question of a policy entailing expenditure which the party advocates.
– I know of no policy advocated by our party that would justify the statement that we desire to spend, meaning thereby to spend in any but an economical way. The erection of a building in London does not concern the Labour Party as a party. Every member of it has an absolutely free hand on that and every other question outside of the platform, with which everybody who follows the Labour movement is familiar. I say unhesitatingly that a building is necessary. If complete and detailed information was submitted to those who are opposing the proposal now, they would find some other excuse for their attitude. Certain honorable senators opposite endeavour by every means in their power to find fa.ult with the Government.
– Is not that what we are here for ?
– Apparently so, whether the Government are right or wrong. If honorable’ senators are here for that purpose, I can understand their opposition to every proposal put forward by the Government, but I understood that they were here, not to oppose the Government right or wrong, but to do their duty in the interests of the whole Commonwealth.
– We do not need the alternative, because the Government . are always wrong.
– They are, in the opinion of certain honorable senators.
– It is only because they are the Government.
– I have heard the. honorable senator’s party criticising them at times.
– The Government, according to Senator Millen, cannot by any stretch of imagination be said to be extravagant, nor can that be said of any Government that has occupied ‘ the Treasury bench since the inauguration of the Commonwealth. That was said by Senator Millen yesterday. He stated that he did not join issue with them on the score of extravagance. Certain honorable senators are always pessimistic, croaking about what mav happen in the dim and distant future.
They urge that in all probability many millions of pounds will be required for the construction of some work that has not yet been agreed upon, such, for instance, as the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. They say that it will involve an expenditure of £[5,000,000 or £[6,000,000 if the line is ever completed,- although everybody knows that it never will be constructed unless the survey justifies it. They say also that we are going to take over the Northern Territory. I have heard some of them state that they would be no parties to taking it over unless the conditions were materially altered, but to-day they make it appear that they will agree to the Commonwealth taking it over, whether the conditions are to their liking or not.
– Certainly not.
– The question of the Federal Capital is also raised, although I think it. is further in the distance than any of the other projects, because the members from the other States on the whole are better advantaged and convenienced in Melbourne than they would be for a considerable period if we removed to the Capital Site.
– It is not the convenience of members, but the benefit to the country generally that has to be considered.
– I know that there is an impression abroad that the Commonwealth is not well served, because the Seat of Government happens for the time being to be in Melbourne. There is no justification for that belief.
– And no justification for avoiding the obligation in the Constitution.
– No Victorian desires to see anything done in contravention of the Constitution.- We are as anxious as any other honorable senators to hasten on the selection of the Capital Site.
– Would the honorable senator leave Melbourne?
– I am not over anxious to do so, but when the Federal Capital Site is selected I shall reconcile myself, if I am then a member of the Federal Parliament, to the new surroundings as quickly as any other member. The Victorian members have been no parties to delaying the settlement of the permanent ‘Seat of Government. The fault lies with the man who commandeered the wire netting from the Sydney Customs authorities. With regard to our financial prospects, there will be, according to the Budget statement, a surplus of about £103,000 at the end of the current financial year, after making provision for all the expenditure, and also for penny postage, which I do not think will be agreed to.
– And making no allowance for interest upon transferred properties.
– No allowance is made for that. But in connexion with the anticipated small surplus for this year, we should not lose sight of the fact that the works schedule is considerably higher on this occasion than it has been at any period in the history of the Commonwealth.
– That is the whole point.
– Provision is made in the schedule to this Bill for an expenditure of £686,824 on works and buildings.
– But the Minister will tell the honorable senator that there is another Bill to come along providing for the expenditure of £250,000 more.
– When the Bill comes along, if ever it does, we shall take it into consideration.
– It will contain items for the establishment of a local navy.
– But both Bills will leave us with no responsibility for the payment of interest in the future. That is a very significant consideration.
– Order ! I ask honorable senators not to interject across the chamber.
– This Bill makes provision for the expenditure ot a sum which is in excess of any previous appropriation for this purpose. -Last year the works schedule provided for a total expenditure of ,£472,139, so that the expenditure proposed for the current year shows an increase of .£214,685. That increased expenditure is mainly caused by votes for post and telegraph buildings amounting to £[93,000. I have -heard honorable senators on the other side who are opposed to the erection of a building in London for the High Commissioner urge that in many States, particularly in Queensland, according to Senator Sayers, there are buildings which are quite unsuitable to the business which has to be transacted, and that, apart from the inconvenience to which officers are subjected by the insanitary conditions, many other buildings are required. Yet when the Government submits a proposal to incur an additional expenditure of £93,000 to cope with the difficulties mentioned by Senator Sayers, he reiterates his intention to oppose the item of £1,000 to enable the Government to negotiate for a site in London.
– What is the connexion between the vote for that site and the necessity for more post-offices in Queensland?
– Senator Sayers emphasized the fact that, until provision is made for more post-offices in Queensland, he will oppose the expenditure of £1,000 for a site to be selected in London.
– That was only one of the reasons which he gave.
– This year the Government propose to do the very thing which Senator Sayers and others desire to have done, and that is to spend more money on local public works, particularly post and telegraph buildings.
– Not necessarily more money. The expenditure might be spread differently perhaps.
– 1 have sufficient confidence in the officers of the Post and Telegraph Department to .believe that they would not recommend the erection and alteration of buildings at an increased expenditure of £93,000 for this year unless it was justifiable.
– They will not spend the money in refreshments, anyhow.
– No; nor in cabhire or special wires. The works schedule shows that during this year it is proposed to spend £31,000 in excess of the amount which was set apart for defence works last year. Hitherto, on each occasion, Honorable senators who take most interest in defence matters, have complained about the inadequacy of the amount placed on these Estimates for defence purposes, meaning that if one thing was needful, it was that we should be well armed and well prepared in case of invasion. This year, the Government propose an additional expenditure of £31,000 for that purpose.
– It is not half enough.
– £1,000 seems to be a considerable amount in the minds of those who are opposing a certain item, but £31,000 apparently is not half enough for another purpose. Senator Neild, who claims to be an authority on military matters, says that, we now have plenty of ammunition and materiel, but an insufficiency of men. On previous occasions, the fault which he found was that we had so many men that we were unable to provide them with rifles, &c. The fact that there are not sufficient men, although there is plenty of materiel, is not due to the Government.
– There must be something wrong with the administration of the Defence Department when that happens.
– Not necessarily so. As regards Customs buildings, the works schedule shows that this year the Government is asking for £22,000 in excess of the amount which was voted in last year’s Estimates, and also for an additional expenditure of £78,000 on telegraphs and telephones.
– Is not the moral of all this that each year’s expenditure must necessarily be greater than that of the previous year?
– I believe that with the passing of the years, the Commonwealth expenses will necessarily increase, but, side by side with that increased expenditure, we anticipate that we shall have an Increased population with increased business and therefore increased revenue.
– I thought that the Tariff was going to destroy revenue.
– I do not know that it will materially affect the revenue from the Post and Telegraph Department. I noticed that, according to the balancesheet of a recent Tariff meeting in Sydnev, which proved a fiasco, an item of ns. 6d. was set down for telegrams for a prominent gentleman who is now not 100 miles from the precincts of the Senate.
– And an item for refreshments.
– Order ! I remind the honorable senator that that has really nothing to do with the question before the Senate.
– I admit that, sir. As regards the proposed vote for special defence provision, the works schedule provides for an additional expenditure of £82,000 this year. I shall not weary honorable . senators with more figures, because we can discuss the financial position of the Commonwealth when the Appropriation Bill is submitted. I have no hesitation in saying that a building in London is necessary for the Commonwealth. I shall not be a part to having a building merely for show or sight purposes. If it is to be a large and expensive building, I trust that the Government will take into consideration the advisability of erecting one which will yield a revenue to meet the interest on the outlay. If the site is suitable from a business point of view, there will be no difficulty in getting tenants for any spare accommodation. But that the building is necessary, goes without saying. The only opposition which can be fairly offered to the item is that the particulars presented to us have not been so full as might be desired. But I have sufficient confidence in those who are_ conducting the negotiations to believe that it will not be an unbusinesslike proposition, and, further that, before the foundation-stone of the building is laid, the Senate will have an opportunity of expressing its opinion in that regard. I feel sure that if the Government closed with the London County Council, and proceeded with the erection of the building, perhaps involving the Commonwealth in an expenditure of £[60,000 or £[100,000, without consulting the Senate, this Chamber would make its voice heard and felt; but that, I think, is not their intention. For the reasons I have given, I am prepared to vote for the item of £1,000 and other items in the Bill, as submitted.
– I notice that the VicePresident of the Executive Council is anxious to reply, and, therefore, I do not intend to speak at length. I do not propose to traverse the whole of the items in the schedule, because, so fa.r, the criticism has ranged round the item of £[1,000 for a site in London. In my opinion, the debate on that question has been practically a storm in a tea-cup. The amendment of Senator Neild is tantamount to a vote of noconfidence in the Government. I hold that the Commonwealth ‘ ought to have in London the finest building which it is possible to erect.
– With due regard to economy, of course.
– Yes ; and that is a very apt and pertinent interjection. I fail to see by what process of reasoning any honorable senators have concluded that the Government do not intend to observe the strictest economy. I believe that the supporters of the amendment would like to crucify the Government on the cross of economy.
– That is not original, the honorable senator knows.
– I did not say that it was.
– And it is not even accurate.
– From my point of view it is accurate, because I believe that if - honorable senators on this side, where, unhappily, I sit in bad company, were transposed to the other side, they would express different opinions. In London, and other places in Great Britain, Canada spares no expense in advertising its resources. When I made up my mind to settle in Australia, it was unknown in the part of Great Britain in which I lived, and I had to incur considerable trouble to ascertain if in Australia there was any place to which a man could go with a reasonable prospect of succeeding. New Zealand also spends a great deal of money in advertising its resources and possibilities. In Melbourne, Canada is represented, and its offices are in a palatial building in the centre of the city. Why should not the Commonwealth have in London a building which would be imposing, and in which it could advertise its resources from every stand-point ?
– The amendment does not raise that aspect of the question.
– I believe that the intention of the mover of the motion was to decry the action of the Government in proposing the acquisition of a site for Commonwealth offices in London.
– No, in attempting to proceed with the proposal without giving the Senate full information.
– I think that is the peg on which Senator Neild desires to hang his hat. On the policy involved, I should like to say that if we establish Commonwealth offices in London, they should be in the’ charge of the High Commissioner of the Commonwealth, and the time will then have arrived for suggesting that the States Governments should save considerable expense by withdrawing their AgentsGeneral. I welcome the votes appearing in this Bill in connexion with defence. I am glad to find that the Government do intend to grasp the nettle. I hope that when the new Bill which we are promised, dealing with coastal defence, is before the Senate, we shall have a statement of the policy of the Government in connexion with the Naval Agreement. I think that the Government deserve support in connexion with every item contained in this Bill.
– At this late hour, it will be necessary ibr me unfortunately to curtail my remarks in reply to the various criticisms that have been offered in connexion with this Bill.
– Is the honorable senator speaking to the amendment ?
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council has been called on to -reply to the debate. I have no doubt that if any honorable senator desires to speak, the Vice-President of the Executive Council will give way, but after he has spoken I shall consider the debate closed.
– At the outset I shall endeavour once more to remove a misapprehension, which appears to exist particularly in the mind of Senator W. Russell. The honorable senator appears to be under the completely erroneous impression that some reflection upon the Senate was intended by my honorable colleague the Treasurer. That honorable gentleman has been entirely misunderstood, but what he intended to say is most completely demonstrated by the action he has taken without knowledge of anything that I have said in the Senate. My honorable colleague at once sent to London a cable in the terms I have already mentioned, simply asking for information. If actions speak louder than words, surely that action on the part of the Treasurer conclusively proves exactly what was in his mind. The fact remains that no other construction can honestly or legitimately be put upon what he did than that he was anxious to secure information for another place and for the Senate. The value of the action he took in that” connexion I shall in a very short time be able to show my honorable friend, Senator W. Russell, and I am sure I shall be able to satisfy the honorable senator that the Treasurer has done the right thing. I declare on his part that he had not the remotest intention, directly or indirectly, to cast a slight upon the Senate. No politician of his great experience could have been guilty of such an action.
– Why is it that when the agreement or so-called option was to terminate on the 26th of this month we were given information concerning it only on that date?
– Perhaps the honorable senator will allow me to proceed in my own way?
– Hak the honorable , senator before him the cable which he read yesterday ?
– Will the honorable senator tell me whether I am correct in saying that one of the statements contained in it is that if the information asked for was satisfactory the offer would be made ?
– Then it was not “if the Senate approves,” but “if the information is satisfactory ‘ ‘ ?
- Senator Millen is desirous of putting a construction upon the message which, it is not capable of bearing. I am most anxious that all misapprehension should be at once removed. As I have already explained, the object of sending this cable was to let the people on the other side know that Parliament was moving in connexion with a certain negotiation for securing a site.
– Those are the words which the honorable senator used.
– Yes. This is a copy of the cable -
House of Representatives last night agreed to ‘ Government opening negotiations with County Council, and if conditions found suitable an offer will be made.
– That is quite irrespective of what the Senate may do.
– How is such a suggestion possible, when, at the time the message was sent, a Bill was being transmitted to the Senate for the purpose of securing the sanction of the Senate, this vote of £1,000 being an item in the Bill placed there, a’s I explained, for the purpose of securing in the ordinary way an expression of the opinion of Parliament?
– Arid if the Senate does not approve, I suppose the Government will not make the offer?
– The message invites information as to certain points, and continues -
It is considered that conditions should provide for renewal on expiry of lease on reappraisement or building paid for at valuation. Obtain building conditions and forward by first mail. Offer if made will probably be for whole Strand frontage with depth of sixty-five feet.
Let me remind honorable senators that this was not a cable to the London County Council, but a communication as to our intention and desire at the proper time to make an offer addressed to our own agent in London, with the object of enabling him to make inquiries from the London County Council when they met on the 26th of this month, “and in order that they might be assured that we were seriously moving in the matter.
– Will the Government submit their offer to Parliament before they make it?
– There will be. no doubt as to the statement I make when I have resumed my seat. In moving the second reading of the Bill I spoke in the most precise terms. As Senator Mulcahy must know when he first raised this question, 1 gave him in the most unqualified manner, and on behalf of the Government, the assurance that nothing whatever would be done until the full sanction of the Senate was obtained.
– The honorable senator contradicted that last night.
– What has been said by anybody else is of no consequence to me. i am here as a Minister, and the Government are responsible for what I say here, and will be bound by it. I should not occupy the position I do on any other terms. Without any hesitation whatever I gave the most unqualified reply to Senator Mulcahy that nothing would be done until the Senate was consulted.
– We shall make a note of that.
– Now I ask Senator W. Russell and others who may have some lingering doubt as to whether the Treasurer had not some intention to’ cast a slight upon the Senate, to say whether in view of what has actually taken place, any such construction can be reasonably placed on the action of the Government or of the Treasurer ?
– One thing I will say is that it is not so likely to occur again.
– I was equally explicit in this regard. I said that this item of £[1,000 was included for the purpose of obtaining an expression of the opinion of Parliament as to the desirability or otherwise of securing a site, and once the principle was approved by Parliament I never intended, directly or indirectly, that the Government should be placed in the humiliating position of not being at liberty to negotiate for a site on the best terms we could get, and to close as a result of negotiation.
– That is the whole point.
– That was my explicit statement. If the Government cannot be trusted to undertake a simple and Comparatively unimportant negotiation of this kind, they have no right whatever to occupy the position they do. They have the very best interests of theCommonwealth at heart ; they will make the best terms they can in the interests of the Commonwealth; they are actuated by no personal or unworthy motive, and they will be responsible to Parliament for what they do.
– What is the good of talking about responsibility when the. thing is done ?
– Honorable senators are aware that on the Estimates-in-Chief there is a vote of £3,200 in connexion with representation of the Commonwealth in London. The expenditure for last year representing the ordinary expenditure of the London office was £1,017. That left a sum of about £2,000 available for rent, &c, in connexion with the proposed site. The Government had in mind the desirability of securing a site, and we are limited, so far as our expenditure in connexion with the site is concerned, to a sum of about £[2,000. We have included in this Appropriation Bill £1,000 of that amount for the purpose I have already explained of securing the approval or otherwise of Parliament for the principle or policy of the acquisition of a site for Commonwealth offices in London. May I just add that had not the Government been careful and prudent, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer when in London would have done exactly- what Mr. Bent, the Premier of Victoria, did. They would have secured a - site, entered into a contract, and referred the matter to Parliament for the ratification of their action, simply explaining what they had done.
– That would have been better than acting on the advice of only one branch of the Legislature.
– But because we have been careful and prudent, and have shown a desire to secure the approval of Parliament before committing ourselves, we are met with nothing but abuse and criticism which I think unworthy of the occasion. When I introduced the Bill I expressed a hope that this matter of the selection of a site for Commonwealth offices in London would be considered from a non-party stand-point, and that the vote would meet with the approval of the Senate. There were a few individual expressions of opinion from honorable senators opposite that undoubtedly this was a non-party matter, and should be dealt with, from a strictly nonparty stand-point. But what did we find? When it was discovered that there was an overwhelming majority in favour, of the proposed site - a majority supported by the vigorous advocacy of some three honorable senators opposite - then it was that an adroit flank movement was made by my honorable and military, friend, the Colonel. That movement is not made against the item itself, but the item is skilfully used for the purpose of aiming a vicious blow at the Government. The amendment would be capable of no other construction if it were moved in the other Chamber than that it was a proposal of want of confidence. That is the way the Government are treated by my honorable friends, who have had to admit that they cannot take exception to any solitary item in the Bill. Thev are endeavouring to bring about a conflict with the other Chamber by adopting a proposal in these terms-
That this Senate …. declines to proceed with the consideration of the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill until satisfied that the Government will not commit the Commonwealth to the leasing of certain property in London without first obtaining the consent of the Parliament.
They would decline to proceed with this Bill. They wish to hang it up until they can humiliate the Government. To show the strength of party feeling that has been introduced into this matter, let me point out that the three senators opposite who were most vigorous in their support of this particular site now give it no assistance. The party opposite at once closed its ranks. Those senators are no longer found as advocates of this particular site, and of the measure before us. The matter is at once dealt- with upon the strictest of party lines, and we have the former supporters of the measure falling back into the ranks of the r party with the object of humiliating the Government by this means.
– Is the honorable senator using the whip on his own side?
– The Minister’s remarks do not apply to me.
– I regret that my honorable friend should be in such bad company.
– -The Minister is making a strong party appeal.
– I make no appeal to my honorable friend who interjects.
– The honorable senator is consolidating us on this side.
– There is not the slightest doubt that honorable senators opposite are consolidated. They were not at the outset, when we were hopeful of a reasonable non-party consideration of this matter. Everything was going well. But now there is an absolute consolidation of the Opposition party.
– The first three speakers from the benches opposite said that they were going to support the Bill.
– Yes; and I will admit at once that my honorable friend, the present leader of the Opposition party, Sena- . tor Millen, could not have been fairer or more just in his criticism. I may say “the same of a number of other honorable senators opposite.
– Senator Neild is the leader of the Opposition party just now.
– After ail- and, of course, I am speaking in the most goodnatured and good-tempered fashion - is it not possible for us, even at this late stage, to treat the question in a non-contentious and non-party spirit, especially in the Senate? Cannot we deal with the thing on its merits? There is my honorable friend, Senator Walker, to whom I appeal - a gentleman who has announced himself in the strongest terms, not only as to the desirableness of this site, but also as to its eligibility. He declared that there could not be a! better site than that proposed. Now, I ask my honorable friends opposing this item - do we desire a site in London, or do we not?
– No particular hurry.
– A site in London, but not necessarily in the Strand.
– What of these vaunted suggestions of a number of my honorable friends opposite as to their anxiety to have the Commonwealth fully advertised in London? What about their professed anxiety, of which we have heard time after time, that every facility should be given to emigrants from the old country to acquire information about Australia, and about inducing them to seek homes as citizens in this country ? If it is, as I take it for granted to be, the almost unanimous feeling of honorable senators that we should acquire a site, the next question is - is this a. desirable site ? I allude to the one suggested in the Strand.
I think that there is such unanimity of feeling on that point that it would be ridiculous for me at this stage to enter upon any further argument regarding it. We know that the Strand’ is one of the mighty highways of London, that it connects the east with the west, and that throughout the year millions of people pass along it. There is a general anxiety that we should have some permanent building in London which would be continuously before the eyes of those millions by way of advertisement, and otherwise, reminding them of the existence of the Commonwealth, and affording every facility to enable them to acquire information concerning it. I have submitted to the Senate the information we have at hand on the subject. I have explained what our responsibilities are. It is within the contemplation of the Government to secure a site with a frontage of something like 180 feet along the Strand with a depth of something like 65 feet. I have told the Senate most distinctly that the price at which the land was offered to us was 18s. per superficial foot, and that we were prepared to make an offer for it of something like 13s. Consequently, I was absolutely distinct on the point that our responsibilities would range between 13s. and 18s., so far as rental is concerned. Fortunately, through the foresight of the Treasurer, I am now able to give the Senate the text of the reply of Captain Collins to the cablegram sent to him yesterday. That reply I will now read slowly so that honorable senators may be able to follow it.
– It will not satisfy the Opposition.
– I am hopeful that it. will. It is as follows -
Referring to your telegram of 25th September - reverts to freeholder end 99 years. Council must, by Act of Parliament, sell in 1959. Time commence building Council will meet any reasonable proposal. Rates and taxes amount to one-third rack rent. This arrived at by amount of ground rent, added to 4 per cent. cost of building. Question if Government building legally liable, but Government here makes voluntary equivalent payments. Conditions could provide for renewal at the end of lease on reappraisement. Building conditions by to-morrow’s mail steamer ; not onerous. Design must harmonize with accepted design Victoria. Would suggest firm offer as follows : - Annual rent at the rate of 13s. per foot super for the land, with frontage Strand extending from Victoria site up to extreme east corner, with minimum depth 65 feet to any part of the land, and with greater depth either in the centre of land, or at the eastern corner, with additional frontage Aldwych, with object of space for central hall, for 99 years from Christmas next, or from date to be arranged.
I presume that the reference to Victoria is to some design.
– It evidently means the design for the Victorian building.
– I expect that that is so. I understand that nothing has been done in that connexion, and no doubt we shall be able to arrange for a general plan. I do not anticipate that there will be any difficulty about coming to an arrangement on that point.
Payment of rent, as mentioned in my telegram of 5th July, subject to agreement for lease, and the lease and the building, and other restrictions, and the architectural treatment being accepted Government. Also subject to light to the north windows being reasonably protected, and with option of purchasing freehold at any time during the lease, or renewal at expiration of lease on reappraisement.
The terms as to rental referred to are that in the first year we pay nothing, in the second year one-fourth, in the third year one-half, in the fourth year three-fourths, and in the fifth year the full rental. Let me illustrate what I gather that this cablegram means. Suppose that we take, say, 13,000 feet, and we declare that our maximum price is 15s. When I say that, I should add that I do not think that it is a reasonable thing to expect me to make a declaration of the kind, but still I am anxious to satisfy honorable senators in every way, and therefore I state that the Government are not disposed to entertain for one moment any proposal involving the payment of over 15s. per foot. What is more, having made this announcement, I will also say that if for any reason the Government thought fit to alter its mind in that connexion, and deemed it desirable that an increased amount should be offered, it would, in those circumstances, feel called upon to mention the fact to Parliament before it proceeded further.
– The honorable senator spoke of 13,000 square feet.
– How does the excess area come in?
– The original area I mentioned was 12,600 square feet.
– Does that represent the 180 feet frontage?
– It means a frontage of 180 feet by a depth of 65 feet, which I calculated yesterday would give an area of about 12,000 square feet, the exact figures being 11,700 square feet.
– The area is stated as 10,000 square feet on the plans.
– Various suggestions have been made from time to time, but the ultimate suggestion of the Government is for a frontage of 170 feet along the Strand, by a depth of something like 65 feet, although Captain Collins has made a suggestion for an additional area for a hall. I take the cable to mean that if we take 13,000 square feet at 15s. per foot, which is our maximum price, the groun’d rental will be , £9,750. We are told that the rates and taxes will amount to one-third of the “ rack rental.” The “ rack rental,” in those circumstances, would be , £9,750, plus 4 per cent, on what we expended on the building. Suppose, by way of illustration only, that the building cost , £80.000.
– More like£250,000.
– If Parliament says that the building is to cost £250,000, it will cost that ; but that is a matter which Parliament will have to determine. Let us suppose, however, that we are modestly inclined to spend only £80,000 on the building. Four per cent. on£80,000 would be £3,200. That, added to £9,750, makes £12,950. One-third of that sum would represent the rates and taxes, which, consequently, would amount to £4,313, and, therefore, . £9,750, plus £4,313; would give a totalrental, including rates arid taxes, of £14,063.
– Surely the honorable senator is making a mistake. He first of all added £3,200 to th? . £9,750.
– I did so merely to arrive at the total “rack rental,” on which to calculate the amount of rates and taxes. The total liability, would, therefore, be £14,063 per annum.
– That is the liability in respect of the land for rent, rates, and taxes ?
– Yes. No doubt we shall make a proposal in accordance with the terms of that cablegram, andonthe illustration which I gave, there would be a liability of , £14,000 odd per year. We know, however, that the commitment of the Government is not to exceed 15s. per foot, and it is completely in the hands of Parliament to say what the full payment will be, according as Parliament determines to have an , £80,000 building or a£200,000 building. That is for Parliament ultimately to determine, as I have given a promise to mv honorable friends that we will submit our Dronosals in that connexion to them before we proceed. The ultimate liability depends, of course, upon the expense of the building.
– And the building conditions.
– The cablegram states that the building conditions are not onerous.
– I mean the style of building that the Government would be compelled to put up.
– I do not apprehend any difficulty in that connexion. This is strictly not a commercial transaction at all. We do not intend it to be. Our intention is to have a! permanent building as the head-quarters of the Commonwealth in London, where we shall transact our business, and hope to negotiate with thousands of intending emigrants who desire to come to our shores. We dare not deal with a matter of this kind in a huckstering spirit; but must deail with it on the broadest possible lines. Parliament is determined that there shall be a High Commissioner, and at this juncture, when we desire representation in the old country, both in the shape of a building, and by the appointment of that official, we must deal with the question in a broad spirit. The effect of the amendment, . if carried, would be to defeat the second reading of the Bill.
– To delay it.
– That means to defeat it. It would, not affect only this particular item. If the second reading is passed, it will be time enough when we reach the item itself to ascertain whether the Senate is prepared to approve of the proposals of the Government or not. In these circumstances, and particularly in view of the additional information that I am now in a position to give, I appeal to Senator Neild to withdraw the amendment and permit the Bill to pass its second reading. In Committee there will be an opportunity to deal with the item on its own individual merits. T shall be prepared then to listen to anything my honorable friend has to sav. and to give any additional information which is at mv disposal.
– As the VicePresident of the Executive Council has made an appeal to me, I conclude in the circumstances that I shouldnot be out of order if I asked a question?
– The honorable senator may ask a question.
– Thestatement of the Vice-President of the Executive
Council this afternoon is entirely at variance withhis declaration last evening. Before I undertake to withdraw the amendment, are we to understand that his declaration of last night - to the effect that if this£1,000 was voted, the Government would regard it as the leave of Parliament to proceed in all matters connected with the site in London - was an inaccuracy, and can we depend upon Parliament being consulted according to the honorable gentleman’s statement this’ afternoon ?
– What I have already said I reiterate. I said that the item of £1,000 was submitted in order to enable Parliament to give its approval and authority, or otherwise, to theGovernment to proceed to negotiate and close for the purchase of a site in London. That is what I intended to convey. This afternoon I have stated the views of the Government more fully than I did last night, by adding the qualification that the present intention of the Government is not to pay more than 15s.per square -foot. We think that we should -get the site for 13s. 6d., but we do not intend to go beyond 15s. ; but if for any reason we should alter our mind in that connexion, and think it desirable to go beyond 15s.. then we will first submit our views to Parliament.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [3.25]. - In view of the statement which the Vice-President of the Executive Council has just madeand which I understand to be that the Government will consult Parliament if they cannot obtain the land for 15s. per square foot and that they will not proceed with building covenants without consulting Parliament - from the bow which the honorable gentleman makes, I understand that to be the declaration of the Government this afternoon - I have very amply achieved the object I had in moving the amendment.
– Say “ we.”
– If the honororable senator likes T will say that “ we “ have achieved our object, and, being quite satisfied with the result, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.
– I object.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Issue and application of
– Is it desirable to pass the clause confirming the total amount to be granted, before the schedule is dealt with? If the Committee saw fit to strike out the item of £1,000, it would be necessary to recommit this . clause in order to alter it. The clause should be postponed.
– Sooner than, waste time, I shall be very glad to agree to that course.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Store at Darling Island.
Division 1 (Under Control of Department of Home Affairs), Home Affairs, £6,000.
– We are asked to vote . £6,000 “ towards the cost of erection of store at Darling Island, Sydney, for the purposes of Departments of the Commonwealth.” It appears that £4,000 of that sum was voted last year, and certainly nothing has since been done. The Government now want a re-vote of £4,000, and an additional sum of . £2,000. It appears, from a foot-note, that the total cost of the building is to be £30,000. The Committee ought to receive some information about the building. It appears to be rather a large expenditure, and the Government, in this matter, as in several others, has evidently been premature.
– The Government asks for a re-vote of £4.000, and a new vote of £2,000. The total estimated cost of this store will be £30,000, and this item represents part of the expenditure. The land, which is alongside the Royal Navy Stores at Darling Island, has been acquired from the State Government for Commonwealth stora.ge purposes, to take the place of premises at present rented. On the site is intended to be erected a plain steel -framed brick six-story building of fire-proof construction, 234 feet by 41 feet, where bulk goods for the Defence and PostmasterGeneral’s Departments may . be received, stored, and despatched by either sea or rail. Modern quick-lifting and carrying machinery, suitable to the weights to be handled, is proposed to he provided, in order that a minimum of time and labour may be utilized in transferring stores direct from the ship’s tackle into the building and dispersing same by rail or vice versâ.
– Have plans been drawn out?
– I cannot say that they have been.
– £4,000 was voted last year, but nothing was done in the matter.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Sydney Customs Launch - Federal Laboratory - Trawler.
Division 2 (Under Control of Department of Home Affairs), Trade and Customs, £22,700.
.- A sum of £1,000 is required for a new Customs launch in New South Wales, and I desire to ask for what purpose it is required ? Have tenders been called for the construction of the boat in Australia, and, if so, have the usual conditions in regard to labour been embodied therein ?
– I do not think that specifications hn.ve been prepared, or that tenders have been called. The present Customs launch in Sydney is quite unsafe for its purpose, and the shipping work is increasing to such an extent that it is . thought desirable that a new launch should be provided for.
.- I observe an item of £1,000 for the establishment of a laboratory in Victoria. I desire to ask whether it is required in connexion with a proposed new Department, and, if so, whether the Government have made any arrangement for the appliances that will be needed to fit up the Department?
– Owing to the Commerce Act, and an extension of the provisions of the Customs Act in regard to compounding medicines, &c., the analytical work has greatly increased, both in the Victorian branch and the central staff. The present system is unsatisfactory, and the Minister of Trade and Customs is engaged in the formulation of a scheme for the establishment of a Federal laboratory.
.- Under the head of Tasmania, I notice an item for a trawler and equipment. I desire to know whether any definite information is available in regard to its construc tion ? When the question first came up for consideration, we were told that it would involve an expenditure of about £10,000, and since then many statements have been made to the effect that the Government were about to. complete the negotiations for the construction of the boat. I desire to know whether tenders have been accepted, and, if so, the amount of the successful tender, and whether the usual labour conditions have been imposed?
– And whether the Government will submit the plans to the Parliament ?
– I am not very much concerned about the plans, because I am satisfied that those who will be responsible to the Senate will see that the Commonwealth receives value for its money.
– The question is whether it is to be a trawler or not.
– I am not seriously concerned about statements which have been made in the press respecting the vessel. Those who have seen the plans are satisfied that she will do justice to the work which she will be called upon to perform, and at the same time will be more up-to-date than some trawlers in use in other parts of the world.
– Some time ago plans and specifications were prepared and tenders were called for the construction of a trawler. The usual provision was made that the successful tenderer would be called upon to observe the conditions which are attached to all contracts let by the Government. A schedule is prepared, which shows what the minimum wage is in each branch of a particular industry. Tenders were received from different States, but the result of the tendering was not very satisfactory. Whether that was due to the fact that the time allowed for the construction of the vessel was regarded by some persons as limited, or whether it was due to any other cause or not, I am not in a position to say. It was found that there was a considerable discrepancy between the highest and lowest tenders, and some tenders exceeded considerably the estimate of cost.
– Did the lowest tender exceed the estimate?
– It exceeded the original estimate of £8,000, which was based on information obtained from persons who are connected with the construction of vessels. There are certain circumstances surrounding the tenders which I thought called for some action on mv part in order to safeguard the interest of the Commonwealth. It was thought desirable that, before any tender was accepted, we should be assured that the tenderer would be able to carry out the work satisfactorily without involving the Commonwealth in any risk of loss. After some negotiations,’ the lowest tenderer desired to withdraw his tender. It was not deemed desirable to accept’ the next lowest tender, and the deposits have been returned. Since that date the Government of New South Wales have been asked whether, jr. their Fitzroy Dock, they will be able to construct a vessel according to the plans and specifications and under the conditions prescribed, and, if so, whether they will be prepared to quote a price. No reply has yet been received.
– Why should not the other States be asked whether they can construct a vessel in their dockyards?
– If any -other State has a dockyard in which steel vessels can be built, I shall also ask that State to quote a price to the Commonwealth.
– The Government has invited tenders?
– Yes. I believe that at the Fitzroy Dock, in Sydney, the Government of New South Wales have built steel vessels. They refrained from competing, because, I understand, that their general policy is not to compete with private contractors. Before calling for tenders again, I have extended to the Government of New South Wales an opportunity to quote a price. We are awaiting that quotation before doing anything further. I have also been considering whether it may not be desirable or practicable to communicate with the Government of New Zealand, and possibly make an arrangement to tide us over the period before our trawler can be constructed. I have not committed myself in any way, but I have had that aspect under consideration. Senator Findley may rest assured that in the construction of the vessel proper and reasonable labour conditions will have to be observed by the successful tenderer. He mav also rest assured, notwithstanding am statement to the contrary in the press, that she will be built solely and wholly as a fisheries investigation vessel. She will not be purely and simply a trawler as that is understood in the North Sea or elsewhere, where the work is carried out as a commercial enterprise. There the vessels go out trawling, obtain fish, and bring them to market ; but in our case something different from that is intended to be done. Besides carrying the trawl and the other necessary gear, something in the nature of investigation will have to be conducted. There will be provided one or two rooms in which work of that kind will necessarily have to be done. In many instances, the trawler may be out of port for a considerable period - perhaps longer than some of the other vessels ate absent, She will not be engaged in catching fish to bring to market, but investigating fishing grounds and showing our people where fishing’ operations can profitably be carried on. In that connexion she will differ from what is known as a trawler pure and simple. As we were about to ask the Parliament to prescribe certain requirements for the accommodation of seamen and others on vessels, we considered that on a vessel belonging to the Commonwealth the conditions ought to be at least equal < to those which we demanded from persons who provided for seamen and others on their vessels. In that respect the accommodation on our vessel will be considerably more than is provided on the trawlers of the North Sea. It may be that the original estimate was framed on the basis of a North Sea trawler as a type for Australia. I had placed before me the plans of a Norwegian trawler, which had been kindly lent to the Government, but on’ going into them it was found that the accommodation there provided for seamen would not be tolerated in Australia. It was necessary, therefore, for me to give instructions that in preparing plans and specifications, regard should be had to Australian demands and requirements, and, to a considerable extent, we had to vary the original, on which we proposed to base our plans. That may, to some extent, have accounted for the increased expenditure proposed. The original estimate may have been based upon the cost of a North Sea trawler. Statements have appeared in the press with respect to decorations, upholstering, gold beading, silveroid rods, and such things. I might refer to every one of them in detail and satisfy every honorable senator, and every fair-minded man that no provision is being made that exceeds the accommodation provided for one of the officers of the steamers ordinarily trading on our coasts. I think that the officers we expect to have in charge of this vessel should be treated at least as well as a first or second officer engaged on a coastal steamer.
– The sailors’ cabin should be better than those provided on coasting steamers.
– I may say that I intend, despite adverse criticism, to see that our officers and men are housed on this vessel at least as well as those engaged iu shipping on our coasts.
– From the speech made by the Minister, I learn that this is not going to be a trawler, but a vessel for investigation and exploration. I think that was not stated originally.
– It was.
– I understood that it was intended that this vessel should find fish and bring them to market.
– The object being to prevent the high prices at present being charged for fish in the Melbourne and Sydney markets.
– I was directly asked that question, and I said that the Government did not intend to enter into the business as a commercial enterprise, and that they would leave that to others.
– Then this vessel is to be used for exploring purposes ?
– For investigating and exploration.
– Has the Minister looked into the important Question of the difference in price and durability should the vessel be made of steel or of wood?
– I was dealing with that matter in consultation with my officers within the last quarter of an hour.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Defence Expenditure: Barracks and Rifle Ranges.
Division 3 (Under Control of Department of Home Affairs), Defence , £66,046.
.- In every Bill of this kind we get a number of items of the same class. I find that under the heading of “ New South Wales “ there are eight different items with regard to additions, and twelve with regard to new works. The new works consist of fortifications, barracks, rifle ranges, and particularly drill halls. I should like to ask Senator Neild if we have any more troops now than we had five years ago? I understand that we have altogether about 22,000 men in addition to rifle clubs and cadets, and that we have no more now than we had some time before.
– We have fewer men now than we had before.
– Then how is it that year after year we have new votes submitted for drill halls and barrack accommodation, as if our forces were annually increasing in numbers? No one can object to necessary expenditure for the training of men, but when our force is not increasing in number - and is not likely to be unless honorable senators pass mv little Bill for compulsory training - where is the necessity for increased accommodation? Had we rio proper drill halls and rifle ranges for our Defence Forces in the past? Either they were extremely inadequately provided for in the past or we are now going in for extravagance.
. -I think we1 should get the information asked for by Senator Dobson. So far as I can gather, the number of men on our military establishment is decreasing rather than increasing, whilst the expenditure is being piled up every year. If that be so, we should have some reason given for it.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [3.53]. - The question asked by Senator Dobson is a most pertinent one”, and it is peculiar that an honorable senator on this side should be called upon to give an explanation which might be expected from the Ministry. . 1 do not pretend to express any opinion on the state of affairs in other States, but I say without hesitancy that the votes proposed under the heading of New South Wales are positively necessary if we are to maintain a Defence Force in that State at all. One. of the grievances of New South Wades has been that in a great many places in that State no adequate accommodation is provided for regiments and companies. My experience in connexion with my own regiment has been that for years we had but one miser-‘ able room in which the officers and professional staff of the regiment could carry on their work, and in which we could hold meetings of officers, instruction classes, and lectures. The regiment is provided with better accommodation now, but I am aware that in many of the towns referred to in the schedule some accommodation such as is provided for by these votes is absolutely necessary. A great many people imagine that there is nothing more in soldiering than the putting on of a uniform, the shouldering of a rifle, and prancing around a barrack square, or meandering in a scrub. But it should be remembered that in connexion with soldiering, as in connexion with the theatrical profession, the work of the finished performance is not to be compared with the labour of the rehearsals necessary to bring everything into working order. These votes are required to provide accommodation to enable defence matters to be put into working order.
-In many cases provision is being made for the purchase of buildings where we have had to pay rent.
– I know of one case where, in order to secure accommodation for a company of sixty men, the Commonwealth is at present paying £78 a year as rent, and 5 per cent. on the cost of a building suitable for the purpose would amount to very much less. Some of the rifle ranges provided for are also eminently needful. Two companies of my regiment use a rifle range provided at the cost of two of the members of the regiment, who owned some hundreds of acres of land at North Shore, near Chatswood. It took weeks to induce the authorities to permit the establishment of a rifle range on private ground at private expense. There is a vote provided for rifle range land and construction at Singleton, and that has been required for so long that three and a half years ago MajorGeneral Hutton wished me to be retired because I brought the matter before the Senate. It was one of a number of matters in respect of which he was most abusive, and it is only now being provided for. I have already referred to the Long Bay rifle range, for which a vote of £2,100 is proposed. This range is essential if we are to have anything like company firing as apart from the individual pot-hunter method of rifle shooting. I notice a vote of £380 for sites for signalling stations at Belle Vue Hill and Gore Hill, ah expenditure urgently required in connexion with the Defence Forces in New South Wales.
– Still the honorable senator was nearly defeating this Bill.
– Senator Trenwith is too old a politician not to know that even if my amendment had been carried this Bill would not have been defeated.
– Besides, the honorable senator did not mean it.
– I did mean it, and I attained the object for which I moved.it. I am sure that Senator Dobson does not desire that I should go through thedifferent items in the schedule, butI have no doubt that the expenditure provided under the items to which I have not referred is as imperatively necessary as it is in connexion with those to which I have ref erred.
. -Senator Dobson has asked for information as to the number of the Defence Force. If honorable senators will look at the papers supplied to them they will find that there has been a considerable increase in the number. Last year the number in New South Wales was 16,819, andthisyear the number provided for is 20,671. There hasbeen an increase in the number of men outside cadets. Last year in New South Wales there were 5,157 militia, and this year there are 5,611. I quote these figures from the Estimates-in-chief.
– They represent the numbers provided for, and not the number actually in the force.
– These figures represent the number of persons now in the Commonwealth Defence Force, for whom provision has to be made. So far as I know, there has been an increase in all the States in connexion with military affairs. That is why additional accommodation is required. In Queensland, increased accommodation has been asked for continually in different places. The reason why I rose was that I think that when such a question is asked the Minister should give all possible information.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [4.1]. - The numbers to which Senator Turley has referred as being printed in columns, simply represent the number of men for whom uniforms and equipment are required; but they do not mean that the men are necessarily there. An establishment is provided for but the question of strength is quite another matter. The strength is seldom up to the establishment in any part of Australia.
Senate adjourned at 4.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 September 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1907/19070927_senate_3_39/>.