4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, how many Commonwealth Ministers propose to go to England to represent Australia at the Coronation celebrations, or to take part in the Imperial Conference next year, and which Ministers are to go? *
– Of course, if I were to ask the honorable senator to give notice of his question it would be rather ridiculous. At least I hope so. As far as my memory serves me, the Ministers who have been specially invited are the Prime Minister, the -Minister ‘of External Affairs, .the Minister of Defence, and the Attorney-General. Whether all of those Ministers will be able to go is not yet decided. I think that at least three will go, but which three has not been determined yet.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council state whether it is intended that the Senate shall adjourn at the usual hour this afternoon?
– That depends upon the attitude of honorable senators. If they are magnanimous enough to advance the business so as to enable us to adjourn at the usual time we shall be very glad. But it is desired to complete the work of the session to-day. If the work is not completed by the usual time, it may be necessary for the Senate to sit later than usual.
– To sit right through and finish the business?
– Yes, that is the present intention, though, of course, the matter is in the hands of honorable senators.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether he has observed in this morning’s newspaper a cablegram reporting a mad rush of immigrants to Aus- tralia?* In view of that fact, will the Government advise the High Commissioner to see to it that there is no overcrowding of vessels with people who want to get away from the Old Country, and come to the Commonwealth? Secondly, I desire to ask whether’ the Government will instruct the High Commissioner to warn the immigrants that there is a Labour Government in power in Australia, and that they must be prepared for calamities on that account ?
– Order !
– I have noticed the cablegram in the press this morning. As a Labour representative I am very glad of it. The Government are very glad also. It is evident that the people of England are not alarmed at the fact that a Labour Ministry is in power in this country. No doubt, indeed, that was a great factor in stimulating their anxiety to come out to Australia. They know that they will get fair play when they come.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council endeavour to obtain accurate information as to whether there is insufficient or defective accommodation on board vessels bringing immigrants to Australia? If the statements published are correct, will the Government take steps to increase the number of steamers bringing immigrants to this country ?
– The honorable senator will recognise that up to the present time the matter of bringing immigrants to Australia has been in the hands of the States. Some of the States have already declared that if sufficient accommodation for immigrants on board vessels is not available, they are prepared to take the responsibility of chartering ships.
– I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether there is a possibility of obtaining, before the session closes, the return which was ordered by the Senate on my motion yesterday ?
– If possible the return will be laid upon the table before the Senate rises to-day. I cannot, however, say whether it is possible.
– The return could be prepared in half-an-hour.
– I desire toask whether the Government will considerthe advisableness of providing special facilities for any number of members of this Parliament who may desire to visit theNorthern Territory during recess?
– That matter will be seriously considered by the Government. I think I may say that if any honorable senators make a request in thedirection indicated the Government will give them every facility.
– Will the Government also give consideration to the advisableness of affording facilities for members of this Parliament to visit the Commonwealth Territory known as Papua during the recess?
– Of course, I can only speak without authority at present, but I hope that any honorable senator who desires to visit Papua in the interests of the Commonwealth and of the Territory will receive every assistance from the Government.
– In accordance with a promise made to Senator Chataway yesterday, I have pleasure in .laying upon the table of the Senate -
Correspondence with reference to the Vancouver Mail Service.
– I asked some questions yesterday with regard to wireless telegraph stations and contracts. I now desire to ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he is in a. position to answer those questions, and to furnish us with additional information? Of course, it would be useless for me to give notice of questions on the subject. I wish to know whether the site for the Fremantle station has yet been settled, and whether the contract for the Sydney station, has yet been signed?
– I do not know.. When the honorable senator asked hisquestions yesterday certain remarks were made which I resented very strongly. I think I was justified in resenting them. As to the information which the Senator wants now, if he will repeat his questions later I will endeavour to supply answers*
– 1 should also like to know whether there is to be any additional cost in connexion with the Fremantle station?
– I will endeavour to get that information also.
– May I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether the requests that, as I understand, have been preferred to Admiral Henderson, to report as to the suitability of certain sites for wireless telegraph stations, will be confined to Fremantle, Thursday Island, and Sydney? Will the Admiral be asked to report also as to the desirableness of establishing wireless stations in Bass Strait?
– And all round the coast.
– Yes ; all over Australia. Will the Admiral’s report be confined to sites which have been specifically mentioned, or will a request for a general report be made to him?
– The honorable senator can hardly expect me to give him a satisfactory answer off-hand. If, like Senator Givens, he will submit his questions at a later hour, I shall have very great pleasure in obtaining information for him.
– In view of a statement published in the newspapers yesterday to. the effect that the Government are involved in some trouble with reference to the infringement of the Marconi patents, can the Minister inform the Senate to what extent, if any, the Government are likely to be involved in actions at law with reference to the infringement of patents in consequence of the adoption of the Telefunken system ?
– I am including a question on that subject in the list of questions which I am furnishing to the Minister.
– When the Honorary Minister is obtaining the information from the Postmaster-General, will he ascertain whether a communication has been received from the Attorney-General of South Australia in reference to connecting Port Darwin with Timor by wireless telegraphy ? I asked a question on this subject one day last week, and now wish to know whether anything has been done or is contemplated ?
– I will endeavour to ascertain.
– I beg to lay upon the table of the Senate the report of the Joint Library Committee for the year toto.
Work of the Session - Expiration of Braddon Section : State of Finances - Transferred P PROPERTIES s - - Machinery for Small Arms Factory - Increase of Expenditure - State Debts - Parliamentary Government : The Caucus - Naval and Military Defence : Expenditure - Supply of Labour: Immigration - Powers of Senate - Territories - Imperial Conference - Coronation: Australian Representation - Loan Policy - Vancouver Mail Service - Imported Rum - Papua : Contract Labour: Annual Reports - Insurance of Government Properties - Distribution of Weather Reports - Meteorological Stations in Antarctic Ocean : Seasonal Forecasts. Bill received from House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator McGregor), agreed to-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent this Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– I move -
That this Bill bc now read a first time.
On the motion for the first reading of Bills of this description honorable senators have a right to address themselves to general questions. I, therefore, embrace this opportunity to explain the position which the Government occupy in respect of the measure. Honorable senators will recognise that, owing to this being the first session of the new Parliament, and owing to the control of business being in the hands of a new Administration, an attempt has been made to transact a large amount cf business. Indeed, everybody must acknowledge that a great deal has been accomplished. Since the -inauguration of the Federation there has been no session in which so much has been attempted and so much has been done. In the past it has been customary for the Governor-General at the opening of Parliament to come to the Senate and read the speech which had been put into his mouth by his responsible advisers - a speech in which legislation in various directions has been promised - and for us to find at the close of the session that only a very small proportion of that promised legislation has been placed upon the statute-book. But so far as the present Government are concerned, an honest attempt has been made to give legislative effect to their promises. This has necessitated strenuous effort in both Houses of the Parliament, and, as a result, the Estimates have reached us at an unusually late stage of the session. But honorable senators will recollect that about two months ago the Budget papers were laid on the table. Although very little opportunity has been offered for discussing the Budget
– Absolutely none.
– But the fact remains that yesterday, when an opportunity was offered, no honorable senators desired to say a single word upon the subject. The motion for the printing of the papers was carried without discussion.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Of what value would such a discussion have been?
– It would have been of -as much value then as it is now. Nobody can deny that an opportunity was afforded honorable senators to ‘debate the Budget. But that opportunity was respectfully declined, and, as a consequence, the sitting of the Senate had to be suspended until 8 o’clock last evening, and then we had to adjourn.
– The Government were like the foolish virgins - they were too late.
– And the honorable senator, who might be classed with those respectable individuals, had no oil in his lamp. But, be that as it may, we now find that if we desire to close the session to-day we shall have to exhibit an almost miraculous agility.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council means that we shall have to shirk our duty.
– I do not think it is fair to deprive any honorable senator of his rights. Therefore, if honorable senators opposite wish to prolong the session, not only beyond the ordinary hour for adjourning this afternoon, but beyond this evening, or even to next week, I shall utter no word of complaint. Every honorable senator is perfectly justified in adopting whatever course of action he may think fit. But if there be any item in these Estimates which honorable senators desire to vote against, those items need not be discussed at undue length. A vote can be” taken upon them without delay. On the other hand, if there be no intention to eliminate from this Bill any of the items which it contains, would it not be an unnecessary display of fireworks to debate them exhaustively ? When the Budget papers were laid on the table of the Senate some two months ago, I made a statement indicative of the attitude of the Government, which I considered was quite sufficient. To-day I shall not occupy more time than is necessary to point out the position in which the Government and the Parliament find themselves. In this Bill honorable senators are asked to vote what is apparently a large sum of money for carrying on the necessary work of administration throughout the Commonwealth. I say that they are asked to vote what is apparently a very large sum, the total amount being ^16,841,000.
– In addition to the amount which is involved in the Supplementary Estimates.
– But I am not dealing with the Supplementary Estimates at the present time. Owing to legislation which has been enacted by Parliament, those Supplementary Estimates are absolutely necessary, and I hope that sufficient explanation of them will be forthcoming to justify honorable senators in voting for them without lengthy discussion. I repeat that what is apparently a large sum is involved in the Bill which we are now considering. But we have to recollect that a large portion of that amount has already been expended under the authority of the temporary Supply Bills which Have been passed. Consequently, the sum of £6,094,906 094,906 involved in this measure is not such a serious item after all. Honorable senators may have observed that even the financial journals of Great Britain have taken notice of the large sum which the Commonwealth proposes to expend during the current year. I am very glad to know that the High Commissioner has- put the correct view before the people of that country. He has pointed out to those journals that legislation has been enacted which involves a very large expenditure in regard to old-age pensions, defence, and other matters,* and that very little, if any, of the amount of ^16,841,000 is being expended upon socalled wild-cat socialistic schemes. It is all being spent for the solid development of the Commonwealth. When honorable senators come to Seriously consider the amounts which are required by each Department - and any. inquiries which they may put will be replied to by Ministers to the best of their ability - they will recognise that we ought to be able to dispose of the remaining work of the session in time to permit of the representatives of distant States returning to their homes by the afternoon trains.
– The prospect held out to us by the Vice-President of the Executive Council is perhaps not altogether unexpected, but, at the same time, it is one which ought to arrest the attention of the Senate. Owing to causes for which the Government must be held responsible, we are now face to face with this position : that in the space of four hours we must deal with four separate measures, any one of which might reasonably demand two or three days’ consideration. In the first place, we have the Bill which is now before us, under which it is proposed to appropriate nearly ;£i 7,000,000. That in itself is of sufficient importance to occupy the scrutiny of this Chamber for a great deal longer than the period which remains at our disposal. Then the Government propose to ask for Supply for a period of two months beyond the current financial year. That is also a matter which the Senate might reasonably discuss for some time. Then we ought to be afforded an opportunity, similar to that which has been given to another branch of the Legislature, to debate, if we so desire, the subjects that are to be discussed at the Imperial Conference, to be held in London in June next. We have also to deal with the Supplementary Estimates for this year which, for the first time, embrace items relating to the Northern Territory. Any one of these matters might reasonably occupy our attention for two or three days.
– There is no reason why they should not do so.
– What is the use of the Honorary Minister talking like that in the face of the plain intimation we have just had from the Vice-President of the Executive Council that if we do not dispose of the remaining business by the ordinary hour for adjournment to-day, we must sit on until it is disposed of ? We know that it is the intention of the Government to crowd on all sail until the consideration of that business has been completed.
– But the Senate has control of its own business.
– I have heard that before.
– And said it before.
– Yes, under circumstances when the remark was justifiable. But the Ministry cannot urge that the Senate is to be afforded a reasonable opportunity of considering the important measures which I have outlined, and which are brought forward at an unprecedentedly late stage of the -session. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has intimated that we must bolt them all before 4 o’clock this afternoon, or continue the sitting until we have dealt with them. Under such circumstances, what is the use of pretending to consider them?
– It is a mere farce.
– It is ridiculous to suggest that the Senate has the slightest control over the finances, or that it is possible for an honorable senator to address himself to the various matters involved, not merely in the items, but in the policy of the Government as outlined’ in these financial BillsWe might as well recognise that fact at once. What is the good of even making a pretence to consider these matters when there is no possibility of serious debate? Practically what the Minister says is “ You may accept the whole as it stands, because, if you do not, by a process of continuous sitting and exhaustion, you will have to accept it in the end.” In these circumstances there is no inducement to any honorable senator to address himself to the questions which arise. On the contrary, there is an intimation to him that it is idle to do any1 thing, and therefore he may as well refrain from occupying time.
– These matters could have been discussed yesterday.
– Yesterday we stood, as we now stand, under the shadow of the threat which the Vice-President of the Executive Council has uttered.
– I have uttered no threat.
– The honorable senator has stated that if the Senate is in what he calls a generous mood - that is a mood to shirk its duty - and bolts all the business by 4 o’clock to-day, it will be adjourned, but if not the sitting will be continued until the work is finished. Under conditions of that character I decline to seriously consider any business. During the session there have been frequent occasions when, instead of fooling with a Bill which the Government knew could not be passed, all the important matters comprised in the Budget papers could have” been discussed.
– We have advanced the Navigation Bill a long way.
– Yes, but only by depriving the Senate of an opportunity to deal with matters which must be passed this session. The time which was devoted to the Navigation Bill should have been made available for the consideration of the Budget papers.
– Did the honorable senator ever expect to get the Navigation Bill put through both Houses in one session? The late Government made an attempt to do so, but only succeeded in getting 17 clauses passed in the Senate.
– Is it possible to institute a fair comparison between the late Government and the present Government ?
– When I had the honour to lead the Senate I never knew where I stood. I could not depend upon the magic of the division bell to bring me support.
– Nor can the present Government.
– So far they have managed to do so, and no one has responded more readily to that call than has the honorable senator.
– Open confession is good for the soul. It is news to hear that Senator Millen, when Leader of the Senate, never knew where he stood.
– The parties in the Senate were so evenly divided that no one could foretell for a moment what was likely to happen. But even that Government, notwithstanding all the handicap under which it laboured, did for the first time in its history make an honest effort to give the Senate an opportunity to discuss the finances and the Estimates-. What was the good of the present Government laying the Budget papers on the table and putting a notice of motion on the business-paper if it was to be carefully kept at the bottom of the list until yesterday, when the shadow of the prorogation was upon us ? That was only playing with serious business. In spite of any criticism which may be levelled at the late Government, it did furnish the Senate with a reasonable opportunity to take a practical part in the control of the finances.
– The late Government hardly did anything else but pass the Budget.
– The honorable senator and others commended the late Government for what it did.
– But look at the record of work which has been done during the present session.
– But when the present Government is going back upon the precedent which the late Government established, the honorable senator has not a single condemnatory word to utter. I for one decline to sit on continuously to do the work which we ought to have been placed in a position to do much earlier in the session. We have always been prepared to give the Senate a reasonable opportunity to transact its business. For that reason I asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council if he intended to let us adjourn at the usual hour. Had he replied “Yes,” I would have answered “All right.” An opportunity for proceeding with the transaction of business in a serious way would then have been available to us at subsequent sittings. But when he answered “ No. If you have not finished by 4 o’clock we shall sit on until you do finish,” the position was totally different.
– If it is the wish of the Senate to do so.
– T know what that statement means when it comes from a Minister .
– T shall vote with the honorable senator if he will move for an adjournment until Tuesday.
– If a proposal of that sort were made by the Opposition, it would be accused of taking the control of business out of the hands of the Government.
– All that honorable senators have to do is to request that the Senate shall be adjourned until Tuesday, and I shall submit a motion.
– What a magnificent offer ! If the numbers are against the honorable senator he will capitulate.
– The numbers will not be with him.
– Then am I to take it that honorable senators are disposed to agree with me that an opportunity ought to be afforded to go on with the business of the country properly?
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
– That means that it the business is not concluded by 4 o’clock we shall adjourn until next week, in the ordinary course of events ?
Honorable Senators.- Hear, hear.
– Thar is all I am contending for. As regards the Budget, I wish to draw attention to the splendid financial position in which, for the first time in the history of Australia, the Government finds itself to-day. It is a matter on which the Government is generally silent. It has a great deal to say about what it is doing, and what great boons it is conferring upon the people, but so far as I can recollect it has never said a word about the splendid measure of financial freedom which for the first time it has been in a position to enjoy.
– We are very grateful for that.
– My honorable friends do not show their gratitude.
– We do not make a song about it.
– There were many things which the late Government would have done if they had had the necessary money. No particular credit is due to the present Government for doing those things, seeing that it is the only Ministry which has ever had money at its disposal.
– The late Government had money.
– Does not the honorable senator understand how the Braddon section has affected our finances? The Estimates submitted by the Fisher Government for the current year present the remarkable feature of an absolute balance to a penny. Of course, no one pretends for a moment that the Estimates are worthy of serious consideration. They were put together as a piece of paper balancing, without any reality or substance in them. It is not possible for any one to believe that the revenue and the expenditure can be balanced to a penny. What is quite clear is that, having discovered on the Estimates that there is a difference of ,£1,000,000 between the revenue and the expenditure, that sum has been assumed to be the yield of the land tax. For that reason only was the amount placed at £1,000,000. I am confident that if the discrepancy had been £1,250,000, £900.000, £1, 100,000, or any other amount, it would have been adopted as the estimated yield from the land tax in order to establish a balance.
– Can the honorable senator give any figures as to the yield of the land tax?
– It is comparatively easy for the Government, with its staff, to get data 011 which to work, but it is absolutely impossible for a private individual to form an estimate.
– I do not think that any estimate could be more than a guess.
– Is it not marvellous to hit upon the exact amount necessary to balance the two sides of the national ledger? It is not even a guess. I wish to direct the attention of the Senate to the figures themselves, because while it is well to have an overflowing Treasury there is an obligation on Parliament to note an increase of revenue, when it is accompanied by an increase of expenditure. The revenue for the last financial year was £15,500,000, and the estimated revenue for the current year is £16,840,000, showing an increase of £1,300,000. On that estimate, if all other factors remained the same, the Government would immediately step into the control of £1,300,000 more than was handled by its predecessors. But that is only one of the factors making for the greatly enlarged amount which the Government has had at its disposal. Owing 10 the operation of the Braddon section, we paid to the States last year nearly £8,500,000. This financial year we shall pay them ,£5.250.000, leaving a difference on that account of £3,250,000, which will be retained by this Government, and was paid away by the previous one. Consequently the present Government have on that account alone the large sum of three millions and a quarter at their disposal . Add to that £1,300.000 extra revenue which the Government will receive, and it follows that they have nearly- £5,000,000 extra money to handle-than was handled by their predecessors. In other words, they are paying away £3,250,000 less than their predecessors paid to the States, and they are handling ,£1,300,000 more revenue.
– As Sir John Forrest says, “ What is a million or two”?
– The honorable senator should remember that the present Government are paying away nearly ,£1,500,000 more on account of invalid pensions.
– That is not my point at all. I am simply showing that the Government have this extra amount of revenue to spend. When my honorable friends go before the country and take credit to their Government for introducing invalid pensions, it is only fair that they should acknowledge that they are able to pay those pensions because the Labour Government are handling ,£5,000,000 more money than was handled by their predecessors.
– Would not the previous Government have had more money at their disposal if they had had the courage to raise revenue by taxation ?
– If credit is to be taken to the Government for raising a large revenue by taxation, it follows that they ought to be blamed for not raising even more. I suppose the answer will be, “ Give us time.” I wish to emphasize the absolute unreliableness of these Estimates. The estimated increase of Customs and Excise, according to the official figures, was for the twelve months ,£106,900. That is to say, it was estimated that, roughly speaking, ,£107,000 more revenue would be received from Customs and Excise than was collected last year. We have before us the figures for the four months of the present financial year that have expired. Those four months show an increased revenue of £500,000. That is to say, the Government have received in four months five times the amount of increase which they estimated to receive during the whole twelve months.
– A shower of rain would do that.
– A shower of rain would do nothing of the kind. No one knows better than my honorable friend that the effects of a drought do not cease in a day, nor does the good effect of rain manifest itself in a day. A good many showers would not affect the Customs revenue for months to come. Honorable senators opposite may offer what excuse they like, but when a Government brings down Estimates and says that for the whole twelve months, when appearances are bright, when revenue is buoyant, and when industries are progressive, they estimate an increase of £107,000 over the previous year, and when the result shows that that estimate is exceeded to an enormous amount we can draw, our own inference.
– Could the honorable senator have anticipated six months ago that this was going to be the most prosperous year that we have ever enjoyed ?
– Yes, I have seen signs for months past inducing me to believe that such would be the result. Moreover, the revenue received from Customs does not commence or cease immediately upon the operation of the causes that affect it. The effects of a drought or of a good season are not immediate. They operate for months to come. People in Australia are not living upon the revenue of to-day, but upon incomes earned some months ago.
– Sometimes they are living upon the- income of next year.
– That may be so, but my point is that even a great catastrophe such as the destruction of the wheat crop would not show its full effects upon the Customs revenue immediately. When a Government comes down to Parliament at a time when all the appearances are buoyant, and estimates an increase of revenue from Customs and Excise of ,£107,000 for the twelve months, and when the facts show that the revenue actually received in four months is four times the estimate . for the whole year, we cannot say that that estimate represents the high water mark of careful financing. It is impossible to say under those circumstances that there has been the same care in the preparation of the Estimates as we might have expected. What does this mean? There being an increase of ,£500,000 for four months, it means that the increase for the whole year may .reach ,£1,500,000 over the revenue for the preceding twelve months. The Government estimate, as I have pointed out, was an increase of ,£107,000, so that practically, calculating on the present rate of increase, we are going to receive an increase of revenue 1,500 per cent, in excess of the official estimate. In other words, we are going to receive ,£15 for every of the Government’s estimated increase.
– It shows the confidence of the electors in this Government.
– Does my honorable friend mean to say that an Australian citizen will consume more or less food and drink because of a change of Government ?
– It shows that the people are not afraid to launch out.
– The spirit of enterprise is abroad.
– These interjections may have a party bearing, but I do not see that they have any bearing whatever upon the matter with which I am dealing.
– Should not the protective duties have had the effect of decreasing imports ?
– Theoretically that should be the effect, but where you have an era of unprecedented prosperity with respect to your natural products, you are bound to have great liberality with respect to your imports. That was shown by the fact that there was in the preceding year an expansion in the Customs and Excise revenue, and certainly nothing occurred to justify anticipations of a drop in the revenue for the succeeding twelve months. On the contrary, there was every reason to believe that the expansion would continue during the present financial year. On that item of Customs and Excise revenue alone, as I have shown, the Government will receive £1,500,000 more than last year. They will receive £1,400,000 more than their own estimate. In the Post Office, the same thing occurs again, owing to similar causes. I am not disposed to quarrel with the underestimate of the postal revenue so much, because in that Department it is admittedly a little more difficult to estimate what the revenue is likely to be. There the estimated increase was £126,000 for the year. During the four months of the financial vear that has elapsed, we have received £84,000 of that increase. If that rate of increase is continued, the total increase for the twelve months will be £265,000, or more than double the estimate of the Government.
– And the employes are being sweated all the time.
– If the Labour Government are sweating the employes of the Post Office, I am not responsible.
– The Fusion Government was responsible.
– The Fusion Government is not there to do anything. If sweating is going on in the Post Office under a Labour Government, of which Senator W. Russell is a supporter, it is obviously his duty to get up and protest. I shall be interested to observe whether the honorable senator is prepared to take such action as will bring this Government to book for continuing the practice that he so bitterly denounces. There, can be no doubt as to what he ought to do if he really believes that there is sweating in the Department. Neither he nor any other member of this Chamber believes in the continuance of a practice of that kind.
– The Royal Commission’s Report will be dealt with next session.
– That is not a very satisfactory assurance to the men who the honorable member says are being sweated. Let us put these increases together. I have pointed out that the present Government will have to dispose of £5,000,000 more money than their predecessors. That is the Government’s own estimate of revenue and expenditure. But the actual revenue, at the rate at which it is now coming in, will give the Government £1,300,000 more than they estimated to receive. If the present tendency of revenue to increase is maintained for the twelve months, the Government will have more than £1,300,000- in excess of their own estimate. So that we may say that the Government will have £6,000,000 more money to handle than their predecessors had. In view of that very expanding revenue, and of the excellent financial position in which the Government find themselves, I am surprised and disappointed that they have not proposed to do what I think would have been an honest and business-like thing in regard to the States - namely, made a proposal for paying to them the interest incurred on account of the transferred properties. I cannot see any justice or equity, now that the Braddon section has terminated, inour continuing to use the transferred properties, and deriving revenue from them, without paying interest on the borrowed5 money used in their construction. Of course, I allude to such buildings as post and telegraph offices. It does not seem tome, I say, to be either business-like or honest that we should enjoy the revenue whilst the States pay the interest. The most reliable estimate that has been put together so far as to the cost of the properties is in the neighbourhood of £8,000,000. Taking the rate of interest to average 3- per cent. - and that is a fair rate to take - there should be paid to the States- £280,000 a year in respect to those properties. They are obliged to pay that interestbecause they accepted responsibility for the loans out of the proceeds of which thebuildings were constructed. But while they have to pay all the interest, all the income comes to us. I say, therefore, that we ought, at the earliest possible moment, to make provision for the payment to the States of interest on that amount.
– When the Financial Agreement of the last) Government was prepared, was it contemplated to pay interest on the transferred properties?
– No; the late Government never contemplated that.
– My honorable friend is wrong there. It was contemplated. One of the proposals was that, in addition to the 25s. per head which the Commonwealth was to pay to the States, there should be appointed a Commission to consider the transfer of the State debts, especially in connexion with this matter.
– I have already said, in reply to a question in the Senate, that the matter of the transferred properties will be taken into consideration in connexion with the taking over of the State debts.
– And at the same time the Vice-President of the Executive Council said that there was no immediate intention to deal with the transfer of the State debts. Consequently, there is . no immediate intention to deal with the question of the transferred properties. The Vice-President of the Executive Council fenced the question, and I had to press him to ascertain whether the transfer of the debts would be dealt with this session. He said “ No.” What is more, no matter what the Government propose to do with reference to the transfer of the State -debts, they are not relieved from making n proper return to the States on account of the properties which we have taken over from them, and in respect of which, as I have shown, they are liable to-day for the payment of interest.
– I think we shall deal with the transfer of the debts next session.
– We cannot deal with the transfer of the debts next session. As for the transferred properties, there was, I admit, a reason for not paying “interest on account of them before, because the States were receiving from the Commonwealth a large amount of surplus revenue; and even though it was not a business-like way of’ dealing with the question, nevertheless the States had no genuine cause of complaint. But now we are not paying them surplus revenue, and as a mere matter of business as between the Commonwealth and the States we ought to be charged with the interest sunk in those transferred properties. I do not think that any one can seriously dispute that proposition. The only point is as to whether the Government have not been remiss in not providing on these Estimates for some contribution to the States on this account. Even if we make some payment to them next year, they are not being provided for this year. We cannot allow this obligation to go on accumulating.
– The matter will have to be fixed up when we are dealing with the whole question of the State debts and the transferred properties.
– But dealing with the State debts does not help us much with this question - except .as an excuse for getting away from the point. The point is that the Commonwealth is using properties to-day which the States are paying interest upon. That interest bill ought surely to be borne by the Commonwealth.
– The States might pay the interest out of the £6, 000,000 that we are paying to them.
– Senator de Largie may brush this matter on one side if he pleases, but the States are not disposed to allow it to be brushed on one side. Already Mr. McGowen, the Premier of New South Wales, is taking steps to present a demand on the Commonwealth in this respect.
– We shall have to increase the land tax.
-Colonel Sir Albert GOULD - Or reduce the payments to members of Parliament.
– I would not suggest that, because I hardly think that the proposition would receive serious consideration in a House in which there are legislators who have a fair idea of the value of their services. Whatever we may say about this matter for political reasons, I do not think there is a single man who will dispute the proposition that as the States are paying the interest on properties which we are occupying, we ought to recognise our liability, and recoup them what they are paying.
– Have the States and the Commonwealth mutually agreed upon a valuation of the properties?
– There have been two or three valuations by Commonwealth and State officials. Speaking from memory, the accepted valuation is in the neighbourhood of £8,000,000. No report on the subject can, however, be acted upon until it has been accepted by Parliament. But so far as values are concerned an agreement was arrived at.
– Probably a Bill will be required to deal with the matter.
– Either a Bill or an item upon the Estimates. Before resuming my seat I should like to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council to endeavour to ascertain, while this debate is in progress, whether it is a fact - as has been stated in the daily press - that, although a contract for the supply of the machinery of our Small Arms Factory, at Lithgow, was let some fifteen or sixteen months ago, and, although that contract required the contractors to supply that machinery within twelve months, not a single ounce of it has yet reached Australia. If the position be as stated, it is another instance of the lax way in which contractors aire permitted by the Government to proceed with their contracts. This particular contract was let by the late Government some fifteen months ago, and, if the statement which appears in the newspapers to-day be correct, a very serious position is revealed. It suggests that, when once a contract has been entered into by the Government, either the Department interested in it is powerless to insure the carrying out of the contract, or it is careless about the matter.
– Nearly everything with which the late Government attempted to deal was left by them in a loose way.
– No matter what the late Government may have done in reference to either of these contracts, the present Ministry cannot be excused for allowing matters to drift month after month, after the contract had been signed. I wish to know whether it is a fact that the machinery connected with the Small Arms Factory, at Lithgow, the contract for which stipulated that it should be supplied within twelve months, has not yet reached Australia ? The Government have been in office ever since April last, and surely it was their duty to see that the contract was carried out. What have they done in the matter? The late Government were powerless to compel the contractors to supply the machinery for the Small Arms Factory before the expiration of twelve months from the date upon which the contract was made. But that time expired some time ago, and, there fore, I wish to know what the Ministry have done in the matter. Surely the machinery ought now to be in its place at Lithgow. It seems to me that in a matter of great national magnitude this contract has been brushed aside for the purpose of conveniencing the contractors. Apparently” a contractor, having entered into a contract with the Government, is at liberty to please himself as to when he carries it out. I should like the Minister representing the Minister of Defence to mate inquiries into this matter while the debate is in progress, so that he may be able to make a statement upon it when the Defence Estimates are reached.
– 1 recognise that, at this stage of the session, it is almost a piece of audacity for an honorable senator to encroach upon the time of the Senate. But a careful scrutiny of the finances of the Commonwealth will reveal that the expenditure upon our Departments is increasing by leaps and bounds. It is growing almost as fast as is taxation, and if suddenly a financial panic should strike Australia, and there is not a financier on earth who can say that such a disaster may not occur at any moment - we have no reserve by means of which the Commonwealth may be extricated from its: embarrassed position. Experience teaches us that, in Australia, cycles of fat and lean seasons follow each other with unfailing; regularity.
– Can the honorable senator put his finger upon any extravagance ?
– It is not my business to do that.
– Is it not the honorable senator’s duty to point to extravagance, if it exists ?
– It is not my business to shape the financial policy of the Government. No private member can do more than point to the rocks ahead. It is not merely from this side of the Chamber that I have uttered the same complaint. When the Fusion Government were in office, I clearly intimated that if its financial policy were not more carefully scrutinized, I should be compelled to consider my position. Since then Commonwealth expenditure has increased by leaps and bounds, and there seems to be no prospect of the Government checking that expenditure. Consequently, when the inevitable reverse does come, we shall be unable to meet it-
I have carefully examined the figures contained in the Budget papers, and if my memory serves me accurately, they disclose that, whilst our expenditure during the last nine years has increased by 150 per cent., our population has increased by only 12 or 15 per cent. Further, they reveal a steady increase in the expenditure of each Department of the Commonwealth. If some Treasurer does not cry a halt, we can easily predict what will be the end. If, as the result of natural causes, we suddenly experience severe reverses, the Government will find themselves in far stormier waters than any State Government has ever been in, and with less prospect of getting out of them. Every State has been warned against reckless and extravagant expenditure.
– Will the honorable senator point to any extravagant expenditure on the Dart of the Commonwealth?
– If Senator Long will only spend an hour or two in perusing the Budget papers, he will see it staring him in the face. If he cannot see it, it is beyond my power to make him do so. However, I shall now leave that aspect of the question-
– A good way of shuffling out of it.
– Order. Senator Long is not in order in accusing any member of the Senate of “ shuffling.” I would further remind him that interjections are disorderly at any time.
– I withdraw the remark, and shall content myself with saying that Senator St. Ledger’s statement is not in accordance with fact.
– The honorable senator says that my statement is not in accordance with fact. That may be so. The honorable senator is at liberty to refute it if he is able. I extremely regret that during the current session the Government have done nothing in reference to the transfer of the State debts. At the last election a large majority of the people assented to the proposition that the Commonwealth should be empowered to take over the whole of those debts, and not merely the debts which existed prior to the establishment of the Federation. One of the gravest questions which can possibly confront this Parliament is involved in the transfer pf the State debts, and any Government which successfully grapples with that question will render a great service to Australia. But it is necessary that the subject should be at once attacked, because, despite what some honorable senators may say to the contrary, there is bound to be another borrower either on the London or the Australian market, and that borrower will be the Commonwealth. Otherwise, all the consideration which’ we recently devoted to the Northern Territory and to the Federal Capital site was merely so much make-believe.
– Suppose we have a million pounds to spare from the revenue to be derived from the land tax?
– The land tax is, for my honorable friends opposite, the last refuge from financial shipwreck. I admit that -it will afford substantial assistance, but there is a limit to land as well as to every other form of taxation. Senator Rae’s interjection is in accord with another which was made earlier in the session when an honorable senator on this side was discussing the enormous expenditure to which the Commonwealth is being committed. We were then- informed that there is a revenue of ,£20,000,000 or £30,000,000 lying to the hand of any Government that has the courage to seize it. Notwithstanding the fact that we shall receive a large accession of revenue from the land tax, even that source of taxation has its limits ; and they must be exceeded if we are to carry out the schemes, to the consideration of which Parliament has been asked to devote weeks and months of its time. How are we to find the money which will be necessary to build the Northern Territory railway, and the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie ?
– We do not build railways with money, but with sleepers and rails.
– That is the kind of flippancy we get when we are talking what might not unfairly be called high finance. We can only build these railways with golden sovereigns, and we have first to find the sovereigns. In view of the limits to direct and indirect taxation, by a process of exhaustion in reasoning it is clear that we can only hope to carry out the gigantic works policy which has been outlined by becoming borrowers. Yet we are doing nothing to strengthen the position of the States in the conversion and consolidation of their debts, and the redemption of loans which are_ falling due, and for which they must be responsible. If this problem be grasped firmly and comprehensively, we may be able to find means, not only to give effect to our own works policy, but to greatly strengthen the position of the State Governments when they go, as they must, to the London market for the money required -to carry out their works policies. The conversion of the State debts is a most difficult and complex problem, and the best financial brains in the Commonwealth, and -outside, will need to be called in for its ;successful solution. Several members of the Commonwealth Parliament have, at different times, outlined schemes for the redemption, conversion, and consolidation of the State debts; but they have all been contingent upon the consideration of the question by a competent Commission. One Federal Government after another has promised to consider the matter; and yet, during a long session, we have not had the slightest indication of the intentions of the present Government in this regard. We have to consider, further, what we are going to do in connexion with the transferred properties. The Government have not only proposed to .take from the States all they can get, but, if I may be permitted to say so, have almost by a subterfuge defeated the object of the Braddon section of the Constitution. In all the circumstances, the Commonwealth Government must expect, when the opportunity presents itself, a severe account from the State Governments in respect of the properties which we have been using for the last ten years. The people of Australia have been behind the Commonwealth Parliament in telling the State Governments that they must be content with far less money than they have had before, and perhaps rightly so ; but, on the other hand, they will be behind the State Governments when they submit a counter claim in respect of transferred properties, and will demand that the Commonwealth Government shall deal fairly with them. I say, with some fear and trembling, because it is a matter in anticipation, that the Commonwealth Treasurer must shortly expect, from the whole of the State Treasurers, acting together, a demand for an account. If the Common^ wealth Treasurer will not meet them, there is a simple way by which a State Treasurer, or the State Treasurers acting together, may issue a writ asking for an account in connexion with this matter. It will be deplorable if there should be such a conflict between the Commonwealth and State Treasurers, but the State Treasurers will not be justified in the interests of the people of the State in deferring the settlement of the matter. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Treasurer to avoid such a conflict, and he should set to work to determine whether the claim is a just one - and I do not think that it will be argued that it is not - and then to seek to effect a reasonable settlement in a constitutional way by friendly arbitration. It is in the interests of the States that this matter should not be deferred any longer, when we see in this Budget that the Federal Government have millions to play with, and, in their peculiar temptations, it may be millions to burn.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [12.0].- I had hoped that some honorable senators on the other side would have had something to say on the first reading of this Bill. I intend later to deal with one or two matters of rather more importance than those on which I propose to speak now. I wish to say a word or two with regard to the congratulations which the Government have heaped upon themselves as to the amount of work done during the present session. I recognise, as every member of the Senate must, that there has been a large amount of legislation transacted since this Parliament met in the beginning of July last, and that a great deal of it is of the first importance. My complaint with regard to much of this legislation is that it has not been placed before Parliament in such a way as to give honorable senators a proper opportunity of dealing with it on its merits as representatives of the people. While the Government may claim, that they have done a great deal of work, it must be admitted that this has been made possible because of an entire abandonment of parliamentary principle in dealing with the legislation submitted for the approval of the representatives of the people. We have had the unique spectacle, for the first time in the history of any British Parliament, of a Parliament within a Parliament. We have had an opportunity of seeing the Cabinet system extended to the Caucus system. In accordance with the recognised principles of representative government, the members of the Cabinet meet and decide on matters of the first magnitude to be submitted to Parliament. When they come before Parliament with their proposals they do so as a unanimous body, prepared, whatever may have been the differences of opinion existing amongst them when considering the proposal in Cabinet, to push forward the legislation they have determined upon as the best in the interests of the community. But in this Parliament that principle has been departed from, and the Cabinet has been extended to take in the whole of a party bound by pledges, ties, and caucus.
– Last year the honorable senator, though a Free Trader, joined the Fusion of Protectionists.
– My views may have been in accord with those of the Fusion, but I did not become a member of it. The Government now meet together with the whole of their supporters in this Caucus, this secret Parliament to which only one class of the representatives of the people are admitted. They discuss there various matters, and arrive at a determination as to what shall be submitted, not for the consideration, but for the approval, of Parliament. It is a very easy matter under this system for the Government representing the dominant party in Parliament to pass the legislation they propose. If they submitted their proposals to Parliament, and their supporters were free to express their individual opinions, even though they should find excuses for voting in an opposite direction, we should at least have the benefit of the honest opinion of the individual members of the Ministerial party.
– Do we not get them now ?
– On matters of little or no importance supporters of the Government will, no doubt, hesitate before they vote in opposition to their real opinion. When the Government will meet its majority in secret caucus to determine what it shall do as one body, and they come here and vote in one way, the legislation may be expected to be entirely opposed to the opinions of the majority of the people. Under the operation of such a system the Government can very readily put through legislation of the first magnitude with a minimum of debate and a minimum of information for the public generally. It is regrettable that a system has been introduced which, if adopted by each Government, will ultimately reduce Parliament to the farcical position of being only a recording instrument for the majority who meet together and sink individual differences in order to “ down “ the other side.
– The honorable senator would have a good meal if he were to read the leading article in to-day’s Age.
– Acting on my honorable friend’s suggestion, I shall read the article, not while I am speaking, but later. A complaint has been made with regard to the lack of opportunity which has been afforded to honorable senators to consider the position of the finances. I do not wish to suggest that the present Government is a special offender in that respect. I recognise that the consideration of the Estimates has nearly always been held back until the end of the session, and no reasonable opportunity has been available to honorable senators to offer that criticism which, in my opinion, the Estimates always call for. The late Government made an innovation, which, I think, would be of great value if it were followed up: Last year an opportunity to debate the general financial policy of the Government was created by its representative laying theBudget papers on the table of the Senateand submitting a motion that they be printed. But to what extent during the present session have honorable senators had an opportunity, on the motion to print the papers, to debate the financial policy of the present Government? Although the Budget papers and the Estimates were laid . on the table early in the session, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council made a brief financial statement, no proper opportunity for a general discussion on the finances has been afforded. Even, according to the admission of the Minister, the only opportunity available for that purpose was the one which was afforded yesterday afternoon. But the consideration of the Estimates in another place had then advanced’ too far to give any value to that opportunity, independently of the fact that we were under the shadow of the prorogation. Although, apparently, we have been given an opportunity to debate the Budget, yet we have actually been denied the right to express our views at a time when they could be seriously considered. Senator Millen has pointed out that during the session a great deal of time has been spent on the Navigation Bill. I admit that it is a measure of immense importance, but honorable senators must not forget that it was debated with the full knowledge that it could not be advanced beyond the Senate during the session. The time consumed on that Bill might have been well given to other matters which, as a fact, we have had to deal with rather hurriedly.
Surely it would have been far better to have spent some time in considering the financial proposals of the Government ! The financial policy of the Government is expected to be laid before the country in clear and definite terms. We have been gradually building up charges against the Treasury without having had a clear exposition from the Government as to how they intend to finance their proposals. Take, for instance, the first financial proposal with which we were called upon to deal; that is, the payment for the Naval Unit. The late Government proposed one method, and that was to borrow the money and to repay it by annual instalments, or by means of a sinking fund. In accordance with the pledges which they gave to the people the present Government took early steps to repeal the Naval Loan Act, but did they attempt to explain how its repeal would affect the finances generally? No; they merely said, “ We will pay for the Naval Unit out of the general revenue, and the work of construction will occupy a couple of years.” Surely that was a large financial question which was worthy of the attention of the Treasurer and his representative in the Senate when the financial proposals of the Ministry were under consideration. Not only were we told that £3,500,000 would have to be paid out of the general revenue for the Naval Unit, within a period of two years, but we were also told that the proposals of the Government involved an increased expenditure on old-age and invalid pensions.
– The honorable senator would not expect the Government to borrow money to pay old-age pensions.
.- Certainly npt, but the Senate ought to have had a proper statement as to how these matters were to be financed. Apart from the expenditure on the Naval Unit, we find that the expenditure on naval defence is to be considerably increased. I agree with the Government that that expenditure ought to be met out of the current revenue. As regards the immense increase in the expenditure on military defence, I agree with the Government that it is an ordinary annual service which should be defrayed out of the current revenue. But the expenditure has been increased to such an extent that we are entitled to a full explanation as to the manner in which the Government intend to finance their proposals.
Here are three or four proposals of first magnitude, which, I contend, ought to h.ve been dealt with by the Minister in a financial speech, so that the exact position of the country could be grasped. Again, the acceptance of the Northern Territory will involve a large expenditure. All these matters should have been explained in a succinct statement, so -that if the Government intended to increase the expenditure by £5,000,000 or £10,000,000, we could know how it was to be met. I admit that at present I am in darkness as to how the Government intend to finance the whole of their proposals. I know that they have made certain suggestions, but I want to see reasonable estimates as to how much revenue will be received, and how much we can reasonably expect to spend during this year, and probably during next year, on new works, however proper they may be. What is the course pursued by a business man when he is thinking of laying out money in different directions for purposes which he considers are pertinent to his business ? He does not pledge himself to spend so much in this, and so much in that direction, and so gradually build up an additional expenditure, without first taking counsel and ascertaining what amount of money he can reasonably expect to derive from his current resources, and from the resources which he may reasonably hope to create by speculation. Naturally he considers how much he can afford to spend. If he wants to expend £”1,000,000 within a year, he has to inquire whether he can get the money together, and whether, if he did, its expenditure would land him in the Bankruptcy Court, or drive him to the money-lender. If he finds that he cannot finance the speculation without resorting to unfair methods, he will probably say, “ I shall not begin to expend during the current year,” or if he finds it necessary to make a beginning during the year he will say, “ I will cast about and see by what means I can reasonably overtake this obligation, without unduly harassing or hampering myself.” But the Government have not pursued a course of that kind. We are absolutely in the dark as to what their policy is to be. Senator Millen says that the Government will obtain £5,300,000 more revenue than their predecessors had. But we do not know whether even that will be sufficient to enable us to meet the obligations that we are so lightly undertaking.
As to the transferred properties, I have only to say that, the Braddon section having practically expired, and the Government having undertaken to pay to the States only 25s. per head of the population, the Commonwealth is certainly not entitled to enjoy the use of the properties taken over from the States and pocket the revenue derived from them, without undertaking to pay the interest on the cost of their construction. At present the States have to pay this interest, and receive nothing in return. We are not justified in allowing this matter to stand over until we deal with the transfer of the State debts. Let us assume that, when that question is dealt with, Parliament sees fit to accept the transfer. There will still remain unsettled the question of the payment of interest on the transferred properties. That is an obligation which we cannot avoid, and we must be prepared to deal with it in a just and equitable manner. I do not say that the Government do not desire to deal with it fairly and equitably, but they should also be prepared to deal with it promptly, so as not to place the States in a very much worse position than they were while the Braddon section was in operation. It is possible that the Government may determine to deal with the question during recess, and they may next year submit to Parliament Supplementary Estimates, providing for an amount of money to be paid to the States. I urge them to look at the matter from that point of view. I may say, in passing, that I did not support the proposal submitted to the electors at the last election to amend the Constitution in reference to the State debts. I held the opinion that, until we had determined clearly and definitely the basis upon which we should proceed, it would be better to leave the matter in abeyance. We have to recognise that the States have at present in hand many important public works that will cost enormous sums of money - far more than they will be able to pay out of current revenue. New South Wales, for instance, has in hand very important works for the opening up and development of the country. It is impossible for us to take away from the States the right to go upon the London market if it becomes necessary to borrow money for such purposes. Until an agreement is arrived at by which the States will be amply protected in respect to their borrowing rights, it will be unwise for the Commonwealth to take any action that will be likely to place hindrances in the way of the development of their territories. As to defence, I should like to say that, whilst the Commonwealth may be doing what is regarded as a reasonable thing, in providing a unit for the Pacific Fleet, and undertaking a larger measure of responsibility for the defence of Australia, nevertheless, it appears to me that it will be necessary, at no distant date, to still further increase our expenditure in reference to naval matters.
– Surely the honorable senator does not want us to overdo it?
– No; but, at the same time, we cannot afford to underdo it.
– It may mean another land tax.
– We shall have to undertake a much larger share of responsibility for the defence of the Empire than we have hitherto done. European nations are rapidly increasing their naval strength. The twoPower standard upon which we relied a few years ago is hardly in existence today. People in England are undoubtedly uneasy with regard to the concentration of naval power on the part of some of the most powerful nations in the world. Some experts say that the position in the Mediterranean, from a British point of view, is far weaker than it ought to be, in consequence of the necessity for concentrating the Fleet in Home waters. We know that the trade routes of the Empire must be kept open in time of war. The very life of Australia is dependent upon keeping them open. As time passes, we shall find ourselves compelled, not merely to contribute a small quota towards the cost of protecting those trade routes, but shall probably have to keep open on our own behalf the ocean roads along which our commerce passes. The sooner we consider this problem the better it will be for the interests of Australia. It is generally agreed that we want a larger population. Not only will population do much to enable us to take our share in the defence of the Empire, but we need more people if we are to develop our natural resources and manufactures. The Government may congratulate themselves on the buoyancy of the revenue, and undoubtedly that is a good thing. But, unfortunately, we have not a sufficient number of men to enable our factories to complete the orders that they can obtain. One can hardly pick up a newspaper in one of our big cities without finding in it evidence of the shortage of labour. The wages conditions of this country should make it an attractive place for good artisans. We have taken steps to insure the payment of fair and adequate wages to those employed in our factories. But notwithstanding that, there is a dearth of capable men. One Melbourne manufacturer has explained in one of the newspapers how difficult it is for him to carry on his business under present conditions. I find that the same sort of thing is occurring in New South Wales. There is work for many more artisans than are at present available. That situation is largely due to the excellent seasons we have had, and the abounding prosperity that has obtained.
– Owing to the Labour Government.
– Whatever respect one may have for the Labour Government, we must recognise that good seasons have had more to do with our prosperity than political changes. It would take an extremely bad Government to sprag the wheels of the progress of this country. No Government can do so much for the prosperity of a country as Providence does. The Government ought to render every possible facility for making known the advantages that Australia offers to immigrants. We should learn from Canada to undertake an extensive system of advertising in the Old Country.
– To-day’s newspapers say that sufficient ships are not available to accommodate all the immigrants who desire to come to Australia -
– Simply because the vessels have not been specially constructed to accommodate them. Only the other day, I read a statement to the effect that the passages of 3,000 immigrants had been booked to Western Australia, and that 2,000 of them would arrive before Christmas. But we cannot talk of such a stream of immigration as a “ mad rush “ to the country. We need to attract population in a much stronger volume than that. I have no hesitation in saying that in Australia there are opportunities awaiting a large number of immigrants if they are willing to accept employment, and to commence at the bottom of the tree. We require artisans in this country as well as fanners and farm labourers.
– The more we get, the better it will be for the Caucus.
– I do not care whether or not the Caucus benefits, so long as -we secure the introduction of hard working, enterprising men.
– The honorable senator wants cheap labour ; why should we not have cheap law ?
– I have no objection. But I know what cheap law is generally worth.
– Cheap labour is usually not worth much.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator. I do not propose to dwell upon the Bill at further length. At this stage of the session, it will be quite impossible for the Senate to seriously consider the Estimates in detail. Honorable senators have frequently pointed out that the Senate possesses co-ordinate powers with the other branch of the Legislature, and that it is not a nominee Chamber, or a Chamber which represents only a limited number of the electors. It cannot be too frequently stated that it represents precisely the same people as does the other Chamber. n The only difference between the Senate and the House of Representatives is that, whereas the former represents the people of the States as a whole, the latter represents the people who are resident within State divisions. But I regret to say that, so far, the Senate has never made any real attempt to assert itself. Of course, I recognise that there are difficulties in the way of it doing so at this stage of the session. At such a time, honorable senators are naturally reluctant to accept responsibility for creating a crisis. It is because this Chamber has never determinedly asserted its powers that to-day it has no satisfactory voice in the control of the financial affairs of the country. It is true that it has made one or two stands in that connexion. The first was made in regard to the form of the preamble to a financial measure, which was similar to the form of the preamble adopted in Bills introduced into our State Parliaments, notwithstanding that the Legislative Councils either represent only a limited number of electors, or are nominee Chambers. As a result of that stand, the preamble of our financial measures was amended to read -
Be it enacted by the King’s most excellent Majesty, the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, for the purpose of appropriating the grant originated in the House of Representatives, as follows : -
On another occasion, it was proposed that, in the matter of the salaries of its principal officers, the Senate should occupy a subordinate position to the other Chamber. But the moment the Senate asserted itself in that connexion the strength of- its claim was recognised. Beyond these two instances, this Chamber has failed to take up the position that it ought to take up, in view of the great powers with which it is clothed. I feel perfectly certain that if honorable senators could be induced to brush aside party feeling, the position occupied by this Chamber in regard to financial legislation would be very different. In the early days of the Federation, it was said that the Senate would be the dominant House. But while we proceed as we have been doing, that prediction will never be fulfilled. People have frequently asked me what powers the Senate can exercise, and my reply has always been that, if it chooses, it can exercise very great powers. It is clothed with co-ordinate powers with the other branch of the Legislature, and if it fails to occupy the. position that it ought to occupy, the fault will lie with those honorable senators who are not prepared, irrespective of party considerations, to stand up for its rights and privileges. In my judgment, the Senate is more truly representative of the electors than is the House of Representatives. Whereas its members are returned by a majority of the electors of the whole of a State, the members of the other branch of the Legislature are returned only by majorities of the electors in divisions of a State. If honorable senators would only bestir themselves,. I feel sure that the Senate would become almost as strong a body in the political life of Australia as the Senate of the United States is in the political life of that great country.
– I have listened attentively to the speeches of honorable senators opposite, but, as I do not pose as a financier, I shall not attempt to criticise them. The Leader of the Opposition has stated that we have not time to seriously consider the Estimates contained in this Bill. I say that we have. I would like to go home this afternoon, but if the Senate should decide to adjourn at 4 o’clock, and to continue the session next week, I will, if my health permits it, be present again on. Tuesday. It does not matter to me what Government may be in power, I take up precisely the same position. Of course, Senator Gould is annoyed because of some of the legislation which has been enacted during the session which is now about to close. He has fought hard against that legislation, and, consequently, I am not surprised that he should feel annoyed. But I may tell him that, in South Australia, the progressive land tax, which, apparently, he cannot forget, has already had the effect of causing several large estates to change hands. Some 30,000 odd acres of most excellent land have recently been sold to the Labour Government of that State.
– The same thing has been going on for some time.
– But the honorable senator will not tell me that it has been going on at the same rate. We have shaken up the large land-holders there. What troubles Senator Gould is the fear that, if we require more money for defence purposes, we may impose a stiffer land tax. I am proud to be a supporter of the pre-, sent Government. To say that I am bound by the Labour Caucus is to talk the sheerest nonsense. I am only bound by my hustings pledges of four years ago. I am not bound by the same platform as are members of the Labour party who were elected to this Parliament only a few months back. I differ from them in. the matter of defence, and in other matters ; but I am prepared to stand or fall by my pledges to my constituents. It is well known that in the Caucus which has been so much referred to we have nothing to do with matters outside the platform of the party. My object in rising was not to make a speech, but to test the sincerity of our Conservative friends opposite. If they are prepared to go to their respective States to-day, and return to the Senate on Tuesday next to carry out their duties in connexion with these matters, there is no reason why they should not do so.
– I, for one, am not going to waste any more time.
– I do not blame Senator Vardon for that. He has been most regular in his attendance. I cannot say the same for some other honorable senators opposite, but I shall not mention their names. They will be known a little later on, but I may say that the lawyers have been conspicuous by their absence. I hope that the attitude I intend to take up is clearly understood. I saw Senator Millen personally on the matter, and told him that, so far as I am concerned, if he is determined to adopt the attitude he suggested, I am prepared to stand behind him. He said he would wait and see what transpires at lunch time. I have only to say now that if honorable senators who have been blaming the Government for not giving them an opportunity to discuss the Estimates are prepared to force the hands of the Government, 1 shall make one to assist them.
– It is evident to every one that we are tinder the shadow of approaching dissolution so far as this session is concerned. The heart is taken out of all debate, because no proper opportunity is afforded to discuss and scrutinize the Estimates, lt is now seven minutes to 1 o’clock, and we shall then have a luncheon adjournment until half-past 2 o’clock. It is clear that it is quite impossible that we can discuss in any way the legislation now before us if the session is to close at about 4 o’clock this afternoon. We are expected to vote nearly £17,000,000, and, including the Supplementary Estimates, more than that sum, in about an hour and a half. It must be admitted that, in the circumstances, any discussion of the Estimates at all is a mere farce.
– The greater portion of the money has already been appropriated.
– A portion of it has been already appropriated, but without scrutiny, and we have the right to expect that we shall be given a reasonable opportunity to discuss every item of expenditure on the general Estimates.. Without a proper scrutiny and discussion of the Estimates we cannot insure that pure administration and honest, financing of the affairs of the country which it is the business of Parliament to insist upon at all times. We know from reading the works of current authorities on American politics that the political life of the United States is unclean, and reeking with corruption. That is due to the fact that there almost everything is done by Committees, and not in the light of day, and much of the legislation is not open to public scrutiny and general discussion. There is nothing so conducive to cleanliness in politics and honest administration as full discussion upon all legislation proposed.
– The honorable senator has had the Budget papers before him for the last two months. Can he find any evidence of corruption in them? He should not make such rash statements.
– I have been making statements which have been carefully considered, and I am making them deliberately. We are now in the position in which the Senate finds itself at the close of almost every session. I am not blaming the present Government particularly for that. With one honorable exception, all previous Governments of the Commonwealth have been guilty of the same conduct. If there is one thing which is more necessary than another to good government, it is honest finance and clean administration, and we cannot hope to have either unless Parliament is afforded an opportunity to subject every item of expenditure and administration to the fullest discussion and the closest scrutiny. It is a farce to ask us to discuss the Estimates in the present circumstances. We know that honorable senators are going away this afternoon, and some are engaged in packing their luggage at the present moment, and giving no attention to the affairs of the country.
– There is plenty of time next week.
– No Government will get any help from me to rush the Estimates through in this way.
– Nor from me either.
– But I recognise that, in spite of any efforts of mine, it is likely to be done, and that is what I deplore. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that we have had the Budget papers before us for a long time, and have had opportunities to discuss them. The first portion of this statement is absolutely correct, but the last portion of it is just as inaccurate. It is true that the Budget papers have been circulated, and that there was a motion on the business-paper that they be printed, which was intended to afford an opportunity to discuss them. B”ut the motion was in the hands of the Government, and could not be brought on for discussion by any private member. The Government took care to keep it in the background. They gave the House no opportunity to discuss it, except during a short interval yesterday evening, when there was no other business for the Senate to go on with. If we had been given an opportunity to discuss that motion we could only have engaged in a general discussion. We could not discuss each item of the Estimates, and it is necessary that we should be in a position to elicit the opinion of the Government with regard to the expenditure of every vote on those Estimates. They include many matters which should have careful consideration. There is a Territory under the control of the Commonwealth which has no representation in this Parliament. In future there will be another portion of the Commonwealth in a similar position, and it is, therefore, essential that honorable senators who take an interest in those Territories should be afforded an ample opportunity to discuss all matters affecting them.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 -p.m.
– When we adjourned for lunch, I was pointing out the importance of the Senate having an opportunity to discuss, on these Estimates, matters which did not otherwise arise during the year, especially with regard to Territories which have no representation in this Parliament. Formerly, we had only one such Territory - Papua - but in the immediate future we shall have the Northern Territory and the Federal Capital Territory. During the year we have had no opportunity to say a single word about these Territories, or to offer any suggestions as to their better management, or the better plan to adopt in regard to their development. It is exceedingly important that an opportunity should be afforded to members of Parliament to discuss matters in connexion with the Territories. In Papua we have some very important problems to solve. While I am prepared to believe that the Government are doing their best, in the circumstances, to solve these problems, yet I think that the united wisdom of Parliament ought to have an opportunity to make suggestions, and to discuss and criticise the- whole method and manner of government there. I ‘desired very much to have a decent opportunity of ventilating and discussing matters in connexion with Papua. I am acquainted with a large number of its white population. Many of them have been personal friends in former times, and, as the Territory has no representation here, they write to me occasionally on matters concerning its administration. They look to me to voice their aspirations and desires. But, under present conditions, no such opportunity is afforded to me. If I were to take the necessary time for that purpose on these Estimates, probably I should occupy three or four hours ; yet we have only an hour and a-half in which to “transact the whole business.
– The honorable senator can take up three or four hours if he feels so disposed.
– The honorable senator knows that every, one desires and anticipates the close of the session at 4 o’clock this afternoon. If every honorable senator were to occupy a few hours with regard to other matters, it would take more than a week for the Senate to deal with the Estimates. I fail to see how they can be properly and adequately dealt with in a shorter period. The only way is not to resort to a forced sitting, but to take plenty of time. We know that we are under duress, and the irresistible desire on the part of the Government, and most senators, will be to get rid of the business, rather than keep the other House waiting. If we decided to take another week, it would compel a large number of members in another place to dawdle while we concluded the business. What is true in regard to Papua is also true in regard to the Federal Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. It is a real pity that we had no opportunity to discuss the development of those Territories, because I feel sure that a discussion would be a valuable guide and assistance to the Government and their responsible officers. There are other questions which I should like to have an opportunity to discuss. For instance, there is the representation of the Commonwealth at the Imperial Conference. We have a right to know the subjects which are to be discussed there. We have also a right to give at least an indication of the line which should be pursued by our representatives. That is especially the right of the party on this side, because it is part of our constitution, as a party, that such shall be done. We have never had such an opportunity. Parliament has had no opportunity to discuss the subjects which will be raised at the Imperial Conference, or to give the representatives of the Commonwealth any guide as to its desires in that direction. I regret that time has not been afforded to us. By so much as we take part in Imperial Conferences, by so much do we limit our right of self-government I should not be sorry if the Commonwealth decided to take nopart therein. I also want to refer to the representation of this Parliament at the
Coronation ceremonies next year. 1 have no objection to Parliament being represented, but I think that it is altogether wrong that its work should be hung up next year in order to allow a number of its members to take part in a piece of Imperial pageantry.
– It does not require over twenty members to represent it, either.
– I do not intend to discuss that aspect. The Government is asking for two months’ Supply in respect of the next financial year, so that the Parliament need not meet until next September. Those who go Home cannot be back in July, and I say that the work of Parliament is of far too great interest to be hung up in order to allow a certain proportion of its members to take part in a piece of Imperial pageantry. I desire to put myself right in a matter in which, inadvertently I believe, I have been misrepresented to the public. When it was first mooted that the Commonwealth Government had accepted an invitation from the Imperial authorities to send a number of members of Parliament Home, it, somehow, crept into the newspapers that I had got in early, and was almost certain to be chosen as one of those to be sent Home. Nothing could be further from the truth than that, because it is known to most members of the Senate, as it is known to you, sir, that, at that time, I said that I had not the remotest intention of going Home, that I was not an aspirant for the position, and that, when I do go Home, I .should choose a quiet time, and travel at my own expense. The Supplementary Estimates involve an expenditure of £529,000. I am not going to cavil at the amount, because it may be. very necessary. <. The objection to bringing down these Estimates at the last moment is that we have no opportunity to criticise or discuss them, or even to find out anything about them.
– Has the honorable senator ever known Supplementary Estimates to be brought down at the beginning of a session?
– They are always brought down at the end of a session.
– It is not necessary that they should be thrown on the table of the Senate in the last hours of the session. My chief objection to the Supplementary Estimates, in the absence of an ex planation, is as to how the Government propose to meet the amount. Honorable senators who have looked at the EstimatesinChief know that the receipts and expenditure are made to balance exactly. In addition to that, we are asked on the Supplementary Estimates to provide £529,000, but so far we have no information as to how the money is to be raised. Possibly the slight amendment of the Customs Tariff which we dealt with recently will bring in a little additional revenue; I believe it will. We may also get a little additional revenue owing to the territorial revenue of the Northern Territory coming our way. These are two possibilities, but they are not likely to yield a sum anything like £529,000.
– We shall have the revenue from the land tax.
– That is already hypothecated in the Estimates-in-Chief . Senator Walker. - Only £1,000,000.
– That is the only estimate which we have, and which we are bound to accept in the absence of. a more authoritative one. At any rate, the Government’s estimate is that from all sources of revenue they will only get sufficient to balance the expenditure provided for in the Estimates-in-Chief, and we have no knowledge yet as to where the £529,000 on the Supplementary Estimates is to come from. The Customs revenue is certainly very buoyant, and may return more than is expected.
– It has done that already.
– Yes; but in addition to unanticipated increases in revenue, there are very often unanticipated increases in expenditure to balance them.
– Owing to our cash system it has generally been the other way in the case of the Commonwealth.
– Very likely. At any rate, we have a right to get an intimation from the Government as to how they propose to meet this expenditure of £529,000. I do not intend to say more at this stage. In the very limited time at our disposal I shall try to criticise one or two items on the Estimates as they come before us; that is, if there is a possible hope of doing so. But if we are not to be allowed a fair opportunity for that purpose. I shall not discuss them at all, because I will not take part in what can be little better than a. farce. I wish to enter a final protest against this method of transacting the busi-. ness. I do not hold the present Government responsible for it, but I do hold them responsible for following an exceedingly bad practice. On only one occasion have we had an opportunity to discuss the Estimates in a reasonable manner. I think that the Government are perpetuating a very bad practice which- is not likely to lead to sound finance and wise administration, and for that reason I hope that such a course will not be pursued again.
– I ask the Government to consent to the Budget being dealt with next week. The whole of this sitting has been taken up, not in discussing the Estimates, but in giving reasons why there has not been time to discuss them. I join with those who have protested against this method of transacting the business. It appears to me that the whole success of government hinges upon finance. Unless we are afforded an adequate opportunity of discussing the financial proposals of the Government, anything else that we do is of comparatively small moment. Whatever honorable senators opposite may say, I do not see how any one can differ from the proposition that this Parliament has done a tremendous amount’ of work. We have done work of the first importance. But there is no real necessity for concluding our work this afternoon. Several weeks are available before Christmas, and there is no reason why sufficient time should not be taken to give fair consideration to the Budget. I remember that in the Parliament of the State from which I come, Estimates not exceeding in the total some .£7,000,000 or £[8.000.000 per annum received weeks of discussion.
– Works and Buildings Estimates were included, but these Estimates deal merely with the ordinary annual services.
– The honorable senator was not a Government supporter then.
– Is he supporting the Government now?
– It was not a question of supporting the Government. ‘ We insisted on considering the expenditure of the country fairly and adequately. I do not wish to occupy a great deal of time in discussing this point, but I think that honorable senators on all sides are practically agreed that it is impossible for us to do this work properly in the time at our disposal. Therefore, I consider that it would be well to allow honorable senators who have made arrangements to go home tonight to do so at the usual hour, and come back again on Tuesday to do an honest week’s work. I am no more fond of work than any one else, and should be glad to spend next week at home, where I regret to say I have become practically a stranger. But I am prepared to do my duty to the public in order that this work may be properly performed ; and I insist that we cannot do it properly this afternoon.
– We are great martyrs !
– It is not a matter of martyrdom; but, surely, the least we can do under the circumstances is to finish our work properly. I am well satisfied with the other work that has been done this session, but no matter how important it may be, it does not afford an adequate excuse for neglecting to look after the financial interests of this country. The representatives of the Government in the Senate will probably say that, inasmuch as we do not intend to move for reductions in the Estimates, discussion would merely be a waste of time. My reply is that no honorable senator can go before his constituents and say that he understands the whole of this Budget unless he has an opportunity of eliciting information by debate, and by questioning Ministers. Even during the little time that I have devoted to the subject, I have observed items which, I frankly say, I do not understand, and should like to have explained.
– It would not take a week to get explanations concerning those items.
– But if I had several little things that I should like to mention, and other honorable senators had also their lists, we should not need to occupy much time each to consume a day. It appears to me that those who oppose this proposal are not prepared to give up their time to looking after the public interest. They are chiefly concerned just now with their private interests. If I were to put my private interests foremost I should stay in Sydney next week. But I am prepared to come here again in order to get a fair and honest grip of these matters. I confess that I should like to know something about several subjects, one or two of which have been mentioned by Senator Givens. Particularly I should like to hear a statement about a rumour that has reached me to the effect that the Government propose to raise a loan. I have very strong opinions about a borrowing policy. I am .absolutely opposed to that method of financing, and consider that there is no necessity for resorting to it except in a national emergency.
– How can we pay for the transferred properties without a loan?
– I suppose that the honorable senator would not expect us to pay cash down for them? It can only be a matter of paying interest.
– Then we shall have a loan on our shoulders.
– I think not. Of course, it is a different matter to borrow for the purpose of renewing existing loans.
– The honorable senator is coming round to our view.
– I am doing nothing of the kind. . I have always been opposed to borrowing, and am prepared to go no further now than I was formerly. But surely the honorable senator sees that borrowing for renewing existing loans, and borrowing for new works are quite different things.
– We shall have to borrow for great national works.
– Of course, I shall have to bow to the majority, but I am firmly of opinion that even as to developmental works in the Northern Territory we can get all we want from revenue. I would even go so far as to say that we can build the transcontinental railway without borrowing. This country is rich enough to enable us to spend year by year all the money we need to expend in that direction. I understand that it is now proposed to borrow money to meet current expenses in administering the Northern Territory. Whether that be so I do not know. Debate will elicit information. I am certainly strongly opposed to anything of the kind, as being utterly at variance with the Labour platform, and to my own personal views.
– The Labour platform is changeable from time to time.
– The honorable senator is absolutely wrong.
– The Trades Hall people change it for the honorable senator.
– Senator Gould illustrates the old adage that “ a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” He knows just enough about cur Labour Conferences
– To make an unpleasant interjection.
– Yes; and to display his ignorance of the facts. He has derived his information from reading faked newspaper reports of what the Labour Conferences do. Whatever little changes may have been made by the Labour Conferences as to methods, they have not changed essential principles. What I want to know, however, is whether we are going to be afforded adequate time for the discussion of these Estimates? The Government must be aware that there is a majority of honorable senators, counting those on both sides, who would like to give adequate time to the work. As far as the other House is concerned, well, if it gets its work done before we do, its members can go into the garden and play cricket until we have finished.
– I do not propose to delay the Senate, but there are one or two matters to which I wish to refer before the Appropriation Bill is read a first time. Some statements have been made with regard to the way in which the Estimates are presented to the Senate. Our practice has been getting worse and worse year by year, ever since Federation commenced. What is occurring this year simply puts the coping stone on an evil that previously existed. We cannot say that this Government originated the practice. For years we have been dealing with the finances in an utterly inadequate manner. This Parliament has abandoned the old-fashioned idea that the Budget should be brought in at the earliest possible moment after the conclusion of the financial year, and should then be discussed at length practically before any other business is dealt with. I am not saying that the present Government is specially to blame, but the evil is one which the Government might have taken steps to cure. I hope they will do so next year. A day or two ago, I asked the Honorary Minister a question as to whether, in connexion with the Vancouver mail contract, the Government were pressing the Canadian Government to make Brisbane a port of call. The Minister gave me a noncommittal reply ; but when I put a further question, he said, “ Yes. the Government are pressing the claims of Brisbane.” The correspondence has since been tabled. I venture to say that the Minister will find nothing in it to justify the reply that he gave that the Government have been pressing the claims of Brisbane upon the Canadian Government. Brisbane is, it is true, mentioned in one of the cablegrams in which the Government expressed a desire that Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne should be ports of call.
– What more does the honorable senator want?
– It is astonishing to think that, in a matter of this kind, the whole of the correspondence on the subject amounts to a few cablegrams, and that neither the present Postmaster-General nor his predecessor took the trouble to write a despatch in proper form to the Canadian Government urging their views. There is a very good reason why Brisbane should continue to be a port of call. Long after the Commonwealth was established Queensland continued to pay her share of a subsidy which she and New South Wales had originated to keep the Vancouver mail service going.
– Western Australia made special payments until the expiration of the bookkeeping system.
– Western Australia never had anything to do with this particular service, and, consequently, has no grievance in connexion with the matter. Another matter to which I wish to allude is this : I ask the representatives of the Government to consult with the Minister of Trade and Customs as to the desirableness of altering the statutory rules under which increasing quantities of cheap imitation rum, made chiefly in Holland, but also in France, are being brought into Australia. It is sold as rum without any intimation being conveyed to the public that it is merely an imitation article. The spirit is distilled from molasses, the product of sugar beet. If any honorable senator chooses to look up the dictionary definition of rum, he will find that it must be distilled from cane molasses. I have consulted the latest and most authoritative dictionary of the English language - a work so up-to-date that the last volumes of it have not yet been published. I refer to the New Oxford Dictionary, which defines rum as “ a spirit distilled from various products of the sugar cane, sugar syrup, and so forth.” Curiously enough, the following note appears after the definition -
The name has also been improperly applied to spirits made in imitation of this from beetroot and other materials.
Now the word “rum” is like the words “cotton” and “wool.” It is known to represent something definite. This cheap rum is not a bond fide rum, and its introduction is preventing the development of our Australian rum distilling. Only the other day, when the persons engaged in the trade were approached with a suggestion that there should be erected further buildings for the production of this spirit, they pointed out that it would be idle to do so until the importation of this cheap rum from Europe was stopped. I find that, in 1909, 3,269 gallons of rum were imported from France. We know perfectly well that that rum was produced from the molasses of the sugar beet. From the Netherlands about 3,000 gallons of the same spirit were imported. My information is that a large increase has taken place in the quantity imported during the past few months, but I have not been able to obtain the precise figures in this connexion from the Customs Department. I repeat that the introduction of this cheap rum is retarding the developing of our rum industry. I venture to suggest that a very simple remedy for this evil might be applied. The Imperial authorities define rum as “a spirit distilled from molasses in a country growing sugar-cane.” Thus any spirit imported into the Old Country under the name of “ rum “ from a country which is not growing sugar-cane requires to have attached to it a certificate of the country of origin. We are supposed to have in operation an Act to prevent the introduction into Australia of goods under a trade misdescription. Yet here is an article which is a fraud on the public, and which is being imported to the detriment of an Australian industry. There is just one other matter to which I desire to refer. It is the dangerous condition of affairs which appears to be growing up in Papua. When the Deakin Government was in power in 1907, I pointed out that we were allowing native labourers to be recruited, under long contracts, in one part of Papua, and taken to another part some hundreds of miles distant. There are, at present, 5,585 natives in Papua under contract in various industries, in addition to 1,947 who are casually employed. These figures show a considerable increase on the figures for the previous year, which, in turn, disclose ah increase on those for .the preceding year. If we are going to govern Papua or the Northern Territory efficiently, I would suggest that the annual reports upon those Territories must be presented to us within a reasonable time after the close of their financial years. The annual report upon Papua for the year ended 30th June last has not yet reached us, and, but for the return which I asked the Government to supply, nothing would be known in reference to its progress or administration. As honorable senators are aware, if there were no Coronation ceremony in London next year, this Parliament would not meet in the ordinary way until next July. The annual report relating to the progress, finance, and administration of Papua would then have to be presented to Parliament, and, consequently, we should be unable to discuss the affairs of that Territory until fourteen or fifteen months after the close of its financial year. I repeat that, if we cannot secure the annual reports relating to Papua and the Northern Territory within a reasonable period after the termination of their financial years, we shall surrender the hold that we ought to have over the administration of those Territories. I have already mentioned the number of natives in Papua who are engaged under contract. According to Mr. Staniforth Smith, there is an increasing demand for native labour, and an increasing number of natives are willing to be employed. Thus the evil which I am about to point out is an increasing, and not a decreasing, one. In the Northern Division of Papua, in 1906, the death rate amongst the natives under contract was 222 per 1,000, and then a very considerable number was employed. But that mortality rate was the result of an epidemic - I do not suggest that it represents the normal state of affairs in Papua. I may mention that I have worked out the figures relating to the death rate amongst the natives from various reports for 1908, 1909, and 1910. Until the last two reports were available, there was no complete evidence as to the mortality rate amongst Papuans under contract. In the Central Division, in 1908, I find that the death rate was 10.5 per 1,000, in 1909 it was 14.8 per 1,000, and in 1910 it was 37 J per 1,000. In the Eastern Division the death rate in 1908 was 6.4 per 1,000, in 1909 it had mounted to 32.6 per 1,000, which means that it had increased five-fold, and in 1910 it was 96 per 1,000. In other words, it had trebled again. I admit that, in cities like Liverpool and New York, the death rate is as high as 20 per 1,000, but in Australia generally it is, roughly speaking, only 9 per 1,000. In the case of kanakas in Queensland, when an epidemic occurred the deathrate was known to reach 40 per 1,000, but during the last years that they were employed in Queensland the average deathrate reached from 22 to 23 per 1,000. In the North-Eastern Division of Papua, the death rate in 1906 was 16 per 1,000, and in 1910 it was 86J per 1,000. In the Division of Kumusi, the mortality rate In 19 10 was 37 per 1,000, and in Mambare, during the same year, it was 15 per 1,000. I do not say that the Government are responsible for this high rate of mortality amongst the Papuan labourers. But I do say that the mortality rate amongst those who are engaged under contract is steadily increasing; and I advise the Minister of External Affairs, who some time ago visited Papua to personally inquire into the condition of affairs there, to ascertain whether something cannot be done to check this increasing mortality rate. Otherwise we may come under the censure of a large portion of the civilized world. One cause of the high death rate amongst the natives may be that it is the practice to take them from one part of Papua, perhaps hundreds of miles to another part, where they are to be employed. As a result, they usually die of dysentery. Anybody who chooses to read the results which have followed the moving of natives from place to place in South Africa - and I recommend to the notice of honorable senators a book by Hyatt in this connexion - will know that, when natives are moved only a couple of hundred miles, it frequently happens that, owing to some slight change in their, food, they die. Another cause which has much to do with the mortality of coloured men brought into contact with civilization is the fact that they are led to desert their native nakedness and wear cotton clothes. These clothes get wet through, and the natives, not understanding things, continue to wear them, get wet, and die. I hope that some steps will be taken by the Government to fully inquire into this matter. I have heard that there are some members of this Parliament who intend to visit Papua during the recess, and I hope they will look into it on the spot. There is a serious danger that Australia may ac- quire a bad name unless we carefully handle this difficult question of big companies engaging men in one part of the Territory to work under contract in another. Included in the return which has been tabled there is a letter from Mr. Staniforth Smith, in which he says that the term of engagement of these men is usually ten months, and the wages paid to those engaged in agriculture 9s. 6d., and to those engaged in mining us., a month. I believe that the statement as to the rates of wages is perfectly correct, but I have correspondence which was the outcome of the publication of this return somewhere, in which a man who was living in the Territory assures me positively that, so far as agricultural labourers are concerned, the term for which they are engaged is three years. If that be so, the evil to which I have referred is of even a more serious character than might otherwise be supposed.
– - In common with other members of the Senate, I deplore the fact that we have not now sufficient time in which to properly discuss this measure. But I- recognise that during this session we have been working under high pressure, and, I am glad to be able to say, with better results than were achieved in any previous session of the Federal Parliament.
– I question that. The results of last session were ten times better.
– We may judge somewhat of the happy results likely to follow the legislation of this session from statements appearing in this morning’s newspapers to the effect that ships bound for Australia are unable to accommodate all the persons who wish to come out and enjoy some of the good things to be obtained here. I am practically marooned in Melbourne during the parliamentary session, and the fact might influence me in deciding whether we ought to take time for a full discussion of the Estimates. But I am bound to recognise that the convenience of honorable senators from the other States should be considered. I notice a vote in the schedule for Insurance, and I should be glad if the Government would make up their minds to a radical departure in this connexion, and, instead of paying high premiums to insurance companies for the insurance of Government property, follow the example of business people and be their own insurers. It is a common practice for shipping companies to ear-mark certain of their funds for the insurance of their vessels, and in this way they effect great savings in their operations. If the Government would be their own insurers for every ,£1 worth of property under the control of the Commonwealth, we might save the money which is now paid in premiums to independent companies. I have not much to say on the Budget, but there are two matters to which I should like to briefly refer. We have post and telegraph offices in every place of any importance throughout the Commonwealth, and a huge network of mail services, and I am of opinion that the Post and Telegraph Department might be used to much greater advantage than it is at the present time for the benefit of those who are engaged in rural and primary industries in Australia. At the present time, in the United States of America every rural mail carrier, as he starts on his circuit every morning, is supplied by the Meteorological Bureau with slips of paper on which the weather conditions likely to prevail during the next few days are indicated. These slips are dropped at various points on the route taken by each mail carrier, and in this way the people engaged in rural industries are given timely warning of weather disturbances, from which they might otherwise suffer great loss. This information is furnished to the people of the United States of America without a penny additional cost.
– The honorable senator refers to the distribution of the information.
– Yes; the collection of the information is the work of the Weather Bureau, on which the United States Government expends £[200,000 a year, as against an expenditure of £[15,000 -in the Commonwealth for the same purpose. I have moved in this direction in the past, and the Senate approved of a motion on the subject which I submitted. I hope that some effort will be made to exploit the Post and Telegraph Department in the interests of persons at isolated fishing stations and of all engaged in rural industries in the Commonwealth. I notice a vote on the Estimates to cover expenses of members attending the Imperial Conference. We have had no statement as to the business to be discussed there, but I wish to refer to a matter which, I think, is worthy of consideration at the Conference, and is closely connected with meteorological work. I hope that, at that Conference, some attention will be given to the advisability of broadening the basis of meteorological observation in the southern seas in order that we may have the advantage of seasonal forecasts. From articles which I have read in magazines, and from information supplied to me by persons possessing meteorological experience whom 1 have consulted, I am led to believe that it would be wise to make an effort to establish meteorological stations at, for instance, Kerguelen Island, the new land lately discovered in the south, and at other places which might be determined upon in the Antarctic Ocean. If by this means we might obtain seasonal forecasts, it would be of the greatest advantage, not only to -Australia, but to New Zealand and possibly South Africa, and to the shipping trading to those countries.
– The weight of authorities is against the possibility of such forecasts.
– There is some scientific opinion in favour of the statement that, with the information which could be supplied from stations in the Antarctic Ocean, it would be possible to issue reliable seasonal forecasts. I make the suggestion as one worthy of consideration at the Imperial Conference, and I am satisfied that manysubjects will be dealt with at the Conference, the discussion of which will not be nearly so valuable to the people of Australia.
– - I do not intend to occupy very much time in replying to the criticisms which have been made. No one can regret more than does the Government the delay which has been rendered necessary in connexion with the presentation of the Appropriation Bills to Parliament at this late, stage of the session. They must be dealt with in one Chamber later than in the other; and, seeing that they must be originated in the other House, they must be dealt with last in the Senate. If the Estimates had been dealt with in the other House a few months ago, I suppose that the Parliament would have been prorogued much earlier, for that is about the last work which is done. I hope that, on future occasions, the Government will be in a position to treat the Senate better than it has been treated in the past.
– Or in the present.
– In the past as well as the present. I am classing this session with every previous session. At present, the delay is inevitable. I hope that honorable senators will insist on getting rid of the difficulty as speedily as possible. The representative of the Government has been asked many questions. Senators St. Ledger and Givens wished to know whether we intended to make provision for all the great things which we are going to do. That question was answered by Senator Millen. In a very clear manner, he endeavoured to show the Senate that, on account of the fortunate circumstances in which the present Government was placed, we should have £5,300,000 more at our disposal than had the previous Government. There is no necessity for me to answer the question when it has been answered so ably by the Leader of the Opposition. So far as these Estimates are concerned, the Government have not undertaken anything which they are not prepared to carry out. Our only regret is that honorable senators have not had longer time in which to deal with the Estimates. As I have already stated, the greater portion of the sum of £16,841,000 has been appropriated in Supply Bills, Works and Buildings Bills, permanent appropriations, and other measures ; so that all we are really asked to appropriate to-day is the sum of £6,094,906.
– The honorable senator does not mean that it has all been spent?
– No; but it has all been authorized to be expended. It will take some time to spend the money for which we are now asking ; and, of course, if it is not all spent before 30th June next, the unexpended balance will have to be re-voted. The Works and Buildings Estimates were dealt with long ago; so that there would be an opportunity to push on with the works. If honorable senators will consider these things, they will recognise that very often a Government is placed in such a position that it cannot help taking a certain course of action. With respect to provision for the Northern Territory and other matters, the Senate will be asked to consider a short Bill covering Supplementary Estimates which have been rendered necessary. There is also a Bill granting Supply for the first two months of the next financial year. This is being done simply for the convenience of members of Parliament. The Supply is based on the Estimates for the present financial year; so that there need not be any discussion about it. It will be here as’ soon as the Appropriation Bill is passed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first and second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 postponed.
First Schedule agreed to.
Second Schedule -
Divisions 1 to 10(The Parliament), pro posed vote, . £32,700.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3.38].- I desire to refer to the salaries provided for the Clerk-Assistant, Clerk of Select Committees, and Clerk of the Papers and Accountant. On the death of Mr. Blackmore, Mr. Boydell was promoted from the position of Clerk-Assistant and Paying Officer to that of Clerk of the Senate, at a salary of £900. The present ClerkAssistant was promoted from the position of Clerk of Select Committees at a salary of £650, with an agreement that it should be increased, on the recommendation of the President, by £34 per annum until it reached the maximum of £750. It was thought undesirable to promote the three officers to the maximum, but on promotion they received a substantial increase on their then salaries, and after a good deal of correspondence an arrangement was arrived at between the Government and myself that the salary of the Clerk- Assistant should carry an annual increment of £34 until it amounted to £750. Increments were provided for the other two officers, which would bring them, within a reason- able period, to the maximum of the class. In the Estimates last year there was a footnote pointing this out, and with full knowledge the Parliament voted salaries of £684. £500, and , £310 respectively. On these Estimates, through an inadvertence I believe, the annual increments have not been added as had been arranged.
– The Government is prepared to put that right.
– I understand that I have the Government’s assurance that the arrangement will be carried out.
– It is an understanding which ought to be respected.
– I accept the Minister’s statement. The Senate has had an opportunity of seeing the way in which the two Clerks at the table have acquitted them selves during the session. I feel perfectly sure that these officers, who were promoted on my recommendation, have given the same amount of satisfaction to honorable senators generally as they have given to me.
– I notice an item of £100 for travelling expenses, including the cost of conveying senators’ luggage. A good many members of Parliament who live in other States have to break their journeys. When Senator Gardiner arrives in Sydney he has to wait there until the evening for a train to take him to his home in Orange. It is the same with Mr. Thomas Brown. Members of Parliament who live in the Newcastle district are also required to break their journey in Sydney, and perhaps wait there for several hours before they can get a train. I understand that the Railway Commissioners in the various States receive a lump sum for the carriage of members of Parliament over their lines. Yet members of Parliament are treated differently from commercial travellers or seasonticket holders in regard to luggage which is stored temporarily. In the aggregate the difference amounts to a good deal.
– Is it worth bothering about?
– I have made these remarks because I thought that the Government could arrange the matter.
– The total difference amounts to three-farthings a time.
– It is not so much the amount as the nuisance.
– It is only a small matter, anyhow. I have to store my luggage three times when I am going home.
– At the railway station commercial travellers have a locker in which they can deposit an excess of luggage until it is wanted again, but when a member of Parliament goes to the station at a late hour he is put to a lot of trouble to get his luggage.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether there is any possibility of the return I moved for being tabled to-day as to the allowance to members of Parliament?
– I have not yet received the return, which was only moved for yesterday. The officers in the different Departments are so busy towards the close of the session that I do not know whether they will be able to supply it to-day, but I can assure the honorable senator that if it is available before the end of the session it will be laid on the table.
Senator GIVENS (Queensland) [3-451- - I notice that the Library Committee are calling for applications for a cataloguer for the Library. Honorable senators have the fullest possible confidence in the members of the Library Committee. But, nevertheless, it may be permissible to offer them an expression of opinion regarding this matter. A mistake can easily be made in the appointment of the cataloguer. The Committee might appoint a man with high educational attainments - one who might have obtained university degrees - and yet not get the best man for this position. We want a great deal more than a mere mechanical dry-as-dust cataloguer. The only man who can prepare such a catalogue as we require is one who is a genuine lover of books. A good library catalogue is not merely a classified list, and the capacity for this work is not easily attained. X taste for it must be inborn in a man. He must have an instinctive feeling for the classification of literature. I hope, therefore, that in the selection of a cataloguer the Committee will not be guided by the possession of scholastic attainments, but will endeavour to find a man who is a real lover of books. If we secure the services of a man whose qualifications are principally scholastic - one who has simply passed examinations - we shall get an officer who will perhaps be able to compile an absolutely correct catalogue, but one which nevertheless will be practically useless except as an index. We hope for something better than that for’ our National Library. I trust that the Committee will take what I have said in the spirit in which the observations are offered.
– - As a member of the Library Committee, I think I may say without any breach of confidence that a meeting was held yesterday to consider the subject mentioned by Senator Givens. The result of our deliberations was to authorize applications to be called for. We certainly do not want a dry-as-dust man as a cataloguer. We desire to have a man who possesses that instinctive love of literature to which Senator Givens has referred - one who will be an enthusiast in his work. A certain salary will be fixed, and the making of the appointment has been left in the hands of Mr. Speaker, who, of course, will have an opportunity of consulting any members of the Library Committee whom he may think it desirable to consult. With reference to the return for which Senator Givens has asked, I venture to say that there- was ample time for the Government to have it prepared and laid before the Senate.
– The return could have been furnished in five minutes.
– If the return is not tabled before the Senate rises. I venture to make this statement-r-that there is a desire to shield some of those who, when the debate on the increase in salary took place, declared that they would not accept the extra remuneration, or that if they did they would pay the extra sum back into the Consolidated Revenue.
– Does the honorable senator think it is fair to make a statement of that kind ?
– I say that the Government have had an opportunity -to table this return, the preparation of which certainly should not take more than halfanh’our.
– That is all the honorable senator knows.
– It would not take as much as half-an-hour.
– There is nothing to be afraid of or ashamed of - except this. If a member of this Parliament who opposed the increase at that time has since accepted the extra money, his name ought to be known.
– The honorable senator means that if the member is going around wearing a martyr’s halo, and it is undeserved, it ought to be taken off him.
– Quite so. I know of one case in which, while a member of Parliament protested against the increase, he still took the difference between £33 16s. 8d. and £50 per month, and distributed it amongst his constituents as a charitable dole. Thai money was not his. He said he would not take it. He gained whatever public credit he could for not taking it. Nevertheless he took it, and paid it away as a charitable dole - for what purpose? To fry and catch a few votes. I know of another member of Parliament who took up a very much more manly stand. I allude to Sir George Reid, our present High Commis- sioner. He said that he would not accept the increase,- because he did not believe that he had earned it. “He recognised that he could earn more money outside Parliament by the practice of his profession than he made by being here, and because he was not here all the time he did not think that an increase was necessary so far as he was concerned. But at the same time Sir George Reid recognised that there were other men in this Parliament whose whole time was devoted to their public work, and because he did not wish to deprive them of this increase, he voted for the Bill. But he said, “ I will repay the difference into the Consolidated Revenue.” I know for a fact that each month Sir George Reid accepted his cheque for £[50, and sent back his own private cheque for the difference, which was credited to the Consolidated Revenue. That was a very manly stand to take.
– One of the most illogical things he ever did !
– His halo ought to be lit with electric light !
– There were, however, other members of Parliament who opposed and decried the increase because the people had not voted concerning it, but who, I am of opinion, have ever since pocketed the money. In any case there has been an opportunity for the Government of the day to prepare the return asked for, and lay it upon the table of the Senate, so that we might know who were the hypocrites and who were not.
– It is a personal matter then?
– It is not a personal matter at all.
– The honorable senator wants to know the names of the members.
– Why should they be ashamed of it?
– What does the honorable gentleman want the information for?
– They made certain statements in this Parliament, and why should they be afraid of having their subsequent actions in reference to the matter made known to the public?
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of External Affairs.
Divisions 11 to 16 (Department of External Affairs), proposed vote, ,£107,217.
Senator VARDON (South Australia)
C3-56]- - I direct attention to the vote on account of the press cable service. I have been unable since the passage of the Bill relating to that matter to discover that we have obtained a much-improved cable service throughout the Commonwealth. What has happened was exactly what I expected. I have looked through a large’ number of newspapers, and do not see that we are getting one pennyworth of value for our money. I do not believe that the cables now published are one whit better than they were in the past. The .£2,500 is, in my opinion, a waste of money.
– I had intended to speak somewhat at length with regard to the administration of Papua, but I recognise that the subject cannot be adequately discussed at this hour, and under present circumstances. I did not intend to offer any particularly adverse criticism. The sins that I should charge against the administration are rather those of omission than of commission. So far, we have very little to show for the very handsome subsidy voted on account of the Territory. While I am prepared to believe that the Administrator and his officers are doing the best possible in accordance with their ideas, I do not think that the best possible has been done in all respects. My own idea is that we should spend much more money on making good roads. Continual complaints come from Papua that it is almost impossible to get about within the Territory because there are no roads from place to place. Complaints are also made that the white people who are not officials have very little say in the affairs of the Territory, and that no attention is paid to their wishes. I have received a large amount of correspondence on this matter, and have read many official papers. I recognise that it is useless to discuss the affairs of the Territory at length on this occasion. If the Government will give a promise that during the recess, and in future, they will make inquiries and see that the wishes of the people are attended to in the future, and that something will be done in the direction of constructing more effective roads, I shall have nothing further to say at this stage.
– I have already stated that I. hope that if any honorable senators desire during the recess to visit Papua, and to inquire into the condition of the Possession, the Government will afford them every facility. It is only fair, seeing that Papua and the
Northern Territory are Territories of the Commonwealth, and that we are spending large sums of money upon them, that the Government should put means at the disposal of members of Parliament to take as much interest as possible in their welfare. I hope that some honorable senators will take advantage of the opportunity to visit Papua.
– I observe a vote of £”350 for the Secretary to the High Commissioner in London. Some time ago I drew attention to the fact that the High Commissioner had appointed to be his private secretary a gentleman in London, without attempting to secure the services of one who had an intimate knowledge of the Commonwealth. I wish to ask the Government whether, in connexion with future appointments to the High Commissioner’s office, a preference will be given to Australian applicants? I do not deny that the private secretary appointed is an able officer and an estimable gentleman. But the High Commissioner ought to be representative of Australian sentiment, and when we cannot find in Australia a man who is qualified to fill any position in the Commonwealth service in England, it will be time enough’ to choose an applicant elsewhere. Upon a former occasion I also referred to the fact that the High Commissioner has dabbled in party politics. I ask the Government to point out to him that he must not do so.
– When has he done so?
– The files of the London Times contain the report of an interview between the High Commissioner and a representative of that journal, in which the former says that the Commonwealth Labour party is desirous of wresting from the States their sovereign rights. He also declared that the Fusion party desired to preserve those rights. In my judgment, the High Commissioner should be entirely independent of any party. If he does not know that he ought to be above all parties, he ought to be told that in the future, when he grants interviews to the press, he should be careful in his choice of language.
– But for the fact that Senator Needham has made a direct charge against the High Commissioner, I should not have risen to make this explanation. I am sure that the honorable senator and other honorable senators often see in public prints statements by themselves which, if quoted against them, would cause them to be very indignant. That being so, I ask them to be wary about making accusations against the High Commissioner on the authority of some old newspaper which was probably picked out of the dust-bin.
– The interview to which I referred contains a verbatim report of the utterances of the High Commissioner.
– That may be so. In any case, I have seen much more glaring mistakes made in what were supposed to be verbatim reports in Australian newspapers. But, even if the High Commissioner did make the mistake of which Senator Needham complains, surely he has redeemed himself by his latest utterance, in which he told the people of Great Britain that the reason why the Commonwealth expenditure had increased was on account of legislation in respect of old-age pensions, defence, and other matters, and not because of any so-called wild socialistic schemes. I come now to the appointment of a private secretary to the High Commissioner. It seems to me that honorable senators ought to think before they speak. If they did so, very often they would not say what they do. The High Commissioner went to London to discharge certain duties on behalf of the Commonwealth. He did not require any individual to tell him anything about Australia. He knew as much about it as all the private secretaries whom we could appoint. If Senator Needham or Senator Millen or myself were filling the office of High Commissioner, and if we required a private secretary upon whom we could rely for information - not about Australia, but about London. Manchester, and other cities in the Old Country - would we select him from Australia? Would we not choose some person of a reliable character who was on the spot? That was exactly what Sir George Reid did. If honorable senators will regard the matter from that stand-point, I think that in future they will have very few remarks to make about such matters.
– I listened Very carefully to the observations of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, but they did not affect me in the slightest. Australia is responsible for the presence of Sir George Reid in London as High Commissioner. The Commonwealth is paying £[350 a year to his private secretary. I venture to say that there are men in the Public Service of Australia who have a better knowledge of Manchester, London, Birmingham, and Glasgow than has the gentleman who has been appointed to that position.
– The honorable senator is not jealous, is he?
– I was not in favour of the appointment of Sir George Reid to his present position, because I recognised that he was not imbued with a truly Australian national sentiment. Now he has exhibited his lack of patriotism by appointing as his private secretary a gentleman who is imbued with the same spirit as himself. I do trust that if any additions are to be made to the staff of the High Commissioner in future a preference will be given to Australians over applicants from other parts of the world.
– There is one item in this Department to which I desire to direct attention, namely, “ Advertising Resources of the Commonwealth, £[20,000.” I have no objection to a reasonable amount being expended ; for the purpose of making the greatness of Australia known to the rest of the world. But in my opinion the money which has been voted with that object in view has not been wisely expended. I hold in my hand a pamphlet, issued under the authority of the Commonwealth Government, under the title of The Commonwealth of Australia for Farmers. It is signed by Mr. E. L. Batchelor, the Minister of External Affairs. There are many things in that publication to which I object. It contains overdrawn statements and untrue pictures. But there is one item which ought specially to be mentioned. The pamphlet eulogizes the system of share-farming in Australia. In my opinion it is the most infamous form of landlordism in the world. I cannot understand why a Labour Government should be prepared to father a pamphlet which eulogizes a system of landlordism that is condemned the world over.
– Very often the sharefarmers become the owners of the land which they farm.
– I am very glad to find Senator Fraser is in accord with Mr. Batchelor. Nevertheless, I say that his statement is wrong. I came from a country which has been cursed with landlordism for centuries. But there is no landlordism in Ireland which is half so bad as is the system of share-farming in Australia, or which exacts so much from the tenant, and which renders the tenant such an abject slave of his landlord. I dare say that Mr. Batchelor accepted all these statements in good faith, but he has put his name to them, and so the Commonwealth and the Labour Government are made responsible for them. I hope that such a mistake will never be made again. There are hundreds of things in the pamphlet to which exception might be taken in other circumstances, but I could not resist a protest against the Government expressing approval of the share system of farming in any pamphlet issued with the object of advertising Australia.
– I hope that the Government will continue to advertise Australia, and will take care that the statements made concerning it are accurate. I do not agree with all that Senator Givens has to say about the share system, though some exception might be taken to it, but I think the honorable senator might devote his attention in view of legislation we have passed to some other difficulties which arise between landlords and their tenants.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 17 to 20 (Attorney-General’s Department), proposed vote £[17,577 ; divisions 21 to 29 (The Department of Home Affairs), proposed vote £[390,965; divisions 30 to 40 (The Treasury), proposed vote £[161,089; divisions 41 to 51 (The Department of Trade and Customs), proposed vote £352,054; and. division 52 to 210 (Defence Department), proposed vote £1,251,362 agreed to.
Divisions 211 to 217 (The PostmasterGeneral’s Department), proposed vote £[3,426,764.
– I should like to know whether the Minister representing the Postmaster- General is now in a position to answer the questions which I put to him earlier in the day as to whether Admiral Henderson is to be asked to report only upon the wireless telegraph stations already decided upon, or as to the suitability also of sites in Bass Strait and elsewhere round the coasts of Australia for the establishment of such stations ?
.- I gave Senator Keating an assurance that I would do all I possibly could to get answers to his questions. I have been in communication with those who are in a position to give the information he desires, but it is not yet forthcoming. If it should be forthcoming later in the day, I shall be glad to let the honorable senator have it.
– Is there any reply to my question?
– No. No answers have yet been received to any of the questions put to me this morning.
. -We are entitled to get the information for which we have asked, and perhaps the Minister will agree to postpone this item until the Estimates for other Departments have been dealt with. We cannot properly discuss the question until the facts are placed before us.
– No object would be served bv hanging up the Estimates because the information for which the honorable senator has asked is not available at the present moment. There is nothing to conceal in these matters. The Government are only too anxious to give the information, but so far it is not available.
– If we wished to take extreme measures, we might discuss these Estimates until the information is forthcoming. I handed written questions to the Minister immediately the Senate met this morning.
– And I put the matter in hand immediately I received the questions.
– I am not blaming the Minister, but when it was known that this Department would come under review to-day, the departmental officials should have been prepared to have gone out of their way to supply the information asked for. It appears to me that, on the contrary, they have decided that we are not to have the information. I am in possession of certain private information which I should like to have been able to use in conjunction with that for which I have asked. It occurs to me that it is possible that the departmental authorities thought that by withholding the information a discussion of the subject might be avoided altogether. I feel very much tempted to discuss the question at much greater length because of their failure to supply the information than I should otherwise have done, but I recognise that in the position in which the Government find themselves it would scarcely be fair to push matters to extremes. I should like to make a reference to the Vancouver mail service. When the proposed new contract was first mooted, I wrote a letter to the Postmaster-General pointing out that any proposal to cut out Brisbane as a port of call, as was originally suggested, would be manifestly unfair. The Vancouver mail service was called into existence by the States of Queensland and New South Wales.
– Mostly New South Wales.
– It was not mostly by New South Wales. Queensland paid her full share of the subsidy given. An invitation was extended to the Governments of the other States to join , in the service, and they absolutely refused to do so. Now, after the service has been established, and has been running for a considerable time, they want to cut out one of the original States responsible for its establishment in the first instance.
– What does the honorable senator want?
– The subject is one which should be ventilated, and, as a representative of Queensland, I owe no apology to any one for referring to it. I have said that the other States desire to cut out one of the States responsible for establishing this sendee.
– Who told the honorable senator that?
– It is a matter of common knowledge. I wish to protest against anything of the kind being done. Queensland and New South Wales established this service, and at considerable pecuniary sacrifice kept.it going for a number of years, and they should not now be cut out of the benefits of the service to satisfy States that refused to assist in initiating it.
– I should like to add to what Senator Givens has said that whilst Queensland and New South Wales established this service, and carried it on for a number of years without assistance from any of the other States, Queensland was compelled to pay a special subsidy in order that the boats of the Orient Company, might call at Brisbane.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether an early opportunity will be given next session to discuss the report of the Royal Commission on Postal Services? I understand that many of the recommendations of the Commission are being given effect to by the Government, but there are many others which it would be well to consider, and I should like to have an assurance that we shall be given an early opportunity next session to discuss them.
– The course to be followed in connexion with the Vancouver mail service was discussed more than once with the present Postmaster-General, and although much that was said during the discussion to which I refer was confidential, and the confidence has been respected, I can say, I think, without any breach of that confidence, that I forecasted the present position of the matter, and I now warn the Government and the Postmaster-General that it is pretty certain that, as I thought, Queensland is going to be left in this matter.
– I should like to ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether any satisfactory explanation can be given of the fact that the hours worked by telegraphists in Tasmania are different from those worked by telegraphists on the mainland? The, Tasmanian operators on the cable press service work seven hours a day, while the operators on the mainland work six. The Victorian men come on duty, say, at 8 o’clock p.m., while the Tasmanian man goes on at 6 o’clock p.m., and works, perhaps, until 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock in the morning. On the 15th November, 1 asked the following questions -
The reply was -
It was stated that in Tasmania the men had not worked until 2 o’clock in the morning beyond six times, and, taking that statement literally, it may be true; but I find that there are many occasions on which they have worked until 1.45, 1.54, 1.57, and so forth, practically meaning until 2 o’clock a.m., and on every night until well after midnight. Press telegrams intended for publication in the Tasmanian newspapers are in Melbourne throughout the day, and are not transmitted until evening, unless in cases of exceptional importance. Notice may be given at 10 o’clock or 12 o’clock to keep the cables open because a great deal more matter has to come through ; and the operators in Tasmania have to wait until after midnight in order that the messages may be sent out to the local newspapers. For geographical reasons, the Tasmanian operators must be latest on such duty ; but something should be done to place them in a fair position in relation to their fellow employes on this side. They ought not to be called upon to undergo the strain of working from 6 o’clock p.m. until these late hours in the following morning without payment for overtime or some time off when they are on ordinary day shift. I could show that there is hardly a night that these men in Tasmania are not kept late, even to 2 o’clock, and, on occasions, to 3 o’clock in the morning. They have to bear an immense strain in very ‘ nervy ‘ ‘ work ; and I trust that the onerous nature of their duties will be recognised, and something done for their relief.
– Senator Findley will reply to Senator Keating ; but I suppose that, as the Vancouver mail service involves a question of policy, it must be left to me. However, I do not know what honorable senators are talking about. It is not the policy of the Government to shut Brisbane out in connexion with any mail contract; and whoever suggests that it is is labouring under a “multiplicity of deranged ideas.”
– I should like to direct attention to a matter of which some serious notice should be taken. On the 12th March this year a position was advertised by the Public Service Commissioner in class D of the Electrical Engineering Branch, at the Post Office, at a salary of ^310 to ,£400. There were four applicants ; but, after the applications had been lodged, the advertisement was for some reason quite unknown practically withdrawn. Subsequently, on 19th April, the position was put in lower class E, and one of the applicants, Mr. L. P. Bean, a young Australian, was given the post. He has carried on the work, and proved himself to be thoroughly qualified ; and yet he is only paid £235. He has secured all the certificates possible within Australia, and has proved himself capable of rising from the lowest rung of the ladder. It seems to me that if an American or Englishman had applied in the first instance an appointment would have been made ; but the four applicants were never given an opportunity of proving their fitness by examination. If the young man appointed was competent for the position he should have been afforded an opportunity of proving the fact ; and, if not, he ought not to have been appointed. In any case, a man, because he is young or an Australian, should not be asked to do the work at a lower salary.’ In the absence of any complete answer to this case, it would appear that Australians are not so welcome in some of the Departments as they ought to be. Our policy should be to promote Australians of merit. Iri this case an Australian has shown merit which has not been equalled in the Department, and the mere fact that he is young should not bar him from obtaining a higher position. I understand that he entered the Post Office as an instrument litter at £110 a year, and rose, practically like a star, to a salary of £235. He is willing to submit himself to any examination for the position advertised at a salary °f j£,3]0’ The fact that his rise has been r;’pid is no reason for barring an Australian with true merit. I hope that the Ministry will carefully investigate the case and instruct the Public Service Commissioner, or other departmental officers, that no Australian who possesses the necessary merit shall be barred from any office, provided that he has passed the requisite examination, and is up to the departmental standard.
– Before the Estimates of this Department are disposed of T ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGentr.il to give the assurance which I asked for, namely, that an opportunity will be afforded the Senate *r> discuss the. report of the Postal Commission.
– It is the intention of the Government next session to give hon orable senators full and ample opportunity to discuss the report of the Postal Commission, and also its recommendations. As regards the >case of certain telegraphists in Launceston and Hobart, Senator Keating does not, of course, expect me to be familiar with the conditions in Tasmania any more than in any other State. It is not the desire of the Government to place telegraphists in Tasmania in an unfair position, as compared with those in any other State. I shall take the earliest opportunity to bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral, the complaint he made on their behalf. I am not conversant with the particulars of the case mentioned by Senator E. J. Russell, but at the earliest opportunity I shall get in touch with my colleague and cause the fullest inquiries to be made in respect to the young man whose name has been mentioned.
– For the last eighteen months or iwo years, in Brisbane, there has been an agitation in regard to connecting the Stock Exchange, by pneumatic tube, with the telegraph office. At some time ot other this month tenders for carrying out the work are to close. The work has been delayed so long, and is so seriously necessary, that I fisk the Honorary Minister to» represent to the Department that a contract should be let at the earliest possible moment after the, tenders have been received.
– I have made a note of the suggestion.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Second schedule agreed to.
Postponed clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– - I rise to again ask if the information I sought in my questions is yet to hand, and also if there is any possibility of the return which was ordered yesterday on my motion being laid on the table before the Senate adjourns ?
– The Government have done all in their power to meet the honorable senator. In the past, when questions were given notice of on a Thursday, it was always suggested that they should be postponed until the following Tuesday, because, on Friday morning, the officers were always busy on account of both Houses meeting at 10.30 a.m. If that was the case, in ordinary circumstances, surely honorable senators cannot expect more at the end of the session when everything is almost in confusion, and the Departments have been working up to their highest tension. If the reply comes to hand before the Senate adjourns it will be given. Everything will be done to obtain the information desired by the honorable senator.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a third time.
Imperial Conference : Position of Ministers - Coronation : Australian Representation - Post and Telegraph Department : Salaries - Parliamentary Allowance.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent this Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
As the Coronation of the King is to take place next June, and a number of honorable senators will be absent from Australia at that time, and as it is even possible that a contingent of members of Parliament representing the Commonwealth may also be away, it will hardly be possible to call Parliament together before the end of August or the beginning of September. Consequently, it is necessary that the Treasurer should have Supply in order to carry on the ordinary business of the Commonwealth. This Bill contains no other item than is necessary for that purpose. If honorable senators will look at the figures they will see that it appropriates one-sixth of the amount appropriated for the ordinary annual services for the current financial year, beginning with a vote for Parliament and ending with an advance to the Treasurer. Honorable senators are aware that at the commencement of a session it is necessary to give the Treasurer something to come and go on.
– Parliament is not to re-assemble until late next year, and, therefore, we are asked to vote two months’ Supply on account of the next financial year in order that the Government and the Public Service shall not be inconvenienced. One purpose of this measure is to enable the Government to be represented at the Imperial Conference. I regret extremely that neither House of this Parliament has had an opportunity of discussing the questions which will be submitted there. It will be recollected that on 9th July, 1908, the Brisbane Labour Conference came to an important decision affecting the position of a Labour Prime Minister at an Imperial Conference. This is the last opportunity we have of asking the Ministry what position the Prime Minister will occupy in view of this resolution which, I take it, is binding upon him -
That all Australian delegates to future Imperial .or Colonial Conferences be given definite instructions on specific subjects by the Federal Parliament, and that they (the delegates) shall not deal with nor pledge the Commonwealth upon any subject not previously dealt with by the Federal Government.
I wish to ask - What is to be the Prime Minister’s position at the Imperial Conference? Is he to go there as the representative of the Government of Australia or as a delegate bound by a resolution of the Brisbane Labour Conference? I shall not apologize for pointing out that the Imperial Conference is as important to us as, a part of the Empire as the Prime Minister’s position is important to the Commonwealth. What, then, will be his position there ? Will he represent the Federal Government as Prime Minister of Australia, or will he merely represent the Brisbane Conference?
– He will ignore it.
– I wish the expression of Senator Fraser could find indorsement from the mouth of the VicePresident of the Executive Council. I assume that if the resolution I have quoted is worth the paper it is written upon, the members of the Labour Conference will expect the Prime Minister to act upon it. Of course, I admit that a resolution of such a Conference is generally worth more than paper. Presumably there was a bullet in front of the powder. If so, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth will go to the Imperial Conference not as . the representative of the Commonwealth Parliament, but of a Labour Conference. Moreover, the Federal Parliament has not had . the slightest opportunity of discussing a single question which will be discussed at the Imperial Conference. If the jurisdiction of the Caucus or Labour Conference is going to act as a shackle upon our Prime Minister when he goes into conference with representatives of other portions of the Empire, let us know it. Let the whole Empire know it. If the Brisbane resolution is binding, it amounts to this : When the Prime Minister of Great Britain meets Mr. Fisher in conference and a question is brought up for discussion, Mr. Fisher will be bound to say, “ I can talk over anything you like with you, but in face of a resolution which binds me I cannot pledge myself to anything.”
– Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Prime Minister of Canada, said the same thing at the last Imperial Conference.
– So much the worse for Sir Wilfrid Laurier. It is, as I said before, very important that we should know whether Mr. Fisher will attend the Conference as a peer among his peers, or as the servant of the Labour Conference which passed the resolution that I have read.
– I do not share the alarm that Senator St. Ledger has expressed, but I must express my profound disappointment, not that the Prime Minister may go to London merely to echo the opinions of a Labour Conference, but at not knowing what subjects are to come before the Conference. As a member of that much-abused body, the Caucus, I do not know what the Imperial Conference is to discuss, and feel very much disappointed at the situation. It seems to me that we are taking this proposed long recess too lightly altogether. We are asked to vote two months’ Supply for the purposes of the next financial year on the ground that, owing to the Coronation of King George, the Parliament of the Commonwealth will be- unable to meet until September. I do not recollect that there was any prolonged recess on the Coronation of King Edward VII. What reason is there for greater importance being attached to the Coronation of King George than to that of King Edward ?
– We sent a delegation of soldiers to London on the occasion of the Coronation of King Edward.
– Probably it was just as well that they were sent, because we did not want them here. But now we have a proposal that Parliament shall shut up shop for seven months in order that some people may go and “act the goat” in the Old Country.
– Some of them will do that very well.
– It is a pity that the honorable senator is not going. I consider that a recess of ten months simply because a king is to be crowned is altogether unreasonable. Kings come and kings go, but what difference does it make to any one? It does not matter whether there is a new king on the throne or an old one. Kings are merely rubber-stamps or figure-heads nowadays, and it makes- not the slightest difference whether a king is crowned or whether he dies before the Coronation ceremony takes place. We know - notwithstanding all the bunkum talked about loyalty - that it does not matter a snap of the fingers whether the king is crowned or not. The ceremony is merely like a Lord1 Mayor’s Show. It may be said that everybody goes to see everybody else. But there is no justification for closing this Parliament for ten months to enable some persons to have a holiday on the cheap.
– The honorable senator may be one of those chosen to go.
– I” am not at all anxious on that account. I would not go under any circumstances. I should like to see the Old Country, but when I go I shall pay my own expenses and have a quiet time. I believe that this Parliament has too much important work to do to justify us in closing up for ten months. We met later than usual this year, but that was necessary in order that business might not be commenced until the newly-elected senators could legally take their seats. But there is no excuse whatever for a late meeting of Parliament next year. I do not at all object to the Commonwealth being represented at the Coronation. I have no wish that this country should stand separate from other parts of the British Empire on such an occasion. But why not send some one who is not indispensable to the conduct of this Parliament? We might send a Minister accompanied by an Honorary Minister, ot, perhaps, by a leading member of the Opposition.
– Is any Minister indispensable to this Parliament?
– No; but we cannot allow one- fourth of the whole Parliament to go away accompanied by several Ministers, and have a meeting of Parliament notwithstanding. Their absence makes it impossible to carry on business. The present state of affairs is very much to be regretted. If certain honorable senators wish to go to London next year, by all means let them go. It would be a good thing if members of Parliament went round the world periodically. They would thus acquire a wider knowledge of the affairs of other countries than they at present possess. But their absence should not cause this Parliament to cease attending to its own business. I enter my emphatic protest against this measure, which is rendered necessary by the unwarrantable project of sending to London on the cheap a party of members of this Parliament. We have no justification for closing Parliament in order that they may go to the Old Country to enjoy themselves. I certainly consider that we ought to know what questions are to be discussed at the Imperial Conference. It is all very well for Senator St. Ledger to urge that the Prime Minister may attend that gathering as the delegate of a political party. But I have no sympathy with his view of the matter. Necessarily the Prime Minister, when attending the Conference, will indorse the views of this Parliament. That is to say, he will indorse the views of the majority of it.
– Then he will attend the gathering in the capacity of a delegate.
– I do not know that that is not a good thing. The Prime Minister should not attend the Conference as our master. The highest official in the land is our servant. But I object to any person attending the Imperial Conference as our representative without Parliament being first afforded an opportunity to express its opinion upon the subjects to be discussed there. There is no justification for hurriedly closing the session, and thus depriving us of that opportunity. Until Parliament indorses the decisions arrived at by the Imperial Conference, I do not think that any delegate should have power to bind the Commonwealth or any other selfgoverning community. There is no need for me to discuss the items in the Bill, because they are based on the expenditure for the current financial year.
– Although I agree with my juvenile friend, Senator Rea, as to the desirableness of Parliament discussing the questions which will be brought before the Imperial Con ference, I do not agree with his claim that those questions should be discussed before that gathering has actually been held. I am perfectly prepared to rely upon the discretion and wisdom of our delegates to properly voice the opinion of Australia upon any question which may come before the Conference. Concerning the question of a long recess, I again join issue with Senator Rae. Personally., I think that a long recess is very much preferable to a long parliamentary session. I am satisfied that if Parliament meets again on 1st September next year, and continues in session till the end of the year, it will accomplish just as much work as if it met on 1 st June next. If it met on the earlier date, there would be more talking, but no more business would be transacted. Senator Rae is always equal to the task of doing his share of the talking. Indeed, I am not quite certain that he does not do more than his share. But all the talking that is done here does not assist us in the transaction of business. On the other hand, it retards it. I have every confidence that the next session of this Parliament, brief though it may be, will be productive of a greater amount of legislation than would a long session. There is just one matter connected with this Bill to which I desire to direct the attention of the Government. In nearly every Department of our Public Service, the salaries of officers in South Australia are lower than are those paid to officers occupying corresponding positions in the other States. I am anxious that the Government should endeavour to ascertain why this is so. Let me compare the salaries paid in South Australia in the Department of Trade and Customs and the Postal Department wilh the salaries paid in those Departments in Western Australia, which has a very much less population. In the Department of Trade and Customs, the salaries paid in South Australia proper aggregate £[4,000, as against £[4,39° inWestern Australia. The “ contingencies “ in South Australia are set down at £[850, as against £[930 in Western Australia. I select these two States to illustrate my meaning, because they approximate more closely to each other from the stand-point of population than do any other two States.
– But the work of the Customs Department in South Australia is concentrated, whereas in Western Australia it is scattered.
– I wish the Government to ascertain the reason for this anomaly. In the Postmaster-General’s Department, the salaries paid in South Australia total £27,000, as against £32,000 in Western Australia. Similarly, only £10,200 is paid for the conveyance of mails in South Australia, as against £11,000 in Western Australia. If the Government will look into the matter, they will see that, generally speaking, the officers of . the various Departments in South Australia labour under a disadvantage as compared with officers holding similar positions in the other States. I should like to know whether this is due to the fact that, owing to the efforts of one of its representatives in this Parliament, Western Australia has been more liberally treated than has South Australia, or whether the Public Service Inspector in South Australia is an officer of a very frugal mind. A number of complaints have been made to me that officers in South Australia are not getting a fair deal. I should like to know whether this is due to a desire on the part of the Public Service Inspector in that State to keep the salaries down in the interests of the Commonwealth. If that be the explanation, I would suggest the advisableness of exchanging that officer for an inspector from one of the ‘other States. Public servants in South Australia might then have an opportunity for advancement. I trust that the Government will look into this matter, and ascertain whether there is any justification for my suggestion.
– - A note will be taken of the matter referred to by Senator Story, and the attention of the Public Service Commissioner called to it in a very short time. The alarm exhibited by Senator St. Ledger regarding the position which the Prime Minister, or any other Minister of the Commonwealth, will occupy at the Imperial Conference should be easily allayed. Senator Rae has complained that the matters to be dealt with at the Conference ought to have been discussed by the Senate. I regret that information on the subject was not even in the hands of the Commonwealth Government, but I have now a list of some of the matters to be dealt with and to be submitted by the Commonwealth, and will lay it on the table when I get an opportunity.
– When is the honorable senator going to lay on the table the return as to the Parliamentary Allowance, for which I have asked?
– I think I have done all that 1 possibly could in the matter. It is possible that the officers of the Department have been so worried that they could not attend to every detail, and they may have had more important work to do than the preparation of the return referred to. It is too much to ask that public servants should be sweated to furnish trifling information of the sort. I have said I will lay a list of some of the subjects to be discussed at the Imperial Conference on the table, and honorable senators will have an opportunity of seeing what they are.
– And of discussing them?
– We have still another Bill to deal with, and if honorable senators think it well to further, delay the business of the Senate, they will have full liberty to discuss them. As everything has been done to satisfy the thirst for information displayed by honorable senators, I hope that this Bill will now speedily be passed through all its stages.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first and second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 postponed.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
.- I am sorry that the Vice-President of the Executive Council did not give me a civil answer to the question I asked him just now. He was probably feeling a little skittish, and perhaps it would be as well to remind him that all the Estimates are not yet through. I have taken the trouble to see the Acting Treasurer with regard to the return for which I moved, and which the Vice-President of the Executive Council promised me this morning he would do his best to present before the session closed. I do not feel disposed to wait in good temper until September of next year for this return. There are several other honorable senators on this side who think in the same way on the subject. I wish to have the return particularly in the interests of an honorable member who has been very much misrepresented, and who, as the return will show, has acted as straightforwardly as any member of this Parliament. Any ordinary clerk in the Treasury Department could make up the return in twenty minutes at the outside. Another member of this party has been misrepresented and vilified throughout Victoria in connexion with this matter, and he also is entitled to get this return. The Senate and the public want the return, and why can we not get it?
– Why did not the honorable senator move for it at the beginning of the session? If he had done so, it would have been furnished before now.”
– The information I should have got at the beginning of the session would have been very different from the information which I am going to get now in this return. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has appealed to honorable senators to facilitate the passage of business, but no one knows better than the honorable senator that we have all done our best to assist him. There will be no opportunity to make use of the return this session, and I ask the honorable senator now, at the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute, if he cannot do the right thing in this matter, and see that the return is placed on the table?
1 - I wish ro repeat the request of Senator Givens at the twelfth hour. I fail to see what reason could be advance’d by the departmental officers for the delay in furnishing this return. If it involved any considerable labour, I should not persist in my demand for it ; but it would not entail upon any officer more than half-an-hour’s work. This afternoon I have been accused of desiring for personal motives to get this return. I have no such desire. I wish to get it for public purposes. There are some persons in the Commonwealth who have posed as patriots, but who, I believe, this return will show to have been hypocrites. When this Parliament determined to increase the allowances paid to members, every one who voted for the increase was assailed in the public press. Members of the Parliament who opposed the increase tried to get into cover, and some have since used the money which at first they refused to accept. It is only fair, in the circumstances, that we should know who those men are. If any member of this Parliament is to suffer for that sin of commission, the people of Australia should be given an opportunity to determine from whom to exact the penalty.
– I think it is only fair to say that in this matter the Vice-President of the Executive Council is not treating the Senate as it deserves. We are not so childish as to believe that he is not aware that what he has said is absolute moonshine.
He must know that an officer in the Treasury, if given the allowance sheet of members of this Parliament, could copy it in five minutes.
– He will have to go back for two or three years.
– No matter how long the clerk may have to go back, the records are so complete that I venture to say any one of us could take the facts from the ledger account within five minutes.
– Does the honorable senator think it is worth all this bother?
– Certainly. It is only right that the information should be furnished at once to the Senate.
– It will be furnished as soon as it is available.
– The Senate should be adjourned until the information is available. If the honorable senator intended to lay the information before the Senate it could be obtained in less than ten minutes without sweating or blackmailing any person. I hope he will see that it is obtained immediately.
– It seems to me that the Government are determined that this return shall not be tabled during this session. If that be the ‘ case, it cannot be tabled until Parliament re-assembles next year, probably in September. In the meantime the facts which the public are entitled to know will be covered up.
– Cannot the information be asked for next session?
– Of course it can, but why should we be required to wait until that time? A member of this party who represents a constituency in Victoria has been vilified from one end of his electorate to the other in regard to this matter.
– The longer he is vilified the more angelic he will be byandby.
– This honorable gentleman does not wish to pose as an angel, but he wants the truth made known to those who returned him, and who are interested in seeing how he has acted as their representative.
– If he has been returned he has not been made to suffer.
– He has not suffered very much.
– Some honorable senators seem to think that if a person has material advantages nothing else counts, but I hold an entirely different opinion. I believe that the material part of our existence is the least important. The main thing with this honorable gentleman is to have the satisfaction of being able to prove to his constituents that he has faithfully and honestly acted as their representative, and that the statements uttered about him in this regard have been baseless.
– Nobody believes them.
– They do. He is entitled to get the return.
– Why did he not ask for a return in the other House?
– Because he was too diffident to make that request. Questions on the subject had been asked in the Senate, and it would have been a work of supererogation for him to ask for the information in another place. In fact, he is so sensitive on the subject that he thinks he should not ask for the- information at all.
– We cannot help it- I am very sorry.
– I ask the Minister if he has not the information now, and if he has, why should not I and every other senator be furnished with it?
– I am only in possession of a very small part of it.
– The honorable senator knows that the whole of the information can be obtained in five minutes. Until almost the moment the Senate adjourns I shall rise and press for the production of the return.
– I regret that the. VicePresident of the Executive Council will not make an effort to obtain this information.
– I am not a public officer. I cannot go to the books.
– The compilation of the return would not take twenty minutes.
– The honorable senator does not know anything about it.
– I know that, although the officers have been worked unduly, and, perhaps, unnecessarily, owing to the prolonged deliberations of Parliament, the preparation of this return would not over-tax them. It is immaterial to me whether it will expose the trick of any member or praise any member.
– It will expose me as having taken the increase from the day it was granted.
– The information was desired by Senator Givens, and ought to be furnished.
– Senator Needham refused an increase .in Western Australia, and was turned out because he would not have it.
– Nothing of the sort !
– The honorable senator knows that my statement is true.
– I know that the statement of the Minister is an absolute lie.
– Order ! The honorable senator must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark, and say that the Minister is not possessed of the facts.
– I am satisfied.
– I have been accused by the Vice-President of the Executive Council of doing in Western Australia something different from what I did here.
– The honorable senator told me so.
– I did nothing of the sort. A motion was submitted to increase the allowance to members of- the State Parliament from .£200 to .£300. I opposed it, because the question had not been remitted to the electors. When it was proposed here to increase the Parliamentary allowance to £600, I remembered the action which I had taken in Western Australia. 1 stated that, whilst the question had not been remitted to the electors, the Constitution empowered this Parliament to increase the Parliamentary allowance and, as the Constitution had been approved by the people, I was justified in voting for the proposed increase. I fling back in the teeth of the Vice-President of the Executive Council the accusation that I was inconsistent.
– That is exactly what I said.
– I desire to see this return tabled, not from any party or personal motive, but for the information of the public. I think that the Government has not yet ordered it to be prepared. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council would issue an order, the return could be prepared by a junior clerk in ten minutes.
– The Government have taken more action in connexion with this return than in regard to any other return.
– The Government should comply with the request of the Senate. The Minister practically stated that he would place the return on the table before the prorogation took place.
– I did not say that.
– Unless there is a desire to shield some person who wishes to be shielded I see no reason why the return should not be tabled to-day.
Schedule agreed to..
Postponed clause 2 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator ^McGregor) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent this Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
– - I promised the Vice-President of the Executive Council that I should be rather persistent with regard to certain information relating to members’ salaries which ought to have been supplied some time ago. The Senate has a right to get that information. Even at this late hour, I again ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether he cannot obtain it? I do not feel disposed to wait nearly twelve months for information which ought to be produced at once. I am quite sure that a number of honorable senators are prepared to back me up in this matter, because they know that I am doing a fair and honest thing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first, and second, time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
– I should like to know the reason for the item of £[125, which it appears has been paid to Mr. E. A. Petherick. How does that item come into these accounts? Under whose authority was the money paid? How is it that in 19 10 we- are asked to authorize the payment of money which was paid to Mr. Petherick so long ago?
– As honorable senators are aware, an agreement has been entered into between the Parliamentary Library Committee and Mr. E. A. Petherick with regard to his collection of books and records. The whole matter would have been explained had the Senate been prepared to proceed with the Petherick Collection Bill. I do not know so much about the matter as Senator Gould does.
– Honorable senators need riot be apprehensive with regard to the matter mentioned by Senator Keating. An agreement has been entered into with Mr. Petherick for the acquisition of his collection of books and records, and this item is simply a portion of the sum paid to him. The Library Committee itself agreed to the payment.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I should like to point out the extraordinary state of affairs into which the finances of the Commonwealth appear to have drifted while the late Government was in office, as revealed by this Bill. It is a pity that a larger number of members of the Opposition are not present to bear the whole of the shame for this shady kind of finance. We are authorizing, in 19 10, payments made by the late Government. Surely this shows the neglect of proper financial management which occurred during the regime of the Government supported by honorable members opposite. Our views on this matter ought to be placed on record.
– I do not understand why Senator Rae should make such a statement, which simply shows his absolute ignorance. This is simply a Bill for the adjustment of accounts, which, as any one who looks through the schedule will see, consist of very small amounts.
– The remark was not worth answering.
– Really, it was not, and I will say no more about it.
– 1 desire to ask again whether the Vice-President of the Executive Council will give us an assurance that before we adjourn, the return asked for by Senator Givens will be placed upon the table of the Senate?
– I have already given every assurance in my power. Everything has Keen done to expedite the return asked for. In fact, more has been done than would have been done in ordinary circumstances. Honorable senators know that even when returns are furnished they have to be verified. Sometimes before a return is laid upon the table of the Senate errors are detected in it, and it has to be returned to the Department concerned. In this case, I have not even had an opportunity of seeing whether a correct return has been furnished. Consequently, I can say absolutely no more about the matter. Some honorable senators seem so persistent about it that there must be something of an extraordinary character behind their earnestness.
– Hear, hear.
– The matter has been treated as one of greater urgency than usual. I cannot do any more. If honorable senators are anxious about the matter I cannot help it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to -
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure is intended to cover the amount which was expended during 1908-9 upon works and buildings for which there was no parliamentary appropriation. It is introduced to authorize payment of that money. The amount involved is £29,017. I hope that honorable senators will treat it in the same way as they treated the previous Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives, with a message intimating that it had made the amendments requested by the Senate. Motion (by Senator Findley) agreed to - That this Bill be now read a third time.
Northern Territory : Finances - Parliamentary Allowance - Coronation : Australian Representation. Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent this Bill being passed! through all its stages without delay.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
I would remind honorable senators that, as the taking over of the Northern Territory rendered it impossible to put certain items upon the ordinary Estimates, we have been obliged to introduce Supplementary Estimates. The amount which will be required during the current financial year to meet our obligations in respect of that Territory is ,£418,750. The Bill also includes an item of £2,500 for the representation of the Commonwealth at the Coronation in London. A similar sum is provided in connexion with the Scott Antarctic Expedition, and there are various other small amounts which I need not specially mention.
.- It is rather unfortunate that during the closing hours of the session we are unable to elicit information regarding the destination of a vote.
– To what item does the honorable senator refer?
– To all the items connected with the new service.
– Mention one.
– Seeing that the other branch of the Legislature is waiting for the Senate to transact its business, it is impossible for me to discuss the various items. But I would point out that, according to the Treasurer’s Budget, it is anticipated that the revenue and expenditure during the current financial year will about balance. As this Bill will involve an additional expenditure of about £[500,000, we are entitled to know whether the Government expect that the revenue will be sufficiently buoyant to enable them to meet that expenditure, and, if not, how they propose to meet it. I do not cavil at any of the items contained in the Bill, because I do not know anything about them. lt provides for an entirely new Department, and one in regard to which we have not yet been able to obtain any information. Possibly we shall have to wait until next year before we can scrutinize these accounts. As the Bill under consideration is the last with which we shall have to deal this session, I again appeal to the Vice-President of the Executive Council to say why he cannot table the return as to members’ salaries which was ordered by the Senate upon my initiative yesterday. The public have a right to know its contents, and ought not to be asked to wait twelve months for the information.
– I wish to know whether the whole of the expenditure in this Bill which relates to payments to South Australia on account of the Commonwealth taking over the Northern Territory has to be met in the immediate future? For instance, under Interest and Sinking Fund I find the following items : - Interest on loans, £[50,000 ; interest on account current with South Australia, £[17,500; contribution to Sinking Fund under South Australian Act No. 648 of 1896, £[2,750 ; and redemption of Treasurybills, £[273,700. I wish to know whether these obligations have to be met in the immediate future. In other words, is South Australia to receive this cash payment at once? Do the Government consider that the revenue which they will derive from the land tax and from other new sources will enable them to meet this expenditure, or do they propose to borrow money tor the purpose of developing the Northern Territory and of repaying the amount which is due to South Australia ?
– In answer to Senator Rae, I may say that these obligations will be assumed by the Commonwealth as soon as the proclamation is issued for the taking over of the Northern Territory, and it is to be issued on 1st January next. There is no payment to be made to South Australia. All that we do is to take over the obligations of South Australia in respect to the Territory from that date. It does not follow that these obligations will have to be met immediately the Territory is in possession of the Commonwealth, but we must ‘ make provision to meet the obligations for the current financial year. Senator Givens desires to know where the money is to come from. He has himself to-day referred to the buoyancy of the Customs revenue, so we may trust a little to that, and if the anticipations of our honorable friends opposite as to the revenue to be derived from the land tax are realized, we shall have a great deal more at our command than will be needed to meet the liabilities. The Government might have introduced a Bill providing for an advance to the Treasurer to meet these obligations, but we have always had the assurance of the South Australian Government that they have plenty of money, and if we require temporary assistance in connexion with this, or any other matter, it will be at our disposal.
– What a humiliating ‘ position for the Commonwealth.
– I am not anticipating that the Commonwealth will be placed in that position, but as I know that the honorable senator is so persistent in trying to get to the very bottom of everything, I am explaining the conditions as they really exist. No member of the Senate need be under any alarm in connexion with this matter.
Bill read a first and second time.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the sessional order relating to the suspension of the sittings be suspended to enable the sitting of the Senate to be continued beyond the hour of 6.30 p.m.
Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) [6.30I - Before the motion is passed, perhaps the Vice-President of the Executive
Council will say whether in the course of the evening he will submit a motion for the printing of the correspondence in connexion with theVancouver mail service contract?
– I intend to do that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause1 agreed to.
Clause 2 postponed.
Clause 3 agreed to.
– On the item, Treasury-bills, £275,700, I should like to ask whether it is proposed that the Treasury-bills which are to be retired by the Commonwealth shall be retired at 100 per cent., or at their present market value.
– I am not in a position now to give the information but the point the honorable senator has raised will be taken into consideration.
– In order to test the feeling of the Committee, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the item “ Representation of the Commonwealth at Coronation Celebrations, £2,000,” by reducing the amount by £1.
– As a matter of abstract opinion I do not approve of the Commonwealth sending a large parliamentary delegation to the Old Country, but I am confronted with the fact that an invitation was issued by the Government of Great Britain to the Commonwealth Parliament to be represented at the Coronation celebrations, and the Government, rightly or wrongly, had accepted the invitation. They had no right to accept the invitation on behalf of the Parliament unless they were prepared to pay the fares of members to and from Great Britain. I should like to say that from the time the matter was first mooted until to-day, I have never entertained the idea of going to the Old Country, or taking part in the proposed delegation. If I visit Great Britain, I should like to do so at a quiet time, and entirely at my own expense. I do not think I would enjoy a series of Imperial pageants.
– The invitation has come to us, and, party questions aside, the Commonwealth ought to be represented at the Coronation, and I do not propose to criticise the action of the Government in the matter. I think it is an excellent thing that the invitation should have been received officially, as I understand, from the Imperial Government. It is right that it should be accepted, and our Prime Minister, who is also Treasurer of the Commonwealth, can be trusted in the matter. I recognise his position as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and that he desires that it should be represented at the Coronation.
Schedule agreed to.
Postponed clause 2 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests, and passed through its remaining stages.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator McG regor) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would preventthis Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is supplementary to one we have just passed, covering the ordinary supplementary expenditure. The largest item is a vote to make provision for the purchase of a site to the east of the present Treasury building in Melbourne, and the erection of a building thereon. The building will provide accommodation for the Treasury Department, and some of the other Commonwealth Departments, and it may be used for Commonwealth purposes after the Seat of Government has been removed to the Federal Capital. The object is economy, and it is estimated that the land and buildings will cost £34,000. The passing of this Bill will, it is hoped, complete the provision which will be required for works and buildings during this financial year.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has referred to the only item of interest in the Bill. It appears that , £34,000 is to be expended in the purchase of land and the construction of a building in Melbourne for the Commonweal th. The rents paid at the present time for buildings occupied by the Commonwealth amount in the aggregate to £9,917.
At 6 per cent., this, roughly speaking, represents a sum of £[150,000. In Sydney, we spend nearly the same amount in rent, and I should like to know why it is proposed to undertake this expenditure in Melbourne alone, in order to save rent. I say frankly that I think it is because it is proposed that the £[34,000 should be spent in Melbourne. In Brisbane, the Commonwealth pays nearly £[1,500 in rents, which would represent interest on a considerable sum that might be invested in Commonwealth buildings there. I think we should be told why it is proposed to expend this money in this way in Melbourne.
– I can tell the honorable senator.
– At the present time the Commonwealth is paying approximately £10,000 per annum for rentals in Melbourne, and .£8,500 in Sydney. Why, then, should it purchase land and erect buildings upon it in Melbourne alone? In Brisbane, too, the Commonwealth pays a considerable sum annually as rental. The Government propose to expend £[27,000 in erecting Commonwealth buildings in Melbourne upon a block of land which is to cost £[7,000-. As their object is to save the rentals which the Commonwealth is now paying in this city, I desire to know why a similar course is not to be adopted in Sydney ?
– Now that the Federal Capital site has been definitely chosen, I fail to see any reason why we should incur a heavy expenditure upon public works required by the Commonwealth, except within the area that is embraced by the Federal Territory. Yet on these Estimates I see that, under the heading of Defence, an expenditure of £18,800 is contemplated upon the small arms factory at Lithgow. If I had my way, I should remove that factory, and also the cordite factory at Footscray, to the Federal Territory.
– We should then have haulage both ways.
– Haulage of what?
– Of hardware. Senator GIVENS. - The honorable senator’s interjection reminds me of the story of a Yankee prospector who, when Nevada was discovered, entered the shop of a Jewish storekeeper and purchased a needle, for which the storekeeper charged him 5s. He remonstrated with the Jew, and exclaimed, “ Why, back east I could buy a hundred needles for a few cents.,” to which statement the storekeeper replied, “ Oh, but it is de carriage, mine friend.” I believe that all these buildings should be located in Federal Territory, where they will be completely under Commonwealth control. The proposal to erect an expensive building in Melbourne - seeing that the Federal Capital site has already been definitely chosen - is a little bit strong. I see no earthly reason why buildings should be erected in Melbourne any more than they should be erected in Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, or Brisbane. Must we placate or bribe the capital cities of the States? After the Seat of Government has been established at Yass-Canberra, we shall require no buildings in Melbourne, except thedepartmental offices. None of the offices, of the central staffs will be located here. Consequently, I protest against Commonwealth works and buildings being constructed outside the Federal Territory. The Government will be well-advised if they adopt the policy of erecting within the Federal Territory all the buildings which the Commonwealth may require, thereby increasing the value of Commonwealth property without arousing State jealousies.
– I cannot agree with Senator Givens. If the Government, by erecting buildings in Melbourne, can effect a substantial saving, 1 think it is their bounden duty to erect them.
– The same argument will apply to all the States.
– Undoubtedly. I do not say that the principle should not be extended to the other States.
– That is our’ trouble.
– It is not mine. Even after the Federal Capital has been established, it may be necessary to retain Commonwealth offices in big commercial centres like Sydney and Melbourne, perhaps, for all time. I also think that, before it will be possible for us to occupy the Federal Capital, the savings effected in reference to this building will probably be sufficient to cover its cost. If that be the case, undoubtedly, the same course should be pursued in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and the other capitals. I agree with Senator Givens that we should do all we can to establish Commonwealth public works within the Federal Territory; but some time must elapse before the parliamentary buildings and public offices are erected there, and in the meantime, it is probable that the saving effected by the construction of this building will be sufficient to pay the cost.
– It is apparent that an important site has been purchased in Melbourne. As the Commonwealth Treasury will ultimately be established at Yass-Canberra, why should we vote so large a sum of money to be spent on a Treasury building in this city ? It is. quite true that, even after the Capital is established, the Treasury will require buildings in the various capitals. But it is unfortunate that a better reason has not been furnished for the expenditure of this large sum in Melbourne. I should like a further explanation with regard to the item.
– There is really no great difficulty in connexion with this question. It is quite true that in the future we hope to have all the principal Commonwealth offices established at the Federal Capital. But we cannot do that yet. What seems to “ stick in the gizzard “ of a number of honorable senators is that this building is being erected in Melbourne. But I point out that if the Seat of Government were established at Yass-Canberra, we should still require accommodation for Federal purposes in Melbourne. Consequently, we are simply making provision for the future. When extra accommodation is required, an additional story can be added to this new building. Consequently, forethought has been shown in its construction. Before determining to build, the Government endeavoured to secure suitable accommodation by renting buildings. But we found that the cost would be too great. Thereupon negotiations for the purchase of land were entered upon, and we determined to build, finding that this course would save us between £2,000 and £3,000 a year. The building will be required in Melbourne, even when the Seat of Government has been removed to Yass-Canberra. As to the small arms factory at Lithgow, I point out that that was established before the present Government came into power. The time may come when we may have a much more extensive arms factory established either at Jervis Bay or at Canberra. But we have to provide for the position as we find it. As to Senator St. Ledger’s fear that we are spending too much money in Melbourne, I point out that this Bill provides £&, 000 for land for the accommodation of the Field
Artillery in Brisbane. Whenever work has to be done and money spent, this Government determines what is best in the interests of Australia, and has no regard to the interests of Melbourne, Sydney, or any other State capital.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time ; and passed through its remaining stages.
Assent to the following Bills reported - Postal Rates Bill.
Seat of Government (Administration) Bill. Emigration Bill.
Northern Territory (Administration) Bill. Post and Telegraph Bill. Australian Industries Preservation Bill. Naval Defence Bill.
Motion (by Senator Findley) agreed to-
That the papers relating to the Vancouver mail service be printed.
Senator McGregor laid on the table the following papers : -
Papua - Customs Ordinance of 1910. Questions to be dealt with at the Imperial Conference, 1911.
Social Insurance : Report by Commonwealth Statistician.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Bundaberg, Queensland : Defence Purposes. - Notification of the Acquisition of Land for Site. Census and Statistics Act 1905-
Trade, Shipping, Migration, and Finance of the Commonwealth of Australia for the months of -
July, 1910. - Bulletin No. 43.
August, 1910. - Bulletin No. 44.
Population and Vital Statistics of the
Commonwealth for the quarter ended 30th June, 1910. - Bulletin No. as.
Shipping and Oversea Migration of the Commonwealth of Australia for the year 1909.
Trade and Customs and Excise Revenue of the Commonwealth of Australia for the year 1909.
Mr. L. P. R. BEAN.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Mr. L. P. R. Bean since the 1st May, 1910, that which would bave constituted the duties of the Assistant Engineer, Grade D, at a minimum salary of .£310 per annum had that office been filled?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Did any junior cadet officers apply for appointments as area officers, New South Wales, in their private capacity ; if so, were any of them appointed as area officers?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
No. Forty-nine teachers in the Education Department of New South Wales applied, of whom 33 were Junior Cadet Officers. The District Commandant, New South Wales, was informed by the New South Wales Department of Education that school teachers, by whom the Junior Cadets are almost exclusively officered, would not be permitted to accept positions as Area Officers, and none of the above-mentioned Junior Cadet Officers were, therefore, recommended or appointed.
asked, the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
– Earlier in the day Senators Story, Keating, and Givens asked me, without notice, certain questions on the subject of wireless telegraphy, the answers to which were not available at the time. I promised, if possible, to get the information desired before the close of the sitting, and it has now been supplied. Senator Story asked -
Has the Postmaster-General received from the Attorney-General, South Australia, a request for the erection of wireless telegraph stations at Port Darwin and Timor, and, if so, it is his intention to take any action in the matter?
I have been supplied with the following answer to the question : -
No; but the Deputy Postmaster-General, South Australia, has forwarded a communication sent to him by the Minister controlling the Northern Territory, covering a communication from the
Government Resident, Palmerston, in which attention is directed to the question of providing telegraphic communication with Timor Dilli. The matter is now under consideration.
Whether the reported intended request of the Government to Admiral Henderson to advise as to the creation of wireless sites applies only to such sites as have already been decided upon or also to prospective sites in Bass Strait and other parts of the coast of the Commonwealth?
The answer to that question is -
To the whole question of wireless telegraphy as it affects Australia.
asked the following series of questions -
The answers to these questions are as follow - 1. (a) The contract has not yet been signed ; (4) the time named in the accepted tender for the completion of the contract was 52 weeks from the acceptance; the date of acceptance was 4th April, 1910.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Wednesday next.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I have submitted the motion for the special adjournment until Wednesday next in order that the Governor-General may have time to sign Acts already passed, and to issue a proclamation formally proroguing Parliament. I have to thank honorable senators for the manner in which they have assisted the Government to carry out the work of the country. Although we have had some very strenuous encounters with both the Opposition and members of our own party, I believe that no illfeeling remains. Every one conscientiously did his duty, and although it may have appeared sometimes to be the case, I believe there was no attempt during the session to “ stone-wall !J or to unduly delay business. I again thank honorable senators for the assistance they have given. I am informed that provision has been made upstairs for refreshments to be served. I hope that honorable senators will enjoy them, and that we shall all meet in the test of temper and with the kindliest feelings of friendship some time next year.
– I reciprocate the friendly expressions of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I should like to say that, under difficulties which I need not mention, the Opposition have done their duty to the country. We have offered no captious opposition to the business submitted, and the Government have had full opportunity for the exercise of their power. I hope and believe that the country will recognise this, and I trust that we shall all meet again next year in the same spirit and with the same desire to carry out the work which will then be before us.
– - At the risk of keeping honorable senators a few moments longer, I wish to make a statement in connexion with something that occurred when We were considering the Shale Oils Bounties Bill. I made a statement at the time to the effect that I had heard that the Standard Oil Trust of America had an interest in the Common- wealth Oil Corporation. I said so because of some remarks by Senator Gardiner as to what would occur if the Standard Oil Trust were to buy into the Commonwealth Oil Corporation. Following the “ honorable senator I said that I understood that to be the case. 1 did so upon information supplied to me. Since then I have received from Mr. Simpson, of Messrs. Minter, Simpson, and Company, a leading firm of solicitors in Sydney, who is the attorney in Australia of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, a letter, from which I make the following extract: -
I notice by the Sydney Morning Herald of <)th November that a remark was made by you in the Senate to the effect that you had heard that the Standard Oil Company had an interest in the Commonwealth Oil Corporation Limited. 1 am acting as the attorney in Australia of the Commonwealth Oil- Corporation Limited, and feel that you will accept the assurance now given, that the Standard Oil Company is not associated, directly or indirectly, in any shape -or form with the Commonwealth Oil Corporation Limited. - I presume you would not have made the statement unless you were told it. Now that you have my assurance that the statement is without foundation, I should feel obliged if you would correct any wrong impression that may have been formed by your remark. l have now done so, in justice to the company.
– Before putting the question, I wish to thank honorable senators for the consideration and courtesy which they have extended to me during my occupancy of the chair. I expected that they would extend that ‘consideration and courtesy to me - as I stated when I was elected - and I have not been disappointed. On behalf of the officers who sit at the table, I would like to say that, though they have been .handicapped by the absence, through illness, of the Clerk, and although the session has been a very , strenuous one, they have discharged their duties in a way that, I think, has given general satisfaction. As far as the other officers of the Chamber are concerned, I do not think that any honorable senator - and I speak for myself as well - has had any cause for complaint. I wish honorable senators the compliments of the approaching festive season, and hope that we shall meet again next session in the best of health, and fit to proceed with business.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 7.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 November 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19101125_senate_4_59/>.