4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to know whether the Minister of Defence is in a position to answer the following questions, which I asked on the 19th October : -
– When the questions were asked I promised to make inquiries. The facts are as follow : -
On the 16th September, the Area Officer, Albury, Lieut. Fitz-Gerald applied for permission to prosecute Cadet Clark. No approval was given, and it was pointed out to the area officer that the offence appeared to be a breach of the Police Offences Act, as the offence alleged was not committed on parade. The area officer apparently took this as an authority to take action under the Police Offences Act, and prosecuted accordingly.
Instructions were issued on the 17th August that no action was to be taken against Cadets in Civil Courts by their commanding officers or adjutants as provided by the Defence Act no without the authority of the District Commandant, which in this case was not given.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence a question in order to save a little time later, in view of a proposal which I know he intends to make. Can he during the afternoon have taken out the amount of the re-votes as distinct from the total re-vote inthe Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill?
– If honorable senators will refer to the Estimates of expenditure which were distributed some time ago, they will find the information which is desired by the honorable senator. But, supplementing that, I propose at a later stage to give the amount of the re-votes and the total. If honorable senators want the particulars, they will find the re-votes stated in connexion with each’ particular item.
– The point is that it is not totalled.
– I can give the total amount.
– That will do. The total for each division is stated, but the grand total is not given.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator
Pearce) read a first time.
– I understand that the contingent notice of motion to suspend the Standing Orders does not cover this measure. I ask the Senate to suspend them in order to enable it to be dealt with. I do not wish to curtail discussion in any way. No action in that direction will be taken if the debate is confined within reasonable limits; but honorable senators will, I am sure, recognise that the year is slipping by, that a large amount of public money is held up, and that the carrying out of public works is delayed pending the authority of Parliament to proceed. As all the items which are covered by the measure have been, under the notice of honorable senators for a considerable time in connexion with the Estimates, I suggest that they will only be doing their duty to the country in proceeding at once with its consideration. That will not deprive any honorable senator of his right to freely criticise various items. I appeal to the Senate to accede to my request.. I move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through ils remaining stages without delay.
– With a great deal of what the Minister has said I am sure honorable senators generally agree, but I trust that, whilst he seeks to suspend the Standing Orders for the purpose of making progress, it is not intended to carry the measure right through at one sitting if the discussion should show that honorable senators desire an opportunity to examine the items in greater detail.
– That is so.
– Personally, I am quite willing to agree to the suspension of the Standing Orders for the purpose of making progress, but it must not be assumed that in assenting to the motion, we on this side view with equanimity a suspension of the Standing Orders to carry through all its stages a measure of which we know very little at present.
– I would remind the Minister that it is not the fault of the Senate that the measure is brought forward at this late period of the year. Parliament was in recess for ten months, and should have been called together months ago, so that the Estimates could have been brought forward. It is straining our patience a little too much to bring in this ‘Bill without previous notice, and ask us to appropriate nearly £3,000,000 without having a moment to examine the various items. At the same time, I think it would be ungracious to refuse our assent to the motion, and so I do not propose to object.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
In reply to the question raised by the Leader of the Opposition, I promised to supply the Senate with the total amount of the re- votes proposed in this Bill. I find that I am unable to do So at present. I have asked the Treasury officials to let me have the figures the moment they arrive, and if 1 cannot give the desired information before I conclude my remarks, I shall do so at a later stage of the discussion. The total vote represented by this Bill is ,£2,791,365. Under the authority of the Aa which was passed last year an amount of ,£1,318,099 was expended, so that the expenditure contemplated under this measure represents an increase of ,£1,473,266. Taking the Departments in their order, the expenditure which we are asking Parliament to authorize is . as follows : - Department of Home Affairs, .£824,915; PostmasterGeneral, £1,300,000; Treasury, .£5,150; Defence. ^£63 1,900; and Department of External Affairs, .£29,400. I am now informed that the total amount represented by re-votes in the sums which I have mentioned is ,£281,160. There is one item in this Bill to which I desire to direct special attention. It reads, “ Division No. 6a, Special Works; No. 1. To pay into Trust Fund, Telegraphs and Telephones Special Works Account, £600,000.” That amount is in addition to a vote on account of works for the Post and Telegraph Department of £700,000. Honorable senators are well aware that during the early years of Federation, the Postal Department was undoubtedly starved in its works vote. While the Commonwealth was returning to tlie States large sums of money in the form of the Federal surpluses, the Post Office, during those years, was not receiving the amount of money which it needed to enable it to keep its works up to date, and to meet public requirements. This vote of £600,000 represents an endeavour on the part of the Government to meet the difficulty that has been created by the failure of this Parliament in past years to provide money for necessary works.. Honorable senators know perfectly Well that in ordinary circumstances, at tlie end of June, which marks the close of the financial year; all votes lapse except those which are paid, into Trust accounts. The awkwardness of that procedure comes home to those whoare in charge of Departments, because after the 30th June of each year, the only works which can be proceeded with are those which can be carried on out of the. Treasurer’s Advance, and for that expenditure parliamentary sanction has subse-0 quently to be obtained. Naturally, no Government cares to incur extraordinary expenditure out of that fund. As a rule, it is used only to carry out such works as are of an urgent character. Then when the Estimates are passed late in the financial year, an attempt has to be made to rush other works through. The Government propose that this £600.000 shall be paid into a Trust Fund, and that, subsequent to the passing of this measure, a Bill shall be introduced to authorize the establishment of such a fund. The Treasurer has informed the members of another place that when that Bill is submitted it will contain a schedule setting forth the items upon which this money is to be expended. la other words, the measure will resemble an ordinary Works Bill, inasmuch as it will contain” a schedule of works, but with this difference, that any money which may be unexpended at the end of the financial year will then be utilized by the Department to continue such works.
– So that the Government intend to circumvent the Audit Act.
– I do not know that that is the proper way to put the position, because the requirements of the Audit Act can be met in another way, as the Leader of the Opposition knows. I ara sure that those honorable senators who have had much departmental business to transact must have long ago concluded that the time is rotten-ripe when we should attempt to put the Post Office in an efficient condition, and that can be accomplished only by a large expenditure upon works. The ,£700,000 represented in the ordinary Estimates of the Postal Department is supplemental to that, and it is proposed to follow that expenditure by another vote of £700,000 next year, as the officials estimate that, to put the Department upon a proper footing, an expenditure of £2,000,000 is necessary. It may be asked, “ Why not embody the whole expenditure of £2,000,000 in these Estimates ? ‘ ‘ The answer is that it would not be possible during the current year to carry out the whole of the works which are necessary. Consequently, I ask honorable senators, in their criticism, to remember that, under the proposal of the Treasurer, the control of Parliament will be amply safeguarded. They will have an opportunity of discussing the items, which will be set out in the schedule of the Trust Bill. If any of those items are eliminated, this money will remain in the Trust Fund ; and if, when the works authorized are com pleted, a balance is available, that balance will be paid into the Consolidated Revenue in the ordinary way. Amongst the main items in this Bill are the following : - - Store at Darling Island, Sydney, £35,053 ; towards ,the completion of the Military College, £40,000; cost of the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra, £100,000 j Transcontinental Railway, Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, ,£22,500 ; Naval Barracks, Submarine Depot, £53,000 ; New Quarantine Buildings, £32,800 ; Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, £19,000; Cordite Factory, Maribyrnong, site and works, £16,615; Beerburrum manoeuvre area, £13,608; Sydney Parcels Post Office. ,£25,000 ; Wireless Telegraph Station, Fremantle, £11,000; Purchase of sites - Post and Telegraph Offices, £50,000 ; Telegraph and Telephones - ordinary vote for construction, £700,000; Telegraphs and Telephones - special vote for construction, £600,000; Defence - warlike stores, £300,000 ; cost of providing four batteries Field Artillery, £45,000 ; rifles for Senior Cadets, £65,000 ; reserve of gun ammunition, £31,700; armament and stores for fixed defences, £55,650 > to replace condemned ammunition, ,£12,000 ; raw material for Cordite Factory, £10,000; naval works, dockyards, &c, £20,000; re-armament of the vessels Protector, Gayundah, and Paluma, £20,000; buildings for the Northern Territory, £26,900. The votes for the Home Affairs Department, of course, contain expenditure, not for that Department purely, but for all other Departments. I do not propose in my remarks at the present stage to enter into details concerning those votes, because a more convenient opportunity will arise for making explanation* concerning them in Committee. But I think it advisable, as some of these departmental votes are in the nature of policy, that 1 should make a few remarks now. It will be noticed that there is a vote for new quarantine buildings of £33,280. That has been rendered necessary by the fact that, when the Commonwealth Government took over quarantine from the States, in many cases the buildings that had been used for quarantine purposes were not transferred. This was not a transferred Department in the ordinary sense. Some of the buildings were retained by the States. It has been found necessary, therefore, to provide buildings in a number of the States for quarantine as conducted under the Commonwealth; whilst in other States in which buildings were taken over it has been found necessary to renovate and extend. Consequently, we have on these Estimates a pretty substantial vote for that purpose. I think that practically all the items for works under the control of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are of a detailed character, which can be best dealt with in Committee. The only items which, perhaps, call for comment are those relating to wireless telegraphy stations. Of two wireless stations at present in course of completion, the one at Pennant Hills, Sydney, is in the more forward condition, and only ,£5,000 is asked for the purpose. But for the purpose of the Fremantle station ,£”11,000 is required.
– Is no vote proposed for wireless telegraphy elsewhere?
– Not under this Bill. There is, of course, provision for wireless telegraphy generally, but not for any specific establishments. That is to say, the Post and Telegraph Department has obtained the services of an expert in Mr. Balsillie, who will recommend where wireless telegraphy should be established. If in Committee honorable senators choose to ask for information on that point, I shall endeavour to find out what stage the expert’s reports have reached, and what particular points in the various States have been selected for the establishment of stations. I may mention generally, however, that it is the intention of the Government to proceed with the establishment of wireless telegraphy stations around Australia, apart from the two which I have mentioned, though it is not proposed that they shall be of the same expensive character as the stations at Pennant Hills and Fremantle. In connexion with the Department of External Affairs, a commencement has been made - perhaps on a small scale, but still a commencement - with the problem of the development of the Northern Territory. These Estimates contain votes for various works that will be necessary to commence that development. Obviously, there cannot be a large amount for the purpose at present, because the work that is being done is largely of the nature of inquiry. Scientific and survey expeditions are being sent out to various parts of the Territory, in order that the Government may be able to formulate a developmental policy. Most of the expenditure represented in this Bill is caused by the necessity for inquiry, analyses of soils, establishment of ex perimental stations, and so forth, in order that the Government may be able to decide on scientific lines what the nature of the development shall be, and how it shall be carried out. Coming to the Department over which I have the honour to preside, honorable senators will recognise that a very substantial vote is included in this Works and Buildings Bill. A considerable portion of the money asked for, however, is for the purpose of works that have already been authorized by Parliament. In that connexion I may mention the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, the Cordite Factory, the Military College, construction of rifle ranges, and the armament of our forts with modern guns, together with the extension of fortified places in the Commonwealth. A new policy in connexion with defence is the commencement, for the first time, of a Works Department under the control of the Naval Branch. The Government have determined to make a new departure in this respect : - That naval works, so far as they partake of a marine character - that is to say, such works as constructing dock-yards, shipbuilding, and depots - will be carried out by the Naval Branch of the Defence Department directly, and not through the Home Affairs Department. The construction of buildings ashore, however, and the acquisition of land, will still pertain to the Home Affairs Department, even when the work is done for the Defence Department. The Naval Branch has had placed upon its shoulders also the responsibility for the construction of vessels for the Commonwealth. I do not refer simply to vessels built for the Defence Department, but also for the Department of Trade and Customs. There are votes in the present Estimates for the construction of certain Customs vessels by the Naval Branch of the Defence Department. Although it must be admitted that the Defence votes are large, and in some senses new, the policy which they are intended to promote is not new. That is to say, these votes are for the purposes of the policy which Parliament has decided upon. Honorable senators will observe, in looking through the Works Estimates, and general Estimates, that the vote for rifle ranges has mounted up from ^17,000, the actual expenditure last year, to- £”70.000 in the present year. The Defence Department has been subjected tocriticism from time to time with regard tothe provision of facilities for rifle clubs and rifle shooting. But I venture to say that when honorable senators consider that the expenditure has risen to .£70,000 they will admit that the Government are making an honest effort to meet the requirements of the riflemen and of rifle shooting throughout the Commonwealth. In regard to special defence material, honorable senators will know that some four years ago it was decided, on the advice of the Colonial Defence Committee, that the fortifications around Australia, which were then deemed to be of an old type, armed with ancient guns, should be re-armed with the most modern weapons of the same calibre. There were, therefore, votes for the displacement of the old guns by new ones. The policy is being continued this year, and provision is made on the Estimates for placing new guns at the fortifications at Melbourne, Sydney, and Newcastle, and for new additional guns at Thursday Island. One very large vote is represented by the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. There has been considerable delay in the establishment of that factory, and I should like to give a short history of what has occurred. When Sir Thomas Ewing was Minister of Defence, he invited offers from firms throughout the world for the erection of a rifle factory capable of turning out fifty service rifles per day of eight hours. He did not provide plans and specifications, which contractors themselves had to supply with their tenders. When the first Fisher Government came into office they found that tenders had been called for on that basis, and that there were various types of machinery in use in such factories. One practice in the manufacture of rifles was adopted in America, and another in England. The English firms tendered according to the English system, under which, roughly speaking, a separate machine is used for the manufacture of each part of a rifle, and is not adjustable for the manufacture of any other part. Under the American system a lesser number of machines are used, and the cutters and gauges are so adjustable that one machine may be used for the manufacture of several parts of a rifle. Of the two tenders which, in the opinion of the Department, were the cheapest and the best, one was an American tender on the American system, and the other an English tender on the English system. The latter tender represented a very much larger sum of money than the former, but it was argued that the method of construction gave cheaper results.
– What was the difference between the tenders.
– I cannot give the exact amount, but the honorable senator will be able to find what it was by consulting a parliamentary paper which has been published in connexion with the matter.
– There was a very substantial difference.
– Yes; speaking from memory, I think the tender of the American firm was for £60,000, and that of the English firm for about .£120,000. Prior to the receipt of the tenders, Sir Thomas Ewing had sent to England EngineerLieutenant Clarkson, an officer of repute in the Commonwealth service, to look into and study the business of rifle manufacture. The various, tenders were by correspondence referred to Engineer-Lieutenant Clarkson for his report. It became a question of correspondence between the Commonwealth Government, represented first of all by Sir Thomas Ewing, later by myself, and later again by Mr. Cook, and the tendering firms, to find out exactly what they were prepared to supply for the amounts of their tenders. As I have said, no specifications were laid down by the Commonwealth, and I remember that it was an extremely difficult matter to judge as between the two principal tenders which would be most advantageous to the Commonwealth. Eventually the American tender was so supplemented by guarantees, and in other ways, and its advantages were so clearly pointed out, that Commander Clarkson, who had been promoted in the meantime, was satisfied that the American tender would give the best return to the Commonwealth, and lie finally recommended1 that it should be accepted. That recommendation was received, I think, just before the first Fisher Government went out of office; and when Mr. Joseph Cook assumed control of the Defence Department one of the earliest acts of his administration was to accept the tender of the American firm. There are some terms connected with the contract which I cannot at present make public. The tenderers are considerably over the contract time in the supply of the machinery. They asked me, when I became Minister of Defence for the second time, to give them an extensionof time for three months. I gave them an extension for one month. They also put forward a claim for compensation, on the ground that specifications supplied by theRoyal Enfield Rifle Works of England, the manufacturers for the British Army, were not correct. We, of course, repudiated any idea of compensation. They asked also that the penalty for delay in the completion of the contract should be waived on account of laxity in regard to the specifications. I said that I would consider the question of waiving the penalty when the contract was completed. We have consulted the Crown Law authorities, and believe we have done the best thing possible throughout in the interests of the Common wealth, but it would 0Dviously not be in the public interest that I should make public the exact position, nor the exact nature of the claims made by the company. I am giving the Senate this information because I think it will tend to clear up a doubt which seems to exist in some quarters, that since we have not yet exacted the penalty for’ delay in the completion of the contract we have in some way waived the rights of the Commonwealth.
– That is publicly stated.
– I am aware of that. I point out that the penalty can always be inflicted at the termination of the contract, should we consider it advisable and right to do so. So far as I am aware, we have not waived any of our rights by any action so far taken.
– Is there any threat or imminence of legal proceedings in connexion with the matter?
– There is no threat or imminence of legal proceedings so far from either side. I do not think the position of the Commonwealth in the matter has been jeopardized in any way. I consider -that it is a business attitude to take up to insist that the contract must first of all be completed before we decide what we shall do with regard to the infliction of a penalty, or with regard to any claim which the company may press for compensation. The fact is that from whatever cause, the completion of the contract is long overdue.
– It will be nearly two years overdue by the time it is finished.
– No, it is nearly a year overdue.
– Does the honorable senator remember what was the time limit in the two tenders?
– I do not; but the paper to which I have referred will give that information. There was a time limit in each case, and the English tender I know stipulated for a much longer time than did the American tender. I believe that the difference in time was one of the factors which induced Mr. Joseph Cook, as Minister of Defence, to make up his mind to accept the American tender. ‘ Just before I left office, with the first Fisher Ministry, the departmental officers had pointed out in connexion with the question of time that under one tender we might be manufacturing rifles during the time when the other tenderers were manufacturing the machines. The position now is that practically all the machinery has been delivered and is being installed. The buildings are about completed. The power plant, which was made in Australia, at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, has also been delivered, although it has not yet been officially taken over. It is being put through a series of tests to satisfy the departmental officers that the specifications have been complied’ with.
– Was there not some little trouble in connexion with the power plant.
– Yes, it was found that it did not come up to the required test, and that is now being adjusted. The whole of the factory is approaching completion, and the acting manager informs me that he believes that before the end of the year it will be in full working order. In regard to the Cordite Factory, work has been proceeding steadily, and a stage has been reached when they are making the constituent parts for the manufacture of cordite. A large quantity nf nitric acid has been manufactured, and the manager tells me that towards the end of the present month he expects to be turning out cordite from the constituent parts, which have been already manufactured. I wish to refer briefly to what is proposed in connexion with the Naval Department. If honorable senators will turn to the Estimates they will see a vote of £20,000, put down for dockyards,. dredges, piers, wharfs, surveys, and other naval works. We had a report from Admiral Henderson as to what, in his opinion, were the best lines on which to base the Commonwealth naval policy. In their naval policy the Government are endeavouring to follow these lines, as far as the recommendations made cover the immediate future. In his report, Admiral Henderson saw fit to refer to a period of time covering twenty-one years, which he divided into three periods of seven years each. So far the Government are directing their attention to the first period of seven years; although, ns Admiral Henderson points out, what is done to-day ought to be done with a view to the period ahead, and the development which will follow from the taking of the proposed steps. As regards naval development and naval works, his main recommendation was that there should be a chief eastern naval base and a chief western naval base. At the outset he recommended that Sydney should be the eastern base, and that Fremantle, or a place in its vicinity - Cockburn Sound - should be the western base. He also recommended that round Australia, there should be subsidiary bases for various purposes, and he instanced Westernport, in the vicinity of Hobson’s Bay, Port Stephens in New South Wales, Port Lincoln in South Australia, Thursday Island, and Port Darwin. The amount which is asked in these Estimates largely represents surveys of the various places which he indicated, with a view to ascertaining whether they comply with the requirements which he laid down. In making his recommendations, he had at his service all the data which had been collected by the State Departments, the various surveys which had been made, and all the knowledge in the possession of the Navigation or Marine Boards. But it was obvious that the data as to some of the sites could not be definite. Take, for instance, Cockburn Sound, in Western Australia. That is not at present what we would call a harbor. The mouths of what is deemed to be the harbor are closed by shoals in one place and by rocks in another. We are asking the State Government to have borings made to see whether it is practicable to blast a passage through the rocks, or cut a passage through the shoals of sand. We are also taking steps ourselves to have surveys made of the land in the vicinity, to plan what should be done there to create a naval base, so that later we shall be armed with all information as to actual cost, and able to tell Parliament exactly what we propose to do, and where we intend to place the work. That we are not able to do to-day, because we have not the data. This vote, although it looks formidable in its wording, is largely required for works pf an exploratory character, because what I have said about Port Cockburn also applies to Westernport and Port Stephens.- In each of the last two mentioned places we desire to have surveys and trial borings made, in order that we may be able to decide where to place dock yards and naval works of various kinds. Admiral Henderson took it for granted that the Commonwealth was prepared to adopt the recommendation of the Imperial Conference of 1909, that we should establish a fleet unit, providing as it did for three submarine boats. He took into consideration the question as to where the boats should be located, and he recommended that one should be located at Westernport and one at Port Stephens ; the former base to be used as the headquarters for the southern coast, and the latter base as the head-quarters for the north-eastern coast. He also recommended that we should take steps to provide for the training of the personnel, who would be raised in Australia for the manning of the Fleet Unit. In the Commonwealth service we have a number of old gun-boats which, according to our naval advisers, are perfectly fit for training purposes. I refer to the Protector, the Paluma, the Gayundah, and a couple of torpedo boats. The recommendation of our naval advisers is that, if these boats were each armed with an up-to-date gun, so that gunnery instruction could be given, they would be useful for two purposes. First, for training the Naval Reserve, which will be raised under the Defence Act - that is, youths who are over eighteen and under twenty-five years of age - and have to go to sea for twenty-five days in each year. Not only would the boats be useful for training these lads, and making them a valuable reserve for the Fleet Unit, but they would also be useful as recruiting boats for the personnel of the Fleet Unit. At present recruiting is carried on by the Australian Squadron, which is, of course, under the control of the Admiral. Some 400 Australians are being trained there, besides 200 or 300 who were enrolled for the Royal Naval Reserve. Those who joined the Naval Squadron during the last year or eighteen months were told that, in joining, they were practically undertaking to serve in the Australian Fleet Unit, and they signed on with that understanding ; so that when the Fleet Unit takes the place of the Australian Squadron, the Australians who were enrolled during that period will pass over to the Australian Government, and will be used to man the Fleet Unit. It is necessary to supplement that number, because we shall require about 800 of the lower ratings for the Fleet Unit. Following Admiral Henderson’s recommendation again, it has been decided to establish a Naval
Barracks at Westernport, and there we shall give gunnery and torpedo instruction to recruits who will be recruited by the gun-boats in various parts of Australia, kept in barracks for some time of the year, and at other times sent to sea. There is also a proposition to do the same thing at Garden Island, in Port Jackson, with the consent of the Imperial authorities.
– Will they retain Garden Island after the Fleet Unit is established ?
– No. When the Fleet Unit comes to Australia, they are prepared to hand over to the Commonwealth, free of cost, the whole of the naval establishment in Sydney.
– That is very generous.
– It is very generous indeed. We are asking the Imperial authorities to allow our recruits in the interim to go into the Garden Island establishment, and from there to be drafted on to the drillships - the Pyramid and the Psyche - which are set aside for that purpose. This vote on the Works Estimates is intended for the establishment of Naval Barracks, and a Gunnery and Torpedo School at Westernport, the idea being to get as many Australians as possible, so as to insure that in the Fleet Unit all the lower ratings shall be Australians. The expenditure of another, large sum in connexion with the Defence Department is rendered necessary by the universal obligation to train which has been laid upon the youths of Australia. A sum of £65,000 is required for procuring rifles for the Senior Cadets. Orders have already been placed, and the object of this vote is to supplement them, so as to secure the necessary number of rifles. On the military side we have the advice of Lord Kitchener, which was tendered to a previous Government, and which was largely accepted and followed by the present Government. On that advice we are adding to the field batteries of Australia four batteries per 3’ear, and the Works Estimates contain an item of .£45,000 towards that object. A new item, which also marks a departure and a new policy in defence, is an item of £31,700 to establish a reserve of gun ammunition. When we came to consider the position of our field artillery we found that the reserves of artillery ammunition were dangerously small. When we recall the quantity of ammunition which was expended in a gun during the Japanese- Russian war we can realize how danger ously low our reserves of field gun ammunition have been in the past. Unless we take the proposed step we may find ourselves at some time in an awkward position. Suppose that we were cut off from Europe by sea for a few weeks, we would have very great difficulty in providing ammunition for field artillery. There are no manufacturers of the ammunition in Australia, and, therefore, it became imperative that some steps should be taken. Two courses were open to us : either to establish a factory for the manufacture of shells for field guns, or to establish a reserve of this class of ammunition. In time of peace our consumption of field gun ammunition and ammunition for the fixed defences is too small to employ a factory during the whole year. A huge sum would have been required to establish a factory, and when it was established our requirements would have been too small to keep it economically at work. Therefore, the Government decided that, until our consumption of ammunition is on a larger scale, it was imperative to establish a reserve of this ammunition on which we could fall back in time of war, if supplies from the Mother Country were cut off.
– What is the value of the ammunition expended in a year during peace time?
– I cannot give the value, but I can get it foi the honorable senator.
– The real point of interest is, by what amount will the proposed vote be in excess of the consumption for the year ?
– This is the first vote of the kind, and it was compiled by the Chief of Ordnance with a knowledge of our annual consumption of ammunition. I may mention that this reserve will not be charged shells, because cordite is one of those tricky explosives which cannot be kept for any great length of time. From the time it is manufactured it begins to deteriorate, especially in a warm climate.
– It does not get more dangerous, like melignite?
– Yes, it does. In the case of all these high explosives deterioration means danger, and once a certain point is reached the article has to be destroyed. Our inspectors are continually going round and testing the cordite, and since I have been at the head of the Department we have had to destroy over £10,000 worth of this explosive. ‘ What we propose to do, therefore, is not to store the cordite, but to store the metal parts of the cartridges - the shells. Then, having the cordite works, we shall always be in a position to charge the shells in time of war. This reserve, I need scarcely point out, will not deteriorate. The shells will be as good in ten years’ time as they are to-day. This is a new departure; but I think honorable senators will agree with me that it is a very necessary one. Then there is an item of£12,000 for replacing condemned ammunition. This does not refer exclusively to cordite which has deteriorated, but to ammunition in store for the old type of 6-in. guns. This ammunition has now become useless, owing to our having mounted more modern guns. Wherever it was possible to do so, we have used this ammunition; but, of course, we have not been able to use the whole of it. There are one or two places, too, where, according to experts, additional steps will need to be taken to make the proposed naval bases which we are establishing safe. That is to say, we shall require to mount guns of a heavier type, and we shall also need to extend the fortifications in those places. It is obvious that, if we have a formidable Fleet - and our Fleet, though small, will be a formidable one - no fleet will attackus unless it is equally formidable, both from the stand-point of the range of its guns, and of their penetration. Therefore, any ships sent down to attack our bases will be vessels carrying guns of a certain calibre. That consideration has caused us to extend our policy by arming our fixed defences. The amount which is set out on these Estimates represents the preliminary expenditure towards that end. I wish now to say a word or two regarding the Government policy in connexion with the factories which have already been established. In those factories, a system of accounts has been instituted by means of which we hope to be able to check the cost of production. We hope that these factories will be able to turn out the goods they are supplying as economically, if not more so, as we have hitherto been purchasing them from the contractors.
– They will need to be an improvement on the Post and Telegraph Department.
– We ought to be able to profit by the mistakes of other Departments. I repeat that a system of bookkeeping has been instituted in these factories, so that we shall be able to check, the exact cost of materials, of labour, and of production. I do not know that there are any other items in the Bill to which I can direct attention at this moment. Most of them are of an ordinary character, and simply give effect to the policy which has hitherto been adopted. Certainly, we are asking for larger amounts than have previously been voted; but these larger votes do not relate to new items. During the past twelve months we have placed very huge contracts for clothing materials, and these contracts are provided for upon the Estimates now under consideration. Both the production of the cloth and its manufacture into uniforms are being carried out in the Commonwealth. Although there have been some complaints about the nonsupply of uniforms to Cadets, honorable senators must recollect that it was only in 1910 that the Bill was passed which authorized the increase of our Defence organization ; so that only a little more than twelve months have since elapsed. During that period, we have passed through one of the busiest years Australia has known, our factories have been working up to their full capacity, and we have had to go round and, as the Americans say, “hustle,” in order to get our contracts placed, both for the supply of cloth and of uniforms. Though here and there we are slightly behind in the supply of uniforms, in most cases, they have been sent out as soon as the lads have been ready to receive them. In conclusion, I merely wish to say that any information which I can give to honorable senators, either in replying upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill, or in Committee, I shall be only too pleased to supply, because I recognise that Parliament has an undoubted right to the fullest information in respect of any subject which is dealt with in these Estimates. All I ask is that honorable senators will, as expeditiously as possible, pass the Bill, so that the many useful works for which it provides may be commenced, and that the Government may get going with many undertakings for which both Parliament and the people have been clamouring for a long time.
– The Minister of Defence has stated the position, from his point of view, very fairly by asking the Senate to make such progress with this measure as it can. In dealing with that aspect of the case, may I point out that he has frequently expressed the view which is entertained by the Senate that a fairly reasonable opportunity should be given us of considering the finances of the Commonwealth. Seeing that this Chamber is disposed to extend to the Government a great deal of consideration in regard to this Bill, I think it is not unreasonable to ask them to afford us an early opportunity of considering the whole financial position, upon a motion which already appears upon the businesspaper. It is only right that the Government should give that debate a little more prominent place upon the business-paper than it occupies at present. To postpone the question until we are on the eve of the prorogation, will be merely to keep the word of promise to the ear and break it to the hope. I quite agree with- the Minister that there are matters which he mentioned which can be more advantageously dealt with in Committee, and I propose to follow his suggestion in that connexion. But I would direct attention to the serious practice which is growing up of endeavouring to circumvent the Audit Act. Under that Act, on the 30th June in each year, every sum which is unexpended falls back into the Consolidated Revenue, and has to be le-voted. However desirable a practice that may be in regard to votes for the ordinary annual services, its absurdity is becoming more and more manifest with each Bill that is presented to this Chamber. Nothing could have emphasized its absurdity more eloquently than did the remarks of the Minister of Defence in his attempt to defend it. He pointed out that because it is not possible to expend £600,000 upon telegraphic and telephonic works before the 30th June next, it is intended to establish a Trust Fund; and thus to evade the obligations of the Audit Act. This is not a solitary instance of the kind. I do not know whether the Minister can tell us how many Trust Funds are already in existence. I believe that the amount at present in them represents something like £11,000,000. I cannot better illustrate the position than by saying that on the Senate table there is a bottle of water, and several tumblers. The bottle we will suppose represents the Consolidated Revenue, and just so long as the water remains in it, the Senate exercises control over it. But if the Ministry pour a portion of that water into a tumbler, which I may liken to a Trust Fund, from that moment it passes out of our control.
That is the one object underlying the establishment of Trust Funds, and it doubtless explains the strong affection which the Treasury officials have for this mode of procedure. I have no objection to the cash system being adopted in regard., to the ordinary annual services, but when we are asked to hypothecate a certain sum of money for the purchase of a specific quantity of material, I say that Parliament, having approved of it, the amount ought to be expended, irrespective of whether or not it can be expended by a certain date. It is the acme of absurdity to say that, if Parliament, in its wisdom, votes £2,000 for the purchase of ammunition, because the money cannot be expended by the 30th June, it must lapse, and the Legislature must be asked to reapprove it. The extent to which this practice is growing is shown in the figures which are before us. Last year, we voted £523,616 in connexion with the Department of Home Affairs, of which only £330,468 was expended. Where is the justification for loading up the Estimates by this procedure, and of asking Parliament to reconsider its decision? This matter becomes more serious when we observe the growth of Trust Funds. Every session we create a fresh Trust Fund ? Why ? Merely to get away from the disabilities which are imposed by the Audit Act. Would it not be a more businesslike procedure to amend that Act, and to say that when we have made an appropriation for the purchase of material, or anything else, it should stand good ? When the general Estimates are under consideration, I propose to ask the Senate to consider the sums of money which are being dealt with under cover of these Trust Funds, and which thus pass beyond parliamentary control, notwithstanding that we may have had no information whatever as to the specific purposes to which they are to be applied. The Minister of Defence has assured us that though this £600,000 will be paid into a Trust Fund, not a penny of it will be spent until a Bill has been submitted containing a schedule which will disclose the details of the proposed expenditure. But 1 would remind him that a similar promise was made to the Senate on a previous occasion, and was not redeemed. I refer to the promise made in respect of the Naval Trust Fund. We were invited to’ appropriate a certain sum which was to be paid into the Naval Trust Fund, and we were given the solemn assurance by the Government of the day that not a single penny of that money would be touched until Parliament had been afforded an opportunity of approving or disapproving of the proposed method of expending it. We know that that promise was not redeemed. The fund was rifled, and appropriated without any further reference to Parliament at all. The justification urged was that there had been a change of Government, and that the Ministry of the day were under no obligation to redeem the promise of their predecessors. I refer to this as showing that the Ministerial promises, although under existing circumstances they may be of value, do not in any sense protect the rights of Parliament. If we place this £600,000 in a Trust Fund, there will be nothing to prevent the Government from spending the money as they like, barring their own word ; and while I do not doubt that their promise will, in this instance, be rigidly observed, there is no guarantee to Parliament as to how the money will be spent. Parliament practically gives up its right even to inquire, or, at any rate, to control the expenditure, once it gives permission for the money to be passed into the Trust Fund. With regard to wireless telegraphy, I should like to have an assurance from the Government that they are not committing themselves more and more deeply to the Telefunken system, until at least they have had some assurance as to the result of the legal action recently instituted in Great Britain by the Marconi Company. The Telefunken system was very severely criticised elsewhere, and in the Senate, some time ago. Although the departmental view was not disturbed by parliamentary criticism, I think I am correct in saying that grave doubts existed in the minds of some honorable senators as to whether the correct course was being taken. Since then those doubts have been considerably strengthened. If any one wants proof of the assertion that the cheapest tender is not always the best, we have it in the disclosure made to-day by the Minister with reference to the Small Arms Factory. The Government of the day, with regard to both the Small Arms Factory and the wireless installation, felt itself almost compelled to accept the lowest tenders that were offered because of the low figure quoted for each. In both of these cases, an American firm in the one instance, and the local representatives of a German firm in the other, put in tenders very much below the rates quoted by their competitors. In regard to the Small Arms Factory, the Minister has to-day .furnished us with particulars as to what has occurred. The successful tenderer had hardly got to work when a claim was put in for compensation, because it was professed to have been discovered that there had been some variation from the original conditions. The same thing occurred with reference to the con. struction of wireless installation, where the Government paid 50 per cent, increase over the tender price because of some alteration in the conditions, which, I venture to say, was not worth anything like the amount of compensation claimed. We know the subsequent history of this wireless company. It is a marvellous thing to me that, while we insist upon a Commonwealth monopoly with reference to wireless telegraphy, the Government should have consented to pay 50 per cent, in excess of the tender price almost as soon as the tender was accepted. I can only hope that the Government are not going to allow themselves to get further and further involved, so that they will be compelled to go on extending the Telefunken system as new wireless installations are required. I do not say at the present time that the Telefunken system is either the best or the worst system that we could adopt. I do not raise that point at all, nor is it necessary to do so. What I am anxious for is that the Government shall not be compelled, in regard to fresh installations, to deprive itself of the opportunity of adopting any other system which may be considered to be better ; and, above all, I am anxious that the Government shall make itself abundantly safe by seeing that all legal difficulties are satisfactorily disposed of before we permit the Telefunken system to be finally installed in Australia. I have one remark to make concerning the Northern Territory. The observations of the Minister concerning the policy of the Government did not seem to promise a very hopeful future for that portion of our responsibilities. The Minister spoke of the amount set down on the Estimates for experimental farms, and said that it was intended to experiment in order to acquire that knowledge which would enable the Government to determine on lines of development.
– Hear, hear !
– Are we to wait until those experiments have been concluded before we attempt to develop the Northern Territory ?
– We do not want to spend thousands of pounds before we know how to spend it.
– Are we to wait until scientific research has demonstrated how best we can develop the Northern Territory before we make any attempt to develop it?
– No; but we think it advisable to ascertain what particular kind of development is likely to be successful.
– I have quoted the Minister’s words, as far as I could take them down. I understood him to say that these experiments were necessary to enable the Government to decide on lines of development. I take it, from the Minister’s interjection, however, that he did not mean that remark to be construed too literally.
– Hear, hear !
– I understand that we are not to wait for the result of the experiments before we attempt to develop, but that developmental works will go on side by side with the experiments which will enable us, from time to time, to readjust our developmental policy. If that be the meaning, I quite approve of what is being done. The policy pursued is satisfactory, so far as it goes ; but I should have liked to have had a more definite statement as to what is intended with regard to the Northern Territory. For myself, I am not free from apprehensions concerning it. First of all, I recognise that this is perhaps the biggest responsibility that we have yet shouldered.
– It is certainly a very big contract.
– It is; and I will add - and I say this with a full sense of responsibility, and with seriousness - that I regret the Government have not obtained the services of a better adviser with regard to agricultural development. I urge the Government not to tie themselves absolutely to the advice which they will receive from those to whom apparently they are looking for guidance at the present time. There are persons in Australia whose capacity is beyond question, and who have had’ some practical experience - and I lay a great deal of stress upon practical experience - of tropical agriculture. The advice of these people is available to the Government if they seek it. They will do well to avail themselves of such advice before they proceed further. At any rate, I trust that they will not lay too much stressupon the reports which have been presented to them by their own officers. Before I sit down, I may draw attention to one little matter regarding the form of the Bill. We might as well be correct. The Bill professes to vote money for the purpose of “ Additions, New Works, and Buildings, &c.” That title finds its way on to the face of the Bill because it was the title of the first Works Bill introduced into this Parliament; but the Minister will see that this measure is quite dissimilar from that. It contains large votes for defence purposes, for the purchase of material for military stores, for armaments, ammunition, the establishment of an aviation corps, the re-armament of vessels, and so forth. These items of expenditure can hardly come under the denomination of” Additions, New Works, and Buildings.” I admit that the point is not important, but I suggest that it is about time for the Government to alter this stereotyped heading in order to make the title conform to the purposes of the measure itself.
– The Minister of Defence has made an appeal to the Senate to pass this Bill without delay. He does not, of course, expect that there will be no criticism, but he has requested that there will be nothing in the nature of obstruction. The explanation given, however, touches upon matters of policy to such an extent that some amount of criticism must be expected at this stage. I take the opportunity of saying a few words with regard to one or two of the more important subjects dealt with in the measure which are not capable of being so well dealt with in Committee. I will first refer to a point to which I have alluded on several other occasions. We are taking an enormous sum of money out of revenue in order to provide for permanent works. Take one item alone - the establishment of a Trust Fund for the purposes of a Post and Telegraph Department. An amount of over£600,000 is being taken out of the current year’s revenue for that purpose.
– Would the honorable senator prefer to borrow the money ?
– I am glad the honorable senator sees the point at once. Not a single member of the Government, from the Treasurer downwards, has ever disputed the proposition that the Post and Telegraph Department is not a reproductive agency in the full sense of the term.
– It is reproductive to a very large extent.
– It ought to be. As the Commonwealth develops, the Department should become entirely reproductive, and should be able to sustain its own expenditure. But at present the Department absorbs a very large amount of revenue. Notwithstanding the fact that these permanent works which will be built out of this Trust Fund money will be permanent assets of the Commonwealth, it is proposed to charge the whole cost upon current revenue. Why so?
– Because we believe in paving as we go.
– I have said over and over again that this system amounts to sweating the taxpayer for the benefit of posterity, which, as a celebrated Irishman said, “ has done nothing for us.” I do not believe that there is a precedent for this kind of thing to be found in any public or private business the world over.
– Nonsense !
– Of what use is it for the honorable senator to say “ Nonsense?” Let him reply.
– There is an easy reply to that.
– Then I hope we shall hear it from the honorable senator. Is it fair to charge one year’s revenue the whole cost of permanent works which may be reproductive for the next thirty or forty years?
– These amounts do not represent the whole cost of the proposed works.
– So much the worse for the honorable member’s contention. There is not a member of the Senate who is not aware that twice or three times £600,000 will be required to place the Post and Telegraph Department on a sound footing in the matter of permanent works. Senator de Largie must have forgotten what the Minister of Defence said in introducing this Bill. The amount referred to is only an instalment of an amount representing over £2,000,000 required by that Department.
– Spread over how many years?
– Spread over as many as honorable senators please.
– This amount is this year’s portion.
– There is to be another vote of about £700,000 next year, and a further vote a year after that. I have no hesitation in characterizing this as frenzied finance. There is no precedent for it.
– It is honest finance, anyhow.
- Senator de Largie, with his knowledge of the requirements of the Post and Telegraph Department, should be acquainted with the conditions of the Postal Department of the United Kingdom. If he is he will know that no less than eighteen months ago, when by an Act of the Imperial Parliament it was provided that when the rights of the -different telephone companies expired they should be taken over by the Imperial Government, a minute was sent down from the Postmaster-General’s Department to the Treasury in anticipation of the requirement of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 for the purpose, and it was accompanied by a statement that the cost of the transaction would be met by the Post and Telegraph Department by a system of terminable annuities. When the PostmasterGeneral of England warned the Imperial Parliament that it would be necessary to find £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 for the purpose mentioned, it never occurred to him to suggest that it should be taken out of revenue.
– But it is taken out of revenue all the same.
– Not all. The honorable member cannot be cognisant of the matter.
– I can assure the honorable senator that the Postal Department in the Old Country is a source of profit year after year.
– That has not the slightest bearing on the question I am discussing.
– The Postal Department of the United Kingdom borrows from the Imperial Treasurer.
– It was only borrowed on this occasion to pay back.
– The more the honorable senator interrupts the more it seems to me he appears still to be a schoolboy in finance. He must know, as Senator Chataway has said, that the British PostmasterGeneral has been for years borrowing from the Imperial Treasurer on debentures which are met by a system of terminable annuities.
– The honorable senator would not make any provision for paying back at all.
– It would be the business of any Treasurer who instituted a rational and proper method of borrowing for reproductive works to see that the Departments for which the money was borrowed should establish sinking funds to meet the cost of works constructed from loan expenditure.
– That is what ought to be done, but what the honorable senator’s party have never done.
– Ever since I have been a member of the Senate, I have been complaining that that has not been done. When we find that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department of the United Kingdom, with its 40,000,000 of probably the wealthiest people on earth, never thinks of charging to current revenue the whole cost of developmental and reproductive works, it should be patent to every one that a somewhat similar system should be applied to the construction of such works in Australia. What is the reason for the adoption of the Government policy in this matter? It is due to a financial shibboleth on the other side - “ Don’t borrow.”
– Hear, hear j unless you are compelled to do so.
– It is no more than a shibboleth, and we shall find that the Government will borrow all the same. What is the practice of private financiers in matters of this kind ? The telephones in the United States are largely run by private enterprise.
– And very badly too.
– There may be some room for dispute on that point. But if the service is better than ours, the obvious reason is that it would be almost impossible to find on earth a worse service than that in operation in Australia.
– My experience is that the Australian service is a very good one.
– Senator St. Ledger’s view is not shared by visitors to Australia from America and Great Britain. They say that ours is the best system they have ever seen.
– The Minister would do well to bear in mind that very often our visitors successfully practice the art of “ leg-pulling.” The fact remains that private telephone companies, in extending the area of their operations, do not take the cost of permanent reproductive works out of capital. They spread it over a number of years, and from each year’s revenue set aside a certain amount to cover the cost. It is so with every private enterprise. If a company is formed to carry on reproductive operations, it does not charge the whole cost of permanent works to the capital raised straight away, but to meet it depend to a very large extent upon the profits derived. I mention this matter, because any one who travels through the sparsely-populated districts of Australia must know that settlement is retarded because the Government, time and again, in answer to demands for extensions, say, “There is no money.” They might easily get the money required, especially for the Post and Telegraph Department, but I regret to say that in this Bill, proposing such immense expenditure on new works and buildings, there is not the slightest indication that the Government intend to adopt the financial policy followed everywhere else. In this connexion, I may refer to a matter which probably Ministers will regard as proving that their policy is a sound one. The previous Government, after careful deliberation, intended to establish in connexion with the construction of reproductive works for the Post and Telegraph Department, something like the principle upon which the Post Office of the United Kingdom is carried on, by proposing to pay for those works by a system of terminable annuities. I think that was a sound proposition. I have risen only to refer to this matter of financial policy, and so long as I remain a member of the Senate I shall protest against the Government system of charging the whole cost of reproductive works to current revenue.
– I think we should have a quorum- while we are discussing this important matter. [Quorum formed.]
– Until a proper system of finance is adopted, especially in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department, the reasonable requirements of the people for telephonic and telegraphic facilities will not be met. I do not wish to blame the present Government solely in this matter, because preceding Administrations followed much the same line. There is this difference, however, to be considered : That the last Government intended to abandon the policy of looking to each year’s revenue to meet the whole cost of new reproductive works. Such a system must in the end break down. This Bill proposes the expenditure of over £2,000,000 upon new works and buildings. From the somewhat sketchy, but very informative, remarks of the Minister of Defence in introducing the Bill, it is clear that we are committed to millions of expenditure on works which will be permanent and reproductive. How are the Government, as our population increases, to meet out of revenue the expenditure which will be necessary upon the public works to which we are already committed? Senator de Largie suggested, by interjection, that I am the apostle for the loan business. But in a certain sense honorable senators opposite are the apostles for a loan policy. There are items in this Bill associated with the development of the Northern Territory, and with possible schemes of development in Western Australia, and the shibboleth of the Government party - no borrowing - is utterly impossible of application to these schemes of development. The Government cannot face the problem of connecting Port Darwin with Adelaide, and Port Augusta with Kalgoorlie, out of current revenue.
– We are building the Navy out of current revenue.
– The honorable senator is at liberty to take what consolation he likes from that. But when we come to consider the Government policy, we shall find that they depend upon proceeds of the land tax to meet expenditure on the Navy.
– That is their great satisfaction - not that they are building a Navy, but that they are taxing somebody else.
– If I were to pursue this matter, I should be led into the discussion of matters of policy, and I think we might defer to the Minister’s request not to trench too largely on matters of that kind in dealing with this Bill. Still, I say that if we are going to build the railways to which I have referred, we must borrow somewhere. If we are going to conduct the Post and Telegraph Department as it should be conducted, in order to give reasonable facilities to the people of Australia, we must borrow. When we get some idea of the financial policy of the Government, we shall find either that the development of the country by railways north and south is mere pretence and humbug of the electors, or, if there is sincerity behind it, that these reproductive works can only be carried out by the Commonwealth going to the loan market somewhere.
– Do you not think that it is wise to borrow as little as possible if you must borrow?
– Certainly not. That is what I may be pardoned for calling schoolboy finance. If I had only a pound in my pocket, and I knew of a tract of country out of which I could take gold to the value of a million and a half, need I be deterred because I had not a million pounds? The more that honorable senators, on the other side, interject, the more do they reveal their ignorance of finance. And the more this matter is inquired into, the more clearly it is shown to be a preposterous piece of financial humbug.
– I was rather astonished at the statement of Senator St. Ledger, and at the warmth which he displayed. I have always been under the impression that “ he who goes a borrowing, goes a sorrowing.” I agree with the Government that, if possible, we ought by all means to pay our way as we go.
– But what if we cannot pay our way?
-I think that the warning applies there, too. When the time comes that we may have to borrow we can face the matter.
– How about the Northern Territory?
– That question will be dealt with by the Government byandby. I cannot forget that, during last session, we repealed the Naval Loan Act which had been passed at the instance of the previous Government to sanction a loan of£3,500,000 for establishing a navy. But the greater portion of the money required for that purpose has been found out of revenue. For the Defence Department, as well as the Postmaster-General’s Department, money is required, and the Government’s policy of last session is still in force, although it was denounced by the last speaker, and his colleagues, as one of the worst things which possibly could happen. It was described then as unjust, unfair robbery, scandalous robbery, and in other ways, but we do not hear much about the policy now. The result of its adoption has been that, instead of borrowing, we have found £3,500,000, practically out of revenue, and the muchdenounced tax of last session has produced for the Commonwealth about £1,400,000. Those who hold large valuable properties are now called upon to pay their just and fair quota of the taxation. Surely they ought to find the means for protecting their estates.
– That does not touch the question of permanent reproductive works.
– I would be very sorry, indeed, to deliver such a speech as the honorable senator has just made.
– You could not.
– I do not think that I could, because, when I speak, I know what I mean, and I think that honorable senators on the other side know, too. I have not risen to kill time. I am glad that the Government are taking the stand which they do. I am proud that, while Labour is at the helm, we, as a Federal Parliament, are determined to pay our way as we go, and not to heap up burdens for those who have to come after us.
– How shall we build that railway in the Northern Territory ?
– At the present time we do not need to borrow. Thank God for the change of politicians. Thank God, also, that the Fusion Government, which wanted to borrow money and put the Commonwealth in a wrong position, is no more, and that justice is being done.
.- I should like to have from the Government a promise that if this measure is passed with ordinary expedition, but, of course, after some discussion we shall have an opportunity to debate at length their financial policy. In fact, that opportunity should have been provided before this Bill was introduced. We are practically ‘ working in the dark, but if the Minister can give the assurance I desire, it will facilitate the passage of the Bill. We are asked to vote a large sum to carry out the works policy of the Government for the current year. A considerable portion of the amount represents votes which have lapsed, and have to be re-voted. I dare say that a large part of the sum which we are now asked to vote will also lapse, because I do not think that the Government will have the time, even if they had the will, to spend all this money on useful works during the next six or seven months. It is over twelve months since they promised that wireless telegraphy would be installed with expedition in Australia, but there has been only delay in this matter. A station was to be established at Thursday Island or Cooktown. According to the Minister of the day it did not need to be equipped in anything like the same way as the station at Fremantle or Sydney. When a ship goes Home it is installed with wireless telegraphy in about three weeks. I think that four or five months was ample time for the Government to fulfil their promise We hear nothing from them now on this subject, except that the erection of a station is being proceeded with at Pennant Hills and at Fremantle. What action is being taken with regard to other stations which were to be established in different parts of the Commonwealth - for instance, one in Tasmania, and one in North Queensland? No money is asked on these Estimates to carry out this necessary work. I think that at the least the Government ought to proceed with the works which they promised to undertake. Although nothing has been done during the last twelve months, yet the Government come down now and tell us that for another year nothing is to be done. That is not fair to the Parliament or to the country. Apparently sums of money can be found for constructing railways and establishing the Federal Capital. The laying out of the Capital is not so urgent as the installation of wireless telegraphy. It is established all over the world, but Australia lags behind, and only for private enterprise we would not have such a convenience here. In my opinion, the Government are to be condemned for their inaction. We have heard a lot about the Government carrying out works with revenue, and revenue only. How are they going to pay for the railways out of revenue unless they impose additional taxation? At present we do not know what is their policy in that regard. We are practically asked to vote a lot of money “on the blind.” Are we not entitled to know when the Government are likely to proceed with the development of the Northern Territory? I have not heard a word from the Minister to-day about the development of the Territory of Papua. Surely it is intended to do something there.
– That will come on in the general Estimates.
– There is no item in this Bill for the Territory of Papua.
– There is an item of £29,000 for the Northern Territory, though.
– Since it was taken over the Northern Territory has involved a loss at the rate of £316,000 annually, which, of course, the taxpayers have to make good. We are told that the Government are making experiments there. They had the advantage of the various experiments which had been made by South Australia; and surely before they decided to take over the Territory they should have had an idea of how they intended to develop its resources, ind not ask the taxpayers to cover a deficiency of over £300,000 a year, merely telling us that something will be done there byandby. That is not a good business proposition. I do not think that any one else would take over a Territory without being prepared to develop it. Nor have we heard how the Government intend to populate the Northern Territory, or, indeed, what course they propose to take. Everything is to be left in abeyance. There is no prospect of this Parliament having an opportunity to efficiently deal with the Territory, and when we appeal to the electors we shall be told that the Government intend to take some action in the future. In the meantime, the Territory is to be a millstone round the necks of the taxpayers. It was the duty of the Government to outline what they intend to do as regards its development. There is also a large loss every week on the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, but we have not heard a word from the Government as to how they propose to reduce the loss. Apparently it is to be allowed to continue, and we shall have to vote money to make good the deficiency. The Senate was entitled to an explanation from the Government, but we are left completely in the dark. I do not cavil at the proposed votes for defence, because I think it is necessary, but some of the items appear to me to be very large. Upon these Estimates an amount of £4,000 is provided for the purpose of making a road in the Maribyrnong district. I desire to know whether or not that road is within Commonwealth Territory. If it be within Commonwealth Territory, I have no objection to the expenditure; but otherwise I entertain the very strongest objection to it. I observe, too, that in the Bill large amounts are set apart for the establishment of rifle ranges. Strange to say, no sum has been provided for any rifle range north of Mackay, in Queensland, notwithstanding that some of the largest rifle meetings in Australia have been held in that locality. From my own experience, expenditure in that direction is very necessary. We have been assured by Ministerial supporters that the Commonwealth is not going to embark upon a borrowing policy. I. may, perhaps, be permitted to tell honorable senators that I know a very wealthy man who refuses to own a single house, on the ground that he can rent one cheaper, and thus make better use of his capital. If we can borrow money and expend it to advantage in the Northern Territory, why should we not do so? Why should we be compelled to do everything out of revenue for the benefit of future generations? Let us shoulder our share of the burden and let posterity shoulder its share.
– We are not going to borrow.
– Only the other day the honorable senator affirmed that he was opposed to the land tax until the Labour party adopted an exemption of £5,000 unimproved value.
– I was always in favour of that exemption. I like to see justice done to the farmer.
– What is wrong in a man borrowing money, so long as he can make good use of it and pay interest upon it? Is it wrong for the Commonwealth to borrow money for reproductive public works which will belong to future generations? All authorities lay it down that to borrow for reproductive public works is good financing. If I owned Senator W. Russell’s farm, and I saw that, by mortgaging it for £2,000 or £3,000, I could make a profit of 2 or 3 per cent., I would adopt that course without hesitation. It would be good business to do so. But the honorable senator is so conservative that he cannot see beyond the nose on his face. To borrow money for the purpose of developing our resources is good business, so long as the Government have faith in those resources. In the absence of further taxation, I would like to know where the money is to come from which we shall be asked to vote upon the Estimates-in-Chief . We have embarked upon a defence scheme which is based upon the reports of Admiral Henderson and Lord Kitchener. Admiral Henderson’s scheme alone represents an outlay of .£80,000,000.
– By charging up the cost of maintenance each year.
– Where are we to raise that money during the next twenty years ? Are we going to ask the people of Australia to be taxed off the face of the earth, in order to permit of effect being given to that scheme?
– We are not going to put Australia in pawn.
– We shall have to borrow money to carry it out. What is the good of the Government attempting to mislead the people by bringing Admiral Henderson and Lord Kitchener to Australia, at a great deal of expense, if their recommendations are not to be adopted? To-day the Minister of Defence spoke of certain gun-boats of which use is to be made - gun-boats which were obsolete twenty years ago. Hitherto, we have had a Defence scheme in existence which has been a farce from beginning to end. I should like to know how many millions sterling were wasted upon that scheme. According to the interjections of two honorable senators the Commonwealth is not to be put in pawn.
– Not so long as we can avoid it.
– Are honorable senators prepared to say that they will further tax the people of the Commonwealth in order that our Defence scheme may be financed out of revenue? If so, I do not think the electors will submit to it very long. Before these Estimates were submitted we should have had from the Minister some intimation of the Government’s policy. I do not want them, at the last moment of the session, to put their policy before us, because we shall then be denied an opportunity to consider it. If they intend to further tax the people, I shall oppose their proposals. I say that, at the present time, our people are taxed up to the’ hilt.
– We are not expending as much per head upon our Navy as the people of Great Britain are spending on the Imperial Navy.
– I am quite aware of that. But the people of Great Britain are wealthier as a whole.
– They are not.
– They have to maintain a Navy which is far more powerful than any other Navy in the world. I do not suggest that the people of Australia will complain of fair taxation ; but it is impossible to construct, out of revenue, all the works by which future generations will profit. Let us borrow judiciously. If the Northern Territory is the great country which it has been pictured to be, why not borrow money for its development? Let us ease the taxpayer in that way, and then more revenue will be available for the purposes of defence. I admit that a Defence policy should be paid for out of revenue. But, upon these Estimates, I see dozens of works which are to be paid for out of revenue, and which will principally benefit future generations. I wish now to refer to the establishment of the Cordite Factory. I hold in my hand a copy of the correspondence which took place in reference to that factory, and I confess it is a little puzzling to me. I have been told that only two tenders were received for its erection, whereas the correspondence discloses that four tenders were forthcoming. These were : - The Birmingham Small Arms Company, £150,231, time, two and a half years ; Archdale and Company, Birmingham, £100,438, time, three years ; Greenwood and Batley, Leeds, £69,141, time, two years, less five weeks; Pratt and Whitney, United States of America, £68,144, time, one year, sixteen weeks, which was subsequently reduced to one year. Commander Clarkson, Captain Collins, and various other gentlemen all pointed out that there was not much difference between the tenders of two firms - that the difference was principally in respect of the time which would be occupied in establishing the factory. I will not weary the Senate by quoting the whole of the letters relating to this matter. I shall confine myself to one. On page 2 appears the following passage : -
If Birmingham Small Arms amount considered excessive, Clarkson considers there is little to choose between Greenwood and Batley and Pratt Whitney except time of delivery.
This cute Yankee company undertook the work on certain terms. I do not know whether they got hold of any of the officials, but they must have thoroughly understood that they would not be pressed.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that Mr. Joseph Cook gave the company an undertaking that they would not be pressed?
– I do not say that Mr. Joseph Cook or any other Minister did so.
– The honorable senator’s statement had reference to officials, not to the Minister.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that any officials gave such an undertaking?
– I do not say-
– Why insinuate?
– If the Minister wants to know why I insinuate, I reply that after a certain official had been to America he came back with different opinions altogether. Why should those opinions have been altered in the way they were?
– What did we send him to America for?
– To get an opinion.
– To make inquiries.
– What was the use of sending the official to America if this state of things was to result? What good came of the inquiries ? Commander Clarkson considered that there was little to choose between the two manufacturers “ except time of delivery.” Have we secured any advantage in respect of time of delivery? The Government knew that they were letting the contract to people at a distance, and that they might never carry it out. The Minister has acknowledged today that he does not know exactly when the business will be settled. He added that there were certain matters that it would not be advisable to state to the Senate. I quite agree with him, and shall not attempt to press him to say more than he thinks judicious. But I hope that the honorable senator will see that contractors who put in a tender which is accepted carry out their job, and are not allowed to play ducks and drakes with the Commonwealth. I have always found in private business that if one had a contract to let the best course to pursue was to let it to a reliable man who would carry it through according to the conditions as to time and quality laid down in the specifications. An unreliable contractor will generally take longer over the job, and put in bad work unless he is watched very carefully - and watching costs a good deal of money.
– Sir John Quick is the man responsible for letting this contract.
– I say nothing about Sir John Quick. I do not know whether he was responsible or not. He can answer for himself. The fact that I have to deal with is that the present Government have been in office long enough to see this job carried through. They came into office eighteen months ago, and the time specified in this contract was one year and eleven weeks. The present Government, therefore, and not Sir John Quick, are responsible for the non-fulfilment of the conditions of contract.
– But Sir John Quick let the contract.
– If I let a contract and afterwards formally turn the work over to some one else, that person is responsible. If Senator de Largie has any charges to make against Sir John Quick let him make them openly on the floor of the Senate, and not by V:1 V of interjection. A cable- gram from Captain Collins, dated 5th April, 1909, informed the Department that-
Greenwood and Pratt ask to supply information sought.
Captain Collins was cabled to by the Government on the 22nd June, 1909, in the following terms : -
Is Clarkson satisfied Pratt can produce the better rifle simultaneously with service rifle, or if pattern changed could machinery be - easily adapted ? What does Clarkson estimate cost of buildings and motive power Birmingham and Pratt machines respectively? Minister desire War Office consulted and advice sought whole matter in view of knowledge gained America.
The War Office advised the Government to do exactly the opposite of what they did. One has only to visit the Enfield . Small Arms Factory, about 18 miles from London, to realize that a factory suitable to supply the Commonwealth could easily have been built within the time since this contract was let. We ought to have had the whole thing in working order by this time. On page 4 of the paper from which’ I am quoting, there is a cablegram from
Captain Collins -
War Office has been consulted. Like Birmingham offer. Consider cost prohibitive compared other tenders.
It seems that the Government regarded cheapness as the principal consideration ; but we should have been making rifles in Australia long ago if we had accepted the other tender. Another portion of the document states, ‘ 1 American machinery will not stand wear,” or words to that effect.
– Where is that stated?
– I cannot find it at the moment; but I have read it in this paper.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the passage where it is stated -
American machinery more highly developed than English.
– No; that is not it. I do not make statements of this kind without being able to prove them ; and I believe that the Minister himself knows exactly where the passage to which I have referred is to be found in the report. As head of the Department, he must have read the whole of these papers. Captain Collins’ cablegram also stated -
Clarkson considers War Office objections to American machinery not applicable Pratt, as War Office not aware of recent development iu small arms machinery in America.
– Pratt’s is the American firm. .
– We have yet to have proof of the superiority of the American machinery, and we cannot obtain proof until the factory is in working order. If it proves to be satisfactory, the Minister will be able to twit me afterwards by proving that the machinery is up to the best standard. In Committee, we shall be able to deal with this subject item by item; and by that time I shall be able to find the statement in these papers with regard to the unreliableness of the American machinery.
.- Many important points have been raised in the course of the debate, which, no doubt, will be more fully discussed when the Bill gets into Committee. I should like to ask the Minister to arrange to have the general debate on the Budget-papers as early as possible. Very large and important questions have to be discussed, and it is not fait thai they should be thrown back until we approach the end of the session. A good deal has been said with regard to the policy of. borrowing or not borrowing. In my opinion, we should not make a fetish of either policy. It is purely a question of what pays best - whether it pays the country better to take out of the pockets of the taxpayers money for reproductive works, or to borrow at 3½ per cent., and allow the taxpayers to invest their money at perhaps 5 or 6 per cent. It is purely a matter of business. I do not think that Senator St. Ledger intended to argue that borrowing should be adopted as a policy in all cases.
– Does the honorable senator think that Customs duties ought to be reduced?
– That has nothing to do with the question, except to the extent that our revenue comes out of Customs duties.
– How would the honorable senator reduce taxation in order to leave money in the pockets of the people ?
– I am not talking of reducing taxation, but of the policy which pays best. Senator St. Ledger was fiercely attacked, by way of interjection, by Senator de Largie, who failed to realize that this is purely a business question, to be looked at wholly in a business aspect.
– Is powder and shot reproductive ?
– I would not borrow for anything that was not reproductive. Senator de Largie also charged Sir John
Quick with some default in connexion with the Small Arms Factory. That was most unfair. Surely the present Government is responsible for carrying out the contract. They cannot shake off their responsibility by making charges against an absent man who cannot stand up for himself in the Senate, and who certainly is not responsible for the failure to complete the contract. It seems to me that it is a question of whether the specifications were faulty or not. From the little we have heard this afternoon, I am disposed to think that it may be a difficult matter for the Government to recover penalties, if, as has been hinted, there has been some change made in the specifications.
– Who entered into the contract ?
- Sir John Quick; but it fell to the present Government to see it carried out. There are many matters which it will be necessary to discuss when the Budget debate is resumed, but there is one rather delicate matter of importance to which I think I should refer now. We are asked by this Bill to approve of an expenditure of £2,791,365, and I think we should know whether the Government intend to apply the principle of preference to unionists, and to institute a discrimination as to the men and women to be employed in connexion with the expenditure of this money. If it is the intention of the Government in the construction of these new works and buildings to give effect to the principle of preference to unionists, we should have a straightforward statement on the subject. If such a statement is not made we may assume that there will be no discrimination in the selection of men and women to be employed in connexion with this expenditure, and that they will be selected because of their capacity, and not because they belong or do not belong to a particular body.
– An amendment might raise the question.
– I do not wish to move an amendment, but I think that in fairness to the country the matter should be referred to by the Minister, and we should be informed of the intentions of the Government. The money to pay for these works will come out of the pockets of the whole of the people. Every man, woman, and child in Australia, through the Tariff, or in some other way, will contribute to this expenditure. If it is intended that the work for which this Bill will provide is to be set apart for a mere moiety of the people, we shall know where we stand. I trust that the Minister of Defence will make some reference to this important matter in his reply to the debate.
– Most of the criticisms we have heard from honorable senators opposite this afternoon have been directed at their colleagues in another place. The contracts in connexion with the Defence and the Postal Departments to which they have referred were entered into by their colleagues in another place when they were in office, but one would imagine from their criticism that the present Government were responsible for the delays which have taken place. The delay in the completion of the contracts referred to has been due to the fact that those who entered into them lacked sufficient business capacity to see that proper contracts were made, and with reputable firms. Therefore, my references by interjection to the PostmasterGeneral and the Minister of Defence of the previous Administration were deserved. It is rather amusing to hear honorable senators opposite criticising the financial policy of the present Government. They must either have forgotten already the result of the last general elections, or they are unable to learn anything from it. They appear to have forgotten that the country kicked their party out of office because of the scandalous financial policy they were pursuing. If there was anything in connexion with the opposite party which the electors resented more than another it was the notorious Naval Loan Act passed by the late Government. The policy of the present Government is plain to every one. Senator St. Ledger has referred to it as “schoolboy finance.” Apparently, the only kind of finance known to Senator St. Ledger’s type of politician is one of “ borrow and burst.” Their policy is to borrow, whether they require the money or not. We never had in Australia as much money, collectively or individually, as we have to-day. The Government are collecting more money now than has ever before been collected in Australia, and because in a commonsense fashion we are proposing to pay our way and provide from revenue for new works, we are told by honorable senators opposite that we should borrow.
– I said distinctly for reproductive works.
– Surely the works in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department, for which we are proposing to find money, will be reproductive.
– Then why find fault with the Government for providing the money to carry them out. Does the honorable senator desire that the present Government should do the stupid things which past Governments have done? Does he think that they ought not to provide money in any shape or form for new works, but should pay away all surplus revenue to the States, and starve the public works of the Commonwealth.
– Queensland get very little back, anyhow.
– Queensland got her share, and that is all she was entitled to.
– The honorable senator will raise these questions of policy when we do not wish to enter into them.
– Because it does not suit honorable senators opposite.
– Does the honorable senator desire that the discussion should be prolonged?
– Honorable senators opposite know that their policy will not stand examination, and, consequently, they wish to keep away from it as much as they can. We have Senator McColl finding fault with the amount of revenue derived by the Commonwealth, and talking about taxing people to find funds for the construction of new works instead of borrowing money for the purpose. What sense would there be in such a policy as that?
– The Government are taxing one section of the community by the land tax.
– All sections of the community are being taxed. Is not the bulk of the revenue derived from the general community?
– Who pays the increased rents ?
– Yes, who does? There can be no misunderstanding in the matter. The bulk of our revenue is derived through the Customs, and we know who pays that taxation. After all is said and done, what is a miserable£1,250,000 from a land tax? It is only a first instalment. The present Government will not be satisfied until a great deal more of our revenue is derived from direct, and a great deal less from indirect, taxation. No matter how the revenue is derived, we, on this side, are determined that we. shall pay our way while we can do so, instead of borrowing money when it is not required. Why should we borrow money when Australia is more prosperous than she has ever before been in her history? Still, we have the stupid Tory party on the other side-
– Order !
– Am I not in order in saying that?
– The honorable senator applied his observations distinctly to the party on the other side of the chamber.
– I applied the term “ stupid Tory party “ to my political opponents, and they are honorable senators opposite. Surely it is no breach of the Standing Orders to apply that term to them.
– I have always objected to being called a Tory, and I take the same exception as the President to the honorable senator’s remarks.
– It is not a question of Senator Walker being called a Tory. I rose because I understood Senator de Largie to apply the term “ stupid “ to honorable members of the Opposition. I think that is out of order.
– The term I used was applied to the party opposite. I said that they were the stupid Tory party. I now learn that one of them is a Whig, and I call him a member of the stupid Whig party.
– Is the honorable senator in order in repeating what he said before, and what you called him to order for saying?
– If Senator de Largie applied the term to honorable members of the Opposition, he was out of order. If he applies it to the party in the country represented by honorable senators of the Opposition, it is a different matter. I understood the term to be applied distinctly to honorable senators on the Opposition side, and if the word “ stupid “ is applied to honorable members of the Senate, it is out of order, and should be withdrawn.
– If you rule that I cannot apply the word “ stupid “ to a party, I can assure you that that is a new ruling in the Senate, and is one I never heard before.
– If Senator de Largie intended the term “ stupid “ to be applied to honorable senators on the Opposition side, he was distinctly out of order. I interfered because I considered the term offensive, and I think it should be withdrawn.
– Then I must disagree with your ruling. I have applied my remarks to my political opponents generally. I hold that that is not out of order, and I dispute your ruling.
- Senator de Largie dissents from my ruling. I do not know that he has exactly quoted it in his notice of dissent. He says - ‘ ‘
I beg to dissent from the ruling of the President that it is a breach of the Standing Orders to apply “ stupid Tory party “ to the Opposition party.
What I asked Senator de Largie was whether he .meant the word “ stupid,” which I consider offensive, to be applied to honorable senators on the other side.
– To their party.
– I pointed out that if the term was meant to be applied to the party as a whole, or the policy of the party represented by honorable senators on the Opposition side, it would not be out of order; but, as it appeared to me that the honorable senator said of honorable senators that they were the “ stupid Tory party,” I asked the honorable senator to withdraw the word “ stupid “ as applied to them. The honorable senator’s notice of dissent does not properly apply to my ruling, which was that the term he used, as applied to honorable senators on the Opposition side of the Chamber was out of order. Senator de Largie should alter this motion, because it is not in accordance with the reason why I asked him to withdraw the words.
– May I be permitted to make an explanation, sir?
– It is quite evident to me, sir, that you misunderstood the remark I made, otherwise you would not have ruled as you did. The remark was applied to honorable senators on the other side as a combined party. I was referring to what was the policy of the party which is now the Opposition, when it was in office. You will see, sir, that my remark could only apply to them as a party, and not as individuals. My intention was quite plain to any one.
– If Senator de Largie meant to imply by his remark that the policy which was pursued by honorable senators opposite was a stupid policy, he was perfectly in order; but what I understood him to convey was that they were a stupid party.
– He said, “ The stupid Tory members on the other side.”
– “The stupid Tories on the other side.”
– I ask Senator de Largie, if the contention which I raise is tight, to alter the terms of his motion of dissent.
– I cannot alter the remarks which I made, sir.
– I was listening very attentively to the remarks of Senator de Largie, because they were largely directed to some remarks I had made. My impression is distinctly that he said, “ The stupid Tory members on the other side.”
– ‘ ‘ The stupid Tory party.”
– No; you used the word “ members.”
– I would like a ruling from the Chair. I understand that a certain event transpired, that you, sir, gave a ruling, and that a notice of dissent therefrom has been handed in. It appears to me that the discussion is being revived on the matters which led up to the ruling. Are we discussing the ruling now or the original matter ?
– I pointed out that the written statement of dissent did not accord with the reason why I stopped Senator de Largie and asked him to withdraw certain words. I asked if he would alter the terms of his dissent, and he desired permission to make an explanation, which he did ; but said that he could not alter the terms of his dissent. The question before the Senate is -
That the ruling of the President, that it is a breach of the Standing Orders to apply “ stupid Tory party “ to the Opposition party, be dissented from.
But I would point out that, under standing order 424, when a motion is seconded “ it shall be proposed to the Senate and the debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day.” Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
-The standing order continues - unless the Senate decides on motion, without debate, that the question requires immediate determination.
– Does that mean, sir, that the business before the Senate will be interrupted?
– If that is so, I desire to move that the question requires immediate determination.
– One moment ! There is a ruling on that point, I think.
– I think it is the motion of dissent from the ruling, and not the business before the Senate, which is postponed to a future day.
– I cannot quite recall the circumstances, sir; but, on one occasion, the point was raised as to whether the standing order meant the adjournment of the business under consideration or the adjournment of the question raised by the dissenting motion, and a decision was given.
– The decision was that the debate on the question raised by the dissenting motion had to be adjourned.
– No; the whole business was adjourned.
– The question raised by Senator de Largie appears to me to be so trivial that I think it ought to be dealt with straight away. Therefore, I move - That the question requires immediate determination. -
Motion agreed to.
– I think that some misapprehension has arisen in the minds of honorable senators. I was listening to the speech of Senator de Largie, and I do not think his remark was intended in an offensive sense. He applied the word “ stupid,” not to honorable senators opposite, but to the policy pursued by the party to which they belong.
– To “ the members of the stupid Tory .party opposite.”
– I listened attentively to the utterance of Senator de Largie, and I can say that he did not direct his remark at all to any honorable senator opposite. It should be remembered that when an honorable senator is addressing the Chair, and discussing a question of policy, he has in his mind the policy pursued by the party opposite. If we are to be tied down in these matters, it will rather narrow the margin. If the word “ stupid “ is applied to any honorable member of the Senate, certainly it may be considered offensive; but if it is applied to the policy pursued by the party which honorable senators opposite represent, I do not think it can be considered offensive.
– It would be true ; and that is where the sting would lie.
– It is a question of the intention of Senator de Largie. It was the policy which he was discussing, and not a member of a party, or even the party. In my opinion, his application of the remark was quite correct, and, therefore, I support his motion of dissent from the ruling.
– I regret that this motion has been moved, because I do not think it was worth while to object to the ruling. What we are called upon to deal with is the ruling itself, and we must assume that the President has correctly stated what Senator de Largie did say. The President distinctly asked the honorable senator whether he applied the term personally to honorable senators on the other side. It the honorable senator had risen then and assured the President that he had not, that would have cleared up the whole matter.
– I rose as soon as I got an opportunity, and repeated what I had said.
– If the honorable senator will excuse me for saying so, I think that what he said on the second occasion was not what he said on the first occasion. In the first instance, I took the same view as the President, namely, that the remark was open to the construction that Senator de Largie was alluding to honorable senators opposite as being a “ stupid Tory party.” I think it was perfectly reasonable for the President to regard the remark in that light. He took that view, and asked for a withdrawal of the words. I think that the honorable senator will be well-advised if he withdraws the motion and states that, if his words were understood in that sense, he is prepared to withdraw them, or assure honorable senators opposite and the President that he did not intend them to be so understood.
– Is that question involved, now that the President has given a ruling ?
– We have to decide whether the ruling is correct or not. The President has stated that he gave the ruling believing that Senator de Largie had used the words in the sense I have suggested. If a vote is taken, I must support the ruling, because it seems to me that it is a correct one. The question now is, not whether the honorable senator did or did not use the words. The President has said that he did use the words, that he asked him if he used the words in that sense, but did ‘ not get the assurance which he desired.
– I repeated what I had said, and that was sufficient.
– I would suggest to my honorable friend that he should ask leave to withdraw his motion, and give the President the assurance which he asked for, but did not get, and resume his speech. If such an assurance is given, the President will probably tell the Senate that he does not regard the remark as being out of order. Otherwise I shall have to vote against the motion.
– I do not intend to discuss the merits or demerits of this matter, sir, but to remind you of an incident which occurred the other day. When Senator Vardon made use of some words, you ruled that if an honorable senator thought them offensive, they must be withdrawn. Senator Vardon said at first that he would not withdraw the words ; but he did so on your ruling that if any honorable senator considered that any words were offensive, they would have to be withdrawn.
– I do not want to discuss the merits of this matter, or to dissent very much from the ruling; but, on general lines, I think that Senator de Largie had a perfect right to say what he did. If he likes to call honorable senators on this side “ stupid Tory members,” he has the right to do so.
– I did not say “ stupid Tory members.”
– I am really supporting my honorable friend. I understand that he denies that he considers us “stupid Tory members.” I certainly thought he said that members of the Opposition were a “ stupid Tory party.” But to me it does not matter what he said, so long as he was not personally offensive. I have a perfect right to call Senator de Largie a stupid Labour man, and he is equally at liberty to designate me a stupid Tory, or a stupid Liberal, or anything else, so long as his remarks are confined to a political sense. It might be a good thing if we were permitted a little more latitude in our choice of language than we have hitherto been allowed. It now appears that we must not describe the appointment of certain members to a Royal Commission as a scandal, neither must we call an honorable senator “stupid,” or a “Tory.” Upon the whole, I drink we are getting too much into a Sunday-school atmosphere. I agree with Senator de Largie, and if he chooses to use strong language m reference to myself, he is perfectly at liberty to do so.
– I was absent from the chamber when certain words were used, by Senator de Largie. It seems to me immaterial what they were. The President has entered judgment upon them, and we are now asked to say whether his ruling is right or wrong. It appears to me that what may be held to be right or wrong is very much a matter of opinion, and will vary with different Presidents, just as much as it will with honorable senators. But the point is that we have a President, and, unless his decision is hopelessly wrong, we are under an obligation to support it. Having said so much, I join with the Minister of Defence in asking Senator de Largie, not only for his own credit, but for that of the Senate, to terminate this incident, especially as, according to his interjection, he evidently meant one thing, whereas the President thought that he meant another.
– Like Senator Millen, I did not hear the remark to which exception has been taken ; but the position seems to be that you, sir, have ruled that certain words, which Senator de Largie denies having used, should be withdrawn. In these circumstances, I am bound to support your ruling. I am sorry that an honorable senator upon the Ministerial side of the chamber, has taken up a similar attitude to that adopted by an honorable senator upon the other side of the chamber only last week. So long as I have been a member of this branch of the Legislature, it has been customary for any remark made by any honorable senator, which was regarded as offensive by another, to be immediately withdrawn. I regret that Senator de Largie, who is Whip of the Government party, and who ought to save the valuable time of the Senate instead of wasting it, should have taken up this obstinate attitude, and should have refused to adopt the gentlemanly course which has hitherto obtained, of withdrawing what is regarded as an offensive expression.
– Sitting, as I do, so near to Senator de Largie, and being possessed of a fairly good memory, I am entirely with him in this matter ; and I am surprised that the Opposition should take so much objection to the words which he used. Senator Chataway is in a somewhat different vein - he evidently wishes to extract a little fun out of the position. .1 have often heard it said that we upon this side of the Senate call ourselves Labour members. How often are we called Socialists, and something even worse - a term which some of us may not care to have applied to us. Senator de Largie has expressed himself in the way that I would have expressed myself. Speaking in all soberness, I say that the Opposition are an extremely Tory party. With very great reluctance, I shall vote against the President’s ruling, and in opposition to the Government. I shall support Senator de Largie, because I think he is in the right.
– I am somewhat sorry that this matter is to be settled immediately, because, if it were postponed until to-morrow, when we shall have the Hansard report before us, we would then be able to see exactly the terms which I used.
– Revised or unrevised ?
– We should have the Hansard report without it ever having been touched by me. We all know the accuracy of our Hansard reports, and I am quite prepared to stand by them.
– They are almost infallible.
– I am not a wholesale reviser of the remarks which I make in this Chamber. I am somewhat surprised at the members of the Opposition rushing into this matter in the way that they have done, because they have most to lose by any curtailment of our privileges. Senator Chataway is the only honorable senator opposite who has taken a proper1 view of this question. If the right of honorable senators to express their views in every-day language be curtailed, they will suffer. If, for example, it be wrong for me to apply the word “ stupid “ to honorable senators opposite, it is equally wrong for them to apply the word “ intelligent “ to their policy. If it be wrong for me to condemn them because of the stupidity of their policy, it is equally wrong for them to claim that that policy is an intelligent one.
– One is a complimentary word, and the other a condemnatory one.
– If it be wrong to condemn their policy, it must be equally wrong to praise it. Senator Story has introduced the personal element into this debate. Had he been present at the time he would have known that when my remarks were called into question I was not dealing with any individual member of the Opposition. Had I been doing so, I would at once have recognised the propriety of withdrawing the words to which exception was taken. But 1 was dealing with the Opposition in a party sense, and I cannot for the life of me see how there could, be any misunderstanding of my meaning. I was dealing with the policy of the late Government, and there are members of that Government who are politically dead. They are not here. There are many men outside of this Parliament who were members of the Fusion party. I was speaking only in a party sense, and I fail to understand how there could be any misconception as to my meaning.
– Why did not the honorable senator clear the matter up?
– I did. I repeated the words which I actually used, namely, “stupid Tory party.” I was referring at the time to the result of the last election, when the Fusion party was nearly wiped out of existence. The Minister of Defence is entirely wrong, and I hold that the President did not hear my remarks, otherwise he would not have ruled as he did.
– The President has ruled against the honorable senator on that point.
– If the President has placed himself in a wrong position, I am not responsible. As soon as I had an opportunity, I rose in my place, and repeated the words which I had used. If. honorable senators vote against my motion of dissent from the ruling of the President, they will vote to curtail their own liberty to use every-day language in this Chamber.
– Why does not the honorable senator adhere to the words that he did use? Why does he vacillate? Why not be honest?
– I am adhering to the words that I used. I know precisely what I said.
– The honorable senator said, “ the stupid members of the Tory party opposite.”
– I said “opposite,” certainly. I have already pointed out that it was impossible, owing to the train ot thought which I was following, for me to have applied to any individual senator opposite the words to which objection hasbeen taken. I went on to say that “ thisstupid Tory party “ apparently could not learn or forget.
– “ The stupid members, of the Tony party opposite.”
– If the honorable senator wishes to argue the question, I wish that he had done so before I rose toaddress myself to it. I can assure him as to the words which I actually used, because I know what I said. I was at the time dealing with the policy put forward by the party opposite when they were inpower. I was referring to the Loan Bill which they passed through this Parliament. I said that “ apparently this stupid Tory party “-
– “ Opposite.”
– Does it matter whether the members of that party are “opposite,” or on the roof of this building? Some of them are in the other branch of the Legislature ; others are not. I know my position in this matter if Senator Long does not know his, and I am not going to back down when I am in the right.
– The honorable senator must not imagine himself an ocean if he has water on the brain.
– I imagine myself as good as is the honorable senator. He may be big, but he is not almighty. I have already pointed out that it was impossible for .me to have applied only tohonorable senators on the opposite side of the chamber the words which I used, because I was speaking of a party which has to a considerable extent been brokenup. Many of its members have disappeared from the political arena. These are circumstances that should guide the members of the Senate. Consequently, I must stand by my motion.
– In putting this question, I wish to state that the motion does not contain the words which I understood Senator de Largie to use, and towhich I took exception. Pointing to honorable senators on the other side, he said,. “ Members of the stupid Tory party opposite.” I immediately rose, and asked thehonorable senator to withdraw that expression, because I considered it to be disorderly. He admitted that he had used’ the words which I had understood him touse. I pointed out to him that if he applied the term “ stupid “ to the policy of a party it would be quite in order, but as I understood the words to have been used concerning honorable senators opposite to him they were out of order. I may add that a ruling of a former President lays it down that “it is not proper to impute to a senator stupidity.”
– Neither did I.
– I certainly understood the honorable senator to apply the term to members of the Senate. I have already stated that if the phrase had been used concerning the policy of a party it would have been strictly in order.
Question - That the ruling of the President, that it is a breach of the Standing Orders to apply the term “ stupid Tory party “ to the Opposition party, be dissented from - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Senator Chataway asked for information as to the value of the heavy gun ammunition expended during last year. The value was £16,531 ; so that the sum provided for in this Bill - £31,700 - represents nearly two years’ consumption, on a peace footing. I am able to give the Senate details of the proposed expenditure of the special vote of £600,000 from the Trust Fund for the Post and Telegraph Department. They are as follows -
There were one or two criticisms to which I wish to reply. First of all, with regard to Senator Millen’s criticism of Trust Funds, it seems to me very peculiar that, while the honorable senator condemned the Trust Fund for the Post and Telegraph Department, as such, he actually proposed that the whole of the Consolidated Revenue should be treated as one gigantic Trust Fund. He asked, for instance, why, after Parliament has voted a sum of money for a particular purpose, we should, at the end of each financial year, allow the vote to lapse, and have the money re-voted in the next year. That is exactly what a Trust Fund is intended to avoid. The Audit Act makes the lapsing and re-voting of appropriations necessary, and in the circumstances, the only way in which its provisions can be complied with, is to establish a Trust Fund and pay money into it until the purpose for which it was established is accomplished.
– Senator Millen suggested an alteration of the Audit Act.
– I doubt very much whether Parliament would be prepared to pay the whole of the money voted into a Trust Fund, and let it remain there until it is exhausted, without having any further control over it.
– Balances of the current revenue are carried into the next year, and Senator Millen’s idea was that the Government might carry balances of what might be called allocated Trust Funds into the next year also.
– There must be an annual balancing on the 30th of June in each year. Senator St. Ledger objects to large amounts of revenue being expended on these works, and prefers that they should be provided for under a system of debentures or a loan. I repeat, what I said before, that if in the earlier years of the Federation, when we had money to spare, a fair amount had each year been spent on the Post and Telegraph Department, we should not now need to ask for such huge sums. At present, I know of no reason why the Post and Telegraph Department should not continue to provide for capital expenditure out of revenue. Of course, there will arise works which we will not be able to finance out of revenue. When the time arrives for those works to be dealt with, the Government will not hesitate to adopt a loan policy, if the circumstances warrant it. I say that, for the works provided for in this Bill, a loan policy is not warranted. I think that Senator Millen asked that a reasonable time should be given honorable senators to discuss the Budget. The VicePresident of the Executive Council, in laying the Budget-papers on the table of the Senate, undertook that a. reasonable time would be given for the discussion of the Budget; and I have no reason to doubt that he will keep that promise. I might say that, in this matter, honorable senators are in the same position as are honorable members in another place, where, because of the pressure of other business, it has been impossible to resume the discussion of the Budget. Senator Sayers endeavoured to make a little capital out of a slight misunderstanding that arose in another place regarding a certain road at Maribyrnong, because one Minister was under the impression that it was a shire road, and the Government were proposing to make a grant in aid of its maintenance. That was a proposition put forward, but not finally adopted in the Estimates. The road for which money is provided in the Bill is entirely within Commonwealth property. It is not a road in the ordinary sense of the term. We are simply making a road from a landing we have on the Saltwater river to one portion of the Cordite Factory. It will not be open, or accessible to, the public ; and it is intended to make it possible to land material from the river, and take it up through the Cordite Factory on our own land. Referring to the Small Arms Factory, I wish to say that Senator Sayers’ criticism was not entirely fair. If he had read the parliamentary-paper to which I referred him, he would have seen that, during the time I was Minister of Defence in the first Fisher Government, I went into the matter exhaustively. It was a very difficult matter with which to deal at this end of the world, especially in view of the fact that we had no officers who had had any experience of small arms factories. But at the time we left office, it was open to Mr. Joseph Cook, if he thought PrattWhitney’s tender was not a good one, or as good as the other, to accept the other tender. No tender had been finally accepted when we left office. If Senator Sayers will refer to page 4 of the parliamentarypaper mentioned, he will find a foot-note to the following effect -
In all the circumstances and after submitting the matter to the Cabinet I approve the acceptance of Messrs. Pratt-Whitney’s tender with the requisite guarantee. (Signed) J. Cook. 17th July, 1909.
This shows that Mr. Joseph Cook dealt with the matter, and considered it of sufficient importance to get the opinion of the whole of the Cabinet on it. The Government of which he was a member must, therefore, take the responsibility of having entered into the contract. We have to accept the responsibility of carrying it out.
– Was not the complaint that the present Government had not carried it out?
– Senator Sayers has yet to learn whether they have or not. The contract is not yet completed. The contractors have not supplied the machinery up to time, and there may or may not be good reasons for that. This has yet to be determined; and when the whole business is completed, it will be time enough to say whether, on the facts, the present Government have done their duty in connexion with the contract or not. I do not think that there were any other matters raised during the debate on which I was asked for a reply.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 postponed.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Storage and Seasoning of Timber - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway - London Offices.
– I desire to call attention to the item of £146 for a timber storage shed in New South Wales, and the item of£700 for a similar shed in Victoria. The former item includes £46 for a re-vote, and £100 for new service, while the latter item includes £156 for a re- vote, and £544 for new service. I desire to ascertain the present position regarding the storage and seasoning of timber. A few years ago it was decided to initiate a system of storing timbers for use in Commonwealth works, and a substantial sum was voted on the Estimates for acquiring, during the financial year, a quantity of timber representative of the descriptions available in the forests of the different States. It was proposed to store the timber and season it in a way which private firms could not be expected to do, so that its capabilities would be demonstrated to the utmost. It was anticipated that, by pursuing this policy, we would have in our public works evidence of the suitability of our timber for different purposes in the future. The vote to which I refer does not seem to have been availed of by the Government to the full extent, or, indeed, to any large extent. I should like the Minister to state the purpose for which the items on these Estimates are required, to what extent the policy laid down in a previous session has been followed, and with what measure of success so far.
– I desire to know whether any attention has yet been directed to the State which supplies, I suppose, the best class of hard-wood to be found in the Commonwealth. 1 do not know whether a fair quantity of the jarrah of Western Australia Kas been stored for the purpose of being used in connexion with the public works ot the Commonwealth. It is about time, I think, that the Commonwealth obtained from Queensland or Western Australia, or perhaps from New South Wales, a piece of timber country, from which it could draw whatever supplies of timber it needed for public purposes. Owing to the increased cost of the timber required by the Government of Western Australia, they have had to take up a piece of country, and set up machinery, in order to obtain cheaper timber than they could get through the employment of private contractors. The time has arrived, I think, when the Commonwealth might well follow that example. Both in Queensland and in Western Australia there are areas of timber country where timber could be obtained at first cost, and so avoid the payment of the high prices which are at present charged. We have a number of commitments, and, consequently, the prospect of a very large quantity of timber being required in the near future. In my opinion, it is foolish to depend upon contractors to supply this article. I suggest to the Government the necessity of not only collecting every timber which is of proved quality, but also obtaining from some of the States large timber areas, in order to supply the needs of the Commonwealth in hard woods or soft woods, or even in both. That necessity has been forced upon at least one State Government, and there is no reason why the Commonwealth should depend any longer upon private contractors for its supply of timbers, when it could effect a great saving by acquiring a sufficient area of timbered country.
– I understand that when Senator Keating was Minister of Home Affairs he found some difficulty in getting supplies of seasoned timber for his Department, and initiated the policy of storing timber to be seasoned. Pursuant to that policy, last year two sums of £700 each were voted for New South Wales and Victoria, for the purpose of erecting sheds in which timber could be stored. In this Bill we are asked to vote £146 and £700 respectively to complete the sheds. In the case of Victoria, an extension of the original plan was found necessary; and that accounts for the Committee being asked to vote, for new service in Victoria, £544, as against £100 under the heading of New South Wales. The Departments are thoroughly satisfied with the results which have been gained by the adoption of this policy; so much so, that there is stored on the Federal Capital site£5,000 worth of timber, which has been purchased, and which is to be added to from time to time. I hardly think, however, that the time has arrived for the Commonwealth to adopt the ambitious proposal of Senator Lynch. Certainly in the Federal Capital Territory, or in the Northern Territory, we may do something in that direction. I agree with my honorable friend as to the necessity for obtaining cheaper timber for public purposes ; but I think that it is a matter which comes within the activities of the State Parliaments rather than of this Parliament.
– Referring to the suggestion of Senator Lynch, that the Government should secure timber reserves in Australia, I would like to say that, in Papua the Commonwealth has any quantity of first class timbers of every description. During our recent visit we saw hard woods and soft woods ready to be taken away. We were told that the ring of timber merchants in Sydney and Melbourne made it impossible for any person to cut the timber and send it down to Sydney. One resident offered Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company a full cargo for Sydney; but the firm would not accept the offer because of the difficulty of placing the timber on the market in Australia. Difficulty was placed in the way of storing timber in Sydney and selling it. If the Commonwealth Government were to get their supplies of timber from Papua, they would not only supply their own wants, but also open iup splendid country. If the time for adopting this policy is not ripe, as the Minister says, I do not think it is very far from that stage. I hope that the matter will be taken in hand On my return from. Papua I suggested to the Minister of External Affairs that the Government should experiment with its woods in the manufacture of gun stocks in the factory at Lithgow. I do not know whether they intend to carry out my suggestion, but I honestly believe that Papua can provide timbers which are fit for that purpose; in fact, for almost anything.
– There is an item which strikes me as being rather curiously placed in this schedule. I refer to the item of £22,500 towards the cost of constructing the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta.
– That is a very cheap railway, I should think.
– Some persons think that it is a very dear one. On the noticepaper there is a Bill to ascertain whether or not the Senate is favorable to the construction of this railway, but before the Bill is passed we are asked to vote £22,500 towards the construction of the line. I do not wish to discuss the railway proposal now, but it does seem a little curious that, before we are asked to consent to its construction, we should be asked to vote this sum of £22,500.
– I give my honorable friend this definite assurance, that if the Bill is rejected by the Senate, not a penny of this vote will be spent.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether any agreement has been made with regard to the erection of Commonwealth offices in London ? We are asked to vote£1,000 towards the cost of their erection. Surely that is a very small amount to have to pay for that purpose. Has it been decided to get a site in the Strand, or elsewhere?
– When the late Minister of External Affairs was in London, he went into this matter with the officials of the London County Council, and also with the High Commissioner, and viewed one or two sites, whereupon certain negotiations were opened up. This vote is required to pay the cost of preparing plans and deeds, should those negotiations be successful. In another place, the Prime Minister gave an undertaking, which I now repeat, that before the Commonwealth is committed to any definite sum Parliament will be taken into the confidence of the Government and asked to approve of the site selected.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 8 -p.m.
Motion (by Senator de Largie) proposed -
That Order of the Day No.1, private business, be postponed, and stand an Order of theDay for this day week.
– It is the honorable senator’s own motion.
– I thought that it was now in charge of the Senate.
– But an honorable senator always has the right to fix the date upon which he desires his motion to be considered. The Senate can either accept or reject his proposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have been requested by Senator McColl to propose the motion standing in his name with the exception of paragraph 5, which reads -
The names of the persons who obtained such postal voting papers and did not return them, and the divisions and polling places for which they were enrolled.
I ask leave, sir, to delete that paragraph.
– I now move -
That a return be laid before this Iiouse showing -
The number of postal voting papers issued in each State at the general election in April, 1910.
The number of postal voting papers returned to the various returning officers and used, in which the franchise was exercised.
The number of postal voting papers not returned to the returning officers.
The name of the State, electoral district, and polling place to which postal voting papers were not returned.
The names and ordinary occupations of the returning and deputy returning officers for such divisions.
The steps taken, or inquiries made, to trace such unreturned voting papers, and the results of such action.
– The reason why this motion was objected to as a formal one was because the Department reported that it was both inadvisable and almost impracticable to comply with the request contained in paragraph 5. Otherwise the Government have no objection to obtaining all the information that is sought.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from page 2403) :
Federal Capital - Storage and Seasoning of Timber- Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway - Sydney Customs House - Trawler Launch - Quarantine Stations - Rifle Ranges - Small Arms Factory - Beerburrum Manoeuvre Area - Letter Boxes - Sydney Parcels Post Office - Post Offices : Duplication of Names - Wireless Telegraphy - Telegraphs and Telephones : Metallic Circuits - Government Printing Office - Australian Squadron - Northern Territory.
– I wish to refer to the item “ Federal Capital, at Canberra,” towards the cost of establishing which we are informed £33,957 is a re-vote, and £66,043 is required for new service, thus making a total of £100,000. It is some time ago - I do not like to think how long - since we determined the site of the permanent Seat of Government, and if my memory serves me accurately, we have on more than one occasion voted money for works in connexion with that site. I wish to ask the Government when they anticipate we shall get to the Federal Capital? To vote money in this fashion year afteryear is either a political intrigue or more or less of a political farce.
– The honorable senator is out of order.
– I am not accusing any honorable senator of being a political intriguer. But the whole thing seems to be a sort of political farce. This Parliament is committed to the Federal Capital site at Canberra. It has entered into a compact with the New South Wales Government, and the money which has already been expended upon that site would not have been voted but for the idea that we were to establish ourselves there as soon as possible. Honorable senators who hail from Queensland, which is the most distant State, are the most disinterested in this matter. Seeing that the buildings at the Federal Capital site are under the control of the most brilliant genius on earth, he ought surely to be able to inform his colleagues of the approximate date when we may expect to get to the future Seat of Government.
– Does the honorable senator consider Josiah Thomas the greatest genius on earth ?
– I did not know that there was a member of the Ministry who disputed that title with the Minister of Home Affairs I remember reading some time ago in the newspapers how a certain gentleman was going to buy up half of Sydney on behalf of the Commonwealth. When he was brought to book over that matter he told those who resented his action, that they knew nothing whilst he knew everything. It is about time we were supplied with information to show whether the Government are sincere in regard to this vote. Inasmuch as the works are being controlled by the greatest genius on earth, surely Ministers will be able to give us a definite statement as to when the Capital is likely to be finished, and when
Parliament will be able to sit there. The vote is mounting up year by year, but it does not appear to me that the Government axe determined that the Seat of Government shall be removed within a measurable distance of time. When Parliament selected Yass-Canberra, that choice was made with the idea that we should soon be able to sit in the Capital city. B ut we know what has been going on in the meantime. Neither Sydney nor Melbourne has yet abandoned the hope that the’ Federal Capital may be permanently located in one or other of those cities. Pressure is being brought to bear through the newspapers and other public channels with a view of securing a reconsideration of the question. Owing to political wire-pulling, the whole matter may be reopened. If that is to he done, let us know at once. I do not know that there is a subject more likely to give rise to political intrigue - for which the Government are largely responsible - than this.
– Intrigue where?
– All over Australia.
– I rise to order. Is Senator St. Ledger in order in using the word “intrigue” concerning the Government? That word is significant of logrolling. The word “ stupid “ has been ruled out of order, and I think that “ intrigue “ is equally objectionable.
- Senator St. Ledger has not said anything that was out if order.
– Cannot the Government give us any idea as to . when we are likely to go to Yass-Canberra ? .
– We tried to get the honorable senator to go there last Saturday, but were unsuccessful.
– When I go to the Capital, I hope that Parliament will be located there permanently. We have acquired that territory from the New South Wales Government, and have voted large sums of money, but apparently we are no nearer to a definite settlement than we were years ago.
– I hope to be able to satisfy Senator St. Ledger, who seems to be thirsting for information concerning the Federal Capital. I do not think the honorable senator can fairly say, however many sins he may lay to the charge of the present Government, that we have adopted other than a straightforward course in connexion with this question. Any one who looks back over the history of the Federal Capital contest must, if he does us justice, admit that we have gone straight concerning it. As to when the Federal Parliament will be able to sit at Yass-Canberra, that event must, of course, be a few years ahead. There 13 a method by which we could sit there within twelve months - namely, by erecting temporary buildings and offices. But that would be a costly and unsatisfactory method of procedure. It would be costly in the sense that these temporary buildings would only be used while permanent buildings were in course of construction, and consequently the money spent upon them would be thrown away. It would be costly in another sense, because wherever the temporary buildings were put they would in all probability interfere with the carrying out of the plans for the erection of the permanent Capital. The Department of Home Affairs has proceeded about this business in an orderly fashion. During the past year the Department has been engaged in the preparation of projects, and in the execution of many necessary works. If we are to have a city worthy of the name, we must necessarily lay our plans carefully. Accordingly, competition has been invited, as a result of which we hope to get the aid of some of the best minds in the world to assist us in laying out the city. In the meantime, a considerable proportion of the present vote is to enable preparations to be made for the erection of the necessary public buildings whenever the laid out city is completed. The money is also for the purpose of making tunnels for a proper sewerage system, because it is the intention of the Government, acting upon expert advice,_ to lay down a sewerage system forthwith, so that we may not be compelled to rip up the streets after the city has been built. I have before me a list of the works in contemplation, showing what is proposed to be spent.
The following are the initial major works which are awaiting preliminary votes by Parliament before they can be put in hand during 1911-12 (subject -to land acquisition).
The approximate estimates of total costs are given for works; the larger items will extend over two or more years. The amount which can be expended on each item before 30th June, 1912, will in some cases depend on acquisition of land and other factors.
The foregoing is for works only; it does not include lands, surveys, or other administrative expenditure.
The works that will be gone on with include roads, timber storage, power plant, water supply, gauging of the Cotter, Molonglo, and Queanbeyan Rivers, brickworks, Observatory, Administration offices, and a bridge over the Molonglo River. I have a statement here setting out in detail all that is to be done in connexion with these various items, but it is unnecessary that I should read it to honorable senators. From what I have said it will be seen that the Government are in earnest in their desire to press on with the building of the Federal Capital. To spend money on actual buildings, until we have the plans of the city before us, would be to put the cart before the horse. We are doing, and propose to continue to do, all essential preparatory work in order that necessary materials may be available when we are ready to begin the actual building of the city.
– When “are the competitive designs to be sent in?
– They will be due next vear. I have shewn that the Government are doing all that can be done prior to the actual building of the Capital. As soon as the plans of the city are adopted we shall have brickworks, water supply, and power supply so far advanced that a real start can be made with the building of the Capital.
– Has any date been fixed for the receipt of the plans ?
– Yes ; January,
– Can the Minister inform the Committee whether the architects’ strike has been declared off yet?
– I think that will be all right. Senator Chataway received my statement that the plans must be in by January, 1912, with derisive laughter, but I do not know why he should have doneso.
– When will tlie Government decide to build?
– Immediately the plans are available, and there is no reason to anticipate that there will be any extreme delay in the matter.
– There is one aspect of this question to which I again desire to direct attention. I personally accepted the Minister’sstatement with a good deal of pleasure, but I point out that we are making appropriations for the building of a city upon land which, at present, we do not own. I previously, directed attention to this very anomalous position. Surely, the first thing we ought to do is to devise a scheme for the resumption of such land as we intend to acquire ? It was always understood in the early days of the discussion of this matter that in the Federal Territory there was to be but one landlord - the Commonwealth. Have we all abandoned that idea?
– Not at all.
– Senator Findley, speaking evidently with authority, says that that idea has not been abandoned, and, if so, is it not time an attempt was made to realize it? Are we to wait, perhaps, for two or three years more before we resume the land we require, and, in the meantime, construct sewerage works, and spend the considerable sums to which the Minister of Defence referred, on other people’s property? I suggest that the Government should immediately attempt to grapple with this problem. They should adopt what might be regarded as a bold policy of land resumption, unless it is intended that we should drift into the position we see around us in all the capital cities of the States. The Government should determine the area to be acquired for the city, and as much more as they think the Commonwealth should have ownership rights over. That will probably involve a very considerable financial undertaking. The land is there, and is going to be givenan added value-. I have no hesitation in saying that if the matter is properly handled we can, from the incremental value which will be given to the land, obtain a sum which will go a long way towards the building of the city itself.
– It ought to defray the whole cost.
– I think I speak with moderation when I say that in any big city in the world, it would be possible to form a syndicate that would be only too glad to take this job off the hands of the Commonwealth Government, if it were given the same opportunities of profiting from the increment of value which will be added to the land on which the Federal Capital is to be built. The question arises, how are the resumptions to be carried out? At present, the innocent and modest resumptions which are being effected are carried out by officials of the Home Affairs Department, acting under Ministerial authority, but no one will contend that the best way in which to carry out the resumption of big areas of land involving an expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds is by private bargaining in anybody’s office. The undertaking is too big for anything of that kind, and I suggest for the consideration of the Government the creation of some tribunal to which, in the light of day, the owners of land which we shall require to resume will be able to present their claims, as is done in the case of Land Boards in at least two of the States. Before such a tribunal every matter could be inquired into, and evidence given by the owners of the land and experts of the Commonwealth Department.
– We have practically got all that machinery under the Lands Acquisition Act.
– The Minister will pardon me, we have not. The Bill now before the Committee contains votes for the payment for lands resumed, and there is no indication of an intention to appoint a tribunal to deal with these resumptions.
– They would come before a tribunal under the Lands Acquisition Act if the amount were disputed.
– I am looking for a much more simple procedure. The best illustration I can give the Minister of what I desire is the appointment of such a Board as is now in operation in New South Wales, where estates are resumed for closer settlement. These matters are referred to an open tribunal specially constituted to determine the value of the estates in question. In the Federal Territory we shall be dealing with a much larger area, embracing the estates of several individuals, and we should afford every opportunity to the owners to make good their claims, and the departmental officials to present their views as to the fair value of the land to be resumed. If these resumptions on an enormous scale were carried out in the way I suggest, they would be entirely free from any possibility of suspicion, and it would be in the interest of the Government, and of the’ owners of the land, to deal with them in that way. Another matter in connexion with this seems to me to call very loudly for prompt action. In the Act we passed dealing with the Federal Capital a provision was inserted that land resumed should be acquired on a basis of its value in 1908. When are these resumptions to take place? Every year they are delayed will make it only more and more difficult to demonstrate the value of the land in 1908. I have no doubt that since the passing of the Act to which I refer in the Federal Territory and outside of it, there has been a considerable advance in land values. The owners of land will probably not be very particular about the date at which the increment of value accrues. How will the Commonwealth Department prove the value in 1908, especially if the resumptions are to be delayed for another four or five years? I am advancing this as a business reason why we should carry out the resumptions as early as possible. Another argument might fairly be advanced in this connexion. Is it quite fair to the owners of these lands to place them in such a position? They will be told the Government intend to take their lands. They will not be told when, but that when they are taken it will be at their value a long period since. These people should be told that their land is to be resumed or that it is not. It is unfair to them that they should be left between Heaven and earth, unable to sell or do anything with their land, doubtful if they will improve them, and in considerable doubt as to what they will receive for them if they are resumed. I am sure the Minister of Defence will admit that it is a business proposition that the Government “should, at an early date, determine the area to be resumed and the policy of resumption. In fairness to the land-owners concerned, the intention of the Act to which I have referred should be given effect, or it should be amended.
– I notice certain sums put down for the storage of timber.
– I explained that.
– I heard the honorable senator’s explanation, but it seems strange to me that timber is to be stored only in New South Wales and Victoria. The Government will require a lot of timber in the other States. I believe that Queensland possesses the best supply of pine and other timbers, and supplies a great deal of timber to Victoria and New South Wales. We might, in the circumstances, reasonably expect that some provision will be made for the storage of timber in that State. There is a lapsed vote for Victoria of£156, and a new vote of £554, making a total of £700. For New South Wales there is a lapsed vote of £46, and a new vote of£100. That will not put up much of a shed for the storage of timber.
– Some money was spent during the last year; the honorable senator has not the total vote before him.
– That is so, and that is how we are misled to a great extent.
– If the honorable senator will look at the Estimates he will see the total amount.
– I have not someone behind me, as the Minister has, to give me information.
– I am not referring to any one behind me, but to the Estimates before me.
– When the Minister is asked for information he can refer to the departmental officers behind him, but we are not all in that happy position. We have to hunt up the information for ourselves. In view of the fact that Queensland supplies New South Wales and Victoria with a very large quantity of pine, cedar, and other timbers, I would like to know why the Government propose to make no provision for storage sheds for the seasoning of timbers in that State. With regard to the vote for the Federal Capital, I was one of those who voted for the selection of Yass-Canberra as a site, but I never imagined for a moment that the scheme would be allowed to hang so long in the stays before anything was done. We are told that money is wanted. Of the sum which was voted for this purpose last year£33,957 was not spent, and has to be re-voted, and, in addition, we are asked to vote £66,043. I want to know why the. Government ask us to vote large sums which the Department knows it cannot spend within the financial year. We have heard that these Estimates have to be passed in order to allow the works to be proceeded with; but in this schedule, we are asked to re-vote about £250,000, which was voted on the last Estimates for various purposes. That is not a businesslike method of procedure.
– The honorable senator means that they ought to get rid of the money anyhow.
– No. What I mean is that the Department ought to know whether it will need £60,000 or £100,000 for the year. The plans in connexion with the Federal Capital are not returnable until next January. The Minister of Home Affairs has stated that the Department is going to get the benefit of the best talent in the world. I do not know whether it is true or not, but I have read in the press that eminent architects in America, Great Britain, and Australia have refused to submit plans to persons whom they believe to be incompetent to express an opinion on them.
– It is more a matter for engineers than for architects.
– The function of the engineer is to plan a system of sewerage, and to lay out the streets of the city, but the function of the architect is to prepare plans for the buildings to be erected. If, on the rst January, no plans have been received the whole matter will be thrown back for a year.
– Why ?
– Because it will be necessary to call for fresh tenders. In other words, we shall be in exactly the same position then as we were in twelve months before. I feel satisfied that, by the end of next year, no plans will bie adopted. The business will be strung out as long as possible. Whatever influence is at work I do not know, but my impression is that there is no real intention to proceed. Otherwise the Government would have appointed well-known architects to select the best plan. In nearly every instance where plans are invited the Minister does not select the best plan, but calls in experts, who decide upon the person who should receive the prize offered. In this instance, however, the Minister is to decide. Suppose that plans are returned by next January. In what position shall we be? The Commonwealth will not have acquired the land for laying out a city. Surely we cannot enter upon private land before it is purchased and lay out a city.
A portion of this vote is required for sewerage purposes. Is it intended to start that work before the land is acquired? The whole thing is, to my mind, a farce. It is not intended to deal with the plans, or to spend the money which we are asked to vote, and next year another re- vote will be proposed, or, perhaps, the Government may decide to pass money into a trust fund until they have accumulated a sufficient amount to spend.
– What harm will that do?
– I do not see why we should be asked to vote sums which it is not intended to spend. Of the amount which was voted last year, how much did the Government spend? As nearly as I can make out, they spent between £60,000 and £80,000. We are also asked to vote £22,500 towards the cost of constructing a transcontinental railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. Is it usual for the Government to ask Parliament to vote money for the construction of a railway before plans and specifications have been prepared and submitted? I have seen a good many railway proposals submitted, but the plans and specifications were always laid upon the table by the Government before a vote for construction was asked. This vote of £22,500 is required, not for the preparation of plans and specifications for the proposed railway, but towards its construction. Is the Senate prepared to vote the money without caring whether plans and specifications, or estimates of cost, are submitted? Apparently it is prepared to vote the money “ on the blind.”
– An estimate of the cost of construction has been before the honorable senator for many years.
– I have never seen an estimate of the cost of constructing this railway, nor has the honorable senator, to my knowledge. We have voted a sum for the purpose of surveying a route for the railway.
– I mean an estimate of the cost of construction.
– We have passed a Bill to survey the route of a railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie; but I have not seen any estimate of the cost of construction. I have heard various sums mentioned as likely to be required, but I have not seen any plans and specifications, or any estimate of the cost. It is not disclosed in these Estimates whether the rail way is to be built on any plan, or what is the gauge on which it is to be constructed. Why should we be asked to vote £22,500 unless the Government are prepared to submit plans and specifications and an estimate of the cost, and seek parliamentary authority to construct the line? I have never known the construction of a railway to be initiated in this manner, although I have seen twenty or thirty railway proposals put through Parliament. No other Parliament would agree to vote a sum towards the construction of a railway, no matter what the amount was, in the circumstances which I have pointed out. Here we are asked to re-vote £3,526 and to vote £18,974, making a total of £22,500, without one tittle of a plan or any estimate of cost being submitted We have had brought before our notice various imaginary estimates; but these have been reduced or increased. One engineer has said that the line will cost £4,000,000; another engineer has estimated the cost at £3,700,000; in fact, various sums have been mentioned in this way. Surely before the Government ask the representatives of the people to vote this money they should submit for our approval plans and specifications of the proposed railway. They have adopted a most extraordinary method of procedure. The Senate seems to me to be satisfied to pass the item without any information as regards total cost, or without any reference to plans and specifications. The line may involve an expenditure of £4,000,000, or £5,000,000, or £6,000,000. At the present moment the Minister cannot give us any idea, either as to the plans and specifications, or as to the total cost of the work. All that he has in his possession are the estimates of some engineers which vary. There are no plans to show how much the railway will cost per mile, or how much each section will cost. In short, we are asked to tax the people to build a line without a tittle of proper information. I do not suppose that anything I could say would affect the decision of the Committee. It seems that any proposal which the Government may submit, whether wise or foolish, is sure to pass. I, for one, enter a protest against this money being voted in the absence of plans and specifications of the proposed railway.
– I desire to ask the Minister a question regarding a small item of £250 for alterations and additions to the Sydney Customs House. I desire to know whether this building was one of the transferred properties or not. I understand that, although it is in the occupation of the Federal Government, the State Government demurred to the transfer of the building, and that it remains in joint occupation. I desire to know whether we are asked to spend money on a property belonging to the State Government, or whether an arrangement has been made for the transfer of the building to the Commonwealth.
– This vote is required to provide a long room and lift accommodation in the building, which is a transferred property.
– Inote that we are asked to revote the whole amount of the expenditure we authorized last year in connexion with the purchase of a launch for the trawler. Is there any difficulty in securing a launch, or why is it that nothing has been done to give effect to the decision of Parliament?
– The item in question is merely for the payment of the account. The launch has already been provided.
– Does the same remark apply to the item “ Laboratory, £164 “?
– It seems strange that in connexion with new quarantine buildings in New South Wales we should be asked to vote £6,200 and to re-vote £6,536, the expenditure of which was authorized last year.
.- The departmental explanation of this matter reads -
While it has been considered desirable to make careful inquiry before embarking upon any extensive provision of new quarantine stations and new buildings at existing stations, still a certain amount of expenditure is necessary in order to maintain- existing stations in good repair and efficient working order. Provision has been made for some necessary works of water supply, sanitation, and for the disinfection of infected articles, and for the transport of persons and supplies to and from quarantine stations.
That applies to some of the minor items. In regard to the major items, I explained on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, that the Commonwealth is providing new quarantine stations where they have been found to be necessary. In some of the States, when we did take over quarantine, we did not take over quarantine buildings. The re-vote is caused by contracts being let, but not completed, during the financial year.
– In connexion with rifle ranges in New South Wales, I note that there is a re-vote of £1,296. I know that some of the rifle ranges in Queensland are in a very bad state indeed.
– We are not dealing with them at the present time.
– I recognise that, and shall, therefore, reserve my remarks upon the subject till a later stage.
– I would direct attention to the item “ Lithgow - Small Arms Factory, including fittings and erection of machinery, £19,000.” This includes a re-vote of £3,588. I desire to know whether the amount, the expenditure of which we are now asked to authorize, represents the final payment in respect of the undertakings covered in this paragraph. Apparently it deals only with buildings and the erection of machinery, not with the machinery itself. At any rate, that is the way I read it. I am also anxious to ascertain what is to be the total cost of this undertaking.
– The item in question covers buildings and machinery supplied by the Department of Home Affairs, but not the machinery supplied by Pratt and Whitney. The machinery for the making of rifles is the subject of a contract entered into by the Defence Department. I presume that the amount to which the honorable senator has directed attention will represent the final payment on account of the machinery supplied by the Department of Home Affairs.
– Can the Minister tell us the amount of the previous payment?
– It was £34,949 for the year 1910-11.
– That is £54,000 altogether ?
– There is an item under the heading of “New Special Defence Provision,” which reads “Small Arms Factory, £6,000.” There was also an appropriation last year of £11,800 in this connexion, and an expenditure of £11,933. That amount was expended by the Defence Department. It is separate from the expenditure upon machinery to be supplied by Pratt and Whitney, although itis contingent on that supply. This amount must, therefore, be added to the sum to which I previously referred.
– I should like to know the area, of land that we have at Maribyrnong.
– There are 241 acres.
– I see in these Estimates a vote for “ Rifle range and accessories for proof of smallarm ammunition.” During the debate this afternoon I stated that Captain Collins had affirmed that American machinery was less durable than British, and was, therefore, more expensive.
– Does the honorable senator still hold that Captain Collins said that?
– When I made that statement I could not for the moment find my authority for it. But I have since discovered that it is contained in the precis of proceedings in connexion with tenders for machinery for the Small Arms Factory, which was ordered to be printed on 5th August, 1909. I merely wish to give the Minister the source of my information.
– Will the honorable senator correct his statement that Commander Clarkson affirmed that American machinery was less durable?
– Yes. I will read an extract from the document to which I referred. It is as follows -
War Office has been consulted. Like Birmingham offer. Consider cost prohibitive compared other tenders. American machinery less durable, therefore more expensive.
I wish the Committee to understand that I would not make a statement in this Chamber unless I had some authority for so doing.
– The honorable senator stated that Commander Clarkson had said that American machinery was less ‘durable.
– I have withdrawn that statement.
– The honorable senator now points out that it was the War Office which made the statement. If he had read on he would have found the following -
Clarkson considers War Office objections to American machinery not applicable Pratt, as War Office not aware of recent development in small arms machinery in America.
– I should like to know the area of the Beerburrum manoeuvre area, for which £13,608 is provided.
– It is, roughly, 55,000 acres.
.- I wish to know why the sum of £788 has to be re-voted in connexion with the Bundaberg rifle range? I also desire similar information in regard to the Mackay rifle range, upon which we are asked to re-vote £330. I know that the works were required, and should like to know why the money was not spent.
– Until we secured parliamentary approval for these votes, we could not do anything. As soon as parliamentary approval was obtained, the works were taken in hand ; but they had not been completed before the end of the financial year. Works have not been suspended, however, but we now require Parliament to re-vote the money, which will be spent during the current financial year.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to a matter which I should not have mentioned, except that there appears to be a possibility of the practice to which I allude being extended. I understand that, outside the post-office at Croydon, a suburb of Sydney, the Department is erecting an iron letter receiving-box. Surely that is a waste of money. But I believe that this is not an isolated instance. It seems extravagant expenditure, because receiving-boxes are not necessary in such situations.
– I will take the earliest opportunity of bringing the matter under the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– I notice an item of £25,000 towards cost of the Sydney Parcels Post Office. What will the total cost be, and where is the Parcels Post Office to be situated ?
– The total cost will probably be £50,000. The work is now in progress. It is adjacent to the Redfern Railway Station.
– Running through the list of postoffices for which money is appropriated, I notice a difference in the wording. We have, for instance, Auburn Post-office, “ towards cost “ ; whereas those words do not appear after Blackheath Post-office. Does the variation represent different kinds of expenditure? Otherwise, the words “ towards cost “ are unnecessary.
– Where the words “ towards cost “ appear, works are in progress. In the other cases, the amount set down is a final payment.
– I observe that in various parts of the Commonwealth there are post-offices bearing the same name. For instance, there is more than one Woodstock Post-office. There is also a Croydon in New South Wales, in Queensland, and in Victoria. This duplication of names frequently leads to difficulty. Some time ago, I sent a telegram to Bowen. For the last forty years, there has been a large and important post-office at Bowen, Queensland, which is the receiving station for the New Caledonia Cable. I did not know, however, that there was another Bowen in Victoria, and my telegram was sent to the wrong place. I afterwards found that I ought to have put the word “ Queensland “ upon the address. I am afraid that letters and telegrams often go astray through such a duplication; and I think the Government should, as far as possible, put an end to it. I am not blaming the Department for the error that occurred in ‘connexion with my own telegram ; but I hope that the Minister will bring the confusion under the notice of the Postmaster-General, and see whether means cannot be devised for avoiding it.
– When there are two places bearing the same name in different parts of the Commonwealth, and it is possible to bring about a change, changes are being made as expeditiously as possible. But, of course, the Commonwealth Government cannot change the names of places at its own sweet will. We have power to alter the names of post-offices ; but it would never do to alter the name of a postoffice without altering the name of the place where the office was situated. Whenever the Department can induce local people to change a name in order to avoid duplication, that is done.
– I did not blame the Department, but drew attention to the confusion that arises from this cause; because, if I had not done so, and on any future occasion I mentioned a mistake that had occurred, it would have been said to me, “ Why did you not bring the matter forward when the Estimates were under consideration?”
– I take the opportunity of congratulating the Government on the preparation of this list of votes. I observe that, in many instances, money is to be spent in country towns. We have heard a great deal of what ought to be done for the country.
– Is Sydney a country town ?
– I am referring to South Australia. I see references here to Balaclava, Bordertown, Caltowie and Crystal Brook. I was delighted when I saw these votes. We have heard of people stating that the farmers’ interests are being entirely ignored by this Socialistic Government, and when I saw this list my heart leapt with joy. Honorable members opposite seize, with pleasure, every opportunity to denounce the Government, and I think it is right, when the opportunity offers, to do the opposite thing, and give the Government credit when credit is due to them. As a farmers’ representative, although belonging to the Labour party, I am delighted to find that the Government have done this. I am sure that the Government of which Senator Millen was a member, never did anything of the sort.
– I notice a vote of £11,000 for a wireless station at Fremantle. I should be glad to know if the work is approaching completion. While on the subject the Minister might inform the Committee when wireless communication will be established between Thursday Island and Papua.
– On the second reading of the Bill I drew attention to the fact that there is no vote proposed for the establishment of wireless communication between either Cooktown or Thursday Island and Papua. It is more than a year since I had to interview the Department about the matter, and I was then assured that the work would be proceeded with at once. I am unable to congratulate the Government in this matter. During the last eighteen months there has been urgent need for wireless communication between North Queensland and Papua. Not long ago the Administrator of the Territory was lost, and we were all very anxious to know what had become of him.We could get news from Papua only by steamer, or steam launch. We know that wrecks sometimes take place on the Barrier Reef, and, as many vessels are now fitted with wireless telegraphy, it might be possible to save many lives in case of a marine disaster if there were some place on the coast of North Queensland with which vessels could communicate. Though a promise was made to me last year that the work to which I refer would be proceeded with, nothing has yet been done. I hope it will not be hung up as the establishment of the Federal Capital has been. I have constant inquiries from people in the north as to when the Government intends to proceed with the work, and I hope the Minister will be able to inform the Committee that it is the intention of the Government to do so very shortly.
– The whole question of wireless telegraphy is to-day being inquired into by a Government expert.
– We were told that last year.
– The gentleman to whom I refer was not in Australia last year. He is now actively engaged in the preparation of a report which we hope will soon be completed. His recommendations will, in all probability, be acted upon, and ample provision is made in the PostmasterGeneral’s Estimates for the work to be proceeded with. The Committee may rest assured that there will be no unnecessary delay.
– Are any particular stations to be reported on?
– We have asked for a comprehensive report on the whole question, and also with respect to suitable sites for wireless stations. Some sites have already been decided upon and the Minister of Defence has already referred to the Pennant Hills and Fremantle stations. The sites chosen for other stations around Australia will depend very largely on the report of the expert.
– - Last year it was understood that a wireless station was to be erected at Thursday Island or Cooktown, to provide communication with a station to be erected in Papua. For military reasons it was subsequently decided that the Queensland station should be established at Thursday Island. Surely it should not take twelve months to put up a wireless station at Thursday Island when vessels can leave Australia for the Old Country and in three weeks be fitted with wireless telegraphic apparatus. We are now told that an expert has been procured to select sites.
– That is perfectly true.
– If it has taken twelve months to get an expert it will probably take twelve years to have this work done. I say that the people of North Queensland were misled by the statements made on this subject last year.
– Money was provided on the Estimates for the work.
– Then it must be necessary now to re-vote it, because there is no vote on the present Works and Buildings Estimates for the purpose. I do not wish to be continually worried by people writing to me for information, and I hope the Minister will tell me whether a vote for this purpose will appear on the Supplementary Estimates.
– There is £20,000 on these Works Estimates.
– I see that there is a vote of £20,000 put down for wireless telegraphy generally, but no statement is made as to where that money is to be spent. A separate vote is provided for the stations at Pennant Hills and Fremantle, but there is no separate vote for a station at Thursday Island or Papua. It is only misleading me or the Committee to saythat there is £20,000 for this purpose on the Estimates when I ask what amount is put down for the promised station at Thursday Island.
– The honorable senator was told by the Minister that the wireless telegraphy expert is to recommend the sites on which this £20,000 is to be spent.
– Can the Minister of Defence tell me how many stations this amount will cover?
– Quite a large number.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales)
L9-37]- - The Minister has mentioned that a wireless telegraphy expert is now engaged in making a report on the whole question. Am I right in assuming that the Government will be largely guided by his advice both as to the extension of wireless stations and the system to be adopted. If we have a wireless telegraphy expert, it is right that his advice ihould weigh very considerably with the Government. Assuming that his advice will be sought on the question as to which system should be adopted in future, I should like to know whether the Government are aware that the gentleman who has been employed was not long since engaged in a legal controversy with the representatives of the Marconi Company.
– He ought to know the law on the subject.
– Yes, but in the course of that controversy he may have become quite unconsciously prejudiced in a certain way, and it would be as well if we were informed on this point also.
– We have heard from time to time a great deal of what a Government can do as compared with private enterprise, but private enterprise has established several wireless stations in Australia since the Government promised the establishment of a station at Thursday Island. The stations established by private enterprise may not be as well equipped as those at Pennant Hills and Fremantle, but they are powerful enough to do the work we require to have done. Senator Millen now informs us that the wireless telegraphy expert has been engaged in a controversy with the Marconi company, and, reading between the lines, it may be suggested that he would favour the adoption of a particular system. We shall not prejudge him, however, and will assume that he has an open mind on the subject. But I would impress upon the Government that they have the money, and should not allow private persons to act in advance of themselves, and put up wireless stations. The people on Thursday Island look to the Government to undertake this work. A promise was made that it would be proceeded with, but it has not been kept. I believe that the Government could have done the work if they had so wished. What has been the cause of the delay I do not know, but to-morrow I shall have to tell the people of Thursday Island that, although private persons have been able to erect wireless stations within the year, the Government have, for some reason or other, been unable to do so.
– Senator Millen has drawn the attention of the Committee to the fact that Mr. Balsillie, who is the Government expert in regard to wireless telegraphy, has been interested or concerned in the recent case in the Old Country between the Marconi Company and another wireless telegraph company. He has asked whether the Government would be guided by that gentleman in respect to methods. Undoubtedly the Government will be very largely guided by his recommendations. That is the reason -why he was appointed. With regard to any law points which may arise, the Government have their own officers.
– It is not a matter of law points.
– Questions of law have arisen in regard to wireless telegraphy and the systems in operation in different parts of the world. In reference to methods, location, and power of the stations, the Government will be guided largely and mainly by their expert; but as to any matters of law which may arise from time to time, the Government will consult their own officers.
– It was not a question of law which was raised, but a question of whether, when the Government seek expert advice, they will obtain that advice from one who is quite free from prejudice. I ask the Committee whether a gentleman who has been engaged in a lawsuit with the Marconi Company is quite the disinterested person whose advice the Government should seek when the claims of that company are being weighed in the balance against those of a rival company? That is putting the position I hope with sufficient definiteness. To bring in the question of law points is likely to obscure the issue. It is quite evident that this gentleman is not an expert lawyer in the matter, or he would not have been defeated in the case in which he was interested.
– He may run the Government into another lawsuit.
– Yes. It was quite idle for the Minister to talk about law points, as I did not raise any.
– The question of the adoption of a system at once raises questions of law, because there have been legal decisions on the question of systems.
– I am not dealing with the question of patent rights, but with the question of calling in an expert to show which system is the better one. The position is that the Government are calling in to advise them as to which of two systems is the better a man to judge against his successful competitor. I shall be quite willing to retract any statement I have made if I find that I have acted upon wrong or insufficient information, but 1 understand Mr. Balsillie was interested in a company, and I think that he also claimed some patentee’s rights. At any rate, he was involved in a lawsuit with the Marconi Company, and the latter triumphed ; and now he is called in by the Government of the Commonwealth to sit in judgment on his successful rival - not in a lawsuit, but in the world of invention - and to say whether he regards his rival’s system, or some other system, as the superior one. There is only one man in a thousand who can quite shake off the prejudices which such an experience is likely to create. We are all human; even wireless experts are human. I feel that I have not exceeded my duty in directing attention to what, to my mind, is unquest ionably a weakness in the officer who has been chosen for this particular work.
– On law points we shall be guided by our own officers.
– On page 27, I notice an item of £50,000 towards the purchase ot sites for “ post and telegraphs.” Are these sites required for the post-offices with which we have dealt, or is this an estimate of the amount which is likely to be required ; a sort of advance in anticipation of the possible resumption of land?
– I understand that this item covers the additions to the post-office in Bourke-street, Melbourne, the extension of the post-office in Brisbane, and the sites for the new postoffices included in these Estimates.
– I desire to ask the Minister a question, and I do not want any one to think that I am moved by a feeling of jealousy. I am merely seeking information. I direct attention to the very great discrepancy in the votes asked under the heads of New South Wales and Victoria for “ metallic circuits in existing single wire networks,” namely, £16,900 and £126,500. I take it that it is intended to adopt the metallic circuit pretty generally. I take no exception to the amount required for the improvement of the Victorian system’, but it would seem to me to suggest either that they are very much behindhand in New South Wales, or that for some reason it is not intended to carry out the work there as expeditiously as in Victoria. There is such a marked discrepancy between the two votes that it arrested my attention at once, and I would like the Minister to explain the matter.
– Much of the tunnelling work which is being done in Melbourne, and which has been done during the last few months, was done in Sydney years ago - I believe before Federation - at a cost of many thousands of pounds. The amount which is asked for the work in Melbourne is much larger than the amount required for the work which is being carried on in Sydney. The tunnelling work which was done in the latter city anterior to Federation saved such a considerable sum to the Department that it explains the disparity between the two votes on these Estimates.
– There is a big difference between undergrounding the wires and metallic circuits.
– The work is being taken up in Melbourne at the stage which was reached in Sydney some years ago.
– I wish to ask for the information of Senator W. Russell, of South Australia, whether the items under the head of that State, on page 29, are proposed in connexion with farming districts, or where it is proposed to spend the total vote of £[53,400 for telegraphs and telephones? I do so because, in all friendliness to the Government, I warn them that if it is expected that the various sums are to be spent outside some hay-sheds, they are likely to have serious trouble.
– Although Brisbane is a fairly large city, only £2,000 is proposed for metallic circuits in existing single wire networks. It seems wonderful that while £2,000 will meet the requirements there, £126,500 is required for Melbourne, and £16,900 for Sydney. I think that Brisbane is pretty well on the same footing as Sydney, but only £2,000 is to be voted.
– And £3,000 for Adelaide.
– That is hardly fair. I know that in Adelaide the wires are all overhead, and that much tunnelling has not been done, as in Sydney. Adelaide is pretty much in the same state as is Melbourne. Yet, for the latter city, £126,500 has been voted, and only a vote of £2,000 is proposed for Brisbane. There must be some explanation for this marked disparity between the amounts, and I hope that the Minister can give me some information.
– The explanation is that in Brisbane they have had metallic circuits for a considerable period. In fact, they are more advanced in this regard than is Adelaide.
– I suspected that.
– There is not the slightest doubt that that section of a party which is ever watchful in regard to the interests of the farmers, and those residing in distant parts, has had some influence in regard to the amount to be expended on telephone works in South Australia.
– For the first time since the present Ministry was formed, I feel inclined to regret that Senator Findley was included in its ranks, because we all remember with what great delight we used to listen to his annual attack on the items in connexion with the Government Printing Office. It seems that we are deprived of the very valuable assistance which he used to lend to the Chamber in this regard.
– It is under better management, and he is satisfied.
– Senator Findley appears to me to be satisfied, but the question is whether the Committee is satisfied. I desire to know what is being done in regard to the printing plant. I understand that we are still getting the bulk of our printing done with the plant owned by the State authorities, under an arrangement which 1 have every reason to think is satisfactory. But it seems that each year we are putchasing plant, and installing it, I assume, in a building under the control of the State authorities.
– And the State is getting work done with our plant.
– I take it that there is some arrangement for the mutual use of the machines. At the same time, it almost seems to me that we are reaching a period when some other arrangement will have to be made. I cannot conceive that the present arrangement can continue to be satisfactory. The mere installation of plant costs money. If we decide to erect a printing office, the plant will have to be dismantled, and transferred to another place. If we are going to have our printing work done by another office, let us take it to an office which has a plant capable of doing it. It seems to me that we may well consider whether we should be better served if we equipped an office of our own.
– The Government Printing Office is now being conducted on the same lines as it was previously conducted, and the Commonwealth plant is being used on State printing, just as the State plant is being used on Commonwealth printing. The officials say that this arrangement works fairly satisfactorily, and that we are getting a square deal from the State, whilst giving it a square deal in return. Short of the establishment of a
Commonwealth printing office, it seems to me that it is the only system under which we can work.
– I understand that if the Commonwealth gets a job done at the Government Printing Office, it has to pay for it. What I wish to know is, whether the State of Victoria makes a specific cash allowance to us for the use of our machines?
– In answer to the Leader of the Opposition 1 may say that an account is kept of the time during which men are employed upon Commonwealth work, and that we are charged for that time. The accounts are balanced every month. Under these circumstances, we do not pay for the running of our own machines. We merely pay for the labour that is employed upon them:
– I merely wish to point out that what may have been a good system a few years ago, when Commonwealth work was small, and when our plant was comparatively insignificant, is not necessarily the best system to-day, when we are adding to our plant.
Senator WALKER (New South Wales; [9-59]- - Iwantto direct attention to Division No. 12, “ Naval Works and Armament.”I desire to know whether H.M.A.S. Protector, Gayundah, and Paluma, are likely to be of much use in case of war, or whether they are intended to be kept merely for social purposes for Ministers ?
– If Senator Walker has any doubt upon the question as to whether these vessels are to be kept for social purposes for Ministers, the best way to dispel it is for him to undertake a voyage outside the Heads in the Protector.
– Of what earthly use are they?
– Each of these vessels has been docked and certain repairs have been effected, so that they have now a long life before them.. They are quite good enough for use for the training of the Naval Reserve. Of course, we recognise that their guns are obsolete. They are not fighting ships of a modern type. But we are putting an up-to-date gun on each of them, so that they will be quite good enough for training the Naval Reserve. The amount which we propose to spend for that purpose does not represent one-tenth of the cost of a second class protected cruiser if we had to buy one for training purposes. As these vessels can enter all our coastal ports, pick up youths there, and give them their training, they will perform a useful work.
– From what the Minister says, the men who have been trained on these vessels will be good sailors.
– No doubt. They will have an opportunity of proving their seafaring qualities. Apart from the Naval Reserve, we want these ships for recruiting purposes. On her last visit to Launceston the Protector remained there only a day or two, but during that period she took on board no less than twenty recruits, all of whom were of a very fine type. These vessels will bring recruits here, where they will be turned into the Naval Barracks and put through a course of drill.
– Are recruiting and enlisting the same thing?
– Does the Department give them the shilling ?
– No; it merely gives them their pay.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) £10.4]. - I notice here a proposal in regard to the Northern Territory. Some accusations of extravagance in finance have been made against the Government; but when I look at the items which are grouped under the heading of “ Northern Territory,” I fail to see how any such charge can be justified. For instance, for “ artesian water bores, also wells and dams on overland route on Macdonnell Ranges and Tanamai gold-fields, and opening up stock routes,” the Government have screwed up their courage to ask for a vote of £2,000. This, it must be remembered, is in a country where labour is dear. I do not know what will be the cost of an artesian well in the Northern Territory; but I do know that when these wells were first put down in New South Wales and water was obtainable within a reasonable distance of the surface, £2,000 used to be regarded as a fair amount. Of course, I am aware that since then the operation of boring has been very much cheapened, but I venture to say that the average cost of an artesian well is £1,000. I do urge upon the Government that they should be a little more lavish in their efforts to open up the North ern Territory. Certainly, if they intend to develop that territory, they will have to proceed much more boldly than they propose to proceed in the light of these figures.
– The Leader of the Opposition has been somewhat facetious at the expense of the Government. But I do not think there is room for him to be facetious if he will look at the facts of the case. Up to the present the Government have not been authorized to spend a single penny in the Northern Territory. This vote, when it is agreed to, will empower us to incur expenditure there. But anybody who looks at the facts will recognise that very little money can be spent there before the close of the present financial year. However, when once the authority has been given to commence work there, it will probably be found that the vote upon next year’s Estimates will be tenor twelve times the amount which appears upon these Estimates.
– I am very glad to hear the explanation of the Minister, and I am also pleased to see that it is intended to spend money upon experimental farms. Seeing that we have a railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, and also from Port Darwin to Pine Creek, I should think that the time has arrived for the establishment of a railway department, and the appointment of a railway commissioner. What are the intentions of the Government in this respect ?
– It is rather premature to talk about appointing a railway commissioner yet, seeing that, upon the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line, a train is run only once a fortnight. The suggestion reminds me of the alleged American army which was composed mostly of colonels.
– Could not the railway commissioner drive the engine?
– That is a suggestion which is well worthy of consideration. When we have constructed the railway to Western Australia, and the line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, the suggestion of Senator Walker will come within the region of practical politics. At present, the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta is being run under the supervision of a railway superintendent.
– I take it that the Minister considers that the Commonwealth is already losing enough upon the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway,and that he does not desire to increase that loss. Turning again to the Northern Territory Estimates I think that, in regard to the item of £8,000 for experimental farms, he should take steps to inform us of what the Government propose. I do not think that the Committee will grudge the expenditure of £8,000 in this connexion, provided that the money be judiciously expended. I think that we ought to have some information as to what is to be done with this amount. I scarcely expect the Minister to give us a detailed statement to-night, but I do invite him to circulate, by memorandum, or otherwise, the information which is desired. I also observe that there is a vote of£2,000 for a horse-breeding establishment in the Northern Territory. Is that also an experimental farm, or is it an off-shoot of the horse-breeding scheme of the Defence Department ? If it be an experimental farm, it is not needed, because we had the assurance of Senator Story when the Northern Territory transfer was being dealt with - given with that solemnity which characterizes the honorable senator - that the country was especially well suited for horse breeding. If that be the case, we do not need to experiment to demonstrate an established fact.
– Some parts of the Territory are better than others.
– If, however, the Minister is putting into force the power given to him to start horse breeding for military purposes, the vote should not be debited to the Northern Territory at all, but should be set down as Defence expenditure.
– With regard to the item of £8,000, I have given instructions that Senator Millen ‘s remarks shall be brought under the notice of the Minister of External Affairs, who, I have no doubt, will be glad to circulate information showing how the money is proposed to be spent. As to the £2,000 for horse breeding, I have to assure Senator Millen that it has no reference to the scheme for breeding horses for military purposes. Neither is this an experimental horsebreeding farm. It is simply proposed to carry- on a horse-breeding establishment that already exists in connexion with the overland telegraph line. The station has been in existence for some years. It has been carried on by the South Australian Government; and we took it over in connexion with the Northern Territory.
– It appears, from the Minister’s explanation, that we are charging the Northern Territory with the upkeep of a horse-breeding establishment, the benefit of which goes to the Post and Telegraph Department.Unless there be a contrary entry somewhere of which I have no knowledge, the Northern Territory is being placed in an unfair position. Why should it be charged with the cost of breeding horses for the Post and Telegraph Department ?
– The horses are bred for the police, and for other purposes.
– If the farm were not there, the Post and Telegraph Department would have to buy its horses, and the cost would be charged against the Postal vote. It ought to be so charged now, just as when any Department renders a service to another Department it gets credit for it.
– Not in all instances. The Defence Department is constructing vessels for the Trade and Customs Department, but does not get credit for doing so.
– Surely, if the Defence Department is to construct vessels for the quarantine service, the debit is not left against the Defence Department’s vote.
– Yes ; as far as this Bill is concerned; although there may be a book entry in the Treasury.
– As a matter of simplifying accounts, expenditure which does not concern the Department incurring it, ought not to be charged against that Department. The Northern Territory is going to require, on its own account, every pound we can spare for it. I do not wish to see its accounts loaded up with services which are primarily for the benefit of other Departments. Let the Post and Telegraph Department carry its own sins and provide for its own expenditure. Here we have a vote charged against the Northern Territory for a service which is not for the benefit of the whole of Australia.
Schedule agreed to.
Postponed clause 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Senator PEARCE laid upon the table the following papers : -
Electoral Offences : Return showing the number of prosecutions in respect of the General Elections and Referenda 1906 and 1910, and the Referenda 1911.
Disaster to French Battleship Liberté : Copy of message of sympathy from Commonwealth Government, and despatch from the British Ambassador at Paris conveying the thanks of the French Government.
– In moving
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I desire to intimate that it is the wish of the Government to deal with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill as the first business to-morrow.
– The announcement of the Minister takes me by surprise. I understood that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was in the charge of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and that it would not be dealt with until he returned to Melbourne. Of course, the Government has a right to take business as it likes; butI submit that, unless there is a strong reason for the change, it is advisable to adhere to the understanding arrived at. The announcement was that the Electoral Bill would be proceeded with, in order that the other House might obtain possession of it, and an assurance was given to me that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill would not be taken until the Vice-President of the Executive Council returned. I admit at once that the Bill has been upon the paper for some time; but all that I can find time to do is to keep myself posted in regard to business that I think is immediately ahead of me. I can only envy those who, more fortunate than I am, are able to master business that does not seem likely to be brought under consideration for some time. Quite a number of honorable senators, who are not here now, are under the impression that a certain order of business was to be pursued. Unless there is strong reason to the contrary, I ask the Minister to adhere to the arrangement originally made.
– The Government have become impressed with, the necessity of proceeding with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill as rapidly as possible. We do not wish to inconvenience anybody. I feel sure that Senator Millen will be in a position to proceed with the Bill to-morrow. The Vice-Presidentof the Executive Council will not be present ; but, before we get into Committee, he will probably be able to reply to any criticisms which may require an answer. I can assure the Senate that certain facts have come under our notice which have made it necessary that this Bill should be pressed forward.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.23p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 November 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19111109_senate_4_61/>.