4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The PRESIDENT laid upon the table the report of the Joint Library Committee for 1910-11.
Report read by the Clerk.
Senator PEARCE laid on the table the following paper : -
Department of Defence - Memorandum by the Minister of State for Defence on the EstimatesinChief of the Defence Department for the financial year 1911-12.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
Not known at present.
– Arising out of the answers given to my questions, I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether, before the conclusion of this sitting, he will consult the official returns of the banks in order to supply the information asked for.
– I have been informed that steps were taken over a week ago to obtain the information, and that it will be a couple of weeks yet before it will be available. When it is available it will be made public.
– Arising out of the answer just given, I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether he will give the Senate the information he possesses at the present time before we adjourn.
– I have given all the information I possess.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this Bill.
Commonwealth Properties : Fire Insurances - Immigration : Shortage of Labour - Apprentices - Northern Territory : Development : Railway Construction: Land Tenure - Grant to Tasmania - Post Offices, Queensland - Australian Notes Issue - Naval Defence.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent this Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
It will be recollected that only a few weeks ago, when the Budget papers were presented to the Senate, I gave honorable senators particulars of the Estimates of revenue and expenditure for the last and the current financial years. I made all the comparisons which I thought really necessary at that time. I consider that it would be only a waste of time to go over the same ground again at this late stage of the session. The speech I made on the occasion is in print, and I have no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition, who moved the adjournment of the debate on the motion for the printing of the Budget papers, and other members of the Senate, will now be prepared to discuss the Estimates.
– There is one matter of some importance which I should like to bring under the notice of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Looking at the answers which I received to a question with respect to the lands and properties. acquired by the Commonwealth, I find that the statement was made that there are no fire insurances over any of the tenancies that now belong to the Commonwealth. I can quite understand that the Government may believe that there is not much necessity to have Government buildings insured, but I take the liberty to suggest that the Government would do well to annually put to an insurance account’ an amount which would fairly represent annual insurance premiums upon the value of Government properties. I take, for instance, the Sydney Post Office building, which is probably worth ,£100,000, and if burned down would cost that amount to rebuild. If we set aside annually £125 as an insurance premium on that building, and similarly set aside amounts equal to insurance premiums on all the other buildings the property of the Government, we should be in a very much better position than we are to-day, if, for instance, a conflagration took place, resulting in the destruction of Government buildings of considerable value. If the Government do not consider that it would be wise of them to take the whole of the risk themselves, they might agree to take a certain portion of it. I believe that we could very well afford after a time to insure our own buildings, without disturbing seriously the outgoing for anyone year. I think that in the interests of the public, and of the Government, our buildings should be insured either by ourselves or through insurance companies. That is the only matter to which I wish to refer at the present time.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [11. 12].- At this stage of the session I .shall not speak at great length, nor shall I deal with as many subjects of interest as otherwise I should be glad to refer to. I propose to refer, however briefly and perhaps somewhat cursorily, to the question of immigration. It is well in connexion with . this question to consider the demand at the present time in Australia for labour. We have frequently heard it said that before any money was spent upon immigration it was necessary to see that people already in Australia were in employment. At first blush there might appear to be something in that contention, but if there is work available, whether in the country districts, on the land, or in the cities and centres of population, it is the duty of the Commonwealth Parliament to turn its attention to the matter of immigration, and to see in what way it may be possible to assist in carrying Out a policy applicable to Australia as a whole. At the present time the only effective and active agencies “ in connexion with immigration are the State Governments. The Commonwealth Government give little, if any, assistance in the matter. It is true that we have appropriated certain small votes for the purpose of advertising the resources of Australia, and inducing people .in the Old Country to turn their attention to the Commonwealth rather than to Canada, the Argentine, and other parts of the world, where there are open spaces and opportunities for employment and advancement. On the question of whether there is a field in Australia for immigration, not merely of farmers and farm hands, but of artisans and others who would look for employment in large centres of population, I may say that an inquiry has recently been made into the matter in the State of New South Wales. I direct attention to the interim report of the Royal Commission of inquiry into the alleged shortage of labour in New South Wales, ordered by the Legislative Assembly of that State to be printed on 10th October, 1911. If honorable senators will consult that report they will find tha.t a large amount of evidence was taken by the Commission in order to ascertain the position of affairs, not merely from the employers’ stand-point, but from- the standpoint of artisans and others seeking employment. In this report there is a paragraph mentioning those who had rendered assistance to the Commission.
The Commission was assisted by the following representatives : - Mr. E. H. Buchanan, for the Employers’ Federation of New South Wales; Mrs. K. Dwyer, for the Women Workers’ Union ; Mr. E. J. Kavanagh, for the Labour Council of New South Wales; and Mr. H. Sparks, for the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures. On certain branches of the inquiry Mr. Phelps Richards and Mr. Corke appeared to represent the Master Builders’ Association and the Sydney and Suburban Timber Merchants’ Association, respectively.
The report goes on to acknowledge that these representative persons greatly facilitated the work of the Commission by the collection and arrangement of evidence. It says -
All parties acted under a manifest desire to afford the Commission a comprehensive view of the present state of employment in New South Wales, and to place before me the facts without prejudice or distortion. 1
I have read these two paragraphs in order ito show honorable senators that all classes were represented in the collection of evidence. I also wish to impress upon the Senate the fact that it was a Labour Government in ‘New South Wales which instituted this inquiry, with, I believe, an honest desire to- ascertain the true state of affairs. Anybody travelling about Sydney cannot fail to realize that, though a large amount of building has been for some time, and is, in progress, the work has proceeded very slowly. One finds there buildings which cannot be completed quickly for lack of artisans. Upon the face of matters there would appear to be a shortage of labour. The inquiry made by this Commission was a very careful one, and nearly every trade was represented amongst the witnesses. The Commissioner, after giving consideration to the facts, submitted an interim report showing that upwards of 3,000 hands could obtain immediate employment if their services were available. In a summary attached to the report, the numbers in the various trades are given. I call attention to one or two particulars. The number of masons required was 100. The number of hours worked per week, the minimum wage, and the overtime rates are set forth. These particulars show how thoroughly the interests of the trade have been looked after by the Wages Boards. Of bricklayers 300, carpenters and joiners 200, and plasterers 150, were required. Besides these artisans, who were required for the metropolitan area, figures amounting to 210 are given as to artisans required in the country districts. These include 75 bricklayers, 50 carpenters, 15 plumbers, and 40 plasterers, besides men engaged in carriage-building. Further on, particulars are given of the requirements of public bodies. The Sydney Harbor Trust wanted 100 carpenters, and the Fitzroy Dock required 400 boilermakers and riveters.
– About 120 are going about Sydney looking for employment now.
– Immediately after the report was received, the Government of New South Wales took steps to place between 100 and 200 additional boilermakers in the Government dock. I turn to the particulars regarding railway construction and maintenance, and find .that a total of 775 hands were required in connexion with that Department. The particulars as to women workers show that something like 5.50 women were required in various occupations. I invite honorable senators to study this report, and hope that Ministers will give it some attention. The document is well worthy of consideration whatever may be the preconceived ideas of honorable senators. The only possible way of obtaining knowledge of this kind is by taking evidence. It may be said that I am simply quoting facts concerning New South Wales’ requirements. My reply is, that I believe that at the present time there is a large demand for labour in every State. Both skilled and unskilled labour is wanted. Honorable senators who represent Western Australia know how much need there is for additional labour there.
– Does the honorable senator say that there is a shortage of labour in Western Australia?
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - There is a shortage of skilled labour.
– Men have a difficulty in obtaining work at the present time.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - If any one takes the trouble to look at the figures relating to increase of population in Western Australia, especially in relation to the number of immigrants brought in by the Government, it .must be evident that the new comers are being rapidly absorbed.
– As soon as the harvest is over, I am afraid that there will be a great number of unemployed in Western Australia.
– As a general rule, when you bring new people to a country you increase the amount of work. In addition to the value of the services of these new comers, their savings are also added to the wealth of the country. Thus you afford additional opportunities of employment. In Melbourne a great amount of building is going on at present, but many of the buildings are being erected very slowly. I can only assume that that is in consequence of the insufficient number of artisans required. It may be replied that though the number may be insufficient just now, yet if we bring in a large accession of people for the purpose of meeting the present demand many may later oh. be thrown
Out of employment, and have to look elsewhere for their bread and butter.
– Buildings are being put up more rapidly in Melbourne to-day than they have been at any time during the last three years.
– I am glad to know that. One reason why there is such a great lack of skilled artisans is because certain trades declined to permit more than a certain number of apprentices.
– Is the honorable senator speaking of Australia or of his own Stater
– I am speaking of all Australia.
– There was no limit for about seven years in this State, but, at last, even a Conservative Government had to move to stop certain trades, from being flooded with boy labour.
.- Is it not a fact that the number of apprentices who can be brought into any particular trade is limited in accordance with the number of hands employed? If you have half-a-dozen men working in a trade, and only allow two apprentices to be employed - that is, one to every three men - it means that you have only one-third the proper number of skilled hands growing up to take the places of those who are already in the trade. The mistake is inlimiting the number of apprentices in such a way as to prevent trade expansion. Aspopulation increases the demand for labour increases. I fear that many of theworking classes, instead of bringing up their sons to skilled trades, are allowing them to drift into the ranks of unskilled - labour. They are thereby doing an injustice, not only to the boys, but to the country of which they are citizens.
– Does the honorable senator .think that any parent deliberately makes his boy a labourer instead of a tradesman?
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - There are good opportunities for putting boys to trades, and it is a wellknown fact that highly skilled men find’ the readiest employment in all occupations.’ But the man who is only half educated,’ and is what is termed a “ botch,” never cart command the same amount of employment as can a man who is skilled in his trade. It is just the same in the various professions. I do not suggest that because a man is a carpenter his son should also be a carpenter. If a boy possesses talent, let him have the opportunity to gain a much better position than his father occupies. What does Mr. Commissoner Piddington say on this question of incompetent men. On page 12 he says -
It has been, by the way, a constant and, I think, a genuine cause of complaint amongst employers generally that the dearth of competent men of the respective occupations has compelled them often to put up with men who are not really skilled tradesmen at all, but who, if employed, must of course be paid according’ to award rates. It is satisfactory to note that the unions themselves do not pretend that the man w.ho is not up to the average in point of skill and working capacity ought to be safeguarded by preserving a kind of monopoly in his favour. They are apparently satisfied that the man who has neither been spurred by adversity nor encouraged by the recent prosperous days, to make himself fully competent, ought not to be foisted on employers and the public to the detriment of them and the work generally.
Is not -.that abundant vindication of my contention that we have not a sufficient number of apprentices in the various trades? If honorable senators will take the trouble to go through the streets of our great cities at night, they will find boys, and very frequently girls, not by scores, but by hundreds, idling about, and probably these persons will be found idling during the day time. That cannot be a good thing for the country. Far better that they should all be employed and learning trades. What is the use of a carpenter or joiner, who is a good tradesman, allowing his sons to grow up without a trade, and to drop into the great army of unskilled labourers - men who never can get a wageto put them in the same position of comfort as their fathers enjoyed, and which they themselves as citizens ought to enjoy? After all, a man is only worth what he can earn. If a father gives his son an opportunity to qualify himself to earn a good wage, it is the best gift which he can make to him. It ought to be the effort of trade unions to bring about this condition, and not to allow the number of apprentices to be limited in the remarkable degree in which it is. I make that remark without any desire to see boy labour taking the place of skilled labour. We want the best of labour in this country. If I want to build a house, I expect to get the best workmanship available put into the house. I do not want men who are botches to build my place, and to find out later that a lot of the work has been done so poorly that it has to be renewed or replaced.
– In the building trade in Western Australia one will not find a single employer who is prepared to take an apprentice. Employers there will take boys, but not as apprentices.
– I accept the statement of the Minister, who knows the position of the building trade in that State. But why should not the trade unions insist upon the employers having, apprentices?
– The unions in the building trades insist upon apprenticeship, but they are defeated every time.
– I am a thorough believer in having a large number of apprentices to the different trades. It is as much to the interest of the masters as of the men that boys should learn trades. The trade unions possess very great power, and they are in a position to practically dictate to the employers the number of apprentices who shall be associated with them in their work.
– The honorable senator should address his remarks to the Employers’ Federations.
– My contention is that it is the duty of men, whether they belong to Employers’ Federations or to Labour Federations or unions, to do the best they can to provide the country with a large number of skilled labourers. According to the report of the Commission I have quoted from, employers in Sydney have been obliged to obtain permission to introduce particular classes of labour from the Old Country, where I admit there is also much difficulty in connexion with skilled labour. An honorable senator asked just now this question, “ If we bring in a large number of men they will finish their labour, and what will they do then? They will have nothing to do ; they will have to go and seek homes elsewhere.” If any honorable senator had passed through Canada recently, and seen the enormous amount of building which is proceeding, and the enormous amount of work which it provided in the various cities, he would have realized, at any rate, that great faith was entertained in the future of the country. Men are emigrating in large numbers from Great Britain to Canada, with the consequence that as they are brought in so the demand for work increases. While it may be a matter for grave consideration on the part of those who reflect as to whether many of these cities are not rushing ahead at too great a rate, nevertheless, we have to realize that there is faith shown in the country, that work is going on month after month, and that the hands who are employed number, not hundreds, but thousands. Take a city like Montreal, with a population numbering about two-thirds of the population of Sydney. Although there is an enormous amount of building going on in Sydney, nearly the same quantity of work is proceeding in Montreal. Pass on from Montreal to Toronto, and other great cities, and the same thing is revealed to the traveller. Toronto, with a population of about 400,000, is a hive of industry, and there is apparent prosperity among the people. I have never had an opportunity of going to the Argentine, but I expect that if honorable senators were to go there they would hear the same tale. The population of their largest city, Buenos Ayres, has increased by about 500,000 within the last fifteen or twenty years. It is about 1,250,000, being equal to the populations of Sydney and Melbourne put together. The city has attained to its present size within a comparatively few years. This result has not been achieved without an enormous quantity of work being offered to the men who migrated to the country. It is one of the countries to which emigrants are pouring in at a very rapid rate. 1 realize, of course, that there is an efflux from time to time, as there ever will be. But it should be borne in mind that many of the men who go to the Argentine and take up work as artisans, after a time drift gradually and naturally either into business Or on to the land. Take the history of our own States. Take, for instance, the gold rushes which took place many years ago. What did many of the men who established themselves at the gold mines do with their children after the fields became less rich? The men gradually drifted on to the land and engaged in farming. Their sons were educated to farming, and in this way there was gradually formed a large proportion of the farming and agricultural population in the country at the present time. Our duty is to do the utmost we can to facilitate immigration, of course, always within reasonable bounds. I realize that if we brought in a million persons at once, or within a year, we should have a glut. But we find ourselves confronted with this fact, that within the last few years, Western Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and I think South Australia, have been importing immigrants in a limited number. These men are all finding employment. Possibly a new comer finds employment at the expense of an old resident. Why? He finds employment not at cutting rates, but simply because he has brought a greater amount of energy and knowledge to the trade than is possessed by the man whose services have been overlooked, and who, in a great majority of cases, is an unskilled labourer, and, therefore, not a thoroughly competent man. I do not care what means are adopted so long as we overcome this difficulty. I have every faith in the future of this country so long as we have a satisfactory immigration scheme with, of course, proper supervision. I do not wish to say a word as to the policy of one party or the other. Both parties ought to carry out to the fullest extent such, a policy as will make Australia what we believe it is capable of becoming, and that is, one of the greatest countries in the world. We can make or mar the country to a great extent, although probably we shall not mar it. But it will not increase in population unless we have an intelligent policy of immigration. It has been pointed out that a larger number of persons are offering as immigrants than can be accommodated by the shipping. It is also stated that some of our shipping companies are building additional ships to cope with the larger demand for accommodation. If we desire a large number of immigrants, we must offer inducements to the shipping companies which will make them realize that it will be profitable for them to bring immigrants. The great difficulty, no doubt, lies in this fact, that while they might get a large shipment of persons to come out, it is hard to get back loading. That only shows that the trade, and the industries of the country must be kept up by a system of give and take between various countries. We must have trade and commerce, and whether we import men or material, we must be prepared to export something. If we import a larger number of men they will produce goods and articles which can be taken as back loading by the ships, if not to the place whence they came, to other portions of the world. It, therefore, behoves the Government to exert every possible effort to establish a steady system of immigration. I read a statement the other day that there would be no difficulty in introducing 100,000 persons into the Commonwealth during the coming year. The present indications are that shipping accommodation will be available only for some 30,000 or 40,000 immigrants.
– Our trouble is that while the honorable senator is occupying all this time, in the .early hours of the morning, when we are transacting business, he will be absent.
– Senator Givens may think that, with a population of 4,500,000, Australia does not stand in need of immigrants.
– I recognise that we ought to have 40,000,000 souls in the Commonwealth, but the honorable senator’s Free Trade policy will not permit of them living here.
– Unless something be done to attract immigrants to our shores, our White Australia policy cannot be maintained indefinitely.
– The honorable senator wishes all the work of Australia to be done on the other side of the world.
– That statement is not correct. We require to introduce into the Commonwealth about two hundred thousand immigrants annually, but at the present time those who are desirous of defraying their own passages are unable to secure berths for months ahead, owing to the demand which has been made on shipping accommodation for the purpose of bringing immigrants to Australia. Is that a position which we ought to permit to continue ? The Minister of Defence has pointed out the great need which exists for the Commonwealth to secure men to defend this country. We all recognise that if we are to hold this vast continent, we must fill up its blank spaces. At a time like the present I offer no apology for making a somewhat lengthy reference to this question. Immigration is one of the matters which has been placed in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. The States are doing all that they can in this connexion, but it is up to the Commonwealth to vote a decent sum of money with which to assist their efforts.
– Does not the honorable senator think that we can profit by the experience of Canada - by having our immigration branch under the control of the central Government?
– The most active agent of immigration in Canada is the Canadian-Pacific Railway Company, which has received land grants as part payment for the construction of its lines. If we in Australia were to off er a similar concession, those who obtained it would find it necessary for their own protection to push forward a scheme of immigration. The Canadian-Pacific Railway Company is doing more to attract population to Canada than is the Dominion Government itself. If the honorable senator will take the trouble to look into the question, he will find that private railway companies have had to adopt that policy for their own salvation.
– They are assisting, no doubt.
– The newer cities of Canada are being founded by the great railway companies, which have received land grants as part payment for the construction of their lines. Had Canada not adopted that system, she would have been loaded with an enormous debt to-day, and would have had only half her present development.
– Our railway construction is infinitely better than is that of Canada.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - It may be that some of our State-owned lines are better than are some of the tracks in the Dominion. But there, there are not only main trunk lines, but numerous cockspur branches, for it is considered that no man should be distant from a railway station more than- 8 or 10 miles.
– The honorable senator did his best to prevent the Government from opening up the interior of Australia with trunk lines.
– I have never attempted to prevent that. But I asked the Government to pause before building that line through a country which will not support a population. I would have much preferred to see a transcontinental railway constructed, through the Northern Territory - a railway which would have tapped the most fertile portions of that Territory. Throughout the whole of the States the weakness of our system generally has been that we have endeavoured to concentrate the entire trade of the interior in one centre.
– The honorable senator was a long time doing that in the’ New South Wales Parliament.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - Assuming that I was as bad as the Vice-President of the Executive Council has suggested, will he not allow me an opportunity for repentance? I am glad that the States are beginning to realize that we require to construct a large number of these cockspur railways in order to provide farmers with facilities for getting their produce to market. There are other phases of this question upon which I might dwell at the present time. The subject is worthy of much greater consideration than has been bestowed upon it. But I may have an opportunity of referring to it in a future session, and, if so, I shall takeadvantage of it.
– It is grossly unfair of the honorable senator to occupy the whole of the early hours of the sitting, and then to clear out to his own State.
– I protest against any honorable senator making that statement. I have never told Senator Givens that it was unfair of him to occupy time in discussing matters in which he feels a considerable amount of interest. I have my rights here, and I intend to stand by them.
– One of those rights is to clear out after the honorable senator has finished his speech.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - I remained in the Senate until 4 o’clock this morning.
– Order. Senator Gould has a right to be allowed to continue his speech without being subjected to a continuous fire of interjections.
– I am perfectly satisfied that the settlement of the Northern Territory will come, not from the southern, but from the eastern States. Queensland will have the opportunity of developing it in a greater degree than will any other State. New South Wales, too, will have that opportunity, though in a more limited way. The policy which ought to be followed in respect of that Territory is to construct a railway through it close to the Queensland border, thus affording the people of that State an opportunity to link up their rail way system with the railways which may then be in existence in the Northern Territory. That is the way in which the Territory may be developed. Just as Queensland has pushed her development out towards her western boundary, so she will push it tothe boundary of the Northern Territory, and thus she will most materially assist the great work of developing that Territory.
– Queensland has settled that country right up to her own border.
– I recognise the way in which she has pushed out her railways, and I wish that all the States had adopted a similar policy. I am sorry that some honorable senators should foe under the impression that I have occupied the time of the Senate at too great length. But this is a matter upon which I felt very strongly, and one with which I should have liked to deal more exhaustively. I have said what I think it desirable I should say at the present time, and I shall not, therefore, occupy the attention of honorable senators further on this occasion.
– I do not propose to traverse the many matters on which one is entitled to speak on the first reading of a Bill of this kind. At this late stage of the session, it is very unlikely that any other opportunity will be afforded me as a representative of Tasmania to put before the Senate a few ideas I hold upon a matter which is of more vital importance to that State than possibly any other matter which could be discussed in connexion with the Budget papers or the Estimates. In pursuance of requests made from time to time by the Government of Tasmania, and by representatives of the State in this Parliament, a Royal Commission was at last appointed to deal with the intricate questions of the financial relations between the State of Tasmania and the Commonwealth. Honorable senators, who were members of the Senate during the. first six years of Federation, will remember that the question was debated here on a motion which I had the honor to introduce, proposing that, in the opinion of the Senate, the Federal revenue should be distributed over the whole of the States on a per capita basis in just the same way that it was necessary to distribute new expenditure in accordance with the terms of the Constitution. I regret to say that there was a majority of the Senate against me on that occasion. But if ray motion had been carried, and acted upon at that time, the financial position of Tasmania would have been very different from what it is to-day. The question was subsequently considered in different ways in this Parliament. Some two or three years ago Senator Keating submitted a motion in favour of a special grant to Tasmania on the lines adopted in connexion with the making of a special grant to Western Australia. The honorable senator’s motion then was rejected, but I am very pleased to be in a position to say that of the eleven honorable senators who voted for it, nine were members of the party behind the present Government. During last session a representative of Tasmania in another place moved that a special grant be made by the Commonwealth to that State, and in doing so mentioned the circumstances which he thought justified the adoption of such a motion. The House of Representatives, after debating the motion to some extent, decided, on the advice of the Government, to refer the matter with which it dealt, to a Select Committee, the members of which were afterwards constituted a Royal Commission. The Commission did their work, and did it well, during the last recess, and submitted a report to Parliament shortly after the opening of the present session. I was pleased to note the terms in which the Royal Commission reported, but I have been disappointed that since it was presented, the Government have intimated that it is not their intention to give full effect to the recommendations of the Commission. I do not, in this matter, blame the present Government as compared with previous Governments. I am very proud to be able to say that they are the only Federal Government who have attempted to do anything to secure justice in this matter for Tasmania. Three or four previous Governments have expressed sympathy for Tasmania in view of the peculiar circumstances in which the State has been placed, but they never sought to deal in any way with those circumstances.
– Some of those Governments were supported by the honorable senator’s own party.
– The honorable senator must be aware that on such questions as that to which I refer, members of the party had a perfectly free hand. The present Government have intimated, in reply to questions submitted by Senator Ready, that, having considered the report of the Royal Commission, they have decided to bring before Parliament next session a proposal to grant ,£500,000 to Tasmania, spread over a period of ten years.
– If Tasmania has suffered loss from Customs leakage, does the honorable senator not think that the loss should be made up by Victoria, the State that -has gained, rather than by the Commonwealth.
– There is much reason in the interjection, but it is very difficult to discover which States have benefited most from Customs leakage in Tasmania.
– Queensland has certainly not benefited at all.
– I wish it to be clearly understood that I agree with the report of the Royal Commission, that the Customs leakage has been only one factor in bringing about the peculiar financial position of Tasmania. That State has suffered very considerably from Federation, as the result of- the inevitable disturbance of trade.
– Other States have’ suffered in the same way.
– But to nothing like the same extent. For proof of this statement I have only to refer honorable senators to the evidence taken by the Royal Commission, which I hope they will study during the recess, because this question must come up again next year. Tasmania has suffered very greatly from the trade disturbance, owing largely to the abolition of Inter-State duties, and also to the fact that Tasmanians, as good Federalists, have given their preference to Australian manufacturers and producers as against the outside world. Those who have read the debates of the Federal Conventions, at which our Constitution was framed, are not surprised at the financial condition which has arisen between Tasmania and the Commonwealth. It was freely admitted by many members of the Conventions that Federation must result in great trade disturbance in some of the States, and that Tasmania would very probably be the State that would suffer most from it.
– I tried at the Convention to get some special concession made to Tasmania, as was done in the case of Western Australia.
– I am very pleased to hear that. During the first five years of Federation Customs and Excise revenue had to be distributed among the States on what was known as the bookkeeping basis, but our quarrel as Tasmanians with the Federation was that, at the end of that first period of five years, when it was competent for this Parliament to do away with the bookkeeping system, and to distribute the surplusof Customs revenue on the per capita basis as new expenditure was distributed, it failed to do so. It has been clearly shown during the last five years, as was anticipated by myself at the commencement of that term, in submitting the motion to which I have referred, that the losses we sustained under the system adopted during the first five years would be continued. My anticipations have been borne out by the results. We have gone on from year to year receiving a smaller portion of the Customs revenue than we should have been entitled to if it had been distributed on the per capita basis. In many of the speeches made at the Federal Convention by leading Federalists, the people were asked to “trust the Federal Parliament.” Tasmania was told that the Federal Parliament could be trusted to remedy any injury that might occur to the finances of that State.
– In view of the fact that Tasmania has kept up all the paraphernalia belonging to a Sovereign State, with two Houses of Legislature, an imported Governor, and all the rest of it, does the honorable senator think she deserves any consideration?
– The same might be said of any other State.
– But no other State is appealing for a special grant.
– It can be proved that nearly every other State has received special consideration in some way or other.
– So has Tasmania.
– She has received absolutely none. On the contrary, she has been a great sufferer. Victoria is the only other State which has received no special consideration.
– Victoria insisted on the special concession that the Federal Parliament should meet in Melbourne until the Federal Capital was selected.
– I do not know that that confers much benefit on Victoria. Of course, this State has benefited from Inter-State Free Trade, but that was because her industries were developed to such an extent that she was ready to take advantage of the open market.
– Victoria enjoys a great advantage in havingthe temporary seat of government in Melbourne by reason of the fact that she is brought into direct personal contact with Parliament.
– That is not such a direct advantage in a financial way as has been granted to other States in one way or another. The older generation of Federalists, like Sir Henry Parkes, always said that finance was “the lion in the path.”
– No; the Tariff was “ the lion in the path.”
– No matter who made use of the phrase, it was an undoubted fact, as it will be recognised by any one who reads the Convention debates, that finance was regarded as a great obstacle to the accomplishment of Federation. Because the financial provisions of the Constitution were largely experimental, they were made very elastic A section was inserted enabling the Federal Parliament to grant financial assistance to any State if the circumstances warranted such treatment. It is not so much because of Customs leakages that Tasmania considers that she is entitled to special consideration as because of a general disturbance of her revenue. The report of the Royal Commission shows that the sum of£900,000 ought to be granted, extended over ten years. The same report estimates the loss by Customs leakage at, approximately,£70,000.
– Does the honorable senator know the amount of land tax paid to the Federation by Tasmania?
– I do not for the moment remember the figures, nor do I realize what that has to do with the question.
– The State which can pay into the Federal Treasury so large a sum of money cannot be so impecunious as is represented.
– The amount of land tax paid by Tasmanian land-holders to the Federation is due solely to the fact that a very large proportion of the State is held in big estates.
– That sum of money could have been obtained for local purposes, if the local Parliament had chosen to extract it from the pockets of the landholders.
– The Tasmanian Government itself derives a large amount of money from land taxation. There is, in fact, a larger amount ofrevenue derived from land taxation in that State than in any other State in the Commonwealth in proportion to population. The honorable senator’s interjection, therefore, has no point.
– Still the Tasmanian Government could have collected that sum for State purposes if it chose.
– No Government in Tasmania could have lived for twenty-four hours if it had attempted to appropriate both the sum collected through the State land tax and that collected through the Federal impost. The report of the Royal Commission was unanimous.
– Who were the members of the Commission ?
– They were Mr. Jensen, chairman, representing Tasmania; Mr. Bamford, representing Queensland; Mr. Sampson, a Victorian member; Mr. Roberts, a South Australian member; Sir William Lyne, a New South Wales member; Mr. Hedges, a Western Australian member, and Mr. Mcwilliams, a second Tasmanian member. The Commission represented both parties in the House of Representatives, and all the States of the Commonwealth. It unanimously recommended that £900,000 be granted to Tasmania, spread over a period of ten years. It was not contended that the Customs leakage amounted to anything like that sum. , Indeed it was impossible to estimate what that leakage did amount to. The Commission found, however, that the Tasmanian finances were so deranged through Federation, that the Commonwealth Parliament ought to recompense the State Treasury. I shall not quote from the Commission’s report.
– For God’s sake don’t !
– If I had intended to do so that fervid ejaculation would have prevented me. I am rather disappointed that the Government have decided to recommend to Parliament to grant Tasmania only £500,000 instead of £900,000.
– “ Only “ £500,000, with an emphasis on the “only”!
– It can be shown that the losses through Federation have amounted to very much more. The evidence shows that she has lost £2,000,000.
– When the honorable senator says “ lost,” he merely means that the revenue was not received by the Tasmanian Treasury.
– It remained in the pockets of the people.
– It certainly did not. We in Tasmania believed that when* Inter-State duties were abolished, we should be able to purchase our goods from the mainland cheaper than we were able to do under . our 20 per cent, duties. But we were bitterly disappointed. It is an absolute fact that after the Inter-State duties were abolished, the commercial travellers of the mainland manufacturers flooded Tasmania with commodities which were sold only slightly cheaper than goods imported from abroad.
– Tasmania flooded other States with her ‘ manufactures and products, and good luck to her for doing so.
– What lines?
– Dried, tinned, and preserved fruits, for instance.
– What else?
– What about candles?
– Our candle industry was ruined by Federation. Tasmanian manufacturers certainly received no advantage, and have not been able to expand their business with the exception of two or three lines of what may be called primary products.
– Is beer a primary product?
– -How much Tasmanian beer goes to the other States ?
– They drink it at Thursday Island now.
– Honorable senators talk nonsense when they speak of Tasmanian manufacturers flooding mainland markets. I wish it were true that the Tasmanian manufacturers have benefited from Federation.
– Will you say that it is not true regarding tinned fruit?
– I have already admitted that it was true regarding two or three lines, namely, fresh fruit, preserved fruit, if you like, dried fruit, and potatoes..
– The woollen mills near Launceston cannot supply the demand.
– In Tasmania there are only two woollen factories, and it i» remarkable that we cannot get other persons to establish new woollen factories in the State. While a few primary producers- in Tasmania have benefited, the manufac- turers, such as they were, and as many as they were prior to Federation, have been swept out of existence. I do not suggest, of course, that they are the only manufacturers who have been swept out of existence Our candle factories, our boot factories, to a large extent our biscuit factories, and many other of the real manufacturing industries have been ruined or swept away, owing to the fact that the larger States - particularly Victoria and, to a lesser extent, New South Wales - had their factories established prior to Federation. With their improved machinery and larger establishments, they have succeeded in wiping out the Tasmanian manufacturers. At the same time, we, as a community of taxpayers, have not received the benefit of getting cheaper goods. We are paying, on the average, just the same as we did prior to Federation, but the Tasmanian Treasury has received from £130,000 to £150,000 a year less than it received prior to Federation.
– That is a good revenue Tariff argument.
– I am stating a fact, whether it is a Free Trade or Protectionist argument. The result of Federation in Tasmania has been this great financial disturbance. Senator Givens has found at least one section of the representatives of Tasmania as loyal as any members of this Parliament to assist him in doing what Queensland wanted done when she joined the Federation, and that was to sweep away black labour, as far as it could be done, at some cost to the other States.
– At no cost to the other States beyond the Protection which was given to every other industry in the Commonwealth.
– 1 do not propose to quote a number of figures to show the Treasury losses which have been sustained in Tasmania. They are disclosed in this volume of evidence, and referred to more briefly in the recommendation of the Royal Commission. It is clearly shown that Treasury losses to the amount of something like £2,000,000 have been occasioned to the State in the first ten years of Federation, due very largely to the action of this Parliament. Owing to that loss, in one way or other Tasmania has had to increase all kinds of direct taxation to a larger extent than any other State has had to do. The exemption from income tax is smaller in our State than it is in any other State.
In fact, I do not know that it is not smaller than the amount which is allowed in any other part of the British Dominions. The State Parliament has taxed in a direct way the great mass of the people, until they will hardly stand any more taxation. I do not say that the incidence of taxation could not have been altered if other men had been in power there. In spite of the Treasury losses, which have been estimated at £2,000,000 in the ten years, the Royal Commission recommends that a sum of £900,000, spread over ten years, be granted to the State. The Government has announced that it will recommend Parliament next session to pay the State £500,000 to be spread over ten years. While I freely acknowledge that it has gone further than any other Government in the direction of doing financial justice to the State, I would urge Ministers to keep an open mind on this question for the next few months, and see if they cannot adopt in full the recommendation of the Royal Commission, or give a larger sum than has been promised. I believe that if the Government does not definitely make up its mind that it can recommend a grant of only £500,000, within the next six months it will have still further evidence brought forward that Tasmania is entitled to £2,000,000. It seems to me a rather serious thing that, although a Royal Commission composed of seven members representing all shades of political opinion in the Parliament and all the States made a unanimous recommendation, the Government should say that it cannot accept the verdict, and will only provide one-half of the amount which is recommended.
– Will you fight the Government on that point?
– I will not fight the Government on that point for this reason : that no other Government ever met Tasmania in anything like a fair way.
– You do not want very much, do you?
– The State from which the honorable senator comes has received a good deal from this Parliament in the way of concessions.
– In what way?
– It took over from South Australia an incubus in the shape of a big loss on the Northern Territory, which the taxpayers of Tasmania, in common with those of other States, will have to bear for many years to come.
– I think that South Australia was very foolish topart with the Northern Territory ; it never did so with my consent.
SenatorO’KEEFE.- South Australia came to this Parliament and asked for something, and got it because it involved a national question. Tasmania’s request is backed up by the unanimous recommendation of a Royal Commission, only because it involves a national question. Owing to her geographical isolation, Tasmania has suffered more than the other States have done, and can fairly ask this Parliament to remedy the financial disturbances which have occurred. I believe that if the Government will bring before Parliament next session a proposal to accept the recommendation of the Royal Commission, there will be a sufficient number in each House with an absolutely fair mind on this national question to guarantee that it will be carried. I trust, however, that it has not definitely decided that it can only go to the extent which has been outlined.
– I did not intend to speak on this motion but for the curtain lecture which we have received from Senator Gould, when we would rather be slumbering than sitting here. When he looks across the chamber with an assumed look of anger in his eye and lectures us as he has done, I feel that he is trying to make up for the time which he lost during the session, while he was on his very enjoyable and instructive travels. He has quoted from the report of a Royal Commission which sat in New South Wales. I know that he has not had an opportunity to hear of certain things that have occurred which make the report, as far as one trade is concerned, an absolute farce. I have no doubt that the Commissioner thought that he was making a very fair statement when he said that there was room for 400 iron shipbuilders in New South Wales. The honorable senator does not know that immediately after the report was issued over 200 unemployed boilermakers and iron shipbuilders in Sydney marched in procession to the office of the Premier, who is also a member of the same organization, and desired him to find them employment. He, in rather an angry mood, told the men that in three or four months he would have plenty of work to offer. I would haveone further than that, and taken the men down to the office of the Royal Commissioner, and asked him to say where workwas awaiting them in Sydney. Unfortunately, a number of those men have been out of employment ever since.
– What a wretched place Sydney must be.
– I do not know about that. Whilst in Sydney there are 1,200 men of this class, in the little city of Brisbane, the capital city of the State which Senator St. Ledger represents, there are about 45, and in Melbourne 300. The trade of a boilermaker in connexion with shipbuilding is one which never supplies constant work. Last night, when the Government were endeavouring to do something to build up this particular industry, the loudest” No” came from Senator Gould.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - The honorable senator is not talking by the book. I asked for information, received it, and took no further action. Surely there is no great crime in seeking information.
– The honorable senator laid great stress upon the alleged unfair tactics of unions in limiting the number of apprentices who may be employed in this trade. He endeavoured to show us the evils of the system. He informed us that if there are twelve men working in a shop there ought to be twelve apprentices able to take their places. Now, the union to which I have belonged for the past twenty-five years has controlled its own trade affairs, and it has never attempted to limit the number of apprentices who shall be employed in it. That limitation was imposed under an award of the Arbitration Court. Inthe shop in which I worked there were ninety-four boys learning their trade, but at the best of times there were not more than 150 mechanics engaged there, and occasionally only 125. The nonlimitation of apprentices was the cause of the incompetency of mechanics, because the employers did not care a straw whether the apprentices everlearnt their trade. Out of the whole establishment to which I have referred not 10 per cent. of the apprentices became competentmechanicson completion of their apprenticeship. After their parents had kept them there on low wages for five or seven years they were turned adrift by the employer as incompetent workmen, as alluded to by Senator Gould. We desire to limit the number of apprentices who shall be engaged in the trade so as to compel the employer to teach them their business. If there are twelve men employed in a shop along with two apprentices that is quite a sufficient number of apprentices. The more boys there are engaged in an establishment the less opportunity will there be for them to learn their trade. The honorable senator laid stress upon the fact that there is no room in the trade for the mechanic’s son or for the labourer’s son, and that they must look for some other occupation in life. But the men who compose the unions arethe best judges of that, and they say that when they apprentice a lad to a trade he should be taught that trade. The only way in which that object can be accomplished is by limiting the number of apprentices who should be employed in it.
– Who will decide as to what shall be the limit?
– That question is easily decided between master and man. I know perfectly well that Senator Vardon’s business establishment is not filled with apprentices.
– In an engineer’s shop in Hobart there are only three mechanics employed to eighteen apprentices and improvers, and in some instances the apprentices have to pay a £50 premium.
- Senator Gould referred to the fact that in the streets of Sydney, both during the night and day, any number of boys are to be seen who ought to be seeking a higher and better education. But if we go into any city of Australia it is not the sons of mechanics whom we find in the streets, but lads who are receiving the higher education referred to. The statements made by Senator Gould are absolutely incorrect so far as the shipbuilding trade is concerned. If immigrants are brought into this country to find employment in our cities, we shall have a repetition of the crisis which we experienced a few years ago, when unemployed men were walking about the streets begging for a living. But so long as the right type of immigrant is attracted to our shores, there is no unionist here who will not hold out to him the glad hand of friendship. We have been told that the land tax has not assisted to burst up large estates. I say that it has. I know of two estates in New South Wales which have been broken up as the result of its operation - estates which have been valued for taxation purposes, under the shire assessment, at £2 10s. per acre, and which have realized, at auction, from £6 to£15 per acre. The owners of these estates have made a large sum of money out of them. But what immigrant from the Old Country could take up that land ? And if the immigrants who come here are not possessed of capital they will drift into our cities to further congest the labour market. We hear a great deal about the arrivals in Australia, but it is a singular thing that we hear nothing of the departures from it.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - I know of some immigrants who have returned to the Old Country because the unions have limited their earning powers.
– They have returned because there has been no work for them in their own particular trades. There would be still less if the honorable senator had his way. He desires that every little vessel which is manufactured elsewhere should be admitted free, notwithstanding that the builder of a similar vessel has to pay duty upon all the materials which are used by him in their construction. . I have felt it to be my duty to reply thus briefly to the statements made by Senator Gould.
– I do not wish to occupy the time of the Committee at undue length, and I am sorry to have to come into collision with the big drum of the Government in the person of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I wish to get some information from him concerning a matter to which I directed attention when the last Supply Bill was under consideration. The honorable senator is a pastmaster in the art of making personal gibes, in asking honorable senators to accept a laugh as a substitute for information, and when time is pressing he usually succeeds in getting his way. When the last Supply Bill was under consideration, I pointed out that the post-offices at Rockhampton and Townsville were in a disgraceful condition. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, in reply, stated that I was not dealing fairly with the Government, inasmuch as the expenditure of £2,000,000 had been recommended by the Postal Commission to bring the Department up to date. He also affirmed that the Government had placed a sum of £600,000 on the Estimates for that purpose. His answer was grossly misleading, because the £2,000,000 to which he referred is intended to be expended in the purchase of appliances to bring the Department up to an efficient condition. That expenditure has nothing whatever to do with repairs to post-offices, as paragraph 127 of the report of the Postal Commission clearly shows.
Sitting suspended, from 1 ‘to 2.30 p.m.
– I was referring, before the adjournment for lunch, to the unsatisfactory nature of the information given me by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, in response to my request for information as to what is being done to remedy the disgraceful condition of disrepair of the post-offices at Rockhampton and Townsville. I have been told that £600,000 is to be made available for expenditure this year in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department, and in accordance with the recommendation of the Postal Commission, for a total expenditure on the Department of £2,519,079. In paragraph 127 of their report, the Postal Commission say -
Evidence was tendered by the. Chief Electrical Engineer and the State Electrical Engineers that a sum of ,£2,519,079 is required to place the telegraph and telephone branches of the Department in proper working condition.
I make this quotation in order to show that if the £600,000 referred to is to be spent in accordance with this recommendation, it will not meet the condition of affairs .of which I have complained in connexion with the post-offices at Rockhampton and Townsville. In the circumstances, I think I can fairly complain that, whether intentionally or otherwise, the reply to my questions in connexion with this matter is absolutely misleading. I can appreciate the difficulties with which the Post and Telegraph Department have to contend, but I submit on the other hand that when honorable senators ask for information from the Government they should be given definite and clear answers to the questions they put. It may possibly have been considered that in making my inquiries in connexion with the internal and external condition of post-offices in Queensland, which is a disgrace to the Department, I have been intruding upon the special province of representatives of the districts concerned in the House of Representatives. That may be so, but I have, as a senator representing Queensland, a perfect right to ask for such information, and to expect to get it. My request for information on this point has, so far, been characteristically set aside by the Vice-President of the
Executive Council, and I now press thehonorable senator for definite information, on the matter. Only to-day I asked for some information as to the value of our notes at present held by the different bank* in their tills. A consideration of the value of the notes held by the bank at the present time is inseparable from any proper consideration of the Loan Bill we passed last night, and of another financial measure which we shall be asked to consider. I have my own idea as to the value of the notes held by the banks in their tills, but the matter is one upon which I desire accurate and official information, because a> very important part of the financial policy of the present Government depends very; largely upon the value of the notes at present in the tills of the banks. The banksare obliged to supply certain returns, and I wish to know whether their returns are correct. If there are between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 worth of notes held by the banks in their tills to-day, and we undertake the responsibility of passing a Loan Bill, and authorizing considerable expenditure by the Government, the key to the whole financial position will lie in the question as to where our notesare held, whether the Treasury can redeem them if they are in the banks, and the banks present them. There should not be a member of the Senate who does not recognise this fact.
– How many of the notes has the honorable senator got?
– That is characteristic of the way in which honorable senators opposite deal with the most important questions. There is more than a gibe inasking information as to who controls- £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 worth of our notes, and to know whether there is gold* behind them. When I ask questions onsuch a matter, I have a right to expect that official information will be supplied in answer to those questions. With regard to the Government policy for the development of the Northern Territory, it is not news to the Senate that I am opposed, root and branch, to the policy of the present Government, and also, to some extent,, to the policy of the preceding Government,, on this important matter. I believe that the Government railway policy for theNorthern Territory is wrongly conceived. Unless the Government accept suggestions in this matter from other honorable senators representing Queensland,, as well as myself, their railway policy: . will be but a repetition of former ^blunders on the part of the State of -South Australia. I shall continue to repeat my objections to the railway policy which has been proposed for the develop:ment of the Northern Territory. It is said that everything will come to the man who can wait. All that I can do now is to warn -and wait. I believe that if the warning is disregarded, it will later on be shown that the railway policy which has been suggested by representatives of Queensland will yet have to be substituted for that now proposed. I understand further that it is the intention of the Government to attempt to develop the Territory by the adoption of the leasehold principle in land legislation. That will be but another nail in the coffin of the Northern Territory. I do not know of any Government of any civilized country in the world having assisted the advancement -of their people by the adoption of a leasehold system of land tenure. If honorable senators could refer me to one country on earth inhabited by people like ourselves, with kindred ideas, that is being developed “by the adoption of a leasehold system of land tenure, I should have some hope. I repeat that this is but another blunder which the Government are making in declaring to the world that this Territory, whose development is *one of the most difficult problems with which any nation could be confronted, is to be managed by a system of land settlement based upon leasehold tenure. I should have thought that the example of South Australia would have been sufficient warning to the Commonwealth Government not to continue in the Northern Territory the policy of granting leaseholds for very large areas of country, and for a long term of years.
– The South Australian Government disposed of land in the Territory
– I shall mention that,’ as I wish to be fair, it cannot be denied that the policy followed in the Northern Territory by the South Australian Government, of giving large areas under leasehold for long tenures, was an absolute failure. I admit that in. the early days the South Australian Government granted freeholds in the Northern Territory around Palmerston. Even those leaseholds turned out a failure. It is a mistake to advertise it to the world that, as far as this Government can prevent it, there is not going to be a single freehold tenure an the Northern Territory. In this respect the Government are flying directly in’ the teeth of human experience. The desire for a piece of land is implanted instinctively in the human breast, and is almost as strong as the necessity of breathing and feeding. It would have been much better had the Government made it known that those persons who desire to acquire freeholds in the Northern Territory could do so. We want to attract a white population, and if we do not there is always a danger that some other people may come in. It seems to me to be disastrous that at the very inception of our Northern Territory developmental policy the Government should proclaim that there is not to be a single freehold tenement there.
– A very wise decision.
– Time alone will decide between those of us’ who differ on the question.
– After a few years the leaseholders will come to Parliament clamoring for freeholds.
– And I hope they will be .successful.
– The more successful you make the leasehold system, the more clearly you sound its death-knell, because every leaseholder becomes an advocate for freehold tenure.
– I am satisfied that the sooner we proclaim that the people who go to the Northern Territory may have freeholds if they choose, the nearer we shall be to success in developing the country. I wish to refer now to an important matter of policy. We are voting large sums of money for naval defence. On a previous occasion I drew attention to an utterance of the Prime Minister when he returned from London. I shall quote the same observation again, in order to point a moral in relation to it. The Prime Minister made the following public statement affecting naval policy : -
I do say, however, that the autonomy of tha Dominions is complete ; that this autonomy is such that it is for the Dominions’ Parliaments to say how far they will actually participate in any way, and how they will dispose of their forces.
On a previous occasion I contrasted that utterance with one by the then Prime Minister of Canada, Sir Wilfrid Laurier. I stigmatized the statement of the Canadian statesman as cowardly, and as tending to the disintegration of the Empire. I am glad to be able to say now that the Prime Minister of Canada has been removed from his high position.
– Was that the issue at the Canadian elections?
– It is said that everything comes to the man who can wait. When I contrasted the utterances of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and our Prime Minister, I uttered a warning with regard to the attitude of each. The people of Canada have made their answer.
– The honorable senator has brought one down ; now he is anxious to bring down the other.
– At any rate, it is a satisfaction to me to know that, whilst my speech on that occasion was received with dissent and derision, the people of Canada have, for their own part, made a very effective answer.
– They must have read the honorable senator’s speech.
– I am not concerned with that; I am concerned with the fact that I uttered the warning, and I am entitled in this connexion to draw attention once more to a similar utterance made by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. His statement was ambiguous in some particulars, and if those ambiguities are not cleared up, Mr. Fisher will meet the fate that has overcome Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
– The wish is father to the thought.
– I must acknowledge that a more recent utterance on naval policy by the Minister of Defence somewhat relieved my mind. I take it that he was expressing the policy of the Government, and I find no fault with what he said. If I interpret his remarks correctly, he fully recognises that Australia is part of the Empire, and that wherever any portion of the Empire is at war, our Naval Forces are to be regarded as a unit in the whole Imperial Forces working together for offensive and defensive ends. The Minister of Defence has considerably removed those fears which I confess that I entertained, but there are still ambiguities that need to be cleared up. Although I know that we cannot alter the destination of a line in the items, I do say that every penny which we vote for the naval defence of the Commonwealth will be voted in the hope and the desire that the Prime Minister, his colleagues, and the supporters of the Government will be influenced by the fact that, in time of war, our Navy is one with the Imperial Navy, and that they will act together.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I asked a question with regard to the repairs to post-offices in Queensland, and also a question in regard to the Australian notes. I think that if at this stage the Vice-President of the Executive Council would make a statement on these two points, it would be acceptable certainly to myself, and possibly to the Senate. As I do not intend to take up the time of the Committee on the Bill, I should like at this stage to get the information I desire.
– I shall be only too happy to give the honorable senator further information in connexion with the Australian notes than I gave in reply to his question this morning. I told him that the value of the notes in the banks was £9,125,000, and that the value of the notes issued under the Act was £9,829,000, or thereabouts. I understand that private persons have taken a number of the notes, and that accounts for the discrepancy between the number issued and the number held by the banks. With respect to the number which are actually in circulation among the public, and the number which are held by the banks, I have already informed the Senate that that information is being obtained, and as soon as ever it is available to the fullest extent it will be made public. If I could give the information to the honorable senator now, I should be only too happy to do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 and Abstract postponed.
First schedule agreed to.
The Parliament - Leader of the Opposition : Clerical Assistance - Hansard. Typists.
Divisions 1 to 10 (The Parliament), £33,990.
.- I have had on my mind for some time a matter which I have not mentioned to my col- leagues on this side, and which I desire to bring forward on my own account and as a matter of justice. Honorable senators on each side cannot have failed to recognise the very able way in which the Opposition has been led by Senator Millen this session, and the great amount of work which he has had to do. I would say more were he not present. I think that the Senate should do as has been done in another place. I am not one to endeavour to increase the expenditure, but I think that, as a matter of bare justice, the Leader of the Opposition should have an allowance, so that he can get assistance in working up questions which come before the Senate. An allowance is made to the Leader of the Opposition in another place, and the work here is equally as important and weighty as it is there. I do not desire to dwell on the question, but merely to ask the Government whether they will be good enough during the recess to take it into consideration.
– I agree entirely with what Senator McColl has said, and as the case of the Leader of the Opposition in another place has already been taken into consideration, I, and I am sure my colleagues, recognising the work which has been done by the Leader of the Opposition here, will have the matter considered.
I notice under the head of Parliamentary Reporting Staff, that six typists are put down for a total sum of £960, which amounts to £160 each per annum. If honorable senators will look up the Estimates for last year they will find-
– Exactly the same amount, but they will also find a foot-note to this effect: “Maximum salary, £204 by annual increments.” As Senator Sir Albert Gould has interjected, we are asked to vote for the typists the same amount this year as we voted for them last year, but there is not a word said about the annual increment. I think that honorable senators will recognise that our Hansard staff has an exceedingly arduous task, and that it is performed in ‘the ablest and most creditable way which it is possible for any body of men to perform their duty.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
– The typists are an essential portion of that staff. They have a most important portion of the work to perform. Parliament should undoubtedly keep faith with those who are the lowestpaid members of the staff ; and if we do that we shall only be carrying out what was carried out in exactly the same way on a previous occasion. On an earlier page of the Estimates for 1910 there was a footnote with regard to the Clerk of Select Committees, Usher of the Black Rod, and Secretary of the Joint House Committee and Clerk of the Papers and Accountant: “Annual increment of £25 each, subject to the recommendation of the President of the Senate.” That increase was not put down on the next Estimates, but the matter was brought forward by Senator Sir Albert Gould, who is reported on page 6825 of Hansard for last session as follows: -
In the Estimates last year there was a footnote pointing this out, and with full knowledge the Parliament voted salaries of ^684, £500, and ^310 respectively. On these Estimates, through an inadvertence, I believe, the annual increments have not been added as had been arranged.
– The Governmnt is prepared to put that right.
– I understand that I have the Government’s assurance that the arrangement will be carried out.
– It is an understanding which ought to be respected.
If in the case of the more highly-paid officers it was an understanding which ought to be respected, then undoubtedly, in the case of the lower-paid officers, the understanding is one which should be equally binding upon the honour of the Government and the honour of this Parliament. I do not propose to have any protracted discussion on the subject. I am content to sit down at once if the Government, through the Vice-President of the Executive Council, will give me the same assurance now as he gave then to Senator Sir Albert Gould, that this is an honorable understanding which ought to be carried out. I am waiting for that assurance.
– I am not so thoroughly acquainted with this instance as I was with the instance which has been referred to.
– The facts are exactly as I have stated.
– But I can assure the honorable senator that if anything irregular has occurred, I- shall make such representations to the proper authorities that something will certainly be done. The Hansard typists are under the control of the President and Mr. Speaker, and no doubt the former may have a few words to say, because I do not believe that either he or the Speaker has any inclination to bring about sweating in connexion with the Parliament.
– In the first place, I would like to say that the . cases which have been mentioned by Senator Givens are not at all parallel. When I was elected to the office which I now hold, and the Estimates came under my scrutiny, I discovered that there had been considerable correspondence between my predecessor and the Executive regarding appointments which were made after the death of the late Mr. Blackmore, and that a distinct agreement had been entered into between these two authorities that the officers attached to .the Senate should be raised to the maximum salaries attaching to their position by annual increments. In the case of the Hansard typists, the position is altogether different.
– Yes; ‘Because they are the lower-paid officers.
– I do not know that that circumstance has affected the way in which Mr. Speaker and I have dealt with the officers under our control. I would point out that, before I was elected to the office of President, the typists had been permanently appointed to their present position, as a result of continuous representations by members of Parliament. Previously, they had received sessional engagements at £4 10s. per week. But for some considerable time pressure was brought to bear upon the then Speaker of the House of Representatives and my predecessor, with the result that it was agreed to recommend their permanent engagement. It then became necessary for them to submit themselves to an examination. The arrangements connected with the conduct of that examination were handed over to the Public Service Commissioner, and, as is disclosed in the papers, .that officer set an examination which was a long way below the standard which these gentlemen would have had to pass for admission to the Commonwealth Public Service in the ordinary way. It was made low, because it was believed that they would be unable to pass the standard examination. All of the typists, with the exception of one, passed? that examination, and, as a result, they were permanently appointed to their present: offices at a minimum salary of £160 per annum. The recommendation of Mr. Speakerand of the President of that time to theExecutive was that they should be appointed as permanent officials at that salary. Paragraph 2 of their recommendation.! reads -
We propose that the new officers should commence their service at a salary of j£i6o perannum, that this should be increased subject tothe recommendation of the head of the Department to a maximum remuneration of £200** awarded in annual *£10 increments.
Now I take it that it lies altogether with, the President of the Senate and theSpeaker of the House of Representatives, to determine whether or not they will adopt such a recommendation. After thetermination of last session, the matterof leave arose, because in connexion with: the agreement which was entered into with* the typists it was understood that after the prorogation of Parliament their serviceswould be at the disposal of the Public Service Commissioner. Leave was granted* them from the close of the session for a. period of six weeks, when they were instructed to report themselves to the Public Service Department in order that their services might be utilized. A protest wasentered against that leave. The typists thought that they were entitled to the sameconsideration as the members of the Hansard reporting staff. Under the agreement,. Mr. Speaker and I could see nothing for it except to grant them a fair share of leave, and to request that, at its expiration, they should report themselves for duty. When« they brought under our notice a statement: to the effect .that if they were kept continuously employed during the recess they would return to their parliamentary dutiesfagged, they were informed that if they put in an application for additional leave it would be considered. The result was that they did put in an application, and that they received another fortnight’s leave of” absence, making two months in all. I mayadd that we also arranged that a reportshould be submitted by the heads of thevarious Departments in which they wereengaged during the recess upon the manner in which they discharged their duties. TheDepartments forwarded those reports, two of which - I have no desire to create invidious distinctions by mentioning names - were not at all satisfactory.
– Did you receive any report from the Principal Parliamentary Reporter regarding their work upon the Hansard staff.
– No. The Principal Parliamentary Reporter has always given us to understand that their work is very satisfactory. When the matter of increments was mentioned, both Mr. Speaker and I thought - and we still think - that the position was a very good one considering the work that was being done, that it was fairly remunerative, and that, irrespective of whether we could see our way to recommend the granting of an increment next year, we could not do so at the present time. It was not the fault of the Executive that they did not receive an increase of salary. If there was any fault in connexion with the matter, it must rest with Mr. Speaker and myself, who declined to recommend an increment.
– We have had a long explanation from the President which was entirely beside the question at issue, because it had no earthly reference to it. He stated that the case of the typists is not at all parallel with that of the other officers whose case I cited. I propose to show that they are absolutely parallel. In last year’s Estimates, we were asked to vote a certain salary to the typists on the distinct understanding, which was expressed in black and white, that their maximum salary was to be £204, to be reached by annual increments. There was not a word about the recommendation of Mr. Speaker or of the President being necessary, or of any other contingency. The salary was to be raised to £204 per annum by annual increments.
– Automatically ?
– Yes. The arrangement was embodied in a footnote, just as the terms relating to officers of the Senate were embodied in a similar note on the Estimates of the previous year. In the one case, the Vice-President of the Executive Council said there was an honorable agreement which the Government were bound to redeem. But in the other case, all sorts of excuses have been urged, notwithstanding that the agreement is equally binding. The President has stated that these men were admitted upon a very low examination. I wish to point out that several of the typists have passed the highest examination for men of their class in this State: that they hold certificates of competency as shorthand writers and typists, and are licensed to practise in the Supreme Court of Victoria. Yet, in endeavouring to slur over their claim to a decent salary, the President has told us that the Public Service Commissioner set them a specially low examination, in order that they might creep into the Service on better terms than anybody else.A mere navvy’s salary of3 per week is scarcely a sufficient remuneration to give a young man of twenty-three or twenty-four years of age, who has spent his youth in acquiring a good education, and who has become absolutely proficient in such difficult work as shorthand writing and typewriting. These men have most arduous work to perform while the session is in progress. There is no eight hours a day for them, and yet the President has cavilled at the leave which is given to them. He has said that, although they have to take part in the most strenuous work of the session, they are not entitled to the same leave as is granted to other officers of Parliament. I am not going to cavil at the President’s idea of what length of leave should be given ; but what is sauce for the goose should undoubtedly be sauce for the gander, and if two months is a sufficient leave to grant officers who are engaged in the most strenuous work during the session, it is a sufficient leave to grant to the other officers of the Hansard staff. But if it be not a sufficient leave to grant to the other members of the Hansard staff, it is not sufficient to grant to the typists. I want no invidious distinctions to be drawn, and I hope that we shall make no injurious differentiation whatever. These men are not like the remainder of the parliamentary staff, who, during the period of the year that Parliament is not in session, enjoy a comparatively easy time. When the session closes, they are drafted into the General Division of the Public Service, where they are also made to earn their bread by strenuous labour. In a footnote to the present Estimates, we find the following
During the Parliamentary recess these officers render services to other Departments. In 1910- 11 such services were valued at£465
That is almost half the total amount of their remuneration for the year In the circumstances the Committee should insist that justice shall be done to these officers. They are invisible to members of this Parliament. They are never seen about the House. Unless an honorable senator visits the Hansard rooms he will not see one of them, and it may be that it is because they are not in evidence, and have not an opportunity of buttonholing honorable members that their claims to fair treatment are ignored by the authorities. It does not matter a straw to me who is responsible in this matter, whether the President and Speaker, or the Executive. The injustice remains, and I wish to see it removed. In the one case I have quoted with- regard to other officers on the representation of Senator Gould, the Minister representing the Government in this Chamber acknowledged that a fair, honorable and binding obligation should be redeemed, but in this case, where we have an exactly similar condition of affairs, the authorities say they will take no action to redress the grievances of these officers. I regret exceedingly that the President and Mr. Speaker should have taken up this attitude, I fail to see why they should have gone out of their way - as apparently they have done - to get reports on the conduct of these officers when engaged in different branches of the Public Service. It was the business of the President and Mr. Speaker to see that the conduct of these officers was all that could be desired whilst they were working for this Parliament, but when they were at work in the Departments of the Public Service it was the duty of those in charge of them there to see that their work and conduct was equally satisfactory. My own impression is that the work “of these men has been eminently satisfactory to the head of their Department, Mr. Friend, the principal of the Hansard staff. If the President can refer me to a single line from Mr. Friend saying that he has the slightest complaint to make about these gentlemen, or the slightest fault to find with them, I shall resume my seat. I challenge the President to do that, and failing any report upon these officers by Mr. Friend, but one of commendation, it does not appear to me to be right that the President and Mr. Speaker should shut down upon them and prevent them obtaining the annual increments which we voted to them last year when passing the Estimates, because we voted their salaries last year on the distinct understanding that they should be increased by annual increments until they reached £204 per annum.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3.35].- I may be permitted to say a few words about the Hansard typists’ staff. In the earlier years of Parliament salaries of £4 10s. per week were paid to members of the typists’ staff during the time Par- .’ liament was sitting. For some yearsthere was persistent pressure by members of this Parliament on behalf of the typists to have them appointed1 permanently. Before I became President, and, subsequently, the matter was resuscitated, and the ex-Speaker and myself consulted upon the matter, with the result that it was deemed better, in the interests of the Department, that these officers should be appointed permanently. It was, however, made quite clear that they would have to undergo an examination, would commence their permanent engagements at a salary which would be a reduction upon the amount previously paid them, but that there should be a minimum and maximum salary fixed, the maximum to be reached by increments on the joint recom- .mendation of the President and Mr. Speaker. In fixing the salary, inquiry was made as to the payment outside, and by the State Parliaments for similar services. Acting upon the information received, a salary was fixed which was regarded as a fair and reasonable remuneration for the services to be rendered. I speak subject to correction, but . I think the papers will show that a salary of £160 a year was equal to the payment which would be made for similar services outside. Under the previous arrangement the salary paid was £4 10s. per week during the session, and during the recess these officers were at liberty to take whatever work they could get outside. When the change was made it was clearly understood that there was to be an examination, a fixed salary, and liability on the part, of these officers to perform the duties referred to in the footnote to the Estimates, so that they might be continuously employed. A comparison has been instituted between the position of these gentlemen and the clerks at the table. When a vacancy occurred, through the death of Mr. Blackmore, the present Clerk of the Senate was moved up a step to occupy the position previously occupied by Mr. .Blackmore at the same salary. With regard to the other officers, it was decided that they should be moved up in regular order of promotion, and after a good deal of correspondence it was further decided that, instead of at once receiving the maximum salary of the positions to which they were promoted, they should receive a small increase with a right to increments until they reached the maximum salary, but always subject to the recommendation of the President. The same understanding did not apply to the members of the Hansard typists’ staff.
– It appears exactly in the same way on the Estimates.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - I am explaining the position. It was clearly understood that if the officers of the Senate discharged their duties properly and effectively they would, on the recommendation of the President, receive the annual increments to which they were entitled until they reached the maximum salary for the position they occupy. The position of the typists was as it has been stated by Mr. Speaker. They came in at a minimum, with the right to rise to a maximum on the recommendation of the President and Mr. Speaker conjointly.
– If they are not worth the annual increment promised to them, they ought to be discharged.
– I understand that they have given satisfaction in the positions they occupy here. I also understand that the President and Mr. Speaker obtained a report from the Public Service Commissioner as to the way in which these gentlemen discharged the duties they were called upon to perform during the time Parliament was not sitting. I take it that it was but natural that the President and Mr. Speaker should obtain such a report, in order that they might know how to deal with those officers. I feel confident that there is no desire on the part of the President or Mr. Speaker to do otherwise than treat these officers fairly, justly, and honorably. I am sure that if they are satisfied that the services these men render are of such a value that they ought to be paid at a higher rate than they have been paid hitherto, there will be no hesitation on their part to do what they will regard as giving justice to these officers. No one can object to Senator Givens bringing their case forward, as honorable senators are thus given an opportunity to learn what has been done.
– Senator Givens has said that the Hansard typists are entitled to the same leave as the other members of the parliamentary staff, but the conditions of their engagement are altogether different. The duties of the Hansard staff are clearly laid down. They have to report the speeches of members of this Parliament; they have certain work to do for various committees ; they have the indexing of Hansard to attend to, and some of this work has to be undertaken at the close of the session. When it is done, there is no other work on which they are employed, unless they should happen to be required during the recess to report the evidence of a Royal Commission. If there is no such work to be done in the recess, the members of the Hansard staff, while always keeping in touch with the head of their Department - Mr. Friend - are given leave until their services are again required. That is the distinct understanding upon which the members of the Hansard staff were appointed. The typists, as I have already mentioned, were appointed on a different understanding altogether. It is a part of their agreement that they are to be employed doing the work of typists for the Hansard staff during the session, and are then, at the discretion of the President and Mr. Speaker, to report themselves to the Public Service Commissioner, when their services may be utilized by him. Senator Givens complains that the President and Mr. Speaker asked for reports regarding the work of the typists in the public Departments. They have asked for those reports because the Public Service Commissioner has no control whatever over the typists when they go to the public Departments. The head of a Department may say to one of these men, “ We shall require your services next week at a certain office,” but, if he should not turn up at all, the Public Service Commissioner has no control over him. He can only report to the President and Mr. Speaker the conduct of the typist. It is therefore necessary to call for these reports from the Public Service Commissioner to the only authorities who have control over these men. Senator Givens has said that so long as the President and Mr. Speaker get no adverse reports as to these men from the head of the Hansard staff they need not trouble; but I think that honorable senators will be satisfied that there is a necessity for reports regarding the work of the typists during the time Parliament is not sitting. I have said nothing against the ability of the typist staff. The statement I made appears on the papers. It was that when it was decided that they should be permanently appointed a lower standard of examination was set than that which would have entitled them to enter the Public Service. It is distinctly stated in the papers that they could not be accepted in the Public Service upon the examination which they passed for the positions which they occupy here. Whilst it is left to Mr. Speaker and myself to administer the affairs of this Department, I can inform the Senate that we shall take into consideration every recommendation made to us, and deal with it fairly, unless Parliament chooses to pass a resolution to the effect that these men shall receive the increments which have been referred to, whether we decide to grant them or not.
– Will the honorable senator tell the Committee whether the President and Mr. Speaker refused to recommend increases of salary because the work of these men was not satisfactory?
– I do not know that we refused on that particular ground. There is, I think, nothing in the correspondence on the point. But when the matter was considered by us we came to the conclusion that, for the present session at any rate, it would not be proper to recommend an increase of the salaries of these officers, until we saw whether the work was being satisfactorily carried out - not only the work rendered in connexion with the Hansard staff, but also that which they were performing whilst under the control of the Public Service Commissioner.
– Whilst I am quite satisfied - and I am sure that even those engaged in the particular occupation under review are satisfied - that neither the President of the Senate nor Mr. Speaker desires to inflict any injustice; whilst, indeed, the Presiding Officers have, on the contrary, extended many kindnesses to them; still, as I have taken a little interest in this matter, I desire to explain the case as it presents itself to me. When Senator Gould was President of the Senate in 1909, I took action in trying to have these typists appointed to the permanent staff. At that time they were engaged in temporary positions, and were receiving £4 10s. per week. As soon as Parliament went into recess they had to find employment elsewhere. Their difficulty was this: If they made application to an ordinary commercial house for employment as typists, naturally they were asked for recommendations from those by whom they had previously been employed. As soon as an ordinary commercial man found that they were typists who had been employed in connexion with the Common wealth Parliament, there was a reluctance to employ them, on the very natural ground that as soon as such a typist became accustomed to the firm’s way of doing business, Parliament would probably open again, and the typist would return to work here. That applied also with regard to their employment in various branches of the Public Service. There was always a feeling on the part of a head of a Department that, after they had been employed for a certain period, and had become accustomed to the work, they would leave to return to their parliamentary work. At that time these typists earned as much as £170 a year for parliamentary work. They were, as I have explained, temporary typists during the parliamentary session. It was desired to place them on a more satisfactory basis. I, in common with other honorable senators, took action to secure their appointment to the permanent staff. When it was decided to employ them permanently, the salaries fixed were from £160 to £204 per annum. The typists were asked to submit to an examination. It has been stated that the standard of examination set was low. It is true that the examination was not that which is usually set for entrance to the Public Service. But would it have been fair to ask men who for a number of years had been acting as typists, and who were twenty-five or twenty-six years of age or older, to submit to an ordinary academical examination such as applies to persons seeking entrance to the Public Service? I have no hesitation in saying that not 20 per cent, of the ordinary public servants to-day could pass the examination to which they had to submit when they themselves entered the service. It was not so much that the examination set for these men- was low, as that it was of a practical as well as a theoretical character.
– It was rather a low examination, and the object was to give opportunities to these men who had been employed as typists to get into the service if they could.
– What was the test ?
– It was a very simple examination.
– Let me show, from an actual case, what kind of an examination it was. One man who had been employed as a typist failed to pass. What has been his record since? He has been employed as a temporary hand in the Defence Department, where he rendered satis- factory service; also in the Land Tax Office ; and he is now employed as secretary to the Leader of the Opposition in the State Parliament. That record shows that there probably was nothing deficient in the ability of the officer, although he failed in this more or less academic examination. The position which I wish to put, however, is this : The effect of the new system which enabled the typists to be transferred to the control of the Public Service Commissioner during the recess, has been to effect a saving of £400 a year. That is to say, the arrangement which the typists voluntarily entered into has resulted; in that saving to this Parliament. They joined the permanent staff. The President and Mr. Speaker, at the end of a strenuous session, granted them a month’s holiday, which they appreciated. They were then placed under the control of the Public Service Commissioner. They were sent into the Departments to do work. It must be remembered that these men had been specializing as typists for about six months of the ‘year. It is possible that when they are put to departmental work they occasionally make use of an abbreviation such as they have been accustomed to use in doing Hansard work. A departmental officer might, require his typing to be done in a different manner. The ground of the difficulty was, however, that these men were really treated as second-hand officers, or as merely contingent to the Departments in which they were set to work. Seeing that they were practically specialists whilst engaged upon parliamentary work, and were merely putting in time in the Departments, I say that it was not merely unjust, but extremely unfair, to ask the Public Service Commissioner to report upon their work. How could he properly report on the ability of men who, while they were under his direction, were continually learning? It has been said that the Public Service Commissioner had no control over them. But indirectly he had, because if he was not satisfied with their services, his report had to be sent on to the President and Mr. Speaker. What is the nature of the report which the Commissioner furnished? He stated that two of the men failed to give satisfaction in the Departments in which they were engaged. The other four men appear to have given satisfaction. But is it fair that the President and Mr. Speaker should handicap the four men who rendered splendid service both to the Hansard staff and to the Departments in which’ they were employed, on account of the other two who failed to give satisfaction ? I am quite sure that there is no member of the Senate who would ask that any officer should receive increments who had failed to render satisfactory service. But is it a reasonable thing that four officers should be deprived of the increments which are due ito them, simply on account of the conduct of two others ? It is fair to ask that men who have come up to reasonable standards shall not be prejudiced by others who may be described as failures. Suppose that next year one out of the six failed to give satisfaction? Are we to be told that, because the whole six did not succeed in giving satisfaction, the five who did ought to be debarred from the increments which were promised to them? The system of recommending increments, whether by the Public Service Commissioner, or by the Speaker and President, is naturally a cause of discontent in the service. The position should be this : Suppose that a man is engaged at a certain salary, rising by increments to a maximum. I take it that the officer should rise to the maximum by the specified increments, unless there is something against him, that is, unless he has failed to render efficient service.
– It is necessary for the head of a Department to have some control.
– That is what I want. In the’ Commonwealth Public Service, as in every other large service, there is bound to be a proportion of wasters, or men lacking in energy and enterprise. But if the head of a Department - as in this case - reports that four officers are competent while two have not given complete satisfaction, should the men who have rendered splendid service be penalized on account of the failure of the others? If it is a fair thing to take note of those who have rendered the unsatisfactory service, it ought to be regarded as an equally fair thing to take note of those who have rendered the good service. No member of this Parliament would ask that an officer who had not rendered adequate service should receive an increase of salary.
– Or even that he should be retained in the service.
– We ought not to retain the services of a man who is not competent. I know that, in more ways than one, the President and Mr. Speaker have been kind to the men on this staff, who have appreciated the kindness extended to them. But, at the same time, if an increment cannot be granted all round, I trust that, at all events, simple justice will be rendered to men who have carried out their duties efficiently, and to the satisfaction of the Chief of the Hansard staff in respect of the work over which he has control.
.- I want to emphasize what Senator E. J. Russell has been pointing out, namely, that itf there is any typist on the Hansard staff who has not been entirely satisfactory, the other typists whose services have been eminently satisfactory should not be penalized because of that. I am exceedingly sorry that the President and the Speaker have taken up the attitude they have as disclosed by the remarks of the former. I want as an act of justice to the typists to disclaim altogether the idea put forward by inference by the President that they were set a lower examination than’ the one for admission to the General Division of the Public Service. As a matter of fact, he doubted, to say the least of it, whether they could have passed the necessary examination to enable them to get into the Public Service.
– It was lower; I saw the papers.
– I am not disputing the fact that the examination for the typists may have been lower. The inference was that they were unable to pass a higher examination, and therefore did not deserve very much of a salary. One of these men, I am informed on the best authority, has passed a higher examination than the entrance examination to the Public Service. He has passed the examination of the Federal Institute of Accountants, securing first place in the pass, and the highest for the Commonwealth, in 1909, yet £160 a year is supposed to be ample remuneration Eoe him.
– Do you not think that he is wasting his time if he has to look forward to a maximum salary of £204?
– He practically entered this service as a cadet, and the highest position in the service, right up to the Chief of the Parliamentary Staff, by and by should be open to him. I disclaim the idea that the granting of the annual increment which was put down on the Estimates for last year should be at the sweet will of the President and the Speaker. We voted the salary then on the honorable understanding as contained in the footnote, “ Maximum salary, £204, by annual increments,.” It did not say “by annual increments on the recommendation of the President and Speaker.” It did not say, “ By annual increments if your service prove satisfactory in the Department to which you may be sent in the meantime.” It merely said “by annual increments.” We are evading that obligation, and failing to honorably carry out the understanding on which these men were appointed. With regard to their employment in other Departments, it must be admitted by any person who has any knowledge of the working of the Hansard staff that they require a highly specialized training to efficiently carry it out, and that, in the course of that efficient training, a man must so specialize that he will be unable, perhaps, to satisfactorily take up in other Departments work which is of a totally different nature. We want these men to be efficient typists, to act in conjunction with, and as a necessary portion of, our Hansard staff, and so long as they are thoroughly efficient, and give satisfaction in that position, it should be a secondary consideration as to whether they are really competent in other branches of the service. I fail to see why the President and the Speaker should ask for, or want, any other justification for giving these men the annual increments to which they are entitled, excepting the recommendation of the head of their Department. Necessarily, both the President and the Speaker must be almost altogether unacquainted with how the typists perform their work. They very seldom see the men; they are not brought into contact with them ; but there is one man who has to supervise their work, who is in contact with them all the time, and who necessarily knows the capabilities of each one of them, and that is the Principal Parliamentary . Reporter. It was for him to recommend to the President and the Speaker, and for them to act on the recommendation, as to whether the men had forfeited by any laxity of duty the annual increments to which they are entitled. I defy even the President or the Speaker to show us a single word from that officer to She effect that these men have failed in any of their duties on the Parliamentary Reporting Staff. If they have not failed, they have not forfeited “ their right to an annual increment, and it is a shameful evasion of our honorable obligation to refuse to give, it to them
– One would imagine from the remarks of Senators E. J. Russell and Givens that the position of a typist is a very hard one to fill.
– The position of a Hansard typist is.
– That is not so.
– I did not imply that.
– We have had some experience in connexion with the Hansard staff, and the report which we got is that in Melbourne there are places which can supply to Parliament House typists who, in the course of a fortnight - provided that they are good typists before they come here - will be able to do the work in connexion with the Hansard staff in an efficient manner. When there has been sickness on the typists’ staff, we have had to bring in men from outside, and, in the course of a couple of weeks, so the head of the Department has given us to understand, they were competent to do the work.
– I can get girls who, after a month’s practice, would do the work at 30s. a week ; but surely we do not want that?
– I am not referring to the question of wages, but to the question of competency, which is the first consideration. I may mention that a considerably higher wage is paid to the typists in Parliament House than is paid in any other branch of the Public Service after a considerable period. The only difference is that, in the Public Service, a typist has to be there for five years before he is entitled to get £126, unless he is twenty-one years of age.
– Yes, and he has fixed hours. The parliamentary typists have not fixed hours.
– There lies all the difference.
– It is not merely a question of fixed hours. I admit that, during the session, the Hansard typists are employed for longer hours on the days on which they are employed than are typists in the Public Service, but not necessarily for more hours in the week, unless Parliament is sitting for more than the three or four days.
– That is hardly a fair basis, because I was on a deputation last week to the Postmaster-General, who sent on to the Public Service Commissioner a recommendation to increase the rate of wage paid to typists, because he believed it to be a sweating rate.
– I am only pointing out what is the position at the present time. The holidays which the Hansard typists get are considerably more than are given to other typists under the Public Service regulations. In my opinion, these men are dealt with liberally. During last recess they had two months’ holiday ; that is, from the time they finished the sessional work until the time they had to report to the Public Service Commissioner and a fortnight before Parliament re-assembled. Senator Givens has said that the President and Speaker should recommend these increases anyhow.
– I did not say that at all.
– On the recommendation of the Chief of the Hansard staff alone.
– That is not “ anyhow.”
– Practically it is.
– Then the recommendation of the head of the Department is “ anyhow.”
– The honorable senator urged that nothing outside that should count. But there are other things, I take it, which the President and the Speaker have to take into consideration.
– It was stated that during last recess these typists were granted two months’ leave. Was that because of special circumstances, or do you intend this year to grant them two months’ leave before they report to the Public Service Commissioner ?
– There was no two months’ leave granted last year before the typists reported to the Public Service Commissioner, but six weeks’ leave. The intention this year is to grant the same leave before the men will be asked to report themselves to the Commissioner to do the work in the offices. Whilst Mr. Speaker and I hold our present positions, we shall consider every request which is made, and will always be prepared to answer any criticism which is offered. If Parliament thinks that it is necessary for the typists under our control to receive better conditions, or better wages, then it will be its duty to say so.
– In his reply the President made a statement which he had not previously made, and which calls for a few words.
– This is an old woman’s argument - who is going to have the last word ?
– No, it is going to be a young girl’s argument. The President has stated that typists in our parliamentary service are getting more than typists are paid anywhere outside.
– Not in the Public Service.
– In the Public Service of Victoria girls are getting more than this amount per annum, and for half the number of hours. I have it on the best authority available that girls do similar work for the State Hansard for a far less number of hours - scarcely more than half the number of hours - and get £3 10s. a week. I ask the President to make inquiries after the session, and see whether my statement is correct.
– Have they got permanent positions?
– I cannot say. I am only repeating what I am credibly informed. I am not going to rely on mere guesswork or hearsay.
– As a member of the Chamber, you would attach some value to permanency ?
– Undoubtedly ; but if it is going to be permanency on a sweating wage I would not attach any importance to it. Last year the Senate voted a certain salary to these typists, subject to annual increments, without condition or qualification. In the present year the Senate should have been given an opportunity to redeem that obligation, but that has not been afforded. It must now vote for the salary submitted, and evade its obligation to the men. Apparently, the fault, if fault there be, lies with the President and the Speaker. I do not want to fall foul of them in this matter, but I feel strongly that the Senate, having entered into an obligation with the men to give them, a certain salary, subject to annual increments, without any condition or qualification, should be given an opportunity to redeem that promise, as I believe that it would cheerfully and honestly do if it only had the chance.-
– You can move a request for a reduction, as a protest.
– I do not want tosubmit a request, because it is too small anamount already.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Prime Minister - Number of Ministers - Audit Department. Divisions 11 to 13 (Department of PrimeMinister), £24,457.
– I rise to point out that the terra “ Prime Minister “ is not known to our Constitution. It is known only to the Sovereign or to his representative. That,. I think, is sound constitutional law, and,, consequently, the Department of the Prime Minister is more or less of a monstrosity.
– Is the Leader of the Opposition known to Parliament ?
– These Estimates provide for a secretary to the Leader of the Opposition at £400 a year.
- Senator E. J. Russell was not listening attentively, otherwise he would know that what I said wasthat the term Prime Minister was unknown to our Constitution.
– Is the Minister of Defence known to the Constitution by that term ?
– The Minister of Defence will not attempt to place himself upon the same level as the Prime Minister. I also observe that the Audit Office has now been placed under the control of the Prime Minister. To my mind, from the very nature of its . functions, the Audit Office should be inseparably connected with the Treasury Department. So long as the Prime Minister remains Treasurer, it is possible that there may be no conflict of authority ; but if he should happen to vacatethat office, there will be a likelihood of conflict where there ought to be none. TheAudit Commissioner has to perform very important duties, and to remove his Department from the control of the Treasury is a dangerous precedent to establish.
– I do not propose to touch upon theconstitutional aspect of this question. I am content to leave those high grounds and come down to the level of practical politics. We all know that if the Government have any capacity whatever, it is the capacity for withholding information; and I am going to suggest what I think underlies the creation of a new Department under the Prime-
Minister. Ever since the establishment of the Commonwealth, we have had two classes of Ministers - those who administer Departments, and those who have no Departments to administer. The latter have always been known as “ honorary “ Ministers. I cannot help thinking that the creation of a Prime Minister’s Department is an attempt to make room for another portfolioed Minister.
– That is hardly conceivable.
– I think that it is easily conceivable. In my opinion, there ought to be an enlargement of the number of portfolioed Ministers. As Senator St. Ledger has remarked, the Audit Office has been separated from the control of the Treasury, and has been placed under the Department of the Prime Minister.
– The honorable senator does not think that the Audit Office ought to be separated from the Treasury Department?
– I certainly do. While I think that the Prime Minister should be relieved of the heavy duties which are imposed upon him in supervising the administration of the Treasury Department, the Government should have frankly told us what was in their minds. I believe that the creation of this new Department is a preliminary step towards the appointment of another portfolioed Minister, and is intended to relieve the head of the Government of the obligation to include within the Cabinet so many “ honorary “ Ministers. If that be the real object in view, I have nothing to urge against it. But I say that Parliament ought to have been frankly informed of it. 1 believe it will be found - especially as the duties which devolve upon the Government multiply - that it will be almost impossible for the Prime Minister to properly discharge his other duties, and, at the same time, administer the Treasury Department. Since the inception of this Parliament, brief though the period has been, we have passed through some very strenuous sessions. I have known of sessions in which the strength of any Prime Minister must have been taxed to the last ounce in supervising the administration of the whole of the Departments and in discharging his other duties. For that reason, I welcome the change, if it be intended to create a position which will relieve the Prime Minister of some of those duties. But I strongly object to this secret and mysterious way of sneaking things in. The Government should have frankly told us what they intended, and should have sought parliamentary approval of their action. I do not know of any Department from which the Audit Office ought to be more distinct than that of the Treasury. It is the one Department the accounts of which the Audit Commissioner has closely to examine. He is, so to speak, the inspector and policeman of that Department. My conception of the responsibilities of the Prime Minister is that it is his function, not so much to administer one Department as to keep a close watch over all Departments. As the head of the Government - the central figure of it - the Audit Commissioner should first report to him, and not to the Treasures. It is possible that a Treasurer might be in collusion with the permanent officials of his Department. We already have sufficient evidence that a Treasurer, working in conjunction with his Department, can do things which would not be tolerated for a moment in a private house. The AuditorGeneral is the protection of the public against any wrong-doing in connexion with our public accounts, and it ought to be his duty to report first to the head of the Administration, namely, to the Prime Minister, and through him to the Parliament. I think that, even at this late hour, the Government should disclose to us the reason for the new departure which has been made, and should enlighten us as to whether my conjecture is correct or not.
– I think it will be recollected that when the last Supply Bill was under consideration this question was raised by Senator Millen. Upon that occasion, although I agreed with him that, in the near future, something might have to be done to relieve the Prime Minister of some of his onerous duties, I stated that no decision in that connexion had yet been arrived at. I also said that it had been found absolutely necessary, in the interests of good government, that the Prime Minister should have some place entirely separated from the Treasury, where he could transact the business which rightly belongs to his office, without being harassed by the work of that Department. It is for that purpose that the Prime Minister’s Department has been created.
– Does that justify him in taking the Audit Department along with him?
– As Senator Millen has pointed out, the Audit Office ought not to be connected with the Treasury. In my judgment, too, the Public Service Commissioner’s Department ought also to be under the control of the Prime Minister. But, in respect of these matters, nothing definite has been done other than what Parliament is already aware of.
– There is some difference of opinion between my leader and myself on this matter, and I refer to it because there is an important principle involved in the creation of a new Department. I am aware that Senator Millen can take the Committee entirely away from me, but I still wish the honorable senator to consider the point I raised that the Prime Minister has control over all the Ministers, and, therefore, to suggest that he has not control of the Auditor-General, or the head of any Public Department, is really to misrepresent his position. lt is because he has control over all the Ministers that he seldom takes charge of any particular Department. It is just as well that he should be relieved of the control of a particular Department, because he exercises a more important control. If a serious difference of opinion should occur between himself and one of his Ministers, the Prime Minister has the remedy of the matter in his own hand, because he can return his commission to the representative of the Sovereign. Notwithstanding the opinion expressed by Senator Millen, I contend that the Auditor-General’s Department is essentially related to the Treasury, and the Prime Minister has control of both.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 14 to 24 (The Treasury), £860,495 ; and divisions 25 to 29 (The Attorney-General.’ s Department), £44,926, agreed to.
External Affairs Department - High Commissioner’s Office : Chief Clerk : Coronation Expenses - Northern Territory : Director of Agriculture : Administrator . Policy of Development : Horse Breeding.
Divisions 30 to 36 (The Department of External Affairs), £529,414.
.- I wish to call attention to an item in the contingencies vote for the High Commissioner’s office - gratuity fo F. Savage, Chief Clerk, for special services 1906-10, £100 - because it constitutes a grave injustice to the officer referred to. This officer was transferred from Victoria to the High Commissioner’s office in London under conditions differing very materially from those applying to the transfer of other officers to the same Department. No other officer has ever been transferred to London without receiving a special allowance per day or per week. Mr. Savage has been for some time in the Old Country, but, up to the present moment, he has not received one sixpence as special allowance.
– Does the honorable senator mean a climate allowance?
– No, a travelling allowance. Officers connected with the military and with civil Departments who have been sent to the Old Country have received special allowances ranging from £1 up to 35s. per day, in addition to their regular salary, but this officer has neves received one penny special allowance.
– Is the special allowance to pay fares? It seems a large amount.
– It may seem a largeamount, but it is on record that officershave received as much as 35s. per day personal allowance.
– That was paid only to one officer, the late Major-General Hoad,, when on a special mission accompanying, the Prime Minister.
– In that case it wasnot excessive.
– I think that the Minister of Defence is scarcely correct in his. statement, because there was another officerwho received a similar allowance. I think it will be found that Engineer-Commander Clarkson received that allowance.
– He did not get it for die whole of the time. It was only when he was sent to America. I do not think he received the allowance all the time he was in England.
– I gather from a memorandum, addressed to the late Minister of External Affairs, that, in the case of EngineerCommander Clarkson, an officer sent to England on duty, in addition to the ordinary allowance of 15s., he wasgranted a special allowance of 20s. a day. That was 35s.
– He only got that allowance while travelling. He was lookingafter the small-arms machinery and thetorpedo boat destroyers. He was not resident in London as Mr. Savage is.
– The special allowance is granted to officers transferred for temporary duty only. Mr. Savage has now filled his present position for some years, but he continued for some time in doubt as to whether he would be recalled to Australia. It is only of late years that his permanent appointment in his present position has been confirmed. I ask the Government to do a fair thing by this officer. To give him a gratuity at the rate of £25 for four years, which would be about 10s. per week, is hardly doing the fair thing. I had an opportunity while in London of discussing this matter with the late Mr. Batchelor, who was then Minister of External Affairs.
– What is the salary of this officer?
– £600 a year.
– And he is a permanent official ?
– There was doubt as to his being permanently employed in the London office for some considerable time after his transfer. It is only for that period of doubt that he is entitled to the special allowance. Other officers under similar circumstances have received the special allowance, and that is all I ask for Mr. Savage. I do not think it can be regarded as an unreasonable request. The Government submit a vote to provide a gratuity to this officer of £100, which amounts to £25 a year, or to £50 a year for the period during which his permanent appointment to the position remained in doubt. That is not playing the game fairly. If other officers in this grade were entitled to j£i per day special allowance, the Government, as a matter of justice, should put this officer on the same footing, and should increase the proposed vote by at least another £50. I hope that the Government will give consideration to the claim I put forward on his behalf. I should not submit the case to the Committee if I did not feel satisfied that the officer under consideration is justly entitled to what I claim for him.
– It is not the desire of the Government to do an injustice to any one, and particularly to officers who are sent to other parts of the world to carry out their duties. But there is a very great difference between the position of the officer referred to by
Senator Long and officers of the Defence. Department who are sent to London temporarily, can settle down in no homes, have to spend money on lodgings, and are put to considerable expense in other ways.
– And they have to keep their homes going out here as well.
– I am sure the VicePresident of the Executive Council does not wish to be unfair, and he should remember that this special allowance is granted to other officers as well as military officers.
– If the honorable senator will permit me to finish. I shall listen to what he has to say. I wish to deal fairly with the matter, and to let the Committee understand it. This gentleman was anxious to take up this position. He was sent to London at his own request. The reason there is no advance in his salary is because he is at the top of his class. He went to London as an officer of the High Commissioner’s office some time before the High Commissioner was actually appointed. That is why there was some doubt as to his position, and why the gratuity of £100 has been granted to him. The permanency of his appointment was beyond all doubt. Seeing that this gentleman was anxious to go to London, and occupies a very good position, and seeing that the £100 has been granted to him as a solatium, I think that everything that can be done fairly has been done. I can assure Senator Long that no injustice has been done. The whole difficulty has arisen through somebody making comparisons between temporary officers and those occupying permanent positions.
.- If the statements made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council are facts, he has expressed them with remarkable recklessness. Why did he say that this special allowance applies only to officers of the Defence Department?
– I did not say that.
– Does not the honorable senator think that this man has done fairly well ?
– No, I do not, or I would not be making this complaint. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that the officer sought the position which he occupies. As a matter of fact, he did not. The contrary was the case. He was selected for the position. In proof of what I say, I feel bound to make one or two extracts from a memorandum prepared by Mr. Savage for the information of the late Minister of External Affairs. It says -
I was selected to come to London and assist in the establishment of this office, because it was considered that I had special qualifications for the work to be done. . . When I received instructions to come to London it was made clear that the transfer was a temporary one, and that the project itself was an experiment. I never, from one week’s end to the
Other, knew the moment a cablegram would come recalling me. That this was a real tangible uncertainty is easily shown. A few months after I arrived, Colonel McCay, the Minister of Defence in the Reid Government, which established the Military Board, in criticising the action of the Deakin Government in this matter, said that, “ It was almost a crime to send the Director of Stores out of Australia at this juncture.” General Hoad, who tried to persuade me from coming, and Commander Pethebridge, both of whom are my friends, wrote to me repeatedly as to the likelihood of my recall.
Those are, the facts. There is not the slightest doubt that if this officer had remained in Australia, he would to-day nave been a member of the Military Board, and would have been receiving a higher salary than he is now getting. I do not -wish to pick this officer out because I happen to have come into contact with him in London. As a matter of fact, he expressed a desire that I should not make any complaint on his behalf, because he said he relied on his interview with the late Minister of External Affairs, Mr. Batchelor, to secure the justice he sought. It is because I think the £100 gratuity is not a measure of justice that I feel called upon to make these representations to the Senate. I hope that the Government will at least increase the amount by £50, with the object of doing justice to a good and capable officer.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) 14-53]- - I have again made inquiries and find that the arrangements with regard to sending this officer to London were made in the Department of External Affairs. The permanent head of that Department assures me that there was no suggestion of -a temporary arrangement, and also that it was the desire of the officer to go to London. The memorandum which Senator Long has” quoted is simply an expression of the officer’s own opinion. I have had considerable experience of officers who are always trying to get a little more than the Departments to which they belong are prepared to give. This £100 is intended to remove any doubt that might exist with re spect to the period of the officer’s residence in London prior to the appointment of the High Commissioner. If the High Commissioner had not been appointed, the officer might have been recalled. But the High Commissioner having been appointed, the appointment of the officer is as permanent as that of any other officer.
– It seems to me that if the Government are open to censure at all in regard to this matter, it is because they have put the £100 on the Estimates.
– I can quite understand the officer advising the Government, thinking that the amount proposed is sufficiently liberal.
– The late Mr. Batchelor went into this matter personally.
– I know more about this case than .the Minister does. I had the privilege and pleasure of discussing it with the late Mr. Batchelor, and I know his mind concerning it. I assert again, notwithstanding the contradiction of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, that this officer did go to London with the understanding that the appointment was of a temporary character. If there is a possibility of establishing this position beyond the. shadow of a doubt from the files of the Department, I am going to have it established, notwithstanding the assurance that the Vice-President of the Executive Council has received from the Secretary of External Affairs. I look upon this amount as an exceedingly niggardly effort on the part of the Government to recognise’ real, good, worthy service. By way of entering a protest, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item’, “ Gratuity to .F. Savage, Chief Clerk, for special services 1906-10, £100,” by £1.
– The best course will be for the Committee to carry the request, and then leave Senator Long and Mr. Savage to work out between them the advantage of this procedure.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether any special allowance has been made to the High Commissioner for expenses incurred in connexion with the Coronation ?
– I understand that a special allowance has been made.
– It ought not to be a penny less than £500.
– I think the amount was £500, and that was a beggarly allowance, considering the expenses to which the High Commissioner was put.
– He asked for that sum, and got what he asked for.
Question - That the request be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Question soresolved in the negative.
– With regard to the new item of £650 for the position of Director of Agriculture in the Northern Territory, I should like to know whether an appointment has yet been made, and, if so, whether the Government are in a position to announce the name of the Director; also whether they can give any idea as to what they propose to do with the officer when he is appointed ? I do not want to open up the whole question as to what is to be done with the Northern Territory, but we have a right to expect from the Government, if only in a few words, a plain intimation as to what they propose to do. In this Chamber, Ministers have pursued the policy of masterly silence, which is possibly, after all is said and done, a mere cover for impotence. This is the first item in these Estimates which does suggest that the Government have some faint notion of doing something, and I should like to know what it is. I invite the Vice-President of the Executive Council, not only to answer the specific questions I have put, but to tell us whether the Government have really taken any practical steps towards grappling with the big problem which is presented to us by the knowledge that the Territory is under our control, and is waiting action by this Parliament before anything can be done towards its development and settlement.
– A Director of Agriculture for the Northern Territory has not been appointed, because there will be no money available for the purpose until these Estimates are passed. But, in anticipation of this item being passed, we are advertising for a suitable man. I can assure honorable senators that every care will be exercised by the Government to select from the applicants the most suitable man who is available ; and, if necessary, we shall still further advertise until we do get a man who will fill the bill. The duties of the Director of Agriculture will be, as far as he possibly can, to classify the land, to select situations for the establishment of experimental farms, to get information as to the available market for such produce as may be raised there, and, in a general way, to advise the Government in all things appertaining to the settlement of the Territory.
– I regard the selection of a suitable manto deal with agriculture in that portion of Australia as of the highest importance. I would urge the Government, if, in response to the present invitation, they are not satisfied with the class of applicant who presents himself, not to let the amount of salary stand in the way of the selection of a good man. I am inclined to think that the amount offered will not attract the men most suited for the position. In New South Wales we are offering for the performance of similar duties:, a salary very nearly equal to this amount. I presume that the officer who is selected for the Commonwealth will have to go into unsettled territory, with very considerable disadvantages to himself and family. I cannot help thinking, for that very reason, that, by offering this amount, the Government are shutting out the man who, of all others, would be practically invaluable to the Commonwealth if his services could be secured. I ask the Government to believe that Parliament would not cavil at a mere matter of £50or £100,or even a larger sum, if it should be required to secure the best advice available.
– Who is the Acting Administrator ?
– Mr. Mitchell has been the Acting Administrator all the time. A permanent Administrator has not yet been appointed.
. -In view of the state of collapse into which the Northern Territory had got prior to it being taken over by the Commonwealth, does not the Vice-President of the Executive Council think that probably it would help a good deal to bustle things along if, instead of the old routine followed by South Australian officials, some radical changes were made ?
.- I agree with the remarks which have been made to the effect that, in the Northern Territory, we are faced with one of the biggest problems which can possibly confront this or any other Parliament. There we have an immense Territory, with immense possibilities. But the problem needs only to be” grappled with courageously and promptly, to insure the development of that Territory in the very near future. At this late stage of the- session, and in view of the desire of honorable senators to finish the business which remains to be transacted, I recognise that it would be inadvisable for me to discuss a policy for that Territory now. However, I hope that during the recess the Government will give the matter their careful attention, with a view to affording us an early opportunity of considering the whole subject, so that we may be in a position to redeem our responsibility in regard to that Territory.
– I do not know whether there is any item upon these Estimates dealing with the matter to which I desire to refer. But if there be not, the Minister of Defence will probably direct my attention to the fact. I understand that the Government have taken some steps in the direction of encouraging horse-breeding in the Northern Territory.
– The Department of External Affairs, has taken action.
– I would like to know what is being done in regard to this horse-breeding project. I believe that the precise terms used by the Minister of External Affairs in this connexion was “ For the encouragement of horse-breeding.” That may mean the expenditure of public money with a view to the Government undertaking horse-breeding operations, or it may mean that the Government are offering encouragement to private enterprise to undertake them. At any rate, I should like to know what is being done in the matter.
– The idea eventually is that the Commonwealth shall establish horse-breeding stations in the Northern Territory, with a view to supplying us with horses for the field batteries of artillery. There is an item on these Estimates, under the Department of External Affairs, relating to the supply of horses for the police in the Northern Territory,, and for the Postal Department. Ind- dentally, the idea is to discover whether certain portions of the Territory are suitable for the breeding of horses, and, if so, of what particular type.
– The Minister will doubtless recollect telling me, when a Supply Bill was under consideration, that all that was covered by the horse-breeding operations set out in that measure’ was some action which had been taken by South Australia. I wish to know whether any new project has been started ? We cannot breed horses without having land, “and I desire to ascertain, if we have a horse-breeding farm, whether it embraces a large or a small area?
– I am afraid that the information which, I gave to the honorable senator on the occasion to which he has referred was not quite correct. The Postal Department did have a horsebreeding station on the McArthur River in the Northern Territory ; but that has disappeared. At the present time we have no horse-breeding farm, and the vote upon the Supply Bill was intended to cover the initial steps in the direction of establishing such a -farm.
– Are the Government going to buy one, or to select a piece of country for its establishment?
– Some suitable spot will be selected.
– Is the amount which is included in these Estimates merely intended to cover preliminary expenses?
– That is all.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Defence Department - Construction of Torpedo Boat Destroyers - Military Inventions - Aviation Corps - “ Commonwealth Military Journal” - Royal Military College.
Divisions 37 to 82 (Department of Defence); ,£1,827,615.
-2Sl- - I desire to. ask the Minister of Defence whether a successor has yet been appointed to the late Major-General Hoad?
– No. The question of his appointment is still under review.
.- Some little time ago a number of alarmist statements were published in the press in regard to the construction of the Warrego and of the other torpedo-boat destroyers. I think that the Minister ought to let the public know whether those statements had any foundation in fact. Judging by what I have seen, they appear to have had some foundation, but whether the defects which manifested themselves in the vessels are serious, or such as cannot be rectified, I am not in a position to say. I think, however, that the Minister should take us into his confidence by telling us exactly how matters stand. I wish, also, to know whether a proper contract has been entered into by the New South Wales Government for the construction of vessels of this type in the future, and if so, what are its terms ? The Minister might also tell us whether it is intended to allow the owners of private dockyards to tender for work of that description. I know that a good deal of dissatisfaction exists among both employers and artisans because the putting together of the Warrego was intrusted to the Government Dock in Sydney, without giving private enterprise an opportunity of tendering for such work. I fail to see why any Government dockyard should monopolize this class of work. It should be spread over all the States which are prepared to undertake it.
– The defects which manifested themselves in the Warrego would have been serious had they not been discovered in time. They consisted of the insufficient riveting of an elbow which carries the propeller shaft to the hull of the ship. A certain number of the rivets had been omitted from this elbow, and if the vessel had gone to sea without these rivets having been inserted, serious consequences might have ensued. But the Commonwealth engineer discovered their absence, and insisted upon the Warrego being placed in dock and the necessary riveting carried out. The only other defect disclosed was in respect of one of the oil tanks, which was not oil-tight. That is by no means an unusual defect in the construction of torpedo-boat destroyers. . These defects were no more serious than those which occur in the construction of other vessels in England. Apart from the omission to put in a number of rivets-
– I have seen that sort of thing happen often.
– I do not attempt to excuse it in any way. When the matter was brought before me, I. invited the attention of the Minister of Works of New South Wales to it, and no doubt he took action accordingly. I may tell Senator McColl that no contract has been entered into for the construction of the other vessels of our Fleet unit. There have been negotiations upon the matter between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria, and the honorable senator himself has seen that correspondence. It was admitted in the correspondence that the Government of Victoria was not in a position to submit an offer. The Government of New South Wales did submit an offer to construct the ship at cost price, plus 8 per cent, to cover certain interest and depreciation charges. That offer was accepted by the Commonwealth Government, and in accepting it we made a better bargain by 2 per cent, than was made by the previous Government in accepting the offer for the construction of the Warrego. I took that to be merely the preliminary stage, and after consultation with the Naval Board I thought there should be drawn up proper conditions of contract such as we should have if dealing with a private firm. Those conditions of contract were drawn up by the Naval Board, were submitted to me, referred to the Crown Law Department, referred back and adopted by the Government. They have been sent to the New South Wales Minister of Works, and are now awaiting his signature.
– They have not yet been signed.
– No; these conditions of contract safeguard the Commonwealth in every particular. Defective work is met by a provision that if any defective work such as that which was discovered in the case of the Warrego, is found, it shall / De rectified, and the cost of labour in rectifying it be borne by the State Government, and not by the Commonwealth Government. Senator McColl has said that there is considerable dissatisfaction because no tenders were let in connexion with the previous contract ; but if we had called for tenders in Australia we should have received none. It is admitted by every one who has seen the dock-yards of Australia that the Fitzroy Dock is a long way ahead of any other dockyard in the Commonwealth for this particular kind of work. It is very instructive to consider the experience of Victoria in this regard in view of what Senator McColl and others are saving to the effect that we ought to distribute this work. Many years ago an attempt was made in Victoria to establish a dockyard. The Government spent a lot of money in excavating and building the dock.
– It was a graving dock.
– I have gone through the whole history of the matter, and I can assure the honorable senator that it was intended to have a dockyard as veil. Machinery which cost a very large sum of money was ordered for the dockyard and brought to Victoria. If Senator McColl wishes to know the history of the whole matter, I can refer him to Mr. Smith, the gentleman who supplied him with some very interesting and useful information in connexion with the Western Australian railway. He gave me the history of this matter, and I have no doubt he will repeat it to Senator McColl. When this machinery was brought to Victoria a good while ago, and before Federation, pressure was brought to bear on the Government of the day to induce them not to erect the machinery, but to distribute the Government work amongst a number of private ship-building yards. The pressure was sufficiently strong, and the machinery was not taken out of its case. It was allowed to lie where it was. The dock was never erected, and the work for which it was intended was distributed amongst half-a-dozen little ship-building firms on the Yarra. The sequel was almost tragic. The Government work distributed amongst the small yards put them on their feet, and they again brought pressure to bear on the Government, with the result that the machinery . which was absolutely essential for the graving dock was put up to public auction, much of it was sold at the price of scrap-iron, and it was bought by those very ship-building firms. Much of that machinery may to-day be found scattered amongst half-a-dozen ship-building yards on the Yarra and at Williamstown. The result of that policy in Victoria is that there never has been, and is not now, one yard in this State capable of doing this work. As the result of some investigations, Mr. Murray, the Premier of Victoria, asked that the Victorian Government should be allowed to tender. I intimated our willingness to accept a tender from them, and held over the acceptance of the New South Wales Government’s tender until Mr. Murray had an opportunity to go fully into the matter. In the papers will be found a report, I think by Mr. Stewart Davidson, in which he refers to the lack of facilities to enable the Victorian Government to do anything in the matter. As a result of that report, energetic action is now being taken to put the dockyard into a position to be able to undertake such work as this.
– And the little . amendment we have made in the Customs Tariff will help a good deal to that end.
– In New South Wales an entirely different policy has been followed for some years. Instead of distributing Government work amongst private yards, it was concentrated in this one ship-building yard, with the result tha* the Fitzroy Dock has been enabled to secure a quantity of up-to-date machinery to perfect its arrangements, and has gained the experience to enable it to tender for this work. Immediately upon the acceptance by the Commonwealth Government of the offer of the New South Wales Government for the building of the Warrego, they ordered a large quantity of machinery, which I feel sure will cost more than any profit they are likely to make out of the work of putting the Warrego together. Their yard is to-day very well equipped. Lately we had passing through this State Admiral William Henderson, who was in charge for some years of the Portsmouth Dockyard. He went over the Fitzroy Dockyard, and has expressed the opinion that it is well equipped, and capable of putting these ships together in a workmanlike manner. At the same time, I may say that the Commonwealth Government do not propose to take any risks. The New South Wales Minister of Works has constituted a board for the management of the Fitzroy Dockyard since it has become too big a concern for One man to manage. Immediately upon this board being constituted, I wrote to him through the Prime Minister, asking that Engineer-Commander Clarkson, who was responsible for naval construction, should be given an opportunity to appear before the board at an early date, in order to impress upon them the serious nature of the contract they have undertaken. Already a promise has been given that immediately after the new year, EngineerCommander Clarkson will be called before the board. Should there be any difficulty - and I do not anticipate any - the Commonwealth Government will not be at the end of their resources. These ships are going to be built in Australia.I have no hesitation in saying, as I have already said through the press, that the policy of the present Government is to have this work done in a Government Dockyard. At the earliest opportunity we propose to establish a Commonwealth Dockyard, preferably at Jervis Bay, if a site at all suitable can be discovered there. We shall be advised in that matter by our naval officers ; but that is a question for the future. Whereever it is established we shall have a Commonwealth Dockyard. We do not wish to stand still, and, in the meantime, we shall make as much use as possible of the facilities which Admiral William Henderson says exist at Sydney, I have said that I have no reason to anticipate that any trouble will arise; but if any should occur, we shall only have to make other arrangements.
.-As a practical iron shipbuilder, I should like to say a few words in reply to the remarks of Senator McColl, and in reply, also, to some articles which appeared recently in a Melbourne newspaper. There is no dockyard in Australia at the present time that possesses the necessary machinery for doing this work, with the exception of the Government Dockyard at Sydney which has been referred to. There was not a firm in Victoria or South Australia that was able to put in a price for the construction of a few mud-barges. Poole and Steel, of Sydney, have recently completed half-a-dozen barges for the South Australian Government, and have had them towed round to Adelaide.
– We built them there thirty years ago.
– They are not built there now, and evidently the ship builders of Adelaide - like Melbourne - are behind the times. At Mort’s Woolwich Dockyard there is a greater number of vessels built in one year than are built throughout the rest of Australia in tenyears. Last year they built about seven, and in the coming year they have orders for seven more. With regard to the defects in the Warrego, which have been made so much of, let me say that there never was a ship put into the water that had not something wrong with her. The defects in the Warrego were of such a nature that the ship could never have gone to sea without its being discovered. It was due to a simple oversight. It must not be forgotten also that this was entirely new work to the management and to the mechanics, and it is not surprising that, in the circumstances, there should have been some little difficulty. The newspaper article to which I have referred contained some statement about a dredge that there was something wrong with. Let me say that no other firm in Australia would have attempted to make one of those dredges. This is the first time that anything of the kind has been built in Australia, and we need not be surprised that there were some’ little defects in the building of a dredge of that character. The defect referred to was remedied, and the dredge is to-day as good as any imported. In reference to the defect in the boilers of the Protector, I am able to say that they were the first water-tube boilers ever made in Australia for any vessel - no other firm would have dared to compete with imported boilers - and the importing firm did their best in this matter to make a mountain out of a molehill.. The defect referred to was subsequently remedied. In New South Wales we believe that every State is entitled to get some of this work to do for the Government, but a State that lags behind, and does not provide proper facilities for the building of these ships, cannot expect to be given this work. I can remember that, twenty years ago, Melbourne was far ahead of Sydney in this respect. I could mention vessels that were brought round from Sydney to Melbourne to be repaired, and to be re-fitted with boilers and engines’. In this State, the shipbuilding industry has been allowed to go down, whilst in New South Wales it has been built up. This has been done with Government money, and I admit that, possibly, private people could not have built up the industry in the same way. Mort’s two dockyards are almost constantly full. The dock at Woolwich is one of the largest in Australia. Mort’s is an enterprising firm, and they employ from 1,500 to 2,000 men. They sometimes employ as many as 3,000 men, and not half that number are employed in the same industries in the whole of the other States. If the man who wrote the articles to which I have referred could be made acquainted with the fact that when he wrote of the defects in the Warrego he only provoked the laughter of men who knew anything of naval construction and ship-building, and if he only knew what a fool he made of himself, he would never lift a pen again. I have no fear of the work that is done in Cockatoo dock if compared with any done in any part of the world. I suppose that the men working on the Warrego are about half Australians and half English mechanics. I have no hesitation in saying that the work of the Australians compares with the best work done by English mechanics. As a rule, indeed, the Australian work is better. There is a reason for that. In England, a man has to specialize in a ship-building yard. He does a particular class of work, and no other. But in Australia, the conditions are quite different. Here a mechanic is trained to do all kinds of things pertaining to the trade. There is not sufficient work to allow men to specialize. That is the reason why, speaking generally, an Australian mechanic is better than an English one. I commend the Government for what they have done hitherto, and hope that the day is not far distant when we shall have a Commonwealth dockyard. In 1912, the Government will be taking over the naval dockyard at Garden Island.
– That is correct.
– In that yard, there is some of the best machinery to be obtained for the construction and repairing of vessels. I trust that good use will be made of it. When we commence to build our own vessels, however, I hope that the work will be done in Federal Territory.
,- I am much obliged to the Minister of Defence for the statement which he has made, and am not sorry that I brought up the question. It looks most unbusiness-like that work should be begun before a contract is signed.
– As regards the three ships, there is no material here yet.
– The Minister has been very frank with us, and admits that the policy of the Government is to give a lift to ship-building in Australia. We may take it for granted that, provided State Governments are ready to do this work, they will get their share of it.
– Subdivision 4 of division 37 includes the item “ Expenses connected with inventions reported upon by Departmental Committees, £500.” I understand that that vote is for the encouragement of inventions. In another portion of the Estimates, we are asked to vote £4,000 for the purposes of an aviation corps. I cannot understand what actuated the Minister in allotting only £500 for the encouragement of inventions, and £4,000 for an aviation corps.
– The £500 is not necessarily for the invention of aeroplanes, but for the invention of anything that may be useful for defence purposes.
– There are in Australia men who have invented new kinds of flying machines. I know of one.
– The honorable senator did not go up in it, I believe?
– No ; because the inventor is handicapped: by being unable to get in Australia the motor which is necessary to propel his machine.
– That probably saved the honorable senator’s life!
– The Minister of Defence has seen the invention to which I refer, and has expressed an opinion about it. The principle of it is continuous equilibrium. The inventor was requested to submit it to the local inventions committee in Western Australia. He has done so, and a report has been made. But before the machine can be tried, the inventor requires a motor which has to be imported from Germany. It is called the “ Gnome,” and will cost between £700 and £800. The machine is lying in Fremantle at this moment. It has been reported upon favorably by no less an authority than Lord Kitchener himself, and also by Mr. Hammond, the aviator, who came to Australia with a Bristol biplane.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the Commonwealth should buy a motor for every man who invents a flying machine?
– I do not suggest anything of the sort, but I do think that, when we have Australian inventors whose ideas have been reported upon by such eminent authorities as I have mentioned, we should give them some amount of encouragement.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence for an explanation of item 10 in subdivision 4 of division 37 - “ Publication of Commonwealth Military Journal, £1,000.” What circulation has the journal, and is it distributed gratuitously?
– If any honorable senator desires to see copies of the Commonwealth Military Journal, on publication, I will see that they are forwarded. lt is a journal devoted entirely to military subjects. It is distributed amongst corn.manding officers and amongst military clubs and similar institutions. It is of considerable value from an instructional point of view to our ‘officers, and is highly appreciated by them. To a large extent, it is compiled with the aid of scissors and paste, but some of our officers have contributed original articles, and if lectures On military subjects have proved to be of value they are published in the magazine. When I was in London, copies of the first issue of the journal arrived. Lord Kitchener congratulated me personally upon its publication. He said, “ Once more you, in Australia, have got ahead of the Old Country. When I got my copy of the Military Journal I took it to the chief of the military staff and said to him, “’ This is the sort of thing you will have to have in England. Australia has once more set you an example, and put you on the right line.’ “ Since then an official military journal has been established, in England. Replying to Senator Needham, ‘ I desire to observe that there are two different votes which may be said to relate to inventions. One is for the purposes of an aviation corps, £4,000. But we have also decided to encourage inventors whose inventions are useful for military purposes. We wish to encourage aviation for military purposes, those, of course, being all with which the Defence Department is concerned. We intend to obtain trained aviators who will teach military officers the use of aeroplanes, and also train them in making observations from such machines.
– I thought the Government offered a prize for the inventor of an aeroplane?
– That offer lapsed. There were no competitors. The £500, to which Senator Needham has called attention, is for quite another purpose. When I became Minister of Defence I was continually waited on by people who believed that they had invented something of military value. I was young and simple in Ministerial affairs in those days, and used to give those inventors the open door. The consequence was that a great deal of my time was taken up in listening to long scientific observations by inventors. I generally finished by being as wise as I was when they commenced.
– Were they any better Off?
– I am afraid they were not. The process was mutually unsatisfactory. I decided, therefore, to appoint an Inventions Board, consisting of a civil engineer, a military engineer, and a third member who is generally an engineer associated with a university. We have such a board in each of the State capitals. When an inventor comes along with something which he believes to be of military value we refer him to one of these committees. Of course, we are only concerned with inventions which are likely to be of military value. Generally, I might say, these inventors have the most fragmentary propositions to put before one. Sometimes their ideas are merely in the embryonic stage. Occasionally they have prepared plans, and, in a few instances, they have models or samples of their inventions. In every case we now refer such inventions to a departmental committee. Occasionally a committee will say, “ There may be something in this particular invention, and we think experiments ought to be made.” The inventor usually has no money. Probably he has spent all his money in making his model. We desire to have a few pounds to spend which may be useful for the making of models, or the trying of experiments. The expenditure is not likely to be heavy. Last year we appropriated £150 for the purpose, and spent only £19. That was spent after a process of sifting. The committees only requisitioned for £19. We do not spend a penny unless it is recommended in a report by one of these inventions committees. I know the case which Senator Needham has in his mind. In Fremantle, there is an aeroplane inventor who. has invented an automatic balancing arrangement, which I have seen. The State Inventions
Committee have seen a model of it, and believe that it is a very good, proposition to overcome the difficulty which aeroplanes experience in meeting with gusts or pockets of wind. It is said that he cannot build a machine because he has no money ; nor can he build that which is not an invention, but which is known everywhere, namely, a Gnome engine, which may be bought in England. It is no part of the duty of the Defence Department to finance inventors in that way. This inventor’s proposal is that we should make an aeroplane, and by that means test his invention. Where would that land the Department? So long as a man could bring along some proposition, which in that stage bears some promise, we should proceed to make the whole machine.
– When you have your own flying machine will be the time for the man to approach you.
– You will not give the man a chance to get a motor.
– When Mr. Joseph Cook laid down the conditions for his prize competition, he wanted a machine of Australian make, and one of the conditions was - and this will appeal to the honorable senator - that every article in the machine had to be made in the Commonwealth.
– You altered that regulation.
– The inventor in Fremantle came along and said, “ I cannot get a Gnome engine here, and I want permission to import one.” Permission to import was given to him, as well as to others, but, notwithstanding that, no one came up to the scratch. The vote of £5,000 has lapsed. I do not propose to use any portion of this vote in the way desired by the inventor at Fremantle.
– With regard to the vote for the Royal Military College, I desire to ask the Minister of Defence what arrangements are made for the housing of the officers at Canberra. Have they separate houses, or do they all live together in a big college?
– They are being provided with houses as fast as we can do so.
– Does each officer make his own household arrangements?
– They are all given quarters.
– Have the students vacation. and, if so, for how long?
– I cannot say off-hand. At the present time, the students are going into a camp for the Christmas holidays. But after they have been at the College’ for a certain -time they will be allowed to go to their homes for a month. I can assure the honorable senator that the vacations are few and far between. The students come there to learn to work, and not to play. They include 42 Australians and 10 New Zealanders.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 83 to 94 (Department of Trade and Customs), £355,881, agreed to.
Home Affairs Department - Government House, Sydney.
Divisions 95 to 104 (Department of Home Affairs), £386,457.
. - During the year we were told that the Commonwealth Government had received, practically, notice to quit Government House in Sydney. I find in the Estimates of this Department a considerable item for this establishment. I want to know what position we stand in regarding the house. Has any arrangement been made with the State Government for the continued occupation of the house by the Governor-General, or, as Senator Long has so cogently suggested, are we to be evicted ? I am not at all anxious to maintain a residence in Sydney for the Governor-General. I think that if we maintain a fine residence for him in Melbourne, and give him opportunities to travel and see the other States, we do all that duty demands of us. I see no reason why Sydney should be specially favoured any more than any other State capital. If it is desirable to have a residence for the Governor-General at Sydney, as well as at the Seat of Government, then Tasmania has an equally good claim. South Australia, Western Australia, and Queensland also have a claim.
– Representations were made, I believe, by the New South Wales Government that they would require Government House at Sydney, but in consequence of statements made it was considered advisable by that Government to let the matter stand over until the end of the year. It is still the subject of negotiations. No final decision has been arrived at, and no official information has been given by the State Government that they would require the house.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Post and Telegraph Department - Vancouver Mail Service- Post-offices, Queensland - Wireless Telegraphy - Receiving Post-offices : Allowances.
Divisions 105 to 112 (The PostmasterGeneral’s Department), £3,827,160.
Senator ST. . . LEDGER (Queensland) (6.21]. - I notice that for the current financial year the sum of £6,200 is provided for the conveyance of mails via Vancouver. Now, it seems to me that the Vancouver mail service has vanished. I remember being one of a deputation which waited uPon the Prime Minister some twelve or eighteen months ago in reference to this matter. I then pointed out that the service occupied a position between the devil and the deep blue sea. That simile seems to express its position to-day. If this item of £6,200 is intended as an intimation that something is to be done in connexion with the Vancouver mail service, I shall be pleased to allow the item to pass without comment. But it seems to me that the prediction which I made eighteen months ago has been fulfilled to the letter. The Vancouver mail service is not on the deep blue sea- it has gone to the care of his Satanic Majesty. There is another item upon which I desire to obtain information, namely, the repairing of post-offices in general, and particularly of post-offices in Queensland.
– The matter to which the honorable senator refers is in the Home Affairs Department, and the officer who could have given me the information which lie desires has gone away.
– I have repeatedly asked for that information, and I do hope that the Minister of Defence will not take advantage of the position which he occupies to deny it to me. What I wish to know is, whether there is any sum upon these Estimates which it is intended to expend in putting into a proper state of repair the post-offices at Rockhampton and Townsville?
.- In regard to the Vancouver mail service, the fact is, that for some time we were negotiating with the Canadian Government for such a service. New Zealand was doing likewise. New Zealand and Canada came to an arrangement. Of course, Canada wanted the Commonwealth to join in the arrangement ; but we desired to secure a service with
Canada which would not call at New Zealand. The reason for that is obvious. In the first place, New Zealand and Canada had entered into a reciprocal treaty, under which all the goods that we would be likely to sell in Canada received preferential treatment. Therefore, if we had subsidized the service which calls at New Zealand, we should have subsidized a service the trade of which was already entering Canada with an advantage over our own trade: Hence the Postmaster-General, with the approval of the people of Brisbane, contended that New Zealand should not be included in the contract as a port of call. The result was that the newest Dominion entered into a service with Canada apart from Australia. The effect of that agreement is that the same vessels are calling at Sydney as previously called there, and these are carrying our mails upon a poundage basis. The only alteration which has resulted from the new service is that Brisbane has been discontinued as a port of call.
– Could we not arrange for a forked service between Canada and Suva?
– The whole thing is in such a tangle that I cannot see my way out of it. I know that this matter engaged the close attention of the exPostmasterGeneral, and 1 have no doubt that when the present session has closed the PostmasterGeneral will devote his attention to it. In reference to the other matter to which Senator St. Ledger referred, 1 am informed that, when the Supply Bill was under consideration, the Vice-President of the Executive Council told him that there were £725 on. the Works Estimates in connexion with the post-office at Townsville, that plans had been prepared and put before the Postmaster-General, who had generally approved of them; but had suggested that they should be submitted to the Deputy Postmaster-General, Brisbane. There is no vote on the Estimates in connexion with the post-office at Rockhampton ; but there is a vote out of which funds for any general repairs may be provided. The Secretary of the Postmaster-General’s Department has taken a note of the honorable senator’s remarks, and1 he will no doubt make inquiries into the matter, with a view to seeing whether any repairs ought to be undertaken.
– Possibly the Vice-President of the Executive Council did give me the information which the Minister of Defence has alleged that he gave; but, if so, I have no recollection of it. At any rate, I thank the Minister for his courtesy.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [6.29].- I would point out that, some years ago, we had a mail service with America which forked at Honolulu. The mails were forwarded by one steamer to Auckland and by another to Sydney or Brisbane; and it has occurred to me that, in connexion with the Vancouver service, it might be possible to arrange the fork at Suva. If that could be done, the cost of the service would be materially reduced as compared with the cost of an independent service.
– Does the honorable senator mean that we should employ a separate steamer to conduct the service between New Zealand and Suva? If so, would any transhipment of goods be involved ?
– There would be a transhipment of goods in alternate months. By adopting the method which I have suggested, we should1 materially reduce the cost of the Vancouver service, and would gain the advantage of direct communication with Canada. At the present time, there are some very large ships in course of construction which it is intended to employ on this line. Vessels up to 13,000 tons have, I understand, been ordered. It would be to the mutual advantage of New Zealand and Australia if a mail service could be arranged for.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– By adopting the suggestion I have made, we should have direct mail communication by alternate trips between Canada and Australia, and Canada- and New Zealand. Of course, if a ship on the voyage from Canada to Australia carried cargo for New Zealand, it would have to be transhipped at Suva, and in the same way on the voyage from Canada to New Zealand, a ship carrying cargo for Australia would have to tranship that cargo at Suva. Still, the adoption ot such a course would provide a means of communication between Australia, New Zealand, and Canada at a lower cost than it could perhaps be otherwise provided. The existence of reciprocity between Canada and New Zealand is, no doubt, a great advantage to New Zealand; but there is no reason why reciprocity should not be established between Australia and Canada, since each country has products which are required by the other.
– Why not establish reciprocity between Australia and New Zealand ?
– There was talk for a considerable time of reciprocity between Australia and New Zealand, but the proposals fell through at the death of the late Mr. Richard Seddon. I believe that the people of Canada, as well as of Australia, would be willing to establish reciprocity between the two countries, and all that would have to be done would be to consider matters of detail.
– What articles would the honorable senator suggest?
– I do not suggest any, because the details would require very careful thinking out. At present we take a. good deal of produce from Canada, and the Canadians take a good deal from us.
– No ; the ships come back here half empty.
– I know that the ship I came here by the other day had on board 1,200 tons of goods from Canada for Sydney. I admit that that is not much to speak of ; but that is a trade which I think we should foster. It has been said that the whole position will be altered at the opening of the Panama Canal. That may be .so, but the canal will not assist us in the interchange of commodities with Canada.
– It will bring us much nearer the eastern coast of Canada than we are now.
– That would be so if our produce were taken round the east coast of North America rather than across Canada by rail from Vancouver. I take it that our object will be to open up communication with the western coast of Canada. We should do all we can to encourage trade and passenger traffic between the two countries. By the means suggested, we should continue the All-Red route between Australia and the Mother Country. I rose chiefly to suggest a way in which we might establish communication with Canada without incurring any very large expense, and perhaps the proposal I have made will be considered worthy the attention of the Postmaster- General when he comes to deal with this question.
.- I wish, on the first item of the PostmasterGeneral’s Estimates, to discuss the very important administrative matter in connexion with wireless telegraphy. It will be within the recollection of honorable senators that last year I raised this question. I had a good deal to say about what I regarded as the mess into which we had got ourselves in connexion with wireless telegraphy. The march of events has since proved that every word I said on that occasion was more than justified. The position in which we find ourselves now demands most wary walking if we are not to get into a greater mess than we were in in connexion with the contract with the Telefunken people. That contract was entered into, not by a present, but by a previous Government. Still, with the camaraderie which distinguishes all Governments the moment the administration of their predecessors was challenged, they went to their rescue, and insisted that a good bargain had been made. The fact remains that we were in a complete mess, and, after all this time, we have not one efficient wireless telegraph station established in Australia. The contract was not carried out, and could never be carried out in its entirety, and we find the Government to-day forced to consider what alternative scheme they can adopt. We are informed that they have decided to adopt an alternative system of wireless telegraphy for general application throughout the Commonwealth, which has little or nothing to do with either the Marconi or the Telefunken system. We are informed that it is all right, but, .though we may have the greatest respect for the collective wisdom of the Cabinet, we may be excused if we decline to believe that they are such experts in this business, and interpreters of the patent law, as to be able to inform us that they are on perfectly safe ground in adopting a system which is neither the Marconi nor the Telefunken system. I do not pretend to be an expert in patent law or in wireless telegraphy, but every one knows that Marconi was the original inventor of the wireless telegraphy system, and his patents must control the lot.
– Why does he not get an injunction against the Telefunken Company?
– It should be known to every member of the Committee that the Marconi Company have given notice of proceedings against the Telefunken Company for the infringement of their patents. I gather from the press that those proceedings are actually pending now.
– And against all users.
– Of course; any one who uses a pirated system is liable equally with the person who pirates it. We were told that when the Government entered into a contract with the Telefunken Company they were protected against any infringement of the Marconi patents by a bond entered into by the representatives of the Telefunken Company in Australia to the extent of £20,000. I believe that Mr. Hugh Dennison, of Sydney, became a bondsman for the company, and that his bond is sufficient for the amount stated.. But I point out that in a great equity suit such as this would be £20,000 would not cover the law costs, let alone the damages. The Commonwealth, through the lax administration of the previous Government, is liable to find itself mulcted in heavy costs and damages. I know nothing of the representatives in Australia of the Marconi Company, and no one connected with the company has ever spoken to me on this matter ; and I am putting the matter only as it appears to me as an ordinary member of this Parliament desirous of safeguarding the interests of Australia. The only information we have been given with regard to the new system to be adopted is that a Mr. Balsillie comes along and says that he has some new system never heard of before, which, to use a colloquial expression, is “The real McKay.” That may or may not be so. We have the mere ipsi dixit of Mr. Balsillie.
– Or a proved pirate.
– Our only guide as to what a person will do in the future is a knowledge of what he has done in the past, and we know that in connexion with this matter Mr. Balsillie, who may or may not be the best wireless expert in the world, has found himself in a very serious position as the result of a mistake he made in a similar connexion not very long ago. We now find that the Commonwealth Government are taking him up, and by accepting a system on his recommendation, should he find himself later on in a serious position, the Commonwealth will also be placed in a serious position. I am satisfied that no member of the Committee, with the exception, perhaps, of the two Ministers present, know anything at all about the system now proposed for adoption by the Commonwealth. We are not taken into the confidence of the Government in the matter, but are asked, like a child being given a dose of medicine, tq shut our eyes, open our mouth, and swallow the dose, and it will be all Tight. ‘ A child very often feels a considerable pain in the “tummy” after it has taken the dose, and the Commonwealth may find itself in the same position.
– Do not be downhearted !
– I am by no means down-hearted. My only anxiety is to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth. It is essential that we should have the most perfect and up-to-date system of wireless telegraphy that can possibly be obtained. I do not know of any country in the world in which wireless promises to be so valuable as it will be to Australia.
– How does the honorable senator suggest that we should get what we want under the present circumstances ?
– I suggest that we should try to deal with the company that we know would supply us with the best and most up-to-date system, and that would save us a good deal of worry and trouble.
– At their own price?
– As long as the international patent law continues as it is, we must always be in the position of having to take goods from patentees at their own price.
– We are not called upon to pay any price they may demand. The Patent Act provides for arbitration where there is a disagreement.
– That, however, is a mere side issue, because the price demanded was the decisive factor in this case. What would keep any company within reason would be the knowledge that we had the alternative of doing without them; and I contend that we could do without them.
– We have a far better alternative than. that.
– That is to arbitrate with the Marconi Company, if their price is excessive?
– But this Government do not profess to do anything of the kind. We are not taken into their confidence. We do not know whether what they are proposing to do is the best or the worst course that could be followed.
– I thought the caucus dominated the Government. Yet the members of the caucus do not seem to know much about this matter.
– Neither Senator Long nor I had anything to do with this matter in caucus.
– The caucus has “ bust.”
Senator GIVENS. If the honorable senator had not the safety valve of which he avails himself so often, he would in all probability “ bust “ too. We do know that the British Government has dealt with the Marconi Company, and has adopted the Marconi system on all ships of war. I believe that there is some slight modification of the system which, perhaps, conduces to secrecy in the despatch of messages, but everything has been done by the Admiralty by arrangement with the Marconi Company. It is important from a Defence point of view that we should adopt a system which is uniform with that used in the British Navy, whose vessels frequently visit our shores. It is not to the credit of the Administration - and I am not holding the present Government responsible, because I premised my remarks by stating that the contract was originally entered into by their predecessors - that we have delayed so long in establishing so essential and useful a service as wireless telegraphy. We ought by this time to have connected King Island with Tasmania and the mainland. That work has not been done, although it could have been completed long ago. We have no communication between Papua and the mainland.
– There is a wireless station on King Island.
– A certain gentleman has been allowed to erect an experimental station, but the Commonwealth has no station there. All the principal islands around our coasts ought to have been fitted up with wireless telegraphy. But the completion of the work seems to be as far off as ever. The Pennant Hills station in Sydney is, I believe, even to-day in a very unsatisfactory condition, although eight or nine months have elapsed since the original contract was entered into. This is a most unsatisfactory state of things. I think that, without showing their hand, the Government might take the Senate into their confidence, and reassure the public of Australia that the best possible has been done for the country in this regard.
– He would be indeed a bold man, or one who had closed his eyes to what has happened, who would say that everything which has occurred in connexion with wireless telegraphy in Australia has been satisfactory. I do not take up that position. But at the same time, the way put of the present situation is not quite so clear and easy as Senator Givens seems to imagine. It is a simple matter at this stage to get up and lash out at everybody in general. That is what Senator Givens has done.
– I did not wait until now to get up and criticise the Government on this subject.
– The honorable senator was dumb when the present arrangement was entered into.
– Almost as soon as Parliament met, I opposed the arrangement.
– It was a considerable time after the arrangement had been entered into before the criticism began.
– It was only then that Parliament was made aware of the facts.
– The arrangement was entered into long before the stage to which the honorable senator refers. It was only when the hitch occurred in carrying out the contract that the criticism began.
– When the Government began to alter the terms of the contract.
– Yes; that was when the criticisms began. But that was not when the contract was entered into. Neither Senator Givens nor any one else then foresaw the difficulty that subsequently arose. It is very easy to be wise after the event. After difficulties have occurred, it is easy to get up and lash out at every one.
– When I did criticise the policy of the Government last year, I was assured that everything was all right.
– What Senator Givens then criticised was the particular contract then being carried out ; and so far as that was concerned, everything- was all right in regard to the points to which he referred. The difficulty into which we have got is undoubtedly caused by the endeavour of the previous Government to do something fresh after entering into a contract. I am not going to say that any subsequent Government, if it had been placed in the same position, would have acted differently. Probably another Government would have done the same thing. In order that we may know where we are in connexion with this matter, it is just as well to review the situation calmly, and to point out how the circumstances with which we have to deal have arisen. First of all, we remember that wireless was beginning to be used throughout the world. The utility of it was apparent. Consequently a desire sprang up for its use around the coast of Australia. That desire was particularly manifested amongst shipping people, who asked that facilities for wireless communication should be given in Australia. In order to meet that demand, the Government of the day decided to call for tenders for the erection of stations. In due course tenders were received. There was an enormous disparity in prices. Side by side with that fact, we had the difficult situation that the lowest tender was not that of the company in which the original inventor of wireless was interested. That complicated the question, because the Government was faced with this position . If they accepted the lowest tender, which was very considerably, below the other, it meant a difference, not of a few hundreds, but of thousands, of pounds. On the other hand, if they accepted the lowest tender, there was a possibility of having to face legal actions. Those who were responsible for the lowest tender then supplemented their offer by undertaking to enter into a personal bond to accept all responsibility for any action in which the Commonwealth might be involved as the result of proceedings which might be taken by the Marconi Company against the Telefunken Company.
– Does the Minister say that there was only a personal bond?
– It was a bond which made the directors of the company personally liable. They were all men of substance.
– Was there no other security in the bond than that?
– I am not an authority on the form of bonds, but, at any rate, the bond that was given was considered satisfactory.
– I think that point may be met by stating that the Crown Law officers were perfectly satisfied.
– The Crown Law officers were consulted, and I do not think that any ong had any doubt about the bond. Therefore, we do not need to argue that point.
– Unless the bond was vitiated by subsequent action.
– Quite so. Fancy a Government placed in that position. Fancy even Senator Givens placed in that position. Would he not have accepted the lowest tender, notwithstanding that there was some risk of an action from the other company ? If he had not accepted the lowest tender, would he not have been to blame, especially as there was a reasonable possibility that any action that might be brought would not be successful? He would have been bound to accept the lowest tender under those circumstances.
– There were other factors that the Minister has not stated.
– I think that if the Postmaster-General had taken any other course he would have been severely criticised for wasting the public money.
– Why does not the Minister state all the factors?
– Because time will not allow. I am stating the main and essential factors. At that time we had no person in the employ of the Commonwealth who had a personal knowledge of wireless. We had not a single officer who could be called an expert. Possibly there were officers of the Post and Telegraph Department who had a theoretical knowledge of the subject, acquired through their desire to keep themselves abreast of their profession. But I do not think that there was any one of them who claimed to have a practical knowledge of the erection- ot wireless stations. The contract entered into was of such a character that it relieved the Post and Telegraph Department, and, therefore, the Government, of any necessity of having an officer to supervise the erection of the station, because the whole contract was subject to a working test. The company undertook to hand the station over to us complete after the necessary tests which would prove that the station was in working order. So that, looked at from the point of view of what was then known, it seemed fairly safe for the Government to accept the contract. Consequently the Government did accept it. Then certain facts were brought to notice which complicated matters. When it was known that Australia proposed to erect wireless stations the naval and military authorities became interested. I am not sure whether it was the Defence Department or the Admiralty that took the first step; but, at all events, it was in due course pointed out that the site selected was not altogether suitable from a Defence point of view. In view of the fact that wireless is of such great importance in a Defence aspect, the Admiralty and the Defence Department ought to have been consulted beforehand. I am not prepared to defend the action of those who did not take that precaution. The fact is, however, that these authorities were not consulted. I think it became the duty of the first Fisher Government to deal with that situation. Here was the position in which they were placed. If they went on with the contract they would do it right in face of the Admiralty and of the Defence authorities, who told them that they were placing their station where it was unsafe and unsuitable. As wireless is such an essential factor in Defence matters nowadays the Postmaster-General decided to review the question of the site, and, as a result of that review, other site” were indicated. The altertaion of the site to a certain extent relieved the company from some of its obligations. The company, however, was willing to re-adjust the contract for the other sites chosen, provided that it was given an extension of time, and also a small compensation. There, again, it is easy for any one to say. “What a stupid blunder.” Were we to-day in that position, would Senator Givens say. “ Notwithstanding that fact, I am goingon.” Would he take that view?
– Yes; and shift the stations afterwards.
– As a sensible man, the honorable senator would say, “ I shall shift the sites now, and put the stations in the right places.” That is what the Government did.
– It would have been almost as cheap for the Government to go on with the contracts, and start new contracts for the new sites.
– So far as I have been able to ascertain, the extended time has not yet elapsed. I have never heard, any one say that the extended time or the additional compensation ought not to have been given.
– It was far too great an extension to give.
– The plans of the company had been upset by the decision of the Government. If the fact is as 1 ‘ have said, that explains why the present. wireless stations are not in our hands. I now come to the general question of wireless telegraphy. Placed in that position, the present Government did not sit down and do nothing. Seeing the difficulty which had been created as regards the Telefunken business, and seeing also that actions had been commenced, or were about to be commenced, in other countries by the Marconi Company against the Telefunken Company, the Government got into communication with the former as to the price at which it would sell its rights in Australia. It submitted its price.
– Was that price merely for Defence or for ‘general commercial purposes ?
– For the latter, I understand. There was an alternative price, and one price included a royalty. A most exorbitant price was asked by the company, which considered that it had the Commonwealth in its hands, and at its mercy.
– So it has.
– No; and that is where Senator Givens made a mistake. Let me read two sections from the Patents Act of 1 903- 1 909 -
– From your own knowledge, or that of your advisers, can you say whether that is in entire accordance with the international patent law ?
– I assume that it is. 1 do not think that any Government would introduce a patent law which is not in conformity with the international patent law to which the Commonwealth is a party.
– It is in the Imperial Act, anyhow.
– We have a sufficient guarantee that it is in conformity with the international patent law. What is the position now? Senator Givens says that the Government should pay the company whatever it asks. He says, “ Instead of fooling around, as you are doing, why do you not come to terms with the company?” It will not come to terms with the Commonwealth, but says, “ Take our price.”
– Or use the Act.
– That is the alternative which we are prepared to take if necessary.
– No; you are adopting a different system altogether.
– The honorable senator may take it from me that we are not taking that alternative without advice. The Government have at their disposal fairly sound legal advice on these questions. There is no doubt that our legal talent has been sharpened by the difficulties in which the Government have been brought by various events. Knowing the way in which the attention of the public and of Parliament is riveted on this question, the law officers have, I venture to say, given very careful attention to the respective steps which have been taken. Undoubtedly there are some things which no Minister who is true to his oath of office can make public at the present juncture. Honorable senators are just as much trustees of the public as we are. Undoubtedly the representatives of these companies, who may be at any time litigants against the Commonwealth, are watching and listening to every statement on this subject which is made in the Parliament, or by a responsible Minister.
– Do you anticipate litigation as the result of what you are doing?
– Anybody can see that it is a possibility. The Commonwealth Government were faced with the position that they desired to proceed, and a course was pointed out by which it is believed that immediate action can be taken. That course has been well probed and thought out. It may tie wrong ; but, even if it is wrong, we shall be in no worse position than we should be if we took the ordinary position of saying, “ Very well, we will deal with the Marconi Company.”
– You may find yourself involved in an expensive law-suit.
– The worst thing that could happen would be an arbitration case as to the amount of compensation to be paid to the company.
– How do you make that out?
– That is what I say, but I may be wrong. The Commonwealth has had the advantage of the best advice obtainable, and it proposes to at once take a certain course. It believes that not only will that have the result of giving, at an early date, wireless stations round the coast, but it is fully advised that it will not place the Commonwealth in any worse position by doing so than it would be if it adopted any other course which is open. I can say no more.I have said practically all that the Postmaster-General has thought it advisable to say. I ask honorable senators to rest satisfied that the Government are doing their best in the interests of the Commonwealth. They are taking action which they believe will establish four stations at an early date.
– After referring to some of the difficulties to which the earlier negotiations brought the Government, the Minister said that the way out was not easy. I quite understand that the way out of the difficulties to which he referred may have been surrounded with increasing difficulties. But that is not the point which has been raised by Senator Givens. The point is, not that the Government have failed to get out of the original difficulties, but that they are getting into new difficulties. I want to remind the Minister that, in the early stages, the previous Government were advised by an official of the Postal Department, who, although the proper officer, was not intimately versed in the system of wireless telegraphy. It was, I assume, under the auspices of that gentleman that the specifications were drawn up. Were they not, I ask the Minister, so drawn up as to absolutely favour the Telefunken system?
– I cannot say.
– I want to show that there has been a malign influence at work.
– You are responsible for that.
– I am trying to get behind the Government, to see who was responsible.
– I am advised that the Department denies that.
– The statement hasbeen put forward by those whose technical knowledge entitled them to speak. It was made within walls not far from here, and at that time it was not denied, as Hansard will show. It was stated in debate that the specifications had been altered in ink, and in a direction which did favour the Telefunken Company. Let me remind honorable senators of a previous debate which took place here, and of how tenaciously that official defended the adoption of the Telefunken system.
– Mr. Thomas has shown that that alteration was made at the suggestion of the Admiralty.
– At any rate, the Marconi Company contend that it was such an alteration as placed its rival at an advantage. Passing over all the difficulties of the first contract, I come down to matters for which the present Ministry are responsible. They came then to seek expert advice. They obtained from England a gentleman who, we may say, has qualifications for the position, but it is extremely unfortunate, to my mind - seeing the position in which the Commonwealth then stood in relation to the Marconi Company - that the duty of advising the Government should! have fallen into the hands of one who had been antagonistic to that company, and had been beaten by it in a lawsuit. I do not want to use unnecessarily strong language, but, speaking ordinarily, we should say, as I said just now by interjection, that Mr. Balsillie was proved in the Courts of England? to be pirating the invention of the Marconi Company. It is to this gentleman that we look to decide whether we should adopt or reject the Marconi system. In the circumstances, he must be something more than human if he be not consciously or unconsciously the victim of some prejudice. That fact seems to be beyond controversy unless he is made of different clay from that with which we are ordinarily familiar. This adviser - the defeated opponent of the Marconi Company - comes to Australia, and is asked by the Government to advise them.
– Upon what?
– Upon the whole question.
– Upon the legal question ?
– Who would expect a question like that to emanate from anybody save a hard-pressed Minister ? I do not suppose that one would seek legal ad- vice from an electrician any more than he would seek electrical advice from a legal -man. The fact remains that the Government did call to their aid Mr. Balsillie. They practically placed the whole position before him, and said, “What are we to do?” It was at this juncture that they entered into negotiations with the Marconi Company. They were then brought up with a round turn by the fact that the Mar<coni Company’s demands were evidently deemed to be excessive.
– We entered into negotiations with the Marconi Company before Mr. Balsillie came to Australia.
– That does not affect :my argument. The Marconi Company then demanded a price which the Government regarded as excessive. Because they considered it excessive, instead of exercising the -powers which are vested in them, and saying to that company, “ Your price is -excessive, but. we. are determined to have your system, and we therefore call upon you to submit your claim’ to arbitration,” they turned down the company, and sought the advice of their expert, its defeated rival. At this stage, that gentleman presented for the consideration of the Government a scheme of his own. We do not know what that scheme is> but I venture to say it will be found that it is, with a slight variation, the scheme in connexion with which he was defeated in the Law Courts of Great Britain. It seems to me almost inevitable >that that should be so. The Government have refused to take advantage of the terms of the Patent Act, which would have enabled them to secure the Marconi system at a fair price, and have committed themselves practically to take, defend, and father Mr. Balsillie’s invention.
– Suppose that it is not :his system at all?
– Then I must refer the honorable senator to the statement of the Postmaster-General that it is.
– The PostmasterGeneral did not say that it was the invention upon which Mr. Balsillie was defeated.
– At any rate, Mr. Balsillie went into Court to defend his system, and was beaten there. Thus, the Government start with a double disability. In the first place, their adviser has shown that on two points he is incompetent to advise them. The first disability under which he labours is that he was unable to recognise the similarity of his own system and that of the Marconi system, and that disability is just as likely to follow him now, even if he has brought out a fresh system. In the second place, it is impossible for him to be so free from his associa-tions as to be an absolutely impartial judge in this matter.
– -He wants to get the better of the Marconi Company.
– Let us assume that Mr. Balsillie is not. conscious of any bias. It is a fair assumption that he is unconsciously biased. At all events, there is not a single man outside of a lunatic asylum who would call him in specially to advise upon the adoption or rejection of the Marconi system. The Minister of Defence has said that if the Government follow the course which they have mapped out, they will be in no worse position than they are now, even if they ultimately have to adopt the Marconi system. Evidently the honorable senator has overlooked the fact that many things may happen in the interim. The Government may adopt the Balsillie system, proceed to erect stations in connexion with it, and then find that the intervention of the law Courts has been sought. My own experience is that one cannot indulge in the luxury of a long lawsuit without having to foot a tidy bill. Should the Marconi Company succeed, not only would the Government be called upon to pay damages, but they might be compelled to alter wireless stations which they have erected. Thus, they would have wasted not merely money but a whole lot of valuable time. It is impossible to say that we shall not be in any worse position than we are now, if we fool away twelve or eighteen months of valuable time ; if we have to face an expensive lawsuit, to pay the Marconi Company heavy damages, and then to adopt that company’s system after all. The Minister must also recollect that if the Government adopt the Balsillie system, the very first action of the Marconi Company will probably be to apply for an injunction to restrain the Commonwealth from using it. What will happen then ? The Government cannot turn round and say, “ We will at once pull down that system, and erect other stations.” They would have to allow the thing to run its course, pending the decision of the Court. I do hope that the Government will shake themselves free from the influences which led them into this muddle. In my opinion, it would be far better for them, instead of huckstering in the hope of getting an extremely doubtful but possibly cheap system of wireless, to at once face the inevitable by saying, “ Though we are going to take something for the public service, we will pay for it the fair market value.” There is no individual in this Parliament to-day who has not a feeling in his heart that a mistake was made in the adoption of the Telefunken system. I venture to say that every honorable senator experiences a feeling of regret that we did not adopt the Marconi system in the first instance.
– That is where the honorable senator misses a point. Let him assume that the Balsillie system is the Marconi system. We shall then be adopting the Marconi system.
– That is to say, the Government are receiving stolen goods.
– If we are stealing the Marconi system, the only suit which can be brought against us is one to recover compensation.
– Does the Minister mean to tell the Committee that the Government are adopting the Marconi system with the Balsillie brand upon it?
– I am assuming that what the honorable senator says is correct.
– And I am assuming that the Government believe that the system which Mr. Balsillie offers them is entirely different from the Marconi system.
– If it is not the Marconi system, we shall be all right, any how.
– Except that there may be some portion of it which may be successfully challenged in the Courts.
– Even in that case, the only thing upon which there could be a lawsuit would be the amount that we ought to pay for the system.
– The first process would be for the Marconi company to obtain an injunction to restrain the Government from using its invention. The next thing might possibly be to secure damages for an infringement of the Marconi pattern. These are legal possibilities. If the Government think that this system is the Marconi system, it ought to be purchased straight-out from its original owner.
– Is not this a question of law, and does not the honorable senator know that the Commonwealth legal advisers are behind the Government in the action which they have taken?
– This is not a question of law solely. It is, first of all, a question of business, upon which 1 am as competent to express an opinion as are the best lawyers who are locked up in the Attorney-General’s Department. It is also largely a technical question upon which no lawyer is more competent to express an opinion than is an ordinary citizen. Unless an arbitration authority were to place such an exorbitant value on the Marconi system as to render it practically prohibitive, the cheapest course for the Commonwealth to adopt would be to come to terms with the Marconi company to purchase that system, which we know is effective, and which is free from challenge. But, instead of doing that, they run a risk of taking over a system which has never been exhaustively tested, and which is open to the much more serious objection that its validity is in grave doubt. I say, with the greatest regret, that the Government have not conducted this matter in a business-like way. They should have said that, whatever mistakes may have been made in the past, they would wipe the slate of them, even at some considerable loss, and would secure for Australia the best system known to the world, and that is, without question, the Marconi system.
– We have an Australian system at Randwick.
– But the Government do not propose to adopt that. And we have no proof that it is superior to the Marconi system. It would seem as though there were some influences behind the Government trying all the time to push them away from the admittedly best system of wireless telegraphy. In the first place, we had Mr. Hesketh, and now we have Mr. Balsillie, acting as the adviser of the Government in this matter.
– If we cannot untie the knot, we should cut it.
– Exactly ; we should cut it and have done with it, even if that should mean the loss of a few thousand pounds, so that we may be free to adopt a system that is beyond challenge, and which would give Australia what she wants, that is, an effective, unchallengeable wireless system at the earliest possible moment.
– I should like to say that I had the pleasurerecently of seeing at Randwick a system entirely different from either the Marconi or the Telefunken systems. I refer to the Shaw system. A wireless station for operating this system is erected at Randwick. It is not as large as the one at Pennant Hills, which I also had the pleasure of seeing, and which will be the largest in the world when it is finished. The Shaw company have a wireless system peculiarly their own. They have established at Randwick a workshop in which, I think, fifteen men are employed, and they manufacture there every part of the machinery necessary.
– Will it work?
– Yes ; I took a message from it over a distance of 1,500 miles. I hope that the system we are going to adopt will be neither the Marconi nor the Telefunken, but a purely Australian system. The Shaw system was explained to me by the inventor, and I was present while he took messages with it from vesselsmany miles at sea. I hope we shall adopt an Australian system, and will be able to manufacture, as the Shaw company do at Randwick, everything necessary to carry it out.
– I wish to bring again under the notice of the Committee a matter to which I have previously referred, and that is the sweating rates paid by the Government to those in charge of receiving and allowance postoffices. There are not many of these people. They are scattered throughout Australia, and they have no power to bring their grievances before Parliament. They are the worstpaid persons in the Public Service. There are in New South Wales 526 receiving post-offices ; in Victoria 765 ; in Queensland 822 ; in South Australia 90; in Western Australia 87 ; and in Tasmania 38. I quote these figures from a return furnished to the Senate. I find that receiving offices are established when it is estimated that the minimum aggregate number of letters will be 600 per annum, and the estimated annual revenue less than £15. The postal work expected to be done by the person in charge of these offices includes the receipt and despatch of mails, delivery of correspondence, and the sale of stamps. The remuneration paid to persons in charge varies from a minimum of £1 to a maximum of £8 per annum, according to the amount of business transacted. They also receive a commission on the sale of stamps at the rate of 6d. in the £1, but they have to buy the stamps themselves, and are responsible for them before they sell them. There is another class of post-office which is called an allowance post-office, and the following statement by a press cor respondent at Bunyip shows the way in which the people in charge of these offices are treated -
The postmistress at Iona complains of the sweating policy adopted by the Federal Government. Up to 30th June the telephone business in the office was paid for by results, but the postmistress then received notice that in future she would be paid a certain sum for all office work, which left the payment for the telephone business at the munificent amount of £2 per annum, or9d. per week. On Friday the postmistress received her quarter’s allowance, plus 10s. for the telephone work. Last month, in addition to oral conversations, forty-two telegrams were remitted and received, and the postmistress is of opinion that9d. per week is a sweating wage for the work. The office work in the letter department is also increasing, being double that of twelve months ago.
I think that we should take a stand in this matter, and see that these people are fairly paid. I have already mentioned one case in the Senate of a man in charge of a receivingoffice who handles 2,500 letters posted at the office, and some 5,000 more that come to him from other offices. He has to make up mails and be responsible for everything connected with the management of the office, and he gets the magnificent amount of £4 per annum. I desire that honorable senators shall take some action in the matter, and, in order that it may be brought forcibly under the notice of the authorities, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 15, division 106, “Allowances to non-official postmasters, receiving office keepers and others,£67,750, “ by the sum of
– I wish very briefly to indorse what Senator McColl has said. I have been acquainted with many of the persons in charge of these receiving and allowance postoffices. I do not know what the system of payment is exactly, but I understand that the payment is decided by a double test - the number of letters handled, and the income received. In the case of receivingoffices established in the outer suburbs of large centres of population, the residents often purchase their stamps at the small offices and post their letters in the larger centre, with the result that the receivingofficers in charge of the small offices lose credit for money earned by them. The office in the district in which I reside is 13 miles from the nearest railway station. The person responsible for it has to provide a room, sell stamps, receive letters, receive and despatch mails, sell postal notes, attend to the telephone, and, latterly, has had to pay pensions to a few old-age pensioners in the district, yet the total payment for all this would scarcely pay for the room at current rental. It is about 8s. per week altogether.
– That is a princely sum compared to what some get.
– This is not a receivingoffice, but an allowance-office.
– They take it at that price.
– That argument is worth nothing, because the honorable senator would be the last man to justify a boilermaker taking a job at less than a reasonable rate of wage, and he would assist him to fight the boss for a higher rate.
– I have received rival deputations from a district in support of the claims of persons willing to take a receiving post-office for£6 a year.
– Any Government worthy of the name should be above accepting the services of people on such sweating terms. The persons concerned make representations through the Deputy Postmaster-General of the State, and usually are told that their case will be considered, and then hear no more of it. I am afraid that the metropolitan districts are, in these matters, being pampered at the expense of country districts. One of the chief articles of our faith is to develop and open up the country for settlement, especially by affording facilities of communication. In regard to public servants generally, Parliament has recently passed an Act to allow appeals to an arbitration tribunal. But these scattered individuals, who are not in the regular Public Service, have no means of making their complaints known through an organization, and cannot resort even to the valuable expedient known as a strike. I am told that if they insist on improvements in their rates of pay, many districts will be left without postal facilities. But if we have not revenue enough to pay these persons properly, in God’s name let us get it, and not write ourselves down as such a poverty-stricken people that we cannot pay properly for services rendered.
– This is a question upon which it is easy to be sarcastic ; but it is a question as to which we have to make up our minds where to draw the line. No one would say that we ought to pay the minimum Public Service wage of £126 a year for services rendered by keepers of allowance offices.
– No; but we should pay adequately for services rendered.
– People in the country districts require postal services, and it: is the duty of the Department to give them) facilities wherever that can be done. But, it would be absurd to say that where there are only a few people living in a district, a person who undertakes postal work should be paid £126 a year. We have to decide upon a practical arrangement for remunerating them for the services they render. There is a scale of payments which persons who undertake this work for the Post Office know all about beforehand. What happens is this : Usually a shopkeeper agrees to undertake postal work for a country district. Shopkeepers are glad to have the opportunity,because the postal business brings trade to their shop. I will quote the scale of allowances. Where the postal articles posted at a non-official office number 2,000 or under, the payment is £5 per annum; over 2,000, or up to 3,000 articles,. £6 per annum; each 1,000, or part thereof, over 3,000, 10s. per annum.
– Is there any conditions as to accommodation required?
– No; postal business in these cases can generally be done easier in a shop. I presume, in the case of the bigger offices, where these rates are very much exceeded, the business may be done in a separate room ; but that is not the rule. In addition to the rates quoted, there are rates for mails, including private bags. The payment for 312 per annum or under is £3 annum; over 312, and up to. 624 per annum, £5 per annum; each additional 312 over 624 per annum, £1 per annum. If Sunday attendance is required, an extra£1 per annum is allowed for each regular and necessary attendance. Of course, it is not necessary to be present all day on Sunday, but simply for a short period to take up mails. The allowance for night attendance for receipt and despatch of mails is £1 per annum for each attendance weekly between the hours laid down for closing and opening. As to telephone work1d. per conversation whether outward or inward is allowed for attending to public telephone trunk line conversations; attending public telephone calls where coin attachments are not provided, one-third of a penny per call ; attending main or branch public telephonelines required to be switched for intercommunication1d. per attendance. The allowance for money orders is1d. for -each transaction issued or paid. The allowance on account of postal notes is 2d. for each complete £1 worth of postal notes sold. The allowance for Savings Bank duties is 4s. per cent, on amount of deposits and withdrawals. It is all very well to say that these amounts ought to be increased. But what would the effect be if they were increased? If this Parliament chose to say “ We are going to insist on increases “ the Department would not worry. It would increase the rates. But what would happen ? The loss on the Post Office would be immensely increased. This action would then be a kind of boomerang, because we should have members of Parliament directing attention to the increasing loss and demanding that something should be done to reduce it. The PostmasterGeneral would look round for some direction in which to make reductions. He would find that revenue was being lost on account of these allowance offices and would decrease their number. There has been no difficulty in getting persons to act. On the contrary, many are generally anxious to get this business to do. I trust the Committee will not carry the request. I am certain that if it is carried it will have the effect ultimately of diminishing privileges which are much appreciated by people in country districts, and which are a great convenience to them.
.. - I am simply amazed at the statements made by the Minister of Defence. If these demands had1 come from some union or organized body of people we should have had the Government breaking their necks to comply with them. But because those on behalf of whom I have been speaking are scattered their demands are put on one side. The Minister says that the offices dc not pay, but is that any reason why the Commonwealth should not remunerate people properly for services rendered? I trust that the Committee will carry the request, in Order that the matter may be brought before the authorities in a substantial form.
– I feel, with Senator McColl, that there is good ground for demanding a revision of the whole of the circumstances under which these postal facilities are granted and paid for. But I am not prepared to say at once that there ought to be an automatic increase all round. I suggest to Senator McColl that, after having ventilated” the matter and ascertained that there is a sympathetic feeling in the Committee, he might withdraw the request-
– There is not much sympathy on the part of the Government.
– The Government are as sympathetic as any one.
Senator -MILLEN. - Nothing that Senator McColl can say against this. Governmentwill be too strong for me. But unless we are prepared to affirm that there ought to be an automatic increase all round we ought not to agree to the request. Senator McColl has done enough to show that there is a desire for a more generous scale. I suggest to him that he might leave the matter at that point.
– I can say this - that when the question was raised on a previous occasion it was brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General, and I know that he has given attention to it. He is still giving attention to the representations which were then made, as he will do, I am sure, to the representations made on this occasion.
– With that assurance from the Minister,. I ask leave to withdraw my request.
Request, by leave, withdrawn.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Postponed clause 2 agreed to.
Postponed clause 3 (Appropriation of supplies, £8,495,364).
– This clause covers the total appropriations. This Bill contains an advance of £400,000 to the Treasurer, and if I recollect aright, we passed a Supply Bill the other day containing an item of £150,000 for the same purpose. It seems to me that we are giving to the Treasurer a blank cheque on which he can have a royal time without any supervision over the expenditure of the money. We will assume that nearly one-half of this item of £400,000 has been spent, and that no account has been rendered to the Parliament. We are giving the Treasurer authority to spend £550,000 without knowing how it is to be spent. I should like the Minister to say whether my recollection is right that in a Supply Bill wc voted £r50,000 for the Treasurer’s Advance, and that in this Bill we are appropriating £400,000 for that purpose.
– - The item which was passed in the Supply Bill the other day was part of the sum which is appropriated in this Bill.
– What is it used for?
– It is used for various purposes.
– This Bill appropriates £400,000 - to enable the Treasurer to make advances to public officers and to meet expenditure, particulars of which will afterwards be included in a parliamentary appropriation.
Surely we ought to know the probable destination of this money. If the appropriation of money is not a farce, surely we can ask a question about an item and get an answer from the Government?
– The item of £400,000 in this Bill is the total amount of the Treasurer’s Advance. I have allowed the Secretary to the Treasury to go away, and I can hardly be expected to say how every pound of that sum has been spent. It is the necessary amount which has been granted to the Treasurer to meet cases of emergency. It has been spent in that way. The AuditorGeneral Will see that every penny of the amount is accounted for.
– The position is not that we suspect the Treasurer of walking away surreptitiously with £400,000 in one pocket, and £150,000 in the other. Do I understand the Minister to say that the item of £150,000 which we passed the other day as Treasurer’s Advance is part of this item of £400,000?
– That is what I understand.
– That is not quite in accord with the statement which the Minister of Defence made to me the other day when be said that it was a Treasurer’s Advance to. carry on the Departments from the 1st July, 1911, into the next financial year.
– That is the statement still. I am told that a large portion of this money has not yet been spent. I may point out that the proper time to discuss the manner in which it is spent will be when the Supplementary Estimates are brought forward next );ear. The expenditure of the Treasurer’s Advance will continue until the 30th June.
– I am not troubled about how long the expenditure of the money will go on. We are increasing little by little the amount of the Treasurer’s Advance.
– Not in proportion to the total expenditure.
– That may be very comforting to the Minister. If the Senate is prepared to tolerate a system under which, little by little, the Treasurer’s Advance is growing to an enormous sum, it might as well ask the total amount of the Estimates, sign a cheque, and have done with the business. Years ago the Treasurer’s Advance was started with the modest sum of £20,000. There was more objection offered to that amount than is raised1 here to-night to this item of £400,000, because the practice has grown little by little until, by reason of very familiarity, honorable senators are losing sight of the danger which underlies it. The Government are not satisfied with a liberal Treasurer’s Advance for this financial year, but want an Advance of £150,000 for the next year.
– The Treasurer cannot spend any money after the 1st July.
– The honorable senator told me the other day that the Treasurer’s Advance of £150,000 was required for the first month of the next financial year.
– It is part of the item of £400,000 in this Bill.
– The Treasurer’s Advance has grown to quite unnecessary and abnormal dimensions. As long as the Senate is prepared to pass the item as a matter of form, no doubt the Government will take advantage of this facility to get money in that manner. But Parliament will have no control over the way in which it is spent. The Treasurer, for instance, can spend the sum of. £400,000 as he likes
– But Parliament has control over the Treasurer?
– The only effective way in which Parliament can ‘exercise any control is by first approving of the purpose for which the money is to be spent. I expect that, in the course o? five or six years, the Treasurer’s Advance will have reached £1,000,000. It is idle for Senator Long to talk about exercising any control when the vote is allowed to expand by leaps and bounds.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [9.40].- The Minister has stated that the AuditorGeneral will look into the- expenditure of this money, but his report is not made available until fully twelve months after the close of the financial year. I believe that his report for the year ending 30th June, 1910, was tabled here just fifteen months after that date. Is it reasonable that we should be compelled to wait for fifteen months, after the whole of the accounts have been adjusted, for the certificate of the AuditorGeneral, and such remarks as he may see fit to make regarding the public expenditure? He is appointed to examine the public accounts, to report to Parliament whether the moneys have been spent in accordance with its directions, and to make such suggestions as he may consider necessary in connexion with the accounts. The Ministry ought, as far as they can, to take steps to hasten the production of his report. “Every year a sum is placed in the hands of the Treasurer with authority from Parliament to spend it as he may deem necessary in the interests of the Public Service, where money has not already been provided, or where an insufficient amount has been provided ; that, is to meet the cases of unforeseen expenditure.
– And all that is abso lutely necessary.
.- It is the duty of the Government to foresee these matters as far as possible, and so reduce the amount of the Treasurer’s Advance. Parliament absolutely loses control of the expenditure of this money, because at the end of the financial year, after the money has been spent, the Treasurer submits Supplementary Estimates, which have to receive parliamentary sanction. If any of the money has been spent improperly, the only course open to Parliament is to blame the Treasurer. lt can exercise no effective control over its expenditure. I would urge upon Ministers the desirableness of keeping the Treasurer’s Advance within as tight bounds as possible. As Senator Millen has pointed out, it has grown from £20,000 in the early days of Federation to £400,000. I hope, too, that the Government will expedite the presentation of the report of the Auditor-General, so that that document may be available to honorable senators within three or four months after the close of each financial year.
– Senator Gould has drawn attention to a point which is of very great importance. He has shown that the Auditor-General’s report is presented to Parliament at a very belated period. It was only on the 30th September last that that report, for the year ended 30th June, 1910, was ordered to be printed. We are now dealing with the finances of the Commonwealth for the year ended 30th June, ipu ; but the report of the Auditor-General is not forthcoming. The position which obtains in the State Parliaments is a very different one from that which obtains here. There, an honorable member, when discussing the State finances, is always in possession of the report of the Auditor-General for the year which has just closed. But here we are called upon to pass the current year’s financial accounts, and fifteen months hence we shall receive the Auditor-General’s report upon them.
– We all agree with the honorable senator, that the report ought to be available, and we will do what we can to expedite it. But the Auditor-General is not under die control of the Government.
– If he cannot submit his report in less than fifteen months after the period with which it deals, the Government ought to impeach him. I have referred to this matter on previous occasions, but nobody seems to take any notice of my complaints. As a matter of fact, the report of the Auditor-General ought to be laid upon the table of Parliament within three or four months of the close of each financial year.
– What is the good of it if it is not presented promptly?
– How would my honorable friends opposite like to face a meeting of shareholders of a company with a balance-sheet to which no auditor’s report was attached? I claim that we are quite justified, even at this late hour of the session, in protesting against the manner in which we have been treated for years past, and the manner in which, according to appearances, we are likely to be treated in the future.
Clause agreed to.-
– - I think that Senators Millen and Chataway have rendered good service to -the community by drawing attention to the fact that the Auditor-General’s report makes a very tardy appearance each year. The discussion which has taken place will, I think, prove of advantage to this Chamber. I hope that in future we shall not be in a position to say that we are called upon to discuss the Estimates without having the report of the Auditor-General before us.
Postponed Abstract agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
. -In moving -
That this Bill be now read a first time,
I intend to be as brief as possible. The measure provides for one of those supplementary appropriations of revenue which recur every year. Honorable senators will recognise that the money to which it relates was spent, not in the last financial year, but in the financial year 1909-10. The introduction of Bills of this description at such a late stage of the session is unavoidable. The reason why this Bill could not be dealt with at the end of last session was that, at that time, the AuditorGeneral’s report had not been received. In this connexion, I would ask honorable senators to recollect that the Commonwealth occupies an entirely different position from that which is occupied by any State. Its accounts have to be kept in various portions of the continent, and the AuditorGeneral has to investigate those accounts before he can complete his report. Consequently this comes later. I wish to say that a practice has grown up in the Commonwealth which was established in the early days of Federation, when Federal Ministers had comparatively very little work to do which took them from one part of the Commonwealth to another. As a result, when they went from one part of the Commonwealth to another to attend to their public duties they paid their own personal expenses. I now make the statement that the practice adopted in every one of the States in this connexion will, in future, be carried out in the Commonwealth. This does not concern Honorary Ministers like myself, but when, in future, other members of the Government travel from one part of the Commonwealth to another in connexion with public business, the Commonwealth will pay their expenses. The Supplementary Appropriation Bill is for the sum of £95,815 for the year 1909-10. If necessary, I can give the items of expenditure in each Department, but in view of the fact that another place is ready to prorogue and is waiting only to finish the little work that yet remains to be done by the Senate, I shall not say any more on the subject.
– Was this £95,815 taken from the Treasurer’s Advance Account ?
– Yes; it was taken then from the Treasurer’s Advance Account, and now requires to be appropriated.
– Before I deal with the Bill I wish to refer to one of the last statements made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I wish to say at once that the Government have taken the right course in determining that in future Ministers travelling on public business shall not have to put their hands into their own pockets to pay their expenses.
– But they never did, because they drew their salaries as members to recoup them for those expenses.
– It is not necessary to draw these fine distinctions.
– The honorable senator expects to be a Minister one day, and can defend that practice.
– Senator Givens does, too. Every man who is in the political arena who is worth his salt hopes one day to take command. I ask honorable senators to remember that not long ago Mr. Fisher travelled to Hobart to attend a Conference there of the Premiers of the States, and it was absurd that he should have to pay his own travelling expenses when every State Premier he met had his expenses paid by his State. I should like to say, further, that hitherto, whenever Ministers have been called upon to extend courtesy to any visitor of distinction from any part of the world, that has meant another charge upon their private purse.
– That is altogether wrong.
– I think it is. I have known one or two visitors to this country who were entitled to be received publicly by the representatives of the people of Australia. They were so received, but I am certain that the people did not know, and did not expect that their Ministerial representatives should extend courtesy in the name of Australia at their own private expense. I turn now to this Bill, and if any confirmation were required of what I said a few minutes ago as to our losing, little by little, the grip which we should maintain upon public expenditure through the practice adopted in connexion with the Treasurer’s Advance, it is furnished by this Bill. It is clear from this Bill that, before the 30th June of last year, the Treasurer managed to spend practically £100,000, and this Parliament had absolutely no control then, and has none now, over that expenditure. If any one proposes to criticise any of these items, the answer is, “ You need not bother, this money has been spent.” It is reducing parliamentary control to a farce when we have placed in our hands a document showing how money has been spent, and we are told that, no matter what we do, we cannot get that money back. This arises from permitting the Treasurer’s Advance to swell to such abnormal dimensions. I admit that it is necessary that the Treasurer should have some petty cash to meet contingencies. By that I do not mean a few shillings, but a reasonable amount. But every time a demand is made for an increasing amount for the Treasurer’s Advance, and Parliament passes it as a merely formal matter. The result is that to-day, not only are we giving this enormous spending power uncontrolled into the hands of the Federal Treasurer, but owing to the laxity of the AuditorGeneral we do not get the details of the expenditure until the very last moment. I venture to say that if Parliament were not about to be prorogued now this document would not yet be in our hands.
– Is that the fault of the Auditor-General or the Audit Act?
– The AuditorGeneral is required to report to Parliament, and is supposed to have his report in as early as possible.
– It is nearly always a belated report.
– That is so. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has stated that one reason for the delay is that, owing to the great extent of Australia, some time must elapse before the Auditor- General can get in vouchers and particulars of expenditure from remote places, upon which his report must be based. The shortest period within which any of this money could have been spent was eighteen months ago, and it is idle to say that the vouchers of expenditure could not have been received from any part of Australia within that time.
– This Bill deals with the expenditure of the Government of which the honorable senator was a member.
– The Government of which I was a member were not responsible for the delay in the presentation of this report.
– The honorable senator submitted one of these Bills on behalf of the predecessors of this Government some time ago.
– That is so; but Senator Pearce will do me the justice of saying that I have always raised my voice in protest against the practice of gradually increasing the amount of the Treasurer’s Advance, and against the late presentation of the Auditor- General’s report.
– We shall take care that this week’s Hansard is sent to the Auditor-General.
– I would suggest that the Minister should not do that. The Auditor-General is tremendously pressed with work, and if he is given the task of reading such literature as Hansard he may never do anything else. I ask the Senate, in all seriousness, to recognise clearly what we are doing in connexion with the Treasurer’s Advance. If they do, I am satisfied that they will, sooner or later, individually or collectively, express an opinion which will tend to set a limit upon these ever-growing demands of the Treasurer.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [10.10].- I do not think it is fair that the blame for the delay in the presentation of the report of the Auditor-General should be thrown upon that officer. I have a copy of the report, and I find that the AuditorGeneral says -
The statement of the honorable the Treasurer relating to the accounts for the year 1909-10 was received by me complete this tenth day of March, 1911.
So that already nine months had elapsed before the accounts were completely submitted to the Auditor-General for consideration. It is, therefore, not his fault that the report was delayed. I turn to the Audit Act, and I find that provision is made that -
The Treasurer shall, as soon as practicable after the end of every financial year, prepare a full and particular statement in detail of the expenditure of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for such year. and of the loan funds and other accounts. Provision is made for a quarterly statement, and for the certificate of the AuditorGeneral to be obtained in connexion with various items of expenditure. Nine months of the financial year elapsed before the Auditor-General received the complete statement of accounts from the Treasurer, and his report was tabled on the 5th September, 191 1, or six months later.
– It may have been ready before that.
D- Probably it was. The AuditorGeneral says further -
The late receipt of statement and accounts made it impossible for my report to be prepared and presented to Parliament prior to the close of the recent session.
That session closed at the end of November. The Auditor-General goes on to give a detailed criticism of the various matters which came under his notice in the accounts. This report is dated 10th March, 191 1, which was the date on which he received the completed statement of accounts from the Treasurer.
– So that he examined all the accounts on the day he received them.
– Under these circumstances, it will be seen that the Auditor- General is not to blame, but that the blame lies with the Treasury. It shows how necessary it is to refer to these reports, in order to ascertain where the blame lies. I recognise that the Government laid this document on the table directly after Parliament met, so that we had an opportunity of seeing what the Auditor-General had reported as far back as September last. He includes in his report a statement of accounts to be included in the Supplementary Estimates for 1909-10. That embraces the same information as is given to us in this Bill. Every word is the same, and the amounts are exactly those which the Treasurer of the day had certified. So that it would have been quite within the power of the Government to table this Bill earlier, even if they had not gone on with it. If that had been done, there would have been no necessity for complaints regarding the measure. The delay really lies with the Treasury in being unable to submit their complete accounts to the 30th June, 1910, until nine months after the expenditure was incurred.
– There was no opportunity of bringing in this Bill last session.
– No, but there was surely an opportunity for the Treasurer to submit his accounts within three months of the close of the financial year. If that had been done, they might have been laid before the Senate before the close of last session. I do not say that an explanation cannot be furnished for the delay, but, at all events, an explanation ought to be made, and care should be taken that such delay does not take place in future.
– This discussion has been very instructive to me. I now understand why Senator Millen urged that the AuditorGeneral’s office should be removed from the Treasury and placed in the Prime Minister’s Department.
– It is well that attention has been drawn to the matter. It appears to me that either the Audit Act or the Auditor-General’s office wants examining into.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– If I have sought to place a measure of blame on the wrong shoulders, I desire to withdraw what I said, and to direct my censure towards those who clearly ought to bear the burden of responsibility. Senator Gould pointed out that the Auditor-General’s report indicates that as soon as he received the statements of accounts from the Treasury he proceeded to draft what he had to say to Parliament on the subject. Therefore the measure of blame ought to go, with added interest, to the door of the Treasury, and not to that of the Auditor-General. The Auditor-General’s report is dated 10th March last. Why, then, was this Bill not presented until now? Early in the session the Government had to come down and ask the Senate to adjourn because there was no business to go on with. Surely this Bill could have been brought before the other House, passed, and sent up to this Chamber.
– The other House did not adjourn; it had plenty of other business.
– The practice is growing up of regarding the Senate as a negligible quantity. I regret that, apparently, honorable senators are too well satisfied with things as they are to join with me in an effective protest.
– What would the honorable senator call an effective protest?
– If Senator Rae assures me of his willingness to join me in a protest we would soon find ways to make it effective. He has had sufficient parliamentary experience to know that there are many ways in which a House of Legislature can make its determination felt. We shall never secure proper opportunities for considering matters of this kind unless we make such a protest.
– I wish to point out that a parliamentary election caused a delay in 1910. Several months elapsed before accounts came in. The Government entirely agree with what the Leader of the Opposition has said. It has, however, always been the practice to bring such Bills down at this period of the session. I will ascertain whether they cannot be presented earlier in the future, so as to comply with the request which Senator Millen has made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 and abstract postponed.
– I have risen again to draw attention to one or two items in this schedule which emphasize the tendency to enlarge unnecessarily the Treasurer’s Advance. In subdivision 16 of the schedule there is an item of £4,375, for the purposes of a survey of the north-west coast of Australia. The very nature of that work, and its magnitude, guarantee that the proposal could have been submitted to Parliament in anticipation of the expenditure. There was no earthly reason why a proposal of the kind should not have been submitted for parliamentary approval.
– This expenditure was incurred by the previous Government.
– I will admit that all Governments have done wrong. I am speaking of the practice which is growing up of incurring expenditure out of the Treasurer’s Advance, and not submitting projects for parliamentary approval.
– The agreement to share this expenditure was arrived at after the Estimates were passed, and so the money had to be paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance.
– When was it paid? There are dozens of ways in which parliamentary approval could have been asked for. There is also a way of avoiding parliamentary approval, when a Government does not want to seek it. As showing how steadily has grown up the idea, not only in the mind of Ministers, but also in the mind of the Chairman of Committees and the Temporary Chairman, that large projects can be undertaken without parliamentary approval, the present occupant of the Chair has proposed to put this schedule to the Committee in Departments.
– The honorable senator must not make reflections upon the Chair. In stating that I intended to put the schedule in Departments, I expressly said, “ If there is no objection.”
– I have no objection, because I recognise that we have no opportunity of considering these matters properly. Their presentation has become a mere matter of form, and it does not matter whether you, sir, put the schedule in Departments, or in the lump, as far as I am concerned.
– Item 13 in division 16 reads, “Refunds of fines under Immigration Restriction Act, £1,197.” Can the Minister explain why such a large amount was refunded and to whom?
– These fines were inflicted on account of alien crews who had escaped. When an alien is found and deported the amount of the fine is refunded.
Schedule agreed to.
Postponed clause 2 and abstract agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request, and. passed through its remaining stages.
Senator McGREGOR laid upon the table the following papers : -
Report of the Government Resident, Northern Territory of Australia.
Papua : Report for the year ended 30th June, 1911.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– 1 move-
That this Bill be now read a first time.
This is a Bill of the same character and for the same financial year as the previous one, though it does not refer to the ordinary annual services of the Commonwealth. It refers to small amounts which were overlooked in regard to works and buildings, and which require ratification by Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first and a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 postponed.
– Under the head of “ Home Affairs,” honorable senators will find a number of items for land resumptions. We have an authority for the Government, which acts through the Home Affairs Department, to acquire lands needed for public purposes. When the law was passed the resumptions which were then immediately in view were necessarily small ones ; but with ,the growth of the Commonwealth, and the expansion of its responsibilities, a larger class of resumptions has to be undertaken. I have previously pointed out that in my opinion the time has arrived when a different system of arriving at the value of lands resumed should be adopted. Having decided that they want a certain area, the practice is for the departmental officers to approach the owner, and by private treaty to arrive at what is regarded as a satisfactory compensation. That may be all right when the Department is dealing with a quarter-acre allotment for a postoffice. But there is a great danger if we continue to sanction indefinitely the right of anybody in a private office to go in for the big resumptions which stand immediately in front of us. No State Government or Parliament would tolerate it for a moment. In every State which has a Closer Settlement Act there is .as proper procedure, under which the public- interests are absolutely safeguarded. I donot suggest that in any resumptions which have taken place there has been the slightest impropriety. The only way in which we can avoid, sooner or later, either a serious mistake or a serious scandal, is to adopt well’-known safeguards, the adoption of which has been justified by experience in other countries and at other times. In all the States which haveadopted a system of resuming estates for closer settlement there is a proper procedure under which the Minister can enter into negotiations with the owner of ait estate either directly, or, if he wishes to conceal his identity, through an agent.. Having secured . an offer, it is then submitted to Parliament for consideration and approval. This system is absolutely free from the possibility of any abuse. But we have bigger and bigger resumptions, that is in the total amount going on every day, with the result that sooner or later we shall discover something which will not be satisfactory to us here. A proposal has been» put forward quite recently by the Minister of Home Affairs for the resumption of the very heart of Sydney - a resumption which, would cost an enormous sum - and I believe that it has lately been resuscitated!, by a number of members of the other House, and is, for all I know, supported1 by some honorable senators. I am not supporting the proposal, but pointing out the possibility of that enormous resumption being undertaken. I ask honorable senators which would be the better plan for the Minister of Home Affairs to adopt in> the interests of himself and of his Department - to leave the negotiations for all thesevaried and enormous interests to be dealt with behind the closed doors of the Department, or to deal with them under some recognised procedure approved by Parliament, where the interests of both the vendor and the public could be amply safeguarded ? I invite the Government to consider the desirability of adopting some system to deal with these resumptions more in conformity with that which experiencehas shown to be necessary in other places. T want honorable senators, as far as they will, to consider my suggestion. I believethat if I can engender a feeling in theminds of parliamentarians that this ought to be done, it will not be very long, before the Minister will respond to ‘that general feeling.
– Onpage3, I notice an item of £184 for “ Trawler and equipment.” I desire to know whether the Government have any intention to carry out a promise which was made to me by the previous Government, and also I believe by members of the present Government, to have published, with drawings and diagrams, a report of the work being done by the trawler.
– There is a report.
– There is nothing of the sort. There is a paper with pages and pages of references to so many fathoms, inches, and yards, and the water which has been gone over. I ask the Government to step out of the old groove and to supply honorable senators with a similar report to those which were issued some twenty years ago by the late Mr. Savill Kent, and which dealt with the fisheries of Queensland. Every line of those reports was really informative. Is it not possible for us to obtain from Captain Dannevig, who is in command of the trawler, a similar report as to the various classes of fish which are to be found along our Australian coast?
– The last report issued was a very full one.
– It did not contain a single plate. I am asking that the report shall be drawn up in such a form that not merely the scientist like Senator Guthrie will be able to understand it, but that the ordinary man in the street may understand it.
– Senator Chataway brought this matter forward previously, and it was then pointed out to him that a very valuable report had been compiled by the officer who is in charge of the trawler, and that the publication of his reports was being attended with beneficial results. As a matter of fact, those reports are attracting capital to the fishing industry. The honorable senator’s remarks will be brought under the notice of the Minister, with a view to seeing if anything further can be done.
Schedule agreed to.
Postponed clause 2 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
Bill read a first time.
. -In moving
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I desire to say that the £600,000 which is set out in the schedule to it has already been voted in a lump sum under the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Act of this year. But a promise was given by the Treasurer, and was repeated here by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, that a measure would be introduced setting out the items upon which it was proposed to expend that money. This Bill has been brought forward in redemption of that promise. It provides that if, at the end of the financial year, the money paid into the Trust Fund has not been expended, the vote will not lapse, but the money may still be expended without further authorization by Parliament. This Bill forms part of a general scheme under which £700,000 voted upon the General Estimates for the current financial year will be spent upon the Postal Department, quite apart from the sum for which the measure itself provides. It is proposed that a similar amount shall be expended next year, making a total expenditure on the Post Office of £2,000,000. The £600,000 provided for in this Bill is to be paid into a Trust Fund.
– It would be a farce to attempt to discuss any of the very large questions opened up by the schedule to this Bill. I should like, in other circumstances, to debate the question of metallic circuits, and the steps which may be contemplated, for all we know, under this measure. We are practically asked to give a cheque forthe amount, with very general and indefinite instructions as to how the money is to be expended. I should have liked to ask the Government for more detailed information as to the way in which the money is to be laid out ; but it would be merely beating the air to press inquiries at this juncture. It must not be held that by allowing the measure to go through anybody here expresses approval of the methods of expenditure contemplated. Will the Government state how many more Appropriation Bills we are to be asked to deal with to-night?
– The Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill.
– That is only about the sixth, and I refuse to believe that the Government will let us off with such a beggarly array of Appropriation Bills hurried in during the closing hours of the session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses1 to 4 agreed to.
– Queensland, which now represents over one-eighth of the whole of Australia, is allowed only £28,400 out of a total expenditure of £600,000 for the whole Commonwealth. The State, therefore, is not getting its fair share. According to the honorable member for Maranoa, Queensland has not had a single extra line of telegraphic communication established since the Commonwealth came into existence. It remains for the present Government to remedy that state of affairs; but they will not do so by allowing Queensland this paltry sum, when the State’s true proportion ought to be something like £75,000. Senator PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister of Defence) [10.59]. - It would be utterly foolish to chop the total vote into six parts, and spend it according to population if it were not required. The sum of £2,000,000 is to be expended to put the whole of the services of the Postal Department in a proper condition, irrespective of State boundaries. How does the honorable senator know that Queensland is not getting more than its population share of the £700,000?
– One might assume that an effort had been made in allotting the money to divide the amount required for any given State into three yearly periods. Am I right in believing that this sum represents only one-third of the special appropriation which is going to Queensland?
– The other £700,000 next year will be on the main Works Estimates.
– We are told that £2,000,000 is to be spent to put the telegraphic, telephonic, and postal systemsin a state of efficiency, and the Government announced that, as the money could not be all spent in one year, it was to be spread over three years, one-third to be expended each year. Therefore, whatever amount is to be spent in each State ought similarly to have been cut into three parts. If that method has not been adopted, why are the works of one State left long after the works in other States have been placed in a state of repair?
– The works may be completed in two years or less, and the expenditure is not being cut up into three yearly parts. A sum of £2,000,000 is necessary to put the services in proper condition. The Government provide £700,000 in each of two years by annual appropriation spread over the various States, and the remaining £600,000 by this schedule-. The money will be spent as soon as possible.
. -What is the total amount which the officials of the Department say is necessary to put the works of Queensland in a state of efficiency ?
– I cannot say. I have not the figures, except as regards this schedule. The amount on the main Works Estimates for Queensland was £71,600.
– What proportion of the £2,000,000 is to be spent in Queensland?
– £71,600, plus £28,400, plus whatever balance is wanted next year. I cannot tell how much that will be.
– The information must be in the Department. How can the Department split the £2,000,000 up unless it adds together the totals for the respective States ?
– Does the honorable senator think that Queensland is not going to get its fair share?
– If the information for which I ask is not available, it ought to be. The amount set down for Queensland in the schedule is out of all proportion to the total.
– Is it the smallness of the amount for Queensland that makes the honorable senator question the item?
– It is the disproportion; and one may assume from that fact that some very arbitrary methods have been adopted by the Department in allotting these amounts.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended ; and (on motion by Senator McGregor) Bill read a first time.
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I desire to be as brief as possible. Honorable senators will recollect that we have already had before us a Commonwealth Loan Bill ; and it is for the purpose of providing the machinery for the issue and management of stock to supply the funds in connexion with that Bill that this measure has been introduced. I promised that I would not allow the Loan Bill to leave the Senate until this measure had been passed ; and that promise has been kept, since the third reading yet remains to be taken. This is a non -contentious measure, and as I have no desire to delay the Senate, I shall simply conclude by asking honorable senators to accept the motion.
– I was rather surprised to hear the Vice-President of the Executive Council introduce this Bill with the assurance that it was non-contentious, and that, therefore, there was really nothing in it to discuss. The honorable senator surely could not ask the Senate to take such a statement seriously. I know of no Bill that could possibly open wider the doors upon a subject which is, in itself, complicated, and of considerable magnitude, than does that now before us. It brings under review the whole question of public borrowing, and the principlesupon which it should rest; and I regret that time and circumstances do not furnish us with the opportunity to which we are entitled to thoroughly and fully discuss it. We have to recognise, however, that the Bill marks a first step towards a new departure so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. By passing it in conjunction with another measure, which is about to leave our hands, we shall definitely launch upon a borrowing policy.
– Worse luck.
– That in itself is a contentious feature of this measure, and, to that extent, we have a contradiction of the opening statement made by the VicePresident of the Executive Council. It is the irony of fate, and it seems almost like poetic justice, that the party that has for many years paraded before the public the policy of no borrowing, or restricted borrowing, should be the first to ask Parliament to sanction a loan.
– No; the first Parliament was asked by Sir George Turner to pass a Loan Bill.
– And we well remember the attitude which the honorable member’s party took up on that proposal. They were almost paralyzed with horror when presented with a Bill providing for the raising of a modest loan of £500,000.
– What about the Naval Loan Bill passed by the late Government.
– I repeat that this is the first Commonwealth Government that is going to borrow.
– The honorable senator said, a moment or two ago, that it was the first which proposed to borrow, and that is an entirely different statement.
– If I did, I am prepared to withdraw the remark, in order to meet the views of my honorable friend. It will probably be contended by honorable senators opposite, before this debate is over, that it is quite inaccurate to say that the Labour party has ever been opposed to borrowing. Quite recently, some one in this Chamber quoted a plank in the Labour party’splatform, providing- I think I am correct in saying - for “the restriction of public borrowing.”
– There was nothing in that platform to prevent an individual senator opposing a borrowing policy if he thought fit to do so.
– I cannot conceive of any platform which would prevent Senator Rae opposing anything he desires to oppose. The honorable senator will not deny that he has said from the public platform that he is an opponent of borrowing in any circumstances. I take the platform of the party officially sanctioned at the conferences, at which it is drawn up and ratified from time to time, and the expression on that platform is “Restriction of public borrowing.”
– Except for reproductive works.
– The honorable senator is reading half the platform, and not the full resolution, or he has forgotten something.
– I am prepared to wait until Senator E. J. Russell refreshes my memory. One of the claims on behalf of the Labour platform has been that it is so plain that he who runs may read it. I see in cold print upon it, “ Restriction of public borrowing,” and then I am told that I must go somewhere else to discover what is really meant. It reminds me of a railway time-table. You wish to know at what time your train leaves. You put your finger on the proper column, and you see there a small letter referring you to a footnote, which tells you to look somewhere else,, and by the time you have hunted up the new reference you do not know when your train starts. In order that we may discover what the Labour platform really does mean, let us deal with each of the divergent interpretations given by two members of the party. The first admits that the platform is “ Restriction of public borrowing.” Then it is said that that means restriction of borrowing to reproductive works-. I propose to test what is meant by that by what is proposed by the Government and the party. Senator McGregor, in introducing the Bill, said that it is not true to say that the Labour party are against borrowing, but that they are against borrowing money for the payment of anything which they think ought to be paid out of revenue. There is. not. a political party that ever lived that would not subscribe to that doctrine. What is more, there is not a political party in or out of Australia that will not heartily subscribe to the doctrine “ Restriction of public borrowing,” but when we come to apply the test in practical politics we begin to understand the real value of these more or less high-sounding phrases. Can it be contended for one moment that the policy of the present Government is to restrict borrowing to reproductive works ? What is a reproductive work ? Reproductive of what - profit or loss ?
– Of good for the Commonwealth.
– Then the honorable senator has justified the Naval Loan Act, which certainly was reproductive of good to the Commonwealth. Let us follow this a little further. If the restriction of public borrowing be to those things which ought not to be paid for out of revenue, it becomes merely a question of expediency and the circumstances of the Government to determine what ought to be paid out of revenue and what from loan. What seems to me to be the correct interpretation of this plank of the Labour platform, and what I believe was really in the minds of those who are responsible for it, is that public borrowing should be restricted to, loans authorized by a Labour Government.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong. I was at the various conferences at which theplank was framed, and I say that the restriction is to public borrowing for works that will be reproductive of full working expenses and interest.
– Apart from the soundness of that policy, it is plain and intelligible. But I ask Senator Givens whether the Government are adhering to that: policy ?
– In this Bill?
– In this session. In the policy for which they have already sought and obtained the approval of the Senate for a loan of over £2,000,000. This. is. the Bill under which they will raise that money.
– I did not approve of that policy, but Senator Millen did, because he voted to incur the obligations which have rendered it necessary, and I did not.
– It is because I believe that a sound borrowing policy is essential to the progress of this country that I did vote to incur those obligations. I am not dealing with that,, but with the spectacle presented by a number of honorable senators who preach no borrowing in the constituencies, and then come here and seek parliamentary authority to borrow £2,000,000.
– Do not include me in that number.
– I shall not include the honorable senator anywhere where he does not wish to be included, but I am entitled to direct attention to the fact that once again this Bill placards throughout the country the fact that it is one thing when in Opposition to preach a doctrine to the willing ears of electors, and quite another when beset by practical responsibilities of office to redeem those promises.
– There is no change in the policy.
– The honorable senator is quite right. There is no change in the policy of his party. It has been absolutely consistent from the beginning to the end of this session, and its policy has been, as fast as it could introduce Bills, to break the promises it made to the electors. We have not only the spectacle of this non-borrowing Government being the first to float a loan in Australia, but this curious fact also to remember, that, whilst they denounced a loan proposed by a previous Administration that had a revenue of only £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 to handle, they propose, when they are handling twice that amount themselves, to go to the money market.
– It was the purpose of the loan we objected to.
– It was not to the purpose of the loan, but to those who proposed it, that my honorable friends “objected. Dealing with the objection as to the purpose of the loan, let me say that there is a great deal of hypocrisy and humbug talked about the purpose for which money is borrowed. I ask honorable senators to consider the case of a man whose ordinary expenses amount to £300 a year, but who wishes during a particular year to make additions to his house, or to incur extra expenditure to the amount of another £100. To carry on that work he borrows. Does it make a bit of difference whether he does the work with the borrowed money and lives on his ordinary income, or whether he does the work with his ordinary income and lives on the borrowed money? Similarly, when you are dealing with national finance, it makes not the slightest difference which particular £1 pays for each £1 ‘s worth of work - whether you pay for a particular piece of work out of the sovereigns which you have derived from revenue or out of an equivalent number of sovereigns which you have borrowed. Let me point out the broad area which opens up before us. In the first ten years of the existence of the Commonwealth we incurred no public debt. Do honorable senators realize that we are within a very short time of building up a. public debt which will amount to anything between £40,000,000 and £50,000,000?
– A great deal more than that.
– A great deal more than that later on, but within a short period we shall have a debt of between £40,000,000 and £50,000,000. First of all, we are committed to the Western Australian railway, which, in my judgment, will require an expenditure of £4,000,000 additional to the sum provided in the Bill which we have just dealt with.
– What total does the honorable senator allow for?
– Does that allow anything for rolling-stock, &c. ?. If so, the honorable senator is under the mark.
– Probably I am., At any rate, it is reasonably certain that in addition to the £1,000,000 covered by the Loan Bill already passed, £4,000,000 will have to be spent on that undertaking. Then, again, does any one think that we can make anything like a serious attempt to develop the Northern Territory without incurring a liability of £10,000,000, added to the liability already incurred on that account? It must be evident that it will be impossible to develop that great country unless we assume liabilities to the extent I have mentioned.
– It will be money well spent.
– I am not dealing with that now.
– Borrowing money for developing the Northern Territory is different from borrowing money for the purposes for which the honorable senator’s party would have spent it.
– I say, again, that except for convenience in keeping accounts, when you are borrowing money it is absolutely immaterial for what purpose the money is spent.
– It matters, though, whether you pay for things out of your income, or whether you pay for them out of? borrowed money.
– That is the position under this new policy. When you are borrowing it does not matter whether you earmark a particular sovereign for a particular work or not. I have mentioned £4,000,000 for the Western Australian railway, and £10,000,000 for the Northern Territory. In addition, we have a little enterprise in the form of a Federal Capital which will make some demands upon us.. What the amount will be will depend on the rate at which we push ahead with the work. Am I putting the matter at too high a figure when I put down £2,000,000 for that purpose? I want to show how near we stand to building up a very substantial public debt.
– Within what term of years? That affects the question.
– I cannot say whether it is going to be within four or five years. Take the period for which a senator is elected, six years. All these amounts, if you are going to push ahead with the works taken in hand, ought to be spent within that time. Those sums alone represent £16,000,000, We have heard a great deal of talk about unifying the railway gauges all over the Commonwealth. I do not know what that work will cost, but it is an undertaking which we shall have to face. I venture to say that that is going to be done out of borrowed money also. I have put down £2,000,000 for that purpose, which brings my total up to £18,000,000.
– It would be a fair thing to deduct that from the 25s. per head paid to the States.
– In spite of Senator Rae’s willingness, he could not do that at the present time. There is to-day a debt of £13,000,000, for which the Commonwealth is liable on account of the transferred properties, and of the debt which came to us as one of the trimmings in connexion with the Northern Territory deal. We have recently passed a Bill dealing with an expenditure of £2,250,000. Add these sums together, and we get £33,000,000. Then we propose commitments in connexion with banking. When all these things are put together, and without making the slightest allowance for the undertakings which have been spoken of, and are projected, but are not now in hand, I think it is a reasonable assumption that within the next five or six years the Commonwealth, instead of being free from debt, will have to shoulder a debt of something like £40,000,000 sterling. It may be said that these purposes are all justifiable. I am not arguing that they are not. What I want to bring home to my non-borrowing friends is that the time has gone by when they can successfully preach this doctrine of no borrowing throughout the country. It is absolutely unavoidable that we should not only pay this, but subsequent visits to the money markets.
I want to deal with another aspect of the case. I do not pretend to be dealing with the question exhaustively.
– The honorable senator is doing fairly well.
– I think that Senator Pearce will admit that I am merely skimming over the surface of the subject. If one wanted to go exhaustively into these matters, he would have to do so at greater length than I have done. In relation to this fresh point, which I am about to mention, I shall doubtless find myself in the position of that strong-minded juryman who found himself differing from his eleven associates. I am going to attack what I believe to be a popular delusion, and that is the belief in the value of sinking funds. Everywhere the idea seems to have caught on that borrowing is quite a different thing if you establish a sinking fund in connexion with every loan that you raise. The State Governments pat themselves on the back because they put a few pounds into a sinking fund, which every one seems to think abolishes all the harm that can arise from borrowing. I want to look into that idea. I cannot do better than repeat a statement made by an American authority, Professor Ross, who has devoted a considerable amount of attention to this question, and who affirms that England, which dabbled in sinking funds in the eighteenth century, lost a sum of money through sinking funds alone greater than the whole cost of the Napoleonic wars. The fallacy of asinking fund, which has cost Great Britain so much, is in supposing that there can be any ‘sound fund of the kind other than that created by the excess which revenue may show over expenditure. A sinking fund under any other policy, in a borrowing country, is a costly snare, and a delusion. Honorable senators will understand that I am assuming the case of a country continually borrowing ; and I desire to bring this point home to Australia, which is borrowing every year, and is going to borrow for some time to come.
– As the honorable senator says it should.
– As I say it should.
– And I say it should not.
– Not for the first time, the honorable senator is wrong. What is the position of a country - and any of the States will supply an example - which borrows £1,000,000 with one hand, and puts £roo,000 into the sinking fund with the other?
– It ought to borrow £900,000 instead.
– That is the whole explanation. The only sinking fund is where the income is greater than the expenditure ; and by the expenditure, I do not mean the ordinary expenditure out of the Consolidated Revenue, but the expenditure which is ordinarily defrayed in this country from loans. Let me give a few figures. ‘ Australia, between 1901 and 1909, borrowed £48,000,000. During that time, there is hardly a State Treasurer who, in delivering his Budget statement, did not pride himself, and His State, on putting so much into a sinking fund. As a matter of fact, the total amount paid to the sinking funds is £4,000,000. I do not know whether the sinking funds were commenced prior to 1901, but we will assume that they have been created in the eight years. It would have been much better if, instead of borrowing £48,000,000 and paying £4,000,000 to sinking funds, the States had borrowed only £4,000,000.
– Is the honorable senator not reasoning without taking into consideration assets which may have been acquired?
– Assets have nothing to do with a sinking fund. Iri my opinion, an additional reason against a sinking fund is furnished when the borrowed money is spent on an asset; and the States are creating sinking funds, although they are spending money on tangible assets. When a State borrows, it does not, unless it is a bankrupt State, hand over as security the asset created by the borrowed money ; the security given is the good faith of the community and their taxing power.
– The honorable senator would make no attempt to redeem the loans.
- Senator O’Keefe is wrong again. I say that the way is not to redeem them out of borrowed money. The £4,000,000 placed to sinking funds is absolutely borrowed money ; and I repeat that the only sound sinking fund is created when we make the income greater than the total of the expenditure.
– That is what we are going to try to do.
– It is quite clear that that is not so, because the Government propose a sinking fund with regard to any public loans they raise; but when they have started a. sinking fund, the next thing they do is to float another loan.
– Not to put to the sinking fund.
– During the last eight years, as I say, the States have borrowed £48,000,000 for’, let us say, public works : and out of revenue they have paid £4,000,000 into sinking funds. I say that, to all intents and purposes, that £4,000,000 is borrowed money.
– The honorable senator is assuming that the £4,000,000 in the sinking funds is not earning anything.
– There would have been just as much earned if £4,000,000 less had been borrowed, and there had been no sinking fund. Less interest would have had to be paid.
– That would be put into a sinking fund.
– That is exactly the fallacy ; and I again commend honorable senators to the works of Professor Ross. The idea which has cost England so much is that, by paying money in at compound interest, we, in some mysterious way, extinguished the debt. .It is difficult, both for speaker and auditors, to deal with big figures when presenting an argument of this kind ; and I shall therefore ask honorable senators to suppose a State which proceeds to borrow £1,000 a year. In order to set at rest any twinges of the financial conscience, the borrower decides to put £100 per annum into a sinking fund. The first year £1,000 is borrowed, and at the end of that year £100 is paid into the sinking fund. It is clear that the State would have been just as well off if, instead of doing this, they had borrowed £900. The next year £1,000 is borrowed, and £200 is put into a sinking fund, only leaving £800 out of the £1,000 borrowed. Again, it would have been better to have no sinking fund, and to have borrowed only £800. Each year £100 more has to be paid into the sinking fund, with the result that the net sum is reduced, until, at the end of ten years, although £1,000 is borrowed, ten payments of £100 each have to be paid into the sinking fund. The State has gone to the expense of borrowing £1,000 ; and, in consequence of the sinking fund, there is nothing left.
– Is it not possible that the expenditure of the £1,000 may acquire an asset earning sufficient revenue to wipe out the whole debt?
– The principle is the same, if you take one-half per cent. : it would take a longer period to get there, but the evil would be growing all the while. Senator E. J. Russell speaks of spending borrowed money in an investment which would give a big return. That is not the point at all, because you can still go in for the investment by borrowing a smaller amount and doing without a sinking fund.
Let me point out where the great costliness of the system comes in. Every time you float a loan, there is expense attached to it. Brokers do not work for nothing. Even bankers, when they float a loan for a State, receive some remuneration in the form of commission or brokerage.’ And if a State undertakes to float a loan it incurs some expense. It has happened, and will happen again, that the States will bave to float loans at a discount. Very frequently they receive £97 or £98 per cent. ; but, of course, they have to pay back £roo. The first leakage is the cost of floating the loan. There is also a leakage in connexion with the sinking fund. It is not to be assumed that the moment you have an amount available to put into the sinking fund you can put it out at interest. There is frequently a lapse of time before that can be done, but the money which you have borrowed is carrying interest all the while. These two sources of expenditure run into the enormous figures to which Professor Ross refers.
– Do you know where the biggest leakage has been with sinking funds?
– It would not be a leakage, but a raid. In hardly a civilized country where sinking funds have been established can you show an instance where, sooner or later, they have not been (raided. While in fairly good years they have been built up to more or less modest -dimensions, the moment the Treasurer has found himself hard ‘ pushed, his first act nas been to draw the money.
– Except in. England.
– England has brought its sinking fund on to sound lines. The only sinking fund recognised there is the excess of revenue over expenditure. How do honorable senators propose to invest the sinking funds? There are two ways in which I presume they would act, and that is by buying new stock or old :Stock. In each case, instead of going through all this jugglery, it would be’ better to have used these amounts and borrowed less. What is the good of borrowing a million at the same time as you have a couple of hundred thousand pounds for investment in the sinking fund?
– The Commonwealth owes the States £13,000,000 for the transferred properties. Is it not pos sible for the Commonwealth to purchase State bonds to that extent, and on the other hand to borrow at a less rate of interest ?
– That is exactly the sort of thing which English financiers tried, with the ghastly results I have mentioned.
– Would it not be sound business, all the same, to make use of the sinking fund?
– If you are going to have a sinking fund, yes. But, in my opinion, it is a fallacy and a costly undertaking to have a sinking fund side by side with a borrowing policy. I want a sinking fund ; but the only time for a sinking fund is when your borrowing is done. Until that takes place, it . is a more economical procedure to have no sinking fund, and to borrow less. The transferred properties introduce another aspect of the case. I deny altogether that there is any obligation on the people of one generation to provide a sinking fund for any borrowed money which is spent on a tangible asset. Take, for instance, the question of the Federal Capital.. Referring to the proposal to expend £600,000 on the purchase of land, Senator McGregor said that he was quite as certain as I am that when the Capital is established the ‘ value of that land will ‘be largely augmented. We are going, in some way or other, to tax ourselves to provide a sinking fund to pay this £600,000, with the sure and certain knowledge that, as time goes by, we shall hand down to posterity land worth £2,000,000 or £3,000,000. If we hand them down an asset which is worth at least the amount of the debt on it, we have done all that they have a right to ask us to do. Cannot the 4,500,000 persons in Australia, find any better public service to devote this money to than in paying off a debt? All that they can be asked to do is to hand down a tangible asset for every pound of debt. If you are going to say that a population of that number, with the enormous work of development confronting them, are also under an obligation to free from debt the tangible and valuable assets which they hand down, all I have to say is that I cannot accept that theory.
– No; and your predecessors did not, and so we are paying the piper.
– My honorable friend is paying the piper in all the benefits he is getting from the developmental work which they have done. Take, for instance, the public* debt of New South Wales. There is not a man who knows how to write the letters £ s. d. who would not jump at the chance of taking that debt if he could only get the assets. A good business concern has been handed down. On one side of the balance-sheet is a debt of £80,000,000 or £90,000,000, while, on the other side, are railways, public works, and other valuable and tangible assets which more than surmount that debt. What have the people of New South Wales to growl about to-day? They have to be mighty thankful for the enterprise and foresight which induced their predecessors to borrow these amounts and pay interest on them during the years when the works were not earning their interest. All that can be asked of one generation is that it shall hand down to its successor for every pound of debt either some tangible asset, or some evidence which can be set off against it. That is an additional reason why I say that in this case a sinking fund is not necessary. Previously I endeavoured to show that a sinking fund running concurrently with a borrowing policy is a costly delusion. I do not intend to say any more upon the subject to-night. I trust that I shall have an opportunity of pursuing it on another occasion. Although I recognise that I am rather out of touch with public sentiment on this matter, I believe that in course of time the fallacy underlying the establishment of so-called sinking funds will be perceived, and that the people of Australia will recognise, just as those of Great Britain have recognised, that the only form of sinking fund which is worthy of the name is a fund which is made up of the excess of income over expenditure.
Senator RAE (New South Wales) fi 1. 57]. - To some extent I agree with the statements made by Senator Millen, but only with those which were derived from Professor Ross. With most of the matter which was evolved from his own inner consciousness I entirely disagree. I am opposed to this Bill because I am opposed to borrowing. Senator Millen was substantially correct when he said that the Labour platform contained a restriction upon public borrowing. As a matter of fact, I believe that “ restriction of public borrowing “ was a plank in the platform itself. The method in which it was to be restricted Was set out at length in paragraphs a and b of the clause relating to this matter. One of those paragraphs stated that the Labour party was not opposed to borrowing to repay loans as they fell due, and the other declared in favour of the restriction of borrowing to reproductive public works which would return not less than 1 per cent, in excess of working expenses and interest.
– Was not the Labour platform entirely opposed to borrowing of any kind?
– Never to my knowledge. Some individual members of the party may have held that view, but there were eleven obstinate jurymen to the one sensible man. I believe it is an absolute farce to have such a plank in the Labour platform as the restriction of public borrowing to reproductive public works, because I have always, maintained that in practice it would prove impossible to ascertain whether many public works would prove reproductive, and, if so, to what extent. But I wish, briefly, to state why I think that a citizen in hisprivate capacity and the State cannot be fairly compared. The private individual, if he finds that his necessities compel him to raise more than his regular i income, or if he wishes to embark upon an investment,, has to borrow money. But any communitycan, up to its capacity, raise additionalrevenue by the taxation of wealth. I do not think that Senator Millen will disagree with that broad, general statement. Up to that limit the State is in a very different position from the private individual. I absolutely concur in the statement of Senator Millen regarding the fallacious view which is generally held of so-called sinking funds. I have always maintained that his. argument was absolutely sound. Whether we spend £4,000,000 upon our Navy and pay for post-office extension out of revenue, or whether we pay for our Navy out of loan moneys, is immaterial.
– Will it bemerely a bookkeeping item if we borrow £1,000,000 and blow it away in powder at an Easter encampment?
– In borrowing money, it is always incumbent upon us to see that the expenditure proposed is advisable. If it be advisable to hold an encampment, it is immaterial whether we spend’ £1,000,000 upon it, or whether we spend it upon the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. We shall be in exactly the sameposition at the end of the year. It beats me how any person with a logical faculty can dispute that. I oppose a borrowing policy because I believe that it leads te* extravagance, and because I believe that the destruction of our national assets should be put on the other side of the ledger. We had the promise of the Government that the third reading of the Loan Bill would not be taken until this measure had been brought before the Senate. That promise is now being redeemed. When the Loan Bill was before us, I inquired whether it was not a fact that the money which was to be expended for the purposes set out in that measure was to be derived from the gold reserve established in connexion with the issue of Australian notes.
– That is quite true.
– I asked, “ Will any money be raised in any other way?” and the reply was, “ No.” Now, I maintain that that is not borrowing. Honorable senators opposite may say that it is confiscation, but I do not care what they term it. I say that getting money without paying interest is not borrowing. If we have only to pay interest nominally, that interest becomes the property of the Commonwealth, and the transaction resembles the transferring of money from one pocket to another. I should not care if we could raise £j 0,000,000 instead of £2,000,000 by that means. Why do we want an office in London for registering inscribed stock? If the Bill is passed, will it give the Government the necessary machinery to raise money irrespective of the Australian Notes Fund ?
– They could, but they do not propose to do so, and Parliament has control over them. This machinery is necessary to carry out what we have already passed.
– But the Government could use the same machinery to borrow money in other ways. At any rate, I have the Minister’s assurance that the machinery will not be used in that way without the consent of Parliament. If the Bill is required in order to get money from the Australian Notes Fund, I shall not oppose it; but I certainly shall protest against this machinery being used in the future to raise money by any other means.
– I would draw the attention of the Government and the public to the fact that this is the beginning of a loan policy. The Opposition in both Houses have at last got their financial revenge upon the Government and their supporters. The Labour party have for years, both in States and Commonwealth, preached the dangers of borrowing. Every time a State has raised a loan they have taunted it with bowing its knee to Cohen; but what is this Bill if it is not to provide the machinery for the Commonwealth Government to go to Cohen, whether he is an Australian or a foreign Cohen? Let us dismiss all this cant entirely from our minds. It has taken about fifteen or twenty years to get rid of it, and I am glad that this Bill is the means of dissipating it. We now have the admission of the Commonwealth Government that they cannot carry on their business without a loan. Whether the money comes from the notes fund, or directly from people outside, it is a loan from somebody. This was inevitable as soon as the Commonwealth Government began to do its developmental work. Why, then, were all these tears shed about the iniquity of a borrowing policy ? Were they poured out in order to help a certain party into power in the Commonwealth, and to initiate a new era of finance? If so, the moment that party came up against their obligations they had to ask for authority to raise a loan. It is said that everything comes to the man who can wait. That is true in this case, for we now have a most magnificent revenge. The Government are in the humiliating position of having to eat every one of their financial promises, and borrow to carry out their policy. The Government are charged, under the Constitution, with redeeming the State debts. An amendment of the Constitution was carried to enable the Commonwealth to take over, not only the debts incurred prior to Federation, but those incurred since. Having been granted that power, the first thing that the Commonwealth should have done before entering upon a loan policy of its own was to help the States to convert or redeem their own loans.
– Order !
– This Bill, dealing as it does with inscribed stock, suggests a loan of some sort ; and I hold that ‘ the Commonwealth Government should have attempted to exercise its powers under the Constitution in regard to the conversion or redemption of State loans before it proceeded to raise a loan on its own behalf. It is about time that the Common- wealth began to recognise the co-ordinate, obligation imposed upon it by the Constitution to try to help the States to redeem or convert their loans.
– This Bill deals, not with the talcing over of the State debts, but with the making of provision for inscribed stock in connexion with the Loan Bill.
– I have no desire to enlarge upon the question, and shall not further detain the Senate.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [12.22 a.m.]. - I recognise that the passing of this Bill has become necessary, since it has been determined that the Commonwealth shall go on the market to borrow. I do not propose to discuss the question of whether or not this machinery will be effective for the purpose for which it has been designed ; but I assume that the Government have satisfied themselves that it will be. In any event, it would be idle for honorable senators on this side to attempt to amend the Bill, even if they considered that it needed to be amended, in important respects. I desire, however, to point out, for the information more particularly of Senator Rae, that, while it is perfectly true that we have passed the second reading of a Bill authorizing the Government to raise a loan for certain specific purposes, there is nothing, either in that measure or this, to show where the money is to be obtained. Senator Rae evidently gathered from an interjection made by the Minister that the only object of this Bill is to enable money to be taken legitimately out of the reserves obtained from the note issue, and that it is not proposed to obtain any other loan. While that may be the intention of the Government, so far as this Bill is concerned, if any other Administration came into power before it had been acted upon it would be open to it to go upon the open market, and to invite tenders for the purchase of this inscribed stock. The whole machinery for raising it would be provided under the Bill that we have now under consideration ; but it is incorrect to say that the Bill is solely to provide for the raising of one specific loan. It is made applicable to any loan that may in the future be determined upon. Say, for the sake of argument, that the Government saw fit, next session, to raise a loan of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 to carry on new enterprises, a Bill to authorize that loan would have to be passed by Parlia ment ; but this Bill would provide the machinery for the issue of the inscribed stock. One of the clauses provides that -
The Governor-General may by order create capital stock called Commonwealth Government Inscribed Stock for raising by way of loan any money authority to borrow which is granted by any Act.
The main principle of this Bill is to place upon the statute-book of the Commonwealth machinery by which inscribed stock can be created at any time when a loan has been authorized by Parliament. It is, therefore, misleading honorable senators to say that the Bill is intended to carry into effect only a measure authorizing the raising of loan money from a particular fund. There is nothing in it to limit its application to a particular loan. It is of general application, and may be used in the floating of a loan by any future Government. The Government will not be obliged to take the money to be borrowed from any particular fund. They may get it if they please in the open market. Some honorable senators have said that this measure represents the initiation of a borrowing policy by the Government, but I point out that they have already created a borrowing policy by entering into obligations with those who take Australian notes. If an honorable senator opposite gives me tokens representing £5 in consideration for five sovereigns of mine, he will have borrowed £5 from me, and will have given me an order which will enable me to recover my money under certain specific conditions.
– A loan without interest.
.- That is so. The Government by virtue of their power have said to the banks, “ We shall not permit you to continue the issue of your promissory notes “ - for after all a bank note is a promissory note - “ but you must issue our promissory notes ; and you must lend us money to enable us to redeem them at any future time.” The worst feature about this is that it is an enforced loan without interest. The Government having now received sovereigns from the banks for their promissory notes propose to use them for the construction of public works. They go further, and say, “ We shall charge these works with interest,” and by that means they propose to obtain interest on money that does not, in the moral sense, belong to them.
Sitting suspended from 12.30 to 1.15 a.m.
– The only conclusion that can be arrived at is that, notwithstanding the oft-professed determination of the Labour party to discountenance the raising of money by loan, the circumstances have been of such a character as have forced Ministers to recognise the impossibility of developing this great country without borrowing. Whatever Government may be in power in the future, it will be necessary from time to time to raise loans in order that works may be undertaken for the further development of the Commonwealth. I was desirous of pointing out the general applicability of the measure under consideration, and that it is not limited to any particular loan. I also congratulate the Government and their supporters upon realizing at last that that plank, which has so often been proclaimed to be an essential feature of the Labour party’s platform, had to be abandoned. There has been a quibble - it was only a quibble - to the effect that there was a reservation, that the Labour party should be permitted to raise loans for reproductive purposes. But that plea has only been raised when the necessity for borrowing has become apparent. It was never previously represented to the people generally that the party believed in borrowing under any circumstances. I congratulate honorable senators opposite on having arrived at a saner condition of mind, and on having recognised the wisdom of the position, in which they find themselves.
– Speaking for myself, I plead guilty to the charge that the Labour party to which I belong has to a certain extent backed down from its non-borrowing policy. This Bill initiates a general borrowing policy for the Commonwealth to a degree that was never attempted in any previous session of the Commonwealth Parliament since it was established. But why should we be jeered at by honorable senators opposite, who have: always believed in borrowing? They have always been in favour of going to their “ Uncle “ Cohen every time money was wanted for Federal purposes. Even if, in my opinion, the Labour Government are sinning to the extent of initiating a borrowing policy, it can at least be said in their favour that they have paid for more large works out of revenue than any Government that preceded them ever did. This Government never asked Parliament to agree to a loan policy for the purpose of building a navy. But after jeering at this side of the Senate on account of a change of attitude, the Opposition turn round and congratulate us on having initiated a loan policy, which they say is the only sound policy. For. myself, I regret exceedingly that this Bill has been brought under consideration at this juncture. We are now in receipt of abundant revenues. They are soaring upwards by millions per annum. Seeing that we have so far managed to carry on our public works out of revenue, I think that we might have gone further in that excellent direction. I admit that the circumstances have been extraordinary, and that our commitments are of great importance. But I regret that the first loan to be floated on behalf of the Commonwealth Government is for works which will be admittedly non-paying.
– They will pay byandby.
– Senator O’Keefe is. not so much of a seer that he can foretell when they will pay.
– We may feel glad that the parliamentary salaries have not to wait until they can be paid out of the profits on these works.
– We should have to go short for a very long time if they .were. This is a Bill to provide machinery for a general borrowing policy. It is absolutely unfair that the Senate should be asked to consider seriously a measure of this kind under present circumstances. I regret that we have not been afforded more time to study the question. As to a borrowing policy in general, I am one of those who believe that we should only resort to a loan in the last extremity. Borrowing is only justifiable when we are undertaking large works, payment for which cannot be met out of revenue - such works as can reasonably be expected to pay, not only working expenses, but also a reasonable rate of interest, and something towards a sinking fund.
– What sort of works would those be?
– I believe, for instance, that the expenditure on the Federal Capital, if properly managed, would return a handsome interest. I believe that if Senator Millen or I were offered the opportunity of acquiring the land for the founding of a great city with the knowledge that the Capital of Australia would be established there, we could easily float a com- pany with a capital of three or’ four millions to carry out the work, and even then make a very handsome profit.
– Would the honorable senator borrow for that purpose?
– I should have no objection to borrowing, provided that I could see my way to provide, not only the interest, but something for a sinking fund, so that the money borrowed would not be a burden on the taxpayers. But when we are asked to borrow for unproductive works which cannot pay for a number of years, and will certainly be a burden on the taxpayers, I have a great objection to that policy. I have no desire to protract the debate. I think we should have adjourned until a reasonable hour after the long sitting that we have had. We could then have come back like giants refreshed, if I may use that phrase to describe the Leader of the Opposition, amongst others.
– He is an intellectual giant.
– I am willing to apply that epithet to him, because, as compared with his colleagues on the Opposition benches, he certainly is a giant among minnows. Speaking seriously, I do not think that we are being fairly treated in being asked to deal with measures of firstclass importance in the dying hours of the session, and in the early hours of the morning. We have been asked to rush business through to suit the convenience of the majority in another place. But honorable members there, when they found that every- ‘ thing was not going smoothly, “ skeedaddled “ home to bed, leaving us to struggle through the business under pressure, to suit them. I object to being treated in that way, and hope that on future occasions the Government will insist on the Senate being more fairly dealt with.
– So many attempts have been made to cast odium on the Government and their supporters that I feel impelled to say a word or two on this question. Unlike my honorable friend, Senator Givens, I do not review this proposal with regret. I am willing to go before the electors who sent me here; and tell them that, on general grounds, I was not opposed to a borrowing policy as regards the ordinary purposes and functions of government. I am willing to justify to the electors my Support of the Government in the initiation of a borrowing policy for the Commonwealth. I justify it on national grounds.
What would the people have said had this Government refused to face its national responsibilities ? None of its predecessors dared to do this.
– Which of the national responsibilities referred to justifies this policy ?
– Several of them. Would it be fair to ask the taxpayers to provide out of revenue the enormous sum required for the building of the Federal Capital ? Is not the naval defence of Australia a national concern? Is not the construction of the transcontinental line to the West, and, probably, in the near future, the construction of that to the North, a national work? Is not the development of the Northern Territory a national enterprise? It is the responsibility for such undertakings that makes it necessary for the ‘Commonwealth to become the seventh borrower. A Government should not borrow to pay for unremunerative works, but the only alternative to borrowing now is the evasion of our national responsibilities. If we refused to acknowledge our responsibilities we should rightly be regarded as recreant to our trust, and were we to try to meet the necessary expenditure out of revenue we should be denounced for placing too heavy a burden on the taxpayers. The circumstances of our present situation, justify the policy on which we are embarking, and I shall, therefore, cordially support the Bill.
, - lt has been objected that a borrowing policy is unnecessary, but will it be said that it is unnecessary for the future? Senator Rae has himself admitted that when we take over the debts of the States we shall have to borrow for redemption purposes. We shall also have to borrow to pay for the transferred properties in the Northern Territory.
– The money could be taken from the 25s. per head paid to the States.
– That cannot be interfered with for many years to come. The Bill provides for the borrowing of over £2,000,000 to meet liabilities in the immediate future, and makes provision for the issue of inscribed stock for the redemption of the debts of the States at a later period. There could be no borrowing for redemption purposes, or to pay for transferred properties, without such a measure as this. It provides the machinery for borrowing, but the future Parliaments will have control, and it will be for them to say whether money shall be borrowed, and, if so, for what purposes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Billread a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses1 to 20 agreed to.
Clause 2 1 (Stock in joint names of infant and adult).
– It is unusual to allow stock to be inscribed in the name of an infant.
– The clause says, “ jointly with one or more adult persons.”
– The adult’s name should come first. It is the first name that is looked on as that of the responsible person in all these matters.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 22 to 31 agreed to.
Clause 32 (Minimum amount transferable).
– The clause provides that no transfer of stock to a smaller amount than £50 shall be made. I think that the amount should be £25.
– With the permission of the Treasurer, the amount can be made smaller.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 32 to 46 agreed to.
Clause 47 (Investment of Stock Redemption Fund).
– Is the Government willing to show its kindly feeling towards New Zealand by allowing the Commonwealth to invest in its stock?
– When New Zealand applies to do so, the matter will be considered.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 48 to 56 agreed to.
Clause 57 (Statement to be submitted to Parliament).
– This clause may perhaps be original, but I can see provision after provision which must have been borrowed from British and other Acts dealing with inscribed stock. Under the circumstances, there ought to be marginal notes showing the origin of the clauses, for it is highly desirable that honorable senators should be given information in this regard.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 58 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with a message intimating that it had made the Senate’s requested amendments except that relating to item 54, which it had not made, and that relating to item 117, which it had made with modifications.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message) :
Ginger, n.e.i., in brine for the manufacture of crystallized preserved ginger . . per lb., on and after 14th December, 191 1,1d.
Senate’s Request. - Add, “ and on and after - December, 191 1,1½d.”
House of Representatives’ Message. - Amendment not made.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the request be not pressed.
– When we were dealing with the Tariff, the question arose whether or not it was desirable to grade the various kinds of green ginger, starting with the lowest at1d., the half-manufactured at1½d., and the finished product at 3d. per lb. It was at the instance of Senator McGregor that the extra½d. was imposed ; but in another place the honorable senator’s colleague refused to accept the amendment, and now the Vice-President of the Executive Council himself asks us to support that action. I think that some reason should be given for this “ back down.”
– Every honorable senator will, I think, acknowledge that, when a majority in another place considers that a duty of 1d. is sufficient Protection on ginger in brine, the Senate need not obstinately insist on having its own way.
– That argument is one to which, on general principles, I should be prepared to subscribe; but we ought to have some reasons for the sudden change. Is the Senate merely to register the various eccentricities of the Ministerial mind? I see no reason for the change, except that representations must have been made to the Minister of Trade and Customs in his own office, and that the Vice-President of the Executive Council can cause his majority to dance like a well-trained troupe.
– The tree that bends most readily to the blast will stand the longest.
– Personally, I do not care whether the duty is1½d. or 3s. 6d. ; but I believe in the Senate insisting on the decisions at which it has arrived. I am against giving way to the House of Representatives on anything, unless reasons are submitted.
– The House of Representatives have agreed to twenty-nine of our requests.
– Then why is it so obstinate in regard to the other two?
– Since the item was before the Committee, and after the alteration in the duty had been announced in the press, those interested in the item have made some representations, which are embodied in the following extract from a letter which has been received : -
We respectfully submit that the reason given for differentiating between green ginger and ginger in brine is not a fair one. They are both raw material, but for different purposes, and the green ginger cannot be imported in a sufficiently sound state for us to manufacture into preserved crystallized ginger; being a root crop, unless it is in some way processed, it continues to grow, and while this is not a disability for a jam manufacturer’s purposes, it is so unsightly as to make it practically useless for our requirements.
The compromise by you in the House of Representatives to make the duty1d. per pound still leaves a margin in favour of the green ginger, for the reason that the ginger in brine contains a lot of useless moisture, from a manufacturing point of view, and the suggested amendment from the Senate really means a duty of1.87d. per pound on our finished article, while1d. per pound would be equal to 1.25d. per pound. The, duty on the finished article prepared by Chinamen is 3d. per pound, and, apart from much higher labour cost here, we have to pay from£4 to £5 per ton more for the sugar we use, boxes, paper, &c, also cost considerably more under the protective policy of Australia.
When that was put to the Minister he saw the advisability of retreating from the position which we frankly say we took up here on his advice. I may inform Senator Rae that out of thirty-one requests sent down, the House of Representatives has accepted all except two.
– The document which the Minister has read is not a statement of the reasons prepared by the other House for not accepting our request, but a statement of an interested manufacturer who wants to get “ home “ on the policy of this country. It is of no use for the honorable senator to talk about ginger growing after it is dug up. I believe that this manufacturer invented the story to try to delude the Senate. Frankly, I do not believe that ginger does grow after it is dug up.
– You know that onions and potatoes do.
– Yes; ginger is not a tuber, but simply a root.
– I think that the Committee ought to pay attention to the statement of Senator Rae, because he is a grower of ginger. I would point out, in answer to the memorandum presented by the preservers of ginger, that the figures are all beside the question. When they talk about putting a duty of1½d. per pound on imported ginger in brine they overlook the fact that they need not go outside this country for their raw product, and as stalwart Protectionists, who value a duty of 3d. on the preserved article, they will understand the full force of the statement that a duty does not increase the cost of any commodity in the country. Therefore, instead of having to pay more for the ginger they use, they, as true Protectionists, must admit that they pay less. I am surprised that in order to help them the Minister did not make the duty 2d.
Motion agreed to.
Item 117 -
By inserting in the item after the word “Sachets” the words “Cotton or Linen handkerchiefs and serviettes.”
Senate’s Request. - Leave out all words and insert : - “ By inserting in the item before the word Cosies ‘ the letter ‘ (a) ‘ and by adding a new sub-item : -
Cotton or Linen Handkerchiefs and Serviettes, ad val. 25 per cent. . . 20 per cent. ; and on and after - December, 1911, 35 per cent. . . . 30 per cent.’ “
House of Representatives’ Message. - “ 35 per cent.” omitted from the requested amendment and “ 30 per cent.” inserted in place thereof, and “ 30 per cent.” omitted and “ 25 per cent.” inserted in place thereof.
– We requested an increase of the duty to 35 and 30 per cent., but that is considered to be not a sufficient margin compared with 45 and 35 per cent. for the production of the finished handkerchiefs. With a Protection of 35 and 25 per cent, I think those engaged in this industry will be quite satisfied. I move -
That the modifications of the request be agreed to.
– I want to know where we stand in regard to this item. We grant a very high protective duty to girls and women engaged in the manufacture of white work ; but now, for some unaccountable reason - having won a battle for an industry which is established in New South Wales, and which, I hope, will be established in Victoria - we are asked to go back on what we did. On the motion of the Vice-Presi- dent of the Executive Council, the Senate requested an increased duty, and in the other House the Minister of Trade and Customs, who is an Australian Protectionist, moved that our request be not agreed to. In this Chamber, we have a high Protectionist moving a request ; and in the other Chamber we have a high Protectionist moving that the duty be reduced. I do not think that any one can doubt that these articles can be finished here. The work is of the simplest and plainest kind.
– Senator E. J. Russell is labouring under a misapprehension. What we did here was to request a duty on the printed and dyed handkerchiefs; but those which are not finished have still to be hemmed and completed. For the purpose of encouraging the printing and dyeing we requested duties of 35 and 30 per cent., but then these handkerchiefs have to be hemmed and otherwise treated. The duties on finished handkerchiefs still stand at 45 and 35 per cent. It has been stated in another place that the margin between the printing and dyeing, and the final hemming of the handkerchief, was not sufficient. The object of our request was to prevent the printed and dyed material from coming in.
– I do not undertand the Minister’s explanation. It appears to me that the proposal is to make a distinction between coloured and white handkerchiefs. In other words, the coloured articles, which are generally used by those who cannot afford the expensive articles, will be made the most expensive by the alteration which the Senate is now asked to accept. If we are to have any difference at all, it should be in favour of coloured handkerchiefs as against white handkerchiefs. I am going to vote against the motion, not only on general principles, but on the special merits of the question. I do not know why the other House should meddle with a matter which evidently it does not understand.
.- I do not understand the Minister’s explanation. There seems to be an unseen power at work for some reason or other.
– It is a Sydney power.
– In the first place, the Government proposed to take 15 per cent. off handkerchiefs, but gave no reason for doing so.
– No. This motion does not relate to the duties of 35 and 20 per cent., but to the duties of 30 and 25 per cent. It will leave a margin on the finished article.
– I do not understand the Minister yet; nor do I think any one else does. The man who established this industry in New South Wales is compelled by the law of the State to pay certain wages.
SenatorMcGregor.-He is still protected, because that duty is not altered.
– It is altered.
– We are not interferring with the duties on the finished article made from white material. We have reduced the duties on printed and dyed handkerchiefs from 35 and 30 per cent. to 30 and 25 per cent., leaving a better margin for the finished article.
– I do not understand the explanation of the Minister, nor does any one else, I think. I am going to vote against the motion.
– It seems to me that the position is very clear. In dealing with printed or coloured handkerchiefs the Government were confronted with the question of trying to encourage the business of printing them, and for that purpose they imposed a certain duty. Next they imposed a duty on the finished article to encourage the industry of hemming. It was then, at the instance of, I think, Senator Gardiner, that the Government did give some increased Protection to those whose business it is to finish the article. I think it is likely, as Senator McGregor has said, that Sydney influence has been at work. The factory which was represented here by Mr. Croker, the Melbourne solicitor, has probably pointed out that by giving an increased measure of Protection to the printers we were trespassing on their margin of Pro- tection so that they had to pay more for the articles which they purchased, and which they desired to hem. The Government are giving a larger measure of Protection to the hemming industry, but they have done that at the expense of the raw material. In proportion they have given a larger measure of Protection to the particular industry in which Senator McDougall is interested. As it appears to be a tug-of-war between two protected industries I am not disposed to trouble about what happens.
Question - That the modifications of the request be agreed to - put.The Committee divided.
Majority … 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Resolutions reported ; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– It seems to me that one is justified in protesting against the introduction of a Bill of this character at such a late stage of the session. The Customs Tariff Bill of 1908-10 contains 450 items, and at the very end of the session we have been called upon to amendno fewer than 108 items of it. It seems to me that this Bill ought to have been put before us at least a month ago. Had that course been adopted, these late sittings would have been obviated. The Bill aims at the removal of Tariff anomalies; but I have no hesitation in saying that it will create a good many more anomalies than have hitherto existed. In this connexion, I propose to quote an extract from a journal called The Zand, which is the official newspaper of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, and the exponent of agrarian development throughout the Commonwealth. The editorial in this journal is headed, “ Give us our Daily Tax,” and reads -
By the look of things we’re in for a period of swingeing taxation. In the first place, the Commonwealth Government purposes to add to the present Customs burdens under cover of a rectification of anomalies in the Tariff. In all, some 124 items are affected, and although actual increases of duties is involved in only a proportion of these cases, still the sum total will give an appreciable upward tilt to the already extravagant cost of living.
– I would point out to the honorable senator that standing order 409 reads -
No senator shall read extracts from newspapers or other documents, except Hansard, referring to debates in the Senate during the same session.
The honorable senator will be in order in giving the gist of the quotation.
– The article concludes by stating that the Bill will create a great many more anomalies than it will cure, and that the producer will have to pay additional taxes.
– Which is not true.
– I have read that statement in the newspapers more than once. So far, I have endeavoured to give a fair support to a moderate protective Tariff, but I am somewhat irritated when I find continual attempts made to increase taxation without regard to the interests of the great majority of our population - the consumers. I regret that this country is going so deeply into Protection.
– It will be ruined.
– No. I believe that we shall progress in spite of Protection. America has done that. In the western district of Canada a large section of the farming class is now anxious to secure a Free Trade policy. Speaking personally, I would rather be in the company of such fiscalists as John Bright, John Stuart Mill, W. E. Gladstone, and the present Prime Minister of England than I would be in that of any of the so-called Protectionists.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended, and (on motion by Senator Pearce) Bill read a first time.
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I desire to say that it is the intention of the Government next session, if opportunity permits, to bring forward a more comprehensive Bill dealing with certain matters in our Public Service Act. But there are several matters in that Act which have necessitated the introduction of this Bill now, notably the raising of the salaries of officers in certain grades of the Service. The Bill will have the effect of bring- ing the Public Service year into conformity with the financial year. It seeks to amend section 19 of the Public Service Act as to salaries, but the alteration will affect only officers of the fourth and fifth classes of the Clerical Division. Previously, officers of the fifth class could reach a salary of £180 per annum after eleven years’ service, whereas under this Bill they will reach it after eight years’ service, and the increases up to that period will be automatic. Then they may get two further increments of £10 each, bringing their total salary up to £200 per year, but the two further increments are dependent upon efficiency and good service. At present officers of the fourth class of the Clerical Division can attain a salary of £285 a year, but this Bill will enable them to reach £300. It will also give the Governor-General power - in cases where the duties of any office in the first class are of such a special nature that they would not be adequately remunerated by the payment of £600 a year - to fix the salary to be paid to the officer occupying the office at a rate not exceeding £700 per annum. Then section 21 of the principal Act, which relates to the payment of a minimum wage, has been altered and put into a more favorable condition as regards the employes. Under this Bill, age will be the determining factor in the payment of the minimum wage. Whether an officer receives that minimum will not depend upon his passing an examination and upon his having three years’ service to his credit. Then, the Bill seeks to legalize the recent decision to increase the commencing salary of officers from £40 to £60 per annum. A further important change which is proposed in the existing law has reference to charges against officers for breaches of the regulations or of the Public Service Act. These breaches may be of a serious character, or, on the other hand, they may be of a comparatively trivial character. But, under the principal Act, every officer who is charged with an offence must be suspended. This provision has most unfortunate effects in some instances. A typical case occurred in Western Australia quite recently. A lettercarrier at Perth absented himself from duty for one day without leave. He was charged with an offence under the Act, and was suspended from duty on the 6th October last. His case is being heard by a Board of Inquiry, and it will probably be six weeks from the date of - his suspension before his case is finally settled, during the whole of which period he will have been under suspension. The ultimate outcome will, probably, be that he will be fined £2 or £3, and allowed to resume duty. He will thus have done no work for six weeks, he will have drawn about £18 in salary, less £2 or £3, which he will probably be fined, and the Department will have been obliged to pay another officer to take his place during that period. Such a position of affairs is absolutely ludicrous No business in the world could possibly carry on under such conditions. This Bill will empower the infliction of a fine in such cases, and the retention of the officer in the performance of his duties. Another rather important provision in the measure relates to the alteration of the present system of granting furlough to officers after twenty years’ service. Under the regulations an officer who has served twenty years’ service is entitled to six months’ leave of absence on full pay. If he does not take that leave, and dies, his widow is entitled to nothing. Under this Bill an officer who is entitled to six months’ leave may take it, but if he should die before taking it, his dependents will be paid the salary which would have been due to him for the whole or any unexpired portion of such furlough. A further provision is that if a man has served in the Military and Naval Forces of the Commonwealth, his service shall be counted, as service in ,the Public Service of the Commonwealth. There are some other minute details dealt with in the measure, but I think that I have broadly explained its provisions. It is reasonable to ask that the Bill shall go through, and any further alterations of the Act which may be required considered when a general amending measure rs brought forward.
– A considerable number of the grievances that exist in the Public Service arise from one cause, which is typified in the following provision in this Bill : -
Where an officer has served at least one year in the ninth subdivision of the fifth class, he may be advanced by yearly increments of Ten pounds to a salary of Two hundred pounds per annum, provided that in the opinion of the Commissioner such increases are justified by the efficiency of the officer and the value of the work performed.
Either Parliament felt that it was granting fair and reasonable salaries when fixing the increments for the various positions, or it fixed them too high, and lacked courage to reduce them. If the former was the case, some influence must have been at work to prevent the increments being granted, or the Public Service Commissioner has not administered the Act in the spirit which Parliament intended, because we frequently hear of large sections of officers, who have rendered good service, not receiving the increments to which they are entitled. Let me give a typical case. The fourth-class officers of the Notes Branch, Commonwealth Treasury, feel that they have a grievance in connexion with the matter of the annual increments. The Australian note issue came into operation in October, 1910, and for some months subsequent to that date very heavy work was entailed, as always happens with the inauguration of any new system. The fourth-class officers appointed to this branch number four, and it is only reasonable to assume that the Public Service Commissioner, in selecting the menfor this work, chose those that were capable and careful. After their heavy work, which necessitated an appreciable amount of overtime, &c, the officers feel that their being passed over in the matter of increments is something in the nature of a reflection upon the manner in which they have carried out their duties. If such be the case, they would be only too glad to learn in what respect they have fallen short of expectations or requirements, in order that their services may improve during the forthcoming twelve months. If, however, their services have been up to the mark, why have increments not been granted to them? Where advancement depends on favour, or a system of patronage, discontent must be caused throughout the Service. If the present salaries are too high Parliament should take the responsibility of reducing them. If they are fair they should fall automatically to the lot of the officers, and the Pub lic Service Commissioner should take the responsibility of debarring from increments any officer who misbehaves or is inefficient. I hope’ the system of grading officers will be dropped altogether. I want to see the positions graded throughout the Service. It frequently happens that when a man who has been receiving, say, £210 per annum, secures promotion or resigns, another man has to do the same work with the same responsibility for £160 a year, and does not receive the higher salary until years afterwards. I know of very capable young Australians who believe that young men of talent and special ability would be appreciated in the Service, but because they are youthful, irrespective of their ability, the Public Service Commissioner has refused to grant them an adequate wage. One young Australian, who is a credit to his country, was asked to set an examination. He drew up the papers, and subsequently an officer, w ho passed the examination that he had set was actually brought in and put over his head. That is a ridiculous state or affairs. I could give lists of positions advertised in the Government Gazette, ana subsequently withdrawn in order thata very careful transfer of a capable young officer might be arranged without additional salary, but with increased responsibilities. If these young men are capable of filling higher positions, they should be paid at least as much as their predecessors. In the commercial world young men of special ability are valued, but in the Commonwealth Public Service it is a crime to be a young man, and the Commissioner every time he has an opportunity treats them in this unfair fashion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended, and (on motion by Senator McGregor) Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
When theAustralian Notes Act was before Parliament a clause was inserted providing that a sovereign should be kept in reserve for every pound note issued above £7,000,000. At that time the opponents of the measure declared thatthe issue would never be a success, and that the banks would not render up their gold for Commonwealth notes. To show his confidence in the Bill, the Prime Minister agreed to the provision I have mentioned. It has been found that the banks in the Commonwealth have not only taken up the Australian notes, but have practically rushed them. At present close on £10,000,000 worth of notes has been taken up by the banks.
– I am pleased to learn that the banks have been so philanthropic, but I rather think it is because out of every £14,000,000 in gold £1,000,000 would disappear every year in wear and tear, that the banks have thought it to their interest to take up the Commonwealth notes. There is no wear and tear on them, and they last until redeemed. It is a great waste of treasure to have £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 worth of gold lying in the Treasury without being utilized. . Hence the desire of the Prime. Minister and the Government to amend the Act. There is no intention to do this in a hurry, consequently it is provided that the measure shall not come into operation until 1st July, 1912. The Prime Minister has also given his personal promise, which I am sure every member of this Parliament will accept, that until the people have another opportunity of speaking at the ballotbox he will not reduce the gold reserve below 40 per cent.
– Why not say so in the Bill?
– Because at a future date we should have to introduce further legislation to effect a change, and the Prime Minister’s word is quite sufficient.
– On that reasoning, what is the good of an Act of Parliament? Why not take his word for everything?
– We might do so if it were certain that a Labour Prime Minister would be always in office.
– The Bill, like others with which we have been dealing during the last few hours, opens up very big questions, which it is impossible to discuss thoroughly. At the same time it is not possible to allow this Bill to pass without comment. The Government having dangled it before the public for some time have now confronted us with the extraordinary spectacle of an absolute backdown. Why was not the Bill sent to the Senate long before this ?
– We have had other Bills to deal with.
– The true explanation is furnished by the suddenness of this new proposal on the part of the Government. I desire to remind honorable senators of what preceded this measure. The Prime Minister, in introducing the original Bill, gave an assurance as definite and as solemn as a man in his position could give that the note issue was to be put beyond question by a gold reserve of 25 per cent, up to an issue of £7,000,000, and pound for pound in respect of every note issued above that amount. That was something more than an ordinary promise. It was really an undertaking to the banks on the strength of which they have availed themselves of the Commonwealth note issue to such an extent that they hold to-day something over £6,000,000 worth, whilst there is in circulation amongst the public about £4,000,000. The Vice-President of the Executive Council interjects that the Prime Minister kept his promise. He kept it, however, only as long as was necessary to enable him to get the notes into circulation. Having got them into circulation, he breaks it, and breaks it with parliamentary sanction. At present the issue amounts to something like £10,000,000, and the exact proportion of gold reserve held against it s £4,750,000. It is now proposed to reduce that gold reserve, amounting to 47 per cent., to £2,250,000, or 25 per cent, on an issue of £10,000,000, and the first effect of that reduction will be to make available for other purposes £2,250,000 in gold. Let us proceed on the assumption that this Bill is put into operation, and that the Government set to work on the basis of a 25 per cent, reserve. We know, of course, that they must keep a little above that, otherwise the first note presented to the Treasury would cause a breach of the Act. Let us assume, then, that the Treasurer keeps a gold reserve of £3,000,000 as against an issue of £10,000,000. and we must then ask ourselves what is the possibility of any considerable quantity of the notes being returned. There is every possibility of a large number being returned at any time. First of all, the circulation is abnormal, and far above the ordinary requirements of the country. Our note issue is very largely held by the banks, and quite recently the Associated Banks sent to the Government a warning as to what might be expected if the reserve were tampered with. That warning was couched in extremely courteous and friendly language, but underlying it was the plain intimation, “ We accepted your notes in full confidence, believing you would keep up the -specified gold reserve. We now feel it incumbent, in the interests of our own depositors and shareholders, and those who trade with us, to tell you that if you break down that reserve you must not be surprised if we feel compelled to return a considerable percentage of the notes which we hold.” That is the plain writing on the wall as set out in the memorandum from the Associated Banks, and it will not take very much to bring trouble upon us if we proceed to put this Bill into operation. We are enjoying a period of abnormal prosperity, and we must anticipate that sooner or later at diminution of that prosperity will set in. It is the mere A, B, C of currency that as business shrinks the currency that is necessary to enable it to carry on must shrink with it, and it would not take much of a shrinkage to cause a big return of these notes from the banks and the public to the Treasury. Assuming the Treasury holds £3,000,000 in gold, or about 30 per cent, against the note issue, we have only to imagine a diminution of commercial activity - and we must expect it - to realize how many notes would have to flow back to the Treasury in order to make the Treasurer a defaulter. On the basis I have stated, it would require the presentation of only something like £600,000 worth of notes to break, so to speak, Mr. Fisher’s Bill. We have never had such a large volume of notes in circulation as we have at present, nor have we enjoyed a greater period of prosperity. But, assuming a reduction in that prosperity, it is inevitable that something more than £600,000 worth of notes will flow back. If they do, Mr. Fisher will not be able to meet them unless he violates the provisions of this Bill.
– Or floats bills.
– He might not have time to do so. There would be nothing to prevent the banks saying to-morrow, in the circumstances I have mentioned, “ We want to remit to London a large quantity of gold, where we can have it profitably employed, although owing to a shrinkage of business there is no opening for it here.” As a matter of fact, money just now is being unvested for short dates in London on more advantageous terms than those on which it. can be invested here. It is not improbable that the banks might decide at any moment to remit £1,000,000 in gold to London for investment, and the moment they presented £1,000,000 of notes to be exchanged for gold the Commonwealth Treasurer would stand as a defaulter. When this Bill was introduced, a number of critics, myself amongst them, said that they did not object to the issue of Government notes, provided the integrity of the reserve behind the issue was placed beyond question. There was always a fear, arising from the experience of the world, that sooner or later the metallic reserve would be tampered with, but we little dreamt that this tampering with the gold reserve would be commenced so soon after the issue of the notes. From what may be regarded as a very safe, cautious reserve, there is a proposal to go to the point of recklessness. There is no guarantee that the step now being taken will not be followed sooner or later by another in the same direction. Once a Government commences to tamper with these reserves, only a little impecuniosity will be required to induce a Treasurer to make a further inroad upon them, and when that happens we shall rapidly reach that point where financial chaos must ensue.
– The Treasurer could always float bills.
– But he could not always float them hurriedly. When this Bill passes, the great Commonwealth of Australia will be, so to speak, absolutely in the hollow of the hand of a single bank. The Bank of New South Wales alone could bring Mr. Fisher to his knees to-morrow by presenting all the notes that it holds. All that could happen .0 that bank if it did so - and I am not assuming that it would - is that it would be cum toted with gold, whereas some of its clients might require notes.
– We can trust to the generosity of the banks.
– I object to the public credit and the currency of this country being at the mercy of any ban- The banks carry on business in the interests of their shareholders and depositors, and what has happened in the past will happen again. That happening points to the fa-, that, sooner or later, the banks will not content to carry on their large holdings or unproductive gold when there is a productive field for them in London. At present the only gold which they can send to London is that in the Treasury vaults, and to obtain it the banks must present the notes held by them. . When they are presented, the reserve will be found to be inadequate. It may be of some interest to note what metallic reserves are maintained by other countries dealing in paper money. I do not propose to touch the Bank of England in this regard ; certain peculiar circumstances render it somewhat difficult to understand what relation its bullion holds to its note issue.
– - Its notes are legal tender, just as ours are.
– So were the greenbacks.
– The Bank of England holds 66 per cent, of coin as against its note issue.
– It holds from 50 to 60 per cent, of metallic reserves against its note issue, and we know that the Scottish and Irish banks hold a reserve of pound for pound over and above a certain sum, as was provided for in the original Bill authorizing the issue of these notes. The Bank of France holds £137,000,000 of bullion against a note issue of £161,000,000. That is’ an enormous holding, and these figures indicate that other banks, with a wider experience than that possessed bv any one on the Treasury bench, have deemed it advisable not to keep within such a narrow margin as that which is now contemplated by the Commonwealth. We find that the United States of America, as against a note issue of $346,000,000, have a gold fund of $150,000,000, or a little under 50 per cent. : whilst the Canadian Government issue of $29,000,000 is backed in practice by 50 per cent, of gold. We have to assume either that these people know nothing at all about these matters, or that we know everything. The Commonwealth Government have evidently discovered, as the result of the criticism of this Bill during the last few weeks, that there are others who know something of the question, and that there is a genuine fear of a false step being taken. In order to save the face of the Government, it is made to appear that they hold to their original idea by making some concession as to the date on which this alteration is to come into force. But what is the value of Mr. Fisher’s promise that he will not put this Bill into operation until after the next general election?
– I do not understand the honorable senator.
– Although it is provided that the Bill is to come into operation on the 1 st July of next year, the Prime Minister has promised not to reduce the gold reserve below 40 per cent, until after the next general election. How can we bind Mr. Fisher, when there is nothing binding him but his word, and when, not long ago, he was bound both by his word! and an Act of Parliament to maintain a certain reserve? Mr. Fisher is certainly, following the correct procedure by annulling the effect of one Act by another; but how is he keeping his promise?
– An Act of Parliament is the bond of Parliament, and if Parliament releases him from his bond-
– At whose instance?
– At his request.
– Then Mr. Fisher has only to say next session, “It is perfectly true that I did give a promise last year, when passing a certain Bill, but circumstances have altered, or my own necessities have altered, and I now ask Parliament to pass a little resolution releasing, me from that promise.” This may be suggestive of Paddy’s market finance, but it is not appropriate in dealing with Nationalfinance, and unless honorable senators will join in amending the Bill so as to provide for a gold reserve of 40 per cent., they can rest assured that Mr. Fisher will break his last promise with the same ease as, and probably in a shorter time than, he broke hisprevious promise. The only advantage which the Government can gain by making this inroad upon the metallic reserve is that for some purpose not yet disclosed, they will be able to secure a loan without interest. What is the value to Australia of £2,000,000 without interest compared tothe disaster to its credit, if there should’ arise any occasion on which the currency of the country might be questioned? Interest at 3! per cent, on £2,250,000 would’ give the Government £80,000 or £90,000, but £90,000 would go in a few minutes if the credit of the National notes was questioned. We were told that all the credit of the Commonwealth would be behind the Australian note issue. But what is the good of that when it is seen that that credit can vary within a few months?* The feeling roust naturally arise that therecan be no reliance placed either upon an. assurance o’f the Government or an Act of this Parliament. For these reasons I trust that the Senate will join! honorable senators on this side in an effort to put into this Bill the safeguard presented by Mr. Fisher’s promise. The only way in which
We can make that promise of any value is to put it into this Bill, so that if it has to be altered it will not be without some notice, and it must be with parliamentary sanction. Supposing that when the Australian Notes Bill was first introduced the Prime Minister had included a. provision in which he had said, “I want only a 25 per cent, reserve all round, but I give an assurance that I shall not reduce the reserve below 40 per cent, for a certain time.” Could any one doubt for a moment that he would have broken that promise before now ? The very circumstances which, in his opinion, justify him now in breaking down the reserve, would be sufficient to justify him iri breaking the statutory reserve. I hope that whatever . metallic reserve is decided upon for our Australian note issue it will be set out in an Act of Parliament, and will not be alterable at the pressure of party needs.
– I have never risen in this chamber with a greater sense of responsibility than I do to speak on the second reading of this Bill. There seems to be an impression abroad that the circulation of notes has increased in Australia. I may inform the Senate that the circulation has gone down by nearly £1,000,000 from what it was a few years ago. The time was when the bank-note circulation of Australia represented £5,000,000. The banks are twitted with having taken so many of the Australian notes themselves, but there is an explanation of that. They had not only the guarantee of the reserve provided for in the Australian Notes Act, but they would be under a penalty of a tax of 10 per cent, if after a certain date they dared to issue their own notes. Consequently, they were obliged either to keep gold in large quantities or take the Australian notes. With a friendly feeling for the country they took the notes on the distinct understanding that there would be a gold reserve of 25 per cent, on the first £7,000,000, equal to £1,750,000, and a further reserve of a sovereign for every one pound note issued, over £7,000,000, that is to say, a gold reserve of £4,750,000 for a note issue of £10,000,000, or 47
I have the honour to advise you of the following telegram received by us to-day : - “ Deliver the following message to Right Honorable Andrew Fisher from J. Russell French. Banks with head offices in Sydney strongly deprecate any alteration in the gold’ reserve to be held against note issue of theCommonwealth Government as agreed aftervery full discussion between yourself and representatives of Australian banks. I would remind you that very large proportion of notes outstanding are held by banks themselves as part of their cash reserves.
I have the honor, ite,
The Right Honorable Andrew Fisher, Melbourne.
The next letter is from the Chairman of the Associated Banks in Victoria -
Melbourne, 4th December, 1911.
I am requested by the Associated Banks t» address you in reference to the announcement in Parliament of your intention to bring forward a measure to reduce the proportion of gold reserves now held against the AustralianNotes Issue.
You will remember that, before the present Act became law, the question was fully discussed by yourself with representatives of the banks, and, as the outcome of that discussion, you decided to propose to Parliament that alt issues in excess of ,£7,000,000 should be protected by a reserve of £ for £.
The effect of that proposal has not yet been fully ascertained. From the published returns it would appear that a total issue of ,£9,718,000 was in existence on 25th October last. Of this sum it is estimated that notes amounting to about £3,662,000 are in the hands of the public, the banks holding upwards of ,£6,000,000.
The purpose of the Government in holding a reserve of £ for £ beyond ,£7,000.000 was understood to be the protection of note-holders by insuring payment in full in coin of all notes presented. If, however, the present fixed proportion is altered, as now suggested, and the banks for any reason found it necessary to materially reduce the amount of their Commonwealth notes, it would seem that the reduced gold reserves would not suffice to repay in full the notes held by the banks.
The banks have freely given their assistance in regard to the emission of the Government Note Issue. They hold, at the present time, upwards of 60 per cent, of the issue. It is, therefore, a matter of considerable disappointment and regret to them to find that it is proposed to make a change in the conditions which they have regarded as essential, both for their own protection and that of the public at large.
Under the circumstances, it is hoped the Government will see their way not to proceed further with the matter - at all events, until sufficient time has elapsed to show the real effect of the working of the existing measure.
I have the honor to be, &c.,
Then appears this telegram from Mr. Holmes, of the West Australian Bank, addressed to the Prime Minister -
Regretfully notice proposals to reduce reserves under Notes Act. Consider proposals extremely dangerous, and strongly urge upon Government not to weaken present position.
Then we have a telegram from Mr. D. Barclay, of the Commercial Bank of Tasmania Limited, to the following effect : -
May we ask you to re-consider your decision to reduce the reserves against the Commonwealth note issue. Experience has shown that such a step will lead to trouble. Judging by our experience about seven-tenths of the notes issued are held by the banks themselves.
Again, there is this telegram from Mr. John Shiels, manager of the Bank of Adelaide -
Very strongly urge that no alteration be made to reduce coin reserves against Australian notes. Consider such action highly dangerous, and likely produce serious trouble should financial stress occur.
I presume that it is not too much to say that if there are any persons in Australia who have a knowledge of what a note issue is, they are those who have control of our banks. I emphasize the fact that they have shown that they wish to act in a generous manner towards the Government by the large number of our Australian notes they hold. They have taken from the Government notes to the value of £9,488,000. The Bank of New South Wales has bought and paid for with gold notes to the value of £2,375,000, and now holds notes to the value of £1,342,000, showing that it has circulated upwards of £1,000,000 worth of these notes. This, of course, is practically the bank’s own note circulation, and it has the largest note circulation of any bank in Australia. Senator Millen made some remarks which I have very much pleasure in indorsing. The issue department of the Bank of England held on the 6th December . £66 in gold for every £100 of notes in circulation. Of these notes in circulation £25,000,000 were held by the Bank of England itself, so that in respect of the notes issued to the public, the issue department of the bank held £125 in gold for every £100 of notes in circulation.
– Does the bank hold 50 per cent. in gold to meet its liabilities?
– The Bank of Eng. land’s coin and note reserve was, on the 6th December, upwards of 52 per cent. ; but I am speaking of the note issue department, and the gold reserve of that department was £66 for every £100 of notes issued. Under the Bank Act of 1844’, the Bank of England is entitled to issue £18,450,000 in notes against the Government debt and other securities. Beyond that, the bank’s issue department must hold 100 per cent. of gold for all notes in circulation. We in Australia profess a great admiration for the Bank of England, and certainly we cannot do better than follow the example of its note issue department. Many people confuse note circulation and solvency. No one doubts that the Federal Government is a solvent Government; but it does not follow that it would be in a position to pay gold at any time for all its notes in circulation.
– Would the honorable senator support the Canadian system?
– That is a totally different system. Let me inform the honorable senator that the Canadian banks keep most of their gold reserves in New York, where they can get them in a day if necessary. Various banks in Europe can always draw gold from other Continental banks if required.
– Are not the Canadian banks obliged to keep a certain number of Government notes in reserve?
– The honorable senator overlooks the fact that the Canadian banks can issue their own notes. The Canadian Government notes are notes for not more than $5, but the Canadian banks can issue their own notes for $5 and for any multiple of $5. Australia possessed a splendid note-circulating system, and why there should have been any attempt to alter it I do not know. I was glad to hear Senator Millen say that he intends to move that the proposed gold reserve of one- fourth in this Bill should be altered to two-fifths, which would mean 40 per cent. in value, of the Australian notes issued. However much we may respect individual members of the Government, we cannot rest upon mere verbal promises. I understand that it is the intention of the Government notto bring this measure into force until 1st July next year. I understand also that the Prime Minister has made a verbal promise that he will not reduce the gold reserve below 40 per cent. until after the next election for the Federal Parliament. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to say whether that is correct?
– I cannot say.
– Presuming for the sake of argument that 40 per cent. of gold is going to be reserved, that would mean £4,000,000 in coin, against a note circulation of £10,000,000, and would give the Government the use of only £750,000 of the present reserve. The interest at 3½ per cent. on £750,000 would represent so comparatively trifling an amount that I am really surprised that any Government should think it worth while, for such a sum, to practically injure the reputation of the Government circulating medium in Australia. This is a most inopportune time to bring forward this Bill. Who hears my address at this hour of the morning? There are several honorable senators present who are naturally overcome by sleep, and it is not fair to the country that we should be called upon to legislate in a matter of this sort under these conditions. I do trust that the Government will at the eleventh hour withdraw this Bill, and submit it again if they must next session. I have said that the banks have acted very generously in taking Australian notes to the value of £9,488,000.
– The generosity of the banks is largely responsible for the recklessness of the Government.
– It looks something like it. In spite of having to pay gold for all the notes it has taken, the Bank of New South Wales has gold coin and bullion in Australia to the value of upwards of £8,000, 000. I trust that the VicePresident of the Executive Council will regard it as a friendly action on my part when I suggest that even at this late hour the Government should withdraw this Bill.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3.51 a.m.]. - I should very gladly welcome the withdrawal of thisBill; but I have no hope that the Government will adopt such a wise and sensible course. I desire to enter my protest most emphatically against what I regard as a gross and unwarrantable breach of faith on behalf of the Government. They deliberately agreed with the banks that the conditions of the note issue should be those which are set out in the Australian Notes Act; that is to say that up to an issue of £7,000,000 there should be a gold reserve of 25 per cent., and £1 in gold for every £1 in notes above that amount. There can be no question that that arrangement was come to after consultation between the representative of the Government and the representative of the banks of Australia. This was only a few months back, and yet, in spite of their deliberate promise and agreement, the Government come forward with a request to Parliament to break that agreement and to justify the Minister in departing from the word he gave to the representatives of the banks. We are asked to accept the Prime Minister’s verbal assurance that the reserve will not be permitted to become less than 40 per cent. until after the next general election, but I am unable to do that after his failure to adhere to his original agreement. That is a very serious thing to say. I would take Mr. Fisher’s word as between himself and myself most willingly. But the moment he assumes his representative capacity as the principal citizen of the Commonwealth, we find that he is prepared to come to Parliament and say, “ Take away from me the responsibility of my word, although the other parties to the agreement, the bankers, have not been consulted, and are now protesting against this gross breach of faith.” Could anything be more derogatory to the Government, or to the credit of the country, than that the Prime Minister should break his promise, in order to be in possession of a little more funds which I recognise he believes he will spend to the best advantage of the community ? Nothing can justify such a gross breach of faith. Why did not Mr. Fisher go to the banks and explain to them the circumstances under which he desired to depart from the promise he had made? The representative of the bank managers of Sydney informed the Prime Minister that the agreement was made “ after a very full discussion between yourself and the representatives of the Australian Banks.” The chairman of the Associated Banks of Victoria makes the same allegation. The Bank of New South Wales alone has taken £2,375,000 worth of Commonwealth notes. That really represents within £125,000 of the wholeamount of the reserve which this Bill proposes that the Government should hold. Take the three banks which have the largest reserve of notes - the Bank of New South Wales, the Bank of Australasia, and the Queensland National Bank. Between them they hold £4,625,000. It would be possible for those banks, if they chose to take the risk of bringing about a financial crisis, to send in £3,000,000 worth of notes, and demand gold for them, The Commonwealth Government would not have the money at hand. It would actually have to go to the banks for gold. But if the banks were acting in opposition to the Government, and not one of them was prepared to advance a sixpence, what would be the position of the Government or of the new Commonwealth Bank? Neither would have any gold to meet demands. If Ministers will take the trouble to read the history of banking and currency in the United States, especially in relation to redemption of Government notes, they will’ find that time after time difficulties have arisen in meeting the demand for gold. The United States Government has had frequently to issue Treasury bills at a discount to insure an adequate gold reserve. American history shows how a Government may be driven from pillar to post by its creditors. The Commonwealth Government are now deliberately running the risk of having to meet a similar position. Unless we can rely upon the patriotism of the banks to maintain the credit of this country in the eyes of the world, the Commonwealth Government may easily be placed in a most serious situation. In ordinary times and circumstances, the reserve proposed might meet all requirements. But we have had crises over and over again. During the present debate we have been reminded of the banking crisis which occurred in Australia in 1893, when bank after bank found itself unable to meet its demand obligations. Suppose another crisis were brought about by drought, over-speculation, or war, and the Australian banks could not afford to hold their present reserves of notes, and requested the Commonwealth Government to pay them gold. If we had a practically bankrupt Government, what would be the use of this guarantee? A guarantee is only valuable when the guarantor can meet the demands made against him whenever they may arise. We are treading on most dangerous ground. The Government are resorting to a miserable means of really obtaining a loan without going on the market and paying interest for it in the ordinary way. The Government of a great country should not resort to unfair and unjust methods of taking money out of the pockets of the people without paying interest. Under this proposal the Government, if effect is given to the Prime Minister’s assurance, will only get £750,000- sterling, and for that they are going to imperil the word of honour and integrity of the Commonwealth. When it is reported to the world that these are the methods followed by the party which is supposed to be the party of progress, what opinionwill be held of us?
– The same high opinion as exists to-day.
– It will be a very bad opinion, if it is no better than that which is generally held concerning the Labour party now. The Commonwealth Government will be held up before the public as one which resorts to devious devices to obtain money without paying interest for it. This Bill means that Ministers have no regard for their obligations. I shall feel it to be my duty to vote against the second reading, and I shall be prepared to join with other honorable senators to delay the operation of the measure until the 1st July,. 1913. or at least to insist that provision be made to require that 40 per cent, of gold reserve shall be held until after the 1st July, 1913. If the promise which we understand has been made by the Prime Minister be an honest one, there can be no reasonable objection to embodying it in theBill. If it be not embodied in the Bill, we can but regard it as worthless.
– I should like to address a few remarks to the representatives of the Government, but they appear to be paying; no heed to what is going on. One Minister is fast asleep, and the other one can scarcely be called awake. I object to this method of dealing with important business. We have already passed an Inscribed Stock Bill. If the Government merely wished to make the machinery of that measure effective, and at the same -time to produce a Bill which would be of use to the Commonwealth, they ought not to have brought in. this measure, which is a clear intimation that, though the Treasurer’s word isregistered in an Act of Parliament, nevertheless, when he can get Parliament to do so, he will break his word. How can the Treasurer expect to float loanssuccessfully when, on the face of the Bill, it appears that he has broken his word in. the matter of the gold reserve for these notes within the last twelve months?
Question - That this Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section nine of the Australian Notes Act 1910 is amended by omitting sub-section (1.) therefrom and by inserting in its stead the following sub-section : - “ (1.) The Treasurer shall hold in gold coin a reserve of not less than one-fourth of the
Amount of Australian notes issued.”
– Has the Government had under consideration the advisability of reintroducing the provision originally in the first Bill, requiring the banks to keep a certain value of notes of thevarious denominations at their branches? The clause was objected to, and then withdrawn ; but, without such a provision, is there not a danger that the banks may, by entering into a conspiracy to present a large number of notes simultaneously, seriously embarrass the Government. No doubt, if they did anything of the kind, they would injure themselves.
– The faith reposed in the banks in the principal Act has been amply justified. They have put their notes into circulation, because it has been to their advantage to do so, and as the Prime Minister predicted they would. Until there is some reason for distrusting them, it is better to continue to depend on them than to subject them to the indignity of being compelled by law to use the notes.
– Although the Prime Minister has faith in the banks, it is doubtful whether they have faith in him. Something very much like a confidence trick has been played upon the banks and the people. We were assured that a certain gold reserve would be maintained, as the banks have written to remind the Prime Minister. It is now suggested that, having obtained the gold of the banks, we should pass a law preventing them from returning our paper, a sort of financing which, if done otherwise than by a Parliament, would lead to the intervention of a policeman.
– There was a time when people in Australia would have been glad to get 5s. for £1 bank notes.
– I am surprised that the senator should discount his standing by making such an interjection, as it has no relevancy to the consideration whether a paper currency should have a metallic backing. Honorable senators are condoning the Prime Minister’s breach of faith.
– He is not here to defend himself.
– He has never attempted to deny that he gave the assurance of which the Associated Banks have reminded him, and which is embodied in the principal Act. Knowing that they could at any time exchange the notes for gold, the banks have taken a considerable number of them.
– If the notes are not safe, why do not the banks demand gold for them.
– They have warned the public that a slight shrinkage in the present abnormal volume of business must mean the return to the Treasury of a large number of notes. Do honorable senators think that they can keep notes in circulation merely by desiring that they shall circulate? To-day, about £4,000,000 worth of notes are in circulation, and about £6,000,000 in the offices of the banks.
– Do the banks retain them out of generosity?
– No; they retain them because it is convenient to do so ; but with a shrinkage in the volume of business there will be less demand for so large a currency, and the banks will find it profitable to send their gold to England, where it can be used more profitably.
– Yesterday Senator St. Ledger said that the notes held by the banks were being used as till money.
– If effect is given to the Bill, it will reduce the Treasury gold reserve to £2,500,000, and the presentation of a comparatively few notes would be embarrassing.
– Are there not securities which may be regarded as as good as coin?
– The honorable senator confuses security with ability to pay.
– How long would it take to raise money on them.
– How long would it take to send £500,000 worth of bank notes from the Bank of Australasia to the Treasury for presentation? Not sufficiently long to enable securities to be converted into gold. The Government is relying on the forbearance of the banks. They, however, have their shareholders to look after, and are in the position of being able to demand, at a moment’s notice, gold for £6,000,000 worth of notes.
– Do the banks require £6,000,000 worth of notes for till money when only £4,000,000 worth of notes are in circulation ?
– I suppose they hold these notes because the nature of their business renders it convenient to do so.
– Then the honorable senator admits that they hold £6,000,000 worth of notes as till money.
– I have accepted the honorable senator’s statement for the sake of my argument. This holding in notes may be assumed to be necessary in normal times, and when business shrinks,it will be reduced accordingly. It would be no use sending the notes to London for investment, and, therefore, the banks would demand from the Treasury the gold that they represent.
– The shrinkage would not occur all at once.
– Probably not; the notes would drop in silently, and the diminution might not be recognised until somebody presented a big parcel.
– How would the branch banks in the outback places set about collecting notes? Would they bring them in a taxi-cab to the Treasury ?
– I dare saythere are enough notes in Melbourne to break down the reserve. It is proposed to reduce the reserve in a period of boundless prosperity, when, naturally, there is an excessive demand for currency; and the moment there is anything like a period of comparative depression, this demand will lessen, and a reserve of even 30 or 32 per cent. would bring us dangerously near the rocks. In. view of the Prime Minister’s promise that he will not reduce the reserves below 40 per cent. until after the next election, I move : -
That the word “ one- fourth “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ forty per centum.”
There can be no disability in such an, amendment unless the Prime Minister intends to break his word.
– In order to have a reserve of 40 per cent., the Treasurer will have to have practically 60 per cent.
– And so he will under his promise, and if the Treasurer means 40 per cent. let us have it provided in the Bill.
– It has always been recognised that in normal times it is necessary to have a margin of safety in connexion with a gold reserve; and, therefore, the Treasurer may legitimately promise that, the reserve being fixed at 25 per cent., he will not permit it to go below 40 per cent. The promise practically means that the Treasurer will keep15 per cent. more than is set forth in the Bill, and thus provide a good working margin. There is a fallacy in the idea that there is any sacred obligation to religiously observe at all times the reserve prescribed. It has been contended that, even in the case of a run on the Treasury, there would be a breach of the law immediately the gold dropped below the prescribed reserve.
– The reserve is there to meet a run that may take place.
– Then what is the use of the Act of Parliament?
– If the reserve of 25 percent. can under no conceivable circumstances be used, it is of no conceivable use.
– If there were a reserve of 100 per cent., there would be no fear of a run.
– Just so; but if the reserve can never be touched under any circumstances, it might as well be thrown into the ocean.
– It cannot legitimately be touched unless the Act is amended.
– What is the use of the sovereigns if they cannot be used for the very purpose for which they are reserved.
– The honorable senator’s contention is that, no matter what reserve is stipulated, it can be reduced whenever the Treasurer likes.
– Not whenever the Treasurer likes, but whenever he is forced by circumstances.
– In such circumstances Parliament could be called together to suspend the Act.
– To paraphrase Senator Millen’s question, could Parliament be called together as quickly as one could drive up in a cab to the Treasury with notes? If circumstances showed it to be the only means of saving the national credit, every sovereign of the 25 per cent. could be used to redeem the notes. A demand for a return of gold by the banks is not likely to arise from a diminution of business, so much as from something in the nature of a conspiracy, legal though it mightbe, to suddenly flood the Treasury with notes. It is not the Treasurer’s faith in the banks that will prevent them from at some time or other taking advantage ; it is only the strong arm of the law that keeps the financial and commercial elements reasonably straight.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Millen’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
This Act shall come into operation on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twelve.
Amendment (by Senator Walker) proposed -
That the word “ twelve “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ thirteen , “
– I think that Senator Walker and his party have had enough of thirteen, and I advise him to keep to twelve.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Your side had thirteen in the last division.
– That settled the other side. I advise Senator Walker not to press the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
Senator E. J. RUSSELL (Victoria- [5.3 a.m.]. - It is generally understood outside by even active business men that the control of the note issue is to be handed over by the Treasurer to the Commonwealth Bank when it is established. I should like the Vice-President of the Executive Council to state whether it is the intention to hand over the currency to the Commonwealth Bank, and, if so, what: guarantee will the people of Australia have that the Commonwealth Bank will be asked to place a sovereign against every£1 note issued by the Treasury the same as private banks do to-day. If the honorable senator can supply the information I desire, perhaps it may save me the trouble of inflicting a speech on the Senate.
– The Australian note issue will be entirely distinct from the Commonwealth Bank, and for every £1 note which the Commonwealth Bank has it will have to deposit a sovereign with the Treasury the same as any other bank will have to do.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended, and (on motion by Senator McGregor) Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is purely a Bill for appropriating £4,000,000 for invalid and old-age pensions. It is not necessary that this amount should be spent right away, nor is it necessary that it should be paid into a trust fund for that purpose until such times as money is available. I think it is advisable, seeing that we have entered into an obligation to provide these pensions, that we should always secure a sufficient sum to be available whenever it is necessary that it should be paid. We are taking precautions against all emergencies.
– I wish to enter a protest against this system, by which we are practically signing a blank cheque for invalid and old-age pensions. I think that these pensions might be very much better administered than they are. The expenditure for this purpose amounts to about £1,750,000 a year, and we are practically asked by the Minister to sign a cheque for these pensions for two years. I am not going to say that the Government ought to explain anything, but I think that they have no right to dissociate themselves from the Audit Act, and to take a certain amount out of the ordinary revenue to pay old-age pensions, say, during the next two years.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages.
Bill returned from the House of Repre sentatives without amendment.
Bill returned from the House of Repre sentatives without amendment.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended, and message ordered to be taken into consideration in Committee forthwith.
In Committee :
Clause 7 -
After section thirty-two of the principal Act the following section is inserted : - “ 32A. - (1.) The Governor-General shall, by any proclamation directing the preparation ‘of new rolls, declare that the new rolls shall be prepared under a system of compulsory enrolment, ….
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Leave put the word “ shall “ and insert “ may.”
– I regret that owing to the pressure of work in the Government Printing Office, and the late hour at which this Bill was dealt with in another chamber, I have been unable to obtain copies of the amendments made by that chamber. The amendment which is now under consideration provides that instead of the new rolls being necessarily prepared under a system of compulsory enrolment, they “may” be prepared under that system. I move -
That the amendmentbe agreed to.
– I have to thank the Minister for handing me his copy of the schedule of amendments which has been sent up from the other branch of the Legislature, but that is all I can say of a complimentary character about the present procedure. The amendment has been read by the Clerk, and we have been told by the Minister that we are asked to leave out the word “ shall “ and insert “ may “ in lieu thereof. He has given us an assurance in regard to this simple amendment. But I ask honorable senators to look at the document which has been forwarded to us in a half-printed and half -written form, and which contains any number of deletions. I say that it is highly improper for the Minister to ask us to consider amendments in this way. I am surprised that, though some hours have elapsed since the House of Representatives rose, no efforts have been made to secure printed copies of amendments.
– That is not correct. Efforts have been made.
– Then they must have been very feeble efforts indeed. There has been no other business of a more urgent character to consider than these amendments, and yet we now have either to refuse to deal with them or to accept them without knowing what they mean.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that any honorable senator does not understand the amendment which is now before the Chair ?
– That is only one out of a dozen amendments which we are asked to consider. I say that you, sir, would not have exceeded your duty if you had declined to receive the copy of the amendments made by another place which has been put into your hands. We are supposed to be supplied with a fair copy of all amendments, but can any one truthfully declare that that which I hold in my hand is. a fair copy ? It is simply a public scandal that a document should be sent up to the Senate in that form. I invite honorable senators tonote the position into which the Government have brought us by reason of their unskilful efforts in the conduct of business.
– That is not an official copy of the amendments. It is a copy which has been written up by the Secretary to Senate Ministers in the gallery.
– Then my remarks in that connexion were out of place. I would ask the Minister whether there is any prospect of our getting printed copies of these amendments within a short time? If so, I would suggest that the sitting should be suspended for half an hour.
– There is no honorable senator who can honestly say that he does not understand the purport of the amendment which is before the Chair. That being so, why cannot we proceed to deal with it? None of the amendments which have been made by the House of Representatives are difficult to follow. But if we should come to one which is difficult to understand, I shall be quite willing to accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition and postpone its consideration until copies of the amendments have been supplied by the Government Printing Office. Senator Millen has to recollect that that office has been working at high speed to keep pace with us. We have communicated with it by telephone, but we have not been able to get a definite reply as to when copies of the amendments will be available.
– As we have very little business to finish, and we are to meet again at half-past 10 o’clock this morning, surely the sitting might be suspended until we have been supplied with printed copies of the amendments. I object to proceeding with the consideration of a measure until those copies are forthcoming. To do so would be to make a travesty of parliamentary procedure.
.- Perhaps it will be as well, sir, if you were to suspend the sitting of the Committee for halfanhour.
– Why not adjourn until half-past 10 o’clock this morning?
– I am not prepared to risk doing that.
– If the Minister shakes his head, other honorable senators can do likewise.
Sitting suspended from 5.31 to 6.5 a. m. (Thursday).
– Ihave been unable to obtain printed copies of the amendments made by theHouse of Representatives, but have secured copies of the Bill as amended by another place, and ready for assent.
– The Senate is being treated badly in this regard. Theother House finished with this business before n o’clock last night, and if prompt steps had been taken, with due regard to the rights of the Senate, I can hardly believe that the resources of the printing office could not have turned out what we required by this time.
– It is not the printing office that is to blame. It is somebody connected with the other House, and I am going to find out who it is.
– The amendment leaves it optional with the Government to adopt or abandon compulsory enrolment. Do they intend to abandon the principle ?
– No. We accept the principle, and will issue the necessary proclamation, but we leave it optional for any future Government to abandon it if they think fit, without having to amend the law. There will always be the alternative of the present system of compiling rolls by claims. All the machinery is .in existence for either method.
– I am pleased to hear that the Government are showing so much consideration for their successors, but Senator Pearce believed so strongly in making Saturday polling day that he refused to leave it optional. The amendment shows that Ministers entertain a serious doubt whether . the compulsory enrolment provisions will work:
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [6.14 a.m.]. - lt is undesirable that the law should be left in a state of uncertainty.. Another objectionable feature of the amendment is that the control of this important principle is left in the hands of the Government instead of Parliament.
. -After the extraordinary efforts made by the Government to establish compulsory enrolment, and their advocacy of its perfections, with their accompanying refusal to accept the principle of compulsory voting, one cannot help wondering at the manner in which they have given away the whole position.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 8, proposed new section 6ie (Averments deemed proved in prosecution under, compulsory enrolment provisions).
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Leave ant ttc section.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This will also give Opposition senators a certain amount of satisfaction, enabling them to say, “ I told you so.”
– I am extremely pleased that this amendment has been made, since we spent some hours in a vain attempt to convince honorable senators opposite that it was a monstrous perversion of justice to assume that any one was guilty until he had proved his innocence. The amendment made by another place gives us much satisfaction, and should cause a little serious reflection on the part of those who so blindly supported the Government on the occasion in question.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 9 -
Section sixty-two of the Principal Act is amended by adding thereto the following subsection : - “ (3.) A roll may be altered by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State by striking out the name of any person if he has proof that the person, has ceased to be qualified for enrolment on that roll and has secured enrolment on another roll.”
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - At end of clause add - “ and the Registrar shall send by post to any person whose name ii so struck out notice of the fact.”
– The Registrar will “be enabled to do that for which the clause as passed by us provides by means of the card system, and since the amendment made by another place seems to be an improvement, I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– A similar proposal was made in the Senate.
– The honorable senator is mistaken.
– In the event of the compulsory enrolment system not being adopted, will the card system have any operative effect ?
– Yes; it is in force in Western Australia, where compulsory enrolment is not provided for by the State.
– At present the Commonwealth has in force what I may describe as a card system carried out by means of departmental bluff. The notice issued by the Department of Home Affairs threatening the head of a household with a penalty if he does not do what there if really no power to compel him to do, is an outrage, and should have been withdrawn long ago.
– I desire only to say that when the Bill was reported on a previous occasion, I believe I moved an amendment to the effect that no name should be struck off the roll until one month had elapsed after notice had been given to the person concerned.
Motion agreed to.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After clause 10 insert the following new clause : - “ 10a. Section sixty-six of the principal Act is amended by adding thereto the following subsection : - (2.) The Registrar-General of Marriages in each State shall in the months of January, April, July, and October in eachyear forward to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State particulars of all marriages registered during the preceding three months and in respect of which the bride is of the age of twenty-one years and upwards.’ “
– This clause has been inserted with a view of enabling the necessary alteration to be made in the name of the person concerned on the roll. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 13 (Form of nomination).
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit the clause.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– The Senate agreed to an amendment of the principal Act which struck out the old schedule of nomination, and provided that the nominations should be as prescribed. We secured an amendment of the Bill, however, providing that no nomination form should be varied within three months before the date of a general election. The House of Representatives by striking out the whole clause has restored the electoral law, so far as nominations are concerned, to what it was before this Bill was introduced. The Bill will thus be brought into conformity with the principle for which we really fought, and we therefore welcome the amendment.
Motion agreed to.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After clause 31 insert the following new clauses : - “ 31a. Section one hundred and seventy of Principal Act is amended by omitting - (1.) Purchasing electoral rolls.’ “ 31b. Section one hundred and seventy-one of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after the word ‘ the ‘ in the third line ‘ purchasing of electoral rolls, and the.’ “
Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence [6.28 a.m.]. - Under the principal Act electoral expenses in respect of which candidates are required to furnish a return include the amounts paid for electoral rolls. The amendment made by another place does away with that provision, and the further amendment proposed is simply consequential. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 32 (Return of expenses by political organization).
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Insert “ trades union registered or unregistered “ before the word “ organization “ in subsections (2.), (3.), (4.), (5.), and (8.), of proposed new section172 A, and insert “ trades unions registered or unregistered “ before “ organizations “ in sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 172b.
– These are consequential amendments. A doubt was expressed as to whether the organizations mentioned in the clause, and which are required to furnish returns as to electoral expenses, included trades unions, and these amendments have been made with the view of making it quite clear that they do.
– The Senate made the necessary amendment in one case, but failed to do so in another part of the clause.
– I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After clause 32 insert the following new clause : - “ 32a.(a)On and after the date of issue and before the return of any writ for the election for a member for the House of Representatives or for the Senate, or for the taking of any referendum vote, every article, report, letter, or other matter commenting uponany candidate or political party, or the issues being submitted to the electors, printed and published in any newspaper, circular, pamphlet, or ‘dodger’ shall be signed by the author and authors, giving his or their true name and address or names and addresses at the end of the said article, report, letter, or other matter.
Penalty : Fifty pounds.”
Penalty : Fifty pounds.
– The amendment made by another place is not only aimed at election “ dodgers,” but requires that on and after the date of issue, and before the return of any writ, articles commenting on the issues of an election and published by a newspaper shall be signed. I move -
That the Senate agree to the insertion of new clause 32A but transposes it to stand as sub-clause 181AA of clause 34 of the Bill.
The effect of the transposition will be to place the clause in the part of the Bill which deals with like matters.
– The Minister was quite right in saying that the proposed transposition would place the clause in a part of the Bill in which “ like matters “ are dealt with. The “ like matter “ is a clause under which, in a spirit of vengeance, it is proposed to render the proprietor of ‘ a newspaper liable to a penalty of £500 if he fails to place in large letters the word Advertisement” as a headline to articles or paragraphs containing electoral matter which is paid for. Properly enough that clause is to be followed with a further provision that every article, report, letter, or other matter published in a newspaper during an election campaign shall be signed, and that failure to observe that provision will also render the newspaper proprietor liable to a penalty. I listened to the debate which took place in another place on this proposal, but have not yet heard one good reason why it should be adopted. There seems to be ample justification for the statement that the amendment has been made, not in the interests of the country, but because of a desire to be revenged on newspapers which it is thought are not too kindly disposed to the dominant party in politics at the present time. Speaking as a party man, I do not think that honorable senators on this side of the Chamber care one iota whether this amendment is agreed to or rejected. It does not affect us, but there is a public side to this question, and the interests of the working journalists themselves. must also be considered. Is it not a fact that representatives of the Australian Association of Journalists, which comprises the Working journalists - the writers of this country - waited on the Prime Minister and pointed out the disabilities under which they would suffer if this provision were inserted?
– I cannot say.
– I know that they did wait on the Prime Minister, and represented to him that this provision would seriously affect their interests. Why is it inserted ? It is evidently proposed, not to safeguard the public from any evils, but merely to meet the feelings of the politician who is smarting probably under either. -a sense of criticism or a belief that he has’ not received that meed of attention to which he thinks he is entitled, and therefore wishes to get even with the press. To such an extent is this feeling being carried under this clause that it is even required that a report shall be signed. Consider how absurd this provision will work where an important speech by a prominent man is reported by several men taking short turns. Is it not absurd to say that the name of each man shall appear at the foot of that portion of the report which he has written? I could urge many reasons against this proposal, but I have only to draw attention to the appearance of this chamber to justify my not doing so. If it were possible to put before the people a photograph of this chamber at the present moment, when we are asked to deal seriously with a matter of much importance, I feel confident that there would be such an outburst of indignation as would once and for ever bring to an end all attempts to legislate in these circumstances. I ask the Committee to negative the proposition.
– This is the first occasion in the history of Australia in which a Government has used an Electoral Bill, which ought to be above party considerations, as a means to securing its continuance in office. Here, again, it is proposed to alter the relations between Parliament, the public, and the press in a way never before known ‘ in the history of any British community. Have we reached so low a level that, as in France, writers of leading articles are to be required to attach their signatures to them ? Is there any Anglo-Saxon community ‘which -has made such a demand upon the press ? I know of none, and I fail to see why we should do so. The relations of press and public follow well-known lines; The press serves the public, which in turn patronizes the press. This amendment, however, will bring about an entire alteration in the present’ condition of affairs, and will transform journalism from the impersonal to the personal, and I fail to see why we should regard as a crime the publication of an unsigned article. It is well known that leading articles published in prominent newspapers are the work, not of one man, but of several. They are written, after due deliberation by a staff of men as to the views that shall be expressed and the way in which they shall be framed. This is an entirely new departure, and quite unworthy of the Government of a British community. We are told that “those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad,” and I think that this is certainly a mad act on the part of the Government. It will apply, not only to the big daily newspapers, but to every little newspaper throughout the country, and writers throughout Australia will resent it. I do not object to the provision that placards and “ dodgers “ issued in connexion with elections, shall be signed, but I strongly object to the secrecy of the press being violated in this way. It will make the Commonwealth ridiculous in the eyes of the rest of the world.
-It treats all newspapers alike, no matter what their politics are.
-We owe our liberties as, British people very largely to the way in which the press has fought for them, arid will any honorable senator tell me that if in generations past all press articles had Had to be signed they would have had the influence they have had? This is a French proposal, and I am sorry that it should have been introduced here by a British Government. We have heard talk about boomerang proposals, and I have little doubt that this will be found to be a boomerang proposal, and will fly back at some time to the injury ofthose who are responsible for having proposed it, and of those who have voted, for it..
.- This proposal is an interference to a verylarge extent with the liberty of the subject. A well-written article carries its own weight . I object to this interference with the liberty of the subject.
– Before a vote is taken, upon the motion submitted by the Minister, ithas occurred to me that I had better submit an; amendment with a view to striking put the word “ report.” I ask honorable senators to consider the case I have just submitted of the report of a political meeting, or of the ordinary proceedings of this Parliament. Most of us are satisfied that in the reports of our proceedings we are not given the space to which we are entitled, and it is well-known that some of the newspapers contain reports which give only a few lines to the speeches of certain members of the Parliament. I ask the Committee to imagine that what is here proposed is that possibly it will be necessary under this clause to insert, after every two or three lines in a report of our proceedings, the name of the reporter to whose lot it fell to supply that part of the report. There is a great deal of difference between a report and an article. If it is the intention of the Committee to adhere to the clause, I think I can at least appeal to honorable senators to support me in proposing to strike out the word “report.” I move -
That the motion be amended by striking out the word “ report.”
– I ask the Committee not to accept the amendment. It is very difficult to say what is a report and whatis comment. I can refer honorable senators to one occasion when an important speech was made in this city by Sir George Reid. I was present at the meeting, and in one of the big morning dailies I read next morning an alleged report of the speech, which was partly a report, and very largely comment, upon what took place. I saw the reporters for the journal in question present at the meeting, and I have no doubt that they supplied a faithful report of whatSir George Reid said. I venture to say that a great deal of what appeared in the alleged report of the speech was the work not of the reporters, but of the sub-editor of the newspaper.
– Who would sign that report; the man who reported the speech, or the man who sub-edited the report?
– To comply with this provision, both would have to sign it. Why should we under this clause compel a man who earns his living by contributing leading articles to a newspaper to sign those articles, and at the same time permit another who earns his living by supplying reports of speeches to do so without attaching his name to them.
– I remind Senator Pearce that such a report as he has spoken of would be covered by this clause, even though the word “ report “ were struck out. It would be covered by the words “matter commenting upon.” I am dealing with reports pure and simple, and which it would be extremely inconvenient, as well as absurd, to have signed.
– Half-a-dozen men may supply the report of one speech.
– If Senator Pearce were announced to fire off some big oration, I have no doubt that a score of reporters would be sent to report what he said. If this provision is carried I feel sure that it will be found to be a boomerang, and amongst the first journalists who will find it very irksome will be those who’ support our honorable friends opposite.
– I have had some considerable experience of newspaper work, and I ask the Government whether they are really serious in submitting this proposal. A fairly extensive report of an ordinary public meeting may be supplied by six or eight reporters, and, as published, it will have to be signed right through. Are we so lacking in resource that it is necessary that we should adopt the French system, under which any man who expresses an opinion in a newspaper article must attach his name to it? A writer for Les Temps expressing an opinion must sign his article, and may be called out to fight a duel next day. I write many articles in the course of a year, and I am willing to attach my signature to every article I write, and subsequently to meet the Minister of Defence.
– The honorable senator’s name will figure largely in The Sugar Journal.
– Senator Blakey is mistaken, for so far I have not written anything for The Sugar Journal. If I did I should be prepared to attach my sig- nature to it. Why should the Government propose the introduction of the French system which is not adopted in any other country in the world. I may be giving away what ought to be regarded as the secrets of the press, but I can inform the Minister of Defence that on one occasion I wrote a certain article, setting out a particular argument, and sent it to the press. The newspaper in question published a leading article divided, according to the good old newspaper fashion, into three paragraphs. I found that the first paragraph was written by some one on the staff of the newspaper; the second was mine, and the third was also written, I think, by some one in the office of the newspaper. How would such an article be signed? The ordinary leading article appearing in newspapers may be written, not by one individual, but by six or seven, and may be revised and considered by what might be palled the literary board of directors of the newspaper. Is this going to be a case of preference to unionists, and is the writer of a signed article to be looked up later to see whether he is a unionist or not? The people who will be injured by this proposal are the ordinary working journalists. Honorable senators opposite would deprive him of his living. As far as public opinion is concerned, I think that ours is far better than the French system. Under the French system, certain individuals are elevated to such a degree that they practically direct the public opinion of the country. Surely we do not want the public to be influenced by what Mr. Syme or Dr. Cunningham says. I would remind honorable senators of what Mr. George Walter, of the Times, told the House of Commons about seventy years ago. He was charged with having written something in his newspaper, and, in reply, he said, “ I have been charged with writing certain things in the Times; but the Times is not merely a property - it is an institution. Whatever I may have written was not written by me as an individual, but was written for the Times as an institution or dynasty.” Most well-conducted newspapers are really institutions or dynasties. The individual dies, but the dynasty endures. The editor, or sub-editor, or leaderwriter, or reporter is merely a fly on the wheel. He is like a man behind the counter, so to speak. It is not his opinion that matters ; it is the opinion of the newspaper as an institution.
– I observe that this proposed new clause uses the term “The House of Representatives or the Senate.” The Constitution refers to the Senate and the House of Representatives, giving precedence to the Senate. That is the general practice, and I hope that the Minister will accept an amendment to make this clause conform to the constitutional usage. For this purpose I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Motion and amendment, by leave, withdrawn. ‘
– We can Accomplish what the honorable senator desires, and make the amendment which the Government think necessary by bracketing the two in the following amendment, which I now move -
That the amendment be agreed to and stand as proposed new section 181AA in clause 34 in the Bill ; but that the proposed new section be amended by transposing the words “ Senate “ and “House of Representatives” twice occurring.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 33 (Amendment of section174).
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After clause 33 insert the following new clause : - “ 33B. Section one hundred and eighty of the principal Act is amended by adding the following paragraphs : -
Provided that nothing in paragraphs (d) and (e) of this section shall prevent the printing, publishing, or distributing of any card, not otherwise illegal, which contains instructions how to vote for any particular candidate, so long as those instructions are not intended or likely to mislead any elector in or in relation to the casting of his vote.’ “
– The object of this amendment is to prevent the printing and distribution of cards which are intended to mislead voters. Some cards are useful. A card that gives the name of a candidate, putting a cross opposite to it so as to indicate to the voter how that candidate wishes him to vote, may be useful. But some cards are intentionally misleading. Quite lately I saw in a candidate’s committee-room window a card which had upon it the notice, “ Unless you vote in this way your vote is informal.” That was obviously intended to mislead.
– Who is to be the judge as to what is intended to mislead?
– The Court before which the matter will be heard. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– This amendment speaks of printing, publishing, or distributing “any electoral advertising, notice, handbill,” &c. What is a notice ? For instance, I have in my hand a copy of this morning’s Age. It contains what professes to be a list of the members of this Parliament, with their number of attendances during the session. Opposite to my name is an asterisk. I am credited with forty-four attendances, and the asterisk directs attention to the fact that, as alleged, I have two months’ leave of absence. Somebody may keep this paragraph, and when I stand for election again in Queensland, copies of this statement of the Age may be circulated. If a copy of the Age with this wrong statement was circulated in Queensland during an election campaign, it would come under the provision.
– No. The governing words are “ containing any representation of a ballot-paper.”
– Of course, we all know that it is probably an innocent mistake, but it serves to illustrate the absurdity of the provision.
Motion agreed to.
Remaining amendments agreed to.
– If one of these provisions were in force in South Australia, those associated with the Labour party who have been guilty of such nefarious work in connexion with . the elections would be punished.
Resolutions reported ; report adopted.
– Since ten or half- past ten last night, I have been paired with Senator Vardon, but unwittingly broke the pair on two or three occasions through being asleep on the benches when divisions were being recorded, which is excusable, I think, seeing that I have not been in bed for forty-eight hours. The recording of my name in those divisions did not alter the result.
Order of the Day for the resumption of the debate, on the motion (by Senator McGregor) that the Budget papers be printed, read and discharged.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) pro posed -
That the Senate, at itsrising, adjourn until 11.30 a.m.
Senate adjourned at 7.36 a.m. (Thursday).
The President took the chair at 11.30 a;m., and read prayers,
Message, received from the House of Re presentatives stating that it had agreed to the Senate’s amendment on the amendment of that House. =.
– I rise to a. point of order. Is it not usual, at the opening of the day’s sitting, sir, for you, in your official capacity as President, to ask if any member of the Senate has a petition . to present and to follow up that inquiry By asking for notices of motions and questions ?
-A message can be taken at any time. A message has been read, and I will now proceed with the business in the ordinary course.
– -I asked for information, as I did..’not, wish . to . forfeit my right!;
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, the following questions : -
– Why this ‘. war-like note on a day of peace ?
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the questions.
– As the Minister is unable to reply to the questions now I shall ask other questions, which he may be able to answer. I beg to ask -
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of these ‘questions also.’
– I give notice o’f’ both questions for. the. next day of sitting.
Senator PEARCE laid upon the table the following papers : -
Naval Defence Act 1910- Regulations (‘Provisional) for the Naval Forces . of the Commonwealth. - Amendment of Regulations101 and” 102 - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 207.
Defence Act 1903-1910 -
Regulations (Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth -
Amendment of Regulation 34. - Statutory Rules 191 1, No, 206.
Amendment of Regulation 418. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 208.
Financial and Allowance Regulations (Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth -
Cancellation of Regulations 258 to 272, and substitution of new Regulations in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 205. .
Amendment of Regulation ‘84,. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 209. ‘ :
asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
If it is correct, as stated, that Mr. McAnderson, a member of the Sugar Commission, is -absenting himself from the meetings of that body in North Queensland?
– The Government have no official knowledge that Mr. McAnderson is not attending the sittings of the Commission.
– Do you not think that you should have some knowledge of what “he is doing?
Motion (by Senator McGregor), agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
fi 1.35].- In moving-
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I desire to thank honorable senators who have enabled the business of the country tobe carried on by maintaining a quorum at all times. I also thank the members of the Opposition for the vigorous manner in which they have presented their case in connexion with all contentious business. They have carried out that duty manfully against great odds, and deserve to be congratulated. I hope that they go away without any ill feeling, although the battle has been waged to the very. castle gates. The supporters of the Government deserve the sincere thanks of every Minister, for they have stuck to us in all emergencies, and kept a quorum, at great self-sacrifice sometimes. I sincerely thank’, on behalf of the Government, the President and the Chairman of Committees, whose arduous duties have kept them here for very long hours and at great inconvenience. I also sincerely thank, on behalf of the Government, the officers and the attendants. No doubt they have felt the strain which has been put upon all concerned with this Chamber dur- ing the last two or three week?. At all times and in all circumstances both the officers and the attendants have done their duty faithfully and well. I also desire to thank the members of the Hansard staff.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– I am sure that every honorable senator will agree with me that although for the last week or two both Houses of this Parliament have been sitting for long hours, those gentlemen have stuck well to their work. Honorable senators will find that the reports of their speeches are as good now as when those gentlemen had more time at their disposal. With a parliamentary experience covering nearly eighteen years, I can say that in no Parliament of which I am aware have the utterances of its members been so faithfully recorded, and sometimes when the staff were labouring under very serious difficulties, as they have been in this Parliament. Therefore, the members of the Hansard staff deserve the thanks of the Government, and I am sure that honorable senators will join with me in thanking them for the able manner in which they have carried out their duties.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– I hope that we will all part now for the holidays and come back when Parliament meets again in the very best of health, and that the friendships that exist amongst us now will even be strengthened by the separation which is about to take place.
– I indorse the remarks addressed through you, sir, to honorable senators present by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I desire to acknowledge, on behalf of honorable senators sitting 011 this side of the Chamber, the unfailing courtesy and impartiality with which you have invariably exercised your authority under circumstances which, I may be permitted to say, perhaps occasionally, with a less happy temperament in the chair, might have created irritation I specially desire to acknowledge the unfailing response which the members of the Hansard staff have given to the very trying demands we have made on their resources and their strength, and also to bear testimony to the assistance . which we upon this side of the Chamber have received from the officers of the Senate. Passing from that, and striking a note more personal to honorable senators, I very cordially reciprocate the kindly remarks which have been made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. We do, I trust, strive as much as we can to give expression to the views we are here to represent, and it is one of the happy features of this Chamber that though occasionally an impulsive word may be uttered, I have never known a session to close without feeling that when the battle is over we may part as good friends. I am inclined to think that we are the better friends because of our conflicts. After passing over the little incidents which will ruffle the sweetest temperament we seem to come together with a better appreciation of each other’s qualities and of each other’s duties. I am inclined to think that there was a period prior to the termination of last session when there were signs of a little heat and friction, the re-echo of the previous general election. It is a very gratifying feature that this session has marked their disappearance. I cannot recall any session in which the work has been so strenuous, the demands upon the time and patience of honorable senators so severe, and the proceedings marked by so little personal conflict, as has this session. I desire to conclude by wishing the VicePresident ‘of the Executive Council and honorable senators the very best wishes for the coming new year.
– It is not my purpose to introduce a discordant note into these proceedings, but to me it is a matter of deep disappointment that when my worthy friend Senator Millen and I have come back, as Senator Givens remarked, “ like giants refreshed “-
– Fancy the honorable senator a giant.
– And Senator Needham, too. I cannot leave my honorable friend out of the category of giants. When we have returned to the legislative arena like giants refreshed, it is a disappointment to learn that the Government have declined to allow us a little time to discuss private business of an urgent character. I fear that I shall not be here next Wednesday, and that there will not be a quorum present on that day. We are all here, the day is young, and yet our desire to work is frustrated at this early period of a short ses sion. Whilst re-echoing the kindly feelings which have been expressed, I repeat that I am deeply disappointed.
– I can speak with some feeling of the disadvantage which attaches to the introduction of private Bills in this Parliament. I was hopeful that before the session closed I would be afforded an opportunity to deal with a certain measure which I had placed upon the business-paper. But” I am sorry that I shall have to again placeit upon the business-paper next session.
– I desire to refer to a littleincident which occurred last evening when I lost my temper with my old friend theVicePresident of the Executive Council in connexion with the battle which raged over the pocket-handkerchief industry. . I havemade inquiries this morning, and I find’ that my statement was perfectly correct, but unfortunately I have discovered that the statement of the Vice-President of theExecutive Council is also correct. Senator Millen, in his desire to expl’ain the difference between the two of us, was the only person who was wrong.
. - Like Senator Rae, I have no desire reintroduce a discordant note, but I may bepermitted to say - and in doing so I am expressing the views of honorable senators upon both sides of the Chamber - that I hope it will be a long time before the closing; hours of a session are again crowded with so much business as have been the closing hours of this session. I would like to takethis opportunity to sincerely thank honorable senators for the good-tempered way ins which they have at all times - and occasionally there have been stormy periods - assisted the occupant of the chair to maintain that order and decorum which havebeen a feature of the Senate from the very inception of this Parliament.
– I only desire to say that I think we may all congratulate ourselves that theSenate is still the Senate.
– I wish to thank honorable senators for the consideration and ‘ courtesy which they have uniformly extended to the Chair. As Senator Millen hasobserved, it is sometimes difficult for honorable senators to realize that decisions- arrived at by the Chair are altogether impartial. But I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition and the Vice-President of the Executive Council have stated that they are able to bear testimony to the fact that whilst a little friction may occasionally arise, anything which is done by the Chair is done in an absolutely impartial way, and without taking cognizance of that friction. I also desire to thank the officers of the Senate, who have had to undergoa very strenuous ordeal. So far as the Clerk is concerned, the work has been particularly hard upon him, because he is not enjoying’ the best of health. But I am glad to say that he has been able to stick to his post throughout the whole of the long and arduous sittings which we have undergone. I desire to thank both him and the Clerk Assistant for the help which they have rendered to the Chair, and to say that without that help the record of the session might have been somewhat different from what it is. I’ wish, further, to thank the attendants of the Chamber, who, notwithstanding that they have had to work long hours, have never exhibited the slightest unwillingness to do anything which they were called upon to do.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 December 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19111220_SENATE_4_63/>.