4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Honorary Minister whether the attention of the Postmaster- Genera I has been drawn to the circumstances that the steamer Wau chope,’ which, carrying mails, passengers, and cargo, was due in Melbourne from King Island on Thursday last, did not arrive here till yesterday or to-day ; that the delay was due to the fact that she was detained at King Island through stress of ‘ weather ; and that, in consequence of there being no telegraphic communication with King Island, her whereabouts was not definitely known to anybody except the residents of that island P Has his attention been drawn to the further circumstance that there is on King Island a privately-owned wireless station, erected under licence from the Department, unstaffed and idle; and, if so, -will he take steps to either acquire staff and operate the station, or provide other telegraphic facilities with the island, so that it will be in touch with the rest of the Commonwealth ?
– My attention has not been drawn to the matter mentioned by Senator Keating. In regard, to the late arrival of the steamer carrying passengers and mails, I am aware that there is at King Island a wireless station, erected by a private citizen ; that it is not in working order ; and that there is no. business being carried on by the person interested, or on behalf of the Commonwealth. The honorable senator is, no doubt, aware that it is the intention of the Government to circle the continent with wifeless stations. The matter is receiving every consideration. There are difficulties in our path ; but I can assu’re the honorable senator that no time is being lost in regard to linking up King Island and other parts of Australia by means of wireless telegraphy. Regarding the other point which he mentioned, I am not going to commit myself, but I shall bring it under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Defence Act 19,03-1911. - Military Forces - Regulations amended (Provisional). - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 165.
Financial and Allowance Regulations amended (Provisional). - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 164.
Public Service Act 1902-ign - Promotions - Postmaster-General’s Department, Accounts Branch, New South Wales -
P. Westhoven, Clerk, Second Class.
G. Haldane, Accountant, First Class.
J. Sheehan, Clerk (Ledger-keeper), Third Class.
Department of Trade and Customs, Central Staff-
E. Hudson, Chief Surveyor.
Public Service Act 1902-1911. - Regulations, amendments, &c. - Statutory Rules ig’2, No. 167.
Public Service Act 1902-1911. - PostmasterGeneral’s Department, New South Wales -
Appointment of J. C. RndclifTe to position of Draughtsman, Class E, Electrical Engineer’s Branch.
-laid on the table: -
Return to Order of the Senate of 26th July, 191 2 -
New Commonwealth Treasury Buildings.
Return to Order of the Senate of 1st August, 1912 -
Timber : Importations during Year ended 30th June, 1 91 2, and Countries of Origin.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether any arrangement has been made for the establishment of fife and drum bands in connexion with the Cadet Forces?
– No arrangement is made by the Department itself for the establishment of fife and drum bands in connexion with the Defence Forces;. but every encouragement is given to voluntary effort by the cadets in that direction.
– What does the Minister mean by the phrase “every encouragement “ ? Is it a financial, or a kind of moral support which is given to the cadets?
– In order that I may give a definite reply to the latter part of the question, I ask the honorable senator to give notice of it.
– Has the at tention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council been drawn to the following statement in the Age of to-day, under the heading of “ Vital Statistics : A Record in Marriages “ -
Victorian marriages, births, and deaths in the June quarter of 1912 were more numerous than in the corresponding period of the previous year. There were 3,157 marriages, which was the highest recorded for a quarter and 432 above the quarterly average of the preceding three years.
And, if so, whether he will see that a copy of this return is sent to every branch of the Women’s National League in Australia for their information?
– Now that the article in the Age has been brought under my notice by the honorable senator, it is quite plain that the prosperity of the country, brought about by the administration of the Labour party, has rendered it possible for people to get married. With respect to the Australian Women’s National League, I do not know whether they would read the Age at the present time or not.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether he has noticed in the press that the mad rush of immigrants to Australia still continues, that they cannot secure berths until next December; and whether, in view of that fact, the Government will take steps to see that on the steamers thers is no overcrowding of those people who are wanting to come to Australia? My second point is, does not the Minister consider it a fair thing to make known to these immigrants to Australia with a little capital the risk which they run in coming to a country where a Labour Government is in power ?
– The matter referred to by Senator Lynch will be brought under the notice of the Minister of External Affairs, and everything that is necessary to secure the safety of the immigrants on their passage to Australia will, I hope, be done. With respect to his reference to the Labour Government, well, it is accountable for a great many things.
– If the Government are taking any steps to advertise the suitability of Australia for immigrants, I should like to know whether they are doing so for agricultural workers, in view of the fact that, so far, the Rural Workers Union have not had an opportunity of securing an award to give them anything like decent wages in the agricultural industry?
– I hope that the Minister of External Affairs will see to it that any advertising that is done in the older countries of the world will be of an appropriate character, and that he will also have in view the desirableness of making provision for those immigrants who come here to carry out their agricultural calling.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister of Home Affairs has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions -
Bill returned from the House of Representatives, with a message that the House had agreed to the amendment on its amendment.
Debate resumed from 16th August (vide page 2299), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I quite understand, and I think that honorable senators do also, why this Bill is introduced at this period of the session, and in advance of the General Estimates. But while there is an advantage in that course there is also a disadvantage. The advantage, of course, is that it enables the officers of the Departments to get ahead in the carrying out of works for which provision is made in this and similar Bills. Not only is that an advantage, but it is a necessity as long as we adhere to what is known as the cash system, under which amounts voted by Parliament, and not expended in the year for which they were appropriated, lapse, and fall back into the Consolidated Revenue. I have previously voiced the opinion that that system has been flogged to death. As a result of it we frequently find that the Departments themselves anr) Parliament are handicapped in dealing with these subjects. To show the evil arising from the system, I direct attention to the fact that there are to-day large sums of money covered up by Trust Funds, which were instituted for the purpose of cheating, of defrauding, the very purpose of our own cash system. It seems to me that if we find that the necessity is so great as to compel us to break down our own system, the time has arrived when we ought to revise or to abolish it altogether. The view that I wish to suggest is this : That where a specific amount is voted by Parliament, either for material in given quantities, or for a specific public work, that amount ought to be available for the purpose specified, even if it is not spent during the twelve months in which the money was voted. It seems to me to be silly to say that because on the 30th June only 75 per cent, of an amount has been spent, the remaining 25 per cent, should fall back into the Consolidated Revenue, and require to be revoted. It is to get over that system that we have developed the new system of trust funds. The procedure now is to appropriate an amount for a specific purpose, and tor place any unexpended balance in a Trust Fund, from which it can be drawn as required, even though the work stretches over two or three years. If side by side with our cash system we run Trust Accounts, which enable expenditure to be stretched over a number of years, it seems to be clear that the cash system has broken down.
– It was introduced to maintain a policy of continuity.
– If it is desirable to have what in the euphemistic, but exceedingly vague, expression of the VicePresident of the Executive Council is a policy of continuity, let us do it openly, arid say that if we require to sink an artesian well we shall provide money for the purpose; and that whether it is spent in six months or in two years shall make no difference.
– We took over this system from the honorable senator’s own party.
– It seems to be impossible for the Vice-President of the Executive Council to approach any question without considering it sufficient to answer “ Your Government did the same.” I recognise that the cash system sprang up in. the early days of Federation, when the. amounts voted were comparatively small, and when the works to be undertaken were not very large. It was adopted very largely because a similar system had been followed in some of the States. But the point which I wish to bring out is that the large area to be covered by those responsible for the control of Federal affairs has made this so-called cash system unsuitable to our requirements. In fact, the system has already broken down. Proof of that is to be found by reference to the Trust Accounts, by which the Departments cover up sums of money, the bulk of which represents unexpended balances, appropriated for specific works, and incapable of being spent within the financial year.
– Was not the cash system originated to get over constitutional difficulties?
– No ; the difficulties were created by our own law, and not by the Constitution at all. To-day, there is about £15, 000,000 covered up by Trust Funds. It is true that a large amount of that consists of the note reserve, but there is also a very large amount which consists really of unexpended balances, for defence material, and so forth, put aside because it was recognised that the money could not be spent in the years for which it was voted. As our cash system required money not voted within the twelve months to be re-voted net year, we created this Trust Fund, into which the amounts were paid, to get over that difficulty.
– The honorable senator is referring to the annual vote, and not to the total cost of the work.
– Speaking roughly, there are on one page of the schedule to this Bill proposals for the expenditure of about .£2,750,000 for various works. If that money is not spent by the 30th June next, the unexpended balance will go back into the Consolidated Revenue, and will . have to be re-appropriated to complete the works. I say that with regard to a great many of our appropriations, particularly in connexion with the Defence Department, for the purchase of material, in order to overcome the difficulty pf the lapsing of unexpended balances of votes, the money is paid into the Trust Fund- That is a nega-‘ tion of our so-called cash system, and we should adopt either one system or the other. I recognise the great value of the cash system in dealing with annual appropriations for wages and salaries and the ordinary recurring expenses of government; but when we come to deal with specific works it is only common sense to say that if a post-office is to be built at a cost of £1,000, and Parliament approves of the work and votes the money, it should be available until the post-office is completed, even though it may not be found possible to spend the whole of the amount appropriated for the purpose between this and the 30th June next year.
– Suppose, in connexion with our naval policy, we had to provide for works extending over five years, would the honorable gentleman say that there should be one vote to cover the appropriation necessary?
– No; it would be necessary only to vote what would be considered sufficient for the expenditure in each year. Our experience is that it invariably happens that we do not spend as much as we have appropriated for many of our public works within the financial year. If we wish to. have the cash system ‘in something more than name, we should abolish the Trust Fund system so far as it applies to works and the purchase of material. Under existing conditions, we have the cash system, and side by side with it a device for the purpose of defrauding the cash system of its one peculiar safeguard. We should adopt either one system or the other, and my own view is that the cash system is not suitable to Federal requirements. Passing from that, I should like to make a short reference to a view expressed by trig Vice-President of the Executive Council, and which I imagine is considered important by my honorable^ friends opposite, because it was repeated almost word for word by Senator Blakey. I refer to the tendency on the part of my honorable friends to pat themselves and the Government on the back because they have been spending money right royally;
I never knew that it required any high degree of statesmanship to be able to spend money. I do not claim credit for any high degree of statesmanship, but I will undertake to spend all the money that is given me.
– We spend it wisely.
- Senator Findley, noticing the difficulty in which the VicePresident of the Executive Council was placed, qualifies the statement; but there was no such qualification when the boast was made. The Government in this matter, remind me of the little boy in the nursery rhyme, I think it was Jack Horner, who took out his plum and then considered that he was a very brave boy. The members of this Government step forward, put out their political chests and say, “ Look at the magnificent millions we have spent.” I say that a fool can spend money, and he will have no reason to boast about it.
– He usually does spend money.
– Of course, we know that “ A fool and his money are soon parted.” Instead of the Government making this boast that they are . spending so much money, the obligation is upon them to show that they are getting for the people of Australia greater value for every twenty shillings they spend than their predecessors were able to secure. The mere fact that they are spending more is not a matter in which they should take any pride, or about which they have any right to boast. It has to be remembered that they have a good deal more to spend than their predecessors had. When making such statements they should at least be sufficiently reasonable - I was going to say honest - to admit that with the- disappearance of the Braddon section the present Government have enjoyed a very much greater financial freedom than any_ of their predecessors.’
– Although that was known and anticipated, the Government of which the honorable senator was a member proposed to borrow money.
– What did we propose to borrow?
– The honorable senator’s party proposed to borrow , £3,500,000.
– What has the present Government borrowed?
– We did not go abroad for it.
– Here we have . again a specimen of the logic which might be useful if delivered from a corner verandah, in some street on a Saturday night, but which should surely not carry any weight here. Senator Findley said, first of all, that the previous Government proposed to borrow. When I asked him what they proposed to borrow he said they proposed to borrow £3,500,000, and when I referred to what the present Government have ‘ borrowed he tells me that they did not goabroad for it.
– And they did not borrow money for the purposes for which the honorable senator’s party proposed to borrow it.
– That is quite 1 different matter. The fact remains that with the biggest revenue ever enjoyed by a Commonwealth Government, the present Government have found it necessary to borrow, and, what is more, they propose to spend this year something like £2,750,000 more than they expect to receive by way of revenue. That simple statement sums, up the financial position with which we are confronted to-day. Though we anticipate an enormous revenue, it will still be. £2,750,000 short of the amount proposedto be spent this year.
– Does the honorablesenator say that that- is a disaster ?
– I say that the proposal means that the Government intend to depend upon the surpluses of previous years, but if they propose to continue the same course next year there will be no surplus funds to draw upon, and my honorable friends will be up against one or two propositions.
– The honorable senator is anticipating something.
– Every sound business man does try to forecast the future. It is only the man who is guided by the philosophy of the fool, “ Eat/ drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we die,” who will ignore the fact that there is ahead of this Commonwealth a very serious financial problem.
I propose to deal at length with only one matter contained in this Bill. I refer to the proposed expenditure in the Northern Territory. Since these Works and Buildings Estimates came before us on last Friday, it has not been possible for me to make myself so familiar with the details of the schedule as to warrant me in occupying the time of the Senate <upon them. There are many items which merit inquiry, but it was not possible for nae in the time at my disposal to obtain necessary information, and in the absence of that information I do not feel justified in discussing them at any length, though I may in Committee submit some inquiries regarding them. The question to which I propose to direct attention is the expenditure proposed in connexion with the Northern Territory. We have a proposal in this Bill to appropriate a sum of £58,540 for new works in connexion with this great Province in the north. I wish to consider the circumstances in which we are asked to expend this money. It has been remarked a dozen times in the Senate that we have big problems in front of us in dealing with the Northern Territory. One of the biggest problems will be the matter of finance. It is impossible to assume that we shall - escape scot free if we make a false or reckless start in the expenditure of public money there. According to the figures which have been submitted, the expenditure in the Northern Territory in the last financial year was £343,000. This is shown in the Budgetpapers. With respect to certain items, -however, this amount covered only the appropriation for six months. I have doubled the amount set down for those items in order to discover what would have been the expenditure in the Northern Territory on a twelve months’ basis for last year. After making that allowance, I find that the cost was £377,000. This amount included three items, which I propose to deduct, for reasons which I shall assign later, namely, interest, redemption, and sinking fund. I shall deduct them from the appropriation for that year, in order to ascertain exactly what we were paying in connexion with the administration of the Northern Territory outside of its indebtedness. For that year, interest, redemption, and sinking fund aggregated £291,000, which means that the controlling and working of the Territory cost the Commonwealth £85,000. That is altogether apart from its indebtedness. For the current financial year the corresponding figures are £237,000. The total appropriation sought is £478,000, from which we again have to deduct interest, redemption, and sinking fund amounting to £^241,000. This leaves an expenditure of £237,000, as against £85,000 for the preceding twelve months - an increase of ,£150,000. I come now to the works proposed in the Northern Ter ritory, with a view to seeing how much, of that money is to be set aside for developmental purposes, An appropriation of £150,000 for developmental work in the Northern Territory would be a mere no. thing - an expenditure which we could have welcomed rather than viewed with apprehension. But of the sum of ,£237,000 to which I have already referred, only £58,000 is set apart for works and buildings. Before we sanction this expenditure, we may well ask ourselves, “ What benefit shall we derive from an outlay of nearly £250,000 in the Territory if only £58,000 of it is to be devoted to developmental works ? “ I submit that it is rather a serious proposition when we find our bill - for wages and salaries - that is to say, for the employment of public functionaries - jumping from £85,000 to ,£237,000 in one year - an increase of £150,000 apparently for the purpose of controlling a public works expenditure of ,£58,000. If for every pound spent upon development work there, £3 is to be expended in wages and salaries, the Northern Territory will , become a mere official resort, and a sink for public money. I had hoped that before the Government invited us to vote a single penny for public undertakings in the Territory, they would have submitted in bold outline the policy they propose to pursue in regard to developmental work there. But we have never had any intimation that they have a policy in respect of that Territory. I think this is a matter upon which the Parliament and the country is entitled to take some notice. After having had control of the Territory for eighteen months, the Government have managed to run up our expenditure upon it from £85,000 to ,£237,000 a year, and they have now come down with a policy in regard to its public works which is a thing of shreds and patches.
Passing from this subject, I wish to deal with some of the items contained in the Bill. I do so because, they appear to me to indicate either that those responsible for the preparation of these Estimates failed to appreciate, the seriousness of their task, or that something in the nature of suppression has been practised. For instance, looking down the Bill, I find that item 3 reads, “ Artesian water bores, also wells arid dams- on overland route, on Macdonnell Ranges and Tanami gold-fields, arid stock routes, £2,000.” If one did not happen to notice: the amount which is here set down, he would naturally assume that the Government were embarking upon a policy of water’ conservation there - that they intended to conserve water by means of bores, tanks, and dams, and to make an effort to supply the Macdonnell Ranges and the Tanami gold-fields.
– They are outside the artesian area.
– What I wish to point but is that the amount which we are asked ‘ to appropriate in this connexion would not be sufficient to defray the cost of putting down one artesian well. In unknown territory - by that I mean territory unknown to the well-sinker - I venture to say that the sum of £2,000 would be absorbed in the sinking of one artesian well.
– For “ well sinking and water conservation,” the amount proposed is £3,000.
– I am speaking of the amount which it is proposed to appropriate for artesian water bores, and also wells and dams, £2,000. I submit that any man with practical knowledge will say that “an artesian bore means a bore for artesian water, and that where a “ well “ is spoken of it means an ordinary well. In addition to putting down artesian bores - I ask honorable senators to note that the Government are not going to put down a single bore, but quite a number of them - they propose to establish wells and dams on the overland route on the Macdonnell Ranges and Tanami gold-fields, and stock routes, and all these- works are to be carried out at an expenditure of £2,000. Not very long ago a person would not undertake to put down a single artesian bore in unknown country in New South Wales - that is in country with the geological formation of which he was unfamiliar - and find the tubing for it forless than £2,000. In the shallower country of Queensland - a . country which has been tested a hundred times over - an artesian bore can, of course be put down for very much less than that sum. I doubt whether, if tenders were called for, you could get a man who would be prepared to undertake to put down a single artesian bore for £2,000 in the Territory. If that is so, what becomes of all these wells and dams which are. to be put down out of the same amount? One is tempted to ask whether this estimate was prepared by a man without practical knowledge. Who is responsible, for its preparation ?
– Do you not think that the other item of £3,000 is for the procuring of water ?
– Here is a marvellous discovery ! I do not suppose that a well was ever put down for the purpose of obtaining sand. Of course, it is put down for the procuring of water.
– Why mislead the Senate with the statement that only £2,000 is provided for water conservation?
– I have not used the term “water conservation.” Why do the Government mislead the Senate by presenting this estimate, and pretending that they are going in for a course of artesian boring at a price like this - £2,000. Let the honorable senator, if he does not care to take my word, make a few inquiries as to what it has cost to put down a few wells in New South Wales or Queensland, and he will find that it is nonsense to talk of an expenditure of £2,000 in the circum: stances which we are considering. It is to put down, not one bore, but more than one - two at least to make the term plural - and, in addition, out of this sum, provision is made for sinking wells and dams on the overland route. Does the honorable senator consider it at all feasible that it can be done for the money ? Either this indicates a desire to keep from Parliament the full information which is in the mind of the Department, or it shows that the Department knows very little about the matter. I turn to the other item of £3,000 for well sinking and water conservation. I should like to know why this item was not bracketed with the other item. It seems , to me that if we have a vote for wells and dams in one part of these Estimates, and a general vote for wells and dams somewhere else, they might be put together under the head of “ Water conservation, £5,000.” This enables me to point out that the first item is ridiculous in the extreme. I should like the Government to tell us what they really propose to do with the £2,000, because it is futile to talk of sinking artesian wells with that sum.
– We will spend as much as we can.
– I know that that is my honorable friend’s claim to immortality.
– They are not proposing to spend too much on that.
– No, it is a farce; it cannot be done for this amount, and, therefore, one has the right to find out whether this item has been put forward in good faith by incompetent or impracticable men, or with the view of withholding from Parliament the information to which it is entitled. With regard to the item of £4,200 for a railway and construction survey from Pine Creek to Katherine, I have nothing to say against the item, but I do think that the Government ought to have disclosed what they propose to do with regard to railway extension in the Northern Territory. It is easy, I know, to vote £4,200 for the purpose of a railway survey, but surely the time has arrived when the Government, should put forward a railway policy for developing the Northern Territory. To merely say that they are going to run out a few miles of survey is to tell us nothing. The question ‘is : Do they propose to take the railway south ; have they matured a policy which will show that they are prepared to seriously grasp the task of developing the Northern Territory? The Government have not said a single word as to whether they have a railway policy or not. All that they have said is, “ We want £4,200 in order that we may further justify the claim we put forward as being the greatest spending Government which Australia has ever known.”
I want now to deal with another item, and I am induced to do so by a remark of Senator Blakey. I refer to the new effort of the Government at State enterprise - the erection and equipment of a steam laundry at Darwin.
– Is it intended for , them to wash their dirty linen in?
– I cannot resist telling this little story. On Monday night I was addressing a public meeting in Sydney, and, when I was mentioning this item, -a gentleman at the back of the hall rose and said, “ Mr. Millen, I would like to ask you a question.” I asked, “ What is the question?” He said, “ Will you tell me what is the difference between Monkey soap and Mr. Fisher?” I could not tell .him the difference, and he gave me the answer. He said, “ Monkey soap will not wash clothes, but Mr. Fisher will.” Here is a spectacle to which I want to draw attention. Although this great Commonwealth has had control of the Northern “Territory for eighteen months, and the Government have spent money lavishly, we have not a word from them to show that they have seriously approached the question -of developing a national policy. All that they can do is to come down and ask us to go into the great national industry of washing.
– Is not cleanliness a part of godliness?
– If cleanliness isnext to godliness, why did not the Government put down an item of ,£1,000 for the erection of a church there?
– You want to wash before you go to church.
– It seems to me that the erection of a steam laundry at Darwin is rather a necessary work in one way. The Government are crowding the Northern Territory with so many officials that, unless they do start a steam laundry or other public institution, it will not be possible ‘ for them to get their clothes cleaned there, because, so far as I can see, at. our present rate it will not be very many months before the population will consist of three officials to one ordinary citizen.
With regard to these works and buildings in the Northern Territory, I wish to raise a point which seems to me to be worth considering.. Who is going to control the expenditure on these public works? Down here, when public works are authorized, we know that we have that infallible rock on which we can found our faith - Mr. O’ Malley - to look after everything ; but I shudder to think of the possibility of adding to the multifarious duties which he now discharges by throwing upon him the necessity of taking control of the public works in the Northern Territory also. Who, I repeat, is going to control this expenditure? That is a question which is worth considering. The expenditure cannot be efficiently controlled from Melbourne, or from any centre. What steps are being taken to supervise the expenditure? I noticed that the Estimates for last year provided for an official who was called the Director of Works, Lands, and Water Supply; but on reference to the present Estimates it will be seen that the office has disappeared. In place of that officer, we find a Director of Lands; and, so far as I can see, no Director of Works is provided for. In these circumstances, I’ want to know what official will have the control of this expenditure on public works; or is it to be controlled from the Home Affairs office in Melbourne? That is a matter on which the Government should be able to give us a definite and prompt assurance. On the ordinary Estimates, I notice an item of £2,000 towards the cost of providing for a Commission on railways, harbors, and other developmental works, lt seems to indicate that the Government intend to appoint a Commission for the purpose of inquiring into works which are necessary there. I wish to know if the Commission has been appointed.
– Not yet.
– What is to be its purpose, and who are to be on it ?
– Would you like to be a member of it?
– I have never accep- ted a position on a Commission yet.
– And you never will ?
– I remember the advice given by Walpole to a young man of his party, and perhaps I may be allowed to give- it to Senator Needham, and that is. “Never to say never.” There might come a time when I should consider that I would be discharging a public duty in accepting a position on a Commission. The opportunity has been mine on several occasions, hut I have always felt that ‘I had not the time to go thoroughly into the matters involved. I think that the Senate has a right to know whether this particular Commission is to be composed of officials or outside individuals. What is to be the scope of the inquiry?
– It has been published’ two or three times.
– What has been published?
– The particulars about this Commission; evidently you do not read the Age.
– I cannot be responsible for everything that has been published, nor can I pretend to read everything which is published. We are entitled to know how this Commission is to be composed, and what its duties are to be. I stress this matter now, because it seems to me that if there is to be a Commission to inquire in respect to these works, the inquiry ought to precede the appropriation of the money for their construction. To spend a certain sum of money upon public works, and then to create a Commission to inquire what works should be undertaken, appears to me to be placing the cart before the horse. -
– The works included in this Estimate will have nothing to do with the proposed Commission.
– Does not the Minister call water conservation a developmental work ?
– It is not what the Commission will be appointed to do.
– What is it to be appointed to do? That is what I want to> know.
– I cannot tell you until I reply. ‘
– I doubt if my honorable friend wiTl tell me then. I think that the Senate will probably agree with me that there will be reasons for taking the strongest possible exception to the appointment of public functionaries on the Commission. They are paid to do their duty, and it should be in their competence to make reports to the Government without being created a Royal Commission, adding to the expense which we have to incur, neglecting their duties, forsaking their offices for a time in order to travel about and get information which, I venture to say, ought to be obtainable from them as public officials. I do not propose to go into these Estimates thoroughly, simply because I have not been able, in the short time at my disposal, to make myself acquainted even with the more important items. I have taken the opportunity of directing attention to the Northern Territory expenditure, because I regard that as the most important work we have to undertake, and because it seems to me that the Government think that the mere expenditure of public money in itself will develop the Territory. 1 do invite honorable senators to consider that by the mere expenditure of money we may not only not succeed in developing the Territory, but may make the task harder for those who come after us.
– Do not be alarmed.
– It is very difficult to deal seriously with an important subject like this when the Vice-President of the Executive Council insists on treating it as a simple incident, to be dismissed without any consideration whatever. I, however, regard the Northern Territory development with the utmost seriousness. I also recognise that, whilst money has to be spent, no man is a true friend to the Territory who would sanction the waste of a single pound there. Because every pound we can afford, and much more than we have available, will be required before we can carry out those national works which will be requisite to make the Territory fit for the population which we desire to see settled there.
– The Leader of the Opposition has concentrated his attention upon those portions of the Works Estimates dealing iwith the Northern Territory. He appears to have given judgment before he has studied the evidence. It will be patent to all honorable senators that every one is possessed with a desire, no matter on what side of the House he may sit, to develop that great asset of the Commonwealth as (quickly and as scientifically as possible; to call to our aid all the assistance which science can give us, and to spend as much s we can afford. But it is premature to castigate the *Government on their sins of omission and of commission in that respect. Comparatively speaking, it was only yesterday since the Commonwealth took over the Northern Territory from South Australia. There has not been sufficient time to do much of a developmental nature on the lines we all desire. The honorable senator’s remarks might very well have been held over until the Minister of External Affairs announces the policy to be pursued in the Territory. He has not yet had time try do so. In regard to the Commission to wfiich the honorable senator referred in his concluding remarks, I trust that when it is appointed it will comprise gentlemen who are not to-day public officers in the Northern Territory. If it is the intention of the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to tender advice as to the best methods to pursue, I sincerely hope that those gentlemen who occupy positions under the Federal Government in the Territory will not be included in the personnel, but that we shall seek the aid of the very best, brains of Australia, quite apart from poli- tical influences. Senator Gould on Friday laid particular, stress on two matters affecting the Department of Home Affairs - preference to unionists, and the affair now known as “The man on the job.” I am glad that preference to unionists is the policy of the Government, because it simply means justice. There are some gentlemen in this country who prefer the policy of preference to non-unionists. I have before me a reprint of a letter affecting a blacksmith who applied for work in the State of Victoria. His name is Michael Pollard. “The firm to whom he applied is that of
Gersch and Company, of Dimboola. He was told that he could commence work on the following Monday, but before he could start he received the following letter from the firm : -
Dimboola, 23rd July, 1912.
Dear Sir, - As you are a staunch unionist, I have made up my mind not to employ you because there are plenty of others about that can do the same work.
Yours truly, Gersch and Co.
– There are thousands of such cases. The employers black-list the men, and try to starve them out.
– This man was promised work, but when it was discovered that he was a unionist, the firm refused to employ him. It must be evident that unless we lay down the principle of preference to unionists, the necessary consequence will be preference to non-unionists. Turning to “ The man on the job “ matter; my honorable friend, Senator Vardon, some time ago read an extract from the Argus. in which wholesale charges were made against a body of workmen who were engaged in the undergrounding of telephone wires. From that time to this neither Senator Vardon nor the newspaper in which the article appeared has taken any real responsibility, or made an attempt to prove the charges made against workmen who had no chance to defend themselves.
– Will the honorable senator help us to obtain the signed reports of the officers ?
– As I interjected when Senator Vardon was speaking, I should welcome the appointment of a Committee to inquire into (hese charges. I should welcome any evidence that might be adduced, but I first want Senator Vardon and the Argus newspaper to give their authority - to name “ The man on the job.” Let the names of the men who were described as drunken loafers be published: When definite charges are made under an authoritative signature,I shall be prepared to assist in every way to discover whether or not the men were guilty. One statement in the Argus article was that one of the men in question tried to see the Prime Minister. It was suggested to him that he should see the Postmaster-General. The man is alleged to have replied : “ The Postmaster-General is of no use to me ; I want to see the Prime Minister.” The newspaper said that he did see the Prime Minister. But Mr. Fisher, in his place in the House of Representatives, declared that the statement was untrue. I am prepared to accept the Prime Minister’s statement in preference to any anonymous article. If anything is going wrong in connexion with these works let us know what it is. At present it is evident that the whole object has been to make an attack on the principle of day labour. We are all anxious that every man engaged upon any work controlled by the Federal Government shall render a fair day’s return for a fair day’s wage. We are all guided by that spirit. Previous to the publication of the Argus article, I visited the work in question. Nobody knew that I was going. I have visited it since. I venture to say that of pick and shovel work I have had quite as much experience as, if not more than, the writer of the article; and I assert that the men employed there were doing a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage. Let us admit for the sake of argument, that the charge levelled against the men was correct. In that case the persons who ought to be blamed are the officers supervising the work. Day labour cannot be a success unless there is efficient supervision. ‘ That is essential to the principle. Even if every man on that job were guilty of the things slanderously charged against them, the blame ought to be shouldered by the officers whose duty it was to supervise the work. Will Senator Vardon mention the name of the inspector responsible?
-Colonel Cameron.- What objection is there to tabling the inspector’s reports ?
– I have none.
– Why did not the Prime Minister table them?
– If Senator Vardon and the Argus will publish the name of the inspector, also the names of the men who were said to be drunk in an hotel, and the name of the man who fell drunk into the trench during working hours, the whole matter can be inquired into. That is a fair challenge. At present, the charge has been made anonymously, and it is because of that anonymity that I am taking this stand. I wish to have a word to say regarding the Post and Telegraph Department. We are asked to vote a certain amount of money for the Post and Telegraph Department, and I wish to direct the attention of the acting PostmasterGeneral to one or two matters connected with the Department. I realize that the Government have increased the salaries of many of the officers of the Department throughout the Commonwealth. I believe that the increased expenditure thus involved amounts to something like £300,000 a year. But I venture to say that the sorters are the only body of employes in the Post and Telegraph Department-
– The honorable senator cannot deal with the question of administration of the staff of a Department on this Bill which covers appropriations only for additions, new works, and buildings.
– I bow to your ruling, sir. I was under the impression that I should be in order in referring to the remuneration of sorters, but I shall deal with that matter on the general Estimates. There is in the schedule an item of £5,000 for a new general post-office at Perth. An area of land has been resumed in the centre of that city at a cost of £170,000. I should like to know when it is intended to commence the work, and where the new post-office will be situated. I understand that some time ago certain sketch plans were prepared which indicated that a new street would be cut through the resumed area from Wellington-street to Murray-street. It was then suggested that the new post-office should be erected in the centre of the new street. Since then an alteration of the plan has been proposed, and I am given to understand that the building is to be placed fronting either Wellington-street or Murray-street. The people of Perth and of Western Australia generally are anxious that the new postoffice should be commenced as soon as possible, and the Government should come to some decision as to where the building shall be erected. I intended to make some references to rifle clubs, but, in the absence of the Minister of Defence, I shall defer my remarks on that subject until we get into Committee. I wish again to emphasize what I have said about “ The Man on the Job.” I say that the employes and the Government were slandered in the’ article which has been referred to. No definite charge was made, and the whole attack was really on the day-labour principle. The policy of the present Government is to carry out public works by day-labour. They have been successful in erecting public buildings under that system morecheaply than they could have been erected’ under the contract system. Some of theState Governments have done the same. The day-labour system, with proper supervision, has always proved more economical’ than the contract system. It is because our- honorable friends opposite hate the daylabour system that they launch these charges in order to discredit the Government and the works they are carrying out. I hope they will accept the challenge which has been issued to them, and will give the name of the writer of the article, and the names of the employes referred to, and if they do 1 shall be prepared to support a thorough inquiry into the whole matter.
.-! have a few words to say in reference to this very large proposed expenditure. The financial prospect in Australia is not very bright, and it, therefore, behoves every Government in this country, including the Federal Government, to be very careful about public expenditure. There should be none that is not absolutely warranted. I should have been very much better pleased if the Government had first of all submitted their policy with regard to railway construction in the Northern Territory, and especially in connexion with the line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. I admit that the construction of that line might give a great impetus to settlement, but the Government apparently propose spending £3,000,000 of money in the Territory to fill it with civil servants. What can civil servants be expected to tlo towards the settlement of the Territory without railways to help them? The filling up of the country with civil set- vants will not induce settlement. If we want settlers there we must give them proper facilities. I travelled over a great deal of the country thirty years ago, and I have some interest in some of the country now. I know the difficulties and trials awaiting any one who goes there.
– We are only proposing to spend £58,000 on works and buildings. The honorable senator said £3,000,000.
– I was referring to the total expenditure. Even £58,000 is a very large amount to expend to accommodate civil servants.
– I point out to the honorable senator that the question is not one concerning the salaries of public servants. The Bill deals with the works and buildings which the Government propose to have constructed in the Northern Territory.
– The schedule includes amounts for additions to buildings, for artesian bores, and for quarters in which to house Government employes. There is one item of £21,000 for houses for Government employes, and surely I am entitled to refer to the increase of civil servants in the Northern Territory in connexion with that vote?
– How’ many employés does that provide for?
– If that is the way in which the Vice-President of the Executive Council proposes to view the matter 1 am sorry for him. I say that the Government are putting the cart before the horse in this matter. They should tell the people of Australia what is their policy for the development of the Northern Territory.
– Honorable senators opposite were discussing it the other day in connexion with a land Ordinance.
– I. should have some-‘ thing to say upon that if I were in order in doing so. We cannot develop the Northern Territory unless we afford facilities for transport there. Are people to go out there when they may never come back ? It is useless to propose the building of houses for Government employes when no facilities for transport are provided. It would be an ordeal for a workman to go to the Northern Territory and get back again. 1 say that the proposed expenditure is not warranted at this stage. We should have a definite policy for its development submitted and approved before such expenditure is undertaken. The present Government say to a man when he goes to them for employment, “ What are you - black or white? Are you a ‘ scab,’ 01 are you a unionist?” Is there another Government on this earth that has adopted such a policy as that? The Government say to a man, “ You are a miserable scab,’ “ or “ You are a black man,” or it may be something else, “ And yon shall not be allowed to live.” Any one who would enunciate such a policy as that is unworthy to be a Minister of the Crown.
– Does the honorable senator object to the White Australia policy ?
– I am speaking of the Government policy of preference to unionists. When a human being wants work, he should not be asked any questions.
– Why was the man Pollard refused work because he was a unionist ?
– If a man came to. the honorable senator, or to myself, in search of work, we might give him a job or we might riot, if we knew he was a unionist. But we occupy a very different position from that occupied by the present Government. A private employer may do as he likes in connexion with his own employment; but how can it be said that a Government should do the same as a private individual? A private individual can please himself.
– Is it right that a man should be denied employment because he is a unionist?
– It certainly is not right. But the difference is that a private employer can please himself as to whether he will employ a black man or a white man.
– Cannot the Government please themselves?
– No; the Government are not supposed to make any distinction between man and man, or woman and woman. They should not do it. This is a country in which, perhaps, ten or fifteen years hence, a very different policy will be followed.
– T suppose the honorable senator would say that an employer should keep a loafer because he is a man?
– I do not say anything of the kind. As a railway contractor for thirty years, I know what loafing is. While I am not attacking working men, I know what they are. 1 was one myself sixty years ago, when I first landed in Australia.
– The honorable senator had more sense than to stick to it.
– I have risen from the ranks. I would not be idle a day or an hour when I landed in Australia, if I could get something to do. I was not very particular as to what I did, either, so long as it was honest work. That is my history, and I am not ashamed of it. It is wrong to say to a man that he shall not be given work because he is independent and has a mind of his own.
– Who says that?
– The present Government have said it.
– They have not; they have said that, other things being equal, they will give preference to unionists.
– I have been an employer for the better part of my life, and I say without egotism that I know what I am talking about.
– The honorable senator’s experience is that unionists are the best workers?
– I have never yet asked an employ^ of mine whether he was a unionist or a non-unionist. If any of roy workmen quarrelled, I would say to them, “ No quarrelling here,” and my word was generally law. It is a very foolish policy to carry out public works by means of day labour. I make that statement as a contractor with a lifelong experience, as a builder and as an owner of railways. I may mention that I was one of the few who owned the railway from Echuca to Deniliquin. We sublet the work of constructing that line to men, many of whom, as a. result, made 50, 80, and even 100 per cent, more money than they would have made under the system of day labour.
– Then the honorable senator must have cut down the wages.
– No. If one wishes men to make money for him, he must offer them an inducement to do so,’ and the best way to do this is by subletting to them at a fair rate. The Government should undertake the construction of public works by means of contract. If they employ thousands of men, they are bound to get a lot of wasters and incapables.
– And the contractor will lose his profit.
– The Government will save a lot of money by adopting the contract system. If they employ thousands of men upon any public work, they will want an overseer to every three or four men employed.
– That is an extravagant statement.
– I know what I am speaking of.
– I have been there.
– But I am a good deal older than is the honorable senator. If 100 men be employed in a cutting, one inspector will suffice, but if men are distributed over 20, 30, or 50 miles of works, they are like poultry spread over a paddock. If three or four Of their number be employed at a particular spot, they must have a ganger in charge of them. I am not unfriendly to any Government, so long as they do what is right ; but I do say that the result of this expenditure upon day labour will undoubtedly be to show that public works can be carried out very much cheaper under the contract system.
– One can understand an old warrior and railway contractor like Senator Fraser adhering to the idea that large Government undertakings can be carried out better under the contract system than by means of day labour.
– They can be carried out cheaper.
– Then I will substitute the word “ cheaper “ for “ better.” Yet in every State of Australia the experience of the past few years has been such as to induce the various Governments to adopt the day-labour system in preference to that of contract.
– Did the honorable senator say “ in every State “?
– Yes. In every State the tendency has been , in that direction. Some years ago it was considered heresy to affirm that the day-labour system was preferable to that of contract. But the construction of one railway was undertaken by a State Government by means of day labour, and ever since then new railways have been built, and lines have been extended, under that system. Instead of allowing private contractors from the different States to make large profits out of the taxpayers, the Government of Tasmania - which was not a Labour Government - some years ago decided that it would be better to adhere to the day-labour system, because the construction of its first railway under that system showed that the line was built more cheaply than were lines which had been constructed under the contract system.
– And that better materials have been used.
– Yes. I am free to admit, however, that the system of day labour is now on its trial in the Commonwealth. We have not yet gone far enough to warrant us in condemning it as a failure in the way it has been condemned by some honorable senators who have spoken during the course of this debate. Only on Friday last Senator Gould based his contention that the system was a failure on statements contained in a series of articles published in the Argus and known as “ The man on the job.” During the course of his speech, the honorable senator made some very strong allegations. For instance, he said that there was “ a reign of terror “ in the Commonwealth, meaning that only a few favoured individuals could obtain a job, or be kept on one, in the employ of the Government. He affirmed that the overseers and inspectors were afraid to do their duty. These are pretty serious statements to come from a gentleman in a responsible position - from one who is able to slander the overseers and inspectors with impunity. He added that certain men have the ear of the Department. Since these articles were published, a departmental reply has been made to them. Papers were tabled in another place in connexion with the charges, and one has merely to take the specific allegations of the Argus and read the categorical answers thereto, in order to discover that there was very little substance, indeed, in the anonymous accusations. Where any definite charge was made against the inspectors 01 overseers, that charge has been fairly replied to.
– Is the honorable senator aware that the residents of a particular street which was mentioned by the Conservative organ have signed a declaration that the statements of the Argus are incorrect?
– I am not aware of it.
– It is so.
– The writer of the articles in question evidently drew upon . 1 pretty vivid imagination. Apparently he was anxious to kill two birds with the one stone. He desired, to serve up some sensational matter which would tickle the ears of the readers of the newspaper on which he is employed, and he was also anxious to kill a second bird by levelling accusations against the Labour Government. We know that this sort of stuff makes good “ copy.” But, unfortunately, the men who were maligned by him have no opportunity of replying to his charges. He merely looked out of the windows of a tramcar or of a railway carriage, and then wrote the articles in question - articles in which charges of a general, rather than of a specific character, were made. It is significant that not one man in either House of this Parliament. hai been able, to bring forward and sustain a. specific charge. Senator Vardon failed to do so, and so also did Senator Gould. Not one person has brought forward a tittle of proof of the accusations published in the
Argus. I repeat that apart from one or two more or less specific charges made by that journal - charges which have been fully answered - the other allegations were of a general character, to the effect that a few individuals amongst a body of 400 or 600 men employed in undergrounding our telephone wires, had been found to be undesirable, and had been shunted. 1 ask Senator Fraser, as a fair-minded man, whether it has not always been his experience that there are a few undesirables amongst any large number of men? If honorable senators will approach any railway contractor, any Government supervisoror any mine manager employing 200 or 300 men, they will find that there is always an undesirable element present in such bodies. The position occupied by a mine manager who employs 200 or 300 men, affords me a very fair parallel, because he has to a great extent to rely upon casual men. The casual man has to be taken largely on trust by the supervisor, or mine manager, or private employer. Wherever such a man has a large number of hands employed, running into hundreds, he finds that here and there a few undesirables have crept in. What is done with them? Immediately the discovery is made, the undesirables creep out pretty quickly, by order of the manager or his shift boss, or the ganger or the supervisor. Will any honorable senator dare to say that the supervisors under the Commonwealth Government have failed in their duty to shunt a man immediately he has been found to be an undesirable?
– Some men have done their duty, and suffered for it.
– I ask the honorable senator, if he is a fair man, and does not want to shield himself behind parliamentary privilege, to name an inspector who has done his duty and suffered for it ?
– I can name one.
– I do not say that it is cowardly, but it falls little short of cowardly, for any man to stand up here, or in another place, and stigmatize an inspector under the Commonwealth Government as a man who is afraid to do his duty. It is time that we got some of these charges nailed down. If there is one inspector in the employment of the Commonwealth who has done his duty and suffered for it, let us have his name.
– I am not speaking just now of the Commonwealth, but of a State.
– Did the articles on which the honorable senator relied so much during his speech contain any reference to State works? Did they not refer to “the man on the job “ on Commonwealth works?
– He did not rely upon anything. He was a parrot of the Argus.
– If the honorable senator did not read the statements in the Argus, he quoted them very largely.
– I read the whole article.
– We were led to expect that the honorable senator believed it. I think it is unfair for a member of any party, purely for party purposes, to stand up here and attack an inspectoror overseer who has no redress against him - who is not here to take his own part.
– I attacked no one.
– We are asked to vote a large sum of money to be spent upon public works and buildings, and it depends very largely upon how it is spent whether we shall get the reward which we ought to obtain. If there is any truth in the charges which have been, made, those who make the charges ought to be prepared to give us proof of them, because, if they are true, it is time that the Commonwealth abandoned the system of day labour. These critics rely simply on the general charges and leave us unconvinced that we would be wise in reverting to the old system of contract when we have a. large sum to be spent upon the construction of necessary public works. If we are paying to-day, or if we are going to pay in the term covered by this Bill, any inspector or overseer who is afraid to do his duty, or who will put back an undesirable, a waster, or a loafer, whom he has discharged for not earning his money properly, because of the influence of any member of Parliament he may have behind him, we are making a big mistake. But I venture to believe that there is not one inspector who has been guilty of such a thing; and I must refuse to believe that there is when the critics shield themselves behind general charges. It is time that we had the names of these men who make the charges and the names of the members of the Parliament who are said to have wrongly used their influence. Is there anything wrong in a member of Parliament giving a letter of recommendation to a man whom he has known to be an efficient, good-working, underground, miner, and who is looking for employment on the underground telephone system which is being carried out in the State? Surely any member of Parliament is entitled to do that. If a man was discharged by his overseer or inspector because he was found to be not earning his money, and a member of Parliament used his influence to have the man put back, he would deserve to have his name pilloried from one end of Australia to the other. I do not think that these general charges are going to cut very much ice in the minds or the ears of the electors, unless we can get from vague generalities to specific instances. After all what do all these things come to when the very newspaper which stated definitely that hundreds of thousands of pounds which the Commonwealth has spent on’ public works have been wasted to a very large extent, and then went on in a general way to stigmatize inspectors and overseers as unworthy of the confidence we have placed in them, came out to-day with this miserable apology -
MAN ON THE JOB.
Inspection of Works.
In consequence of the revelations made re specting the attitude adopted by men employed in the undergrounding work for the Postal Department, inspectors were despatched to various suburbs to watch the progress of work and submit their impressions of it. The Deputy PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Bright) stated yesterday that the work which had been inspected had been favorably commented upon. It was only natural that the exposures which have been made and the certainty for inspection have lent an impetus to work. Had a special inspection been arranged for in a few weeks’ time the inspectors would probably have a different tale to tell.
It does not suit the book of the writer of “ The man on the job “ articles, or the book of those who are using the articles for party purposes, to find that an inspection has been made by properly qualified or competent inspectors sent by the Department, and that the work was found to be satisfactory. They fall back on this miserable excuse -
It was only natural that the exposures which have been made and the certainty for inspection have lent an impetus to work.
I ask any honorable senator who knows anything, whether a real loafer or waster, such as was depicted in these articles, is going to be made a better workman by the exposures, even if they are read by him? The fact is acknowledged in the very newspaper which lent its columns to the making of these general charges that inspections have been made, and, I presume, made without the knowledge of the workmen, and that everything has been found to be satisfactory. Yet, because everything has been found to be satisfactory, apparently the writer of the articles is still dissatisfied. He is not satisfied that things were not just as he had painted them from his imagination in the articles headed “ The man on the job.” This is a Bill to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue for the current financial year £2,789,092. It is only reasonable to suppose that as the functions of the Commonwealth become enlarged, and its population increases, the annual appropriation for public works in every succeeding year will be larger than that amount. Unless Australia is going to stand still and to be stagnant, we must go ahead. So long as we have the population able to bear the taxes which will have to be imposed to meet the yearly expanding expenditure on public works, it will be a good thing for the community. It is about time, I think, that the huge works and interests . which are now placed under the control of one Department were divided. We are fast being brought face to face with the fact that in the course of another year or two no man, no matter what his brain-power or capacity for work may be, no matter if he is prepared to work fifteen or sixteen hours a day and break down sooner than many of our public men have done, will be able to efficiently control, in the interests of the taxpayers, all the works and interests which are now placed under the Home Affairs Department. It is time that another Minister was appointed. I do not suggest how the work of the Home Affairs Department should be divided, or what the new Department should be called ; but certainly one should be created. The Ministry are in a better position to say what new office should be created, and what duties should be taken from the Home Affairs Department, and any other Department which is overloaded, and placed under the control of the new Minister. Section 65 of the Constitution reads -
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Ministers of State shall not exceed seven in number, and shall hold such offices as the Parliament prescribes, or, in the absence of provision, as the Governor-General directs.
I think I am right in saying that Parliament has not yet prescribed how many Ministers there “shall be, or what shall be the exact titles of their Departments. I understand that the first Government distributed the administrative work between a certain number of Departments, and gave certain names to the Departments ; but that has never had legislative sanction. Section 65 of the Constitution says that there shall be seven Ministers of State, and a difficulty has been got over by the appointment of Honorary Ministers. We know that, in addition to seven Ministers with a Department each, there are three Honorary Ministers in the present Government ; and, speaking from memory, I think that there were three Honorary Ministers in the last Government. As the amounts which we shall be called upon to vote yearly for public works increase, and as the vast responsibilities which are under the control of the Home Affairs Department increase, can any one man efficiently carry out the administration of that Department?
– Can he do it from Melbourne if there are two Departments?
– Can he do it from anywhere?
– No one man can do it.
– In each State the Minister has his deputies, who have a kind of control of public works. It is a question that Parliament ought to take into consideration very soon.
– The present Minister of Home Affairs has done very well.
– The Minister of Home Affairs has done splendid work for Australia, in spite of his critics.
– The honorable senator should not forget that one of his critics is the present Attorney-General.
– I trust that the question I have mentioned will receive the serious consideration of the Government, and that another Federal Department will soon be created. It will not involve increased expenditure to the taxpayer, because the Constitution lays it down that only a certain sum shall be appropriated for the salaries of Ministers.
– “ Until Parliament otherwise provides.” The honorable senator’s proposal would mean either appointing another Minister without salary, or paying his salary out of the amount now divided amongst other Ministers.
– That does not seem to commend itself to Senator Pearce.
– If the majority of members of Parliament sitting behind the Government consider that £12,000 a year is not enough to divide amongst Ministers the sum can be increased.
– Order ! The honorable senator is getting away from the subject.
– The matter will come up for consideration on a future occasion. I am of opinion that it would be better to remove public works from the control of the Home Affairs Department than to continue the present system.
.- With the remarks of Senator O’Keefe as to the work of the Department of Home Affairs being too cumbrous I quite agree. There ought to be another Minister to look after public works. Indeed, the time is not far distant when we shall require a Public Works Committee, to supervise the immense works that are going on under Commonwealth control. The idea may be premature at present, but 1 am satisfied that the Public Works Committees, and similar bodies of the States, have saved millions of money by the inquiries they have pursued, and the check which they have exercised over expenditure. The debate seems to have centred itself largely on two questions, preference to unionists and “ The man on the job.” I do not propose to labour either point. I have made no charges against “ The man on the job.”’ My opinion was that we required information. I therefore asked for a return in> connexion with a particular work. When the expenditure is known it can be checked, and we shall be able to see whether the work is costing more than it ought to have cost. I believe that, given honest inspectors and honest workmen, the day-labour system is by far the best. Of course, if you have not honest inspectors and workmen, you will not get good work done under any system.
– I presume that the honorable senator means honest inspectors, free from political influence?
– Certainly. We require honesty all round. With regard to preference to unionists, Senator Needham brought forward a case with regard to which he displayed a great amount of indignation. It appears that a firm in the Wimmera refused to employ a blacksmith because he was a unionist. I think that that was a very wrong thing to do. It was unjust. But do not honorable senators see that the indignation displayed in regard to that case is sufficient justification for the indignation displayed on the other side ?
– Oh, no.
– It is worse ; because a private individual can do as he pleases. He can employ whom he pleases. I do not think that a man ought to be dismissed because he is either a unionist or a nonunionist. He should be considered solely from the point of view of whether he is a good workman. But, as indignation has been displayed because a unionist was not employed, we are justified in manifesting the same kind of indignation when nonunionists are not employed simply because they are non-unionists.
– They are not employed because they are not good.
– That is an absoluteslander on the great majority of working men in this country; because we must’ remember that the great majority of working men are not unionists. I have no doubt that they will take full notice of the Minister’s observation. I say again that a private employer can do as he pleases, though I do not say that there is any justification for the non-employment of a trade unionist. But in the case of Government employment, where the whole of the people of the country have to find the money that pays the men to carry out works, it is very wrong to say that a man who is a unionist shall have preference over a man who is not. Yet that is the policy that is being pursued by this Government to-day. I look upon that policy as involving a malversation of public funds. It is unfair to the country. No doubt the question will be fought out at the next elections. The indignation displayed over these matters seems to be extreme. It reminds me of the occasion when Tam O’Shanter called out, “Weel done, Cuttysark ! “ and “ out the hellish legion sallied.” But in discussing such questions as these, we are rather getting away from the large questions that ought to be discussed in connexion with these works. We are now asked to foot a bill for the largest amount for public works that has been laid before Parliament in Australia. Yet we received no adequate information from the Vice-President of the Executive Council when he moved the second reading of the Bill. I hope that when we get into Committee details will be furnished in regard to a number of items. Much has been said about the prosperity of the country, and that has been suggested as a reason why such large works should be projected. But we cannot be too sure of that. I do not think that the present outlook of Australia is as good as it was a while ago. In some respects it is alarming. We are By no means sure of our seasons. We have not had one, half the normal quantity of rain, and the sub-soil is not at all wet. Unless we have fine rains next month we shall not have anything like a good season. Money is tighter now than it has been for many years. Very high interest is charged and has been obtained on loans. I do not see that we can at present say that we are justified in rushing into an abnormal amount of expenditure, based upon the supposition that we are enjoying good times, and are likely to have them for some time to come. Of course, the Government have been favoured in many respects. The incidence of politics has enabled them to obtain com mand of a very large amount of money. The money has been made available very opportunely when it was wanted for defence and other purposes. But there was no statesmanship about obtaining the money, and no credit is due to the Government. The expiration of the Braddon section of the Constitution has given them £3,500,000 per annum extra to spend, and they have had revenue from other sources. No credit is due to them for raising this money, though they will derive great credit from spending it. They are doing that up to the very limit. They are not attempting to save anything for a rainy day - or, rather, for a dry day. As the money comes in they are spending it. In fact, we may say that this is a bribery Budget - to give it an appropriate term. It applies large amounts of money to various sorts of people without giving a thought to the bad times that may possibly be before us. This Bill is not only important in regard to what it specifically authorizes, but also in respect of the expenditure to which it commits us. One of the most dangerous features of it is that over and over again amounts are set down “ towards cost,” and we do not know the full expenditure which the votes will entail. I consider that we are here as trustees for the people. We are charged with the exercise of supervision over the public revenue, and with the duty of seeing that the expenditure is carried out just as carefully as if it were our own money. We should have a clear idea, not only of the amount actually spent, but of the large sums to which we are committed. But there are in this Bill items to the amount of £1,553,000, against which the words “ towards cost “ appear. The actual expenditure is £1,153,000, but there is no indication as to what the works on which the money is to be spent will actually cost.
– On what services would the honorable senator save?
– I am not speaking of saving. I am speaking of what we are committing the country to by this Bill. We ought to have the fullest and frankest information on that point. But we do not know what expenditure the works against which “ towards cost “ appear will involve when they are completed.
– What would the honorable senator cut out?
– I am not speaking of cutting out. I am contending that we ought to know what the ultimate cost of these works will be.
– Give us one instance, and the Government will, no doubt, furnish the information.
– Instances can best be mentioned in Committee.
– There used to be a practice of giving footnotes to show the total cost of works.
– There ought to be full information before we vote these large items. Unless we largely increase our population we cannot expect that the enormous revenue that has been coming in will continue. I do not know either that it is desirable that it should. We find that our imports are over-balancing our exports. In the first half-year of 1909 we had a balance to credit of imports over exports of £5,820,122. In the first half-year of 1910 the balance to credit was £7,211,530; in 191 1 the credit balance was £1,350,895. But in the first half-year of 1912 we have a debit of £2,888,039. That is a serious position that needs watching. It appears that we are going back at the rate of £6,000,000 a year, the balance of trade having to be made up in gold. Evidently if we are getting in goods to the extent of £6,000.000 more than we are sending out, the balance must be made up somewhere, and the revenue of this country must be depleted to make it up. If we take stock of these imports we find that many of the things are goods which we ought to be making for ourselves. 1 see that the total for the first quarter of 1912 was £37,689,580. The imports to that value included apparel and soft goods, boots and shoes, confectionery, hats and caps, agricultural machinery, metals and machinery, and so forth. Our exports for the quarter were £34,000.000, and they are principally covered by the products of primary industries. That is to say, the products of the soil are going out to this extent. We should be extremely careful of the way in which we commit . the Commonwealth in the near future, because we cannot expect present conditions to continue. We know that we live in a country that is subject to great changes. It is a wonderful country in respect of rapid recovery, but our whole history teaches us to be careful. We may have two or three splendid years followed by two or three years of drought. During the last three months, before the rains came, every one thought that there was a gloomy outlook for Australia. Men were taken off the roads, banks were calling in advances, and, all round, people thought that bad times were coming. It is as sure that we shall have bad times in the future as that we have had them in the past, and we may find ourselves faced with these enormous commitments and without sufficient revenue to carry them out. I was a member of a Government in Victoria that took office when the boom burst, and when there were 8,000 idle men walking the streets of Melbourne. That taught me the lesson that Governments should be careful of the finances in good years, that they may be prepared when bad times come. The large public works which the Government propose to undertake will be the means of attracting an enormous amount of labour to this country, and if we spend our revenue to the last penny, should bad times come disaster must follow to the Commonwealth. 1 claim that we have not been treated with the frankness to which we are entitled as representatives of the people. We should have the fullest information upon these works given to us, and I hope it will be given in Committee. In any case, I trust that honorable senators on this side will not be chary about asking questions, in order that we may obtain necessary information with regard to these proposed votes. I direct attention to the item “ Acquisition of sites for, and mobilization of, store buildings and drill halls, Defence Department - towards cost, £80,000,” and to the fact that no particulars have been given in connexion with that item.
– Does the honorable senator wish to cut down the amount?
– I do not, but we should be given some particulars concerning it. How is it possible for any one, without the information in the possession of the Government, to say whether the amount should be cut down or not?
– Honorable senators have not asked for the particulars.
– I am asking for them now, and I hope they will be given. Another question which I wish to raise is in connexion with the industrial undertakings we are entering upon in the Commonwealth.
– This is another echo of the press.
– I am not an echo of the press or of any person. The Minister of Defence and his colleagues are but echoes of the Caucus and the Political Labour organizations. They only come here to say what they have heard in those organiza- ‘ tions. We have established a woollen cloth factory a clothing factory, a harness factory, and have entered upon other industrial undertakings, and I say that, as shareholders in these great concerns of the Commonwealth, we should be supplied with balance-sheets to show whether they are being conducted profitably, and whether the goods turned out by them are made as cheaply as they could be obtained from private concerns. Nothing can injure a Government more than concealment in matters of finance. Sooner or later, the people will become vindictive if they are not given the fullest information on public finance.
– Does the honorable senator wish to cut down the vote for the woollen mills?
– I am not speaking of cutting down anything. At present the only thing I should like to cut down is the honorable senator’s tongue. Nearly all the expenditure proposed by this Bill will involve the employment of a great number of persons outside the Public Service, and we should have some control over that employment. We do not know, under existing conditions, whether in all cases competent persons are employed. Under the Public Service Act, no one can enter the Service without having first passed an examination ; but we have no means of knowing whether labour employed outside the Public Service in connexion with Government undertakings, clerical or otherwise, is competent. The employment of this labour is purely a matter of patronage, which I have no doubt is exercised to the fullest extent in the interests of the party in power. There are many positions in connexion with public works for which public servants should be given an opportunity to compete, but, under the existing system, a man. who may have served the State well for many years may perhaps be set aside for a stranger or a political friend. There is an item on these Estimates to cover expenditure in connexion with the Federal Capital. I asked some questions on this matter which were not very satisfactorily answered. It appears from the answer that I received that a departmental Board has been formed, but we have no means of knowing whether the members of that Board are fitted for the work they will have to perform. According to repute the Government have not secured the best men available for the purpose. Apparently, it is proposed that the designs of leading architects are to be taken in hand by the members of this Board, who may adopt a little from one design, and something else from another. If this course is to be followed without reference to the gentleman whose design is, in the main, accepted, it is probable that a mess will be made of the whole job. It seems to me an extraordinary way to go about the business. I do trust that when a particular design is adopted, it will be placed in the hands of a Board of experts, not merely of departmental officers, who will be able to decide whether it makes for efficiency or economy. I notice that no provision appears in this Bill for the transcontinental railway. I do not know where the money is to come from for the construction of that work. I do not know whether the Government propose to borrow money for the purpose, but the matter is certainly one upon which we should be given some information. We cannot alter any of these votes; we can merely express our views concerning them, but we should at least, in Committee, be fully and frankly informed as to where the money for this purpose is to come from, and as to how it is to be spent.
– I have had no opportunity to inquire as fully into these proposals as would justify me in debating them at any length. Still, I should like to say a word or two on some of the matters contained in the Bill, and on one or two subjects which have been raised in connexion with them. Senator McColl has stated that the debate has ranged largely on the questions of day labour versus contract labour, and preference to unionists. I am not going to dogmatize on day labour, but I should like to point out that the cases referred to by Senator Fraser, where a contractor takes/a job and sublets to others, are . not so common as is the practice of carrying out works by day labour, even where they are let on contract. Those who criticise that principle seem to quite ignore the fact that, as a general rule, works - whether they be public or private works - are carried out on the .day-labour principle, even though they be let by contracts 10 some person. The contractor in every case finds ways and means of securing good work, as a general rule, from the day labourers employed by him. He has to get a profit out of the work, and make his contract a paying speculation. It is quite clear that a contractor cannot, any more than a Minister, exercise a personal supervision over the details of a big work. He has to depend on his subordinates, down to the gangers who supervise individual workmen. If this can be done by a contractor undertaking a big contract, the same thing can be done by a Government. Instead, therefore, of there being any wide difference involved, it is merely a question of supervision, and the methods adopted for carrying out works effectively. A private contractor makes a big profit out of the work of the men engaged by him, and these works can be carried out as effectively, if not more effectively, and certainly more economically, by a Government, if proper means are adopted for carrying them out.
– Are there any estimates of cost in connexion with works carried out by the Government?
– No Government ever undertakes a public work unless some estimates of the cost have been prepared by the Department concerned.
– Surely Parliament should be told what those estimates are.
– I am not to be drawn into side issues. I wish to say a word or two on the question of preference to unionists. I have been pleased to hear suggestions from honorable senators opposite which are very good in their way. I recognise that no one party can monopolize all the wisdom in the State. I recog nise also that under the system of party government, a political party may overlook or deride even good suggestions from their political opponents, but I have never been very much in favour of party government as we have it now. I regard it as a survival of barbarism. However, I am satisfied that there is a very deep gulf between honorable senators on this side and honorable senators opposite on the question of preference to unionists. I certainly hope there is. On that question we are at hopeless variance. There are such fundamental differences between us, that I not only think they can never be bridged, but I hope they never may be.
– Does the honorable senator believe in absolute or qualified preference.
– I shall express what I mean in absolute and unqualified language if the honorable senator will not interrupt me. Senator McColl raised the matter of a certain unionist being refused employment.
SenatorMcColl. - I did not raise it. It was raised by an honorable senator upon the other side of the Chamber.
– When the honorable senator stated that Senator Needham desired to make an outcry against him, I think he misunderstood the position. Senator Needham read a letter, not for the purpose of condemning the iniquity of this private employer, but for the purpose of pointing out that, where preference is not granted to unionists, preference will inevitably be granted to non-unionists.
– That does not follow.
– I say that it does. Where unionists and non-unionists are to be found working together in any establishment, I say either that the former are of a milkandwatery character, or the latter are merely waiting to be converted. Where an active and militant unionism exists - as it does in every State of the Commonwealth - there is always a section of the employers who desire to break it down, and they will attempt to gain their object by granting preference to non-unionists. The only way in which that movement can be counteracted is by extending a preference to unionists.
– There is a section of unionists who desire to break down the power of the employers. >
– Undoubtedly. The present system under which we’ live needs to be radically altered, and preference to unionists only marks a step in that direction. Honorable senators opposite confess the failure of their own system when they affirm that, if we grant preference to unionists, other men will be starved. That is an admission that there is not sufficient work for all, and that, as a result, somebody must starve. As we will not allow unionists to starve, they raise the dismal wail that their own system always leads to somebody being unemployed, and, consequently, they desire non-unionists to get the first “cut.”
– I hope that the honorable senator will not continue that line of argument.
– I was not aware that T was out of order. I wish now to say a few words on one or two items of the Bill, and particularly upon the question of the Federal Capital. When the Government recently decided to erect woollen mills at Geelong, I raised no objection to their action. I have no complaint to make of the distribution of expenditure amongst the various States. I think that New South Wales possesses sufficient natural resources and manifest advantages to enable her to continue to be the leading State of the Commonwealth for many years, if not for cenruries. Therefore, the expenditure of a few thousand pounds, either here or there, will not materially affect her position. Nevertheless, 1 do not think that the question of the Federal Capital has been dealt with in altogether the best way. Last year the Senate by resolution affirmed that all Commonwealth factories should be erected in Federal Territory. I do not think the report which has been submitted in favour of establishing woollen mills at Geelong has justified any departure from the terms of that resolution. The report states that it would not be advisable to establish woollen mills at the Federal Capital, because sufficient population would not be available there. That reasoning seems to me to be utterly farcical. If we had various factories established in the Capital, the families who would accompany the employes of those factories would rapidly build up a population which would provide a sufficiency of all classesof labour to cope with Federal requirements.
– The Government might have condemned the establishment of the Military College in the Federal Territory, on the same ground.
– It is most illogical to argue that labour would not be available. The report states that probably a large amount of female labour will be employed in the factory, and as it was manifestly undesirable to draw that labour from distant centres it could not be found on the spot.
– Was not something said about the lack of water?
– That was not considered a leading disadvantage. It was incidentally referred to as offering some sort of excuse regarding the lack of labour.
– It was not the supply of water which was questioned, but the quality of it.
– The quality of the water was said to be inferior to that of Geelong, but it was not alleged that it is unsuitable for the purpose. The site of the Federal Capital having been determined there should be no delay in proceeding with the work of erecting the city. Some months have elapsed since the designs for it were accepted, and yet they are still being hawked round the country in the most leisurely way merely for the purpose of exhibiting them to sight-seers who are not competent to judge of their merits. Nothing like business aptitude has been displayed in determining which design will be given effect to. My own opinion is that we. shall never get satisfaction until this Parliament insists upon a temporary Parliament House being erected at the Federal Capital so that we may go there and practically exercise a general supervision over the various works in progress there.
– There will be a lot of men on the job then. .
– I expect to hear honorable senators denounce my suggestion as one which is impracticable on the ground that too many cooks would probably spoil the broth. There has not been that consideration given to this question which its importance undoubtedly merits. A Federal Capital is not likely to be erected within a measurable distance of time in any other country in the world. Therefore, this work” should be regarded as worthy of the best efforts of the members of all parties in politics. 1 am surprised to observe the very narrow attitude which has been adopted by many Victorian representatives upon this matter. Members of shire councils, and other exalted persons who have condemned expenditure upon what they are pleased to describe as a “ bush capital,” are entirely at sea in regard to their socalled facts, whilst their arguments are scarcely worthy ot the name. Still, a little more business method should be exhibited in getting on with the work. In order to fulfil our constitutional obligation in the spirit in which it was entered upon, the work of erecting the Capital should be proceeded with promptly. There is nothingto prevent waterworks, and all other necessary undertakings, being put in hand tomorrow. The estimated population will require the same quantity of water, irrespective of whether it be a German, Swiss, or any other design that is adopted for the Capital. In the same way there will be much territory outside of the actual Capital area which may be availed of for afforestation, and other purposes, and’ these works might be proceeded with, without delay. Similarly, a temporaryParliament House, and official residences, should at once be erected. Anybody who views this question impartiallymust admit that the Capital may easily bemade self-supporting in time. The fact that the values of land in all our Statecapitals have enormously exceeded anything; that man dreamed of when those citieswere founded is sufficient evidence that, with the certainty of a considerable population being centred in the Federal Capital,, the values of land there will eventually- more than compensate us for our expenditure.
– I hope that the honorable senator will not continue that line of argument.
– I think I shall be very unjustly treated if I am not permitted to condemn the smallness of the amount provided in this connexion upon these Esti- m ci tes
– I do not wish to prevent the honorable senator from taking exception to the smallness of the proposed vote. But he was discussing the influence which land values would exert on the expenditure of public money at the Federal Capital.
– Just so. My contention is that if we are to justify the expenditure which has already been incurred we shall require to spend more money so as to impart a value to that land. One can easily understand that to spend a little money upon any particular work may be to waste it, whereas to spend ten times as much may be a wise and profitable procedure. Whilst we are spending these small amounts upon the Federal Capital we are merely frittering away money, whereas by expending more we should attract a big population there-
– Does the honorable senator expect to make the Federal Capital a big commercial centre?
– I do not expect to make it a centre to be compared with London or New York, but if the honorable senator means a centre to be compared with Ade- laide, I should say yes. There is nothing <to prevent the Capital from being made a large commercial centre. I maintain that if we have a number of nationally-owned factories and works centred in our own Territory, it will tend to bring such a population there as to make that centre of considerable commercial importance, and that, at any rate, it is manifestly to our advantage from the national stand-point, dropping those parochial ideas which I know it is difficult for Senator Vardon to get away from-
– There was nothing parochial in what I said.
– We should do what we can to concentrate the national expenditure at the national Capital, so that whatever advantages may accrue from it will accrue to the nation as a whole, and not to any particular State. My contention is that we :are, to some extent, frittering away money little by little, year by year, in so far as New South Wales is concerned in keeping the word of promise to the ear and breaking it to the heart, and that we are not doing it in such a way as to command public confidence in the integrity of our intentions in regard to the establishment of the Federal Capital. If the work is going to be done in the dim and distant future ; if it is to be put off indefinitely in order to appease the provincial feelings of representatives from other States, that is not a policy which I would expect from this Government, nor is it one which I would indorse from any Government. I think, therefore, that we should insist upon having a very much larger expenditure on the Federal Capital, and, for that matter, a definite time fixed - with a reasonable margin, of course - as to when the Parliament and the public Departments shall be housed there. Under the control of the Treasury Department I find an item of .£2,000 for machinery and plant for Government Printing Office and works in connexion therewith, and an item of £2,400 for machinery and plant for stamp printing and works in connexion therewith. The total of £4,400 is not much, but it is required for the establishment of works which should be of a permanent character, and housed in the permanent home of the Federation. For printing the stamps for the whole of the ‘ Commonwealth we require only one Federal Printing Office. Of course, there may be detail work which, at times, can be done better at the State Printing Offices. We should allow the matters which have been conducted through those offices to go on until such time as we can have a Federal Printing Office established at the Capital. I certainly think that we could very well allow the stamps to be printed wherever it is most suitable to print them until such time as we can establish a printing office.
– But we can shift the machinery.
– I know that we can, but the honorable senator must admit that the breaking up of a home, and shifting to another place, costs money. There is always a lot of plant which it is found better to scrap than to shift 500 miles.
– So does getting things done here and there cost money.
– I want things to be done in the future home of the Federal Government as a guarantee of good faith, at any rate, and not to carry out what may be termed permanent works, some here and some in another State, with the idea of appeasing the parochial spirit of certain people, and putting off the evil day, as it may appear to . them, when we, as a Parliament, shall have to make up our minds definitely to live in one place. I want to see this shilly-shallying business put an end to, and a more generous spirit shown by much larger items being provided in the future than are provided in these Estimates. I do not intend to detain the Senate with any prolonged discussion of the Bill ; but I should like, to refer to an item of expenditure in connexion with the Victoria Barracks at Paddington, Sydney. I wish to know whether there is any intention of going on with the negotiations which are said to have taken place between the State Government and the Defence Department with regard to the rumoured removal of the Victoria Barracks to a site outside the city boundary, because, if so, it would seem most unwise to erect further buildings on the present site.
– We are taking no action. We do not want to move, and we have told the State Government that if they like to take action they can.
– I do not think that that is unsatisfactory. If the Defence Department here is satisfied with the Military Barracks being in their present position, it is the place of the State to make a request and open up negotiations if they desire the barracks to be removed. But I thought that there was a mutual desire to adopt another site, and, therefore, I suggested that if there were unfinished negotiations, it would be unwise to spend more money in building on the present site. I trust that honorable senators opposite, so long as they are in Opposition, which I hope will be a very long while, will not waste the time of the Senate and the country by discussing the question of preference to -unionists, because they are so hopelessly at variance with us on the matter that they can never expect to change our opinions.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Is there no chance of a coalition ?
– Not on that particular point. I feel sure that if they had only had a little experience of the manual side of labour in their youth, many of them would be stronger sympathizers with unionism than they are; and I am inclined to give, not only the credit, but a little of the profit, to those who have borne the heat and burden of the day in winning for all sections, when they can get employment, whether unionists or non-unionists, a rate of wages which they would never be able to look for but for the efforts of organized unionists.
– The main feature which occurs to me in connexion with this Bill is the fact that we are called upon to pass an enormous number of re- votes, and to vote considerable amounts for new services. . In the case of the Home Affairs Department, the re- votes amount to about £280,000. There do not seem to be any re-votes for the other Departments, but that may be explained by the fact that they have passed to Trust Account money which is lying practically idle, but ‘ available. Here are some extraordinary figures, which I have taken out, showing the manner in which the moneys have gradually been put away to Trust Account, and Parliament has lost the control of them. I will take the receipts and the expenditure for the last four years. In 1908-9, the expenditure from the Trust Fund was £1,205,001 7s. 11d. ; the receipts were £1,608,030 19s. 11d. ; and the balance carried over was £1,072,289 17s.11d. In 1909-10, the expenditure from the Trust Fund was £3,366,907 19s. 6d. ; the receipts were £3,205,836 15s. 9d. ; and the balance carried over was £911,582 13s. 2d. It will be remembered that the present Government came into power about three or four months before the 30th June, 1910,the figures for which I have just quoted. In 1910- 11, the expenditure from the Trust Fund was £4,921,798 15s.11d. ; the receipts were £15, 544.23315s. 7d-; and the balance carried beyond the control of Parliament was £11,526,339 2s. 8d. - that is, £1.0,500,000 more than the amount which remained to the credit of the Trust Fund at the end of the previous year. In 1911- 12, the expenditure from the Trust Fund was £10,190,997 ns. 4d. ; the receipts were £14,103,260 is. 8d. ; and the balance carried forward into the present financial year was no less than £15,442,568 13s. 5d.
– I suppose that you cannot trust them with it.
– The Trust Fund under the control of the Government can be dealt with pretty well as they like, judging from what happened in 1910,- when they- took money out of the Trust Fund, and passed an indemnifying Bill immediately afterwards. Roughly speaking. they have £15,500,000 to the credit of the Trust Funds.
– What has that to do with the items in this Bill?
– Surely my honorable friend knows perfectly well that the Bill contains various items, less so much out of the Trust Fund. I am not to be “gagged” by the honorable senator or anybody else when I am dealing with such items.
– I do not desire to “ gag “ the honorable senator, sir, but I should like to know whether he is in order in this line of discussion which he has followed since he began his address.
– The honorable senator is speaking on the general aspect of the financial question, and 1 understand that he is entering a protest against the method in which these Estimates have been framed - that is, the commitments of the Government.
– I could not connect them with the Bill.
– The Bill covers a number of re-votes, and also a certain amount of new expenditure. In some Departments no re-votes are shown. That is so in the case of the Post and Telegraph, Defence, Treasury, and External Affairs Departments ; but in the case of the Home Affairs Department there are re-votes to the amount of .£280,000. If we take the documents that have been handed to us, we can discover that during the last two years the Government have been accumulating money in the Trust Fund which is far in excess of the amount standing to the credit of the Trust Fund in previous years, and is far too large a sum to allow any Government to hold in its hand and be able to “ monkey with “ at pleasure.
– Does not Parliament direct what the Government shall do with the Trust Funds?
– No, and that is the whole trouble. It is quite possible for a Government to misapply a certain amount of the Trust Fund, and then, if it has the necessary majority in .Parliament, come down with an indemnifying Bill next session.
– If a Government spent money illegally we should not indemnify them.
– Did not the present Prime Minister take money out of the Trust Fund at the latter end of the year 1910, and bring down an indemnifying Bill in the next session?
– Because he used the money illegally. I believe in the principle that the financial transactions of the year should end with the close of the financial year, and that any balance to credit should go to wipe off public debt. That is the system that has praviled in Queensland. If there is a deficit, the Government can float Treasury Bills. But we ought not to permit this system. of building up enormous Trust Fund balances which amount at the present time to the sum of ,£15,000,000. It is a very bad system, and the sooner we abolish it the better. We should not tax the people more than is necessary to carry on the business of the year ; and if there is a slight balance at the end of the financial year it should be applied to the reduction of debt, either State or Commonwealth.
– The Commonwealth has no debt.
– The Commonwealth owes two- thirds of the amount of gold deposited against Treasury notes, and that was taken out of the Treasury. When an honorable senator says that the Commonwealth has no debt, I can only say that he is not speaking absolutely in accordance with facts. I call attention to one or two items in these Estimates. Under Defence, we have a sum of £200,000 for naval works. So far, we have had no explanation of what “ naval works “ means. It is a beautifully vague expression. It may mean anything. Then we have the item of ,£110,000 for the Fleet Unit, to be paid into the Trust Fund. Going further, we find under the heading of External Affairs a sum of £1,650 for a hospital at Darwin.
– Does the honorable senator object to that?
– I do not Know whether the Darwin Hospital wants the money or not. I should like to have some information on the subject.
– If the honorable senator had been there, he would have known.
– I have been there within the last four or five years. My honorable friend got bushed up there, and probably wants the money to be spent in erecting finger-posts. Then there is an item of £21,000 for the erection of houses for Government employes. We want to know who these employés are.
– The men on the job.
– Possibly they include the Administrator, who was appointed because he is a good man for catching ticks; and Professor Somebody, who was appointed because he is a good man for destroying mosquitoes.
– That is a useful thing to do in a tropical country.
– Quite so; but it appears that we are to have a number of officers suppressing ticks, destroying mosquitoes, and making the Territory habitable for the hardy pioneer. Mr. Thomas tells us that he is going to appoint an extra doctor and two hospital nurses. Apparently the hardy pioneer is to go forward with one professor ahead of him exterminating the ticks, another professor by his side killing the mosquitoes, a doctor on one arm and a hospital nurse on the other. Is that a reasonable way to settle the country ? Was Australia settled in that way?
– An additional doctor is certainly wanted to prevent the introduction of contagious diseases.
– Really, < the honorable senator ought to grow up I Mr. Thomas tells us that this doctor is to be stationed at Pine Creek, which is 145 miles from Palmerston. How can stationing a doctor at Pine Creek prevent the introduction of small-pox at Port Darwin?
– There was a recent case at Port Darwin, and. the medical officer there is too overworked to deal with every case.
– But why aptpoint a doctor at Pine Creek to look after the prevention of small-pox at Port Darwin? Then we have items 20, 21, and 22 - one for building a station at Alligator Creek, £750; the next for building a station at the Daly River, £750; and the third for a station for half-castes, £750. What stations are these? They cannot be railway stations, because there are no railways near Alligator Creek and the Daly.
– The honorable senator does not pay attention to the monthly reports from the Territory, or he would know the necessity for these buildings.
– The Government do not furnish monthly reports to us.
– They are supplied to every member of Parliament, but evidently the honorable senator does not read them.
– It is the duty of the Government to explain these items to the Senate. 1 turn now to item 24, where I find a sum of £2,500 for Government steamers. A statement which has appeared in the press, and has not been denied, is that the Government have bought, for something like £1,000, a steamer called the 1 mo gene. She is to be sent to the Northern Territory, but apparently the Government did not care to risk the lives of the crew by sending them up in the vessel under her own steam. The I mo gene is a 50-ton boat. A man is being paid £300 odd for taking her up to the Territory. She is making her way there now.
– Is that being done under the contract system, or by day labour?
– It is a contract, I suppose. The steamer carries 5 tons of coal in her bunkers, and has a ton of coal in the saloon. She consumes, roughlyspeaking, a ton of coal per day, travelling about 12 knots. She is supposed to be at the disposal of the Administrator, and is to go round to the Adelaide and Alligator Rivers, and along the coast even to the McArthur and the Roper. I admit that she is a yacht, and probably will use her sails to a certain extent; but, even so, she can only go from Port Darwin to the Roper or the McArthur in about six days. The distance is about 900 miles, and the vessel would not be able to get back to Port Darwin unless a coal depot were established at the McArthur and the Roper rivers. Such’ a vessel would be practically useless for Customs purposes. I understand that the Government did not care to risk the lives of the permanent crew on her, and have, therefore, let a contract to take her up to Port Darwin. They apparently do not object to risk the lives of the crew the contractor must employ.
– Because the Shipping Ring would not take her up.
– How can any one suppose that one of the shipping companies would take a vessel out of her ordinary running to tow this boat of 50 tons all the way up the coast to Port. Darwin?
– Why should she not be taken up by her own crew ?
– Because the Government did not think that safe. They have gone in for the contract system, and I understand have contracted with a man to take her up there for £312.
– Do the Government intend to pay passages for the crew who are to work the vessel when she gets to Port Darwin?
– That is another point to which I intend to refer. If the Government must get this little tiddliwinking steamer up to Port Darwin, it would have been better for them to hire a decent Queensland bullock waggon and team of bullocks, and take her overland. I suppose that when she gets to Brisbane she will be reloaded with coal, and will then go on to Goode Island and load with coal again there. It has been arranged that a pearling lugger is to meet her half-way between Thursday Island and Port Darwin with sufficient coal to carry her on to that port. If the facts are as I have stated them, and I have every reason to believe that they are, of what use will this vessel be in the Northern Territory? She may go from Point Charles to Port Darwin, and might get round to the Daly river or the Alligator river, but for Customs purposes she will be absolutely useless, as it would be impossible to take her down into the Gulf of Carpentaria.
– Is the honorable senator opposed to having any additional steamer for the Northern Territory?
– I am not in the position of the doctor called in to prescribe, and when I am, it will be time enough to give my prescription
– I want to know why the vessel should not be taken up by her own crew.
– If she can be taken up to Port Darwin by a private person, under contract, why should she not be taken up by her own crew? I should like to know if the crew are being carried on the vessel as passengers, and, if so, what passage rates are being paid for them to the contractor ?
– Does the honorable senator think the Federal is a suitable boat for the Northern Territory? He was on her himself going to the Arthur river.
– I was never on the Federal, and I have never heard of a river called the Arthur river. I asked a question concerning this steamer earlier in the afternoon, and, perhaps, when we get into Committee, the Government will be able to give the information which they were not prepared to give in answer to my question. The main point I wish to make is that it is entirely undesirable for any Government to have .£11,500,000, as we had last year, and £15,250,000 as we have this year, lying idle in the Trust Fund. The money should be spent on the public works of the country, thus giving employment to the people, and, if it is unnecessary to spend it in this way, it should not be collected, and the taxation of the people would be reduced by an equivalent amount.
– The moneys in the Trust Fund are required for specific purposes.
- Senator Givens was not present when I previously referred to this matter. I pointed out that when there is money in the Trust Fund the Government may be tempted to plunge its hands into it for certain expenditure as the present Government did when, towards the close of June, 1910, they took money from the Trust Fund, relying upon Parliament to subsequently pass an Act to indemnify them and make their action legal.
– I am glad to find on the Works Estimates a number of votes for the erection of drill halls in which to drill our cadets. I understand from the press that recently a statement has been made that districts which evince the greatest desire by gifts of land or money to make provision for the drilling of cadets shall receive prior consideration in this matter. The citizens of some municipalities, doubtless impelled by patriotic feeling, have offered to make grants of land on which drill halls may be erected. I understand that the Minister of Defence is disposed to sympathize with this movement, and is prepared to help first those districts which show the greatest desire to help themselves. There does not seem to me to be any genuine desire on the part of the citizens of Australia, to put their hands into their pockets to provide drill halls, nor do I think it is desirable to encourage the movement referred to in the way proposed. If there is one thing for which more than another the Labour party have stood out it is an effective defence of Australia, but we have at all times proclaimed that the people of Australia are willing to pay for it. We have further pledged ourselves to make them pay for it, and particularly those who are in the best position to do so. If the municipal councils are to be permitted to take up this question the wealthier municipalities and districts will be placed in the best position. The Melbourne City Council, for instance, could afford to devote a considerable sum to this purpose which would be quite beyond the people of a struggling suburb or poor district in which the roads are bad, and it is such districts which require most attention. I visited a small district last week which is typical of many in Australia. I refer to the Castlemaine district. Close to Castlemaine there is a place called Chewton. The boys in the district have no tram cars or trains by which to travel to the place where they are drilled. After they have worked a shift in the mine they have to travel a distance of 3 miles over very rough roads. I heard no complaint against the system, and 1 believe the lads are willing to make all the sacrifices necessary, but when lads are asked to travel such distances, possibly in wet weather, they should be provided with some reasonable shelter when they are being drilled. I hope that the policy to which I have referred will not be pursued. We should, as a Commonwealth, pay for drill halls, wherever it is necessary to erect them. The policy of asking the Commonwealth to go cap-in-hand to a municipal council for assistance in this matter is, in my opinion, a most undesirable one. I trust that in dealing with the matter the Minister of Defence will take into consideration first those districts in which the roads are bad, and in which the worst accommodation is provided for the drilling of cadets. In the district in which I live the lads are drilled on a well -metalled road, and if a shower of rain should fall while they are being drilled it is .possible for them to get quickly under shelter. But that is not possible in every district. The people of the Moreland district are reasonably proud of a little park which has been leased from the Railway Department, and for which they pay a rental of £1 a year. They subscribed a sum of money, organized working-bees, and, displaying all the qualities of good citizens, had the land laid out in gardens. Honorable senators can judge of their surprise when they learned that the local municipal council, who evidently do not appreciate the gardens, have offered this little public reserve for the purpose of the erection of a drill hall. I trust that in no circumstances will the people’s parks be used for such a purpose without the consent of the citizens interested in them. I know that the Minister of Defence has not the slightest sympathy with persons who are anxious to give away any little public park of which they may be the custodians. But we should take good care that we do not permit that sort of thing to be done. I desire now to say a few words in regard to the series of articles which have been published in the Argus, entitled “The
Man on the Job.” Fortunately, I am in the happy position of having inspected nearly all of these works before those articles appeared in print. I believe that I know a large proportion of the men who are engaged upon them. I know the head of these Commonwealth employes, and also many of the foremen. What is the position ? Certain complaints were made of the men” who are engaged in undergrounding our telephone wires in this city. I admit freely that amongst such a large body of workmen an occasional shirker will be found. But 1 venture to say that less shirkers will be found upon that work than will be found upon any other public or private undertaking of similar magnitude. At the present time over 700 men are engaged upon it. Where is the private employer of a large body of workmen who does not get a few individuals who prove to be unsuitable ? Yet we never hear of them. Why ? Because the matter is merely reported to the employer and the men are dismissed. But in the case of the Commonwealth the circumstance is ostentatiously dragged into the light of day. I often wonder whether we are all angels in this Chamber, seeing that some honorable senators have slandered men who are quite as honest as they are themselves. The insinuations which have been made against an honest body of workmen is a vile slander, of which its authors should be ashamed.
– What is the charge ?
– I do not know, because, although honorable senators were anxious to throw mud, they were not prepared to accept responsibility for formulating a definite charge.
– Who was anxious to throw mud?
– Insinuations were made in this Senate which cast a slur upon the workmen engaged in undergrounding our telephone wires.
– We are not responsible for that.
– But honorable senators are responsible for the mean and despicable method pursued in this Chamber-
– Order ! The honorable senator must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it so far as it was applied to the Senate. I do not know whether I shall be in order in saying that the manner in which charges were put forward in a certain newspaper in this city was mean and despicable, and quite unwarranted..
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Ever since 1 became a member of this Chamber I have observed that whenever a public officer has been attacked by an honorable senator that attack has been resented as an unworthy one by reason of the fact- that the officer was not in a position to defend himself. Why should ‘a large body of honest workmen be exempted from the protection which is always afforded a Justice of the High Court or any other high public officer, seeing that they occupy a more defenceless position? As far as I have been able to investigate the matter, the charges which have been made against these men were made merely for political purposes. Senator Vardon, who introduced the matter to the notice of the Chamber, did not take the trouble to inquire into the accuracy of the complaints made by the Argus, and he has not had the courage to make a direct charge himself, or the sense of fair play to withdraw his insinuations. One statement of the Argus was that “ a navvy worked for five days on 4 yards of excavation.” That man was dismissed in; May, 1911, or fifteen months ago. But it is typical of the journal in question to revive something with which the officers of the Department had already dealt effectively. Charge No. 2 was that “ one bricklayer laid 100 bricks in one day.” He was dismissed in July, 191 1, or thirteen months ago. A third charge was that a man had struck the clerk of works. That statement is quite true. But the man immediately left the job, and has not been seen since. I do not know whether Senator Vardon or the Argus think it is the bounden duty of the departmental officers to pursue him, to find out where he is at present employed, and to secure his dismissal. Still another complaint by the same journal was that a navvy “ refused to cease smoking when asked to do so.” The reply to that is that smoking is allowed to a certain extent on outside work. I do not know any reason why a man engaged in the open air should be denied a smoke, provided that he does not waste time in the operation. I feel sure that Senator Vardon would not prevent an employe of his from smoking within reasonable limits-
– The honorable senator is quite right.
– I know the officer who is in charge of this work very well, and it may be interesting to the honorable senator to learn that he is not only possessed of long experience, but that he is recognised as a very capable officer.
– Did I say a word against him? Did. I say a word against any inspector, manager, or overseer?
– The honorable senator did not make any charge against him, or indeed against the men. He would have acted a more manly part if he had done so, because they would then have been in a position to give a direct reply. The officer who is in charge of these 700 men has been connected with the Postal Department for thirty-two years. He has had control of men for thirty years, and it was his” privilege to lay the first telephone line in Melbourne. He has made a big success of the day-labour system - such a success that any succeeding Government will be compelled to adopt it - and that is the reason why these insinuations have been made against him. Not only has the work been efficiently and economically carried out, but I believe that this officer is the most sweated employ^ in Victoria to-day. He has 700 men directly under his control. He has to give directions to junior officers in connexion with the carrying out of the whole of the postal works in this State, for which he is responsible. Yet he is in receipt of the magnificent remuneration of .£400 per annum, whilst a man who is discharging similar duties in Sydney, but who has been only eight months in the employ of the Commonwealth, and who is carrying out works costing 50 per cent, less, is being paid a salary of .£420 per annum. It is about time that Senator Vardon endeavoured to see that justice was done to this officer, who, I claim, is being badly treated.
– In the matter of his emoluments ?
– That is a quarrel which the honorable senator may patch up with his Government.
– As the work of undergrounding our telephone wires was being proceeded with close to my own residence, I had the pleasant duty of calling upon this officer, and telling him, not that the men were working too hard, but that they were getting over the ground too quickly, with the result that they were using, as I thought, rather heavy charges- of explosives, having regard to the security of the adjacent properties. I called and distinctly asked the officer to give an instruction to the men not to get the material out quite so quickly as they were doing.
– That was distinct political influence.
– I do not care if it was.
– It was a matter <of vested interests.
– I have no doubt that if Senator Millen had his windows rattling as the result of the use of explosives, he would have performed the ordinary citizen’s duty of going direct to the man responsible and asking for the grievance to be remedied.
– I should have performed the ordinary citizen’s duty of putting in a claim against the Government.
– I suppose that if it were a just claim, the honorable senator would have met with due reward. I think, seeing that these charges came from the party over which he is supposed to have control, he ought, in justice to the men, to see that they are either sustained or withdrawn. I know a large number of the men, and I believe that they are honest, worthy citizens. I know that they are doing effective work, and that the officers who have charge of them are also rendering efficient service to the Commonwealth. I hope that we shall not again have brought into the Senate little tittletattle which has no basis. I do not think that its introduction has done honorable senators on the other side any good. I am sure that the men resent strongly what they consider to be a reflection upon their character and their honesty while they are trying to give the best services they possibly can to the Commonwealth. I would like to see a procession of them brought here. Many of them have been working for ten, or fifteen or twenty years. I have no hesitation in saying that one glance at this body of men would show that every one of them, whatever he is doing to-day, has worked too hard in the past. The men are crippled, or maimed, or twisted up in some way, showing that for a considerable time their work has almost been beyond the strength of the human frame to endure. I do not know of any system which would cause them to speed up, as evidently is the desire of honorable senators on the other side, unless they revert to the old contractors’ system of having the men driven, one competing and another speeding up. The Commonwealth desires, I believe, to be a model employer, and so long as it gets a fair day’s service for a fair day’s pay, we ought to be quite satisfied. I desire to refer to the preference to unionists which is granted. There is rather a peculiar aspect about this question, and that is that the Argus, which supports the party opposite, which is very fond of levelling these charges against the Commonwealth, which I admit differs in this respect that it is a private concern, gives preference to unionists. There is not at the present time, nor has there been for a considerable number of years, a non-unionist working in the Argus office. Why do its proprietors employ unionists?
– Because they cannot help themselves.
– Well, because they cannot help themselves. Nearly all the men engaged in this line of business, recognising the advantage of unionism, have joined the union, and acquired such strength that they can practically insist upon certain conditions and the desirability of working only with unionists, that is with men who have contributed to, and made sacrifices for, the building up of certain conditions of labour.
– I think that the same thing would apply to Senator Vardon’s business itself.
– Why drag in personalities ?
– We will leave them alone. Had our honorable friends on the Opposition side been in office they might not have granted preference to unionists. They might not have conceded it as a right as completing a system of organization which was better for the more effective carrying out of public works. What would have been the consequence? I can tell Senator Millen that, were he sitting on the Government bench to-day, he could not in Melbourne secure non-union labour for the carrying out of this class of work, because the men are so well organized. I am afraid that there is just a little bit of disappointment.
– Why do you obtrude it?
– Because we believe that we have reached that stage of organization in society where men who have made sacrifices, contributed to union funds, and fought to obtain a certain standard of labour, certainly should get the protection which is granted to them by preference, and ought not to be put aside for men who live upon the fruits of the industry and the sacrifices of other individuals. It is said that there is a certain amount of tyranny in this matter. We have been told that men were compelled to join unions, that unless they submitted to certain conditions they would not be permitted to join unions. There are two classes of labour which must be employed on this work, namely, unionists or non-unionists; or may I go a step farther and say there is a third class, and that is the independent workers. It was said that the Independent Workers Union, to which honorable senators opposite, if they came into office, might give preference, would permit all classes of political views to be held. Quite recently in Melbourne there was an industrial dispute, which may happen on a Commonwealth work at any time as well as in private employment, with the result that the two men who got mixed up in the dispute, joined the trade union; and the so-called Free Workers Union immediately turned round and copied the usual method of the unions for dealing with men who were disloyal to their principles, by expelling the two persons concerned. There is only the third class, if it is not the unionists; and that” is the men who belong to no unions ; and without trying to imply that honorable senators opposite believe in non-unionism, they are as keenly aware of the fact as are honorable senators on this side, that if industrial matters in Australia had been left to this class, labour to-day would have been getting no more than. 6s. or 7s. a day instead of 9s. I think it will be generally admitted that those who form the unions, those who have systematized the labour conditions under which they operate, are undoubtedly entitled to some of the benefits.
– The biggest labour union will not have legislative interference.
– I know that all advanced thought in the political world to-day recognises, and even honorable senators on the other side have to recognise that unionism is an established factor in civilized society. There is not one of them who has the moral courage to go upon a platform and denounce the principle of unionism.
– It was our policy which gave them that freedom.
– The point 1 want to make is that preference to unionists had to come. It has come, and I believe that it has led to the systematic supplying of efficient men to the Department. Ibelieve that it has led to a healthier and better spirit of competition amongst the men, which must be reflected in the class of work they carry out. I have much pleasure in supporting the principle, and express my sincere regret at the attitude which was adopted by Senator Vardon, and followed by other honorable senators opposite. I trust that even at this late stage they will take the opportunity of either sustaining their slanderous charges or withdrawing them, and doing an act of simple justice to a hard-working body of good citizens.
– In introducing this Bill the Vice? President of the Executive Council referred to the proposed expenditure as a very large one, and congratulated the Commonwealth and the Parliament upon having so much money to spend. I think that we can all join in the congratulation. For a number of years we have had wonderfully prosperous seasons, and these have led to better wages, to larger importations of goods, and generally helped and brought about, not by the aid of the Labour party, but more in spite of them perhaps, a general condition of prosperity. I admit that we have had a wonderfully expanding revenue. The Customs and Excise revenue has increased, I suppose, by over 50 per cent, since the establishment of Federation. The increase in Customs revenue, it seems to me, is bigger than it ought to have been, in one sense - that is, importations have been larger than they ought to have been. A great many of the goods which have been imported during the last year or so ought to have been manufactured in the Commonwealth. It is because we have been unable to manufacture the goods that we have had these largely increased importations.
– I notice that your eye is directed at me, sir ; but I take it that a little latitude will be allowed when these matters are introduced into the debate. We ought not to suppose for a moment that this state of things will continue for ever. History has a very awkward way of repeating itself. While nobody is praying for a return of bad seasons, everybody is hoping that the good seasons may continue. We know that in Australia we are subiect to bad seasons, and we should be preparing and ought always to be ready as far as we possibly can for a return of them. I want to call attention to the fact that already the balance of trade is against us, and that consequently money is getting dearer every day. I propose to quote from Mr. Knibbs some figures . which I think are pertinent. Of course, if we have the money, 1 do not object to it being spent. It is useless to keep the money in the Treasury, while it may be put to useful purposes outside. I find that in 1892 the balance of trade in our favour was £3.263.000. The imports were £30,107,000, and the exports £33,370,000. The balance from that time forward steadily increased every year. In 1901 the balance to our credit was £7,262.000 on a total trade of £92,130,000. In 1907 we reached high-water mark, when we had a balance of £21,015,000 in our favour - a very handsome record. Our exchanges as a rule are not made in coin, but in goods, and this surplus in our favour enables us to settle our accounts very satisfactorily every year. In 1909 the balance dropped to £14,137,000.
– The natural consequence of our enormous borrowing.
– Was it? This amount was, however, quite ample to cover the entire interest on our State and municipal debts. In 19 10 the balance had dropped to £11,841,000. This, however, was still sufficient to enable us to defray the charges I have mentioned - that is, nearly £9,000,000 due for State debts, and about £600,000 for municipal debts. But in order to make up for this diminished balance, it was necessary to add £4,746,946 in gold, coined and uncoined. In 1911 the balance of trade was still in our favour, though it required no less than £12,040,190 in gold to cover the interest due, and no less than £10,000,000 of coined gold was exported to turn the balance on the credit side. In 191 1 the balance of exports - exclusive of gold- over imports shrank to less than £593,000. The gold that we had to export was necessarily drawn from the coin held by the banks of the Commonwealth. It amounts to a very severe depletion of our gold stock, and the consequence may be very severely felt if the balance of ‘trade continues to go against us as it has done during the past year. Our Commonwealth taxes run up to £2 13s. per head, and we return less than 50 per cent. to the States - that is to say, we return 25s. per head. I do believe that if this process continues it will soon create a most serious position in regard to State finances. [ mention it because I think we ought to look these matters in the face. When we are providing for a very large expenditure, we should consider, not merely the particular year in which we are spending the money, but should look forward a bit, and have regard to the possible consequences in a year or two. lt may involve additional taxation if the Government are going to maintain this rate of expenditure, both for State and Commonwealth. In these Estimates the expenditure proposed for the Department of Home Affairs reaches £991,647 - very nearly £1,000,000. The Postmaster-General’s Department is also liable foi £830,000. We have to ask ourselves where the money is to be laid out, and whether to the best advantage. I agree with Senator McColl that we do not know the extent of the expenditure to which we are committing ourselves. I put my finger upon a line of the Estimates, £2,500., “ towards cost.” The work itself may involve an expenditure of £50,000. If so, we ought to know that we shall have to find £47,500 in the future. But we get no such information from the Government. No real estimates of cost are laid before us. I object” to this system very strongly. We ought to know exactly to what we are committing ourselves in years to come. The question of day labour has again been introduced. I have been called to account for what I said on a previous occasion. First of all, let me say that I made no charges. I simply referred to an article published in the Argus, and quoted it.
– The Argus made the charges.
– It did.
– And the honorable member’s party pretty well fathered them.
– Does the honorable senator disown the Argus then?
– The daily press all the world over holds a very important position to-day. The newspapers make it their business to look into matters of public interest. We owe thanks to the press very often for the rectification of evils. Newspapers of high reputation, such as the Argus, the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph, the Adelaide Register, and the Advertiser, do not make statements without a sense of responsibility. lt is generally recognised that they have a right to expose abuses.
– Provided they tell the truth.
– When a reputable newspaper makes definite charges, and gives chapter and verse for them, it is the duty of the Government to cake the matter up.I know what position I should, have assumed if I had been Prime Minister or Postmaster-General. I should have said to my officers : “ Here are charges, and they must either be proved or refuted.”
– What rot! Does the honorable senator think that if he were a Minister he would go blithering about the country inquiring into every petty lie that appeared in the daily press? He would go mad if he tried to do that.
– The honorable senator may, naturally, be a good judge of rot, and may think himself justified in saying that I should not do the things that I have said I would do.
– I am sure that the honorable senator would not. No sane man would.
– I am sure that I should. It was the duty of the Government in this case to take up the charges, and immediately call upon their officers to investigate them.
– A Minister has a higher duty than that to perform.
– According to the Prime Minister’s own statement, a report was called for and laid upon the table of the House of Representatives. But he said : “ The report is contained in a covering letter, and I am not going to let you see the originals.” If the Prime Minister went so far as to get a report, why not publish the whole thing? If there is a. complete refutation of these charges, why not publish it?
– The Prime Minister did publish the report.
– He published a report, and was then asked to put the original documents on the table above the signature of the officers.
– That is what the honorable senator is complaining about - not that the reports were not published, but that the signatures were not attached.
– It is not the duty of a member of Parliament to go nosing about acting as a detective, but he has a right to insist that if charges are made by a reputable newspaper they shall be investigated.
– These charges were investigated and replied to by the Department responsible.
– Will the Minister publish all the reports?
– We published the reports from the responsible officers, but it is not usual to publish reports from every one in the Service. If the honorable senator wants a report about his business he gets it from his foreman, not from any one in the office
– Will the Government publish the reports from the inspectors or foremen in this case? I agree with Senator Needham that the success of the day-labour system depends upon supervision. One of the charges in this, case was that, whilst supervision was exercised,, Ministers did not back up their officers. Inspectors made complaints, but instead of their being backed up, their reports were put on one side. If we are going, to maintain the daylabour system, we must have proper supervision, and when complaints are made by responsible officers or managers, they must be backed up.
SenatorFindley. - They have been.
– I should be very glad to know that they have been. Senator Blakey says that I backed up the Argus. I did not. I simply said : “ Here are charges, and they ought to be investigated.” I did not say a word against any manager, overseer, or ganger.
– Why is not the honorable senator prepared to take the replies to these charges made by the Deputy PostmasterGeneral and the Electrical . Engineer ?
– No one would be more pleased than myself if the charges were shown to be absolutely wrong.
– Extracts from the official replies were published. Why does not the honorable senator look upthe reports ?
– This is a matter of backing up responsible officers. I know of a case where similar things have occurred. A work was being carried out in Adelaide under the Verran Government by day labour. Ganger Thompson made a complaint. What happened? The workmen threw down their tools, and said that they would not work under him. The ganger was battered about from pillar to post; the men went off the job, and they picketed the place all over with red flags. Eventually the Government took the work out of their hands and let it to a contractor.
– Order! The action of the South Australian Government is not covered by anything in this measure.
– I simply mentioned that to show the abuses that are likely to creep in if officers are not properly supported, as they ought to be. I say that day labour will be a failure unless that is done. I find people backing up this kind of thing. I say in all sincerity that I have a very high opinion of the workers of Australia. I do not believe that they are loafers and shirkers. But I say, further, that if there are loafers and shirkers in the employ of the Government, it is in the interests of the Labour party themselves that they should put them out at once. The Government have work which they require to be done by day labour, and they have the opportunity to say, “ Here is this work to be done. We shall give you fair wages, and let you work under fair conditions, and it is, therefore, up to you to justify us in the action we are taking.”
– Who has backed up the loafers, except a Mr. Curtain? What public man has backed up shirking?
– I am glad Senator Blakey has reminded me of the gospel ac-. cording to Curtain. He said that no man had been found loafing in a trench, and no man had been found smoking.
– Would it be such a great crime if a man had been found smoking?
– No; I smoke myself. He said, further -
The speeding up process was wrong. Loafing was a good thing. Jesus Christ said it was. He said, “ Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.” If that was all right people did right to loaf, because it was the doctrine of Christianity. If they reckoned it would take five weeks to build a house they should make it last six weeks. If they did loaf it was to their credit, because every man who made a job last longer reduced the time between that job and another.
I do not believe that that represents the views of the workers of Australia. But I say that if Mr. Curtain happened to be a member of my party, I should be the first tq publicly denounce such a statement.
– I, for one, denounce it.
– Is Senator Vardon quite sure that Mr. Curtain is not a member of his party ?
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Is he not a member of the Trades Hall Council ?
– He is a member of the Socialist party, who are against the Labour party.
– I find that he is secretary of the Woodworkers Union.
– Packer is the secretary of a union.
– That is no disgrace. I believe that Senator Needham is the secretary of a union.
– I am.
– Then I do not see why the honorable senator should object to some one else being the secretary of a union. I say that Curtain’s statement is a libel on the working men, and if I were in a prominent position on the other side, I should be the first to denounce it publicly as such.
– No ; the honorable senator would treat it with contempt, as we do.
– Another matter to which I wish to refer is the question of preference to unionists. , I say at once that I am a trade unionist, and in my business I have worked for many years with members of a trade union. We have worked together in the greatest amity, and I have never had any trouble wilh unionists. I take it, however, that a private employer may, if he thinks well, say, “ I shall do work with unionists only.” On the other hand, he may, if the thinks well, say what was said by the employer to whom Senator Needham referred, “ I shall not have a unionist in my place.” He is working his own business, and has :a right to say under what conditions he shall run it.
– Have not the Commonwealth Government the same right?
– No; that is where I draw the Une. I say that while it is right for every private employer to conduct his business as he thinks well, the Government, whether of the Commonwealth or ofa State, occupy an altogether different position. Every man in the Commonwealth is expected to obey the law, to pay his share of taxation, and take his share in carrying on the business of the Commonwealth. . On that account, I say that every man, whether he be a unionist or a nonunionist, has the right, if there is public work going, to a share in that work.
– Surely the honorable senator draws some distinction between the ordinary functions of a
Government and its functions when it enters into a commercial concern like the telephone system ?
– I draw no such distinction. Honorable senators will remember that I questioned ‘ the Minister of Defence on this matter. I asked him whether, if a single man were a unionist and a married man with a family was a nonunionist, the single man would be given preference for employment by the Government. Although the Minister did not say so in so many words, his reply indicated that he would. I say that that is a monstrous doctrine which ought not to be countenanced in any civilized community.
– The Minister did not lead the honorable senator to infer any such thing. He said that, other things being equal, he would give preference to the unionist.
– If Senator Henderson will get the records of the Senate, he can see the answer for himself.
– I shall do so.
– When I put the question whether the single man would be given preference to a non-unionist who was a married man, I could get no further answer from the Minister, and I could only draw the inference I have drawn. I say that I do not believe in that policy, and would not support it in any way, no matter on which side of the Chamber I sat. All men in the Commonwealth are equal, so far as the Government are concerned. They have no more right to say to a man that because he is a unionist he shall have preference over a non-unionist, than they have to say that because a man is a Roman Catholic he shall have preference over a Protestant, or because he is a Jew he shall have preference over a Gentile. All citizens of the Commonwealth should be equal in the eyes of the Government, and their opportunities for Government employment should be equal, also.
– And they should accept equal responsibility, too.
– So they do, so far as the State is concerned. I should be prepared at all times to give preference in employment to a man with family responsibilities, and children to provide for, before a single man. believe that to be just, right, and merciful.
– If it were not for unionism, God help the married men in Australia to-day I
– That does not affect the question at all. It is not a question of unionism that I am discussing. I have no objection to trade unionism, butI do object to political unionism. Give me industrial trade unions, and I am with them all the time.
– Is the honorable senator not aware that it was his party who first suggested the formation of political trade unions ?
– No ; I think that is one of the things that has originated in the fertile imagination of my honorable friend.
– That was the remedy they suggested after the great maritime strike and the shearers’ strike.
– I do not wish to detain the Senate longer at this stage. There are details of the Estimates which will require to be further discussed when we get into Committee, as that is the proper place in which to get information upon them. I have said at this stage what I wished to say about day labour and. preference to unionists. I have done so because I have felt strongly upon these matters, and because I believe, that my views upon them are just.
– During the course of this debate the Leader of the Opposition levelled charges of extravagance against the present Government, and those charges have been repeated by other honorable senators opposite. But, after making the charges, they all resumed their seats without pointing to any specific instance of the extravagance of which they complained.
– Will one instance satisfy the honorable senator?
– It would be refreshing to get one instance from the honorable senator sitting down which he was unable to give when he was standing up.
– I gave the honorable senator one to-day. I referred him to the great national steam laundry.
– We know that Australia is committed to a very much larger expense this year, and had to undertake a larger expenditure last year than during any previous year of Federation. This applies particularly to the expenditure upon defence. There is now five times the expenditure per head that there was even three or four years ago. This is an expenditure which honorable senators opposite know, as well as we do, must be ever on the increase until we have established in Australia a complete and effective scheme of defence. The people of -Australia realize their obligation in this matter. They know that this expenditure must be incurred, and they will be prepared to meet it until the time has arrived when we shall be in a position to say that our shores are well and safely guarded. Several honorable senators opposite laid special stress on the fact that a tremendous expenditure has been incurred in connexion with what may be called the manning of the Northern Territory with officials. But we all know that officials are necessary for the administration of the Territory, and that their appointment must precede settlement. The Government have gone a long way in the making of the necessary preparation for that development of the Territory which we all hope to see take place in the near future. How could the Government be better engaged in the preliminary stages of the development of the Territory than in appointing an Administrator, a Protector of Aborigines, a Director of Lands and Water Supply, a Director of Mines and Geologist, a Director of Agriculture, a Chief Medical Inspector, and an Inspector of Stock ? Who could reasonably cavil at these appointments ? Who can say that -they are not absolutely essential ? The Opposition know that they are, as well as do honorable sena-» tors on this side, but they are bound to discharge, however badly, the function of an Opposition, and to criticise as adversely as they can the Administration of the day. A great deal has been said concerning the day-labour system as carried on under the Commonwealth Government. To me it was pitiable in the extreme to see honorable senators opposite degrading themselves by indulging in a miserable petty slandering of good, honest toilers at the instance of a party journal. Wholesale allegations were made to the effect that the men engaged on the undergrounding of our telephone wires were loafing. Senator Vardon inquired in respect of these allegations, “ Why have we not reports?” What reports? The newspaper which originated these complaints did not make a specific charge, nor has any honorable senator opposite had either the courage or the capacity to do so. If that course had been followed, it would have been incumbent on the Minister to have obtained a report. But it was altogether unworthy of honorable senators to ask him to answer general statements, which amounted only to a slander. I know that not one honorable senator opposite, in his heart, was serious in his insinuations, because every time the matter has been referred to by honorable senators «upon this side of the chamber they have hung their heads in shame. I have been to some little trouble to ascertain whether loafing is indulged in on these particular works. I do not say that there are not loafers in such a large body of men. But is that a reason why the entire mass should be held up to public obloquy ? I have seen the employes at work, and, as one who knows something about work, I can indorse the statement of Senator Russell that in almost every instance they are giving an adequate return for the wages they are receiving. I would like to remind honorable senators that even members of Parliament loaf sometimes. They are just as great sinners in that respect as is any other section of the community. When this Senate has been .dealing with Estimates involving an expenditure of £2,000,600, I have seen only three members of the Opposition present, and two of them were asleep.
– How many honorable senators are upon the Ministerial side of the chamber now?
– I am not referring to those who are absent through illness. That is a good and sufficient reason for absence, and I know that at least one member of the Opposition is absent on account of illness. Upon the occasion to which I have referred Senators Vardon and Sayers were present, but I will not say which of them was awake. There is one item on these Estimates to which I take strong exception. Without leaving myself open to a charge of parochialism, I believe that the most suitable place for the erection of the woollen mills, which it is proposed to establish in Geelong, is either in the northern or southern portion of Tasmania.
– Good old State Rights.
– I am a good Australian first and always. I do not desire to see industries established in Tasmania merely for the purpose of benefiting that State.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the woollen mills should be located on the banks of the Molonglo River?
– I do not, although they would then be within Federal Territory. But the woollen products of Tasmania cannot be excelled in any part of the world. The quality of the water which is obtainable there is superior to that of the water obtainable at Geelong, and it is entirely suitable for the manufacture of woollen products.
– There are woollen mills at Geelong now, r,
– I am aware of that. But the same quality of woollen goods is not produced at Geelong as is produced i 1 Tasmania. Further, motive power can be secured either from the municipality of Launceston, in the north, or from the great electric power scheme in the southern portion of the island, at a cheaper rate than it ‘can be obtained in any other portion of Australia if not in the civilized world.
– The Government acted cn the report of an independent man - Mr. Smail.
– Too much reliance is placed upon these reports. The gentlemen whom we intrust with their preparation, however capable they may be, seem to have a rooted objection to getting away from the hig centres of gaiety to places where they would not be able to attend the leading theatres and witness the latest dramatic productions. It seems to be a crime to establish a Commonwealth factory outside the confines of New South Wales or Victoria. The latter State has within its borders a Cordite Factory, a Clothing Factory, and a Saddlery and Harness Factory. When we consider what Tasmania has suffered as the result of Federation-
– She is getting a good return now in the form of a financial grant.
– Give us some industries, and we do not want the grant.
– Build up Tasmanian industries by means of up-to-date factories, and she will be able to compete with any State.
– It is all very well to say that. But under present conditions it is extremely difficult for Tasmania to compete with Victoria, where large aggregations of capital have been invested in one particular industry. Without cavilling at Victoria for having all these factories within her confines, I do say that when Tasmania is peculiarly suited to an industry some consideration should be extended to her.
– What about poor old New South Wales?
– What about YassCanberra ?
– There would be less cause for complaint if the woollen mills were established in the Federal Territory which, perhaps, is the proper place for them… But if they are to toe erected outside that Territory, they ought to be established in the most suitable spot, which, I contend, isin Tasmania. However, I do not intend coal low the matter to rest where it is. Last session the Opposition were good enough to assist me upon a very important matter which affected a considerable section of the people of Tasmania, and, as I havedone nothing to alienate their support, we may yet be able to see that justice is done to the State from which I come. I now wish to make one or two observations upon our Postal Department. I am distinctly dissatisfied with the means of postal communication which are provided for settlers in our out-back country. When this Parliament adopted penny postage, it was understood that when the revenue which was bound to be temporarily lost, had been overtaken, more attention would be given to the requirements of these settlers than had been previously bestowed upon them. I had every confidence that that understanding would be respected. But in Tasmania, I regret to say, settlers in our rural districts are not getting that consideration which they have a right to expect at the hands of the Government. Many of the Ministerial supporters know the difficulty under which these people .get their mails once or twice a week.
– Order ! The honorable senator is out of order in discussing the administration of the Postal Department outside of the works which it is proposed to undertake.
– Having got my statement upon record, I shall obey your ruling, sir, and I shall have more to say upon this question when it comes before the Senate in proper form. I do not wish to occupy more time at the present juncture. I merely intimate to the Government that I intend to take an active part in the discussion when the proposal to establish woollen mills at Geelong is submitted for our consideration. There are one or two other matters to which I had intended to refer, but, as I do not desire to incur your displeasure, I shall refrain from touching upon them now. I had collected some facts which would demonstrate the superiority of the system of day labour over that of contract. Howeve:, I shall reserve my remarks in that connexion till a more fitting opportunity presents itself. «
Senator SHANNON (South Australia)
President of the Executive Council, I should like to embrace this opportunity to /make a few observations upon the Bill which is now before us. From the remarks which were made by the Leader of the Government in this Chamber upon my first appearance here, I almost expected to see a halo encompass his head., At any rate, I recognise that I require his permission to address myself to these Estimates. I do not wish to discuss the particulars of this Bill so much as I do its general principles. Several items have been alluded to by honorable senators on each side, but there is one matter to which I should like to refer, and that is the poor old Northern Territory. I do not know what it has done that it should be so sadly neglected by everybody who has anything to do with its administration.
– My word, we are1 pushing things on up there.
– Yes, with a vengeance I The Government are doing the very thing which has crippled the Territory. They are incurring an additional debt, with no possible chance of reducing the total indebtedness. That is exactly the policy which the Honorary Minister is carrying out so far as the poor old Territory is concerned. I hold that, before anything can be done there, it must be linked with the south. The first step to be taken is not to fill up the north with officials of every kind before anybody is there for them to do anything for, but to link up the north with the south. I am sorry that no provision is made in this Bill for the construction of a railway between those points. I honestly believe that the Minister of Defence is genuine in his attempt to defend Australia, but I am surprised that he did not instil into the minds; of his colleagues that the very first thing to be done for the proper defence of Australia is to connect the north and the south by railway.
– A railway from Brisbane straight across to Perth..
– Is that a railway from the north of Australia to the south? I am afraid that the honorable- senator is a little out in his geography. I do1 not believe that there is a member of the Senate who does not believe in the defence of Australia by Australians, and, holding that belief, there can be no two- opinions as to the construction of a railway to connect thenorth and. the south. I. repeat that one of the first works of *ny magnitude which honorable senators should have undertaken was to immediately connect the north and the south by a direct line.
– Immediately ?
– Yes. If there is any member of this Parliament who understands the Northern Territory at all, he knows perfectly well that its development has- been retarded because the Parliaments of South Australia never grappled with that great difficulty of linking up the north and the south. _ t
– They had. the control of the Territory for fifty years.
– I know that they nursed the baby for fifty years. They nursed it through the bad times, and now when the times are better, and the Federal Treasury is overflowing - it may not always be overflowing - Australia has a golden opportunity to undertake this great work, and do something for posterity. I am sorry that no provision for the purpose is made in the Bill. 1 suggest, in all seriousness, for the consideration of the Government, and especially of Senator Pearce, that they should make immediate provision on the Estimates and get the work carried into effect. Senator O’Keefe said that now we have taken over the huge Northern Territory, it is too much to ask the Minister of Home Affairs to control the whole ol the public works. I am not in a position to say at this juncture whether that view is quite correct or not; but if the work is too much for the Minister, it is for ‘ the Ministry, as the leaders of Parliament, to say when an alteration of the Constitution should be made. As Senator O’Keefe properly pointed out, section 65 provides that, until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Ministry shall consist of seven Ministers.
– And the Parliament may “otherwise provide” at any time.
– Who are to lead Parliament in this matter? Who are better fitted to say whether one Minister is overworked or not than the occupants of the Treasury bench? If they are satisfied that none of the’ Ministers is overworked, I take it that Parliament will not be asked to make other provision ; but so soon as that work is more than seven Ministers can undertake-, I imagine that it will be their bounden duty to ask Parliament to provide more Ministers to help’ them to carry out their duties efficiently. There is another question which has been brought forward very prominently, and that is preference to< unionists.. I wish, sir, to address myself, through you, to Senator Needham, who, I think, needs a little enlightenment on the question.
– Why do you single me out?
– I shall tell the honorable senator why. The extract he quoted from a letter by a person who refused to accept the services of a man because he did belong to a union was altogether irrelevant to what the Government are doing, in giving preference .to unionists. There is no analogy, so far as I can see, between the two cases. I have not the slightest objection to a private individual saying what class of labour he shall employ. I would not dream for a moment of questioning his right to employ any labour he pleased. He is quite at liberty to employ all unionists, or all non-unionists, or to take a mixture of both classes. He is at liberty to say, “ I shall have none but unionists”; but is that an attitude for the Government of the country to adopt? I unhesitatingly say, “ No.” The Government are the custodians of the purse of the people, and they should say, “ We are prepared to deal with all classes of the people fairly and squarely, and to give preference to none.” They should not say, “ We will give preference only to unionists, and that in every case.” With reference to the criticism of “the man on the job,” I yield to no person in the Commonwealth in my admiration for an honest working man. I have been an employer of labour since I was seventeen years of age, and I have never had the slightest difficulty with working men. I am an employer of labour today, and I am sure that any men in my employ would be only too willing, at any hour of the day or night, to do anything which I asked of them. I have been before the public of South Australia for nine years, and no one who cares to look up the records will find an instance where my vote or voice was cast against the interest of honest workers. They have my sympathy to-day. But I have no sympathy with the “ speeding-up “ principle, nor do I believe that a single senator has the slightest sympathy with it. Why? Because it is an inhuman principle. Tt is inhuman to ask a weakling to keep up with a strong and able man ; to pick out the strongest and most capable man in a team and ask weaklings to keep up to them. That is monstrous in the extreme, and has no sympathy from me or any other rightthinking man. On the other hand, is there an honest man in Australia who has the slightest sympathy with the “ slowingdown “ principle? If the “speeding-up” principle is inhuman, the “ slowing-down “ principle is absolutely dishonest. It is more honest for a man to come behind my back and take three or four shillings out of my pocket, than it is for him to do three or four shillings less work in a day than he should do. I do not know to what extent the “ slowing-down “ principle obtains in Australia. We do know, however, that, in some lines of business, men do not put forth their best efforts. That not right. It is no more right than it is to say to a slow man, “You shall keep up with the fast man.” Neither of these things has my sympathy, and I trust that they have not the sympathy of any honorable senator. With reference to the question of contract versus day labour in carrying out public works, probably a great deal can be said on both sides. But, first and foremost, if day labour is to be carried out under any Government, the officers in charge of the works must have the absolute sympathy and support of those in authority. Otherwise you cannot secure that efficiency and discipline amongst the men which is necessary if you are to get a fair day’s labour for a fair day’s pay. I do not think that there is any honorable senator who wants, or has ever asked for, more than that. That is a fair all-round deal, and if it were carried out by all sections of the community, nobody ought to complain. But when we hear such statements as “It is not so much the work, as what you can get for it,” that is not honest policy. The honest policy is, “ If I get so much for my day’s labour, I must give an honest day’s work in return.” And that is the policy which the Labour party ought to adopt. We have had the contract system tried in Australia. I do not know how far it has been tried under the Commonwealth. because I have not been long enough here to know. But I do know that contracts which were started on the day-labour system by a Government in the Commonwealth were thrown up after 30 miles of work had been constructed, and handed over to contract labour. I know, too, that where a Government in Australia tendered with day labour against contract prices, they were beaten by a very considerable sum. I am under the impression that on the Tailem Bend to Brown’s Well railway, the difference was between £30,000 and £50,000, showing that contract labour can compete against day labour. The case referred to by Senator Vardon proves conclusively that the day labour system is not altogether what it should be under the Governments of Australia. That being the case, I ask the Government to take these questions into consideration in dealing with day labour. I do not wish it to be understood that I am opposed to day labour. I am not. 1 realize, as others who have spoken have done, that if a particular work were carried out by contract it would be done by day labour. But the difference is that the contractor would see that his men did a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. That is why a contractor can afford to do a piece of work cheaper than the Government can. If the Government intend to insist on the day-labour policy, I hope they ‘will stand loyally by their officers, and that the officers will insist on getting a fair day’s work out of the men. It has been alleged that those who have brought this subject before Parliament have charged the men with being malingerers and loafers. I deny that. I understand that Senator Vardon introduced the matter into the Senate by reading a cutting from one of the local papers. I have not been long enough in Victoria to know the character of these journals, and whether they are generally regarded as speaking with veracity. As far as I know, however, they are worthy examples of journalism. I believe that the newspapers of this country do their best, in the interests of the people, to expose grievances and evils that come under notice. But because Senator Vardon read this clipping from the Argus it has been asserted that he fathers the charges contained therein, and that the Opposition do the same. How can that statement be justified ? Honorable senators ought to welcome the bringing forward of such a matter. Here was a statement made in the public press on a matter of public interest. The honorable senator took the trouble to bring it under the notice of the Government. Surely he did no more than his duty. I say unhesitatingly that any senator who saw that such allegations had been made would be failing in his duty if he did not bring them under the notice of the Government, and ask for an explanation. It is not fair debating to represent that my colleague, Senator Vardon, in taking that course, was guilty of fathering the charges made in the journal from which he quoted.
I trust that honorable senators opposite will not regard me as a boy teaching his grandmother how to suck eggs when I say again that this is not fair debate.
– We are used to that.
– I am not, and trust that I shall not have to become accustomed to it whilst I have a seat in this Senate. In regard to Commonwealth expenditure, whilst I do not intend to enter into details, I cannot help realizing, after looking through this measure casually, that we are spending an enormous amount of money. I should like to sound a note of warning to the Government. Whilst they have an overflowing Treasury at present, they must not forget the source from which the money comes. They must not forget that federated Australia is only in its infancy, and that they are tapping nearly all the sources of wealth within the Commonwealth. We have rather more than a revenue Tariff, and on the top of that we have a land tax. It is true that the Government might, if they chose, increase the amount of the land tax. But what would be the result? Who is paying t’->e tax at present? Is the man on the land paying it? I venture the opinion that the man on the land is not paying so much as are the people in the cities. The centres of population are paying a very large percentage of the tax - probably more than one-third.
– Nearly one-half.
– So much the worse. Do the Government and their supporters for one moment believe that the taxpayers submitted to this impost without a murmur? Do they think that the owners of property in Collins-street, some of whom perhaps had to pay a ten-pound note, part with their money without qualms? I do not think they do, but certainly when they have paid they put a little more on to their rents, and the shopkeepers put a little more on to the prices of the goods they sell, so that the consumer pays every time. I submit that consideration to the Government very seriously. They have an overflowing Treasury at present, but is it wise to spend the money as fast as we get it? Some honorable senators say that there is no need to put money by to pay off debts. Even my colleague, Senator Vardon, said that he did not believe in putting money by if it could be properly spent. That is just the point. I do not believe in holding money up if it can be spent to advantage, but I do believe in putting by a little for a dry day, because it is the dry days and not the rainy ones that are injurious to Australia. Look at some of the projects on which it is proposed to spend money. One is for a laundry. We have plenty of laundries already. Instead of spending money on wild-cat schemes of this kind Australia would be better served if we devoted the surplus revenue to the purposes of the Federal Bank, charging a small percentage to that institution for the use of it. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said, “ All Australia has to do is to keep the Labour party in power, and it will enjoy good seasons.” Well, it is quite true that the Government have been favoured with good seasons while they have been in office.
– God is on the side of the just.
– Yes, the Almighty has sent us very good seasons, but we have had very bad management. Money is tighter to-day than we have known it to be before in the history of Australia. Practically our financial institutions are refusing to open their hands in any shape or form. Meat is dearer than it has been for many years.
– Is that owing to the Labour party ?
– The point is that honorable senators opposite say, “ Keep us in power, and the country will have good seasons.” We have had good seasons, and what has the result been? I hope that we are not at the end of the good seasons.
– Nor at the end of the Labour party.
– The sooner we come to an end of the Labour party the better. The Government have not done justice by the good seasons they have had. No one will say that we are faced with a bad season now. The rain has been held back, but since it commenced we have had one of the finest seasons I have ever known. Probably no honorable senator in this House has seen a finer season than the present. There has hardly ever been a better growth of vegetation.
– Senator McColl said is was a bad season.
– It is not, speaking of Australia generally. But, notwithstanding that, we find that money Is scarce and meat is dear. Beef is selling at £2 per 100, sheep at £2 each. Eggsare 2s. a dozen. Even the hens go on strike against the Labour party. The affairs of the country have been very badly managed. . I put this proposition tothe Leader of the Senate : If we are fared with the difficulties to which I have referred when rain has only been withheld1 for two months later than usual in the year, what would be likely to be the result if we had two years of drought? That, is a possibility which the Government must face. When, with all the good seasonswe have had, such difficulties have arisen, what would happen to Australia if we experienced again such a drought as that from which we suffered in 1893? It behoves the custodians of the public purse in the Federal Parliament to be extremely careful in -the matter of public expenditure,, and to try to save a little in times of plenty, that we may have something in hand to meet the days of adversity.
– The honorable senator has just been advocating the spending of more money for the construction of a certain railway.
– I did so because the construction of that railway is necessary if we are to get any return for expenditure in the Northern Territory. The Commonwealth has taken over a province, and it is not a bit of use for us to sit down and look at it. As we have shouldered the responsibility for it, I say unhesitatingly that the only way in which to make it pay is to link north and- south by railway. The expenditure involved in that work would be justified. What I am ‘asking the Government not to do is to spend money on steam laundries, baby bonuses, and the other silly rot which has been referred to.
– Does the honorable senator object to the baby bonus?
– I do object to it.
– Order’! There isno reference to that matter in the Bill.
– I admit that the resources and possibilities of Australia are very great ; but I still ask the Government to carefully consider the position, and not toheap up taxation so that they may squander the money as fast as they can get it. I thank honorable senators for the hearing; they have given me.
– I find great fault with the expenditure proposed by this Bill. On one page of the schedule there are no fewer than thirteen different votes on account of certain undertakings, and we have nothing to show what will We the ultimate cost of those undertakings. The first thing a business man would do when proposing to undertake a certain work would be to discover the ultimate cost of it. In connexion with one item in this Bill a vote of £50.000 is asked towards the cost of a certain work, and we have nothing to indicate whether the ultimate expenditure upon it will be £100,000 or £250,000. We should have in a separate column a statement of the estimated total cost of all these works. That is a practice I have seen adopted elsewhere. I notice a vote of £5,000 towards the cost of a manoeuvre area. We are not told what the ultimate cost will be, and that is information which we ought to have. The same thing applies to works proposed for every Department. Year after year large sums of money are voted by Parliament, and in the next year we are confronted with revotes for the same works. There is ample room on the pages of the schedule for a column indicating the estimated total cost of these various works. We are asked to pass these votes blindly. There is an item for barracks, quarters, gun-parks, pharmacy stores, stabling, and’ other buildings for military horses, and towards the cost there is set down a re-vote of £31000 and a new vote of £21,000; but we do not know whether next year the Government will not ask for the same services another £20,000.
– Can the honorable senator not trust the Government in these matters?
– I trust no Government. The Government will not trust Parliament.
– They are responsible to Parliament.
– They should be; but Parliament does not ask them to be responsible, because honorable senators ODposite are prepared to trust them, and will not ask for any information about these votes. That is why information must be asked for from this side. I find another item on another page in much the same terms, “ Maribyrnong - Barracks and quartets, gun-parks, pharmacy stores, stabling, and other buildings - towards cost - £24,914.” Is it not strange that Ministers can give no information as to how this money is to be spent? Parliament is asked to vote £25,000 towards the cost of a particular work, and then, if it will ultimately cost £50,000, we are obliged to carry it out. Surely the Government officials are able to get an estimate of the total cost of these works, and let Parliament know what it will be. The practice at present adopted is simply absurd. I heard a gentleman connected with the Ministry in another place say that there are no business men in the Opposition, but I think there must be very few business men in the Government. If the parties in the Senate were nearly equal in number, the Government would not have the audacity to come down with such Estimates, because they would know that they could never get them through. They know that they are strong enough to force these votes through without giving any information, and that criticism from this side will not be taken any notice of by honorable senators supporting the Government. These Works Estimates bristle with instances such as I have quoted. I shall not take up much time in. dealing with them at this stage, as they will have to be dealt with separately when we get into Committee. The Bill proposes an expenditure of £2,789,092, and we are given no information concerning the various votes. After every member of the Senate has spoken on this measure, Hansard, will go forth to the country without any information as to what the people are committed to. It should be the first duty of the Government to give that information. If honorable senators did their duty, they would refer the Bill back to the Government, and say that, before they will pass votes amounting to £2,789,000, they must know what the country is being committed to. It may mean that, by passing these votes, we shall be committing the country to an expenditure of £5,000,000. We are like the Jubilee Plunger. We have come into a fortune through good seasons and ample revenue, and we are taking a plunge in the dark. ] hope that we shall not be like that individual, sorry for it later on.
– He went insolvent.
– Fortunately the Government cannot go insolvent, because the country is behind them, and all its resources must be drawn on to pay up. But a day of reckoning will come. We cannot continue to take leaps in the dark in this way. One honorable senator read out a list of officials appointed to positions in the Northern Territory. We know that a great number have been appointed, and that we shall soon have more officials there than settlers. I was opposed to the Commonwealth having to pay for the Northern
Territory, but now that we have taken it over, we must face the consequences. Are the Government taking any steps to develop it? 1 say they are not. The interest on the debt of the Territory will continue ; the loss on the railway from Port Darwin to Pine Creek, and on the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, will go on; and we shall have to continue to pay the salaries of the officials appointed, while the Government take no legitimate steps to induce people to settle in the Territory. They have appointed a large number of officials, and propose to start all sorts of experiments in coffee-growing and sugargrowing, though we know that the South Australian Government made similar experiments years ago. It would appear that the Government are here only for the purpose of making appointments. If, some years ago, any man had said from a public platform that in 1912 the expenditure of the Commonwealth Government on the payment of officials would amount to what it is to-day, we should never have had Federation. We were told, time after time, that it would involve very little extra expenditure.
– Does the honorable senator know any of the officials who do not earn their money ?
– I do not reside in the Northern Territory. Does Senator Russell not know of any who do earn their money ?
– Yes; many of them.
– I doubt the honorable senator’s knowledge. I do not know how he could gain it in Bourke-street, Melbourne. Honorable senators opposite do not care to hear anything said from this side; but if we did not call attention to these things, they would say that we were not doing our duty. When we endeavour to discharge our duty, we are told that we are doing wrong.
– The honorable senator is always misunderstood.
– I do not misunderstand the Government. I thoroughly understand them, and I believe that the country is beginning to understand them, and to see through their hollow shams. They profess to be a Government of the people and for the people, but they have proved themselves to be interested only in the welfare of one section of the people.
– Order ! The honorable senator is indulging in a general discussion of matters which are outside the principles embodied in this Bill.
– I am endeavouring to show the want of sincerity on the part of the Government, and I can scarcely do that without criticising their administration.
– The honorable senator may debate their administration in respect of additions, new works, and buildings, but not outside of that.
– That is all I desire to do. The Government propose to expend £2,700,000 upon works included in these Estimates, but they have not ventured to tell us what will be the total cost of these separate undertakings. I submit that the country ought to know the expenditure to which it is being committed. In the absence of that information I do not think that these Estimates will be agreed to without prolonged discussion. Surely, the Minister of Defence has sufficient business ability to recognise that he should submit for our information an estimate of the cost of these separate works.
– After the criticism which has been* indulged in by honorable senators upon this side of the chamber, I am somewhat astonished that neither of the two Ministers present has risen to reply.
– I was about to reply.
– But the bulk, of the expenditure contained in these Estimates relates to defence matters, and theMinister in charge of that Department should, therefore, have answered that: criticism.
– The Bill is not mine.. I will explain the items in Committee.
– Upon the motion for the second reading of a Bill of thischaracter, it is usual for honorable senatorsto discuss its main principles, and to reservethe consideration of its details until the Committee stage has been reached. It isabout time that the severe criticism to which these Estimates have been subjected’ by members of the Opposition, received some reply at the hands of the Minister of” Defence. He should explain why Parliament is asked to authorize the expenditureof such large sums. I propose to comparethe position to-day in respect of our expenditure upon works and buildings withthe position which we occupied immediatelyafter the accomplishment of Federation..
The figures in this connexion, I am inclined to believe, will speak far more convincingly than any words of mine could do. Upon works and buildings in the Postal Department the expenditure in 1905-6 was £146,000. In 1906-7 it had risen to £275,000; in 1907-8 it had still further increased to £427,000 ; in 1908-9 it was £541,000, and the following year it was £555,000. In 1910-11 it rose to £783,000, in 1911-12 it had jumped to £1,442,000, and for the current financial year the estimated expenditure is £1,152,000. In other words, since Federation began, our expenditure on public works in the Postal Department has totalled £5,873,376. In the Defence Department the expenditure upon works and buildings in 1905-6 was £171,000,- in 1906-7 it was £195,000, in 1907-8 it was £440,000, in 1908-9 it was £101,444, and in 1909-10 it was £337,000. My honorable friends opposite then came into office, and the expenditure at once jumped in 1910-11 to £1,610,000. In 1911-12 it had risen to £1,952,000, and the Minister of Defence would remain silent upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill, notwithstanding that for the current year it asks us to sanction an expenditure of £2,568,000.
– Is not that enough?
– Chaff of that kind may suit Ministerial supporters, but it will not suit me. The Minister should have given us some general explanation of what this enormous expenditure is intended to effect. The total amount which we have expended upon the Defence Department - very largely upon works and buildings, stores and equipment of the Fleet Unit, since the advent of Federation, is £7,700,250. In the Department of Trade and Customs our expenditure upon works and buildings in 1905-6 was £1,814, in 1906-7 it was , £1,162, in 1907-8 it was £8,972, in 1908-9 it was £20,019, in 1909-10 it was £5,1231 in 1910-n it was ^3.94i. in 1911-12 it was £15,563, and this year it is estimated at £76,083. Our total expenditure upon this Department under the heading of works and buildings, since 1901, has been £138,327. Similarly the Department of External Affairs expended on works and buildings for 1911-12, £22,526, and its estimated expenditure for this year is £62.120 - an enormous increase. In the Treasury Department there is much the same increase. Our total expenditure upon works and buildings since the inception of Federation, not including the transferred properties, has been £14,100,749. I will, to some extent, anticipate the reply of the Minister of Defence, if he will vouchsafe us a reply, by conceding that £7,700,000 have been expended upon defence works. It will thus be seen that £6,400,749 have been paid for out of revenue for works and buildings, which are either of a permanent or reproductive character, and in many cases both. As to whether any or a portion of the defence works should not be regarded as permanent, if not reproductive, I will, for the sake of my argument, throw them out entirely and say that where you have permanent works such as the vast majority of the works which we have erected and are erecting, and most of them reproductive, the system is absolutely unsound and indefensible. Let us take another view of the matter. In past years I have pointed out what I think is the proper policy to be pursued. A sinking fund should be established, and whenever Parliament is asked to vote sums for permanent works, and for permanent and reproductive works, it should be told the amount of the expenditure, also how the money is to be spent, and how long the work of construction will last. The. cost of the works should not be charged up to the revenue of one year, or two years ; but their life value should be ascertained, and then by an annual payment out of the revenue during a certain number of years, the whole cost should be extinguished. I do not believe that there is a country in the world to-day where the cost of permanent and reproductive works is charged to the current revenue. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council will attend to any criticisms from this side, I shall be glad to hear if he can point out a single civilized country whose conditions are in any way similar to ours, where the total cost of such works is charged to the revenue of one or two years. But if I were to seek a reason and a justification for this challenge, I could find it in the Budget-papers themselves. The financial transactions of the present Government absolutely indorse this policy in a certain respect ; and in regard to a most important item they have followed out the very policy which years before I, in common with other senators on this side, strongly advocated should be followed.
– You ought to be satisfied with that.
– I want to know where the Government are going in this matter. I see an item which is referred to to a certain extent in these Works and Buildings Estimates, and which is referred to in globo in the Budget-papers. I ask the Government, and I shall do all I can to force them, to explain this principle of borrowing money for carrying out permanent works.
– Why do you want them to borrow when they have plenty of money ?
– The retort is why have they borrowed : why have they the necessity of a loan transaction?
– Order! I think the honorable senator will see that any remarks on the method of raising money will not be in order.
– I submit, sir, with all respect to your ruling, that if the policy I am advocating had been adopted by the Government, these Estimates would have been considerably reduced; and perhaps in Committee I may be able to induce them to reduce the amount in the schedule. My intention is to show that the whole system of financing the works and buildings as displayed in the schedule is wrong, and I submit that that is- relevant. Let me take an instance in regard to- current works and buildings, and see what the Government have done. Under the authority of the Inscribed Stock Act of1911 there was a sale of , £700,000 worth of inscribed stock, which was purchased by the Treasurer at 3½ per cent, out of the general Trust Fund. That was the beginning of the loan system, and in- the Budget-papers it appears as a loan account. How is that sum applied? For the purchase and erecton of buildings in London, £400,000. Some of them will appear in this schedule as items of expenditure to which the Government are already committed.
– Order ! That matter has been before the Senate in a separate measure, and does not appear in this Bill.
– I am dealing with the principle of financing the buildings, and using the instance of £400,000 which was spent under a certain Act ; and I express the hope that the principle contained in that Act should be applied more generally than it is. Then the Government applied £226,000 for the redemption of Treasury Bills which were issued by the
Government of South Australia on account of the Northern Territory, and £34,475 for recouping South Australia the amount expended from its revenue towards the construction of the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta.
– Order ! I hope that the honorable senatoi does not intend to continue the debate in that strain.
– I regret that this expenditure on permanent and reproductive works is not capitalized, that the same principle does not prevail in regard to that method of financing works and buildings as has prevailed everywhere hitherto in Australia. I hold that by reason of this false system of dealing with such works, the taxpayers are unduly burdened, and that if an alteration weie made on the lines we advocate the load of taxation would be considerably lightened. I submit that it is fairly relevant to the matter under consideration, when we are asked to vote nearly £3,000,000 for public works, and seeing that the money is to come very largely out of the general revenue for this year and the year following, it is my duty to point out and emphasize a system which will relieve the intense pressure of taxation. Here we are asked to vote £1,150,000 for works for the Post and Telegraph Department. How does the Post Office in London carry out its operations?’ I shall read ar extract from the last report of the Postmaster-General for England -
The telegraph revenue of the year, including the value of the services rendered to other Departments, was £3,165^92, an increase of £443> and the telegraph expenditure, including the interest on the capital - £10,867,446 - expended in the purchase of the telegraphs, was £4.148,313, an increase of £135,5.51-. The net deficit was £1,182,321, or £133,108 more than last year.
Appendix N to the report refers to this capital expenditure, the money for which was borrowed from the Treasury. It shows that- - £271,691 was charged as interest on capital stock (Consols) in respect of moneys raised for the purchase oi telegraphs, &c, under the Telegraph Acts 1868-1870 and Acts amending the same.
If the Government would do as the PostmasterGeneral of England has done for his Department, the enormous amounts which we are asked to vote to-night would not appear on these Estimates. I have on every possible occasion, even when I was sitting on the other side, protested agaiast this system, which I call frenzied finance, because it is unfair to the people, apart from its other objectionable features. A large sum is asked for expenditure at the Federal Capital. With much of the opposition, which is largely centred in Melbourne, against the building of the Capital, 1 have no sympathy. Let us see what has been suddenly discovered, especially in Melbourne. In the first place, we find out that, after all, a separate Capital is not needed. I fancy that there is a kind of Pecksniffian flavour about that kind of discovery at this stage, because there was no State in Australia which was so anxious to push the work of Federation on as was Victoria ; and very much to their credit indeed, the Australian Natives Association, whose head-quarters were, I believe, in Melbourne, were for the time being the strongest motive power in helping to bring about Federation.
– Order ! The honorable senator is dealing with matters which have . nothing to do with this Bill. The particular parties which worked to bring about Federation are not dealt with in the measure before the Senate.
– I shall try to keep strictly to the subject. Much of the expenditure proposed in regard to the Federal Capital ought not, it has been urged, to be incurred. But I maintain that Victoria knew perfectly well that a Federal Capital had to be established, and that it was to be located neither in Sydney nor Melbourne. Why should we not keep to the arrangement made? It has been urged in another place that the Victorian people do not want the Federal Capital to be in Melbourne, but that it would be better to place it in Sydney than at Yass-Canberra. Why, may I ask, should it not be placed in Hobart or Brisbane?
– Order! The honorable senator is not dealing with matters contained in the Bill.
– I recognise that there are obligations in reference to the Capital that must be observed, and for that reason I have no objection to the proposed expenditure for this purpose. But we are entitled to’ have definite information as to when we are likely to get to the Capital. °
– That will depend on the next election, for some of us.
– It ought not to depend on that. The matter ought to be entirely free for such a contingency, no matter what Government may be in power.
– What the Minister means is that the honorable senator will never get there.
– I do not think that the Minister of Defence intended to arrogate to himself the role of Balaam’s ass, and indulge in prophecy. I notice several items in the schedule in relation to Government factories of various descriptions. They are nearly all centred around Melhourne or Sydney. These two cities appear in the eyes of the Government to constitute the hub of the Australian universe. It is to be regretted that we could not be located in the Federal Capital earlier, because it would be well if these industries could be centred there. Let me give a list of them; They are : Storage accommodation for Commonwealth Departments, £10,000; Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, £9,500; Harness Factory, Clifton Hill, £3,500; Clothing Factory, Melbourne, £7,000; Woollen Mills, Geelong, £8,000 ; Cordite Factory, Maribyrnong, £7,000.; Woollen Clothing Factory, £15,000.
– It has not yet been decided where the last-mentioned factory shall be.
– I can quite understand that wool touches the honorable senator closely. In my opinion, the Federal Capital is the proper place for the estab lishment of all these works, and it is to be regretted that they cannot be located there. The money to be voted for defence purposes is considerable, and it is time that we had a clear statement of policy and of the objective of the expenditure, especially in relation to naval defence. It is very difficult to reduce a policy to a maxim, but, as far as naval defence is concerned, I do say, without any flourish or indulgence in sentiment, that I uncompromisingly believe in the policy of one King, one Flag, one Navy, one Empire. When so large an amount is being voted for naval defence, we should like to hear a distinct expression of the policy of the Government in regard to the co-operation of our Fleet with the Imperial Navy. When the matter of Imperial defence was discussed at the Conference in London, the Prime Minister was reported in the Morning Post to have said that if the Empire was at war the Commonwealth of Australia would be de facto at war ; but he went on to say that the Dominions exercised autonomous powers, and. that, in the exercise of them, they would themselves determine whether their Forces were, or were not, to be used for the assistance of the Empire when at war. Now we are voting some millions for defence purposes, and should like to know whether the Minister of Defence subscribes to that opinion, or whether the Prime Minister has seen fit to modify it.
– Order ! This Bill does not deal with the matter to which the honorable senator is referring. It simply deals with works and buildings partly for defence purposes.
– I believe that a large sum of this money is for the purposes of the Fleet Unit.
– I do not see any item referring to the Fleet Unit.
– We are voting £i 10.000 for the purpose.
– In view of what the President has said, I shall not pursue the subject, but the Bill certainly contains an item of £110,000 which is to be placed in a Trust Fund for the Fleet Unit. I did hope that before the debate concluded we should hear a distinct expression of policy from the Government on the subject I have mentioned. We ought to have an understanding in regard to the present system of spending public moneys and charging them year by year to revenue. The figures which I have given, in their total amount and in their relation to each other, show the immense increases of expenditure on permanent works within the last two or three years. It is as clear as the light that is now shining that this kind of thing cannot go on. If the Government persist in this course of expenditure, there is going to be a burst somewhere. The Government have been challenged for an explanation of their policy, and one is due from them.
– I congratulate honorable senators on the reasonable criticisms in which they have indulged with respect to the object of this Bill, t was somewhat amused by the remarks of Senator St. Ledger, who talked of “ one fleet, one flag, one cheer,” and all that sort of thing. Does the honorable senator mean to exterminate Germany. Russia, France, Japan, and all the rest of the world, so as to secure one flag? If he does, we should require £500 000.000 on the Estimates, not to speak of a paltry £1.000.000 or so. T wish to refer very briefly to some remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition. Of course, it is difficult to please honorable sena tors opposite. At one time they complain that we do not spend enough, and at another that we spend too much. Through the whole gamut there is nothing right. I suppose it is their duty to find fault with everything. The Leader of the Opposition directed his attention to the expenditure proposed in the Northern Territory. There is a vote of £^2,000 put down for bores and wells. The honorable senator must know that this is only for preliminary work, and does not disclose the intentions of the Government for the development of the Territory. He knows that it is impossible at present to fully estimate what will ultimately be required for water conservation. There is another vote set down for wells and dams, and the Leader of the Opposition ought to know that there is at the present time, in the shape of wells and dams, a very inadequate system of water conservation in the Territory. The £3,000 asked for is necessary to repair them and put them in a condition in which they will be serviceable to the public.
– Do the Government put charges for maintenance under the heading of “ New Works and Buildings “?
– No; .but addi-. tions and repairs of this kind cannot be regarded as maintenance in the Northern Territory.
– Repairs are regarded as maintenance everywhere else. .
– Much the same may be said of the other votes to which reference has been made. A sum of £2 1,000 is put down for the building of cottages for employes of the Government. That amount will not build very many. Those who have visited the Northern Territory, and understand the conditions existing there, are prepared to admit that private enterprise has not, up to the present time, made proper provision even for the present population, let alone for any addition to the population which may be expected in connexion with the new Administration. Then, with respect to the vote of £1,100 for the laundry, those who have visited the Territory, and those with whom I have conversed, and who have resided there for some time, have .always declared that there is no one to do anything of this kind hut the Chinese, and that they do the work very imperfectly and at a very exorbitant cost. If the Government can do anything in the direction of supplying a long-felt want, and something which will improve the health and comfort of those residing in the Northern Territory at present, or likely to reside there in the near future, no reasonable man should find fault with them. So far as the workers’ cottages and the laundry are concerned, they will be paving speculations, and no one has any need to be alarmed about the money that ts proposed to be spent’ on them. With respect to the vote of £4,200 proposed for the survey of a line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River, I have the authority of the Minister of External Affairs to say that nothing will be done with this vote until a Bill has been introduced providing for the permanent survey of the line, and some idea may be formed of the cost of its construction. With respect to the development of the Northern Territory by the construction of further lines, the Leader of the Opposition referred to some Committee that is to he appointed. The Committee is to consist of one railway expert, one rivers and harbors expert, and one land expert, and ‘ their duty will be to advise the Government with respect to the routes which lines of railway should take, and the harbor improvements that may be necessary to induce settlers to go to that part, of the Commonwealth. I need not now refer to rambling statements which would have been more appropriate to the debate on the Budget, which has already been opened in the Senate; but I am sure that Ministers will be only too glad to give honorable senators all the information they may desire about the various votes proposed in this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 postponed.
Clause 3 (Appropriation of Supply).
– It appears to me that, having postponed clause 2, we cannot now agree to clause 3. This clause speaks of the “said sum to be granted by this Act,” and “ the said sum “ surely refers to the sum mentioned in clause 2.
– We are following the usual course in this matter. The wording of clause 3 need not be altered, even though the sum referred to in clause 2 should be altered.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule Abstract and Summary . postponed. - Schedule.
– Before we enter upon the details of the schedule, I suggest to the VicePresident of the Executive Council thai it is not now an unreasonable time to adjourn. I quite understand that the honorable senator wishes to get the Bill through, and there is no desire on this side to do anything but. assist in that object I suggest for the honorable senator’s consideration that it would not be unreasonable to report progress at this stage.
– Myonly intention was to proceed with the business in Committee until such time as debatable matter was reached. We have now, I think, reached that stage, and I am prepared to report progress.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn. -
.- Before the Senate adjourns, I desire to refer to a statement which has appeared in the press, and which, I think, is correct, to the effect that a gentleman in the service of the Commonwealth, namely, Colonel Miller, has been appointed to some official position in charge of the Federal Territory, I am informed, as Administrator of the Territory. I am further given to understand that, according to the press -and I cannot say whether this statement is correct or not - the Administrator is to be given the title of “ His Excellency.” If that be correct, I protest against this attempt to establish a bogus aristocracy in our midst by the use of a lot of these “flim-flam” titles. I think it is about time that we lived up to some of our democratic professions, and were content, if we must go beyond the ordinary “ Mr..” to call an official by the title of his office,instead of introducing this snobbery.
– We sometimes address a man as “ Senator.”
– Senator Chataway’s interjection does not affect my argument at all. My contention is that an official should be called by the title of his office. The title ‘” Senator “ is a title of utility, and describes the position occupied by a member of the Senate.
– It is not a title of utility, surely?
– Perhaps Senator Chataway has no utility ; but I hope that those who sent me here believe that 1 have some. At any rate, I hope that those who put ros hen; believe that I have some utility. This attempt to introduce the thin end of the wedge ought to be jumped on with both feet at once. We should not countenance any effort to establish a snobocracy in our midst by the introduction of timeworn titles. Having entered . my yirotest, which, though it may not be effectual, will, I think, be indorsed by the good sense of the people of this country, I am content.
– The matter to which the honorable senator has referred is one which affects the Department of Home Affairs. I have no knowledge of any such appointment having been made, nor of any proposal to attach the title of “ His Excellency “ to such an appointment if it is made. I will have inquiries instituted into the matter, and will furnish the honorable senator with a reply to-morrow.
– I am very sorry that honorable senators are so prone to take notice of every, statement which appears in the press, irrespective of whether it be true or false. They ought to be careful to ascertain whether there is any; truth in the allegations published in the press before bestowing any attention upon them. Only to-day three or four questions, based on statements appearing in the newspapers, were put to Ministers. Like the Minister of Defence, I have no knowledge of any appointment such as that indicated by Senator Rae, having been made, and I think it would have been better if he had afforded vs an opportunity to institute inquiries in the right quarter before bringing the matter forward in the Senate.
– From whom should an honorable senator inquire if not from a Minister?
– That statement appeared in the press this afternoon. It could have been privately inquired into long ago, and by this time information would have been forthcoming from the Minister of Home Affairs. To explode crackers of this description without first giving Ministers an opportunity of making inquiries in the proper quarter is only reattach undue importance to press statements
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.59p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 August 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19120821_senate_4_65/>.