5th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Infant Mortality. - Report by Dr. Mary Booth on English-speaking Conference at London, August, 191J.
Northern Territory. - Ordinance No. 8 of 1913. - Marriage Validating.
Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1913. - Regulations amended, &c. -
Statutory Rules 1913, Nos. 359, 363, 374, 384, 285, 386, 388, 390, 391.
Public Service Act 1902-1911. - Department of the Treasury. - Promotion of W. C. Thomas as Clerk, 4th Class, Note Issue Branch.
Rules Publication Act 1903. - Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 315.
Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905. - Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1913, No. 287.
.- The Honorary Minister has laid on the table a report by Dr. Mary Sooth on infant mortality. As there will be no meeting of the Printing Committee before the close of the session, may I suggest that he should move that the report be printed, as it may be of some value to honorable senators ?
Motion (by Senator Clemons) agreed to-
That Che report on In /ant Mortality be printed.
– In view of the fact that there seems little probability of concluding the business of the session before Christmas, what length of adjournment over the New Year does the Leader of the Government intend to propose?
– It is impossible to answer a purely hypothetical question like that. I am’ not able to share the anticipation of my honorable friend that the session will not close until Christmas Eve. I hope that it. will terminate before then.
– I desire to ask a question bearing on the same matter - not in a jocular spirit. In view of the number of important measures that still remain to be dealt with, will the Government consider the advisability of not attempting to finish the business now, but arranging for certain measures to stand over and to resume our deliberations in January, and finish the business?
– The honorable senator has given me an assurance that he has submitted the question in all seriousness.
– Did you doubt my sin,cerity?
– I was not speaking of sincerity, but of seriousness. Looking down the notice-paper, and knowing the business which yet remains for the consideration of the Chamber this session, I do not think that anything is necessary in the way of the heroic measures suggested by Senator Bae. Honorable senators know that there was a general desire expressed that the session should close in the middle of this week.
– Have we fair time in which to consider these bulky Estimates?
– I need hardly remark again that the matter is entirely in the hands of honorable senators opposite. If they have made up their minds that the session shall not close this week, it is not in the’ power of the Government to compel them to deal with this business.
– Have we a fair time to consider the Estimates?
– On the other hand, I want to submit for the consideration of honorable senators that if they desire to terminate the session in such time as will enable them to reach their homes comfortably before Christmas, it is in their power to assist me in the attainment of that object. They can do so, without individual senators curtailing their rights, by an approach to that brevity and some measure of self-suppression which has not always characterized the proceedings of deliberative assemblies. I do hope that honorable senators will endeavour to proceed with the business so as to secure’ an approximation to that arrangement which was arrived at at the end of last week.
– I desire to ask the Leader of the Senate a further question, which I hope he will also treat seriously. Will he endeavour to obtain information prior to the end of this session so that he may be in a position to inform honorable senators when they may be recalled?
– I venture to say that no question of that kind has been submitted before, and certainly no answer has been possible. It is impossible for the Government to say at this stage when the Senate will be invited to resume business.
– Will Senator Needham have time to get to Western Australia and back before Parliament reasssembles
– If that is the question harassing Senator Needham, he may take my personal assurance - and I am sure that my colleagues will support it - that he can go to Western Australia, even to a State more distant, if there is one, without being perturbed by the thought of a summary recall.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Clemons) read a first time.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers supplied to me by the Prime Minister are as follows : -
.- As the Leader of the Government in the Senate has called “ not formal “ to my motion, I ask the Leader of the Senate to move to suspend the Standing Orders to enable me to move the motion.
.- I called “not formal” without any hostility to the motion, but merely because I desired an opportunity to make an observation in regard to it. In view of the lateness of the session, and’ the necessity for getting on with the business, I wish now to withdraw my objection to the motion going as formal.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) agreed to-
That the report of the Select Committee of the Senate on “ General Elections 1913,” presented to the Senate on the16th December, 1913, be adopted.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Apart from the subject-matter of this Bill, the Senate is confronted to-day with a very simple question, which I hope to answer in a simple way. In 1910 the late Government passed an Act which provided, with regard to the note issue, that there should be a gold reserve of 25 per cent. up to £7,000,000, and that for every £1 note issued above that amount there should be a sovereign held in reserve. The same Government, in 1911, passed an amending Act, the effect of which was to provide that there should be a gold reserve of 25 per cent., irrespective of the total amount in the issue. I should say that in connexion with the Act of 1911 the then Prime Minister, Mr. Fisher, gave a promise, which, of course, he kept, that during the period that would elapse between the passing of that Act and the re-assembling of Parliament, he would maintain a gold reserve of 40 per cent. of the total issue. That practice has been continued by this Government up to the present time. The fact, however, remains that the Parliament has enacted that all that is necessary is a gold reserve of 25 per cent., irrespective of the total amount of the note issue. The attitude adopted in the matter by the present Government is that of the two Acts passed by the late Government they prefer the original Act.
– Of course.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator’s interjection isan expression of approval of the Act passed by the Fisher Govern ment, or was made because he considers it will facilitate the operations of the present Government.
– I said of course “ because the present Government have been told to do this.
– They have not been told to do it, and I remind the honorable senator that this Bill was passed in another place. We recognise where the majority is to be found in this Chamber, but honorable senators opposite have to answer the question, “ Shall we adhere to the legislation on this subject originally introduced and passed by our own Government, or allow the amending Act to stand as it is.”
– It was also introduced and passed by our own Government.
– Of course, that is so.
– Why adhere to the original Act?
– If the present Government adhered to their original Act they would repeal this legislation altogether.
– The question is really as to the intrinsic merits of this proposal. The present Government take the ‘view that the original Act providing for a gold reserve of 25 per cent, up to £7,000,000 and a further reserve of a sovereign for every additional £1 note issued is the safest course to adopt and add stability to the note issue.
– It is absolutely unprecedented in the history of banking that there should be a reserve of a sovereign for every note over £7,000,000.
– I sometimes fall into that kind of error myself, and it would be better for Senator Long and myself, before we make such statements, to be quite sure of our ground. As a matter of fact it is not unprecedented.
– I should have said, in Australia.
– If Senator Long, having made an error, is now anxious to correct it, I shall not object to his correction. Let me state the precedents which I have in mind. There is one precedent in Canada, and one in the Bank of England.
– The circumstances of the Bank of England arc not the same as ours.
– That is so; but I wish to put before honorable senators the fact that, with regard to the Bank of England, the total issue is £18,450,000, with securities held in gold. For any sum above that there is a sovereign reserve for every note issued. The latest figures show that the bank’s fiduciary issue is (£18,450,000, the total note issue £53,597,000, and the total gold reserves against notes £35,147,000.
– The Bank of England is the clearing house of the world.
– Its circumstances are not the same as ours, but it is a corporation, has a note issue, and provides securities and gold for its paper currency. Comparing the issue of the Bank of England of £18,000,000 with our issue of £7,000,000, it would seem to the ordinary man that we had gone quite far enough when we say that after an issue of £7,000,000 we begin to provide a reserve of a sovereign for every additional £1 issued. Comparing the magnitude .of our note issue with a £7,000,000 standard with the circulation of Bank of England notes with an £18,000,000 standard, one can, making a rough guess, say that our proper proportion would be something less than £7,000,000. I do not intend to dwell upon particulars, which I can give if it be desired, in regard to Canada, which has adopted practically the same standard as this. If any honorable senator desires to be furnished with particulars regarding our present issue I shall be glad to give them. I ask the Senate to state definitely whether it is their desire - and their desire means a command in this case - to adhere to the 1910 Act, or to the amending Act of 1911. That is the simple proposition now before us.
.- I hope that very little time will be devoted to the consideration of this Bill. The advice that I have to give to honorable senators is to vote against the second reading, and consequently obviate a long discussion in Committee. Originally, the Bank of England, the Bank of France, and other similar institutions, were established for a very different purpose from that which led to the note-issue legislation of Australia. I have no wish to enter into details relating to those foreign institutions, because there is no analogy between their note issues and the Australian Notes Act. The intention of the Commonwealth Parliament was, in the first place, to give greater security to the public of Australia in connexion with paper currency. The next object was to give the Australian people some advantage for the credit of Australia itself in connexion with its paper currency. The limit of £7,000,000 was imposed on the note issue because Senator Clemons’ friends then declared that the bank notes of Australia would not be taken by the public. They, were called “Fisher’s flimsies.” It was said that the banks would have nothing to do with them, and that the .people would not touch them. It was represented that they would soon be obtainable in cart-loads in Bourke-street and Collinsstreet for about threepence each. It was generally supposed that our . note issue would not exceed £7,000,000. The Treasurer at that time, Mr. Fisher, considered that it would be safe to fix that amount, and he agreed to the limitation imposed by the 1910 Act. But when that Act came into operation, instead of the banks not taking the notes, they actually rushed the Treasury. They were glad to get rid of their gold and to take Fisher’s flimsies. The people had the utmost confidence in them. The limit of £7,000,000 was very soon reached. Consequently, an amending Act was passed, removing, the embargo with respect to the issue of £7,000,000. We all understood thoroughly what was intended. Mr. Fisher kept his promise to Parliament, as he would always have kept his promise. Every one who knows anything about the note issue and the security behind it is aware that, although 25 per cent, may be specified in the Act, and whilst in the administration of such a measure you could not safely have a reserve of less than 30 or 33 per cent., there must be a safe margin between the actual amount specified in legislation and the amount that it is safe to hold. The experience of the Queensland note issue showed that ;the fluctuation never exceeded 12 per cent. This measure which the Government asks us to pass is, to my mind, a piece of political impudence. It is an endeavour to do what the Government have done in other cases. They have attempted to do by legislation what they have power to do without it. There is nothing in any legislation which Parliament has passed in connexion with the note issue to prevent the Treasurer from keeping 40, 50, 60, or any percentage he likes. What is more, the passing of this measure would defeat the very object of the original Notes Act. That object was, as I have said, to give greater security to the people, and some advantage to the Government from the credit of Australia. In the first place, as I have indicated, the value of the note issue was limited to £7,000,000, on which we could show, allowing a margin of from £1,000,000 to £2,000,000 annually, that the people of Australia, at the present rate of interest, were profiting to the extent qf between £70,000 or £80,000. That would be a wrong step to take in the interests of the people. In the next place, it would be absolutely wasteful to print notes in excess of the value of £7,000,000 if they were not going to prove of benefit to us. We should suffer a loss to the extent of the value of the paper upon which they were printed, and also of the cost of printing them. I would rather see the Government come down here with a Bill to limit our note issue to £7,000,000 than to submit a measure in which they provide that beyond that amount a pound for pound gold reserve must be kept. That would be an honest way of dealing with the matter. Seeing that the Treasurer already has power to limit our note issue, and that in the near future the Commonwealth may require to use a larger sum of money which can be obtained from that source without in any way impairing the safety of the public, I am bound to say that legislation of this description is a fraud and a sham. Consequently, I advise every honorable senator to vote against the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
– While I recognise the necessity for economizing time at this stage of the session, I cannot allow the present opportunity to pass without contrasting the attitude of the Government now on this question with their attitude prior to the last election. At that time we were told, particularly by Senators McColl and Gould, that one of the reasons for the financial stringency which obtained throughout the Commonwealth was to be found in the fact that so much gold had been locked up in the Treasury under the operation of the- Australian Notes Act. Senator McColl went so far as to say that no less a sum that £10,000,000 had thus been withdrawn from circulation. Of course, his statement was merely intended as an electioneering cry, which was put forward for the purpose of bringing about the defeat of the Labour party.
– He said that we had taken £10,000,000 out of circulation which the banks could have loaned out three times, so that they could have lent £30,000,000 to the farmers.
– This all-wise and all-truthful Government told the same story in every State of the Commonwealth. They assured the farmers that the reason the latter could not obtain money except at high rates of interest was to be found in the scandalous action of the Fisher Government. But what is the truth of the matter? When the Associated Banks throughout the Commonwealth had control of their own notes, they issued an annual statement, which set out that against those notes, which are always regarded as a liability at call, they had a reserve of 51 per cent, in gold and negotiable bills. According to the 7 ear-Book, that 51 per cent, of their note issue, represented a reserve of £1,870,000. So that, according to their own statement of the position, they held in gold and liquid securities a sum of £1,780,000.
– What was the value of the notes in circulation ?
– It was £3,748,000. At the. instance of the Fisher Government, the Australian Notes Act was passed in 1910. Then, the people were led to believe,’ the mischief began. Now I find that up to the date of the complaint by Senator McColl the utmost value represented by the issue of Commonwealth notes was £9,400,000. Against that there was kept in the Treasury, according to the Tear-Book, a gold reserve of £3,917,000. There was thus a difference between the reserve which was kept by the banks and that which was maintained by the late Government of £2,040,000.
This leads me to inquire whether the locking up of this amount above the reserve of 25 per cent, is responsible for the money tightness which pre vails throughout Australia. I have spoken to financial authorities on the subject, and they simply scout the idea. Consequently, we are faced with this position : that a number of politicians have been travelling around the country telling the farmers nothing but a tissue of deliberate falsehoods for the purpose of throwing dust in their eyes. Whilst Senator McColl has assured them that their troubles were due to the action of the late Government, he is now a member of a Ministry which’ has brought down a Bill to lock up still more money in the Treasury. He stated that the gold reserve was accountable for the shortness of money in Australia and for th’e high rates of interest. Yet the Government of which he is a member now submit for our consideration a Bill to increase that gold reserve, and to still further intensify the trouble, so far as the farmers are concerned.
– Provided there is any real trouble.
– Exactly. Honorable senators opposite told the electors this story, which they knew did not contain a particle of truth. They now wish to increase the gold reserve, notwithstanding that they have previously declared that the cause of all the farmers’ troubles was the locking up of gold.
In the course of his second-reading speech, the Honorary Minister referred to the Bank of England, and the story which he told of it is quite correct. We know that that institution stands on a rare and independent basis. But Senator Clemons quite forgot to tell us that, notwithstanding all its strength, the Bank of England was unable to bear the stress and strain of a financial crisis on many historic occasions. Today the control of its business is in the hands of the British Government, and it cannot issue a note for a pound without at the same time paying into its banking department the sum of £1, either in gold or silver. The supervision of the British Go- *vernment is very strict; so strict, indeed, that it cannot issue a £1 note unless there is in one department of the bank £1 in bullion - that is, in gold or silver in fair proportion. But the Bank of England, although it is established on such a secure and substantial basis, had to apply to the British Government on previous occasions to get the very measure under which it is now working suspended. I do not propose to go farther back than the last century. In 1847, again in 1857, and again in 1865, during the American Civil War, the bank was not able to meet its liabilities, and had to ask the British Government to suspend the very Act which Parliament had passed, and enable it to issue paper money over and above its gold reserve. I simply make this reference to show that, while the rosy side of the case was presented by the Honorary Minister, he forgot to tell us that, although every conceivable proportion was adopted, the Bank of England failed in a crisis to meet the consequences of that panic, and had to appeal to the British Government and get the Act suspended on three occasions, although the provision existed that it should hold £1 in gold for every £1 note issued. Therefore, no matter what may be said to the contrary, even if the Minister should ‘ come down with a proposal to put aside 30s. in gold for every £1 note issued, on the experience of the Bank of England we might still Have to ask the Government for a suspension of the measure which we are now asked to pass. The experience of the past is in front of the Minister; he cannot ignore it. If the fact that on three occasions the Bank of England, which is supposed to stand on a gold foundation, had to tell the British Government that it could not meet its calls, and ask their permission to issue paper money, is going to be regarded as a guarantee that the Commonwealth Bank will remain solid for all time, then the experience of the Bank of England stands out as a bold and historic contradiction.
In this Bill, the Government ask for power to increase the’ gold reserve at the Treasury. Their apprehension is that there may be a rush on the Commonwealth Bank, and they want enough gold to meet the demand. So far so good. The present Ministers, as a rule, are inclined to follow the advice of experts, and in banking we cannot ignore such advice. If we want to get advice in banking matters, we go to a banker, just as in legal matters we go to a lawyer. In this case, the evidence is against the Ministry and the action they propose to take. The evidence I am about to quote as against their action has come from their own experts - men of long and undisputed standing in .the banking world in Australia. We have not had a very lengthy experience in banking here; it corresponds with the history of settlement. At the same time, we have, on the whole, a very creditable record for sound banking. There was a time, certainly, when a crisis occurred, and the banks were found to be trading on very rash lines. They were trading with the depositors’ money in a way that simply meant that the directors should have been put in gaol; but, with the exception of a few banks in the crash of the early nineties, it may be said, with all truthfulness, that banking in Australia has been conducted on very sound lines. The only means we have of discovering what should be a fair gold reserve to be retained in the Commonwealth Treasury was discovered when a Select Committee was appointed in New South Wales. The banking crisis had occurred, and everybody was in confusion. A lot of people lost their money in the banks. I have known men who put their money into the banks; the directors, of course, were the custodians of their earnings, and some of them went into a lunatic asylum afterwards. Some of them were thrown into such a distracted state by the crisis that I do not suppose they ever recovered their mental balance. They trusted to the banks for the time, and we were told then that the banks were on a solid foundation like the Bank of England; but a banking crisis came, and these workers, and other people throughout the Commonwealth, found themselves sadly left by placing any confidence in the banks. A Select Committee was appointed by the New South Wales Assembly in 1892 to inquire into the whole subject, and to find out what amount of gold should be held by a bank to stand against its note issue. According to the report of the Select Committee, several bank managers were called to give evidence on this all-important point for the guidance of the Government of the day. Perhaps I may again remind the Senate that, as far as my attempt at discovering the facts goes, this is the only reliable piece of information on the subject that has been got in Australia since the foundation of banking. Amongst the bank managers who were called was Mr, Frederick Dixson, manager of the English, Scottish and Australian Chartered
Bank, and he gave the following evidence : - 4623. As regards the issue of notes by the State, what do you consider should be the basis of a note-issue? - Gold, decidedly. 4624. In what proportion? - It is hard to say. We generally work upon 3s. in the £1 upon our total liabilities in gold. We. have always considered that a safe amount. Of course, other bankers may think the amount should be higher. I notice, for instance, that Mr. Boyd, in his evidence, states that the Union Bank kept as high as 5s. We have always looked upon 3s. as a fair amount upon our total liabilities. In the case of a note issue alone, with no other liabilities, I should say that you would require to have a bigger basis of coin. 4625. To what amount? - I should say you would require to go to about 5s. in the £1.
There is the evidence of the manager of one leading bank in Australia to the effect that in his opinion a banker would be justified in going no higher than 5s. in the £1, otherwise 25 per cent.
– He regards 5s. as a perfectly safe margin as regards the note issue?
– A maximum margin. Ours is a minimum margin.
– Yes. We have further evidence on this point, and I specially direct the attention of the Honorary Minister to the evidence of Mr. George Miller, who was then manager of the Bank of New South Wales, which is, I suppose, one of the most cautiouslymanaged banks in Australia, and perhaps the most prosperous, too, and one whose experience we cannot afford to ignore. Mr. Miller was called, and, after stating that he was the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales, he gave the. following evidence - 1515. What proportion of gold would you think sufficient to be held in reserve to meet the redemption of bank notes? - My opinion is that an average of 3s. 6d. is about a fair thing to hold, or, to put it in another way, 55. as against money at call, and 2s. 6d. as against notes.
In the face of the evidence of Mr. George Miller, a banker of standing and experience in Australia, and at one time the head of the Bank of New South Wales, the Commonwealth Government actually propose to increase the gold reserves against the Australian note issue to 10s. or 12s. in the £1, as the case may be. 1516. Can you inform the Committee whether the issue of paper currency is increasing in various countries in Europe? - I cannot give you that information.
– On what date was that evidence given?
– In 1892.
– It is as old as the hills.
– That does not make the evidence any the worse.
– It does.
– That was the experience of banking up to that time, and we have had nothing since. If the honorable senator can give us anything since then I shall be pleased to hear him.
– You know the crash that followed.
– I do, but that is entirely apart from the subject at issue.
– Was it?
- Mr. George Miller was asked a question on this particular point, and there is his reply. In respect to the Union Bank of Australia, Mr. Boyd, its manager, gave evidence to the effect that 5s. in the £1 was an ample » gold reserve to hold against the notes issued by a bank. We have heard about the experience of Canada. At this inquiry, in 1892, there was evidence given in regard to that Dominion by Mr. William Crooke, M.R.C.S., of Georgestreet, Fitzroy, Melbourne - 2642. Are you aware that in Canada a certain portion of gold is always held in reserve against the notes? - Yes; but only 15 per cent. There is only 2s. 6d. in the £1 in gold, but even that is not wanted.
I set out with the intention of not delaying the Senate, but I thought it was my duty to place it on record, that at the inquiry in Sydney, in 1892, the manager of the English, Scottish, and Australian Chartered Bank said that 5s. in the £1 was enough to hold as a gold reserve against notes; that the manager of the Bank of New South Wales, Mr. George Miller, who has died since then, said that from 2s. 6d. to 5s. in the £1 was an ample gold reserve; and that Mr. Boyd, the manager of the Union Bank of Australia, said that 5s. in the £1 was a maximum amount to hold in respect of notes. Yet the present Government have come down with the proposal to place the Commonwealth Bank, which stands on a much broader base, and has much greater security, in an inferior position to those private banks.
The proposal is altogether outrageous, and we must look for some design or something beyond what appears on its face.
I believe that the design that lies behind the proposal is that its authors are still the secret and veiled enemies of the Commonwealth note issue, and in order to destroy any good which it might produce in the interests of the people of Australia, they have brought forward this unnecessary measure to lock up more gold in the Treasury to the injury of the public. Although we have here the evidence of men that a gold reserve of 5s. in the £1 is enough, some placing it as low as 2s. 6d. in the £1, this so-called Liberal Government want to increase that reserve to 10s., Ils. 6d., and, perhaps, 12s. iii the £1 - an altogether unnecessary and unwarranted gold reserve against the Australian notes. The Commonwealth Bank is in a very different position from private banks. It has behind it all the wealth, the resources, and the backing of the people of Australia.
– It has nothing of the kind.
– Not only the Australian notes, but the Commonwealth Bank, too. If the Bank should default the people are behind it still. I stand by the statement that the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian notes have the backing of 4,500,000 people behind them. They have the backing of the Commonwealth resources, and whatever is here in the shape of money.
– That is only gas.
– I do not propose to waste time in replying to the honorable senator.
– The Commonwealth Bank has no assets. Any private bank has more assets than it has. You can tax the people, of course.
– To test the importance of private banks compared with the Commonwealth Bank, the Bank of New South Wales, if it went on the market to-morrow, could not borrow on more advantageous terms than the Commonwealth of Australia could. If the Commonwealth of Australia went on the market it could borrow on cheaper terms than any institution in Australia, bar none; but if the Bank of New South Wales or the Union Bank went on the market to-morrow it would have to borrow at a disadvantage owing to its very limited resources. The promise of the people behind the Australian notes is as good as gold, and is even better than gold. There has been a time when the promise of a Government of a State to redeem a note of £100 has been at a premium of £103. If the promise of one of the States has been proved to be better than gold, the collective promises of the people of the Commonwealth as a whole may be assumed to be quite as good as gold. This project to keep gold out of circulation is quite in keeping with the action of those who protested against an Australian note issue in the first place. Senator Stewart ought to be with them, as he is clearly now in his wrong place. If the people of Australia do not stand behind the Australian note issue, will the honorable senator tell us what is behind it? When the Fisher Government brought down their measure to enable advantage to be taken of the collective credit of the people, the enemies of that Government fought the proposal and did what they could to render it harmless from their point of view. This is an effort in the same direction. The Government propose to increase the gold reserve above and beyond anything that is insisted upon by the most experienced bankers in Australia.
The experts to whom I have referred advise that a gold reserve of 25 per cent, is ample for the note issue of private, banks, but we have here a proposal to increase the gold reserve of the note issue of the Commonwealth up to something like 50 per cent, should the issue be about £10,000,000.
– No, the reserve » 42 per cent, to-day.
– But the issue has not yet reached £10,000,000. My calculation is that this proposal will increase*, the gold reserve to about 50 per cent. A reserve of 2s. 6d. and 5s. in the £1 is held to be ample for the issue of a private bank, according to the evidence of experts, and yet we are invited in this Bill to increase the gold reserve for the Australian note issue from 5s. to 10s., and it may be up to 12s. if the issue goes up to £12,000,000. The proposal is quite unwarranted, and there is, in my opinion, behind it a deliberate intention on the part of those who are not friendly to the issue to strive to make it of as little use to the people of Australia as possible.
– I notice this morning an entire absence of the wailing which we were accustomed to hear from the supporters of the present
Ministry when the proposal to establish ait Australian note issue was brought forward by the Fisher Government. At that time Senator Millen, who led the Opposition, did apply legitimate criticism to the proposal, but we remember that Senator Gould time and again repeated the statement that under the proposal £7,000,000 or £10,000,000 would be taken out of circulation. I do not know what Senator McColl’s attitude on the subject is this morning, but I know that during the last general elections, whilst we all expressed regret that the farmers and others should be hard pressed, as they were by the undoubted money stringency prevailing at the time, Senator McColl told them over and over again that the Labour Government had practically taken £10,000,000 of gold out of circulation. The honorable senator went further, and, asserting that it was the usual practice of the banks to make advances to the extent of about three times the amount of their gold reserve, affirmed that the Labour Government in taking £10,000,000 of gold out of circulation had prevented the banks of Australia from advancing £30,000,000 to farmers and other business people. It was naturally expected that when the present “ Government were returned to power, Supported by men who, I suppose, believed that statement, they would liberate some of this gold which the Labour party were said to have withdrawn from circulation. But no sooner did this Parliament meet than the Government, of which Senator McColl is now himself a member, propose that there shall be a £1 for £1 reserve of gold in respect of the Australian note issue in excess of £7,000,000. With a total issue of £10,000,000, this really means, if Senator McColl’s previous statements were true, that the Government propose to take over £2,000,000 more out of circulation, and, according to his former contention, to prevent the banks of the country from lending their customers £6,000,000. I need not go into the reasons for the tightness of the money market, but at the last elections the present Government and their supporters charged ,the Labour Government with creating an artificial tightness. Now, instead of making any effort to relieve that stringency, ‘and enable farmers to obtain money at reduced rates, they propose to keep a still greater amount of gold out of circulation. I have always believed that a reserve’ of even 25 per cent, h far more than is required in normal circumstances, but I am prepared to support such a reserve to provide extra good security for our notes. I should like some explanation from the Government as to how they propose to relieve the money stringency by locking up more money in the coffers of the Treasury and preventing it earning interest in any shape or form.
– We were told during the electioneering time that the Labour Government forced the note issue on the people. It cannot be too often repeated that as the private banks have to apply for these notes, and to deposit gold equal to their face value, there is a very effective check in that against the possibility of flooding the country with paper money that is liable to deteriorate in value. In the fairly exhaustive inquiry from which Senator Lynch quoted, and which was held in the State I represent in 1893, mainly as the result of the banking smashes which took place all over the Commonwealth at that time, among other points brought out was a statement from a financial expert, that a circulation of notes to the amount of £3,000,000 in New South Wales at that time, with a population bordering on 1,000,000, would not be an excessive note circulation. On 1 the same basis, if we had some £15,000,000 of paper currency afloat for the whole of the Commonwealth, the circulation would not be excessive. I have not read the reports recently, but, so far as I am aware, no statement was made rebutting the evidence of the authority to whom I have referred. The private banks have to apply to the Treasury for the notes they require for the proper conduct of their business, and they must find -it economical to use them to the extent they do, or they would apply for less. In this connexion I should like to refer to a fact about which some of the newspapers profess to be concerned, and that is the limited use made of the 10s. note. The statement is made that only some 38,000 of these notes have yet come into use.
– The banks do not keep them.
– I have applied two or three times to the banks for them and have been unable to get them.
– I was about to say that there is evidently a conspiracy on a small scale amongst the private banks to restrict the circulation of the 10b. note. From the time it was first issued I have frequently applied to exchange small cheques for these notes. At one bank in particular where I do a little business, I have occasionally succeeded in getting 10s. notes for a £5 cheque, but there appears to be a general understanding amongst the private banks to prevent the circulation of these notes. This goes to show the insidious way in which the Australian note issue is being attacked where it cannot be openly attacked. In one way, I welcome this Bill, because it is a confession on the part of the Government that they cannot be trusted to use the gold available in the Treasury as against the note issue. I am reminded by the proposal of the man who, because he was afraid he would go on the spree, locked himself up in a room and threw the key out of the window. That is the kind of self-prohibition which the Ministry appear to me to be adopting on this occasion. So far as future Governments are concerned, we know that this measure will not bind them in any way. It has been said, in the course of the debate, that the taxable wealth of this country is only, as it were, a theoretical asset against the notes. It is admitted that the people who pay taxes will have to make good any deficiency, but it has been argued that it cannot be claimed that the wealth of the community is behind the national paper currency. In the report to which I have referred, there is evidence that while it may be necessary to maintain a gold reserve against the issue of private notes, State notes are perfectly good security without any gold behind them at all. While a certain amount of gold may be necessary for those who want to exchange their notes for gold, and especially for foreign trade, the security of the country is, for ordinary purposes, ample to cover the notes. The security cannot be better than the credit of the country. The fallacy that it is necessary to have a large gold reserve as against a national paper currency “has been exploded by the greatest writers on finance. They show that the existence of gold as a medium of exchange and a unit of value is rapidly becoming unnecessary. The world is out-growing the fetish of the mono-metallic theory. The Government have brought forward no evidence to show that this measure is required. It is merely to redeem one of their own fictitious election cries that they have brought forward this belated legislation. We should turn it down at once. It was a piece of political impudence to bring it forward at all.
– One wonders that the Government have not brought in something more than this little amendment of the Australian Notes Act when one remembers the statements made by members of the Administration, and by their supporters, as to the terrible results that were to follow from the establishment of a Commonwealth note issue. One would think from their statements that even the large gold reserve now held was quite inadequate. The margin of 25 per cent, is, it is true, admitted by some of the greatest authorities to be quite sufficient for private banks. I contend that in the case of a Commonwealth or State bank, where the credit is certainly far greater than that of any private bank, such a reserve is altogether too large. But in this measure the Government are seeking to increase the gold reserve. At the last election they told the people, not only in Victoria, but all over the Commonwealth, that the Commonwealth note issue was the cause of the stringency of the money market. Senator McColl was never tired of going up and down the country denouncing the Notes Act as a vile thing that ought to be swept off the statute-book, because he said it was depleting the banks of the money which they held, and robbing the farmer of the opportunity of getting advances when he wanted them. I can hardly conceive of anything more calculated to alarm the simple farmer in his rural solitude than telling him that this iniquitous note issue was provocative of the terrible evil from which we all sometimes suffer, namely, stringency in the matter of money. In some parts of the country, when it was desired to get an advance. from the bank, people were told that it was impossible to give it, because the Fisher Government had depleted the banks of £10,000,000 of gold, with the result that they were unable to meet the wishes of the struggling farmer in giving him the few pounds required to help, him through. I have before me this report of a speech delivered by Senator McColl at Cobram, and reported in the Cobram Courier on 15th May, 1913. It is signed as “authorized by J. H. McColl, Melbourne.” In this speech he said -
The note issue had the effect of depleting the banks’ gold reserve by nearly one-half, and limited their ability to lend to the same extent. The consequence was the stringency of the money market. Advances were being called in, and business refused by the banks. Interest bad gone up from i to i£ per cent., and the loss to the general community was enormously more than any small benefit (if any) resulting from the note issue. The rich man did not feel it, and he was getting a greater interest, but the small manufacturer, farmer, and trader who required accommodation, suffered severely.
If the small farmer, manufacturer, and trader felt the stringency of money to the extent that Senator McColl represented, what justification has he for standing behind this piece of legislation, which continues the infernal condition of things he described? If the evil resulting from the note issue existed then, it exists now, and any man who was anxious to benefit the community, and was honest in his policy, would do his utmost to bring to an end such a deplorable piece of business. A few months ago, according to Senator McColl, the poor farmer was being robbed by the Government. When he gets an opportunity of preventing a robbery, he stands behind a Bill which perpetuates it. He went on to say -
Speculation was arrested, development was checked, and all kinds of enterprises depending on money at cheap rates were being stayed.
If such were the results of the Australian Notes Act in May last, have they passed away now like a thunderstorm ? If some of Senator McColl’s statements were true in May, are they untrue now ? He went on to say -
And for every stripe that fell on the rich man’s back twenty were laid on the shoulders of the worker.
– Quite right.
– If that be so, what is Senator McColl’s attitude in regard to the note issue now ? If it were true in May that every stripe laid on the rich meant twenty stripes laid on the poor, why is he guilty of continuing the state of things which enabled that to occur? The note issue, is exactly the same now as it was then. Senator McColl has gone up and down the country, imposing upon the electors in regard to questions of this kind. Now that he has an opportunity of showing his honesty and sincerity by proposing to reverse the evil, we find that, not only does he accept the conditions existing, but he supports a Bill which, if he spoke the truth in May, will, lay still more stripes upon the workers and upon the other classes whom we profess to be so anxious to protect. This measure will increase the difficulties under which these people were labouring as described by Senator McColl. The highest financial authorities hold that a 25 per cent, margin suffices for all purposes, and in a State Bank is even too much. I remember the banking crisis in Victoria in 1890-91. I remember that the majority of the banks could not even redeem the notes which they had in circulation. I had in my possession a bank note which was worth no more than 3d. as a curiosity. I could not get it cashed anywhere in the city. The banks did not hold a sufficient gold reserve against the notes they had issued. Yet we are now asked to sanction the maintenance of a gold reserve of 40 or 50 per cent. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, during the recent election campaign, led the electors to believe that the late Government were desirous of laying their hands upon all the money that they possibly could, with a view to indulging in an orgy of extravagance. He and his friends promised that if they were returned to power they would reverse this deplorable condition of affairs. Yet we now find them actually borrowing from the Australian Notes Fund. Senator McColl endeavoured to make it appear that our note issue was a thing of so devilish a character that it prevented the Associated Banks from any longer assisting the small farmer and trader. I have been informed by a gentleman who desired to raise a loan of £500 upon ample security that his bank refused to entertain the proposition, notwithstanding that he offered to pay 7 per cent, for the accommodation. When the manager of the institution was pressed for the reason for his action, he replied, “ The Commonwealth note issue has depleted the banks of their gold, and we are now calling in all the loan moneys we can get.” I recollect what is known as the “Berry blight “ in Victoria - the occasion on which the banks endeavoured to euchre the Berry Ministry by notifying every person who was known to be a supporter of it, and who had an overdraft, that he was required to pay off that overdraft. Of course, their object was to create a financial crisis, and I know that a good many persons suffered severely, because they were warned that if their, overdrafts were not repaid prompt action would be taken to enforce payment. In this Bill we have something of a similar character. Can any honorable senator imagine for a moment that it has been brought forward with any other object in view than that of discrediting our note issue? The Government are simply desirous of supporting their friends, the private bankers, by doing their best to break down that note issue. I trust that we shall give the Bill the same short shrift that we accorded the Government Preference Prohibition Bill.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [12.31]. - In bringing forward this measure the Government are following the course that they have adopted in regard to the national policy of the Labour party. Where they dare not openly attack that policy they attempt to cripple it. It is true that they have submitted Bills affecting matters of minor importance in the policy of the late Government, but they dare not openly attack such legislation as relates to the progressive land tax and to the financial policy of the Fisher Ministry. Consequently they aim at crippling that legislation. I have no doubt that they would repeal the Australian Notes Act in its entirety if they had the courage to do so. That Act has proved such a magnificent success-
– Assuming that it has proved a success, this Bill seeks only to re-enact the provisions of the 1910 Act.
– Because the Fisher Government, in 1910, placed upon our statute-book an Act which, as the result of experience, was amended, are we justified in reverting to that Act?
– The amended Act has been largely a dead letter, because of Mr. Fisher’s promise, which he kept.
– The Honorary Minister is referring to the promise which Mr. Fisher gave tq retain a gold reserve of 40 per cent, until after the last elections. Does the honorable senator claim that the verdict of the electors on that occasion justifies us in reverting to the position which is set out in the Act of 1910, which required the Commonwealth to maintain a reserve of a sovereign for every pound note issued in excess of £7,000,000 ?
– I am not so much concerned with the verdict of the electors.
– I noticed that the Honorary Minister, recognising that he had a bad case, said very little about it. He can scarcely claim that the Government have a mandate from the people to revert to the position which was established under the Act of 1910. If he considers that a majority of one in another place constitutes a mandate from the people, we may well reply by pointing out that out of eighteen senators elected on the 31st May last no less than eleven were Labour representatives. I wish now to quote a financial authority which is not favorable to Labour legislation, but which is compelled to admit that the position taken up by the Fisher Government in regard to our note issue is sound in every respect. The Review of Australasian Banking, Insurance, and Finance of 31st May last, after dwelling upon the backing of a gold reserve of 25 per cent., and of gilt-edged securities, which can be realized at any time, says -
But is there no way by which the people could lose by this currency scheme? Without violating the law as laid down in the Act under which the scheme is conducted, there is no way, unless something should happen that would make our gilt-edged State securities of little or no value, and, at the same time, nullify the taxation powers of the Commonwealth.
That is what would have to occur before there could be any financial crisis as the result of the present backing of our note issue. Our gold reserve would require to be exhausted, our gilt-edged securities would have to diminish considerably in value, and the taxing powers of the Commonwealth would have to be nullified. Even if the gold reserve were exhausted - a thing which I am sure is impossible - and our gilt-edged securities were reduced in value, I would be prepared to take my stand on the taxation powers of the Commonwealth, and to indorse what has been said by others, namely, that if we had no gold reserve at all there would still remain ample security for our note issue.
– Supposing that a man demanded a sovereign, and you had not a sovereign, what would you do?
– What would happen if the banks were to create a financial panic throughout the Commonwealth? Would it be in their interests to do so? Dare they do so? If they did, would they not be the first to suffer ?
– That would not bring about a panic.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.It would. If the stability of the Commonwealth and its security are questioned, there is very little hope indeed for private banks. We had that experience in the crisis of 1893-94.
– If you have only 2,500,000 sovereigns, and 3,000,000 fi notes are presented, you are ?500,000 short.
– The way to prevent that contingency is to amend the Act and compel them to keep a certain amount of funds.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.I do not anticipate the occurrence of such a contingency. It could not happen.
– Nothing can happen !
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.The position has been exactly the reverse. In the crisis of 1893-94, when the bank paper was at a considerable discount, one could get bank notes at 5s. and 10s. less than their face value, what action was taken to give stability and to cause’ the public to accept the notes? In the State Parliaments measures were passed guaranteeing the bank notes by the State, and thereupon ihe bank crisis ceased, and the banks were tided over their difficulties.
– We are guaranteeing the notes- now.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN. In his second reading speech, the Honorary Minister referred to the position of Canada. I wish that the Commonwealth would take a lesson from Canada with regard to banking legislation. I do not suppose that there is another country in the world where such stringent restrictions and legislation in regard to banks are imposed. One of the provisions which would meet the case- suggested by Senator Stewart is that which was suggested by Senator Rae by interjection, namely, that in - Australia the banks might be compelled- and I think it would be a very good thing - to hold part of their reserves in Government securities. Then if they were to attempt to create a crisis, or to damage the national security, they would be the first to suffer. In Canada, the banks have to hold 40 per cent, of their reserves in Government securities.
– In Canada, they limit the rate of interest payable by the banks if the reserves are not up to a certain percentage.
– Yes. Does Senator Stewart imagine that at any time it will not be possible to get a sovereign for an Australian ?1 note when it is tendered?
– I do not know anything about it.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.Does my honorable friend think that that is at all likely to happen? Does he feel that if he has .any Australian notes in his possession he cannot get a sovereign for each of them at any time?
– I have not got any.
– 1 think that my honorable friend will find plenty of persons ready to relieve him .of the notes, and give him 19s. 9d. in the ?1 for every note he may have.
– I have only two sixpences.
– The Ministry can surely have no hope of passing this Bill.
– We have not.
Of course not. The Ministry know thai on this side there are twenty-nine senators pledged to this policy. They know, too, that eleven senators who were recently before the electors advocated the Australian note issue on every platform, and we must each adhere to our pledge. I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill.
– There is one aspect of the question of curtailing the coinage in circulation to which I desire to direct the attention of the Honorary Minister. The members of the Senate are essentially the representatives of their respective States. Most of the States have, from the Australian Notes Fund, obtained short-dated loans. By providing that after the Australian note issue reaches £7,000,000 the Treasurer shall keep a sovereign for every £1 note that is issued, the Commonwealth Government will then be placed in this position: that instead of being able to renew those short-dated loans, they will he compelled to call them up. The Liberal party, who posed before the electors of Australia as the friends of the State Governments, will be well advised, I think, not to embarrass the financial affairs of the States by calling up these loans, but to give the States short-dated renewals. If we “ out “ this Bill, as I believe is intended to be done, they cannot say that they are compelled to call up the existing loans on the ground that they must have a larger gold reserve in the Treasury. Take, for example, New South Wales. I believe that there will fall due this month a loan which was generously made to that State by the Labour Government, and here I may say that loans were generously made by the Labour. Government to all State Governments, irrespective of their Labour or anti-Labour proclivities.
– Some of them were so proud that they would not take it.
– Not only was no distinction made, but, so far as I know, no State did refuse to take a loan from the Commonwealth. I know that Victoria, Queensland, and New South Wales were glad to have a loan from the Commonwealth, and if South Australia is a brilliant exception it is a very remarkable thing indeed.
– Queensland took a loan to oblige the Treasurer, so its Premier said.
SenatorO’Keefe. - Tasmania got a loan of half-a-million !
– I am informed that all the States got a short-dated loan from the Commonwealth. If it is enacted that, after the passing of this Bill, the Treasurer must hold a sovereign for every Australian note issued, it will certainly lock up £2,000,000 or £3,000,000. That money can be well used in renewing the Commonwealth loans to the States, and a renewal for a few months will be of great advantage at the present time, when money is dear throughout the world - due to nothing which has been done in this country, but to the money markets. I think that it will be conducive to the best interests of the Commonwealth if the Government, recognising that State securities are absolutely safe, will renew the existing shortdated loans, and thereby relieve the immediate pressure on the State Governments to seek elsewhere for loan moneys, and by that means pose, as they have posed, before the public as the real friends of the State Governments and, consequently, of the people of the States. I place that aspect of the question before the Government in quite a friendly way, and impress upon them the great benefit which they will be able to confer on the people of the several States when they are prevented from locking up an increased number of sovereigns by the renewal of short-dated loans on similar terms.
– I rise to call attention to several remarks made by the Honorary Minister. This is an important measure, which justifies the supply of a great deal more information than we have received. In his introductory speech, the Honorary Minister cited the cases of England and Canada as justification for the strictures he was going to make on the Australian note issue. I desire to call his attention to an article in the December issue of The Round Table for the present year. The article is headed “Australian Banking and Currency,” and the sub-heading is “ The Evolution of the Australian Banking System.” The writer is not friendly to the Labour party, but, referring to the Australian banking system being opposed to the Canadian system, he says -
This feature of Australian banking is one directly opposed to the Canadian system.
That comment is from the pen of one who would indorse the political views of the Minister. The reason which is assigned by the writer is that -
There, banks are expressly prohibited from lending against land, except as collateral cover or when a customer fails in his obligation to repay, and the bank has taken cover over realty as a second line of defence.
He goes on to say -
The Canadian system deals more with commodities - wheat, fish, or the production of the forest or chase, and with articles of manufacture of all kinds.
He points out how diametrically opposed the Canadian system is to the Australian system by remarking that under the latter money is largely advanced on the security of land, and he eulogises the Western Australian land banking system. When the Honorary Minister cites the Canadian system which has to deal with products altogether different from those with which the Australian system has to deal as a justification for the introduction of this Bill, he is comparing things that differ, and are not comparable.
– Does the writer say that the banks in Canada do not advance money on land ?
– He points out distinctly that the only difference is that in Canada, land is taken as an additional cover. That is the first security which is taken.
– He does not know very much about it.
– Possibly my honorable friend does.
– In Canada threefourths of the money is lent on the security of land.
– When the Honorary Minister quotes the Canadian system as a reason why we should increase the ‘cover of the Australian note issue he is certainly doing an injustice to the Australian system. I will proceed now to point out that the cover for the Bank of England notes is not, considering the circumstances, as great as the cover for the, Australian notes, Turning once more to The Round Table, an exceedingly valuable periodical, I find an article on the gold currency on page 257 of the volume for 1911-12. In this article headed “ Lombard-street and War,” I read -
Gold must be always available somewhere. And it is always available, but only from one place in the world. London, alone among the great financial centres, has undertaken the task of meeting every legitimate demand in gold at all times, and to any amount. No other banking nation has ventured to face the risk of meeting, not only the demands of its own depositors, but of the world itself. If Germany has to pay gold to Turkey for a loan newly granted, she gets it from London; if the Argentine or Egypt or India have had good harvests and want gold, they get it from London.
– London gets it from Australia, to a great extent.
– That is so, but only to a minor degree. That quotation gives point to the interjection I made to the Honorary Minister that England is practically the clearing-house of the whole world. When he mentions the gold re serve of the Bank of England over ite liabilities, I wish to point out that practically gold is more liquid in England; that is to .say, it flows more quickly in response to the call of the Bank of England than it does in any other part .of the world. At almost a moment’s notice a large amount of gold can be obtained there to meet a sudden rush, such as there was in 1893 when America called for something like £200,000,000, and again when on the Continent of Europe there was a run of a similar character. The Bank of England was able to meet the rush, but only by the suspension of the Banking Act, to enable it to issue notes without the cover required. I have mentioned these points in order to impress upon the Minister that he ought to take other things into consideration. If one takes up any issue of The Times, it will show the movements of gold in any part of the world; but the stream is always tending towards London, which, as I said before, is really the clearing-house of the world. The Minister made some remarks in regard to the gold reserve. In Great Britain the only gold reserve is £35,000,000 or thereabouts lying in bullion or coin in the vaults of the Bank of England. That, with the stock of metal held by the other banks, would amount in all to, perhaps, £70,000,000, and it is estimated that this represents not more than 6 or 7 per cent, of the total deposits of the banks of the United Kingdom. If so small a sum relatively is found to be a sufficient cover for the liabilities of the Bank of England and the other banks, which practically make the Bank of England a clearinghouse, a reserve of 25 per cent, of gold should be quite sufficient for our note issue. This is borne out, also, by the experience of Australian banks. Senator O’Loghlin quoted from an article in the Australian Insurance and Banking Record for May, and I find, at page 957 of the issue for November, 1913, a statement of the percentage of bullion, including Australian notes, which are, of course, covered in another way, held in reserve by the Associated Banks from 11th March to 13th March, which shows that the reserve fluctuated in this way: 24.41, 28.68, 29.84, 26.58, 24.52, 22.86, 23.31, 21.93, 23.09, 24.19, and 26.64. So that honorable senators will see that, according to the experience of the Australian
Associated Banks, an average reserve of 25 per cent. in gold is a sufficient cover to meet their liabilities. I should like to say that the circumstances of the banks quoted on the other side are not analogous to ours. For instance, the Bank of France holds gold to the amount of £128,000,000, the Bank of Russia £125,000,000, and the Bank of England, with world-wide liabilities, only £35,000,000.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– I have little to add to what I said before lunch. This Bill seems to me to emasculate the principle underlying our note issue. I have shown that the reserve proposed by the Government is totally unnecessary, as proved by the experience of the Bank of England, and also by the experience of Canada, to which Senator Clemons referred us, and which, I think, I have quoted with greater force on the other side. I have shown that Canada deals largely in securities very different from, and much less stable than, ours. The grounds on which the Minister has based his arguments in favour of this Bill have been entirely destroyed. I have said that it strikes at the root of the principles underlying our note issue. One of the objects of the note issue was to enable our own people to secure the benefits arising from their own credit, and to distribute them for the advancement of the Commonwealth incidentally, and in order to grant useful, though it might not be large, loans to the different State Governments. I wish to mark the advantage derived from using our own credit. The interest paid is paid in Australia, instead of being sent to the bondholders in London and elsewhere, and goes to create a fund which must make banking concerns in the Commonwealth much more stable than they are at present. The Bill is not only unnecessary, but will prove detrimental, and the best thing we can do with it is to vote against the second reading.
Question - That this Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message) :
– I suggest for the consideration of the Committee that the convenient procedure in regard to this message would be to postpone the first three amendments and deal with the fourth. It will be remembered that an entirely new provision was inserted in the Bill by the Senate. That amendment contains the crux of the whole position. Having determined that we can deal with the other amendments as consequential, if the Committee is not prepared to reverse the decision on the fourth amendment I shall take the division on that one as expressing the decision of honorable senators on amendments 1, 2, and 3. I therefore move -
That amendments1, 2, and 3 be postponed until after the consideration of amendment 4.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 2 (Voting by post).
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out the clause and insert in lieu thereof the following new clause : - “ An elector who, owing to serious illness or infirmity, has reason to believe that he will not be able to record his vote at any polling place during the hours of polling on the day of election may at any time after the issue of the writ and up to within seven days preceding the day of election make application to the Returning Officer of the Division in which he is enrolled that he be allowed to record his vote. . . .
House of Representatives’ Message. - Amendment disagreed to.
– We have had a fairly full discussion on this point, and I shall content myself with moving -
That the amendment be not insisted on.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN does not appear to have given any serious consideration to the amendments made by the Senate in this Bill.’ It appears from the reports of the debates that a number of adjectives were used as to our amendment being unworkable and impracticable. The provision regarding the sick and the infirm is one as to which both parties are agreed. We both desire that provision should be made for them to vote. The Government brought in proposals with which we did not agree, because they reinstated provisions that were in operation a few years ago, and which were then discredited. The Senate suggested a method of making the proposals acceptable to us. The Government had not agreed to them. But it has been agreed to appoint a Royal Commission to consider the working of the Electoral Act generally. It appears to me that the question of postal voting for the sick and the infirm should be referred to that Commission, which I assume will consist of the representatives of both sides of politics. There ought to be no difficulty in evolving a scheme which should be free from defects. This provision might very well be referred to the Royal Commission. I trust that the Government will consider the suggestion.
Question - That the amendment be not insisted on - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment insisted on.
Postponed amendments insisted on.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a small Bill, which I suppose may be viewed with a certain amount of suspicion by honorable senators opposite. I should like to allay that feeling at once by stating that the measure has the cordial indorsement of Mr. Fisher. It is a Bill to give Commonwealth inscribed stock the same status as the inscribed stock of any State. That is its sole purpose. It will effect a little improvement in our present Inscribed Stock Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Standing Orders suspended and Bill passed through its remaining stages.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message) :
Clause 6 -
The Executive Council of Norfolk Island, as existing at the commencement of this Act, shall continue in existence, but may be altered or abolished by Ordinance made in pursuance of this Act.
Senate’s Amendment- -Leave out “as existing at the commencement of this Act, shall continue in existence, but may be altered or abolished by Ordinance made in pursuance of this Act” and insert “ shall consist of seven members to be electedby the adult population of the island.”
House of Representatives’ Message. - Amendment disagreed to.
– I think that the clause to which this amendment relates is quite fresh in the minds of honorable senators. It will be recollected that during the debate upon it a question arose as to the constitution of the Executive Council of Norfolk Island. At present that island is governed by the Governor of New South Wales with the assistance, under strictly limited powers, of an Executive Council. This Committee thought fit to strike out the provision relating to the Executive Council. I would liketo point out to honorable senators that, at the present time, it is not expedient to provide for the election of that Council, because it is a body with extremely limited administrative powers. It possesses no legislative powers.
– Has it anything like the powers which are possessed by the Legislative Council in Papua?
– No. I can hardly describe it as being anything better than a Town Board.
– It is very harmless, then.
– I will not say that Town Boards are very harmless. But the powers of the Executive Council of Norfolk Island approximate more closely to those of a Town Board’ than they do to those of any other body.
– Why is it an evil for a Town Board to be elective?
– It is not an evil. But the proposal is that we should adopt the principle of a Town Board there. That is not the idea of the Government. So soon as the Commonwealth acquires control of the islan’d, we want to entirely change its method of government, and to bring forward a measure for its better government.
– Is there any limit imposed upon the taxation powers of this Executive Council 1
– It has no taxation powers. It may have something to do with striking a road rate, but, to all intents and purposes, it has no taxing powers whatever.
– Is there entire Free Trade between Norfolk Island and the Commonwealth? .
– The Bill provides for that, under very strict regulations. I move - That the amendment be not insisted on.
, - Since this Bill was last before us, I have availed myself of the opportunity to look up the Constitution and powers of the Executive Council of Norfolk Island. I was under the impression that it was a body similar to that which obtains in Papua. But I find that it is really not an Executive Council at all. It has not even the powers of an ordinary Road Board. It cannot strike a rate, or decide where a road shall go. But when the. Governor of New South Wales decides that a road shall be built, the Council is charged with the supervision of the work. I think that the term “ Executive Council “ in this instance is a misnomer.
– It is an absurd term.
– I shall not insist on the amendment if the Government, when they alter the administration of the island, will provide that this body shall be an elective one.
– And give Parliament a chance of dealing with it?
– It is not. worth while insisting on the amendment in the case of a body with such extremely limited executive powers.
– I am glad that Senator Pearce has spoken for himself, because I propose to speak for myself. In my judgment, no adequate reason has been assigned why we should not insist on the amendment. At any rate, it is certain that we cannot accept the proposal of the Government not to insist on the next amendment. On the principle that we might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb, if the Government are going to lay aside this Bill-
– I have not talked about doing that.
– But I am one of those free and easy persons who like to say what they think. I know that the Government will not accept the leasehold principle as against the freehold, and, therefore, I know that the Bill is in peril. It is strange that a democratic proposal can never be submitted in this Parliament without the Government exclaiming, “ This is not the proper time fo adopt it.” I am not so particular about names as I am about facts. To the extent that the Executive Council of Norfolk Island possesses any power at all, the Senate has declared that it shall be elective. Why, for the mere sake of. exercising the authority that is conferred by numbers, should another place refuse to accept the democratic proposal which is embodied in our amendment - the proposal that this Executive Council shall be elected by the people who are immediately concerned ? In my own State, before we had a proper system of municipal government provision was made in some districts for the formation of a road trust which the Government endowed with powers of supervision so as to insure that the funds voted for any particular road should be wisely expended. In those districts it frequently happened that the greatest political “ mugs “ were appointed to the trust, with the result that the money might have been much better spent.
– If the honorable senator will wait until we have acquired the Territory he will be afforded a full opportunity of enforcing his views
– Does the Honorary. Minister think that our amendment is unconstitutional ?
– No. But we have to acquire the island before we can legislate in regard to it.
– I do not think that that argument will hold water. The Honorary Minister says that we must acquire the Territory before we can legislate in regard to it. Yet there are proposals embodied in this Bill in regard to land tenure, and quite a number of other subjects.
– Those other matters are merely interim, whereas the matter dealt with in this amendment will necessitate an immediate change.
– I think that it will be a very good change.
– I hope that Senator Rae will not insist upon a proposal which is really premature. The Honorary Minister has already pointed out that the island is not yet the property of the Commonwealth. This is a Bill to provide for the acquisition of Norfolk Island, and not for its future administration except in a very preliminary manner. Norfolk Island, because it is part of New South Wales, is part of Australia, and any part of Australia is subject to our Customs and other laws. But, so far as the local government of that island is concerned up till the time when we take it over, its administration is regulated by New South Wales. When we take it over, the Governor and Parliament of that State will cease to exercise authority over it, and we shall be required to frame laws for its local government.
– What about the Customs duties and the freehold of the land ?
– They are part of the laws of the Commonwealth. I have already explained that Norfolk Island is part of New South Wales, and is therefore a part of Australia. Consequently those laws would apply there. It is only when we have taken over the island that we shall have to begin anew, and pass Ordinances affecting the local government. At that time I shall certainly assist my honorable friend, if I am here, to see that any local governing body is elected by the residents. As regards the principle of land nationalization, there is so little land on the island to be alienated that it is scarcely worth while to make a difference one way or the other. Therefore I intend to vote for the amendment to remain as it is.
– It is a good principle, and I am going to stick to it.
Question - That the amendment be not insisted on - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment not insisted on.
Clause 10 -
The Governor-General, or any person authorized by him, may, in accordance with law, make grants or other dispositions of Crown lands in Norfolk Island.
Senate’s Amendments. - (1) Leave out “grants or other.” (2) Add to clause “ Provided always that no Crown lands in Norfolk Island shall be sold or disposed of for any estate in freehold, except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the commencement of this Act.”
House of Representatives’ Message. - Amendments disagreed to. .
Amendment (1) postponed.
. -I admit at once that this amendment contains the perm of a principle, but I ask hounrable senators on the other side, as practical men, to take into consideration the present state of things. About four-fifths of the land on Norfolk Island is already alienated in feesimple, and the balance is poor land. My honorable friends want to enforce the leasehold principle, but I ask them to consider seriously how its enforcement would affect this little island. Supposing that their view were carried, then for all time four-fifths of the land would be freehold, and the balance leasehold.
– Nothing remains for all time.
– I hope that on this occasion I may be permitted to use the phrase a little loosely. Amongst the principles which my honorable friends advocate very much is that of land taxation. I have read of a very eminent man, whose mind is now perhaps more agitated on the question of land tenure in the United Kingdom than it is on any other subject. Mr. Lloyd-George, for whom my honorable friends’ have some respect, or for whose views they have some admiration, has pointed out quite recently that the land problem can be dealt with effectively and conclusively by means of taxation . In regard to all land problems, he says openly that the question o’f freehold or leasehold is of comparative unimportance. I think that I am justified in making this reference because of the peculiar conditions obtaining on Norfolk Island. Supposing that my honorable friends opposite wish to secure that all questions affecting land tenure, administration and taxation, should be administered in the way they approve of. If Mr. Lloyd-George is an authority, and the ‘views he has pronounced are at all acceptable to my honorable friends, there is a good deal to be said in favour of allowing, not necessarily compelling, all the land on Norfolk Island to be brought under the same form of tenure. I put it seriously to my honorable friends that if the land ques-tion on this little island seems to them a serious question, they can tackle it effectively if it is all held under the same tenure. Brit while four-fifths of the land is held under freehold tenure, and the balance remains, perhaps, under leasehold tenure, there will be no uniform system by which they can satisfactorily, from their point of view, tackle the question. I ask Senator Bae to consider that point,. and not to insist upon his amendment. That is the inevitable difficulty which would be presented to my honorable friends if they were sitting on the Treasury bench. The most that they could say would be, “ We have established our principle here with regard to one-fifth of the land on the island, but as regards four-fifths we are impotent to do anything, as the land is already alienated.” For these reasons, and because the issue is so small, I move -
That amendment (2) be not insisted on.
– I cannot quite understand the attitude of the Honorary Minister. We treated him most generously by giving him the last amendment. If that was said to be .a very innocent amendment, only that it was not the right thing in the right place, the present one, he says, is a very little thing, as it will only affect one-fifth of the land on the island, and that the least valuable part. If that be so, why should we always be asked to give in in regard to the little things ; why should not the Ministry sometimes give in 1 That, I notice, is always the tendency of Ministries. When it is a big thing they whip up their followers; but when it is a little tiling they appeal to their opponents, and say, ’ Give it to us; it is not much.” They must have been reading the novel, *Midshipman Easy, where the smallness of the baby atoned for its doubtful origin. The honorable senator seems to >6 very much concerned at the difficulty which the next Labour Ministry will be plunged into by having to administer two forms of land tenure on one island. In New South Wales there are about forty forms of land tenure. That is a perpetual joy to legal luminaries, and, therefore, it will be no novelty for a New South Welshman of even humble talents’ to tackle the administration of an island with only two forms of land tenure. I am sure that, in the time at our disposal, Senator Millen could not rehearse the different forms of land tenure . existing in our State. There we have the perpetual system in active operation, and also a very numerous body of free selectors. There is nothing very difficult in levying taxes on freeholders, and collecting rents from leaseholders. There is nothing incompatible in the two principles working side by side, to some extent, at any rate. It is admitted that, having laid down this principle, we are bound to stick to it. If the Honorary Minister thinks that this amendment is a little thing to him and a big thing to us, then, seeing that we gave him the last amendment, it is up to him, in this season of good will, to reciprocate, and give it to us.
– I hope that honorable senators will deal with this motion as they dealt with the last, and, following the advice and argument put forward by Senator McGregor, will decide to help the Government. In referring to the last amendment, Senator McGregor argued, as a reason for not insisting upon it, that this is a Bill to enable the Commonwealth to take over Norfolk Island, and not a measure intended for the regulation of the conditions under which the people of the island shall live. The Government have promised that a Bill will be presented next session to define the methods to be adopted for the internal management of the affairs of Norfolk Island.
– That is so.
– We can, therefore, well accept Senator McGregor’s advice, and treat this purely as a Bill for taking over Norfolk Island. This, according to the honorable senator, is clearly not a time for the intrusion of fixed principles, and I hope that honorable senators on this side will, as in the last division, follow their leader’s advice.
Question - That amendment (2) be not insisted on - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 18
– I move -
That the report of the Select Committee of the Senate . appointed to inquire into the case of Mr. Henry Chinn be adopted.
I am sorry that time is so pressing, that it is impossible to go into this case as fully as those interested in it would like. I know that every honorable senator is anxious to get away, and that, in the circumstances, a long speech from me would perhaps be considered irksome. At the same time, I feel that the subject is one which cannot be dismissed in a few moments, and I hope that honorable senators will bear with me if I take a little more time in dealing with it than perhaps some of them will consider necessary. I should like to preface my remarks by sayingthat, in order to thoroughly understand what is now known throughout Australia as “ the Chinn case,” it is necessary to go back a little to pick up threads of a web which has been broken at one point or another. The case did not commence with the appointment of the Select Committee. As a matter of fact, it had previously been several times before the public. It was freely discussed in the last session of the last Parliament. The matter was then brought before the public in a very forcible, and a somewhat extraordinary way, on certain charges being made against Mr. Chinn in another place by Mr. Fowler, one of the representatives from Western Australia. Those charges were the subject of an inquiry by a Royal Commission. Before that, the matter was brought under the notice of Parliament in the form of correspondence connected with Mr. Chinn ‘s appointment. On that occasion a somewhat extraordinary thing happened. It was found, when the papers in connexion with Mr. Chinn’s appointment were presented, that a number of private and confidential letters to the Minister of Home Affairs were included in the official file. Honorable senators are aware that all members of Parliament receive private and confidential communications, and considerable astonishment was expressed when it was learned that the confidential letters to which I refer were put on the file in the Home Affairs Department and treated as official documents. The question was asked: Who in the Department put those letters on the departmental file? That question still remains unanswered. The Minister expressed himself as surprised and disgusted that his private letters had been tampered with. Members of the Senate who know Colonel Miller, the head of the Home Affairs Department, will agree, in view of the very manly attitude he has invariably taken up, that he would not lend himself to anything of the kind. We must look to some other person to know who placed those private and confidential letters upon the file. It was apparent, from the manner in which members of the then Fusion party became acquainted with the correspondence, that was in the Department, that they must have been placed on the file by some one who was no friend of Mr. Chinn’s. When these letters were published, there was a great political outcry, and it was said that Mr. Chinn had received preferment because of the fact that he had been connected with the Labour party in Western Australia. It is quite true that at a State election Mr. Chinn took a part and helped the Labour party. It is also true that he was recommended by leading Labourites in Western Australia, and amongst the letters of a confidential nature which were included in the file were some from members of the Labour Ministry, Mr. Scaddan, the Premier, amongst them, and also from Mr. McCallum, the Secretary to the Trades Hall. When this was made known, the Fusion party tried to, and I believe did, make some little political capital out of it. We all know full well that other Ministers have received the same kind of confidential letters under similar circumstances, but they have not been put upon the departmental file, and consequently the public have learnt nothing about them. Later on, Mr. Fowler, a member of another place, made certain charges against Mr. Chinn. The charges were not merely of a professional character, touching upon his fitness for the position of supervising engineer for the transcontinental railway, but they reflected upon his personal honour very seriously indeed. They went at extraordinary length into his history, and even into his private and domestic affairs. His first marriage, and his relationship with his family were raked up.
– The honorable senator ought not to deal at length with what occurred in another place.
– I do not wish to touch upon that aspect of the question at length; but I must make it clear that Mr. Chinn was attacked in such a way, and that the issue raised was of such a glaring party character, that there was a sharp division of opinion in politics upon it. It is necessary that honorable senators, who were not members of Parliament at that time should fully appreciate these facts. As the result of Mr. Fowler’s attacks, a Royal Commission was ap pointed, consisting of Mr. Justice Hodges, of the Supreme Court of Victoria.I may here mention that Mr. Fowler was not the only member of another place who took part in the charges against Mr. Chinn. The present Attorney-General, Mr. Irvine, shared prominently in the onslaught, and urged the necessity for an inquiry. He took almost as prominent a part in the debate as did those who were mainly responsible for the charges. But the result of the inquiry of the Royal Commission was that not a single one of the charges made against Mr. Chinn was upheld. Six definite charges were formulated. They were stated in such a way that no reasonable person could take exception to their terms. The Hansard report of the speeches made in another place was handed to the Judge, and he was asked to inquire into the truth of the statements contained in it. It was the Judge himself who formulated the charges under six headings. In not one single instance did he find sufficient proof of the truth of the charge. The report of Mr. Justice Hodges’ findings is now in print. Honorable senators may consult it for themselves. It is too long to be quoted in its entirety. I invite those who wish to be seized of the whole of the circumstances to read the report, in which they will find a quantity of valuable information bearing upon this question. I will content myself by reading the final phrase of the findings on the various headings. As to charges 1 and 2, in connexion with testimonials alleged to have been presented by Mr. Chinn, Mr. Justice Hodges found -
The charge against Mr. Chinn that no genuine original ever existed has, in my opinion, failed for want of evidence.
I ought to explain that the testimonials which were the subject of inquiry were not presented by Mr. Chinn when he applied for the position of supervising engineer. ‘ They were not known to the Government, or the Minister, when Mr. Chinn was appointed. They were not made public until about six months after the appointment. Therefore, they had no influence upon the making of the appointment. Not one of the testimonials presented when Mr. Chinn was appointed was questioned. That is a very important point. He presented quite a bundle of testimonials, but not one of them was ever challenged. The testimonials read in the Senate six months later, and which were the subject of inquiry by the Royal Commission, were documents of which Mr. Chinn had lost the originals, two of these being many years old, and the writers of them dead. Why, we may ask, *ere the other testimonials not questioned ? The writers of some of them are here in Melbourne. On charge No. 3, Mr. Justice Hodges found -
In my opinion, there is no substance in this third charge.
As to charge 4, His Honour said -
There is, in my opinion, no case whatever.
On charge 5 he said -
I can conceive of no answer but an emphatic negative.
On charge 6 -
And so this last charge wholly falls through.
Those are findings as emphatic and sweeping as could be given expression to. I have quoted the actual words of the Commissioner. I wish now to quote what was said by the newspapers at the time. I shall commence by quoting from a leading article published in the Age shortly after the report of the Royal Commission was made public. It said -
The wholesale and sensational charges made by Mr. Fowler in Parliament against Mr. Chinn nave all fallen to the ground. Mr. Fowler declared that the railway engineer is a common cheat and scoundrel, guilty of forgery, gold stealing, obtaining money under false pretences, and trying to use his official position to extort a commission from a timber firm in Western Australia. Mr. Justice Hodges says that three of the worst of the charges have no basis whatever. On the question of gold stealing Mr. Chinn could not, says the Commissioner, have acted as Mr. Pledges says he did without placing himself in the almost certain position of’ being arrested as a felon. His Honor therefore disbelieves .Mr. Hedges. On the question of whether the Falkingham and Garnsworthy testimonials are or are not genuine, the Commissioner does not express an opinion. It is certain that no originals exist, and Mr. Chinn could not give any precise account of when he received them or how he lost them. If the copies are genuine, the originals were not accurate in detail! The Commissioner is therefore content to say that he has formed no opinion as to whether or not the testimonials in question are copies of an original which is lost. But he says very positively that Mr. Fowler has totally failed to prove his charge that the copies are forgeries. Therefore in this, as in all the other cases in which he levelled _ grave accusations which he failed to substantiate, he occupies the miserable position of a man who, without any adequate grounds, used a responsible parliamentary position to “ down an enemy,” and has downed himself.
It will be seen that there is no doubt, in the opinion of the press, as to the nature of the finding of Mr. Justice Hodges in this case. That was the position immediately after the charges were investigated. Mr. Chinn was re-appointed to his office. But before he went back to Western Australia he demanded that he should receive fuller powers than he had enjoyed during the preceding twelve months. During that time, as is clearly indicated by the precis of correspondence in the report which is now in the hands of honorable senators, he was harassed and hampered in his work. It was obvious that Mr. Chinn and the EngineerinChief were not working harmoniously together. He had made repeated requests, not only for assistance in the shape of clerical officers to enable him to carry out this great railway project - which, it will be admitted, is one of the greatest railway works yet attempted in Australia - but also for the necessary engineering assistance. The correspondence which took place during those months is briefly summarized on page 1 of the Committee’s report. I need not refer to more than one instance to illustrate the general position. Mr. Chinn took up his duties in February. As late as October he wrote a letter, the precis of which reads as follows : -
Impossible to start work until money is available to pay wages, and accountant, clerks, and other staff are here. No stationery or books for office work requirements yet arrived, nor do I know whom you propose sending as timekeeper and riding ganger. Am doing all that is humanly possible for one man to do, and to expect me to attend to everything without assistance is unreasonable.
I regard that as typical of the communications which Mr. Chinn was sending to the Engineer-in-Chief for assistance. The fact that he took up his duties in February, and that as late as the 22nd October he had not been supplied with stationery, books, gangers, time-keepers, or accountants, shows that he had not a chance to carry out the work intrusted to him in a business-like way. After the Royal Commission had exonerated him from the serious accusations which had been brought against him by Mr. Fowler, he refused to resume duty upon the conditions that had governed his appointment during the previous year. The result -was that Mr. O’Malley gave -him fuller powers, not only in respect of appointing the necessary staff, but also in regard to the purchase of requisite ‘materials, in order that he might carry on the work in the way that -it should have been carried on. From a perusal of the evidence, it is quite obvious that Mr. Deane, the EngineerinChief, felt that some of the work which had hitherto been in his hands was being taken from him. But if he felt sore over the matter, he made only a very mild protest, which showed that he was quite willing to be humiliated so long as he could hold his billet. As a result, he was content to pocket his pride. Mr. Deane did not take action to seriously challenge what had been done by the Minister.
At the last general election in Western Australia, this question was a burning one. Some of the candidates - Mr. Fowler and Mr. Hedges in particular - made statements regarding Mr. Chinn’s case of a very serious character indeed. After having fought and lost, they were not ‘satisfied, and they actually endeavoured to place the matter on an entirely different footing. They attempted to drag into the case men who had nothing whatever to do with it. They were prepared to shelter themselves behind any plea in order to cloud the issue. Mr. Hedges made an extraordinary allegation which reflected on the action of the Royal Commissioner who inquired into the charges preferred against Mr. Chinn. I will leave honorable senators to draw their own conclusions as to the length to which the opponents of the Labour party and of Mr. Chinn were prepared to go to make good their case. I have here a report of a speech delivered by Mr. Hedges at Fremantle. It is extracted from the Perth Daily News, of 3rd March of the present year. But before going further, I wish to emphasize the fact that when Mr. Fisher undertook to appoint a Commission to inquire into the allegations made by Mr. Fowler, he did not appoint a Justice of the High Court or a Commission of members of Parliament, as he Would have been justified in doing. He lifted the matter entirely out of the arena of party politics, and intrusted the Commission to a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria. The appointment of that Commission was practically handed over to Mr. Watt, a political opponent of the Labour party. If any person had power to influence that appointment, therefore, it was Mr. Watt. This brief explanation will serve to show the length to which these persons were prepared to go after having miserably failed to substantiate their charges on oath before a Royal Commission. Mr.
Hedges is reported in the Perth Daily News to have said -
Senator Pearce, when in Western Australia recently, made a statement that the Government had acted more than fairly in regard to the inquiry. They had allowed one of the leading Liberals to nominate a gentleman to select a Judge to undertake the inquiry. Mr. Watt was the leading Liberal referred to. Mr. Watt is also a shareholder in the Powellising company, and one of the charges preferred against Mr. Chinn was in relation to a commission from that company. Mr. Watt nominated Sir John Madden, who selected the Judge. I find in the Parliamentary return issued in August last in regard to the appointment of Mr. Chinn one of the testimonials presented bore the signature of Sir John Madden, which gave him a splendid character. _ It appears to me that there are wheels within wheels.
What is the meaning of that insinuation ? Obviously it is that Mr. Watt or Sir John Madden, or both, . were more or less in league with the Commission to work something of a crooked character. Mr. Hedges proceeded -
There is evidently a pretty long firm at work; but when the real facts relating to the appointment of Mr. Chinn and others in regard to the powellising contracts are made known the public will simply be staggered.
These are the kind of insinuations and innuendoes which were hurled at the Royal Commission and those responsible for its appointment right up to’ the time of the inquiry which was recently undertaken by a Select Committee of this Chamber. Indeed, during the progress of that inquiry, we heard the same kind of innuendoes hurled at the Select Committee. I believe that Mr. Deane is responsible for most of them. At all events, we know that when Mr. Chinn waa Supervising Engineer on the Kalgoorlie section of the trans-Australian railway, Mr. Deane ransacked the whole of the Commonwealth for information which would tell against him. There is not an Engineer-in-Chief in the States - we have this statement in evidence - to whom he did not write in order to discover something against Mr. Chinn’s character, either professionally or privately. He took this action without the knowledge or authority of the Minister of his Department. He did all this work, which was of a very dirty kind, on his own responsibility. When allusion was first made to the matter at the Select Committee, he threw out all sorts of hints that he had unearthed quite a lot or things against Mr. Chinn’s character. Time and again he was asked what was the nature of these imputations, but he did not give a direct answer. Eventually, however, he said that he had got the information from different EngineersinChief in Australia. When he was asked who were those EngineersinChief, he mentioned the names of the whole lot of them. He said that the charges or imputations against Mr. Chinn would all be found in the correspondence. But all the correspondence that was submitted to the Committee in this connexion consisted of letters which he had written to these gentlemen, and did not include their replies. When this fact was pointed out to him, and he was pressed further on the point, Mr. Deane said that he had obtained information of an incriminating character against Mr.’ Chinn from at least three EngineersinChief, namely, Mr. Thompson, the EngineerinChief of Western Australia; Mr. Oliver, ‘ the Engineer-in-Chief of the Metropolitan Board of Works, Melbourne; and Mr. Davidson, also of Melbourne. The replies of these men have now been printed, and consequently they are before honorable senators, who will see that they do not contain anything of the nature hinted at by Mr. Deane. Here are the letters. The first is from Mr. Thompson, and it will be found on page 11 of ‘the report. It reads - 26th July, 1912
In reply to your communication of the 18th instant, No. 1912/2105, I have to advise that Mr, Chinn has not been employed in this Department, nor has he come under my notice either as an engineer or contractor in this State.
The next is from Mr. Oliver. It is dated 22nd July, 1912, and reads -
In reply to your inquiry of the 19th instant, I have to inform you that Mr. Henry Chinn was never employed by this Board, but was in the employ of contractors carrying out sewerage construction works for the Board.
Another communication, dated 22nd July, of the same year, reads -
I am duly in receipt of your letter of 18th instant. In reply to it I can but state that it is so long since I had any direct association with Mr. H. Chinn, then only for a period of about five years, during which he merged from youth to young manhood, that I cannot now offer any comment as derived from personal knowledge as to his attributes, professionally or otherwise.
It will be seen that there is not a hint in any of these letters that any stigma attaches to Mr. Chinn’s character. Yet they were used for the purpose of inducing the Committee to believe that therewas something in them which would condemn Mr. Chinn once and for all. I say that they do not contain one word to justify any such insinuation. I may also mention that Mr. Deane referred to a letter which he had received from Mr. Teesdale Smith. This gentleman may not be well known in Victoria, but he is well known in Western Australia.
– I do not wish to express an opinion upon that “point. I disapprove of using the floor of this Chamber to condemn the character of any man. It is only when duty forces me to do justice to one who has been badly treated that I will mention the name of any private individual in the Senate. Therefore I refrain from offering any opinion as to Mr, Teesdale Smith, other than mentioning that he was the employer of Mr. Chinn when he was engineer and manager for the construction of the Adelaide tramways. Being the employer, Mr. Deane approached him, or he approached Mr. Deane, in order to get some incriminating evidence against
Mr. Chinn. Mr. Deane said that he asked Mr. Teesdale Smith to put in writing his opinion of Mr. Chinn, and that he received a letter. Although the Select Committee repeatedly asked for the production of the letter, up to the close of the inquiry it had not been furnished. We could not get hold of the letter, and the fact that Mr. Deane did not say what the letter contained left us in the dark first, as to what it contained, and, secondly, whether such a letter was written. I have my doubts that there ever was such a letter. At all events, it was the duty of Mr. Deane to produce the letter if it existed. But, as in the case of a lot of other documentary information which he promised to supply, he was not able to do so. Statements founded on documents of that kind which were not produced we can dismiss as being worthless, so far as evidence is concerned. After a great deal of labour on his part, Mr. Deane was able to produce one little thing against the character of Mr. Chinn, but in such an indirect way that no jury or Court in the land could admit it as evidence. It was* a letter which no one took the responsibility of proving the statements it contained. The person who made ‘the statement in the “letter was not produced or brought forward as desired. He simply alleged against Mr. Chinn a certain thing which happened when he was little more than a boy, and it was that he had not kept correct accounts of a mess in a survey camp in New South Wales over thirty years ago, and had been dismissed for being absent from duty. That was alleged, but not proved. That is a sample of the kind of evidence which the Select Committee were asked to swallow without any corroboration.
In the public press there has been a good deal of misrepresentation in regard to the evidence I ani referring to. Time and again several newspapers have said that the Committee refused to accept evidence against Mr. Chinn’s qualifications. I wish to say, as strongly and emphatically as I possibly can, that that statement is wholly untrue. What the Committee did do was to lay down a rule regarding the acceptance of evidence. We laid it down that any evidence given by or against Mr. Chinn should have some bearing on his appointment as Supervising Engineer, that it should be confined to a reasonable period, and that we should not go back thirty years to accept some charges without any corroboration. Despite that fact, Mr. Deane broke the rule by reading his evidence, and got his malicious statement into the evidence in that way; and after it was read, I refused to have it rejected from the evidence.
– The honorable senator means included t
– No. If I had rejected that statement, or struck it out of the evidence after Mr. Deane had read it, I would have been charged with tampering with the evidence given. He knew perfectly well that he was giving evidence which the Committee had said should not be tendered, and evidence, too, of a kind that was without corroboration, and out of reasonable touch with the case, because it related to a time long before Mr. Chinn had any association with the Commonwealth Government. But, notwithstanding the ancient nature of the evidence, once it was read, I as Chairman, refused to strike it out of the report. I allowed it to remain, and it may be referred to. Notwithstanding that fact, newspapers in the Commonwealth have misrepresented the Committee in a most shameful manner. I take this opportunity to contradict the statement that evidence of any kind was refused by the Committee, because all that was possible, and a great deal more than could be proved, was urged against Mr. Chinn, and it is available in full. I mention that fact because of the unfair criticism to which certain members of this Government have subjected the Committee. Never have I known a Select Committee or a Royal Commission to be treated in such a shameful way as our Committee was treated. Evidently from the first the Government knew that they had no justification to put forward for their action. They dismissed Mr. Chinn in a most summary manner, without giving him an opportunity to explain, without asking for an explanation or inquiring if he had any defence to offer before they discharged him, which is the usual procedure under the Public Service Act. The humblest member of the Public Service is given an opportunity to defend himself against any charges made against him; but in this instance, without any inquiry such as may be instituted under the Act, and without the Government calling upon him to answer any incriminating evidence, or any complaint they had received, without giving him the slightest opportunity to defend himself, Mr. Chinn was dismissed instantly, and, I think, in a most cowardly way indeed. That is the kind of treatment which the Government meted out all through this inquiry. First, they acted in a high-handed manner in dismissing Mr. Chinn, and then, when an inquiry was asked for here, they did their best to prevent it. As the senator who took the initial steps to bring this matter before the Senate, I requested Senators Keating, Gould, Oakes, and Bakhap to take part in an inquiry, but only one of them consented to act. I made that appeal purposely, because I believed that Mr. Chinn had such a good case that, so far as the Opposition side of the question was concerned, it could have been submitted to a Committee composed wholly of Ministerial supporters, and it would have been quite safe to say that the verdict would have been in his favour. But the Government evidently knew they had no justification for their action, and, having a bad case, from the day the Select Committee was appointed they indulged in the most unfair criticism of the Committee that it was possible for public men to resort to. This criticism was begun by Mr. Cook the very day after the Committee was appointed, and before a word had been uttered, for when I submitted my motion only the names of the members of the Committee were mentioned, and not a word was uttered on one side or the other. Yet I was charged with having expressed myself before the Committee had begun the inquiry. I have been told by newspapers that I passed sentence before the trial was begun. That is an absolute falsehood, because I did nothing of the kind. It was not until Mr. Cook delivered a speech on the day after the Committee was appointed, in which he said that it was a packed jury, that I rose here and said that, judging by past events in connexion with the Chinn case - and it wai wholly in the past sense that I used the words - Mr. Chinn had been a persecuted man, and before the close of the inquiry Mr. Cook would hear a good deal more about the case. I hold that I was quite justified in making use of those remarks. The Committee were appointed to conduct an inquiry, and, from my knowledge of past events, I was quite justified in making what I or any other reasonable person would admit was, in the circumstances, a very moderate and fair comment in reply to Mr. Cook’s charge that the Committee was a packed jury. The Attorney-General is, I understand, looked upon by some people as a possible member of the Bench of the High Court. All that I can say on that as- .pect of the question is that, if his judicial mind is indicated by the speeches he has delivered, and the criticisms he has indulged in regarding the Select Committee, God forfend him ever getting into such a high position, because he would be of very little ‘ornament to the Bench of the High Court. In my opinion, he is quite unfitted for such a high and responsible position. Time and again, during the course of the inquiry, that man went out of his way to make violent charges against the Committee;, not against myself only, but against every member of the Committee, charging them with working in collusion with Mr. Chinn, with being packed, corrupt, everything that was vile and unfair. Even the Vice-President of the Executive Council went out of his way to criticise while the case was under investigation.
– I do not remember mentioning his name at all. I may have done so casually.
– I can assure the honorable senator that I would not lightly charge him with anything he has not been. guilty of. I will not make this statement public until he has had an opportunity to see what I was intending to read. I, therefore, pass the extract across the table in order that he may read before I make use of it. Because I have no wish, even in the simplest way, to charge any man with statements that have appeared in the press if he is not responsible for them.
– I may have made these remarks, but I did not discuss the Committee. I did not prejudice the case.
– It may be the honorable senator’s view that he was acting rightly. I am in the habit of speaking candidly in the presence or absence of a political opponent, and it is only fair that I should say that he has offended in the way I am complaining of in a much minor degree, when compared with his colleagues, Mr. Cook and Mr. W. H. Irvine. In the Age of the 16th of September, Senator McColl is reported to have said -
The appointment of the Chinn Committee was a want of confidence in the Government. Yet the Committee had the effrontery to ask the Government to supply ^250 to enable the members to visit Kalgoorlie. The proposition was an insult to the Government, who would be craven to have granted the money.
I think that was a very unfair statement to make. The appointment of the Committee did not show a want of confidence in the Government. Surely the Government do not take up the attitude that the Senate has not power, by the appointment of a Select Committee, to investigate or inquire into any administrative act of the Government of the day ? It is one of our constitutional rights to make such investigations, and previous Governments have had to submit to such inquiries. I was a member of a Select Committee that inquired into a somewhat similar case. I refer to the case of Major Carroll, who was dismissed from the Defence Force during the period of the first Federal Parliament. A Select Committee to inquire into his dismissal was sought by Senator Higgs, and I was a member of that Committee. Sir John Forrest, who is a member of the present Government, was a member of the Administration at that time, and the Minister in charge of the Department from which Major Carroll had been dismissed. The matter was discussed in this Chamber, and, notwithstanding the fact that, prior to the appointment of the’ Select Committee, criticisms upon the merits of the case were freely indulged in, no one took any exception to the appointment on the Select Committee of honorable senators who had made those criticisms. It was not considered wrong to appoint them as members of the Committee, even after they had expressed their opinion on the case. That Select Committee investigated the case, and the members were provided with funds to go to Sydney, and afterwards to Queensland, to secure evidence. The Government of the day raised no objection to providing the funds necessary for the purpose. The Committee recommended the re-appointment of Major Carroll, and in due course he was re-appointed. That is a case on ‘allfours with the case of Mr. Chinn.
If the view of the Government in this matter is to hold good, the Senate will be deprived of its right to inquire into the administrative acts of the Government of the day. The pity is that we were not in a position to have taken up a stronger stand when the present Government refused us the necessary funds to carry out our inquiry. They have set a precedent which they may find out in time is a very dangerous one. They have violated the privileges of the Senate in a way in whiSh they were never violated before. This has come with a specially bad grace from a party that is always posing as the Constitutional party. Ibelieve that they took the action they did in order to justify the dismissal of Mr. Chinn in the way in which he was dismissed, although I believe that they knew in their heart that they were wrong in so dismissing him. So far as the evidence given before the Select Committee is concerned, I agree with those who will say that one side in the matter did not get a fair opportunity to put their case. We were refused funds to enable us to go to Kalgoorlie, the best place in which evidence, might have been obtained on behalf of Mr. Chinn. We might there have taken the evidence of witnesses who were engaged with Mr. Chinn on the construction works, and in the office at Kalgoorlie, and who knew exactly the state of affairs. First of all, the Government refused the money to enable the Committee to go to the witnesses, and when we subsequently asked the Government to bring the witnesses to Melbourne we were again met with the same pointblank refusal. I mention these things to show the tactics adopted by the Government in order to prevent Mr. Chinn obtaining justice, or putting his case completely before the Committee. Further, documents in the possession of the Home Affairs Department, which any Select Committee of the Senate has a right to peruse, were refused to this Committee. Does any one suppose that if the Government thought they had a good case they would have resorted to such tactics? Numerous papers which, in the opinion of the Committee were essential to a complete investigation of the case, were refused, and I say that the action taken by ‘ the Government was eloquent testimony that they knew they had a rotten case, and, therefore, tried to burk. the inquiry in every way they could. They exercised the power of the purse in order to inflict further injustice upon an official whom they had unjustly dealt with.
– Could not the Select Committee have compelled the production of the papers they desired?
– We were supposed to possess certain powers in that direction, but the members of the Committee considered it advisable to bring a report of the case before the Senate before the close of this session. I do not say that this is the end of the Chinn case. I should be sorry to think that it was. As I have said before, in reply to Mr. Cook, the present Government will hear a great deal more of the Chinn case before it is dropped by the Labour party. I can promise them that. The Senate would be lacking in its duty to itself if it allowed the Government to exercise its power to prevent travelling by a Select Committee appointed by the Senate, and to refuse the production of official documents required by such a Committee. There may not be time to take further action in the matter this session, but there will be plenty of time to do so later on. I wish now to touch upon another aspect of the question. Before returning to Western Australia, after the inquiry by the Royal Commission, Mr. Chinn was promised that he should do so on terms very different from those upon which he was first engaged. The powers of a Supervising Engineer were found to be altogether too circumscribed, and Mr. Chinn could not do himself justice because of the way in which he waa tied up by the Engineer-in-Chief. He declared that he could not get the material or the assistance he required to carry out his work, and he refused to return to Kalgoorlie on the original terms. As a .consequence, the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. King O’Malley, entered into an agreement with Mr. Chinn, and the statement appeared in the press at the time that Mr. Chinn returned to Kalgoorlie with full power - always subject to the Department, of course - to carry out his work in a more business-like way than had been found to be possible in the past. The agreement entered into between the Minister of Home Affairs and Mr. Chinn is a somewhat lengthy document, and I shall read only sufficient to explain the point which I wish to bring before the Senate. The agreement provides that -
The said Henry Chinn will exercise all care and diligence in the discharge of the duties to be performed by him, and will devote his whole time and attention to the said work during the term of his engagement.
Any one who is at all acquainted with the evidence submitted to the Select Committee, or who has visited Kalgoorlie, and knows the work performed there in connexion with the transcontinental railway, will admit that Mr. Chinn undoubtedly did devote the whole of his time to his work. I have never known a man in a Government service to devote so much of his time and attention to his work as did Mr. Chinn. His whole heart and soul seemed to be in his work, night and day. I have heard from those who had him under observation that, not satisfied with working all day long, he worked well into the night, and he has been known to be working on Sundays in his office at Kalgoorlie when his staff was shorthanded. There can be no fault found with the amount of attention he gave to the performance of his duties. The agreement further provides -
If the said Henry Chinn wilfully disobeys any direction of ‘the Minister, or fails, in the opinion of the Minister, to faithfully and efficiently carry out his duties or directions gives in accordance with this indenture, the Minister may, by notice in writing, forthwith determine this engagement.
That contract of engagement was signed by the then Minister of Home Affairs, and by Mr. Chinn, in the usual form. Let me say now that the evidence nowhere shows that Mr. Chinn did not faithfully carry out his duties, nor has it been proved in any particular that Mr. Chinn disobeyed any direction of the Minister. It is worth while bearing in mind in connexion with the contract of engagement that certain words which appear in it have been erased by a pen. Those words appear after the word “ Minister,” where it is first used in the last quotation I have made, and they are “or of the said EngineerinChief.” These words having been struck out of the contract of engagement, Mr. Chinn was not placed in the power of the Engineer-in-Chief to the extent that that officer had the power to dismiss him. It was only for disobeying the directions of the Minister that Mr. Chinn could be dismissed under his agreement. There has not been produced the slightest proof that Mr. Chinn disobeyed any instruction or direction of the Minister. I challenge any one to go through the evidence and prove from it that Mr. Chinn was ever challenged by the Minister with having disobeyed his directions in any shape or form. It is quite true that he was not pleasing to
Mr. Deane, but he would have had to be superhuman to have pleased that gentleman. In- view of the terms of the contract of engagement, I am fully justified in saying that Mr. Chinn has been wrongfully dismissed. He was dismissed without any evidence being adduced to show that he broke his agreement, and, consequently, the Government, in dismissing him, have been parties to an illegal act. There is no evidence to show that Mr. Chinn is not an efficient engineer. As a matter of fact, the members of the Committee came to the conclusion that of the various engineers who gave evidence, Mr. Chinn knew his business as well as the best of them. I go further, and say that, as far as we were able to judge, he knew his business a great deal better than did the gentleman who is called “ Consulting EngineerinChief.” That was proved before the Committee time and again. The mismanagement for which Mr. Deane is responsible in connexion with the railway marks him as incompetent for his position. If he is to be retained in the Commonwealth service, it will be little short of a scandal.I may be told that I am attacking an officer who was appointed by the late Government.
– I do not think the honorable senator could pursue that line of argument, which does not appear to me to be related to the report of the Select Committee.
– I think it is. I beg pardon for questioning your ruling, but we have to consider whether Mr. Chinn has been properly treated by the Government. As the Government has acted on the advice of the Consulting Engineer-in-Chief, he is implicated.
– The honorable senator will be in order in discussing the relations between Mr. Chinn and Mr. Deane, but the continuance or otherwise of Mr. Deane in office is not involved in this report.
– I shall not debate that point further than to say that Mr. Deane submitted a report to the Minister upon which Mr. Chinn was dismissed. If it can be shown that Mr. Deane is himself incompetent, and that the Government have been relying upon the report of an incompetent man, it will be evident that Mr. Deane is not capable of judging an engineer’s work. I am justified in saying that he is not competent from the many blunders exposed in his work since he began. One of the points made by Mr. Deane against Mr. Chinn was that he misrepresented himself to the Minister by attaching the letters “ C.E.” to his name. The Committee inquired into that matter at great length. We found that the letters “C.E.” are used in a very loose manner by civil engineers. There does not seem to be a hardandfast rule. We examined Mr. Deane, Mr. Kernot, and Mr. Hobler in this connexion, and found that not one of those gentlemen had passed an examination In engineering. A university is the only institution that has power to grant degrees in this country. It is quite true that Mr. Chinn used the letters “ C.E.” in the same way as other engineers did. He was a civil engineer, though he had not obtained a degree at any university. He had passed an examination as surveyor, and that is more than some of his critics had done. As a matter of fact, Mr. Deane has not passed any examination as surveyor, nor have Mr. Hobler, Mr. Kernot, the EngineerinChief in Victoria, or any of these gentlemen passed examinations in engineering. This fact is worthy of notice if we remember the criticism of Mr. Chinn in this connexion. I mention these points to show that the letters “ C.E.” are used by professional men without regard to university training. As a matter of fact, Mr. Chinn is the only one of the four gentlemen mentioned who has ‘passed the surveyor’s examination. He is a licensed surveyor. I find that Mr. Deane signed himself “Engineer-in-Chief.” When Mr. O’Malley, the then Minister of Home Affairs, appeared before the Committee, he told us that Mr. Deane had no right to call himself “ Engineer-in-Chief.” He is merely Consulting Engineer-in-Chief. There is a mighty difference between the two. If Mr. Chinn was wrong in attaching the letters “ C.E.” after his name, Mr. Deane was equally wrong in describing himself as “ Engineer-in-Chief “ when he was nothing of the kind. Although he is receiving a very large salary, it gives him no sort of right to describe himself by this name. Mr. Deane is receiving £1,800 a year as Consulting Engineer-in-Chief. He is, at the same time, drawing a pension of £462 from the New South Wales Government. The Committee elicited that fact. Let honorable senators review Mr. Deane’s work, and say whether they think that we are getting value for our money. When Mr. Chinn began his task as supervising engineer at the Kalgoorlie end of the line, he had practically to provide himself with plans and everything else necessary for proceeding with the construction of the railway. Although the Consulting Engineer-in-Chief had been in the employment of the Government since 1908, when the construction of the work was really begun, he had not a plan or anything else ready. It was not until Mr. Chinn had been some months in Kalgoorlie that he received any plans whatever. During that time, the Consulting Engineer-in-Chief was continuously wiring to Mr. Chinn to report upon this, that, and the other thing. He was asked to report upon every imaginable subject - upon matters having not even a remote connexion with his duties as supervising engineer. At the time these reports were being demanded by Mr. Deane sitting in his office in Melbourne, 2,300 miles away, Mr. Chinn had scarcely any staff for his work. Even to-day we find that whilst the staff at the Central Railway Office, in Melbourne, consists of sixty-one, there are twenty-six on the staff at the Port Augusta end, and at the Kalgoorlie end, where most of the work is being done, there are only seventeen. I venture to say that if the work there is being properly performed, if it were being done by a contractor, there would not be more than fifteen at either end of the railway, and there would be no staff at all in Melbourne. It is worth the while of the Government to look into this matter, because justice cannot be done to the work, whilst the head engineer is so far away from the centre of operations. Even when Mr. Chinn was at the head of affairs at Kalgoorlie, he was treated in quite a different manner in regard to assistance from the supervising engineer at the Port Augusta end. In the middle of last year, Mr. Chinn had a staff of only two for the building of this great railway from the Kalgoorlie end, six months after he was appointed, whilst there was a staff of seven at Port Augusta. In the middle of December, when Mr. Chinn was suspended because of the atrocious charges made against him in another place, he had a staff of only eight, whilst there were sixteen at the Port Augusta end. I mention, these facts to show that Mr. Chinn did not get fair play. He was not given that assistance that was necessary to enable him to make a success of his work. But, in spite of all these circumstances, and of the hindrances thrown in his way, it must be admitted that up to the time of his dismissal better work had been done at the Kalgoorlie end than anywhere else upon the line - work that would have done credit to any engineer in Australia. I am not reflecting upon the work done at the Port Augusta end, but I do say that there can be no doubt that, the work done at the Kalgoorlie end demonstrates the efficiency of Mr. Chinn. No evidence whatever was submitted to the Committee to show that he did not know his business thoroughly, or that he did not do his work well. It has been said that Mr. Chinn, without Ministerial authority, purchased a certain amount of cement. It is not true that he had not the authority of the Minister. These purchases were made after Mr. O’Malley had announced that he had sent Mr. Chinn back to Kalgoorlie with full power to carry on the work in a workmanlike way. This cement was purchased by Mr. Chinn for the purposes of the work in hand, and it is undoubted that he made a good bargain for the Commonwealth. Whilst Mr. Deane purchased cement of ‘ the same brand, he paid 9d. per cask more for it than Mr. Chinn did. If Mr. Chinn had paid more than Mr. Deane did, there might have been room, for criticism. But he purchased it at a cheaper rate, just as he purchased sleepers at 2d. less than the Engineer-in-Chief paid. I mention these facts to ‘show that the agreements entered into for the purchase of cement and sleepers proved beneficial to the Government, so that Mr. Chinn did the right thing in entering into them. We may ask ourselves what right have the present Government to dismiss an officer for an action that was done under a previous Government? I claim that, seeing the ex-Minister of Home Affairs refused to find fault with Mr. Chinn, and, in fact, approved of his action, the present Minister of Home Affairs and the present Government are not justified in dismissing Mr. Chinn. Mr. Chinn’s action may be ground for challenging the administration of the late Government, but it was not sufficient ground for the present Government dismissing Mr. Chinn. The bargain was beneficial to the Government, and no complaint can be urged against it; but whether it was a good or a bad bargain the present Government went out of their way to do something that was illegal - they had not the power to dismiss an officer for an action done under a former Government.
I wish to point out another matter which was Mr. Chinn’s greatest crime. When Mr. Chinn first went to Western Australia, as supervising engineer for the transcontinental railway, Mr. Deane had recommended a certain route, Parliament had accepted Mr. Deane’s recommendation, and passed the Bill for the construction of the railway upon that recommendation, but instead of the line being carried in a direct easterly direction from Kalgoorlie it went away to the north, to a place called Kurramia. Members of Parliament are not supposed to be engineers, nor are Ministers; they must rely upon the special knowledge of the experts that are engaged; and Mr. Deane, as the expert engaged in this particular matter, had recommended this route; but when Mr. O’Malley, the ex-Minister of Home
Affairs, visited Kalgoorlie certain information was given to him to the effect that the route of the line was not all that it should he, and that there were certain objection? to Kurramia, as the site for the depot. This resulted in an exploration of the Kalgoorlie end of the line, and it was clearly seen, at the first glance, that there had been a mistake made in the survey. Thereupon the Minister instructed Mr. Chinn to go into the matter thoroughly, and see if a better route could not be discovered, and if another site could not be found for the depot closer to Coolgardie than that laid down by Mr. Deane. The result of Mr. Chinn’s investigations was that he discovered a route which shortened the transcontinental railway by something like 5 miles in the first 40 or 50 miles, and the survey, out to 102 miles, has shown a total saving of about 7 miles. It was due to Mr. Chinn having discovered a shorter and a better route; by which 7 miles was saved, which would not have occurred if Mr. Chinn had not been supervising engineer, that Mr. Chinn committed his greatest crime in the eyes of Mr. Deane. When Mr. Deane got to hear that Mr. Chinn was investigating this matter he telegraphed to Mr. Chinn to the effect that he had better leave the route as it was, that it had been carefully selected by himself, that it was the shortest and best route obtainable, that it was located to the best advantage, and so oh. He was giving Mr. Chinn a straight hint, as straight as anything could be, that he had better leave things as they were. Mr. Chinn has not been brought up in a Government Department; he was not aware of the powers an Engineer-in-Chief, or head of a Department, may exercise, he was somewhat new to the risks he was running, and he thought that the thing for him to do was his duty by the Government. Therefore. he went ahead with his work, with the result that he discovered a much better route than the one. recommended by Mr. Deane. That is the greatest charge that Mr. Deane has against Mr. Chinn as supervising engineer, and I make bold to say that but for this action on the part of Mr. Chinn, which undoubtedly reflected on Mr. Deane’s ability to advise the Government, he would have been in his position as supervising engineer to-day; but he damned himself for ever in the eyes of Mr. Deane by bringing forward a better route - that was the beginning of his trouble - and as soon as an opportunity presented itself Mr. Deane had his revenge by recommending his dismissal. All through the evidence taken by the Select Committee there is sufficient proof that many mistakes were made by Mr. Deane in the ordering of material with which to build the railway, and in the faulty kind of material supplied, and that the prices Mr. Deane paid were greater than should have been paid, also that mismanagement took place in the construction of the railway, so far as he was concerned. In fact, we are justified in appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole affair. There is no evidence to show want of efficiency or ability on the part of Mr. Chinn, or any lack of desire to do his work. The charge made against him is one of the most absurd that can be urged. I am satisfied that every member of the Select Committee, with one exception, feels that the evidence shows that Mr. Chinn was an able and competent man, who did his very best in the circumstances. The circumstances were not altogether favorable to him; he was hampered in many ways, and he was curtailed in such a way that it was impossible for him to do his best; but he did good work, notwithstanding the way in which he was hampered, and the charge of inefficiency laid against him is most absurd. I shall conclude by reading the recommendation of the Select Committee as follows: -
Your Committee recommend that the terms of Mr. Chinn’s contract of engagement be complied with ; and that he be compensated for the suffering and loss entailed by the manner in which he was discharged from his position of Supervising Engineer of the transcontinental railway.
It now remains for the Government to do the right thing by this man. To throw dirt at him , and to adversely criticise the Committee, is a poor apology for doing justice to a man who, in my opinion, has been badly treated. If the Government are imbued with any sense of justice, there is only one course open to them, namely to accept the recommendation which is contained in this report. If all the evidence has not been adduced which might have been forthcoming, the fault rests with one side only. The Government had the fullest opportunity of presenting their case, and, if they have not done so, it is Mr. Chinn who has suffered. If the Ministry do not act upon this report, the time will come, I hope, when another Government will do the right thing by this gentleman, who was dismissed without an opportunity to say a word in his own defence, and without
.- At this stage of the session I shall not occupy more than a few moments. I would not speak now but for the fact that, not only have Mr. Chinn’s efficiency and faithfulness been questioned, but the Select Committee which inquired into his case has been subjected to abuse and unfair criticism from certain members of the Government, and from the Premier of Victoria. I can honestly say that I accepted a seat upon that Committee with an open mind - with a mind just as open as if I had been sworn as a juror to try an accused person for his life. In these circumstances, I do resent the remarks which are reported to have been made from time to time by Mr. Cook, Mr. W. H. Irvine, Mr. Kelly, and Mr. Watt. I also deplore the statement made by Mr. Kelly during the progress of the inquiry, that no matter what might be the finding of theCommittee, the Government would take no notice of it. Knowing that my conscience is clear, so far as my share in the investigation by the Committee is concerned, I say that it comes with very bad grace from a Minister of the Crown to declare that the Government will take no notice of the recommendations of that body. I honestly think that Mr. Chinn was not inefficient, and was not unfaithful. The evidence showed that he was no angel, neither were some of the other gentlemen who appeared before the Committee. Mr. Chinn was doing good work in Western Australia as the servant of the Commonwealth. But, unfortunately, he has a peculiarly aggressive manner, and is sadly lacking in tact. Probably that is why he came into conflict with Mr. Deane. I have had some little experience of engineering, having been articled to a civil engineer, and I honestly think that Mr. Chinn knows more about the detailed working of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway than does Mr. Deane. The latter’s conduct when he appeared before the Committee was anything but satisfactory, to say the least of it. We experienced the utmost difficulty in obtaining a definite statement from him. He would spar for wind, hum and haw - I do not say that he did this wilfully, it may have been the result of his advanced years - but it was with the utmost difficulty that we obtained replies to our leading questions.
– The honorable senator admits that they were leading questions.
– I mean that we could not get replies to important questions. I listened carefully to almost the whole of the evidence elicited during the inquiry, and, though there may have been minor faults on either side, I have no hesitation in saying that nothing was adduced to warrant the sweeping charge made against Mr. Chinn of being unfaithful and inefficient. In my opinion, he did not get a fair deal, and the recommendation of the Committee is the only one that was possible in the circumstances.
– We have before us the report of the Select Committee which was appointed to inquire into the dismissal of Mr. Chinn, and I am very anxious to know how it is to be treated. It embodies a recommendation that that gentleman should be reinstated and compensated for the injuryhe has sustained. Under ordinary circumstances, I might have spoken at greater length on this subject than I propose to do this afternoon. I listened attentively to the speech of Senator de Largie, and I feel that it is essential we should have an expression of opinion from the Government as to what they intend to do with the report of the Committee, and with the recommendations which are contained therein. I closely followed the evidence adduced at that inquiry, and I have come to the conclusion that Mr. Chinn, who was appointed by the Government to a very responsible position, has not been fairly treated. When I was in Kalgoorlie last year, I called upon that gentleman, who was then acting as Supervising Engineer of the western section of the transcontinental line. I accompanied him along the railway so far as it was then constructed. I saw the earthworks which had been completed, and spent a good deal of time in inquiring into the manner in which this great undertaking was being carried out. I have no hesitation in saying that Mr. Chinn was anxious to push on with the work in an efficient manner I say, without reservation, that Mr.
Chinn was always anxious and eager to push on with the line, and to do his work’ in a proper and faithful manner. Let me now refer to his summary dismissal. I do not think that any private employer would have dealt with an employe in the fashion in which the Minister of Home Affairs dealt with Mr. Chinn. Any employer with a sense of justice would have given a man in such a responsible position an intimation that his services were to be dispensed with, and would have furnished reasons. But we have it on sworn evidence that Mr. Chinn, when on a sick bed, was visited by Mr. Hobler, who temporarily succeeded him, and was given a letter signed by the Minister of Home Affairs, saying that his services were dispensed with for inefficiency and unfaithfulness. I characterize the conduct of the Minister in that matter as cowardly in the extreme. If there were any fault to be found with Mr. Chinn, charges should have been made against him, and he should have been given an opportunity to reply to them. Under the Public Service Act an officer guilty of misconduct, unfaithfulness, or inefficiency has the right to go before an Appeal Board and call evidence to show that he should not be punished. Mr. Chinn, however, was summarily dismissed without inquiry, and without having the chance to justify himself. The action of the Minister was not creditable to him, nor to his Government. The only course left to Mr. Chinn, to bring his case before the public, was to get Parliament to inquire into it. This branch of the Legislature appointed a Select Committee to investigate the whole matter. Senator de Largie has pointed out that from the moment that the Select Committee was moved for the Government deliberately did everything to block it. When the inquiry began, the Engineer-in-Chief for Commonwealth Railways was given the assistance of eminent counsel, Mr. Starke, and of another barrister when Mr. Starke was absent, and he also had the help of all the officers - of the Department in putting his case before the Committee. As a member of the public, I attended several sittings of the Com,mittee, and saw a large staff of officers engaged in assisting Mr. Deane. Of that I make no complaint. It was right that’ Mr. Deane should have every assistance in putting forward his justification for the recommendation to the Minister that Mr. Chinn’s services should be dispensed with, but Mr. Chinn should have had similar assistance. When assistance was applied for, it was refused by the Government, and Mr. Chinn had to defend his own case. He defended it admirably. Having regard to all the questions that he had to answer, to the fact that he was opposed to such an. eminent lawyer as Mr. Starke, assisted by officers of the Department, he made a very able defence. The Commonwealth Government treated Mr. Chinn unjustly, in the first place, by summarily dismissing him. Next, it attempted to block the investigation of his case, and, thirdly, when the inquiry was begun, it refused to allow Mr. Chinn any assistance, although giving Mr. Deane, who was practically the prosecutorinchief, the help of barristers, and of the full strength of the Home Affairs Department. Whether Mr. Chinn was a good or a bad engineer, whether he was capable or incapable, he did not receive ordinary justice. I shall support the recommendations of the Committee. It was stated by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs that, no matter what the finding of the Committee might be, no heed would be paid to it. The statement of the Minister of Home Affairs charging Senator de Largie with having pre-judged the case was not more outrageous than that of the Assistant Minister. While the case was absolutely sub judice before a Committee of the Senate, we have a Minister of the Crown deliberately saying that, notwithstanding what might be the verdict of the Committee, he would pay no heed to it. I want to know if that is the decision of the Government - if the Government are going to wilfully and deliberately ignore the recommendations of a Select Committee appointed by the Senate to inquire into an injustice alleged to have been suffered by a citizen of the Commonwealth?
– The AttorneyGeneral made a somewhat similar statement.
– Yes. I read in the press a somewhat similar statement by the Attorney-General. It seems, therefore, that we are up against this position : that, according to the dictum of Messrs. Kelly and Irvine, a citizen of the Commonwealth, no matter what injustice he may suffer, is not to obtain any redress if a member of the Labour party takes up his case. I am not speaking with any party feeling. I am actuated solely by a desire to see justice done to a man who, I contend, has been not only prosecuted, but persecuted. The history of his case has been well told by Senator de Largie. He was appointed to a position on the transcontinental railway staff, and his appointment was followed by a storm. The other branch of the Legislature was occupied for days in discussing it. It was alleged that the appointment was a party one. Charges were levelled against Mr. Chinn, and he had to submit to an investigation by a Royal Commission. He emerged from that inquiry with all credit to himself; but, when the change of Government came, the sword fell. Party feeling was allowed to triumph, and he was dismissed without rhynie or reason. The Government, I contend, should recognise the recommendations of the Committee, take the very earliest opportunity of reinstating Mr. Chinn in the position which he so well and ably filled, and compensate him for the injury he has sustained owing to their action.
– I am pleased that the inquiry into the case of Mr. Chinn has progressed thus far, and that such a practical resolution has been tabled. In dealing with this question, I am. reminded of an alltoofrequent tendency on the Dart of members of not only the Federal Parliament, but the Parliament of the States, to avail themselves of their position to malign a man who has no remedy against- them. We have witnessed that sort of thing in Western Australia, where unscrupulous politicians, for mere petty party spite, have sought to shoot their poisonous darts at men whose boots they were not fit to blacken. I hope that the inquiry of this Select Committee will at least have opened the eyes of the public to the iniquity of some of the public men of this country, who use their privileged positions in this Parliament to blacken the character of men outside. That is what happened in this case. We have had a member of this Parliament availing himself of his position in another place to level at a citizen of the Commonwealth every conceivable charge for which, apart from the rumours that came to his ears, he had absolutely no ground whatever. That honorable member was given an impartial Court of Inquiry - I shall not say that it was a court practically of his own choosing, although I should not r be far wrong if I did - and yet every charge that he levelled against Mr. Chinn absolutely failed. If the Select Committee engaged upon this inquiry has done nothing more than to rivet public attention upon the lack of scruple and want of common decency and common honour shown by some public men in using the cover of Parliament to blacken the character of men outside, it has accomplished a good work. When these charges were made against Mr. Chinn in the first instance, I did not know how he stood in the matter. I was inclined to believe that he could make out a good case, and I am pleased that I lived to see him make out, before a Royal Commission, a case with which no fault could be found - a case which completely vindicated his character and his honour, and which left those who attempted to traduce, malign, and vilify him in a most discreditable position. The inquiry by the Select Committee was a development of that made by the Royal Commission. What was aimed at in the first place was to persecute Mr. Chinn because he was the appointee of a Labour Government. The Commonwealth was ransacked, and the Post and Telegraph Office used to an unlimited extent to rake up all the incidents of the past - right back to boyhood days - but Mr. Chinn’s traducers failed to establish even in the smallest degree any of their indictments. It must be a consolation to Mr. Chinn, and to all lovers of justice, that the attempt failed so miserably. The case, on its political side, having failed, we next found it assuming a new form. Mr. Chinn was attacked, as he was in the first place, for being the appointee of a Labour Government; he was made the victim of a later form of persecution. He was described as one who had proved unfaithful and inefficient in the service of the Commonwealth, and the fact that he was chosen for his position by a Labour Government dropped out of sight in the meantime. These charges of unfaithfulness and inefficiency were inquired into by a Select Committee of the Senate, and members of the party in this Chamber who stood behind the effort made in the first place to blacken Mr. Chinn’s character, absolutely refused to take part in the inquiry, and to hear the evidence.
– With one exception.
– With one exception. What are we to think of their attitude? If their refusal to sit on the Select Committee means anything, it must show conclusively that they condemned Mr. Chinn before they had even heard the evidence. Those who constituted the Select Committee are men of standing in this community. They have been before the public for quite a long time, and they have inquired fully into the charges of inefficiency and unfaithfulness. I have taken a little trouble during my spare time to peruse the summary. of the evidence, and with the solitary exception that friction existed between Mr. Deane and Mr. Chinn, owing to the latter’s failure to obey all Mr. Deane’s orders, I have come to the conclusion that every charge made against Mr. Chinn before the Select Committee has failed. I am not here to excuse Mr. Chinn for everything he has done, in the matter of discipline, in the West; I am not here to say that he was justified in taking up the independent stand that he did on all occasions. The impression left . on my mind by the press reports, which I read in the West, of the evidence given before the inquiry, was that Mr. Chinn, as a subordinate, should have paid a little more attention to his chief than he did in connexion with the instructions that he received from Melbourne. But that is by the way : and it may be accounted for by the independence of judgment which Mr. Chinn insisted should be his. Looking over the charges, and also the sub-charges made by the EngineerinChief, and regarding particularly the rebutting evidence brought forward, T have come to the conclusion that this later attempt to place Mr. Chinn in an unfavorable position, and to rob him of his character as an efficient engineer, has failed miserably. I make the solitary exception of his dealings with the EngineerinChief, who was for the time being his superior. I think that up to the time of his dismissal, Mr. Chinn could have shown a little more consideration in regard to the information that was sought, and have given it to Mr. Deane without any loss of dignity or without any disorganization of the staff. I am pleased that this report has been presented, and I can easily realize the feelings that must be Mr. Chinn’s for quite a long time. He has had to stand, so to speak, with hia hands tied behind him, while every larrikin - I shall withdraw that word - while every unscrupulous man in Parliament, and others, levelled their foul and wretched accusations at him. He has, however, had the privilege of being vindicated at least in this Chamber, and of showing the true facts in the daylight. His accusers, after every chance to push the charges to the extreme and establish their case, have failed; and a great act of vindication has been consummated. Mr. Chinn stands now before the people of Australia as a man cruelly wronged by this Government, and the appeal that is° now being made is in strict keeping with fair play and honest dealing. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion, and I believe that, even at the eleventh hour, the Government will retrace their steps, and afford that atonement to which Mr. Chinn is justly entitled.
– Senator de Largie and the Senate will quite understand that on the motion submitted it would not be competent nor, I think, proper for any individual Minister to express himself with any definiteness. All I can say is that I shall make it my business to place the report of this debate, together with the report now being adopted, before my colleagues in Cabinet, and I shall do so at as early a date as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill, I take it, is well understood by honorable senators. It is to create a Committee to act as an investigating body for Parliament. It has the recommendation that the principle which is sought to be adopted has been, and is, in vogue in at least two of the States. In my own State, particularly, the principle of a Public Works Committee was adopted many years ago, at the instance, I believe, of the late Sir Henry Parkes. I venture to say that, so useful has that Committee proved itself to be, that no one would now dream for a moment of abolishing it. I am informed that equally satisfactory results have followed from the creation of a similar body in Victoria. It must have struck, not only honorable senators, but those who have had any experience of parliamentary life in the State arena, that Parliament is very ill-equipped to deal with matters re=lating to public works. Where great sums are involved, and the proposals are submitted to Parliament in what is necessarily a bald outline, there is no opportunity given to any representative to investigate in detail their soundness or otherwise. That is a task for which the Parliament, as a whole, is, as I say, very ill-equipped; and it is proposed to institute a body which will undertake for Parliament those inquiries which it is not competent to conduct for itself. There is only one matter of detail to which I need direct attention, and that is covered by clause 3, which proposes that the Committee shall consist of eight members, two of whom shall be drawn from the Senate and six from the House of Representatives. I mention this because it seems to me that possibly this clause may provide ground for debate. Honorable members will recognise that there is no principle involved in the matter of the number; and it is a question we can discuss, I hope, without any desire other than to create a Committee which shall render the most useful possible service to Parliament as a whole. There is one point, however, that does not appear in the Bill. I am authorized to state that an understanding has been arrived at between the Prime Minister on the one hand and Mr. Fisher on the other, that the number of members shall be the even one of eight, and that each party shall practically nominate its four representatives; making this, in the best sense of the word, an absolutely non-party Committee. The only question that remains is the appointment of this eight as between the House of Representatives and the Senate. I think honorable senators will agree with me that the majority of members must necessarily be drawn from the other House.
– Not in that proportion.
Snator MILLEN. - We have to recognise that there are two dividing lines. The first is the dividing line between one party and the other; and, if this is recognised, and the arrangement to which I have referred is adopted, it will be seen at once that there are certain limitations placed upon us in the apportionment between one House and the other. For instance, if it is assumed that the other House is to have a majority on the Com mittee, it will be necessary to allot five members to that House and three to the Senate. There might be a little difficulty in apportioning the appointments as between parties.
– The proportion of six to three would be an equitable arrangement.
– That would immediately fall foul of the principle I have enunciated, which was to give to each party the same number of representatives. It is clear that, with a Committee consisting of nine members, one party would have a majority. It was to avoid that difficulty, and to give a guarantee to both parties in the Houses as constituted to-day, and to parties as future Houses may be constituted, that they would have equal representation, that the number was made an even one.. I admit that, if honorable senators like to throw that on one side, and proceed to assume that one party should have a greater representation than the other-
– That is what we did in connexion with the Public Accounts Committee. ,
– In that case some different features came under review, I think. That is the reason which has led to the selection of eight, or of an even number, and I invite honorable senators to recognise that there is a great advantage if, in appointing a Committee of this kind, we can get a tribunal which will stand, as far as that is possible, altogether apart from party influences by giving each side an equal number of appointments. It is hoped that we shall create a Committee which will proceed to its work and bring in a report that Parliament will be able to accept without assuming or suspecting that it has been clouded by a predominance of one set of political views over another set. I ask honorable senators, if they are disposed to quarrel with the small allotment of members to the Senate, to see the practical difficulty with which they will be confronted if they adhere to the idea of equal representation, and attempt to destroy the allotment of six and two.
– Five and three.
– It may be only five and three, I admit. Take a normal House of Representatives and a normal Senate, which, I suppose, would mean that, in nine times out of ten, one party would be dominant in both Houses, it would be almost impossible to secure anything but a majority for one party on the
Committee, because, if five of the members were allotted to the other Chamber a majority there would naturally select three of the five, while in the Senate, it three were allotted here, the dominant party would select a majority of th«» three. Whilst I, as a member of the Senate, would have liked to see a larger representation given to its members, still I invite attention to this practical difficulty.
– Why not make the number nine)
– Because, the moment that is done, we must give to one party a majority; but, by selecting eight as the number, we can give each party equal representation. As I have said, if the numbers -were made five and three, the strongest party in the other House would naturally say, “We are going to put on three members out of the five for this House,” and the strongest party in the Senate would say, “ We want to select two members out of the three for the Senate.”
– It would balance nicely on this occasion, but not always.
– I admit that on this occasion the matter might work out all right ; but a normal Parliament is one in which the party that is dominant in one House is dominant in the other. If that happens, it will be seen that each Chamber, proceeding to elect its quota of the Committee independently of the other, we would get not merely the odd man, as it were, but a three to two Committee. An effort has been made to avoid that, to endeavour to say to each party, “ You can have equal representation.” In order to bring that about it has been found necessary, as a practical expedient, to give the Senate a representation somewhat less than it is entitled to, on the ground that its members are, roughly, about half those of the other House. As Senator Gould interjects, by making the number greater we might get over that difficulty.
– I was thinking of making the number ten.
– One does not wantto make the Committee unnecessarily unwieldy because there is a matter of expense involved. With a Committee of ten members the amount of travelling will be very considerable, because it will be dealing with the public works, not of a State, but of a ‘continent. I do think that in selecting the number of eight a very happy mean has been struck.
That is to say, the Committee is large enough to make it fairly representative, but, on the other hand, it is not so big as to be called unwieldy. I submit the Bill with these few remarks on what I considered the clause most likely to cause a little discussion. I invite honorable senators to help me to put the Bill through in as limited a time as they think is consistent with the interest which the subject evokes.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [5.51]. - I move -
That the debate be adjourned to a later hour of the day.
I am not allowed to speak to this motion, but, perhaps, I may be permitted to say that I am taking this course, not with any intention of embarrassing the Minister, or interfering with the passing of the Bill, but merely because it has been called on a little earlier than we . expected.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Millen) read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The simple purpose of this Bill is to appropriate out of the general revenue the sum of £300,000, which was required for the purchase of land for defence purposes, and which item the Senate declined to pass in the Loan Bill.
– You propose to get the money out of the general revenue 1
– That is the simple purpose of the Bill. The Loan Bill, which came twice before honorable senators, contained a proposition that the purchase of land, required for defence purposes should be met out of loan funds, but, as the Senate declined to agree to the item, authority is now sought to pay for those identical parcels of land out of the general revenue. In these circumstances, seeing that the item was objected to in the Loan Bill, not because of the purchase which was to be made, but merely because the land so acquired was to be paid for out of loan fund, and that the Senate, by that intimation, expressed its belief that the land ought to be bought out of revenue, there will now be no hesitancy, I feel sure, in approving of this Bill.
– You have a lucid interval at last.
– One sometimes does things under compulsion which is not the result of conviction. I submit the Bill, and I think I am justified in saying that I do so, with the confident belief that, in view of the attitude taken up on the Loan Bill, the Senate will have no hesitation in passing it.
– I understood Senator Pearce to say that he objected to the passing of the second reading of this Bill until he saw what it contained.
– I have seen that it provides for the purchase of land for defence purposes out of revenue.
– If Senator Pearce has read the Bill, and is satisfied with it on behalf of our party, I shall raise no further objection on that ground, but it is certainly not a good practice to allow a Bill to pass its second reading before it is circulated amongst members of the Senate. I may be allowed to say that I am glad that the Minister of Defence has seen fit to relent. When we were dealing with the Loan Bill the honorable senator threatened us that if we did not pass the item included in that Bill to cover the purchase of these lands, he would rent them. I am very glad that the honorable senator has thought better of it, and has at last seen the wisdom of adopting the policy of the Labour party.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages.
Finance Policy : Estimates - Federal Capital - Railway Construction, Uniform Gauge - Development of the Northern Territory - Defence Expenditure - National Regiments - Victoria Barracks : Naval and Military Staffs - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway: Supply of sleepers - wireless telegraphy: Mr. Swinburne’s Report - Lighthouse Employes - Alleged Electoral Irregularities.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
I think that honorable senators generally may congratulate themselves that some time ago we adopted a procedure in the Senate in connexion with the Budget-papers and Supply Bills which has had the effect of relieving us of a considerable amount of tension towards the close of the session, when there is little time available for the lengthy consideration of such matters. As a result of the adoption of that procedure we have already had a considerable amount of debate on financial matters on the motion for the printing of the Budgetpapers, and, as is shown in the first schedule of this Appropriation Bill, we have also debated five Supply Bills, which were, of course, based upon the Budget statement and the figures which are included in this Bill. The Appropriation Bill contains in a convenient form, which has received the approval of various Parliaments, full details concerning the votes proposed to be appropriated. It contains the facts and figures with which we are more concerned than the statements which might be made with regard to them. Though the time at our disposal is short, I should like to offer a few remarks upon general lines of policy which must come under consideration when we are dealing with an Appropriation Bill which covers the financial operations of the various Departments of the Government. I remind honorable senators that the present Government came into office at the end of June, and had very’ shortly afterwards to start upon the work of preparing their Estimates. As a consequence, they were necessarily bound to model those Estimates, more or less, upon the Estimates of the preceding year. More thanonce, in introducing Supply Bills in the Senate, I have explained that that practice has been adopted, and if honorable senators on the other side quarrel with the figures of this Appropriation Bill, I remind them that they will be to a considerable extent quarrelling with the Estimates submitted by the Government they supported. Speaking in a general way, I may say that since Federation was established, Federal Governments have, in making a picture, looked to the foreground only, and have paid no regard to distance. Dropping that analogy, and putting what I mean in plain terms, let me say that all parties have paid too much regard to immediate financial necessities, and too little regard to the necessity for a continuous policy. I think the time has arrived when the Federal Government, in regard to many large works and operations of the public Departments, should adopt something like a continuous policy. Many examples of what I mean might be selected, but I take that of the Federal Capital. Both sides have agreed concerning it, but the Governments representing both parties have instituted certain works, and carried on certain operations in the Federal Territory, largely with a view to the immediate present. I do not believe that any Government has yet developed a scheme covering the completion of the Federal Capitalin its entirety. I think that the time has arrived when we should say, “ We have initiated a scheme, the completion of which will involve such and such expenditure according to the present Estimates and a corresponding consumption of time.”
– I think that such an idea has been in the minds of us all, though it may not have been crystallized.
– I believe that is so. I am not trying to talk party politics. I think it must occur to any man that it is time that we had something like continuity of policy, and I say frankly that I think every Federal Government so far has failed in that direction, and for that reason has been extravagant and has wasted money. I might refer, as another instance, to. the question of a railway policy. We are concerned in the Commonwealth to-day with the construction of one most important railway, that from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, and we have practically under our immediate consideration the question of the construction of the other big transcontinental railway from north to south. When discussing a Railway Bill the other day the question of the gauge to be adopted arose, and I ventured to say then what I emphasize now, that of the big questions, and there are many requiring solution, which confront the people of the Commonwealth to-day, that of overcoming the difficulties in the way of the establishment of a uniform railway gauge is, perhaps, the most important. There is an ample opportunity for this or any other Government to tackle that question, and it will be an excellent thing for the Commonwealth if it can be satisfactorily settled. But the settlement of it does not dependupon the Federal Parliament. There will have to be concurrence on the part of the States. The Government propose to tackle the question. Whether they will be able to settle it for all time is another matter, but it is their bounden duty to tackle it with a determination to arrive at a solution, if possible. In that question is involved the settlement of the Northern Territory. We recognise that we have there an extremely difficult problem. It needs to be tackled in a systematic way. Amongst the big questions that ought to be settled on lines of continuity is this one. It has to be tackled, and I do not believe that this or any Government will be so lacking in courage as to say that the problem is beyond us. Difficult as it is, strong as are the chances that we shall fail, it will be cowardice to refrain fromattempting a permanent solution. We cannot abandon the Territory. The Commonwealth has taken it over, and we have to make an effort to do something with it. I come to another question upon which I do not wish to enlarge, though it is necessary that I should say something about it. I refer to defence. I do not go to the press for education on a matter of this kind.
– Not a very reliable authority if we look at what has appeared lately.
– I look upon it from the point of view of a man who is inside Parliament, rather than from an outside point of view. In the other House, a suggestion was made for a big reduction in the defence vote. The Government adopted the attitude in which, speaking generally, they were supported by Mr. Fisher, that the matter requires earnest consideration, and that, while no Government could agree at once to a radical cutting down of the defence expenditure, nevertheless, it is a matter which demands consideration.
-Colonel O’Loghlin.– Cannot we keep the expenditure within the lines laid down by Lord Kitchener and Admiral Henderson ?
– I think I can state, as a fact, that we have already gone beyond that limit. I admit that it is a matter of grave importance. There are several reasons why I should not enlarge upon it. One is that we have in the Senate the Minister of Defence, who, since he took office, has given a tremendous amount of time to the subject. We also have here the ex-Minister of Defence - Senator Pearce. Both are more competent to speak upon the subject than I am. I am merely suggesting that this is one of the big questions we have to consider in connexion with the Appropriation Bill. What I think we ought to aim at in the matter of the Defence Force is to emphasize the need for efficiency, rather than to lay continual stress upon the element of. numbers. I may refer in general terms to Germany and Switzerland. There they have compulsory service. I can speak with more knowledge of the actual facts of Germany than that of Switzerland. Though military service in Germany is compulsory, not 45 per cent, of German subjects liable to military training are at any time to be found actively carrying out military duties. In Australia, I believe, our average is about 90 per cent. That is to say, of all the youths who are liable for training, about 90 per cent, are being trained. The proportion is an enormous one relatively to our total population. It is approached by none of the warlike nations in the world. If we go on at this rate, we shall have a tremendous proportion of our population enrolled for military service. The condition of the Defence Force aptly illustrates what I have said just now, that what we need in the Commonwealth is continunity of policy. We must look ahead. That is wanted badly in reference to defence. I believe that in connexion with our Defence Force we should get much better results, probably, from a smaller expenditure of money, if we paid more regard to efficiency and less to mere numbers. I believe that Senator Pearce will agree to that. But, inasmuch as I am enlarging on a question upon which, in the opinions I express, I shall not obtain concurrence, and as to which, perhaps, my knowledge does not justify me in making further statements, I think it better to say no more at present. I may make a remark about our procedure. Honorable senators are aware that upon the first reading of an Appropriation Bill our Standing Orders permit us to discuss freely, not merely subjects directly contained within the measure, but any subjects which are of general importance to the community. I have merely to add that, when the Bill reaches Committee, Ministers will be glad to answer any questions which may be put to them regarding the various items in it.
– Upon the motion for the first reading of this Bill, we are at liberty to discuss matters other than those which are contained in the measure. The Honorary Minister has brought forward a question which is not a new one - the question of whether the present Ministry are entirely responsible for these Estimates. Of course they are. The fact that, prior to their advent to office, Estimates had been prepared, did not compel the incoming Government to accept them. The position was that those Estimates had been prepared by the departmental officers, but I do not think that there was a single Department in which the . Minister had given his approval to them. So far as the Defence Department is concerned, I may say that I had never seen this year’s Estimates, as a whole. The stage had been reached that the departmental officers had prepared Estimates for the year when the present Minister of Defence took office, and, therefore, he was in a position to say what was his policy in regard to those Estimates. That could have been done in the case of each Department. Thus, Ministers could have cut down the Estimates in any way that they chose. They could have said to the Postal Department, “ You are asking for £4,000,000, but we are going to grant you only £3,500,000.” To the Defence Department, they could have said, “ You are asking for £4,000,000; we are going to give you~£2,000,000.” Although the excuse that, upon their advent to office, Ministers were’ committed to these Estimates has been put forward haltingly this afternoon, it has not been so put forward on” other occasions. I say that the Ministry are entirely responsible for these Estimates, and they must accept that responsibility. I indorse what the Honorary Minister has said as to the necessity which exists for some carefully thoughtout plan in regard to the Federal Capital and the Northern Territory, especially the latter. I regard the Northern Territory as of greater importance even than the Federal Capital. So far, we have not had put before us a plan which looks ahead for any considerable time. Up till now, we have merely been engaged in skirmishing - in feeling our way. I indorse, too, the attitude taken up by the late Minister of External Affairs, Mr. Thomas, when he said, “ Before we can proceed to execute a plan, we must take a survey of the position.” His operations were directed to ascertaining the agricultural, mineral, and pastoral possibilities of the Territory in order that he might have the requisite data upon which to base a plan. The present Government have inherited the result of his work. Consequently, they ought to be able, during the coming recess, to formulate some plan which will enable us to make a move forward in regard to this matter. The first thing to be decided is, “What end have we in view?” and the second is, “ How much are we going to spend in the Northern Territory, say, this year?” If we have £400,000 available, are we going to cut it up, and ask the officers how it is to be allocated ? If we proceed in that way, we shall never achieve anything. But if we say that we are going to develop the agricultural, pastoral, and mineral resources of the Territory; that we intend, to lay down lines of railway there and to attract agriculturists from oversea, we shall have some plan upon which to proceed. Having made up our minds as to what we are going to do, we ought then to map out . the number of years over which we propose to expend our energies. In that way, we should arrive at a connected policy. Up to the present, unfortunately, our policy has been one of drift from year to year. This has been necessitated by circumstances. But we -ought now to be in a position to look ahead. In regard to the Federal Capital, I notice that the expenditure is growing. This year it represents an increase of £100,000 upon that of last year. What is our object in spending money there ? Is it intended that, within a certain number of years, this Parliament and the central administration of the Commonwealth shall be transferred to the Federal Territory? If so, the time has surely arrived when we ought to say, “ In the year 1919,” or in whatever year we may decide upon, ‘ this Parliament will meet in the Federal Capital.” We should then have to spread our expenditure over the intervening period. I was very much interested in the remarks of the Honorary Minister concerning defence expenditure, and I am glad that the Minister of Defence is present to hear what I am about to say upon this matter. In my opinion, some of the most extraordinary and wilfully careless statements in regard to defence expenditure have been made in the press and outside of this Parliament - statements which are only equalled by the careless allegations that have been made inside of it. In saying this I am not referring to the members of one particular political party. It is very easy to criticise - to pull down. To me it is remarkable that some of the critics of our huge expenditure upon defence are gentlemen whom I came to know very intimately during my three years of administration .of the Defence Department. They were to be found almost daily on the door-mat of that Department clamouring for increases of all kinds - increased pay, increased allowances, increased equipment, and increased units.
– To whom is the honorable senator referring ?
– To some of the gentlemen who are now declaring that we are spending too much money upon defence .
– And appointments.
– It seemed to me that these gentlemen wanted a new appointment made every day. I can understand persons who are opposed to universal military training turning round and saying to us, “ We told you so. We told you that the scheme would prove too costly.” But I cannot understand such conduct on the part of those who, when the first wave of popularity for the scheme was running through the Commonwealth, rushed into the limelight and said, “ We are in favour of this proposition; that is the thing to do. Australia must be prepared to defend itself, and to pay for its defence.” At the very first shriek from an influential ‘organ in this State, which has found very few echoes in the Commonwealth - I do not know a single influential newspaper that has echoed its sentiment - we find these people l ushing into Parliament and saying, “ We are spending too much. We must go back. We must retrench.” What we ought to ask ourselves is this question: “ Do we need to defend Australia?” And, if we answer that question in the affirmative, then we have to ask ourselves, “What is an efficient defence?” And that, of course, is one for experts to answer. The Commonwealth called in an expert - Lord Kitchener - and asked him to say what would give us an effective defence, which he did. The statement is made, “ Oh, but you have exceeded his estimate.” In the short interval before the adjournment for dinner, I will not go into that statement; but I have taken the trouble to analyze the defence expenditure, and, to my satisfaction, I have been able to prove that we have not; exceeded the estimate on the things that Lord Kitchener recommended. The challenge that I throw out to the critics of the defence expenditure is that there are some things we have done which he never recommended. I can name every one of them, and I invite those who say that we are spending too much to place their fingers on the items which we are to do away with. I shall name only one at the present time, and give the figures relating to it later. Lord Kitchener recommended a Military College, and that is established. He recommended that the Military College should have 100 students, eighty of whom should pay £80 a year. The students are not paying £80 a year, For the Commonwealth is educating them free.
– Quite right.
– And quite right say some of the critics who are at the same time howling about our having inflated Lord Kitchener’s estimate. We have done that in that item alone by £5,000 or £6,000. I shall give other instances of a like character, where people threw up their hats and said, “That is quite a right thing to do,” but to-day they say, “ Why do you not run the defence by Lord Kitchener’s estimate?” We could have run the defence expenditure on his estimate, if we had not done many of the things which had the approval of the present day critics when they were done. They apparently lose sight of the fact now that they cheered for those very things a few short months ago, but are now prepared to denounce them. We have only to look back upon past history to realize that the one blot on Australian defence has been that we never seem to have been able to make up our minds for more than three or four months at a time.
– Three or four years.
– I think that the last three years is about the longest period in Commonwealth history that we have ever had one policy being carried out. A new party come in and they have fresh ideas of defence, or some agitation is started outside Parliament to start off <>n a new line. It takes a year to get (hat running, and when we do we start off on some other fad.
– They are scared of seeing their faces in the glass.
– Any one can sen how it is possible to’ waste money under such a practice. It is evident that every new departure is going to cost a lot of money.
Sitting suspended from. 6.30 to S p.m.
– I propose now to make a brief analysis of the defence expenditure, in order to show how the increase over Lord Kitchener’s estimate has been caused. His estimate of the military expenditure necessary for the safe defence of Australia will be found in paragraph 14 of his report, and the total is £1,742,000. The actual military expenditure for 1912-13, as shown on the Estimates for the present year, was £2,841,171. On page 69 honorable senators will find a summary showing how that amount is made up under the items of Central Administration, Special School of Instruction, Physical Training Staff, Aviation School, School of Musketry, Royal Military College, Chemical Adviser, Examination of Stores and Equipment, Cordite Factory, Small Arms Factory, Clothing Factory, Harness, Saddlery and Accoutrements Factory, Woollen Cloth Factory, and Retiring Allowances, making a total military expenditure of £1,386,547. Then follow the items of Interest on Transferred Properties, £121,599; .Audit, £1,304; Pensions and Retiring Allowances, £1,180; Supervision of Works, £2,300; Rent, Repairs, &c, £55,910. Then there are these additional items in the Estimates for New Works: - Buildings, Sites, &c, £491,522; Rifle Clubs and Ranges, £17,820; and Military Stores, Sec., £544,450. Besides there are the works carried out by the Home Affairs Department, £318,539, making, as I said, a total military expenditure of £2,841,171. There is a difference of, practically, £1,099,000 between the expenditure said by Lord Kitchener to be necessary and what was actually spent last year. The question arises: What has caused that increase? On pages 19, 20, and 21 of his report, Lord Kitchener points out the items on which he thought it would be necessary to expend the sums he set out in his total, but we find that the following items have not been allowed for- or provided for in his estimate: - Central Administration, £87,793. That is not to say that he was against the present system of Central Administration; but he Apparently either omitted or forgot to provide for Central Administration, because in one paragraph of his report he approves of the Military Board and the present system of administration. Again, he under-estimated the cost of the Schools of Instruction by £4,388. Physical training, that is for the junior cadets, he did not provide for. Either he thought that it was going to be done without any cost, because he recommended that there should be physical training, or he thought that the States would carry it out at their own expense. As a matter of fact, the States refused to do so, and that has cost the Commonwealth £6,579.
– They do not all get it, then.
– No; but the great majority do get physical training in the schools, because that work has to be done in co-operation between the Federal Department and the State Education Departments. As the Commonwealth calls upon the school teachers to conduct schools of instruction - work which does not fall within their ordinary duty and for which the State is not under any obligation to pay them - it has to. pay their travelling expenses and the expenses of the schools. That item is omitted from Lord Kitchener’s estimate. Here is another item which is omitted from his estimate, and one which will interest Senator Findley and those who believe that we should be up to date, and that is the item of aviation, £3,072. When Lord . Kitchener visited the Commonwealth aviation had not come to the front, and, of course, he made no provision in his estimate in that regard. The item, schools of musketry, £2,738, is necessary in order to teach the instructors of the Military Forces, not only the use of the rifle, but the care of it, and how to deal with its component parts, as well as the science of musketry. Then, take the cost of free education at the Military College. If we carried out the system which Lord Kitchener recommended of charging £80 for each cadet, we would have saved £6,.400. The parents’ of the cadets are saving that amount. Again, Lord Kitchener made no allowance for the Cordite Factory, or the works in connexion with it. In 1912-13, the maintenance of the factory cost £21,000, and the works £6,400, mak ing a total of £27,400. The Small Arms Factory cost £43,868 for maintenance, and £9,500 for works, making a total of £53,368. The Clothing Factory cost £12,280 for maintenance, and £7,000 for works, making a total of £19,280. The Harness Factory cost £8,920 for maintenance, and £3,500 for works, making a total of £12,420. The Woollen Factory cost £4,410 for maintenance, and £10,297 for works, making a total of £14,707. Here is a big item which Lord Kitchener never thought of, and for which he made no provision, and that is the item of interest on transferred properties, which was paid in 1912, but it was no part of his business to go into that question, because it was a political one. In 1912-13, the interest amounted to £122,561. In the Estimates for new works, leaving out the amount spent on factories, there is £550,686. That amount is made up as follows : - Works and Buildings carried out by the Defence Department, £509,342; and by the Home Affairs Department, £318,539; making a total of £827,864; or, less £127,175 on the factories which I have already included, £700,689. The only provision that Lord Kitchener makes in his Estimates for these works is £150,000. Deducting that, We find that £550,686 was spent on military works in 1912-13, for which Lord Kitchener made absolutely no preparation. On page 21 of his report, he estimates stores and material at £405,000, but in 1912-13 we had to spend £551,895, so that he under estimated- the expenditure there by £146,895. It was extremely difficult in 1909-10, the year in which he was here-, to forecast our requirements as to stores and material for military purposes. I can strike one item alone which is a very substantial one. In that year, the cost of a yard of cloth for the uniforms was less than it was in the year when we actually came to make the uniforms. When it is remembered that we let a contract for about a million yards of cloth, it will be seen how the increased cost of the very stores on which Lord Kitchener based his estimate altered entirely its basis’. Another item for which he made no provision was medical inspection. He’ recommended that we should have medical inspection, but he made no provision for it” in his estimate. The history of that is that when we came to ask the doctors to undertake the inspection, we offered them first £25 a year. They practically went on strike, for they refused to do the work for that amount, and we had to give them at length, £60 a year. At that rate, that item alone cost £144,440. There we have £1,026,727, for which Lord Kitchener made no provision in his estimate or in connexion with which he under estimated the cost. When we deduct that amount from the total military expenditure for 1912-13, we shall find that the increase of our expenditure for that year over Lord Kitchener’s estimate, adding to it the cost of the things for which he made no provision, amounted to £72,273. I think that is an insignificant amount compared with the total expenditure. I wish to deal with these various items which have involved expenditure in excess of Lord Kitchener’s estimate. We know that the expenditure for the central administration must go on. If honorable senators will turn to the memorandum I issued dealing with the results of three years’ administration of the Department, they will find that the cost of the central administration per unit of the Military Forces in 1912-13 was considerably less than it was in 1909-10. That is to say, the cost did not expand in the same ratio as the expansion of the forces. Again, the schools of instruction which are provided for afford the only opportunity which the militia officer who follows a daily avocation can take advantage of to get a military education. He attends these schools of instruction to get a military education which he can get in no other way. No one can cavil at the money spent in order to provide our militia officers with that opportunity. With respect to physical training, I venture to say that its value in the training of the youth of the country cannot be measured in pounds, shillings, and pence, and if it cost, not £6,000, but £60,000, no one could cavil at that expenditure. Then there is the provision for aviation. Will it be contended that because Lord Kitchener did not recommend it we should never make provision for that important ArmY Many honorable senators, and many people outside, believe that we have not done as much as we should have done in that direction. The remarks I have made with respect to schools of instruction apply with equal force to the expenditure upon schools of musketry, which afford the militia officers the opportunity, generally availed of during their holidays, to learn the art of musketry and all about a rifle. It should be borne in mind that they do not receive pay, but only sustenance allowance, while they attend these schools. I come now to the Military College, and I say that the college is costing us more than Lord Kitchener estimated it would cost, apart from the additional cost, due to the. fact that we have made provision for the free education of those attending it. Is there any one in our community who will cavil at the expenditure on the Military College ? I venture to say that, as established, it represents Democracy in our military system. I am pleased and proud to be able to say that in that college there are lads to-day who could not possibly have secured a commission if it had not been made free. Some of the best lads there, who are topping the examinations and coming out with the best results, are the sons of working men, who went to the college from the State schools and secondary schools of Australia, and who could not possibly have done so if the college had not been made free, and if we had not in this way added to our military expenditure. Dealing with the factories that have been established, there are, of course, persons who hold that they should be abolished; but honorable senators on this side look upon their creation as establishing a very important principle. We have all read of the way in which war scares are worked up in Europe, and we know who are the interested people who work them up. We know that they are the armament contractors. I venture to say that Krupp is a more important factor in international politics than is any statesman in Europe.. It is manifestly the policy of those who do not believe in encouraging militarism or the jingoistic spirit to eliminate private profit as a factor operating upon the expense of defending the country. This can be done in no better way than by eliminating the army contractor. We do not know to what extent the Commonwealth may grow, or what our armaments may require to be in the future. But it will always be a good thing for Australia if we can say that no one has a monetary interest in fostering the spirit of jingoism and militarism in the Commonwealth. I am prepared to stand by the establishment of our factories, and to contend that one of the best things ever done in the history of defence expenditure in Australia was to eliminate the army contractor. Further, I claim that no one can say that the factories are a bad bargain, even from a financial point of view. A good deal of adverse criticism has been levelled at the small arms factory on the ground that it has taken a long time to turn out rifles. But I wish’ to inform honorable senators th at the British War Office determined to establish a rifle factory in India, and though they commenced to do it before we began the building of the Lithgow factory, the factory in India has never yet turned out a rifle. Any one who has seen a small arms factory will know what a complicated process the manufacture of a modern rifle is. Before honorable senators criticise the slowness of our factory, I advise them to inspect it, and they will find that it must necessarily take a considerable time to train men to turn out a rifle which may be safely put into the hands of our troops in time of war.
– Has the factory a sufficient capacity to turn out the rifles we require.
– Working at full speed for an eight-hour day, the factory can supply all our troops, and working twenty-four hours daily it could more than supply the rifles required in time of war, and make up for wastage. There is sufficient power in the factory, if fully utilized, to more than meet all our requirements.
– What does the honorable senator mean by saying that the factory can supply all our troops ?
– Assuming that our troops are to-day supplied with rifles, and the factory commenced ordinary work, it could supply all wastage and sufficient rifles for all the new troops coming in.
– It could keep them going?
– Yes, and, of course, working two shifts, or three shifts, it could proportionately increase the supply. The Clothing and Harness Factories show a profit when compared with the expenditure under the contract system, and they are turning out an infinitely better article than we received from the contractor. In this connexion I should like to say that some contractors have been writing letters to the press on the subject of these factories, and if some of them do not keep quiet I shall make a few revelations with respect to their work, which will not be very satisfactory to them. I warn one firm in Adelaide particularly that if they do not keep quiet I shall make revelations con’cerning their work which will not bo beneficial to their interests. In respect to the transferred properties no one can object to the expenditure on that account, because it will be admitted that we have a right to pay interest on those properties.
– Before leaving the subject of the factories - has the honorable senator any figures to show the reductions which have taken place in contractors’ tenders since their establishment ?
– I have not those figures here, but last year’s report, presented to Parliament, shows a considerable reduction, amounting to 30 per cent, on many items, and, when we consider ~ that there are scores of thousands of such items, the total amount of the reduction must be nearly equal to the total capital cost of the factories. When I can get some spare time I shall be happy ‘to work out those figures.
– Does the honorable senator not think it would be a good idea to make some of the revelations to which he referred ? It might be no harm to scare these people a bit.
– As under the conditions of their contract they were dealt with, in some cases were fined, and in others had to forfeit their contracts, they are in the position, to a great extent, of convicted persons, who have served their sentence, and we should not bring up their crime against them again. But when they go out of their way to make false imputations against the Government factory, they are courting the revelations to which I referred, and they will get them if they continue that line of conduct. I now come to the question of works. There has, it is true, been a considerable inflation in the expenditure upon these works, but, for the most part, they represent rifle ranges and drill halls. Is there an honorable senator present who has not had letters from his constituents pressing for new rifle ranges? Wherever one goes in the country he is met with requests for new rifleranges. Members in both Houses of this Parliament are pressed to secure drillhall accommodation, in order that the cadets and trainees may not have to be drilled in the open in winter. Lord Kitchener made no provision, and did not profess to do so, for capital expenditure- on works of this kind. He assumed that We had the necessary buildings, and, in his estimate, made provision merely to keep them in repair. He indicates that his estimate is merely for annual maintenance and repairs to existing works. He did not profess to make an estimate for new works which would be required upon the introduction of his scheme. Much the same remarks apply to army stores and material. Lord Kitchener’s estimate was merely’ to cover replacements of annual wastage, and not to meet the cost of providing for the large number of trainees coming in. I felt it was the duty of some one to make these remarks, and possibly I was more fitted to make them than any one else, because, as the Min- ~ister who used to control the Department, I was responsible for a very large increase in many , of these items. At the same time, no one realizes more than I do that it is necessary to keep a keen and continuous watch on defence expenditure. It must be keenly criticised. I do not cavil at the criticism of those who are keeping a keen eye on defence expenditure, but I do object to the criticism of those who, without in any way indicating the directions in which they would retrench, make wholesale attacks on defence expenditure generally. There is one question in connexion with the growing, expenditure on defence which, I think, we have all recognised. Lord Kitchener’s estimate of 80,000 troops, as the minimum requirement for the effective defence of the Commonwealth, was based on the population in 1909-10. It is obvious that, as our population increases, the quota of trainees of the ages between eighteen and twenty-five years will also increase, And it is almost certain that, by the time we get to the maximum number under the Defence Act, instead of having 80,000 we shall probably have 120,000 troops at least. I am not one of those who say that, because that is so, we must have the full 120,000. The condition of Australia has not altered, and, as the years go on, we shall be n’o nearer other countries, and we have Lord Kitchener’s advice that 80,000 troops will be sufficient for our effective defence. I say, therefore, that we do not need to train a Citizen Force of more than 80,000. I would not advise cutting down the age. If we put into the field an army of men, the youngest of whom will be eighteen years, and the oldest, excluding officers, twenty- five years of age, it must be admitted that it will be a youthful army.
– We had better, I think, start the other way.
– I almost think so. But there is a way by which we can restrict the numbers- without impairing the effectiveness of our Defence Force, and that is by having a more strict medical examination involving a larger number of rejects for medical reasons. It would involve also a higher standard of physical fitness. If the Government bring forward a proposal to reduce the numbers of the Defence Force by that means they will find no more cordial supporter than myself. I think it would be a foolish policy to reduce the age from twenty-five years to twenty-three years, as suggested, or to adopt any form of ballot. I should also oppose any interference with the training of the whole o’f the youths that we can train between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. I do not look upon their training merely from the military point of view. From the physical, moral, and disciplinary point of view, it is of incalculable benefit to the nation. I say, therefore, that I would train all who are physically fit to undergo that training. We now have a Bill before us that will give the Senate an opportunity of scrutinizing the military expenditure. Parliament has a right to scrutinize every penny of it closely. It is our duty to watch the expenditure in every respect. I do not want to make party capital out of what the present Government are doing, but I wish to point out one or two directions in which they have taken action to increase the military expenditure, The first is that they are increasing the horse allowance for the Mounted Rifles from £1 to £4 per annum. I agree with that. We cannot expect a man to keep a horse on £1 per annum; £4 is little enough. I quite agree that the increase is absolutely justifiable, and, if I had been at the Defence Department, I should probably have brought forward a similar proposal myself. But let those who are howling against the increase of the defence expenditure get up and protest against this -increase. Let them blame the Government for not retaining the horse allowance at £1 per annum. How can any one say to the men in the country, “ You must have a fit and suitable horse when yow come to drill, but we will only give you £1 per annum for its keep.” This is an instance in which the Government have already come up against a necessity for increasing expenditure. It is very easy to make general statements, but let those who make them come down to details. I venture to say that not many honorable members representing the country districts will oppose that particular increase. There is another instance that I think can be justified. This Government are proposing to upset the Kitchener scheme, and bring in a new one. They are going to put a little patch on the garment by breaking away from the territorial system, and bringing in a system under which we are to have Scottish regiments. I presume that they will also provide for English regiments, Irish regiments, Welsh regiments, and Cornish regiments.
– Isle of Man regiments.
– Yes, why not? Not only that, but the Scottish, the Irish, and the English regiments are to have distinctive uniforms. They are to wear a dress which is to mark them out from the common variety of Australians. If the Government do that, they will multiply our difficulties. The advantage of the present system is this - that we have practically the same uniform for all arms. We can, by standardizing, turn out the uniform at a minimum of cost. But if we have a variety of uniforms - half-a-dozen of them - some of them extremely fantastic, we will add to the cost to begin with. But, in addition to that, there are difficulties in regard toadministration. The territorial system is a remarkably cheap system as regards administration. It enables us to decentralize. But if the Government are going to superimpose on the top of that system one which is not harmonious with the territorial system, they are going to have two sets . of administrations. At the present time, we have, at the commencement, a company area. The troops for that company are raised within a given area. The battalion is composed of a given number of companies within the battalion area. Thenwe brigade our battalions. The brigadier is in the same area from which his troops are drawn. The battalion commander has his troops around him; the company commander has his troops around him; the brigadier has his troops around him. But, as soon as we come to these sectional regiments, what happens ? A number of men have to be drawn from this area, a number from that, and a number from another. A whole Scottish battalion cannot be raised from a given battalion area. The Department have to group a number of areas for raising the Scottish, the English, and the Irish battalions. The consequence is that two sets of administrations will be required within the same area. There will have to be a Scottish brigadier, an English brigadier, an Irish brigadier, a Welsh brigadier, as well as the ordinary common or garden Australian brigadier. Each of these will have his separate staff, there will be a separate administration and a. separate expenditure. This is how the Government tell us that they are going to avoid increasing the defence expenditure. Moreover, the change is going to be a very bad one in this respect. If a selection is to be made of those who are of Scottish, of Irish, of English, or of Welshparentagefrom the various areas according to the part of Great Britain from which their parents came, whowill be left out of that selection? There will be left out the unfortunate individual who happens to have been born in Australia, the man who simply claims this country as his Fatherland. He is to be weeded out. The Englishmen, the Irishmen,theScotchmen, and the Welshmen are to be selected for special treatment, but anything is good enough for the Australian. The Government will do more than that. They will say to the Scotchmen,to the Welshmen, or the Irishmen, “ We will give you special uniforms to distinguish you from the Australian.” Khaki is good enough for the Australian ; to him they will say, “ You will take what is given to you, and be thankful to get it.” I say that that is going to have a most unfortunate effect. It will entirely destroy that national spirit which ought to be associated with this movement.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - Does it do that in the British Army?
– The British Army isa voluntary army, and there it may reasonably be argued that inducements have to be held out to get men to join. But ours is not a voluntary army. Ours is a compulsory system.We compel youths to submit themselves to training, Here it is not necessary to hold out the inducement that one man shall wear a kilt, another a red rose, a third a green feather, and a fourth a leek, according to the part of the world from which their parents came. We say, “You shall train,” and there ought to be no distinction. The obligation is an obligation on all, and we want to create in our Citizen Forces the feeling that those who are being trained are Australians; that they are rendering military service for the purpose of defending this country and for assisting the other Dominions, if necessary, to defend the whole Empire. We want to create a national feeling, a true Australian feeling, and I say that this new movement of the Minister of Defence is going to break that down. It is going to make men look upon themselves as Scotchmen, Irishmen, Englishmen, or Welshmen, instead of being, as we want them to realize^ what they are - Australians, and proud of the fact. What object is to be achieved. by the change? Are the Forces going to be improved by it? I have pointed out that it will lead to duplicate administration, and increased cost. I venture to say that the Government are not going to improve matters in any respect by bringing in these sectional regiments, but that, on the contrary, they will destroy the national sentiment which we want to build up. What does an army fight on 1 It fights on the sentiment that animates the individuals who compose it. If our men are going to fight for this country, we want them to fight for it because it is a country which they love and are proud of. We want them to be proud because they are Australians, not because their fathers and mothers were Scotch, Irish, English, or Welsh. I am the son of an Englishman, but I am proud to be an Australian, and I never want to be called anything else. I do not want to be associated with anything better than the Australian national sentiment. This movement of the Minister of Defence is one of the most unfortunate ever suggested in connexion with our defence system. I have not had time to make an analysis of the naval expenditure, but I desire to say this : We have kept practically to the recommendation of Admiral Henderson. We have, perhaps, not gone ahead as fast as he suggested in some respects, but where there have been - increases, they are due to the fact that there has been an addition to the cost of our ships, because we decided to build them in Australia. If those who are howling about this increase of expenditure on the Navy are sincere, let them insist on stopping ship-building in Australia. Let them be honest. Let them say, “We must have a navy, but as it is too costly to build the ships in Australia, we will have them built elsewhere.” We cannot eat our cake and have it. There have been members of this Parliament who have yelled out for the policy of building the ships in Australia. They must be prepared to take their share of the little discredit that attaches to the fact that the naval expenditure is a little more than it was estimated to be. Would they stop the ship-building in Australia ? We say that there are immense advantages from it. We say that it is important that we should train our artisans to build the ships, and that we should train our men to man the ships. If that policy is to be persisted in, we must be prepared to pay the cost entailed by making ourselves efficient in that regard. There is only one other matter which I wish to mention, and that has regard to the transAustralian railway. Some time ago, when the late Government was in office, we called for tenders for the supply of sleepers. The Western Australian Government, which happens to be a Labour Government, had a tract of territory, which is the property of the people of Western Australia, upon which was growing a magnificent karri forest. That Government got out of the old rut of handing over a big concession to a timber combine to cut sleepers and supply them to the Corr- mon wealth Government. The Government decided to erect their own mills, and supply the sleepers themselves. At this time there were no roads and no railways through the timber country I have mentioned. Having got into that country, the Government had to put up plant to cut the sleepers. They secured the contract. After that had been done, unfortunately for them in one respect, though fortunately for the farmers of Western Australia, there were abnormal rains in that State. The result was that the Government were not able to get to work as quickly as they would otherwise have done, and they have not been able to keep up the supply of sleepers to the extent specified in the contract. The Western Australian Government, however, assured the Commonwealth Government that they would he able to supply the total number of sleepers before the expiration of the contract period. They, therefore, asked our Government not to enforce the terms of the contract as far as concerned the first few months. I asked a question in the Senate the other day as to the number of sleepers at present available at each end of the line. The Government refused to supply the information; but I am in possession of information that there are more sleepers at the head of the line, both at Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, than will be required for some time to come. Yet in the face of that, this Government has sent an intimation to the State Government of Western Australia that unless they carry out their contract to the letter, the contract is going to be cancelled. What is that done for? It can only be put down to one thing. It has arisen out of political bias. Let us compare the treat.ment accorded bt the Government to the State Labour Government with their treatment of a private enterprise firm. When the late Government was in office, we entered into a contract for the supply of rolling-stock for the carrying out of the line. That contract was not carried out, and before we left office the work was practically being hung up for lack of rolling-stock, which was considerably overdue. Mr. Kelly, the Honorary Minister in another place, was asked what he intended to do about it. Did he enforce the conditions of the contract there? Did he cancel the contract and inflict any fine because they were not up to time? No. An extension of time was granted. For several months this extension was granted, until the last of the rollingstock was supplied very much overdue. That is the treatment which is meted out to private enterprise. But when a State Government, and especially a Labour Government, has a contract, the present Commonwealth Government must have their whole ‘ ‘ pound of flesh . “ Before these Estimates are passed, we ought to have a promise from the Ministry that they will deal with the Government of Western Australia in regard to this matter a little more reasonably. I do not think that this Chamber will sanction a continuance of the sort of treatment which is being accorded to that Govern ment. I trust that other honorable senators will support me in this matter, because I believe they are in favour of more Governmental enterprises being carried on . The adoption of this course will mean that these forests will be reserved to the people of Australia, that they will not be alienated, and that the supply of these sleepers will be carried out as between one Government and another, both representing the same people. If a profit is made out of the supply of them, it will go into the Treasury of Western Australia, and not into the coffers of a private combine. I do not know what strings have been pulled in this regard, but, from the time it became known that the Western Australian Government had tendered for the contract, a continued campaign of harassing that Government has been indulged in, and the Timber Combine have been flooding the country with literature denouncing them for having entered upon this field of timber supply. It seems to me, too, that they have enlisted the sympathy of the Commonwealth Government.
– It would be interesting to know who are the members of the combine.
– I do not know who are its members, but I do know that they are able to exert an influence in Western Australian politics that probably no other corporation in that State can exercise. They are not only a timber corporation, but a railway corporation, a land corporation, and a political corporation. They play a very important part in Western Australian politics and apparently they are making their influence felt in Federal politics. I ask the Minister whether he can give us an assurance that the Government intend to deal with the Western Australian Government a little more mercifully, or whether they intend to pursue the ultimatum which has been despatched by the Prime Minister to the Premier of that State threatening to enforce the carrying out of the contract in its entirety in its early stages? I hope that they will not adopt that high-handed attitude in their future negotiations on this matter.
– For reasons which were beyond my control, I was unable to listen to the whole of the speech of Senator Pearce, but I think I have gathered the sense of it, so far as it relates to the Defence Department. I would like very briefly to supplement, rather than to traverse, the remarks which he has made on the matter of the expenditure that is associated with the upkeep of our defence system. I listened with a great deal of pleasure to some of his observations. There has been a good deal of criticism, both inside and outside of parliamentary circles, of the rate at which our defence expenditure has been growing. That criticism may well be divided into two classes. In the first class I include that criticism which has been directed to show that our expenditure has been extravagant in the sense that it has been unnecessarily lavish, and in the other class I group that criticism which has been aimed openly and avowedly at such a serious modification of the defence system that we have adopted as practically would amount to its annihilation. In regard ho the latter form of criticism, I may say at once that I have absolutely no sympathy with it. There is one gentleman in this Chamber who stated that he would sell the Fleet if he had his way. and outside this building statements have been made which were not even as businesslike as that, because, if their authors had their way, they would not sell the Fleet, but would absolutely starve it. [ wish it to be clearly understood that, so far as I am personally concerned, I shall not be a party to cutting down expenditure which, will, in the slightest degree, impair the efficiency of our land or naval defence. But, having said that, I would point out that there does seem to me some room for economy in our defence expenditure. I trust it will not be thought .that I am endeavouring to-night - especially after the moderate speech of my honorable friend - to say anything which may be interpreted as having been inspired by political reasons. But during the short time that I have been in control of the Defence Department, I have become impressed “with, the idea that there has been a tendency to hold the strings of the purse loosely. There has been a tendency, which has established a considerable hold on the officers of the Department, to regard money as almost of no account. That may be due to two or three things. First of all, upon the inauguration of the system, it happened that there was plenty of money available. That would naturally have a ten- dency to make those responsible for the financial side of affairs a little less care; ful than they would be if they were confronted with the difficulty with which I am confronted to-day - that of making both ends meet. In addition to that, one can very reasonably understand that,, at the inception of this scheme, with a number of officers - amongst whom I include the Minister - who desire to get ahead as rapidly as possible, there might,, perhaps, be many opportunities for lavish expenditure in the carrying out of the projects to which we were committed.
– It would be marvellous if it were not so.
– I am endeavouring to state the case fairly, as it has presented itself to me during my short term at the Defence Department. It seems, to me inevitable that the officials in any Department will, if given a free hand, and if the slightest opportunity presents- itself, expand, and spend as much as we allow them to spend. They are not called upon to find the money. The responsibility is not theirs. Naturally when they are called upon to outline a work, they look for the ideal without regard for that practical commodity - money. The fact thatmoney has been plentiful in the past, coupled with the natural tendency of these officers in the direction I have indicated, has, perhaps, been responsible for a good? deal of unnecessarily lavish expenditure.
– We would all have fine houses if we built them out of otherpeople’s income.
– Yes. I had that, illustration in view, but I wish my remarks to be accepted as a fair and impartial statement of the position.
– Would not they be looking after efficiency?
– The difference between an expenditure that is necessary toefficiency, and an expenditure which I regard as lavish, is to be seen in some of the buildings which have been erected. For instance, at Maribyrnong there is a» set of stables which Baron Rothschild’ himself would not scorn to own. Nowthese stables would have served their purpose just as well if they had been put upfor considerably less money. I refer tothem only for the purpose of showing thetendency of officials, if given a free hand, to design things on an unnecessarily lavish-, scale. Before passing from this aspect of the case,. I would like to say that I was-. particularly pleased to hear Senator Pearce’s declaration on our defence policy generally. He does not shut his eyes to the fact that a great deal of criticism in regard to the expenditure associated with defence is coming from his own party as well as from that of his political opponents. 1 would direct attention to the fact that the amendment to reduce the Defence Estimates, which was carried in another place, was moved by a member of the party with which Senator Pearce is associated. I have had a fear of late - owing to the number of these criticisms - that the party opposite are inclined to weaken in their adherence to our defence system. I am pleased to find that, if there are members of that party who are disposed to do so, Senator Pearce himself is not one of them, but is prepared to stand by the maintenance of the efficiency of the Forces with which his name is associated. Having intimated that in my opinion expenditure has proceeded on far too lavish a scale, I would like the Senate to understand that in recess I propose to get a little closer to the detailed working of the> Department than has hitherto been possible. There is quite a multiplicity of details concerning which, at the present moment, I am profoundly ignorant. I hope, in the recess, to remove that ignorance with a view to determining how far it is possible to economize in the sense of seeing that we get 20s. worth of value for every £1 we spend.
I propose to deal now with the matter of national regiments. I had hoped to be able to present to the Chamber the regulations under which these regiments will be continued. But I shall be able to let honorable senators know what is going on, without those regulations,, if I tell them the decision which has been arrived at. It is that the national regiments which were in existence prior to the introduction of the Kitchener scheme, and which had established and maintained their efficiency, will be continued within certain limits. I will at least inform Senator Pearce of what is contemplated, when I tell him that, with one exception, the scheme which has been adopted, is exactly the scheme which was submitted to him by the Military Board and tho Inspector-General.
– Which I refused to accept.
– When I entered the Defence Department, that scheme had been worked out, and submitted to the late Minister, who had declined to accept it. The scheme was that there should be formed in Australia these national regiments, with this one condition attached to it, that those who volunteered for these regiments should also volunteer for foreign service at any time they were required to perform it. Finding the scheme had been submitted with the authority of the Military .Board and the InspectorGeneral,’ and with that condition attached to it, I argued that if there was nothing injurious to the Citizen Forces of Australia in continuing these national regiments, if they were to serve outside Australia, there could be no great harm in continuing them to serve in Australia. A perusal of that report and recommendation convinced me that no harm could result to the Territorial Forces of this country.
– Can effect be given to that scheme without an amendment of the Act? ;
– That will be a condition of joining these particular regiments ?
– Yes. At the same time I wish it to be clearly understood that under that scheme the volunteers were to be the ordinary trainees of the country - just the same as those who are compelled to serve to-day - but they were to be given the option of joining the national regiments, provided that they tacked on to it, in addition to- their service in Australia, the obligation to serve abroad if required.
– By whom ?
– By the Commonwealth authorities.
– Could you force them to go on foreign service ?
– We could, ‘because under that obligation they would have volunteered for foreign service.
– I think that we had better have a talk about this later.
– That scheme has been turned down.
– What foreign service has the Commonwealth ?
– It would be foreign service, for instance, in the case of South Africa.
– That was all voluntary.
– This would have been voluntary, too. The only thing is that the men who were permitted to join national regiments would have volunteered beforehand to make themselves free to go abroad if at any time the Commonwealth Government decided to send a brigade abroad. I want honorable senators to understand that I am not in any way lending any countenance to the proposal.
– Oh ! I beg your pardon.
– I argued that if we could have national regiments without any detriment to our Citizen Forces, with the condition that they could serve Australia abroad, I could see no injury to the territorial system in having those regiments for service within Australia. But when I came to look a little more closely into the matter, I found that the term “ territorial system “ is, after all said and done, somewhat of a fetish and misnomer, inasmuch as we have departed from the system already. Strictly speaking, a territorial scheme would mean that each unit is drawn from and anchored to its own area.
– Did I understand you to say that you did not indorse the proposal for foreign service?
– The honorable senator is correct.
– And you do not intend to do so?
– You accepted the scheme without that condition ?
– Just so, because I came to the conclusion that if there was no harm to our existing system in enabling a limited number to join national regiments for service, say, in South Africa, there -could, be no harm in enlisting them also for service in Australia. *
– Several applications to form national regiments were turned down.
– The honorable senator is getting into details. There is really no difficulty in that way, any more than there is to-day in limiting the number for the whole Force that we control. We have already departed, I was pointing out, from the purely territorial aspect of the scheme which pre-supposes that each unit shall be drawn from within the boundaries of a certain area. Senator
Pearce himself, when saying that this new departure would duplicate the machinery and the officers, tried to demonstrate that fact by saying that each area would have its own unit and its own officers. What is the case to-day ? We do not stick to that system. We already have extra territorial units - first in regard to the University corps, and second in regard to the technical corps. The artillery and the engineers are drawn from a number of areas. I speak only figuratively when I say there may be twenty areas, and that while each area has its own ordinary infantry regiment, from the whole of them are drawn men to form the technical units. In exactly the same way, it is possible to draw men to form national regiments. What is done is to draw from each of the twenty areas a certain number of men, who are enrolled in a technical unit.
– Will you not admit that obviously that must be done?
– Yes, and it is an advantage to do it. I do not say that we could not get out of one area a number of men and train them; but it is obvious that where we want troops for technical training we have a better chance of getting them by departing from the territorial scheme and drawing them from a wider area. In the case of the technical troops and the University corps, the territorial system is not observed, and no harm happens to it. These exceptions have been made to meet special cases. Being unable to discover that any harm could result to the scheme which Lord Kitchener had recommended, I then asked myself a question which was asked in the Senate and in the other House in the last Parliament, “If no harm is inflicted upon our existing defence system, what harm can happen if I make a concession to the national pride of those who are to-day as good Australians as any men who can be found anywhere?”
– Was the scheme of national regiments, which you say Senator Pearce turned down, for the purpose of having the nucleus of a force to send abroad 1
– Unquestionably . it was put up for that purpose.
– If you turned it down, the reason for it is gone.
– That is true; but it demonstrated to me that it was not only feasible, but could be done without detriment to the territorial system. It seemed to me that considerable good might result from making a concession to certain people in this country who, Australians to-day, still look back with some measure of pride to the part of the Old Country from which they and their forefathers came. I was rather surprised at a statement which Senator Pearce made just now. He said that he wanted these men to fight for a country they are proud of. I should like to know whether he meant to say that the Scottish and the Irish people in Australia are not proud of Australia. - just as proud of it as they would have been if born here, and many of them more so than persons who have been born here ?
– They ought to be proud to be associated with Australian regiments.
– So they are; as proud as anybody who dislikes national regiments.
– Do you think it is fair to put the question in that form ?
– I do not want to put it unfairly. I am trying to “ justify myself in the light of an attack from the one man in this Chamber, perhaps in Australia, who is qualified to criticise the action for which I am responsible.
– The question implies a doubt as to whether he believes that or not.
– I felt that his an- swer would be that they were not, and therefore, his previous declaration goes by the board. I have heard the statement frequently made, and seen it in the press, that Lord Kitchener reported against national regiments. So far as I have perused his report, that statement is not accurate. It is quite true that his scheme did not contemplate them, or make provision for them, but I am unable to discover a single line to show that had the proposition been put to him he would have it turned it down. He was silent on the point. I have made this remark because I have seen a definite statement in the press that this was flying in the face of his report.
The question as to whether national regiments should be retained or not came before Parliament last session. By a very considerable majority - I am not at all certain whether it was not done on the voices - the House of Representatives carried a motion in favour’.’of their retention.
– In favour of the retention of the kilt.
– I am not going to say to the Scotchman, as a little concession to his pride in a thistle, that he shall have his kilt, and to the Irishman that he shall not have a reminder of the shamrock.
– Are you going to give them kilts?
– Will you see that they are made a bit longer?
– Probably if I did they would not be so favorably received. In the Senate last session we had a very animated discussion on this matter, and I think I am only stating what was recognised at the time when I affirm that a similar motion would have been carried here but for the Opposition, and I may say, the skilful tactics of Senator Pearce. The numbers on that occasion - and it was not an empty House - were undoubtedly such as would have carried a motion.
– Do you know that it was just on the eve of an election for both Houses?
– I am rather surprised to hear that, because it is a sort of suggestion that on the eve of an election -members of Parliament are inclined to modify the views they may entertain on other occasions. I disregard ideas of that kind unless the honorable senator is speaking for the honorable senators on his side. There is the fact that one House did, by a unanimous vote, decide in favour of the retention of national regiments, and, but for the very skilful tactics of Senator Pearce and his known opposition to it, the Senate would have carried a similar motion. I remind honorable senators that I am entitled in what I have done, to take notice of that declaration by the elected representatives of the people. Having satisfied myself that the retention of national regiments would, in no sense, be detrimental to the system we have adopted, and believing, as I had a right to believe, that the elected representatives of the people of Australia fairly represented them, and knowing that they were favorable to this project, I certainly felt that I was, not only free to give effect to my individual views, but, to some extent, under an obligation to do so, satisfied that no harm would happen to the main Defence Force. I do not think that I need say anything more on that point. Before resuming my seat I wish to revert to the matter of expenditure, and to only one aspect of it. A year or so ago it was evidently rather popular to be associated in any way with the Defence Force, and, I do hope, seeing that so much has been said about defence, and keeping defence above party politics, that that will apply equally when, as the result* of a wave of public opinion, the defence system may become a little less popular than it has been. It is going to be a curious sort of question when all are for it when it is popular, and no one is prepared to stand by it when it becomes a little unpopular. So I ask honorable senators to adhere to that attitude. I am convinced that we may secure some economy in what I regard as non-essentials in the Defence Department.
– Can you secure any economy in the Central Administration, which requires a big lump sum ?
– I included all in the word. I do not wish to particularize to-night, because I have candidly told the Senate that I am not yet sufficiently familiarized with the details of that big organization to say what items can be cut down without impairing its efficiency, and what items can be passed. I shall accept it as my duty during the next few months to discover whether we can economize without stopping the smooth working of this expanding machine. The greatest guarantee, which men of both parties can give, that they intend to make this a non-party question, is to abstain from trying to make a little political capital out of it at a time when a wave of public opinion may suggest that it is possible to do so. It does seem to me that of late’ there has been a tendency to stampede opinion in the press. I do hope that that attempt will not be allowed to succeed, and it can only succeed if one party, or section of a party, in the hope of gaining a little political kudos, should yield for a moment and come here to give expression to the rather crude and somewhat extravagant criticisms which have been indulged in beyond these walls.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [9.10]. - We are indebted to the ex-Minister of Defence for the light he has thrown on the matter of the increase of defence expenditure. The items to which he referred as indicating the lines on which the estimate of Lord Kitchener had been exceeded were very valuable. But the honorable senator’s remarks show that that estimate must have been drawn up in a very loose fashion. It is unfortunate that the public of Australia based their approval of the present defence system on such an estimate. They were given to understand that the cost would not be more than £2,000,000 a year. It has gone’ a great deal beyond that, and it is doubtful whether Lord Kitchener’s scheme would have been indorsed so heartily if it had been known that- it was going to cost so much. His estimate” appears to have been slipshod, and to have omitted many important considerations, and to that extent the public of Australia were deceived as to the cost of the system. There is beginning to be a feeling of unrest concerning the continually increasing military expenditure. The public want to know how far it is likely to go. and whether the taxpayers will be able to bear it. Having said so much on the general question of defence, I want to say a word or two about the proposed national regiments. I claim to be able to speak with some knowledge of the subject, as in my native State I raised and commanded for ‘ a number of years an Irish corps. I’ can say from my personal experience that the ex-Minister of Defence greatly exaggerated the difficulties likely to arise, and I do not think there was any foundation at all for his claim that the establishment of these national regiments would detract in any way from our Australian patriotism. Three- fourths or four-fifths of my own particular Irish corps were, like myself, Australian born, and proud of the fact, and they assembled for the defence of Australia. If we took a certain pride in the traditions of our forefathers, that was in no way detrimental to our Australian patriotism.
– Is the honorable senator an Irishman born in Australia?
.- I did not say that I was an Irishman. I said that I commanded an Irish corps’, most of the members of which are Australians. ‘ I _ have myself been connected with the Australian Natives Association in my own State from its commencement, and am a past chief president of the association. I claim to be intensely Australian. My weakness, if it may be so described, or inclination to honour the traditions of the race from which I have sprung, does not in any way detract from my Australian patriotism. In South Australia we had, in addition to the Irish corps, a Scotch corps, and an Australian Natives corps. These comrades in arms and rivals in renown met together in camp and on the drill ground, and the’ best spirit prevailed amongst them. There was no jealousy, and none of the racial feeling which- Senator Pearce seemed to indicate as likely to result from the establishment of these national regiments. The Irish and Scotch corps held -annual competitions, rifle matches, football matches, and tugs-of-war; and 1 make bold to say that the result was that we had superimposed upon our Australian patriotism an additional patriotism -drawn from the traditions of the country from which we sprang. Actual experience is worth a lot of. imaginary supposition in estimating a matter of this kind. We had in Victoria a Scotch regiment, and in New South Wales a Scotch regiment, an Irish regiment, and an English regiment - St. George’s Rifles, I think it was called. In actual practice, and that is the best test in a matter of the kind, none of the difficulties arose which Senator Pearce suggested as likely to follow from the establishment of these regiments. I do not think that the Minister of Defence has done wrong in yielding to the very strong demand throughout Australia, and particularly in Victoria,, to continue a system which has been in operation in Australia for many years, and which was not attended by the drawbacks referred to by Senator Pearce. The same system has been in force in the British Army for many generations. In that army we have the Connaught Rangers, the Scotch Greys, the Black Watch, the Dublin Fusiliers, and other national regiments. They have fought under the same flag without- developing national jealousies, and are animated by a national patriotism for the one cause in which they’ are all enlisted. I repeat that I do not anticipate from the establishment of these national regiments any of the evils which Senator Pearce has drawn from his imagination. No doubt, the honorable senator entertains the idea that their establishment will be attended with the drawbacks to which he has referred, but I feel sure from the experience of the Old Country, as well as of this new country, that none of the difficulties he has hinted at is likely to follow.
– I do not wish to make a speech on the Bill, but to ask a question or two of the Minister of Defence, as I will not have the opportunity te do so later, to which the Minister can reply when we are in Committee. I have heard it stated that the honorable, senator intends to proceed immediately with the erection . of additional buildings at the Victoria Barracks, for which £7,500 appeared in the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill, as the first vote of a total estimated expenditure of £25,000 for the purpose. If the Minister proposes to go od with that expenditure, I should like to know whether it is because it is considered absolutely necessary to have additional accommodation for the Naval and Military staffs at the barracks, because the temporary accommodation now provided for the Naval staff in Lonsdale-street is considered insufficient. Does the Minister think it a wise policy to begin a considerable expenditure upon permanent buildings in Melbourne, in view of the fact that, I suppose, Melbourne will not remain the Seat of Government very much longer? It has been represented to me by people who have gone into the question since the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Act was passed, that it would be better to secure increased temporary accommodation, if possible, for the Naval staff at their present quarters than to undertake the permanent expenditure referred to. I suggest that this is an item upon which we might effect a saving. I should like to know’ also whether the Minister thinks it wise to bring the Naval and Military staffs again under the same roof, seeing that it has been generally said that there was some friction between them, and that it has been found conducive to the more harmonious working of the two staffs to have them separated as at present. I think that in dealing with the vote on the Works Estimates the Minister said that it was very inconvenient for him, with the limited time at his disposal, to have to go from one portion of the city to another in connexion with the work of his Department. As the honorable senator may very properly make use of a motor-car for the purpose, the expense of journeying in that way from one place to the other would, I think, be money well spent, if it led to a. continuance of more harmonious relations between the two staffs. In view of the fact that we are going in for very large expenditure at the Federal Capital, and we hope in a few years that it will be the head -quarters of the Federal Departments, it seems to me that it would not be wise to incur an expenditure of £25,000 on permanent additions to the barracks in Melbourne.
.- I shall not delay the passage of this Bill, but before a vote is taken I should like to obtain some information from the Minister representing the Postmaster-General as to whether the public will be made aware of any of the information contained in the report, which, I understand, has been drawn up by the wireless expert, Mr. Swinburne, and is now in the hands of the Government. The people of Australia were very much interested a short time ago when they were told through the columns of the newspapers that the Marconi people had brought an action against the Commonwealth Government for damages for infraction of their patent rights. The Fisher Government was in power at the time. They believed that the wireless system which they introduced, and the patent for which was handed over to them, absolutely free of any charge, by the present wireless expert of the Commonwealth, Mr. Balsillie, was not an infringement of the patent rights of the Marconi Company. In that belief, strengthened by the best opinions obtainable at the time, they proceeded to erect, under the supervision of Mr. Balsillie, wireless stations in different parts of Australia. If newspaper reports are to be believed, the Marconi people continued their activities against the Commonwealth, and we were informed that the present Government brought out Mr. Swinburne, a wireless expert, to advise them, particularly in regard to the then pending action, and also, no doubt, to express an expert opinion on the wireless system adopted in Australia at the present time. I understand also from newspaper reports that this system has been offered to the British Government. I should like to know whether the public will be given the information contained in Mr. Swinburne’s report, and if they can be assured chat there has been no infringement of the Marconi patent, what . has been done by the Government in respect of the action brought against them ? That information will allay apprehensions in the public mind, and satisfy the citizens of Australia that the late Government were well advised, and that the system which we have obtained owing to the generosity of Mr. Balsillie is one of the best in the world. Mr. Balsillie is deserving of the best thanks of the citizens of Australia for handing over his patent to us free of charge, and for the thorough manner in which he has superintended the erection and working of our wireless stations.
.- It will be within the memory of honorable senators that during the regime of the late Government a contract for sleepers was let to the State Timber Mills of Western Australia. The State Government undertook, at great expense, to establish “mills. There was a controversy, which has not quite ceased, as to the merits of karri timber. In order to make it suitable for sleepers, the Government of Western Australia entered into a contract with the powellising company for the use of that process. I understand that, owing to the wet weather that has prevailed in the southwest of Western Australia recently, it has not been possible to carry out the conditions of the contract. There is an enormous rainfall there during the winter months. The rain, which is not measured by inches, but by feet, is so heavy that it is almost impossible for the teams to work and bring the timber out of the bush. During last winter the mills were hung up, with the result that the terms of the contract have not been fulfilled. I understand, from .a reply given the other day, that the Government contemplate cancelling the contract. I have examined the schedule issued by the Home Affairs Department, and find that we have a ‘ considerable quantity of sleepers at the depot at Kalgoorlie. I also find that we have a fair quantity of rails, but, apparently, we have more sleepers than rails. There is a greater probability of there being a scarcity of rails than of sleepers. As far as J can make out, we have not more than H miles of rails in stock, but a considerably greater quantity of sleepers. Of -course, I do not know how far those figures apply to the Port Augusta end, but they seem to be reliable in regard to the Kalgoorlie end. We know from experience that not nearly 1 mile per day of the railway will be constructed. The rate of progress has not been more than halfamile per day.
– There is no” hurry.
– According to our experience, the Government are not hurrying very much. To talk of cancelling the contract for sleepers under these circumstances seems to suggest that the Commonwealth Government are not anxious to work harmoniously with the Western Australian Government. I should like to know why there should be such a hurry about cancelling the sleeper contract, in view of the fact that I have mentioned. I am satisfied, from the inquiries I have made, that rails will be required before there will be any necessity to cancel the contract in which the Western Australian Government are interested.
– With regard to the matter of wireless telegraphy mentioned by Senator Findley, I wish to state that when the present Government came into office they found, as honorable senators know, an action was pending between the Marconi Company and the Commonwealth. It was deemed desirable that we should obtain the very best opinion as to the position of the Government regarding the matter. We determined to get the best advice obtainable. We secured the services of one of the highest experts in wireless in the United Kingdom, Mr. Swinburne. He has examined into the matter, and his report has been handed to the Government. It would not be desirable at the present stage of affairs to make Mr. Swinburne’s report, with its variety of intricate details, public.
– Are the Marconi Company still going on with their action, and do the Commonwealth Government intend to defend their case?
– The case has not been settled, and the Government will defend it if necessary. I may add that the report of Mr. Swinburne is favorable to the Government. That is as far as I think 1 ought to go at the present time. With respect to the matter mentioned by Senator de Largie, I wish to say at once that this Government will draw no distinction between a contract entered into with a Labour Government and one entered into with a private individual. With respect to the contract entered into with a private firm, we could not avoid what we did in that instance, because we could only get what was required from the firm with whom we made the contract. It is, however, absolutely necessary that the sleepers should be supplied. The Western Australian Government have been informed that the terms of the contract must be maintained. That is all that has been done. They will be treated as generously as possible, but the sleepers specified in the contract must be supplied. I am told that they will be absolutely necessary within a very short period. We must, of course, deal with a matter of this kind purely on a commercial basis. I do not think it is wise that too much publicity should be devoted to the subject, because if that should occur the price of sleepers may be put up by others. I can assure honorable senators that the Western Australian Government will receive fair treatment. With regard to the progress of the work on the transcontinental railway, I am able to supply some information which will be of interest to honorable senators. It is as follows : -
Therefore the statement which was made yesterday that the line was not - being pushed on is absolutely fallacious.
– Before this Bill passes its first reading, I desire to make a few observations, first, in regard to our lighthouses. Section 2 of the Act, which authorizes the taking over of the lighthouses from the States, provides that that Act shall come into operation on a date to be proclaimed. The measure has not yet been proclaimed, but when the Government are in direct control of the lighthouses, I hope that some better treatment will be accorded to the lighthouse employes than has been extended to them hitherto. The nature of their work is patent to honorable senators, especially in many of the lighthouses around our coast. We all recognise the loneliness of their occupation. It is so lonely that men have been frequently reduced to a state which necessitated their treatment in refuges for the insane. Our lighthouse employes are handicapped in many ways. They have not the same opportunity for educating their children as have other people. Recognising that, I think that the Government should take the earliest steps to give them all the advantages that are enjoyed by men engaged upon work on the mainland. I would direct the attention of the Minister to the necessity which exists for supply vessels to visit isolated lighthouses, at stated intervals, for the purpose of taking to the men employed there the ordinary necessaries of life, and thus making their lot more comfortable than it is.
– They ought to be carried free when they are on furlough.
– I agree with Senator Rae that when these men are on holidays they should be given free passages. They should be afforded an opportunity of mingling with the rest of civilization, and thus of introducing a .break into the monotony of their lives. Whatever uniform they may wear in following their occupation should be supplied to them free, and some provision ought to be made to assist lighthouse-keepers in giving their children of a school-going age a decent education. To my mind, that. is the most vital consideration. Of course, I realize the hardships which these people undergo. If we cannot alleviate those hardships, surely we ought to see that their children receive a proper education, sr> that they may be fitted for the battle of life, and so that they may become useful citizens of the Commonwealth. I hope that the Government will give this matter the attention that it deserves. The other question to which I desire to refer relates, to the supply of sleepers for the western end of the transcontinental railway. It has been publicly stated by the Prime Minister that unless the full supply of sleepers is forthcoming by a certain date the contract with the Western Australian Government will be cancelled. I wonder why this threat has been made I wonder why the Labour Government of Western Australia has been singled out in this connexion.
– Because they are defaulters ; that is why.
– They are not defaulters. The reply of the VicePresident of the Executive Council to the statements made by Senators Pearce and9 de Largie was very weak indeed. I challenge the honorable senator to prove that the Western Australian Government are defaulters.
– They are not carrying out their contract.
– I defy the honorable senator to prove that.
– All I said was that they have not fulfilled the terms of their contract.
– That is practically a withdrawal of the statement that the Western Australian Government are defaulters. That Government had every intention of fulfilling their contract to the - letter when that contract was signed. It is not their fault that they are unable tosupply these sleepers. It is due to an act. of Providence. A heavy downpour of rain has prevented the construction of roads, and has thus prevented them from supplying the sleepers in accordance with the terms of the contract. Under these circumstances, will the Vice-President of the Executive Council say that they are defaulters ?
– There ought to be a clause in the contract providing for such a contingency.
– It is quite a common thing to have a clause in contracts making provision for acts of God. I repeat that the Western Australian Government are not defaulters. Owing to the intervention of Providence they have been unable to fulfil their contract at the moment to the letter.
– It is very unkind on the part of Providence.
– It was more unkind on the part of the- present Government. It is very ungenerous of the Prime Minister to say that, under the circumstances I have outlined, the contract will be cancelled. Senator Pearce has mentioned an instance in which a private firm contracted for the supply of locomotives, trucks,- &c, and did not fulfil its contract. That firm was not threatened.
– How does the honorable senator know?
– The Prime Minister did not make a statement to that effect, nor did Senator McColl.
– I have already explained the position.
– It was a very weak explanation. Because there was no other company in Australia which could supply these necessaries, the company in question were granted an extension of time. That, I say, is a very weak explanation. The reason why an ultimatum has been sent to the Western Australian Government is that it is a Labour Government, and that it is endeavouing to fulfil its contract per medium of Stateowned saw-mills. It has not the full machinery operating yet in _ connexion with these mills, and if the Government carry out their threat it will be unable to fulfil its contract before that machinery has been installed. There has been no proof adduced that the Western Australian Government does not intend to carry out its contract. As a matter of fact, it is endeavouring to do so. I feel so strongly on this matter that I am inclined when the Estimates for the Department of Home Affairs are under con sideration to take more effective action. I am fully convinced that the Western Australian Government has not been treated in the way that it ought to have been treated. A pistol has been presented at its head quite unwarrantably. The only other remark which I have- to make has reference to statements made by many prominent public men, some of whom are members of the Government, whilst others are supporters of it. At the last general election allegations were made broadcast throughout Australia by prominent men and by writers in the press concerning the conduct of that election. Not only was the late Government criticised and condemned in conjunction with our Electoral Department, but the people of Australia were held up to ridicule as persons who desired to commit fraud - as people who had been guilty of corrupt practice by voting as often as possible on one day and by introducing Tammany systems into the Commonwealth. These statements were not confined to this island continent, but they were scattered abroad throughout the world, and the average elector of Australia was held up to the public view as a dishonest man or a dishonest woman. The Senate appointed a Select Committee to inquire into the matter. The report has been presented, and it has been proved conclusively that none of the statements has any foundation, good, bad, or indifferent. In to-night’s Melbourne Herald there is a leading article which puts the position exactly. It will be well, I think, to put the article in Hansard,-, and so scatter it broadcast throughout Australia. It will be a refutation of the many statements made by gentlemen who to-day occupy responsible public positions in Australia in more ways than one. When the opportunity was afforded by the Senate, they failed to prove their statements. Not one scintilla of evidence was produced before the Select Committee to show that there was roll-stuffing, personation, doublevoting, or undue inflation of rolls.
– Or that they diet resurrect the dead.
– On one occasion Senator McColl made a statement that the dead were resurrected and had voted. No dead were resurrected ; nodead voted. There was no proof of any kind or description brought before the Committee that any elector was guilty of any corrupt or fraudulent practice. The leading article in the Melbourne
Herald of the 17th December, 1913, is headed, “Unpatriotic Politicians.”
– What does that mean ?
– That does not mean Senator McColl.
- Senator McColl, I think, might be properly classified in that category.
– Might I suggest to the honorable senator that he should read the article without any comment, so that it may appear complete in Hansard?
– The article reads as follows : -
The effects of scandal can no more be re called than thistledown scattered by the wind can be gathered up again. On the contrary, the evil seed falls on fruitful soil, and brings forth a hundredfold of increase. It is not too much to say that Australia has been vilified in the eyes of the world. Following the last Federal elections, there was an outcry raised by certain politicans as to the conduct of those elections. Statements were made of the most serious nature. It was said, and said over and oyer again, that the rolls had been stuffed, that both dead and living people had been personated, and, altogether, it was made to appear that the electoral system of this country was about as corrupt as it was possible to be. The inquiry by the Senate Committee and the replies made by the responsible electoral officers - particularly those of Mr. R. C. Oldham, the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth - prove that these statements were nothing more nor less than a wicked slander on the people of Australia. It is a scandalous thing that men in responsible positions, who are supposed to have a sincere regard for the reputation of their own country, should be capable, for purely selfish and personal motives, of making such grossly untrue allegations to the permanent injury of the whole community. It is difficult to understand the unpatriotic insensibility and the unmitigated irresponsibility of men credulously supposed to be acting in a public spirit, who, to gain their own immediate ends, are prepared to injure a nation irreparably. For this slander has gone all over the world, and will meet with a credence that may never be dissipated. One has heard a great deal about cultivating an Australian national spirit. The politicians who were the reckless authors of the statements referred to were in a position to do. much to cultivate and exemplify that sentiment, and they have made an egregious and wilful failure. They failed in the commonest national feeling. They have broken faith with the essential spirit of their bond, and shown that they do not appreciate even the smallest and most obvious obligation of public life. Visitors of late have come here and given it forth that our political administration and machinery are above reproach, while members of our own House, in a double sense, have done their best, or their worst, to endeavour to show that both are beneath contempt. In running an election over a wide area like that of the Commonwealth a percentage of irregularities may reasonably be looked for, but to make sweeping charges of fraud is an unpardonable and gratuitous offence.
Thereis an effective reply to the vilifications and the slanders which have been uttered by responsible men throughout the Commonwealth, Senator McColl being one of them.
– The honorable senator did nothing of the kind. I defy him, either now or on any platform from which he addresses a meeting, to prove that the dead were resurrected, or that there was double voting or personation. He knows that he cannot do it;and if he is a truthful man, as I believe he is, he will admit that he cannot.
– I think that the skeleton is in his cupboard yet.
– He ought to keep it there. Again, statements were made about the Department which conducted the elections. Whilst I realize that a few instances occurred where it was beyond the control of the Department to regulate things, the officers, from Mr. Oldham down to the most humble member of the staff, carried out their duties well and capably. I have heard it said in the Senate that the fitness of even the Chief Electoral Officer would not be recognised. He was damned absolutely by the statements that were made. But, in my opinion, it would be very hard indeed to find a man to fill the position in a better manner than Mr. Oldham does. The gentlemen who made these statements were actuated by political motives against the Fisher Administration. The report of the Select Committee confounds these gentlemen. I hope that, in future, men occupying responsible positions will be very careful before uttering words, slandering, not only Australia, not only the Government in office at the time, and the officers conducting the elections, hut every elector. I suggest to the Ministry that they should take steps, in the future, to prevent any more of these slanderous statements’ from going abroad, so that the people of Australia shall not be held up to ridicule any more in the eyes of the world.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
– Will the Honorary Minister say whether it is the intention to go right through the Estimates before dealing with other legislation, or whether Bills, which have passed stages in another place, and have been returned to us, are to be left to be dealt with after the Estimates have been considered ?
– What I should like to do is to get this Bill taken through Committee, and brought to the thirdreading stage. That, I think, will meet the convenience of all honorable senators.
– As soon as we can.
– To-night ?
– Not necessarily to-night. In order to allay any fear on that point let me say, at once, that I do not” propose to ask the Committee - and I hope that honorable senators will not ask me - to sit late. After the Bill has been carried to the third-reading stage, which, of course, will be formal, it is proposed to deal with smaller measures which have yet to be considered.
– Not necessarily to-night, but to proceed in that order.
Clauses 2 and 3 postponed.
First schedule agreed to.
Second schedule -
Divisions 1 to 10, £37,872
– Perhaps, in order to clear matters up for honorable senators, 1 had better give a little information. No doubt they have noticed a discrepancy in the Estimates between the remuneration for the officers of another place, and that for the officers of the Senate. After I took office as President I found that the Estimates that had been adopted by my predecessor, in conjunction with the previous occupant of the Speakership”, after consultation, had been sent in some time, I think, early in June. The present Speaker and myself were not in any way responsible for them. Our predecessors had carefully gone into the matter and sent them in in conjunction, after consultation. At that time I did not feel called upon to amend those Estimates in any way, as I did not know sufficient about the conditions or positions of officers to justify me in taking any action to disturb the arrangements which had been made. Some time afterwards the Speaker informed me that he had recommended, without consulting me in any way, an increase of £12 in the salaries of the lower-paid officers in the House of Representatives, and that he understood the increases were to be favorably considered by the Treasurer. I consulted the heads of the various Departments and found that our predecessors had carefully gone into the matter and sent in their Estimates, and in consequence I did not feel justified, as I have said, in taking any action to disturb the arrangements which they had made. However, when the Estimates came out, I found that discrepancies existed, and I immediately felt constrained to take action to see that the officers of the Senate were kept on at least an equal footing with the officers of another place. I directed the Clerk to send various letters to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, and after some considerable time the Government, through the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, agreed that the officers of the Senate should, in the matter of salaries, be placed on exactly the same footing as the officers of another place.
– This year?
– Yes, this year; and the increase will, as in the case of the officers of another place, date from 1st July. The last letter sent by myself to the Government was dated as late as 11th December, and is as follows -
Referring to previous correspondence on the subject of increases to certain officers of the staff of the Senate, and particularly to my letter of 24th October last, forwarding an amended estimate for this Department, I would be glad, in view of the probability of the early consideration of the Estimates in the Senate, of a reply to my request that the increases in question might be provided for the present year from the President’s Advance.
I desire this information so that, should occasion require, I may be able to inform the Senate as to the position of the matter.
I have the honourto be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
President of the Senate.
The Honorablethe Prime Minister of the
To that I received the following reply in the form of a memorandum to the Clerk of the Senate through the ActingSecretary to the Treasury -
I have to inform you that the Treasurer has approved of chargine “Treasurer’s Advance” with the following amounts in order that increases of pay may be granted during this financial year to the officers referred to : -
Honorable senators will notice that there is still aslight discrepancy indicated, the senior Queen’s Hall messenger receiving an increase of £4, whereas the junior messenger receives an increase of £12. The reason for this is that the increase of £4 brings the salary of the senior messenger up to the maximum for the position. There is another slight change made to which I wish to direct attention. There are two women cleaners employed here, and I found that they have to be here on six mornings in the week at 6.30 a.m., and are here up till 9.30, and as late as 11 a.m. I found that they have to pay their own tram fares, and Were receiving wages at the rate of 24s. per week, or 4s. per day. After deducting the tram fares, I considered that that is very small payment.- I thought that, in view of the increases given to other servants of the Parliament, and in view also of the increased cost of living, it would be fair to add1s. a day to the wages which these women received, and so bring their weekly salary up to 30s., instead of 24s. The principle I have laid down for myself in managing these matters, as well as I could, is that the Commonwealth should be at least as good an employer as any private employer. I think that the servants of this Parliament should receive at least the same pay as the servants of anyother Parliament or individual in Australia. I hope the information I have given honorable senators will satisfy them that, so far as I have been able, I have tried to protect the interests of the officers of the Senate.
– We are under an obligation to our President for the lucid statement he has made in connexion with the matters he has brought forward. I direct attention to two increases of salary - the Clerk of the House of Representatives from £900 to £1,000, and the Clerk Assistant, from £750 to £775. I hesitate to deal with the salaries paid to . officers in another place, but as guardians of the public purse we should look to the relation of the salaries of public officials one to another. Senator Millen is the Minister of a Department, the permanent head of which is shown on the Estimates to be in receipt of a salary of £900 a year, and I would like him to say whether he thinks it indicates equality of payment for services rendered that the permanent head of the Defence Department should receive £900 a year, and the Clerk of the House of Representatives £1,000 a year. 1 speak particularly of the Defence Department, because I know the work of that Department, and the work of the permanent head, and I say that that officer should get more, or the Clerk of the House of Representatives should get less, I know that the Government are apt to accept the recommendations in respect of salaries submitted by the President and Speaker, but I should like to knowhow they came to sanction the increases of salaries to which I have referred. I do not think that we are justified in paying a salary of £1,000 a year for the position of Clerk of the House of Representatives. I realize that the Clerks of Parliament do useful work, and do it well, but I say that a salary of £1,000 a year for the Clerk of the House of Representatives is, in view of the services rendered; out of all proportion, if a salary of £900 a year is considered sufficient for the permanent head of the Department of Defence. The permanent heads of the Departments work long hours, and all the year round. Whilst the work of Parliament may be very heavy for a short period of the year, there isa considerable period during which there is not a great deal of work to be done by parliamentary officers. I shall be very much interested to hear how Senator Millen can justify the payment of a salary of £1,000 a year for the position of a Clerk of Parliament, and at the same time a salary of £900 a year for the permanent head of the Defence Department.
– Before the Minister replies, 1 may be allowed to give some information which may clear up the matter to which Senator Pearce has referred, in so far as it affects the officers of Parliament, though I do not pretend to know anything about the officers of the Public Departments. Honorable senators are no doubt aware that most of our officers have come to us from other Parliaments, and it would be manifestly unfair to them if we allowed them to suffer in consequence. We have the most complete evidence that if they had remained with tho Parliaments from which they came they would be getting salaries equal, if not superior, to the salaries which they are receiving here. In New South Wales and in Victoria officers of the State Parliaments occupying a similar position are receiving salaries equal to those which we are paying here.
– That does not justify what I have complained of.
– I think that it does. If our officers came to us from the State Parliaments thinking they were coming to the superior Parliament, and so improving their position, it would be an injustice to them to let them suffer. I wish to emphasize the statement I made before, and that is that the Commonwealth Parliament, being the superior Parliament of Australia, should not pay a lower salary for an officer occupying any position than is paid to officers occupying similar positions in other Parliaments.
– The honorable senator should apply that argument to Public Departments.
– I am not saying a word about Public Departments. I am not responsible for them. I should like to add that when Senator Pearce asks the Minister to explain why it is that the Government have sanctioned these increases, I take exception to his remarks, because I hold that no Minister should review the action of Parliament. It is rather for Parliament to review the action of Ministers. Why should Parliament have to go cap-in-‘hand to the Prime Minister or the Treasurer? It should make its own arrangements, and, while I occupy the position I hold at present, I shall insist upon that.
Senator RAE (New South Wales)
Givens for the information he has supplied the Committee, I do not wish to say a word as to -the value of the services of any of the officers affected by the increases. It is not in the nature of things that individual members of the Parliament can judge as between one and another. The arrangement entered into by the President’s predecessor and the Speaker, in conjunction, seems to me to have been an excellent method for arriving at a satisfactory result. But it would appear that that practice has now been departed from, and if the Presiding Officer in another place sees fit to recommend an increase in the salary of an officer under him, the President of the Senate, because he has done so, and in order to keep up the dignity of this Chamber, should recommend a similar increase for an officer of the Senate. That is not a system of which we can approve. Our servants should be paid according to the value of their services, and we ought not to have one House trying to outbid the other, and a spirit of rivalry growing up to see which will pay the higher salary out of the taxpayers’ money. I admit that Parliament should be a model employer in the sense -of setting a good example., but that is no reason why increases should be made here because they have been made in another place. I hope that the system which the President informed us was initiated by his predecessor, of consultation between the Presiding Officers of both Houses, will be carried out in future.
– I wish to say a word about the salaries paid to the men employed in connexion with Parliament Gardens. The foreman gardener receives a salary of £168, and two men divide £281 between them.; the total salaries of the three employes amounting to £449. I have from time to time noted that different employes of the Senate and of another place have received increases of salary, but I have seen no increase -set down for the men employed in our gardens.
– Last year, I think.
– I make bold to say that the gardens are exceptionally well -kept, and that the three gardeners have plenty to do. I may add that none of them has spoken to me. I am making this appeal “ off my own bat.” But I think that a man who is responsible as foreman gardener, and is expected to keep these gardens up-to-date, is entitled to a better salary than he is receiving. His assistants appear to be thoroughly good workmen, and have been in the employment of Parliament for a number of years. They are entitled to higher remuneration than they are getting.
– Last year the House Committee considered an application from the two men working in the gardens and gave them an increase.
– The previous salary was £132, and itwas raised to £140 8s.
– The President has stated the case correctly in regard to the branches of the parliamentary service. It was the practice of the late Speaker and myself, when dealing with Estimates, to see that a balance was maintained between the salaries of the officers of the two Houses. There is such a thing as seniority in the service, and it is affected by the salary which an officer gets in comparison with another. We found that the service was divided into three departments - the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the House Committee. The departments were supposed to be kept strictly separate, so that the officers would be advanced each in his own department, without any interchange. We thought that system was wrong. Therefore we met together, and arranged that the officers of one House were not to be prejudiced in comparison with others. Formerly one department was played off against another, with the result that there was a continuous process of urging that one officer should get a rise because another officer in another department had one. There was no end to that sort of thing. Of course, if the country can afford to pay increases to the officers of Parliament, whose salaries are in many cases in excess of the salaries paid for similar work in other Commonwealth Departments, it may be all right; but I do not think it is wise to do so.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Divisions 11 to 14, £83,458.
– The Public Service Commissioner’s office is under the control of the Prime Minister, and I desire to mention a matter concerned with that branch of the service. When the Government Preference Prohibition Bill was under consideration, I drew attention to the differential treatment meted out in regard to the award of the Arbitration Court affecting the telephone instrument fitters. A few months ago the award of Mr. Justice Higgins was presented to Parliament. It was to come into operation thirty days later. The concluding words of the award read ‘ ‘ that the wages fixed were to be paid to members of the claimant association.” That association embraced about 95 per cent. of the men in Victoria and New South Wales. There was no organization in -Queensland at the time. Consequently, the Queensland men were not entitled to the award of the Court, nor were the employes in Victoria and New South Wales who were outside the union. I understand that the award meant an increase of about £24 to each man. As soon as the award came into operation the Government extended the benefits of it to those employes who were not members of the union. In Queensland, where there was no association, the increase was not paid until last Saturday. I think we ought to know what is to be the policy of the Government in this matter. Is it intended that, when an award is made to the members of a claimant association which has spent hundreds of pounds in organizing and in bringing the case before the Court it is to be extended to nonmembers of the union who have taken no part in bringing the case before the Court, and have contributed nothing to the cost ? However much we may dispute in regard to preference to unionists, when Parliament has laid it down that those who have a grievance may, through their organization, appeal to the Arbitration Court, surely it is only reasonable that the men who have made the claim, and have paid their money to sustain it, even against the Government, should enjoy the benefits which they win. The least that can be asked is that the men outside the union who have received these benefits should be manly enough to contribute a proportionate share of the cost of securing the award. I understand that the Queensland men are willing to bear their proportion of the cost of the proceedings. I urge that the five or six men in Victoria who are outside the organization should not he given the benefit of the award unless they are manly enough to pay their share of the cost of the proceedings.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania - Honorary Minister)” [10.35]. - Senator Russell is a very capable pleader. I am open to admit that he has put a very difficult question to me. A few days ago he informed us that there were certain persons in Queensland who were not receiving the same wages as other persons who were doing the same work, and he urged that that was an injustice. I happened to know that the PostmasterGeneral had taken steps to redress that inequality, and I told Senator Russell so. I think there was some delay in carrying out the order of the Postmaster-General, which was given a considerable time ago.
– The money was paid in Queensland for the first time last Saturday.
– The order for the payment was, I believe, made some time ago by the Postmaster-General.
– I accept that assurance.
– With regard to the remainder of the question, I must admit that it raises a difficult problem in ethics. I have listened carefully to Senator Russell’s statement, and will bring it before the Government. But I am not prepared to offer a solution now. It is too difficult for me to deal with off-hand. I admit that it beats me.
– I acknowledge the Minister’s courtesy, and recognise the difficulty of the situation in which he is placed. But I wish to know whether it is the intention of the Government, when an association in the Public Service, under the law constituted by this Parliament, secures an award from the* Arbitration Court to administer the law, or to give the advantages secured to non-unionists who have not asked for them. That is a definite question of policy. If the Government have not considered it, it is time they did.
– Senator Russell still places me in a position of difficulty .
– Will the Government obey the law?
– I can take the risk involved in answering that question. The Government is certainly going to obey the law which its members have had a part in making.
-Then they will not play the part of partisans in favour of non-unionists J
– I will undertake definitely to say that I will be no partisan of non-unionists, and, as far as I can see to it, .the Government will not.
– I scarcely think that the position is as difficult as Senator Clemons appears to think it is. The fact is that an award was given in connexion with the Postal Electricians Union, and the position which has since arisen was crystallized in the last question put by Senator Russell to the Honorary Minister - “ Will the Government give effect to that award in its entirety?”
– If they do not it will be equivalent to granting a preference to non-unionists.
– Exactly. That is absolutely the corollary of their failure to give full effect to the terms of the award. I was present in the Arbitration Court when Mr. Justice Higgins gave his final decision in connexion with the interpretation of that award. The representatives of the Department, Messrs. Clemens and Hesketh, asked the President of that tribunal to tell the Department what it should do in respect of certain matters, to which His Honour replied, “ It will have to obey the law.”
– A very proper remarkfor the Judge to make.
– And a very proper thing for the Government to do.
– Will the Honorary Minister give us an assurance that that award which it cost the Postal Electricians Union a considerable sum to obtain, will be observed by the Government in its entirety? Of course, I recognise that even if such an assurance is forthcoming, we are still faced with the fact that the Public Service Commissioner is vested with certain powers under the Public Service Act. It was consequent upon that that an appeal was made to the Arbitration Court for an interpretation of the award which had been given. This action was taken because an attempt had undoubtedly been made to evade giving effect to the award. I should like ‘to know what will be the position if the intentions of the Government conflict with those of the Public Service Commissioner.
– Senators Russell and Needham must recognise that they are in fuller possession of all the facts of this cass than I am. Further, they do not desire me to give an assurance in the dark. I say, unhesitatingly, that if any action has been taken by the Ministry which savours of preference to nonunionists, I will endeavour, so far as I can, to remedy it.. No action of mine will ever savour of partiality to either unionists or non-unionists. At the same time, I do not wish to give an assurance in the dark, because I hate giving an assurance to which I cannot give effect. “
– I should like to know from the Honorary Minister whether he will be prepared o give us the information we seek when the Estimates for the Postal Department are under review ? Surely, there will be ample time available in the interim to enable him to ascertain the intentions of the Government.
– I rise for the purpose of calling attention to an item of £50 which appears in these Estimates, and which relates to the official expenses of Honorary Ministers. I have just been reflecting what a patriotic body of men are our Honorary Ministers, seeing that they can discharge their important functions at the nominal expense of £1 a week. But I have another object in rising. I* wish to show that the party with which I am associated recognise that a Minister of the Crown should be adequately paid for his services.
– Is this the honorable senator’s idea of adequate payment?
– No. It is a ridiculous sum, concerning which an explanation should be forthcoming. But I wish to point out that in another place, and throughout the country, we have heard a good deal about the expenses incurred by Mr. Fisher. . It is alleged that during the period that he occupied the distinguished position of Prime Minister he dipped his hand into the public Treasury and robbed it right and left. Yesterday, in another place, the Treasurer laid upon the table a list of expenses incurred by the late Prime Minister. That list showed that Mr. Fisher’s visit, to South Africa to represent the Commonwealth, involved this country in an expenditure of £455. Had he represented Australia ou that occasion in a niggardly fashion, and had he refused to discharge the important duties of his office, what would honorable senators opposite have said, and what would the press which supports them have said 1 The same question is applicable to all the items in the list. Take, for instance, the visit of the late Prime Minister to England in 1911, which cost the Commonwealth £1,050. Do not honorable senators think that Mr. Fisher was ridiculously economical, seeing that he visited the Old Country to attend one of the biggest official functions which a man could attend, namely, the Coronation of the King, in addition to representing the Commonwealth at the Imperial Conference at a charge on the taxpayers of a paltry £1,000?
– One of the State Premiers who did not attend the Conference received an allowance of £1,800.
– Any Prime Minister who goes to South Africa or to the Old Country should be adequately paid for his services. As a matter of fact the whole cry is a contemptible electioneering dodge on the part of certain members of the Government who wish to besmirch the private and public character of the right honorable gentleman to whom I have referred. It is stooping pretty low when advantage is taken of Mr. Fisher’s visits to South Africa and England - where, in my judgment, he did a great deal of useful work - particularly by the Prime Minister, to raise this question.
– I rise lest my silence should be interpreted as meaning that I assent to the proposition of Senator Maughan that my colleagues in this Chamber are adequately remunerated for their services at £1 per week.
– Ten shillings per week.
– It is not even that, because there are three Honorary Ministers. There is one aspect of this matter upon which I feel particularly qualified to speak for’ the reason that I differ from my colleagues upon it. I have always argued that Ministers travelling on public business should do so at the expense of the country in whose interests they travel.
– The Minister of Defence said that when ho was in Opposition.
– I have never swerved from that view. The only exception which I have ever taken to the payment of Ministers has been when it seemed to me that they were open to the accusation of drawing expenses as if travelling on public business, when utilizing the opportunity to deliver political addresses. The point which was raised during the last Parliament in connexion with this matter was that some nf the expenses which had been charged by Ministers were charged in connexion with travelling which was so interwoven with political addresses as to make it open to suspicion.
– There was no justification for that suspicion.
– Public men ought to be particularly careful in that regard. When we find them travelling for no other discernible purpose than that of delivering a series of party political addresses, their conduct is open to criticism. The present Government have decided that Ministers of State shall not draw expenses when travelling, even though they be travelling on public business. The amount set down here if simply for travelling allowances to Honorary Ministers who care to draw them. There is that distinction and that difference.
– If you are in favour of the principle, do you mean to say that you are not going to draw the money?
– I am not, because of a decision of the Cabinet that Ministers shall not do so. My colleagues know my views, and the Senate does. I wish to make it clear that the Government are perfectly .consistent in what they are* doing, and that is that, having objected to the action of our predecessors in taking travelling expenses, they themselves, to be consistent, decline to do so. There never has been, so far as I know, the slightest exception taken to Honorary Ministers drawing travelling expenses when they are engaged on public business.
– Following on the statement Senator Millen has made; that he believes in the principle of a Minister, honorary or otherwise, when travelling on’ public business, being paid his expenses, and recognising that in the return Mr. Fisher excised certain days when he was in the Wide Bay electorate, where it might have’ been thought that he was pursuing political work, does the honorable senator now think that the amount which that gentleman drew when, as Prime Minister, he was representing the Commonwealth in South Africa and London was excessive or right? Will he answer the question ?
.- I do not think it is necessary to raise such an issue in the consideration of these Estimates, nor do I think it desirable that I should be questioned as to my opinion of the moderation or otherwise of that amount. I cannot say whether it is or not. I heard the figures read, but I do not carry them in my head. When I have made a trip myself I shall be in a better position to judge whether the amount is moderate. It may perhaps set the honorable senator’s mind at rest if I say that I have no doubt that when I am called upon to undertake such a trip I shall be surprised, not at my own moderation, but at the moderation of the Parliament which voted the money.
– I am obliged to the Minister of Defence for the information that the Government have come to a certain determination, and, that is, to make martyrs of themselves. “Does he expect -that the great public of Australia will think any the more of him for not drawing travelling expenses? Does he mean to say -that any of the State Ministers, irrespective of their political opinions, are going to put themselves on the same footing as the members of the great Commonwealth Government? The idea is positively ridiculous. This action is taken with no other object in view than to try to cast a reflection on the late Government. Even the Melbourne Argus of this morning, a Conservative paper, throws cold water on the proposal. It simply ridicules the return presented to the other House. We, on this side, do not object to any Minister drawing his proper allowance as laid down by regulation, irrespective of where he is travelling. Mr. Fisher, or any other Minister whose name is included in the return, while travelling in Queensland or Tasmania,, may have been engaged on electoral business. But what is electoral business, anyhow? The Minister of Defence never goes into a State unless he does a bit of electioneering. That is his business, and he can do it.
– Unfortunately, I cannot.
– Regarding the item of £15,500 for the British Association for the Advancement of Science, I should like to know if that is the full sum that is asked for, and, if not, whether it is contemplated to increase the amount during the year, and also whether the £3,000 set down as the expenses of entertaining the Empire Parliamentary Association meets the whole bill.
– In regard to the first query of Senator Maughan, bar some accident which cannot be foreseen, it is not anticipated that the amount will be exceeded. With regard to the item put down for the entertainment of the parliamentary visitors, I understand that that will probably be in excess of the amount required. I ‘believe that £2,500 will be found quite sufficient.
– Regarding the grant of £5,000 towards the relief of the Antarctic expedition under Dr. Mawson, can the Minister give the Senate any idea as to the actual position to-day with regard to the expedition 1
– I cannot give any information as to the position of the expedition itself. All the information I have relates to the grant towards its relief. Those who were responsible for the despatch of the expedition, and, of course, responsible for securing the return of Dr. Mawson and his comrades, found themselves in financial difficulties. Having made their appeal as they did to the public, they also appealed to the Governments. Some State Governments - particularly that of South Australia - had, in the first instance, contributed with some liberality. The Commonwealth Government felt that they could not allow Dr. Mawson and his associates to be stranded without putting forward at least a reasonable effort to supplement the private effort being made to insure their safe return to the shores of Australia.
– I see an item of £500 for the maintenance of motor cars. When the Minister of Defence was in op position he criticised the motor car of the last Government. Last year it was a case of a motor car, but this year it is a case of motor cars. I have a holy dread of motor cars, and anticipate that one of them will be the end of me. I have had two or three narrow escapes. I had a narrow escape from the Prime Minister’s car rounding the corner of Bourkestreet, and I wish to know how many motor cars there are now, so that I may be doubly cautious.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [11.4].- On page 16 I see an item of £4,500 for historic memorials of representative men. Does that include the portraits which have recently been- hung in the Queen’s Hall? A few days ago I protested against an alleged portrait of the late Hon. Charles Cameron Kingston being paid for out of parliamentary funds. It is a libel on, and a caricature of, the right honorable gentleman as we knew and loved him if it is to be a memorial. I think it might be preserved as a work of art, because I believe that, as a painting, it is a very creditable production. I suggest that we should* get something more like the ‘ man as he was in life than the caricature.
– It is quite correct that the amount to which Senator O’Loghlin has referred will cover the payment for the portraits.
– It has been purchased ?
– Yes, but not by the present Government. It will be remembered that the last Government appointed a Committee, consisting of the President, the Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and other members of Parliament, under whose control the whole of these matters come. To that body I shall - see that a copy of the honorable senator’s remarks is forwarded. In . regard to Senator McDougall’s query, I am not quite certain how many motor cars there are under the control of the Government, either running or worn out, but the number is exactly the same as it was on 31st May last.
– In connexion with the item of £500 for an expert to report on the possibility of growing cotton in Australia, I should like to know whether the Government will include in his duties an inquiry into the question of the possibility of growing jute in Australia, because the users of jute goods’ have been called upon during the last three or four years to pay 100 per cent, more than they did previously. Cotton and jute, of course, are grown in the same class of country. I suggest that the price of jute goods should be a strong warning and incentive to the Minister to include that work in the duties of the cotton expert.
– I shall bring the suggestion of Senator Lynch under the notice of my colleague who is more immediately concerned. But there may be a difficulty in the way. This item appears as the contribution of the Commonwealth authorities to a joint effort. The idea originated with the Dominions Commission, which suggested a conference in London between a society for the promotion of cotton-growing in British Dominions, the representative of the Queensland Government, and, I think, Captain Collins, representing the Commonwealth Government. As the . result of that conference it waa decided that the best thing to do would be to secure the services of a cotton expert, to be associated with the Queensland Agricultural Department, and also to visit’ and report on the Northern Territory. It does seem to me that the gentleman who has been retained will have cotton knowledge, but” possibly no jute knowledge, and the arrangement made by the association, which is paying portion of his expenses, with the Queensland Government may possibly prevent the adoption of the honorable senator’s suggestion.
Proposed vote agreed to
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Clemons) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Clemons) read a first time.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with message intimating that the House of Representatives had agreed to two and disagreed to the remaining amendments made by the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I should like to ask the Minister in “charge of the business of the Senate if he will fix a time for considering the message from the House of Representatives returning the Pine Creek to Katherine River Railway Bill. I do not wish to ask for any extraordinary concession, but I should like it to be considered in the morning, if that can be bo arranged. We have debated the amendments very fully already, and I hope that a time will be fixed for dealing with the message.
– Before the Minister replies, I should like to know whether be can promise honorable senators that time will be given, not to discuss, but to settle by a vote, some of the private members’ business on the paper.
– I understand that there is a general desire on the part of a number of honorable senators to catch the trains to-morrow afternoon for their respective States.
– I never heard of it.
– There- are many things’ foreign to the honorable senator’s philosophy. Honorable senators must recognise that the time is limited if that desire is to be given effect, and the only possible chance we shall have of dealing with the business before us will be by a common understanding that there shall be more voting, and less talking.
– I have done neither lately.
– Senator Rae never held my admiration to so great an extent as he has done during the last twentyfour hours. I ask honorable senators to co-operate with the Government in trying to bring about so happy a result. With regard to Senator Gardiner’s ques- tion, it can make little difference to the Government which business is taken first, provided that they see their way to getting all the business through. If honorable senators generally intimated that they would be quite content to take the consideration of the House of Representatives’ message on the Bill referred to without debate, and record their decisions upon the amendment’s, there could be no objection to interposing that business before resuming the consideration of the Appropriation Bill. Honorable senators must recognise that we are now engaged in considering the Estimates, and if we broke off-
– We broke off tonight.
– Because my honorable friend wanted to go home.
– No, I did not. I am prepared to stop all night.
– Then the honorable senator is a man after my own heart. I should be willing to go on now if I thought we should be able to keep a quorum.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - Make the Pine Creek to Katherine Railway Bill the first order after the Appropriation Bill.
– It would, perhaps, meet the convenience of every honorable senator, and would fix a time, as Senator Gardiner desires, if we decided to take that as the first business after the Appropriation Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 December 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1913/19131217_SENATE_5_72/>.