6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to point out to honorable senators that when notices of questions are given on Thursday it is impossible to get replies for the following day. I suggest that in future they should give notice for the following Wednesday. In any case, the sitting yesterday commenced half-an-hour later than usual.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will the Minister for Trade and Customs cause to be printed and circulated, for the information and assistance of members in discussing the new Tariff, a statement showing in parallel columns -
– The answer is-
A memorandum showing the old and the new items, in convenient form, has been circulated in the House of Representatives, and copies will be made available for the use of members of the Senate. The revenue on each item will be added to the memorandum.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That standing order No. 68 be suspended for the remainder of the year 1914 for the purpose of enabling new business to be commenced after half-past 10 o’clock at night.
Bill read a third time.
.- I move -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the- Senate from the determination of the Senate’s last sitting in the year 1914 to the date of its first Bitting in the year 1915.
The necessity of granting leave of absence to honorable senators when the Senate is not sitting is a very moot point. It might be held that, although the Senate was not sitting, the period of two months would count from its last day of sitting.
– Still it would be in session
– The period of two months would be part of the session, but the wording of the provision in the Constitution is rather ambiguous and is open to that construction. If we .were in recess for more than two months it might be that honorable senators would cease to hold their seats.
– A national calamity t
– Would a resolution of the Senate override a provision in the Constitution ?
– ‘It is within the power of the Senate to grant leave of absence to honorable senators, and by taking that course, the matter will not be left open to doubt. May I say that I feel all the more confident that I am doing the right thing, because I have a most illustrious precedent in the fact that Senator Millen, in 1907, submitted a similar motion, which was carried, and the calamity referred to just now averted. If my honorable friend has any doubt on the point, I refer him to the speech, he made in that year.
– I can hardly resist the opportunity of congratulating my honorable friend upon, for once, following a very safe guide, and may I suggest that, as he has commenced the habit, he should endeavour to develop it. I called “not formal “ to the motion, because I desired an opportunity to refer to the Constitution to solve a doubt in my mind as to whether the motion was absolutely necessary or not. On looking over the matter, although there may be some doubt, I still think that the balance would be in favour of the adoption of the course which we are asked to take. Certainly, the motion can do no harm, and its adoption may divert from this already troubled country the greatest catastrophe that could possibly fall upon it. Therefore I am quite content to see the motion go through.
– It might save a reference of the question to the High Court, too.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [11.13].- I would like to know from the Minister how long we are to be away, because it may be intended to suspend the operations of the Senate until towards the CloSe of next year. Perhaps Ministers may wait until the end of that year, and then bring down their Estimates. An honorable senator interjects, “ What odds! “ Possibly the country could do very well with less legislation. How long is it contemplated that the session shall remain in a dormant state? Is it the intention of the Minister to proceed with the Estimates, with the view of getting an Appropriation Bill passed for the current financial year? It has always teen the custom to wait until near the close of the session before passing the Appropriation Bill, and in the meantime the country has been financed by means of Supply Bills. Is it intended to-day to pass the Appropriation Bill for the year, and to ask us to come back at the end of two or three months.
– No, to pass a Supply Bill only.
– I was under the impression that the idea of the Minister was to pass the Appropriation Bill, but my honorable friend says that it is only contemplated to pass a Supply Bill. Perhaps the Minister will tell me if that statement is correct.
– Did you not get & Supply Bill this morning?
– I have not seen a copy of the Bill. As it is not intended to-day to pass the Appropriation Bill for the year, my objection on the ground of procedure vanishes, but I should like to know the date to which it is contemplated that Parliament should adjourn. There is another matter of importance to which I desire to direct attention. The Government have brought down a new Tariff under which increased duties are imposed in a great many directions. According to the practice which has always been followed in similar circumstances, the Government are now collecting those duties. If the sittings of this Parliament are to be suspended for four or five months it will be obviously unfair to industries affected by the Tariff, because they have no assurance that it will ultimately be carried in its present form. Of course, some honorable senators may argue that the Government possess an overwhelming majority, and are therefore iri a position to carry the Tariff in any form that they may please.
– We had a mandate from the people upon it at the last election.
– The honorable senator talks about a mandate from the people. There was no mandate in regard to that question.
– “Why, it was upon our platform.
– “Whatever may be upon the platform of the party with which the honorable senator is associated, becomes, I suppose, a mandate. Simply because a self-appointed body, behind the- backs of the electors, lays down a platform-
– That platform was put before the people, and they indorsed it.
– I must ask honorable senators to preserve order. SenaGould is entitled to be heard without interruption.
– Senator Needham talks about a mandate from the people. Let me ask him, Is the Tariff an effective one ? and Is he satisfied with it?
– I am not.
– The party with which Senator Gould is associated never even rectified an anomaly.
– Our party took the reasonable course which was open to it.
– I ask the honable senator if he really thinks it is in order to enter into a general Tariff discussion ?
.- I was led off the path which I was pursuing by interjections. I merely wish to put one or two questions to my honorable friends, who are so ready to assure us that everything is right. I ask Senator Needham whether it is fair that the Government should impose increased Tariff duties whilst denying to Parliament an opportunity to debate them until they have been in operation for four or five months? Suppose that any of these duties are disagreed with, what will be the position? Refunds will have to be made, not to the consumers, who in reality have paid the new duties, but to the importers.
– I sympathize with that remark. The price of tobacco has already been raised.
– So, too, has the price of beer. A strike occurred in Sydney because the price of beer had been raised from 3d. to 4d. a pint. To impose increased duties upon many articles without affording Parliament an opportunity of debating those duties for a period of three or four months is a monstrous proceeding. Had Ministers been prepared to introduce the new Tariff a month or two ago, or had they been content to wait till after the Christmas adjournment before submitting it to Parliament, the position would have been different. I object to the methods which are being adopted, because they are grossly unfair £o honorable senators and to the country.
– An adjournment over the Christmas holidays is quite a usual procedure. At the same time, I recognise the justice of Senator Gould’s complaint in regard to postponing the consideration of the new Tariff. The position is that a great deal of hardship will be inflicted if we now consent to a long adjournment. We all know that many industries have been considerably upset by the war. A large portion of their raw material has hitherto been obtained from belligerent countries, and consequently many industries have been placed in a very difficult position. A new Tariff has just been introduced, the effect of which will unquestionably be to accentuate that difficulty. Because of the dislocation of industries we ought at the present juncture to take as short a vacation as possible. Personally, I would prefer to come back early in the new year. The industrial position in Australia is a very serious one, and if we do anything to accentuate it we shall be rightly blamed by the people. We ought not to consider our own convenience, but only the interests of the country. It seems to me that a long adjournment would be a fatal mistake.
– What does the honorable senator consider long 1
– I should regard as long a recess which extended beyond the month of February.
– Is the honorable senator sincere ?
– I have always endeavoured to- be sincere in this Chamber. If we agree to reassemble in February that will permit us to enjoy an adjournment which will be quite long enough.
– The honorable senator knows that when we meet here next year we shall probably sit on till Christmas Eve.
– Even if that position eventuates I do not think it will be a calamity. We are expected to remain here all the year if public business warrants it.
– I merely rise to supply the information which has been asked for bv Senator Gould. I may say that a Supply Bill providing for five months’ Supply has been passed by another place, and will reach this Chamber to-day. It is based on the new and not on the old Estimates.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - We have Supply to the end of this month, have we not?
– No. We have Supply only to the end of November.
– The Supply Bill will carry us to the end of April.
– Yes. Unless something unforeseen occurs, it is intended that Parliament shall be called together early in April - probably about the 7th April. It is proposed to have an understanding that should the necessity for doing so arise - a contingency which might easily occur seeing that the Empire is now at war - the President and Mr. Speaker shall be empowered to summon Parliament. Otherwise we shall not meet until the 7th April. Concerning the remarks of Senator Gould, nobody can dispute that in regard to the Tariff we are in the main carrying out the policy which was put before the country by the Labour party at the last election. Thus there can be no hardship involved in the collection of the increased! duties during the period covered by the adjournment of Parliament. Consequently I do not think the honorable senator’s objection is well-founded. When Parliament re-assembles the Tariff will be one of the first matters dealt with. In regard to the Estimates, it will be admitted that we are warranted in claiming that the Supply Bill should be based on the new and not on the old Estimates. The old Estimates are now well out of date, and the new Estimates have been before Parliament, although they have not yet been adopted. If the Supply Bill were based upon the old Estimates it is obvious that the new Estimates would apply only to three months of the current financial year.
– The Supply Bill will be the last measure dealt with prior to the adjournment.
– It is immaterial to me so long as the Supply Bill is agreed to by this Chamber in time to permit of the necessary fortnightly payments being made. Whether the Senate will be required to sit on to-day until that Bill be passed, or to come back tomorrow or on Monday for the purpose of passing it, I do not know. Perhaps it would be more convenient for us to pass both it and the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill to-day. Before we adjourn we have also to pass the War Pensions Bill and the Commonwealth Bank Bill. These measures can be dealt with either on Monday or Tuesday of next week. I understand that the other branch of the Legislature proposes to sit on Monday, in which case it may complete its labours and be waiting upon us. During the luncheon hour I hope to arrive a* an understanding with Ministers in another place regarding what is proposed to be done.
– Before putting the question I desire to point out that it is absolutely essential that such a motion should be passed in order that the position of honorable senators may be properly safeguarded. The Constitution is very emphatic on the matter. Section 20 provides -
The place of a senator shall become vacant if for two consecutive months of any session of the Parliament he, without the permission of the Senate, fails to attend the Senate.
Honorable senators must recollect that the present session will continue irrespective of whether we adjourn for two or three days, or two or three months. It will continue until Parliament is prorogued by the Governor-General. That being so, it is absolutely necessary that this motion should be carried.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 10th December, vide page 1506). Cockatoo Island Dockyard : Launching or the Cruiser “ Brisbane “ - Steamers for Lighthouse Construction.
Senator McDOUGALL (New South thing to say about the launching of the cruiser Brisbane. The accuracy of some of the statements I made with respect to the existence of certain plans has been questioned. The Melbourne Argus of this morning has published a misrepresentation of what I said, which must be very misleading to the public. The Argus states that I produced a plan or idea of my own for the launching of the vessel at a cost of £30,000. Honorable senators are aware that what I advised was the adoption of a plan prepared by Mr. Cutler, the late manager of the Cockatoo Island Dock, who was the first to undertake the construction of warships in Australia. It was his plan, and not any plan of mine, that I spoke of, and the estimated cost, as I clearly stated, was £3,000, and not £30,000. The public reading the statement in the Argus would be led to conclude that all that was involved was a matter of time, and that there would be very little difference in cost between the carrying out of the two schemes. Of course, my contention is that there is a considerable difference in cost as well as in time. I had intended to take up the challenge of Senator Bakhap and move a reduction upon the vote; but I have decided not to take that course because, from my point of view, the reply to my remarks by the Minister of Defence was very favorable. The honorable senator is a man of his word, and he has said that there will be an inquiry into the matter, and if Mr. Cutler’s plan, to which I have referred, exists, it will be considered. If Ministers had been more amenable to reason at an earlier date there would have been no necessity for the statements I have been called upon to make. I asked the Minister of Defence whether he would take the advice of experts before committing the country to the proposed huge expenditure upon the launching of the Brisbane. His reply was that he had consulted the experts of his Department before consenting to the expenditure of the money, and that simply meant that he would not give the matter any further consideration. I heard Mr. Elliot Johnson speaking upon the matter in another place on Friday last, and while he admitted that he did not know much about the matter, he referred to the rumour that was in circulation, and the Assistant Minister of Defence, in reply to him, said, “ There will be no inquiry; we shall build the dam.” When the Government proposed to take up a stand like that it became necessary to adopt some other course to try to prevent the wasteful expenditure of public money. That was my reason for speaking as I did yesterday. The Minister of Defence was at some pains last night to show me plans which had been sent from Sydney. Those were merely plans for the construction of a slip-way on which to build the Brisbane. A slipway is not a launching-way ; but the construction of a slip-way is necessary in order to place the launching- ways which are put in their place only a few days before the vessel is launched. The officers of the Defence Department have informed the Minister that they have never seen the plans for launching ways prepared by Mr. Cutler. In my view, it is a very serious matter when officers of the Department are prepared to give absolutely incorrect information to the Minister. I told honorable senators yesterday that I had seen Mr. Cutler’s plans myself. I would not have said so if I had not seen them, and I do not believe there is one honorable senator present who is not satisfied that I really did see them. The departmental officers say that they are not in Melbourne, and not at Cockatoo Island. I say that they were at Cockatoo Island. I saw the plans, and intended to make a pen and ink sketch of them before I referred to the matter in the Senate, but I had not the time to do so. I have since been able to procure a pencil tracing of those plans. I have the tracing of them and can produce it at any time.
– I do not propose to tell the honorable senator, as it is not at all necessary. The tracing of the plans is here for the inspection of any honorable senator, and it is clearly shown that Mr. Cutler made every preparation for the launching of the vessel. It will be seen from the plans that they show the position of the concrete and the piles, as I explained yesterday. I mentioned that the piles were to be put into the hard rock. I have shown the plans this morning to other members of the Senate who understand the business, and they are emphatic in the assertion that they ave absolutely correct and safe. These plans were prepared early, and were sent to the Navy Office in December, 1913. They were sent also to England for the opinion of one of the best experts in this business that we have in the whole of the British Dominions. I expect that that will be admitted when I say that the plans were sent to Mr. J. Ford, chief ship constructor to Vickers and Son, the gentleman who had charge of all Vickers and Son’s launching for years. After examining the plans he sent back word that, in his opinion, they are absolutely safe, and they provide for a greater margin of safety for the launching of the vessel than is provided by the plans upon which the launching ways are constructed by Vickers and Sons. These plans were prepared in the drafting office at the Cockatoo Island Dock. They were there, and if they are not there now they must have been removed within the last few days. They were prepared by Mr. Picklewaite, a draughtsman of tha Department. I can mention the name, . because nothing is likely to happen to him since he is not at Cockatoo Island now, but at Walsh Island, near Newcastle. Any one with a knowledge of the business who inspects these plans will be thoroughly convinced that the launching scheme proposed by Mr. Cutler is as permanent as that proposed by the present manager. I will admit that what the present manager proposes is a permanent structure, that will last practically for all time, but it is quite unnecessary. The plans prepared by Mr. Cutler make provision for launching ways which would give even greater safety, and which could be built at a fraction of the cost and in less than a third of the time. There is a man at Cockatoo Island Dock who was one of the leading ship constructors, and came from Vickers and Son’s establishment in the Old Country. He has seen these plans, and considers them safe for the launching of the Brisbane or other vessels at the dock. He is desirous of being given the opportunity to demonstrate the fact that these launching ways can be prepared without the use of the coffer dam. I do not intend to labour this matter again. It has been said that I am speaking in the interests of Mr. Cutler, and I want to say that I am not speaking in his interests al all. I believe that he was treated very unfairly. The present Minister of Defence made some amends to him by offering him a certain position, which, unfor- tunately, a change of Government prevented him from taking. Since Mr. Cutler left Cockatoo Island Dock, he has gone to Walsh Island, at Newcastle, and at a place which was practically a swamp a few years ago he has prepared one of the finest ship-building .yards in the world, and that is a good deal to say. They have the latest machinery installed there, and Mr. Cutler will very probably rise to a higher position there than he could have secured in the Commonwealth Service. It is clear, therefore, that I do not speak in his interests. I am speaking in the interests of Australia and of Australians. There is a tendency in some quarters to discredit the work of Australians. When we have a man who is able to do something he is set back, and some people appear to be under the impression that if anything requires to be done we must go to” some other country to get the men to do it. I say that we had a man here who was capable of doing this work. He demonstrated his capability, and he should have been allowed to do the work, as his credentials were superior to those of any other person who applied for the position. Australians in all branches of the Commonwealth Service are belittled. In the dockyard at Sydney we have now, I supposes, over 60 per cent, of British workmen. I have nothing to say against them, but it clearly shows that Australians have to get out. There has been a case of the victimization of an Australian there who had had twenty-three years’ service. He was accused of making one mistake, and was refused an inquiry. He says that the mistake was not his, but still ho has to go.
– To what branch is the honorable senator referring?
– To the shipbuilding branch. I say that in this matter I am speaking in the interests of young Australians. We have a Naval Board that is practically useless. The evidence given before a Select Committee of the Senate proved that it was not a body calculated to serve the best interests of Australia, or of naval reform in this country. I believe that the Board has been reconstructed, and I hope it will do better work in the future. Senator Long had something to say about it a little time ago, and probably he will have something to say about it again. Senator Bakhap suggested that I was giving the expert opinions of working men. I did not give the opinions of working men, but of men holding high positions at Cockatoo Island Dock. I have no hesitation in saying that if the Liberal Government had been in power, and I had made the same charges against them as I am making to-day, our party would have eaten them without salt, but I do not see the same desire to rectify matters on the part of our party because our own Government is in power. It makes no difference to me. If I see an injustice being done or something unfair happening I shall always open my mouth, no matter what Government is in power. I was very desirous of seeing the revised plan of Mr. Swan, to cost £7,500. I thought he had seen Mr. Cutler’s plan, and had made an estimate based on it, but according to the Minister it was a totally different plan. Mr. Swan’s plan may be just as permanent as Mr. King Salter’s plan to cost £35,000, if we could only see it. If we could get the opinions of experts outside the service to give us an idea of the ability of their firms to launch vessels, we should soon have a better knowledge of what should be done. The Minister made a statement with regard to the greasing of the ways. He read a-u explanation from the manager of a method of greasing the ways, but it is well known that grease is never used for launching ways. It is soft soap that is used, and when the engineer made an estimate as to putting soft soap on the launching ways six days before the launch took place, he made an estimate which is quite within reason. Six days in the water would not interfere with the soft soap at all. The launching-ways proposed by Mr. Cutler were to be made of hardwood, and any one who knows hardwood knows that it scarcely wants any greasing. I advise any one who’ has had no practical experience in that matter to walk across a high building on a hardwood girder, and he will soon find out. The Minister yesterday cast doubt upon my statements, and said that I did not explain them, but I explained everything in connexion with the plans. I explained that it allowed for the building of concrete until a depth of 4ft. 6in. was obtained. After that piles were to be driven into the solid rock, holes being drilled, and the piles driven into them. The plan showed the piles to be 3ft. 6in. from centre to centre. They were to be not less than 1 foot in diameter, and there was to be scarcely 2 feet between each, row of piles. The plan showed the way the crossheads were to be put on the top of the piles, and how the keel of the vessel would come down between the two rows. It showed how the piles were bound together, and any one who knows anything about the business must say that the plan is a good one, that by means of it the launching can be carried out, and that the work will be just as lasting as the dock Mr. King Salter proposes to build by means of a coffer-dam. The work proposed by Mr. Cutler can all be done by divers. It will be just as secure, and also save the extraordinary expense suggested by Mr. Salter. I am going to trust the Minister to have an inquiry into the matter. If the plan cannot be found, I am sure Mr. Cutler will” be only too glad to prepare another on the same basis to show how the work can be done. I have produced a lead-pencil tracing off the original plan, and honorable senators can take my word for it that it is a true copy. If the plan itself is not in existence in the drafting office at Cockatoo Island Dock it has been done away with. That is a serious charge to make, but I make it in all seriousness, and to prove it I produce the pencil tracing. I leave the matter at that, trusting to the Minister to give Mr. Cutler fair play, instead of having him branded as he is now in the eyes of the public of New South Wales as a man who attempted the engineering feat of building a vessel without knowing how he was going to launch it. That is unfair to him, and I ask that he should be given fair play. He should be allowed to uphold his reputation, and given an opportunity to prove that it is a good one. I hope the Minister will, therefore, give every publicity to the matter, and ascertain why Mr. Cutler’s plan was not produced when asked for. If there is in the Department an officer who will refuse to produce a document of that description when asked to do so by a representative of the people, the Department is no place for him.
.- After the dinner adjournment last night, the Naval Secretary sent up the following communication received yesterday from Mr. King Salter -
With reference to the above-quoted telegram -
This telegram was sent from the Navy Office as follows -
The following questions asked in Parliament : - (1) Did the late manager of the dock prepare launching plans and estimates before proceeding with the building of the Brisbane? (2) Did said plans provide for launching the Brisbane without the construction of a cofferdam? (3) Were said plans sent to England for expert opinion, and approved as perfectly safe? Please furnish answers by letter, after consulting records at Cockatoo Island, and also office of Director-General of Public Works, State Government.
This is Mr. Salter’s reply -
The answer to the first question is in the negative. The second and third questions are answered by the first. The records at Cockatoo clearly show that the only part of the slipway that was considered when the building and launching of the Brisbane was contemplated was the actual building portion of the slipway as far as the water’s edge, and there is no record of any plans having been got out to show the actual launching arrangements. The building slip was put in hand in April, 1912, and it was not till after the arrival of the shipyard manager, in May, 1912, that the position of the snip relative to the slipway that was then in hand building was considered. This is borne out by the fact that in placing the ship at a suitable declivity for launching the forepart had to be raised on very high blocks. The drawings of the details of the launching arrangements were got out subsequently, and were sent to the Navy Board in March, 1913. This drawing only showed the launching arrangements on an assumed completed slipway, and did not enter into the details of how the lower end of the standing launchways was to lie supported or worked below the water level. This drawing was held over till my arrival, in March of this year, and beyond proposing to extend the standing ways another 15 feet, to provide for possible larger future ships, I approved of the plan, so far as it affected the details of the launch, on an assumed completed slip. But I immediately took steps to consider what was necessary for the completion of the lower end of the slipway, which at that time had not been done, and it became obvious that a considerable amount of work would have to be done - work which would take some months to do before it would be possible to launch the ship, and I made urgent requests that the work might be put in hand without any loss of time, but it became evident that before the work could be started, a full marine survey of the ground below water would have to be made. This work was put in hand in anticipation of the appointment of a na.val civil engineer, and as soon as the officer was appointed, in July last, the work of preparing the necessary plans was pushed on as rapidly as possible, and actual work on the approved plan is now in hand.
There is no doubt whatever that in designing the slipway in the first instance the launching arrangements, together with the lower underwater portion of the slipway, ought to have been considered at the same time. I do not know what was in the minds of the authorities as to how they wort: going to launch a ship of the size of the Brisbane - and there are no records to show that it had even been considered - but if they contemplated launching this ship without some means nf laying have the underwater portion of the standing sliding ways below water to enable them to be properly greased, they were only courting disaster. The lower portion of the slipway from the water’s edge downwards ought to have been built at the same time, and as a concurrent charge with the building of the slipway on which the ship is being built. But I would emphasize the point that the cost of completing this slipway and fitting ;i caisson at the end should not be looked upon as a charge against the Brisbane, but as u charge against the permanent slipway, which will hold good for all ships for which the slip will be suitable.
To allay public feeling, I would suggest that this important point should be given publicity. I would further suggest that the following points should be made public - (1) that it is only part of the constructional work necessary to build the permanent slipway at its lower end; that a coffer-dam is necessary to exclude the water during the building operation; and (2) that this coffer-dam will be removed on the completion of the work, and never again required: and also (3) that to shut off the water from the lower underwater portion of the slip during the building of a ship and preparation for its launch, its lower end will be closed by a caisson in the same manner as a dry dock is closed against the water, which caisson will, at the time of the launch, be floated off to admit the water.
To provide for possible larger ships in the future, the permanent end of the slipway is being arranged wider and longer than is necessary for the Brisbane. As the records of this yard clearly show that neither the construction of the lower portion of the slipway nor the launching arrangements had been considered when the slipway was laid down, no object was seen in consulting the Director of Public Works, as requested in the telegram under reply. I instructed the Naval Secretary, notwithstanding this, to telegraph to the Secretary of the Public Works Department, New South Wales, and ask if they had any such plans in their possession, but as bearing out what Mr. Salter has said, we have now obtained the records in connexion with the dockyard right from the inception of the proposal to build the Brisbane there. I shall now quote the minute sent forward on this question when the dockyard was being worked by the New South Wales Government, and before it came into our possession at all. This minute, dated 18th May, 1912, is from Mr. Fanstone, Director of Naval Works, to the Naval Secretary: -
With reference to the Minister’s instructions in docket No. 11/4521, viz., to report on the new slipway in course of construction at Cockatoo Island Dockyard for the laying down of the Commonwealth cruiser Brisbane, I have to report that I thoroughly investigated this matter, and, so far, I am satisfied that the slipway will carry the dead weight of the cruiser, which, I am informed, will be about 2,000 tons.
The reason I read that is that Captain Clarkson, the third member of the Naval Board, raised the point that it was not safe to put the slipway down in theposition chosen for it, because he said the ground there had been made up. It was afterwards discovered that this was not so, as the ground was solid rock -
The slip is in course of construction, side retaining walls being formed, and generally great progress is being made in erecting cranes, erecting machinery, and in foundations. I also investigated the existing sea wall and rubble toe at the position of the waterway, and, so far, no movement of the rubble filling has taken place at this part to indicate instability. I pointed out to the superintendent of the yard, Mr. Cutler, the arrangement for the fairway when the cruiser takes the water, -which fairway was, he informed me, to bc of a timber construction, but of this nothing has yet been clone. I now propose that a letter be sent to the 27ew South Wales Government, asking - (a) for particulars and details of this timber fairway; (b) for a longitudinal section through the slip showing the levels of high and low tide, and the borings and levels of the strata for the constructive department to approve, if the section and body of water will meet the requirements and flotation of the cruiser when off the stocks in launching. The latter part raises directly the very question at issue. A communication was sent to the Works Department of New South Wales, aud this is the reply received on the 27th July, 1912 -
In deference to the request preferred in your letter to mc of the 2nd instant, in connexion with the construction of the H.M.A.S. Brisbane, I have the honour, by direction, to transmit, under separate cover, two plans which will furnish you with the information therein applied for.
To make the matter quite sure, I shall read the letter sent to the Public Works Department -
In connexion with the construction of H.M.A.S. Brisbane, I am desired by the Naval Board to ask that you will be good enough to cause them to be furnished with the following information regarding the slip, &c, on which the vessel is to be built: - (a) Particulars and details of the timber fairway from which the vessel will take the water. (6) The longitudinal section through the slip showing the levels of high and low tides, and the borings and levels of the strata.
These are the plans which were sent along. Honorable senators may investigate the plans if they like, and if they do they will find that they do not touch anything below the water level.
– I am complaining of plans which are not shown.
– Does the Minister mean high water or low water?
– That question is not affected at all.
– It is.
– That is only a plan of a slipway.
– Yes. If the plans referred to by Senator McDougall were in existence at the time when that letter was sent to the Works Department, and their letter was sent to us, is it reasonable to believe that they deliberately suppressed such plans?
– Is it not more probable to suppose that the Naval Board was obviously moving in this direction, and that Mr. Cutler proceeded to prepare those plans as the result of the Board’s indication ?
– I will come to that point later. It is obvious that at this date these were the only plans in existence.
– What date is given on that plan?
– 27th July, 1912. It is obvious that at that time these plans were in existence, that they were the plans of a slipway above the water, and that no plans were in existence for anything below the water. That point is cleared up, I think.
– The other plans were sent to the Navy Office in May, 1913.
– There must have been a date on the plan from which that copy was made. ,
– I would like the honorable senator to examine the plan and see if he can find a date. I have looked at the plan, and I cannot do so.
– It is remarkable if there is no date.
– Obviously at that time the only plans which had been prepared were plans for a launching way above the water.
– I admit that.
– The rest of the file is here - and the file I may say goes right up to 1914 - and not in any of the dockets is there a reference to any other plan in connexion with the launching way. Unless all dockets containing reference to plans have been abstracted - and that could easily be discovered; the file itself would show that, because it deals with other matters - unless the plan and also the covering dockets have been deliberately abstracted and altered, there is no other way in which it could have been suppressed. I am loath to believe that that has been done. What object could the Navy Office have in suppressing the plan? I may tell honorable senators that the authorities at the Navy Office and the general manager of the dockyard have not always been too friendly towards each other; the late Minister knows that. Things have not always run too well, and I do not know that there is any person in the Navy Office who would go out of the way to shelter the general manager or to get him out of a difficulty. Yet the suggestion is that either the Navy Office or the general manager is suppressing something which is known to exist.
– Why did the general manager refuse to accede to the request ?
– There is the position so far as it is known. Mr. King Salter makes a deliberate statement, which is in print, that there are no such plans in existence in the dockyard at Cockatoo Island. I have instructed the officials to apply to the Public Works Department of the State, because it is possible that, when the dockyard was taken over, Mr. Cutler, as the superintendent, may have handed over to that Department certain of the documents which previously had been in the office at the island. At any rate, the officials at the island. say that such plans are not iri the dockyard file, and certainly they are not in the file at the Navy Office. T have given an instruction to ask the Public Works Department of New South Wales whether the plans are in its files. In order that there shall be no misapprehension as to what I mean by an inquiry, I wish to say that I intend to inquire thoroughly as to the existence of these plans of Mr. Cutler, and when they are obtained I propose to ask the general manager and other responsible officers for a criticism as to the feasibility of the plans and their safety.
– Will Mr. Cutler be asked to give evidence at the inquiry ?
– Mr . Cutler will be invited to put forward any statement he wishes to make in explanation of his position.
– I rise to a point of order, sir. Some documents have been quoted from in debate; certain plans have been laid before the Senate, and I want to call your attention to standing order 364-
– A point of that character cannot be raised in Committee on the Bill. It must be taken before the President in the Senate itself.
– In any case you would need to get copies, because as a matter of fact we are working on this large file.
–The Minister has read all the documents.
– No. Without challenging the ruling of the Chairman, I desire to call attention to the Standing Orders.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable senator will have an opportunity to bring the question before the Senate.
– Standing order 364 reads -
A document quoted from by a senator not a Minister of the Crown may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the table; such order may bc made without notice immediately upon the conclusion of the speech of the senator who has quoted therefrom.
Senator McDougall has presented to the Senate some tracings of a plan. I think that under standing order 364 I am perfectly entitled to ask that he shall be called upon by the Chairman to lay the tracing on the table.
– He did not quote from the plan.
– He argued from the plan and quoted from it.
– The standing order says “ Quoted.”
– Senator McDougall did quote from the plan. He told us that it required the use of soft soap.
– Order ! I direct the attention of Senator Guthrie to the fact that under standing order 364 he cannot now take the action he desires. The Committee can only consider such matters as have been remitted to it by the Senate. This matter has not been, remitted to the Committee, and consequently the honorable senator is not entitled to have the document quoted from by the Minister laid upon the table of the Senate.
– I am sure that the Committee, must feel not a little mystified by the* sharp contradiction presented between the very definite statement of Senator McDougall and the very clear and official statement of the Minister of Defence. The latter, I think, has made it quite clear that, so far as officialdom is concerned, no such plans exist as are alleged by the former to exist. Yet Senator McDougall said that he presented us to-day with a tracing obtained from plans which were in the office at Cockatoo Island only a few days ago. That, I think, is only stating bare facts. I do not believe for a moment that the honorable senator made a statement in excess of what was warranted by the facts. I feel that in this matter he would take notice of the seriousness of the statement he intended to make, and therefore would come well buttressed with a knowledge of what has taken place. If it is a fact that, the document on the other side of the chamber is a copy of some other document in the office at Cockatoo Island, and which was there three or four days ago, it must fill one with mystery that the Minister should be in a position to bring here a very clear and definite and official statement to the contrary. I think that the Minister himself will see that there is room for a good deal of wonder. I of course accept the general manager’s statement as being, so far as he is aware, absolutely accurate. But, in saying that, I cannot dismiss as being utterly worthless and not entitled to consideration the very definite assurance of Senator McDougall that he obtained within the last few days a copy of plans which were then in the office at Cockatoo Island. His statement, I think, gains a little weight from his frank admission that he obtained the plan by illicit means. That is the candid confession of a man who felt that he had been driven to adopt an extraordinary expedient to get at the truth. I am unable to unravel the mystery. At the same time, the Minister has shown that he recognises the conflict to be so sharp and so serious that he has regarded it as an obligation to probe the matter further. I pass on for the moment from that rather sinister aspect to the proposition itself. A good deal has been said about an expenditure of £30,000. I am by no menas an apostle of reckless expenditure, but I remind the Committee that the expenditure of £30,000 on an undertaking which to-day involves us in more than £1,000,000 is not really the point to consider. The proposed expenditure, as against £3,000, or £5,000, or £7,000, is quite immaterial, provided that it can be shown that the Commonwealth will get value for the money. I am not troubled as to the cost of this undertaking.
– Was such cost necessary 1
– It comes down to that point. The dockyard involves us today in a sum of about £1,250,000, and I venture to say that before it is completed there will not be much left of £2,000,000. If the expenditure of the £30,000 pertains to the permanent working of the dockyard, it is a sum about which we need not concern ourselves. We come down to the point as to whether the expenditure of the money is necessary or not.
– Or whether Cockatoo Island is the best place at which to build ships?
– It is rather too late now for the honorable senator to raise that point.
– That is the point.
– The point is that the Senate approved of the purchase of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and the honorable senator gave the acquisition of the island his blessing-
– As an emergency absolutely.
– In what way as an emergency ?
– Because there was a dock ready, and nothing more.
– There was no emergency.
– The dock was the only thing on Cockatoo Island.
– Whatever were the reasons which induced the honorable senator to approve of the purchase of the dockyard, it is not now within his competency to question whether or not we should proceed to make the dockyard as efficient as we can.
– You cannot do so, because there is not the water available.
– I frankly admit that I am unable on the evidence presented here, and such knowledge as came to me when Minister, to determine whether or not a coffer-dam was necessary. I do. not claim - any more than I suppose the present Minister claims - personal knowledge of the matter; but I have always been troubled with the belief, and, in spite of the Minister querying my statement last night, I believe it is a fact, that coffer-dams are not found in shipbuilding establishments throughout the world. I am not saying that the provision of a coffer-dam is wrong on that account. I am not expressing an opinion. I do not feel competent to do so, but I must admit that I am more than a little puzzled that it is found necessary before we can launch the Brisbane to resort to an expenditure which is not found necessary in the case of similar undertakings in other parts of the world. I cannot determine that question, and I will not attempt to do so. There is one other aspect of the matter to which I desire to refer. Last night the Minister said, with a good deal of regret, that delay had taken place in determining this matter. I share that regret, and, to that extent, I am entirely with my honorable friend ; but I cannot resist the conclusion that, unintentionally or otherwise, in the statement he made to the press he would suggest that the delay was a responsibility which I must shoulder. If that was his intention there is absolutely no warrant for it.
– A charge waa made that the delay was due to the Labour Government, and I showed that at the time Senator Millen went into office the general manager raised this question, and there was delay subsequent to that. When we came into office again, the matter was practically where it was when we left office.
– I am very glad to get that statement, because the Minister has forgotten the documents from which he has just quoted. I intend to show that the matter was not where it was when Senator Pearce went out of office, and that it was not in a position to be dealt with until after I had left office. First of all let me say that I had been there for the major portion of my term, when it came as a shock to me to be informed that the Brisbane could not be launched until some provision had been made for her taking tie water.
– It was soon after the honorable senator took office.
– It was not soon after. .
– The matter came up in March, 1914, and the honorable senator took no action till June of the present year.
– I will show that action was taken, but even in June of this year it was not competent for any Minister to give a decision. The Cook Government, as a matter of fact, assumed office in June, 1913. It was many months after I became Ministerial head of the Department before it was brought to my personal knowledge that the Brisbane could not be launched without some expedient being resorted to.
– According to the papers available it was six months after the honorable senator took office.
– It was the month of March when the general manager raised the question.
– -All right. I have not had an opportunity of referring to the official papers to refresh my memory as to dates. I am speaking generally, but I believe quite accurately, when I say that it came as a shock to me after I had been in the Department some months to learn that the Brisbane could not be launched until some expenditure had been incurred, and some preparation had been made - and when I say “ preparation “ I do not mean the normal preparation which takes place in a properly equipped dockyard. I shall not ask anything more than the papers quoted by the Minister to-day to prove that even if I had wished to give a decision upon this matter, I could not have given it earlier than I did. The Minister has stated that the new general manager raised the question in March of this year. That is quite true. But the manager did not raise it in such a way as to enable me to say “ Yes “ or “ No “ to it. He did not put before me any plans. Later on, however, the Director of Naval Works was deputed to visit Sydney and confer with Mr. King Salter, not merely as to this work, but as to quite a number of other works which were alleged to be necessary in order to place the yard in an efficient position. It was on the 13th May last that a report was presented by him. But even that was not sufficient, because in July of this year Mr. King Salter wrote, pointing out that it was necessary for a considerable amount of marine survey work to be done before the question of the necessity of constructing a ooffer-dam in connexion with the launching of the Brisbane could be determined.
– It is only fair to say that in June the officials asked the honorable senator for authority to spend money out of the Loan Act, and that he refused to grant it.
– I shall deal with the loan expenditure later on. I desire no greater confirmation of my statement that if any delay occurred, the officers of the Department must shoulder the responsibility for it, than is afforded by the interjection of the Minister. He says that in June the officers asked me for authority to spend money on this work out of the expenditure authorized by the Loan Act. Now the loan fund of £170,000 was appropriated for certain specific undertakings on Cockatoo Island. It contained no provision for the erection of a cofferdam there.
– The statement that it was authorized for specific items is challenged.
– Is it likely that I should have placed £170,000 on the Loan Estimates - particularly in view of the opinions entertained by my honorable friends opposite who were likely to challenge those Estimates - without being in a position to tell the Senate exactly how that amount was made up.
– The Loan Act shows that the money was to be spent upon machinery, workshops, and the construction of wharfs.
– That is exactly my point. If the Naval Board officials knew at that time that some expenditure was necessary to provide for the erection of a coffer-dam to enable the Brisbane to be launched, why did they not make provision for it in those Estimates?
– Then the honorable senator blames the Naval Board?
– I should not have spoken but for my impression that the Minister in a newspaper interview had sought to make it appear that I was responsible for the delay which has occurred. His interjections now confirm that impression.
– I sought to make it appear that Mr. Cook was responsible.
– The Minister would have the people believe that I am responsible. But the facts are, that when the Estimates were prepared at the end of 1913, which, amongst other matters, provided for machinery, workshops, &c, at Cockatoo Island, my responsible officers did not put before me any proposal for the expenditure of a single penny on this undertaking.
– The honorable senator never saw the plans at all.
– Exactly, and I never knew anything about the matter until months afterwards. When Mr. King Salter did raise it, and when it began to dawn upon somebody in the Navy office that there would probably be an outcry about it, I waa asked to authorize the expenditure of some portion of the loan moneys to which reference has been made, upon the erection of this cofferdam. I declined to sanction that course. I was not prepared to go behind the back of Parliament and to divert the expenditure of money, which had been authorized for a particular purpose, into some other channel. The fact that no provision was made on the Defence Estimates which T presented to this Parliament is a clear indication that at that time the official mind waa either in a state of sleepiness or of ignorance in respect to this matter. I come back now to the point at which I was switched off into dealing with these financial matters. I would point out that on 13th May a report was presented by Mr. Fanstone, as the result of a commission which was given to him to confer with Mr. King Salter as to the whole of the engineering works required at Cockatoo Island. I thought it better that the whole of these works should be dealt with in a comprehensive way. As a result. Mr. Fanstone visited Sydney, consulted Mr. King Salter, and presented his report upon them. But, as late as July, a report was received from Mr. King Salter, in which, he pointed out that considerable marine survey work would have to be undertaken before the plans for this coffer-dam could be prepared. I do not know that I need go any further. Within two or three weeks of that time certain things happened, and I am quite certain that thereafter this matter was not presented for my consideration again. But even in November we find that Mr. Swan presented still another report. After inspecting the island, he made a recommendation. All these things, I submit, indicate that the departmental mind had not then finalized itself, that there was still floating about in that Department a very grave doubt as to whether this form of preparation should be made. It was only in November that Mr. Swan made his report, and I understand that it was early this month when the Minister of Defence gave his decision upon it.
– Can the honorable senator tell us how Mr. Swan came into the matter?
– I cannot. All I know is that some time ago he was appointed to a position at Cockatoo Island, which he was prevented from taking up owing to an illness which he developed in the West. Whether he went to Cockatoo Island in pursuance of that appointment I do not know. But, irrespective of whether or not his proposal is approved, I have no hesitation in saying that he is an officer of whom I have a very high opinion indeed. Even though his recommendation may not be approved, I still think he is a gentleman of considerable experience, whose opinions are entitled to some weight.
– The impression I got was that the honorable senator had sent him there with a view to ascertaining whether an alternative proposal could be made.
– I cannot say without reference to the official papers. I do not think that that was so, but, even if it were, it is quite clear that there was an alternative proposal floating about the Department somewhere. From where did that alternative proposal come? I did not originate it, but it is quite clear to me that there was floating about in the Department somewhere an alternative proposal. I cannot remember what particular officer mentioned it to me. It is one of those things that one knows, although one is unable to say what was his particular source of information. “But I now wish to direct attention to another matter. From the papers which the Minister has read, it appears that the Naval Board first thought of the necessity of these launching ways as early as 1912. They then wrote to the State Government to inquire what steps were being taken in regard to them. What were they doing during all the period that has elapsed in the interim? Were they content to allow the cruiser Brisbane to be built, and to raise the urgency of this matter only in June last?
– It was raised before June.
– By whom ?
– There is a minute by the first member of the Naval Board, which is dated May last.
– That was after Mr. King Salter had presented his report. Then the Board, which had been asleep for two years, suddenly found it imperative to write a minute upon the matter.
– But the honorable senator was in charge of the Department during one of those years.
– I did not know that the launching ways were not prepared. How was I to know if the mattor was not brought under my notice?
– The honorable senator knew that the Naval Board was at sixes and sevens.
– Sometimes they were at sevens and eights. At any rate, I did my best to straighten things up. I repeat that in 1912 the Naval Board thought of this matter, and communicated with the State Government upon it. In such circumstances, why is it that it was only in May of this year that they suddenly put a minute before the Minister affirming that the question was urgent? What were they doing in 1913 when they put the loan Estimates before him for his consideration ? It was only when this matter was brought up again by Mr. King Salter, and when it had dawned upon the authorities at the Navy Office that they might get a rap over the knuckles concerning ib, that- they raised it as if they had made a brand new discovery, when, as a matter of fact, they had forgotten all about it for eighteen months. I should not have spoken on this subject had I not been compelled to do so, because I have a very strong disinclination to criticise the actions of a Department which at the present time is very busily engaged as the result of the war. I have endeavoured this session to adopt a role of silence with that object in view. I have adopted this attitude from a sense of what I regard as a public duty. I should not have ventured now to offer one word of criticism of the Naval Board had I not felt that I was fairly entitled to do so when an effort was made to reflect upon me, and suggest that I was responsible for delay, the responsibility for which must rest entirely with the officials who control the Navy Office.
– The matter under review is worthy of the serious consideration of the Committee. There is evidently a mystery somewhere. Senator McDougall has informed us that plans were prepared for the Department, and it is now said that they do not exist. I intimated on the second reading of the Bill that unless the Minister of Defence could make a satisfactory explanation of the necessity for spending £35,000 on the construction of a coffer-dam in order to enable the cruiser Brisbane to reach the water, I should be prepared to support any proposal that might have the effect of bringing about a different state of affairs. The Minister has this morning admitted that he is prepared to have an inquiry. I regard that as an admission that he is not satisfied in his own mind as to the necessity for the expenditure of all this money. The honorable senator read a memorandum from Mr. -King Salter, from which it appears that that gentleman was not officially informed of the existence of certain plans. I wish particularly to impress upon the Minister of Defence that, if he is going to have an inquiry into this matter, it should not be confined entirely to the Department. The Committee of Inquiry should be comprised, not entirely of members of the Naval Board or officers of the Naval Department, but should include a representative of the Boilermakers and Iron Shipbuilders Society of Australia, or of the branch of which Senator McDougall is a member. There should be on the Committee of Inquiry at least one man outside the Department who has practical knowledge of the building and launching of large vessels. I have no doubt that many such men could be obtained in Australia, and I hope that in constituting the Committee the Minister will adopt the suggestion I have made.
– The question which has engaged the attention of this Chamber for the last hour or so, and of another place for a longer time, has a humorous as well as a serious side. We have had a discussion upon ship-building which might very well form the subject for a pantomime sketch. We have heard a good deal in the past of unlucky ships, but it is not too much to say that the cruiser Brisbane is absolutely the safest ship in the world. None of us would, I think, be afraid to take command of her because she will neither float nor sink so long as she remains where she is. Sir Joseph Porter was never so safe in the office in which he was accustomed to “ polish up the handle of the big front door “ as he would be in charge of the cruiser Brisbane. It might, perhaps, he a splendid investment to sell her to Germany as the German cruisers were sold to Turkey. ‘
– The honorable senator suggested a little while ago that we should sell the whole of the Australian Fleet.
-That is quite true, and if all our vessels were of as little use as the Brisbane it would be a good thing to sell them even now. Fortunately, some of them have proved to be more useful than some of us expected. I am suggesting that the matter has a comic opera aspect.
– There is nothing very comic about launching a ship which would be very useful at sea.
– I am reminded by the present position of affairs of an amusing incident recorded in the Vicar of Wakefield. The vicar’s daughter desired to paint a picture. She was given a very small room in which to carry out her work. When the picture was finished, it was pronounced to be a great success, but the doorway of the room was so small that it was impossible to remove the picture from the room, and it had to be hung permanently in the room in which it was painted. It would be a pity if the Brisbane should have to be hung up permanently in the Cockatoo Island dockyard until the war is over. Senator Pearc© has been good enough to remind me that I would have sold the whole of the Fleet some little time ago. It is quite true that I took that view of the Fleet, and I now candidly admit that I took a wrong view. I have always had the courage of my opinions, and I do not claim any credit which does not rightly belong to me. If I made a mistake in connexion with the naval part of the defence of Australia, I can claim credit for bringing the other arm of the service in Australia into prominence when Senator Pearce did not recognise the necessity for such a thing. The question we now have to consider is an engineering one, and I do not think that there is any member of the Senate who is in a position to determine it. It is a question as to whether it is necessary to expend £30,000 or the much smaller sum involved in Mr. Cutler’s scheme upon the launching of the Brisbane. There was some official vindictiveness displayed in connexion with the operations at Cockatoo Island, and this difficulty is, I think, an echo of it. When Cockatoo Island was taken over by the Commonwealth Government it was only vindictiveness that could have permitted such a wholesale clearing-out of old hands as then took place. I had occasion to bring before the Minister the case of a man who had proved himself to be one of the best men for his particular work who was ever employed at the dock. He was a clerical worker, and Senator Millen will no doubt remember the man to whom I refer.
– I. do.
– The poor fellow has since gone upon his longest journey, and I wish to say that the reason I could not raise the question at the time was that he was a distant relation of my own. I had to look on whilst I knew that an injustice was being done to an individual. There was a desire to make a clean sweep of all the old officials.
– I do not think the honorable senator is entitled to say that, because only two officials were thrown out at the time, and for reasons which appealed to Senator Pearce and to myself as good reasons.
– I should like to hear any good reasons for the discharge of the individual to whom I refer.
– The honorable senator was told of them.
– I was told no good reasons.
– No reason would be a good one in the mind of the man himself or of his friends.
– This man was Stores clerk, and had been in charge of the work for years. He was shown to be a competent man, and I am satisfied, from my knowledge of him, that there was never a more industrious servant in any
Government employ. He had shown his capacity as a mathematician, and an opinion of him in writing in a report by Mr. Cutler showed that he was in every way competent for the position he held. But he had to go. I regard the present difficulty as an echo of the desire evident at that time to get new men into the positions which old hands had occupied for years. Mr. Cutler had shown his capacity to occupy the position of manager of the dockyard. He left a report behind him, and the new man coming in no doubt thought that report must be turned out. I dare say that jealousy between the two managers will account for the whole affair. Honorable senators are not in a position to judge between them without independent testimony. We shall not get it if we have only the opinion of the present manager and leave the views of the late manager out of consideration. I hope that the inquiry promised will be an impartial one, and that we shall have placed before us information supplied by men competent to express a valuable opinion. I attach no great importance to the plans which have been spoken of. It is evident that the matter was first mentioned in June, 1912, and it was subsequent to that date that the plans brought forward by Senator McDougall came into existence. I hope that the promised inquiry will en able us to decide who is right, and will be the means of preventing the unnecessary expenditure of public money.
– I hail with satisfaction the announcement of the Minister of Defence that an inquiry will be made into this matter. I hope that very much time will not be occupied .by the inquiry. I have said that I did not see the concrete bed which has been spoken of, but it may have been covered up when I visited the dock, and if it be there there is no reason why the launching-ways could not be constructed at least as far as the water’s edge. That should expedite the launching of the vessel. Senator de Largie may regard the Brisbane as being perfectly safe in her present position, but honorable senators generally are concerned about having the vessel launched at the earliest possible moment. I am assured that she could be launched to-morrow but for the absence of launching facilities. Senator
Guthrie made a remark which I think ought not to pass uncontradicted. He suggested, to my mind, that, in his opinion, there is not a sufficient depth of water-
– Did the honorable senator not know that Senator Guthrie is the humorist of the Senate?
– I did not say anything about the depth of water.
– I understood the honorable senator to say that there is not a sufficient depth of water at the place where it is proposed to launch the vessel.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said that there was not a rise and fall.
– We know that the rise and fall at that place is about 6 feet at spring-tide. In yards on the Clyde and elsewhere the rise and fall of the tide is much greater, which may explain the difficulty expressed by Senator Millen. There must be some plan in existence, or Senator McDougall could not produce a pencil tracing of it. I hope that whatever is done will be done quickly, and that the Brisbane will be in the water at an early date.
– I should like to hear the Minister’s views regarding my suggestion that the inquiry should not be confined to a departmental Board, but that an outside man of shipbuilding experience should be included in the Committee of Inquiry.
.- The inquiry will be conducted by myself. I shall hear what Mr. Cutler has to say, and what the others have to say, but so long as I am responsible for the Department I shall conduct these inquiries myself.
– Everybody here ,is now convinced that there is something wrong, and the inquiry to be instituted bv the Minister will reveal where the wrong is. I have vindicated myself, because the Minister as a practical man knows that it is impossible to get a pencil tracing from anything but an original plan. I intended in the first place to draw a pen and ink sketch myself, but I am glad now that I did not, because that might mean anything or nothing. The pencil tracing must satisfy the Minister that the original plan is or was in existence. The necessity for getting the vessel ready for action as early as possible should be uppermost in our minds, because she may be wanted. The boilers are ready, the driving power is on the island, the engines are there, the armament, I believe, is there, and there are sufficient practical workmen in Australia to put the vessel in commission in less than three months from the date of launching. The launching can be done in ninety days from the time of starting! I trust the war will be over before that can be accomplished, but that is doubtful, and the vessel may be useful in the interests of the defence of Australia and the Empire.
– Can the Minister indicate whether the steamers for lighthouse construction are in actual commission ?
– Three steamers have been ordered for lighthouse construction. The arrangements are not quite complete, but I understand the tender is to be let to an Australian firm, the steamers to be built in Australia. The firm is recommended by the Department as quite suitable for the work. The earliest date at which it is expected that the first steamer will be completed is about twelve months, the others following in due course.
– Will the Act be proclaimed by that time?
– I hope much earlier.
Second schedule agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 and first schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.55 to 2.30 p. m.
Finance : Increases of Salary : Taxation and Expenditure: Note Issue - Commonwealth Bank - Labour Caucus - Conduct of Business: Days of Meeting - Expeditionary Forces : Purchase of Horses.
Bill received -from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
The following statement has been supplied to me by the Treasury -
This Bill is to cover expenditure for five months, ending 30th April, 1915, and, with the following exceptions, is based upon the rate of expenditure of 1913-14: -
Additional provision is made consequent upon the war under the head of Expeditionary Forces, Universal Training, Camps, Maintenance of Ships and Vessels, and a few other divisions in the Defence Department, particulars of which are set out on pages 64 and 65 of the Estimates of expenditure for the current financial year.
Provision is also made under Division 103a, railwaj’s, for the following items, which appear on the Estimates for the first time this year. These amounts are to pay working expenses on that portion of the transcontinental line open for traffic, to purchase rails to replace those lost on the s.s.Hektor (the insurance money on which has been recovered and paid into revenue), and to provide credit for a trust fund account established in connexion with the providing of stores on the transcontinental railway.
All other items are of an ordinary recurring nature.
The payments covered by the Bill need to be made on Tuesday next, and owing to the fact that the Commonwealth is a country of magnificent distances, it is necessary to pass the measure a day or two previously. I ask the Senate to continue the consideration of the Bill to its completion. I am not able to say definitely when we shall need to meet next week. I shall be better informed at a later hour, but I believe that we may be able to adjourn from to-day until Tuesday. An understanding, I am informed, has been arrived at by which business will be completed on Wednesday in both Houses. There are certain Bills before the other House which have to come here, and we desire the Senate to have sufficient time to consider them. There are, for instance, the Commonwealth Bank Bill, the Defence Pensions Bill, and the taxation Bills, other than the Tariff Bill. If we decide to meet on Tuesday, that will give us the whole of that day and Wednesday to consider the measures. If, however, there should be a general wish to have more time, the Government will be quite willing for the Senate to meet on Monday, but I understand that honorable senators are rather desirous that that course should not be taken in order that they may return to their homes at the week end, and come back on Tuesday. Unless any information comes to hand during the afternoon, I propose to take that course. At the present time I do not see the necessity for sitting on Monday.
– Why not?
– The proposition at present is that we should meet on Tuesday, but that is subject to variation by the state of business in another place.
– I have some doubt as to the basis on which the Bill rests. I understood from the statement made by the Minister the other day that it was necessarily based upon the Estimates for the current financial year ; but a statement was made elsewhere to-day, and has been repeated here now, that, with certain exceptions, the ‘Bill is based on the rates of expenditure authorized for the last financial year. There is something of a conflict there. The Estimates for this year provide for certain increases in salaries. Does this Bill follow the basis of the Estimates for 1913-14, or does it follow the Estimates which we are to have ample time to consider next week ? It may make a very considerable difference to officers who are down for increments, so that it is desirable that the point should be cleared up.
– I cannot see how two days next week will be sufficient to discuss two important measures, even if there is no other business to consider.
– You can have Thursday, too.
– The rest of the week seems to be lost sight of by the Minister of Defence. The very least we ought to do is to devote the whole of next week to the public business. The Defence Pensions Bill will be the first measure of the kind to come before the Senate, and consequently a great deal of debate may take place. Surely the Commonwealth Bank Bill, which extends the powers of the National Bank very much, cannot be got through in one day ! Two such important measures, I think, require more than two days for discussion. I ask that the whole of next week be devoted to the business, so that we may finish at the end of the week.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT appears to me that we have a formidable list of measures to pass in two days. The extended powers proposed to be conferred on the Commonwealth Bank are powers of very considerable importance, and call for very careful consideration. The taxation Bills, excluding the Tariff, fortunately for our peace of mind, are also measures which, I submit, require more consideration. The imposition of probate and succession duties raises a very important question, and that is how far the Commonwealth is justified in interfering with what has always been regarded hitherto as a legitimate source of revenue to the States. Moreover, we have to bear in mind that the proposal is not to take away this taxing power from the States, but to add to the taxation which already exists under the States. There are frequent complaints about taxation of that character. The proposed extension of the land tax is also a matter which requires, and ought to receive, very great consideration here. It. seems to me that an order simply goes forth from the powers that sit on the Government benches. Whether it is done with the connivance or the concurrence of their colleagues in secret conclave or caucus, I do not know. We are expected to open our mouths, shut our eyes, and 8ee what good things they send us to swallow. I protest against measures of very grave and serious importance being brought up at the end of the session. Apart from that, however, we are asked to grant Supply to cover a period of four or five months. Ordinarily we are asked to vote Supply according to the rates authorized in the Estimates, for the previous year. On this occasion we are asked, if not altogether, in certain respects, to sanction some increments which are proposed in the Estimates for the current year. I am not prepared to say that the increments are not justified. That” is beside the question just now. The point is that Parliament is constantly losing its grip of the finances. If we pass a Supply ‘Bill based on the proposals of the Government for the current year, we shall practically adopt the proposals, which we have not had an opportunity to discuss or consider. It puts us in a most difficult position in regard to the Public Service. Here we are asked to vote £10,000,000 for five months’ Supply. I have examined the schedule, and find that a greater portion of the money is required for the Expeditionary Forces. With regard to that expenditure, I am not raising a protest in any way. I do not suggest that we should discuss all the details at this stage. We must rely on the Ministry to carry out the work and spend the money. But, with regard to the ordinary services of the country, it is a serious thing that we should be called upon in this peculiar way to vote money. It is well known that we have to find an enormous sum one way or another. We have practically passed a Bill authorizing the expenditure of about £4,000,000 on public works. The amount provided on the Estimates this year exceeds the appropriations of last year by about £2,000,000. We have a falling revenue and a drought staring us in the face in different directions. Although we have a hard time in front of us, the Government propose to increase the taxation and the expenditure as though we were going through a prosperous season, when it did not matter very much whether an extra million or two was voted or not. Australia has to realize that she cannot go through a period of depression such as exists to-day without feeling it in a very marked degree. When the greatest war the world has ever known is taking place, and we have to find money to maintain our soldiers who are taking a share in the fighting, is not the time, I submit, when the Government should increase unnecessarily the public expenditure. If, however, an increased expenditure is absolutely necessary, we ought to see if we cannot adopt some means by which the payments may be provided for in a fairer and less objectionable form than that proposed. The Prime Minister, I understand, has suggested that a great many of these public works ought to be provided for out of loan votes. I am glad to find that some Ministers are beginning to realize that it is quite impossible to develop a country without resorting to the money lender. If all the taxation is thrown on the present generation, what must be the result? We ought to bear in mind that it is not wise to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. It should be remembered that we cannot get beyond a certain amount out of the people without making matters very much worse than they are at present. We do not want a large army of unemployed or of persons who are getting sufficient only to keep body and soul together. We desire to see our people profitably em- ployed, and receiving reasonable wages for the services which they render. But it must be remembered that the taxpayer has to provide the money with which to defray the expenses of government. Quite recently the Government arranged for a loan of £18,000,000 from Great Britain for the purpose of financing the States over a particular period, and Mr. Holman, the Premier of New South Wales, has just been pointing out that, while he will have sufficient money to enable the public works of that State to be carried on during the current financial year, he does not know how he will fare next year if the war and the drought continue.
– Does the honorable senator think that Mr. Lloyd-George could answer his question about next year ?
– We can all see that the war is not likely to be of very brief duration, and we must recognise that after its close we shall experience bad times before the wastage involved in this Titanic struggle can be repaired.
– Does the honorable senator think that we should borrow from the Mother Country in order that we may send her assistance?
– We are doing that now.
– We are doing it at the rate of £1,500,000 a month. We know that Mr. Fisher affirmed that he would not borrow from the Mother Country to enable us to finance our share in the war. But yet he obtained from the Imperial authorities a loan of £18,000,000.
– Surely the honorable senator will not blame the Commonwealth for the shortcomings of the States.
– The Commonwealth is standing behind the States, and is finding money to enable them to prosecute their public works. While it was definitely stated a short time ago that the £18,000,000 being obtained from the Imperial authorities was being borrowed to finance the States, we are now told that it has not been borrowed for that purpose at all. On the contrary, we are definitely assured that it is intended to enable us to finance our expenses in connexion with the war. I know Chat when Mr. Fisher made his arrangement with the banks, certain representations were made to those institutions. The Commonwealth, in effect, said to them, “ We want to finance our expenses in connexion with this war. Are you prepared to help us, so as to obviate the necessity for our approaching the Imperial authorities?”
– Does the honorable senator say that Mr. Fisher made that statement to the banks?
– It was definitely stated that the money which Mr. Fisher sought was to enable the Government to finance our share of the war.
– Who made that statement ?
– I say that it was made, and I am in a position to know.
– Did Mr. Fisher make it?
– I was not present when Mr. Fisher interviewed the representatives of the banks who were invited to meet him.
– The banks are making a very good thing out of it.
– Of course, we must expect that base ingratitude will be exhibited towards the institutions which are now helping the country. The banks are taking paper money-
– One hundred Commonwealth pound notes for thirtythree sovereigns.
– The banks are not asking for that. In regard to the £10,000,000 which is being obtained from them, the Commonwealth said, “You give us 10,000,000 sovereigns, and take £10,000,000 worth of notes from us,” and I believe that a further condition was imposed, namely, that those notes should not be presented for redemption in gold so long as the war lasts. It is true that the notes bear upon them the imprint that the Commonwealth Treasury promises to pay in gold their face value. But the banks have been requested to defer the presentation of these notes-
– Till when 1
– It may be until the war has terminated, or it may be for a period of twelve months. But we have to bear in mind that the Government have no royal way of securing gold. They cannot manufacture it. They will probably endeavour to raise the money they require by resort to taxation. But I wish honorable senators to realize that, when we take money out of the pockets of the people, we render them less able to carry on their own private business undertakings. We have also to bear in mind that we are a borrowing country, that every year we have to pay millions of pounds in gold coin in London as interest upon our loans. Hitherto we have had a great opportunity in that we have had a large volume of export®-
– Let us break up land monopoly.
– The honorable senator is always great on land monopoly; but I do not propose to discuss that matter now. If the Government are not very careful in regard to the action which they are taking, they will find that the last state of the Commonwealth will be infinitely worse than the first. The public cannot absorb more than a certain quantity of currency, no matter what form that currency may take. Quite recently I endeavoured to ascertain what is probably the amount of currency that exists outside the banks, but I was unable to do so. No returns were available which would permit me to arrive at an accurate conclusion. At the present time, £17,000,000 worth of notes have been issued from the Treasury, but I venture to say that there are not more than £7,000,000 worth in the hands of the people to-day.
– Rather more, I think.
.- Until recently, £5,000,000 would cover the whole of the paper money in circulation in the Commonwealth, although the banks were holding £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 worth of notes. It is true that there are more in circulation now. As a matter of fact, the banks to-day will pay customers in notes rather than in gold. I wish to protest against the way in which the Government are managing the finances of this country. They are borrowing from Great Britain, and, after having represented to the banking institutions that they wanted money for a specific purpose, they are using it for a diametrically different purpose.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– Circumstances will prove whether it is so or not. We have been told that the Commonwealth Bank has been of immense assistance to the Government and the country during the present crisis. No doubt that institution, like other banks, is doing a large business amongst the commercial people of the community, just as it was intended that it should do when it started operations. But, while at the present moment it has £5,000,000 worth of deposits, it is not contributing a single farthing to the loan that has been obtained by the Government from other banking institutions. Why should not the Commonwealth Bank be asked to pay its share towards any advance made to the community?
– The Commonwealth Bank is keeping the other banks going. But for it the other banks would have closed.
– The honorable senator is living in a land of topsy-turveydom . I can assure him that the Commonwealth Bank has not rendered any assistance to keep the other banks going. As a matter of fact, the latter have been called upon to do something which the former is admittedly incapable of doing.
– For a consideration.
– What is the consideration? That the banks should accept Commonwealth notes, which they are asked not to present for payment, and that they should allow the Government to make 3 or 4 per cent, interest upon their advances to the States from the money so obtained from the Associated Banks.
– Who is protecting the assets of those banks to-day?
– It is part of the duty of any Government to protect their assets. That is one of the functions of government. Senator Barker has said that the Commonwealth Bank is keeping the other banks going. As a matter of fact, an institution like the Bank of New South Wales, with its enormous reserves, could swallow up the Commonwealth Bank without the slightest difficulty.
– -11 ot by a long way.
– I protest against the way in which the business of the country is being conducted from a financial stand-point, because I believe that it will lead to chaos and trouble in the future. Of course, it may happen that the present Government may not be called upon to reap the whirlwind. That may be the lot of their successors. But we are faced with parlous times, and it behoves us, therefore.’ to be as careful> as we can be in seeking to conserve the best interests of the country.
– Realizing the value of time, it is not my intention to delay the first reading of this Bill. During the past couple of days, Senator Gould has evidently had a violent attack of “ cau.cusitis.” He has scarcely addressed himself, to any question without referring to the crimes of the Labour party Caucus, notwithstanding that he himself has taken part in Caucus meetings. He has told us that he is obliged to accept just whatever this side of the chamber may choose to give him, and he has implied that the Labour Caucus has determined exactly what hours we shall sit, and upon what days we shall meet. Let me tell him that he is absolutely mistaken. Personally, I would like this Chamber to meet again on Monday, instead of on Tuesday. If a division were taken on the question I should be prepared to vote for assembling on Monday instead of on Tuesday. I realize that there is a desire on the part of honorable senators to bring this session to a speedy determination, but there are many matters of importance that require to be considered, and I think it would be no great inconvenience to honorable senators to ask them to reassemble on Monday. Ministers may say that they are busy men, and I believe that they are overworked at the present time.
– I was not speaking of the convenience of Ministers, but of honorable senators.
– I did not say that the Minister spoke of the convenience of Ministers. I said that I believed that Ministers are overworked, and they might naturally desire to rest on Monday from the legislative labours. In order to bring the session to a satisfactory close honorable senators might devote another day to the business. Even if we spent the whole of next week in con- sidering the business to come before us the time would be well spent.
. - I wish to direct attention to the fact that, from a parliamentary point of view, we appear to be getting into an unsatisfactory method of doing business. I recognise that existing circumstances might compel us to do things which we should not care about doing under ordinary conditions. We have before us now a Bill to provide for five months’ Supply, and it will leave only two months of the financial year unprovided for. I am, therefore, disposed to look upon it as practically the final appropriation measure for the current financial year. I understand that it is the intention of the Government, after this Bill is passed, to go on with a considerable amount of further legislation. Honorable senators on both sides have been accustomed to recognise that it is necessary that the Senate should retain its hold of the purse if it is to be in a position to control the actions of any Government. If at the present time we were sitting on the other side, and Senator Millen and his friends were representing the Government, I wonder what we should say. I am inclined to think that we would probably do what was done by the Senate on a memorable occasion six or seven years ago. After the final Appropriation Bill for the year had been passed in this Chamber the Government of the day discovered that a considerable amount of further legislation was necessary before the session could be brought to a close. You, sir, were a member of the Senate at the time, and you will remember that we did not say anything, but when the President read the messages received from another place, and the Minister in charge moved the first reading of the Bills referred to in those messages, we said “ No,” and we thus made it clear to the Government in another place that it was of no use to send up legislation to the Senate after the final Appropriation Bill had been dealt with. We are adopting a slipshod practice, and I hope that there will not be very much more of this kind of thing. If the Government are to be allowed to get what is practically a final Appropriation Bill through, and then seek to go on with further legislation, I shall be found voting with the other side when that legislation is submitted in the Senate. Every honorable senator realizes that as soon as the final Appropriation Bill for the year has been passed the Government are in a position to laugh at Parliament.
– Parliament is only a majority of its members.
– Certainly ; but that is no reason why the majority should continue to stand behind the Government if they propose to do what is wrong.
– No; the assumption is that, while they have a majority, they are doing what is right.
– At the time to which I refer the President and I were supporting the Government of the day, but we took the action we did in order to make it clear that the Senate, was not prepared to depart from the usual practice, and permit the Government to send up legislation after the final Appropriation Bill had been passed.
– The honorable senator suggests that we should become fossilized.
– I do not. I say that when Parliament passes what fs practically the final Appropriation Bill for the year, the Government have matters in their own hands, and are able to announce the prorogation of Parliament at any time, and what would Senator Long be able to do with them then if he objected to what they proposed ? I hope we shall not drift very far in that direction, whether the Government in power be one which we support or one which we oppose. There are certain safe lines on which the government of the country should be conducted, and I shall do what I can to see that Parliament retains the power to speak its mind to the Government of the day.
.- I take advantage of this opportunity to bring a matter which I regard is of some importance before the Minister of Defence. Quite recently a number of horses were purchased in Tasmania for our Expeditionary Forces. Amongst the officials appointed to carry out the work was a Mr. George Peisse, of Bridgewater. This gentleman has had some rural experience, but has evidently not had much experience of judging horses. A very credible informant tells me that his qualifications are not such as to fit him for a position of the kind. He was asked to purchase horses throughout Tasmania, but was given to understand that he should not pay more than £16 per head for them. I believe that subsequently the limit to which he was allowed to go was increased, iu order that he might be able to purchase some decent animals. I understand that this gentleman purchased for the Commonwealth some of the most worn-out and aged crocks in the island of Tasmania.
– Such a limit as £16 was not placed on the purchase of horses on the mainland.
– Is that so? Some of the animals this gentleman purchased were so old and worn out that for very shame’s sake the military authorities would not send them to the front. I believe that there are now four or five horses in the Mowbray Remount Depot at Launceston which are absolutely useless. One is over twenty years of age, and another is probably over twenty-five years of age. I think that when we appoint a man to purchase horses for the Commonwealth we should hold him responsible in some way for the horses he buys. I ask that the Minister shall make a full inquiry into this matter. If, as my informant suggests, there has been corruption, and if this mau has been giving high prices for inferior horses with a view of getting something out of the business for himself, a strict inquiry into his conduct should be made. I hope that the Minister of Defence will assure me that such an inquiry will take place.
– One could not expect to get much of a horse for £16.
– That may be so; but the honorable senator will scarcely contend that an old crock over twentyfive years of age is worth £16. I think that the gentleman responsible for the purchase of these horses should be called to book for a waste of Commonwealth money.
– Who appointed him ?
– He was, I understand, appointed by the Defence authorities of Tasmania to carry out the work.
.- I have no particular knowledge of the matter to which Senator Ready has referred, but, of course, I do know that officers are buying horses, and I am informed that a remarkably small number have come from Tasmania. It appears that horses are hard to get there.
– They are, because of the limit of £16 per head, which the honorable senator will remember I brought under his notice when he took charge of the Defence Department.
– I can only say that the serious charges which have been made by Senator Ready will be investigated. Senator Millen asked me whether increases of salaries of public servants, provided for on the Estimates, are covered by this Supply Bill. The answer is that they are not. But if the increases are passed when the Estimates are considered they will, of course, be paid as from the beginning of this financial year. I should like to say in regard to Senator Gould’s lamentations that we should not encourage scare speeches upon the financial position. This is not the time for such speeches.
– On the other hand, if a mistake is being made which “is calculated to have disastrous results, surely it is the duty of an honorable senator to utter a note of warning.
– That is so. But Senator Gould has taken up a peculiar position. He deprecates what has been done, but suggests no other means of meeting the difficulty. When his party was in power they had to have recourse to these very means of meeting the situation, and, as the honorable senator knows, this matter was not left in a very satisfactory position. I am not laying the blame for that on the Government, but the honorable senator knows well that one of the parties to the arrangement did not come up to the scratch, and that when we came into office the arrangement was moribund, or dead. The present arrangement is on a sound footing, and has been subscribed to by all the parties to it, which could not be said of the previous one. If there was another way out of the difficulty, why did not Senator Gould give the Government which he supported the benefit of his knowledge; because, I take it, that that Government brought forward the best scheme they could think of to meet the situation then created? The means adopted by the Government are the only ones we know of at the present juncture. If there are others, instead of attacking what we are doing, those who desire to help the Commonwealth and save it from financial troubles should feel it their bounden duty to disclose them.
– He was not so much attacking what you were doing as giving you a word of warning.
– If we are simply doing the inevitable, what is the use of railing words of warning at us? We all know the dangers of an unlimited note issue. We all see the serious financial position in which every civilized country finds itself to-day. No matter what Government it is - even the Governments of neutral countries - that is making financial provision to meet the situation, somebody can criticise and find fault with it. Every Government to-day is doing things which in ordinary times it would not dream of doing, not out of caprice, but driven thereto by the exigencies of the situation. No good purpose is served by railing at what is being done. “Unless an honorable senator has something better to put forward, it is his patriotic duty to keep silence. and assist the Government in what it is doing. I say in all seriousness that during the next year we ought not to encourage any feeling of insecurity in our financial institutions, or in regard to any financial measures with which the Commonwealth is dealing. I believe that every one of our banks is sound, and doing its utmost to insure its own safety and stability during this time of crisis. The banks have assisted the Government in that regard, and have shown every willingness to meet us, and we have no cause for complaint against them. It is unwise, for the sake of airing one’s financial knowledge, to throw a stigma upon even the note issue or the arrangements with the banks unless one can show something better to put in their place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first and second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 postponed.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Increases of Salary - Northern Territory : Class of Settlers : Railway Construction : Water Supply : Exploration and Survey - High Commissioner’s Office: Contingencies - Papuan Oil-fields - Vice-President of the Executive Council: Answers to Questions - Ennogera Remount Depot: Interference with Trade Unionists - Union Officials on Troopships - Refunds of Revenue. Schedule.
– I understood Senator Pearce to say that no increments would be paid until the General Appropriation Bill had been passed. That statement is in conflict with the utterance attributed by the press this morning to the Prime Minister, who is reported to have said yesterday -
The measure was necessary if the House was to adjourn until April. The Bill did not in any way touch the increments in the ordinary Estimates, except as regards salaries up to £210.
– They are fixed by Statute.
– But we have to pass them.
– They are made, not by a vote of Parliament, but under the Commonwealth Public Service Act.
– Still, they cannot be paid until appropriated by Parliament.
– They have been. It has been the practice in many cases to do so.
– With the appropriation by Parliament?
– Then are we to understand that all increments to officers below £210, irrespective of division, will be paid?
– Practically automatically.
– Will that apply to all classes of the Commonwealth servants ?
– Personally, I think they ought to be paid in the lower grades, although there may be some controversy about increases in the higher grades.
– Up to about £210 increments are practically .automatic. Others depend upon recommendation.
– Then they will practically all be paid?
– Yes, below that amount.
– The question of the type of settlers introduced to the Northern Territory can appropriately be discussed on the Estimates of the Department of External Affairs. The papers made available show that the type of settler introduced there could be much improved on.
– Have you read the Commissioner’s report?
– Yes. The Commissioner has issued a report, and has also tabled some papers relative to assistance rendered to settlers there. From my knowledge of the struggles of settlers in other parts of Australia, I think the men introduced to the Territory have nothing to complain of. lt is rather the administration which has grounds for complaint regarding the settlers’ behaviour. A great deal of assistance has been rendered to them - much more than to settlers in other parts - but some of them when given an opportunity to supplement their earnings by working for the Government on the Batchelor Farm or on the railway system of the Territory, either refused or stipulated for conditions which they were not entitled to demand. It is quite plain from the papers that, in the opinion of the Commissioner, great care needs to be exercised by the Department in selecting men to take up land there. It is equally clear that the man who has been placed on the land there so far is not nearly as good as he ought to be. It is urgently necessary to exercise the utmost scrutiny in this matter. No man should be sent to the Territory as a settler unless the Government are satisfied that he has at least some qualifications for pioneering. A great deal of money has been spent, and is being spent, there to encourage these men, but there must have been a certain amount of looseness in the past, or many of them would not have been sent there. No one can read the Commissioner’s report without being struck by the way in which the Department controlling the Territory has carried out its policy of settlement. It has not succeeded so far in introducing a really hardy, strenuous type of settler. The men who have gone there have proved themselves as a class to be unfit to carry on, or incapable of carrying on, the work of settlement.
– Where were they obtained ?
– That is the puzzle, and the Department should explain how they got there. The time has come for us to see that only the best type of settler is encouraged to go to the Territory. When he gets there he should be given all reasonable assistance, because, if men of the wrong class, who will not use the opportunities given to them, are sent there, it will give the Territory a bad name, and their failure will discourage other settlers who would make a success of things from trying their luck there, because they will not know that the men who failed were not of the genuine type. The Minister should see to it that no person is assisted to go to the Territory unless properly credentialled by people who know something about him. I have received applications from men in Western Australia who want to go to the Territory, but I should not dream of recommending them to the Department unless I was absolutely satisfied that when they got there they would make the utmost effort to succeed. It is the duty of the Minister controlling the Department, and of the Government generally, to see that no man is given land in the Territory unless the Minister and the Department are thoroughly satisfied about his bona fides, and that he is a striver down to his boots.
– I agree with Senator Lynch as to the class of settlers who ought to be sent to the Northern Territory. There is no part of the Commonwealth where greater care should be exercised in that regard. But I remind the Minister that it would be futile to send persons to the Territory to settle unless some steps are taken to provide facilities for them. I fullY expected that long before this practical steps would have been taken for the construction of a railway into the Territory. In the schedule to this Bill a sum of £30,000 is set down for the office of the Administrator. What is he doing for the sum? What has been done for the Territory with the money t We criticised very freely previous Governments, ana contended that they had not done witu the Territory what they ought to have done; but are our own Government doing one bib better ? I venture to say that they are not. Last week I inquired of the Minister what was being done in regard to the construction of a railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. I asked what steps were being taken to provide water, and I received the usual departmental evasive reply. It is quite a mistake for Ministers to think that honorable senators on this side are going to be satisfied with an evasive reply. If we do not receive a satisfactory reply to a question on one day Ave will come back for a more satisfactory reply on another day, and if it is not received on that day, we will move the adjournment of the Senate and -call public attention to the fact. I distinctly resent a reply being presented to me from an official whose particular business, apparently, is to frame replies conveying as little information as he possibly can. I have had a large experience of evasive replies.
– It must be a South Australian experience.
– It is typical of every State Parliament, and the Commonwealth Parliament is no exception to the rule. I asked what steps had been taken to provide water for the construction of the projected railway, and I was told that these matters were receiving careful consideration. That is no reply at all. The same thing applied to the construction of the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. No provision was made beforehand for supplying water, and the Department have to carry from 40,000 to 80,000 gallons of water along the line every day for the supply of their plant and the men. In the Northern Territory, for the first 200 or 300 miles, the railway will run through a proved artesian basin, where unlimited supplies of water can be procured by boring. Unlimited supplies of water are being procured to-day along the telegraph line, but it is scarcely possible that the railway will follow that route.
– Not down where they are running the railway from Pine Creek.
– I am talking more of the southern end of the railway than of the northern end. If the Department can get artesian water, as I believe they can do as far as the Barklay tableland, that will take the line 300 or 400 miles north. If they provide water for a distance of 300 or 400 miles, by the time they get there they will be able to make provision to take them over the rest of the route.
– The Barklay tableland is not on the route of the railway.
– The railway will tap the Barklay tableland, and go right through the Macdonnell Ranges, where artesian water is found in abundance to-day. We have very little uptodate information concerning the Northern Territory. Certain gentlemen, I believe, were employed to go over the country exploring and surveying. They were supposed to furnish plans and reports as to the character of the country over which they travelled for the information of the
Commonwealth generally, but I am told that no reports have been received from them yet. On the notice-paper to-day I had a question on the subject, and I find no fault with the Minister for asking me to postpone it, because I recognise that the information I seek cannot be obtained in a day. My protest against the inaction of the present Government is very largely because they have not very many facilities for providing work for the people. The railways will be the largest employer of labour it is possible for the Commonwealth to have. Here we have a scheme that ought to be undertaken without delay. When the Territory was taken over the construction of this railway should have been put in hand. It will employ at least a couple of thousand men if precautions are taken to obtain an adequate supply of water along the route. At a time when the unemployed question is so acute in Australia the Government ought not to delay by one hour the commencement of such an important work as the north-south railway. The work of construction should be taken in hand at once, and the first act should be to provide an abundant supply of water, so that, during the course of construction, the Department will not be put to the heavy cost of hauling water for a great distance to supply the men and the plant, as has occurred in the construction of the other transcontinental line. I find that whilst over £30,000 is set down in the schedule for the Administrator of the Northern Territory and his office, for railways and transport there is set down £10,475 under the head of salaries, and £8,520 under the head of contingencies. Considering the amount which it costs the Commonwealth to run the Territory it is almost time that steps were taken to secure some revenue from the Territory, instead of allowing it to be a drain on the Commonwealth.
– Link it up with the Queensland railway system, which is only 120 miles from the border.
– I remind my honorable friend that there is in existence “ a scrap of paper “ - an agreement with a very strong reference to the construction of a railway which should not be made to link up with Queensland in the first instance. I admit that linking up with Queensland, Western Australia, indeed with the whole continent, will follow, but first and foremost must come the contract entered into with South Australia that the railway shall be constructed as due north and south as possible.
– The agreement does not say that.
– I hope there are very few honorable senators who will attempt to get out of an agreement by saying what Senator Turley has said.
– Was there anything in the agreement opposing a connexion with Queensland)
– Nothing whatever. The agreement had nothing to do with any projected linking up with Queensland afterwards. That will come before very long; indeed, I expect that it will proceed almost simultaneously with the construction of the railway through the continent. My principal reason in rising was to ask the Government to do something immediately to develop the Territory, because, in developing the Territory, we shall be developing the property of the people of Australia.
– There is one item about which I would like to get a little information, and my curiosity is excusable, I think. I find an item of £6,700, under the head of High Commissioner’s Office, for, I take it, the term covered by the Bill. Of the total sum £2,200 is set down as salaries. That, I take it, would be for the High Commissioner and his staff. That item is followed by the item “ Contingencies, £4,500.” The discrepancy is remarkable.
– You will find all through that contingencies is about the most formidable item.
– I remind the honorable senator that that is generally the case, no matter what Government or Minister is in office. I think it is a pertinent question to ask : What do contingencies include ? I take it that the amount which we are asked to vote for salaries covers the salary of the High Commissioner and his staff.
– Oh, no. The salary of the High Commissioner is provided for under a separate Act.
– At any rate, whatever term is covered by the salaries which are here set down, will also be covered by contingencies.
– Are not the contingencies set out in the Estimates?
– They may be, but we have not much time to refer to the Estimates.
– We have days in which to pass the Bill.
– But the VicePresident of the Executive Council will be better pleased if we pass it this afternoon. There is just one other item upon which I desire a little information. It will be found under the heading of Papua - “Development of oil-fields, £4,000.” Can the Vice-President of the Executive Council tell us what are the prospects of the ultimate development of payable oil-fields in this Territory.
– I say at once that the fact that the expenditure under “ contingencies “ in the High Commissioner’s office is large this year should not occasion any surprise. Indeed, we ought rather to be surprised at the High Commissioner’s moderation. At a time like the present, when the Empire is at war, it necessarily follows that the expenditure under this heading will be larger than it is under normal conditions. I may illustrate my remarks in this connexion by pointing to the number of cables which are being sent by the High Commissioner to the Commonwealth for the purpose of keeping us informed of what is taking place at the seat of war. In regard to the oil-fields of Papua, we know that they are at present passing through the developmental stages when money is urgently required. I have not the particulars relating to these fields at my disposal just now, because I was under the impression that the Senate would sit to-morrow. But the information which is contained in the Estimates clearly explains the purpose of this proposed expenditure. Senator Newland has complained that there is apparently a desire on the part of Ministers to withhold information, and to refrain from giving full replies to questions. I think that that accusation is a very unfair one. It sometimes happens that a question is answered briefly, as, for instance, when the honorable senator himself asks what steps are being taken in the direction of providing water on a railway which we have not yet decided to construct. I need scarcely point out that there will be ample time to take that question into consideration when a definite proposal for constructing the line is before us. I recognise that in answering questions it is well to reply as briefly as possible, and to give only the information which is sought. I venture to say that there is no limit to the desire of some honorable senators for information, and I do not complain of that. But I do wish to obtain the confidence of honorable senators, and when I promise that information shall be obtained for them, I always instruct my officers to secure it. I wish it to be clearly understood that Ministers desire to satisfy the thirst of honorable senators for information, and that they recognise that the Public Service exists for the purpose of giving effect to -the desires of Parliament.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council is not replying to mv question.
– No ; but I am referring to the imputation of Senator Newland that Ministers are guilty of withholding information.
– I think that the Vice-President of the Executive Council has taken the Committee fully into his confidence, and has told it nothing.
– I do not know ‘ that I did not say too much when I admitted that I was not in a position to supply the information sought by Senator O’Keefe. Personally, I wish honorable senators to treat me in the same way as they would like to be treated themselves. If I am ever found guilty of an attempt to conceal anything, I shall be quite willing to make way for one of them. I am more interested in endeavouring to efficiently discharge my duties than I am in attempting to look clever, because I am too clumsy for that.
– I am glad that the VicePresident of the Executive Council has not altogether forgotten what he was taught at Sunday school. It is quite right that he should ask honorable senators to treat him in the same way as they themselves would like to be treated. I believe that he will get that treatment. We have heard this afternoon, from Senator Newland, a good deal about the north-south railway, the agreement made with South Australia, and the enormous number of men who will be employed upon that work. Indeed, we have had a general wail from South Australia. But there is not much in it, and to my mind it has been made only for the purposes of pub- lication Senator Newland pointed to the item, “Railways and transport, salaries, £10,475.” But that item has nothing whatever to do with the building of the Pine Creek to Katherine River line, except that it covers the salaries of thosepersons who come under the ordinary salary list. The money for the buildingof that undertaking was voted last year in the Loan Act.
– But the item served another useful purpose, in that it gave Senator Newland his opportunity.
– It formed a peg upon which that honorable senator hung the wail of which I have spoken. The construction of the railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River will cost £400,000. That money has already been appropriated for the purpose by Parliament, and the railway is being built. The geographical information that we obtained from Senator Newland was of a wonderful character. He told us all about the Barklay tableland. One would imagine, from his remarks, that it was right in the track of this railway, when, as a matter of fact, it is hundreds of miles distant.
– How many hundreds of miles?
– The honorablesenator, too, wishes to get some geographical information. If he will only look at a map of the Northern Territory - he will find that the line is a long way from the Barklay tableland, which ad- - joins the boundary of Queensland, and inns westward.
– Does not the railwayrun through the tableland ?
– Will not Senator Turley allow the South Australian representatives the privilege of shifting the tableland, in order to suit their argument ?
– The unfortunate thing is that there are so many people who know exactly where the Barklay tableland is located. Regarding Senator Newland’s remarks about the existence of artesian water, I wish to say that it has not yet been proved that the Barklay tableland is within the artesian area. I do not believe that there have been any bores put down there. As a matter of fact, it is a fairly dry country. It is true that wells have been put down to a depth of 40 and 100 feet. But, nevertheless, the country has yet to he proved from the standpoint of supplies of artesian -water. It is idle to say that the Barklay tableland is within the artesian basin, and that we shall get enormous quantities of water there. Can any honorable senator tell me where it has been proved that there are large quantities of artesian water in the coastal area? The railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River will run through the coastal area. I suppose that there has been more artesian boring done in Queensland than there has been in any other State.
– There has been a good deal done in South Australia.
– Where ? In areas where pastoral work has to be carried on it is not yet known whether artesian supplies of water exist. My honorable friends from Western Australia believe that such supplies do exist.
– If the honorable senator will afford me the opportunity I will give him reliable information on. that point.
– In such circumstances I will resume my seat.
– I have a small matter that I would like to bring under the notice of the Minister of Defence. Early in November last I directed his attention to a series of complaints by the men at the Enoggera Camp, Brisbane, regarding the conduct of a Mr. Thompson, one of the officers in charge of the Remount Depot Those complaints were to the effect that this officer had harassed the men as unionists in every possible way, and that he had ‘intimated that they were not to speak of unionism in camp, otherwise they would be kicked out of it. I have here a statement of four of these men. These charges were handed in to the Minister of Defence, with an accompanying letter from me. The Minister promised that he would have full inquiries made into the matter. I believe he took steps with that object in view. After an interval of about a month, I received a letter from the Department last Saturday, which shows that there really has not been a sufficient inquiry made. If there was to be an inquiry, it should have been a fail one. I was so satisfied that the inquiry was not a fair one that immediately I received the letter from the Department, I wrote to the secretary of the union of which these men are members, and asked if any inquiry had taken place, and if so, whether the men who made the charges were given an opportunity of substantiating them. The reply I received by wire yesterday was -
Interviewed members Remount Dep5t. No inquiry held, or members consulted.
These men made serious charges against this officer, and it was not fair to have completed the inquiry without at least consulting the men who made the charge. All I ask is that the Minister will have an inquiry made in accordance with his promise, and shall see that the officer responsible for the alleged inquiry, which has resulted in so unsatisfactory a reply, shall reopen the matter. The statement of the men indicates that something very unfair has been carried on at the Remount Depot, and I ask merely that the men should be given fair play. I expect the Minister of Defence to give me some assurance this afternoon that the inquiry he promised will be made, and that these men will get justice, which, up to the present, they have not received. It is ridiculous to say that an inquiry has been held when the men responsible for the charge have not been consulted. I cannot expect the Minister to be conversant with all the details of a big Department, and especially at a critical juncture. The matter has so far been dealt with evidently without any reference to the Minister, and, personally, I think that the report of the alleged inquiry should have been referred to him before I received my reply. I have brought the matter under the honorable senator’s notice again”, an’1 I ask that a proper inquiry shall be made into the charge which these men have made against Mr. Thompson.
– The statements of these men were brought under my notice by Senator Mullan, and it is true that I said that an inquiry would be made. I did not mean the honorable senator to understand by that that there would be a Court of inquiry, to which both parties would be summoned to give evidence. What I meant was that an inquiry would be made into the statements of the men against this officer. The statements of the men were there to speak for themselves. They had set out separately their version of what took place. I take it that that was their case. That was sent on to the Commandant, Queensland, to make inquiries. Speaking from memory, the purport of the statements made by the men was that the officer in charge of the Remount Depot had gone out of- his way to attack the men for being unionists. He was called upon for an explanation, and a replY to the charges made against him. Senator Mullan is wrong in thinking that a reply was sent to him without my having seen the papers. I did see the papers. The reply of the officer in charge of the Remount Depot to the charges made against him is that a dispute arose at the depot between certain of the men relative to the merits of unionism and non-unionism. He interfered and said that he would not have any quarrelling about unionism in the quarters. That seems to me to be right. Organizers of trade unions are permitted to visit all Commonwealth works to interview men employed in regard to union matters. I issued a minute some time since that union organizers should have the right to visit all Commonwealth, works, other than works, for military or naval purposes, to which the general public are not admitted, during meal hours, and to interview the men employed during those hours. But it is obviously unwise that quarrels about unionism and nonunionism should be allowed to take place in the quarters, and especially during hours when the men are on duty. Tt appears that the offence of this officer was that he interfered during a quarrel at this time, and said that he would not allow any of these discussions on unionism to take place. I do not see that anything can be done by pursuing the matter further. The men say that what the officer said was that he would not have any unionists there. -He denies that, and says that he merely interfered to prevent a discussion upon unionism and nonunionism.
– He did not say that he would not have any non-unionists there.
– I am speaking from memory, because Senator Mullan did not tell me that he intended to refer to this matter to-day. I am under the impression that the officer lias been informed that the men have a perfect right to join unions, and he must not interfere with that right in any way; and, further, that it is a matter for the men themselves whether they shall discuss unionism when they are not on duty. It does not seem to me that any good purpose can be served by carrying the matter further. Assuming that the officer did offend, if he does so again it will be against instructions. He says that he did not offend, that there was a discussion, and that he would not have such a discussion.
– We have only his word against that of a number of men.
– That is so, but how can we carry the matter further ? He is warned now as to what his duty is. Assuming that he said what has been charged against him, he has been warned that he must not take up that attitude towards the men, that trade union organizers are to be allowed to visit them during meal hours, and that they are themselves to be allowed to interview their fellow workmen during meal hours on questions of unionism.
– I gave the Minister of Defence credit for more than he was entitled to, according to his reply. I did think that the honorable senator had a sufficient sense of fair play to refuse to accept an ex parte statement. He evidently disbelieves the statement made by the men, because he appears to believe the statement made by Thompson. One of the parties to the dispute must be saying something that is incorrect, to put it in the mildest possible way. Thompson says that the men have made false statements, and the Minister has apparently accepted that, because in his remarks he has, to some extent, condoned the action of Thompson. I assumed that the matter had been decided without reference to the Minister, because I could not believe that the reply I received had the indorsement of the honor, able senator. The letter sent to me has none of the qualifications with which the Minister has rounded off his remarks as to the way in which Thompson has been admonished. There is nothing in it to show that anything of the kind has been done. If the letter I received had stated that Thompson had been warned not to interfere with the men in the exercise of their rights in the future, the position would have been different. As the Minister is not prepared to go any further with the matter, there is nothing left, for me but to give the whole of the correspondence, and leb the case stated by the men speak for itself. This is the statement made by a man named Meagher in connexion with the matter -
Newmarket, Brisbane, 6th November, 1914.
I, the undersigned, make this statement in regard to remarks passed by Mr. Thompson, in charge of Remount Depot. He said he would not allow any unionism to be discussed, as he is against it, and he voted against the Fisher Government on the 5th September on that account. He also boasted about loading meat at Townsville in the 1912 strike.
He could say what he liked, but the men must not talk unionism.
– He is a “ scab.”
– Yes, he can boast in the camp about being a “scab,” but his men must not talk about unionism. Meagher’s statement continues -
He has employed a man at the depot who, we are led to believe, acted as a special constable during the 1912 strike, and lias also worked on the trains since. This ex-tramway man is given the preference tb work to the detriment of the other men employed.
That is the way this man Thompson treats unionists in the camp. He lauds the “scab,” proclaims himself to have been a “ scab,” glories in the name of “ scab,” and gives the preference to “scabs” in camp.
– He has no right to be over unionists.
– He h as no right to ram his ideas of unionism down the throats of unionists and then have his offence condoned by a Labour Minister. The next statement comes from a man who signs himself “ M. G. Gardiner,” and is as follows -
Newmarket, 6th November, 1914.
I certify the following statements were made by the officer in charge of the Remount Depot : -
A man must not say that he is a unionist, but Thompson may boast that he is a non-unionist.
– You see he was the boss.
– That is so. The statement continues -
In my opinion, he is showing preference for work to non-unionists by having a man employed, who, I believe, acted as a special con stable during the general strike of 1912. He worked on the trams since that time until he was taken on at the depot. Statements like these are an injustice to bond fide unionists.
Yours, M. G. Gardiner.
The next statement is signed “ James Moy,” and is as follows -
Wilston Remount Depot,
Newmarket-road, Nov. 6th. It seems unfair, to my idea of things, to be worked from 0 in the morning until 5 at night, and to have to stop on watch till 12 at night, and to then have it poked at me that any man heard speaking or talking unionism on the premises will be instantly sacked; and more especially so in that certain men get the preference of the work, to the disadvantage of the bulk of the workmen. I am informed that one of these men was sworn in as a special constable in the 1912 strike, and also worked on the trams during the trouble.
I complain thus because I do not think it is fair treatment to conscientious men.
Yours truly, James Moy.
The next statement is from James Wood, and I may say that these four men are speaking for a number of others.
– They are in collusion.
– That is a contemptible remark, if the honorable senator means it.
– They are all making identically the same statement - a fact which would discount their evidence in any Court.
– They are expressing their ideas on the same subject. Does the honorable senator want them to tell lies ? Their word should be taken as readily as his, and certainly before the word of the man whom they are charging with a very serious offence.
– Better have an investigation.
– That has been refused, and I throw the responsibility for this on the Minister. James Wood writes -
Newmarket, Brisbane, Nov. 9, ‘14.
I wish to bring under your notice certain remarks made in connexion with unionism by the O.C. in charge of Remount Depot. He stated he would not allow unionism to be discussed by employes, as ho himself was up against unionism, and voted against the Fisher party last election on that account. He also said that he was proud to say he was a record breaker at Townsville, loading beef at 5s. per hour during the last strike. The O.C. also said any man talking unionism in the depot would be kicked out there and then. I would like to point out that he has one man employed who is given the preference of work, and the said man, I am led to believe, is dead against unionism, and acted as a special policeman during the strike, and has worked on the tramway company since that time. Trusting this sort of talk and unfair treatment will not be tolerated by Labour Administration,
In unity yours, Jas. Wood.
Yet Thompson can go about bragging of what he did as a “ scab “ at Townsville.
– Is that degraded individual’s opinion worth taking notice of?
– He is in charge of the Remount Depot at Enoggera, and his word is accepted by the Minister in preference to that of the men. On receiving this correspondence I wrote to the Minister as follows: -
Dear Senator Pearce,
A number of men engaged at the remount station at Knoggera, Brisbane, have forwarded to me, through the secretary of the Carters Union (Mr. George Lawson, Trades Hall, Brisbane), a serious complaint against the officer in charge, Mr. Thompson.
If the statements can be substantiated, and I believe they can, Mr. Thompson appears to be going out of his way to harass unionists and unionism, and as they have had to submit to more than their share of this sort of thing under Liberal Governments, I trust that you will sec that they will, at least, get a fair deal while a Labour Government is in power.
I remain, yours faithfully, J. Mullah.
To this I received from the Minister an acknowledgment promising that a full and complete inquiry would be made into the charge that Thompson was harassing unionists. I waited patiently for a month - and one must be very patient when dealing with the Defence Department. It takes only two days for a mail to reach Brisbane, and two more for it to return, yet I did not get the result of the socalled exhaustive inquiry - which consisted in getting the opinion of the State Com- mandant and ignoring the men concerned - until 4th December. I am not surprised at this, because when the famous Cockatoo Island dock inquiry was held, Mr. Manisty, then secretary to the Naval Board, said it was not usual to acknowledge correspondence at all, the regular course being to wait until a matter had been disposed of and then send a reply. A man who sends a letter to the Department would certainly like to know before a month has passed that the matter is being attended to. No decent commercial house could be successfully run in such a slip-shod fashion, and if the Minister has no time to inquire into the grievances of these unfortunate unionists in Queensland, I hope he will at least be able to investigate the happy-go-lucky way in which his Department deals with correspondence. Thus, even if the unionists cannot secure redress, the Commonwealth may benefit. I have often attacked Liberal Governments for injustices to unionism, but I should be sorry to think that any Minister could treat such a serious charge as these men made so lightly as the Minister of Defence has treated this definite charge. A one-sided inquiry took place, and the unionists who made the complaint were not even called to substantiate it.
– Who held the inquiry ?
– There was really no inquiry held. Although the Minister promised me an inquiry under his own hand, he now backs down in order to placate his officers, who seem to run the show. He says that he did not intend to have anything more than an inquiry made as to the accuracy of the statement, meaning that the matter was to be sent on in the usual departmental way to elicit the usual stereotyped reply.
– I suppose he should have gone to Queensland to investigate it himself ?
– I wanted nothing of the kind. There are men there quite capable of investigating the matter impartially. Even when I received the correspondence I did not believe that the Minister had actually refused a fair inquiry. I would not believe that he had even seen the reply I received, and I was more than amazed to-day when he said that he had really sent the letter, and apparently approved of it. This is the result of the alleged inquiry -
Department of Defence, Melbourne, 4th December, 1914.
With reference to your representations relative to antagonism said to have been shown to unionists by Mr. K. Thompson, officer in charge,Remount Depot, Wilston, Queensland, I am directed to inform you that this officer reports as follows: -
He does not ask the men to report. The ‘ scab ‘ ‘ is asked to give his version of what happened, and the men are ignored. “ The above information is absolutely false and unfair. According to the Labour Department, the men employed here as grooms do not come under the unionist heading, and as various members are not unionists, I merely remarked that I did not want these men harassed by members of unions.”
Thompson’s own remarks are selfcondemnatory for two reasons. First he says, “ According to the Labour Department the men employed here as grooms do not come under the unionist heading.” What does Thompson know about unionism? He has only been a “scab.” I saw the secretary of this union, Mr. George Lawson, of Brisbane, before I came away. He states that the men are eligible to join the Carters Union, and that, with the view of getting them to join that union, he went out there. That nails down Mr. Thompson to be wrong in respect to that statement. As regards the other statement he merely remarks that he did not want the men to be “ harassed by members of unions.” That means that he does not want the organizer or the secretary of the union to go there and ask anybody to become a unionist. - That is what we get from Conservative Governments all the world over. That is what we get from the opponents of unionism. Surely the Minister of Defence is not going to uphold the action of any man who objects to a unionist interviewing men with the view of inducing them to join the union.
– Does Thompson say there that the organizer interviewed the men in working hours?
– No. The organizer, no doubt, would have to conform to any regulation in that regard. According to Thompson they must not talk in the depot about unionism. In forwarding the report the Military Commandant submitted the following remarks: -
It is not considered here that Mr. Thompson would in any way interfere with unionists-
I would like to know what the Commandant knows about that? and li is notion in requesting that non-unionists bc not interfered with was doubtless taken to prevent nien leaving the depot, as it is difficult to got competent and reliable men.
What does it imply ?
– It implies, in all probability, that the men are being so harassed there by unionists that they would have to leave their employment if he did not interfere to protect them.
– The honorable senator does not know anything about the matter. I naturally expected him to take that view, and I would be disappointed if he took any other. I desire to be just to Mr. Thompson, and, therefore, I will quote the whole of the remarks of the Commandant -
Mr. Thompson has carried out his duties in a most satisfactory manner, and has shown every consideration to those under his orders.
The last line clearly shows that the Commandant is unaware of the grievance under which the men are suffering, otherwise he would not have made that remark. On the receipt of that letter from the Department I wrote immediately to Mr. G. Lawson. the secretary of the Carters Union, in Brisbane - 4th December, 1914.
Secretary, Carters Union, Brisbane. Dear Sib,
After some delay, I have managed to secure a reply to my complaint that the unionists at the Remount Depot, Enoggera, were being, harassed, and I aru now forwarding for your information the whole of the correspondence, in connexion with the matter.
I am far from satisfied with the reply from the Defence Department, as it would seem therefrom that the men affected were not asked to substantiate their charge.
If it would not be too much trouble, you might run out to the camp, and inquire of Messrs. Gardiner, May, Meagher, and Hood if any inquiry was hold in which they were called as witnesses, and let me have the result by wire, as I wish to be in a position to deal with the matter in the Senate, if necessary, before we adjourn.
To my letter I received a wire from Mr. Lawson, at Brisbane, to this effect -
Interviewed men Remount Dep6t. No inquiry held or members consulted.
Of course, when he says, ‘ ‘ No inquiry held,” he means that no inquiry was held so far as the men who made the charges were concerned. It is little short of a scandal that a charge by bond fide unionists, whose word must be accepted as truth until the contrary is shown, should be disregarded, and that the only thing done should be simply to get the opinion of Thompson on Thompson, and also the Commandant’s opinion on Thompson. I claim that is not an inquiry at all. Before I dealt with this correspondence I asked the Minister to hold an inquiry. I am not going to ask him again, because I would not be surprised to be refused. I wish to be frank. I gave him full credit for desiring to act honestly in the matter. I said a few minutes ago that I did not suppose that the matter came within his ken. Possibly now that I have brought it up he will have the matter inquired into. He said, “ Thompson says so-and-so ; the men say so-and-so. What more can I do?” The only thing he is doing is to accept the word of a self-confessed “ scab “ against four staunch unionists, whose word I am prepared to accept as unimpeachable. I think, as I said in my letter, that when a Labour Government is in power we ought to expect justice. That is all that X ask of the Minister of Defence. I claim that these men are entitled to justice. I submit that they have been denied justice, and the Minister must take the responsibility of that.
– If there is no request, I shall declare -the division passed.
. - I do not suppose that the Minister of Defence thinks it worth his while to deal with a matter affecting unionists.
– I have replied to you already
– Yes, but perhaps not in the light of the whole of the correspondence. I have refreshed the Minister’s mind on this matter. It possibly needed refreshing, because he has a big Department, and his duties are onerous. Before I went into this matter more fully, I gave the Minister full credit for possibly not having seen the correspondence, but now that I know he has seen it and dealt with it, and now that I have refreshed his memory, I am not going to ask him for an inquiry, but I want to know whether he intends to grant an inquiry ? I expect an answer from the Minister.
.- When I spoke before, I told the honorable senator that an instruction had been issued to every branch of the Defence Department, but, nevertheless, he said just now, “That is the kind of treatment we can expect from a Labour Ministry - that union men are not to be allowed to talk of unionism to other men.” He implied that my statement was inaccurate, that I had not issued an instruction, and that I would not see it carried out. If he believes me to be so insincere, no words of mine will change that opinion, and, therefore, I do not propose to make any further reply.
. - I, of course, suspected that the Minister would not be prepared to reply about a matter affecting these men. I accept that statement as final, so that the matter is dismissed. I want to satisfy myself about the other matter, because it is one for the future. These men must’ suffer as they have been suffering.
– -That is not correct.
– And, of course, they cannot expect to receive redress.
– That is not correct.
– I have nothing to the contrary in the reply I have received.
– You simply ignored my reply.
– Apparently the Minister has ignored the correspondence on the matter. What steps, if any, has he taken to make it generally known to the branches of his Department that organizers and others interested in the propagation of unionistic ideas may have access to Government premises, and to the employes of the Government during certain hours ? It is all very well for the Minister to issue a minute to the Department, and I do not question that a minute was issued. I want to know what steps are being taken to make the instruction generally known. The minute might as well not be in existence unless those affected by it know of it. It has not been made known in Brisbane. It was only during this very week that the secretary of a very important union in Brisbane wrote to the member for Brisbane, and the letter was brought under the notice of the Minister when I was present. He asked the Minister to grant him a permit to go on board certain troopships which were being fitted up in Brisbane for the purpose of seeing whether the principle of preference to unionists was being enforced.
– What was my reply to the honorable member for Brisbane?
– The Minister replied that he could not, of his own hand, be expected to give a written permit to everybody.
– Was that all ?
– I will explain the matter. I do not wish to be unfair to the Minister or anybody else.
– You are grossly unfair.
– That statement is absolutely incorrect, and a man with a fair mind would not say anything of the kind.
– You are grossly incorrect.
– The Minister »has no right to say that my statement is grossly incorrect.
– I do say it in view of the statement you made just now.
– The Minister refused to give this man a permit.
– I did nothing of the kind. I told the member for Brisbane that it was unnecessary for me to give the man a permit.
– The Minister told Mr. Finlayson that he could not give permits to everybody.
– No; I told him that it was unnecessary.
– The Minister stated that he could not give permits-
– I did nothing of the kind.
– To everybody who applied for them, but that they could get them. The inference I drew was that they could get the permits in Brisbane-
– Hear, hear!
– As well as they could get them from the Minister.
– Tt did not need a permit.
– I wish to put the position fairly, but the Minister will not permit me. I have not been unfair to him.
– You have not stated the facts.
– The fact that the secretary of the Carters Union wrote to the Minister, asking for a permit shows plainly that it is not generally known that permits are obtainable. What we ask is that the Minister will make it known in the proper place. It is useless to make the announcement to departmental officers, and not to the persons who are specially concerned. Let a memorandum be sent to the unionists, or be made public in some way, so that they may know their rights. It is one thing to have a right, and another thing to know how to exercise it. Apparently the unionists have not exercised this right, simply because they were not aware that they could do so, as the Minister knows quite well.
– I have no hope of putting myself right in the honorable senator’s mind, because he has decided to condemn me whatever action I may take in this matter, and, therefore, I do not intend to try. In answer to his question, let me say that what I told Mr. Finlayson was that I had already issued an instruction to all branches of the Defence Department, that trade union organizers were to be admitted to all defence works, where men were employed, other than those to which, for military reasons, civilians were not admitted, for the purpose of interviewing them on union questions during meal hours, that is, in hours when the men were not at work, and that there was no necessity for me to give permits to members of unions. I said that the men only had to make an application, and produce their credentials, and that the officers had their instructions. I stated that if they could bring before me any cases where the officers had not carried out my instructions, I would deal with the officers.
– How are the men to know that the officers have had an instruction ?
– All that is necessary is for a trade union organizer to present himself at any .defence works, and prove that he is an accredited agent of a union. If he is refused admission, and that fact is reported to me, I will take steps to deal with the officer.
. - I wish, in no patronizing way, but in all sincerity, to tender my sympathy to the Minister of Defence.
– It is not required. I do not thank the honorable senator for it.
– That may be so. Nevertheless, in justice to myself, I tender the Minister my sympathy, and thus express as much as I would if I were to write a compendium embodying the political philosophy which I have always professed. I say that what has taken place here this afternoon must be an object lesson to the whole of the people of the Commonwealth .
.- The matter brought forward by Senator Mullan is one that we should consider without allowing our tempers to get the better of our judgments. Charges have been made of an extremely grave character - charges which would be very serious under ordinary circumstances, but which are doubly so under existing circumstances. There may be times when it is difficult to get. a full inquiry into any matter, and we must admit that the Minister who is in charge of the Defence Department, which is so much overworked at present, may be quite unable to give to every complaint which he receives, as much attention as he would give to it under normal conditions. But when the gravity of a case has been determined, it is only fair that we should review decisions in order that we may do the right thing. In the case mentioned by Senator Mullan, it appears that a man who occupies a responsible position is a selfconfessed breaker of strikes. In good Australian colloquialism, he is a “ scab,” and one who rejoices in being a “scab.”
– There is a briefholder for him on the other side of the chamber.
– I am not surprised that SenatorBakhap should take up the attitude that he has taken. But it is certainly not to be expected that a Labour man will tolerate conduct of the kind that has been called into question. To my mind, Senator Mullan has made out a very clear case. I say that Mr. Thompson is not fit to be in the Public Service, and to have men under his control. He belongs to the stone age of trade unionism. We thought that in Australia we had put an end to such conduct as that of which he has been guilty, and it came as a surprise to me to learn that a man of his type, who rejoices as he does in having disgraced himself, should be retained in authority over trade unionists. I hold that he is quite incapable of doing the right thing, and I appeal to the Minister not to lightly dismiss a serious charge of this kind by saying that he has inquired into it. I do hope, for the credit of the Government and of the party which is responsible for the working of the Departments, that the matter will not be allowed to drop at the present stage. During the projected adjournment of Parliament there will be an opportunity to inquire into it, and I would urge the Minister not to dismiss it in the airy way that he did, by saying that he had allowed what was prac tically an apology to take the place of a proper inquiry. Let us have a full inquiry into the facts, in order that justice may be done.
– Of what does the item “ Refunds of Revenue, £90,000 “ consist? I should like some information upon it. °
– Every year there are a certain number of definitions given of Customs duties. Sometimes it transpires that a higher duty has been paid upon an article than should have been paid, and in such cases, refunds have to be made. Then fines are imposed for the non-payment of land tax, and circumstances afterwards come to light which show that these fines should be reduced. All these matters are dealt with under this heading. It is an item which appears in every Supply Bill.
Schedule agreed to.
Clause 3, preamble and title agreed to. Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
– Would it not be better for the Senate to meet on Monday ?
– I have ascertained that the majority of honorable senators desire to meet on Tuesday, and that there is a possibility that if we did meet on Monday the Bills for which we are waiting might not reach us from another place.
– It appears to me that there are a number of honorable senators who consider nobody’s convenience but their own. I have been in Melbourne between two and three months, and have never had an opportunity of visiting the State which I represent, whereas some honorable senators have been able to return to their homes each weekend. The probability is that the Bills of which the Minister has spoken will be here on Monday. The reason we are asked to adjourn until Tuesday is that certain honorable senators could not deny themselves the pleasure of a journey to their homes, even for one week-end. We are to be kept here a day longer than we would be otherwise, in order to suit their convenience. I do not think that that is good enough.
– We are to be kept here to suit the exigencies of business.
– The honorable senator is merely pretending. It is almost a certainty that the Bills with which we have yet to deal will reach this Chamber on Monday. We shall then have only Tuesday and Wednesday in which to consider them.
– There is business with which we can proceed now. For instance, we can go on with the consideration of the Estimates.
– Why should we not meet on Monday? Indeed, why should we not meet to-morrow ? There are several important measures to come before the Senate, and I venture to say that these will be dealt with in the most perfunctory manner. There will be no time to discuss them either intelligently or otherwise. I am opposed to meeting on Tuesday. I think we should reassemble on Monday.
– Does the honorable senator think that we could get through on Monday ?
– I think that it is very likely . If the other branch of the Legislature knew that we were to meet on Monday it would have the business ready for us.
– My information is that the Bills awaiting our consideration will probably not reach us on Monday.
– The Minister’s information is most likely correct.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– It will be remembered that some time prior to the last election, a campaign was instituted for the purpose of striking off the rolls the names of quite a number of qualified voters. Apparently a similar campaign is to be undertaken in the near future, and I wish to bring under the notice of the Senate certain action which has been taken in New South Wales, with a view to enabling the Minister in charge of the Department to prevent a repetition of such action. I refer particularly to the conduct of the Returning Officer for Dalley,. Mr. Preston, who, acting on the advice of the Electoral Registrar for Annandale, has notified Mr. Edwin Stokes, butcher, of 1 Nelson-street, Annandale, and Amelia Stokes, of 1a Nelson-street. Annandale, that they do not now reside at the above addresses, and have not so resided for the past month. Both these people definitely assure me that they have been permanently resident at their present address for the past twenty-one months. They feel aggrieved at the action, of the District Returning Officer for Dalley in proposing to strike them off the roll, as they are fully qualified to remain on the roll as electors.. The Minister in charge of the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department should take such steps as will prevent officers of his Department annoying electors in this manner. I ask him to do so.
– I take advantage of the motion for the adjournment to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs the following questions, in the hope that if he is not able to give me the information I require now he will possibly be able to do so prior to the special adjournment -
– Order ! So far as I can gather from following the honorable senator, he is merely evading one of the Standing Orders by putting a series of questions to the Minister or giving notice of a series of questions which should have been given at the beginning of the sitting. On a motion for the adjournment of the Senate it is quite competent for an honorable senator to refer to matters not relevant to that particular motion; but it appears to me that Senator Needham is merely evading the standing order which provides that notices of questions shall be given at the beginning, and not at the close, of a sitting. The honorable senator appears to me to be giving notice of a series of questions to the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs. It is possible that owing to existing circumstances the honorable . senator might not have another opportunity to put his questions, and he might on that account, perhaps, reasonably be allowed to do so now. But I call attention to what is being done as indicating a practice which should not be permitted as a general thing.
– I certainly have do intention of evading any of the Standing Orders. I consulted the Minister this afternoon, and told him that I would submit my questions an a formal way in order that he might be better able to inquire into them. My desire was simply to consult the convenience of the Minister, and assist him in the inquiries necessary to elicit the information I desire to -obtain. I wrote out the questions for that purpose; but as you, sir, have pointed oat that I was doing wrong, I shall not pursue the matter further. With your permission, I shall hand the paper on wliich the questions are stated to the Minister, -and ask him if he will be good -enough to make the necessary inquiries.
– With regard to the statement made by Senator Grant about a campaign being initiated for the purpose of striking names off the electoral rolls, I assure the honorable senator : that nothing of the kind is being attempted by the Electoral Department. As the Minister responsible for that Department, I may say that the law is being administered in all its details by the officers without interference by the Minister, but no objection is lodged unless through the electoral officers, or unless a record of every objection is retained. If any honorable senator will mention a specific case in which an elector has . been unfairly dealt with by the electoral officers, or by any one else, I shall have the case inquired into. In this matter honorable -senators may co-operate with advantage to the Department. I invite honorable senators, when they have the time, to visit the Electoral Office and inspect the card system. I ‘believe that it is the most perfect system so far devised in connexion with any Electoral Department; but there are some difficulties to be surmounted. I have come across cases of persons with similar names who have no connexion pr association with one another, and who are residents of the same district, and I have been unable to determine whether the signature in either case was that of the elector it was supposed to represent. The remarkable similarity between some of the signatures is indeed puzzling. Where it appears that a name is incorrectly on the roll it is the duty of those who have charge of the rolls to send out a notice to the persons concerned. They are given twenty-one days within which to reply to the notice of objection. In the past many persons whose names have been objected to, not understanding the matter thoroughly, have failed to reply. I have had a simplified form prepared, setting out queries by the Department, and in future persons whose names are objected to will be required only to answer “Yes” or “No” to those queries. In any cases in which the queries are answered satisfactorily the names will be retained on the rolls. When it is remembered that the rolls include millions of names, it will be agreed that of necessity there must be occasional clerical errors; but if any honorable senator will mention a specific case in which an elector is aggrieved, and will give the name and address of the elector, I undertake to supply him with the fullest information, first, as to the name of the person who objected to the name being on the roll ; next, why it was objected to; and, thirdly, the action taken by the Department upon the objection. I can assure Senator Grant that there is no campaign to remove names from the rolls, and the officers of the Department are under instructions not to strike any name off the roll unless they have reasonable assurance that it should not be on the roll. I call for the cooperation of honorable senators in this matter, as I am sure they agree with me when I say that what we want is a full roll and a clean roll. In regard to the questions submitted by Senator Needham, if it is not out of order, I should like to say that as the questions are now before me I shall make every endeavour to give the honorable senator the information ‘he seeks prior to the special adjournment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at5.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 December 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1914/19141211_senate_6_75/>.