6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following Bills re ported : -
War Precautions Bill (No. 2).
Defence Bill (No. 2).
Judiciary Bill (No. 2).
High Court Procedure Bill.
Hospital Accommodation at Broad- meadows Camp : Women Nurses : Selection of Officers : Conveyance of Clothing: Terms of Enlistment: Returned Soldiers.
– In view of certain questions raised in the newspapers as to why the Defence Department does not establish women nurses and proper hospital accommodation at Broadmeadows camp, will the Minister of Defence state the average number of cases daily requiring nursing attention there ?
– I take exception to the statement that proper hospital accommodation has not been provided.
– I said in view of certain questions having been raised in certain sections of the press.
– Proper hospital accommodation has been provided but it is not thought desirable to have women nurses in the camp at Broadmeadows, and all serious cases are sent to the hospital in St. Kilda-road, where there are women nurses.
– In view of the statements made in the press, it is well that the information should be given to the public.
– Can the Minister of Defence say whether the order which debars the officers of universal trainees holding commissions in the Australian Citizen Force from holding commissions in the Australian Imperial Force is a Ministerial or a military order; and what was the reason for such order ?
– It is both a military and a Ministerial order; that is to say, it is a recommendation of the Mili tary Board approved of by the Minister. It does not debar an officer holding acommission in the Australian Citizen Force from holding a commission in the Australian Imperial Force; but it does not give him a right to a commission in the latter. Officers holding commissions in the Australian Citizen Force can apply, and are eligible, to hold commissions in the Australian Imperial Force; but as there are more officers holding commissions in the Citizen Force than are required for the Australian Imperial Force a selection has to be made, and the selection is made by a Selection Committee in each military district, who choose the officer they think most suitable, and recommend him to the Commandant, who sends the recommendation on to the Military Board, with his indorsement or otherwise, and the Military Board then make a recommendation to the Minister.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD.- Is the Minister of Defence aware that one of the motor carts belonging to the City of Sydney Corporation, and generally used for the removal of garbage, is now in use for conveying clothing for the troops from the factory to the camp; if not, will he cause inquiries to be made, and, if found to be so used, also ascertain whether the cart had been either cleaned or disinfected immediately prior to such use so as to destroy the germs with which it would probably be teeming?
– I have no knowledge of the matter, but shall have inquiries made
– Is it correct that married men who desire to enlist in the Expeditionary Forces have to present the written consent of their wives? If so, when was this procedure first adopted ?
– It is not a fact that men wishing to enlist have to produce the written consent of their wives.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– Has tie Minister representing the Minister of Homo Affairs yet received a reply to the questions I asked here on the 14th April concerning the operations of the construction branch ?
– No information lias yet come to hand, but I will try to let the honorable senator have a reply at a later hour.
– Does not the Minister think that there is something wrong with the Department when it takes three weeks to get a reply from Kalgoorlie ?
– I understand that inquiries have had to be made in another State. I will endeavour to get the information desired at the earliest possible opportunity.
Mr. Peake, late Premier and Treasurer, h:is publicly made the following statement re specting the loan of £18,000,000 from the Commonwealth to the States - “ It is British gold, and not Commonwealth paper, with which we arc carrying out our works policy.”
Is this correct?
Is the £18,000,000 lent to the Commonwealth by the British Government exclusively for war purposes, or is any part of it available to assist the States with their public works?
– The answer to the first question is that the money with which the States are carrying out their public works is money lent to them by the Commonwealth. The answer to the second question is that money obtained from the Imperial Government is being used for war purposes.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he is yet in possession of any information relating to the exportation of Yacca gum ?
– I am glad to be in a position to supply the honorable senator with the information, but it is so extensive that I shall lay it on the table as a return.
Contract fob Tanks.
– Can the Minister representing th© Minister of Home Affairs give me an answer now to the question I asked last week in regard to the employment of men at Anderson and Sons’ works at Richmond?
– On 30th April the honorable senator asked the following questions : -
Th© answers are as follow -
– Arising out of the answer, does the Minister know that it is a fact that certain non-unionists were employed on the particular work referred to? If so, is not that contrary to the policy of the Government?
– As I have already indicated, we have no knowledge of the matter. There were no preferencetounionist conditions in the contract, mainly on the ground that the proportion of Commonwealth work done by this firm was somewhat infinitesimal.
– In view of certain criticisms levelled at the Defence Department for not working more than one shift at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, does the Minister feel inclined to make a statement to allay certain uneasiness in the mind of the public?
– No ; I do not think it advisable to make any public statement in regard to the output of rifles.
– The statement has not previously come under my notice, but I shall have it brought to the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911. - Copy of Award by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, dated 9th April, 1915, on a plaint submitted by the Small Arms Factory Employees’ Association; together with Statement of Laws and Regulations of the Commonwealth with which, in the opinion of the Deputy-President of the Court, the Award is not or may not be in accord, and the opinion of the Attorney-General.
Award by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. - Australian Let ter Carriers’ Association : Memorandum to the Prime Minister from the Public Service Commissioner.
Audit Act 1001-1912. - Regulation amended. - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 25.
Land-owners, and value of lands held, years 1910-1914.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Land acquired under, at -
Alberton, South Australia- For Defence purposes.
Barellan, New South Wales- For Postal purposes.
Brunswick, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Corrimal, New South Wales- For Defence purposes.
Goulburn, New South Wales- For De-. fence purposes.
Manly, New South Wales- For Postal purposes.
North Perth, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Preston, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Windsor, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-1914. - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 22.
Northern Territory. - Ordinance No. 3 of 1915. - Roads.
Public Service Act 1902-1913- Regulations amended, &c. -
Statutory Rules 1915, No. 59.
Statutory Rules 1915, No. 00.
War, European. - Correspondence between His Majesty’s Government and the United States Ambassador respecting the treatment of German Prisoners of War and Interned Civilians in the United Kingdom.
Yacca, or Grass Tree Gum: Statement showing exports during years 1905 to 1914 inclusive.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the number of land-owners (freeholds or lands in process of alienation), and the total of such lands in each of the six States, owned by persons making returns from -
– As the information sought by this question necessitates a very lengthy reply, I have laid it on the table of the Senate in the form of a Return.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the world-wide movement to maintain sobriety among the people of the British race and its allies at a time of national peril, will the Minister bring under the notice of the Premiers’ Conference, to be held in Sydney next week, the advisability of taking united action in the limitation of alcoholic drinks by closing hotels at 6 p.m. T
– The matter is one for the Premiers themselves. The Prime Minister has been invited to attend the Conference, but otherwise he has no status there.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Minister take into consideration the position of the coal miners of the Northern District, New South Wales, whose livelihood has been taken away consequent upon the loss of oversea trade duo to the present war, and will he endeavour to provide some immediate employment for those directly affected?
– The Commonwealth Government is keenly alive to the effects of the war upon Australian industries, and is pushing on with its public works policy.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
” DARWIN CENSORSHIP.
Complaint Against Severity.
Darwin, Tuesday. - Conjecture in Darwin is rife as to the real reason for the censorship of everything appearing in the columns of the Northern Territory Times. The editor is now compelled to show a proof of all the pages before printing, and two proofs are submitted, one being retained by the Government secretary as censor, the other, an initialed proof, being retained by the printer. All war news is received from Adelaide by the Darwin paper, hence local feeling attributes other motives than war news censorship. Unionists consider the action as an attempt to gag the press, and purpose discussing the matter at a meeting of members. The censorship, if continued, will mean serious delays and stoppages in the publication?”
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
In reference to his statement in the Senate on 10th December, 1913, has the Government yet decided upon any action regarding land within the Federal Territory which it is not intended to resume?
– The answer is -
The action contemplated by the Government was to acquire all the private lands within the Federal Capital Territory, but owing to the financial situation created by the war it is not considered desirable to devote further large sums of money to the purchase of land in the Territory at present. It is not as a rule advisable to declare valuations, but the Minister of Home Affairs will be prepared to sympathetically consider each case on its merits.
Debate resumed from 29th April (vide page 2714), on motion by Senator
That the Ministerial statement read to the
Senate by the Minister of Defence on the 14th April be printed.
– The motion that the Ministerial statement be printed has already received a good deal of attention from honorable senators, and, therefore, if we had had any important business to go on with, I would not have taken up further time in adding to the debate. But as there is no important business to hand, I will, for a few moments, briefly refer to some of the most important points that have been raised. I congratulate the Government on the statement brought forward, and more particularly do I congratulate the Minister of Defence upon the very able manner in which he has administered his Department during the strenuous times through which we have recently been passing. In a huge Department like that of Defence mistakes are inevitable. I do not care who the individual may be who has to administer a Department of this importance, he will make mistakes. If the present Minister makes a mistake he is always prepared to learn by that mistake, and to rectify any error as soon as possible. So long as he is prepared to do that, we know perfectly well that we could not have anybody better fitted to preside over the Department and more able to administer its affairs than the present Minister of Defence. That brings me to the question of the Expeditionary Forces. We all regret that so many casualties have occurred in the fighting line during the last few days. The heartfelt” sympathy, not only of every member of this Parliament, but of every patriotic citizen of Australia, goes out to the relatives of those who have fallen in the field of battle. They have at least the satisfaction of knowing that their father, their son, or their brother have fallen in the defence of their homeland, and have left behind a name that will be remembered for many years to come. When we take into consideration the fact that these men are fighting the battles of Australia, we can only regret that there are members of this Parliament to-day - and I am glad to see Senator Bakhap is present - prepared to make the statement that these men should be paid at the paltry rate of ls. 2d. per day.
– The honorable senator ought to differentiate. I say we should have conscription, and pay the conscripts ls. 2d. per day.
– What would be the difference between those who would have to go as conscripts and those who now volunteer, if they are prepared to fight the battles of the Empire. Whether they are volunteers or conscripts, I think they should receive fair and reasonable pay. The honorable senator is apparently not prepared to stand by the statement he made in the Senate during this debate. As one of the members of this Parliament, I wish to dissociate myself from any policy of that kind. Senator Shannon, in addressing the Senate on Thursday night, expressed the opinion that this would be the last great war that would occur during the next hundred years. I hope members of this Parliament will not be lulled into any sense of false security’ by statements of that kind. I do not for one moment believe that this will be the last great war that will take place during the next hundred years. And if we permit ourselves to be ‘lulled into this sense of false security, other nations will prepare, and before we know it Australia will become the possession of some foreign Power. I believe that it is our bounden duty, even after this war is over, to make every effort to keep up the strength of our Australian Navy. Whatever the opinions of other honorable senators may be with regard to the Navy, I hold the opinion that it will, and must be, our first line of defence at all times, and that it would be far better for us to spend a few million pounds in building and maintaining a Navy in a condition that will enable us to prevent any army from invading Australia than it would be to have to spend millions afterwards in compelling an invading army to leave our shores. I hope the policy of this party will always be to not only keep the Navy at its full strength, but also to see that the principal ports throughout the Commonwealth are so fortified that we shall be able to prevent an invasion at any time. Senator Millen, in speaking to this motion, referred to the fact that, so far, we have not contributed one penny to the cost of the war. I believe that is a fact - that the taxpayers of Australia have not, up to now, been asked to pay a single penny towards the cost of the Expeditionary Foro.es who are fighting for us in other parts of the world. It is desirable that we should take this question into consideration. Are we acting wisely in not imposing additional taxation now, in case we may not obtain the indemnity which some honorable senators consider we are certain to get? I do not think that there is at the present moment any single person, - -any patriot, at any rate - who would refuse to pay his fair share towards the maintenance and equipment of the Forces who are fighting for our national existence, and also for the sacred cause of civilization. And it is, I think, an opportune time for the Government to come forward and impose an income tax on all incomes over £300 a year.
– Why have the exemption so low as that?
– I think the majority of those people in receipt of £300 a year, seeing that this would be a war tax, would be quite prepared to pay some share of their income towards the cost of maintaining our Army and Navy. But I think it would be unjust to impose a tax on incomes below £300. I regard £300 per year as a living wage. Nothing under that is a living wage. Unfortunately, we have hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia to-day who are receiving considerably less than onehalf of £300 per year. We do not want to touch them.
– The honorable senator would graduate the tax ?
– Undoubtedly ; graduate it from £300 upwards. By that means we should probably raise sufficient to pay for the cost of the war, and, if any indemnity is subsequently paid to us, the sum raised by means of the income tax could be used to develop the primary industries of our country in such a manner as would assist to attract the population that it is undoubtedly necessary we should endeavour to get to Australia as early as possible. In connexion with defence there is also the question of the strategic railway. The suggestion that has been put before us in this regard is well worthy of our consideration. I do not propose to commit myself for or against that railway until I get further particulars, but I agree with the honorable senators from South Australia that one of the first railways to be built should be the line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges. As a Parliament we are under a moral obligation to construct that railway, and, as Senator Newland has said, we should not look upon the Northern Territory agreement as a mere scrap of paper. I hope, therefore, that Parliament will have an early opportunity of passing a Bill for the construction of that line. If honorable senators will take the trouble to read the reports concerning the Northern Territory, they will find that in the Macdonnell Ranges we have a great and important mining area. Arltunga is an extensive field of lowgrade ore which would be opened up and developed with railway facilities, and would probably give employment to thousands of men. We are all agreed that one of the necessities for Australia is population, and it should be our duty to give consideration to those proposals which are best calculated to induce people t-y settle in the interior. By the construction of this railway we would be able to give employment to thousands of men in the Macdonnell Ranges, and there is every prospect that they would establish their families there, because, apart from its importance as a mining area, Senators Newland, Shannon, and O’Loghlin have pointed out “that it is the finest climate in Australia, it contains a considerable area of good agricultural land, and a large part of it is really good pastoral country. Another subject that is engaging a good deal of attention at the present time is the question of the land tenure. I say unhesitatingly that I donot think that it will make the slightest difference what the land tenure is if the Federal Parliament will only do its duty, and take the whole of the unearned increment from the freeholder. After all, the unearned increment does not belong to the man who takes up land and then goes to live in some other country, allowing other people who fulfil their residential qualifications to give the land its increased value. If we took the whole of the unearned increment, what would be the difference, so far as the man on the land is concerned, between a leasehold and a freehold tenure ?
– You recognise the fact, I hope, that the leasehold system does not seem to be popular so far as inducing settlement is concerned.
– Neither does the other system.
– It would make no difference if the Government took the unearned increment. When the Northern Territory blocks were thrown open on the leasehold system, I believe there was a larger number of applicants than there were blocks available, showing that the leasehold system was popular, and if the Government had pushed on with the survey to meet the requirements of the people, there would probably have been a considerable settlement under that system. Before passing away from the question of railways, I want to draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that, although we are making more progress at present in the construction of the trans-Australian railway, that work could be still further expedited. I regret that the Honorary Minister is not present at the moment, because I wish him to take notice of my remarks in connexion with this matter. I asked for information, but, unfortunately, have not been able to get it, and I think the Minister should ascertain why it takes such a long time to get replies from Kalgoorlie. If I want it, I write and get it within a fortnight without any trouble; but if the Government want information from departmental heads it appears they cannot get it within three weeks. Surely there must be something radically wrong with the administration of the Department, and the sooner it is attended to the better. From information I have received I understand that the Traffic Department on the western section of that railway is interfering with the operations of the Construction Branch. The position is better understood when we realize that for the three months ending 28th February the amount received from public traffic on that end of the line was only £461, although fifty men are employed there in that branch.
– It looks very much like a farce to have a Traffic Branch for such a small amount of traffic.
– It stands to reason that the Construction Branch, knowing all the requirements at the ra.il head, must be in a better position to determine the traffic requirements than a Traffic Branch ; and, seeing that there is such a small amount of traffic, it appears to me advisable that the Government should do away with the Traffic Branch altogether, and allow the Construction Branch to take control of the work done by the Traffic Branch, for the time being, at all events. Passing from that subject, I now come to the question of the Tariff. As a party we are pledged to the new Protection. I have never been a great believer in the old Protection, for my experience and my reading of history of other countries has led me to believe that the old Protection is a means for building up trusts and combines, and that, unless we have all the powers that we asked for in the referenda iu 1911 and 1913, a highly Protective policy in Australia would have the same effect as in America, and instead of benefiting the people of this country would lead to the creation of trusts and combines. Therefore, when the Tariff is before us, I intend to support the Protective policy, so long as I am satisfied that people in Australia will derive some benefit from it, and that the workers employed in the different industries will receive a fair and reasonable wage for the labour which they give towards the production of the article protected.
– When the Tariff was under discussion formerly the employers promised that, and then they opposed the new Protection.
– Well, we will judge them on their acts and get some idea what they have been paying in the past.
– Are there not tribunals right throughout Australia to deal with wages matters?
– They are Courts, which are very costly.
– I would ask the honorable senator to consider the awards given by the State tribunals, see how they have been accepted by employers and employes, and compare them with the awards given by the Federal Arbitration Court, and the way they have been accepted by employers and employes. If honorable senators will go into this question, I am satisfied that they will admit that we should give the Federal Parliament the power to deal with industrial matters throughout the Commonwealth, not only in the (interests of the employes, but in the interests of the taxpayers, and as a means of keeping the wheels of industry continually turning.
Honorable senators interjecting,
– Order 1 I must ask honorable senators to refrain from cross-firing while Senator Buzacott is addressing the Senate.
– I made two slight intersections, and you have called attention to them. I hope you will direct attention to the fact if any other honorable senator interjects, otherwise I shall have to call your attention to your omission to do so.
– I ask the honorable senator to withdraw his insinuation that I unfairly discriminated in _ reprimanding him for interjecting. I invariably interpose when I find that interjections are becoming too frequent or too marked, and it does not matter to me from whom they come. I again ask the honorable senator to withdraw his insinuation that I referred to him unfairly.
– I am, sir, prepared to withdraw anything I have said in deference to your wishes, but I felt that I had some reason to complain when this afternoon I made only two mild and innocent interjections, and you took note of them, although many interjections had been mad© before by other members of the Senate without any reference being made to them.
– When the Tariff is before us there will, no doubt, be considerable discussion as to what is meant by Protection, and the adoption of a Protective policy. I claim that a Protective policy is one which has for its object the building up of the industries of the country. It should take into special consideration our primary industries, and the interests of the men who are prepared to go out into the back country to open up and develop the resources of the Commonwealth, and thus provide a local market for the products of manufactories in the cities. When the Tariff is under consideration, I hope that honorable senators will not overlook the interests of prospectors in the back country who are engaged in the development of the mining industry, and that they will also have regard for the interests of the farmers and pastoralists who are prepared to take ap country far from civilization in order to open up and develop our agricultural and pastoral industries. I hone that honorable senators will do nothing to place increased burdens upon these people, because, with their families, they are the people who are making Australia. So far from doing anything to increase the burdens they are called upon to bear, we should do all that is possible to assist them. Much has been said on the subject of preference to unionists, and I am at a loss to understand why those who are opposed to the Labour party should take exception to the present Government carrying out the policy upon which they were returned to office. The Labour party were forced to go to the country on this particular issue. If they had been defeated, and the Fusion party had been returned to power with a majority, we should have been called upon to bow to the inevitable, if they decided to wipe preference to unionists out of existence altogether, or to adopt measures which might in time lead to the destruction of unionism in Australia. Seeing that the present Government were returned pledged to the policy of preference to unionists, it is their duty to carry out that policy thoroughly. I am pleased to say that I have found that the policy is being thoroughly carried out by the Defence De partment. I regret that some of the other Departments have not, up to the present, given effect to the policy in its entirety, but I hope that as time goes on they will do so, and thus give to the unionists of Australia the consideration they deserve for the work they have accomplished on behalf of their workmates, and the families of those who are creating the wealth of this great country. Senator Shannon referred to the way in which the wheat question was handled in New South Wales, and I am glad in this connexion to welcome the honorable senator as a convert to the view that it is necessary that the Federal Parliament should be given increased powers. I do not think that any one can reasonably take exception to the action of the New South Wales Government in controlling the wheat produced in that State. The members of the State Parliaments were elected to safeguard the interests of the people of their States, and the New South Wales Parliament and Government, in taking the action they did in the matter referred to, were merely protecting the interests of the people of that State. This Federal Parliament is representative of the people of Australia, and not of one particular State, and it should undoubtedly’ possess the power to do in the interests of the whole people what the New South Wales Government did in the interests of the people of that State. If the referenda proposals are carried, I am satisfied that there will then be no danger that the people of one State may be left in need of a necessary commodity of which another State has sufficient and to spare. There is another matter to which I should like to make a brief reference. In November last we voted for new works and buildings a sum amounting to £4,303,870. Up to the 20th February last the amount of this vote expended was £1,513,250. When the Estimates were under consideration many of us emphasized the necessity for spending the whole of the money voted during the current financial year, in order, if possible, to absorb the large number of unemployed to be found in every State of the Commonwealth. I admit that up to the 28th February only three or four months elapsed from the time we passed the Estimates for new works and buildings. It could not, therefore, have been expected that by that time the Government would have expended half the total amount voted. I admit, also, that the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs explained that a great deal of work had been done up to that time which had not been paid for. I hope that during the succeeding four months the Government will spend the whole of the moneys voted by this Parliament, and thus show the people that they are, and have been, prepared to do their best in the interests of those who are prepared to work, but who have, unfortunately, hitherto been unable to obtain work. I am satisfied that with the present Government in power due attention will be paid to the public finances, and, with the prospect of good seasons ahead, we may expect that unemployment will become less, and that we shall have a period of greater prosperity in Australia.
.- During this discussion a number of things have been said which I think I ought to refer to before the motion is disposed of, although some of them were said so long ago that perhaps those who were responsible for them have forgotten them. I understand that there is still another honorable senator who would like to take part in the debate if it could be held that I have so far not spoken in reply.
– The honorable senator has commenced his speech in reply. There was ample time for another honorable senator to- have risen after Senator Buzacott concluded his speech.
– I should like, first of all, to say that we welcome Senator Milieu’s assurance that the Opposition in this chamber and in another place are prepared to give the Government every assistance in connexion with measures designed to carry the war to a successful issue. Senator Millen took some exception to the Government introducing what he spoke of as controversial legislation, and pointed out the position in Great Britain ; but I think that on reflection he will see that the Government and the Parliament of Australia are not in quite the same position as the Government and the Parliament of Great Britain. It is true that we are trying to do our part to the best of our ability, but the political direction of the war, the responsibility for any diplomatic action which may arise during the war, and rho main responsi- bility of providing the Army and keeping the Fleet going, must rest with the British Government. One can quite understand that were we charged with that responsibility to the same extent it would furnish an unanswerable reason why all other political questions should stand aside. But when we come to consider the position of Australia, I think it would be rather farfetched for any one to say that the condition here is sufficient to justify all but war legislation being put on one side. The national life of the country is going on, and the party sitting on this side of the Chamber believe that the legislation they promised the people should be brought forward. I remind honorable senators opposite that our party promised the legislation after the war had started. I presume that, in voting for the representatives of our party, the people voted for them on the assumption that they would carry out that promise. Although the legislation we may introduce is, in a sense, controversial, yet I do not think it can be argued that the controversy arising out of it is likely to weaken the national effort, or to interfere with the endeavour of the country or of Parliament as a whole. Both sides will do their best to assist the Empire in the hour of trouble. Therefore, it does not appear to the Government that there is a justification for setting aside that legislation - although, politically, it is controversial. We are not by the controversy dividing the nation or weakening the attitude of the Government or of Parliament in doing its duty to other portions of the Empire. Senator Needham and other honorable senators have raised a question as to why such a small proportion of the appropriation for public works has been spent up to the date given in the Ministerial statement, namely, the 28th February. The explanation is a very simple one, and a little reflection will bring home to honor- ‘ able senators the facts. It will be remembered that, owing to the disorganized state of Parliament, politically speaking, during the current financial year, practically no Works Estimates have been passed. Indeed, no Estimates for the year have been passed yet. We went to the country towards the end of 1914, and when Parliament was re-assembled, one of the first measures we introduced was a Works and Buildings (Appropriation) Bill. It was passed fairly quickly and assented to, I think, towards the end of the year. At the time the Ministerial statement was made, in February, practically only two months had been available in which to spend that money. The Works Estimates, as n rule, outline the expenditure on public works for the financial year. At the most we had only six months of the financial year left in which to spend the money voted in December last. At the time the Ministerial statement was made we .had only two out of the six months in which to act. That is why, out of a total vote of about £4,000,000, only £1,200,000 has been spent. When Senator Needham made his speech some time had elapsed, but if the statement is examined it will be found that the date was the 28th February. Since then a considerable portion of the money has been spent. Every Department is doing its best to see that the whole amount which Parliament has authorized to be spent on public works shall, if possible, be expended within the financial year. It is no reflection on the Government that that set of conditions exists. It was no fault of ours that the Works Estimates were not passed early - The delay was due to the fact that a general election had intervened, and that there had been no opportunity for Parliament to pass the Estimates.
– So long as you have the cash system for public works you will always have that trouble.
– Yes, that objection will always apply to Parliament while we continue that system. No matter how willing it may be to go on with public works, a Department cannot commence any work, however necessary, until it has been authorized by Parliament. It may be that, owing to the exigencies of the political situation, a set of conditions such as existed last year may arise again, in which six months of the financial year may elapse and no Department can do anything except to finish up work already in hand; it cannot proceed with a single work until Parliament has expressed its opinion.
– It will not arise in this Parliament. The weakness of the cash system is that if an amount is not spent by the 30th June, it lapses.
– That is so. During last year all works taken in hand by the Commonwealth after the 30th June had, until the Works Estimates were brought forward, to be financed out of the Treasurer’s advance. I assure honorable senators that there has not been any unnecessary delay in the matter. I may mention that steps are being taken now to prepare the next Works Estimates so as to bring them forward very early in the ensuing financial year. We hope that when that is done we may have a full year, or as much of the year as is possible, in which to spend the votes. I may as well quote the dates I have here. Parliament voted £4,000,000, and up to the 28th February £1,000,000 had been spent. Parliament re-assembled on the 8th October, 1914; the Works and Buildings (Appropriation) Bill was passed on the 9th October, and assented to on the 12th October. Honorable senators are aware that the big expenditure does not take’ place in the early stages. On preliminary work there is not much expenditure; the’ big expenditure does not occur for a few months, and then a greater number of men can be employed. It is safe to say that in the later stage the expenditure on public works is more than doubled.’ Senator de Largie referred to the question of strategic railways, and spoke in favour of an extension of the railway systems tu Australia. This is a question in which I am glad to see the Parliament, the press, and the people are beginning to take an increasing interest. But there has been a considerable amount of misapprehension, as is generally the case, as to what is intended and aimed at. By the stirringevents of the last few months a good number of us have had our attention directed to the map of Europe. A glance at a map drawn to enable people to follow the course of the war, discloses what a tremendous advantage her railway system has given to Germany. It resembles a spider’s cobweb, with Berlin as the centre, and lines radiating from that centre to every point of the compass in German territory, and cross sections connecting the radiating lines. The system has enabled Germany to rush her troops to any point attacked, and to reinforce them in any quarter with great rapidity. One marked advantage is that the railways belong to one system, with one gauge, and, therefore, the whole rollingstock of the nation can, if necessary, be concentrated on one line. It is not merely a question of lines. The fundamental principle at the back of this’ policy is to be able to utilize all the nation’s rolling-stock. You may have thousands of miles of railway line, but if you have only an infinitesimal quantity of rolling-stock to put on the lines, they are of no value to you from the military point of view. When we glance at the map of Russia, what do we find? We see a few lines of great length, but not connected one with the other. All are run to the interior of the country, and enable troops to be brought from such points as Moscow and Petrograd to the frontier, but once the troops have been brought there, there are no connecting lines to enable them to be taken to the south or north as may be required. Therefore, when a transference of troops is required for the north or the south, they have to be either taken back to the base because there are no cross-country lines, or marched across the country; whereas across the border in Germany, troops can be taken north or south by railway, and all the rolling-stock of the nation can be concentrated on the lines for that purpose. Now, Australia is a country of magnificent distances, with a great coastline. We never will know where an enemy may come. An enemy has the choice of our coastline on which to make an attack, and the range of visibility of his ships - other than by picking up their location by scouting vessels, and disseminating the information by wireless - is very short. So that unless we can locate his shins at sea, we may get very short notice from the time they are located from the land before troops land on our coast, and we have to attack at that point. The railway systems in Australia approximate more closely to the railway system of Russia than to that of Germany. We have lines of great length running between various capitals, but except in the more closely populated areas, those lines are not connected by cross sections linking up one railway system with another. Again, when we come to look into the question of what the lines consist of, we find a multiplication of railway gauges isolating each State, and therefore cutting up Australia, from the railway point of view, into six compartments, and isolating the railway rolling-stock of each State in some cases into two compartments in the State. South Australia, with a broad and narrow gauge, has a certain quantity, of rolling-stock, but the available rollingstock on any lines in the State has to be divided up by two-
– By three, because there is a number of railways not connected.
– By three when the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge is there; at any rate by two. The whole rolling-stock of South Australia is not available for the military operations on any single line in the State. The rolling-stock of Victoria i3 available for Victoria only. You can, if it is feasible from a railway point of view, put the rolling-stock of Victoria for military purposes on any one line in the State; you can take the rolling-stock to Adelaide, but you cannot take it across the Murray into New South Wales; nor can you take the rolling-stock of New South Wales into Queensland or Victoria. The result is that we have not only to divide up our rolling-stock into six compartments, but some of the compartments we have again to subdivide by two. Military strategists have looked at the railway systems in Australia. We have the opinion of Lord Kitchener, apart from the question of rolling-stock, that they seem more designed to help the enemy than to help us to defend the country. General Hutton - and, I think, General Edwards before him - made the same statement. The causes, of course, are obvious. Our railway systems were built to induce and assist settlement, and the various Parliaments had little or no idea of constructing railways for defence purposes. More consideration was given to that aspect in the discussion of the east-west railway than in the case of any other in Australia. Any one who looks up the debates of the State Parliaments on railway construction proposals will find defence seldom mentioned in any of them. Unfortunately our population is largely confined to the big cities. Onehalf the population of New South Wales and Victoria is concentrated in the capitals of each State. If an attack were about to be launched against Brisbane, it might be necessary, in order to meet it, to bring to bear the whole of our Military Forces available, apart from those that must be left to defend the fortifications. Imagine a regiment having to leave Perth on its way to Brisbane. Senator de Largie drew a picture of the difficulties of an imaginary passenger. How much worse would it be in the case of a regiment, to say nothing of a brigade or an army, owing to changing from one gauge to another, and the necessity to go to places miles out of the direct route?Military people also stress the point that it is of no use landing our soldiers in Brisbane a regiment at a time. That would simply be inviting them to be gobbled up. They must be landed as an army in Brisbane or within such distance of it that) they can collect as an army, and then move to meet the enemy. If they were landed in driblets, we should never get a striking force, because the enemy could follow them up and drive them back, wiping them out as we sent them along. That is where the military people stress the importance of being able to concentrate on any particular line the whole of the available rolling-stock that the line can carry, so as to throw the greatest number of troops in the shortest possible time upon a given point.
– Can it not be done more readily by sea transport?
– If the enemy can come here, our command of the sea is gone, and «with it our right to sea transport.
– It may be only a raid.
– It is generally agreed that no troops will be sent by sea while anything like a respectable naval force is at large. When the three Russian cruisers got out of Vladivostock, although the Japanese fleet was superior to them, during the fortnight those ships were out no transport crossed the Yellow Sea.
– They sank some of them.
– The cruisers did sink several transports. The railway systems of Australia have followed settlement. Wherever settlement has occurred in one district, although there may be two other districts, and the three may form a triangle, the railway has followed the lines of the triangle in order to get the trade from each district. The consequence is that, even in our main trunk lines, there is an enormous increase of mileage owing to the diversions made here and there and everywhere in order to make the line payable, and to make it suit as many people as possible. Our lines, therefore, are open to these objections: They have not been laid out from a strategic point of view. They are broken up into a number of different gauges, making it impossible to concentrate the full power of our rolling-stock, and they are open to the third objection, in some cases the strongest, that some of the main trunk lines’ - and especially the lines connecting vital points - are open to sea attack. An enterprising enemy in possession of the sea could launch an attack at vital points on some of our lines by a mere boating expedition. To defend them over the length to which they are vulnerable would absorb the whole of our Army. Another serious objection to the present railway system from a military point of view is this : the main trunk ranges are approximately from 40 to 100 miles back from the coast. There are the range running right down the eastern coast, the Dividing Range running across Victoria, and the Mount Lofty Range running 20 miles back from the coast near Adelaide. That range running right around the coast is one of the features of Australia. The most fertile land with the best rain,fall, generally speaking, lies between it and the coast, and, consequently, population has settled on those plains and valleys between the range and the sea. The railways, in order to suit the population, have therefore been diverted into the most mountainous portions of the country, thus necessitating high grades, greater power to carry heavy loads, and increasing the cost of locomotion. The main trunk line between Sydney and Brisbane runs through a very mountainous region for the greater part of the way. This necessitates great locomotive power, and reduces haulage capacity. These are the objections that have to be looked at, and the question arises as to what we are to do to remedy them if we are to utilize our railway systems for defence. Surely no honorable senator or publicist outside would advocate leaving the railways out of consideration for defence. They must surely play a most prominent part in any Australian defence scheme. Can we do anything to remove all or any of these objections by dealing with existing railways ? Will the unification of the gauges remedy them ali ? It will certainly overcome the objection as to making the rolling-stock available. If we unify all the gauges, and have one uniform rollingstock, we can utilize the whole of it wherever we require it, but look at the magnitude of that task ! The only thing that has yet been discussed as within the region of practical politics is the unification of the gauges of the main trunk lines. Even that appalls those who look into the question closely by its magnitude and cost. When the difficulties that will be raised in carrying it out are considered, it will be realized that that proposal is by no means out of the wood yet. Even after we have solved it, what have we obtained ? Suppose we get the six States in agreement - and unless we assert our right, and do it for defence purposes, we can only do it by agreement with the States - what will happen ? Suppose that we are going to unify the trunk lines between Adelaide and Melbourne, and between Melbourne and Sydney, look at the enormous railway system Victoria has outside the trunk lines, which only tap the territory through which they run. The great part of the Defence Forces would still be cut off from railway connexion with the other States, except by using another gauge, with all its objections of transfer from one gauge to the other. Therefore the unification of the gauge on the main trunk lines would not cure the evil that I have pointed out of not making available the whole of the rollingstock. There would still be the rollingstock on the lines running into the trunk lines. The troops in whatever part of Australia they were located would still have to use the 5-ft. 3-in. line, until they came to the 4-ft. 8i-in. main trunk line,
– That difficulty will remain if you build the proposed line on any gauge.
– It will remain, although it will be modified. Even after we have done that, we shall not yet have overcome three other objections - first, the roundabout way and intricate route that many of these railways take; second, the fact that they go through the heavier country with steeper grades; and, third, and most vital of all, that in a number of places they are open to easy attack by an enterprising landing party, and that an army would bo required to defend them from such attacks. If the map was wiped clear of railways, our populations remaining where they are, and we had to construct railways from a defence point of view to link up the five main centres, where the greatest number of the Forces are located, in order to enable any four of them to take the shortest, speediest, and safest means of transporting all their available troops to the other one threatened by attack, we certainly would not follow the existing lines, or go anywhere near them. We would build the railway system, not on the coastal side, but on the interior side of our ranges, where it would be safe from attack from the sea because of distance, because every mile of distance means increasing the strength of the landing party. We would follow the more direct lines, and avoid the heavy grades. They could then be put on a radial system as the German railways are. The five big centres of population of this country are almost in a circle, or, at any rate, three parts of a circle. They could interchange troops from one to the other with great rapidity if we built a radial railway system like the spokes of a wheel or the ribs of a spider’s web.
– What centre would you have them radiate from ?
– The view I give is my own view, but if you look at the map you will find that Broken Hill is practically the hub of a wheel-
– Port Augusta.
– Broken Hill is practically the hub of a wheel, and from there the railway systems could radiate in all directions. I recognise that we could not have such railways for strategic purposes only.
– As the capital cities are on the coastline it is obvious that a portion of the railway must comd along the coastline through the mountain range.
– But not running as they do now - crossing and recrossing.
– They must cross it twice.
– Not always. For instance, take the range at Adelaide. A line such as I have indicated would go right down through the flat of South Australia, and avoid crossing the range at all. However, I am not debating the question of routes. No routes have been decided upon ; none have been discussed. I am pointing out the general principles which I believe underlie this question of strategic railways. We have also to recognise as practical men that a railway system cannot be advocated solely for strategic purposes. In a country of such vast distances as Australia, to establish lines for war purposes only would be to create too heavy a burden for the country to carry, and, therefore, the question arises as to whether such lines cannot be built to serve the double purpose - to be useful and available from the strategic point of view, and at the same time to assist in the trade and development of Australia. I believe they can. The interior of this country is capable of being much more closely settled than it now is, but I believe that settlement can only be effected by means of a satisfactory railway policy; and I say further, that the only way of dealing with the interior of Australia will be by a railway policy. We have had two very bitter object-lessons in this regard, in the drought of 1902 and in the present drought. I know that there are pastoralists in New South Wales who have at great expense imported stud sheep, and who, in order to keep these stud sheep alive, have had to bring lucerne from the northern rivers district of “that State. How have they brought it? It has been brought by boats down the rivers, transhipped at Sydney, taken along to Melbourne, and then carried by rail away into the interior. In the 1902 drought, millions of stock died, although, had there been then a railway system upon which the stock could have been carried, a great quantity could have been put to some purpose commercially; possibly a large number would have been saved had it been possible to depasturize them on some of the coastal land. We know as a matter of fact ‘that the railways, inadequate as they were at the time .to cope .with the removal of stock, played a very big part in mitigating the blow that fell on owners of live stock, but the loss would -have been considerably less if the railway system had been able to transfer stock from the more arid regions of the interior. Then we have to look at the possibilities of development in other directions. Any person who has been a student of Australian geography will be very loath to label any part of Australia as desert. When I went to school I saw portions of Australia marked on the map as “ desert.”
– Our latest maps show it.
– I think it is a mistake. I was taught that certain portions of Australia were desert, and yet I, a comparatively young man, have lived to see hundreds of people settled in comfort upon it.
– Some of the maps of the United States of America are ‘bo marked.
– Quite so.; but still I am one of those who believe that much of the interior of Australia, now very little used, will, in time to come, be found to be of very considerable value to Australia.
– The desert is disappearing every year.
– Portions of Australia that are only used to a certain extent now would, in my opinion, be capable of infinitely greater use if they, had railway connexion. In the interior of Australia we have a vast country that is, I admit, practically unknown. It has been “ scratched,” to use a mining term, but no one can say that it has been thoroughly prospected. The scratching nevertheless, has revealed the fact that there are minerals of various kinds in existence; and the prospect of some of these places being developed and supporting a large population is very promising. But while these portions of the country are isolated, and accessible only by means of the camel, nobody expects to see anything like a large population upon them ; and the only chance these districts have of development is by means of railways. These strategic railways, no matter what lines they follow, if they link up the main .cenjtr.es of our population, must cross through the very points I have referred to as being capable of development. If we pan serve a double purpose - and I believe we can - by opening up and populating the interior .of Australia, not only will the possession pf these linesstrengthen us from the defence point of view, but, what is of incalculably more value, they will help to build up a population in the interior of Australia, and make every portion of Australia much safer than it is at present. The greatest safety Australia could have would be .’» big population in its interior, because then the military portion of that population would be available at any point .of the compass to meet any attack which might come. As the position is now, the military value pf the population, say, of Queensland to meet an attack in Western Australia is very small. If the same population were put in the centre of Australia, every mile that that population would be brought nearer to Western
Australia would increase its military value. Therefore, if these lines assist to develop the interior by settling a bigger population, that circumstance alone will bo of immense military value to Australia, in addition, of course, to any economic value the railways might possess. Let us assume that the lines would be a losing proposition; that they would not pay interest and working expenses for many years. Even then, I venture to say that the insurance policy which they would represent would be worth something to Australia. What are the railways of Germany . worth to her today,apart altogether from their economic value? I say the railways of Germany are worth a million soldiers to her.
– But no German railways are purely strategic railways.
– Accidentally, Germany struck a. magnificent strategic system. But the fact that Germany has such a network of railways is worth to her a million soldiers, by the manner in which - unless the newspapers have led us astray - the railways hive enabled troops to be carried from one front to another. Reports from neutral sources, Danish and Dutch, toll of the immense transfers of troops that have taken place from the west to the east, and from the east to the west - transfers that have enabled a tremendous attack to be launched at some given point on either one side or the other. This is too big a question to be dogmatic about; but it ought not to be dismissed with a mere predilection for one kind of gauge, Or as to whether the existing railways are all that they ought to be. It ought to receive the fullest inquiry from every Federal aud State politician, from every person who is interested in the development of this country, and, above all, from every person who is interested in seeing the country safe, As to what routes tha railway should follow, that is, after all, a matter of detail, but I do say that the existing railway systems of Australia stand condemned, from the military point of view, as being of no Teat assistance to us in time of war. Something is needed to either take their place or to adapt them to meet present requirements, and it seems to me that it would be better policy, at any rate in some instances, to substitute new lines altogether, not as competing lines with existing lines, but in order to give us what these other lines can never give, no matter how they are altered, and no matter what their gauge may be. I arn glad that this question was raised, and I make no apology for following it up, because I think that the more it is discussed, and the greater exchange of opinion we can get upon it, the better it will . be for the future development of Australia on sound lines. Honest criticism that is not tainted with State jealousy will be useful and valuable. T believe the more the question is criticised, the more public attention is directed to it, the more good will flow from its having been brought forward. Senator Shannon - I now come back to a much smaller matter; the only excuse I make for referring to it is that I find it next on my notes - raised a question as regards the clause that has been inserted in the Defence contracts known as clause 31 («) That clay.se authorizes the Minister, or arl officer delegated by him, to visit a factor)’ or works where a Defence contract is being carried but, during the meal hour, or at such place as the employer sets apart for the men to have their meals in, for the purpose of interviewing the employes as to labour conditions. This clause Was riot introduced without some consideration. Inspectors are appointed by the Department whose duty it is to see that the conditions in contracts are observed.
– It is just as well you have them, too.
– It is, of course, necessary. These inspectors are appointed generally because of the special technical knowledge they may have of cloth, leather, or timber, or iron, or of some particular process of manufacture. That is a qualification we look for whenthey are appointed. In addition to having to inspect the goods from these points of view, they are supposed, also, to see that the labour conditions are carried out. These men are not familiar with all the various awards and conditions and decisions of Arbitration Courts, and Wages Boards, of hours of labour, rates of wages, piece-work, and all the various ramifications of industry. My experience is that when we have been carrying out these contracts, we have found charges and counter-charges regarding an award or a determination of the Arbitration Court or a Wages Board not having been observed, and it is extremely difficult for the officers of the Department always to find out exactly what is being done, because the officer does not know to whom to apply. He gets the employer’s version, but when it comes to the men he does not know who to apply to. The men have their representative in Hie union which is formed to safeguard their interests, and in an organization of this kind it is their business to familiarize themselves with the conditions of the contract. As a matter of fact, the officials of the unions do become familiar with all the various ramifications of an industry, the determination of a Wages Board, and how it affects their position. One of the conditions of these contracts is that a Jog of wages shall be posted ur» in a factory so that the workers may be able to see what they are entitled to get. That clause was inserted, because we know very well from experience that even if men or women working for a contractor felt that they were not getting what they were entitled to, they would be diffident about approaching an employer because of the fear of dismissal, and, therefore, the union official, who is not under that particular employer, is allowed to visit those factories to see that the conditions are being observed. It is not their business to inspect the factory, and to probe into the affairs of the employer to find out the secrets of his business.
– They are not acting as spies.
– No; it is their duty to go to the employes, and to say to them, “ Here is my authority; I am delegated by the Minister or the Commandant to tell you that these are the conditions and the wag-ss which you are expected to get. Are you getting them ?” It might be that somebody is not getting the wages mentioned in the contract, and it would then be the business of the delegate to go to the employer and represent the position to him, so that he might rectify the trouble, or make a complaint to the Department that the conditions were not being carried out. That is the whole sum and substance of this action, and I do not see that any logical objection can be taken to it.
– No employer who wished to do the right thing would object.
– I know some employers feared that we were introducing what is known in America as a “ walking delegate, “ into the conditions of our contracts here. I believe that in America the walking delegates did abuse their power from time to time, and it is said they extorted money from the employers, threatening them with a strike if they were not paid.
– I do not think that the walking delegate in America has any power conferred upon him by the Legislature.
– I have already pointed out to the employers that in the event of such a thing happening here, they have their remedy. If a man under’ any authority from the Minister, “or an officer delegated bv the Minister, attempted to do anything of that kind, it would be the duty of the employer to report to the Minister that such a man was misusing his power, and if any complaint of that nature came before me, I would have no hesitation whatever in acting promptly, for I would be no party to allowing any unionist to use this power improperly. So far I have had no complaints from employers, although the system has been adopted practically everywhere. Only two or three employers have refused to sign contracts.
– It has been the rule in many employments for over twenty years.
– Yes, I think the seamen have had the advantage of this system for a great number of years.
– Most reasonable employers like a delegate to go in and see their employes.
– Yes, that is so. In the coal mining industry there is a check weighman elected by the men and recognised by the employer. As a matter of fact, he holds an official position on the mine.
– The same thing obtains in Great Britain.
– Referring again to the subject of railways, I am reminded that Senator Newland raised the question of the north-south line, and I may say that at the present time we are taking action with regard to the survey of that railway. If honorable senators will look at the map again they will see that the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie bends away to the north-west from Port Augusta, and then westward, and that the line from Oodnadatta to Port Augusta continues almost in the quarter of a circle away to the east, the two routes being divided from each other by Lake Eyre. The Government believe that when the construction of the north-south line is under consideration it would probably be found more economical and better to link it up with the east to west railway some distance from Port Augusta, thus saving the cost of construction of portion of the line. We are having a survey made between Lake Windabout and Anna Creek.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - Will that sh.or.ten the distance?
– If honorable senators will look at the map they will see that it probably will shorten the distance.
– That will leave the Oodnadatta line idle, will it not?
– Anybody who has seen that railway will realize that it cannot be used as portion of the transcontinental line, because it will have to be relaid and the gauge altered to 4 ft. 8£ in. In view of the fact that this will have to be done’, the Government think that it would be just as well to adopt a better route if one is available than to accept arbitrarily the existing route, simply because there happens to be a railway there at the present time. Accordingly, we are getting a survey made in order to have estimates of the cost of construction available for the information of honorable senators. A survey from Oodnadatta northwards was made many years ago, and that data is available for the information of the Government. Arrangements are now being made for surveys from Catherine River southwards, so that before long we shall have the data and be able to submit to Parliament an estimate of the probable cost of the whole line. I am not in a position to say what the policy of the Government will be then - whether to construct the whole line, or only a portion of it - but I arn giving this information to-day so that honorable senators will see that the Government are not neglecting this matter, but are obtaining definite information in the only way possible - namely, by having a survey made.
– Why was the Northern Territory Commission recalled?
– I do not know, because I was not in that Government. Senator O’Loghlin, in his speech, dealt with the statement made by Mr. Peake, the ex-Treasurer of South Australia, concerning the loan of £18,000,000 which we have received from the British Govern ment. I answered the honorable senator to-day, telling him that the British Government had loaned £18,000,000 for war purposes only, while the Commonwealth Government have arranged to provide the States with £18,000,000 for local needs. No doubt many people noticed the similarity in the sums, and have come to the conclusion that we were simply juggling with figures when we said that we were borrowing the money for war, and were not giving it to the States to spend on works.
– That is practically what Mr. Peake says.
– As a matter of fact, that is not so. We are advancing to the States money for their requirements at the rate of £1,500,000 per month, and so far that money has been advanced from the Bank Notes Trust Account. There is similarity in the figures, and that is all.
– Will the Minister indicate what the Government propose to do with regard to the firms I referred to?
– The honorable senator a few days ago referred to a couple of Western Australian firms who had been attempting to supply inferior material in departmental contracts. I am glad he paid a tribute to the watchfulness of the departmental officers. When Senator Needham brought that matter before me, I telegraphed to Western Australia, and I have received samples of the boots in the one case, and of the candle tins in the other. I have now asked my expert officers to submit a report upon them, after comparing them with the samples. We have also sent for the full file from Western Australia, so that we may have the whole of the facts before us, and may know what to do. When I get them I intend to go into the matter thoroughly. I cannot commit myself to a statement as to what I shall do, because I have not the whole facts before me yet, but I may say that, on general principles, the Government will deal severely with any persons who deliberately try to get at the Department in a time like the present. We now have the power to deal with them under the legislation passed recently, and, if necessary, can put them in the dock, or strike them off the list of contractors, though to strike them off would hp. rather a mild and innocuous punishment, which perhaps can be evaded. I may say that in the case of one firm I know they did try to circumvent the Government by getting two or three dummies to send in tenders for them but we are now dealing with them in another way.
– You ought to put them in the dock.
– I think it is only fair to say that, considering the enormous quantity of material we have had to obtain from contractors, on the whole we can congratulate ourselves that the traders of Australia have endeavoured to give us a. square deal.
SenatorNeedham. - I only mentioned those two firms, and I realize that the others have been honest.
– I shall certainly be no party to dealing gingerly with any firm that deliberately tries to get at the Commonwealth at this time, when we require the very best that is available in any contract for Commonwealth purposes. I do not know that there are any other matters dealt with by the various speakers to which it is necessary I should refer, and I have now only to thank them generally for the helpful nature of the criticisms they thought it well to bring forward.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That there be laid upon the table of the Senate a return showing, as on 1st October, 1914, for each State, the-
It is not my intention to speak at very great length in submitting this motion, which has been on the notice-paper now for some considerable time. I gave notice of it some time during last year, before the adjournment over the Christmas holidays. As the Government did not treat the motion as formal, it devolves upon me to support it by some reasons. In ordinary circumstances, a motion of this character would be treated as formal. I shall not have very much to say upon it, but I hope that what I do say will call from the representative of the Postmaster General’sDepartment in this Chamber some reasons why a return giving such valuable information should not be forthcoming. At the time I gave notice of the motion, ithad been published in the press and otherwise, that the Postmaster-General’s Department intended at an early date to introduce hew telephone rates. It was suggested that the system was not paying and, in order to make that very valuable adjunct of modern civilization, pay its way, it was thought desirable to increase the charges made for the use of telephones. I am very pleased to see that, since that time, there have been developments which warrant one almost in assuming that that attitude has been . dropped by the Department.
– Why assume that?
– I assume it from what I have seen in the press from timeto time. Not long before I gave notice of my motion, I was very much struck by an article which appeared in the Nineteenth Century of August last, written by Mr. C. S. Goldman, Chairman of the Parliamentary Telephone Committee. Thearticle is entitled, “ What is Wrong with the Telephone?”; and much. of the criticism which Mr. Goldman in his article levels at the Department in Great Britain can, I think, be applied with very much greater force to the Department in Australia. In saying this, I do not refer to the activity or non-activity of the Department during a recent period alone, but generally to the work of the Depiirtment practically since the beginning of Federation. Much that Mr. Goldman had to say in his article is worthy of serious consideration by the Post and Telegraph Department of the Commonwealth. Last year, when it was beingfreely stated in the press that it was proposed to increase the telephone charges. I asked a question, upon notice, of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in the Senate. I asked whether any such increases would be brought into forcewithout an opportunity being first given to the Senate to consider them. The reply given to that question by the VicePresident of the Executive Council was”No”; and I was informed that the Senate would be given an opportunity to consider any increases proposed; but the Minister could not, at that stage, say when the opportunity would be given.
We adjourned over the Christmas holidays and about March, to my great surprise, I found that the telephone charges in respect of trunk-line telephones on Sundays were doubled. That alteration name into force at the end of February or the end of March. I at once communicated with the Postmaster-General by lettergram, on a Sunday night, drawing his attention to the question I asked upon notice in the Senate, and the reply to it, and also to the fact that despite that question and reply, the telephone rates in the respect mentioned had been increased on that day.
– On Sundays only.
– Yes. On the following Saturday I received from the Acting Secretary of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department what might be described as a bald, belated acknowledgment of my communication. I should like to say here, incidentally, that the telephone system in Australia, or its extension, so far as trunk lines are concerned, has been very often a matter of taking advantage of existing telegraphic lines and using them on the condenser system. All who have had any experience know that where, for telephonic communication over long distances, telegraph lines on tile condenser system are used, the best time to telephone is when the lines are not being used for telegraphic purposes. In illustration of this I may say that before we had the circuit system between Hobart and Launceston, and were dependent on the condenser system and the use of the ordinary telegraph lines, my experience was that telephone conversations between the two cities could best be carried on ou the Sunday.
– I should like to ask the honorable senator how he connects these remarks with his motion ?’
– I said that I referred to this illustration incidentally, and proposed to connect it with the motion. I can deal with this matter at any time, and I mention it as supplying one of the reasons which led me to give notice of my motion. It seemed to be in the minds of the authorities of the Department to increase the telephone charges, and. I believed that if we had a proper stock of telephone equipment there would be no necessity to do so. I direct the attention of the Department to one or two remarks made by Mr. Goldman, who is competent and qualified to speak upon this subject.
It will save a great many words from me if I quote from this article statements which he has put succinctly concerning the British Post Office, and which I consider apply with equal or greater force to the Post and Telegraph Department of the Commonwealth. He says -
The present arrangements are hopelessly unbusinesslike. The finances of the system are involved and obscure to a degree which would not lie tolerated in the ease of any commercial company.
He was dealing with the British system and comparing it with systems in force elsewhere, where a proper stock of reserve equipment is kept. He says, further -
The business organizers of the Bell Telephone Company have now got in stock $25,000,000 worth of reserve plant waiting for the- development of the service to require it.
When we consider that the telephone system in America is up to date and far ahead °of any other system in the world, and when we find a man in the position of the Chairman of the British Parliamentary Telephone Committee pointing to this fact and indicating it as one of the causes why the American system is up to date, I think it is desirable that we should have in Australia an extensive stock of telephone materials held in reserve. If we have such stocks it is advisable that members of this Parliament should know what they are. Mr. Goldman says -
Even in the city of New York one-half of the cable ducts are empty, in expectation of the greater city of 8,000,000 population which they expect in 1928. Money invested in developing the service is well invested, since by the second principle of telephony, every extension adds to the value of the whole.
I contend that we should know what stocks of telephone material we have in reserve here.. As a parliamentary body having some power and opportunity for criticism of the administration of the several public Departments, it is desirable that the Post and Telegraph Department should give us some information on this point. To give an illustration of what might be done in Australia, if we had these reserve stocks, I quote the following from an earlier portion of Mr. Goldman’s article : -
The United States adds in one year to- her service as many telephones- as are comprised in the entire system in Great Britain, and increases the mileage of her telephone circuit each year by more than the distance between England and Australia. In the States every alternate family possesses a telephone. There the low charge of Od. to ls. a week for a private instrument has enabled two and a half million farmers to be in telephonic touch with each other and their markets.
There is much in the article which I hope to bring under the notice of the Department on another and more appropriate occasion ; but I might mention that he says -
The rate of expansion in England, as shown in the hist annual report, is only about onehalf what it was in 1U06, and, even so, it exceeds the power of the Post Office to cope with it. In America a new telephone can be installed in four or five days, whereas in this country it will take as many weeks, and, in some cases, almost as many months.
Later on he refers to the unbusinesslike nature of the administration in Great Britain and to the fact that the accounts are not kept in a proper way. Any one who reads his article will see that one of the essentials of a successful policy is the holding of a great stock of reserve materials to meet future requirements as rapidly as they arise. We constantly heard from our Post and Telegraph Department that the telephone system was not paying. I am very glad to know that quite recently, from the returns up to the end of last month, it appears that when the telephone system of finance was separated from the post and telegraph systems it returned a larger profit than was previously anticipated. I have also noticed since this motion was tabled more than one statement in the press, purporting to come from the Postmaster-General, to the effect that the Department had not been keeping proper reserve stock. I assumed, if these statements correctly reported what the Postmaster-General told the press reporters from time to time - and I have not seen them contradicted - that possibly that was one of the reasons why the Department was not in a position to permit this motion to go as formal . From the experience and evidence of an authority such as I have quoted, it must be clear that an ample reserve stock of telephonic equipment is an essential of any up-to-date telephone system in respect to which there will practically be no grumbling on the part of subscribers and no recriminations between them and the Department. It is for this reason that I think it is desirable that the Department should have these reserves and that this Parliament should know what they have in stock in the different States - the quantity, general nature and purpose, and the value. If upon this in- formation it is the opinion of the Senate that the equipment in reserve is short of what it ought to be, it will be open to any honorable senator, or any honorable member in another place, to comment upon the fact. I personally see no reason for secrecy in this matter. I have explained that I do not intend to reflect upon the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department, not during any recent period, but during the whole period since Federation. I speak of it generally throughout the whole period. I am inclined to think that it has been lacking in this regard, and the only way we can be sure on that point is by getting a return of the nature I ask for. I think that if the Department can see its way to give us the information, we shall be in a position to criticise it if we think that it is shortcoming, and, if we do not form that view, the Department will be in a position to vindicate itself. So far as I can see, there is no reason for any secrecy, and in all sincerity and frankness I ask for the information, in order that the members of this Parliament may be able to take into consideration what the Department is doing by way of development, and by our own argument and persuasion, if we can, urge it to more activity in this direction if it seems so desirable.
.- I rise to second the motion, and to briefly support the well-thought-out arguments of my honorable friend. To-day we have been treated to an able exposition by the Minister of Defence of many reasons why the rural population of Australia should be increased. In elaborating his arguments, he laid particular stress upon the desirability of removing the imputation of isolation which rural settlers would suffer from if they were asked to settle the interior without railways.
– I ask the honorable senator not to refer to a previous debate except by way of illustration.
– Very well, sir, but. I will say that it is a pressing necessity that the rural population of Australia be increased by every means in our power. We have to bear in mind that in the great republic of the United States the question of concentration of the population in urban centres is not nearly so acute as in Australia. The admittedly acute position here is becoming more so every day. I have not any knowledge of the particular article from which Senator Keating quoted, but I do know in a general way that in the United States special efforts are made by telephone companies to give telephonic facilities to rural populations, and that it is a rare thing in America to find a substantial farmer without a telephone linking him up with the closest township of importance in his district.
– I think it is rather a wide application of this motion for the honorable senator to make that statement.
– With all due deference to you, sir, I think not. I believe that, in order to determine the mental attitude of every member of the Parliament to this question, and in no spirit of hostility to the Postal administration, such a return may very well be asked for. For it is only by a knowledge of what preparations in regard to material the Department has made that individual members of the Parliament can properly address themselves to a consideration of this undoubtedly important question. It is with a full sense of the importance of the question as a whole, and of the bearing which the motion has on the question, that I have pleasure in seconding it.
– When I have been in the Senate as long as Senator Keating has been, I hope that I shall be as innocent as he appeared to be when he expressed surprise at* his motion not being treated as formal business, although, with his great experience of the Departments, he must know the enormous amount it would cost to answer the questions he has placed on the paper.
– I only ask for information as to three things - quantity, general nature and purpose, and value.
– This assumption of innocence by the honorable senator really astonishes me when I come to think of the extraordinary distribution of the material required for our telephone system. Not only that, but the fact that much of the material used in that system is also material for the telegraphic system
– How many important depots are there in the Commonwealth ?
– There are some hundreds of important depots, and the material for the telephone system is spread over thousands of places. I presume that when Senator Keating asks for a stock-taking, he wants an accurate one. He desires to know, I suppose, how much material is on hand, not only in the twenty-six or twenty-seven depots in Sydney, but in every little centre where there is telephonic material stored. If he does not mean that, let him put his inquiries in such a way before the Department that they can be answered. I may mention here that if he had indicated in a communication the purpose for which he required the information, he would immediately have had a full reply. The Department will not either delay or keep back any information which a member of Parliament desires to use in his public position. The motion of Senator Keating means, if it means anything, a stock-taking of all the material used for the telephone system from one end of this great Commonwealth to the other. I venture to say that the return, if ordered, would necessitate the appointment of men to do that kind of work. If that is not the information which the honorable senator desires, he should not have placed his motion on the notice-paper in its present form. I would point out that the difficulty of dividing the material used for the telephone system from the material used for telegraphic purposes would be very great.
– The Department will have to find the information for the Committee of Public Accounts’ if it is required.
– I have no doubt that the Committee of which ray honorable friend is such a distinguished member will cause a good deal of expense and trouble.
– Quite so; it is very likely we will.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - In getting valuable information.
– All that I hope is that the value will be proportionate to the cost, that is, if we are to be treated to the threat of my honorable friend that if the Public Accounts Committee demand the information they will get it.
– They will have to get it.
– Not only that, but the information if it is easily obtainable, and at a cost commensurate with the desire to obtain it, will be given to any individual member of Parliament on making an application. Cut a demand for the preparation of a return showing the stocks in the Department is quite a different matter. There is, of course, a regular stock-taking in the Department, but the stores are not kept separate, and there would be great difficulty in separating them in the manner desired by the mover of this motion. I hold in my hand a sample sheet of the stock-taking at the Sydney stores - not of material for telephones alone, but of all material in the possession of the Department. Honorable senators may look at the sheet at their leisure. Similar sheets, made up to 30th June last, have been available to Senator Keating. All the stores are kept in a similarly businesslike way. On the strength of an article in a magazine my honorable friend has made a comparison between the British system and the Australian system, and stated that whan he gave notice of his desire to get this information there was an intention on the part of the Government to increase the charges for the telephone service. I do not know whether I am in a position to speak on their behalf, but I believe it is the policy cf not only the Government, but the party to which they belong, to make the services of the Commonwealth pay for themselves, and to call upon a section of the community who derive great benefits from a service to pay more for the service than those who do not derive such advantages. I think it is a sound proposition, and also a sound position to assume. If the Government, starting out with that intention, have not given effect
I i it at once, it is not fair for any one to assume that they will not do so yet.
– The honorable senator is now, I think, transgressing the hounds of relevancy to the motion.
– I thank you, sir. for the reminder. I was trying to reply to earlier remarks by Senator Keating, but I recognise that all that has been said in regard to Unking up the farmers and increasing the number of forms has no bearing on the motion. ?<To discourtesy was intended to the honorable senator by the Government in not allowing his motion to go as formal. An accurate account of all telephone stores in the possession of the Commonwealth could not be compiled, except at a cost of many thousands of pounds, and of con siderable interruption of the business of the Department, and for that reason the Government were not prepared to allow the motion to go as a formal matter. If the Senate orders that an account shall be compiled, it will have to be done; but, in view of my assurance that there are available up-to-date records of the annual stock-taking - records which are at the service of every member of Parliament - I trust that the Senate will not be so unreasonable as to order a further stock-taking. I listened attentively to the remarks of Senator Keating, but I did not hear him give one reason why he should put the Commonwealth to the enormous expense of preparing a return . of this kind.
– How much will the cost be? If you have the stock entered iu proper order in your books, there will be no serious trouble to the Department.
– In this case the expense would be considerable, because the material is shared between two branches of the Department. “When one considers the magnitude of the Commonwealth, he cannot even hazard a guess at the many thousands of pounds it would cost to carry out a separate and accurate stock-taking of telephone stores alone. We already have complete records of the stores. Not only are there many branches throughout the Commonwealth, but there are many places where no storemen are kept to compile an accurate account of the stores, and if the motion were passed, officers would have to be sent specially to those places to collect the information. I failed to gather, from the opening remarks of Senator Keating, his reason for proposing the motion. His generalities had no bearing on the motion, and I hope that in his reply he will give us, at least, one solid reason for asking the Government to go to this “extraordinary expense. I leave it to the honorable senator’s own good sense to recognise the magnitude of the task of a separate stock-taking of the material for telephones from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. All the stores of the Commonwealth are, at the present, tabulated in an easily understandable form, and these records are kept in the Department and made up each year. There is, therefore, no reason for. asking for the return in the form suggested by the honorable senator. If a question is put on the notice-paper asking for information in a convenient form, and the Department is able to supply it, no difficulties will be placed in the way, but it would be extremely difficult to undertake such a huge task as the honorable senator has put before us, and my chief difficulty is to understand why he is asking for the information.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [5.22].- The Minister’s speech appears to be an attempt to make a mountain out of amolehill. If he is correct in saying that an accurate stock-taking showing all particulars takes place, what difficulty can there be in bringing it up to the 1st October! I presume the stock-taking takes place every year up to 30th June, and Senator Keating is only asking for another quarter. Stock will have to bp taken up to the end of the year in any case. If readily understandable stocksheets exist, it cannot cost so large an amount as the Minister indicates to bring thom up to date. Stock has to be taken regularly by ordinary business people, so that they may easily ascertain the amount in hand, and the business oi the Depart- ment should not present much greater difficulties. If, for instance, certain material has been sent to Albury, and it is desired to find out how much they still have in hand there, surely they have their books to show how much, there was in hand at th© beginning of the year, what they have received since, and what they have used ? The return may involve a little trouble, but honorable senators ought to be very careful before they allow the. Minister’s arguments about the enormous expense to influence their judgment. Senator Keating has probably only a few members to support him, and if the Government offer very strong objection it will destroy his chance of having the motion accepted, because the Government must necessarily carry a great deal more weight with their own supporters in a matter of this kind than an individual member of the Opposition can. There has been for a long time an eager desire to get more information as to the inner workings of the Post and Telegraph Department, particularly in regard to the telephonic and postal branches. Ministers have conscientiously tried to do what they could in this matter, but we have not been able to get the full par ticulars that we want, and any motion which will tend to elicit the information and throw more light on the subject ought to be welcomed. Complaints aremade from time to time about the telephone system, and excuses are put forward, such as the want of proper appliances; or we are told that something new will create a revolution. Any man who is compelled to use the telephone regularly knows the many difficulties and troubles that have to be put up with to obtain even an ordinary service. We do not know whether the telephone branch is paying or not, and for some time we could not ascertain the difference between the telephonic and postal expenditure, or which branch was to blame for the loss. Any motion that will throw light on the matter will be of great value. Wo ought to be in a position to say to the Minister, “ Here is material and here are opportunities to improve the telephonic service.” People complain that they are paying too much for the telephone, while to get a telephone installed in a country place, one has to wait a long time, or put up a guarantee. I do not say that the furnishing of this return will remedy that, but we want all the light we can get on the matter, and it would certainly be a great advantage if every farmer had an opportunity to use the telephone. The reasons advanced by the Minister are very small, and should weigh very little with honorable senators. I do not say that there is any desire to hide or hold up anything in connexion with the business, but it will be of great advantage to members and to the people who are vitally concerned in securing an adequate telephone service to let in all the light possible on it.
– Senator Keating has made out a better case for extending the telephone system than for furnishing the return for which he has asked. Every honorable senator must attach great weight to the arguments of the Minister against the motion, and it must be remembered also that there are large quantities of material that can be used for either the telephonic or telegraphic systems. In making out the return, some one would have to allocate some stocks to the telephone branch, and others to the telegraph branch. The return -would unquestionably be costly, and would not help Senator Keating to secure what he evidently has in his mind - the extension of the telephone system generally. The details asked for in the motion would he another source of difficulty, especially in getting information from country postmasters, who might not know anything of the value of the material. In those cases the Department would have to send an expert up to conduct a valuation. The annual balance-sheet of the Department will be made up to the end of June, but the motion asks for a special valuation or a special separation of the whole of the material in the hands of the Department. I do not say that it is not necessary to differentiate the material for the different services, and had the honorable senator moved that at the next stocktaking the telephonic and telegraphic material should be kept separate, this would have been a practical suggestion, and honorable senators would have been in a much better position to assist him. It would put the Commonwealth to an unnecessary expense to prepare a special balance-sheet up to within a few months of the end of the year for something that would be of no practical use either to the honorable senator or the country afterwards. If it was decided for the future that the material should be kept separate, and proper lists kept of it, we should have those lists to refer to permanently, but to carry the motion as it stands will not help the Department or the country, or secure that extension of the telephonic system which, I am confident, the honorable senator has in his mind all the time.
– I desired the opportunity of hearing more of the honorable senator’s remarks in submitting this motion, but I was called out of the Senate. I am hoping, however, to hear further reasons why the honorable senator should have called for this return. What value would it be to the general public, to members of Parliament, or to the honorable senator himself, because I refuse to accept the assertion - it has almost been an assertion - that it is a party question? Quite a number of members sitting behind the Government frequently disagree with members of the Government in matters of this kind, and I do not think that I have ever voted against the printing of any return called for from whatever side of the Senate, when that return has been likely to be of any use. As I was not able to hear the whole of Senator Keating’s remarks as to the value of this return, I am hoping to be enlightened a little more before we come to the vote. My mind is entirely open on the point, notwithstanding the PostmasterGeneral’s representative in the Senate seemed to make out a better case against the proposition than Senator Keating had made out in its favour up to the time L was called out. I hope Senator Keating will give me more information in his * reply.
. - I listened with very great attention to the reply of the honorable the Minister in this matter, and have come to the conclusion that the Minister, or the Department, or both, have misunderstood what is required bv this motion. Whether the Department has done so intentionally or otherwise, I do not know. But I do not ask in this motion for all the details that are contained in the stock-sheets that the Minister referred to. I asked for a return showing the ‘ ‘ quantity, the general nature and purpose, and the value” of the materials held in reserve, and, so far as I am concerned, the information could have been contained in one sheet of paper.
– To arrive at the totals they would have to get all the details.
– I am going to speak of that. I did not know the Minister had in his possession stock-sheets for the 30th June last year. I may say at once that I was not wedded to the 1st October as the date for the return. I took that as a convenient date when tabling notice of this motion; but my only object was to ascertain what amount of reserve stocks for future telephone development the Government have. There was no idea of party or of unfair criticism of the Department in my mind. My one object was to ascertain if, in my opinion and in the opinion of other honorable senators, the Department was keeping itself equipped to meet the demands that might be made upon it, and that should be made upon it if it were a popular Department - popular in the sense that its facilities were being availed of to a large extent by the people. It needs very little argument from me to assure honorable senators that the activities, or inactivities, of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in relation to telephones are probably responsible for more profanity throughout this Commonwealth than any other single Department, State or Federal, and we are entitled to know what the Department is doing in the way of equipping itself to fulfil its functions. We receive innumerable reports with regard to various other Departments, many of which are far more uninteresting, far more unintelligible, and far less value than this return would be. I wanted the return to enable us to see what the Department is doing, what it has done, and what it is prepared to do. When I put the motion on the paper, I was mindful of the fact that objection had been taken by Ministers on the grounds of procedure, to senators asking Ministersto furnish the Senate with information by way of question with or without notice. In a preceding Government, the Leader of the Senate asked that members desirous of obtaining information, such as that referred to in this motion should not ask for it by way of a question, but should move for a return. Had I followed my own inclinations, I would have asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral for a return showing what I desired to be furnished to myself and the Senate, but I felt that I was bound by the rules of procedure to move for a return.
– Do you think if you got this information that it would have any influence in extending the present telephone system, or of removing the troubles you, speak of ?
– I do. There has been a good deal of dissatisfaction on this subject in the United Kingdom, where a parliamentary Committee has been appointed, and where the Chairman of that Committee has gone even outside Parliament, and has, through the medium of the Nineteenth Century, pointed out why it is that Great Britain lags behind America. The principal reason is that the authorities responsible for the telephone system in the United States of America keep on hand an immense stock of reserves ready to meet every demand that may be made. Though it would not have been relevant to the subject, I might have referred to further portions of that article, where it is shown that the telephone authorities in Chicago have been ready at a moment to “ scrap “ a whole system; and I want to know whether our Department is keeping itself abreast of the times or not. We know that when new telephones are required we are frequently told in various places that there are none in stock; and we are very often asked to accept an inferior and obsolescent telephone until such time as the Department gets a better one in stock. I know of one man who has been waiting for eight years to get an improved telephone.
– Are not these difficulties really difficulties of finance?
– That may be. But I want to know what the Department does to keep its stock replenished, and to have adequate reserves to meet the demands that are made upon it. 1 am not accusing theDepartment under this Government with neglect. I am speaking of what, in my opinion, the Department has failed to do ever since the establishment of Federation. I do not think that we, as a Parliament, know sufficient about the activities of the telephone branch in matters of this kind. I am glad to know from the Minister that this information is available as from 30th June last. I quite recognise that to ask for another return made up to October last would not be of very much greater value than the earlier return, and I shall be very pleased to avail myself of the invitation of the Minister to look at it; and if there are particular items in respect of which I should like a return to be made to the Senate, then I will take the opportunity of getting that information furnished; but I wish the Minister and the Senate to understand that I have no sinister motive in moving this motion. I desire to get what I consider is valuable information for members of the Senate, and for the public; but in the circumstances following upon what the Minister has said, and recognising that it is not likely that this motion will be carried - and perhaps it would not be desirable that it should be carried in the form in which it appears, asking for a return up to 1st October - I do not know whether I am in order in withdrawing it or not-
– The honorable senator is perfectly in order in asking leave to amend or withdraw the motion.
– The only course I could take if I were to amend the motion would be to ask for this information from 30th June last, and as the 30th June of this year is not so far away, it would, perhaps, be better to wait the return from 30th June next; and perhaps between now and then I may find means of asking the Department to put, as far as it possibly can, in their next return, a separate account in relation to telephones, so that the Senate may have the opportunity of seeing what reserves we have. I think that I have served the purpose that I had in mind in having the subject discussed, and I therefore ask leave of the Senate to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
Barker, de Largie, Lieut.-Col. Sir Albert Gould, Guy,Mullan, Lieut.-Col. O’Loghlin, and the Mover.
In submitting this proposition, may I be permitted to point out that town planning is quite a recent science? Many of the large cities in the world have been permitted to grow without being in any way regularly laid out, and the same may be said of some of our cities in Australia. The Commonwealth Government, no doubt, did the right thing when it decided to invite competitive designs for the building of the Federal Capital, having in mind the importance of obtaining the very best design possible. So far as I know, no limitation was placed upon any one. The whole world was asked to, and could have competed for the prize, and there can be no doubt that it was expected that the person who submitted the first-prize design would have that design carried into effect. We find, however, that such is not the case. We must further recollect that when Federation was being discussed, it was agreed that the Federal Capital should not remain for all time in Victoria, but that after a number of years it should be transferred to New South Wales. Federation was established some fourteen years ago, and eight years later the Commonwealth Parliament found time to pass the Seat of Government Bill, which finally fixed the site of the Federal Capital. Then, after due consideration, in 1911 the Government of the day decided to invite designs. And now I come to the point where, apparently, something went wrong. Those designs were received, and they were referred to a Selection Committee consisting of Mr. J. Coane, chairman, licensed surveyor, president of the Surveyors’ Institute of Victoria; Mr. J. A. Smith, pre.sident of the Victorian Institute of Engineers; and Mr. John Kirkpatrick, architect, of Sydney. All these gentlemen are well known throughout the Commonwealth as highly trained technical men who know their business thoroughly. To these gentlemen, then, were submitted the designs which had been received from competitors all over the world. It must be remembered that no bar was placed upon any officer in the Commonwealth Service, but that, on the contrary, every officer had an opportunity of submitting a design. Now, the Board which had been appointed to consider the designs, in a report dated 14th May, 1912, recommended that submitted by Mr. Walter Burley Griffin, architect, Chicago, for the first prize, while the second prize was allotted to Eliel Saarinen, of Finland, and the third to D. Alf, Agache, of Paris. One would have thought that, having done that, steps would have been taken as soon as possible to give effect to the decision of the Committee; but, unfortunately, that was not done. While it is true that Mr. Coane submitted a minority report, the others were in favour of the design submitted by Mr. Griffin, but instead of going on with the design, the then Minister of Home Affairs, the Hon. King O’Malley, appointed a Board of officers to report as to the suitability of the designs. That is where the initial mistake was made. That Board consisted of Colonel Miller (chairman), Secretary of the Home Affairs Department; Colonel Owen, DirectorGeneral of Works; Mr. C. R. Scrivener, Director of Commonwealth Lands and Survey Department; Mr. J. S. Murdoch, Architect, Home Affairs Department; Mr. T. Hill, Works Director for Victoria; and Mr. G. J. Oakeshott, Commonwealth Architect for New South Wales. These gentlemen reported that they could not agree upon any of the designs, and they recommended one of their own compilation as the best suited for the site. Now, what I want to know is, if these gentlemen had an opportunity, as I believe they had in common with every other individual, of either collectively or individually submitting a design for the Federal Capital, why did they not do it? Instead of doing that, with what appears to me to be colossal assurance, they seem to have taken parts of the design submitted by Mr. Griffin, and parts submitted by other gentlemen, and placing them together, said, “ This is our design. This is a design that suits the Capital Site, and it ought to be carried out.”
– Did they claim that it wa3 their own original design ?
– They called it- a departmental design. I will leave it at that.
– But they did not claim it as their original design, did they ?
– I could not say that, but they claimed that it was superior to the design which had secured the first prize. This position should not be tolerated any longer. Instead of the Federal Capital being constructed in accordance with the design submitted by Mr. Griffin, the work now in progress is being done partly in accord with the departmental scheme, and with the object of dovetailing into it. Notwithstanding that some £600,000 odd has been expended on the Federal Territory up to date, very Little of that money has gone in work on the actual site. It appears to me that the first thing to be done should be to find out the levels of the main thoroughfares and get them constructed. When a private land-owner cuts up his estate, this is the first thing that he does, and that is what ought to be done by the Government if they intend to carry out work on the Federal Capital site on the design which secured the first prize. I believe that course is not being followed, and it is very much to be regretted that the Government should lend themselves to a pro.cedure of that character. I am not prepared to criticise either the plan of the departmental officers or the plan submitted by Mr. Griffin, but I do say that Messrs. Coane, Smith, and Kirkpatrick are three highly- trained men, and that their opinion ought to be respected.
– Is it not possible that even the bast design may have some bacl features?
– No doubt that is so. We have to recollect, however, that the gentleman who secured the first prize was sent for, and after he came, instead of working on the contour plan provided by the Government, when he saw the actual site he made some modifications, not of a very essential character, in his own plan, and those modifications would, no doubt, have met all the requirements of the case. Those of us who are familiar with the history of Washington will know how the lay-out of that city was dealt with by a Board appointed, and how many millions of pounds it cost the Government to restore the city in accordance with the original design. It seems to me that the same thing is being done here with regard to the proposed site at Canberra. I would like to know why steps have not been taken to lay out the streets and have the other levels taken. There is no reason why the matter should be delayed from year to year. If we can afford to spend £600,000 on the Territory, that money ought to be expended with the object of removing the Seat of Government there at the very earliest possible date. It is fourteen years now since Federation was accomplished, and I believe that while the Government do not desire to have the matter hung up indefinitely, that is what will happen if they sanction a continuance of the present proceedings.
– You do not mean that the design has been delayed, do you t
– The trouble is that the design which secured the first premium is not being adhered to.
– More than the design has been responsible for the delay in this matter.
– But why do not the Government give credit to Mr. Griffin, who is the author of the design ?
– Are you aware of the fact that Mr. Griffin has a staff of fourteen draughtsmen and engineers under him?
– I am aware that he has some assistance.
– Are you aware that the Government are paying about £40 a week in connexion with that one Department ?
– Then it appears to rae that there is all the more reason why the plan should be proceeded with.
– The reason is Mr. Griffin only delivered his completed plan about a fortnight ago, and you will admit that not much can be done in a fortnight.
– Even now I have no assurance that the plan delivered by Mr. Griffin is being proceeded with. My information is to the contrary, and that while the plan has been delivered nothing is being done in the direction of carrying it out.
– The plan is now being referred to the Public Works Committee for report.
– I do not want that plan to be referred to the Public Works Committee, because that body has quite enough to do. This matter should not be sidetracked any longer.
– There is no option. It must go on to the Public Works Committee for report.
– In my opinion, it should not be referred to the Public Works Committee at all;
– All works estimated to cost over £20,000 must be referred to the Committee.
– Some works are now being carried out at Canberra which will cost considerably over £20,000, and they have not been inquired into by the Committee.
– They were started before the appointment of the Public Works Committee.
– It would not require £20,000 to lay out one of the main thoroughfares of the city.
– The honorable senator docs not think that we should build the city by patchwork?
– We could make one street at a time, and if it were formed in permanent fashion, that would be all that would be required. It is not necessary that these plans should be referred to the Public Works Committee. I do not wish to see the building of the Federal Capital further delayed by having the plans referred to the Public Works Committee, who have already a number of matters under investigation. A Select Committee appointed to inquire into the delay in the building of the Federal Capital could report within a few weeks, and we should then know what has really been behind the unreasonable delay that has taken place. A period of fourteen years is altogether too long to wait for a beginning to be made in the carrying out of the Federal compact, especially in view of the fact that the designs were accepted in 1912.
– The honorable senator continually refers to a delay of fourteen years, but he does not explain the history of the first ten or twelve years of that period.
– The honorable senator might estimate the delay from the time when Mr. Griffin’s plan was accepted.
– Mr. Griffin has now been in Australia for about eighteen months, and there is something like the same period of his present engagement still to run. I desire to see some genuine attempt made to begin the construction of the Capital. To refer the plans to the Public Works Committee will not hasten the matter. I see no reason why a Select Committee should not be appointed to report upon the delay that has taken place, and I trust that honorable senators will agree to my motion.
Debate (on motion by Senator Russell) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– On several occasions during the present session I have asked for information in connexion with the operation of the Traffic Branch at the Kalgoorlie end of the transcontinental railway. I believe that a mail from. Western Australia was delivered to-day, and it is therefore probable that the Honorary Minister has some information in answer to the inquiries I have made. If he has, no doubt he will supply it to the Senate, for the benefit of myself and of thousands of other persons who are interested in this matter.
– The information to which Senator Buzacott referred was received about five minutes after the opening of
Parliament to-day. The reply which has been sent to his question is as follows: -
I have to advise that inquiries have been made into tho above matters, and, excepting us fur as may have been necessary and usual in economic working, there has been no avoidable delay in transporting any material along the line for the construction, works.
That is signed by the Engineer-in-Chief for Railways.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [6.12]. - This afternoon I asked a question with regard to the supplies of sugar in the Commonwealth. It might be as well if I said a few words now to make tho position clear. I asked whether the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs was aware that ithad been pointed out by the chairman of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company that the quantity of sugar available for consumption in the Commonwealth would be exhausted by the end of July. He not only made that statement in his address at the half-yearly meeting of the company, but he took tho trouble to communicate, I think twice, with the Premier of New South Wales, and also with the Premier of Victoria, pointing out the urgency of the matter. It appears that, under action taken by the State Governments recently, there has been a fixing of the price of sugar, amongst other commodities. The price fixed is considerably less than the market price paid for sugar outside the Commonwealth. When there has been a shortage in the supply of sugar in the Commonwealth in the past, the course adopted has been to import raw sugar, and have it refined in Australia, and then placed upon the market at the market rate, whatever it might be. It would appear that in the fixing of prices in connexion with commodities, the basis adopted has been the available supply of those commodities in the Commonwealth. There is a marked reduction of the normal supply of sugar in the Commonwealth at the present time, due to recent dry seasons in Queensland and northern New South Wales, where our cane sugar is grown. It is stated that it will be impossible to supply the amount of sugar that will bo required for consumption in Australia by importing raw sugar, without incurring a very serious loss, estimated at about £7 per ton, if the present low price be maintained. This is a loss the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is not prepared to face. It might be urged that this is a matter for the consideration primarily of the Boards which have been established to fix the prices for necessary commodities in Australia. That is one reason why it might be regarded as primarily a State matter; but it should be borne in mind that the Commonwealth Parliament also has power to deal with the question. We have imposed duties upon raw and refined sugars imported into Australia. In view of the fiscal policy we have adopted, the duties are, no doubt, reasonable when wo can produce sufficient for our local consumption. We are now, however, faced with a time of scarcity, and it is up to the Commonwealth Parliament to see whether it is not possible to devise some means to meet the difficulty which has arisen. It is unreasonable to expect people to import sugar and refine it hero if they are to be restricted to prices far below the ordinary market rates for sugar outside the Commonwealth. An important phase of the question is its probable effect upon the employment of our people. In a paragraph appearing in to-day’s Argus it is explained that the authorities of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company urgently desire to know what the intention of the Government may be in this matter, as otherwise they may be compelled to dismiss a large number of the people they have working for them at the present moment.
– What is the honorable senator’s estimate of the probable shortage ?
– I can only say that it is estimated that the available supply in the Commonwealth will be exhausted at the end of July. There will be a very small crop of sugar cane from Queensland and the northern part of New South Wales, in consequence of the dry season experienced there. The fixing of prices is a tempting subject for discussion. We know that there have been great complaints about the fixing of the price of wheat, and there is talk of the importation of wheat to supply local requirements in some of the States. I may have more to say on this subject upon another occasion. The question of the price of sugar is at present most urgent, and it is time that something was done- to discover a means to tide us over the difficulty. Whether it can be best met by a remission of the import duties or by the exorcise of influence with the State Governments to induce them to take action calculated to supply their people with sufficient of this commodity at a reasonable rate, I shall not now decide. I have mentioned the matter that the Minister might know more clearly the object I had in putting my question to him this afternoon, and that the Government might have time to consider the best course to follow in the circumstances.
– My honorable colleague who represents the Minister of Trade and Customs has not the right of reply, and it devolves upon me, therefore, to answer what has been said: by Senator Gould. The question to which he has referred has been, and is being, considered by the Government. It has to be remembered that an increase in the price of sugar will not add a single ton to the quantity of that commodity in Australia.
– It might render it possible to import sugar.
– It will make the people pay more for the sugar there is in Australia at the present time, although ihe cost of production has not been increased by a single penny. To increase the price of sugar now would be simply to make a present to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company of the whole of the increased price.
– No; the company is prepared to give a guarantee that the increase in price will be passed on.
– They will pass it on to the growers of the cane they expect to purchase in the sweet by-and-by. What justification can they give to the people of Australia for increasing the price ? When they know that there is going to be a shortage of sugar, they cannot say, “ We will increase the price, but we will not increase the amount of sugar by a ton.” If there is a deficit in the sugar crop, the question is how can we best get over the difficulty in the interest of the people, not in the interest of a particular company. There are several methods, at OUr disposal. There is one method, I remind Senator Millen, which has been adopted by more than one State Government in regard to wheat, that is to say they have imported. «
– They had to pay an enhanced price for the imported wheat.
– If they import either refined or raw sugar-
– If they import raw sugar, what will they do with it?
– They will hand the raw sugar over to the company to be refined, I should think; but whatever class of sugar they import, we know that they will have to pay a high price for it in the outside markets of the world. That in itself would be no- justification for raising the price of sugar which has not had to be imported.
– No- one argues that.
– That is exactly what is being asked - I do not say by the honorable senator. What the Colonial Sugar Refining Company have practically put forward is that they should be allowed to increase the price of sugar all round.
– And also, that they should be given facilities for importing sugar. Of course the justification for an increase will be that in importing they had to pay a big price in the outside market. The removal of the duty would not help the situation at all.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Yes, it would.
– No; for the simple reason that at the present time sugar is dearer outside than in the Commonwealth. The removal of the duty is not going to help the situation here.
– Why did you take the duty off wheat?
– Because at the time we took that action there was a scarcity of wheat.
– So there is now.
– There is no scarcity at the present time. It is said that there is going to be a scarcity, but there is no scarcity of sugar to-day.
– There is wheat here yet, apart from- the importations.
– In some of the States there is not sufficient wheat for the seeding operations which are proceeding apart from the wheat which has been brought in. I think that the Government are entitled to claim that by their action in stopping theexport of sugar they enabled the people of Australia to get their supplies at the price they have been paying. Everywhere else in the world the price of sugar has gone up tremendously, and if we had not stoppedsugar export from Australia, the company which is now so anxious about the future would have exported its sugar - a perfectly justifiable thing to do - and would have made a scarcity at that time. It was the action of the Government which prevented the company from then creating an artificial scarcity. We would have had this position existing ever since the war began, and immediately the price of sugar went up in the outside world. All that I can say now is that the Government will see what they can do in the matter. I hope the honorable senator realizes that our position has been very largely complicated by the decision of the High Court in the wheat case, and that the Queensland Government have in their hand a power which they can wield, if the electors allow them to do so, and which can be very largely’ used to the detriment of other States. Under that judgment of the High Court, there is no doubt that the Queensland Government can seize the sugar crop, and tell the people of the other States at what price they shall buy sugar, and compel them to buy at the price ruling in the outside world.
– What are the Government going to do about that judgment ?
– What can we do ?
– Cannot the Government appeal to the Privy Council?
– The Government are not cavilling at the decision of the high Court, which we accept as being good law. I am not reflecting on the High Court, hut am only pointing out that one effect of the judgment is to give Queensland a power by which she can, if she wishes, take toll from every State, and bring the price of sugar in other States up to the price in the outside world, and, in such a contingency, the Commonwealth will be powerless to help. I can assure honorable senators that the Minister of Trade and Customs has been inquiring into this question, and is watching the situation, and whatever we do will be done with a view to safeguard the position of the people of Australia. The question of the poor unemployed has been brought forward. In my opinion, Senator Gould must have been smiling to himself when he said that men were unemployed at the sugar mills, because not one mill has had to turn away any hands.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - I say that if something is not done there will be nothing for the employe’s to do.
– The sugar crop will have to be refined.
– There will be an interregnum.
– There will be nothing to do until August.
– The shortage in the sugar crop will not seriously affect the refineries in Australia. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company have always imported sugar from Fiji, so that I doubt very much whether there is a necessity for the refineries to close down, or whether there is not sufficient cane to keep them employed. At any rate, I assure the Senate that the Government are seized of the importance of the situation, and will do all they can to meet it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 May 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1915/19150506_senate_6_76/>.