6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Australians in Action.
– By leave, I move -
That the Senate congratulates the Military Forces of the Commonwealth on the soldierly qualities displayed at the Dardanelles.
A similar motion was moved yesterday in another place and carried unanimously, and as this is the first meeting of the Senate since then, I desire to give honorable senators an opportunity of expressing their admiration and appreciation of the gallant behaviour of the Australian Forces in the Gallipoli Peninsula. I think we can say that our troops have covered themselves with glory. They were put to a very severe trial in the very first encounter in which they were under fire, and earned the highest encomiums from the officer commanding the operations, who is in a position to judge of its danger and the resourcefulness necessary in order to carry it through successfully. The people of Australia, I am sure, had no doubt as to the calibre of the men who were sent forward. . They felt certain that the troops would acquit themselves well in any duty that might be cast upon them, but I think that few of us anticipated that they would be called upon to pass through such a severe- and fiery ordeal at the very outset of their career as fighting soldiers. I can think of no more severe trial than that which they were called upon to undergo. It is only a few months since these men were in Australia. A very large number of them were untrained to the use of arms, and the great majority of them had never seen warlike service. They were fellowcitizens following their various avocations, but after a few short months of training they were .brought up against regular troops, because the Turkish troops are regulars who are by no means to be despised as fighters, for on many occasions they have put up a splendid fight against the best European troops. Wo are in possession of information which leads us to believe that they are led by German officers. They had weeks in which to prepare their defences, because the interval which took place there disclosed to the Germans and the Turks that it was the intention of the Allies to make an attack on the Gallipoli Peninsula. We may depend upon it that every form of defence which human ingenuity could devise was prepared in order to prevent that landing, which afterwards was so successfully accomplished. I think, sir, the position allotted to our troops was a very great honour to Australia. When one looks at the map of the Peninsula and notices the place at which the Australians were landed, he will see that they were practically given the pride of place, the most important strategic point on which a landing has been made. Our information is that ‘ the lower portion of the Peninsula was held by a considerable force or Turks, against whom the British and French force, landed at the point of the Peninsula, are fighting. As the Australians were landed midway on the Peninsula, it means that not only have they to hold back the reinforcements from Constantinople and other portions of Turkey, but have to fight on two fronts and meet the attack of those who are being driven back by the Allied Forces from the point of the Peninsula. That the Australians have done well is obvious from the reports we have had. They have stirred our enthusiasm, and undoubtedly they have set a high standard for their fellows to emulate on the field. We deplore the fact that some of our best officers and a large number of men were killed or wounded in the sanguinary encounter, but I venture to» say that those men have made their mark in Australian history in a way which will live. They could have died no better’ death than the one they died. Our sympathy goes out to the bereaved wives ; our sympathy goes out to the wounded soldiers, but we feel wire that in the suffering and the sorrow which comes to those who have been bereft, they will find consolation in the fact that the men have died in the cause of their country - of even a wider cause, and that is the cause of general human freedom, becausethere is no doubt that something wider than the mere desire of fighting for country animated these men in the cause they represented. It will be a proud thought to sustain many of those who have been widowed or rendered orphans that the wide world appreciates the fact that their fathers or brothers have fallen in the cause of human freedom, I desire now to read some messages which the Government have received in connexion with the operations. Eis Majesty the King, in a message dated Buckingham Palace, 19th April, 1915, cabled-
I heartily congratulate you upon the splendid conduct and bravery displayed by tha Australian troops in the operations at the Dardanelles, who have indeed proved themselves worthy sons of the Empire.
From the Secretary of State for the Colonies came this cablegram, dated London, 27th April, 1915-
His Majesty’s Government desire me to offer you their warmest congratulations on the splendid gallantry and magnificent achievement of your contingent in the successful progress of the operations at the Dardanelles.
The First Lord of the Admiralty cabled on the 30th April -
On behalf of Board of Admiralty express our heartiest congratulations on the brilliant end memorable achievements of Australian and New Zealand troops at the Dardanelles. Admiral telegraphs that the Fleet is filled with intense admiration at the feat of arms accomplished by the Army.
The message of the Prime Minister of Canada, dated Ottawa, 8th May, was -
Canada congratulates the Commonwealth on the splendid action of her troops in the Dardanelles, which demonstrates alike the quality of British stock and of solidarity of the Empire.
The Governor of New Zealand in a message dated Auckland, 30th April, said -
I desire on behalf of New Zealand to convey to you the pride which this Dominion feels in being so closely associated with the Forces of the Commonwealth in the present great undertaking in the Dardanelles, and rejoices that the two Forces have so signally distinguished themselves.
Sir Ian Hamilton, the General Commanding the British Mediterranean Force, has sent the following cablegram, dated Ten©dos, 11th May -
May I, speaking out of a full heart, be permitted to say how gloriously the Australian and New Zealand Contingent have upheld the finest traditions of our race during this struggle still in progress, at first with audacity and dash, since then with sleepless valour and untiring resource they have already created for their countries an imperishable record of military virtue.
I am sure that the last message is a particularly pleasing one, for the reason that only a year ago Sir Ian Hamilton had an opportunity of seeing our troops in training. He then expressed a very high opinion of the material; he has recently had an. opportunity of seeing the men in action, and it is indeed pleasing to find that, notwithstanding the good words he had to say of them in the past, he is able to say something even better of them after seeing them in war. I have much pleasure in submitting the motion and commending it to the Senate.
– In the absence of Senator Millen, I rise to second very heartily the motion submitted by the Minister of Defence. I shall be very brief, because I feel that mere words are inadequate to express the feelings that have animated Australians since the news was received here of the performance of the Australian Expeditionary Force on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The Minister, in detailing the circumstances surrounding their first action, has indicated the magnitude of their achievement. Those whom they met knew that they, or some other Forces of His Majesty the King, would shortly arrive, and they had made every- preparation to repel them. Doubtless they knew every portion of the Peninsula as well as it was possible for soldiers or their officers to know it. In landing on the Peninsula our men were placed at a very considerable disadvantage in having to repel the attacks made upon them. That we have casualty lists and that soldiers have been killed and wounded was inevitable. We cannot any more than any one else expect to make omelettes without breaking eggs, but, as the Minister of Defence has said, the sense of loss of those who have remained in Australia has been tempered to some extent by the feeling of pride which those who have been bereft must have in the achievements of the men who have gone to the front. They have indeed set a high and noble standard of duty and conduct to those who will join them, or come after them, in order that our Forces at the front may be kept up to their proper strength. I venture to say that those who will follow them from Australia will be nerved by reading of their performance to the attempt to emulate, and, if possible, to excel, them in their remarkable achievements. What they have done has been criticised, and judgment has been passed upon them by the most competent authorities. There is good reason for self-gratulation on the part of the Australian people when they hear the sincerely, frankly, and truthfully expressed opinions which the Minister has read from the messages received by the Government. With the honorable senator, and with other members of the Senate, my sympathy goes out to those in Australia who have experienced loss, and to those at the front who are undergoing suffering. With the Minister also, I venture to say that pride in the achievement of our men will, to a certain extent, mitigate the feeling for the losses sustained and the sufferings endured. I join with the Minister in commending the motion to the very hearty acceptance of the Senate.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [3.13]. - I should like to say a word on this important topic. I am sure that we have all felt a thrill of pride since the news came forward that the soldiers sent from Australia to the front have covered themselves with glory on the first occasion when they were confronted with the enemy.
– They “made good.”
– They “made good,” as the phrase goes. It is very pleasing to listen to the high encomiums passed upon our troops, and particularly by General Ian Hamilton, the officer in command. I remember that when he was here reporting upon Australian defences, with the feeling of disparagement, if I may so put it, with which. a professional officer so often views mere civilian forces, in summing up his opinion in his report, and referring to the contingency of a hostile force attempting a landing in Australia, he said that we should require three to one of our militia to successfully compete with regular troops. Now, General Ian Hamilton has had an opportunity of seeing our Forces actually engaged with a Force of regulars in a fortified position, and very strongly entre’nched. He has seen them land, which is a very difficult thing indeed, on an open coast, and take fortified positions, and we have his unstinted praise of the way in which our soldiers have conducted themselves. They have shown that they are able to hold their own even with the best regular troops the world can produce. We must all feel sympathy with those whose relatives and friends have bean sacrificed in the attack on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Many of the officers and men who have fallen were comrades in arms of my own, and I am sure that they have been proud to meet what every soldier covets, and that is death on the field of battle, and, I think I may say also in this case, in the arms of victory.
Senator O’KEEFE (Tasmania) [3.161- - Although it is customary to have motions of this kind spoken to only by the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition, I make no apology as a member of the Senate for saying a word on this motion. On reading the lists of casualties, and seeing in them the names of many friends of long standing, I share the feeling of sorrow which every Australian must have, but that feeling is more than counterbalanced by my feeling of pride that I am an Australian. I am sure that when honorable senators generally read the news of the achievements of our Forces they felt proud to be able to call themselves Australians. There are many members of this Parliament who have sons or brothers fighting at the front, and whilst those of us who are not so fortunate as to have sons to give up in the country’s service sympathize deeply with those whose relatives may be lost or wounded in the fortune of war, we know that they will have reason to be prouder than we can be. I have great pleasure in supporting ihe motion.
– I also desire to say a word in support of the motion. It seems to me that the least that those of us who remain behind can do is to give that meed of praise to the men who have gone to the front which is unquestionably their due. Every man and woman in Australia must be proud of the achievements of our troops at the front. Our appreciation and sympathy may to some extent serve to console those who have suffered bereavement and loss. There are probably very few homes in Australia that have not to-day some representative at the front, or on the way there, and I am confident that before the war is over there will be still fewer homes in Australia that will not be in that position. It is right that the Parliament of Australia should express its appreciation of the actions of those who have gone, and should, as far as possible, encourage others who may desire to go to the front. We have no doubt that the heroic conduct of our troops at the Dardanelleswill stimulate those who have hitherto failed to recognise their duty to their country, to come forward and fill the gaps which unfortunately are being made in the ranks of our sons and brothers at the front. On behalf of this great Commonwealth I desire to add a word of thankfulness for the splendid tribute which has been paid to our soldiers by their Commander-in-Chief, Sir Ian Hamilton, who has not only had the opportunity of seeing them in Australia in time of peace, but who now has the privilegeof leading them in time of war. He has assured us that they have done well. Before they left our shores we knew that they would do well, and we are proud to recognise the soldierly qualities which they exhibited in the strenuous action at the Dardanelles. At the same time our deepest sympathies go out to those in our midst who have suffered bereavement as the result of the war.
– I regard this motion as indicative of the opinion of the people throughout this country as well as of this Legislature, that the Australian Forces at the Dardanelles deserve well of the Commonwealth. As the Minister of Defence has pointed out, they have had to meet no mean and feeble foe. It is a well-known fact that it is only the heroic military qualities of the Ottoman peasantry that have maintained the Turkish Empire for four centuries against all the Powers of Christian Europe. It is not as if our Expeditionary Forces have merely exhibited courage against primitive savages armed with primitive weapons. They have had to encounter men of admittedly high military qualities, who have been led by officers belonging to a nation which has made a profession of war during the past half century. It is, therefore, a matter of pardonable pride on the part of members of this Parliament that, on war’s red touchstone, the Australian soldier has rung true metal. I sympathize with those who’ have lost relatives at the front - with those who have lost sons, and in some cases, fathers. But in war, death is the soldier’s frequent fortune, and “ a glorious death is his who for his country falls.” I hope that our feelings of appreciation for our troops will not lead us to view the defence of Australia in any false light. The Imperial authorities were well aware of the task which they were about to set our soldiers, and for that reason, on the sands of Egypt, they subjected them to some months of training which, because of its strenuous character, was probably equivalent to a year’s military training in ordinary circumstances. Our men have been specially fitted for the task which they were selected to perform, and I glory in the fact that they have been tried, and not found wanting. Even as the Crusaders were a great factor in evolving the modern Englishman, inasmuch as they cemented the Norman invaders with the ancient Anglo-Saxon people, so this war will have a beneficial effect in welding into one composite whole the people who make up this Commonwealth. In the lists of casualties are to be found the names of men who are not of British extraction, but who, having been born here, have been proved true to Australian sentiment and to the Imperial standard of honour. I have very much pleasure in supporting the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– By leave, I move -
That the Senate expresses its sympathy with the relatives of those who, by the sinking of the Lusitania, were wantonly murdered on the high seas in the name of war.
I venture to say that our feelings in supporting this motion will be of quite a different character from those which animated us when we were dealing with the resolution which we have just adopted. Britishers are a nation of sportsmen, and there is perhaps an undue admiration of the true sportsman inherent in all members of the British race. They have a detestation of the man who, whether in sport or in war, does not play the game. Now, the rules of war ar® known and fixed, just as much as are the rules of sport. Although war is brutal, and even hellish, it has always been an axiom that non-combatants, and particularly women and children, are exempt from the fire of the .enemy. But in the case of the sinking of the Lusitania what do we find ? An armed warship fired a deadly torpedo against an unarmed vessel, as a result of which that unarmed vessel, loaded with passengers - the whole of whom were noncombatants, and a great portion of whom were women and helpless children - was sent to its doom.
– Yes, babies. A large number of the passengers were citizens of neutral nations. There is a particular horror associated with this crime in that, where German submarines have been engaged in carrying out their declared policy of war against the mercantile marine of Great Britain, they have at times notified the crews or passengers of the ships which they intended attacking, and have allowed them so many minutes in which to escape. In such cases they were aiming at the de- struction of property belonging to private persons who were members of an enemy nation. But in the present instance no such warning was given, although they knew that the Lusitania was loaded with helpless women and children, and with non-combatants. Without warning, and without affording these people the slightest opportunity to escape the frightful doom to which they were being consigned, the Germans torpedoed the Lusitania, and sent her to the bottom with her living freight. If there is a Providence - as we believe there is - retribution, swift and sure, must follow .a nation that descends to such tactics, and the detestation to which a nation guilty of such practices exposes itself at the hands of persons, no matter what may be their nationality, must, in the long run, have an effect in the determination of this war. After all, public opinion, even in war, cannot be disregarded, and Germany, in sanctioning this dastardly act, has outraged the public conscience of the world.
– And has jubilated over the occurrence.
– Yes, although it seems hardly credible, there has been jubilation in Germany over it.
– The children attending the schools were granted a half holiday in honour of the event.
– Any nation which can find cause for rejoicing in such an act must indeed be hard put to discover consolation. To my mind, the circumstance indicates that the ruling powers of Germany recognise that they are in desperate straits. Just as sometimes we see a man who has been beaten in fair fight resort to unfair tactics, so we must assume that Germany, finding herself defeated in fair fight, is resorting to the tactics of the assassin and the murderer. The sinking of the Lusitania was murder. It was no less murder because it was committed by authority, and because those who perpetrated the outrage acted under the instructions of their superiors. I move the motion feeling that although the protest may not have any immediate effect, it is right that this Parliament, representing the Commonwealth of Australia, should express its detestation and horror at this awful crime, and also its sympathy with the helpless victims and those who have been bereaved as a result of it.
– In seconding the motion which has been moved by the Minister of Defence, I am glad to see that in its terms are used the words ‘ ‘ wantonly murdered on the high seas.” By those words we express concurrence with the verdict that was arrived at by a British jury after a coronial inquiry into the whole circumstances. We are not exaggerating in the least when we characterize this action of Germany as wanton murder. It matters not if it was done by officers and men by command of a higher authority; those responsible for it must take the consequences of their act. As the Minister has said, action of this character is unknown in civilized warfare, which is governed by rules just as ordinary sport is governed. That this conduct is brutal, barbarous, and unwarlike must be the judgment of every unprejudiced mind. And after the war, and when the storm of partisanship which is necessarily engendered by the conflict between nations shall have subsided, even then by this action Germany will always earn for itself worldwide execration. Germany will have the discredit of being the first among the civilized nations to introduce into organized warfare methods of this infamous character. There is only one circumstance to which I wish to refer, and which I think is worthy of further thought than perhaps we are likely to give to it. Germany has been informing itself and neutral nations through its press of alleged successes, and in this way it has been heartening up its own troops and people with the nope, nay, the assurance, that the German troops everywhere are encountering successes. By this means German people and neutral nations are bidden to expect in the not very distant future the triumph of German arms in Europe. Now this is not the act of any Power that has a consciousness or belief in its ultimate triumph; rather it is the act of one in the most desperate circumstances, and so it will appeal to the. whole world. It will show to the neutral nations that Germany feels that unless it resorts to the most horrible means of warfare it has no hope of holding its own. It will also help our people to realize that Germany sees the doom that is before it. It has already bad the effect of stimulating recruiting in the Commonwealth, Great Britain, and other parts of the Empire, and if by that means it will indirectly tend to the earlier termination of this war, this awful crime, though its consequences have been frightful, will, not have been without some good effect.
– When we heard of the gallantry of our troops in action recently we experienced feelings of pride and sorrow; pride at the heroism of our troops, and sorrow for those who had fallen, and for their relatives. We stood aghast with horror a day or two ago when we received news of the sinking, without warning of any kind, of the Lusitania by a German submarine. I agree with the sentiments expressed by the Minister of Defence and Senator Keating, and I would add that had not this Parliament adopted a motion of this description, it would have been wanting in its duty. We tender our heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved relatives, and view with horror and detestation the picture presented of helpless babies lying dead on their mothers’ breasts, and that other incident related of a mother who buried her two children - sent them down to a watery grave - and whilst doing so found her last child had died in her arms. In the face of this latest horror I feel that something more drastic is required on the part of this Government and of the allied nations which are endeavouring to crush this mad dog of Europe.
– Something more is required of the whole world.
– The time has passed for treating this German enemy with a kid glove. The time has arrived when we should deal with it with the mailed fist. Though I am not one to advocate descending to the level of such brutes - it is our duty to rise high above that, and we are doing it - still, I think some steps should be taken to express our detestation in much more convincing language than by passing a motion of this kind. In my humble opinion, it is the duty of the Government to take some drastic action even if it means interning every German and Austrian resident in the Commonwealth, naturalized or unnaturalized. Then, to prevent any repetition of this crime, some of those prisoners should be placed on every ship that sails from these shores bound for foreign countries, so that in the event of any vessels being destroyed by this uncivilized method the Germans will sink some of their own countrymen as well.
– They would cut the throats of every British prisoner in Germany if you did that.
– They appear to be doing it now, if we can believe the reports that come to hand, and I do place some credence on them. According to recent reports the Germans slaughtered a number of British prisoners quite recently, burning some of them in a stable. The world stands aghast at this awful and crowning act of infamy on the part of the German nation, but I agree with Senator Keating that, even if the consequences have been awful, some good will have been done if it leads to an earlier termination of this dreadful war.
– I support tie motion, and, like Senator Needham, I would support it more strongly if by this means we could inflict some punishment upon the enemy. In the Melbourne papers of last week there appeared a cablegram from London, setting out that seventy British firms had been notified that their German branches had been seized and their property confiscated. Now, we have all over Australia branches of German firms still doing business, and I am sorry to say that Australians are trading with them. Some of the most magnificent blocks of offices in Melbourne are the property of German companies, and I have heard on good authority that the German Kaiser himself has a very large interest in the three largest blocks of offices in Queen and Collins streets. He is the largest shareholder in the companies concerned. It is not unfair to ask the Government to confiscate such property. It would only be fair retaliation for Australia, as well as other parts of the British Dominions, to go as far as the German nation is going, by confiscating the property of British companies in Germany. I should support, with the greatest pleasure, a proposal by the Government to confiscate all property that could be traced to the possession of that mad dog of Europe, the German Emperor.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.
– Will the Minister of Defence inform the Senate whether steps have been taken to prevent or control meetings restricted to persons who are natives of, or descendants of natives of, enemy countries?
– Certainly. If information is supplied to the Department of any meeting of enemy subjects, steps are at once taken to verify it, and if it is found that enemy subjects are meeting together, a search of the premises follows, and also of the premises of the persons attending such meeting. In a number of cases action of that kind has been taken, and in some the persons concerned have been interned. If the honorable senator, or any one who has correspondence with him, has information of that character in his possession, I trust that he, or they, will at once bring it under the notice of the Defence Department.
– Does the reply refer to German clubs, which are said to be holding their usual meetings in some of the largest centres? Is any control being exercised over the meetings or proceedings of those assemblies, or has the Department any knowledge of what takes place there?
– Yes. In a number of cases the action I have outlined has already been taken. In quit© a number of instances German clubs have been raided and searched.
– Can the Minister of Defence give the Senate any further information as to the cabled report that an Australian submarine has been sunk in the Sea of Marmora?
– On receipt of the news, which came from a Turkish source, the Government asked the Admiralty if they could confirm or deny the report. So ‘far we have received no reply.
– If an Australian submarine is in those waters, is that in accordance with the policy of the Government that declared that if a war broke out in which Great Britain was involved, the Australian Fleet would be placed at the disposal of the British Admiralty ?
– On the outbreak of the war the whole of the Australian Fleet was placed at the disposal of the Admiralty.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs tak© steps to have models of break-of-gauge devices, if procurable, exhibited somewhere in this building for inspection by members of both branches of the Legislature, as was done some years ago in connexion with some such proposal?
– I shall bring the request under the notice of the Minister of Home Affairs, and see what can be done to make any such models available.
ARREARS of Payments : Enlistment : Defective Teeth: Mail Service: Training of Troops.
– Has the Minister of Defence any further information as to the payment of arrears to the dependants of members of the Defence Forces ?
– When the question was asked I gave information in regard to all the States except Victoria and South Australia. It has now come to hand for those two States also. In Victoria all allotments have been paid except in cases where the necessary forms have not been received. Approximately, forty-three applications have been received by the District Paymaster from dependants of members of the Australian Infantry Forces, who have left Australia, for allotments of pay for which the Department is not in possession of allotment forms. In South Australia all allotments have been paid for those members of the’ Australian Infantry Forces embarked. In regard to those not embarked, all allotments have been paid except in respect of one new company. Sheets of this company are not to hand.
– Is it a fact that otherwise healthy young Australians are prevented from joining the Expeditionary Forces because of having artificial teeth or minor dental defects?
– The medical regulations lay down what constitutes a sufficiently healthy mouth. I cannot say at this moment what the requirementsare.
– Twenty-six sound . teeth.
– If the applicant cannot comply with that requirement lie is rejected.
– In view of very numerous press criticisms, and of private information in the possession of a number of honorable senators regarding the very unsatisfactory transmission and delivery of letters to the troops in Egypt, will the Minister of Defence consult with the Postmaster-General with the object of devising some scheme by which the troops may get their letters and newspapers sent to them from home?
– Yes; I will have pleasure in consulting the PostmasterGeneral. I may, perhaps, be permitted to say that we have had several conferences on this matter, but have not been able to discover any reason why there should be the delays which have occurred. The bags are made up here in exactly the same way as are the mail bags for England. All letters are addressed to the base at Egypt, and are put into separate bags, which are taken off the mail boat at Egypt, and forwarded to the camp, where there is a properly appointed staff to deal with them. A large number of postal officials enlisted, and, because of their special knowledge, they were put on to the mail work.
– Does the staff generally speaking . consist of officials or amateurs 1
– Generally speaking, the staff is composed of men who were trained in the Post Office here and enlisted. The mails are then distributed to the various units. But now that the main body of the Forces has been sent to the Gallipoli Peninsula, the base organization will continue to sort out the letters for the Gallipoli Peninsula and send them on; but people in Australia are still advised to post their letters to the base at Egypt. We have cabled to Egypt to know if there is anything wrong there, or if they can give us any explanation. The Postal Department here can give no reason, nor can the Defence Department suggest any reason why there should be any delay. However, I will go into the matter again with my colleague.
– Arising out the reply, I wish to know whether the attention of the Minister has been called to an article appearing in to-day’s Age, headed “Australians in Egypt,” from its Special Representative, and containing the following passages: -
I cannot refrain from again referring to the irregularity of mails, and after careful investigation I am convinced that the error does not lie with the postal corps at this end. . . . The Minister of Defence seeks abroad for the fault; let him question the PostmasterGeneral more closely, and he will, perhaps, be able to find reason why letters dated 6th January are delivered in Cairo on 15th March, bearing the Cairo post-office stamp of that dato, and the Melbourne post-office stamp of 6th .January. Perhaps the mail bags are never taken off the ships, and travel back and fro between London and Australia several times before being put off here.
Will the Minister have special inquiries made to ascertain whether the allegation made by the representative of the Age as to the fault being in Australia is correct or otherwise!
– Yes; I will bring the matter under the notice of my colleagues and have it investigated.
– In view of the very fine tribute which the Minister of Defence paid to-day to Australian troops, will he, at the earliest possible moment, give some consideration to that section of the Defence Forces in Australia which is in a great measure responsible for the efficiency of the troops and the ready manner in which they adapted themselves to active warfare conditions? I refer to the non-commissioned officers and staffsergeantmajors at .the concentration camps, upon whom, I think it will be admitted generally, the brunt of the responsibility rested for giving the men early training and fitting them for the task in which the Minister admitted this afternoon they acquitted themselves so well in the recent campaign.
– I think it would be invidious to pick out any particular section of the Defence Forces for special recognition at the present time when all sections are doing so well.
– Hear, hear ! They are all doing well.
– I think that they are all doing what we expected them to do, and that is their duty.
– Some of them are getting two guineas a day, and others are getting ten “ bob.”
– Every honorable senator is getting a salary, and somebody outside is not getting the same salary. I daresay the honorable senator can justify that, as I can. We do not all get the same salary, though I daresay we all think that we deserve to receive the same amount.
– It is a very clever answer, but I do not see the analogy.
– I shall endeavour to see that the efforts put forward by every section of the Defence Department meet with the recognition they deserve.
– I will not forget that when the Estimates come on.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Australian Expeditionary Forces be addressed to England, Egypt, or elsewhere?
– The answers to the questions are -
– Am I to understand from the answer that as to letters the same rate applies to Egypt as would apply in the case of the United Kingdom?
– That is what I understand from the reply.
Report (No. 3) presented by Senator
– In accordance with the practice laid down for honorable senators last year by myself in this matter, I desire again to intimate that I do not propose to have the report read. They would probably not be able to follow the report. The practice now is to publish the report in the Journals of the Senate, and then every honorable senator can see for himself what papers it covers, and make any remarks he pleases on the motion that the report be adopted. It has been found that the new practice not only saves time, but meets the convenience of honorable senators generally, and is more conducive to the proper conduct of business than the old practice of having a lengthy list of papers read out to the Senate.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs yet in a position to answer the question I asked some time ago about some articles in the West Australian relative to the construction of the western section of the transcontinental railway ?
– The inquiry was, unfortunately, delayed owing to the ab sence of the Engineer-in-Chief for Railways in Western Australia. He is now looking into the matter, and I will have a reply for the honorable senator at an early date.
The following papers were presented : - Census and Statistics Act 1905. - Regulations -Statutory Rules 1915, No. 50.
Defence. - Kanowna, alleged mutiny on s.s. -
Findings of the Court of Inquiry and the Minister’s decision thereon.
Defence Act 1903-1914. - Regulations amended, &c. -
Statutory Rules 1915, No. 45.
Statutory Rules 1915, No. 46.
Statutory Rules 1915, No. 55.
Endeavour, loss of F.I.S. : Report of theCourt of Marine Inquiry.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Land acquired under, at -
Cockburn Sound, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Amungula, Canberra, Ginninderra,
Goorooyaroo, Majura, Molonglo, Pialligo, Wallaroo, and Weetangera, partly in Federal Territory and partly in the State of New South Wales- For Federal Capital purposes.
Bherweree, County of St. Vincent, New South Wales (2)- For the establishment of a Port in connexion with the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth, and for Defence purposes.
Sydney, New South Wales- For Postal purposes.
Meteorology Act 1906. - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 49.
Public Service Act 1902-1913.- PostmasterGeneral’s Department - Appointment, of G. F. Chilton as Officer-in-Charge, Class E, Professional Division, Wireless Telegraph Station, Port Moresby.
Department of Home Affairs-H. W. Hilton, as Divisional Returning Officer, 3rd Class, Electoral Division of Angas.
Postmaster-General’s Department -
War Precautions Act 1914. - Regulation amended. - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 47.
Motion (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to provide for the acceptance of certain territory surrendered by the State of New South Wales to the Commonwealth.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Unemployment : Timber Industry : Supply of Sleepers - Pay of Telephonists - Control of German Clubs - Contingencies - Advertising in the United States - Government Preference to Unionists - Expeditionary Forces : Cabling of Remittances - Navigation Act - Lighthouses - Assistant Armourers - Contracts for Boots and Candletins.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
I may explain that this is an ordinary Supply Bill for one month. The total amount asked for is £1,143,343. The Bill is based on the Estimates which are now before another place, and for which we have been looking for so long a time. It contains nothing extraordinary or out of the way. The Supply asked for will carry us on up to the middle of next month. It is necessary that we should ask the Senate to put the Bill through to-day, because payments under it will be due to-morrow.
– I think this is the stage at which it is usual to discuss matters in connexion with a Supply Bill. I wish to direct the attention of the Government to the matter of the unemployed in Western Australia.
– The honorable senator seems to be under a misapprehension. This is a Bill covering Supply for the ordinary services of the year. It is quite true that a debate upon the first reading of such a Bill is quite in order, but the honorable senator seems to be under the impression that this is the proper stage at which to discuss the Bill itself. The motion for the first reading of such a Bill is a motion upon which it is competent for honorable senators to discuss matters that are not relevant to the Bill. The second reading is the proper stage at which to deal with the subject- matter of these Bills. It is quite in order, of course, to deal with the subjectmatter on the first reading, but at that stage matters not relevant to the Bill may also be discussed. I rose to correct what might be a misapprehension.
– I am thankful to you, sir, for the information. It is quite immaterial to me whether I speak on the first or on the second reading of this Bill. The matter I wish to bring under notice has reference to the unemployed question in Western Australia. I should like to have the attention of the Minister in charge of the Bill, because this is a matter in which he, as one of the representatives of that State, is personally interested. Since the war began, the timber industry of Western Australia has been very much disorganized. The industry very largely depends upon the export trade, and since the war began that trade has practically ceased. The result is, of course, that a very great deal of hardship has followed upon the closing down of the mills and the stoppage of work for the supply of sleepers. In the matter of the number of hands employed, the timber industry of Westtern Australia is second only to the goldmining industry in that State. Though the fact that a very large number of men who were engaged in the industry have gone to the front with our Expeditionary Forces has, no doubt, prevented the most serious results following upon the depression in the industry, there is still a very large number of men thrown out of employment, because most of the privately owned mills in Western Australia have been closed down. But for the extension of~>the industry due to the establishment some time ago of mills operated by the Western Australian Government, the timber trade of the State would be practically non-existent at the present time. This should go to show honorable senators the advantage to be derived from a Government undertaking work of this kind. Since the war began, the Government mills in Western Australia have been, the only mills that have continued working. They have, in fact, double shifted the work of their mills, and have produced twice the quantity of timber they were formerly producing. The Government were obliged to do this in order to absorb as many of the unemployed as possible. This accounts for the fact that we have not heard a great deal more about the unemployed problem in Western Australia. I might mention that the orders or contracts upon which the Government mills have been engaged are those which were let by the Federal Government for sleepers for the building of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. Those contracts are now about completed, and the trade they were responsible for is almost a thing of the past, so that even the Government mills are now working short time. This, on the top of the closing down of the privately-owned mills, is bringing about a very serious condition of affairs in Western Australia. I think that the Federal Government can, and ought to, do something to mitigate the hardship of unemployment in that State. With that object in view, a number of Western Australian senators waited upon the Prime Minister and submitted to him a project which, if acted upon, would materially help those engaged in the timber industry in Western Australia. Certain proposals have been made for the construction of defence or strategic railways in Australia. The Prime Minister has ventilated that subject, and it has also been referred to in this chamber. Besides the strategic railways, there is a proposal for the construction of a transcontinental railway, running north and south. Sleepers will be required for these railways, and the proposal submitted to the Federal Government was that now is the time to obtain those sleepers, when they can be obtained at a much lower price than would have to be paid for them under ordinary circumstances. We know that railways will be built in Australia, and that we are pledged to the construction of the north and south transcontinental line. By purchasing sleepers at the present time the Government would be able to get them at least 15 per cent, cheaper than they can hope to secure them when the war is over, because there is sure to be a great boom in railway building as soon as peace is proclaimed. Honorable senators will., recollect that when we proposed to proceed with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway we experienced considerable difficulty in letting contracts for the supply of the necessary sleepers. The biggest timber combine in Western Australia was at the time doing so remunerative a trade that it did not trouble about the enor- mous contracts for sleepers advertised by the Federal Government. It was a very fortunate circumstance that the Scaddan Government in Western Australia had in the meantime opened up a new timber area, and extended the operations of the industry by the establishment of Government mills, for which they secured a very large contract. I refer to this to remind honorable senators of the difficulty in normal times of securing a large quantity of sleepers. We are not asking for anything in the nature of charity, or for any unnecessary or extravagant expenditure of money. All that we ask is that a necessary article which we know will be required later on, and which can be obtained more cheaply now than then, may be secured at the present time. The adoption of this course would accomplish two things. We should obtain a necessary article more cheaply than we could obtain it later, and at the same time we should relieve the very serious unemployed difficulty in Western Australia. These considerations should weigh with the Government. Unless something of this kind is done the unemployed problem will become more acute as time goes on, and, looking at the proposal from a business stand-point also, there is everything to commend it. We know that in the past a tremendous amount of public money has been frittered away in Australia in foolish expenditure. I do not wish to refer to the foolish proposals which have been made in the past, involving great public expenditure, but Senator Gardiner, no doubt, remembers the shifting sand proposals of the New South Wales Government in the past.
– And the digging of post holes for the purpose of filling them up again.
– I hope that those foolish methods for the relief of unemployment will not be adopted on thepresent occasion. The Federal Government to-day have the necessary funds, and it is_ our duty to spend them to the best possible advantage. By spending some of them in the way I have indicated we shall be procuring an absolutely necessary article, and will be obtaining better value for our money than we could hope to secure for money spent in the same way later on. If in twelve months’ time the war is over, and trade has become normal, all the private mills in Western Australia will be fully employed in supplying orders from all parts of the world. So far as the supply of hardwood sleepers of good quality is concerned, I question whether there is any country which has such a splendid article to put upon the market as has Western Australia.
– What about the Tasmanian hardwood?
– Tasmania has supplied a very good article in the past, but that State must take second place to Western Australia nowadays. If the honorable senator knows anything about the timber trade, he will know that Western Australia to-day supplies more sleepers than do all the other States put together.
– How many mills in Western Australia have cut sleepers for the transcontinental railway?
– Only the Government mills. But the Government have been extending their mills, and have been working them double shifts, in order to absorb the unemployed.
– How many sleepers have those mills turned out for the transcontinental railway?
– I have not the figures; but I think they are somewhere in the vicinity of 1,000,000. According to press reports which are published from time to time, the contract to which I have referred is now approaching completion. If, on top of the closing down of private mills the Government mills are also closed, great hardship will be inflicted on those who are employed in the industry. I hope that the Government will seriously consider the proposal which I have put forward, because I hold that it is a good one from a business stand-point, quite apart from the admitted desirableness of providing work for the unemployed. Of course, it may be urged that we have no authority - other than what is embodied in the agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia - to proceed with the construction of the north-south transcontinental railway. I quite admit that we have not yet passed legislation empowering us to undertake the work; but I maintain that this Parliament is practically pledged to build that line. If a deaf ear is now turned to my suggestion, and it is found, after peace has been restored, that the cost of sleepers has increased 20 or 25 per cent., the Government will then realize the folly of their inaction.
– And in the meantime we could be seasoning the sleepers for use at a later stage.
– Exactly. If there is one defect in the timber of Western Australia, it is to be found in its shrinking qualities. As a matter of fact, it shrinks more than does any other hardwood with which I am acquainted. If stocks of sleepers were accumulated, and thoroughly seasoned, their value for railway purposes would be greatly enhanced. I trust that the Government will give this matter their earnest consideration.
– Does the honorable senator think that the sleepers would improve by being seasoned?
– Undoubtedly. 1 do not know of any timber which does not improve by seasoning. It is one of the chief defects of most Australian hardwoods that they are not sufficiently seasoned before being used. The representatives of Western Australia who have brought this matter forward have not attempted to unduly harass the Government. They have put it before them, and have allowed them ample time in which to prosecute inquiries. Several weeks ago I was charged by a conference of the representatives of men working in the industry, with the duty of directing Ministerial attention to it. Consequently, it cannot be urged that the matter has been sprung upon the Government without affording them opportunity for investigation. I earnestly ask them to take this question in hand, and to make the necessary provision for securing large supplies of sleepers, which will undoubtedly be required ere long. Even if we do not undertake the building of railways in the immediate future, it is inevitable that, upon the close of the war, there will be a boom in railway construction all over the world. The Government would thus be able, if they so desired, to dispose of these sleepers at a very handsome profit. The proposal, therefore, has everything to recommend it from an economic standpoint, and I ask that due consideration shall be given to it.
– Having recently addressed myself at some length to this Chamber, I do not intend on the present occasion to unduly occupy the time of honorable senators; but I wish to offer a few observations on a matter which has been very properly introduced by Senator de Largie, and which, perhaps, affects Tasmania quite as much as it does Western Australia. I believe that something satisfactory and financially sound can be done to relieve the existing unemployment in the timber industry, both in Western Australia and Tasmania. After protracted negotiations, we know that Tasmania was granted a contract for the supply of 100,000 sleepers to the Commonwealth.
– As an experiment.
– I do not know that it was much in the nature of an experiment. Quite recently I found Tasmanian sleepers in use in China. In the Han Yat railway yard they are set apart for particular work. They are really too dear for use in ordinary work, seeing that allegedly Californian redwood, which serves for railway sleepers moderately well, can be landed in China for considerably less. That is the only reason why Tasmanian sleepers are not used there more extensively. In the cutting of the 100,000 sleepers which Tasmania has contracted to supply the Commonwealth, a good deal of employment has been afforded. Unfortunately, the contract is now approaching completion. Half the required number of sleepers has been delivered, and nearly all the balance has been cut. The timber industry in Tasmania is not flourishing, and there is practically no overseas export at the present time. The war has interfered with freights, which, as a result, are both scarce and high.
– There is a good demand for timber in New South Wales if Tasmania will only sell it at a reasonable price.
– Does not the Vice-President of the Executive Council know that the drought and war have substantially curtailed building operations in many parts of Australia ? As the result of this unhappy combination, some five or six hundred men in Tasmania are threatened with unemployment. Most of them are married men, who have settled down in the vicinity of the timber mills. I can truthfully say that milling operations in the State which I re present have not resulted in anything very satisfactory to the capitalists who have invested their money in the erection of mills there. If anything is done by the Government in the direction outlined by Senator de Largie, it is unquestionably the workmen who will obtain the chief benefit. I have yet to learn of any joint stock company connected with this industry in Tasmania which has paid a dividend.
– Do I understand the honorable senator to support Senator de Largie’s statement that we could sell these sleepers at a later stage if we desired to do so?
– I do not say that. But we know that there is a good deal of talk about building a strategic railway, and that there are other indications of a very large demand for sleepers in the near future. We are not likely to import Californian redwood sleepers for railway purposes; and, although Tasmanian, Western Australian, and New South Wales timber may be fairly dear, we must recollect that it is also very good.
– If we had stocks of these sleepers, what does the honorable senator suggest that we should do with them ?
– I say that they should be tarred lightly and stacked just as the Chinese engineers tax them, with a view to protecting them against the ravages of white ants.
– The powellising process is even better than that.
– I am not acquainted with the details of that process, but I understand that its merits are debatable.
– Not now.
– I do not think that the Commission which was appointed to investigate that system gave it its unqualified indorsement. Seeing that the drought and war have produced conditions of acute distress in the milling industry, I do not think it would be out of place for the Commonwealth to secure, at the present juncture, an ample supply of sleepers for future requirements. The adoption of such a policy would unquestionably alleviate existing and future distress on the part of hard-working men who are engaged in the timber industry in the various States.
– Why does the honorable senator’s party discourage building so much in Tasmania?
– The honorable senator has made a. statement which is not correct.
– One cannot build a house in Tasmania without being fined for so doing, and the more houses one builds the more one is fined.
– The honorable senator must be dreaming in the daytime. He has made the cold-blooded assertion that in Tasmania we fine a man for building a house. Such a statement is not sober talk, but midsummer madness.
– It is a fact, and you do not like it.
– I hope the honorable senator can give us something more approximating to fact than is disclosed to us in his utterance. Tasmania is one of the most progressive of the Australian States; and I might tell the honorable senator that if New South Wales carried the same population as Tasmania per square mile, she would have 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 of people instead of 1,500,000, as at present. Senator de Largie has made out an excellent case, which will have the merit of providing for the future railway requirements of the Commonwealth, and do something to save the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of able-bodied workmen, with their families, from that distress which is incidental to unemployment. He has introduced this discussion most opportunely, and I am heartily in accord with him, hoping that my State will receive a fair allocation of any timber that may be required for public works in the Commonwealth.
– Senator de Largie has made out an excellent case for the consideration of the Government. It is well known that the only method by which the Commonwealth Government can in any way assist unemployment in Western Australia will be bv acting in the direction suggested by Senator de Largie, and securing a stock of sleepers for future railways. Either the Commonwealth Government intend to build these railways, or they do not. If the policy of railway construction is to be carried out at all, I apprehend it will not be postponed for ten or fifteen years, but that, on the contrary, it will be commenced within a reasonable period. Therefore, sleepers will be required for all those works, and the Government would do well to remember that in normal times it is very difficult indeed to obtain sleepers from Western Australia, because, owing to the pressure of orders from overseas, the largest timber companies trading there would not look at a Commonwealth contract. I would also point out that, in the event of the war coming to an end at an early date - and we all hope that it will - the demand for Western Australian hardwood will undoubtedly be very much greater than it has ever been in the past; and as orders for large timber will be very numerous, the companies will not trouble themselves, or waste time in cutting up the timber for sleepers. The “Vice-President of the Executive Council, who appeared to be in some doubt concerning the seasoning of timber, should seek information from the Minister of Defence, who is thoroughly conversant with the timber industry in all its branches. If he consults the Minister of Defence, he will learn that Western Australian timber seasoned for threeyears is good: but if seasoned for seven years, it is infinitely better, and will bringa much higher price in the open market.. Though green timber may be somewhat cheaper at the time of purchase, it invariably proves dearer in the end. If the Government purchase a stock now,, they will obtain it at a cheaper rate than would be possible a little later on, when probably demands will be made from all parts of the world for Western Australian hardwood timber suitable for big work. It is very likely that bridge work will form a large percentage, of the undertakings to be carried out in different partsof the world after the war, and Western Australian hardwood timber is particularly suitable for that kind of work. Therefore, unless the Commonwealth take steps to obtain stocks of - sleepers now, they will not be in so good a position a little later on if they come into the market for this class of timber. By giving ordersnow they will get cheaper timber, but what is quite as important, they will’ assist people who are now unemployed; and surely we cannot do better than useevery endeavour to help our own people in their hour of need.
– It is not often that I find myself in agreement with Senator Bakhap, and usually that fact causes me some uneasiness, and I feel disposed to examine my conscience to see what is wrong. On this occasion, however, I have no such misgivings, because I realize that he has made out a very good case for Tasmania, and I agree that the Government should take up this question of ordering supplies of sleepers at once for probable railway construction.
– They should stock not only sleepers, but hardwood timber for other purposes, so that it could be well seasoned.
– If any officer is deputed by the Minister to inquire into the position of the timber industry, he will find that the present time is suitable for buying, and that probably a little later on the position will not be so favorable. What I particularly want to inform the Senate on is the position of the timber industry in Tasmania. I want to stress that side of the question, as well as the business aspect. I want to impress upon the Senate the unfortunate position of the industry in the State I represent, and to urge on the Government the necessity of assisting our people. I know I am talking to a Government the members of which are genuinely concerned with the needs of the workers, and I feel sure that I will not make my appeal in vain. At present fully 30 per cent, of the Tasmanian saw-mills are closed down, and unless something is done in the near future there will be another 30 per cent, closed down, with the result that another 500 or 600 men will be thrown out of employment.
– And yet hardwood is selling in Sydney at a higher price than it was ten years ago.
– Yes, I admit that; but it is owing to the operation of a ring or combine which exists, not only in that city, but .also in Melbourne: Timber eminently suitable for building purposes is discounted, and even in Tasmania - I confess it with sorrow - a ship arrived in Hobart recently with 1,000,000 feet of imported timber on board, to the order of people who are in the importing business, such firms, for instance, as those supporting my colleague, Senator . Bakhap.
– But I receive support from all sections of people in Tasmania.
– The timber combine has decidedly prejudiced people against the use of Tasmanian wood to an alarm ing extent, and when the case comes before the Senate for a duty on timber I hope the position will be gone into more fully than perhaps it is advisable to do to-day. I am talking of facts which I want the Minister to become acquainted with. There are eight large mills and a great number of small mills closed down in Tasmania, while many other mills are just running on orders. The order for 100,000 sleepers given to the Huon Timber Company kept one mill afloat, but that order is now nearing, completion, and unless something is done hundreds of timber- workers will have to look for other jobs.
– It is a very sad position.
– I represent primarily the workers of our community, and, on behalf of them, I ask the Minister to consider whether “it would not be possible, from a business point of view and from the point of view of the best interests of the workers of the Commonwealth, to obtain a stock of sleepers for future needs. We have many railways projected, including the transcontinental railway, which we all hope will be busily proceeded with at an early date. In addition, we are talking already of a strategic railway, and sleepers will be needed for that great work, as well as for the unification of the gauges, iC that big undertaking should come under Federal control, though at present that is problematical. In any case, large supplies will be needed.
– You can get in New South Wales all the sleepers required for the strategic railway.
– I admit that a claim on behalf of the timber industry in New South Wales will be just as legitimate as on behalf of Tasmania or any other State of the Commonwealth, and I do not wish the Senate to infer that I am putting up a claim for Tasmania to the exclusion of any other State. But I say that the position is very acute in Tasmania, though we have a less number of unemployed there, owing to the smallness of the State, many of the workers being absorbed by the mainland. But in this time of stress, when every section of the trade unions is being faced with large numbers of men” out of employment, we cannot expect the mainland to take further drafts from Tasmania. We hope to be able to provide for our own men with a Labour Government in power doing its best to meet the needs of the people. In Tasmania at present we have the largest schedule of public works in the history of the State, and I feel sure that the Government of that State will do their part. I hope this appeal on behalf of the timber workers will not be unheeded by the Government. Petitions have come from them to the Minister of Trade and Customs, and to this Parliament, and I should be failing in my duty if I did not at least stress the fact that unless something is done the timber industry of Tasmania will be in a. very parlous condition.
I should like to bring under the notice of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, as representing the PostmasterGeneral, an anomaly in regard to the pay of telephonists. They form a section of the Postal Department that, as a rule, has not created much agitation for better conditions. This applies to the telephone operators and assistants, who consist mainly of girls and women. As a member of a party that believes in equal pay for equal work by either sex, I think their claims for better conditions are unanswerable. Owing to the action of the previous Labour Government, the telephone operators and assistants are in a better position than they were previously, because it was provided that no one permanently employed in the Postal Service, and over twenty-one years of age, should get less than £110 per annum. Not only has this been paid, in spite of gloomy predictions to the contrary, but it has tended to better conditions in the Department generally.
– Is there not a better way of dealing with this matter than on the floor of the Senate?
– I thought this the most suitable way. My experience is that some letters written to the PostmasterGeneral have not always received prompt attention, and that the replies are often delayed.
– That is not correct. I challenge any honorable senator who makes that statement to produce one case.
– In many instances there has been considerable delay in get- ing a reply to letters addressed by mc to the Postmaster-General. He is a busy man, and his officials have to dig out a certain amount of information for him. It may be that the information on the matters I have written to him about has not come to hand. If so, I have been singularly unfortunate.
– My experience is that direct communication with the PostmasterGeneral is the most expeditious way to get a matter remedied.
– If the honorable senator means by letter, that has not always been my experience. I have always been able to get a more expeditious reply by seeing the Postmaster-General personally or bringing the matter under the notice of my own Minister. The trouble is that, while all telephonists over the age of twenty-one receive £110 per annum, those with longer periods of service receive no increments. Thus, a telephonist with ten years’ service receives only the same salary as an assistant who has been in the office for two or three years. That seems hardly fair. The work is highly specialized and requires trained service. The minimum wage for fully qualified telephonists with a certain number of years’ experience should be at least £126 per annum, or Ss. a day. The work is very trying, and if men were engaged to do it, they would probably ask for and get that sum. The girls can legitimately put in a claim for the same salary.
The position with regard to the pay of telephone monitors is not satisfactory. Telephone exchanges are often shorthanded, and the monitors have responsible positions. The following is a short summary of their duties: -
To answer inquiries, supply information, and receive all complaints. To report all faults on subscribers’ lines and exchange working gear. To teach new telephonists and messengers desirous of learning the exchange work. To “ listen in “ to each telephonist for a period of at least fifteen minutes twice a week. To supervise the staff generally, and see that they carry out the regulations, which number about 300. To assist at the switchhoard when very busy or shorthanded. To see that the following work is done whenever a telephonist can be spared from the board: - Trunk line analysis, traffic record return, addressing and wrapping telephone books and slips each mouth, and other items, which would keep one person fully, occupied always.
That would keep one person not only fully occupied, but in a condition of some strain. The maximum for this class of workers is £156 per annum. I would not complain of that, but it is by no means high in comparison with other branches of the service.
– They also get certain holidays.
– I freely admit that the conditions are good, but men in the Genera] Division in the Post Office start at .£126, and go up with increments to £156. Monitors who occupy a more responsible position .should get more by comparison. Male clerks in the Departments go up to a maximum of £200 at twenty-six or twenty-eight years of age, which makes the monitors’ salaries look small. There are only a few of them at each exchange, but their responsibilities must not be forgotten.
– One hundred and fifty-six pounds, with holidays, for a single young lady is surely not a small salary.
– It” is a fair salary, but that is the maximum, and it looks small in comparison with other branches. The Department could also grant, without incurring an enormous expense, some increase to telephonists of a few years’ service, so as to. put them at least in a better position than the newcomers. Many of these girls are the mainstays of homes, and many are unable to speak for themselves. I, therefore, judge it my duty to bring the matter directly before the Minister in the hope that something may be done to improve their conditions.
.- I have always advocated equal pay for equal work for both sexes, and it is becoming the principle of many members on both sides. There may be some difficulty in allowing female telephonists or civil servants to advance to the same rate of pay by yearly increments as male civil servants, but it is very hard for any man who believes in equal pay for equal work to defend a system that allows so many female civil servants to remain so long at £110 per annum. Male civil servants doing similar work of the same value have the chance of a yearly increase. The question will have to be considered by the various Departments which employ female labour, because I am satisfied that every member of the Government believes in bringing into effect the principle of “equal pay for equal work wherever it is possible to do bo. .
– I believe in the principle of fair and generous payment for the work done, but beyond that I am not prepared to go.
– I think that the Minister believes in the general principle of equal pay for equal work to both sexes. I do not think he will disagree with that remark, for he is a member of a Government who are trying to do their best to give the best rate of pay to public servants. Now, these are difficulties which might well be mentioned in a debate of this kind, and I think Senator Ready is to be commended for his action. The question raised by Senator de Largie is a very large one indeed in Australia today. If it is at all possible for the Federal Government in any Department to increase legitimate employment, and to minimize the great quantity of unemployment which stares us in the face in every State, particularly in the larger centres of population, I am satisfied that they will turn their attention to that work. Since they came into power, the Labour Government have done splendid work in this direction. They have done wonders in minimizing unemployment and providing increased employment; but, if it can be shown to the Government that there are channels in which a further increase of legitimate work may be provided, I believe that they will be quite prepared to give sympathetic consideration to the suggestion. Senator de Largie has said that he made certain suggestions some time ago, and followed them up today. I think that his suggestions are very reasonable. Any honorable senators who have had experience with timber work, and even those who are not experts, know perfectly well that our Australian hardwoods are far better when they have been seasoned a few years than they are when brought into use with insufficient seasoning. That is a fact well known to a non-expert. It seems to me that the Government might look ahead for a few years. It is not only the question of the number of sleepers which will certainly be required in the next few years for the building of railways. There is the other question of a large quantity of hardwood timber which will probably be required for building, especially in the Federal Capital. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if it is not a fact that a great deal of work will be gone on with, at the Federal Capital within a few years, and that a great quantity of hardwood timber will be required there, in addition to the hardwood which will be required for the smaller culverts and bridges on the projected lines of railway? If it is a fact that the Federal Departments will require a lot of hardwood timber, surely now is the time for the Government to obtain that timber, and for a twofold reason. One reason is that probably it could be got at much cheaper prices to-day than would be demanded in a few years’ time after the present disastrous conflict is ended. The other reason is that the timber would then have been seasoned long enough to have attained to its best value. I came into touch with a case in Melbourne only a day or two ago, when I was discussing the question of Australian timbers versus imported timbers with an expert belonging to a firm of timber merchants. He said, “ When we use, or attempt to bring into use, Australian hardwoods to take the place of imported woods, as we would like to do, we are met by builders with the objection that in most cases the timbers are insufficiently seasoned. Not very long ago we filled a big order from our Australian timber mills. If that hardwood had been satisfactory for the building purposes for which it was used, it would have opened up a big trade, and increased the consumption of Australian timber, to the exclusion of that quantity of imported timbers; but, you see, right at the very start, when we commenced to build up a big business, we had that difficulty to face. The timber we sent had not been seasoned sufficiently, and so we are not going to take any more of it.” That, we know, is one of the many difficulties surrounding the timber industry. It ought to be one of our biggest primary industries, but, comparatively Speaking, it is a very small one. In addition to the magnificent resources of hardwoods in Western Australia, and I may mention that I have had an opportunity of seeing them-
– You have seen thousands and thousands of loads of sleepers lying on the ground, quite seasoned.
– Yes. I am not going to claim that, for some purposes, Tasmanian hardwoods are of equal quality to Western Australian hardwoods, because they are not. I believe that, for some purposes, Tasmanian hardwoods, the reputation of which I am jealous of, are perhaps not so good as jarrah; but for many purposes the hardwoods in Tasmania, and, I believe, in some parts of Victoria, are magnificent timbers. Any small body of working men who have combined and gone in for timber-milling, any capitalists who have taken shares in milling companies, have not had a happy experience. It seems very difficult to arrive at the reason. Men who have put money into timbermilling and the experience in Victoria, I believe, has been the same as in Tasmania - have experienced more losses than gains. On one hand, we hear that one of the reasons advanced by the men is that they cannot get an outlet or regular market for the hardwoods. On the other hand, we are faced with the absolute fact mentioned by the Minister to-day, and that is that in some of the cities, particularly in Sydney, hardwood is selling at a price which seems to be unreasonable, and which. I suppose, is twice as high as that of a few years ago. On one hand, hundreds of men who were employed in mills a year or two ago are idle, while others are threatened that, before very long, their employment will be gone. On the other hand, the men who want to use the hardwoods in big centres are complaining that they cannot get them at anything like a reasonable price. There seems to be something wrong, and we have to discover the reason. I think it is the existence of a tremendous timber combine. It is getting in its work in Melbourne and Sydney, if not in other large centres. It almost drives one to the conclusion that the great trouble in connexion with the timber industry, which ought to be ten times as large as it is, is that it is not under State control. It ought to be taken over by the States. I hope that, before very long, the Commonwealth will be vested with the power to take over the industry, if that is considered advisable, if it is found to be an injurious monopoly.
– Western Australia has made a good beginning. Let us give it all the support we can.
– Every credit should be awarded to the Labour Government of Western Australia for having taken that step. In Tasmania the
Labour Government have made certain efforts, but, of course, their efforts have been nullified, to a large extent, by the opposition of the Legislative Council. We hope, however, to see State timber mills established early in different parts of the island. If we could get the whole of the timber industry of Australia nationalized by the States or by the Commonwealth, there would be a very different story to tell on both sides. On one hand, the poorer people who wanted to build homes for themselves would be able to get beautiful Australian timbers at probably 50, if not at 33 or 25, per cent, more cheaply than they can do under existing conditions. On the other hand, not only would those who are engaged in the milling and timber-getting industry in the back-blocks be retained in their employment, but there would be thousands more timber employes than are engaged to-day, and they would be employed at better wages and under better conditions.
– Do not forget that the Government would see that their forests were not depleted.
– Naturally, reafforestation would go hand in . hand with any great national movement in the working out of our timbers. It has been sadly neglected in every State. One does not like to be always talking on one subject, but this is another very strong reason why this Parliament ought to be invested with more powers, because, perhaps in the very near future, when it gets the additional authority, as it will do, it might take a hand, if the State Parliaments would not act, in nationalizing, or at least in extending the nationalization, of the timber industry. The consuming public, and those who are engaged in getting timber in the bush and milling it, would all benefit. Judging from the statements made by Senator Bakhap today, when we come to advocate the nationalization of the timber industry I believe that we shall probably have him on our side.
– I would not advise the honorable senator to hug that belief to his bosom.
– At all events, we hope that we will have the honorable senator converted by that time. Senator de Largie has mentioned that, although we are not yet committed to any particular time at which to commence the projected north-south railway, we are committed to the construction of the line. In my opinion, this Parliament is absolutely committed to the construction of a railway from the south to the north of Australia.
– So we are committed to the construction of the Federal Capital.
– That is so; and I quite agree with the honorable senator that there, also, work should be pushed on as fast as possible consistently with business reasons and the carrying out of the project in a proper way. Senator de Largie deserves the thanks of the Senate for bringing this matter forward to-day. In connexion with the railway, a splendid opportunity presents itself to the Government to consider whether it would not be good business to lay up a big store of sleepers for the work.
– At the combine’s prices ?
– Where is the combine making any money out of the sleeper industry, if there is a combine?
– The combine is making a lot of money out of the timber industry ; but I do not think that it would come in there very much. I believe that if the Federal Government were to decide to-morrow that it would be a good business act to get in store the large number of the sleepers which will be required, at all events, the number which will be required for the first 200 or 300 miles of the line, it would be able to go ahead without any fear of the combine’s operations.
– The combine is dead just now.
– The combine is the timber merchants, not the owners of the timber mills.
– Undoubtedly so. I have it on the best authority that the whole of the retail timber trade of Melbourne and its suburbs is controlled by one man. One individual in this city wrote a letter to a firm here in which he said, in effect, “It is time that you knew, and that other builders knew, that you have to come to me if you want this timber.”
– What timber was referred to ; was it imported timber?
– I am not sure whether it was imported timber or Australian hardwood.
– I will back the men connected with the timber industry in Tasmania to break through any combine that tries to prevent them making contracts.
– The combine does not enter so much into the question of the supply of sleepers or other timber for the Federal Government, because the Government has the advantage of a strong financial position, and of being able to buy in large quantities. The Federal Government is in a position to purchase for future requirements, so that the timber may be properly seasoned. But private individuals cannot do that.
– As a large buyer the Government can make better terms.
– Exactly. There are millers now working short time, or not working at all who would be very glad indeed to consider tenders by the Federal Government for timber requirements. Federal Ministers have first of all to be assured that the purchase of timber in large quantities is a good business proposition. If they felt justified in doing so, there is no doubt that it would be a splendid means of reducing the volume of unemployment. It has become a problem in every State. Only to-day, when Senator de Largie was discussing this question, I was called out to see a carpenter, who is one of the best workmen one could find, and who has been weeks out of employment in this city because of the slackness in the building trade. If the Government can do anything to minimize unemployment it is their duty to do it. I believe that this discussion will induce them to give the matter further consideration. I should like to say that I was not quite satisfied with the answer I received to a question I put to the Minister of Defence today. I asked whether the Government had taken any steps to control or prevent meetings of persons who come from the countries with which the Empire is at war. A great deal of discussion has taken place in this and in other large cities of Australia concerning German clubs. There are German clubs established in most of our large cities. In the past, German residents in any part of Australia had a perfect right to form their own clubs, just as Irishmen, Scotchmen, and people of other nationalities had. But things are vastly different to day from what they have been in the past, and I think it is not unreasonable that we should ask that periodical meetings of clubs of Germans, Austrians, or Turks in Australia should cease. I think this should apply, not only to clubs restricted to persons belonging to enemy countries, but to clubs, the membership of which is largely composed of such persons. I do not approve of the cry that no German has any business in Australia. There are Germans who have been resident amongst us for many years, and who have been good citizens.
– It is only fair to say that the names of many of the sons of Germans have appeared in our casualty lists.
– That is so. Only last night 1 read in a list of wounded the name of a native of Tasmania, the descendant of German parents. Many German residents of Australia are good citizens to-day, loyal to Australia and the British Empire and to our sentiments and ideals, and they would not do anything to which we as Australians could object. At the same time, in the existing condition of affairs it is somewhat incongruous that we should permit fortnightly or monthly meetings of German clubs to be held. We should be in a position at the present time to know what is discussed at such meetings, but that would be very difficult to discover. It is only natural to assume that the chief, if not the only, topic of conversation at such meetings is the terrible war that is going on, and it is equally natural to suppose that the sympathy of the persons attending such meetings is with the people of their own nationality. I do not think that that is a desirable state of things at the present juncture, and perhaps the Minister, in his reply to this debate, will be able to say whether some steps, in addition to those already taken, cannot be taken to restrict the operations and meetings of such national associations.
– It seems to me most extraordinary that the business of the Commonwealth should be conducted in this slipshod fashion. This Bill appears to be a Bill based on the Estimates for the current year. If that be so, why were not those Estimates passed, and this business got out of the way some time ago?
– The honorable senator is entitled to criticise the action of the Government or any measure brought before the Senate, but he is not entitled to misrepresent, or reflect on, any branch of the Legislature or Parliament itself.
– This Bill is placed before us in a way to which I take the strongest possible exception. Instead of telling us what the money asked for is to be spent upon, the votes are put down under the head of “ Contingencies.” Some honorable senators may know what that means, but it does not convey the slightest information to me. There is a vote of £331 for cable subsidies. It may be quite .accurate, but I should like to know why the Commonwealth is called upon to pay a subsidy of this kind. There is another item in the Bill which I think ought not to be passed, and in connexion with which I intend to submit a motion, in order that I may know what are the views of the Senate on the question. I refer to the proposed vote of £2,500 for advertising in the United States of America. I move -
That item No. 6-
– The honorable senator is not entitled to submit such a motion at this stage. “When the Bill is in Committee it will be proper for the honorable senator to submit such a motion as he has indicated, but it must then be in the form of a request.
– Thank you, sir, for the information. It seems to me that it is simply wasting money to spend it upon advertising in the United States of America at the present time. At the proper time I shall move a request that the item be struck out. I find that, while the Postmaster-General asks for a total vote of £341,950, he proposes to spend £87,000 on contingencies. The Senate is entitled to some more information than that. Perhaps the representative of the Postmaster-General in this Chamber will say whether he is prepared to inform the Senate as to where this money is going.
– The honorable senator does not want all the details read out?
– I should certainly like to have some information given concerning an expenditure of £87,000. The sum may not be of much importance to some honorable senators, but I regard it as important.
Notwithstanding the fact that preference to unionists is the policy of the present Government, I regret that it is not observed in the employment of carpenters in connexion with the works now being carried out at Liverpool. I am told by the organizer for the Amalgamated Carpenters Society of New South Wales that a man there, named Boswell, has quite recently employed six non-unionists to work there.
– Were unionists available when these men were employed ?
– Yes; a very large number of unionists were available in Sydney.
– That statement was made by the union to me, but, upon investigation, it was found not to be correct, and the union was informed that these men were members of another union.
– I have been informed by Mr. Sturgess, the organizer of the Amalgamated Carpenters Society, that amongst the men employed by Mr. Boswell on works at the Liverpool Camp were six non-unionists, and that, at the same time, union men were available for employment. I take exception to this kind of business. There is no reason why an application should not have been made for these men to the secretary of the union, who would have promptly supplied them. To me it is not a matter of concern whether they belonged to the Amalgamated Carpenters Society of New South Wales or to some other union.
– But it is a matter of concern to the other union.
– It is a matter of importance to me that these men were unionists.
– They were.
– Because they joined the union subsequent to their securing employment.
– They were members of a union when they were given employment, but not members of that particular union.
– I am not prepared to admit that. Union men were available at the time, and they should have been given employment. The Defence Department has no right to encourage non-unionists in this fashion.
– It has not done so.
– Why does not the Minister instruct his officers that in such circumstances they should make application to the Secretary of the Union at the Trades Hall to supply them with men?
– They are so instructed.
– Then at Liverpool his instructions have been ignored, because only a few days ago I was assured that quite 200 unionists are out of employment.
– There are two instructions issued - one to notify the Trades Hall in Sydney, and the other to post a notice on the works that men are required. But they must be unionists.
– These men were not unionists.
– Oh, yes, they were.
– The mere fact that the Minister himself admits that they subsequently joined the union-
– I do not admit anything of the kind. They were members of another union, not of that particular union.
– I understood the Minister to say that subsequent to their engagement they joined the union.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– If investigation shows that my statement is incorrect, I shall be quite willing to withdraw it.
– The honorable senator will have to withdraw it all right.
– There were other oases in which non-unionists who were employed on brick works at Canberra subsequently joined the Bricklayers’ Union. If union bricklayers are available, and the policy of the Government is preference to unionists, union labour should certainly be employed. If the Government are going to employ men, irrespective of whether they are unionists or not, the sooner we are made acquainted with the fact the better.
– The honorable senator knows that that is not the policy of the Government.
– Then the Government ought not to encourage that sort of thing. If union men apply for employment they ought to be granted preference. This is a matter which both the Defence Department and the Department of Home Affairs should deal with without delay. It is causing friction and unpleasantness-
– The honorable senator deliberately misstates the position.
– I ask the VicePresident of the’ Executive Council to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it; but I would ask whether the honorable senator is in order - seeing that the Minister of Defence has already corrected him - in deliberately repeating his statement?
- Senator Grant is comparatively a new member of this Chamber, and therefore I would remind him that it is a rule of the Senate that an honorable senator must accept the assurance of another honorable senator.
– I thank you, sir. I can assure the Senate that I have not the slightest desire to misrepresent anything. If at any time it can be shown that my statements are incorrect, I shall be most happy to withdraw them. But the information which I have given to honorable senators has been derived from men who are paid officers of a union, and who, I believe, are speaking the truth.
When Senator Bakhap was addressing the Senate this afternoon, I interjected that the Tasmanian people discouraged employment, and fined men for building houses. That statement is quite correct. No man can build a house there without having his municipal rates increased.
– Why should he not pay if a road is made to his door ?
– Senator de Largie and others have complained of unemployment, and I am now pointing out that any person who desires to provide employment in Tasmania is fined immediately he gives effect to his desire.
– Is not the position the same in other States ?
– No. In New South Wales - with the exception of Sydney, which is controlled by a number of absentee land-holders - we have abolished that sort of thing. In that State a man can build a house worth £250,000 without being called upon to pay any more in municipal taxation than if he kept his land vacant.
– What is the penalty imposed in Tasmania?
– The moment one builds a home there his rates are increased.
– The honorable senator is referring to the fact that the municipal rating is based on the improved value?
– Exactly. The more one builds, the more one is fined. To me the marvel is that there is not more unemployment.
– The honorable senator had better undertake a single-tax campaign.
– No doubt it would be productive of good if the campaign were successful.
– The honorable senator’s imagination must be very elastic when he can associate unemployment with municipal taxation.
– There is probably no question of more importance to the great majority of honorable senators than is that of unemployment. Only a short time ago Senator O’Keefe told us that ho had been asked to leave the chamber in order to interview an applicant for employment - doubtless a Tasmanian. During the past twelve months no less than 9,000 new houses have been built in the suburbs of Sydney, and I have no doubt that 9,000 more will be built next year. Unlike Tasmania, that State does not fine people who desire to employ labour.
– In Hobart, in proportion to its population, quite as many houses have recently been built as have been erected in Sydney. .
– I did not see them. Recently I had a good look round Hobart and Launceston, and I saw very few houses being built in either of those cities. According to the statement of some honorable senators this afternoon, the timber industry of Tasmania is in a deplorable condition. I trust that Ministers will make some reply to the matters which I have submitted for their consideration.
.- - I desire to direct the attention of the Minister of Defence to a, question which vitally concerns not only our troops at the front, but also their relatives in Australia. This afternoon we carried a motion expressing our appreciation of the gallantry of our soldiers on the Gallipoli Peninsula - a motion with which I am sure every honorable senator was heartily in accord. We have now the means of doing something of a practical nature, both for the members of our Expeditionary Forces abroad and for their relatives here. I hold in my hand two telegrams. One of these was despatched from the Defence Department to a father in South Australia, notifying him that his son had been wounded in action at the Dardanelles. The young man was a member of our first Expeditionary Force. The following day the father received a cable from his son at Cairo asking him to immediately remit the sum of £5. As the young fellow was then in the hospital, we can readily understand that he probably required the ready cash to provide himself with certain luxuries which are not ordinarily provided in a military hospital. As a matter of fact, before leaving for the front, he had left an order, under which the bulk of his wages were allocated to his parents. Upon receipt of the ‘ cable, the parent at once visited the cable company for the purpose of complying with the son’s request. Now, I do not intend to say a single word derogatory to that company. It is out to make money, as it has a perfect right to do. Whatever charges it may choose to levy, the public are obliged to pay. But in a case of this kind, it is the duty of the Defence Department to see that money can be remitted from Australia to our boys at the front at a reasonable cost. This parent remitted the £5 by cable, and the cable company charged 10s. for exchange and £1 16s. 6d. for the wire-a total of £2 6s. 6d. In other words, the cost of transmission was almost half that of the amount remitted. Of course, . I know that arrangements have been made for allowing week-end cables to be despatched at reduced rates. However, this cable was sent, and the mother cabled the money the next day, at a cost of £2 6s. 6d.
– Was it an urgent cable ?
– No; I think it was just an ordinary cable, and I do not know when it was sent. I understand it is the custom of the cable companies to send the whole of the work for the day in one message, and so avoid unnecessary expenditure. If they are sent in that way the cable companies are making large profits out of the necessities of the people, because there is no doubt that many young men, when they get wounded, send to Australia for money, just as this young man did. I am asking the Minister of Defence if he will take some steps to see that the people of Australia have some more economical way of communicating with relatives at the front. When I took that correspondence from the parent to the Commonwealth Bank, I found that, had the mother known the proper procedure, the possibilities are that she could have sent the money through the Commonwealth Bank, and saved nearly £2 on the transaction. Therefore, I think the Minister should make it clear to the public that they can send money through the banks. I do not know if the Commonwealth Bank is more liberal than other banks, but if private institutions will not do it in the same manner as the Commonwealth Bank, the Minister should take such steps as will make it clear to the people that they may remit money at a cheaper rate than that which this unfortunate woman had to pay. This information could be conveyed to the people by advertisements or by placards at the postoffices. I am not blaming the cable company. I believe this is the first instance of the kind that has been brought under the notice of the Minister, and I hope he will go into the matter carefully, as it is urgent, and requires immediate attention, because I know that several wires of the same kind went through the same day as the cable I refer to. I feel sure the Minister will take notice of this matter, and acquaint the people of Australia of the best method to be adopted, so that they will know exactly how they can remit money in the best and most economical way.
– It is my desire to take this opportunity of referring to one or two matters in connexion with the Customs Department. I would like to have a statement from the Minister as to when the Navigation Act will be put into operation. I have an idea that there has been -some trouble on account of the present war, but from other sources I am told that the present conflict need not be a barrier. It took nine or ten years to get the Bill through this Chamber, and when it received the Royal Assent a change of Government took place. Whilst that Ministry occupied the Treasury bench there was no war for the greater part of the time, but still they refrained from putting into operation the provisions of that measure. Even if the war should be a barrier, I think some portions of the Act can be made operative, and the sooner this is done the better it will be for the Australian steam-ship companies, for our Australian seamen, and, I think, the better for the Australian passengers so far as the safety of life is concerned. Another matter to which I wish to refer is the lighting of our coast. We passed the Lighthouses Act some time ago - I forget how long - but 60 far nothing has been done by the Department to improve the lighting on the Australian coast. I do not know what the Minister will have to say in defence of the inactivity of the Department, but I do not think that the war can be used as an excuse. The western coast, and particularly the north-western portion of the Western State, is not adequately lighted, and because of this, shipping is subjected to very grave dangers. I think the Minister might let the Senate know what are the intentions of the Government in regard to those two measures.
– There is a sum of £937 down for the survey of the northwest coast.
– I was not referring to the surveying of the coast, but to the lighting arrangements. I understand my colleagues, earlier in the afternoon, brought under the notice of the Government the question of purchasing sleepers for future railway construction. I had the honour, a few weeks ago, of waiting upon the Minister of Home Affairs on behalf of my colleagues in the Western State, and submitting to him a proposal that at least 1,000,000 jarrah or kairi sleepers should be purchased from the Western Australian Government for use on the trans-Australian railway. There were two objects in view in making that application. The first was to urge that the timber is of good quality, and by purchasing now the Government could be assured that it would be well seasoned, and thus better fitted for the purpose. The second object was to secure employment for those men who, owing to the war, have been dismissed, or found themselves out of employment because of the dislocation of trade resulting in the closing down of several timber mills in Western Australia. After a considerable delay, the Minister of Home Affairs sent me a reply saying that, in the opinion of the experts of his Department, the proposal could not be accepted because the sleepers, when exposed to the atmosphere, would not be properly seasoned, and would not be suitable for the purpose.
– What absolute rot!
– In that letter, the Minister stated that they were awaiting the arrival from Western Australia of the Commonwealth Chief Engineer for Railways, Mr. Bell. I, for one, am not prepared to accept the statements of any expert that Western Australian hardwood timber, when exposed to the atmosphere, will deteriorate.
– It is the best thing that could be done with the timber.
– Those who have had experience with the timber know that the opposite is the effect. To realize this, one has only to travel through the Western State and see the huge stacks of sleepers piled up year after year in the different yards, and used as they are required for the Western Australian railways, and also for other building purposes. The experience is that the more exposure the timber gets the better and sounder it is for the purpose to which it is put. Where the expert got his idea from I do not. know. I would like to see this matter gone into more closely, because. I am sure the expert’s opinion can easily be disproved.
– The expert must have been referring to blackboy.
– I am not speaking from a parochial point of view. The timber is good and useful for the purpose, and by purchasing a stock of sleepers from the Western Australian Government at the present juncture, the Commonwealth Government will enable men who are at present unemployed to obtain a livelihood. I also ask the Minister of Defence if he has yet re-opened the matter I mentioned a few weeks ago with regard to the assistant armourers; and if he has yet received the report of the Chief Ordnance Officer concerning the quality of the boots supplied by Goode, Durrant and Company, in Western Australia; as well as of the candle-tins supplied by the other firm mentioned ? If he lias received that report, I would like to know the nature of it.
– In reply to the question raised by Senators de Largie, Henderson, and Needham, concerning the proposal to purchase sleepers from the Western Australian Government, I have to say that some time ago a deputation, supported by various members from Western Australia, waited upon the Home Affairs Department with a request that at least 1,000,000 sleepers should be purchased. The object stated was not that the Government should purchase them directly in connexion with the transAustralian railway, because at the present time we have contracts in hand for the supply of 30,000 sleepers a month.
– For the present railway ?
– Yes; and under the present contracts, in five months’ time, we shall have sufficient sleepers for the construction of that railway. The proposal made by the deputation went further than that. It was to the. effect that the Government should purchase the sleepers, irrespective of what might be the policy of the Commonwealth Government, that they should hold a stock of them, and it was suggested that if the railways policy were not developed, we might be able, later on, to sell the sleepers and make a profit out of the transaction. That is all very well, and I might say that the Ministry treated the proposal sympathetically, because of the fact that there was a considerable amount of unemployment in Western Australia. They were anxious to do something in the matter. But there was another difficulty. Tasmania, Victoria, and New South Wales were in the same position, and if it were desirable that the Government should purchase sleepers for which they had no immediate need, but merely as a business proposition, and on the prospect of some railway being built in the future, then each State had an equal right to participate in the production of those sleepers.
– Of course they would have if they had the timber. Why not?
– The Commonwealth Government have not exactly a free hand, though I am hopeful, and believe, that ultimately they will go in for a policy of railway building, but no one is in a position to say when that” policy will be undertaken. A fatal objection is here interposed. Despite the opinions of honorable senators, we have to remember that in the Department there are certain experts who are employed because of their expert knowledge, and their opinions ought to be respected. For instance, the railway engineers ought to be able to tell us what is the effect on timber exposed to weather conditions, and, in this connexion, the engineering staff have reported to the Minister that sleepers, if stored in the open, will deteriorate.
– That is rich. Will you give me the name of the engineer who gave that as his opinion?
– The responsible engineers of the Department, I suppose, from the Chief Engineer downward, hold that view, because that is the report they have made.
– Does Mr. Bell say that?
– Yes, he definitely made that statement in a report.
– If that is the sort of engineers that the Commonwealth Government have to advise them, I am sorry.
– The fact that Senator de Largie disagrees with Mr. Bell might not mean that Mr. Bell is not a competent person to advise the Government. I take it that experts are in the Department because of their expertknowledge, and I take it that they are in a position to advise the Government. The Ministry felt doubtful whether they had the power to sell the sleepers in the event of their not being required for railway purposes. Tasmania was in a difficult position, and the honorable senator from that State, though he advocated that we should purchase a certain quantity of Tasmanian sleepers in connexion with our railway policy, was not prepared to take the responsibility of saying how we should get rid of the sleepers in the event of their not being required. Therefore, in these circairn stances, the Government felt that they could not purchase the sleepers.
– Could you use Tasmanian sleepers as you would -use Western Australian sleepers for the transcontinental railway ?
– Yes, if we could get permission to build a certain railway, but, unfortunately, we have not that power yet. With regard to the matter raised by Senator Needham concerning the Navigation Act, an advertisement recently appeared in the Commonwealth Gazette for a secretary to the Department. He has been selected by the Public Service Commissioner, and will take up duty in a day or two. It has been a big task to draft the regulations for the Navigation Act, as there are more in that case than in any three or four Acts that this Parliament has ever passed. I understand that the Director and Secretary of the Department are undertaking to draft them. We hope that when the Amending Navigation Bill is passed by another place, it will not be long before it is put into operation; but we do not pretend to be able to name the exact date on which the Act will be proclaimed. I am rather sorry Senator Needham took up the line he did in regard to lighthouses. The lighthouses would have been taken over and proclaimed before this but for the difficulty that has arisen with tlie States. We were anxious to take them over and get to work, and for that purpose let a contract for three boats for lighthouse work to be built in Australia, and certain necessary works were undertaken on the Northern Territory and Queensland coasts in anticipation; but, as I say, difficulties have arisen with the States, which previously had lighting charges, and some of them have refused to give them up. The Commonwealth Government desire to make the Lighthouse Branch pay its own way by means of Commonwealth light dues, but we anticipated that the States would first repeal their own lighting charges. I understand that three States have given way ; and the Commonwealth is now faced with the problem whether to ignore the action of the other States and impose double taxation on the ship-owners in those .cases for lighting purposes, or make another effort to get all the States into line. There should be no rush in the matter. All that we desire is fair play, so that there may be no double taxation of shipping. The Commonwealth charges will be 8d. per ton, but for this it is proposed to give shipping a good and effective lighting service. It would be unfair, however, for both Commonwealth and States to tax ship-owners for the one service. The moment that we get over the difficulty with the other three States; the Lighthouse Branch will be transferred on the shortest possible notice.
– With regard to the question of German clubs, raised by Senator O’Keefe, much of the action taken in dealing with enemy subjects is necessarily confidential. The inquiries are mostly made by the police or detective service, and the action taken on their reports is frequently of a confidential character. We do not make a public announcement of the fact when a German is taken into the detention camp. He simply disappears, and his friends know where he is. The German clubs have been under surveillance since the beginning, of the war, and wherever necessary they have been closed. Many of them have British members. They are all under watch, and if suspicious circumstances arise in connexion with any of them, action will be taken. All of them have been searched, and no incriminating documents have been found in any of them. I recommend Senator Grant to compare the Bill with the EstimatesinChief , because Supply Bills are founded on the Estimates, and it is not desirable to repeat in the Bills all the details of the Estimates. I did not know the honorable senator was going to bring up the case of the employment at Liverpool of men whom he. regarded as non-unionists. Singularly enough, the man Boswell, against whom the charge is made, would be regarded by our friends opposite as the last man whom they would desire to be given the right to employ these men, as he is the president of the Political Labour Council of the district, and himself a unionist. The whole trouble arose through having a number of different craft unions, which, whilst all united in the same body, are very jealous about the demarcation of their work. There are a number of local tradesmen OUt of work at Liverpool, and the Commandant called on Mr. Boswell, knowing him to be a labourite, to employ the men. He in turn called on the men whom he knew to be competent tradesmen and unionists. The organizer of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, who was also called on to supply men, when he found some men already employed, jumped to the conclusion, as he had not selected them himself, that they were non-unionists, and lodged a complaint.
– Then your information is that these men are unionists? It is not mine.
– That is my information. It has been made clear to all branches of the Defence Department that not only is the policy of the Government preference to unionists, but that a man must be a unionist at the time he is employed. It is not sufficient for him to come along as a non-unionist, get the job, and then join the union. He is expected to be a bond fide unionist when he gets the job, and I intend to see that that is’ carried out. I am rather surprised at the young fellow mentioned by Senator Newland cabling out for money for any necessities at the hospital in Egypt. Not only is the hospital thoroughly equipped, but the Red Cross Society has collected thousands of pounds, and is in daily touch with the hospital, through their organization, by cable and otherwise. It is continually sending forward, not only requirements in the way of extra luxuries, but money, and it has its agents there to see that the patients get everything the doctors will allow them to have. It is generally known that there is really no need on the part of friends or parents to forward money to wounded soldiers in Egypt- A cable was sent out here by a certain military officer who made himself very busy in the matter, and the gentleman who received it would not take action before showing it to me. I cabled to Cairo, because the inference to be drawn was that there was a shortage of money to purchase the luxuries necessary to a person in a delicate state of health. The reply which came almost immediately was that the Red Cross Society had plenty of money and was supplying everything required. The whole thing was merely an attempt on the part of this individual to get a little advertisement for himself. The Commonwealth Bank is affording every facility to send money to Egypt, or from Egypt to Australia, at very little cost. It has established a branch both of the ordinary bank and the savings bank in Egypt, and soldiers can transfer their money very cheaply from here to Egypt, or from Egypt to here. By paying the cost of the cable they can send money by that means also, at very much less cost than that mentioned by Senator Newland. Honorable senators, when appealed to in this regard, should refer people to the Commonwealth Bank. In regard to the Eastern Extension Cable Company, it must be remembered that the concession of a free cable by relatives to inquire about persons dangerously wounded is of considerable value. That must be said to the credit of the company. If thousands of men are wounded, it will mean a very big thing to frank all the cables of inquiry every week-end from Australia to Egypt, and to frank the replies from Egypt also, and the replies from Egypt to Australia. We ought to recognise that it is a big concession.
– Have they been doing that for some time?
– Yes. They have displayed a very generous spirit in that regard. Senator Needham asked a question in regard to a matter he brought up some time ago, and that is the boots and candle tins supplied by contractors. I am sorry to say that I have not yet received a report from our chief examiner. I can only state, in defence of the official, that he is exceedingly busy. However, now that the matter has been mentioned again, I will try to obtain a report. The honorable senator also referred to the position of armourers’ assistants. On Friday last he referred to the fact that electrical engineers in the Post and Telegraph Department had obtained an award. On receiving my Ilansard proofs, [ directed an official to get a copy of the award, and compare the rates prescribed therein with the rates which we pay for a similar class of labour, and I found that the latter are higher. The award does not strengthen in any way the claim of the armourers’ assistants for an increase., I looked into the matter myself, and found that the Department is paying a higher wage than is fixed in the award. I do not know that there is any other matter which I am specially called upon to deal with at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first and second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 postponed. /Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Old-Age Pensioners in Charitable Institutions - Advertising in the United States - Contingencies - Unemployment in the Timber Industry: Sleepers - Seasoning of Timber - Railway Construction - Post and Telegraph Department : Contract Post Offices : Use of Motor Cars : Preference to Local Manufactures :’ Horse Mail Service and Cost of Podder - Reported Loss of Australian Submarine.
– On gage 5 I observe an item of £5,500 for the “ maintenance of persons admitted to charitable institutions in accordance with provisions of Invalid and Old-age Pensions Acts.” I would like the Minister to state whether this is a new departure, and whether it is intended to fill a gap which was complained about recently at the Premiers’ Conference? It will be remembered that there a complaint was raised that, as soon as an old-age pensioner was admitted to a charitable institution, the pension from the Commonwealth ceased, and he became a burden on the resources of the State. What I desire to know is whether it is intended that a charitable institution shall have the amount allowable to the pensioner until he is discharged, because, in that case, he will be turned adrift from the institution without any provision for himself until his pension is again payable?
.- Speaking to the representatives of the Treasury to-day, I asked them if the Bill contained anything which was not provided for in the general Estimates, and they assured me that it did not. On referring to the Estimates-in-chief, I notice an item of £25,000 for the “maintenance of persons admitted to charitable institutions in accordance with provisions of Invalid and Old-age. Pensions Acts.” Therefore, the item in the schedule is not a new departure, but one to maintain the existing practice, whatever it may be.
– I think it has been usual, if an old-age pensioner wishes *x> go into a charitable institution, and agrees to the arrangement, to pay the pension to the institution itself.
– I would like to get an explanation regarding the item of £2,500 on page 7, for advertising in the United States of America.
.- I shall be obliged if the Minister can furnish some information regarding four items for contingencies, under the head of Northern Territory, on page 7, totalling £5,650.
.- On pages 60 and 61 of the Estimates the honorable senator will find detailed information. I cannot recall at the moment exactly what the contingencies are, but they are set out at length in my copy of the Estimates, which I am quite prepared to hand over to my honorable friend to examine. The item to which Senator Grant referred is part of a sum of £5,000 which was placed on the Estimates twelve months ago with the view to advertising Australia in the United States of America. We were anticipating then what we have since done, and that is participating in the Panama Exposition. We thought that some money could well be expended in that way, because Australia has much to gain from permitting the people of the United States of America to know what products it has to sell. We are following a course which has been pursued by all Governments and Parliaments, and one which I venture to say will be followed in the future. In the middle of the war it may seem strange to find an item for this purpose in a Supply Bill, but it was originated twelve months ago. The honorable senator will see, I think, that not only is it a usual item to find in the Estimates of the Department, but that the money is to be spent in a wise manner. The amount which is asked fornow is small, and it is quite possible that advertising is being carried on in conjunction with our participation in the great Exposition.
Sitting suspended from 6.32 to 8 p.m.
– I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out Item 6, “Miscellaneous,” Department of External Affairs - “ Advertising in United States of America, £2,500.”
J understand that this is part of a total vote of £5,000 included in the Estimates for this purpose, and, so far as I know, it has no reference to expenditure in connexion with the Panama Exhibition.. The vote is also quite distinct from another vote for advertising the resources of the Commonwealth. There does not appear to me to be any justification at all for the expenditure of money at the present time in advertising the resources of” the Commonwealth in America. What do we expect to get from the United States of America? We have had no explanation to show that this is a justifiable expenditure, and, therfore, I move the request for the omission of the item.
.- I thought that I had explained the item before the Committee adjourned for dinner. The vote of” £2,500 for advertising in the United States, of America to which Senator Grant takes exception represents portion of a proposed vote of £5,000 which was placed on the Estimates ten or twelve months ago. Practically month after month since that time Senator Grant has, in common with other honorable senators, been voting for instalments of the amount in the different Supply Bills which have been passed. Now, when, possibly, all the engagements for advertising have been entered into, and when the accounts are coming in, the honorable senator rises seriously, and, as if he did not know any better, proposes to request the House of Representatives to omit the item. I consider that that is not fair at all. If it is wrong to include such a vote to-day, it was equally wrong ten or eleven months ago, and when previous Supply Bills were passed. When the vote was first included in the Estimates, there was good reason to believe, in view of the holding of the Panama Exhibition, that if we made use of the opportunity thus afforded to advertise the resources of Australia in the United States of America, we might look for a considerable extension of trade with that country. The amount put down for the purpose is not exorbitant, but reasonable. Any Government that has at heart the welfare of the Commonwealth will, from time to time, be called upon to expend money in this way. Senator Grant has given no definite reason for his objection to the item, and if there is any- ;.thing in his protest, it should have Deen made ten months ago.
– I wish to direct attention to the subject which I referred to on the first reading of the Bill. If I may be allowed to say so, the Minister gave a perfectly ridiculous answer to the remarks I then made. I do not hold the honorable senator responsible for that answer. He is supposed to have repeated the opinion of some engineer in the employ of the Government. All I can say to that is that any man calling himself an engineer who will contend that the seasoning of timber is injurious rather than beneficial, ought to be in a lunatic asylum instead of in an engineer’s office. I cannot believe that the EngineerinChief condemned seasoning; it must have been some other question he was asked. I do not wish to take summary action in connexion with this matter, but I do not think that it has been properly considered. If it had been, I feel sure that such an answer as I have been given would be seen to be impossible.
– There is an item on the Estimates for the seasoning of timber.
– I intended to draw attention to the fact that in the Bill before us there is a vote proposed for the purpose of seasoning timbers, and yet we have been assured by the Minister that the seasoning of timber is injurious.
– There is no vote in this Bill for the purpose, but we have passed votes for that purpose in previous Supply Bills.
– We have been asked to sanction votes for a purpose which we are now informed has an injurious effect upon timber. I have here the opinions of authorities on Australian timbers, and, if necessary, might quote them. It should not be necessary to quote opinions in support of what must be apparent to any man of ordinary intelligence. Unless I am given some satisfaction in this matter I cannot permit the remarks which I have made to be- passed over in the light and airy way in which they were dealt with by the Minister on the first reading of the Bill. It has been suggested that what I have proposed could not be done, because if it were, it would be necessary to treat all the States in the same way. There are good timbers in Tasmania and in Queensland, as well as in Western Australia, and apparently the policy of the Government is that because they cannot give orders for timber in each of the States they can give orders in none. That is a foolish way in which to view this question. I do not say that the interests of the other States should not be considered. I know that they have timber industries deserving of the support of the Government, but if there is a particular kind of timber available in Western Australia which is better suited for the requirements of the Government than the timbers in the other States, it is not unreasonable to expect that the Government should go to that State for its supplies of that timber. If more than one of the States can supply an equally good article, by all means let the business be divided between them. To say that because one’ State might get the whole of the benefit to be derived from such a contract no such contract should be let, and no effort should be made to relieve the condition of unemployment in Western Australia due to the depression in the timber industry there, does not satisfy me at all. I think the matter should be further considered by the Government, and I shall give the Minister a further opportunity to inform the Com:mittee as to their intention.
– The question raised by Senator de Largie has’ received a good deal of consideration from members of this Parliament in past years. A Labour Government in 1910 or 1911 decided to erect storage sheds at Canberra for the seasoning of timber, an admission that timber is improved by seasoning. I find that last year we appropriated £2,800 for the storage and seasoning of timber, and on this year’s Estimates a vote of £2,400 appears for the same purpose. In the face of that admission by the Government that seasoning improves timber, I am unable to understand the answer given by the Minister to Senator de Largie this afternoon. Two or three years ago members of the Senate and honorable members in another place expressed the opinion that the life of timber when placed in the ground is extended by about three times its ordinary life if it is first of all seasoned. We have* at present to take into consideration, not only the fact that timber is improved by seasoning, but that the policy of the present Government is to open up and develop Australia by railway. The policy of the State Government is the same. In all probability we shall have in Australia next year the best season we have ever had. There will, no doubt, be a considerable extension, of the area under crop. Those who are unemployed to-day will very likely be occupied twelve months hence in the building of railways by the State Governments and by the Commonwealth Government, and we shall then find it a very difficult matter indeed to secure the sleepers we shall require. There is now an opportunity to employ the many thousands of persons unemployed in the different States in cutting timber to supply the sleepers which will be required next year and the year afterwards. I hope that the Government will give this matter further consideration. If they will consult authorities on the subject they will have to come to the conclusion that it will pay them better to get sleepers cut now, and have them stocked and seasoned ready for the time when they will have to be used.
– I hope that honorable senators who have addressed themselves to this question will not imagine that I lack sympathy with their proposal, because, as a matter of fact, I was the first to bring it under the notice of Ministers. But the position is that at the present time we do not desire to enter into further contracts for the supply of sleepers, because we have already entered into contracts covering a sufficient supply for the east- west transcontinental railway. We have been told that there is a lack of employment, not only in the forests of Western Australia, but in those of other States. I feel sure that the Government will be only too willing to provide for the development of that forest country, or for works which will meet the unemployed difficulty. At the same time I would remind honorable senators that in the construction of railways and the purchase of supplies we are expected to consider the business aspect of the matter.
– That is what I am asking the Government to do.
– Seeing that we have already arranged for a sufficient sup ply of sleepers, why should we purchasemore? The reason which has been advanced is that we should do so in anticipation of the Commonwealth adopting a railway-building policy. But I would remind honorable senators that many months ago a suggestion was made in thisdirection, which is no nearer realization to-day, not because of any fault of the Commonwealth, but because we do not possess the constitutional power to construct railways through the different States without the consent of the States. So long as that position obtains, so long will there be wrangling and delay as tothe carrying out of a Commonwealth railway policy. It has not beers suggested that if we purchase sleepers,, which we do not at present require, the contractors who supply us will becontent to wait for their money. Whilst the European war is in progress we are not likely to be burdened” with surplus cash with which to purchaseadditional sleepers, and, consequently, if we decided to purchase a million or twomillions of sleepers which we do not immediately require; we should have to borrow the money with which to pay forthem. It seems to me that if those sleepershad to lie idle very long it would not begood business to secure them. The report of Mr. Bell, the Engineer-in-Chief, is to the effect that the storing of sleepersdoes not add to their -life. If timber is not improving in quality, obviously it must be deteriorating. We must also remember that a sleeper, when it is properly laid on a railway, is placed upon 5 inches of metal, and even if it be greenwhen laid down it undergoes a natural process of seasoning. The seasoning of” ordinary timber stands upon quite a different plane.
– Will not greensleepers shrink away from the dogs?
– They will if they are laid down too green. But the probability is that sleepers which are now ia hand will not be used for six months. In these circumstances, they surely cannot be described as green. In view of the strong, representations which have been made to-night I will again bring this matterbefore the Cabinet. I can assure honorable senators that Ministers are sympathetic towards the proposal, but, at the same time, I cannot hold out any hope: that effect will be given to it. Whatever the decision of the Cabinet may be, however, the matter will be considered sympathetically.
– I was not present when the VicePresident of the Executive Council replied before the suspension of the sitting for dinner. I would like to know if he referred to the question of whether the Commonwealth could not see its way to lay in a considerable stock of hardwood timbers outside of sleepers. Such a step would result in these timbers being properly seasoned, and at the same time would afford employment to a large number of men. I would like to know from him whether there is any possibility of the Commonwealth being able to purchase, in the near future, a supply of hardwood timber such as is likely to be required for other than railway purposes.
– A good deal has been done in that direction already. But the whole matter is under consideration, and probably, at an early date, a decision will be arrived at. In connexion with the building of the Federal Capital, and of the extension of our defence works, I trust that, in the near future, we shall lay down a definite policy. The question of rolling stock for our railways will also come up for consideration. The matter has already been referred to the Department of Home Affairs, and I hope that, at an early date, I shall be able to communicate to honorable senators a decision which will be satisfactory to them.
– The Assistant Minister has pointed out that the Commonwealth has no definite policy in regard to railway construction in the near future, and that, before anything in that direction can be done, it is necessary to secure the consent of the States. Surely he must have forgotten the proposal recently put forward by the Prime Minister for the building of a strategic railway. I need hardly remind him that, in the construction of lines for defence purposes, we do not require the consent of the States.
– We ought to have a happy combination of business and strategic railways.
– I hope that common sense will prevail in the construction of our railways. But, seeing that we have the power to construct railways for defence purposes without the consent of the States, Ministers ought not to shelter themselves behind the plea which has been urged by the Assistant Minister. Is the Government already running away from the strategic railway proposals? The honorable gentleman also dealt with the business aspect of this question. I maintain that, from an economic stand-point, it would be sound policy to lay in a stock of sleepers at the present juncture. We all know that sleepers can now be secured much cheaper than we shall be able to obtain them in the future. So sure as peace is proclaimed there will be a railway building boom throughout the world, and no country will benefit to a greater extent from that boom than will Western Australia. It is idle to argue that the Commonwealth has no definite railway policy ahead of it. Are we not pledged to the construction of the transcontinental line from north to south? 1 feel certain that, on the completion of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, the line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek will have to be taken in hand. It will thus be seen that we have a very definite policy ahead of us.
– I was speaking of only two or three years ahead.
– Sleepers, if they were obtained now, would be all the better for being kept in stock for two or three years, and thus properly seasoned. According to expert authorities, the longer sleepers are seasoned the better they become. To suggest that we should suffer loss from accumulating a stock of them is the height of childishness. The Assistant Minister has stated that if we were to purchase large stocks of sleepers at the present time we should have to borrow money with which to pay for them. Do I understand that all the money voted for public works has been expended ?
– There will not be much of it left
– If there is no money available for public works now-
– I said that there will not be much left at the end of the financial year.
– That is only a few weeks hence.
– It is a pity that any of it should be left if it can be properly expended.
– According to the Assistant Minister’s admission, there is some money left:
– But we are trying hard to spend it all.
– On what?
– On public works.
– The Assistant Minister said just now that we should have to borrow the money with which to pay for sleepers.
– But the money which we have been authorized to expend has been voted for specific works.
– We are already committed to the construction of the north-south transcontinental line, and the Prime Minister has recently put forward a proposal for the building of a strategic railway. The money for these undertakings will have to be found somewhere. There is very little virtue in the Prime Minister outlining a certain policy if he is not able to finance it. I think that the Government will be well advised if they take this matter up a little more seriously, and thus do themselves justice. Surely they are not above taking suggestions from supporters in matters of this kind.
– Not at all.
– Are we to understand that suggestions must come from a member of the Ministry before anything is done by this Government? If that is to be the policy, I can assure them that they are heaping up a great deal of trouble for themselves. If the honorable members who constitute their supporters are to be denied the right to bring these things forward, but are to be turned down because the suggestions do not come from a Cabinet Minister, the Government are going to get into a great deal of trouble. Every question should be considered on its merits, no matter who advocates it. This matter was sufficiently before the public before it was brought forward here, and now we have this “ cock-and-bull “ yarn trotted out about the seasoning of the timber. I hope, for the credit of the Minister and the Government, that the proposal will not bo hung up on such a miserable excuse as that, because it is altogether too thin for any one to swallow. I have no wish to detain the Committee on this matter, but I have a duty to perform to the State which has sent me here, and I would be careless of my duty if, knowing as I do that there are thousands of men connected with this industry in Western Australia out of work, I did not press this matter forward in this way. The question has received a considerable amount of attention in Western Australia, and the people there naturally expect it to be dealt with in a sensible way by this Government. Up to the present it has not been dealt with sensibly, and, accordingly, I am asking the Ministry to give it a little more consideration.
– The suggestion that has been made by Senator de Largie and supported by other senators this afternoon, that the Government should purchase timber for sleepers and other purposes, has a good deal to recommend it. The honorable senator pointed out that the purchase of those sleepers would provide a considerable amount of employment to men in Western Australia, and other senators have assured the Committee that it would also furnish employment to men in the other States as well. That fact, in itself, is important, and should weigh with the Government. There is no doubt that it is a great mistake to leave the question of sleeper supply until the sleepers are actually wanted, for it must be well within the recollection of most senators that great difficulty was experienced at an earlier stage in the construction of the east-west railway.
– It was said then that the Government could not get sleepers, and that the work was to be hung up.
– Yes; one of the reasons given for the delay in construction was that the Government could not get sleepers because the Government of Western Australia were unable to carry out their contract on time. Whether that was correct or not, surely it is now the duty of the Government to guard against any similar occurrence in connexion with future railway construction. It seems to me that after the arguments that have been adduced this afternoon, the Government should give this matter further consideration. I do not know how long sleepers cut in Western Australia are stacked, before they are brought to the Eastern States, but I know that, after they come to South Australia, they are stacked for a considerable time, in some cases- from twelve to eighteen months, before they are used for railway work. They are stacked in heaps in such a way that the air has free play through them, the top is covered with earth, and the ends of the sleepers exposed to the weather are painted with white lead or some other similar material, to prevent cracking. Owing to the size of the timber, some time must elapse before evaporation is completed, and the sleepers are at their best, seasoned under dry conditions. When the sleeper is ready for use, it is bored to hold the dog spikes, and, as no further shrinkage takes place, the spike is always firmly held by the dry timber, practically during the whole life of that sleeper. Mow, the Minister said that usually sleepers are put in a certain depth of ballast, but in South Australia, in a completed railway, they are invariably covered over with earth. Laid in this way, moisture and rain have not the same effect upon the perfectly dried sleeper as upon a sleeper put in only partially dried. Concerning the other suggestion, that timber should be purchased and seasoned for other works, I might mention that some weeks ago the Federal members for South Australia were waited on by a deputation of timber merchants with reference to the proposed duties on timber. Those gentlemen are practical men in the business, and they were able to give the Federal members some valuable information concerning Australian and imported timber. They stated that they could not afford to keep the Australian hardwoods long enough to season them properly.
– That is the objection of a good number of timber merchants everywhere.
– That is how they put it to us. They were satisfied as to its durability, but pointed out that if it -were used for flooring purposes before being seasoned the shrinkage would be so great, that after it had been down a few months, a man could put his fingers between the boards, with the result that the floor would have to be pulled up again. They urged that on account of the cost, they could not afford to keep Australian hardwood timber long enough to season it properly, and, therefore, they were forced to use the softer imported woods. This was one of the rea sons advanced by them in support of a’ request for a reduction in the suggested duties on timber. The Minister has told us that the Government cannot build railways except with the permission of the States, but, as a matter of fact, we know that they can build railways for certain purposes without that consent. I am not urging this course upon them, however, but I want them to give consideration to the fact that they have an authorized railway to their own territory in the centre of Australia, where 300 or 400 miles of track has already been surveyed by Mr. Graham Stewart. There is no reason under the sun why the construction of that railway should not be commenced next week, if the Government so desire.
– The unemployed question this winter will force them to do something.
– The suggestion .made by the honorable senator to procure sleepers will provide employment just now for a large number of men. Wo hope that many thousands of those men who have gone to the front will be back in Australia within the next twelve months. But wha”t are we going to do with them ? We cannot give them all pensions, so surely the least we can do is to provide them with work.
– Enrol 30,000 or 40,000 of them in a permanent Army. We will want them all.
– No regular Army for Australia.
– Even if we do as Senator Bakhap suggests, there will be plenty for whom work should be provided. I might add that I am in agreement with Senator Bakhap that Australia will have to maintain a regular Army for her future defence; but I am not going to be led off the railway question just at present. I want to know what we will do with those men if we do not take the precaution to look far enough ahead to find employment for them ? Now, if the Government adopt Senator de Largie’ s suggestion, they will have at their disposal one of the most essential requirements for the work which they will be called upon to undertake. It does not matter whether the sleepers are stacked in Western Australia, Tasmania, or anywhere else in Australia. The fact that matters is that the sleepers will be available for the construction of the northsouth railway to which this Government and this country are absolutely pledged. The excuse given by the Minister that the Government cannot construct railways without the permission of the States does not apply to this, which is one of the biggest works the Commonwealth will be called upon to undertake for many years.
– Do you think South Australia would object to the Commonwealth building the railway from Port Augusta to the Northern Territory ?
– South Australia could not object, because she agreed to the construction of the line when the Territory was transferred. The Government may regard an alteration of the route as necessary.
– A section is being constructed now in the north, and the surveyors are coming right down.
– The section from Pine Creek to the Katherine River is being constructed.
– That is why I made no reference to the Northern Territory railway.
– My contention is that the railway should be started from the southern end, which is the right end. It is useless to send the material more than half way round the continent to begin the railway at the wrong end, which is what is being done. The reasons the Minister has given to-night are not sufficient to make me refrain from urging on him the absolute necessity of giving this proposal very careful consideration. It will provide a large amount of work, and furnish material that will improve as time goes on. When the Government are ready to use that material, and men are asking for employment, we shall be able to provide it for them. I am confident that the Minister is impressed with the case made out this afternoon. I know he is as anxious to provide workas we are. As a member of the Government he cannot make a straight-out promise on his own account, but I am confident that he will duly impress his colleagues with what has been said here to-day, and that action on the lines indicated this afternoon will be taken in the near future.
, - I was surprised to hear the Min ister reply in the way he did. I give him credit for wide knowledge, but, if he had given the subject of timber careful study, he would have recognised, that, according to the best judges, the value of timber has appreciated at least. 30 per cent, during the last decade. That does not affect soft timbers only, but must relatively affect hard timbers also, and it must mean that a large amount of soft timber now used will have to be replaced by hard timber. Our forests, are being rapidly denuded, and far. from sufficient re-afforestation is taking place to assure an adequate supply in time to come. The price oft sleepers has gone up considerably and in South Australia it is very, difficult to get them for South Australian works alone. The only State on the continent where sleepers outside of purely local needs can be looked for is Western Australia. As to the small island to the south that we hear so much about, its timber resources will be soon exhausted when it is called upon to supply the needs of the whole continent. The experience of New Zealand shows how rapidly huge forests can be swept away. The experience of America is that fire destroys ten. times as much timber as the axe. In view of these facts, it would be a sound business proposition to purchase every sleeper required for the east-west railway this year. The price may not be as reasonable as it was in times past.
– The east-west railway is provided for; the sleepers are either in hand or the contracts let.
– But what about the north-south railway?
– Ministers seem to forget that the Commonwealth is as much’ pledged to the construction of the northsouth railway as it was to the east-west.
– They will have steel sleepers on the north-south railway, as they have at present down to Pine Creek, because wooden sleepers will not stand the white ants.
– There are steel sleepers laid- on the overland route between here and Adelaide, but it is still a question of experiment whether they will take the place of the wooden. The railway engineer has still to see whether he cannot substitute reinforced concrete, but that again is an experiment. On the other hand, the experience of many years shows that the best sleeper that* can possibly be laid under a railway is the Australian hardwood. A pledge that cannot be evaded has been given to construct the north-south railway. We must consider the need of providing employment, and if we delay the purchase of sleepers the cost of the railway will be considerably increased, the enhanced cost being much greater than would be the interest on the cost of the sleepers if purchased now.
– Are there not some very good belts of timber in the Macdonnell Ranges?
– The accessible timber there will not be nearly enough to construct the portion to Alice Springs. The Assistant Minister said that timber would depreciate if stored.
– I corrected that. What the Chief Engineer said was that the storing of sleepers does not extend their life.
– He does not say it shortens their life. It is a very common practice, especially in South Australia, to store along the lines sleepers for relaying for several years before they are required. The railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta has been laid down for a considerable time, and provision will have to be made for relaying it with new sleepers before very long. A. business man like the Minister would immediately recognise that it was a sound proposition to obtain in the almost immediate future enough sleepers for relaying. When he takes these matters into consideration I am sure he will give a different reply from that which he made this afternoon. To me his speech conveyed the impression of being evasive. He seemed to be attempting to get out of a difficult position by raising the question whether the life of a sleeper would be extended by storing, and by saying the Government had no money to spend on this object. The question of indefinitely hanging up the construction of the north-south railway is making itself very seriously felt in South Australia. If ever there was a period when it was necessary to connect the north with the south it is the present. The Minister’s objection is strange, seeing that the Prime Minister himself has suggested the construction of a totally different line for military purposes. I am afraid the Minister will have to withdraw or qualify considerably his earlier speech by saying that the matter will re ceive serious consideration, and that not Western Australia alone, but other States, may be able to supply the sleepers which I am sure will be needed for railway construction at no distant date.
– I do not know that I was vague, nor did I mean to be unsympathetic. I agree with almost everything that has been said regarding the need of afforestation and seasoning timber for all purposes, but the question before us now is neither of those, nor is it the question of supplying sleepers for the transcontinental line, but is whether for the purpose of providing employment we, as a Commonwealth, should purchase sleepers, one, two, or three years ahead, not for railways that we have decided to build, but for railways which we anticipate that we may as a Commonwealth construct. . I did not say we had no money for public works. I said we were trying very hard to spend every penny allotted for works in order, to keep employment going, but it is of no use hiding the fact that we expect to finish up this year with a deficit of about £2,750,000. If our ordinary revenue does not improve it will not be sufficient in a time like the present to meet necessities, and he would be an optimist who would say that the ordinary revenue that we shall get next year, after the war, will be anything like equal to the ordinary expenditure, to say nothing of providing a surplus. Where can we get the money to buy a million sleepers? If we entered into a speculative business of that kind with Western Australia, the other States might, with reason, urge that we would require 4,000,000 sleepers in the next few years, and ask to be allowed to provide them. It will be impossible to buy railway requirements ahead for the next few years out of ordinary revenue. The money must be borrowed, whether it is borrowed from the ordinary Trust Funds, or from the Home Government, or in the open market. It means that the suppliers of the sleepers must be paid with borrowed money, and that interest must be paid.
– Do you not think that it would pay the Commonwealth to borrow the money now, and get the sleepers at cheaper rates?
– That opens up another problem - the gospel of cheapness.
I feel sure that Senator de Largie did not mean what Ire said in that regard. Whyshould he expect the Commonwealth to get the sleepers more cheaply now ? Two agencies have been suggested to us. Today we get our sleepers, not from large employers, but, generally speaking, from small co-operative parties, or from the Government of Western Australia. Is it because employment is slack that we are to cut down the price, and thereby reduce the wages to small co-operative parties?
– No one has suggested such a thing.
– I am not imputing that any honorable senator did make the suggestion. I want to know how the sleepers, if purchased now, are to bo cheaper?
– Because, in two or three years’ time, the ordinary demand will have put up the price.
– Oh ! I see. The sleepers are going to be cheaper because of an anticipated increase in price in the future.
– In ordinary trade for other purposes. During the last few years, the price of Australian hardwood has increased from 25 to 50 per cent.
– I have no desire to impute anything to my honorable friends, because I know their records too well to do such a thing. If we were to purchase sleepers to-day, they would be bought at the current rate. We are pushing on with the north-south line. The surveyors who went to the Katherine River have been asked to extend their operations farther south. Generally speaking, the Government have been pushing on with surveys in various parts of Australia. We believe that we ought to know the Commonwealth and its possibilities in that direction. But take any proposed line of railway. With the present state of the service, according to the reports given to us by the engineers, there is not one of the projected lines which could be surveyed and started in less than six months. We could not take on the building of all the lines at one time, particularly with the depletion of the labour market through 70,000 young men going to the front. Therefore, if we were o purchase sleepers now, it would mean that we would have at least a clear six months. But, as I pointed out, the money for the purpose would have to be borrowed. If the sleepers were not used for a year, we would have to pay at least 4^ per cent, on the money. If we had the sleepers stored for two years, it would become a question of whether the interest on the money would be equivalent to the increase in price* which honorable senators anticipate. Personally, I am very sympathetic with the proposal. I believe that we shall use plenty of sleepers in the future. I consider that anything which this Parliament can do to provide increased employment in Australia, even at a little sacrifice, ought to be done at the present time. I think that honorable senators ought to be congratulated upon the good fight they have put up. I will bring their strong representations before my colleagues, and ask them to reconsider their decision, and at a later opportunity announce the verdict of the Cabinet.
– I do not blame the Assistant Minister in the -slightest degree for the predicament in which he finds himself.
– I am quite happy.
– I should sympathize with the honorable senator rather than place any unnecessary obstacle in his way. I recognise that he has been advised by some one, and the Minister has merely repeated a statement made to him. All that I can do is to show that the advice is not sound, and that, if followed, it will be a pity for a most important industry to have astigma cast upon it such as is contained in the advice. The Assistant Minister feels that, having to be the mouth-piece of that authority for the time being, he is obliged to put up the best case he can, and in order to make out a good case he finds himself in the dilemma of having to discover a financial objection, and that is as there is no money in hand for the purpose funds would have to be borrowed. Surely the strategic railways we heard so much about on the resumption of business last month were not going to be built out of revenue! The money for their construction would have to be procured.
– I was opposing the buying of the sleepers now, and showing that the interest on the borrowed money would be equal to any anticipated increase in price.
– It is immaterial, so far as my proposal is concerned, how the money is raised. I had ample proof in support of my contention, and did not want to indulge ina “ stone-wall,” but now I feel that I am obliged to put the proof on record, so that the Government may have some sounder advice on which to form an opinion than that which they have had hitherto. The Assistant Minister referred to trading; but it is not a question of trading. He misunderstood the whole proposal I made when he spoke about trading. We are not asking that the matter should be considered from that stand-point. Under the Constitution the Commonwealth has ample power to purchase sleepers, or, for that matter, to build saw-mills, and produce sleepers. Over and above that, it has trading powers. If it had a surplus of timber from a Federal mill which it did not need, it could trade to that extent.
– That is doubtful.
– It is not doubtful, because that opinion was expressed by the best-known lawyers we have had in this Parliament when holding the responsible position of AttorneyGeneral.
– Prior to or after the decisions of the High Court? Have you any recent authority on that point?
– I am quite satisfied that the Commonwealth has sufficient constitutional power at the present time to start works to supply articles needed for Government concerns. Does the Assistant Minister mean to tell me that the Commonwealth has not sold anything which it did not require?
– You need not worry about that aspect of the matter. We would not want to sell any sleepers.
– The Government are asked to obtain the sleepers with the intention of building the railways to which they are committed, unless, of course, they propose to repudiate the agreement entered into by the Commonwealth in regard to the Northern Territory.
– The construction of that railway is being carried on.
– If that is the case, the Government are going to carry on the work without sleepers, because, so far, they have not made any provision in that regard, and presently they will be up against a dead end. In fact, they will be in the same position in the Northern Territory as the Commonwealth found itself in at the Kalgoorlie end of the east- west railway when it suited a certain party to make a little political capita] out of the fact that the Government of Western Australia were somewhat backward in the building of the mill. When it was expected that they could not supply sleepers according to the contract, a great hue and cry was raised that the construction work would be hung up from the want of timber. The Assistant Minister asked how we could prove that sleepers could be got more cheaply now than in the future. I thought that I had elaborated that point sufficiently, and would not need to repeat it. He will gather the meaning of what I said when I mention that in Western Australia at the present time most of the saw-mills are idle. The contractors are all disengaged, and consequently it would be more reasonable to get a quotation from them now than it would be later, after peace is declared. When the boom I referred to is in full swing, they will be in a position similar to that in which the timber mills in the State were when the Commonwealth wanted sleepers for the east-west railway. Is the Assistant Minister aware that the biggest timber suppliers in the State did not even quote for the sleepers for that line ? Millar’s combine had so much business on hand that they did not even trouble to quote a price. If the Commonwealth had no other sources of supply, what price does the Assistant Minister think that it would have to pay to get sleepers from a company which could afford to treat a big affair in that light way? They would certainly make the Commonwealth pay through the nose. I advise the Government not to put themselves in that predicament, but to buy their sleepers now, when they can be obtained at a reasonable price. By keeping them until they are required later, instead of a loss, there will be a gain, because timber, like wine, improves with seasoning, and the Commonwealth will get back more than it has spent. In order to prove that seasoning undoubtedly affects the durability of timber, I will quote a few authorities. In a work called Australian Timber: Its
Strength, Durability, and Identification, Mr. James Mann says -
Seasoning, as applied to timber, may be defined as a drying operation, by which the natural moisture is removed. This may be accomplished either naturally or artificially.
The author refers to many processes which may be followed in order to secure seasoning, and then says -
As regards the strength, there are many examples to prove that the effect of seasoning is to greatly increase it.
On page 63, he says -
The stacking of timber during the seasoning process is more a question for timber merchants, as they know far more about it than can be written, and no doubt will fully indorse the statement that, unless proper care be taken in stacking sawn timber, it will twist and warp out of all recognition.
The results of tests on comparatively small specimens lead us to conclude that the maximum strength is obtained after upwards of three years’ natural seasoning.
It will be seen that what the Assistant Minister considered was a long time is not a bit too long, in order to get timber at its very best. Any one who has any connexion with timber knows that a very considerable time is required for seasoning Australian hardwoods. They are so excessively hard that it is a long while before they are thoroughly dry. That can be seen by going through the country. After a tree is rung, it may stand for five or six years before it is dead, and it may be as many more years before it is thoroughly dry through and through. It will be recognised that three years, after all, is not a very long period for the seasoning of hardwood. Mr. Mann continues -
It will be shown later on that unseasoned timber is really an element of danger, for many defects soon show themselves, which, if not attended to, may cause a serious accident.
Recently, when inquiring into matters connected with the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, the question of the shrinkage of Western Australian jarrah was referred to, and it was stated that where rails were laid at the correct gauge upon very green sleepers, the shrinkage was such that considerable alterations were necessary later to correct the gauge. At page 66 this writer says -
In the first place, seasoned timber is undoubtedly in the best condition to resist the attacks of fungus.
The question may naturally be asked - Why is unseasoned timber more likely to bc at- tacked by fungus in a bridge than in a seasoning rack?
There is this difference, that timber under the seasoning process is always under close observation, and can be turned occasionally; but when it is placed in any permanent structure, it cannot be moved until renewals are required.
The worst possible condition is that of a structure built with timber that has been cut down when the tree is in its most active growth. After completion (in some cases during erection) the whole is painted or tarred, and all the moisture is retained. Then all the conditions of decay are present. Just as moss grows between the crevices of rock, and grass at the joints of paving stones, and green dis.colourations show themselves between the plaster and paper of damp houses, so does the woody fibre at all joints become a breeding ground for fungus and decay. The timber shrinks, the joints open, dust and rain penetrate, and decay inevitably eventuates.
He goes on to show that these dangers might be avoided by proper seasoning. At page 88 he says -
It is only natural that one should ask the question: How shall we prevent this decay? In the first place, use seasoned timber; it lengthens the life of the timber 100 per cent. Where seasoned timber cannot be used, protect those points where decay will first appear, and use every precaution in order to allow the timber to dry while in position.
These are the statements of an expert in timber, and we cannot ignore them. We have had an opinion to the effect that timber is injuriously affected by being kept in stock. I do not know what interpretation the engineer whose opinion has been quoted by the Minister puts upon the expression “ kept in stock.”
– What he says is that the storing of sleepers does not extend their life. He practically says that there is nothing gained by seasoning timber in stock, and that it is naturally seasoned when used in the railway.
– I think that the reference must be to the stacking of sleepers after they have been seasoned.
– No, the question was clearly put to him.
– The improvement of timber due to seasoning is so apparent to common sense that it is impossible to accept an opinion to the contrary. Here is another authority on the subject. I quote from a work entitled Tasmanian Forestry, Timber Products, and Sawmilling Industry, published by the Department of Lands and Surveys of Tasmania. At page 25, dealing with the question of seasoning, I find this statement -
Little, if anything, is done by sawmillers in regard to a systematic seasoning of timber for export, although there is not one of them but will admit that if such a practice were adopted both the appearance of the timber and its value in regard to durability would be considerably enhanced.
That is emphatic enough -
The time is not far distant when this subject will require serious consideration at the hands of those connected with the timber industry.
A “ hand-to-mouth “ custom has been in vogue from the earliest days. Trees have been felled all the year round, and timber cut and shipped week by week in a green condition as it comes from the saw. As our timbers contain a far greater percentage of moisture than most other Australian wood, by reason of the rainfall, and general damp surroundings of that portion of the country from which most of our timber supply is drawn, it naturally follows that, when shipped in a green state, And later on exposed to rigid climatic conditions of heat and wind, the timber will not stand such severe treatment without cracking <ind warping to a considerable degree, the reason being, of course, that the outer skin, or fibre, is being dried much more rapidly than the interior.
The condition of excessive rainfall here referred to approximates to the climatic conditions in the part of Western Australia from which our hardwoods come. Most people are accustomed to regard Western Australia as a very dry country; but in the south-west of the State “we have a rainfall, perhaps, as heavy as is found in any other part of Australia.
– Very big timber does not grow in very dry country.
– We have forests of karri between 300 and 400 feet high in soil from 8 to 20 feet deep; and it is evident that a tremendous amount of moisture is necessary for the growth of these very large trees. Therefore, I say that the climatic conditions referred to in the quotation I have made apply to the parts of Western Australia from which our hardwood timbers come, and they also require a considerable amount of drying or seasoning before being put into the ground. To continue my quotation - i
All authorities are agreed that the natural air-drying process is the best that can be -adopted, and the slower this is done at the outset the better. If it be possible for sawmillers to conveniently construct large sheds (say, a permanent frame temporarily roofed awd enclosed by boards), in which timber, more particularly planking and sleepers, can be properly stacked, and the sun and wind thus excluded, there is no doubt that a superior article would be produced. The boards “ forming the roof and sides could be removed as they season, and sold as a seasoned article.
It is hoped that the new conditions under which sleepers and other timbers are to be cut for export under Government certificate will be the means of bringing this matter forcibly to the notice of sawmillers, and cause an effort to he made to adopt some convenient and systematic method of seasoning our timbers before shipment.
Here we - have a Government proposing to go to the extent of enforcing certain conditions upon timber-getters for the seasoning of their timber before they will allow it to be exported. The authorities I have quoted should carry considerable weight, and show, I think, that the Government have been wrongly informed by their present adviser. Our EngineerinChief is a man, I suppose, of -some eminence in the railway world, and it is difficult to understand how he could have advised the Government that to keep timber in stacks will not improve it. Either he has not had time to consider the question, or he has himself been put upon the wrong track by asking for advice instead of studying the question for himself. I cannot believe that a man in his position could hold such an opinion as he .has expressed. I ask that, so far as the south-to-north transcontinental railway is concerned, we put the use of steel sleepers out of our minds altogether. This is supposed to be a Protectionist country, in which we are prepared to foster native industries as far as we can. If iron sleepers are to be used, they must be imported.
– Not necessarily.
– What about the new company that has been started in Newcastle ?
– Will they make sleepers?
– I suppose they will make anything that is profitable.
– I happen to know a little about the iron industry. If we are going to pay Australian rates, and such rates should certainly be paid to men working in the iron trade under Australian climatic conditions, the price we shall be obliged to pay for our -steel sleepers will be so exorbitant as to put the proposal to use them out of the question.
– Would not that apply to the steel rails as well?
– Yes; I am prepared to say that we shall have to pay » considerably more for steel rails manufactured in Australia than for imported rails.
– No, the same rates. We have let a contract for 150 miles of rails for the same price, plus freight, as that quoted for imported rails.
– What is the price ?
– Speaking from memory, I think £7 13s. per ton.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that that is the world’s market price for steel rails ?
– I said, “ plus freight.”
– I should think so.
– The importers have to pay freight.
– The monopoly price for steel rails for many years never went above £6 per ton. The Steel Trust has been at work, and practically fixed the price of rails over the whole world. For many years that price never went above £6, and Ministers admit that they are giving the local contractors £7 13s. per ton. I know the conditions of the iron industry very well. No men deserve higher wages than those who work the furnaces, and are engaged in rolling iron in iron-works. If the conditions of their work are severe in a country like Scotland, they will be even more severe under the climatic conditions existing in Australia. Ifc is quite certain that we must have steel rails for our railways, because we cannot go back to the time of wooden rails, but it does not at all follow that we must have steel sleepers.
– Whilst they are not absolutely necessary, it is a decided advantage to have steel sleepers in country in which there are white ants.
– It has been conclusively proved that powellised karri sleepers will resist white ants just as effectually as will steel sleepers. This has been clearly demonstrated on the Port Hedland railway, in the north-west of Western Australia, where the white ants are just about as lively as they are anywhere on this planet. The powellised karri sleepers on that line are giving entire satisfaction, and every engineer who has reported upon them has awarded them unqualified praise. I am satisfied that no steel sleepers will be used in Australia. Their cost, and the discomfort which passengers would experience in travelling over them, forbid any possibility of their adoption on lines within the Commonwealth. Seeing that the Government proclaim themselves the advocates of a Protective policy, they will be well advised if they take this matter into their serious consideration without further delay. I have no doubt .whatever that the moment funds are available with which to proceed with the north-south transcontinental line, the measure authorizing its construction will be passed by this Parliament. I do not hold the Assistant Minister responsible for the report which he hashad to champion.
– I accept full responsibility for it.
– Then the honorable senator is a very foolish person, because it is ridiculous to urge that theseasoning of timber has not a beneficial effect upon it.
– I feel that the time which has been devoted to this discussion will not have been wasted if it induces Ministers togive a little more attention to the question raised by Senator de Largie than they appear to have done, if we may judge of their attitude by the remarks of the Assistant Minister. I was very glad to hear his assurance that he will again bring this matter before his colleagues, although I gathered that he himself has already made up his mind upon it. Hisreference to the consideration of cheapness was, I think, scarcely characterised by the sound common sense which he usually exhibits. His observations almost suggested that, in counselling the purchase at the present juncture of supplies of sleepers for our future requirements, we were advocating the employment of cheap labour.
– Oh, no.
– Just now, when such a number of timber mills are shut down in .Western Australia and Tasmania, and when mill-owners are craving for contracts, it is surely common sense to suppose that we can obtain sleepers much cheaper than we shall beable to obtain them in the future. TheAssistant Minister pointed out that the- purchase of these sleepers with borrowed money would be bad business.
– I did not say that it would necessarily be bad business. But I put forward the fact that they would have to be paid for with borrowed money as one which should be taken into consideration.
– But against that factor should be set the saving which would probably be effected by purchasing the sleepers now - a saving of probably 20 or 25 per cent. The, problem of unemployment must be faced, and its attendant evils minimized as far as possible. The use of steel sleepers has been introduced into this debate. I look forward to the time when we shall establish national iron and steel works in Australia.
– Personally, I think that reinforced concrete will supply us with a superior sleeper either to steel or wood.
– Possibly it will, but that point has not yet been demonstrated. If we are to wait until we can get steel sleepers from our own mills before undertaking the construction of the north-south transcontinental line, I am afraid that that project will be postponed for a considerable time. I hope that the Assistant Minister will reconsider the views which he has expressed upon this question.
.- I desire to direct attention to the item of “ Contingencies, £32,000,” which appears in the Estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department under the heading of New South Wales. At first, I was under the impression that possibly some very good reasons could be assigned for it. I noticed that in several of the States a substantial increase is proposed in the sums payable on account of non-official post-offices. In New South Wales, an increase of £4,000 is sought, as compared with the appropriation of last year. ° In Victoria, the increase amounts to £15,000 ; in Queensland, to £500; and in South Australia, to £800. But in Western Australia and Tasmania the amount proposed to be voted is less than that appropriated last year. I should like an explanation of this circumstance. I thought that possibly some of our nonofficial postmasters and postmistresses, who have been in receipt of such small pay, were to be granted an increase. I know of one lady who is in charge of a contract office, and who has to be in daily attendance from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for a remuneration of £10 per year. She has to handle a considerable amount of correspondence, in addition to money orders.
– All the contract post-offices are conducted on the same lines.
– Then, I notice that it is proposed to appropriate the sum of £29,927 for the purchase and upkeep of motor cars in this Department. Yet, in Launceston I have recently observed that, iu the collection of postal matter from the street pillars, the Department has abandoned the use of motors, and has reverted to that of horses. I shall be glad if the Minister will explain the reasons underlying the two items to which I have directed attention.
– Only a few months ago, I had an opportunity of visiting, within a few miles of this city, an establishment in which a splendid class of insulators is being manufactured. On that occasion, we were given to understand that the Postal Department intended to increase its purchases, not merely of insulators, but of all other materials which can be manufactured within the Commonwealth, thereby reducing the quantities which have hitherto been imported. I would like to know if the Department is purchasing au increasing quantity of Australian-made material, such as insulators.
– The Department accepted a big contract the other day from a Victorian firm.
– I am very glad to hear that, though I would remind the honorable senator that Victoria is not the Commonwealth .
– It is my desire to bring before the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral the difficulty which contractors have in connexion with the conveyance of mails in different parts of the Commonwealth. Everywhere contractors are complaining bitterly that they are losing money on account of the increased prices of fodder since the contracts were accepted. This matter has been referred to by myself and other representatives from
South Australia, and I know from the public press that the same complaint is being made from many other parts of the Commonwealth. The Postmaster- General, in his reply, has stated that it is the intention of the Department, so far as possible, to reduce the number of deliveries per week by 50 per cent., and to reduce the allowances by 25 per cent. That is the most extraordinary method of relieving- distress that I ever heard of. The Postmaster-General seems to forget that a contractor has to feed his horses whether they are working or not. It has been suggested that in some of the smaller contracts one delivery a week can be cut out in certain places, and probably a reduction made in the contract price. But, as I have pointed out, that is no relief to these men. Representations have been made to the Postmaster-General that the men are carrying on their contracts at an absolute loss, but they cannot throw up their work, because certain other men have guaranteed them.
-They are under a bond, I suppose.
– Yes, and if they do not carry out their contracts their guarantors will be called upon to do so. It has been suggested that the Government should act as they have done towards the horse-drivers on the east-west railway, namely, purchase supplies of fodder on behalf of the mail contractors in drought-stricken districts, and provide it at the same price as to those drivers. I recognise the difficulty of breaking a contract, and realize that when a man enters into a contract with the Commonwealth Government, they have a right to expect him to carry it out. But I would point out that these men are labouring under exceptionally severe conditions*. As everybody knows, there is no feed for horses scarcely anywhere in the interior of Australia, and men in far-back districts have to pay from £12 to £15 per ton for their chaff, while at the time they made their contracts the price was probably less than half- that amount. I am sure the Minister will see that this is a case of great hardship. As a rule, the people who take these contracts with the Postal Department are poor, hardworking men. The winter is coming on, and they will have to use more horses than during the summer months, owing to the heavier state of the roads. For the next three or four months, it is likely that some mens will have to use five horses to do the work which is done usually by three in the summer time. They are obliged to put on more strength, for if the mail contractor is five minutes behind at any place, he is called upon for a report. The horsesare so poor in many places that they can hardly stand up, and in not a few cases the men themselves are so poor that they cannot afford to buy a winter overcoat out of the contract, which they are carrying on at a loss. I am confident thatthe Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral will make representations on thismatter with the idea of seeing if something can be done to relieve the men speedily. Neither the Commonwealth nor the men are to blame. This is a case deserving of the .most earnest consideration of the Government, consideration such as was shown to men engaged on the east-west railway, and I think that we can reasonably ask that they betreated in the same manner.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia, - Minister of Defence) pJ.57]. - I crave the indulgence of the Committee to makereference to a matter which I am sure has been engaging the attention of honorable senators to-day. I know that honorable senators are anxious to hear anything in connexion with the Australiansubmarine, in view of the Turkish report that the vessel had been destroyed. Immediately the report was published, we cabled to the Admiralty, and the Admiralty have replied that, so far, they have received no information to confirm the Turkish report. I am sorry it is not more definite than that, but, at any rate, this information gives us a ray of hope that the news from the Turkish source may not be correct.
– I have every sympathy with the appeal made on behalf of themail contractors because of the increased price of fodder, and I would also make an Appeal on behalf of the mountedlettercarriers - officers of the Postal Department - many of whom are engaged invarious parts of the States. They have to buy and feed their own horses. They get a certain salary, - and, under the extraordinary conditions such as we are experiencing at present, they have to do their work and feed their horses without any extra remuneration at all. Now, when these men were engaged for this work, I think the price of fodder was something like £6 or £7 per ton, whereas to-day it is almost double that amount. These letter-carriers are men who, as a rule, will do more for their horses than for themselves, and will make sure that their animals are fed. At a conference of the Letter-carriers Association this week it was pointed out to me that very great hardship indeed was experienced by a large number of mounted letter-carriers, who were endeavouring to keep up the work of delivering letters as usual, with horse feed at the present enormous price. I appeal to the Minister to make representations to the Cabinet with the object of granting some relief to these men for the extra expenditure which they are called upon to bear. Another matter that might well be referred to is the policy of the Government with regard to encouraging Australian manufacturers by giving preference, where new buildings are in course of erection, to articles manufactured in this country. This can be done by specifying for the use of local material. I want to point out that, so far as the Postmaster-General’s Department is concerned - I am nob referring to the present Postmaster-General - this particular principle was* departed from recently in the case of the new General Post Office in Perth. The contract for the erection of the building was signed in August by the previous Administration, and in that contract it was stated that what is known as the Clinton material must be used for the wire mesh necessary for the reinforced concrete. The Clinton material is an English manufacture, and, in spite of the fact that within 5 miles of the present building there is a firm called Monteath and Company manufacturing an article at least as good as, if not superior to, the Clinton material, the Government of the day stipulated that the Clinton material should be used in the General Post Office, Perth, while in the new telephone exchange building, erected only a few hundred yards distant from the General Post Office, the Monteath wire mesh is being used.
– When was the other contract let?
– I believe it was let during the regime of the previous Ad ministration, though I am not sure. The material to which I refer has been used,, not- only in the new telephone exchange, which is a big building, but in many other State Government buildingsin Western Australia. Representationswere made to the Minister to see if the contractor was bound to use the Clinton, material. I approached the Minister of Home Affairs, and was referred to the State architect of Western Australia, who is supervising the work. He was in doubt as to whether or not Mr. Arnott, the contractor, was bound to use Clinton material, so the opinion of a private lawyer in Perth, as well as the opinion of the State Attorney-General, was obtained. These two legal opinions were to the effect that the contractor was not bound to use the material throughout the whole of the building, and that the Minister could intervene. I then sawMr. Archibald, and asked him to get theopinion of the Crown Law authoritieshere. This opinion was to the effect that the contractor was bound to use the material, and that the Minister could’ not intervene. I am not blaming the present Government in this matter, but T am referring to this in order that such a position may not arise in the future, A contractor should not be tied down toparticular materials, but the words “ or other approved material “ should be in a* contract of this character, as has hithertobeen the custom. If this is done, therewill be a greater chance of observing thepolicy of encouraging the use of local, materials in all our buildings.
– Is it not in thepower of the inspector to provide fortius?
– No, I want toput that power in the hands of the Minister, not the Inspector. If the present Minister had the power, I am confident; that instead of imported material being used, the Monteath firm would have got the remainder of the work. I mentioned this matter merely as a warning to be remembered when future contractsare being let. There is in Perth and’ Subiaco a firm called Makutz, makers; of safes, strong boxes, &c. I am under the impression that it is intended to import the safes and other things of that kind required, but that firm has supplied most of the public buildings in.>
Western Australia, and I would urge the representative of the Postmaster-General to see that if no contract has been let to any particular firm this Western Australian firm, or any other Australian firm, which can make as good a safe, gets au opportunity to tender. I trust the Minister will try to give some relief to the mounted letter-carriers in view of the exorbitant prices they are paying for fodder.
– The Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs has noted what Senator Needham has said regarding that Department. Our supporters ought to know by this time that our policy .is to use everything possible of Australian manufacture. If an article produced here is equal to the imported, I will favour it every time, and if a change can be made to favour Australian materials, I will support that change, aud will not be stopped by any legal technicality if the change means an advantage to the Department as well as to the Commonwealth generally. A contract satisfactory to both parties has been entered into for the supply of insulators for the Postmaster- General’s Department. A most misleading circular was sent round some time ago, charging the Commonwealth Government with using Japanese-made goods in preference to the local article. That puts us in a very false position, and should certainly bo contradicted. The only outside competitor with the local firm at that time was a German firm, and when the war began and the German firm was shut out, the local contractors threw up their contract, and wanted about double the price. When we showed that we were not prepared to hold up our hands in response to this demand, that misleading circular went round. The standanddeliver attitude will not go down with this Government, and it should not be assumed that merely because we are a Labour Government we will yield to that kind of bluff. That is not the proper way to get on with the Government. The Postmaster-General’s Department seems to be regarded as one with which fault can be found with impunity. I welcome criticism from honorable senators on matters that we can alter, or that de- serve to be made public. I recognise that there are many hard cases due to the increased cost of fodder, but there is an old legal saying that hard cases make bad laws, and if we went out of our way to make a contract to give relief where it was really deserved, every other contractor would have an equal right fo claim relief. It must be remembered that the contracts with the Postal Department amount to thousands of pounds. In one case the Department reduced the mail service from bi-weekly to weekly, thus reducing the contract price by a considerable amount. When the matter came under the notice of the Postmaster-General it was pointed out that the contractor was carrying on the business at a loss, as it cost him as much to feed his horses as before. He therefore dealt with the case on its merits, and no reduction was made. The Government are prepared to meet and treat fairly any person who can make out a good case, but most of our mail contracts were entered into at the end of last year, or the beginning of this. The prices were fixed on the famine rates of a dry season in many parts of Australia; but if we get good seasons, with cheap fodder, I do not think many honorable senators will be_ found to point out that the contractors are getting twice as much as they would otherwise have got. When the contracts are concluded with prices high, we have to carry those high prices for one, two, or three years.
– That scarcely applies to the letter-carriers.
– I recognise that it is not fair to let these contracts in such a way that, under certain conditions, a man who is honestly carrying out his contract will lose by it. So far as the permanent employes referred to by Senator Needham are concerned, we know that the cost of keeping their horses is very great. In one case brought under my notice the fodder bill amounted to about 27s. a week. That is a distinct hardship, and it is not fair to ask Government employes to carry on the work of the Government at a loss to themselves. I hope some steps will be taken - I am not promising that they will be - to give relief where it can be given iri cases of that kind. Senator Guy brought under notice the matter of motor cars. This year’s Estimates show a very similar amount for up-keep compared with last, particularly in Tasmania.
– The amount for Victoria this year is £15,000, as against £8,000 last year.
– The postal business of Victoria is considerably greater than that of Tasmania, and the high cost of horse feed may have made it necessary -to extend the motor sendee considerably.
– Have they taken the vehicles from Tasmania to put them in Victoria?
– I hope not. A large amount is provided for unofficial postmasters and postmistresses, although there is no increase in Tasmania. The only reason that struck me for this was that for some years Senator Ready and Senator Keating have watched so keenly the interests of Tasmania that probably all the non-official people there are getting a wage commensurate with the work they are doing. I am ashamed of the pay given to these people in the other States. It is not at all proportionate to the services rendered. I hope that during the next few years the postal business will be thoroughly improved from end to end. To bring about an effective reform in this direction, the present Government should be assured of a long tenure of office. “Without this, I can see very little hope of improvement in the management of our large Departments. If we have three years of progressive administration followed by three years of hesitation or retrogression, there will not be much chance of putting these huge Departments on a sound business footing. At present I believe they are going ahead rapidly and in the right direction. “While I am here representing the Postal Department, I will not allow to pass unchallenged any statement that the business is not being conducted in a businesslike way. The more I look into the Department, the more I am convinced that the press of Victoria have made a butt of it for years, and I have made up my mind that for the future I shall sift very care- fully any statements they make, to the effect that there is unbusiness-like management in the Department. I shall certainly not take the statements of the press as truthful merely because they are printed and published, and I shall ask honorable senators to take the same attitude. Mr. McC. Anderson, the business man who has recently been looking into the finances of the Defence Department, is now going through the Postal Department. I trust that when he has completed his inquiries we shall ascertain where we have fallen short of perfection, if we have done so, and in what ways we can bring about improvements. I do not wish to delay the Committee. If I have not replied directly to some statements made by any honorable senators, on personal representation to me I will endeavour to get any grievances they have remedied, and if they are not remedied by the time we get to the Estimates I hope they will be well on the way to that end.
– Lest there might be a misunderstanding through the remark I made that a non-official postmistress was receiving £10 a year, I think that it is only fair to mention that the Post and Telegraph Department allows more than that sum, but the Commissioner of Railways in Tasmania withholds a certain proportion because the post-office is conducted in connexion with the railway station, and by the wife of a railway official. I would not like any honorable senator to take away a wrong impression.
Schedule agreed to.
Postponed clause 3, abstract, preamble, and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted .
Bill read a third time.
Order of Business - Answers to “Questions.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The first business to-morrow will be the Patents, Trade Marks, aud Designs Bill. I ask honorable senators, if they concur, to pass the measure through all its- stages at the one sitting. The second reading of the Insurance Bill will be moved, and, of course, there will be no objection to> the debate being adjourned.
. There is a matter to which I wish to invite the attention of not only Ministers, but of members of the Senate. On Thursday of last week I asked, without notice, a question of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. I was then requested to give notice of the question. I gave notice for the next day of sitting, and the question appeared on the business-paper for last Friday, on which date the Senate as usual met at 11 o’clock. In accordance with the notice given, I asked the question some little time after that hour. I was again asked by the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to postpone the asking of the question, and I accordingly postponed it to the next day of sitting, which was today, and to-day the question appeared on the notice-paper in these terms -
When I was going home on Friday after - .noon I was astonished to read in the Herald that the Postmaster-General had intimated in another place on that day that he was taking steps to communicate with the authorities in Grea’t Britain in order to have the rates of postage on mail matter for the troops addressed to Egypt -assimilated to the rates applicable to mail matter transmitted to Great Britain. At the outset, I resented that conduct, not because it seemed that I made a suggestion which the Postmaster-General had taken up, but as a member of the Senate. If the Postmaster-General before 11 o’clock on Friday morning was able, gratuitously as it seemed to me, to volunteer information of that character to another Chamber, it surely should have been competent for his representative here to answer my question after 11 o’clock on that day. He should have been able to furnish, not myself alone, but the Senate, with the information which was vouchsafed to the members of another place. I think that an explanation is due to the members of the Senate. “We are surely entitled to receive this information contemporaneously with an other place. If it is volunteered in another place, as a matter of public importance, the Senate is entitled at the same time, or as near thereto as possible, to receive the information. And if, in ordinary circumstance, the Senate is so entitled, how much more is it entitled when the question was asked here not only on that day, but on the previous day? I venture to say that, before 11 o’clock on Friday morning, the information had been vouchsafed in another place. I think the Senate should insist that its status in the parliamentary machine, and the rights and prerogatives of its members, should receive the same amount of respect and attention as is the case with another body and its members.
– If it is a question of maintaining the position of the Senate, I will be at one with Senator Keating in seeing that its rights, privileges, and prerogatives are in no wise interfered with. But I do not see that he has any real ground for the charge he made against the Postmaster-General or the Department. On Thursday afternoon he asked a question without notice. It is my invariable practice to ask that notice shall be given of almost all questions, because then we get definite and distinct answers. Is it reasonable to expect that a question consisting of three paragraphs, which is asked here at 3 o’clock on Thursday afternoon, can be placed in the hands of the Minister in time to be replied to by 11 o’clock next morning ? On Thursday, honorable senators ought to give notice of questions for the first day of sitting in the following week, because by Friday morning there is not sufficient time in which to get exact and definite answers. It is not with me a mere question of giving an answer in order to pass a matter by. With regard to whether the information which was given by the PostmasterGeneral in another place was identical with the information sought in the question asked here, I will certainly have an inquiry made, and acquaint the honorable senator with the result. It may be that the question asked elsewhere differed somewhat from the question asked here. Will the honorable senator assure me that it was the same as his question ?
– I will say this, that the crux of my question was the last paragraph - “ If they vary, cannot arrangements be made to assimilate the rates?” I read on Friday afternoon that the Postmaster-General stated in another place that he was cabling to have such arrangements made.
– I think that the honorable senator will see now that if he had asked three separate questions, the one which the Postmaster-General answered in the other place could not have been answered here. I do not know what he would have thought if I had answered the third of his questions and left the other two unanswered.
– I would have known, then, what were the answers. There would be no necessity to make any arrangements if the rates were not different.
– I am not going to defend the Department, right or wrong, but I think that, if answers to the three questions were not available, I was quite right in not answering any of them. I have not yet seen questions answered in part. On the fact that my colleague answered a question almost identical with the third of his questions, the honorable senator based a complaint that the other House has an advantage, and that the Senate is being overlooked. I do not agree with the honorable senator. I think, if it does happen sometimes that the other House is ahead of us, in some matters we are ahead of that House.
– The information appears to have been volunteered in another place on the day after I asked the questions here.
– I think the honorable senator has been hasty with his complaint, because the PostmasterGeneral may have been able to answer without notice a question which I would have had to demand notice of here. I am quite sure that there was no intention on his part to keep back information. I shall direct his attention to the matter, and, so far as the treatment of the Senate is concerned, I can assure honorable senators that nothing will be done to interfere with . its rights.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 May 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1915/19150513_senate_6_76/>.