6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether the Government will take into consideration the advisableness of appointing a Royal Commission to inquire as to the whereabouts of Senator Bakhap ?
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs noticed a statement in the press to the effect that ninety-six or ninetyeight Maltese have arrived in Australia ? If so, has he any information bearing on the rumour that some of these Maltese are on their way to Tasmania, and that the remainder are going to New South Wales? Have these men come to Australia under contract or as free men ?
– If the honorable senator will give notice of his question full information will be supplied to him.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister say whether, under the Alien Immigration Restriction Act, Maltese are absolutely debarred from entering the Commonwealth?
– They are debarred from entering the Commonwealth under contract unless permission to do so is obtained.
– Just so; the same as any Britisher.
Exemptions: Appeal Courts
– I wish to ask the Minister for Defence a question without notice in view of what was contained in a statement which I propose to read from a Western Australian newspaper?
– Order! It is not in accordance with my ruling that an honorable senator, in asking a question, should read a statement appearing in the press.
– In view of the impression prevailing as the result of statements which have appeared in the press, that bank clerks are to be especially exempt from the operation of the proclamation to be issued calling up men for military service, I ask if they are to be included in an exemption which will not apply to other classes of labour?
– The whole question of exemptions will be dealt with by the Courts under regulations, which it is expected will be issued within the next few days.
– Then there is to be no special exemption in the case of bank clerks ?
– None, except those provided for under the Act, and in the regulations framed under the Act. All applying to be exempt must come before the examination Courts to establish their claim to exemption.
– Should the conscription referendum be carried in the affirmative, the Government will have the power, should they deem it necessary, to call up men for service oversea between the ages of eighteen and sixty. Will the Minister for Defence give an assurance that single men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one years will not be called up?
– It is not the intention of the Government to call up those between eighteen and twenty-one years of age.
– Not in any circumstances ?
– Will the Minister for Defence say whether the Government have given any further consideration to the representations made in the Senate during the debate on the second reading of the Military Service Referendum Bill, as to the constitution of the appeal Courts proposed by the Government in that Bill ? Is it their intention to adhere to the original proposal ?
– The matter has been considered, but no alteration is proposed.
The following papers were presented : -
Bounties Act 1907-1912. - Return of Particu lars relating to Bounties Paid during Financial Year 1915-16.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906 -Land acquired under, at -
Bulimba, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Cairns, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Congwarra, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.
Papers presented to British Parliament-
Ireland: Royal Commission on Rebellion. - Minutes of Evidence and Appendix of Documents.
The War. - Note addressed to the United States Ambassador regarding the Examination of Parcels and Letter Mails.
Return to Order of the Senate of 14th September, 1916_
Defence: Officers ineligible for Commissions in Australian Imperial Force, &c.
War Precautions Act 1914-1915. - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 215, 216, 217, 219, 224, 225, 226.
Report of Public Works Committee, together with minutes of evidence and appendices, on the proposed extension of the Pine Creek to Katherine River railway southwards as far as Bitter and Mataranka Springs, presented by Senator Lynch.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
With reference to the delivery of the award in the Arbitration Court by Mr. Justice Powers in the cases of the Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Officers’ Association and the Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association, wherein His Honour is reported to have said: “ On the whole, he proposed to fix£ 132 a year as a minimum salary for an unmarried officer in the General Division, and£ 126 in the Clerical Division. Parliament might, after allowing the award to come into operation, if it thought fit to do so, pass an Act dealing with the minimum wage of officers in the Public Service” -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
The answer to the first question is that 230,000 in answering the War Census card described themselves as such. As the particulars desired, however, are only available with respect to those between the ages of 18 and 45,
I will confine my answers to them. It must be borne in mind that there were also a number of cards issued to which no replies were received.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
(By leave). - The following are the Government’s financial proposals for the war: - The Repatriation Fund is for the assistance and benefit of Australian soldiers and of their dependants, and administered by trustees as they in their discretion think fit. The levy will amount to 1½ per cent, on all estates, real and personal, of the value of £500 and over. The levy may be paid in three equal yearly instalments, or the contributor may pay cash, in which latter case he will be entitled to a rebate or discount, calculated on a basis of war loan interest for the period covered by the prepayment. The proposed entertainment tax will amount to½d. on a ticket costing 3d.,1d. on a ticket costing 6d., and 1d. for each additional 6d. or part thereof. Under the War-time Profits Tax Bill 1915-16, the Government propose to take 50 per cent, of the profits for the year 1915-16, allowing an exemption of £200 and a profit standard of 5 per cent, and 6 per cent. The Government propose for the year 1916-17 that the profit standard shall be 7 and 8 per cent., with an exemption of £200, but propose to take all the war profits over this sum. The Government are of opinion that an increase of 25 per cent, in the income tax is justifiable during thisyear of war. It is proposed to reduce the exemption to the sum of £100, and to call upon all persons receiving an income of £100 and up to £200 inclusive to pay income tax at a flat rate of £1. The exemption allowed in the case of children will be raised from £13 to £26 for each child under sixteen years of age. Married men and single men with dependants will be exempted up to £156. Summarized, this taxation is estimated to produce the following amounts: - Proposed entertainments tax (say, half-year), £1,000,000; proposed war-time profits tax for 1915-16, £1,000,000; proposed wartime profits tax for 1916-17, £2,000,000; proposed 25 per cent, increase income tax, £1,000,000; levy on wealth for Repatriation Fund, first of three yearly instalments (say), £3,333,000. I move-
That the paper be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
We shall meet to-morrow. A Works Supply Bill will come up from another place, and has to be passed.
– Will an opportunity be given to discuss the financial proposals of the Government ?
– The honorable senator had a full and complete opportunityjust now. The motion was, “ That the paper be printed.” That motion was seconded, and I put it very slowly and deliberately in order that honorable senators might have an opportunity of discussing it if they so desired. It is quite out of order for Senator Stewart to debate it now.
– I wished to discuss these proposals, but did not desire to do so until I had them before me in print.
– The honorable senator could have moved the adjournment of the debate. I would not have opposed it. In fact, I was told by the Government Whip that the honorable senator was going to move the adjournment of the debate.
– Can it not be done now with the consent of the Senate ?
– I cannot put the question again. I have already declared the motion carried, and I cannot now, after a subsequent motion has been submitted, reopen it.
– I crave the indulgence of the Senate whilst I discuss several matters of importance in relation to a portion of the Commonwealth which, unfortunately, has been for some time neglected by this Parliament. A few weeks ago, I visited the Northern Territory, and during my sojourn there I took advantage of the facilities that were provided to enable me to inquire into the conditions which obtain in that part of our continent. This afternoon I desire to place before honorable senators some recommendations for the better government of that Territory.
In the first place, I wish to stress the great disabilities under which the people suffer at the very front door of the Territory. At the Port Darwin jetty, for example, the facilties for handling goods are deplorably inadequate, and, as a consequence, the cost of landing them there is relatively higher than it is in any other part of the Commonwealth. Only a little time prior to my visit, the jetty had been seriously damaged. Two vessels had collided with it, and, as a re- suit, a considerable portion of it bad been rendered absolutely useless. This jetty is an L-shaped one, and at the heel of it there is a turntable. Every truck going alongside a ship has to be pushed on to the jetty, turned on the turntable, and then run along the wharf. The same process has to be repeated in order to return the truck to the shore end. This involves a very considerable delay in the work of transhipping good&. At the present time, Messrs. Vestey Brothers are doing the stevedoring work on the jetty, and their manager assured me that this delay, when a full gang of sixty men is employed, is equivalent to a loss of thirty-three hours per day. At the rate of wages paid in Port Darwin this constitutes a very serious handicap. After the goods have been landed, there is very little store accommodation for them in the station yard. Altogether the facilities provided by the Government are utterly inadequate to enable the trade to be economically dealt with. The bonded stores and the free stores are merely sheds about 40 feet square. One can imagine the conditions which obtain on account of this insufficient store accommodation when a vessel arrives with a cargo of 300, 400, or 500 tons. I understand that there is a project afoot for an extension of existing harbor facilities at Port Darwin, but, in my judgment, that extension will prove altogether inadequate.
The next matter to which I desire to direct attention is that of the railway. The railway plant at Port Darwin exhibits every evidence of neglect on the part of the authorities. The rolling stock is badly out of repair - it is dirty, un,painted, and altogether unsuitable for the work it has to perform. Of course, it is narrow-gauge rolling stock, and I am not anxious to see it replaced, because I am hopeful that that gauge will be altered in the near future. The workshops are 1 miles distant from the township, but no facilities are provided for taking the workmen backwards and forwards. They have either to camp at the workshops, or to walk to and from their employment. Whether this walk be undertaken in the wet or dry season it is a very uncomfortable one indeed. As a matter of fact, in some portions of the wet season it would be impossible, because the roads are then inches, if not feet, under water.
The workshops are not sufficiently . commodious for present requirements, nor are they properly constructed, because during the time I was there temporary repairs were being undertaken to combat the ravages of the white ants, which are very destructive in that part of Australia. I found also, when I went over the workshop, that the superintendent had to perform his own clerical duties, and was not even provided with the services of a shorthand clerk. I ask members of the Government if they think it wise that a man in such a responsible position, and drawing between £400 and £500 a year, should be required to do his own clerical work and under such unsatisfactory conditions as at Port Darwin ? The Government should see to i£ that this particular officer is provided with clerical assistance. I found that excellent work, equal to anything done in any other part of the Commonwealth, is’ carried out in the Darwin work-shops. Indeed, some work which I saw in progress is not done in many of the large shops elsewhere. The manager has a small blast furnace. The workmen make their own patterns for mouldings, and while I was there they were using up all the old scrap-iron to make castings for the work in hand. It is only fair that employees of the Government doing such excellent work as is done at Darwin should get the full credit for it. Now, I want to say something with regard to the plant that the officer in charge has under his control. Included in that plant are three locomotives purchased from Queensland, and built in 1891 - twenty-five years ago. Those engines are quite out of date, and the cost to the Commonwealth was altogether out of proportion to the life they still have to run and the work they are called upon to do in the Northern Territory. Their original cost to the Commonwealth was about £1,730 each. In addition to that, they cost £38 to strip at Brisbane, and £31 lis. 6d. f.o.b. Brisbane, or a total of £1,799 lis. 6d. at Brisbane. Then there was the freight, £239 7s. id., making a grand total of £2,038 18s. 7d. for each locomotive landed in the Northern Territory. This is an outrageous price to pay for an engine that had done so much work in Queensland before it was bought by the Commonwealth Government. In addition to the cost already mentioned, there would also be the expense of assembling them at Port Darwin, and effecting whatever repairs may have been necessary before they commenced running. Those engines were supposed to haul a load of 170 tons, as compared with 156 tons by the engines supplied by the South Australian Government during the time the Territory was under the administration of that State. This difference in haulage power is not very great, and, moreover, the South Australian engines had been running for a great number of years, and had done excellent work. Another objection to the Queensland engine lies in the fact that its wheel base - 10 ft. 4 in. - is too long. This is a serious disability on the Northern Territory railway, where the curves are so short. The South Australian engines, with a wheel base of 7 ft. 4 in., give rauch better working- results, because the bearings of the Queensland engines, which have a longer wheel base, are continually running hot, and they require a great deal of lubricating cil. The Darwin work-shop is also undermanned. I cannot blame the Government for this, except to the extent that engine-fitters are difficult to get, and difficult to keep, because the living conditions are not made sufficiently attractive for the men. As the result of the work-shop being short-handed, repairs are hung up for many months. When I was there, I saw an engine that had been on the stocks for several months, and there appeared to be no possibility of it being sent out to work for some considerable time. The Government should take action to make the living conditions for their mechanics more attractive. At present it is impossible to get married men to go there. The bulk of the men are living in huts and tents in the neighbourhood of the work-shop and under conditions that are altogether unsatisfactory in every respect. I would suggest that the Government, with the idea of overcoming these difficulties, should erect cottages for the workmen. Such buildings, designed for Northern Territory conditions, cost not more than about £400 each, but the workmen, as a rule, have not sufficient money to go to that expense, and at present there is no legislative provision by which the Government can make advances to workmen who may desire to erect homes for themselves. The Government should take this matter into consideration, because, if homes are provided, married men may be persuaded to take their wives with them and settle in the Northern Territory. Population is urgently needed there, and this is one of the means by which it may be obtained.
During my visit I saw the portion of therailway line from Pine Creek to Katherine River which is under construction, and I found that a large number of men employed on that section were working under what is known as the butty-gang’ system. Industrialists in Australia areopposed to any system of contract working. I had an opportunity of interviewing several of the men working on this system, and they were making as much as £50 per month. A price is set for theremoval of spoil from cuttings and so on, and the men take the work at that price. They are not allowed to work for more than eight hours per day, but they work early in the morning and late in the afternoon, and put some push into their work; and, as a result, they earn wages at the rate I have stated. The Government are not paying an excessive price for the work, because it is paid for only at current rates for such work, but under the system adopted they get the work done more quickly, and the men have the advantage of earning so much more money than they would otherwise earn. I donot mention this as an argument in favour of either the contract or butty-gang system, but because I think it is my duty to say what I found in the Northern Territory. Any honorable senator can confirm my statement by applying to the pay office of the Railway Department at Port Darwin. I found that a number of Patagonians, Spaniards, Russians, Greeks, and others were employed on construction works in the Territory, and I assert that these incompetent foreigners are responsible for the cost of the North-South railway.
– How many of them are there in the Northern Territory?
– I do not know, but there must be some hundreds of them. I wish to all public attention to this condition of affairs. Every honorable senator is agreed that Australia shall be a white man’s country; but if it is not to be a white man’s country, let us get” rid of these Greeks and Patagonians, and introduce Chinese. I would infinitely prefer Chinese to the class of men who are entering the Northern Territory now and working on our railway there.
– The honorable senator also objects to Chinese.
– I do, absolutely ; but if we must have alien labour, I would give my vote for the Chinaman before I would give it for the Greek any time. The foreigners to whom I have referred are altogether unsuitable for the Northern Territory. They cannot work, and they will not work. It is true that thev are members of the Australian Workers Union and are getting the current rate of wages, but that is because that organization must admit them for its own preservation and the maintenance of a fair rate of wages in the Territory. The Government have established a store at Pine Creek from which the workmen engaged on the railway are supplied. There are a comparatively few Britishers there, and a few Russians, to whom no great exception can be taken. But- the storekeeper assured me that the account between the Greek workmen and the store amounted to, in many cases, not more than £1 per month. That should give honorable senators some idea of the kind of citizens these people are.
– They should get a vote for thrift.
– What do they live on?
– They live on anything that flies, or crawls, or runs. It does not matter whether it is a crow, a hawk, a lizard, or anything else, they all go into the pot. I am assured of that by men working alongside of these people living in the Territory, and I believe the statement.
– Do not they find any use for the white ant?
– I do not think they have come down yet to the use of the white ant for food; but if they did, there are plenty of them there for them. I speak strongly on this matter, because, if it is our intention to people the Northern Territory with white people, we should discourage the Patagonian and Greek from coming to Australia.
– Are there many Pata gonians in the Territory?
– Not a great many, but there were a considerable number there. I do not vouch” for the correctness of the statement, but I was told that some two years ago a shipment of Patagonians left their homeland for the Northern Territory. This was before the war broke out, and the ship in which they were coming was commandeered for war purposes. They were nearly two years on their way between their homeland and Port Darwin, and it cost nearly £200 per man to land them at Port Darwin. I want to know if that is true, and, if so, who is paying this passage-money. I do not know under what Government they were introduced, but such statements as I have reported are made quite freely in Port Darwin, and if they are true they are a serious reflection upon some Government of the Commonwealth that was responsible for bringing those men to the Northern Territory at such a price. I know that men introduced in that way are supposed to repay their passagemoney, but whether the Patagonians have done so or not I am not in a position to say. It is clearly most unprofitable to bring Patagonians and Greeks to the Territory. I interviewed one of the bankers at Port Darwin, and asked whether he had any objection to tell me how much money was being sent from Port Darwin to Greece. He had no objection whatever, and he told me that from the commencement of the year till June or July no less than £3,650 had been sent to Greece through his bank alone. That money has been sent out of the country, and it would not be so bacl if we were satisfied that the men who received it actually earned it. I am convinced that they did not earn a fourth of it, because they are not capable of doing so. This sum is in addition to drafts sent to London, Paris, and elsewhere. What those drafts were sent for the banker did not know, nor did he care. It is better that we should spend the money of the Commonwealth in settling people of our own race in the Northern Territory, who may be trusted to spend the money they earn in the Commonwealth instead of sending it out of the country, as these Greeks have done. I heard it reported that a considerable quantity of gold and silver had also been sent out of the country, but t,// banker assured me that there was no gold there, and that there could not have been very much silver sent out of the country. On the question of the extension of the railway, I might be permitted, in passing, to refer to the report of the Public Works Committee presented to the Senate only to-day. 1 do not know what is recommended, but if it recommends any extension of the railway from the Katherine River to Bitter Springs, the Government should see to it that only European labour is employed on the next section of the line, and that provision is made to enable the men engaged on the work to live under reasonable conditions and to obtain clean food at a reasonable figure. We should do all that is possible to induce our own men to go to the Northern Territory to engage in the work, because if they do I am certain that a large number will remain to settle in the Territory, whilst the Greeks and Patagonians will not remain there for any length of time.
Another matter to which I wish to direct attention is the position of railway officers in the_ Territory. Many of them were previously employed by the South Australian Government, and were taken over by the Commonwealth on the transfer of the Territory. They considered rightly that when they were transferred they would be Commonwealth officers, and entitled to the same privileges as other officers of the Commonwealth. Many of them are, comparatively speaking, old servants in the employ of the Commonwealth now, because their status was not to be interfered with when they were transferred. They find now that they are losing status and cannot be transferred to the south. They are in the Territory, and they must remain there. That was not so when f.hey were under the South Australian Government. I was in the Railway Department there. Several of my friends were sent from Adelaide and other parts of South Australia to the Northern Territory, and it was recognised that after being five years in the Territory they were entitled to be transferred south. No provision has been made for transferring these men to the south now that they are Commonwealth employees. That is unfair. They should not be expected to spend the whole of their days in the Northern Territory, and put up with the climate there, which, though it is not a bad climate, might be very much better. I find also that increases of salary to these men approved by this Parliament were refused to them. Similar increases were paid to officers in other Departments in the Northern Territory. It took me thu best part of a month telegraphing back- wards and forwards to the Minister for Home Affairs to secure the payment tothese men of increases passed by this Pailiament. I wish to know by what authority - whether it be that of the Minister for Home Affairs, under whose control the railways are, or the Administrator of the Territory - these increases were withheld. As the result of about a dozen wires between myself and the Home Affairs Department I learned that the men got the increases due to them sinceJune on the day after I left Port Darwin. I hope that in future no similar complaint will have to be made. Every man at Port Darwin is a unionist, and these railway officers formed an association of their own in order to bring pressure to bear through the Administrator upon the Government in Melbourne. They met as unionists do in the usual way, and presented their case to the Administrator.
During the time I was in Port Darwin I had considerable discussion with the executive of the association on one or two occasions, and they placed in my hands a record of the whole of the proceedings between themselvesand the Administrator in the effort to secure a recognition of their status as permanent officers and the increases of salary due to them. The union was formed in order to securea status for its members, a recognition of the conditions of work, reasonable hours of employment, and the right of transfer to other branches of the Commonwealth Service. After appealing to the Administrator, and not receiving the satisfaction to which they thought they were entitled, they sent a petition to the then Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Glynn, but did not receive a very sympathetic reply. After having been turned down by the Minister, they went a step further. They have furnished me with the following statement, in explanation of their attitude : -
It was decided by the association that all members of the Northern Territory Public Service Clerical Branches ought to join the Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association. Prior to this decision, the Northern Territory Public Service Association had endeavoured to get registered under the Commonwealth Arbitration Act, to appeal to the Court on a number of questions. In the reply of Mr. Glynn to the association’s petition, the Minister stated that the claim of the association that
Northern Territory public servants were a branch of the Commonwealth Service could not bc admitted. The Judge of the Arbitration Court, through the Industrial Registrar, ruled (1) that their association, through its heterogeneous character, could not be recognised as an industrial union; (2) that members of the Northern Territory service should join the Commonwealth Public Service Association, and thus approach the Court. The latter recommendation shows that the Judge was at variance with the Minister in this, that he regarded them legally as Commonwealth servants.
Acting on the Judge’s advice, they sought to join the Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association. They received application forms, and found that it was essential to state page of gazettal of the name of each applicant before his application would be valid. In fact, clerical workers in the Northern Territory service had no chance of joining the association before the Northern Territory Public Service classification had been gazetted.
The association, therefore, asked the Administrator for the gazettal of the classification to be expedited. This was in October or November, 1015. No satisfaction being received from the local powers that be, the association in March, 1916, wired to the Minister. The association has not even received the courtesy of a reply. This delay has been long enough to prevent the Northern Territory clerks from joining in time for the Federal Arbitration Court considering Northern Territory grievances, as the ease is now over, and a log fixed to cover some period ahead. The delay in the publication of the classification also gives the Administrator power to withhold all such increments as he thinks fit, all officers being, strictly speaking, temporary, and, therefore, not entitled to any privileges other than those Eis Excellency grants as a matter of grace.
In a letter to the honorary secretary of the association, the Government Secretary informed them that all officers are temporary until the classification is published.
They are, therefore, in a worse position (in spite of ordinance and regulations) than when the Commonwealth took over control. Prevented from joining the Commonwealth Clerical Association by the non-gazettal of the classification, they have no choice left but to join cither (1) the Federated Clerks’ Union (of doubtful advantage to them), or (2) the Australian Workers’ Union, which their members fear to join, as, owing to the floating and heterogeneous nature of the Northern Territory branch of the Australian Workers’ Union, they hardly feel safe from being called out on a general strike.
As regards salaries, they are worse off than the Public Service in any part of Australia. The economic pressure in the Northern Territory is greater. Cost of living is very high, and rising apace. It was emphasized that meat and bread are 100 per cent, dearer than in 1912, and that hotel tariffs have risen enormously since the Commonwealth took over the hotels; also that most of the officers are single men, and have nowhere to stay but at the hotels. Not only are the wages not 25 per cent, more than southern rates, as promised bv Mr. Thomas (ex-Minister) four years ago, but actually they can point to many men who are doing responsible work at sweating rates. This applies conspicuously to employees in the Accounts Branch, which is worked very hard, and has most responsible work. Officers in responsible jobs are paid less than barmen and labourers. Mention was made of the case of an officer until lately receiving £150 a year, just recently increased to £180 odd, but less than the minimum, his age being twenty-three. It was pointed out that he was a most efficient officer, worth £250 a year.
The absence of classification enables gross unfairness to take place. Certain men who have been induced to regard themselves as permanent, and have years of service behind them, are getting less wages than new hands in less responsible positions who are absolutely temporary, and, therefore, have to be paid the minimum wage.
Many officers, by their scale of wages entitled to increments, have been unable to get any increase for periods up to two or more years, while others, like the Government Secretary, have been jumped up enormously. In the last three years the Government Secretary’s salary has been increased over £300, and his position likewise, while others, perhaps far more competent clerks in the Service, have probably not received £20 increase in the same time. This discrimination would not be possible if a classification were in existence.
It is chiefly the family men who object to the present hours-
Under the system instituted by the Administrator the men had to start work at 7 a.m., which is equivalent to 6.15 a.m. in Melbourne. Honorable senators will, therefore, realize how early these officers had to get to their work at Darwin. After repeated representations had been made to him, the Administrator agreed to allow them to come to work at 7.30 a.m. They leave off work at 3.30 p.m. There is little or no amusement to be had, and the only place to which single men can go is the hotel. Surely the Government do not think it a fair thing that single officers in the Territory should be encouraged to spend their long afternoons and evenings in hotels.
– The Minister for Home Affairs would not indorse that.
– The Administrator has been allowed to put the regulation into force, and keep it in force. Representations have been made to the Administrator, and deputations have waited on him, and’ representations have also been made to the Minister, but - all in vain -
It is chiefly the family men who object to the present hours. Breakfast for father and children, dinner for father and children, in a family at different times in a country where domestic assistance is difficult to get. Yet by a large majority the association ballotted in favour of the old South Australian hours, and, in spite of protests and deputations, the Administrator is adamant. It was pointed out how the children were affected by it; also an epidemic of coining late, which affected school discipline, and other disadvantages.
Many children attending the Darwin public school come from 2J miles, on foot, daily, a G-mile walk every day, probably without breakfast, to he in time for school, and no lunch till 2 p.m. - allowing one hour for the walk back in the heat of the Darwin midday sun. This obtained until quite recently. Now they are taken home by special train daily.
The schoolmaster at Darwin told me it was most difficult to get the children to attend on time. There is school for only half a day, the children being liberated about 1 o’clock; but many have to go without breakfast in order to be on time.
The various members of the committee emphatically asserted that such additional privileges as they might have - as in regard to longer leave, furlough, &c, than the ordinary Commonwealth public servant - they would gladly sacrifice to come under the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner and Act, and have the right of transfer, as well as the right to join such Commonwealth Public Service unions and societies as would give a right of appeal to an Arbitration Court, and escape from the bureaucratic regime extant here.
Various other statements were put before me, one from the Registrar of the Arbitration Court. He pointed out to the officers that their best course was to join any organization in the south which, under their rules, they could join; but the effect of that would be that one or two clerks could join one union and one or two another. If, therefore, they held a meeting in Darwin, it would be a meeting of only one or two belonging to each organization, an arrangement which would not assist them to obtain any of the benefits conferred by the Arbitration Act in the southern States. The men have done all that was humanly possible to bring their grievances before the proper authorities, but, so far, have had n£ satisfaction.
Let me point out some of the anomalies in the salaries of the officers in the Territory. I know nothing whatever of their qualifications, but I intend to quote a few instances, with a view to showing how unreasonable are the conditions under which they serve. For example, one officer with eight years’ service to his credit is in re- ceipt of £156 a year; another, with two and a half years’ service, is paid £186 a year.
– Are these two men married ?
– I cannot say. An officer who has been in the service six months receives £216 a year; another, with four months’ service, is paid the same amount. An officer who has been in the service four years is in receipt of £216 per annum, another with seven years’ service is paid £200 per annum; and still another with sixteen years of service receives £226 per annum. An officer who has been in the service four months receives £200 per annum, another with two months’ service receives the same amount; another with fourteen years’ service is paid £240 per annum, while another with six months’ service receives £216 per annum. These are some of the glaring cases of inequality, from the stand-point of the salaries paid, which exist in the Commonwealth Service in the Northern Territory. It is high time that something was done to remove these anomalies, and to create a very much more satisfactory service, than obtains there at present. I am not going to quote from the regulations under which these men work, but I will say that this Parliament has been too prone to assent to regulations without knowing what they contained. I feel confident that, if honorable senators had taken the trouble to ascertain the effect of many of these regulations, they would not have agreed to them. I take my full share of responsibility in this connexion, but I say that in future no regulations relating to the Public Service of the Northern Territory will be laid on the table of this Chamber without undergoing the most searching scrutiny.
Having dealt with railway matters, I come now to the mining industry. We frequently hear from the lips of honorable senators, who are as ignorant of Northern Territory affairs as I was prior to my visit there, that the Territory is a “ white elephant,” and that it is not worth bothering about. Now I recently visited a large number of mines between Port Darwin and Pine Creek, and I know of no similar area in any part of the Commonwealth which contains so many promising “ shows.”
– They have mostly been promising, have they not)
– The Mount Bonnie mine, I venture to say, will, ere long, be one of the best paying propositions in Australia. Its prospects are excellent. After the wet season is over, it is intended to erect a smelting plant on the mine, which is being worked in a thoroughly scientific way. A tremendous body of ore has already been exposed, and I venture to say that very soon this mine alone will prove a considerable asset to the Territory. There are many other mines which are opening up well, but I want more particularly to deal with mines which have been ruined as the result of incompetent management. There is, for example, the Zappapar mine. It is a gold show near Brock’s Creek. There a tremendous amount of English capital was spent in sinking a shaft on the edge of the creek. As soon as the creek came down in flood, not only the shaft, but the whole mine, was filled with water. The money expended there was spent in providing beautiful residences for the manager and his staff, in installing an electric lighting plant, and in providing billiard tables, &c. The result was that, when is became necessary to find money for the development of the mine there was no money left. Consequent upon this mismanagement, the show was absolutely damned. Then there is the Faded Lily mine, which is also situated in the Brock’s Creek district. It had a shaft sunk upon it to a depth of 150 feet - a shaft which was lined all the way down with steel plates. Capital was expended upon this sort of frippery instead of on developmental work. That is why the mining industry in the Territory has been damned. But I am satisfied that under a better system of supervision excellent results will be forthcoming. Splendid developmental work has already been done under the able administration of Dr. Jensen, -whose services, for some reason or other, the Government have dispensed with. I know that quite recently the control of the mines was taken out of his hands. I have no fault to find with that, but he is certainly entitled to every credit for the splendid work he has done in the Territory. Then, the lack of decent roads from the mines to the railway imposes a cartage charge varying from £6 to £20 per ton upon the mining products of this part of the Commonwealth. That, in itself, is a very serious handicap.
I trust that the Government will see that as early as possible decent roads are constructed, so that the mines of the Territory will not be unduly handicapped in this way.
– Are not the Brock’s Creek mines adjacent 4o the railway?
– Yes; but some mines are distant from 20 to 50 miles from the railway. The ore has to be carried that distance, either on pack horses or on waggons, at a cost varying from £6 to £20 per ton, apart from ihe freight charged to convey it to the smelters in the other States. Many tin-fields are now being opened up in the Brock’s Creek district. I visited several of them, and I have no hesitation in saying that in the near future this portion of the Territory will become a very rich mining field indeed. The development of the mining industry there will do more than anything else to solve the problem of popula tion. I regard railway construction and mining operations as the primary factors in the settlement of the Territory for many years to come. I know that a good many persons, including the Administrator, believe that this problem will be solved by means of agriculture. Personally, I believe that farming in the Territory will come, but before it can come we must have population there.
I wish- now to deal with the Batchelor Farm, which was established primarily for experimental purposes. I had the privilege of spending a couple of days there. I have no doubt that the institution can be made a success from the stand-point for which it was originally founded, but it cannot be made a success otherwise. It was never intended that it should pay its way. Ai experimental farm, indeed, is bound to be carried on at a dead loss if it is to render any real service to the community. But, at the same time, the community receives a very substantial, though indirect, benefit from its labours. In every State of the Commonwealth from three to ten times more money is spent on experimental farming than has been expended on the Batchelor Farm. This farm embraces an area of 2,560 acres. It is not half large enough for cattle-raising purposes. I have no fault to find with running stock upon it, but it ought certainly to be twice its present size if it is to be so utilized. However, I wish to deal with it more from the standpoint of an experimental farm. Upon it a splendid house was erected by a previous Government. When I was there, that house had gone practically to rack and ruin. It had not been painted. Nothing had been done to keep it in repair, the white ants were well into it, and, indeed, the neglect to which it had been subjected almost evidenced a desire that it should tumble to the ground as soon as possible. It gave me the idea that no one was responsible for what became of the Commonwealth money. A beautiful house was built there, it was elaborately furnished, but on the occasion of my visit only three pieces of furniture were left, and no one appeared to know what had become of the balance.
– I suppose the white ants had got it.
– No, because, as a rule, white ants, if they make inroads on timber, leave some trace of their depredations; but there was no trace of this furniture. There is a stable there, and also a machinery shed full of machinery. I suppose that, at the Batchelor Farm, there is enough machinery to work a 3,000-acre farm in any part of the Commonwealth ; but the machinery, like everything else, is absolutely going to ruin. I do not know who is responsible for this state of affairs, but surely it is somebody’s business to apportion the blame.
– Surely the Administrator knows something about this matter.
– If the Administrator does not know, he ought to know. Right through the Northern Territory it is possible to get splendid water at a depth of less than 200 feet, and although there is a well on the Batchelor Farm, it was not working when I was there, because the leather on the plunger had worn out, and it had become useless. The manager assured me that when he went down there he reported that the well was not working, and a man was sent out from Darwin to effect repairs. This man had a look at it, and said that it could be repaired in a very short time. That was two months ‘ previous to my visit, and when I was there the well was in the same condition, and the manager of the farm had to raise the water he required with the aid of the petrol engine.- For all I know to the contrary, he is doing that to-day, and using petrol to do work which, if the pump had been in proper order, could have been done by the windmill. This is only an indication in brief of the general waste going on at the farm. No experiments are being carried out there at all. It is quite true that I saw some cotton growing, and although I am not a judge of that product, I should say that the splendid results from the first year’s cotton bush cultivation justifies the belief that a very profitable industry may be established in the Northern Territory.
In the vicinity of the Batchelor Farm there is a large number of natives, and while I do not advocate the employment of coloured labour, I am satisfied that the natives there can be made to do a lot of useful work. Mr. Love knows the natives well, for, prior to his appointment as manager of the farm, he had been on the Daly River. .1 found that, under his direction, they had been doing a good deal of useful work in the way of clearing, and I am satisfied that, under proper supervision, they would be able to handle large quantities of tropical plants, such as the cotton bush, so that the labour problem need not necessarily stand in the way of its development. I have said that I am not an advocate of working the natives, but, after all, they are our own natives; we have taken their country from them, and it should be our duty to give them employment if possible.
I was not very much impressed with the class of cattle I saw on the Batchelor Farm. All the stock were trotted out for my benefit, and among them was a bull which I understand is (known as !the “£20,000,000 bull.” He was one of the Burmese cattle that had been brought over early in the stages of experimental cattle raising in the Territory, and, unfortunately, he brought the tick with him, with the result that it has cost the cattle-owners of the Northern Territory £20,000,000, up to the present, to combat the tick pest. I understand, also, that that particular animal is the only pure-bred bull of his class in the Northern Territory; but I do not think much of him, or of his progeny. The tick presents a very serious problem to cattle-owners, because stock hae to be dipped about every month; but I understand the pest may be kept down to a considerable extent by clearing an l burning. In addition to the cotton plant growing at the Batchelor Farm, I saw, also, some broom millet, and rice; bat before anything can be done to determine the future of the Territory from an agricultural point of view, it is necessary, in my opinion, that we should have a thoroughly qualified expert - a man who shall receive a decent wage, be given decent con ditions, and expected to look after the experiments authorized. There shouldbe no need to go to India for such a man. It should be possible to get a highlyqualified expert from the tropical part of Queensland ; and, having found such a man, we should make it worth his while to go to the Northern Territory and to stay there.
Now I want to say a word or two with regard to the settlers - those men who were induced to take up land in that part of Australia as the result of specious promises and literature that was circulated far and wide. I am afraid that, up to the present, very few of them have made a success of their venture.I had the privilege of going over some of their farms, and, while I found plenty of evidence of hard work on the part of the settlers, unfortunately it appeared that most of their labour had been misapplied. The Northern Territory Ordinance published by the Government, and the regulations issued by the Administrator, clearly set out that the people who settled in the Northern Territory would receive advances up to £800. A pamphlet, issued some years ago, under the authority of the Hon. Patrick McMahon Glynn, M.P. - at that time Minister for External Affairs - included a table indicating the advances which would be made to settlers, but when the men took up land they found that these advances were not nearly as liberal as appeared to be indicated in the Ordinance or the regulations. I met several of the settlers, and, as a result of my representations, the Secretary of the Advances to Settlers Board convened a meeting of the Board, so that I could discuss the situation with them, because I felt so keenly that they were not giving effect to the intentions of the Government. At that meeting the whole facts were placed before me, but still I was not satisfied that the settlers were being treated with that liberality that they had a right to expect, so I obtained from Mr. Worgan, the Chairman of the Board, a statement showing the position of two or three settlers. Upon my return to Mel bourne, I submitted this statement to the Crown Law authorities, and they assured me that, under the strict letter of the Ordinance and the regulations, the settlers were getting all that they were entitled to. I have no hesitation in saying, however, that, as things are at present, the settlers cannot possibly carry on. Their money is all gone, and, according to the ruling of the Advances to Settlers Board and the Crown Law authorities, their credit is gone also, so there is nothing for them to do but to abandon their holdings, unless they receive special consideration at the hands of the Government. I hope the Government will look into this matter very carefully, and see if assistance cannot be given to the settlers to enable them to carry on.
Now, turning to the Botanical Gardens at Darwin, I want to remind the Senate that those gardens have played a fairly prominent part in the agricultural development of the Northern Territory; but, instead of being of any use or benefit to the people of the Territory, they have been so neglected as to become a veritable wilderness. A few years ago, during the life of the late Mr. Holtze, the Botanical Gardens were a source of pleasure and advantage to the people at Port Darwin. When I visited them they were being used to depasture horses belonging to the Government. These horses were feeding on valuable and rare botanical plants, the like of which are scarcely to be found in any other part of Australia. Since Mr. Holtze died, many of the plants have been given away, sold, or stolen, and what was some time ago a Garden of Eden and a beauty spot for the enjoyment of the people of Port Darwin and visitors to the place, is to-day a wilderness. I wish to emphasize the fact that some person in authority should have prevented this from occurring. There is a splendid avenue there of cocoanut palms, and the white ants have been allowed to get into them.
– They appear to have got into the Administration.
– The white ants get into everything in the Northern Territory, and they seem to make more progress with the destruction of things that are useful and valuable than with things that are worthless and useless. It is a great pity that these valuable Botanical
Gardens should have been allowed to get into the state they are in now. Many years ago I heard reports in South Australia of their value from a botanical point of view,. but to-day they remain as a witness only to the carelessness and ineptitude of those whose duty it was to toke care of them.
– South Australia’s records show that there were very good experimental plots in those gardens.
– Most of the vegetables used in Port Darwin were grown there at one time, but to-day the place is abandoned. No doubt the gardens could again be put under cultivation if some one took sufficient interest in the welfare of the place to see that this was done.
In speaking of Batchelor Farm, I referred to the possibilities of the natives as workmen in certain forms of labour, but the aborigines, instead of being taken in hand and properly looked after, have become paupers, loafers, and thieves. Everything possible seems to have been done to make them worthless. Quite recently fresh regulations were framed regarding the care of the aborigines. They wore brought from far and near to a compound placed at their disposal, strange to say, almost in the centre of’ the town of Port Darwin. About a mile from the business part of the town there is the aborigines’ compound, and beyond that is Mielly Point, where the aristocrats of the Government Service live. We heard something about the homes constructed for these people at Mielly Point, but now they are separated from the business part of Port Darwin by the natives’ compound. I had the privilege of going over it, and, whilst one portion on the higher ground is very well kept, and there is little to offend the eye, when you get down to the beach, and see the native there in his home life, the conditions existing afford very little room, for the congratulation of those responsible for them. Although the officials may be doing what they can to look after the natives, it is found quite impossible to prevent the class of whites I have already referred to interfering with them. As a result, the aborigines at Port Darwin represent the most effective means of spreading venereal disease. Port Darwin is full of the disease, and the natives are re sponsible for it. I have no hesitation in saying that a lock hospital should be established, well away from Port Darwin, and the natives should be removed from the vicinity of the town. I consulted medical officers there, and they are of opinion that the natives should be removed from the present compound, away over to the other side of the Bay, and far from the vicinity of Port Darwin.
– I am informed that even the dogs at Port Darwin have the disease.
– I was told that also. I saw cases in the hospital and in the compound so loathsome that no man would attempt to describe them.’ Natives suffering from these diseases are, in some cases, occupants of the Public Hospital in Port Darwin. It is true that they are placed in an isolated ward, some distance from tlie hospital, but they should not be there. Regulations should be made to deal with the matter, and the natives should be compelled to earn their own livelihood. That would be no hardship upon them. Many households at Port Darwin employ black women and black boys, and they give a certain amount of satisfaction under proper control, but strict measures should be adopted to see that they are not interfered with by white people, natives, and Chinese to the extent they are to-day. A native is paid, in some cases, as much as 25s. per week, This is outrageous pay for a blackfellow, who has no idea of the value of money. When he gets his pay he goes down to the Chinese shops, and, if he is lucky, he gets for his 25s. half-a-crown’s worth of goods. It is no credit to the administration of affairs, either at Port Darwin or here, that such things should occur.
– Are not the natives prohibited from going into the area known as “ China Town “ ?
– No: they are not prohibited from going anywhere. They are supposed to be off the streets after a certain hour at night, but Chinese and others find means of getting to the natives’ quarters. The result is that the half-caste community is growing apace. The native compound, being established in the centre of the town, it is quite impossible to prevent unprincipled whites and Chinese from having intercourse with the natives. They are spreading disease broadcast in the Territory, and steps should be taken at the earliest possible moment to remove the compound to a distance from the town.
– The result of existing conditions is what is called up there “ the sign of the cross.”
– That is very evident, and I shall refer to it when I come to deal with the education of the native children. I found that, for some reason or another, the Department having charge of the natives’ affairs is not conducted in a very friendly spirit, and that dissensions tend to dislocate its effective control. I do not know who is responsible, but certain things occurred recently that are not in the best interests of the Department. I know that murders by natives in the Northern Territory are becoming more frequent. The natives are being spoilt by the Administration, and when they go out back, as they do after a spell in the compound, they display an increasing contempt for white men. White men do not feel as safe with them in the Northern Territory as they did some years ago. During the short time I waa there, a white man was murdered at the Marinboy Tinfield, a Chinaman was murdered at Brock’s Creek, and another was nearly done to death at the same place. There were practically three murders by natives in the course of a few weeks. The increasing contempt of the native for the white man has been brought about by the treatment of the aborigines in Port Darwin.
I visited the native school, which is being carried on in a private house adjacent to the native compound. I wish here to pay a tribute to Mrs. Holtze, who is devoting a lot of her time to the teaching of the children, and is doing very good work. She has in her school about twenty half-castes, and these represent what Senator Blakey has referred to as “The sign of the cross.” I should think that nearly every race under the sun is represented in that school. There are some unfortunate half-, castes there who must be sorely handicapped in life, if appearance counts for anything. Mrs. Holtze is doing the best she can to teach the children some useful employment, and if they were taken away from their present surroundings something might be done with them. The difficulty is that when they leave the school they go back to the compound, and live amongst older natives on the beach. Mrs. Holtze does what she can to keep them clean and presentable, but, as they go back every night to their parents on the beach, what she does for them is nullified by their continued association with the natives in the compound. There is a class for half-castes and Chinese, mostly Chinese, in the .public school, and good work is being done there. The pure-bred Chinese is a smart and bright child, but the same trouble occurs to some extent there that takes place with Mrs. Holze’s pupils at the compound. The education of the white children is attended to as well as possible, but there are no educational regulations applying to the Territory. There is no standard, no high school, and no compulsory attendance. A child can go to school practically when it likes, and many boys and girls leave at the age of twelve or thirteen, only half educated. Some arrangements should be made to compel the children to attend for a reasonable time.
To show the difficulty of carrying on the education of the children outside Darwin, I may say that one young school teacher travels between Stapleton and the Daly River. He gives a fortnight’s tuition to the children of the Stapleton settlers and another fortnight to the children of the Daly River settlers. He has to do the journey between the two places on horseback, and camp out one night every time he goes to either place. He is a young fellow from Queensland, and if any one deserves well of his country it is this young man, who is so enthusiastic in the cause of education that he rides for two days and a night between his two schools. That is the class or man who is doing splendid pioneering work for the settlers of this country.
The hospital at Darwin is a Government institution, and rather an old building, although in some ways very suitable. I have no fault to find with it, except that the operating theatre is not sufficiently well equipped for a Commonwealth institution in a place so far away from the centres of civilization. In a country where so many men are employed as in Darwin at the present time, and where serious accidents are likely to occur, the operating theatre should be at least as good as any in the southern States. I hope the Government will see that whatever the doctor wants in that direction is supplied to him.
– Have they an ambulance equipment ?
– None at all. The isolation wards are occupied by diseased natives. The sooner they are sent as far away from Darwin as possible, and segregated in a lock hospital, the better, as will be admitted by any one who sees their condition. Other facilities are required to complete the furnishing of the hospital. The maternity ward is a considerable distance away from the main building. The nurses, in taking food from the kitchen to the ward, have to walk nearly 100 yards without cover. This in a rainy season ia a serious handicap, because they and the food get wet through even in that short distance, with rain pouring down as if from a bucket. I hope the Government will have the passage-way covered over. A gas plant should also be provided. At present only kerosene lamps are used there, and the nurses have to go about from place to place with hurricane lamps. They have therefore to perform their duties under very unfavorable conditions. The hospital is a little over a mile from the town, and the nurses have no means of getting in and out of the town. The Government should provide a trap for their use, because they cannot get off in ordinary circumstances until the shops are closed.
The people at Darwin complain of their local government affairs. The local government system there is very conservative.- The district council boundaries do not take in Vestey Brothers’ works or the Government works at the 21 mile. If these were included, considerable revenue would accrue to the town. The election of representatives to the council is left to the people, but if a vacancy occurs an appointment is made by the sitting members, instead of an election being held. The rates are high enough to satisfy the most ardent land-taxer. Even Senator Grant ought to be satisfied when he knows that they amount to ls. in the fi on the unimproved value, and the sanitary rates amount to £5 10s., so that, if a man in Port Darwin has a block worth £400, his rates for the year come to £25 10s. For the money charged some better service should be rendered, and the people should have a free choice in the selection of those who are to represent them. I understand that the price paid for the sanitary contract has been doubled. Previously it was £800, with a condition for the employment of white labour. This year it is £1,600, without any such condition, and the present contractor, although paid twice the amount received by the last contractor, is employing Chinese to do the work.. That is a very sore point with the people there, and should certainly be looked into.
The post-office is a very old building, and very dilapidated. I understand that there is a project afoot to build a new post-office. If so, I hope it will be hurried tip. The postmaster has often as much as £800 in his safe from Saturday to Monday. Although I do not profess to be an expert safe breaker, I believe I could get into that safe easily. There is only one business window, 2 ft. 6 in. wide. State and Commonwealth Savings Bank business, letters, postage stamps, and everything else have to be dealt with at the one window. I saw a tremendous amount of crowding there, particularly when the mails arrived. On those occasions you could not get near the window for hours. The whole place is quite unsuitable for the work. The cable station adjoins the post-office. The cables are taken by the cable company, and passed through a small connecting window to the post-office, whence they are transmitted over our wires to. the southern States. On the morning I was there, there were 700 cables awaiting transmission, and that night, when I went back again, I was assured that 1,000 cables were awaiting despatch to the southern States. That state of affairs should not exist. It has been suggested that the overland wire should be handed over to the cable company. I hope nothing of the kind will be done. A proper, up-to-date repeating instrument should be put on the wire, so that we may be able to cope with the business as it comes in from the cable company. Our employees are anything but properly dealt with. The difference between their conditions and those of the cable company’s employees is most marked. The company have put up a nice commodious building for their employees; the Commonwealth has provided one unfurnished house for the whole of ours. The postal employees are paying a considerable rent for the building, and it is to be hoped that the Postmaster-General will see to it that his own employees in the Territory are treated properly. The public works going on there at the present time are considerable. At Vestey Brothers’ works about 600 men are employed, and anything up to £500,000 is being spent in connexion with those works, so that it is most important that better postal facilities should be provided for the men employed there, and at the 1 mile.
The Common wealth recently decided to work the hotels in the Northern Territory, but, up to the present, I must say that the experiment has been anything but a success. Most of the hotels are old and dilapidated, and not fit for a white man to live in. One is a decent stone building, but the others are galvanized-iron erections, very dirty and badly furnished. In fact, not one word can be said in their favour. I am not blaming the management.
– Is the whisky good?
– The whisky ought to be good, judging by the price. I believe Darwin is the dearest place in the Commonwealth for whisky, although there is very little choice. The accommodation there compares very unfavorably with that of any ordinary back-block “pub” in Australia. There are usually only two or three brands of whisky on the shelves, and one or two brands of beer. When I was there they had some beer on tap from Western Australia. It was absolutely vile - so bad that I could not drink it. But I am not complaining of the quality of the liquor. The point which I desire to stress is that it is idle to attempt to patch up the hotel buildings there. They should be demolished, and re-erected on the Continental plan. A man would then be able to enter one of these hotels and obtain either intoxicating or temperance drinks. He would be able to get either a nobbier of whisky or a cup of tea. I have seen as many drunken men in the hotels of Port Darwin as can be seen in any other part of the Commonwealth. I have been told that the police refuse to take any notice of them. The guardians of the law have been informed that they cannot lay an information against the manager of one of these hotels because of drunken men being found on the premises. If that be so, the law should be altered at once. I have no fault to find with the management of the hotels in the Territory.
– Then whom does the honorable senator blame ? His speech is one long indictment of the whole administration.
– It is. The hotel managers are doing their best, but they are not getting a fair deal. The whole question of the conduct of these hotels should be reviewed, and some common sense and business aptitude should be brought to bear upon it. The managers do not know whether the hotels are paying or not. They are simply instructed to conduct them in the best way possible. During my visit to the Territory, I was assured that £600 had been expended upon one of these establishments at Pine Creek, but not more than £100 worth of work had really been done. The manager of this hotel told me that, in the rainy season, the only dry portion of the house was under the billiard table. The establishment lacked even a bath. It is time that these hotels were pulled down and reerected on up-to-date lines. I come now to another matter.
Some time ago this Parliament voted a sum of money for the building of a laundry at Port Darwin. The idea was greeted with derision. It was generally scouted. Now, if there is one thing more than another that is required at Port Darwin it is a laundry. There is not a soul there who will wash a stitch of clothes for one except the Chinamen.
I wish now to refer to some statements that have been made by a section of the press in regard to the cost, of discharging goods at the Darwin jetty. I have in my possession figures which conclusively show that the members of the Australian Workers “Union there are doing this work as economically - taking into consideration the handicaps under which they labour - as similar work is being done in any other part of the Commonwealth. In addition, the members of the Australian Workers Union have a standing agreement with Vestey Brothers which provides that as soon as the cost of living is reduced below £13 15s. 6d. per month, the former will be prepared to accept a reduction of wages. Surely that speaks well for the members of the Australian Workers Union there. Much might be said to substantiate the statement I have made but I intend to quote only one instance to show that the members of the Australian Workers Union are not the only persons who are responsible for the existing high freights. On the same vessel by which I travelled to Darwin there was a gentleman who was about to visit the Territory on an enterprise which would involve the use of a large quantity of explosives. From him I learned that, at Sydney, the freight, harbor charges, transfer, &c, from magazine to steamer, a distance of 8 miles, including freight to Port Darwin, on fifteen cases of explosives amounted to £8 5s., whereas the cost of discharging these cases half-a-mile from the shore at Port Darwin, and taking them to the magazine, was only £7 8s. 7d. This charge, it must be remembered, was not made by the Australian Workers Union, but by an agent, who employed Chinese labour to do the work. I might enumerate case after case if I chose, with a view to showing that it is the agents at Darwin who make the money, and not the members of the AustralianWorkers Union. The cost of living in the Territory is very high, and in justification of the wages paid at Darwin I wish to place on record some of the prices that are charged for goods there. The price of meat is 9d. per lb., although cattle can be purchased there at from £4 10s. to £5 per head. The 2-lb. loaf costs 7d., cabbages cost 6d. per lb., fruit (comprising apples or oranges) 2s. per doz., and eggs 4s. per doz. When, therefore,we are told of the tremendous rates of pay that the workers of Port Darwin receive, we ought not to forget the excessively high prices that they are charged for the necessaries of life. Some time ago Senator Gould asked the Minister for Defence whether officers about to enter the Military College at Duntroon were unionists or not. The Minister replied and thereupon I asked whether he knew for a fact that certain unionists at Port Darwin, before being allowed to outer the jury box in a particular case, had been questioned as to whether they were members of the Australian
Workers Union. I refer to the Manakoff Wooley case, which was tried in April, 1913. On that occasion the men who were empannelled as jurymen, before being allowed to enter the jury box, were asked whether they were unionists, and, if they answered in the affirmative, were obliged to stand down. In the light of this circumstance we cannot wonder if the members of that organization occasionally become aggressive in industrial matters.
– What reason was attributed for asking them to stand down?
– I do not know. In certain quarters the Australian Workers Union is taboo there.
– Did the Crown challenge them?
– I do not know whether it was the Crown or the solicitor for the other side.
I recognise that I have wearied honorable senators very considerably, but I felt that in fairness to those who made representations to me at Port Darwin I ought to ventilate the matters to which I have called attention. I met no section there which was not labouring under a grievance. There is only one thing to bo done. As the Commonwealth Parliament we are responsible for the development of the Northern Territory, and, so far as the defence of this country is concerned, we know that the Territory is the weakest link in a chain that is not too strong. We know, also, that the only way to strengthen that chain is by increasing the population, and that can only be achieved by offering sufficient inducement to the people to take up land in the Territory and to stay there. Unfortunately, members of this Parliament know very little of the real conditions under which people are living in that part of Australia, and the disadvantages necessarily imposed upon them by the climatic conditions. In all seriousness, I suggest that a Royal Commission be appointed to inquire thoroughly into all the matters I have spoken of, so that some definite scheme may be placed before the Government for the proper development of the Northern Territory. That scheme should include the provision that no man should have the power of the present Administrator without responsibility to the Government. At present railway affairs are in the hands of the Home Affairs Department, but part of the administration is under the Minister for External Affairs. Heaven only knows what other authority is exercised in the Northern Territory. We do know, however, that as the result of mismanagement generally - and I am blaming the Government in this respect - no one knows what is going to happen next in the Northern Territory. The Administrator is blamed for everything. It is not fair that he should be placed in this position, and, therefore, I ask that a Royal Commission be appointed to endeavour to put things right. The people in the Territory should have a right to elect certain representatives on a local advisory committee, because at present they have to bear their share of taxation, but have absolutely no say in the Government of the Commonwealth or in the management of their own affairs. I will not press for the appointment of this Royal Commission until the present troublous times have passed, but if, after matters have settled down politically, some steps are not taken to appoint a Royal Commission with very extensive powers, I shall take action at the earliest possible moment, so that the people who are living there, and those who are expected to settle there in the future, may have an opportunity to exercise some authority in the management of their own affairs.
– I should like to congratulate Senator Newland upon the energy and ability with which he has pursued his investigation of Northern Territory affairs, as well as the manner in which he has placed the result of that investigation before the Senate. I shall bring the several matters before the Minister for External Affairs, and I have no doubt that he will give to them careful consideration.
– I desire at this stage to refer to a matter arising out of a question of mine, and the reply thereto by the Minister for Defence, on Thursday last. As the result of certain wild rumours in circulation concerning the position at
Broken Hill, I asked the Minister for Defence the following question: -
Why is the publication of all news from Broken Hill prohibited? Is that one of the reasons lor the rumours that are in circulation?
I was referring then to rumours that two machine-gun sections had been forwarded to Broken Hill, and the Minister, in his reply, said -
It is not a fact that all news from Broken Hill has been censored.
I was pleased to have that assurance, for my desire, in asking the question, was that the Minister should make some such statement and clear the atmosphere. I mentioned that the rumour concerning the prohibition of the publication of all news was probably attributable to the statements regarding the machine-gun sections. The Minister said that statement was untrue. His exact words were -
It is not a fact that all news from Broken Hill has been censored. There have been in circulation in this city certain very ugly rumours regarding Broken Hill, which, upon making inquiry, I have found to be without foundation, and I contradicted them. My contradiction was followed by the assertion that news from Broken Hill is being censored. That assertion is as untrue as the rumours to which I have referred.
– I have seen the circulars sent out to the newspapers, telling them that they must not publish certain news coming from Broken Hill.
– That is not a fact. No such instruction has been issued.
– It is a fact. I have seen the statement. I object to the Minister’s denial.
At this stage, you, Mr. President, intervened and closed the argument. Since then I have fortified myself with information, and want to read the following, which is a copy of a mandate sent out from the Censor’s Office to the Labour Vanguard, Ballarat : -
No. CM. 9526, 11th September, 1916.
To the Editor (confidential, and not for publication).
I am directed to inform you that the publication of any reference whatever to any strike or any proposed strike of one day in each week at Broken Hill is prohibited.
My veracity was challenged in the reply given by the Minister for Defence, and, although he called me a liar in the gentlemanly way characteristic of him, still it hurt just as much as if it had been said harshly. I consider I have cleared myself by the production of this proof, and it remains now for the Minister to demonstrate that his veracity cannot be challenged. I can only hope that, during the referendum campaign, there will not be a prohibition of publication of matters concerning Australia in this crisis, for if one State or city is to be isolated from another by the censorship, there will be created an uneasy feeling that might lead to serious results. All these difficulties can be overcome by frankness on the part of the authorities in their attitude towards the public. With an educated people no harm can ever be done by telling them all that there is to tell. The people will accept the news for what it is worth. In the earlier stages of this war, information of disasters or victories was dribbled out to the public as if it were feared that they would not be able to stand it. I hope, however, that during this campaign there will be neither prohibition of news nor the publication of garbled information, but that, as far as possible, there will be a free platform and a free press.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy a matter that is of some moment to our returned soldiers, in relation to the publication of news on board the transports. When the men leave England, they are kept in communication, by wireless telegraphy, with the Mother Country, and receive daily the same war news that is published in the British papers. When they get out of touch with England they pick up the Canary Islands wireless, and as they go further south they get in touch with Cape Town, afterwards with Durban, and then with Mauritius. When they get out of touch with Mauritius, however, they get no more news until they land in Australia. They are very anxious during the whole of the journey to have the war news, and I see no reason why they should receive no communications,after they get out of touch with Mauritius. It it not much to ask, and I think the Minister might see if something can be done to keep the men on board the trans ports in touch, by wireless telegraphy, with current war news.
.- With regard to the statement made by Senator McKissock, I should like to draw his attention to a fact which apparently he has forgotten, namely, that the question he asked was one about which I had to get notice, for while I thought it improbable that any action had been taken to send machine guns to Broken Hill, I had to make the necessary inquiries to be sure on the point. I communicated with Adelaide and found that there was nothing in the rumour. No sooner was that rumour contradicted than there were other rumours to the effect that there had been serious riots in Broken Hill and that eight policemen had been killed. These rumours were flying all round Melbourne. As soon as one was contradicted another was put in circulation, so as to rob my contradiction of its value. When I answered the question Senator McKissock asked, “ Why is the publication of all news from Broken Hill prohibited?” This is the point: Senator McKissock asked if it were a fact that two machine-gun sections had been sent’ to Broken Hill, and when I replied that it was not a fact, he asked, in order to destroy the value of my contradiction, “ Why is the publication of all news from Broken Hill prohibited?” That followed immediately upon my contradiction, and then I proceeded to elaborate by stating that certain ugly rumours were being circulated about the city. The statement that “ all “ news was being censored, had been put about to destroy the strength of my contradiction. Later on I referred to the assertion that news from Broken Hill was being censored, and said that that assertion was as untrue as the other rumours. I should have referred to the use of the term “ all “ news, and if I had known that Senator McKissock was going to make any capital out of it I would have retained that word.
– I wanted to clear myself.
– I had no idea that Senator McKissock was not going to take my words at their face value.
– I did, on the question.
– If I had thought that the honorable senator was going to make capital out of what I said I would have retained the word “ all.” I admit now that I made a mistake when I used the phrase a second time in dropping the word “ all,” which the honorable senator had himself used. Now, what is in the circular which the honorable senator has read ? It is in absolute conformity with what the Prime Minister told honorable members in another place, and with what I told the Senate. We both said that resolutions in regard to a general strike in connexion with this question would be prohibited. There has been no secrecy about that. I told the Senate that they would be prohibited, and the Prime Minister said the same in another place. But that is not a prohibition of “ all news,” and if Senator McKissock had that circular in his possession when he followed me, what can we think of him when he said -
I ask the Minister why has the publication of all news from Broken Hill been censored?
If the honorable senator had that circular in his possession at the time, I leave it to the public to decide what should be thought of him when in his question he based the use of the words “all news” on a circular that refers to one matter only.
.- Mr. President-
– Order! The Minister has replied.
– I will say it by interjection. I had not the circular by me last week.
– The honorable senator must not speak now. He must obey my ruling.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at5.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 September 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1916/19160927_senate_6_80/>.