8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act -
Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 8.
Transfer of Amount approved by the GovernorGeneral in Council. - financial Year, 1918-19. Dated 4th February, 1920.
Commonwealth Bank Act. - Aggregate Balance-sheet of Commonwealth Bank of Australia at 31st December, 1919; together with Auditor-General’s Report thereon.
Lands Acquisition Act.- Land acquired atBruce Rock, Western Australia - For postal purposes.
Kuridala, Queensland - For postal purposes.
Waikerie, South Australia- For postal purposes.
Public Service Act -
Appointment of J. K. Davis as Director of Navigation, Department of Trade and Customs.
Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules, 1929, No. 36.
Sugar. - Report of Conference between Representatives of the Queensland Sugar Industry, Queensland and Commonwealth Governments, held at Sydney, 15th and 16th March, 1920.
Treaty of Peace between “the Allied and Associated Powers and Austria. - Protocol of Signature, signed at SaintGermainenLaye, 10th September, 1919.
Wool-tops. - Memorandum re Position in Connexion with Manufacture for Export and’ Australian Consumption, and precis Agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Colonial Woolcombing Company.
LABOUR Dispute. ,
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories whether he has any information to give the Senate in reply to the questions asked on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate on Friday last with respect to the labour dispute in connexion with the Murray Waters Scheme ?
– I regret that the reply is not to hand, but I shall draw attention to the matter at once.
– I ask the Minister representing the Price-Fixing Department what is the intention of the Go”Vernment in the matter of providing better shipping facilities for the “Western State, and particularly for the Port of Albany?
– Perhaps the honorable senator will repeat his question at a later stage. The matter to which he has referred is now under consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer is - 1 and 2. This matter is now receiving the attention of the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to introduce at an early date a Bill to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act so as to provide that ‘blind pensioners may be permitted to earn at least £2 per week without deduction from their pension?
– This matter is still under- consideration. A decision will be given at an early date.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Appointment of Officers
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice-
– The answers are -
Holding of Stocks
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
SenatorRUSSELL. - The answers are -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
– I move -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay. 1 regret having to submit such a motion thus early in the session, hut two reasons render it imperative that I should do so. The first is that under our standing order’ No. 14 it is not permissible to proceed with anything but formal business until the Address-in-Reply has been dealt with. As that has not been finalized, it is necessary to suspend that standing order to overcome the difficulty of otherwise proceeding with the Supply Bill. The other reason is that the date by which for governmental purposes the Supply asked for is required is the 18th March. It is therefore necessary to ask the Senate to dispose of this Bill between the present time and closing time to-morrow night.
I have frequently given an assurance to the Senate that I would endeavour to have Supply Bills presented here sufficiently early to give honorable senators a reasonable opportunity to discuss their contents. Although there are still two days within which, in connexion with this measure, that may be done, I was quite confident that it would be possible to bring the Bill on forconsideration here last week, but as honorable senators are aware, certain happenings elsewhere prevented the measure being dealt with in another place as promptly as the Govern ment expected. For that neither the Government nor I can take any responsibility. I am bound to ask the Senate in these circumstances to agree to the suspension of the Standing Orders. Although should my motion be carried, it will be possible to dispose of the Bill at this sitting, it is not my desire to do that, but I do ask the Senate to pass the measure in sufficient time to have it sent back to another place before the closing hour to-morrow night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Millen) read a first time.
Senator MILLEN (New SouthWales -
Minister for Repatriation) [3.9]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The total of this Supply Bill is £5,727,180, made up as follows : - Ordinary expenditure, £1,984,635; war services, including interest, war pensions, repatriation, £3,251,545; refunds of revenue, £41,000; Advance to Treasurer, £450,000. These amounts are based on the Estimates laid on the table on 26th February. War services, Treasurer’s Advance, refunds of revenue, and special appropriation, included in the ordinary Estimates, total £10,930,981. The proportion of this amount for eleven months is £10,020,066. The amount provided for in this Bill, together with the Supply previously granted during the current financial year by the late Parliament, is £9,450,052, which is £570,014 less than the proportion referred to. The Supply granted by the last Parliament has sufficed for all payments up to 5th March, and while on some votes there are small balances, other votes are now exhausted. The amounts in the present Bill are sufficient to cover the needs of the Treasury up to 31st May.
– It is somewhat unusual for Ministers to occupy time on the motion for the second reading of a Supply Bill, but there are one or two matters particularly affecting the Department over which I preside, to which I wish to direct attention in order that honorable members may be made aware of them at the earliest possible moment. The Government wish to inform Parliament that they ‘have) arranged with the British Government for the purchase of a munition-making plant at a cost of £150,000. This matter arose whilst I was in the United Kingdom, when it came under my notice that the British Government was disposing of many of the huge munition plants that they had got together during the war. Honorable senators know that, in many respects, we are totally unequipped in Australia to undertake the manufacture of munitions either in Government workshops or private factories. Many of these munition plants were being sold at practically scrap value, because they were specialized plants. I got into touch with the Munitions Department in England, and after letting them know the class of plant which would be useful to Australia - useful to have on hand in case of emergency, even if it were never erected - I induced the Munitions Ministry to hold over the disposal of such plants until communication had been opened up between the two Governments. Eventually I succeeded in getting the Secretary of State for the Colonies to bring the proposal before the British Cabinet, and, as a result, we are obtaining for £150,000 a plant which, at pre-war prices, would have cost us £600,000.
– Is it for munition making alone?
– It is a plant which will enable us to manufacture all sorts of munitions such as shells, machine guns, fuses, &c. Even at the scrap value that they were expecting to obtain for it in the United Kingdom, the Munitions Ministry estimated that on the basis of their previous sales it would realize £300,000. They are letting the Commonwealth have it for £150,000. This purchase does not commit Parliament or the Government to any policy in regard to a special factory for the erection of the plant. It will take some considerable time for the equipment to reach Australia, and in the interim the Government and Parliament can determine upon the policy which they are going to adopt. But whether that policy be one for the establishment of Government workshops or for the encouragement of private enterprise to install such plants, this plant will’ be required.
– Is it a plant that we can turn to any special use?
– No; it is a specialized plant.’
– le £150,000 the cost f .o.-b. or c.i.f . ?
– That is the cost f.o.b. in England. We shall have to pay the freight upon it.
There are two other matters about which Parliament should be informed, because they involve our financial relations with the British Government, and arise out of matters connected with the Australian Imperial Force. When the armistice was concluded, the Australian Force had been temporarily withdrawn from the fighting line. The New Zealand and Canadian Forces, who had been resting a portion of the time whilst our Forces had been fighting, had again been put into the fighting line just prior to the conclusion of the armistice. When the British Forces moved forward, after the armistice, for the purpose of occupying the German territory, and as part of the army of occupation, the Australian headquarters were instructed to hold several of our divisions in readiness to advance as a portion of that army. But after these divisions had been kept waiting for about three weeks, it was decided that it would not be necessary to send’ them forward. Thus it happened that whilst the whole of the New Zealand, and the greater part of the Canadian Forces, advanced as portion of the Army of Occupation, our Australian Force did not. Now, one of the terms of the Peace Treaty is that Germany shall recompense the Allies for the maintenance of the Army of Occupation. Consequently, it follows that for a certain period, practically the whole cost of the upkeep of Canadian and New Zealand Forces will be eventually paid by Germany. As Australia did not happen to be in the Army of Occupation, it may be held’ that we are not entitled to share in that payment. I brought this matter under the notice of the British Government because I contended that whatever sum was paid by Germany for the maintenance of the Army of Occupation should be shared by Britain and her Dominions in the proportion in which they had contributed their armies, which, so far as she was concerned, were responsible for winning the victory. The British Government called a Conference of the representatives of the various Dominions, at which I represented Australia, to consider that claim. The British Government themselves were entirely favorable to it. But, unfortunately, owing to the fact that the Dominion of New Zealand was not represented by a Minister, but by its High Commissioner, it was felt that no decision could be arrived at until the Government of that Dominion had been communicated with, and their views upon it obtained. That is rather significant as showing that there are some things which can be dealt with only by a Minister. But for that circumstance, an agreement could have been reached forthwith. That claim is being pursued, and is one of the matters which the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) will handle on his arrival in England. It involves a sum which will amount, in the case of Australia, to upwards of £2,000,000.
Another matter of financial moment to the Commonwealth, is that after the armistice - as honorable members will doubtless recollect - a very disturbed condition arose in Egypt. The Australian Forces in Palestine had been withdrawn, and arrangements had been .made for their repatriation to the Commonwealth. Steamers were actually waiting in Egypt to take them on board, when the British Government requested that the Forces then in Palestine should be retained in Egypt during that disturbed period. They utilized the Australian division for that purpose. I considered that that was a case in which the cost of its maintenance should not be borne by the taxpayers of Australia. ‘ It was no part of the duty of our Australian troops to police Egypt. Consequently, we made a claim on the British Government, which will eventually be paid by the Egyptian Government, for the, upkeep of that portion of the Australian Imperial Force during the time that it was used for the purpose which I have indicated. That would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of £1,000,000, and the claim is being investigated by the Imperial Government.
There is another matter which involves financial commitment to the Commonwealth. Owing to the demand on the staff of the Defence Department during the war, we were not in a position to retire officers, but we are now able to review the whole situation and to decide what officers can be retired. In consequence of this revision, some twenty or thirty officers and warrant officers are to be dispensed with, and the Government propose asking Parliament, under such circumstances, to take a similar course to that taken in 1903, when, as a result of the amalgamation of the Defence Departments of the States, compensation was paid to the surplus officers retired. Parliament will, therefore, be asked to vote sums in proportion to the length of service of the officers to be retired.
– Does that apply to permanent officers?
There is still another matter in connexion with the War services of citizen officers and permanent officers of the Australian Imperial Force, and that is the question of recognition of the rank won by them in the field. This matter affects the question of finance both as regards citizen officers and permanent officers in regard to annual salaries. It has been decided by the Government to recognise, promo- tion won in the field in the case of citizen officers by giving them similar rank in the Commonwealth Forces. It does not necessarily follow that similar rank will be granted in the same unit ; but where a unit is on the reserves the officer will be granted the rank he held up to the time of the signing of the armistice. It has not been found practicable to adopt a similar course in connexion with permanent officers, because of the necessity of an establishment which” has regard to the number of colonels, majors, captains, and other ranks. In their case it has been arranged that where an officer won in the Australian Imperial Force three steps over -the rank in the Permanent Forces he is to be given one step and the brevet rank in addition. Where an officer won in the Australian Imperial Force two steps in advance, he will be given the brevet rank, and where only one step in advance, he will be given the honorary rank. This applies to all ranks up to that of colonel. The position of other ranks above that of colonel will be considered by the Military Board in consultation with the Government. These promotions have been given effect to.
In regard to the Military Board, a change has been made to give effect to the recommendations made by Sir Ian
Hamilton, and which our war experience has show to be advisable. We have decided to amalgamate the two positions now held by the Quartermaster-General and the Chief of Ordnance by abolishing the latter and arranging for the whole of the work to be carried out under the QuairtermasterGeneral.
There has been a general revision of the salaries of the permanent officers and men. It may be interesting to honorable senators to know that there has practically been no revision of salaries of the permanent officers of the Commonwealth since 1903, notwithstanding that the salaries and cost of living have increased out of all proportion. A revision has taken place, and will come into force on the 1st April.
Consideration has also been given to the question of reducing the Defence establishment to a peace basis.
– Circulars have been issued asking for volunteei’3 for the next four mouths. I have seen them myself.
– The honorable senator is referring to an invitation sent out. to men of the Australian Imperial Force to join the Army Reserve after discharge.
– No. These circulars relate to service for the next four months.
– It is an invitation to discharged men to join the Army Reserve ; that has been going on for some time.
– I am speaking more particularly of the Navy.
– I am not prepared to say what is being done in that Department.
– To what extent has the cost of living affected the permanent officers ?
– They have to live.
– They are not much good unless they do.
– They do not have to feed and clothe themselves.
– Yes, they do; although some of them receive an allowance while in the Forces, many of them are married, and their wives have to be fed and clothed out of their pay.
In regard to the reduction of the Defence establishment, it has particularly affected the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, where about 300 men are to be discharged. At the same time, the Government are setting on foot inquiries to ascertain whether it is possible to utilize the machinery employed there, that would otherwise be idle, for manufacturing requirements for Government Departments - Federal or State. Representations have also been made to the Government that there are certain machine tools badly needed in Australia which Australian manufacturers cannot supply, and which cannot be imported at a reasonable price. The Government are making inquiries as to whether this plant, with the plant we already have, ca,n be utilized for manufacturing such tools. This would insure the capital expended by the Government on the new plant being profitably utilized, and at the same time the plant would he available for war work should occasion arise. I thought it advisable to take the earliest opportunity to place these facts before honorable senators.
– Would it be convenient for the Minister for Defence at this stage to state whether it is practicable to grant commissions to the two mechanics who accompanied Sir Ross Smith to Australia?
– The question of Government recognition is having my consideration at the present time. There are certain’ difficulties in the way which have to be inquired into in the interests of the men themselves, and I hope to be able to make a statement in regard to this matter at a later date.
– Was not faulty steel the principal reason why munitions were not manufactured?
– No; the principal difficulty was that we were 14,000 miles from where they were required.
– Were not a certain number of shells rejected?
– The percentage was not greater than the percentage rejected in the United Kingdom. The distance from the seat of operations and the varying conditions of manufacture was one of the principal factors. When the Imperial authorities supplied us with blue prints, and we had copies made, no less than twelve alterations were made in the prints before they were distributed. Shortly after we started shell making, the whole system was revolutionized by the introduction of a new process, and our methods rendered obsolete.
.- With regard to the provision made under the Home and Territories Department for the development of oil fields in Papua, can the Government make any statement as to the progress made in that direction, and whether any further consideration has been given to the possibility of developing, for the purposes of obtaining fuel oil for the Navy and for general industrial purposes, those shale deposits which have already been to a large extent tested? This concerns the State of Tasmania particularly, because there is a deposit of shale there which has stood the test made by the professional adviser of the Government on this question, and, as far as I can see, has really advanced beyond the experimental stage. I believe that under the Constitution the Government cannot enter upon the actual development of these fields except for their own purposes, but I should like to know if they still have under consideration, or have made any advance regarding, the matter of inducing the Tasmanian Government to develop those fields and supply fuel oil to the Commonwealth Navy?
Is the policy of the Government in the direction of granting better facilities to country people in the way of telephone and postal arrangements? ‘The PostmasterGeneral’s Department in the immediate past has been exercising a system of economy which borders on parsimony. I know a case where the mail coach passes a post office twice a day, but the people in that locality are permitted only one mail a day. They point out to me that the only additional cost to the Department of giving them two mails a day would be for the wax and string used to fasten up the mail bags.
– That money was saved in order to help pav for the Melbourne Postal Institute.
– I do not know why it was done. The saving must have been very small, and the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) might well give people in the country districts every possible facility. One of the questions the
Commonwealth has to face is the decentralization of population. People areflocking into the towns, as is only natural. While every facility for comfort and enjoyment is provided for the town people, we do not seem to consider the policy of providing even the minimum of comfort and enjoyment for those living in rural districts.
– They cannot be badly off if they get a mail bag.
– But if we could give them two mails a day at practically no extra cost, why not do it? Why eat them down to one mail a day?
– Senator Thomasgoes far beyond that. He would, provide every farmer with a motor car.
– I do not know Senator Thomas’s policy, but he has had experience as Postmaster-General, and probably could give the Senate and the Government valuable advice.
There are in our State to-day applications for telephone line extensions amounting in the aggregate to about 300,000 miles. That would go many times around Tasmania, but it shows that the people of Tasmania are desirous of getting into immediate touch with the centres of population. Up till quite recently those telephone extensions could not be supplied owing to the scarcity of wire and other necessary materials; but now that we are getting over those difficulties, I should like to know whether the Government or the Postmaster-General is setting out with the determination to give those people who are in isolated positions every possible facility of communication, either by postal or telephonic services. . .
– I was very pleased indeed to hear of the deal brought off by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) for the purchase from the British Government of a munitions plant. He is to be complimented on it, in view of the figures lie quoted showing the pre-war price of the plant. I was under the impression that the reason why shell-making was practically abolished in Australia, after being given a trial, was the large number of faults in the material. A high speed plant was installed at the Ipswich workshops in Queensland for making 18- pounder shells, and it was generallyunderstood that, with the exception of faulty steel, those shells were being turned out very satisfactorily indeed.
The Minister pointed out that certain things could only be accomplished on the other side of the world by having a member of the Federal Cabinet in London at that particular time. I have contended previously, and repeat now, that the Government should seriously consider the advisability, when the term of the present High Commissioner expires, of having as High Commissioner, or whatever his title may be in the future, a member of the Cabinet. During the last few years it has been necessary for Minister after Minister to leave his important Department here, and go away to London, just at the time he was most needed here, because the authority required to accomplish certain things in England is not held by the present High Commissioner. 1 urge the Government to make the High Commissionership in London a portfolio, so that whoever holds the position may be vested with Executive authority, and that it may not be necessary every time a ticklish proposition arises to send a ‘Minister to London when he can ill be spared here.
When the Minister was speaking, I interjected with regard to the cost of living so far as the permanent soldiers were concerned. I quite understand that it is not possible always to indicate what one really means by an interjection, but what I intended to convey was that the high cost of living does not affect the permanent soldier to the same extent as other members of the community. I should be one of the last to underpay our permanent soldiers, realising the important work they perform on garrison duty, and the qualifications necessary for their positions. The cost of living has increased considerably during the last five or six years, and all the other members of the Public Service have not been advanced to anything like the extent of such increase. The Minister should have given lis some information as to what proportion the advance in salaries to be granted to members of the Permanent Forces will bear to the increased cost of living.
Senator Earle referred to the Post masterGeneral’s Department. The country districts of Queensland have suffered quite as much as those of any other State, and probably more, through the economies effected by that Department. If some of those economies could be analyzed, they would be found to be of very doubtful value. During the last few years the Department has apparently practised economy in the country for the benefit of the city. We have not seen a great deal of reduction so far as the cities are concerned, and yet some of the small post offices run by women on a small wage have been cut down by a few paltry shillings a week.
– By a penny a day.
– The reductions made in some centres were so small as not to be justified. I hope the new PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) will see that the country gets a better deal in the future than it has had during the past two or three years.
Another important matter to which I desire to refer is the desirability of a direct telephone line between Brisbane and Sydney. At a recent joint meeting of the Inter-State Chambers of Commerce and Manufactures, it was found necessary to again pass a motion bringo ing under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the urgent necessity of a direct telephone line between the two capitals. I can assure the Minister that at present the. business people of Queensland are at a great disadvantage, and I hope that something will be done to relieve the position at the earliest possible moment.
.- I regret that the Electoral Bill passed by the Senate prior to the last general election was so faulty in draftsmanship that certain well-supported candidates lost their deposits. Whether there should be a deposit or not is a matter open for discussion. Personally, I favour the system requiring each candidate to lodge a deposit, and I take it that a majority of members of the Senate are of the same opinion, otherwise the Electoral Act would not contain this provision. lt is very regrettable, however, that a candidate, Mr. Garling, in New South Wales, who polled nearly 400,000 votes and missed election by about only 20,000, should have had to forfeit his deposit. I understand that Mr. Turley and Senator Maughan had the same experience in Queensland. During the debate on the Electoral Bill honorable senators were informed that votes Nos. 1, 2, and 3 would be of equal value; that is to say, a No. 3 vote would be regarded as equivalent to a No. 1. But I think it is absolutely inexcusable that any mistake should have been made about the deposit. I do not blame Senator Russell, the Minister who had charge of the Bill, because owing to the absence of his colleagues, one of whom had to go to England, and another for a trip for the benefit of his health, Senator Russell had to carry on the whole business of the Senate, and was called upon to handle a very large number of Bills towards the end of the session.
– And he did very well.
– I think so, too; but it would have been impossible for Senator Russell to get through with the work without the generous assistance of honorable senators from both sides. The blunder emphasizes the wisdom of what I have always advocated, namely, that Ministers in another Chamber should have the right to come into the Senate to explain and pilot their Bills through, and vice mersa. There is no excuse for the permanent official who was in charge of the measure at that particular time, because Senator Gardiner drew attention to the fact, when the Bill was introduced, that it would be possible for a candidate to lose his deposit, because he did not receive No. 1 votes. Honorable senators on this side of the Chamber laughed the idea to scorn, but to make sure, Senator Russell withdrew the clause for the time being, and sent it back to the- permanent official for an opinion. “When it was returned we were assured that Senator Gardiner was wrong, and accordingly we passed the clause, though Senator Gardiner still maintained that his view was the correct one.
– “Were we not assured that Nos. 1, 2 and 3 votes were of the same value?
– Apparently there was a difference of £25 in the matter.
– The position is serious, and I take it the Government will see that any candidates who received a fair proportion of votes, but who lost their deposits, will be reimbursed the amount. It should have been paid before now out of the Treasurer’s advance account. If this had been done, I am quite sure the Senate would have ratified the Minister’s action. As I have said, there was no excuse for the permanent official in charge of the measure, because he had nothing else to do. If he had been the secretary of a Department and had a greatnumber of business matters passing through his hands, there might have been some excuse for him; but he was in charge of the Electoral Bill, and supplied the Minister with information which proved to be incorrect. I do not question his integrity, but in view of the information which he supplied to the Minister, I cannot have much confidence in his ability. I should be glad if the Minister would look into this matter, and see to what extent the permanent staff of the Electoral Branch of the Home and Territories Department are responsible for the error which was allowed to pass in the Bill.
To refer to a matter with which I have dealt before, I should be glad if we could be supplied with some information as to the reasons for which, in the last Senate election, votes were declared informal. I do not doubt for a moment that every vote so declared was really informal. There are four or five reasons why votes should be declared informal ; but it would be very interesting to know the reasons for which they have actually been declared informal.
– By ascertaining the cause, we might provide the remedy.
– Exactly. There was a very large number of informal votes polled at the last Senate elections. I fully expected that there would be. When addressing meetings during the election, knowing the number of informal votes polled under the old system, I said that a large number of informal voteswould be polled at the last election; and, great as was the number, it was not se large as I anticipated. I have not dealt with the matter previously in the Senate when considering an Electoral Bill, but when such a Bill has been under discussion in another place, I have repeatedly asked for information as to the reasons for which votes were declared informal. The information was always refused on the ground that the Chief Electoral Officer said it would take too much time to supply it, and that it would be a colossal task. On one occasion I was informed that between 75 per cent. and80 per cent. of informal votes polled at a Senate election were declared to be informal because the electors voted for more than three or less than three candidates, under the old system. If that be so, it follows naturally that a very large percentage, and. quite SO per cent., of the informal votes polled at the last Senate election were cast by electors who voted for less than seven candidates. If80 per cent. of the informal votes polled were declared informal for that reason, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) will agree that it should not take a great deal of time to discover the reasons for which other votes were declared informal. The small amount of money required to supply this information would be well spent, because if the information for which I ask were supplied, we should be able to point out how people voted informally in the past, and so reduce the number of informal votes cast in the future.
I am not quite satisfied about what the Government are doing in respect to the establishment of the Federal Capital. I think that a more energetic policy in regard to Canberra should be adopted. The people of New South Wales have not unduly pushed this matter, although, as we know, the establishment of the Capital in New South Wales is a part of the Federal contract. I think that that contract should be carried out. There has been some talk of altering the Constitution, and I shall not be disposed to advocate its alteration with any great eagerness until its main existing provisions are given effect to, and one of these is that the Federal Capital shall be established in New South Wales, and that as soon as possible it shall be proclaimed the Seat of Government, and this Parliament shall meet there.
– It might be proposed to alter that provision of the Constitution.
– That might be proposed, but I do not think it will. I was at Canberra a little time ago, and was extremely sorry to note the character of the places in which employees of the Government were called upon to live. It has been suggested that when His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales comes to Australia he should be taken to Canberra and asked to lay the foundation-stone of some important building there; but before he is taken to Canberra, the buildings, or shanties, to which I refer, which are used to house employees of the Government at the Federal Capital, should be removed. I recognise that the difficulty is that many of the persons employed at the Federal Capital at the present time are not permanent officials. They may leave at any moment they desire, or may be dismissed. Consequently, the men themselves do not feel that they are in a position to build houses, since they do not know when they may have to leave the Capital ; and the Government, not knowing to what extent they will be able to utilize their services, are not disposed to build houses for them. It is unquestionably a standing disgrace to those who have been in charge of the administration of Commonwealth affairs that their workmen should be living in such shanties as are to be found at Canberra. Much is heard these times about bringing people from the Old Country; but I say, advisedly, that in the Old Country I have seen better shelter provided for cattle than is provided for some of the employees of the Federal Government at Canberra.
There is another matter which I wish to bring under the notice of the Government, and it is one to which I have previously referred. I have protested, I think, for about three years now against the continuance of the position of Acting Public Service Commissioner. Every time I call attention to the subject the Minister tells me that it is going to be inquired into. I suppose it should be some consolation to know that we are three years nearer a solution of this problem than we were three years ago; but it is manifestly unfair to the Public Service that there should be in charge of it an Acting Public Service Commissioner. One hesitates to bring this matter up, because he may be accused of unduly advocating the claims of one man to the position, or of being opposed to the gentleman at present holding the position of Acting Public Service Commissioner. I wish to say that I do not advocate the appointment of Mr. Edwards as Public Service Commissioner, nor do I suggest that he should not be appointed to that position. It seems to me very unfair to the Public Service that it should be in charge of an officer who has not the power and prestige of Public Service Commissioner. I am not opposed to the position being given permanently to Mr. Edwards, if he be the ablest man in the Service to hold it. .That he is an able man may be conceded, or he would not have held the positions in the Service which he has held. When Mr. McLachlan retired, he was given six months’ leave of absence, and during that time Mr. Edwards was appointed Acting Public Service Commissioner. There could be no objection taken to that. I point out, however, that no advertisements were published calling for applicants for the position, and no one else applied. A few years before this Mr. Edwards occupied a comparatively subordinate position. The Public Service Commissioner desired to make an appointment to one of the positions under him, and Mr. Edwards and a number of officers in similar positions to that which he occupied applied for the position to be filled. Obviously, none of the important officers, such as the Deputy Postmasters-General and secretaries of Departments applied for what was merely a subordinate position. That Mr. Edwards is an able man is shown by the fact that from those who answered the advertisement, Mr. McLachlan selected huu for the comparatively subordinate position to be filled. I have a very high opinion of the abilities of Mr. McLachlan, and of his work as Public Service Commissioner. He selected Mr. Edwards for a position which was not, I believe, as high as that of an inspector under himself. That Mr. Edwards proved himself a capable man cannot be questioned, because he retained the confidence of Mr. McLachlan, who, in all probability, suggested that he should be appointed Acting Public Service Commissioner during the term of his own leave of absence. I think that Ministers will agree that if applications were called by advertisement for the position of Public Service Commissioner, which is the biggest thing in the Public Service, many of those in charge of Departments would be prepared to submit their names as applicants. Mr. Edwards may have demonstrated, since his appointment as Acting Public Service Commissioner, that he is better fitted for the position than any one else in the Public Service. I do not say that he is or that he is not.
But it is unfair that he should be obliged! to fill his present office for so long a period in an acting capacity. It is not a good thing for the efficiency of the Service that its head’ should be liable te Le superseded at any moment. I have previously brought this matter under the notice of Ministers, and have received from them the most amiable replies to the effect that they intended to look into it, with a view to arriving at some definite decision. I think it is time that their decision was forthcoming. If they intend to make a radical alteration in the Department - if they propose to abolish the office of Public Service Commissioner - why not intimate the fact to us? Mr. Edwards has been Acting Public Service Commissioner now for close upon five years, and it is high time that Ministers resolved upon a definite1 course of action.
– A question asked by Senator Earle to-day in respect of blind persons suggests that something should be said on the claims of the blind to greater consideration than they have hitherto received. I do not find fault with the treatment which has been meted out to them until recently,, when, owing to the increase in the cost of living, they have been subjected to more severe disabilities than have persons who are not thus afflicted. The reply given by the Minister to the question put by Senator Earle was that the Government are considering the matter. I trust that they will speedily arrive at a conclusion as to what they intend to do, and that they will extend” more sympathy to the blind members of the community than they have exhibited up to the present time. Of course, we all recognise that blind persons are the especial care of the Commonwealth and State Governments. The Commonwealth has undertaken to provide a certain amount for blind persons, who suffer greater disabilities than do individuals labouring under any other infirmity.’ To* my mind’, blindness is the greatest affliction which can befall any individual. The Defence Department has recognised this fact in its treatment of our blind soldiers. I do not suggest that these men are being treated more generously than they ought to be. In my view, it is impossible to treat them too generously. But from the stand-point of personal disability, the blind civilian occupies just as bad a position as does the blind sol- dier. There are many persons in Australia who have been blinded as the result of accident, such as premature explosions in mines, &c.,after they have reached the age of manhood. Obviously, from the stand-point of physical disability, their position is equally as bad as that of the blind soldier. The latter, I understand, is receiving £4 per week. We do not ask for that amount in the case of the blind civilian. But we do ask that the invalid pension shall be made available to the blind civilian without any deduction whatever from his earnings. Most of our blind institutions are asking that their inmates shall be allowed to earn up to £2 per week before their pensions are reduced. Personally, I fail to see why there should be any limit imposed on the earnings of blind persons, particularly if they are working in a blind institution. There is no check upon the earnings of the blind mendicant upon the public street, and nobody knows what are his earnings save himself or those who are directly connected with him. But the blind inmate of any of our public institutions is in quite a different position. The Deputy Commissioners of Pensions in the various States insist upon a return from the blind inmates of such institutions. I have already said that the blind civilian is in a very much worse position than is a person who suffers from any other infirmity. The latter may be physically weakor diseased. But the blind person is generally in possession of all his other faculties, and naturally desires to marry and reproduce his species. This he ought to be encouraged to do, whereas persons suffering from disease, such as consumption, should be discouraged. A blind person is compelled to depend entirely on the assistance rendered to him by persons who have sight, and there is nothing, therefore, to prevent him being landed in the Insolvency Court within a very short period. I have here a statement showing the methods which are being adopted by the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in South Australia in dealing with civilian inmates of the Institution for the Blind in North Adelaide. I do not blame that officer, who is merely carrying out the duties which are imposed upon him by the Act. In the case of a married man with four children, his pension has been reduced from 12s. 3d. to 5s. 9d. per fortnight, the reason alleged being that his earnings exceed the amount provided by the Act. In other words he is being penalized for becoming a better citizen than it was thought possible he could become at the time the Act was passed. In another case - that of a blind woman who is the wife of a partially blind husband - the pension has been reduced from 17s. 6d. to 10s. per fortnight. This reduction was consequent upon the increase granted by the Institution. The pension of another woman was reduced from 7s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. per fortnight for the same reason. There is, therefore, no incentive for these people to earn more than the amount provided under the Act, because they will be penalized if they do so. The Institution, in addition to paying the men a fixed wage for the work they do, also gives them a bonus upon the profits made on the sales by it. These bonuses are distributed on the basis of the earnings of the persons concerned. There is still another man in this Institution whose case is a particularly hard one. He met with an accident in a mine at Broken Hill some years ago, and is in receipt of a pension of 15s. per week from that mine. This pension was not taken into account by the Deputy Commissioner in dealing with his pension. Towards the end of last year this man’s pension’ was reduced from 19s. 6d. to 6s. 9d. per. fortnight because of his increased earnings. On the 6th January last he received from the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in South Australia the following letter : -
Mr. Bryan Ryan,
Royal Institution for Blind,
I have to inform you that, as the result of the recent re-investigation of your claim, it has been found that the increase in your bank balance is in excess of the amount allowed by the Pensions Act. Consequently you have been overpaid the sum of £46 7s. 6d. The Commissioner of Pensions, Melbourne, to whom your case has been referred, directs that you be asked to refund this amount in full. I shall be glad, therefore, to receive a remittance at your earliest convenience. Your pension has been cancelled as from 23rd October, 1919. Please forward your pension certificate to this office without delay. (Signed) Deputy Com. Pensions S.A.
That is the case of a thrifty man who on day work was in receipt of 10s. per week, and, who, when on piece-work, earned 16s. 10d., which shows that he earned for the institution a good deal more than, he was previously receiving. When on piece-work he was paid a bonus of 30 per cent., which was later increased to 40 per cent., and in consequence of that increase the Deputy Commissioner stopped his pension). I submitted the matter to the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in Adelaide, and also communicated with the Acting Commissioner in Melbourne, as I looked upon the case as a particularly hard one. Ryan was a thrifty, married man, and must have lived a very frugal life to have saved money on the small amount he had been receiving. It is not my intention to read my letter to the authorities, because it would necessitate a repetition of the facts I have already placed before the Senate. I shall, however, quote a portion of the reply I received from the Acting Commissioner of Pensions in Melbourne. It reads -
With reference to your letter of 2nd February, I have to say that Mr. Bryan Ryan, of Royal Institution for the Blind, North Adelaide, is not entitled to a pension at the present time the calculation being as under: -
This man saved £238 in eight years, and becausehe had not played “ ducks and drakes “ with his savings his pension has been stopped. It seems particularly hard that a thrifty person who has been striving hard to save money to build a. home should be denied payment when one who has spent his money freely is not similarly penalized.
– It does not encourage one to be thrifty, and it is a temptation to a man to drink.
– Exactly. The Commissioner’s letter continues -
When pensions were first granted in 1011, Ryan did not have a banking account. Information now. obtained shows that his account in April, 1914, was £60, and has gradually increased since that time until it now stands at £238. As a consequence, he has for ft number of years been receiving a higher pension than that to which he was entitled, and was overpaid £46 17s. 6d.
The Commissioner states in his letter that he could have asked for a refund of £76, but because of Ryan’s infirmity he had been specially lenient towards him. The letter goes on -
As a general rule a refund is not insisted on if it can be proved that hardship would be entailed. In view of Mr. Ryan’s circumstances, however, it seems equitable to ask for a refund in his case, as he has been receiving and banking pension moneys to which he was not entitled.
I do not wish to labour the question any further. From the information I have given, honorable senators will see that this man has been unfairly treated. I have a letter from Ryan, which I do not intend to read, in which he puts his side of the case. I have also a statement relating to the various blind institutions throughout Australia showing subsidies received, and the splendid work they are doing in making blind persons useful citizens of the Commonwealth. I trust the Government will do everything possible to encourage the old and young amongst our blind to be as thrifty as Mr. Ryan has been, and that when an appeal is made to the Treasurer for an amendment of the Act to cover blind persons a favorable reply will be given.
During the debate Senator Earle referred to the Papuan oil fields, and expressed a desire to know what the Government were doing in the matter of developing those fields. It is admitted on every hand that it would be a tremendous advantage to Australia if we could discover suitable oil in our own territory. The Government have certainly done something by promising a bonus of £10,000 to the first company to produce oil in commercial quantities, but when a company can produce sufficient oil of the right quality to merit the payment of a bonus, a subsidy would not be required from the Government. Why do not the Government do as our State Governments invariably do with those who are anxious to prospect for minerals by making advances to enable prospecting work to be undertaken? It should be the policy of the Government to make advances from time to time to assist in the discovery of minerals or oil.
– There have been cases where State Governments have offered a substantial sum for the discovery of a profitable gold-field.
– That is so, and State Governments have assisted individuals to undertake prospecting.
– Has the honorable senator ever known of a successful case ?
– In South’ Australia, gold-fields, which were worked for a considerable period, were discovered by prospectors who received assistance from the Government. On some of the fields men are still “ fossicking “ and making a living.
– Did they receive Government aid in the first place?
– Yes. In some cases if money was not. advanced they were assisted with mining plant.
In South Australia an cil company has been formed for four or five years’, and shareholders have been paying calls to assist in developmental work, and if the Commonwealth Government were to subsidize such companies £1 for £1, it would be an inducement to other companies to prospect for oil. During the last two or three weeks two other South Australian companies have been formed to prospect for oil and coal in the vicinity of the Melbourne to Adelaide railway line, and ‘I am hopeful that the Commonwealth Government will assist them by advancing some of the £10,000 which has been promised for the discovery of oil. It should be the policy of the Government to assist such companies when it can be shown that satisfactory work is being done, and a bond fide effort is being made to prospect for oil. The South Australian company that has been in operation for four or five years has plant on the ground, and has sunk three or four bores to a depth of from 3,000 to 4,000 feet. That is a clear case where the Government should give some assistance. Whilst the Government have the right to develop Papuan oil fields, it is also their duty to see that the industry is encouraged in every part of Australia. Our experts have told us that in all our island Possessions there are indications of oil, and the same can be said of many portions of the mainland.
– There are indications at Roma, in Queensland.
– I do not know the prospects in Queensland, but investigations should be made in all the States.
On several occasions I have referred to the development of the resources of the interior of Australia, and whilst I am asking the Government to assist those who are boring for oil, they should also render financial aid to those who are prepared to bore for water in our dry areas. I hope the Government will give close attention to this matter, and that an amount will be included on the Estimates for this necessary work. It will be futile to endeavour to develop the Northern Territory until the NorthSouth railway is completed, and, in my opinion, that is one of the most pressing problems at present before us. It will also be necessary, in conjunction with that work, to widen the gauge of the existing line from Terowie to Port Augusta, and thence on to Oodnadatta. The other day I received a communication from a resident at Alice Springs, who states that the climate in Central Australia is the best in the world . His description of the climatic conditions in the Macdonnell Ranges reminded me of the glowing picture Senator Earle painted of the beauties of the Island State. 1 am not opposed to the Federal Capital being established at Canberra, but I think we might postpone further work there until a site within, say, 100 miles of Alice Springs has been considered. If the Federal Capital were so situated, the settlement of the Northern ‘ Territory would be an easy matter.
– Did the honorable senator say it would settle the Northern Territory ?
– No. If Parliament were sitting at a Federal Capital in the Macdonnell Ranges, it could more effectively deal with the settlement of that ‘ territory. A gentleman who has been living at Alice Springs for a considerable time sets out in a letter to me the amount that it costs people living in the interior in freight to get their goods as far as Alice Springs, which is only about 200 miles from the railhead at Oodnadatta. Camel freight is the only freight they can get, because, although bores have been put down, they, are not sufficiently frequent, and there is not enough water to permit of the use of any animal other than the camel. The writer says -
Camel freight at present from the railhead at Oodnadatta to Alice Springs is £ 17 per ton. The rail freight is up to £10 per ton, and, together with agencies, it runs into £32 per ton.
Can honorable senators imagine -what that freight means to the man in the interior on everything he eats, drinks, and wears ? It costs very much more to carry goods on further than Alice Springs. The writer sets out what it would mean to the people if the railway went through there. There are silver-lead deposits in the centre of Australia assaying 6 ozs. 6 dwts. of silver and 70 per cent, of lead to the ton,, but they cannot be profitably worked because of the disabilities of freight and handling. Another item which he mentions is “ tunstic acid, 19 per cent.,” which needs magnetic treatment. Th’is great industry is also lying idle there. He also states that there is an unlimited quantity of bat manure, worth £16 odd per ton. We have recently purchased Nauru Island for its phosphatic deposits, and spent nearly as much on it as would build the north-south railway. If this letter is correct - and the writer is a wellknown resident of the north - there is a great asset there in that item alone. There are also deposits of red and white ochre, and tremendous fields of mica. He savE that the trimmings from the larger blocks of mica, and the small pieces generally, are worth £40 per ton. He holds two mica claims himself, and is getting from 7s. to 20s. per lb. and upwards in Melbourne for mica.. He adds that the mica fields would easily carry over 500 men. I have seen mica packed in boxes brought down on camelback into Oodnadatta. The sheets would be about 12 to 18 inches by 24 to 30 inches - splendid sizes. That was the quality of stuff coming down from the Macdonnell Ranges quite twenty years air 0. and the industry is evidently still alive. Then there are the Arltunga gold mines’, which have been practically abandoned. Those were among .the mines that I referred to just now as being to some extent subsidized by the Government in the early days. The high cost of carriage has led to their abandonment. The State Government could do nothing for them, and instead of more men being settled in that central portion of Australia than there were before there are bow fewer.
Central Australia has very little in common with the northern or Darwin end, where the seat of government is. The people are of a different type. What suits Darwin will very likely not suit the residents of the Macdonnell Ranges, Alice Springs, or other parts of Central Australia. I am not speaking altogether for the Northern Territory, because this great area of country extends from one side of the continent to the other, across Queensland and the Northern Territory, and right into Western Australia. It comprises that great belt of country which has been referred to by people who know nothing whatever about it, as a desert and a wilderness. The man who has lived there for twenty or thirty years, if you ask him whether it is a desert, will tell you to go there and have a look for yourself. Those who have lived there speak in the highest terms of it, and assure every one who is interested that the only thing wanted is a backbone railway to develop the country, with spur lines to> be put in as they become necessary.
With regard tq the Seat of Government at Canberra, everybody knows that I have at all times strongly favoured the carryin*; out of the promise given by the Commonwealth to erect the Capital in New South Wales. Rightly or wrongly, a provision to that effect has been placed in the Constitution.
– There was no promise to place the Capital at Canberra..
– There was no promise to place it on any other spot. I have been to Canberra two or three times, and have travelled extensively over the Capital area. Failing the Macdonnell Ranges or Alice Springs, Canberra will do me as well as any other part of the State. We cannot split straws about this matter. Parliament has decided on Canberra, and, whatever our individual opinions may be, we cannot afford to go back on the promise made to the people of New South Wales and agreed to by the people of Australia.. Senator Thomas, in his remarks on Canberra, found fault with the “ miserable hovels “ in which the workmen are living there. I hope the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) will not overlook that point when he replies. I think I am right in saying that those “miserable hovels “ are not occupied by Commonwealth workmen at all. They are not such bad places after all. They are nice, comfortable little homes, with happy women and children living in them, and the people are satisfied with them. They are occupied by men who were working ‘at Canberra when the brick- works were in operation, but the works at Canberra are practically suspended, and those men are working wherever they can find employment. For all I know, they may be cutting sugarcane in Queensland at the present moment. They are paying ls. per year ground rent for the little plot on which -£he house is erected, although in that matter I speak subject to correction. I do not say that the homes of the men working at Canberra on the electric light -and so on are as good as could be found an Melbourne, or, better still, in Ade.hide. but they are good average homes. I was told by the women who live in the homes to which Senator Thomas has referred that their husbands were not -then working for the Commonwealth, as the Commonwealth works were closed down, but were looking for and getting work wherever they could find it. It is only fair to the Commonwealth Governanent to say that if these homes are not all they should be it is not the fault of the Commonwealth. I suppose, if the Government chose, they could order those persons off the Canberra site; but I do not think that Senator Thomas or any one else would be any better pleased with them for doing so. The people are happy there, so long as they are left there
Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) f4.45]. - The discussion of a Supply Bill of this nature serves a useful purpose, in that it gives honorable senators an opportunity, not only of speaking upon *he policy of the Government, but also of drawing attention to anything that should be done
– The honorable senator is mistaken. It is the first reading of the Bill which gives honorable senators the opportunity of discussing the policy of 4he Government. The debate on the second reading must be relevant to the Bill itself.
– I propose to confine myself as nearly as possible to the -contents of the Bill, but I submit that in debating the second reading it is very difficult to discuss the Bill without directly or indirectly referring to the Government’s policy. The two items that impel me to address myself to you are “the Government’s shipbuilding or shipping control activities, and the operations of the Wheat Board. I notice that mo specific particulars are set out in regard to those two activities, but other items are set out in the most scrupulous detail. I see under the Prime Minister’s account an item of £4 for an allowance to the Ministerial messenger, and under the Parliamentary account an item of £3 for water power supplied to Parliament House. I quite appreciate the motive underlying the inclusion of the cost of water. The exemplary character of this assembly is shown by the fact that water is its most popular beverage, and it is quite right that an important item should be set out in detail, but when I turn to the question of shipping, and the control of wheat, 1 am thrown back on my imagination to discover where the items are, or what form they take, or what amount is to be paid for them under this Bill. The total amount asked for by the Bill is over £5,000,000, but I do not see any reference in it to the large and growing activity known as the shipbuilding and shipping control of the Commonwealth. There is no word about the Wheat Board and all its ramifications, but I am pleased that the messenger, attending on the Prime Minister is mentioned, and that the cost of water power for Parliament House is not forgotten. A great deal of ingenuity must be practised in the compilation of this Bill, which may well be called a mere prospectus of expenditure. I notice that the concrete items of expenditure do not bulk so largely in many cases as the votes for contingencies. For instance, the amount set down for “ Pay “ under the Royal Australian Naval College is £4,470, whereas the amount for “ Contingencies “ is £5,650. That sort of thing is repeated throughout these pages. The contingencies in the case of lighthouses in Tasmania, for instance, amount to £1,600, and in New South Wales to £2,000. In New South Wales the contingencies for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department reach the huge sum of £87,000. In the Department of Trade and Customs, on the other hand, we are given minute details’ of the expenditure of £5 for the remission of duties in necessitous cases. I can quite understand the extreme desire of the compilers of this document for scrupulosity regarding small amounts, but I do not see why larger amounts are lumped under the convenient heading of “ Contingencies,” which conveys nothing to the lay reader except the fact that a vast amount of money is being spent. I am content, for my part, to rely upon the Treasurer’s Advance as covering the votes for the control of shipping and the operations of the Australian Wheat Board, with which I am at present concerned.
Taking the last subject first, I feel that the doings of the Australian Wheat Board, because of their important bearing upon production in this country, might very well be dealt with now. The Board was instituted during the war period. It steps in between the producers and consumers of this country and the consumers of other countries by regulating the price at which our farmers’ produce shall be sold. So far as I can see, provision is made in the Estimates under the comprehensive title of Treasurer’s Advance, and I should like to take this opportunity of referring to the effect of the Board’s operations on the primary producers of this country, who, during the war period, did not get the world’s parity for their produce.
– There is no item in the Bill referring to the Wheat Board.
– Nor is there any provision for shipping control.
-Then, how are the members of the Wheat Board paid ? Are they giving their services for nothing?
– How they are paid is another matter entirely. The fact is, not one penny of these Estimates concerns the Wheat Board. It is financed outside altogether.
– I presume that, in discussing the salary of the responsible Minister, we are entitled to deal with the administration of the Wheat Board, because the Minister, as shown, holds a very important office. Seeing that he has the material destiny of a large number of people in the hollow of his hands, I submit that it is perfectly apropos to the debate that the doings of the Wheat Board, as represented by the chairman of that body, should be reviewed.
The DEPUTY PEESLDENT (Senator Shannon). - The honorable member is straining the interpretation of the Standing Orders by taking that line of argument. He had an opportunity of discussing the whole position on the first reading of the Bill.
– No doubt, that is so, Mr. Deputy President, but I was engaged on public business at the telephone when the first reading of the Bill slipped through, so I did not have an opportunity then. I now submit that I should not, by a misadventure, be deprived of the opportunity to refer to this most vital subject.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I must point out to the honorable senator that the Bill does not contain any item dealing with this particular subject. He will have ample opportunity of bringing the matter up in another form.
– I realize that, and, if I do not get an opportunity, I shall make one, because this Chamber has a great deal of interest in the operations of the Wheat Board. If that body does not respond wisely and fully to sound public policy, it must have a very prejudicial effect upon production, with which you, sir, as a producer, are so conversant.
The DEPUTY PRE SIDENT. - It is not within the scope of the Bill to allow the honorable senator to proceed along that line of argument.
– Then, Mr. Deputy President, 1 will have to take another opportunity of referring to these matters, which will not brook further delay.
– If permitted, I desire to refer to some aspects of the Navigation Act under the item “Navigation, Contingencies, £425.” At the outset, I must again remind honorable senators that the Bill, now the Act, was passed in 1912, but did not receive the King’s assent till the 12th August, 1919. I do not think such a farce as this has been committed in any other Parliament under the British flag. Then, on the 23rd December of last year, the Government issued a proclamation bringing into force fifty-two sections and two schedules. Information which I have obtained is so contradictory that I am of opinion that the people who are running the Department are trying to throw dust in the eyes of the people. In reply to a question submitted by an honorable senator, we were informed by the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Russell) that the fifty-two sections and two schedules I have mentioned came into operation on the 2nd March, 1920, but I have been told that it lias been decided to postpone the operation of these clauses, and that, as a matter of fact, no portion of the Act is in operation. Where do we stand? The Minister said that fifty-two sections and two schedules were in operation, but 1 have been informed by the Department that a Bill will shortly be introduced to suspend the operation of these sections. Where do we stand? We have been told that a Director of Navigation has been appointed. When. I asked how the appointment was made, I was referred to the Commonwealth Gazette, but as th’e date was unknown to me, that did not help me very much. On two or three occasions previously I have urged that honorable senators should be supplied with a copy of the Commonwealth Gazette, so that they might keep in touch with all this class of information. I undertake- to say that an advertisement calling for applications for this important position did not appear in a single newspaper in Australia. I am not going to say whether the appointment was a wise one or not. The point is, Parliament has absolutely no cognisance of the matter, and if I can believe rumour, the appointment was made without the consent of the Public Service Commissioner. I remind honorable senators that in 1903 a Royal Commission investigated the whole position, but Parliament took three years to deal with the report. Finally the Bill was passed, and reserved for the King’s assent. During the war period, no doubt, there was good reason for withholding the Royal assent, but I cannot understand why it was found necessary to” issue a proclamation dealing with only fifty-two sections and two schedules. There is a good deal of discontent on the water fronts of Australia, and men are blamed for taking action on their own account, but they do. not know where they stand. If a measure dealing with the pastoralists’ interests had been passed, do honorable senators think the King’s assent would have been withheld for seven years? It would have been dealt with or repealed; and I challenge the Government now to bring down a measure to repeal the Navigation Act. They will then see where they will land this country. The troubles in connexion with our coastal trade should be dealt with promptly. Parliament definitely laid down the principle that the
Australian coastal trade should be reserved for Australian ship-owners and seamen.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Shannon). - The honorable senator is not in order in discussing the whole of the Navigation Act.
– I am dealing with the proposed expenditure of £425. I want to know how the money is going to be spent? Are the Government doing their duty in this matter? We are told that a Bill is to be introduced to validate the action they have taken. If Parliament suspends the operation of the Navigation Act, then the Navy Department, as at present constituted, has no right to exist. If, on the other hand, Parliament decides to give effect to the Act, a new Navigation Department should be established, and not one established by - I will not say what I should like to say on this matter.
– Probably it would be unparliamentary.
– Very probably it would. There is no other example in the history of British legislation of an Act of Parliament being held up for eight years. The Navigation Act is today absolutely obsolete.
– It took about ten years to build it up.
– It took seventeen years- from 1903 to 1920.
– And we have not got it yet. It is scandalous.
– It is scandalous. We are told that a Bill is to be introduced to suspend the few provisions of the Act that were proclaimed in operation, and we are told, at the same time, that they are not in operation. I make the strongest protest I can in this matter. Seamen have to go in overloaded ships; they have to accept accommodation which this Parliament has absolutely condemned. . They must go in ships that are shorthanded, because the manning scale fixed by this Parliament is not enforced.
– They have not been going at all lately.
– Because they did not feel that way.
– They have been going, and they have felt that way.
Men have been serving in Commonwealth ships, and have not been receiving the benefits of the Navigation Act passed in 1912. I ask the Government to reconsider their action in this matter. If amendments of the Navigation Act are necessary - and they are, because we have progressed since the Act was passed - let them bring down an amending Bill and secure to our seamen even better conditions than those which we provided for them in 1912.
.- I have only one or two remarks to make on the Bill, and I wish first to refer to the Supply provided for this Parliament. I do not know which Minister will be able to give me the information I seek, but I suppose I shall get it in the course of the evening. There is quite a lot of talk going round this building, and it has created a good deal of debate in another place, regarding the payment of people employed in connexion with this Parliament.
– Does the honorable senator mean the members of the Parliament?
– No, I am not very much concerned about that just now. There is always a lot of dissatisfaction regarding the pay of members of Parliament, but there should be the utmost satisfaction in connexion with the payment of persons employed by the Parliament.
– The honorable senator had better deal with the matter in Committee, when the President (Senator Givens) will have an opportunity of replying to him.
– I will go on now with what I have to say, and the President can reply when the Bill is in Committee. I wish to have this matter cleared up, and if it is the President who is responsible, he will probably be in a position to clear it up. It has been said in another place that people employed in this building have certain perquisites that are not enjoyed by people engaged in similar occupations outside. If that is so, it is objectionable. If a man is worth employing, he should be paid an adequate salary, and should not be expected to depend on perquisites of any kind.
– The statement is not true.
– I do not know that it is not true. That is what I think ought to be cleared up. If the President is able to clear the matter up, we shall know where we are. If there are cases in which men are being paid lower rates of wages for services connected with this Parliament than are received by men engaged in similar occupations outside, I say that is wrong, and it wants altering. I do not think that if honorable senators were aware of it, they would stand it for a moment. These statements are made, and I am not in a position to contradict them. If they are correct, then something is happening which should be altered, and if they are not correct, we should know the truth about the matter.
Regarding the Electoral Act, I think it should be amended. I can quite understand that honorable senators opposite, who were successful at the recent election, should not find very much fault with it; but I believe that the consensus of public opinion in Australia to-day warrants me in saying that it is such a scandalous piece of legislation that it should be amended as speedily as possible.
– In what direction?
– In every direction. As one honorable senator said this afternoon, we were assured by the Government that, in the counting for the Senate election, the first, second, and third preferences would be of equal value. As a matter of fact, in my own case, on the first count I was said to have secured about 54,000 votes, and at the end of the race my figure was still 54,000, notwithstanding that the people who supported me voted? the ticket thatI was on. Our leading man, speaking from memory, polled, say, 256,000 votes, or within 14,000 of a place; and yet here I am, at the close of the poll, with 54,000 votes. Being on the Labour party’s ticket, we may assume that ifin the count every vote had been exhausted, in all probability I should have been within a couple of thousand votes of the number recorded for the Labour candidate highest on the poll.
– The honorable senator must have been one of the excluded candidates.
– In my opinion, if the votes at the Senate election were analyzed fully, as they should be, in view of our experience of the operation of the- Act, it would be found that in Victoria the Farmers’ candidates were ‘ the three men elected. I say that, for the reason that they received, not only the votes of their own party, but of the Nationalist party and of the Labour party. If the values of all the votes recorded were estimated, I feel sure that the three Farmers’ candidates would be sitting here after June of this year to represent Victoria in the Senate.
– That would be quite right, only the electors showed a prior preference for some one else. Nationalist and Labour voters concentrated Upon the Farmers’ candidates only on the supposition that they could not get their own men in.
– Only the fourth, fifth, and sixth preferences were given to them.
– That may be all very well, but my contention is still that the votes recorded were not exhausted. For instance, the first, second, and third preferences that I received were never exhausted, and so I am still supposed to have received only 54,000 votes, notwithstanding the fact that we were assured that the first, second, and third preferences would be considered of equal value in the count. I venture to say that electors supporting the Labour party voted 1, 2, 3 for the Labour candidates throughout the piece.
I agree with Senator Guthrie that it is a very great shame that the Navigation Act has not been brought into operation. It took this Parliament ten or twelve years to pass a measure which was intended to benefit the seafaring men of this country. Every member of the Senate is aware that these men have to lead a very hard life, and this country went to a great deal of trouble to give them relief by passing a measure which, it was believed, would be of some benefit to them. It took years to pass the Bill; it was years again before it was proclaimed, and since its proclamation it has not been put into operation. The tremendous seamen’s strike which we had a little while ago was brought about mainly because the Navigation Act was not put into operation.
I was going to say something about arbitration, but I should probably be ruled’ out of order if I attempted to do so on the second reading of this Bill. I shall, therefore, take advantage of another opportunity to . refer to the question, and to the very reasonable speech which Senator Fairbairn delivered upon it.
– Certain matters have been referred to during the debate which justify me in detaining the Senate for a few minutes to deal with those in connexion with which I feel competent to make some replySenator Earle raised a question as to what the Federal Government are doing in connexion with the admittedly very important work of seeking to discover oil in the Territories under the control of this Parliament. I believe that every one recognises that the Government have shown a keen appreciation of the value which the discovery of a suitable oil supply would be to Australia. It is becoming a commonplace now to say that oil ia an essential, not only in the matter of defence, but to our industrial life. After some considerable expenditure and years of effort on our own part, the Government, through the action of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), have made an arrangement with the Admiralty authorities, who have had considerable experience in this matter, and are linked up with the experts in Persian oil-field exploration, to act with the Government of the Commonwealth’, and make their experts available in the exploration of our Territories for oil. Some of the officials sent out as a result of the agreement with the Imperial Government are here to-day, or have left for New Guinea. They have completed the first stage of their journey from the Old Country, and are about to commence investigations. I express the hope, in which I am sure honorable senators join me, that as a result of their labours Australia will in the matter of oil soon cease to be an importing, and become an exporting, country.
Another point raised was as to postal facilities. The matter was dealt with by Senator Earle and referred to by some other honorable senators, but was, I am sure, in the mind of every honorable senator present. I can give the Senate a statement in connexion with that matter which, I believe, will be generally accepted as satisfactory. The Government quite recognise that whilst in war time it .was specially incumbent on them to make every financial post a winning post, now that the war. is over there is some justification for taking a less commercial view of Post Office activities than we did during the last four or five years. The Government, therefore, having given consideration to the question of the telephonic and mail services of the Commonwealth, are now engaged in the development of a scheme which will provide additional facilities of this nature to rural residents, and they thus hope to increase the prosperity and contentment of our primary producers.
– What does that mean?
– It means that the Government contemplate a more generous policy to rural residents in regard to the granting of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities. It does mot mean that every application lodged by an honorable senator for a new service will be granted, but it does mean that there will be a less rigid control of expenditure in this connexion than has obtained during the past five years. It does not mean any particular thing-
– It does not mean anything in particular.
– That is the honorable senator’s characteristic way of expressing it. If Senator Foll seeks to tie me down to the statement that a particular individual who is perhaps acting, say, as postmaster in an out-of-the-way place, and who has been reduced a shilling or two, will get it back. I fear that he will be disappointed. But the Government consider that the time is opportune to adopt a more liberal policy in regard to the requirements of country residents than has hitherto been found possible.
– I remember getting a statement from the late PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) that he had been around Australia, and that there were no complaints about his administration.
– Probably there were no complaints to him, because they seem to have reached everybody else.
– He was the ablest man who ever occupied the position of Postmaster-General.
– It is only common justice to the late Postmaster-Gene ral to say that he was faced with an invidious and almost impossible task. Everybody, from north, south, east, and west, was crying out that he should run his Department on commercial lines, but the very moment he attempted to do so they exclaimed, “Why, you are cutting down our services.” But his bold administration was far more deserving of commendation than it is of the cheap gibes which are constantly thrown at it. Senator Foll has raised the question of the desirableness of establishing an additional telephone line from Sydney to Brisbane. I wish to see telephonic facili- ties multiply as rapidly as possible, and I shall have pleasure in bringing his remarks under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise).
Senator Thomas had something to say about the forfeiture of the deposits of candidates under our Electoral Act. It is an iniquity if a particular candidate, who, although not successful, occupies a very respectable position on the poll, is penalized by the forfeiture of his deposit, while another candidate whom he has beaten in the contest escapes such a penalty. I made that statement publicly very ‘soon after the recent election, and I have since communicated with the Prime Minister with a view to suggesting, not only the remission of these penalties, but an amendment of the Act. I find, however, that there has now arisen some legal doubt as to whether these deposits are forfeitable. Lawyers, like legislators, sometimes disagree as to the meaning of words. At any rate, I repeat my previous assurance that, if it be shown that the effect of the Act is to bring about the results mentioned by Senator Thomas and myself, the Government will alter it. If, on the other hand, the deposits are not forfeitable, there has been a lot of cry, but no harm has been done.
– But there are some candidates who apparently lose their deposits legitimately under ,the Act. Take the case of the defeated candidates for the Senate in Queensland.
– Those are the cases to which I am referring. Those candidates, because their names appeared on the ballot-paper in alphabetical order, polled very few primary votes, and they ought not to be penalized on that ac- count, and will not be. Since then the only point which has arisen is as to whether the interpretation placed upon the Act by Senator Thomas and myself is the correct one. If it be not, everybody will be pleased. On the other hand, if that interpretation should prove correct the Government will take steps to alter the Act, and to prevent the candidates in question from being penalized.
SenatorFairbairn. - Like most of our Acts, nobody can understand it.
– I was not here at the time the Act was passed, but I have been reading the discussion which took place upon it, and I do not know whether the Senate understood all the points at issue. I frankly admit that I cannot undersand them even after having read the debate.
Senator Thomas also raised the question of the Federal Capital, and mentioned that New South Wales had not been unduly importunate in this matter. I speak as a New South Welshman, and I say that if New South Wales has become a little restive of late it is not because she is unconscious of the great financial responsibility that has been thrown on the Commonwealth as the result of the war, but because of the pronounced declaration by journals in this city, not that the establishment of the Capital should be postponed, but that the bargain whichhas been entered into should be altogether repudiated. So long as it was put to New South Wales that there were reasons for delaying the transfer of the Seat of Government to the Capital, she did not display any greater impatience than was natural in the circumstances. But when journals of some standing publicly advocate the repudiation of the bargain, into which we entered when we federated, she is naturally stimulated to make a pronounced effort to see that that bargain is kept. I do not think she will be unreasonable so long as there is a bonafide attempt made to redeem the agreement. But if it becomes clear that there is to be a systematic effort to repudiate it, she will be entitled to use any constitutional effort to enforce her claim.
– There was no agreement.
– And Senator Guthrie, as an honest man, will be with us.
I am rather sorry that Senator Lynch was not able to proceed with his remarks on the administration of the Wheat Pool, but, as he himself observed, he will be afforded another opportunity of doing so.
Senator Guthrie made some reference to the Navigation Act. He rather amused me with the ingenuity which he exhibited when he pleaded such blissful ignorance. There is no man in this Parliament who knows more than he does of the reasons which underlie the action of the Government. Yet he pathetically pleaded for information upon a subject of which he is full. He could get up and teach us all about the Navigation Act, and he knows perfectly well the reasons why the Government have suspended its operation.
– But why suspend its operation after establishing a Navigation Department?
– The appointment of Director of Navigation was made before the suspension of the Act.
– Nobody knew of it.
– I am perfectly certain that the gentleman who was appointed to that office knew of it. In justice to him I would like to correct an impression which may have been created by the remarks of Senator Guthrie - the impression that the appointee has seen no war service. That would be most unjust to Captain Davis, who rendered valuable service in the North Sea. Senator Barnes raised the question of the Electoral Act.
– Deal with the two different questions which have been raised in regard to the Navigation Act.
– I have not those questions in front of me, but I cannot see any conflict between the answers given to them.
– One answer was to the effect that the Act is not in operation, and the other states that a Bill is to be introduced.
– I am not questioning Senator Guthrie’s veracity in the matter, but very much depends upon a phrase or a word when one is asked to determine what is meant by it. I cannot conceive that anybody has told Senator Guthrie that the Act is not in operation.
– That is the answer which was given to a question in another place last week.
– The Navigation Act was proclaimed. The Government were then confronted with the information - which could not be questioned - that if its provisions were literally carried out it would almost paralyze the shipping trade, and would impose great privations upon many persons who are resident in the more distant parts of the country. Ministers, therefore, decided not to enforce its provisions for the time being. They will probably come down to Parliament and ask it to pass a Bill approving of the action which they have taken. To enforce the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act at the present moment would be to entirely cut off from the rest of the Commonwealth a large tract of our coast line-
– What portion?
– The north-west coast of Western Australia for a start.
– With black labour.
– But there are white people resident there.
– Black labour is employed on the ships.
– There are no ships employing white labour plying there, and there are not likely to be. Nobody can question my attitude towards the White Australia policy. But it would be a foolish and absolutely heartless thing to say to the people who live in those distant parts, “ You shall not have any supplies at all because you cannot get them by vessels carrying white labour.” To-day the coastal shipping of Australia is quite inadequate to the demands which are being made upon it. There is not one ship where there ought to be two.
– We have plenty of ships.
– I wish the honorable senator would tell me where they are. All the reports which are available show that there are arrears of freight which cannot be overtaken for months to come. We are not living in normal times, and we are bound to make the’ most of our scanty resources. In order to meet the absolute necessities of the occasion, we are for a brief period suspending the operation of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act.
– For a brief period -from 1912?
– We have not suspended those provisions from 1912. Seeing that it took Parliament severalyears to pass the Bill, it will not matter if effect is not given to it for a few weeks longer.
Reference was made by Senator Thomas to the question of informal votes, and I think that honorable senators will entirely sympathize with what he said in that connexion. I am not greatly impressed with the official assurance that any information which may be needed will create an avalanche of work that will overwhelm the Department. The point to be considered is whether the information referred to by Senator Thomas would be of value to the electors, and whether by discovering cases of error we can prevent their repetition in the future. When we recall that the number of informal votes was so great, there seems to be a possibility that in some cases the result might have been reversed had the informal votes been formal, and we are justified in endeavouring to secure additional information. The obligation is upon us, and I shall impress that view upon my colleague.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
– If it is the wish of the Committee, I propose taking the schedule in Departments.
Divisions 1 to 12 - Proposed vote, £7,690.
– I wish to bring before the Senate a matter that has already been mentioned by Senator Barnes and others, which relates more particularly to the treatment meted out to those we employ in connexion with this chamber and in other parts of the building. I am somewhat loath to mention a matter relating to the wages and working conditions of the men we employ, because it may be said by some that political influence is being brought to bear on their behalf, or that we are taking advantage of our political position to benefit one section of the
Service. Unless honorable senators or members of the other Chamber are allowed to speak on behalf of those employed in this building, they have no other way of voicing their grievances. They are cut off from the Arbitration Court, and simply because they are silent or do not threaten direct action, it may be thought by some that they are perfectly satisfied with their conditions. The only means of rectifying their grievances is to bring their case before Parliament. I would like to point out that under present conditions a stationary wage is a decreasing one. We are living in a period when prices are abnormally high, and a man on a stationary salary or wage finds it absolutely inadequate. We have to face the fact that commodities are increasing in price, and unless wages are similarly increased those in receipt of fixed wages are at a disadvantage, and have a grievance. The men employed in the Parliamentary Gardens have not received an increase since 1917, and I have authority for saying that these men are receiving a lower wage than those performing similar work for other public bodies. The men employed in the Fitzroy Gardens are working under an Arbitration Court award, and are receiving 12s. 4d. a day, whereas those employed in the Parliamentary Gardens are receiving only 103. 6d. a day. This is surely a discrepancy, and one which it is our duty to remove as soon as possible. Reference has been made in another place by Mr. Speaker to the fact that the men we employ receive some privileges or perquisites not enjoyed by others outside. I do not know if such privileges exist, and if they do I would like to know what they are. The officers in thi3 branch of the Legislature are not on an equal footing with those employed in another place, as I understand” that the messengers employed in the Senate are receiving a lower salary, although they perform similar duties. These are anomalies which should be explained. As we are in Committee and the President is on the floor of the chamber, he will have the opportunity of explaining the position. These officers are under the joint control of the President and Mr. Speaker, .and by bringing the matter f forward now we can have it ventilated.. Parliament has seen fit to retain control of its own officers and as these men have not the opportunity of going to the Arbitration Court or receiving the benefit of a Wages Board award, it is our duty to see that they receive just treatment.
– There is nothing to prevent them going to the Arbitration Court if they so desire.
– There is. They have no union.
– There is absolutely nothing to prevent them. They have! my permission, and have been invited to do so.
– In the first place, we know that they do not come under the Public Service Act.
– Yes, they do.
– They are under the control of Parliament, and do not come under the Public Service Act.
– That is nonsense.
– I do not consider it .nonsense. It is news to me if they do come under that Act, and we know they are not organized in such a way as to give them the opportunity to go before the Arbitration Court as a properly constituted body, and it is no use Senator Givens shuffling and making such statements.
– Does the honorable senator say that I am “ shuffling “ in the matter ?
– The honorable senator is making statements that will not bear investigation. These officers are not under the Arbitration Act, and they have not been given an opportunity of coming under its provisions. It would be useless appealing to the Court unless they were organized -into a union.
– Why do they not organize ?
– The honorable senator knows as well as I do that they cannot . go individually before the Court, and for all practical purposes they do not come within its scope. This is the proper time for us to ventilate their grievances, and it is some one’s duty to bring the matter forward. Statements have been made in another place - there must be something behind this - that they enjoy certain privileges, and I would like to know what they are.
Senator GIVENS (Queensland) [5.433. - I am glad this matter has b.een brought forward by Senator Barnes and Senator de Largie, as there has been a lot of underhand muttering around Parliament House, and it is well that the matter should be cleared up. Senator de Largie made a definite statement that these men have no redress because they do not come under the Public Service Act; but nothing is further from the fact, because they are under that Act. The only difference is that, for the purpose of administering the Act, Mr. Speaker and myself occupy the same position towards the servants of Parliament as the Public Service Commissioner occupies towards other members of the Service. That is definiely stated in the Act itself, and if Senator de Largie, who has been here since the inception of the Federal Parliament, and who assisted in passing the Act, says it is not so he is displaying deplorable ignorance regarding the position.
– I thank the honorable senator for his politeness.
– Senator de Largie was not too polite when referring to me. These men are under the Public Service Act, and, as I have said, Mr. Speaker and’ I occupy the same position regarding the employees of Parliament as the Public Service Commissioner does in connexion with other members of the Service. I was always under the impression, and still am, that there is not a. single officer in this House who is not paid a higher wage than any officer in a similar position elsewhere. It would be news to me to learn that officers in similar positions are as well treated and, as well paid as they are here. It is all very well to make a general statement, but to find proof is another matter.
– How do the wages and conditions compare with those in the State Parliament?
– The messengers in the Victorian State Parliament have to do the cleaning work, but that work here is done by a separate staff. We treat our men much better than the Victorian State Parliament treats its officers. The Commonwealth Parliament should be a model employer, and should provide the best rate.s and conditions for its officers in whatever capacity they are employed. In several specific cases I can prove that that policy has been carried out. I can commence at the lowest officers in any part of this
House, and, quite apart from the question of privileges or concessions, may say that they receive the top wages paid under any award. There is not a single award made by the Arbitration Court relating to the public servants which does not apply to the men employed by Parliament.
– What about the gardeners ?
– I shall come to that. Instead of paying the award rate for eight hours a day or eight hours a night for seven days or seven nights a week, we have paid the award rate when the employee has been asked to work only six days. As an instance, I may mention the night watchman who works for six nights, and is relieved by another member of the staff on the seventh night. Although he receives the Wages Board rate for seven days’ work, he is employed for one day less. The lift attendant and other employees, from the lowest to the highest, receive as much as those occupying similar positions elsewhere. Senator de Largie stated that the gardeners had not received an increase since 1917. That is not correct, and Mr. Monahan, who, I think, is in charge of that Department, will remember that the gardeners’ wages were increased 6d. per day last year, and they also received a bonus of ls. a day for the year before to make up for the increased cost of living. In addition to the increase in salary of 6d. a day, they received a bonus of £15 owing to the abnormal conditions prevailing, so their wages have not been at a stand-still. A bonus of £15 was given to the lower-paid servants, and last year we gave them. £10. That was the correct thing to do, as we were not justified in making a permanent increase in their wages until we saw whether the rise in the cost of commodities was likely to be permanent.
There is an exceptionally good staff of gardeners employed in the grounds of Parliament House. Some of them are amongst the best workmen I ever saw anywhere. At no matter what time of the day one looks out into the gardens, some of them will be seen working, and they are always going at top speed. I never saw more honest or more faithful workmen anywhere. In fact, they are as fine a set of workers as I ever met.
There is no Wages Board award for gardeners, and I took a great deal of trouble to find out what the Botanical Gardens were paying their men, what the Parks and Gardens Committee of the City Council were paying, and what every other institution which employed gardeners was paying. I caused Mr. Monahan to make special inquiries everywhere. We ascertained what others were paying, and we gave our men as high, or higher, wages than any of them were giving.
– Do you seriously say that the labourers here are paid as high rates as the labourers in the Fitzroy Gardens ?
– We have no labourers in these gardens. They are gardeners, and are paid better wages than are paid in the Botanical Gardens, or than the Parks and Gardens Committee are paying. Special inquiries were made everywhere to ascertain the ruling rates of wages, because I wanted this Parliament to be the best employer in this city, or in Victoria, or in Australia. That is an ideal at which I have always aimed.
– And we want good service, too.
– We ought to get good service in return.
– We are getting it.
– As a general rule, we are; but many men in the building have so much idle time on their hands that they have nothing to do but nurse grievances, which they do assiduously, and then go running to members of Parliament with complaints for which there is no justification whatever. The less a man has to do, the more apt he is to think he has a grievance, and to nurse it.
Mr. Speaker and myself have refused to make interim increases during this financial year, because, at the request of the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), and on the urgent representations of the Government last year, we cut down the Estimates to the lowest possible figure, and allowed ourselves nothing to come and go on. We told the employees that there would be, and could be, no review of their salaries until we undertook the preparation of the Estimates for the next financial year. We intend to review the salaries when considering those Estimates, which will be sent to the Treasury next month. I think it is towards the -end of April in each year that they are sent in. Until then it is not possible that we should review salaries which wane deliberately passed by Parliament last year, after Parliament had had a full opportunity of reviewing them. If we were continually to review the expenditure in connexion with Parliament, or if the Government were continually to review the expenditure in connexion with any other Departments, it would be of no use to prepare Estimates, or for Parliament to vote sums of money, because we should never know where we were. However, if any definite case is cited to me in regard to any individual employee, I will obtain all the facts, and put them before the Senate, and the Senate can judge for itself whether the employees of Parliament have been fairly treated or not.
As regards the general treatment of officers in this building, I may mention that one of the lower-paid servants of the Senate has been absent through illness for about fifteen months, and has been receiving full pay all the time. I ask the Senate generally if that is unfair or ungenerous treatment. 1 have always held that the officers and servants of Parliament should not be sweated. It would be a cruel thing to sweat these men, and, if they were being sweated by Mr. Speaker and myself, such a condition of things ought not to be allowed to continue. In order that allegations of that kind may not persist, I have made up my mind to recommend to the Government that the employees of Parliament shall all be placed under the Public ServiceCommissoner. We shall then have no complaints, or, if we do have complaints, those who make them can be transferred to other Departments, and other men sent here. I think that policy will remove a great many of the causes of the discontent that we now hear expressed. I have definitely made up my mind, because of the continual complaints and the continual talking to members of Parliament, and the continuous pressure put upon myself by honorable members, to recommend such a transfer, because the present conditions ought not to continue. I hope the Government and Parliament will agree toplace the staffs of Parliament under the control of the Public Service Commissioner, from whom they will receive the same treatment as is given to employees in all the other Departments.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Divisions 13 to IS. Proposed vote, £20,090.
– In previous Supply Bills an amount has been included under this Department for the payment of the Commonwealth Police Force. No such payment appears on this occasion. Can the Minister (Senator Millen) give the Committee any information as to what has become of the force, or whether it still exists? Will he state how many members of the force there are at the present time, what they are doing, and where they are to be found? A number of them were stationed in Queensland previously, and by one vote that I recorded in this Chamber I voiced my protest against the existence of the Commonwealth Police Force. Whatever justification there may have been for it in the past, I do not think there is any now. Before we pass a Supply Bill to provide for its payment, we may reasonably ask the Minister for some information on the lines I have indicated.
– There is no item dealing with the subject referred to by Senator Foll, and I am not prepared with information about a matter that is not covered by the Bill. I shall endeavour to obtain the information for the honorable senator at some later period of the session, but as the item is not in this Bill, I have no source of information to hand ‘now.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 26 to 33. Proposed vote £74,170.
– On the item “Government Printer - salaries, £2,200 ; contingencies, £650 ; total, £2,850 ; “ I desire to impress upon “Ministers the absolute necessity for members of Parliament to receive the Commonwealth Gazette. For four months since last session about 200 proclamations were issued under the War Precautions Act. Honorable senators were in absolute ignorance of them, because they received no copies of them. I have shown to-day that an important position was advertised in the Commonwealth Gazette, and no member of the Senate knew that it was open.
– How many qf us would have read the Gazette if it had been sent to us?
– I would.
– Cannot you have it, if you ask for it to be sent to you?
– No. The State Governments send out their Gazettes, and we know exactly what they are doing ; but we are absolutely denied the Commonwealth Gazette. I have applied on several occasions, and have brought the matter before the Senate, yet regulations under the War Precautions Act were being poured out week after week, and we knew nothing about them. We are refused the Gazette under a false pretence of economy. Every Gazette, from last December, is missing from our club room, and if I go to the Library it takes me an hour or two hours to pick up any information I want.
– That is “ over the odds.”
– It is, indeed. We are not supplied with the information that we should have. . War Precautions regulations issued during the four months that Parliament was in recess came along months and months afterwards, when they were of no use to us. I want to follow events so that I may know where we are. Within a small distance of my place there is a Naval depot. The men there have no opportunity of knowing what their position is, and they come to me for information. When I tell them I cannot give it to them, they ask, “ What sort of a representative are you ?” I put the blame on the Government for not supplying me with the information. There was a meeting at Port Adelaide recently on the subject of the Post Office. At this, the members of the Senate who could not get the necessary information were castigated by the City Council and by leading citizens. We have °. right to be informed officially of what is going on. A director, a secretary, and another officer are appointed in the Navigation Department, and we cannot follow what is being done. The harbor master at Port Adelaide asked me yesterday, ‘ ‘ What am I going to do under this Navigation Act?” I showed him the replies I was given in the Senate, to the effect that the Navigation Act was not in force. He replied that he had to see the local authorities,but he could not advise them, as he did not know anything. Personally. I have not seen the Commonwealth Gazette containing the notification of the suspension of certain sections of the Navigation Act. The harbor master has not seen it, and the authorities in Adelaid have not seen it. The expense of sending the Gazette to honorable members weald be very small. It has been scattered about in other directions, but I do not know why its issue to members of Parliament was stopped.
– Do other people get it while we do not?
– Any number of others get it. It is sent, for instance, to the institute at Oodnadatta. I ask the Government to give the Government Printer an absolute instruction to send the Gazette to every member of the Federal Parliament..
– Why not add, “ who chooses to ask for it “ ?
– What would it cost to supply it ?
– The postage would be a mere nothing.
– It is not the cost of supplying it so much as the cost to the. member of getting rid of it afterwards if he does not want it.
– If a member does not want it, he is not doing his duty. We all need it. Day after day, during the war, Gazettes extraordinary were issued, We could not keep ourselves informed of what the Government were doing, and, in their own interests, the Government ought to keep us supplied with these things as they come out. I do not believe any honorable member of the Senate knows that on the 8th January, when Parliament was in recess, the Navigation Service Marine Council was appointed. Did any honorable senator know that?
– No newsp aper in Australia published that information, and so I intend to place it on record for the information of honorable senators -
It is notified for general information that, Hinder the provisions of section 424 of the Navigation Act 1012-1919, the following have been appointed, as representing the interests mentioned against their respective names, to be members of the Marine Council: -
Ernest Arthur Eva, Esq. (Ship-owners: Australian-registered foreign-going shipping).
Percy William Bull, Esq. (Ship-owners: Australian-registered shipping, other that foreign -going) .
John McKenzie Corby, Esq. (Certificated Engineer Officers).
JohnO’Neill, Esq. (Seamen).
Lewis Findlay East, Esq., Acting Director of Navigation, Department of Trade and Customs, to be Chairman, pro tem, and to represent the Commonwealth Government.
Dated at Melbourne this fifth day of January, 1920.
Since that proclamation, there has been another, but I cannot find it. Mr. East is not the Acting Director of Navigation to-day. Captain Davis has that position. Here is another notification that appeared in the Gazette of the 8th January -
The undermentioned officers of the Commonwealth Quarantine Service, legally qualified medical practitioners, have been appointed Commonwealth Medical Inspectors of Shipping for the purposes of the Navigation Act 1912-1919, for. the ports mentioned against their respective names: -
Charles William Reid, Sydney
Paul Wanostrocht Mitchell, Sydney
Arthur Charles Robert Todd, Sydney
Arthur John Metcalfe, Newcastle
Charles Leslie Park, Melbourne
Roy Lindsay Park, Melbourne
Mervyn John Holmes, Melbourne
John Simeon Colebrook Elkington, Brisbane
William Henry Norman Randall, Brisbane
Gerald Aubrey Murray, Thursday Island
Frank William Augustus Ponsford, Port Adelaide
Frank Elton Cox, Fremantle
Dated at Melbourne this fifth day of Janu ary, 1920.
Minister for Trade and Customs
– In the Senate club-room. I was away from the clubroom for three or four months, fighting the battles of candidates who have been elected to this Chamber, and therefore I did not have the information earlier. I emphasize again the fact that, although the Act is not in operation, these appointments have been made. I never heard of Mr. Ponsford, and I have been in Port Adelaide for forty years. The appointments are really illegal, and might involve the Commonwealth in considerable expenditure. For instance, if the Act were in force, these men would have the right to demand that certain accommodation be provided on ships, and to prevent any ship from going to sea until the conditions of the Navigation Act were complied with. In that way, a ship might be held up for an indefinite period. How the appointments were made, I do not know.
– Does anybody?
– The Ministers seem to be in the same position as honorable senators. I maintain that we should be kept in touch with what is being done, so that if we disapprove we may have an opportunity of protesting on the floor of the Senate. We should not be obliged to get our information from the newspapers.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I think that the information we are getting from Senator Guthrie is so interesting that it is advisable that he should be allowed to continue his remarks.
– The people who were most interested did not have an opportunity of applying for these positions, particularly that of the Director of Navigation. In the early days of the Navigation Act a man of the same name as the new Director of Navigation was appointed Director, but unfortunately he died shortly afterwards, and from that time up till the present it was not thought necessary to fill the position.
– Under what Act was the previous appointment made?
– Under the same Act.
– Then it is in operation.
– It is not: The Act has not been proclaimed.
– Then the previous appointments were illegal.
– I think certain sections of the Act were proclaimed.
– I must ask the honorable senator not to discuss the Navigation Act at this stage. The question under discussion is the Government Printer. Under that head the honorable senator is entitled to refer to the publication of the Commonwealth Gazette.
– I submit that under this heading I am entitled to discuss expenditure under the Navigation Act, because notifications relating to the Navigation Act have appeared in the Gazette, and information which is contained’ in these notifications has been denied on the floor of the Senate.
– But does not the honorable senator get all this information in the Statutory Rules?
– Sometimes, but months after the rules have been promulgated.
– They are supplied in loose leaflets.
– Months afterwards, whereas the Commonwealth Gazettes and Extraordinary Gazettes are published from day to day. The Printing Committee decides the question of printing the regulations, and sometimes we do not get them. I think Senator Henderson will bear me out when I say that many regulations are not printed. Every honorable senator is entitled to all the information that may be available to them and in the interests of the Commonwealth, so, that they may be in a position to deal with the various matters that come before them.
– There is no need for Senator Guthrie to make an appeal to the Senate to support him in this matter. All he has to do is to ask for the Gazette, and he can get it. That has been the position for some years - ever since the time when there was brought under the attention of the Government the unjustifiable, and, indeed, scandalous, waste of paper involved in the distribution of publications which nobody wanted. It was a great relief to manyhonorable senators when the wholesale distribution of these documents ceased, because up till then honorable senators, upon returning to Melbourne from their week-end visits to their constituencies, were often deluged with an avalanche of papers which overwhelmed them when they opened their lockers, and they would then be engaged for halfanhour sorting out the material. The Government decided, in the interests oi economy, not to circulate these publications, except. to members who desired them.
– And paid for them.
– No. A circular was issued asking members to intimate which of the several publications they desired to have continued’.
– The Minister is quite correct.
– If Senator Guthrie did- not intimate that he desired the Commonwealth Gazette to be continued, surely the fault is his; it does not lie at the door of the Government.
– I never got it.
– I am afraid, then, that Senator Guthrie was unfortunate. When that circular was sent out I know with what relief I intimated the few documents I wanted. I may tell Senator Guthrie now that he has only to notify the Government Printer that he desires the Commonwealth Gazette, and he will be supplied with it.
– I am to beg for it.
– It is not a question of begging for it. The position taken up is a sound one. Instead of sending a bulky Gazette, and many copies of it. in the course of a year to members who do not desire .them, the Government asked each member to say whether he wanted them or not. If he does he gets them, and if he does not the Government decline to waste paper by sending the documents to the annoyance of the member to whom, they are addressed. Senator Guthrie lias himself furnished proof that the disability he is under is not as great as he has tried to make. out, because he has. quoted from the Commonwealth Gazette which is filed in the club room, and is regularly available to honorable senators.
– But I may be in Adelaide.
– So much the better for Adelaide; but that does not disprove mv statement that there is no difficulty in obtaining the document. The honorable senator can get it, upon application, from the Government Printing Office, and it is filed here in the club room, where he can see it if he does not feel disposed to apply for it. If there is anything in the general protestation of a desire to effect economy, it must be admitted that the action taken, not by the present, but by a previous, Government, to prevent an undoubted waste was the correct action to take. I do not think that the Senate will call upon the Government to reverse that action, which leaves it open to honorable senators who want the documents to get them, whilst if they do not they are not thrust upon them,. If,’ Senator Guthrie finds the effort of applying for the Commonwealth Gazette too much for him. and will leave the matter to me-
– I have asked the Minister on the floor of this chamber.
– If the honorable senator thinks that replying to the circular is too great an effort, I shall take the responsibility upon myself, if he will allow me to use his name and authority, to ask the Government Printer to have the document sent to him.
– What about the legality of the appointment of the Director of Navigation?
– I am concerned just now with the effect of the Standing Orders, and the only point raised is. that referring to the supply of the Commonwealth Gazette.
.- If it is in conformity with the Standing Orders, I should like the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) to give some information regarding the Treasurer’s proposed trip to England in the very near future. So far no announcement on the subject has been made in the Senate. An announcement was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in another place, but I contend that it should not be necessary for members of the Senate to rely upon what may be said in another place for their information. The Minister might explain what the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is going to England for, and how long heis likely to be away. I realize that it is in the best interests of Australia that the honorable gentleman should proceed to London at the present time.
– How can the honorable senator say that if he does not know why he is going ?
– I think so highly of the Government that I have confidence that they would not send the . Treasurer to London if there were not some good reasons for doing so. I should like some information as to the reasons why he is going to London, so that members of this august Chamber should not have to depend on what is said in another place for their information as to the movements of Ministers.
– I do not know that I can supply exactly the information Senator Foll desires, but I shall make an effort to do so. I have here a few figures which I think furnish ample justification for the mission about to be undertaken by the Treasurer (Mr. Watt). Honorable senators will recollect that by the Budget-papers tabled here, I think in October of last year, it was shown that the Government required £40,000,000 to be raised by loan during the present financial year for the purpose of meeting war and repatriation expenditure. Shortly after that time a loan of £25,000,000 was floated, and the balance of £15,000,000 has yet to be raised. As this £15,000,000 is required to meet payments to the Imperial Government it is desirable that the money should be raised not here, but in England where it is due. During the early stages of the war Australia borrowed in actual cash from the United Kingdom £47,500,000, which was used on general war expenditure. The British authorities stipulated that the principal of this indebtedness should be increased in accordance with any additions to the cost of the war to the United Kingdom by conversion operations. The British Government were continually converting their loans, and they proposed that our indebtedness should be increased pro rata with their indebtedness on that account. The £47,500,000 has in this way already been increased to £49,000,000. This is a debt repayable to the British Government at various dates between 1925 and 1947. In addition, Australia owes £37,000,000 to the British Government up to the 30th June last for moneys paid on our account for the maintenance and equipment of Australian forces abroad. This is a debt incurred without provision for a definite period of repayment, but the British Government have indicated a desire for an early settlement. In addition to this there is a sum of £2,250,000 due to the Admiralty in respect of transports and repairs and maintenance of ‘Australian warships, and another off £2,250,000 advanced to Australia for urgent payments a few months ago, when exchange upon London was unobtainable. In part settlement of transactions we have undertaken to repay £8,750,000 to the British Government as soon as possible. This total is made up of £2,250,000 due to the Admiralty; £2,250,000 advanced as stated just now; and £4,000,000 which we formerly agreed^ to repay, and for which provision is made on the loan Estimates of this year. The £4,000,000 is part of £37,000,000 previously referred to.
It is quite clear that Australia cannot immediately meet the amount of its indebtedness, and a position of considerable difficulty and some delicacy arises. It was with the view that the matter might be more directly and frankly discusser! that the Commonwealth Government deemed it desirable that one of its members - and necessarily in a matter of this kind the one selected was the Treasurer - should be despatched to confer with the Imperial authorities.
In addition to the very important financial matters to which I have referred, I think everybody is aware that there are other matters very particularly and acutely affecting Australia that are not in an entirely satisfactory position today. For instance, the mandate regarding the Pacific Islands has not yet been issued. It is of importance to Australia that finality should, be reached with that matter, and that we should know exactly where we stand. The delay arises from one or two causes, and it is desirable that Australia should know what those causes are, ani so far as it is possible to do so remove them. That is another of the very important undertakings intrusted to Mr. Watt.
In addition to that, it is recognised! that Australia has not been as quickly off the mark in the advancement of its business interests as our sister Dominions have been. One very important functionwhich Mr. Watt will be called upon te undertake is to see whether it is not possible for Australia to participate in the increasing and widening opportunities which seem to present themselves throughout the world for the trade of a country exporting raw materials as we are able to do.
Immigration is another subject which Mr. Watt will be asked to look into. Any one. of these subjects is a sufficient warrant for the Government sending one of its members to the Old Country, but taken collectively they supply an unanswerable reason why this Parliament and the country should to-day have only one opinion as to the necessity of the’ mission, and only the heartiest good wishes for its success.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Earlier in the day I had something to say in connexion with invalid and, old-age pensions. In this division I see, under the heading of “ Invalid and Old-age Pensions Office,” an item for salaries of £1,700 and of £8,500 for contingencies. I was wondering whether it is intended that the latter sum shall be used for increasing the pensions payable to blind people. The matter has been brought under the notice of this Parliament so frequently during the past twelve or eighteen months that I wish to obtain definite information regarding the amount proposed to be voted for contingencies, and I should also like to know whether the Government intend to do anything in the direction which I have suggested.
– So far as the item of “ Contingencies “ is concerned, no portion of the proposed vote is intended to be devoted to the purpose referred to by the honorable senator. “ Contingencies “ are intended to cover the hundred and one items other than salaries incidental to this particular office. Regarding the question to which the honorable senator referred earlier in the day, I feel that I owe him an apology for having failed to reply to him. I had made a note of his observations, but owing to the somewhat later utterances of Senator Guthrie, I overlooked it. I can assure Senator Newland that I shall not only put the matter mentioned by him before the Government, but I shall ask my colleagues to place me in a position of being able to make a definite statement at an early date.
– In this division I notice an item of £39,100 in connexion with the Taxation Office. I would remind the Minister for Repatriation that the people of this country are still labouring under a terrible burden that is imposed by dual taxation offices. Is it not possible to bringabout an amalgamation of the State aud Federal Taxation Departments ? Every speech delivered by a member of Parliament has evoked the promise of such an amalgamation with a view to relieving the burden of the taxpayer. I do hope that this fact has not escaped the attention of the Minister. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has promised that some economy will be effected in this direction. The existing conditions might conceivably act as a preventive of immigration. If an emigrant knew that when he came to Australia he would be liable to pay two income taxes, and that when he died his estate would have to pay two levies by way of probate and succession duties, he might hesitate to come.
– How can probate duties worry a man when he is dead?
– That may worry him a good deal when he is alive, especially if, as the result of leading a thrifty life, he has been able to put by a substantial amount.
– Plenty of people whose estates . have to pay probate duties never earned what they possess.
– The sailors may not have earned it, but men on the land have earned every penny of it.
– Can the honorable senator suggest any way of getting rid of this portion of our taxation?
– We appear to have arrived at an impasse. The States will not give way nor will the Commonwealth. I suggest that some organization should be created for the purpose of collecting taxation similar to the tribunal which controls the Murray River waters. The States and the Commonwealth work harmoniously together on that Commission, and why should they not work together equally well in the matter of the collection of taxes?
– One is a spending department and the other is a taxing department.
– I do not think that that makes any very great difference. Only by adopting the plan
I have suggested can any real economy be effected. If we have to wait for this reform until the proposed constitutional convention is held, the only thing which will then trouble us will be the probate duties, because it will be years before such a gathering takes place. I think that a working arrangement with the States, on the lines I have suggested, might be made. I should like the Minister for Repatriation, who, I know, carries great weight with the Cabinet, to make a recommendation in that direction. The States would not then be required to forgo their sovereign rights, nor would the Commonwealth be called upon to surrender its rights. I am satisfied that a tribunal appointed by the States and the Commonwealth might easily bring about that measure of relief which is so urgently needed. The mere fact of our taxpayers being required to prepare so many returns imposes a great amount of financial responsibility upon them. As a matter of fact, many men who are engaged upon the land cannot prepare their income tax schedules, and are obliged to engage the services of a solicitor. I hope that some harmonious arrangement on the lines I have indicated will be arrived at.
– Senator Fairbairn is merely echoing the aspiration of everybody who has given any thought to this question. Nobody is more anxious to bring about this reform than are the members of the Government. But the trouble arises - as he has indicated - from an inability on the part of the two negotiating authorities to come to an agreement. The case is not quite a parallel one to the Murray Waters Commission. But even if it were, Senator Fairbairn could not have adopted a more unfortunate simile, because owing to the fact that each of the parties to the Murray River Waters scheme is quite independent of the other contracting parties, itis absolutely necessary to secure unanimity before anything can be done.
– But there must be unanimity in the collection of taxes.
– I think there should be uniformity so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. If the Commonwealth hands over the task of collecting its taxation to the States, it will require its taxpayers in six different States to conform to six different laws. In New South Wales, for example, the taxes will be collected under one system and in Victoria under a different system. For that reason it does appear to me that the sensible method to adopt would be for one central authority to collect the taxes on a uniform basis throughout Australia. I do not think that that would be possible if the States were the collecting parties. However, the fact remains that the States and the Commonwealth have failed to agree upon this point. I do not think that it is either right or feasible that the Commonwealth should give way. However, it is the intention of the Government to continue its efforts in the direction of securing some better system than that at present in operation. If Senator. Fairbairn will recall a paragraph in the Governor -General’s Speech, he will know that we contemplate probing this matter further, so as to diminish the unnecessary expenditure that is occasioned under the dual system of today.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 37 to 43. Proposed vote (£9,280) agreed to.
Home and Territories Department
Divisions 44 to 55. Proposed vote £86,695.
.- This afternoon I dealt with a couple of matters connected with the Electoral Act, and I must thank the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) for the very courteous reply which he gave me. There is just one other question relating to that Statute to which I desire to direct his attention. Immediately three candidates secured an absolute majority of the votes recorded at the recent Senate elections, the counting of the votes ceased. I do not think that it would have made any difference had the count been proceeded with. For all practical purposes it was not necessary to go any further But it was manifestly unfair that the full vote recorded was not counted. When the Electoral Bill was under consideration in this Chamber we were assured that Nos. 1, 2, and 3 votes would be of equal value. Now, a number of votes were recorded not absolutely in the order of the elector’s preference, but in accordance with the party tickets issued, and as a result some candidates received only very few primary votes. I have been looking up some of the figures in connexion with the recent Senate election and I propose to speak first of what happened in New South Wales. Tiler’s Brigadier-General Cox, a Nationalist candidate, in the first count received 225,000 primary votes; Mr. Duncan, who stood as a Nationalist, obtained 6,726 votes, and Mr. Garling, who also stood as a Nationalist, polled 5,581 votes. Had the Nationalist candidates been defeated the result would have shown that Duncan received 6,726, although he actually received many more. Mr. Garling, being in the running also, had all his votes, numbering over 300,000, counted. If we look for a moment at Queensland we find this striking example - I quote from the figures which appeared in the newspapers of 24th December, and although they are not final they are sufficient to illustrate my point - Mr. Adamson received 138,000 votes, Senator Ferricks 125,000. Senator Givens 3,000, Brigadier-General Glasgow 16,000, Senator Maughan 3,000, and Mr. Turley 4,000. In counting these votes it was found that the three Nationalists - Adamson, Givens, and Glasgow - had received sufficient to elect them, and therefore the other votes were not counted. From this it would appear that Senator Maughan for instance, had not received more than 3,000 votes, but it is known to all who are at all acquainted with the system that had the counting gone on he would have received practically as many as Senator Ferricks - 125,000.
– He may or may not have received that number.
– There were only six candidates, and it is fair to assume that he would have received that number.
– Within 1,000 or 2,000, at any rate.
– Exactly. I want to know why the counting wasnot carried right out. Did the Electoral Department tire, or were they overwhelmed with work? Under the old system counting was not concluded when three senators had been returned, as the count was proceeded with until all the votes had been recorded to the different candidates. Under the old system, if the Electoral Department was satisfied immediately a senator had received sufficient votes, why was the count continued ? In regard to the late election, we were told that Nos. 1, 2, and 3 votes were of equal value, and consequently if Senator Ferricks had 125,000 primary votes a similar number must have been recorded in favour of Senator Maughan and Mr. Turley. When I recorded Nos. 1, 2, and 3 I understood that the votes were of equal value, and that it made no difference in what order Cox, Duncan, and Garling were placed. If such were the case we might just as well have placed a No. 1 against each of the candidates we favoured. I really do not think it makes any great difference to the defeated candidates, but at the same time it is not satisfactory for the votes of a defeated candidate to be shown as only about 4,000, when 125,000 or 130,000 electors voted for him.
– He loses his deposit.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Shannon). May I draw the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that he is dealing with the whole of the Electoral Act, and he is not entitled to do that under this vote.
– On page 8 the administration of the Electoral Act is covered, and as I am complaining of the administration I maintain that I am in order in pursuing this course.
– So long as the honorable senator does that he is quite in order.
– I am merely dealing with the Act and objecting to the way it was administered at the recent general elections. Earlier in the day I asked the Minister for Repatriation to see that deposits were returned to those who had obtained a fair quota of votes; but how are we to ascertain that if the counting is not completed? According to the count, Senator Maughan received only 5,000 votes, and, therefore, he is not entitled to the return of his deposit. Doubtless Senator Maughan received at least 120,000 votes of those recorded in favour of Senator Ferricks, and, under such circumstances, is entitled to the return of his deposit. Is the Minister for Repatriation prepared to give reasons why, in this particular case, the counting was not continued, as was the practice on previous occasions? Probably there were no more, voting at the last election than there were three years ago; and I shall be glad if the Minister will take this matter into consideration to see whether, even at this late stage, the counting cannot he completed.
– Before the Minister replies to the points raised by Senator Thomas, I desire to ask for a little information, although I know my time is limited. It will not be opportune for me to go into the whole of the details concerning the last general elections, but I shall have an opportunity of doing that within the course of a few days. It is well known throughout the ‘Commonwealth that the peculiar system under which the recent elections were conducted caused a great deal of dissatisfaction, and occasioned more complaints than any other system under which our Federal elections have been conducted. I do not intend to refer to the merits or demerits of the system, as that is more a matter of individual opinion; but it cannot be denied that, from .one end of Australia to the other, a very large number of articles appeared in the newspapers - newspapers supporting the Government - dealing with the confusion that existed in the minds of electors in consequence of the peculiar system of counting the votes and re-apportioning their respective values. It will be within the memory of the Minister who was in charge of the Bill (Senator Russell) that when that measure was before the Senate I moved several amendments, one of which, was to prevent an increase in the number of invalid votes. I pointed out what I thought the result would be if the electors were compelled to vote for twice the number of vacancies, plus one. I contended that it would necessarily lead to confusion in the minds of the electors, who had never previously been asked to vote under such a system, and said that it would necessarily lead to an increase in the number of invalid votes. The result has proved that I was correct. If honorable senators peruse the returns, they will find that practically one person in every ten who went to the poll rendered his vote invalid, not through any fault of his own, but because he did not understand the system. For many reasons electors were prevented from understanding the method under which the election was conducted.. Quite a large number did not read the news papers, and others were unable to receive instructions from that source, because they were either illiterate or poorly educated. Quite 60 to SO per cent, never attend political meetings, and therefore could not be instructed by those who understood the system.
– I am surprised that such would be the case in Tasmania.
– I shall show Senator Senior why it should be the case to a greater extent in Tasmania than anywhere else. Senator Senior understands the figure system of voting, because it’ has been before the South Australian electors since the introduction of the Hare-Spence system, which was followed later in Tasmania by the HareClarke system. It would be supposed that in those two States, particularly in Tasmania, where the figure system of voting has been in vogue for State elections for a number of years the electors would not make mistakes, but there is a vital difference between the Tasmanian Electoral Act, under which the electors have been voting for many years past, and the Federal Electoral Act under which they had to vote this time. Under the Tasmanian Act they have not to vote for twice the number of vacancies plus one. Their vote is valid if “they vote for only half the number to be elected. They are compelled to vote for not less than half the number to be elected, although they may mark their preference for every candidate on the list. Under the group system in Tasmania each Federal division returns six members to the State Parliament. That means that the ballot-paper of every elector who votes for three candidates at a State election is valid. In May of last year a State election took place, at which the electors were compelled to vote for not less than half the number of candidates to be elected; that is, for not less than three. In December of last year, seven months later, they were faced with an entirely different system, which compelled them to vote for double the number of vacancies, plus one. As in Tasmania there were four vacancies to be filled, three for six years and one for six months, this meant that they had to vote for at least nine candidates, or their votes would be informal.
– The difference is that at the State election it was optional to vote for as many as they liked and at the Federal election it was compulsory. -
– I have said that it was optional, and a large proportion of the electors exercised their option at the State election by voting only for the three candidates of whose policy they approved. It was repugnant to many electors to be compelled to vote “four” “five” and “ six “ against the names of men whose policy they hated. That applied to ‘both sides. A large number of electors would not vote for candidates whose policy they did not like, and it was impossible to urge them or instruct them or make them see that unless they voted for at least nine candidates at the Federal election their votes would be lost. The result was that one person in every ten in Tasmania cast an invalid vote. I believe that there were also 10 per cent, of invalid votes in one of the other States, and nearly 10 per cent, in the rest. Any electoral system which compels one person in every ten to destroy his vote should not be allowed to stand for twenty-four hours in a country like this, where we want the true opinions of the electors recorded. On the first or second day of this session, I asked Senator Russell whether he would order the head of the Electoral Branch of the Home and Territories Department to cause the invalid votes to be assembled at the head centre of each State, so that any candidate who so desired would be able to scrutinize them for himself, of course, in the presence of an officer of the Department.
– So that who could scrutinize them 1
– Put it that an officer of the Department could, in the presence of a candidate, find out exactly the causes of invalidity or informality in the rejected votes, and also whom the votes were intended for. That would be a simple matter. The electors have a right to know how many of those informal votes were cast for this candidate or that. It is quite easy in most cases to read the elector’s mind by looking at the ballot-paper. From information I received from scrutineers in different parts of the country, I have excellent reasons for believing that a tremendous proportion of the 6,000 odd invalid votes cast in Tasmania were intended to be given to the party for which I was a candidate, enough, in my case, to have given me the third seat instead of Senator-elect Payne. Until I could get all the invalid papers together, and scrutinize them in the presence of an officer of the Department, of course, I would not be able to prove that that was so. I wrote a letter asking for this opportunity, and I submit that that was a fair and reasonable request for any candidate to make.
– Provision is already made in the Act for that to be done in the proper way.
– The Act provides that any one who so desires may file a petition, and go through all the expensive paraphernalia of approaching the Court of Disputed Returns. That must mean a good deal of expense, which no candidate should be called upon to incur to obtain information with which it should be within the power of the Government to furnish him. I am satisfied that, under the Act as it stands, if I filed twenty petitions it would not make any difference. Even if my belief, based on most excellent reasons, is correct, that had only the usual number of invalid votes been cast, the third Senate seat would have gone to a member of our party, the fact remains that the wording of the Act is so plain that, no matter what the intention of the electors is, if they refuse, or omit, to do certain things, their votes must perforce be invalid. It would be only fair, in the interests of the electors, however, to find out the exact reasons for the invalidity of the rejected votes, so that Parliament, if it so desired, could remove those reasons for the future.
– And also the reasons for the people who did not vote.
– I am not excusing those who did not vote. I am accepting the verdict on the votes of the people who did vote. The people who went to record their votes should have been given every reasonable opportunity to do so intelligently. If you want to take the franchise away from the poorly educated or entirely uneducated electors, do it honestly and fairly, and not by a side wind, as was done in this case. I do not say it was done intentionally, but, whether intentionally or not, the fact remains that at the previous Federal election in Tasmania, when 82,000 people voted, there were just over 3,000 informal votes; whereas this time, when from 60,000 to 61,000 people, or 25 per cent, less, voted, there was double the number of informal votes. That is a plain fact which proves that the method in which the electors were compelled to vote was alone responsible. When the Bill was before the Senate, I pointed out the grave danger of passing that clause, and moved an amendment to provide that the electors should be compelled to vote only for the number of vacancies to be filled, but that, if they so desired, as it was a preferential voting measure, they could mark their preferences for every candidate.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– In discussing the Electoral Act, I shall begin where Senator 0 ‘Keefe left off. It is of no use to assume that the provisions of the Act are responsible for the large number of invalid votes cast, any more than any other change made ha3 been. Whenever one system “has been in operation for a long time and ii new system is brought in, there is always a fruitful crop of mistakes. When Ave passed from the old system of marking out the names of the men we did not want to the system of putting a cross against the names of the men we did want, a number of mistakes were made, and there will always be mistakes when any method is abruptly changed. I was amused with Senator O’Keefe’s innocent suggestion that the Government should go outside the Act and make an examination of the informal ballot-papers in his interests as a defeated candidate.
– In the interests of any defeated candidate who desired it.
– If the interests of any candidate are concerned, quite another course of procedure is necessary. The Government is not entitled to look into those ballot-papers in the interests pf any candidate, defeated or otherwise. If a defeated candidate feels that the election has not been properly conducted, there is a proper procedure to follow according to law. Because that course involves expense, Senator O’Keefe wants the Government to take some action to put right what he thinks is wrong. Years ago the Federal Parliament decided that to look into the correctness or otherwise of elections was a proper job, not for the Government or Parliament, but for the Law Courts. ,1 agree, however, as I said earlier in reply to Senator Thomas, that the number of . invalid votes cast at the last election constitutes a sound reason why we should look into the causes of invalidity, to ascertain by which roads people have gone wrong ; not to put in this or that defeated candidate, but so that, in the interests of the electors themselves, we may point out to them the errors they have made, and enable them to refrain from repeating them, in the future.
I come now to Senator Thomas’ point, which I confess I cannot quite follow. It is one of the beauties of this system, which satisfies mathematicians, and, apparently, satisfies nobody else, that, whenever we are short of a subject for discussion, we can fall back upon it, and go on to all eternity. Like Senator Thomas, I am a very doubtful admirer of this system; but when he speaks of a complete vote under the preferential system, and refers particularly to the case of those low down on the list, I would remind him that, in the case of Queensland, the next step to be taken would be not to add votes to Senator Maughan’s total, but .to drop Senator Maughan out altogether. The first step would be to delete the name of the man last on the poll, and add his votes to those recorded for somebody else. If it were possible to do what Senator Thomas wants, the only result would be to show three defeated men who stood a little higher in popular estimation than any other of their defeated comrades. That may be desirable or otherwise, but I do not know that it affects elections or electors as a body. I have always felt that the alphabetical placing of candidates on the ballot-paper is a big factor, in the Senate elections at all events. It is remarkable that in the Senate elections, with. I believe, two exceptions - I am speaking from memory, but I think I am sufficiently sound in my information to base my argument upon the statement - the men elected on the party tickets were returned in the alphabetical order of their names on the ballot-paper. That is to say, taking three Liberals of the old days, the highest on the list would be the Liberals whose names came first on the ballot-paper. I invite honorable senators to look at the result of the last election for confirmation of this statement. In New South Wales the three successful candidates were Cox, Duncan, and Gardiner. Cox, Duncan, and Gar- ling were the three Nationalist candidates, and Senator Gardiner was the first in alphabetical order of the three Labour candidates. And so I say that, the alphabetical placing of the names of candidates on the ballot-paper has an important bearing upon an election.
– The experience was the same in South Australia.
– Yes. In South Australia the returned men were Bonnie, Newland, and Wilson, in this order.
– Wilson was at the bottom of the three.
– Exactly. In Victoria the ‘successful Nationalist candidateswere Elliott, Guthrie, and Russell, in the order named. It is almost incontrovertible that the alphabetical placing of candidates’ names is a mighty big factor in elections.
– There was a stronger instance in Tasmania.
– Tasmania is, perhaps, the one State to which I cannot look for support of my argument. Bat it must be remembered that Tasmania is smaller in area, and the electors there have much better opportunities of personal knowledge of candidates than in any other State. Candidates can move about amongst a larger number of people than is possible in any one of the larger States, and so the electors of Tasmania allow personal considerations to guide them to a certain extent. Otherwise they follow the party ticket, and vote for their particular candidates as their names appear in alphabetical order on the ballot-paper. I often think that if I started political life again my name would be very much higher in the alphabetical order than it is to-day. I feel I must apologize for the outrage I am about to commit, but I would like to illustrate my point by telling a story. On one occasion, in the course of a provincial tour, a theatrical company came to financial grief, and the proprietor called his company together to consider the position. He told them that he did not wish to get anything out of the show, and desired them to form a committee from amongst themselves to distribute the proceeds. This was done, and the members of the company were called, in in alphabetical order to receive their portion of the funds. “Unfortunately, through some error, when the last man, whose name was Zalinsky, was called, there was nothing left for him. Some time afterwards the proprietor met Zalinsky again, and, informing him that he was about to start a new company, asked him if he would join. Zalinsky’s reply on that occasion was, “Yes, I will join you again, but my name is ‘Aaronson.’ “ There is a moral in that story. If one cares to look through the figures of the last general election one will find that the names of candidates who came first in alphabetical order on the party ticket were highest in the voting results.
– Th’e moral is, change the system.
– No, I think it is possible that this factor, in the position of candidates, might be eliminated if the names of candidates were printed on the ballot-paper under the party grouping system.
– I was delighted at the Minister’s admission that the placing of candidates’ names on the ballot-paper in alphabetical order is unfair, because that is really what Senator Millen meant.
– I did not say it was unfair; it is the only possible way to place them.
– I think it is possible to place them in two other ways, and I am going to have the temerity to assert that had the amendment which I moved when the Bill was last before the Senate been accepted, it would have overcome this difficulty. Senator Millen now admits that this ought to have been done. He has given proof that the placing of candidates’ names in the alphabetical order has an important bearing upon election results, and I have a very strong illustration from Tasmania in support of hig argument. One of the candidates was a man named Blanchard, a gentleman who evidently derives some pleasure from losing his money, for he always nominates, and is .always forfeiting his deposit. But because his name is “Blanchard,” and therefore he occupied a top position on the ballotpaper, he got a good proportion of No. 1 votes at the recent election, and I believe that 75 per cent, of the electors who voted for him marked their second and third preferences in purely alphabetical order, irrespective of party or policy.
In this respect they were just as eccentric as the candidate himself. It has been demonstrated over and over again that the alphabetical placing of the names of candidates has an important influence upon results.
– Not a bit of it.
– That may be the interjector’s opinion, but it has been proved in New South Wales and in my own State. This difficulty may be overcome quite simply. The amendment I submitted when the Electoral Bill was last under discussion would have corrected the position. “ Lots should be drawn by the Returning Officer for the order in which the names of candidates shall appear on the ballot-paper. If a candidate so desires he may be represented at the draw, but as a rule he would be quite willing to trust the electoral officer to arrange the draw. What can be urged against this system?
– It is the Tasmanian totalisator system.
– Senator Guthrie appears to have a bee in his bonnet about the Tasmanian system, of which he knows very little. In his case a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
– It would be a gamble.
– Well, the alphabetical placing of candidates’ names is more or less a gamble. I think the alteration I suggest should be seriously considered.
With regard to Senator Millen’s reply to my remarks, I might say that after the elections I wrote to the Returning Officer in Tasmania, stating that Ihad very good reason to believe that a large proportion of the invalid votes were intended to be cast in a certain direction, and suggesting that it might be possible to have all these votes returned to head office for scrutiny, should any candidate desire this to be done. I received the following reply to my request : -
Hobart, 19th January, 1920
Dear Senator O’Keefe,
With reference to your letter of the 2nd January relative to the count for the Senate elections, I desire to inform you, by direction, that there is no power to open parcels of ballot-papers which have been placed under seal at the conclusion of the scrutiny, except on an order of the Court of Disputed Returns, and then only when the Court is satisfied, on evidence, that the production or inspection of the ballot-papers is necessary for the purposes of prosecution or petition. The law in this regard is general (British as well as Australian), and is designed to protect both petitioners and respondents in election cases. I am, however, making inquiries from the Divisional Returning Officers throughout the State as to the general causes of informalities which may be known to them as the result of the scrutiny of the Senate ballot-papers, and when this information is available, I shall have pleasure in communicating it to you.
Commonwealth Electoral Officer
On the 3rd February I alsoreceived the following letter from the same official -
Dear Senator O’Keefe,
As promised in my communication No. 20/15 of the 19th January, I have secured reports from all Divisional Returning Officers as to the most common causes of informality on the Senate ballot-papers. It would appear from the reports that the most common causes were as follow: -
Faulty consecutive numbering of preferences from 1 to 9 through either the duplication or omission of a number;
Marking the ballot-papers with crosses instead of numbers;
Failure on the part of the voter to indicate the full number of preference votes prescribed by law (i.e.
Trusting that this will convey the information desired by you.
There can be no stronger evidence that when electors are compelled to vote for the full list of candidates the invalid votes are doubled. On the 12th January I received the following letter from Mr. R. C. Oldham, the ChiefReturning Officer : -
I desire to acknowledge receipt of your communication of 12th January.. The Commonwealth Electoral Officer for Tasmania referred your original request to me for advice as to the legal position, and, after consultation with the Law authorities, T at once replied to him.
Evidently Mr. Oldham was not quite sure what power he had under the Act.
Whilst the scrutineers representing the candidates are entitled to the fullest opportunity of inspecting ballot-papers admitted or rejected during the progress of the scrutiny, and making any notes they desire, the” whole of the ballot-papers in the election must, as a. matter of law, on the conclusion of the count be placed under seal and retained in safe custody. I requested Mr. Bowden to advise you that there is no power to open parcels of ballot-papers which have been placed under seal at the conclusion of the scrutiny, except on an order of the Court of Disputed Returns, and then only if the Court is satisfied, on evidence, that the production or inspection of the ballot-papers was necessary for the pur- poses of a prosecution or petition, and that the law, which in this regard is general (British as well as Australian) is designed to protect both petitioners and respondents in election cases. As you are aware, the Divisional Returning Officers scrutinized and recounted the whole of the Senate ballot-papers, under the provisions of the Electoral Act, before proceeding with the transfer of votes. It is very unlikely indeed that they would make any mistakes which could possibly affect the election.
I do not say that they did. Mr. Oldham further says -
The principal causes of informality on the ballot-papers in Tasmania, as on the mainland, were -
The failure of the electors to indicate preferences for the prescribed number of candidates as set out in the directions on the ballot-papers and in the posters exhibited for their guidance;
The duplication of numbers, or the omission to use consecutive numbers, in indicating preferences for the prescribed number of candidates;
The use of crosses (old method of voting) instead of numbers.
I should like the Minister to say whether the Government will be prepared to bring forward some amendment of the Act to enable invalid, ballot-papers in every State to be assembled at the central polling places of each State for the information of the public. To do so would not involve any great expense. I am aware that the Act says very clearly that there is no power to open ballot-boxes except upon an order of the Court of Disputed Returns in the case of a disputed election. But that difficulty might easily be got over by such an amendment of the Act as I suggest. In view of the adoption of the new system of voting, and the fact that it led, in Tasmania at all events, to the casting of double the number of invalid votes cast at the previous Senate election, it would be only a fair thing for the Government to bring forward the necessary slight amendment of the law to enable the invalid votes cast at. the last election to be assembled for inspection in the way I have suggested. It would not benefit any candidate in any way, but it would make clear the chief causes of invalidity, and would show for whom the invalid votes were intended to be cast, because in most cases I am satisfied that the intention of the voter would be made clear enough. If it were shown, as Mr. Bowden has said, that one of the chief causes of invalidity in Tasmania was that the electors would not vote for the full number of candidates which the law said should be voted for, we would be in a position to remove that cause of invalidity in the future. If after giving the matter due consideration, the Minister should say that the Government do not see their way clear to propose such an amendment of the electoral law as I suggest, I will ask him whether he will be prepared to allow reasonable facilities for the introduction in the Senate of a orivate Bill to effect the same purpose. ‘ I think that is a fair request for me to make.
I have any number of figures to prove the absurdity of the present electoral law, but I will take another opportunity of putting them before the Senate. I shall content myself now by saying that any Act which provides that a man who is given 32,000 votes at the final count has been defeated by a man who was given only 31,000 votes at the final count should not be allowed ito continue in operation over another election. In Tasmania, Senator Mulcahy was declared to have won the fourth seat, which was of no use to him because he already had the seat, on acount of 33,102 votes, whilst Senator-elect Payne was declared to have won the third seat, which is for a term of six years, on a count of 30,217 votes. A system of voting which produces such an anomaly should be swept out of existence. In saying this, I am speaking not only of what is in my cwn mind, but of what has been contended by every anti-Labour newspaper in the State of Tasmania. . When this palpable anomaly was made clear, as one of the results of the present Act, the Hobart Mercury - which is one of the strongest supporters of the present Government in Tasmania, and one of the bitterest opponents of the Labour party in that State - expressed the opinion that the Act was a farce, and used adjectives to describe is stronger than any I have used.
.- I notice there is a vote of £9,330 set down in this Supply Bill for Papua, and I wish to say that long before this the Government should have made available to Parliament the report recently submitted by the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the state of affairs existing in Papua. By a reference to yesterday’s newspapers, honorable senators will have noticed that there is a vast amount of discontent existing in Papua to-day. It is evident that a number of people interested in that Territory are at loggerheads with the Administration there.
I wish to protest very strongly against the personnel of the Royal Commission to which I have referred. It consisted of the head of the Home Affairs Department, a gentleman very largely concerned in the dispute between two parties interested in Papua, and a member of the firm of Burns, Philp and Co., who is also largely interested in that part of the world. We, as representatives of the people, have to rely upon the report of these Commissioners for the information we desire as to what is taking place in Papua. I think that on this and on many other occasions in appointing Royal Commissions the Government should have appointed members of this Chamber or of another place, in order that representatives of the people might obtain at first hand necessary information for the proper conduct of the affairs of the Commonwealth. During the last two or three years the Government have appointed one Royal Commission after another, and it has not been until their reports have been presented to Parliament that we, as representatives of the people, have obtained any knowledge of the condition of affairs into which the Commissions were asked to inquire. Now that the war is over, and we have returned to normal conditions, I urge upon the Government that they should reconsider their attitude of the last few years, and instead of appointing to Royal Commissions persons who are without responsibility to the electors, or who are interested in the matters inquired into, they should appoint representatives of the people in this Chamber, or in another place, to make the investigations desired, I shall raise the same protest on every occasion when a Royal Commission, constituted as I have said, is appointed. I am aware that it is not possible that every Royal Commission should be a Parliamentary Commission, but certainly in the case of a Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the affairs of Papua, for which we pass votes on every Supply Bill submitted in the Senate, the representatives of the people in this Parliament should have been given seats on ‘the Commission. I do not wish to say anything derogatory of the gentlemen who were appointed to the Royal Commission which inquired into the affairs of Papua;: I have no doubt that they are able men and did their best; but representing, certain interests, they must have been to a certain extent biased in their inquiry. In the appointment of Commissions of this kind, the Government should take Parliament into their confidence and appoint representatives of the people of Australia.
– I was surprised to hear Senator Millen say that he did, not see how it was possible to let us know how people voted at the last Senate election. I am very glad that Senator Russell is present, because he piloted the Electoral Bill through the Senate, and he assured us again and again that the first, second, and third preferences would in the count be considered of equal value.
– Thank God they were, for myself. If they had not been I should be politically dead.
– If they were of equal value, I .fail to see why when an elector voted one, two and three for the candidates of his party, they did not get the full benefit of his vote. I take the case of the Queensland Senate election, where Senator Maughan and ex-Senator Turley received 4,000 or 5,000 primary votes, and Senator Ferricks received at least 125,000 primary votes. It may be said that practically every elector who voted for Senator Ferricks voted also for Senator Maughan and for ex-Senator Turley. But they did not receive the benefit of those votes. As the count went, they would not, of course, have been returned, but they would not have lost their deposits.-
– They should not lose their deposits.
– That is so. In the case of Mr. Garling, of ‘ New South Wales, the second and third preferences indicated on the ballot-papers of those who gave their primary votes to Cox and Duncan were counted for him, but he did not get in. He was not elected, and he lost his deposit. Apparently the Government, in view of the fact that he received over 300,000 votes, will see that his deposit is returned to him. But unless we know how many votes were cast in favour of Senator Maughan and ex-Senator Turley, how can their deposits be returned ? Personally, I am in favour of only a small deposit being lodged by candidates, and if a candidate receives a fair number of votes his deposit should be refunded. “We were assured, when the Electoral Bill was going through this chamber, that Nos. 1, 2, and 3 votes would be of equal value, being to all intents and purposes primary votes. If Senator Maughan received only 5,000 votes he is not entitled to the return of his deposit. But unquestionably he obtained a great many more. Consequently, I was rather surprised at the reply given to my observations by Senator Millen. I dp hope that Senator Russell, who is now present, and who, when the Electoral Bill was under discussion in this chamber, struggled so manfully to explain its provisions, will see that we get a detailed statement as to the way in” which the votes at the recent elections were cast for the different candidates.
– It is about time that we managed our electoral business in Australia a little better than we are doing. With the exception of Tasmania, all the States have two distinct rolls - one for the Commonwealth and one for the State. This involves the employment of two sets of officers and the maintenance of two separate systems. Yet it is acknowledged that the Commonwealth roll is more complete and more easily understood than are the State rolls. There should be no difficulty in arriving at an understanding that one authority shall be supreme in this matter, so that we may obtain a uniform roll. Where the Legislative Council of a State is an elective body the electors who are entitled to vote under a property qualification might readily be distinguished by having their names printed in capital letters on the roll. Under the existing system it often happens that a person secures his enrolment upon one roll under the impression that that is sufficient to insure its appearing upon both rolls. Undoubtedly it ought to be sufficient, but we know that it is not. When a person is enrolled he should be enrolled both for the State and the Commonwealth.
– And also for the municipal council.
– The trouble in Queensland is that all persons of eighteen years of age are going to get the vote.
– Their names might well be placed on a supplementary roll. In a circular which honorable senators have received a system is outlined under which all this trouble would be obviated. I was astonished to find this evening that so valiant a defender of proportional representation as Senator O’Keefe does not understand that system. But perhaps I ought not to be surprised, seeing that if one meets ninety-nine professors who are advocates of proportional representation he will find that they have ninety-nine different views of the system. Senator O’Keefe has acknowledged that the HareClarke system is a modification of the Hare-Spence system. Now, the latter system distinctly requires that the elector shall vote for each candidate. That is absolutely necessary, and in the Bill which passed this chamber and which provided for preferential voting we had to forecast the period when the electors may be called upon to vote for four different groups of candidates. For example, there may be Liberal candidates, Farmers’ candidates, Labour candidates, and single-tax candidates. In an election for this Senate, twelve names would thus appear on the ballot-papers. It is obvious, therefore, that a preference should be given to more than the three candidates to be elected. Otherwise the old block system of voting would be simply perpetuated. Senator O’Keefe has stated that when an elector voted for three Senate candidates he had done all that was necessary. That statement conclusively proves that he does not understand proportional representation. There can be no proportional representation withoutpreferences which are transferable.
– But our Electoral Act provides, not for proportional, but for preferential voting.
– That does not enlighten me. T am aware of that fact already.
– The honorable senator seems to have forgotten it.
– I have not. Assuming that there are four groups of candidates, the elector does not exhibit any preference when he votes only for three candidates.. When Senator O’Keefe says that an elector who has voted for three candidates has done all that is required of him, he is quite wrong, because those three votes are primary votes, and npt preferential-
– Of course they are not primary votes.
– May I point out to the honorable senator how the counting is’ done. . In the first place, the primary votes recorded for each candidate are counted. These will not secure the election of any candidate, and consequently the second preferences must be examined. Honorable senators who have been pleading that Senator Maughan’s votes should be counted are absolutely correct, because the second preferences are just as necessary to a defeated candidate as they are to a successful candidate. When the second preferences are counted they become primary votes, just as do also the third preferences. Only when the count goes beyond that does it begin to disclose the true preferences. That is to say, if a candidate has not been successful, the elector merely says, in effect, “ Brown will not represent me as well as will Jones, but next to Jones I prefer Brown.”
– An optional preference is the only true preference.
– The honorable senator is disclosing that he has not yet grasped the system. If we are to have a real preferential system of voting, the elector must be able to set out to the number of candidates required to be elected, and to double that number, the order of his preference. An optional preference is not a true preference. One might as well plead that an elector should not be obliged to vote for more than one candidate. In other words, plumping should be permissible, and Senator O’Keefe knows that for a long time it has been illegal. What he has been pleading for in connexion with our Senate elections is pure plumping. Had he supported the proposal for which I fought when the Electoral Bill was under consideration here, and which provided for the grouping of candidates according to their political ideas, we might have had a much simpler system for the electors, and all political parties would have been satisfied.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 56 to 82. Proposed vote, £178,860.
.- I wish to say a few words upon the question of the war leave payments. I have received a letter from a friend in Queensland who puts the case very well, and, therefore, I make no apology for reading it. It is as follows:-
Chaucer-street, Moorooka, Q.,
My Dear Sir,
Now that the war gratuity is ab.out to be considered by Parliament, may I draw your attention to the “war leave payment,” at present supposed to be paid in respect of all fallen soldiers, and equivalent to “war service leave gratuity “ already paid to returned men (seven and a half days’ pay for each six months’ service). But in the case of thousands of dead soldiers no payment is being made at all, the regulations as ‘officially interpreted providing that it can be made only to parent, wife, or child, or to actual dependants if such were beneficiaries in the estate. For instance, an unmarried soldier leaving everything to a brother, the father would get nothing, not being a beneficiary, and the brother would fare likewise unless he were wholly dependant. Our family lost five in the war (a brother and four nephews) and not a farthing is being received on their account. My sister’s claim as sole dependant of our dead brother was rejected, although she received his allotment money and the whole of his deferred pay, as well as other sums prior to embarkation. ls it just that the Government should thus seek to profit by the non-return of fallen soldiers? Had the boys come back they would have been entitled to the payment just as to deferred pay, and one would think that, as a matter of law, it would be dealt with in precisely the same way. The present position simply means that the Commonwealth is defrauding her dead soldiers. I was told at Victoria Barracks that the draft form for the proposed gratuity was similar to that for the above “ war leave payment,” so presumably the regulations will be the same. Therefore, lt seems that some effort should be made to have them, as well as the existing set, amended to conform to principles of justice. It is scandalous that the greater the number of soldiers killed the cheaper it should be for the Government. You, as a soldier, can hardly be expected to support that. Will you kindly bring the matter under the notice of your fellow Queensland senators? For any consideration you or they may give to it, thank you very much.
Forms relating to “ war leave payment “ above are obtainable at all post-offices.
I wish to bring this matter under the notice of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), as, under the existing regulations, an injustice is being done to the dependants of fallen soldiers. I do not think it is the wish of the Minister, because he has always been sym pathetic in such cases, but I would like to have his assurance that the war gratuity will not be considered on this basis.
– I notice that in connexion with the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, General White has been appointed to make the necessary arrangements. In common with all other Australians, I feel sure that His Royal Highness will receive a most hearty and loyal welcome from the people of the Commonwealth, and that everything will be done to make his visit both enjoyable and instructive. I am sorry, however, that General White, whom I look upon as one of the ablest men in the Defence Department, and who is one who went to the Front and made good, should be selected to do this work. It seems unfortunate that, at a time when the best brains are needed in the Department of Defence, he should be taken away from his important duties for three or four months to make arrangements for the tour. Although I realize that a competent person should be responsible for making the arrangements, I do not think that such a highly efficient officer, and one possessing such great ability, should devote his time to this work.
– Does the honorable senator think it fair to the other officers to say that he is the only one who went to the Front?
-I did not say that.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I wish to ask whether there is a line in this vote relating to the proposed visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales ?
– On the point of order, I may say that there is a division dealing with the Defence Department, and that vote is under consideration.
– The honorable senator is quite in order.
– I think I have made my point clear. The opinion is held by certain persons that there may be a tendency on the part of some to “shunt” General White on to this work. I do not suggest that that is the intention of theGovernment. The Department of Defence is a very important one, and I merely wish to ask whether it is right that, at a time when his services are so necessary to the country, he should be detailed to do this work.
– In regard to the questions raised by Senator Foll, I may say that I was not able to grasp the real effect of the points he submitted; but I shall be glad, if he will supply me with the whole of the facts, so that I can go into the matter. My recollection of the war leave gratuity regulation is that the money is payable to the dependants or the beneficiaries in an estate. I understand the point raised by Senator Foll is that it should be payable to others, whether a dependant or a beneficiary.
– In some cases the dependant is a beneficiary, and it goes to the beneficiary in the estate.
– It must go to one or the other.
– It does not necessarily go to either.
– A soldier when making his will leaves his property to those having the greatest claim, and I think we should regard that as a sacred trust and one that should be observed.
– But if he does not leave a will ?
– Even then there are certain conditions governing intestate estates, and the distribution is governed by the State law. If Senator Foll will supply me with full particulars I will see if there is any fault in the regulations. I would not be in order in dealing with the war gratuity at this stage, as we shall have an opportunity of doing that when the Bill is before the Senate.
In regard to the point raised by Senator Thomas, I may say that the appointment of General White to superintend the arrangements in connexion with the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is not in any way an indication of a desire or intention on the part of the Government to “ shunt off “ General White as suggested.
– I did not mean on the part of the Government.
– Or on the part of the Minister.
– I did not mean the Minister for one moment.
– If Senator Thomas needs any further assurance? may inform him that General White has been, and is still, carrying out very important duties in connexion with the Department of Defence. At a recent conference, at which various military schemes were considered in consultation with the membersof the Council of Defence, General White has taken an important part. It willnot be long before we are in a position to announce certain military appointments, when it will be seen that General White has not been overlooked. We value his services too highly for that. General White is not devoting the whole of his time to the arrangements in connexion with the visit of His Royal Highness, and is giving the Department the benefit of his counsel and advice on all military matters within his sphere.
.- As requested by the Minister for Defence, I shall place the facts of the case I have mentioned before him as early as possible. A case has been brought under my ‘notice where a soldier died intestate and, according to law, the estate went to the next of kin, the boy’s father, who had deserted the mother some years before, leaving her’ in a precarious position. It was very unfair that the estate should go to the father when the mother was in need, particularly as the boy had been supporting her before he went to the war. I quite realize that we should honour the trust in the matter of soldiers’ wills, but in this case a grave injustice was done.
– If the case is as stated, the Minister still has power to authorise the payment to the dependant.
– That is what I wished to ascertain; and I am glad to know that the Minister has the power-, when a soldier dies intestate, to authorize the payment tothe dependant, notwith standing the provisions of the law.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 83 to 100a. Proposed vote, £244,985.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Government to the fact that at the outbreak of war one of the three members of the Naval Board was appointed Controller of Shipping, and whilst holding that position did not perform any naval duties whatever. I believe a recommendation has been made to grant some extra remuneration to the Controller, although his services were not available to the Naval Board during a very important period. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy to explain why the Naval Board was deprived of the services of one of its best men, who was directed to control the mercantile shipping business. If it was necessary to take away one of the members of the Naval Board another officer should have been appointed, but that was not done. If the Controller of Shipping possesses the ability I believe he does his services should have been retained by the Naval Board. Whilst this officer has been Controller of Shipping we have had innumerable strikes, and if it was necessary to have three members on the Naval Board before the war it was surely necessary during the war period.
– To whom is the honorable senator referring?
– Admiral Clarkson.
– He is still a member ofthe Board.
– If he is still a member of the Board, what attention has he given to the work of that body during the last five years ?
– Is ‘the honorable senator prepared to state definitely whether Admiral Clarkson missed a meeting of the Naval Board ?
– I do not know, but for a, long period he has been Controller of Shipping. Why was not somebody asked to take his position on the Naval Board while he was Controller of Shipping ?
. - I am given to understand that Admiral Clarkson carried out his duties as a member of the Naval Board as well as his duties as Controller of Shipping. Like many other public servants, he had to perform dual duties. While there may be, different opinions on the question, the opinion of the Government is that he rendered good service to Australia in a very difficult position. So far as I am able to learn, he did not neglect his duties on the Naval Board. He had to work overtime, and put in much longer hours than he would otherwise have done; but’ it was the best arrangement that could be made in the circumstances. I remind Senator Guthrie that, at the outset of the war, the then Government placed the Australian Navy under the direct orders of the Admiralty, and the greater part of it was taken away, and did not operate in Australian waters at all. Therefore a great deal of the responsibility was taken away also. There were no naval operations on our coast after the second year of the war, and Admiral Clarkson was not then Controller of Shipping. In the circumstances, there was not a great deal of necessity for strengthening the Naval’ Board at that juncture.
– Our merchant shipping plying around the Australian coast was in absolute danger. Mines were [thrown by somebody off Cape Gabo and other portions of the coast, and in the Tasman Sea as far as New .Zealand, yet our Naval Board sent out nothing to protect our merchant shipping.
– They sent out trawlers, and dragged and secured all the remaining mines.
– They did nothing of the sort. Some of those mines are adrift to-day. “We had a Naval Board, and appointed a naval man to controlmerchant shipping, of which he had no experience. He had to build up a large and costly establishment for the purpose. If a business man connected with shipping had been given the position, he could nave run it for half or a quarter of the cost. There is absolutely nothing in this Bill to show what the cost of that establishment has been.
– Then how do you know that he could have run it for a quarter of the cost?
– I know because I was there. There is nothing in this Bill to poy for that “Department, which has been running for five years. No vote for even a single penny has come before Parliament to meet that expenditure. Is Parliament to -control this, or is it to be rim by civil servants?
– Were you not on the Committee? .
– I was, but I had absolutely no say on the question of finance. Senator de Largie, if asked tomorrow, could not say what the Shipping Control Board has cost Australia. I could not say either. I had to do with the running of the shipping and the car goes, but the finances were kept absolutely out of our ken, and Parliament is ignorant of them also. Similarly, we are ignorant of the cost of the Wool Board and the Wheat Pools. The Government should take Parliament into- its confidence as to what all -the different Departments, brought into existence during the war, have cost the country.
.- In view of the lateness of the hour, will the Minister for Defence agree to report progress, as there is a number of other matters which honorable senators desire to discuss?
.- The Treasury official tells me that it is necessary to get the Bill through to-night, because the warrants for expenditure have to be sent out all over Australia to-morrow. As the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) told the Senate earlier in- the day, the money is payable . under this Bill tomorrow evening, and the Government would like the measure passed to-night if possible.
.- I have no wish to hang up the Bill, but this is- the first opportunity the Senate has had to discuss Supply this session. The Bill was delayed in another .place by the attitude of other parties, and through no fault of the Government. The Minister for Repatriation assured me earlier that we should have two full days to discuss the Bill. I hope the Minister for Defence is not going back on that promise. An item appears under the Department of the Navy ‘ for the Royal Naval College. It is rumoured” that the Government intend in the near future to remove the College from Jervis Bay, and I wish once more to impress on the- Government the suitability of several splendid sites on the coast of Queensland. Senator Guthrie may laugh, but he represents a State which possesses no natural harbor facilities, and unless he has travelled on the coast of Queensland he has not seen the best sites for a Naval College. There are, perhaps, half-a-dozen places admirably suited for the purpose on the Queensland coast. I urge the Government, before they decide on a site, to make full inquiries into the facilities offered by my State.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Trade and Customs Department.
Divisions 100b to 115. Proposed vote £118,215.
.- The vote of £3,000 for the Institute of Science and Industry is hopelessly inadequate. I remind those South Australian senators who applaud that sentiment that we are paying interest upon a dead-end railway running towards Oodnadatta to the amount of £14,000 per annum. There is only one train a fortnight on that line, and yet it is costing us more than we are spending on the advancement of science, which is the most important of all undertakings for Australia. It is clear that, as this is a Supply Bill for three months, the amount we are spending on this most important branch of governmental activity is altogether on the parsimonious side. Japan, which thirty or forty years ago was in a most backward state, is about to spend £800,000 upon the advancement of science. We should be ashamed of ourselves for the little we have done in that direction in Australia, either through. Federal orState channels. The few men in this country who have worked hard upon original research, either in the discovery of new plants or the improvement of machinery, have received nothing like an adequate reward. Mr. Farrar, to whom the people of Australia are indebted for so much, was given a miserable pittance by the Government of New South Wales. His splendid discovery was most ill-rewarded by the different States. Australia has several problems which cannot be successfully grappled with unless the Federal authority takes them in hand. The tick pest, which originated in the Northern Territory, has spread west and east, and is now spreading south-west, until it ranges from Grafton, in New South Wales, to Derby, in Western Australia. That fact will give an idea of the necessity of voting a substantial sum, so that men of superior standing in the scientific world may be induced to help us solve the problem. The experts of the Queensland Government lately told us that the tick had been responsible for the loss of £7,000,000 worth of cattle in that State alone. Applying that calculation to the Northern Territory and to New South Wales, it is clear that this one pest alone constitutes a most serious problem as affecting the food supply of the people.
The development of scientific research is the very best investment which any Government could put their money into. The United States Government for several years have been giving particular attention to this matter, and in the precincts of Parliament House will be found a map showing that what was formerly a tick-infested area in the United States of America has been reduced by about twothirds since the employment of scientific methods. Instead of allowing the infested area in Australia to become enlarged from year to year we should see if we cannot achieve the same results. In view of the success attending research work in the United States of America I think that the sum on the Estimates is hopelessly inadequate. The same remarks may be applied to the prickly pear problem, which, as yet,is unsolved. I wish to draw the attention of the Government to the need for more progress in this direction. I feel confident that Parliament would approve of a more substantial sum than £12,000 or £14,000 being set aside for scientific research.
.- I should like to know if honorable senators will have an opportunity to continue the debate to-morrow.
– Why not now ?
– After a somewhat strenuous day watching the expenditure I think honorable senators are hardly in a fit state to continue the debate to-night. I have no desire to delay the progress of the Bill, but I have quite a number of matters in the Repatriation Department to which I desire to refer, but on account of the lateness of the hour I do not propose to bring them up to-night. It is, I think, a reasonable request in view of the promise made by the Minister this afternoon, that we should have a couple of hours on the Bill to-morrow. I raised this point on the first reading, and the Minister assured us that he was not in a hurry to-day.
– In view of the promise made by the Minister this afternoon when asking for the suspension of the Standing Orders, Senator Foil’s request is a reasonable one.
– I have no objection if honorable senators wish to discuss the Bill at greater length, but if only one honorable senator desires to occupy, say, half-an-hour, wemight make progress with the Bill to-night.
– It is now 10 o’clock, and honorable senators have been here since 3 o’clock this afternoon. When asking the Senate to suspend the Standing Orders, the Minister said that he did not wish to pass the Bill to-day. Many honorable senators have come long distances to attend to-day’s sitting, and I think their health should be considered.
– My heart is touched by these eloquent appeals on behalf of the overworked Senate. I am feeling the strain myself, and, as I said this afternoon, I do. not wish to rush the Bill through at this sitting. If honorable senators desire to continue the discussion I shall be content to get the Bill through to-morrow. If, however, only one honorable senator desires to speak for about half-an-hour I think we should complete the Committee stage of the Bill to-night, or, at all events, we might reach the Department with which honorable senators desire to deal. That will give me some reasonable assurance that we shall be able to complete the Bill to-morrow. If, however, we leave the measure in its present state, it is possible that honorable senators, not being so tired to-morrow as they appear to be tonight, might continue the debate at such length that at 10 o’clock to-morrow night I shall be met with another request for an adjournment.
– The Minister’s statement is a reasonable one. I think if we continue till we reach the Repatriation Department to-night, the position will be satisfactory.
– I shall be satisfied, because then there will be a reasonable assurance that I shall be able to give the Bill to the Treasury to-morrow evening.
– I had hoped that the Minister would stand to his resolve to put the Bill through to-night, for the reason that I was unable to take advantage of the firstreading stage to make certain remarks upon two subjects in which I am vitally interested, but I hope to be able to refer to them to-morrow in any case.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Works and Railways.
Divisions 118 to 129, proposed vote, (£112,635), agreed to.
Divisions 130 to 139. Proposed vote, £1,132,015.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) to the fact that there is no telephone connexion between Broken Hill and Adelaide, although there is a very good telephone system between Adelaide and Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Terowie, Peterborough, Gladstone, and other places in South Australia, some of which are more distant from Adelaide than Broken Hill. I hesitated, while the war was on, to raise this question, but now it is, I think, a legitimate request that Broken Hill be connected with Adelaide as soon as possible. I shall be glad if the Minister will bring this matter under the notice of the new Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise).
– I wish to call attention to a grievance which I suppose extends throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, namely, the miserable salaries paid to half-time and full-time Post Office officials in country districts. The highest salary, I think, is about £130, and the lowest about £10. Some people may be able to live comfortably on £130 a year, but I do not think many can live on £10 a year. During the past three or four years the Postal Department has earned for itself a verybad reputation as a sweating institution, so far as these particular officials are concerned, no doubt because they are not organized. The regular postal officials belong to organizations, and have access to the Federal Arbitration Court, so that they have a means of redressing their grievances; but the people to whom I refer, the halftime and full-time Post Office officials in country districts, are in a different position. In many instances they have qualified as telegraphists and in other branches of Post Office work, and many of them are quite as competent as the regularly-trained officers of the Postal Department; but being unorganized they have no holidays, and no concessions of any kind. On Christmas day, and indeed on any holiday, they have to attend at the post office to speak morning and evening with the Adelaide office. If they belonged to an organization they would, no doubt, be in a much better position, but because of their isolation, and the fact that they are nearly all located in the out-back portions of. Australia, it is almost impossible for them to have their grievances properly ventilated. It is the duty of the new Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) to give careful consideration to this branch of the Postal Service. Prior to Federation, and when they were under State control, these officials were much more contented than they are at present, and they could get their grievances ventilated readily enough in the State Parliament on occasions such as the present. I hope that what I have said will be conveyed to the new PostmasterGeneral, and that he will see that this deserving class of employee is placed in a better position than it is in at present. I have travelled extensively in South Australia, and wherever I have gone I have found these officials as courteous and as anxious to .serve the community generally as are the permanent officials of the Department. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will see that something is done to make their lot better in the future.
– I .can indorse all that Senator Newland has said, as my experience of the officials to whom he has referred has been similar to his. There is a good deal of dissatisfaction amongst these people because they are doing more work than they are paid for. It has been- the practice of the Department to say that they cannot pay more for a post-office than the revenue received from it; but it should be borne in mind that it is much easier to give postal facilities in closely settled places than in back-block districts. We should seriously consider whether these unofficial servants of the Post Office are paid .’sufficient for the work they have to do, and it should not be forgotten that, while the cost of living has increased, they have received no increased payment for the services they render.
For some considerable time past there has been a strong agitation in South Australia for better postal facilities at Port Adelaide.
– The honorable senator will see that there is no item in the Bill covering that matter.
– There is an item for the conveyance of mails in South’ Australia; and, by the way, the vote, in proportion to population, is smaller than votes provided for the same purpose inother States. .1 hope that the Government will not lose sight of the fact that a promise was made that, whilst a settle-1 ment of the Port Adelaide grievance must be deferred, on account of the war, it would be considered at a favorable opportunity. The Port Adelaide people are becoming very restless in connexion with this matter, as their grievance has been outstanding for the last twenty years, and it calls for redress immediately.
– I wish just to say that I shall bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. ‘ Wise) the representations made by the last two speakers.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the. Senate do now adjourn.
– I promised to obtain an answer to a question asked by Senator Pratten in regard to the Sydney telephone service. I have been supplied- by the Postmaster-General’s Department with the following reply : - ‘
With reference to your memorandum of 13th March, ‘1920, covering an extract from Hansard on the above-mentioned subject, I am directed by the Postmaster-General to forward herewith, for the information of the Minister for Defence, an extract from a report furnished by the Chief Electrical Engineer of this Department in regard to the matter. It will be seen that Senator Pearce’s reply to Senator Pratten was made under a misapprehension, as the present condition of affairs in’ the Sydney telephone service lias been brought about by the inability of the Treasurer to provide funds.
The report referred to is as follows: -
With reference to the remarks made by Senator Pratten, it is. admitted that the Sydney telephone service is in a worse position than it has been for some years. When in Sydney in January last I went very carefully into the matter, and ascertained that there was no “goslow “ policy being adopted. In this opinion all responsible officers in Sydney agreed with me. Senator Pratten has mentioned that he has heen told officially that the service will be worse before it is better. This is possibly true; but I am unaware of the name of the official who gave Senator Pratten this information. There are approximately 41,500 subscribers in the Sydney network, not 20,000, as indicated by Senator Pratten.
No overstaffing exists in the telephone exchanges in Sydney. The real trouble in the Sydney network is the shortage of equipment in almost every exchange, a condition of affairs which is wholly due to the Treasurer’s action in refusing to supply this Department with the necessary funds. On page 28 of the Postmaster-General’s ninth annual report, it is shown that over a period of six year3 the Treasurer has each year greatly reduced the amounts asked for. The amounts required by this Department over the period referred to was £7,484,000, after careful revision and reduction of the original estimate; whilst the amount provided by the Treasury was £4,457,000, the reduction being £3,027,000; and even the reduced amounts were not made available until too late to enable all the money to be spent within the financial year.
The reference made by Senator Pearce to the Economies Commission’s report on the cost of operating in the various States is not relevant, as the trouble in Sydney is due to shortage of equipment and plant, and not to any shortage of staff. In any case, as already pointed out by me in my comments upon the Economics Commission’s report, the operating expenses in the various States are not comparable, and their figures in this respect are valueless and misleading.
The Treasurer is well aware of the position of matters in Sydney, and in this connexion I invite attention to paragraph 6 of my memorandum (file No. N.S.W. 19/1818), which was forwarded tn the Treasurer on 15th December, 1919, and which reads as follows: -
I desire to draw attention to my many previous representations, both in writing and by consultation with the Secretary to the Treasurer, when discussing the Works Estimates, especially when the present financial year’s estimates were reduced by an alarming amount. I. persistently pointed out that if the funds applied for year by year were not granted, the Department’s services would simply drift into a state of chaos, as it was well-nigh impossible to keep the services going while the votes were starved so seriously. Furthermore, to lift the service out of such a condition requires large additional expenditure, which would not have been necessary were funds provided as asked for.
I consider that Senator Pearce should l:c put right in this matter, and informed of the repeated negotiations which took place between the officers of this Department and of the Treasury Department, in order to obtain the money to carry on the telephone service. He should be made aware that, as the result of the inability of the Department to obtain the funds which it applied for year by year for telephone service, the equipment could not be obtained to provide connexion for new subscribers nor maintain the efficiency of the existing services.
That report is signed by the Chief Electrical Engineer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200317_senate_8_91/>.