8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Son. T. Givens) took the chair at3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Last week I asked the Minister leading the Government - in the Senate a question, which he desired nae to postpone, concerning the policy of the Government in dealing with blind pensioners. I should like to know whether the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) is in a position now to make any statement as to the policy of the Government in connexion with the matter?
– Iregret that I am unable to make a statement on the subject at present, hut I shall endeavour, if possible, to make such a statement on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Inscribed Stock Act. - Dealings and Transactions during the year ended 30th June, 1910.
Repatriation: Summary of the work of the Department of Repatriation from April, 1918, to the end of June, 1920; with some account of the activities which preceded the Department’s formation; together with appendices.
War Service Homes Act. - Land acquired at-
Islington, New South Wales.
Mosman, New South Wales.
Orange, New South Wales.
Weston, New South Wales.
Shortage in South Australia.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether his attention has been drawn to the remarks- of the Hon. G. B. Laffer, as reported in the South Australian Register of 25th September, re shortage of sugar. If so, is. it true that South Australia’s interests have been sacrificed by the Federal authorities? Has the Federal Government, as alleged, allowed the matter to drift? Is the statement correct, as therein reported, that the political “pull” of the eastern States, or any other “ pull,” has given -the above-mentioned States a better deal than South Australia ?
– The honorable senator has already drawn my attention to- the report to which he has referred. I shall supply an answer to his questions at the- earliest possible moment.
Prohibition of Importation
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Adverting to the question of Senator Keating and reply of the Minister in the Senate on 9th . September instant regarding anjline dyes and the prohibition of the importation thereof -
Has the prohibition proclamation since its gazettal ‘been, modified to the extent of permitting importations from the United States of America; if so, when, and by what authority?
Are aniline dyes of Swiss manufacture largely used or required in the woollen and other industries?
Are such dyes, when imported into Australia, imported through Britain?
Are such dyes, when in course of importation to Australia, and passing through Britain, subject in Britain . to prohibition of re-export to Australia by British authorities unless the latter are satisfied that British requirements of, and demands for, such dyes are first fully satisfied or provided for?
Are not aniline dye users in Australia subordinated to the interests of aniline dye users in Britain, and practically restricted in their competition with British manufacturers to the use of Britain’s exportable surplus of its home-made aniline dyes, to which British dye users prefer Swiss dyes?
Will the ‘Government, in the interests of Australian woollen and other industries dependent on the use of aniline dyes, thoroughly investigate the British practice in this connexion, with the object of securing for Australian manufacturers equal advantages with British manufacturers of goods competing in Australian markets?
– The answers are -
-The answer to No. 4 shows that the British practice is not known to the Department.
Positionof New Zealand
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister,upon notice -
Is there any truth in the allegation made by the Premier of New Zealand in the ‘Parliament of that Dominion, as reported in the press, to the effect that New Zealand had had extraordinary luck in connexion with Nauru Island, and that, although New Zealand had paid very much less than Australia and Britain, he did not think Britain or Australia would be able totake away a ton of phosphates more than New Zealand?
– The Prime Minister intimated on Wednesday last that the Prime Minister of New “Zealand must have been misreported. He pointed ont that the agreement in regard to Nauru was a tripartite one, and that the parties thereto are to receive on the basis of their financial contributions, which are - Great Britain, 42 per cent. ; Australia, 42 per cent. ; and New Zealand, 16 per cent. He also explained that, in the event of there being insufficient phosphate for all, the residuum would be sold, . and the profits distributed on the basis already referred to.
Alleged Inferior Australian Flour
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answer is - 1 to 4. The Prime Minister stated on Thursday last thait he had spoken to the Victorian Minister for Agriculture on the subject. In effect, the Prime Minister said: -
In the ‘first place the Wheat Pool is not responsible for the sale of the flour. It* sells wheat; it does not sell flour. The millers sold this flour. In the second place, the flour, which had been gristed from damaged Victorian second quality wheat, which had been reconditioned, and was described as B grade, was sold upon sample, a parcel of ‘270 tons having been sent as a sample, and subsequent shipments were up to that sample. But it was sold -up to sample by the millers, and not by the Wheat Pool. Of course, I amsorry for the sake of the credit of Australian flour that there should have been , any occasion for complaints, but there is in the transaction no reflection on the Wheat Pool. I regret that it is not the only occasion in which Australians have done Australia incalculable injury. Those who do this sort of thing are really guilty towards this country of a crime infinitely worse than those crimes for which men arepunished in the ordinary way. The circumstances in which, this flour was bought by South Africa . must be remembered. In that country there was a great shortage of wheat, and they were perilously near the starvation border. Sight must not be lost of the fact that flour made from inferier wheat will spoil very much more readily than what is gristed from high grade wheat. For instance, 70 per cent, flour will keep very much longer than 80 per cent, flour. Weevils would begin to breed more speedily in the former than in the latter, and some time has elapsed since this particular flour was gristed.
Railway Construction - Katherine River to Camooweal,
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that the coastal line from Brisbane to Townsville will be completed next year, thus providing railway communication from Perth to Cloncurry, which is only. 150 miles from Camooweal on the border between Queensland and the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth Government is prepared to construct a line from the present terminus at Katherine River, through the richest portion of the Territory, to Camooweal, provided the State of Queensland undertakes to build a line from Cloncurry to Camooweal ?
– The answer is “ No.”
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
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.
The Government have made a definite announcement of the date upon which it is intended that the new postal rates shall come into operation. Notice of this has been issued, and so the passing of the Bill is urgent.
– They are not to come into operation until Friday.
– I have no desire to limit the speeches of honorable senators on the Bill, but I wish to avoid any undue delay in passing it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the second reading of the Bill be an Order of the Day for a later hour of the day.
– On this point, Mr. President, I may point out that we shall have several money Bills before the Senate this week, and in connexion with them honorable senators should have the privilege of a full debate. While I do not think it is the intention of honorable senators to repeat themselves in any way, it is of vital importance to the Senate that there should be some debate upon the Budget proposals, and I think that if Senator Russell will give us an opportunity at an early date of debating the ‘Budget, he will perhaps save some duplication of debate so far as these measures are concerned.
– I can only say that the “Government, after full consideration, have determined the order of business ; but should an opportunity to debate the Budget proposals present itself at an early date I shall be glad to allow honorable senators to avail themselves of it. I cannot make any definite statement now, but I shall consult my colleagues, and endeavour to let the honorable senator know during the course of the day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of ‘Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
– This is one of the Bills upon which honorable senators, on the first reading, have the right in debate to wander from Dan to Beersheba. I need hardly remind honorable senators that if we allow the first reading to go - we have allowed the first reading of the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill to pass - there may not be another opportunity to deal generally with some of the subjects that are uppermost’ in our minds, unless the Minister will definitely promise us an early opportunity for the discussion of the Budget, which includes all the matters dealt with in these minor Bills. I realize that if I resume my seat now I shall have lost my right to speak on the first reading of this Bill ; but I am making these few remarks with the object of urging the Minister, if possible, to give the Senate an opportunity to debate the financial proposals of the Government, thus saving in same measure duplication of debate with regard to these smaller Bills.
– I can only repeat what I have just told the honorable senator; but I may add that we shall have an Income Tax Bill and one or two other small financial measures shortly, and these should afford honorable senators every opportunity to debate those matters to which Senator Pratten has referred. With the exception of the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill, I am not in any great hurry.
– So long as the Minister will not object to a fairly full financial discussion upon one of these Bills, I shall be content.
– Not at all.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
In Committee. (Consideration resumed from 24th September, vide page 4975) :
Clause 2 agreed to.
– I rose to speak, Mr. Chairman, before you put clause 2, for the purpose of pointing out-
– If the honorable senator rose, he certainly did not catch my eye, and, therefore, I declared the clause carried. There cannot be any further discussion upon it now. The Committee is now invited to discuss the schedule, and as it is a very long one, we shall deal with it progressively.
– I persist, Mr. Chairman, in desiring to say what I wished to say on clause 2. I think the same thing, identically, cropped up in connexion with the Nauru Agreement Bill. If my memory serves me right, a clause in that measure approved of the whole Agreement, and honorable senators then pointed out that if it were passed, any discussion on the schedule would be redundant. In this Bill, clause 2 approves of the schedule. In the case of the Nauru Agreement Bill, the Minister in charge agreed to postpone the clause approving the Agreement until the schedule had been passed.
– The schedule, and not clause 2, is now under discussion, but there is nothing to prevent the honorable senator from moving the recommittal of the Bill at another stage if he desires to have a clause re-considered. At present the discussion must be confined to the schedule.
– I shall have no objection to discussing the schedule in the circumstances mentioned by you, Mr. Chairman, and I take it that if any amendment be made in the schedule, the Minister himself will move f or the recommittal of clause 2.
– My ruling given on a former occasion was that the question must be put - “ That the schedule stand as printed but in order to facilitate discussion, I shall take the schedule page by page.
– I think the precedent previously established was to take a schedule of this kind in sections.
– Very well. We shall take the schedule as indicated by the honorable senator. Throughout the discussion on the schedule, as provided for in our Standing Orders, ‘the question will be - “ That the schedule stand as printed.” Any honorable senator may at any time move an amendment, until the schedule has been declared passed.
– According to clause 3 of the schedule there is a promoter in connexion with the company to be formed, and I desire to ascertain who he is, and what he is to be paid, either in cash or in fully paid-up shares.
– The name of the promoter is given in clause 2 of the Bill, and this provision is necessary in order to comply with the companies law. The promoter will be liable to the Commonwealth for the application made in this connexion. So far as I understand, no payment is to be made to him.
. -Senator Pratten has asked who is the promoter referred to in clause 3 of the schedule. The first paragraph of the schedule shows clearly that an agreement has been entered into with Basil Lathrop Murray, of Perth, in the State of Western Australia, Managing Director of the Westralian Farmers Limited, who is referred to in the agreement as the “promoter.” Wherever he is subsequently referred to in the agreement he is called “ promoter,” but the money, if any, to be paid to him is not indicated in the agreement itself.
.- It is not my intention to further oppose the passage of this Bill. I have already said that I believe we are making a mistake in passing ‘ such, a measure; but I desire to throw out the suggestion that even now some effort might be made to make the . State Government of Western Australia shoulder the responsibility in connexion with this undertaking.- Even in the schedule an amendment might be made whereby the company formed under the Companies- Act of Western Australia might obtain a guarantee from the State Government for a redemption of the loan, or any advances made by the Commonwealth Government under this agreement.
– They would surely be prepared to do that.
– I think they would, and we would be saved from establishing a . precedent, which would enable other company promoters and cooperators in different parts of Australia to come direct to the Federal Government for financial assistance before obtaining the consent of a State Government.
– It would remove nearly all the objections.
– I believe it would, and I appeal to the representatives of Western Australia to seriously consider this matter, even to the extent of postponing the schedule. I feel sure that we are establishing . a precedent by passing the schedule in its present form which is likely . to cause very much trouble in the future. If a promoter or a company has to obtain the backing of the ‘Government before any advance is made, the Commonwealth Government will be fairly safe.
– Cannot this be done under clause 5 of the schedule?
– I do not care where it is done. I am anxious to encourage enterprises of this character, because if a number of men are prepared to invest their own money to assist in marketing their produoe, they deserve every encouragement.
– I think that clause 5 of the schedule covers it.
– I do not think so. There is no such guarantee in the agreement, and the Western Australian Government is in no way involved. If the Government can see their way to provide protection in the direction I have indicated, so that the State Government will guarantee the repayment of the money, my objection to the Bill will be removed. I am not prepared to move an amendment, but I am willing to give my assistance in that direction if the schedule is postponed for further consideration.
.- When we were discussing the second reading of the Bill, I received an assurance from the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) that the Government of Western Australia would give the necessary backing. In reply to an inquiry as to what the “ necessary backing “ meant, I was informed that the Government of Western Australia were prepared to find the necessary sites for silos, and I replied that that was. not backing as I understood at. The backing is the financial support of the State in which the project is to be carried out. Senator Earle has submitted a proposition which is worthy of consideration, and I believe the honorable senator is quite right in suggesting that we should amend the schedule in the direction indicated. If the measure becomes law in its present form it will mean that the Commonwealth Government will be inundated with applications from companies and individuals who are anxious to establish industries in a State. The functions of the Commonwealth Government should be to deal with States, ‘and not with individuals or firms. As the company has approached the Western Australian Government, asking them to pass the necessary legislation in connexion with this venture, surely it is reasonable to suggest that they should go a little further and ask the Government to provide the necessary financial guarantee. I trust that honorable senators will give favorable consideration to this point, because . it will be the means of making the measure absolutely watertight, and show those in other States that th© Commonwealth Government is prepared to help if the support of the State Government is assured.
– It has been suggested that a State Government should be behind undertakings of this character, and should guarantee the financial responsibility; but the object of the Bill, from the Government’s point of view, is to assist those who are endeavouring to help themselves. The measure embodies a form of co-operation as against State control, and, as. far as can be ascertained, a majority of the farmers in Western Australia are iri favour of a cooperative system. If the State Government were to be brought into the scheme, it would be objectionable to many honorable senators. It is the policy of the Government to support those who are trying to help themselves.
– And it is our duty to treat every application on its, merits.
– ou are interfering with the functions of a State.
– There are many things that a State Government cannot do. We have found money to build silos in New South Wales, we are doing the same for the farmers in Western Australia, and I hope it will not be long before other States seek assistance in this direction.
– The New South Wales silos are being constructed on money advanced by the Commonwealth Government.
– Personally, I think that the local people should themselves decide as to the method which should be adopted, just as the farmers Of Western Australia have decided for themselves. When I am asked whether the Government of that State is involved in this scheme, my reply is in the affirmative. We have accepted the word of the Premier of Western Australia that certain lands will be provided for the purpose of this scheme ; I do not know under what conditions the use of those lands will be granted, but probably it will be necessary to pass an Act of Parliament dealing with the matter.
– The Government will be satisfied . with regard to their own rights before they proceed with this scheme?
– We have the last say in regard to the interpretation of the Bill, and the moment the Government of Western Australia fail to interpret it in the way that we think it should be interpreted, we possess the power to withhold the requisite funds. In other words, if the Western Australian Government do not comply with the conditions of the contract, both in the letter and the spirit, we can cease to advance money. In New South Wales we provided the funds for the erection of silos, and, although we experienced’ some little difficulties, these were satisfactorily adjusted so that the Act under which the advances were made has worked very smoothly.
– I see a very great difference between entering into an agreement with a State and advancing a large sum of money to a private company. However, I welcome this kind of legislation because it will provide us with a precedent which the Labour party -will be able to use when we desire to help any of our trade unions to do something.
– We shall treat every case upon its merits.
– I am sure that honorable senators will do so. Because I realize that the trend of thought is in the direction expressed by this Bill, I intend to support it. But was the Commonwealth Parliament called into existence to enact legislation of this character! Was it created for the ,purpose of putting £500,000 into an enterprise of this kind, when there are men in this Chamber who will affirm that we have not the money necessary to enable us to honour the compact which was entered into with New South Wales some twenty years ago to establish the Federal Capital in her territory ? I regard the scheme outlined in this measure as an innovation, and a dangerous innovation at that.
– Yet the honorable senator is going to support the Bill.
– I am. I represent a section of the community which is prepared to take risks in legislation - risks in the direction of socializing everything.
– I am glad that the honorable senator acknowledges that they are risks.
– I always put my views quite candidly before the people and before Parliament. I never misunderstood the position of the party to which 1 belong in regard to the legislation which it endeavoured to place upon our statute-book. But the proposals contained in this Bill are the most extraordinary of which I have ever heard.
– The Government should certainly report progress if the honorable senator is supporting the measure.
– Whether I support or oppose it will not make any difference to the conduct of the Government. But I cannot fail to mark the eagerness exhibited by the Government to enact legislation for the purpose of squandering the people’s money. What security will the Commonwealth possess for the money which we are asked to advance?
– The very best.
– A private company is putting a few hundred thousand pounds into this scheme, and the Commonwealth Government are advancing it £2 for every £1 which is thus subscribed.
– But they have the security of the £250,000 before they make the advance.
– I dare say that I could raise a little money for a certain proposition if the Government would undertake to advance me £2 for every £1 privately subscribed. And I could make out quite as good a case for Government assistance as can be made out here.
– As I remarked previously, we should consider every case upon its merits.
– To me it is evident that the farmers’ representatives in another place had sufficient “ pull “ to secure the passing of this Bill, otherwise it would never have been put before us. The measure is an acknowledgment of the principle that the system of assisting individuals who are engaged in cooperative enterprises is a sound one. The party to which I belong will welcome it. But if we go back to the purposes for which this Parliament was created we shall be quite unable to justify proposals of this character.
– Is the Bill constitutional ?
– We must leave i.hat for the High Court to decide.
– If the honorable senator is not prepared to say that it is unconstitutional, why does he make assertions such as he has made ?
– It is astonishing that the Government, in face of the views which they have previously expressed in regard to concerns of this kind, should enter into any speculation with the taxpayers’ money.
– What have they said in opposition to the principles which are embodied in this Bill ?
– The Government are blazing the track. To assist certain farmers who are about to engage in a co-operative enterprise they propose to advance them £500,000 of the people’s money. It would be equally fair for them to sink that amount in a mining proposition. The principle in each case would be the same.
– What about our soldier homes ?
– Many of our soldiers were absent from Australia for four years, and if they had remained here they might have been able to erect homes for themselves. In their case, however, the Commonwealth is not advancing £2 for every £1 which they subscribe. It merely provides them with a home which is a good security for every £1 that is advanced to them.
– And this is a good security. It is quite as good a security as we possess for the iron, bonuses which are spent in Newcastle and Lithgow.
– The honorable senator knows my attitude towards the iron bonuses. I have always held that if we pay a bonus of £1 in connexion with iron works in Australia we should always possess that amount of interest in the concern.
– We shall have the same thing in connexion with these wheat silos.
– I do not think so. We shall have to depend entirely upon the success of the proposed undertaking, and, personally, I am not too confident of the success of huge enterprises of this character. Although Western Australia has doubtless a great future as a wheat-growing country, the handling of nearly £1,000,000 of capital requires most efficient and capable management.
– That is where the whole success of the scheme will lie.
– And the entire failure of it may come from a lack of efficient management. I intend to support the Bill, because it is part of the policy of the party to which I belong to take risks in the matter of State ownership and State control. If honorable senators opposite do not go the whole way with us in that connexion they will at least come half way by providing us with the necessary money. If we started a” huge co-operative trade concern, forming a Soviet, if I may use that term, and could show the ‘Government clearly that by all our tradesmen working together co-operatively we could establish comfortable homes for them, do honorable senators think the Government would advance £2 for every £1 that we put in ? I do not. I cannot refrain from expressing my astonishment at the Government dabbling in legislation of this kind, and at the hugeness of the sum that they are intrusting to certain people. I know they are people to be relied on for their ability and integrity; but thousands who answer that description may not have the ability to manage affairs of this magnitude. The whole tract of Australia is strewn with the wreckage of concerns of this kind - I will not say where the Government have been interfering, but where private companies and firms have. There are as many wrecks and failures as there are successes. I take the opportunity on this schedule to express my surprise at the action of the Government in introducing the Bill; but they will find a supporter for it in me, because it will pave the way for us.
. -I am glad to hear from Senator Gardiner that there is some chance of the labour unions bringing forward industrial co-operative schemes on these lines. If they do, their past policy will be entirely reversed. I have pointed out for years that industrial unrest could be solved if the labour unions, instead of striking, devoted their money to buying enterprises. If they did that, we should be on the eve of industrial rest. The cost of one strike would more than run an enterprise of this sort.. From that point of view, if a feasible scheme were brought forward, and ‘the unions wanted £2 from the Government for every £1 they put in, the £1 being the first liability . to be lost, the Senate would, I am sure, favorably consider it on its merits. Senator Gardiner rightly -says that the whole success of the Western Australian scheme depends on the management. Unfortunately,he was not here when Senator Drake-brockman showed how splendidly managed the Western Australian co-operative concern has been, what great successes ‘they have had ‘there, and how likely it is that those successes will continue. We talk about a State guarantee; but the farmers do not want any more State interference, and in that I am with them up to the hilt. If the Government guarantee the scheme, there will be all kinds of official interferences in all directions. I would much sooner lend the money straight out to the farmers in a co-operative scheme, where they are putting . in their own cash, than I would run it with a Government guarantee, because they are more likely to fail if interfered with by the Government than if they have a free hand to manage it on business lines such as, -according to Senator Drake-Brockman, have ‘been followed in his State. I did want to see some delay, so that we could look into a number of matters; but we are told that the State Government are giving the land free for the silos, and are going to convert their trucks, all of which will cost a considerable sum of money.
– But are they?.
– That is understood. The scheme cannot possibly be undertaken unless the trucks are available to carry . the grain in bulk.
– The conversion of the trucks is not such a big Job, because they have been building them for a number of years in such a way that they are easily convertible. We have been doing that in Victoria for five or six years, and it would only cost from 10s. to 15s. per truck to make the necessary alterations.
– It will cost money, and we must add also the value of the land which is being handed over for the silos. The State Government is, therefore, to some extent, involved.
– The Bill does not say that the State Government must do these things.
– I understand that it does.
– No; paragraph 5 says - “ The promoter and the company shall forthwith take all necessary steps to obtain, etc.”
– If they do not obtain these things, I take it that they will not get the money.
– The Minister gaveus his assurance just now that that would be so.
– How could the Minister possibly lend the money if the State Government interfered with this co-operative scheme, and would not allow the wheat to be carried on the railways in bulk, or refused. to give the land to build the silos on? If the company cannot get the land from the Government, how. are they going to spend the money ? Obviously the consent of the Stake Government is necessary before the company can make a start at aH. ‘It is a bona fide scheme. I 6imply wanted a little delay to look into certain points, and to make quite certain that they contemplated spending far more than the sum mentioned, because that is only the first, instalment. A great number of other things will have to be undertaken, involving as much money again, and this money the farmers will have to spend. They simply want to handle their produce in the most economical way possible. We are threatened with an absolute shortage of bags. We may not be able to get them at all, and, therefore, I think the farmers of Western Australia are on the right lines. This is an exceptional proposition, which is put before us by people who are obviously going to manage it in the proper way. They have given proof of their managing capacity in the past, and we may well support them. If Senator Gardiner will bring along a trade union scheme, we will look thoroughly into it. If the unions have the backbone to put up a large sum of money instead of spending it on strikes, we will support and help them in every way we can.
– Clause 4 includes a number of desirable restrictions. I am pleased to see that dividends are restricted, in certain circumstances, to 8 per cent., the excess to be divided between the customers and the shareholders. I am also pleased to see that the company is compelled under the agreement to deal with grain from non-shareholders, and that no person other than a wheat-grower is eligible to hold shares. One point, however, it not quite clear to me. Paragraph a provides that “ the capital of the company shall be £1,500,000, divided into 1,500,000 shares of £1 each.” “Under this agreement, the maximum amount that the Commonwealth is called upon to assist the company with is £550,000. It is estimated that the silos and elevators to be erected by the company for the purposes of the agreement will cost £800,000. I cannot see the reason for creating a company with a capital of £1,500,000, seeing that the full tenor of the schedule is that the work will be completed for round about £800,000. What is. in the minds of the promoters in putting in that figure, and what is the object of capitalizing almost twice the amount that is shown to be necessary in the agreement ?
.- I may perhaps give the information that the honorable senator wants. The farmers of Western Australia are making provision for their immediate requirements, when they estimate that £800,000 will be required to ‘ be spent to provide the silos. It has to be remembered that the company must look further ahead than next year, or even the year after. Certainly not one-tenth of the total available wheatgrowing country in Western Australia has vet been brought under cultivation. We may look forward in the course of a few years to an annual crop in Western Australia from 20,000,000 acres.
– That would be nearly 200,000,000 bushels.
– I do not care what it would be. Honorable senators should bear in mind that when we speak of Western Australia we speak of one-third part of i>he continent of Australia. There is an immense area of land, estimated at about 80,000,000 acres, in Western Australia capable of growing wheat.
– It has been reported that in England the other day they produced as much as 90 bushels of wheat to the acre.
– The country in Western Australia to which I refer would probably never produce a yield’ like that.
– The production the honorable senator has suggested would feed the world.
-BROCKM AN. -I hope that the production of wheat in Western Australia will in future be a big factor in feeding the world. In the circumstances to which I have, referred, honorable senators will agree that it would be of little use to make provision for a company with but a limited capital. Provision must be made for future extension. It is hoped that in the future additional wheat-growers will be brought into, the company. Provision must be made for the extension of silo accommodation as the requirements of the company increase; hence the provision for £1,500,000 instead of the £250,000 which Senator Pratten seems to consider desirable.
– I direct attention to the wording of clause 5 of the schedule -
The promoter and the company shall forthwith take all necessary steps to obtain from the State of Western Australia legislative and executive authority to carry out its objects.
It seems to me that there will be no statutory obligation upon the promoter and the company to obtain from the State of Western Australia legislative and executive authority to carry out the objects of the company. The clause provides that the promoter and the company shall forthwith take all necessary steps to obtain this authority.
– That puts the Commonwealth Government in the position of arbiter to decide whether the promoter and the company have done all that is required or not.
– That is so; but I suggest the possibility of friction between ‘the State Government of Western Australia and the company. We gather from’ what has been said in this chamber that there is a difference of view in our “ Cinderella “ State between the State Government and the farmers. The State Government have said that they want the control of wheat handling, and the farmers have said that they prefer that it should be handled co-operatively.
– The Government of Western Australia have said nothing of the kind.
– I have gathered that from the debate on this Bill.
– Co-operation between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Western Australia may take many forms.and to attempt to define the- method of co-operation- would be to limit, rather than widen, the- scope of the provision.
– I rose to point out the possibility that the company might take all necessary steps to obtain from the State of Western Australia authority to carry out its objects, but the Western Australian Government might not agree to give to the company the land or facilities for which it asked.
– That would mean the end of this agreement.
– I desire to make the matter, quite clear. I move -
That in clause 5 of the schedule the words “ forthwith take all necessary steps to “ be left out.
If that amendment is agreed to there can be no doubt as to what the Commonwealth Parliament requires, and if the Western Australian Government will not give this company the legislative and” executive authority to carry out the objects of the company the scheme must wait fruition until they do.
– I can assure the Committee and Senator Pratten that there is not the slightest suspicion of hostility on the part of the Western Australian Government to this scheme.
– Quite the re- verse.
– Exactly. Senator Pratten seems to be under the impression that there is some difference of opinion between the farmers, who are parties to this agreement, and the Western Australian Government as to who shall handle the wheat crop in that State. I can assure the honorable senator that the Western Australian Government handed over the control of the wheat crop to this co-operative^ concern, !by which it was managed, during most of the war period. Senator Russell will, I think, confirm my statement that the wheat business was handled better in Western Australia than in any other State under this arrangement. Whether that was due to better weather conditions prevailing in Western Australia than in the other States, I am not prepared to say.
– This Bill never pretended to be a contract between the Western Australian Government and the Commonwealth Government. It is brought forward, as a contract between the Commonwealth Government and a co-operative company of Western Australian farmers.
– That is not the point that was raised by Senator Pratten, who seems to think that there is some hostility between the Western Australian farmers and the Government of Western Australia. I can assure the honorable senator that there is nothing of the kind.
– I accept the honorable senator’s assurance.
– Although I do not see very much objection to the amendment, I should like to point out that, in my opinion, .there is no occasion for it, because, as Senator de Largie has stated, there is no hostility between the Western Australian Government and the farmers, who are parties to this agreement. As a matter . of fact, the present Government of Western Australia is composed half of members of the Country party and half of Nationalists, and the Government is certainly not going to wreck itself by putting obstacles in the way of the farmers, who are practically the Country party. In view of the assurance we are able to give to Senator Pratten on the point he raised, and the composition of the present Western Australian Government, the honorable senator need have no fear that what he has suggested as possible will be likely’ to occur.
.- -I think that if the amendment is accepted this agreement will he improved for drafting reasons and for substantial reasons, if not for the reason for which it was moved by Senator Pratten. He indicated the possibility of friction between the Western Australian Government and the promoter, and that in that case the promoter and the company might be unable to obtain the necessary legislative and executive authority to carry out its object.
– The clause does not say that the authority must be obtained.
– That is just what I am coming to. If it is not ob tained the Minister has said that that will mean an end to the agreement. Senator Pratten wishes to make it quite clear that that will be the end of the agreement. He wishes to provide that the. promoter and the company must first of all obtain this authority, and that it shall not be sufficient for them merely to use their best efforts to obtain it. The clause is somewhat ambiguously framed. Senators Drake-Brockman and de Largie have assured us that, so far from it being likely that there will be friction between the Western Australian Government and this company, the contrary is likely to be the case. If that be so the company will have no difficulty in securing the required authority. That seems to me to be the justification for the amendment, and not the reason submitted by Senator Pratten in support of it.
– Instead of our making a contract with the Western Australian Government, the farmers of that State will . make their agreements with regard to railways and lands with the State Government, but we must be satisfied with what has been done.
– Exactly. The promoter must obtain the necessary legislative and executive authority to carry out the objects of the company. That is a condition precedent to the operation of the agreement. But if we merely say. that the promoter and the company must forthwith take all necessary steps to obtain from the State of Western Australia the legislative and executive authority necessary, they may hereafter claim that they have done all that they could, and so have fulfilled their part of the agreement and the Commonwealth Government must fulfil its part. We are assured that there is not likely to be any friction between the Western Australian Government and this company; but, as the result of some disagreement in a matter of detail between the company and the Western Australian Government, the company may be unable to obtain what the Commonwealth; Government consider necessary. The com.pany may then say that it has done its best, and the Commonwealth Government will be bound to carry out its part of the agreement. I think that Senator Pratten’s amendment is justified by the very arguments which have been adduced against it.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out -put. The Committee divided.
– I direct the attention of. the Committee to clause 8 of the schedule, whichprovides that the company shall employ engineers, nominated for that purpose by the company, and approved by the Commonwealth, to design and supervise the erection of the silos and elevators, and that these silos and elevators shall be erected in accordance with such designs. Can the Minister (Senator Russell) give any indication as to the procedure that is intended to be taken in the calling for tenders? I should like this information, because, in clause 10 of the schedule, there appears the estimated cost. Therefore, estimates must have been given by somebody, and some engineers must have been in negotiation with the promoters in connexion with these matters. I should not like it to be said that this has been a cutanddried job for any particular contractor.
– Does not paragraph c of clause 12 meet the point raised by the honorable senator?
– No. That merely deals with the completion of the silos and elevators.
– Our engineers will be on the job all the time,, and will, furnish the Government with a. certificate before any advance is made.
– But that particular paragraph refers only to the erection of the silos and elevators. The point I am bringing under the Minister’s notice is the- steps necessary for the placing of the, contract. I would, like to be quite frank,, and say that I would not like to see this Western Australian company and the Commonwealth Government placed in the same position as the New South Wales Government in their relationship with J. S. Metcalf & Company. I want to avoid any possibility of that sort; but there are rumours round’ town that this thing is cut and dried and that, if this Bill be passed, the job has been ear-marked for Metcalf & ‘Company. I want to kno”w. I
– Why does the honorable, senator say that?
Senator PRATTEN.Because of the rumours that have reached my ears, and I think I am perfectly justified in asking the Minister- to- indicate what is in the mind of the Government; whether the contract will be thrown open to the whole world, or- whether this business has been practically fixed up with Metcalf & Company, Will the contract be made available to engineers, not only in Australia but in America and England. I am given to understand that the engineering difficulties are not very great; that, in fact, the plans are practically standardized, and I do not want Metcalf & Company to start out, as in New South Wales, and South Australia, by getting £20,000 for plans. On behalf, may I say, even of the Western Australian farmers, who are putting their good money into this venture, I should like to know what is intended to be done under clause 8 of the schedule.
– ‘Senator Pratten has asked a question of some importance, and, in reply, I mav inform him that the building of the silos and elevators will not be our business. I may alao add that, before the work is undertaken, it will be necessary to have designs which will be limited only by the number of applicants themselves. During the war, when we contemplated the erection of silos, and invited tenders for designing and supervision, we received communications from only three firms in the whole of Australia. In order to expedite matters we arranged for a conference of the engineers of the respective firms, and. agreed upon a compromise design for storage purposes. Now that we are back to normal times again the designs are a little better. In regard to this matter, the liability of the Commonwealth will be limited to that of finance. We shall not be involved in the internal working or management of the contract, but we shall be furnished with certificates by our engineers.
– That- is not the point. Under clause 9 of the Schedule the Commonwealth Ls involved in a certain responsibility with regard to the contracts to be placed for the erection of these silos and elevators. I want to> know what wi-E be. the procedure under clause 8.
– The responsibility under clause 9 will be between the farmers themselves. Our responsibility will be limited to our financial undertaking..
– You mean that your engineers will approve of the plans before you advance lie money.
– That is so. We shall expect our engineers to see that the work is carried out properly. It is not our intention to design the details in connexion with this undertaking, and if plans have been prepared - I do not know by whom - it is not within our knowledge. I understand that the Western Australian farmers have not agreed to any appointment in this connexion; but when they do, and plans are submitted, they will be investigated by our engineers and reported on io the Government. If the Government approve of the plans the contract will be carried out on that basis.
– Will the Government insist upon competition for the work throughout the world ?
– When negotiations have reached this stage it is rather late to say “ throughout the world “ ; but I hope sufficient time will be given- to get into communication by cable with likely contractors- abroad.
– You will not limit it to fourteen days as was done by the New South Wales Government.
– I believe that the New South Wales Government, in the end. did not call for tenders in connexion with some portions of the work, and that the construction was decided upon by mutual arrangement. We are, of course, in favour of every facility being given in this direction, and’ are not prepared to hand over £550,000 to be expended in a loose manner. I shall discuss this phase of the question with the Solicitor-General in order to see if a more rigid arrangement cannot be made. I believe provision should be made in this direction, but we must not appear to be dictating unless it is absolutely essential for the protection of Commonwealth money. I shall see that the matter is brought under the notice of the Commonwealth officers, and shall say that it is the general desire that firms in all parts of the world - excepting those in ex-enemy countries, of course - shall have an opportunity of tendering, not only for the design, but for the work.
.- Clause 10 of the schedule provides ‘ that the estimated cost of the silos to be erected by the company for the purpose of this agreement shall be £800,000. At this stage it is reasonable to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) how that estimate is arrived at. Senator Pratten endeavoured to obtain that information when a previous clause, which had no bearing on the matter, was under discussion. Can the Minister furnish some information as to how the estimate has been arrived at?
– I cannot give exact details, but may mention that two years ago Western Australia was inquiring into the matter, and had the services of a first-class engineer named Pearce, who was acting on behalf of the Government. Mr. Pearce had an opportunity of travelling all over the Commonwealth, and of inspecting works and studying the question generally, and it was expected that he would manage the system on behalf of the Western Australian Government. This gentleman submitted an estimate, as also did the firm of Metcalf and Co. , and it may therefore be said that for the last two or three years Western
Australia has been making a careful investigation as to the probable cost. Unfortunately for the Western Australian Government, the services of Mr. Pearce were -not sufficiently recognised, and he left them. Much of the preliminary work has, therefore, been done by Mr. Pearce and the firm of Metcalf and Co. ‘ I believe other firms have also reported on the probable cost. The figure set down in the measure is not binding, and as the undertaking is a huge one I am not prepared to say that that estimate is to be strictly adhered to. It may be a little more or a little less, but £800,000 is set down as a fair estimate on the advice available.
– Clause 10 of the schedule has a bearing in other directions. Assuming that the sum mentioned will be exceeded, the Western Australian farmers will find they will have to pay the whole of the extra money required, to complete the scheme. As shareholders, they will have to contribute whatever balance is required, because it is specifically stated in the Bill that the Commonwealth Government is committed to a maximum expenditure of £550,000, irrespective of what the scheme costs when properly completed. In view of this, no Commonwealth Government will be able to lend the Western Australian farmers additional capital.
– Without an amendment of the Act.
– Exactly. During the second-reading debate, I said that on the basis of the cost of storage silos In New South Wales, the £800,000, if limited to that, would provide bulk storage capacity for 15,000,000 or 16,000,000 bushels. But there is a very long way to travel from storage in wheat silos to complete bulk handling; and according to the estimate .given by the firm of Metcalf and Company to the’ South Australian Farmers’ Co-Operative Union, or the South Austraiian Government - I forget which, but I believe it was the latter - the cost will be considerably higher now. No honorable senator will deny that the completion of terminal elevators and the supplying of silos with the necessary machinery, and box trucks on the railways, in order to complete the scheme of bulk handling from silos at the railway station, to the point of loading in the ship, will cost somewhere about 4s. per bushel.
– Pour shillings and sixpence per bushel is the estimate.
– I shall take the lower figure of 4s. per bushel. If we pass this measure in its present form, and 1 believe we shall, the £800,000 is going to supply a complete bulk-handling system for only 4,000,000 bushels, because we cannot fill and refill elevators four or five times a year, as is done in America and Canada, owing to the different methods of garnering the crop. Therefore, even if the crop- average over the last five years 10,000,000 bushels - not travelling to the fanciful heights of my honorable friend opposite, but confining ourselves to what has occurred in Western Australia - the expenditure required to complete the bulkhandling system will, on these figures, more nearly approximate £2,000,000 than the estimate of £800,000 mentioned in the Bill.
– Supposing there was a 16,000, 000-bushel crop, they would not build for that quantity. Western Australia proposes to construct for a 3,500,000-bushel crop.
– Is it the intention to construct silos for a 3,500,000- bushel crop?
– Yes, for about one-third of the average crop.
– That has been decided by the experts ?
– Yes. The practice in Canada and America is to provide storage capacity for one-third of an average crop.
– Then it is not definitely expected in Western Australian wheat circles that sufficient silos will be erected, if there is to be storage ^capacity for only one-third of the crop.
– It is always moving out.
– It is not always moving out, because our conditions of garnering the crop are altogether different from those prevailing in America and Canada, where the bulk-handling system is in operation.
– War conditions are not always to obtain.
– War conditions have nothing to do with the matter.
– That is what I am trying to impress upon the honorable senator.
– The conditions in America and Canada are totally different, because in those countries they thresh the grain in the farmer’s own time. It has been pointed out by some honorable senators that we .strip and garner the crop in five or six weeks, and that during that time the farmer has no time to cart to the silo. If the Western Australian farmers are to be satisfied with an estimate that will cover Hulk storage for only one-third of the crop, even on a 10,000,000-bushel basis, they will have to provide some sort of bulk storage on the farm, and it is more than probable that they will go back to placing their wheat in sacks on the farm at all event3.
– The honorable senator is overlooking the fact that the best thing to do with wheat is to ship it straight away, and that the accumulations are limited by the slowness with which some farmers deliver their wheat. It i3 not desirable to provide more silos thar. are necessary, and the storage can always bc 6x tcn (Isd
– The Minister has indorsed the point I was making. The policy of a farmer is to ship his wheat as quickly as possible, but storage capacity for one-third of the crop is not sufficient. We need storage capacity for about two-thirds of the crop.
– Does the honorable senator advocate increasing the amount beyond £550,000?
– No ; but I am pointing out that provision is being made for only one-third of a 10,000,000-bushel harvest.
– A capacity for 3,500,000 bushels will not be nearly sufficient to deal with the whole Western Australian crop. The quantity mentioned has been the average for the last five years.
– That was explained, and the Western Australian farmers realized that they would eventually need more. Extra capital will have to be obtained from the farmers.
– I am coming to that. I am merely pointing out that it should be clearly understood that the ob: ligation of the Commonwealth Govern. ment under this Bill is limited to £550,000, and that if a total expenditure of £800,000 is not sufficient to provide the necessary storage capacity the “Western Australian farmers “will have to pay the whole of the additional money required.
-That is clear enough in the Bill.
– But it is not clear to the Western Australian farmers that move than £800,000 may he required to set this scheme in operation. The point which I desire to stress is that the conditions which obtain here are not those which obtain in Canada and America. The estimated cost of the scheme will have to be largely increased, in order to enable the whole of the Western Australian wheat crop to be dealt with effectively. I am glad the Bill provides that the help of the ‘Commonwealth shall cease when £550,000 has been advanced, because I consider that a low and misleading estimate has been made. I say “misleading” with the greatest deliberation.
– I do not think the honorable senator can say that the estimate is a “misleading” one, if it will cover all that the company has undertaken to do at the commencement of the scheme.
– How can it cover all that needs to be accomplished when it will suffice for the bulk handling of only 3,000,000 bushels of wheat?
– That is all that is contemplated by the scheme at ‘the start.
– The honorable senator’s statement is an admission that the bulk of the coming Western Australian wheat crop of 15,000,000 bushels will have to be dealt with in the oldfashioned way, namely, by means of the bagging system.
– Of course, it will.
– The honorable senator admits the force of my argument when he makes that statement.
– The honorable senator is assuming that the f armers of Western Australia are going to come to the Commonwealth for the balance of the money that may be required.
– No. I am putting upon record to-day something which ought to make them ashamed to come to the Commonwealth for further financial assistance. According to their own figures, the proposed advance of £550,000 will provide them with all the money that ‘ they require. But, as far as I can judge, they will need the whole £1,500,000 before the scheme can be carried out. However, I am glad that it is the farmers’ money, and not the Commonwealth funds, which is to be used for that purpose.
I am not quite sure as to how it is intended to finance this company. Paragraph a of clause 12 sets out that when not less than 300,000 shares have been allotted to shareholders, and paid up to 10s. per share, the Commonwealth will make advances to the company. Then paragraph b provides that these advances shall be- made when not less than £100,000 has been provided and expended by the company in the erection . of silos and elevators. When these two things have been done, the Commonwealth will, under clause 13, advance the company the sum of £550,000. Clause 15 sets out that-
After the company has provided and expended its full one-third of the total cost of the silos and elevators, theCommonwealth will, subject to clause 13 hereof, from time to time advance to the company the balance of the total cost to the company of the silos and elevators.
When the company has spent £100,000, will the ‘Commonwealth be called upon to advance the entire sum of £550,000?
– No. The advance will be made in the proportion of £2 for every £1 paid by the company. The company will be required to spend the first £100,000, and after it has done that, the expenditure by the Commonwealth will be in the proportion of £2 for every £1 expended by the company.
– After the company has expended £100,000, will it be able to call upon the Commonwealth to provide forthwith £200,000?
– No. That is an independent expenditure.” Subsequently the Commonwealth will have to advance moneys in the proportion of £2 for every £1 expended by the company. But the company will be putting more than £100,000 into the scheme, and if it makes all reasonable efforts to collect the moneys required, the Commonwealth will support it.
– Before the Commonwealth can be called upon to do anything under this agreement, the company has to sell 300,000 shares at 10s. each. That will give it a capital of £150,000. The agreement goes on to provide that the company must spend £100,000 before the Commonwealth is required to advance anything.
– That is so.
– From that point onwards, will the Commonwealth advance to the company its pro rata share of the remaining £750,0001
– If the honorable senator will state his questions, I will do my best to reply to them.
– After the company has expended £100,000, will the Commonwealth be expected to provide £200,000, thus making its proportion .’ for every £1 expended by the company, or does that proportion start after the £200,000 has been spent ?
– As an evidence of good faith the company is first required to put up the sum of £100,000. Subsequently the Commonwealth will make advances in the proportion of £2 for every £1 expended by the company. I do not think that the farmers of Western Australia will be keen upon dodging their obligations. They will rather be anxious to put up as much money as possible so as to diminish the amount which they will require from the Commonwealth. But the basis of the expenditure is as I have stated it to be, and we are quite satisfied that that basis is a sound one.
– Clause 19 provides that “ the interest upon each advance shall, until the date of the starting point fixed for the purpose of repayments of advances and interest by instalments, be capitalized as part of the advance.”
– That is during the period of construction.
– I understand that that is so. In other words, there will be no obligation on the part of the company to pay interest until the whole scheme is in full working order.
– That is the position. It is covered by clause 20.
– The interest is payable from the day that the money is advanced ?
– But, until the scheme is in full working order, the interest payable is to be added to the capital ?
– Will it, when capitalized, bear interest?
– Yes, but without penalty.
– There is a peculiar penalty imposed a little later in the schedule.
Clause 24 occasions, me some little amusement. It provides that, if the company is unable ‘to pay simple interest at the rate of 6 per cent., a paternal Government will charge them compound interest at the rate of 10 per cent. If it is unable to pay interest at the rate of 6 per cent., I fail to see how it can pay interest at the rate of 10 per cent.
– It is the kind of provision that usually operates where a person gets behind in his payments.
– There is a penal clause contained in every mortgage.
– I quite understand that it is usual to insert a penal clause in a business agreement. But we have been assured many times that this is not a business agreement. We have been told that it is merely an expression of the policy of the Government to help the primary producer. If the farmers of Western Australia cannot pay interest at the rate of 6 per cent., I do not understand how they are going to pay interest at the rate of 10 per cent.
– The honorable senator does not object to the insertion of a penal clause?
– No. But I would have preferred’ the inclusion of a more practical provision in case of default in payment, either of principal or interest. I consider that this clause is a most unbusiness-like one.
– My attention was directed to clause 24 some time ago, for the reason which has been mentioned by Senator Pratten, namely, the great discrepancy which exists between simple interest at 6 per cent, and compound interest at 10 per cent. Apart from that, it seems to me that the clause has been put in a wrong form. Most mortgages contain provision that a higher rate of interest shall be paid by the mortgagor in the event of unpunctual payments. But the usual method of providing for this penal rate is to declare first that the higher rate of interest shall be the governing rate in respeet of. the security that is offered, and then to make provision that, upon punctual payment, a less rate of interest shall suffice. The reason is that Courts of Equity have always relieved contractors as against penalties or forfeitures, and where originally agreements were made to pay a certain amount of interest, and in the event of unpunctual payment to pay a higher rate of interest, Courts of Equity have allowed the lower rate, although paid unpunctually, to be a full quittance of the obligation, because the Courts have invariably leant against penalties and against forfeitures. To overcome that disposition of the Courts of Equity, and in view of the fact that Courts of Law now . administer equity simultaneously with law, the usual practice has been to put into mortgages a, covenant to pay the higher rate of interest, and to provide that, if the interest be paid punctually on the date on which it is payable, or within a specified period afterwards, a less rate of interest shall be received. The same effect has been accomplished, and the Courts will sustain such an agreement. I very much doubt whether the Courts will sustain this paragraph, Decause it is, on the face of it, nothing more nor less than a penalty provision. In ordinary circumstances, the provision is for payment of the higher amount of interest, with a condition that if the interest isr paid punctually, a less amount shall be accepted, and the court cannot then say that that is a penalty. As a matter of fact, it can say that it is a relief. The Court will not enforce a contract in which a penalty is agreed to be paid. .
– In any case, have not all parties signed this agreement?
– Yes ; but it is still subject to approval by Parliament. On the face of it, this paragraph is valueless. We could provide that the company shall pay a penal rate of 20 per cent. I do not think it would have much more effect. As the agreement stands at present, if the company came up with their ordinary interest, even unpunctually, and insisted that the Commonwealth should accept it, and the Commonwealth refused to accept it, and sued them, the- Commonwealth would be in- the position of a litigant before a Court which would not enforce the penalty. Unless there is some explana tion or justification for the. paragraph, it is therefore only so much waste print.
– I am making inquiries as to the reason for inserting this paragraph. Probably the company volunteered a suggestion for such a penalty in their desire, to give positive assurances of their good intentions. In doing so, it seems to me that they have gone a little too far. There might have been a second advantage in making such a suggestion, in that the provision would be a very good collector, and of material assistance to the company in getting in their money, because they could point out the risk: to their members.
– Why not treat the position in the ordinary way?
– I have asked the drafting authorities to explain why the paragraph has been so expressed. We,, as a Government; have not dealt with it as a question of policy. The Law Department have drawn, up the agreement to protect the Government as far as possible. I hope that they will let me -know in a few minutes the reason for making a special exception in this case, instead of following the usual rule. If it is put in only to give confidence, it is not much of a standby.
-brockman.- It is probably put in to scare the farmers, knowing that it will have no effect.
– At the same time it might be a great advantage to a cooperative company which could point out to its members the danger of falling into arrears with their payments, because this company collects largely on the instalment plan. This paragraph might be a good weapon. Unless there is any special reason for. it I shall have no objection, if the Committee will let it go through now,, to considering the question of recommitting the paragraph. Like other honorable senators, I want to know the reason for putting it in its present form.
– The same point would apply to paragraph 25.
– Is this the stage at which I may move for the reconsideration ofaclause?
– The Committee cannot alter its decision, but when the adoption of the report is being moved the honorable senator can move for the recommittal of the Bill for the further consideration of any clause.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
.- I move-
That the report be adopted.
I understand that if it is desired to recommit certain clauses, that can be done on the third reading. I do not wish to deprive honorable senators of their opportunity of doing what they stated their intention of doing during the discussion in Committee.
– It can be done on the third reading.
– I ask honorable senators to adopt the report, and I shall give full facilities for them to move to recommit on the third reading.
– When does the Minister propose to give those facilities?
– At the thirdreading stage.
– Does the Minister propose to take the third reading to-day?
– No. I shall assist those who want to move in that direction. I shall stop at the report stage to-day, and leave the third reading for to-morrow.
– Shall I be in order in moving for the recommittal of the Bill at this stage ?
– Then in all the circumstances it would be just as well to deal with the matter forthwith. I therefore move-
– I have promised to supply certain information to Senator Keating. I cannot supply it if we recommit the Bill now. Let us take all these matters together to-morrow.
– I thank the Minister for his interjection. It is, I think, the desire of by far the greater number of honorable senators here that definite information be supplied as to the attitude of the Western Australian Government. Perhaps the Minister would be able tomorrow to supply that information, which has not yet been given. If he does, it may possibly obviate the recommittal of the clause which I have in mind.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I wish to make a few statements of a general character. As most honorable senators have read the Budget, I need not recapitulate the reasons given by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) for wanting more revenue. Quite apart from the revenue aspect, every honorable senator is familiar with the vast increase in the cost of material for Post Office requirements. To give a few examples, galvanized iron costs now 600 per cent, more than in 1914, cable 100 per cent, more, and telegraph equipment from 50 per cent, to 250 per cent. more. It does not look as if we were going to be permitted to borrow loosely or wildly in the future for public works’. It is generally admitted on all hands that during the war the financial restrictions placed on the Postal Department and on the extension of postal and other facilities were very hard and drastic, and that the country suffered considerable losses and inconvenience as the result. The Treasurer, in his Budget speech, announced that the expenditure would exceed the revenue by nearly £4,000,000. The increase in salaries paid in the Post and Telegraph Department ‘ over the amount paid in 1913-14 is £1,000,000, although the staff decreased by 116 in the same period. Wherever possible, postal facilities will be given to isolated districts. We must have a buoyant revenue, as the prospects of borrowing for public works will not be very rosy in the future unless we show a genuine desire to pay for a -very large proportion, of our public works out of revenue. This policy will entail more expenditure. Other countries have been increasing their rates of postage. The United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa have all increased their charges, and even our amended and increased rates will still be a long way under those of any other country of the world. The extra½d. war postage will be merged into the ordinary postage rate. I , do not know whether that will be very consoling, because it simply makes what was originally adopted as an emergency war rate part of the permanent charge.
– What are the rates in South Africa?
– I have the details for every country, and shall be glad to give them to the honorable senator in Committee. The letter rate is to be increased from l½d., which includes the extra war rate, to 2d. The newspaper rate is to be the same as at present.
– Why do you allow thenewspapers to be carried at the same rate and raise the charge on letters?
– I shall deal with that, question at length on the clause itself. Largely, the reason is sentimental. It is recognised that Australia is a country of wide spaces, and the cost of disseminating information is very heavy. We propose to charge increased telephone rates to the people in the metropolitan areas, but not to those in the country, because we are anxious, by making low charges - even if honorable senators call this method a subsidy - to make the country more pleasant and habita.ble than it is to-day.
– Do not people in the country write letters?
– They do.
– But you are raising the letter rate in the country.
– Certainly. No Government is enthusiastic about increasing charges. The only increase that we have made in postal rates in recent years has been the extra war tax, but we have increased everything else. The cost of material and the cost of labour and all other charges throughout the Department have gone up, and all these increased charges have had to be met. The Government have considered the whole proposition from the point of view of the national well-being, but they think it is only fair that some ‘ commercial principle should be observed in conducting a big business like the Post and Telegraph Department. I do not say that we should make these undertakings exactly pay dividends, but all the commercial branches of our governmental activities should about carry themselves, if no more. The day may come when we shall again have the cheaper rates, but I am afraid that they will never again be so cheap as they have been in the past. The total revenue from the Post Office in 1920 was £6,744,972, and the expenditure £6,649,655. The estimated additional revenue under this Bill is - from postage £1,000,000, and from telegrams £232,000. When one considers the increased expenditure necessary during the present abnormal period of high cost of material and increased wages, an additional revenue from this Department of £1,300,000 is not too much to look for to meet extra expenditure due to conditions arising out of the war. I shall be glad in Committee on the Bill to supply honorable senators with details of increases in rates levied in other countries, and any other information in my possession.
– I ask the Minister to agree to the adjournment- of the debate until to-morrow. As I have already said, I have no objection to the Bill going through, but, in glancing at it, I believe that it will be dealt with more expeditiously if we are given a little time to consider it.
– When I moved the suspension of the Standing Orders to expedite the passage of this Bill, I explained that I had no desire to limit discussion upon it. The Government do, however, desire that the Bill should be passed before the 1st October, and while I consent to Senator Gardiner’s request, I shall, in doing so, ask the full co-operation of honorable senators in giving the Bill a quick despatch to-morrow.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gardiner) adjourned.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
With the exception of the votes for the Defence Department and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, those included in the schedule to this Bill are. not substantial. Most of the larger items of expenditure will be found included in the Loan Bill, which will come on for consideration later. There is an item of £8.000 for the Federal Capital included in this Bill, and I understand that there is a desire to discuss the question of further expenditure at the Capital. I have no desire- to. restrict that discussion, but I suggest that it should not be taken on the item appearing in this Bill, but on the larger vote provided for expenditure at the Federal Capital in the Loan Bill.
The total amount asked for in this measure for additions, new works, and buildings is £3,070,502. Of this amount £2,000 is asked for the. Parliament, £321 for the Treasury,. £41,327 for the Home and Territories Department, £1,302,153 for the Department of Defence (Military), £313,214 for the Department of the Navy, £294,20.0 for Departments of Navy and Defence (Air Services), £42,031 for the Department- of Trad© and Customs, £392 for the Department of “Works and Railways, and £1,074,864 for the Postmaster-General’s Department-. These votes will be met out of revenue. Honorable senators will understand that during the war period, and especially from 1917-18 onwards, expenditure upon public works in this country has been very greatly restricted, with the result that many of the Departments are behind in this regard. There is provision made in this Bill for some expenditure in connexion with th© Arsenal. “We have learned that whilst we have the men in this country for its defence we must provide them with arms and munitions. I have explained that a vote of £1,074,864 is put down for the Postmaster-General’s Department, but honorable senators will agree that justice in the matter of expenditure has not been done to this Department during the last few years. Settlement is rapidly expanding, and our Post and Telegraph Department should be right up to date. I can give honorable senators some figures which show the expenditure upon new works out of revenue in recent years. In 1913-14 the expenditure was £2,575,000; in- 1914-15 £2,600,000; in 1915-16, £2,900,000; and in 1916-17, £4,200,000. Then there was a considerable drop in the expenditure due to war conditions, and in 1917-18 the expenditure on new works was only £622,000. In 1918-19 it was £407,000, and in 1919-20 £312,000,. This year it is proposed to spend, as I have said, £3,070,502, Nearly all the new works provided for under this Bill are works which should have been carried out during the last two or three years, but have been delayed because of war conditions’. I hope that honorable senators will, not find anything to which to take exception in this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3’ agreed to.
– I see in the schedule a vote of £2,000 for the Parliament. I should like from the Minister’ a brief explanation of what it is intended to do with this £2,000 for additional accommodation.
– This vote of £2,,000 is an instalment of a total estimated expenditure of £6,000 on temporary additions on the first floor of the north wing of Parliament House. It is intended to provide hat and cloak rooms, lavatories, and four rooms for the accommodation of Ministers. Any one who . knows this building will agree with, me that the accommodation provided is very limited. I do not think that an expenditure of £2,000 a year for three years to improve that accommodation will be regarded as excessive. Honorable senators who desire to do business here know that it is almost impossible to secure a room in which they can have ten minutes’ chat with persons whom they desire to see. The accommodation provided for Ministers is such that nine Ministers are accommodated in one room on the House of Representatives side of the building. I do not think that honorable senators will object to reasonable expenditure to enable Ministers to do their work under decent conditions.
.- I suppose that we ‘ must not encroach on what will possibly be a full dress debate on an item to be presented later on concerning the removal of the Seat of Government to another- position. If I might anticipate that consummation, which several honorable senators devoutly wish may be deferred for some time, I think it would be well if the Government gave further consideration to a report presented to Parliament by the Joint Committee on Public Accounts, suggesting the necessity of the Government reconsidering the whole position regarding the housing not only of the Federal Parliament, but of the public servants in this State. It was pointed out by that Committee that, in Melbourne to-day, we occupy about forty premises in about fifteen different streets, and are paying about £20,000 a year in rent for public offices. Honorable senators, from their personal experience, will be convinced that the accommodation provided in this building is altogether insufficient. What will become of the small vote set down in the schedule of this Bill I do not know; but if we are going to move to some other place in the near future, this proposed expenditure of £2,000 will go to the landlords of these premises, ‘ without, I suppose, any compensation to the Commonwealth. I know that additional accommodation for Parliament is badly required, and I am, therefore, very reluctant to oppose this vote.
– We pay- no rent for this building.
– I am aware of that, but we must leave these premises later on, and if we spend this £2,000 upon additions to it we must leave them without compensation.
– We cannot leave the building as good as we found it.
-I do not know about that. I do not think that this building has in any way deteriorated as the result of its occupation by the Commonwealth Parliament during the last twenty years. I know that additional accommodation is badly required, and I, therefore, do not object to this vote, although I consider that we are working on wrong lines.
.- I observe that it is proposed to* practically double the expenditure during the current year on Northern Territory works. The amount voted last year was £15,100, and the total vote for 1920-1921 is £30,319. I should like some information from the Minister concerning this additional expenditure.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria - VicePresident of the Executive Council) involve an expenditure of £3,270. This is to meet expenditure authorized during last financial year in connexion with provision for electric lighting, plant and purchase of material, construction of a lock hospital, maternity home, and incinerator shed.
– The proposed expenditure on water boring is double that of last year.
– And it is a very wise provision.
– I have a report stating that a contract was entered into with Mr. S. Peacock for eight bores to be completed by 1921 for £16,000. Of these one has been bored but not equipped ; the second is partly bored, and no equipment has been provided. The estimated cost of boring the above holes is £4,830 ; purchase of equipment, £5,018; transport, insurance, freight, stevedoring, on equipment, about 60 tons, £3,608; or a total of £13,456. Additional boring and transport of plant is to be provided for, £1,803. The latter item provides for a bore at Wiandangie - Hatches Creek, the track to break up a long stage between Elkedra and Lake Nash station bores. There are several other details of items covering the erection of oil stores, construction of roads, culverts and bridges, the aboriginal station at Daly River, improvements to buildings at Mataranka, and fencing at Oenpelli.
– Can the Minister say where the bores are being put down ?
– I am sorry I cannot give the honorable senator details except that £1,500 is to be spent on a storage well at Myilly Point.
– That is in Darwin.
– I should like to congratulate the Ministry upon the amount provided for water boring in the Northern Territory. My experience is that the only practical work done for the development of that great empty Territory is the provision for water supplies, both for travelling stock and for those who want to prospect for minerals. I should like to know if the contract with S. Peacock specifies if the bores have to be completed ; that is to say, if he is required to go to any stated depth before abandoning operations in any particular place. I do not know whether the Minister can answer my question, but from my point of view it is important to know details of contracts like these. It is important also, to know the situation of the bores, and whether the contractor is boring for artesian or sub-artesian water. I hope they are being put down on the stock routes, because at present cattle cannot be brought to market from vast areas in the Northern Territory simply because, while there is plenty of grass, there is no water on the track.
– I regret I am not in a position to give the details asked for by the honorable senator, as the vote covers a very large number of contracts. I shall, however, give instructions for a statement to be prepared for his information.
– I direct attention to the proposed vote for the Department of Defence. This covers a number of activities. I do not .know that any honorable senator can say that the money is not required. So far as I can see it is ear-marked for reserve munitions, and for the further development of the Commonwealth factories. The proposed expenditure on additional machinery and plant for the Woollen Cloth Factory, £38,240, should lead to .a considerable increase in the output, and, from discussions we have had previously with regard to this factory, we may assume that that certainly will not be undesirable. I am, however, somewhat hazy as to the item, £287,048, to be paid to the credit of Trust Fund, Small Arms Ammunition Account, for reserve of small arms ammunition. I am hazy, because I notice there is “£266,000 for reserve of rifles. So far as I can see the first-named amount must mean the sum to be expended upon small arms ammunition.
– No. It is an annual contract entered into with the Colonial Ammunition Company for the supply of the ordinary munitions, and it is paid from a Trust Fund.
– Then the amount is paid indirectly, instead of directly, from the Defence, Estimates. That is to’ say, it is paid from Defence to a Trust Fund, and from the Trust Fund to the contractor?
– That is so.
– There is also £262,400 towards the supply of heavy guns and reserve of gun ammunition. I do not see how any honorable senator can criticise that item, for it is common knowledge that we cannot make heavy gun3 in Australia. Neither can we make heavy gun ammunition. I should like some information from the Minister as to ‘how the money is to be expended. I will not be disappointed if I cannot get it, because in the absence of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) it cannot be expected that Senator Russell will have all the details at his fingers’ ends. Apparently this money will be spent in England for the purchase of heavy guns and ammunition, as they are not made, here yet; but, if I am wrong in my assumption, all the better, because, in spite of all the furbelows, ruffs, and red tabs of the military authorities, I rather incline to the opinion that the real basis of our defence lies in the development of our munition factories, and that money now being spent on defence really amounts to putting the roof on a building before the foundations have been laid. I am glad to see the sum of £6,152 voted for the Acetate of Lime Factory, machinery and plant, also £35,000 for the Small Arms Factory, and a similar amount for the Cordite Factory, and Acetate of Lime Factory reserve stores, because we are now making a start to provide ourselves with the full equipment, and munitions of war. I do not attach so much importance to the training of men and officers as to the building up of our existing factories for the supply of munitions and other war equipment, without which millions of men do not count. I should like information about the supply of these heavy guns and reserve of gun ammunition, and if I am due for a surprise, and if the Minister is going to tell me that the money is to be spent in Australia, I shall hail with much satisfaction the development that has been made in this direction.
– Whilst I am not in a position to give the honorable senator detailed information, I have no hesitation in saying that I agree with him, that we should make every preparation for supplying our own munitions and materials. Now that we have taken definite steps at
Maribyrnong and Lithgow, I think we shall in the future be able to make big gun ammunition in Australia.
– Is this expenditure for tha’t purpose?
SenatorRUSSELL. - Partly. The big guns, of course, will be brought from Great Britain, and the present time offers a good opportunity to get cheap guns of the latest type and reserves of big-gun ammunition. It is not a very pleasant subject to discuss, but we all realize that a country without the biggest and most effective guns available would during war be in a very dangerous position. There is little or no big ammunition in Australia, and the process of building up reserves is a costly one, so it must be spread over a number of years. We are providing instalments of ammunition, and, for the purpose of annual training, we are gradually accumulating a sufficient reserve to give us reasonable protection. I remind honorable senators that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) made a full statement recently concerning the Defence policy of the Government, and probably it would repay honorable senators if they re-read that speech.
– I should imagine, now that the war is over, that there is not the same demand for uniforms, and therefore it should not be necessary to provide for additional machinery and plant at the Woollen Cloth Factory. The factory was equal to the demands made upon it during the war period, and it ought now to be able to keep pace with normal requirements.
– Is the honorable senator contending that it is sufficient to meet our present requirements? The plant is inadequate at present.
– It would be good business if we spent five times as much.
– We met the requirements of the Australian Imperial Force by keeping the clothing off the backs of the cadets.
– Now the Australian Imperial Force has gone out of existence there will not be more men requiring uniforms.
– But material may be required for other than soldiers’ uniforms.
– Is it the intention of the Government to provide with this plant uniforms or clothing for people other than soldiers?
-Yes. When the soldiers drop out the boys will be placed in training in various’grades.
– Their total number will not be greater than that of the Australian Imperial. Force.
– There are 27,000 or 28,000 moving up each year.
– The contemplated proposal of the Government is to have five divisions of infantry and two divisions of light horse, which is practically what the Australian Imperial Force consisted of on a war basis. If these mills were constructed to produce sufficient clothing to make uniforms for the members of the Australian Imperial Force on active service, where the wear and tear was infinitely greater than it is on home service, the plant should be sufficient to provide for the needs of a peace army. If it is the intention of the Government to issue cloth to civilians it is another matter.
– The returned soldiers should be considered first, and there is not nearly sufficient for them.
– If they have to wait until additional plant is obtained it will be too late, as I understand it will take at least two years to secure the machinery which is on order at present. The soldiers interested in the ‘Geelong Woollen Mill have said that it will take two years before they can secure additional plant.
– But it must be remembered that in dealing with such, a country as Great Britain a Government order would receive preferential treatment.
– Possibly so. The Government have provided a large amount for heavy artillery, and in this connexion it may be mentioned that a report recently appeared in the newspapers that Great Britain had offered to supply Australia with a number of heavy guns at practically half price. If such is the case, will that mean that a saving will be effected, and that the amount placed on the Estimates will be reduced?
– No. Great Britain was always prepared to make such a concession, and this is no attempt on the part cf the Government to introduce some socialistic scheme for conducting an undertaking of this character. “When the Government make up their minds to do anything in that direction they will take the people into their confidence. This is a proposal to increase the plant to enable us, when normal conditions of training prevail, to supply the whole of the requirements of our Citizen Forces, and we are attempting to meet the difficulties which arose- under war conditions. The material is required, and we desire to make the best use of the plant that is available. Reference has been made to the work which was- done by the Geelong Woollen Cloth Factory, and in fairness it ‘ must be said that, considering the size of the plant, the work performed was wonderful. But it must be remembered that the requirements of the Australian Imperial Force were met by requisitioning the services of the Vickers’ Mill, and those at Ballarat and Castlemaine. Although we did very well by collective effort, it cannot be said that the Woollen Cloth Factory at Geelong is entitled to all the credit. It is assumed that if the plant is extended in the direction desired, it will be able to supply more cloth to the soldiers; and, personally, I wish we were in a. position to manufacture five or six times the present quantity. Now the war is over and we are not supplying material for men on active service, we hope the plant will be sufficient to meet the full demands of the Military Forces of Australia.
– I am rather surprised at Senator Elliott expressing any opposition to a modest expenditure of £38,000 for increasing the machinery at the Federal Woollen Mill, because it has been, clearly shown in this chamber how necessary it is for the Government to expedite the manufacture of these splendid tweeds at a reasonable price to enable returned soldiers to secure suit lengths. I thought that Senator Elliott would have known that the equipment of the mills at present is quite inadequate, and the Minister has shown that during the war period the output was insufficient, as the woollen mills of Australia had to be requisitioned to supply not only the material required for the Cadets and Military Forces generally, but for uniforms for the Postal, Naval, and other Departments. It is a splendidly conducted mill, which ig very well equipped, and I am led’ to believe that this modest expenditure on machinery will be the means of doubling the output. The buildings are large and very well designed ; fresh water can be obtained free, or at a low cost, and there is sufficient power available to run a greater number of looms. Personally, I am very surprised at the smallness of the amount, and if the plant is to do the work which I believe “t will, I cannot understand any honorable senator opposing additional expenditure on such a splendid scheme. I do not consider it socialistic in any way.
– But we are entitled to ask for information.
– Exactly ; but’ I would like to point out that the mill has been a splendid undertaking from the outset, and honorable senators can see from a perusal of the balance-sheet of last year that it is not by any means a white elephant. It has done excellent work for Australia, and has shown a net profit of over £22,000. I understand the Government have cabled for extra machinery, and the sooner it is possible for the whole of our Government requirements to be made in Australia the better it will be for the community generally. I wish it were possible to so equip that mill that cloth could be manufactured at a reasonable price, not only for Government Departments, but “ for soldiers, sailors, and their dependants, , because the people of Australia are at present paying altogether too high a price either to the manufacturers or to the Flinderslane magnates. I welcome any so-called socialistic scheme if it is the intention to work along the line adopted by the Federal Woollen Mills.
.- I do not regard Senator Elliott’s observations as being in opposition to this particular item. He is anxious to obtain from the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) some information in regard to additional ex- penditure, and surely any honorable senator is entitled to ask for an explanation. I am sure Senator Elliott, did not desire to oppose the item, the expenditure in connexion with which is in the interests of our returned men. Personally, I welcome the additional outlay, because I recognise the good work that the Commonwealth “Woollen Cloth Factory has done, and especially do I welcome it because it will make provision for avoiding the contingency which occurred at the outbreak of hostilities, when the services of private mills had to be requisitioned. This caused considerable hardship to many people in Australia, who accepted the inconvenience in a cheerful spirit, because they knew that equipment was necessary for the brave men who went to fight for us. If the Commonwealth mills are placed on a satisfactory basis it will mean that should ever the occasion arise for an increased output in the future, the Commonwealth mills will be able to handle the work expeditiously, and that the private mills can continue working on behalf of the civilian population of the Commonwealth. I trust that the additional amount the Government will have at their disposal will enable the factory to manufacture the requisite quantity of
Material, not only for providing military .and naval uniforms, but, if necesary, all that is required for returned soldiers and their dependants. I look upon this expenditure as reproductive, and anything of that character will always have my support.
– I rise again because, under the Standing Orders, I am restricted to fifteen minutes in connexion with any observations that I may have to make in committee. It has occurred to me in going through these Estimates, that we are somewhat “ topsy turvy” in our methods, as we ought to be discussing the Budget, which is the foundation of all these items. To-day we are considering departmental estimates piece-meal, including a sum of money for manufacturing tweed, another amount for a cordite factory, ,and something else for heavy guns. We are going right through the whole gamut of Commonwealth administration, .and we have not yet discussed the main principles which ought to guide us on these matters. It is not in accordance with what I consider the proper procedure.
– These items always come down in a separate Bill.
– I am quite aware of that, because I know the items in the Budget come down in a number of separate measures. We have one measure relating to expenditure on works and buildings, and later we shall have to discuss Loan Bills, and measures relating to Supply, and this conglomeration makes up the sum total of the Budget. I think the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) ought to give us some opportunity of discussing’ national finance, as I am anxious to deal with fundamental principles. At the present juncture I cannot say whether it is a good policy or not to increase the Defence Estimates, for instance, this year by a sum of nearly £1,250,000, as compared with last year, when I am not given the opportunity of reviewing what we intend to spend, and what can be raised.
– Quite apart from that, are we to .hold up public works until Parliament has passed the Budget? We would have chaos if our public works could not be kept going.
– I cannot agree with the Minister that we would have chaos if matters were taken in their proper order. Honorable senators should have -an opportunity of expressing an opinion.
– If we did not pass this Bill no money would be available until the Budget was disposed of, and that might take months in this Parliament. °
– I do not desire that these Bills should be dropped, but I am imbibing with my marmalade every morning opinions expressed -by the scribes of Australia in regard to the Budget, and honorable senators should be afforded an opportunity of saying exactly what they think of it. I have known occasions upon which the Budget has been presented to this Chamber by a Minister and immediately after some honorable senator has moved the adjournment of the debate. That has been the last nf the matter - the Budget has disappeared in the mists of obscurity. We have never been afforded an opportunity of discussing national finance. I am sure that the
Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) will recognise that some honorable senators have an excuse for feeling restive if they are not given an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon the Budget which may be quite different from that which has been expressed by the Melbourne parochial press.
– I feel sure that Senator Pratten will recognise that the Government have not a free choice as to the order in which they submit business to the two branches of the Legislature. Only to-day I secured the suspension of Standing Orders with a view to passing the Postal Rates Bill through all its stages. Unfortunately, however, my efforts in that direction were unsuccessful.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council afford us an opportunity to discuss the Budget after dinner this evening?
– It would take us several months to get the Budget through, if honorable senators were to concentrate upon it alone. Whilst they would thus be afforded ample scope for letting loose floods of eloquence, we have to remember that the various Departments would be awaiting for the necessary authority to proceed with their different works. Take the Murray Waters scheme as an example. We should be occupied six months if we exhaustively debated the question of voting the amount which it is proposed to expend upon that scheme.
– 1^ would not occupy us six days.
– The honorable senator is forgetting that it is not the Senate, but the entire Parliament, which has to approve of the expenditure of money. -This Chamber has no effective control over expenditure. The power of suggestion, if used insistently, would inevitably result in a double dissolution. That expedient has been tried once, and it is not likely to be hurriedly resorted to again. Instead of indulging in academic discussions- -
– I think that the Vice-President of the Executive Council should substitute the word “practical” for “ academic,”
– Not at all. T am merely dealing with the position as it exists under our Constitution. 1 repeat that the Government have not a free choice as to the order in which they submit business to honorable senators. We have merely brought down a number of Bills which we deem to be most urgent at the present time. We are bound to get certain taxation measures passed before a specified period, otherwise we shall lose revenue, which would be a very serious matter in view of the financial position of the Commonwealth. Senator Pratten wishes to indulge in a set debate upon our national finances, and if he will only behave well, he will doubtless be afforded the opportunity that he seeks. I hope to make a more definite statement regarding this matter prior to the adjournment of the Senate this week.
– In connexion with the Department for the Navy, I desire to make a few remarks. There is a good deal yet to be said in regard to the position, not only of the Australian officers of our Navy, but also of the cadets who have graduated from the Naval Training College at Jervis Bay. I have no desire to anticipate discussion upon the Naval Estimates., but I suggest to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) that he is looking for trouble if he intends to grant priority in the filling of official positions by Royal Naval men. I have previously voiced the unsatisfactory position - from the stand-point of the Commonwealth - that is occupied by the naval men who have been loaned to it by England. I am hopeful that before this Parliament rises from a long, arduous, but, I trust, practical, session, the Minister will make some pronouncement in connexion with the revolution which is now in progress in our Navy - a pronouncement which will be satisfactory to all who believe that an Australian Fleet should be manned by Australian officers.
.- Senator Pratten, I am sure, does not expect me to make a detailed reply to his statement. I have taken a note of his objection, which I will submit to my colleague, the Minister for the Navy. Senator EARLE (Tasmania) [5.59].- I desire to direct the attention” of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) to a regulation under the Quarantine Act which presses harshly upon Inter-State shipping companies. I suppose that every honorable senator has received a memorandum from these companies in regard to this matter - certainly I have had reams of correspondence concerning it. It appears to me that a very genuine case of hardship is involved, and one which may seriously affect Australia should another epidemic of disease of a contagious character break out here. Under our quarantine regulations, shipping companies are responsible for the maintenance, nursing, and medical attention of the whole of the passengers who are quarantined during any such epidemic. That provision is quite all right so far as foreign shipping is concerned, because the shipping company is bound to adopt proper safeguards to avoid bringing to Australia persons who are suffering from contagious diseases. It is absurd, however, to suppose that ships trading from Melbourne to Sydney, Brisbane, or Adelaide, should be held responsible for the maintenance, nursing, and medical attention of passengers who are quarantined for the purpose of protecting one or more States from the danger of infection. According to statements which have been made by some shipping companies, they will be forced out of business should another epidemic occur under smilar conditions to those which accompanied the influenza epidemic of last year. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will consult his colleagues in regard to the possibility of making some arrangement under which the Government, jointly with the passengers and. the shipping companies, will bear the cost of quarantine under such circumstances.
.- The point which has been raised by Senator Earle is a very important one, in view of the fact that the restrictions which are imposed in regard to the quarantining of persons infected by contagious disease are imposed in the interests of the whole community. That is the point which should be stressed, and I trust that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) and his colleagues will view the matter from that angle. Seeing that every effort made to prevent the spread of disease in Australia is made in the interests of the whole community, it is obviously unfair that one section should be unduly penalized. In such circumstances the community should surely foot the bill. I hope that the VicePresident of the Executive Council will consider the necessity which exists for amending the regulations under our Quarantine Act, or that the Government, if they intend to introduce an amending Quarantine Bill this session, will bear in mind the representations which have been made upon this matter when that measure is being drafted.
. - There is just one phase of the question which has been mentioned by Senator Earle and Senator Payne to which I desire to refer. Under our Quarantine Act, the obligation is thrown upon the ship-owner of bearing the expenditure connected with the quarantining of passengers. Seeing that that expenditure is incurred in the interests of the whole community, the community should foot the bill. But in the early part of last year, when quarantine regulations were operating in respect of traffic between Tasmania and the mainland, the passengers themselves were called upon to pay their quarantine expenses. At that time the Commonwealth possessed exclusive control of shipping. By reason of that circumstance, it evaded the obligations which would have fallen upon the shipping companies, had those companies been carrying on under normal conditions. The Commonwealth Government took advantage of its position, and forced upon the individual passengers an obligation which this Parliament had affirmed should not fall upon them, but upon the shipping companies. “
– But the companies pass the obligation on to the passengers.
– Let the honorable senator read the conditions attached to the issue of tickets by the steam-ship companies, and he will see that my statement is correct.
– The companies print upon the back of the passenger tickets which they issue certain conditions, but some of those conditions, if contested, would be held to be invalid. The companies endeavour to contract themselves out of their liabilities. I will not say it is camouflage, but it is certainly bluff. So far as the quarantine conditions are concerned, the Commonwealth
Government put itself in a position in which it insisted by its legislation that no company should place itself, and there were numerous individual cases of hardship. People who went into quarantine not only lost time, but were subjected to expense to which they would not have been subjected had it not been for the Commonwealth Shipping Control. If the Government thinks that is the proper way to act towards the individual in those instances, because it was then controlling and operating Inter-State shipping, it might surely take some proper view of this matter for shipping companies for the future.
– - I draw attention to the item of £200 for the animal quarantine station in Victoria. That is not nearly sufficient to make the necessary improvements in the accommodation in this State. There are at the present time animals worth £2,000 each in the quarantine ground on the Yarra-bank, incurring dangers, and with deaths of frequent occurrence, owing to the inadequate provision made for them. I understand that the animal quarantine grounds actually belong to the State of Victoria, and axe leased or lent to the Commonwealth. I am sorry these items are being rushed through^ because proper consideration has not been given to the accommodation for valuable imported animals. It is the desire of the Governments and people of the Commonwealth to encourage the importation of high-class stud stock. People who import high-class stud stock to any country axe national benefactors; but at the present time those who import stud stock to Victoria find the accommodation scandalously bad and dangerous. Cattle can rub noses with any diseased beast on adjoining blocks of land, all sorts of diseases are contracted, and the animals die. The only safe way that we can import stud stock into Victoria at present is viti New South Wales. The accommodation provided by the Commonwealth Government in Victoria for quarantining animals is an absolute disgrace. I am sorry that a larger amount is not included in these Estimates to improve it. I do not know in what manner I can move to have the amount increased. The Government should have consulted veterinary surgeons and other experts on the subject. If there is any way in which I can do so, I should like to fight for a much greater vote than £200 for this very :necessary purpose.
– The proposed vote is largely for quarantine buildings. It includes £62,000 for alterations and additions and for new buildings and stations. The items are portion of a scheme formulated by the Director of Quarantine to provide increased accommodation at the various quarantine stations for the proper ‘housing of the staffs, and for other services attending the efficient working of the stations. Past experience has shown that such accommodation is very necessary, so that any epidemic which may arise may be coped with. Owing to the reduced provision last year, particularly for Western Australia, services were postponed, but their early completion is considered essential. There is a vote of £10,545 for completing stables and other works at the Serum Institute in Victoria. We ask for £500 for the erection of a tetanus laboratory, £1,000 for the extension of stables for which a contract was let last year, £2,100 for Director’s quarters, £450 for fencing, £550 for removing caretaker’s quarters, £200 for removing old stables, £1,500 for a new refrigerator, and £500 for sundry other works. I forget the exact system on which we contributed last year in the matter of payments for quarantine, but I know we contributed rather heavily. Originally I think we paid at the rate of 27s. 6d. per week, but eventually we agreed to come in and pay half the expense. In addition, a number of soldiers and others were quarantined, and the cost in those cases became practically the full responsibility of the, Com.monwealth Government. My individual opinion is that the cost of quarantine ought to be borne by the whole community as a form of national insurance. It is all very well to say that the chances are that we will escape, and have no expense; but epidemics happen most unexpectedly. To be quarantined means a good deal of expense, and perhaps debt, to a man who has not much money ; and in these times it may take him a long period to get out of debt. I have a .good deal of sympathy with those who have to be ‘quarantined , and will undertake to bring under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) the question of whether it is not possible t* charge such expense to the general revenue, so that the whole burden may be borne by the community, thus placing it on the same basis as a shipping or accident insurance policy. Something should be done to relieve people who are suddenly brought under quarantine conditions. I hope to meet with some little success in making representations on these lines to the responsible Minister.
– I offer my heartiest congratulations to the Government and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for placing an item of £900,000 on the Estimates this year for telegraphs, telephones, &c, as against £165,000 spent last year.. It is very badly wanted. There is an indication in the Works Estimates of a complete alteration of the policy of the Department, that alteration being in the direction of realizing that the services must be efficient, and that hitherto they have been- starved.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a. third time.
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I understood from the diplomatic remarks of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) a few minutes ago, that he would be quite willing for the Senate to meet again at 8 o’clock to-night in order to give honorable senators an opportunity to discuss the question of finance in connexion with the Budget. Every Wednesday, honorable senators from other States arrive in Melbourne, and all of them desire that the time between their arrival on Wednesday and their departure on Friday afternoon should be devoted to the purpose for which ‘they come. here.. The Minister suggested that there was a tremendous amountof urgent business that the Government wanted to get through, yet after a sitting that has lasted only three and a quarter hours he proposes that the Senate should adjourn until 3 o’clock to-morrow.
– We are at a dead end. I have no Bills.
– There is no dead end if the Minister will allow the discussion to continue on the . motion that the Budget papers be printed. We are here to try to do the business of the country, and it is not pleasant for honorable senators coming from other States that business should be rushed through spasmodically, while precious time which we wish to devote to business is wasted. I am sorry the Minister has seen fit, in his wisdom, to move the adjournment, in spite of the kind words with which he led me to believe that there would be a possibility of discussing the Budget tonight.. I shall vote against the motion.
– I support what Senator Pratten has said much better than I can. say it. My objection is to the method in’ which business is: being transacted. The business will not run through to-morrow as smoothly as it has done to-day, because honorable senators are coming to the conclusion tha.t it is of no use to try to assist the Government. That, is the conclusion I have come to. Personally, I should like the Budget to be considered after the usual suspension of the sitting for dinner. No doubt the Minister will tell us the reason why he wishes the Senate to adjourn now.. I am under the impression that the Senate will not adjourn before half-past 6.
– If it is the general wish of honorable senators to sit after dinner, I have no objection.
– I think the Senate will have to come back after halfpast 6. It would be as well, therefore, for the Minister to withdraw the motion so that we may be able to do some work after dinner.
– What can we go on with?
– What is wrong with the Budget ?
– We do not want to meet just for the fun of meeting.
– I do not want the honorable senator ‘to be misled by Senator Pratten’s statement that I made a definite promise regarding to-nipht.
– I am not influenced by what Senator Pratten said. I am realizing, that for quite a number of Wednesdays we have adjourned before half-past 6. Many honorable senators have to come a long way to transact public business, and when they are here they like to get through as much important business as possible. Much of that business might be considered this evening. There are quite a number of important questions coming up for discussion. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) was good enough, at my request, to postpone the consideration of one measure this afternoon. It is an important measure, and I should not have asked for the postponement of its consideration had I not expected that other business would be dealt with this evening. I can see now that I helped to delay the business of the Senate by securing the adjournment of the debate on the Postal Rates Bill.
– For the simple reason that if the other business which I anticipated would be considered this evening is not to be dealt with, and the debate on the second reading of the Postal Rates Bill is to be taken tomorrow, we may not consider the other business until next week. I asked questions some time ago concerning the erection of War Service Homes. I did not then secure the information I desired, and, perhaps, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) is in a position to-night to reply to the last set of questions I asked. I was informed that the information I sought was .being obtained. I do not know how long it takes Ministers to get information. I put some questions on the business-paper, which were worded in a perfectly fair manner. I desired to learn how many soldiers’ homes were constructed by Kirkpatrick, the architect, and how many by the War Service Homes Commission. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) - I am sorry that he is not present, but we shall have to say a good deal about him when he is not here, and I might as well say something now - in answering my questions, did not give me the information I required. I wish to be in a position to set, side by side, the results obtained in leaving the building of these soldiers’ homes to the architect referred to, and those obtained where the erection of these homes was undertaken by the War Service Homes Commissioner.
– The Minister has moved the adjournment of the Senate, and, if Senator Gardiner, by speaking until the usual hour for suspending the sitting, brings us back here at 8 o’clock, the debate on the motion may go on for only half-an-hour, and the Senate will adjourn then. If that is to be the position we might as well adjourn now as at half-past 8 o’clock.
– As I can see that Senator Thomas is quite logical in what he says, I shall resume my seat.
– I regret that Senator Pratten should appear to be under some misunderstanding. He put a question to me, desiring to know when an opportunity would’ be given for the discussion of the Budget. I told the honorable senator that I would confer with my colleagues and see whether a special day could not be set down for a full and free discusssion of it. In the past, members of the Senate had to put up a fight to secure for this Chamber an. opportunity to fully discuss the Budget. I was a fighter in the brigade that won that opportunity, and I certainly do not propose that the Senate should now abandon the right which we then secured. I am a little sensitive concerning the business of the Senate, as I am alone representing the Government at present in this chamber, and I am anxious not to have to work overtime. I do not make any personal appeal to honorable senators, but, if they desire a full and free discussion of the Budget, I am prepared to go on this evening. Whilst I desire, if possible, to meet any request made to me by an honorable senator, I cannot take the request of a single member of the Senate as indicative of the feelings of honorable senators generally. I am doubtful whether we should be able to secure a quorum after dinner if honorable senators are. given to understand that the only matter to be discussed will be the Budget, and that the debate upon it is not likely to be concluded. I am, however, entirely in the hands of honorable senators. If they express a general desire I am prepared to continue after dinner, but I shall not withdraw the motion at this stage unless there is an expression of such a desire by honorable senators generally.
– If the motion is put to the Senate it cannot then be withdrawn, and there must be a decision given upon it.
Question - That the Senate do now adjourn - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question 30 resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 September 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200929_senate_8_93/>.