8th Parliament · 1st Session
The. President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– (By leave.)When addressing myself to the Defence Bill yesterday afternoon I made the following statement : -
The expenditure would be less, and the result more satisfactory.
I went on to say -
I think it was in this Chamber or in another place that an officer said that a man going: into action atGallipoli informed him that he had never had the opportunity of firing a rifle.
– I do not think that statement is correct.
– I am merely repeating what I have beard.
– I think it is a deliberate lie.
– I am trying to repeat something that is in my mind to demonstrate the inefficiency of our training system.
I now wish to read for the information of honorable senators what was in my mind. I quote from the Sydney Morning Herald of 2nd April, 1921, words from an address delivered by Sir Brudenell White. He said -
He had many sad recollections of the war, but none more sad than the recollection of an episode prior to the operations in August at Gallipoli, in which ourgreat attack at Suvla and our operations at Lone Pinewere carried out. He remembered seeing some men who had arrived only a few days before as reinforcements. He . remembered one of the men saying to him, “Do you think this is a fair thing? ‘! He replied, “ How do you mean? “ The answer was, “ Do you think it is fair to put us into action with the amount of training we have had?” “Bow much training have you bad?” he asked. One man informed him that he had five weeks in Egypt, bad fired his rifle only once, and had never thrown a bomb. Another man had been six weeks in Egypt, and, according to his story, had fired his rifle only twice. Upon all of them in authority, proceeded the lecturer, there rested an enormous responsibility.
I direct attention to that statement because I think honorable senators will, upon hearing it read, agree that my remarks were a sufficiently accurate report of it not to be termed “a deliberate lie.”
– That remark was not applied to the honorable senator.
– Order! I did not understand Senator Cox to state that Senator Gardiner was telling a deliberate lie; If I had understood him to do so,I should have immediately called him to order, and should have compelled him to withdraw the statement. I understood Senator Cox merely to say that the statement repeated by Senator Gardiner was a deliberate lie. I have no authority to prevent any honorable senator describing a statement made outside this chamber by one who is not a member of the Senate in any terms he pleases. *
– (By leave.)- I had no intention whatever of asserting that Senator Gardiner told a deliberate lie. Nothing was further from my thoughts. I understood from the honorable ‘ senator that he was only quoting the words of some other person. I must admit that I did not know that men had actually landed at Gallipoli who had only fired one or twoshots. That never came under my notice. That class of man nevercame to me, and I had command of a regiment there for a great portion of the time, and command of a brigade for some months before the evacuation. I would not on any account insinuate that Senator Gardiner was telling a lie. I knew that he was quoting some other person for the statement he made. Although a man is said to have stated that he only fifed one shot, that is not to say that he had not fired one before, or had not handled a rifle, in Australia.
– Order! The honorable senator is, I think, going beyond a personal explanation. ,
– I apologize to Senator Gardiner if he feels that the remark I made is offensive to him.
Appointments and Promotions
– Following upon a question I submitted recently to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, calling for a list of new appointments since 30th June, 1920, of officers whose salary is in excess of £350 per annum, it will be remembered that I was promised a more complete list than that supplied to me at the time. I wish now toask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he is in a position to supply the fuller list for which I asked?
– As. Senator Wilson has already informed the House, the following list, whichI lay on the table, is supplementary to the information with which he has already been supplied : -
Statement of Appointments by Federal Go vernment and Promotions in Federal Service since 30th June, 1920, at salaries in excess of £350 per annum.
Appointee, Position, Annual Salary
Mr. Atlee Hunt, Public. Service Arbitrator, £2,000
Brigadier-General E. A, Wisdom, Administrator, New Guinea Territory, £1,800 and residence.
Captain B. M. Wright, Official Secretary, New Guinea Territory, £650 and quarters.
Mr. E. T. Brown, Special Magistrate, New Guinea Territory, £1,000 and quarters.
Colonel A, Honman, Principal Medical Officer, New Guinea Territory, £800 and quarters.
Lieutenant-Colonel D. S. Wanliss, Chief Judge, New Guinea Territory, £1,000 and quarters.
Captain K. Drake-Brockman, Judge, New Guinea Territory, £1,000 and quarters.
Captain A. J. Hunter, District Officer, New Guinea Territory, £575 and quarters.
Lieutenant-Colonel J. Walstab, District Officer, New Guinea Territory, £575 and quarters.
Major McAdam, District Officer, New Guinea Territory, £575 and quarters.
Captain D. Waugh, District Officer, New Guinea Territory, £575 and quarters.
Mr. P. Hunter, Director of Immigration, London, £1,500, plus £500 allowance.
Mr. H, S. Gullett, Superintendent of Immigration in Australia, £1,500.
Mr, E. N. Robinson, Publicity Officer, Immigration in Australia, £750.
Mr. T. E. Sedgwich, Immigration Officer, London, £600
Brigadier-General T. Griffiths, Administrator, Nauru, £1,500, plus residence.
Mr. H, B. Pope, Commissioner for Australia, Board of Commissioners, British Phosphate Commission, £2,000
Mr. J. M. Semmens, Chairman, Repatriation Commission, £1,500
Mr. A. H. Teece, Member, Repatriation Commission, £1,200
Mr. J. E. Barrett, Member, Repatriation Commission, £1,200. (Mr. Barrett was engaged in the Repatriation Department at £775 prior to appointment to the Commission.)
E.S. Little, Trade Commissioner in China, £2,000.
J.W. Elliott, Manager, Departmental Meat Supply, Commonwealth Railways, £360
James Loynes, Deputy Commissioner, War Ser- , vice Homes Commission, Queensland, £550. (Subsequently increased to £600.)
J.M. Prentice, Chief Clerk, War Service Homes Commission, Tasmania, £360
Captain R. A. N. Plant; Private Secretary to Administrator, Northern Territory, £360
Lieutenant-General J. W. Parnell, Administrator, Norfolk Island, £700. (£100 allowance. )
Name, Position to which Promoted, Annual Salary.
Homes Commission, Victoria, £498
T..R. Casboulte, Architect, War Service Homes Commission, Victoria, £498
W Kelly, Senior Clerk, Taxation Branch, Department of the Treasury, Central Administration, £420.
L, S. Jackson, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, New South Wales, £520.
E Mc.G. Christie, Government Secretary, Northern Territory, £700.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
SenatorRUSSELL. - The answer is- 1 and 2. Application has been made by the contractors for variation of the contract, and this is now under consideration.
Appointment of Major-General Gellibrand.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the provisions of the Defence Act 1903-1918, relating to the appointment anil promotion of officers in the Citizen Forces under what authority was the recent appointment . made of Major-General Sir John Gellibrand to command the 3rd Division of the Citizen Forces in Victoria?
– The answer is-
All officers who served with the Australian Imperial Force, and who were not, prior to the war, members of the Australian Military Forces (see section 16 a, Defence Act) were upon their return to Australia granted commissions in the Citizen Forces equivalent to those held by them in the Australian Imperial Force, under section 22 of the Defence Act, supported by the second proviso of section 11a of the Defence Act
Major-General Gellibrand’s proposed appointment is further enabled’ under section 14 of the Defence Act.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
State Government, to whom the matter was referred. The petition presented to His Majesty by Mr. Ronald was referred, at the King’s command, through the Governor-General, for consideration; so far as the Government are aware His Majesty did not command that an inquiry be held.
Wages Rates at Darwin.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the enormous expense of clearing the aviation ground near Darwin, he does not consider it advisable to discontinue further work at Darwin until wages rates become normal?
– The answer is -
The statements published as to the nature’ and cost of the work referred to are not correct, the amount having been very much overstated, and the quantity of work understated.
It is, however, the intention of the Minister, on the occasion of his forthcoming visit to Darwin, to personally look into the question of the future Public Works policy of the Northern Territory.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Alleged Exemption from Tax of Sir John Higgins.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1 and 2. The Government have not exempted Sir John Higgins from payment of income tax in respect of his salary as Chairman of the Australian Board of the British-Australian Wool Realization Association Limited, but it is understood that his remuneration in that connexion has been fixed at an amount that provides for a salary of £10,000 after income tax has been paid.
Guarantee of Price
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the decision of the Queensland Government to give a guarantee of 8s. per bushel on all wheat grown in Queensland, the Government will consider the wisdom, in the interests of increased production and stabilizing our chief rural industry, of giving an equal or lower guarantee, say 6s. per bushel, for a period of three years on all wheat grown throughout the Commonwealth?
– It is too early to decide the conditions for the production of next year’s ‘crop. The Commonwealth Government will, later on, give consideration to the whole wheat question.
Motion (by Senator Senior) agreed to-
That the report from the Printing Committee presented to the Senate on the 21st April, 1921, be adopted.
Debate resumed from 14th April (vide page 7445), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
On which Senator J. D. Millen had moved -
That all the words after the word “ That “ be left out, with a view to adding the following words: - “further proceedings on the Air Defence Bill be postponed until the return of the Prime Minister from the Imperial Conference.”
.- When the debate on this Bill was adjourned I had been referring to. the fact that persons who believe in peace at any price are entitled to have their opinions respected and considered, but the defence of Australia must necessarily overshadow their objections. Yesterday we heard a great deal about defence matters. It is high time that the Government seriously consider a scheme under which men who are retired after serving a number of years in the Defence Department, may have some provision made for their future. The quicker the Government establish a system of pensions or of superannuation for them, the better it will be for all oncerned. It was indicated during the course of the debate yesterday that men who are admittedly incompetent are being retained in the Defence Department because it is felt that an injustice would be done by placing them upon the retired list .after many years of faithful service, when they are practically unfit for any other occupation.
The Bill provides that certain men shall be retired from the Air Force at the early age of 40 years. In any other occupation a man at that age would be in his prime. But, as the Minister has remarked, the Air Service is essentially a young man’s job, and the earlier an individual enters it the better. But unless some other position in the Air Force can be found for them, these men will be retired at the. comparatively early age of 40 years, and at a time when it will be too late for them to qualify for positions in any other calling. Personally, I believe that no branch of our Military Service has greater claims to a retiring allowance than have the members of our Air Force.
There is just one other matter to which I desire to direct attention. We have at Duntroon a Military College, and at Jervis Bay a Naval College. Today, the parents of young men in Australia are asking themselves what there is ahead of their boys who may desire to enter cither of these institutions. If I had a son who was eligible for admission to Duntroon and who desired to take up a military career, I am inclined to think that I would use my influence to prevent him doing so, simply because there is so little inducement offered to members of the military profession at a later period of their lives. I quite agree with the Minister that it would be unreasonable to expect the nation to incur the expense of preparing a young man for a military career and then to part with his services immediately he had finished his course of training. For that reason every inducement should be held out to the best young men in the Commonwealth to enter our Naval and Military Colleges, and that object may best be achieved by making provision for the future of those who take up such careers.
I have little further to say upon this Bill. I recognise that an Air Force must become a necessary adjunct to our defence scheme. I recognise too, that such a force will cost the people of this country, in the years to come, a very considerable sum of money. But I believe that they are prepared to pay that money cheerfully. It is idle for us to pretend that the establishment of an Air Force will not add to the cost of the military machine in Australia. It will do so, and the only thing which this Parliament can do is to see that it does not unduly add to that cost. We have to face the problem of effectively defending our country and also of training a certain number of young men in this particular arm of our Defence Service. The only way in which the expenditure can be kept down to a reasonable figure is by the encouragement of civil aviation, by offering inducements to private individuals and firms to engage in that particular form of transport. The men who did engage in it would provide the military authorities, should the necessity ever arise, with a large number of experts in the handling of flying machines. I can see no advantage in delaying the consideration of the Bill until the return of the Prime Minister from England. We have to deal with it, and we might as well deal’ with it now as later on, thereby permitting the military authorities to get the aviation branch of out defence scheme into working order as soon as possible.
– There has been a-fear exhibited amongst quite a number of honorable senators that the passing of this Bill will of necessity involve the Commonwealth ina very large additional expenditure from the standpoint of the administration of the Defence Department. But during the week-end I went very carefully through the measure, with the result that I am perfectly satisfied that the statements made by the Minister himself are correct. The honorable gentleman told us that the administrative cost of this new branch of our Defence Force will be infinitesimal, as he intends to utilize for administrative purposes the services of officers who axe already in the employ of the Commonwealth. Nobody can question the necessity for bestowing special attention upon this branch of our defence. During the great war we were all satisfied that the Air Services of the Empire were practically the yes of the Army and Navy. But for them the Empire would have cut a very sorry figure indeed. Thanks to the energy displayed in bringing those services to the perfection which they reached, we were able to emerge from the great struggle victoriously. A few days ago I was told that I had only to look at one of the Melbourne newspapers to seethat a large expenditure had already been incurred upon the aviation branch of our Defence Department. But reference to the journal in question merely served to show that the appointments which have been made are confined to those who are engaged in the practical operations of the Air Service. I have the list before me now. Lest any honorable senator should be under the impression that these are administrative appointments at large salaries, I wish to say that they comprise the the appointment of a wing commander, a squadron leader, flight lieutenants, a flying officer, an observer, and squadron leaders. All these appointments affect only the practical operations of the Air Service.
– Practically all of the appointees are flying men.
– Exactly. I intend to support the second reading of the Bill, chiefly because, in the present condition of the world’s affairs, we must recognise that we are far from having reached a position in which the need for maintaining our armaments to a reasonable extent has disappeared. The suggestion that we should delay the passing of this measure until the return of the Prime Minister from the Imperial Conference is a most dangerous one, because nobody can foresee what may happen in the course of a few months. I amnotpessimistic enough to believe that we are likely to be plunged into a great war in the immediate future. But as long as there are threatening clouds it would be folly for us to neglect the maintenance of our Defence Force. Before the outbreak of war, we in Australia had been paying an annual insurance premium in respect of both our military and our naval defence. We are now asked to pay an annual premium upon a policy connected with the Air Branch of our Defence Force. No reasonable person, no matter how anxious he may be to economize, particularly at a time like the present, will be foolish enough to suggest that we can afford to rub along without taking out an insurance policy in connexion with our air defence. In his remarks upon this . Bill, Senator Gardiner seemed to entirely ignore the statements which were made by the Minister for Defence in moving the second reading of the Bill. Practically the whole of his observationswere directed to the very large expenditure which he affirms will be involved in its passing.
The Minister has pointed out that through the generosity of the British authorities we have been presented with a large number of aeroplanes, and it would be folly on our part if we did not utilize them in times of peace in such a way as to bring into existence a really efficient Air Force that would be exceptionally useful in any future hostilities. I heard reference made the other day to the enthusiasm which had been displayed by the Minister regarding Defence matters. One remark was that the Minister was so saturated with this enthusiasm that he had no time to think of the financial obligations entailed in carrying out defence operations.I am pleased that we have a Minister who is saturated with Defence, and so enthusiastic as to throw his whole heart and soul into these great questions. Although I hold no brief for the Minister it is only fair to remember at this time of peace the fine work putin byhim during the war. If we had not had a Minister who threw his whole heart and soul into the work intrusted to him there, we should probably not have had such a fine administration of the Defence Department during the war period.
Some honorable senators have expressed the view that we are not holding out sufficient inducement to those who might be capable of proving themselves very good officer’s and men in our flying department,, because we are making no provision for their position in life after they reach the age of forty. I indorse a good deal that has been said in this connexion, and am hopeful that the time is not far distant when, not only in this and all other branches of the Defence Department but also in all Departments of the Commonwealth, ample provision will be made, by the establishment of a Superannuation Fund based on a sound foundation, to insure that any man who enters the Public Service of the Commonwealth shall have something to keep him when age ‘ forces him to retire.
I think we are all satisfied that, having voted a large sum of money, as we did last year, for Air Defence, the time has arrived when we should see to it that the Air Defence Department is properly administered. During the interval between the time the money was voted and to-day, the Air Defence Force has been administered by the Naval and Military authorities, but the branch has grown to such an extent quite recently that it behoves us to see that we have a thoroughly efficient administration of it in regard to the operations to be carried out in the future. I give my hearty accord to the second reading of the Bill, and trust that any feeling that may exist that it will entail for administrative purposes heavy expense on the people of the Commonwealth, who are already very severely taxed, can be swept away for the time being. Surely the Parliament of Australia will be able, if any effort should be made by the Minister to increase the administrative costs unduly, to put the brake on. At the present time there is no necessity to do so, because I am satisfied, as I think most honorable senators are, that the administrative portion of this Department will not add any material burden to our finances. If in the future an attempt should be made to overburden the administration by making a very large number of appointments at high salaries, we shall have it in our power to enter our protest, and that will be the right time to do it.
At present we can do “no more than support the second reading of the Bill in order to give the Minister the power he requires to make this new branch of our Defence as permanent and as satisfactory as possible.
– There seems to be confusion in the minds of some honorable senators as to the use of an. Air Forde for the defence of a country in time of war. Some have suggested that a properly equipped Air Force might take the place of modern battleships in defending the Commonwealth. The records of thu war, however, show no case where a battleship suffered material damage from an air ship. Senator Cox can bear out my statement that, particularly in the desert warfare in Palestine, troops suffered very severely in open spaces from attacks launched from aeroplanes either with bombs or machine gun fire, but it is utterly ridiculous to suppose, as one honorable senator suggested, that air craft might be useful in stopping the advance of warships upon these shores. No one would suggest that aeroplanes caused any material damage in the trenches in France either by bombs or machine gun fire. When it comes to using them as an arm of the Service, either for offensive or defensive measures, their usefulness may be summed up in the phrase “ the Air Force is the eyes of the Defence Scheme.” Their great usefulness is in finding the disposition of enemy troops or enemy positions. With my. limited knowledge I shall not criticise the attitude of the Government in establishing an Air Defence Force for Australia, whether it costs £500,000 or more, nor do I think the time is opportune for postponing the. measure, seeing that Parliament has already voted the money to be expended for this purpose, that a certain amount of preliminary work has already been done, that negotiations have been entered into for the purchase of certain seaplanes, and that applications have been called for from officers for this Force. Numbers of our returned airmen have been waiting for a year or more for finality to be reached regarding their possible applications for positions. It is, therefore, necessary for the Government to go on with this scheme. We recently passed a skeleton Act dealing with Civil Aviation, which is being administered by regulations, of which a couple of hundred have been “gazetted. The Controller of Civil Aviation is to have a seat on the Air Council. I much regret that the Government have not gone beyond the stage of expressing hope, and have not given actual assistance to civil aviation.
– Oh, yes, we have. What we have done has not been made public, but we have done one or two things that are helpful.
– I was about to point out that it was found necessary recently in England to subsidize the Handley -Page Co., who were ‘running the London-Paris aerial service. The company were able to show the .British Government that they could not compete successfully with the French companies who were running an aerial passenger service, because the French Government were subsidizing the latter fairly heavily. There is in Australia a number of companies, established principally for the purpose of carrying passengers, although one or two attempts have been made to carry freight, and for some time the Postmaster-General (Mr. “Wise) has been talking about seeing whether an aerial mail delivery could be established for certain isolated districts. I have no knowledge of what the Minister for Defence refers to when’ he says the Government have done certain things to assist civil aviation, but .as the hope has been expressed that civil aviation may become more useful and extensive in Australia, it would be a good thing if the Government were to subsidize in some measure either pilots engaged in civil aviation or machines which, being used for civil purposes in times of peace, might automatically pass under the control of the Air Defence Department at a time of war.
– Would it not be better to form aerodromes where we should have something that was permanent, whereas machines are not?
– The Minister gave us some useful and valuable information the other day, when he told us that certain work was being done in that direction, and that municipalities lying on the possible routes of aeroplane services, particularly on certain North-South and East-West journeys, had been asked to supply information about landing grounds, and the possibilities of establishing hangars and aerodromes. But when one knows, as I know, that the Australian companies which have been endeavouring to establish civil aviation on a commercial basis are having a very hard go, and have had ta put up a very hard fight to make their enterprise successful, one cannot help thinking that something more needs to be done from the Government stand-point. I was inclined to agree with the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) that it would be a fine thing for Australia if the Government subsidized or undertook on their own behalf the manufacture of aeroplane engines in Australia. A great deal has been made in some quarters of the fact that Great Britain presented us with a number of aeroplanes, but it is alleged by some officers, who are supposed to know, that some of those. machines are years old, and will very shortly become absolutely out of date, if they are not so at present. I want it to be distinctly understood that in saying this I am not decrying in any way the wonderful gift made to us by the Mother Country. I am merely endeavouring to look at the facts squarely.
– They may be out of date for fighting purposes and yet quite good for training.
– I was going to say that they may be useful for the purpose of instructing pilots and mechanics, but it is wrong to assume, as apparently some honorable senators have assumed, that these machines are of any great value, even at the present time, for defensive purposes. I agree that the idea of establishing, in times of peace, the nucleus of an Air Defence Force is a wise one. But supposing that the aeroplanes which have been presented to us are efficient for modern requirements, and supposing that if not actually at war we were, at all events, in the war zone, we might be in a very awkward position indeed, if we had to depend upon sea transport over thousands of miles for the replacement of our aeroplanes which might be lost by accident or through war. The suggestion made by Senator Gardiner, .that more consideration should be given to the question of manufacturing aeroplane engines in Australia is an excellent one. I realize also that it is advisable for the Government to have available a certain force for policing the air, just as to-day we employ policemen and other officials to look after and deal with law breakers. In urging the wisdom of subsidizing civil aviators and the manufacture of aeroplanes in Australia, I remind honorable senators that Germany’s success in so quickly assembling all its forces for war purposes was due to the fact that the men engaged in occupations which might be extremely useful in war time, were properly looked after in time of peace, as for example, all those men employed in chemical research in connexion with the dye industry. Their services were of immense commercial value to Germany prior to the war, and during the war they were very quickly organized for the manufacture of chemicals for high explosives and other purposes. I hope, therefore that the Government will give this matter their attention at a very early date.
– I desire to say a few words to the amendment submitted by Senator J. D. Millen, that consideration of the Bill be postponed until after the return of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) from the Imperial Conference. Senator Millen made a very sensible suggestion. One very important reason why it should be given effect is that the Prime Minister in another place has announced that only the Tariff will be dealt with during; his absence.^ I take it his absence will commence from Wednesday next, and that being so, why should the Senate be called upon now to deal with a measure of this character 1 A definite promise -made by the Prime Minister should be held sacred. The Senate should not do anything that might, possibly, cause the Prime Minister embarrassment, and give some irreverent people an opportunity to scoff at his promise.
– All promises are sacred.-
– I agree with the honorable senator, but I remind him that quite a number of persons in this country, if they have the opportunity, will scoff at the Prime Minister, and to some extent, in an attempt to belittle this ‘ representative assembly, they will direct ‘their criticism at members of Parliament generally. I suggest, therefore, that the suggestion made by Senator Millen would meet the case quite well. For my part, I should take good care, in the event of a division, not to do anything that would harass the Government, by taking the business out of their hands. We know what trouble this caused in another place, and so we should be on the alert here, and not take any risks. But if Senator Millen’s amendment be carried, I sincerely hope the Minister will not take it so seriously as somebody else took something else somewhere else. There is, as I have shown, sound reason for the postponement of the Bill. The Prime Minister, on his return from the Conference, may be in a position to give us uptodate information on the question of aerial defence. Of course, it will be secret. No one will know anything ‘about it but himself; but he will have the information, and with the utmost’ secrecy he may communicate it to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and, then, perhaps, we may have presented to us a measure for air defence even more effective than the Bill now under discussion. This point, I suggest, is well worthy of consideration. I realize that in the matter of war preparations, the inner circle of a Cabinet frequently possesses information not available to the rest of the community. I hardly like to venture the statement, because it is one that may be easily denied, and is not capable of proof in an assembly like this; but the thought having occurred to me, I should like to say that when Senator Pearce and other Ministers visited Great Britain in 1911 or thereabouts, they were advised of the view held by certain high authorities that Germany’s preparations for war would be complete in 1914, and that when.- they were complete, war might be expected. If this statement is anywhere near the mark, I would be satisfied if certain people of authority in this country had valuable information enabling them, we will say, to address themselves to this important question of the defence of Australia. I take it that when he returns to Australia in October or November next, the Prime Minister may be in a position to advise us upon a more perfect defence scheme! Perhaps he will - hardly as passenger’s luggage - bring us some machinery for the manufacture of aeroplanes. At all events, he may have the specifications by means of which we may improve the present scheme.
Minister hinted it - that a great deal of the money has already been spent, because we voted it on the last Estimates. But I was rather amused that the Minis-‘ ter should endeavour to put that aspect before the Senate. It is quite true that the money was voted by Parliament, and, therefore, the Government were entitled to spend’ a portion or the whole of it; hut honorable senators, I think, were not aware, when the Estimates were rushed through at the last moment, that this would be done.
– It is one of the tricks of the trade to rush Estimates through, is it not?
– I suppose it is.
– I am putting the question to you because you ought to know.
– I can assure the honorable senator that when I was on the Ministerial bench it was always repugnant to me to hurry Estimates of Expenditure through Parliament, because I realized that their consideration was the last opportunity that the representatives of tie people had of controlling the purse.
– We have not much of a grip on it now.
– Very little, unfortunately.
– The honorable senator cannot say that there was not ample opportunity for debate on the last Estimates. No honorable senator was asked to curtail his remarks.
– The Minister speaks as if we were not then sitting an extra day, and crowding on the hours to dispose of the business. Indeed, we were compelled to sit all night.
– That was not the position when these Estimates were under consideration.
-Possibly not; but I repeat that there was not ample opportunity for the discussion of the Estimates. The Minister cannot get away from the fact that when he was introducing the Estimates for the Defence Department, it was his duty to give a definite and detailed statement of this proposed expenditure.
– I drew particular attention to it in the Senate.
– I do not think it was a question of not having sufficient time for debate, but rather that the details required were not supplied.
– The Minister now says that he drew particular attention to this expenditure. I leave it to honorable senators themselves whether he left an impression in their minds that expenditure on a scheme of this magnitude was to be confined to £500,000.He did not in mine. This is only the initial . expenditure of a large sum of money, because the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) practically agrees that £500,000 per annum is only the estimated cost of the Air Defence Branch he is bringing into existence, I suppose it will be only a little while before £1,000,000, or even £2,000,000, will be required;, and the Minister, in starting a scheme of that character - because he practically started it on last year’s Estimates - will have to carry the responsibility. I am not excusing myself by saying that I should have been informed, because I should have been sufficiently alert when the Estimates were under discussion to havedemanded a detailed explanation. On the next occasion I trust that I shall be alert enough to seek an explanation on every item. After the estimated expenditure has been passed, we are informed that the money has been expended - I say it advisedly - upon a branch of the Service that, with the exception of the Minister for Defence, other honorable senators know very little about.
– He said that very little of the money would he expended this year, but he qualified that later when he thought there was a possibility of losing his Bill.
– Very little timeremains, as the financial year ends in June. The proposal to postpone the Bill appeals to me, and I think the Minister for Defence will be well advised if he accepts the amendment moved by Senator J. D. Millen, because, after all, it is only a matter of a few months. If a portion of the money voted has been expended, as was quite justified, it will not interfere with the arrangement he has to make for the establishment of an Air Defence Force. Everything is favorable to the further postponement of the Bill. I have been addressing myself to this question at greater length than I intended, to give an opportunity for the mover of the amendment to be present. I do not intend to debate the matter at further length, but am prepared to let the question go to a vote, if necessary.
– The honorable senator would not like to embarrass the Government.
– I certainly would not, because the Government have mademy position such that that would be the last thing that I would think of. I do not think that I would get the same consideration from any other Government.
– Truth will out.
– There are times when one has to acknowledge the fact that the Government is satisfactorily conducting the affairs of the country, but these occasions arc rare. I am not looking for such opportunities, but on this particular question I hardly think there is an honorable senator who will not agree that it is inadvisable to go on with two Air Services. I have referred to the possibility of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) returning from the Imperial Conference with important information. .
– The honorable senator will realize that, after passing the Estimates, we must support the Minister in all the commitments the Government have made up to the end of this financial year.
– Unquestionably. This is not the time to question a Minister on the expenditure of the money; but I realize that Senator Wilson’s chief desire in this Senate is to get behind the Government whenever they need his support.
– I do not know who will wake up first, the honorable senator or the Government.I have greater freedom of action than the honorable senator.
– I am very glad to hear that, because I was trained in parliamentary work in a pretty stiff school, and I always consider it my duty to be behind the Government that I am elected to support, particularly when they are in danger. The Minister for Defence will remember in the early days, when I was a supporter of his, the circumstances surrounding the proposal embodied in a Bill he passed to prevent certain people from selling war medals.
– It is a question of supporting this Government until there is a better one to follow.
– As I believe the Minister for Defence is anxious to conclude the debate, I do not wish to detain the Senate at greater length.
– Several arguments against the Bill have been brought forward during the discussion on the second reading, and one that has been given some prominence is that of economy. That has been submitted as a strong reason why we should not go on with the Bill; but, after placing £500,000 on the Estimates for this particular Service, it became absolutely necessary to establish an Air Branch to give effect to the vote which was carried. Not only in our Australian newspapers, but in those published in other parts of the world, information is given to the effect that, as a nation, we are standing in an exceedingly precarious position. If we look back to the period before the great war, which has happily been brought to a satisfactory termination, we must realize that the position then was not as serious as it is to-day. We cannot say, and we dare not even attempt to prophesy, what will take place. In these circumstances it is unreasonable to suggest that one of the most useful and necessary adjuncts to our defence, scheme should be held over until a more convenient time, because to postpone it would endanger that which is primal in connexion with the nation’s safety. If a nation’s safety is endangered, its wealth, happiness, and prosperity are of little value. If we look at this proposition from the stand-point of the danger which surrounds us,and the condition of affairs in the world generally, we must admit that, if there is one arm of defence that should be more active than another, it is the eyes of the Army and Navy. As the aeroplane was so useful in assisting in scouting during the great war, an efficient Air Defence Force should be created before anything else; and in connexion with the arguments adduced on the question of economy; it must be admitted that aeroplanes would be much more economical than Dreadnoughts. Scattered as the Australian people are over a very wide area, and difficult as it may be to move our naval vessels around our lengthy coastline, there is always the possibility of being assailed at any point, and the establishment of a well-organized and equipped Air Force should have first consideration. Even the keenest pacifist could not object to the proposal, because to be forewarned is to be forearmed. If we neglect to use the opportunities we possess of acquiring knowledge that is absolutely necessary, and if we endanger our security, we are leaving ourselves absolutely at the mercy of a marauding nation which may desire to attack us. Apart altogether from the question that we may or may not be attacked, the international conditions are such that, although we may not actually be involved in a struggle with any nation, we may easily be swept into the vortex of conflict. In whatever direction we may stay our hands, this ‘ important problem should have immediate consideration. A little while ago we passed a skeleton measure to create such a Force as this, and it is only within the last few months that statutory rules and regulations, ten times more voluminous than the Bill itself, were adopted. For the first time we are creating what we consider necessary for effective defence, and, before we have commenced, the cry of economy is raised. But all true economy depends on whether the organization is efficient. If it is inefficient, it is not true economy.
– This is not the occasion on which to discuss economy; that should be done when the Estimates are under consideration.
– I admit that; but, seeing that the arguments advanced may have some weight with honorable senators, and that inadequate defence may jeopardize the well-being- of Australia, we have to discuss it now. Of what use would be our prosperity, the wealth we accumulate, or the happiness we so much seek, if, after all, any nation, however small, could deprive ns of the privileges we now enjoy? As a nation, we should at least provide the means to enable ns ,to be apprised at the earliest possible moment of the approach of enemy forces. It is for this reason, and not because I desire to see £500,000 expended, that I shall sup port the Bill, rather than the expenditure involved in constructing another vessel such as the Australia.
– Was the expenditure on the Australia justified?
– I thank the honorable senator for the interjection, as his suggestion helps to justify expenditure on a branch of the Service that is admittedly weak. To the eternal honor of Australia we have demonstrated how rapidly our troops can be made from what is, from -a military point of view, the rawest of material. The Australian has given evidence of splendid valour, and has shown how loyal he is at heart not only to his own country, but to the Empire of which Australia is a. part. It would’, therefore, ill become Australia, at. such a juncture as the present, to neglect to provide against one means by which an enemy might cloud our vision and approach so rapidly that we should not know of his coming. ‘ I do not wish in any sense to be an alarmist, but I do say that there is need for careful consideration of every arm of defence that will serve to make Australia safe. The argument is advanced by some that we should pass this measure because the money required to give it effect has already been voted by Parliament. That argument is not sound, but it is still safe to say that the contingency upon which the money was voted six months ago is more imminent to-day. I am so impressed b’y the present condition of international affairs that I should be prepared to-day to vote for an expenditure of £500,000 for this purpose, and, indeed, double that sum, more readily than I did six months ago. The arguments which justified the voting of the money six months ago have been immeasurably strengthened by the present condition of international affairs. We should not close our eyes and consider that we are safe because the wide ocean sweeps around Austraia. We should keep in touch with what is passing around us,’ and, if we do so, we shall feel that, in the matter of defence, the’ essential thing is to be ready, and, not necessarily to be aggressive.
I have carefully gone through the provisions of the Bill. It may appear simple to the Minister for Defence; who understands the position, and merely the ABC to military members of the Senate who have had practical experience of the operations of an Air Force. The Bill, however, is not a very simple measure when we take into consideration the fact that it is related to many other measures, and that, in its consideration, some regard should be had for the Imperial Air Force. Its provisions will require careful study in Committee. I see no justification for the postponement of the’ measure. I think, on the contrary, that we should accelerate its passage, whilst we should not fail to make it as perfect as we can.
The wealth and possibilities of Australia and all we enjoy of peace and freedom rest upon our safety. If we are unable to defend ourselves, our tenure of this country depends merely upon how soon some other nation may decide to take it from us.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator J. D. Millen’s amendment) - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I wish to reply briefly to the criticism that has been passed upon the Bill. I desire first of all to make a slight correction of what I said in moving the second reading of the measure. I gave the Senate some information about the Air Board, and when I was asked whether its establishment would involve any additional expenditure, I said that the only additional expenditure- 1 knew of was an allowance of £100 per annum to the finance officer. I find that I overstated the amount of his additional remuneration. The allowance madeto him is only £75.
– Does the Minister mean to say that the total emolument of the officer is only £575 per year?
– I do not at the moment know just what his total salary is, but he isto receive an additional sum of £75 per annum because of the extra duties thrown upon him as a member of the Air Board.
– Can the Minister give the information he- promised about the number of aeroplanes.
-Before I sit down, I shall give all the information asked for Senator Gardiner, when speaking on the Bill, said-
Is it a fair thing to ask the country to commit itself to enormous expenditure for air. defence?
The honorable senator also said that “the world is waiting for a lead in disarmament.” I quite agree with that statement; but when the honorable senator refers to this particular Bill as one proposing enormous expenditure, and then asks that we should give a lead in disarmament, I am justified in directing his attention to some figures respecting naval and military expenditure. Great Britain, in policing as she does about onehalf of the world, is spending, I understand, 10 per cent. of her revenue. The United States of America, that has not the responsibility of policing vast territories, is spending, I understand, 12 per cent. of her national income. And another country, Japan, that has no colonies beyond a few island possessions, and no- responsibility for mandated’ territories, and for occupied countries, such as Great Britain has, is spending 33 per cent. of her national income. In view of these figures, the lead in disarmament should not come from a country like Australia, which is spending a comparatively insignificant sum, but from those countries which are spending: such huge sums as I have indicated. We hope that the lead will come from those countries. During the course of the debate, I was asked a question as to the number of machines there are in Australia. The Air Board has now. in its possession machines as under, for units provided on the first year’s programme for the Australian Air Force : -
The nine flying-boats, and twelve ships’ seaplanes required to complete the units provided for, will be ordered without delay. The proportion of ground to flying personnel in the Australian Air Force will be as follows: -
The proposed establishment provides for aeroplane squadrons being equipped with twelve machines, and the seaplane and flying-boat squadrons with six machines each. The reserve considered necessary is 50 per cent, of the total establishment of the unit. The following machines are now in our possession, and have been allotted to service units: -
The following machines are in our possession, and have been allotted to No. 1 Flying Training School: -
And the following training machines are in reserve: -
This makes the total of machines in our possession : -
It will be seen from the above that our reserves in D.H. 9’s, and S.E. 5 Ay’s, are below 50 per cent. ; those for D.H. 9 Ay’s are above 50 per cent. This is owing to the fact that we must make the best use of the machines given to us by the Imperial Government; and it is not proposed that we shall purchase more D.H. 9’s and S.E. 5 Ay’s, as these machines are obsolete in theRoyal Air Force, and should be replaced with new types when reserves get so low as to warrant the re-equipment of these units. That is not to say that these machines are obsolete for certain purposes, nor that the Air Force, which will be an effective arm, is equipped with obsolete machines, because the other machines are up-to-date. In the meantime, as the reserves get low in any squadron, a Flight might be replaced with D.H. 9 Ay’s. In this way we can keep somewhere near our 50 per cent, reserve for service units, make the best use of our machines, and save a certain amount of expenditure. It will be noted that in the training units we have ample reserves, but in these units in time of peace the reserves required will probably be much greater than those required in service units, and a much larger reserve than 50 per cent. of the establishment must be maintained in the preliminary training machines, that is to say, Avros. In this case, we are well provided for from the gift equipment. The general principle being worked on, however, is 50 per cent. reserve of establishment in service units, and at least 200 per cent. in reserves in preliminary training machines. At the moment we have a reserve of 300 per cent. in these machines, and experience may show it to be necessary to maintain such a reserve. In ordering flying-boats and ships’ seaplanes for service units, the principle of a 50 per cent. reserve has been maintained, that is to say: Flyingboats - Unit, 6; Reserve, 3; making a total of 9. Snip’s Seaplanes - Unit, 6; Reserve, 3; making a total of 9; with an additional 3 Seaplanes for finishing training, or 12 altogether.
The officers may be set down as fol low : -
The relation of ground personnel to flying personnel may be thus summarized: - (a) Permanent officers - ground .officers, 58; flying officers, 125. (6) Permanent officers i and other ranks - ground personnel, 58; other ranks, 1,046; total, 1,104; flying personnel, 125. Citizen Forces: - (a) Officers - ground officers, 10; flying officers, 30. (6) Officers and other ranks -ground personnel, 292 ; flying personnel, 30. The total Permanent and Citizen Forces are: - (a) Officers - ground, 68; flying, 155. (6) Officers and other ranks - ground, 292; others, 1,104; making a total of 1,396. The proportion of officers, therefore, is 1 ground to 3 flying; and of officers and other ranks, 9 ground to 1 flying.
Senator Elliott in his criticism said that in this Bill we were laying down a war basis, and that” the Air Force proposed to be provided is equivalent to what we had in the Australian Imperial Force. I have had the figures looked up, and I find that they do not bear out his statement. We had with the Australian Imperial Force, one wing headquarters, four squadrons, and one repair section in training, and we used the Royal Air Force depots. That is to say the Australian Air Units which were on active service had no depots, but used the Australian Imperial Force depots. Under this Bill we propose to establish one flying training school and one Air Craft depot, including the repairs, so that the comparison works out at four squadrons with the Australian Imperial Force as against one squadron here. Upon service with the Army we had four squadrons, one of which was with the corps. We had none with the Navy. Under this scheme we are proposing the same strength, namely, four squadrons, two of which will be permanent, and two citizen squadrons. We are proposing to establish a flying boat squadron, and a seaplane squadron with the Navy, which we did not have during the war. The personnel of the Air Squadron during the war was over 500 officers, and 2,500 officers and other ranks. What we now propose is a force of 160 officers and 1,500 officers and other ranks. Of this number 145 will be permanent officers, and 1,100 officers and other ranks.
– But this is only the commencement of the scheme. I believe that the Minister intends to increase it.
– That was not the point of Senator Elliott’s criticism. His statement was that this scheme was upon a war basis, and it is that statement to which I am now replying. Then it must be remembered that during the war we did not have with our Forces an Air Force which’ was proportionate to those forces. Our Air Force was not at any time proportionate to the forces we had in the field, and to a very large extent we used the Royal Air Forces supply and repair depots. During his speech upon this Bill, Senator Elliott dealt with the same matters in regard to the supersession of officers as he dealt with when he was discussing the Defence Bill. He will not, therefore, deem it discourtesy on my part if r do not reply to his observations, seeing that I have already done so. Senator Pratten contended that the Bill is merely a skeleton measure. His statement is correct, because the Bill must be read in conjunction with two Acts passed by this Parliament, namely, the Defence Act, and the Naval Defence Act. But it is not advisable to repeat in this measure all the sections of those Acts which apply to ‘the Air Force. In this Bill we incorporate all the sections of those Acts which are applicable to that Force.
– The Minister has missed the point which I made. What I said was that we had not a prospectus of what is proposed.
– The honorable senator said that this was a skeleton Bill.
– In that it lacks the details which have now been given.
– It is a skeleton Bill, because it is nob convenient or advisable to re-print in it, all those sections of our Defence Acts which are applicable to the Air Force.
– My point was that the honorable gentleman in his first speech failed to give us the particulars which he has now supplied.
– Then we are quite in agreement. Senator Duncan raised an important point regarding the type of seaplane which is being obtained. I can only assure him that any seaplane or other plane that we may secure in the future will be of the latest and most uptodate type. We have an officer attached to the “Air Ministry, who will look after our interests in that regard. Senator Fairbairn raised the question of the expenditure which will be involved under this Bill. He is satisfied that there is no extravagance in the proposals of the Government provided that there be no increase in the expenditure, and that we save what’ we can during the balance of the financial year, so that when we come to review the position next year we may be able to reduce the expenditure. I find that the position to-day is that of the £500,000 which has been voted for this scheme we shall not spend more than £400,000, and the probability is that we shall not even spend that sum. I can definitely assure the Senate that there will be £100,000 of the vote unexpended at the end of the financialyear.
– But to carry out the scheme which has been foreshadowed by the honorable gentleman will require an expenditure of £500,000.
– I do not claim any particular credit for the saving of that £100,000, because, owing to various circumstances over which we have had no control, the establishment is being given effect to at a later date in the financial year than we anticipated.
– But the establishment mentioned by the honorable senator will cost about £500,000 during a normal year.
– No; it will cost more than that in the full financial year. I think the amount will be nearer £600,000. This £500,000 was for certain expenditure onquipment, and also for the establishment for a portion of the year, and it is obvious that the same establishment for a whole year it will cost more. The control, however, will still be in the hands of the Senate when we re-assemble, because the Senate will be able to determine how much we are to spend in the next financial year. Nothing done this year will prejudice us in that regard.
– The Minister, has given certain particularswith regard to the personnel. When that personnel is brought into being, the Minister now says it will require £600,000 for its upkeep.
– Well, more than £500,000.
– So that by approving of the personnel we shall be, in effect, committing this Parliament to an expenditure of more than £500,000 a year.
– I do not know how I can make myself clear to the honorable senator. I have just said that it is not so, and that all Parliament is committed to is the setting aside of £500,000 in this financial year for the Air Force. I said that owing to the late period at which this establishment is being appointed we shall not spend more than £400,000 of that money, and that when the next Estimates are presented to Parliament they will be for the establishment which we assume will then have been completed. That will obviously be some figure higher than £500,000, and I should nob think it would be more than £600,000. If Parliament, in view of the circumstances that are then before it, decides that it is not prepared to spend that amount of money, Parliament will be free to take that course. It will mean ultimately simply reducing the personnel and the establishment.
– Will you not have appointed officers who cannot be dismissed until they are forty years of age?
– They can be dismissed at any time. There is nothing to prevent a Government from retrenching at any time it sees fit.
Senator Newland spoke of the necessity for a superannuation scheme. While I hold this office no one would be more happy than I should be if such a scheme could be passed through Parliament. It is the intention of the Government at the earliest possible opportunity to ask Parliament to agree to such a scheme. That scheme has been drawn up, and is now before the Treasury for their consideration, because it has a very important financial aspect. It will mean that a considerable sum of money must be found by the country, even under a contributory scheme, and, therefore, it has to be seriously considered by the Treasury, but as soon as possible Parliament will be asked to express its opinion on the question.
– Can you say whether that scheme will be linked up with the general superannuation scheme for the Public Service?
– Yes, it is a general superannuation scheme for the Public Service, and for the military also.
– Can we have copies of the Air Force Act, which is embodied in this Bill, for perusal before this Bill is passed ?
– I shall endeavour to get them. Senator Newland also referred to the early age for retirement, and expressed sympathy with those who would be required to retire. The fact of such an early age being fixed has already been taken into consideration in determining the rates of pay. Rates of pay for these officers are considerably higher, especially in the lower ranks, than the rates of pay for officers of similar rank in the Military Forces. They have been based on the rates of pay for officers in the submarine branch of the naval service. That applies particularly to the lower ranks, and this fact is regarded as some compensation for the earlier retirement.
Senator Foster suggested that the Government should take practical steps to assist civil aviation. I assure the Senate that we are doing this as fast as we can, consistent with having a concerted plan. It is obvious that we could waste a lot of money if we said to every company that came to us with a proposition connected with civil aviation, “ We will give you what you ask.” I have had one proposition put before me that a firm to carry mails in one part of Queensland should be subsidized to the extent of £58,000 per annum. For that sum we could buy the machines, pay the pilots, and run the ser vice for the whole year. That is to say, they are asking us to put up, in the shape of an annual subsidy, not only the cost of the service, but also all the capital required to start it going. Any Government that, under the guise of assisting civil aviation, agreed to hand over such a subsidy might make itself extremely popular for a little while, but before long Parliament would have something to say about the way Ministers were scattering the money about.
– What part of Queensland was that company to operate in?
– I do not wish to indicate that. I merely mention the case as a proposition put up to us. There are companies in this country that we are desirous of assisting to the utmost on sound lines. One of them has already received from the Government assistance which has enabled it to keep going. We are also assisting them in preparing surveys of aerial routes and landing grounds ; but in many cases this means the acquisition of land, and it is not desirable at this juncture to say too plainly what we are doing in that regard, because land values have an uncanny knack of going up when the Government is known to be in the market ae a purchaser.
On the question of manufacture in Australia, negotiations have been entered into recently, and a proposal which was placed before the Government is now before the Air Board, from a Sydney firm, for the manufacture, not of engines, but of machines in Australia, of Australian timber. I am assured by the representative of this company that they have had exhaustive tests made of Australian timber, and that weight for weight, and size for size, the Australian timber has given 20 per cent. better results than the spruce which is generally used in the aeroplanes made overseas. If that is so, it is very satisfactory, and we shall do all we can to assist that or any other company in any way within our power consistent with proper regard for the finances. We can- . not be expected to squander money.
– Did the company mention what kind of Australian timber they were using ?
– They have not disclosed that information. Senator Foster raised the question of the efficiency of the gift machines. I have already explained that some of them are obsolete for fighting purposes, but there are sufficient of them absolutely effective for fighting purposes to arm our establishment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
The following paper was presented: -
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from 13th April (vide page 7367), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– In view of the importance of this measure, it would have been as well if the Minister, instead of proceeding with its second reading, had merely introduced it, and allowed members of the Public Service, who certainly are the most interested parties, full opportunity to peruse it and supply honorable senators with information as to its probable effect on the Service. Naturally they possess information which it would be almost impossible for any honorable senator, not closely identified with the Public Service, to have. The Bill is essentially a machinery measure. Frequently in this Senate, I have complained of the tendency to legislate by means of regulations, but, as I scan this measure, it appears to me that in it are to be found provisions for many matters that could very well have been dealt with by regulation, while, on the other hand, more important matters which might well have been provided for are overlooked. Interested people might be justified in saying that they have been deliberately omitted, because the minor matters to which I have referred are mentioned in the measure.
– There is plenty of room in the Bill for regulations to cover many minor matters.
– No doubt, but the point I am making is that it contains provision for matters that are amost insignificant, and which could more properly be dealt with by departmental regulation, while more important matters are left out. Apart altogether from this there are one or two clauses to which I desire to refer, and at the outset I direct attention to sub-clause2 of clause 9, which states -
In the making of appointments under the provisions of this section, preference shall be given, other things being equal, to. returned soldiers or sailors.
I should like to ask why the words “other things being equal” are used?
– What would the honorable senator have?
– I want to know why there is this back door provision to evade giving preference to returned soldiers or sailors?
– The Government might wish to appoint a wireless expert, and there might not be one among the returned soldiers or sailors.
– It is very easy for the Minister to furnish a reason why the clause should stand, but it is so loosely drafted that, given a Minister not favourable to the principle of preference to returned soldiers, it would be wide enough to suit his purpose.
– A Minister will not have that power. Appointments will be made by the head of a Department, and there will be the right of appeal to the Board.
– I take it that “ other things being equal “ means that the best man gets the job.
– As the Minister has stated, the question of appointing an expert in some particular business might arise, and so, on these grounds, the words “ other things being equal “ may be retained; but I venture to say that there will be no such difficulty about the constitution of the Board of Commissioners, for which men of character, capacity, and fitness, but not necessarily experts in some particular business, will be required. I usually pride myself that there is not much of the hypocrite about me, and so when I say that I think returned soldiers and sailors are being fooled by this pretence at preference in employment they will know what I mean. The sooner they realize that they have to take their chances with the rest of the community, and that fitness alone will be the qualification for a position in the Public Service, the better it will be.’ I am not afraid that, given a fair chance, they will not be able toprove their fitness for any post that may be made vacant; but I protest at this pretended preference, for it is only so much pretence so long as this loop-hole for the evasion of the principle is retained in the Bill. In connexion with the appointment of the Board, there is a first-class opportunity to establish this principle, but I have noticed that usually in appointments of this nature, preference is given to returned soldiers for positions that involve a good deal of hard work and little pay, and for positions with large pay and little work it is quite another matter. Everything will depend upon the interpretation to be placed on the words “ other things being equal “ in the sub-clause to which I have referred.
– Some very fair positions, from Judges down to messenger boys, have been given to returned soldiers recently in Rabaul.
– I have no doubt that returned soldiers will be sent to Rabaul, and that they appreciate this preference ; but it is merely a pretence to say that the principle is established while the words “ other things being equal “ remain in the clause.
– That is more than your party did in the Sydney City Council.
– I invite the honorable senator to go through the parks and other public thoroughfares of Sydney to see what splendid work has been done there by the City Council. They have done far more during the time they have been there than was done in the previous forty years by the old “ fogies “ who are represented by the honorable senator.
– And there is a nice overdraft now.
– I do not want to be drawn off the track by these interjections; but I may say that as regards this principle of preference, returned soldiers have no better friends than the Labour members in the Sydney City Council.
Let me come back to the considera tion of the constitution of the Board of Commissioners. This will be a highlypaid body, and, therefore, men of great capacity and integrity will he required to fill the positions. I am not an opponent of good pay. I believe that if a man is called upon to shoulder a large amount of responsibility, and to display’ marked ability in the discharge of his. duties, he should receive a remuneration commensurate with his services; and here, I repeat, is a splendid chance to establish the ‘ principle of preference to returned soldiers.
– There is nothing to preclude returned soldiers from receiving those appointments.
– Nothing except the social or political pull exerted by candidates, or favoritism on the part of those responsible for the appointments.
– That is not in the Bill.
– No ; and it cannot very well be put into it. What I am complaining about is the apparent discrimination in the matter of preference between what may be regarded as the highly-paid posts and the ordinary positions in the Public Service.
– If you move to exclude the words “other things being equal,” I will support you.
– I venture to say. that if I did the Government whip would crack, and the honorable senator knows that he would have to get behind the Government. We all know what happened in another place recently.
I turn now to clause 78. Sub-clause 1 provides -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, a returned soldier whose name is enrolled in the prescribed register for temporary employment shall, if competent for the work required, be considered for temporary employment in priority to any person who is not a returned soldier.
– That covers everybody.
– Does it cover appointments to the Board?
SenatorRussell. - I should say so.
– -Because, if it does, we should strike out the words I have complained of in clause 9. Subclauses 2 and 3 stats -
Clause 79reads -
Commonwealth Service from among persons who have successfully passed the prescribed examination, the Board shall give preference to returned soldiers.
– That is definite enough.
– Yes, for ordinary appointments, but for special cases, such as appointments to the Board of Commissioners, there is room for serious doubt.
– Which I think you are manufacturing.
– If a doubt exists in my mind as to the interpretation of a clause, it is my duty to state the position, to see if other honorable senators agree with me. If the position is as the Minister states, there can be no objection to striking out the words “ other things being equal “ in sub-clause 2 of clause 9, so that in the making of appointments to the Public Service, preference shall be given definitely to returned soldiers and sailors. I venture to say that out of the 450,000 men who went from this country to the war there are many capable of filling every position in the Public Service of the Commonwealth.
– We are not doubting that.
– I know, but we are being asked to pass a Bill which, so far as ordinary positions are concerned, establishes the principle of preference to returned soldiers, while for the highly-paid positions this principle may be ignored. The clause is worded in such a manner that, to me, this principle of preference appears to be merely a pretence. The time has gone by for showing preference to any section of the community.
– Including preference to unionists?
– Preference to unionists stands by itself.
– Unionists are a part of the community.
– They are the whole; at least they comprise the section which does the real work. The question of preference is in this position: The Government have provided one set of conditions for one section, and other conditions for another.
– The soldier by his energy and self-sacrifice has been the means of conserving everything that the unionists have won.
– I agree with that. But it must be remembered that preference to unionists does not shut out any one, because every man can participate in it if he joins a union.
– That is compulsory unionism.
– Not at all. I am showing the difference between preference to unionists, and the so-called preference that is offered to returned soldiers. Preference to unionists leaves the positions open to every man in the community, but preference to returned soldiers deprives men with an excellent ‘ record of being employed, and shuts out quite a number whose qualifications are in every way satisfactory. It is now nearly three years since the war terminated, and we have to consider the prospects of the young man who was, say, eighteen years of age, and could not go to the war. A public position becomes vacant, and he is nearing the age of twenty-one when he applies in competition with the returned soldier for a position. Although the returned soldier may be less efficient, less capable, and, shall I say, less worthy, he has no possible hope of success. I do not intend those remarks to be regarded as a reflection on the soldiers; but I say openly and publicly that in such an enormous number as went abroad, it was only natural that there were many who were not angels.
– The honorable senator is assuming that they will apply, and they may not.
– I know enough to say that very frequently it is the man with the toughest hide and the poorest qualifications who pushes his case the, furthest.
– I think that applies from the cradle to the grave.
– I believe it does. The point I desire to make is that, under the policy of. preference to unionists, no man is debarred from employment altogether. We have to take the case of a young man who was under military age at the termination of the war, and ask why he should be debarred from obtaining a public position because he has not seen active service. Why should he be opposed by a man who has rendered glorious service at Horseferry Bead for a period sufficiently long to enable Mm to return to Australia, and wear a soldier’s medal? Why should he be debarred, as this Bill debars him? The worst shirkers, in my opinion, were those who were employed in the administrative offices at different centres, and who never risked their life, or anything else, but who returned to Australia flourishing a medal.
SenatorRowell. - It has not always been their fault.
– I am referring to what I term the real shirkers.
– They had to go where they were directed.
– I am blaming the men who went abroad, and who had no intention of fighting, if they could avoid it.
– And there were plenty of them.
– There were many men who took great care that they did not do any actual fighting, and who, because of their service, perhaps in a comfortable office in London, Egypt, or in France, are wearing a soldier’s medal. We are dealing with the whole community.
– I think the honorable senator’s scales are weighted ; that is not a true measure.
– If preference is to be given to soldiers, justice must be done to those who were unable to go. There are many whose health prevented them from enlisting, although they were willing to fight, and their cases should be considered with those who actually saw active service. There were many apparently healthy young men who offered, but found, on visiting the medical officer, that their physical fitness debarred them from enlisting. I ask honorable senators if they consider it absolutely fair ‘ that men placed in such a position, and who were not permitted to enlist, irrespective of their capacity, should be treated in this way? I know that some honorable senators will say that I am using a double-edged argument, and that if we are going to have preference to soldiers, there must be preference for the higher offices as well as those of the lower grade.
– We all agree with that.
– It ought to be uniform .
– I believe that in a growing community such as ours the ex-soldier will find himself at a great disadvantage - and very soon - by this pretended preference; because, after all, that is what it is, and the sooner we realize that the soldier having done his share is anxious to be treated as other members of the community, the better it will be. Honorable senators can say what they like, but when a man has returned to Australia after fighting for his country, he has received a reward which cannot be taken away from him. He has the knowledge that when the occasion arose he was prepared to face danger, and even death.
SenatorFoster. - That knowledge will do little to keep his wife and family. We must also do something practical for the returned man. .
– The best thing for the Government to dowould be to submit a practical proposition, as Senator Foster suggests, so that the child of an ex-soldier shall never want, because his father is out of employment. There are many returned soldiers seeking employment, and they do not wish to be regarded as paupers. Unemployment falls as much upon the ex -soldier as it does upon any one else, no matter how popular he may have been when the war was in progress. When hands are being dispensed with we do not find employers saying,. “ You fought for your country, and your services will be retained.” In the railways, the tramways, the mines, the warehouses and workshops nothing of that kind occurs. If we are in earnest in giving preference or making provision for the soldiers, let us do it in a fair, honest, and straightforward way, so that real preference shall be given, and no man who fought for his country will ever have to seek employment or be compelled to make his children suffer. It should be the duty of the Commonwealth to find positions for these men. It is a very simple proposition, because the Australian Commonwealth provides ample scope for the useful employment of all the men in our community. I know some honorable senators would say that it would be a disastrous proposition for the Government to undertake the responsibility of finding work for all the soldiers who have returned. But it would not be nearly as costly as finding the interest on the money borrowed to pay those soldiers and keep them in food and clothing while they were fighting.
I understand that the Government do not intend to press the second reading of this measure to a division to-day, so that honorable senators will have ample opportunity for discussing its. provisions. Here is a simple little phrasing which may be likened to the straw which shows the way the stream is flowing. Clause 34 reads - (1.) Any male person who has successfully passed any prescribed examination for admission to the Commonwealth Service, and who on the thirteenth day of September, One thousand nine hundred and fifteen, was eligible for appointment to the Commonwealth Service, shall continue to be so eligible until nine months after the declaration of Peace.
– That time has passed.
– The final declaration of peace will be proclaimed by the Governor-General. The point is that a regulation was passed providing that no examination should be held during the war, so that soldiers returning from abroad should have equal opportunities for permanent service with those who stayed at home.
– Apparently, this is an old Bill, which has been dragged up for us to consider, and the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) has not taken the trouble to read it.
– I do not see anything the matter with that provision.
– Very well. We are still legally at war.
– The sub-clause fixes a date.
– That is so.
– I am glad to see that we are going to make Acts of Parliament so clear. I am going to take the risk of saying that there are not two honorable senators present who can say the date of the declaration of peace.
– Peace has not yet been proclaimed.
– In our Acts of Parliament we should refer to specific dates and years, and not to a period “ after the declaration of peace.” It is ridiculous to say, “ Until nine months after the declaration of peace.” There should not be a provision to prevent eligible appli- cants from applying for positions in the Public Service, merely because they were debarred from going to the war. There are men who have been filling temporary positions for years - during the whole period of the war - and who have been prevented from being permanently employed.
– And, in some cases, doing work that was of a higher grade than that for which they were being paid.
– Absolutely. The Government will say that they are not debarred, because the time has not expired for them to be appointed.
– If the honorable senator will give me a case I shall have it fully investigated.
– Very well. I know of a young man who had been in the Public Servicefor some years, and who was secretary to Senator E. D. Millen when Leader of the Opposition. When a change of Government occurred, and I became Leader of the Opposition, the present Minister for Repatriation strongly recommended this young man to me, who then became my private secretary. He had been temporarily employed in the Public Service for six years, and, but for the war, would have been permanently appointed. The Government have, in an underhand, way, put him out of the Service, but they pay the Leader of the Opposition an amount sufficient to cover his salary. Any one can be engaged for the position, and the salary does not enter very largely into consideration. My secretary is a young married man with a family, and should now be a permanent officer. The Minister has asked for a case and I Have given him one.
– Was there anything to prevent you employing him if you thought well of him?
– No; it is not a question of his employment, but one of his failure to be permanently appointed, notwithstanding his character and capacity.
– I think the Leader of the Opposition should be allowed to select his own private secretary.
– The Leader of the Opposition is allowed to do that; but I am speaking of a man who was temporarily employed in the Public Service for a number of years and who cannot be made a permanent member of the Service. His present salary may be more than he would receive as a permanent Public officer, but he has lost the right to a permanent engagement because of the war. The Public Service Commissioner will not appoint him because he did not serve at the Front, but no inquiries were made as to why. He had served in the Public Service sufficiently long to secure a permanent appointment. It is well known that a temporary employee can only be engaged for a certain time, when his service has to be broken. Men could not be made permanent officers during the war, because of the decision to make no new appointments to which I have referred.
– The honorable senator thinks that the services of the gentleman to whom he refers should count as service in the Public Service ?
– I do. Immediately fresh appointments were made after the war, this gentleman should have been permanently appointed to the Public Service.
– If a man works in Rabaul, Papua, or any of our Territories, his work there will count as service in the Commonwealth Public Service. If, for instance, the gentleman to whom the honorable senator refers had worked for five years in Papua, that would count as five years’ service in the Commonwealth Public Service.
– Is the honorable senator still employing the gentleman he refers to?
– I certainly am, and every month the Government send me a cheque to pay whomever I may be employing as private secretary. That is a roundabout way of doing the business, and I contend that to all intents and purposes the gentleman to whom I refer is an officer of this Parliament. He had been employed in the Prime Minister’s Department. He was transferred to the service of Senator Millen, and from Senator Milieu to me, and then the war being over the regulation which prevented him being made a public servant prevented his continuance in the Service. I say that it is a most unfair thing to take four years out of this young man’s life when he might have been improving his position in the Public Service of thecountry, and then to put him out of the Service altogether.
– The honorable senator was a party to the unfairness, because he was’ in the Senate when the Act was passed.
– We are all parties to everything that occurs in the Senate; but judging by the number of times I am reminded of my responsibility, I should be the most influential man in the Senate, if not in Australia. Every time I take exception to anything that is going on I am met with the excuse that I am myself responsible.
– The honorable senator was a member of the Government while the war was on.
– While the war was on it was quite fair to suspend appointments until the men came back ; but after they came back it is not fair to say that a man who, but for that regulation, would in the ordinary course have received a permanent appointment, should be prevented from getting one now.
– If the gentleman referred to passed the necessary examination for admission to the Clerical Division of the Service, he would be appointed under this Bill.
– He passed his examination in the State of South Australia.
– Then he is good enough for anywhere else.
– He is, . absolutely. He came here from South Australia; but he was not transferred from the South Australian Public Service. The point I make is that a man under the Public Service Act cannot be continued in temporary employment beyond a certain period. He should then be given a permanent position. I am sorry to have referred to a somewhat personal matter: but I have done so in reply to a challenge to state a case in support of my contention. I say that the Public Service authorities in this case took a miserable, narrow view of the position, and had it been any one but myself for whom the gentleman to whom I have referred was working, I believe he would have received a permanent appointment in the ordinary way.
We have a great Public Service, consisting of a huge number of men. and a considerable number of women. It will be an ever-growing Service, and it is important that in passing this measure we should make provision, so far as human foresight can do so, for the remedying of all the grievances of the Public Service. If half-a-dozen young men. enter one branch of the Public Service, and by their attention, ability, and qualifications, reach the highest office in that particular branch, in the ordinary course of events it will be a very great number of years before there will be any chance of their promotion. I believe that one of the disabilities of the Service is that after men reach certain positions in one branch of it, no facilities are afforded them to get into another branch in which there might be openings for their advancement. Any Service that keeps able, competent men from progressing is not doing justice to those whom it employs. We should be on the lookout for our progressive men to see* that they are given fitting employment, and they should not be continued in watertight compartments because half-a-dozen of them may have reached the same grade. The wholeof the Commonwealth Public Service should be open to every man in it.
– That is the object of the Bill.
– What the honorable senator means is that it should be possible for an officer of the PostmasterGeneral ‘s Department to be transferred to the Department of Trade and Customs.
– That is what I mean. As a member of Parliament I have to listen to the grievances of a good many people. I take the case of an officer who has reached a particular grade, and sees no possible chance of further advancement in his particular branch. There may be another branch of the Service, in which he would have a chance of advancement; but when he makes an application for a transfer to that branch, the head of the officemay say “There is no officer of your grade here, but I have men here already who understand the business of the office, and I do not think it would be of any advantage to have you transferred to my branch, because you would take a certain time to become as efficient as men of even lower grade who are already in the branch.” I confess that there is much force in such an argument, but I go further and say that such an officer as I have referred to would, in a very little time, become an efficient officer of the branch to which he might be transferred. I believe that provision should be made in the Act to make such transfers easy.
– That is provided for in this Bill. Men employed in Papua and New Guinea will have the right to be transferred, for instance, to the Treasury Department in Melbourne.
– There is another provision in the Bill under which officers may be reduced in grade because there is no position open, carrying the amount of salary they have been previously receiving. In such cases, if their services are retained they are appointed to a lower office at a lower rate of pay.
– Not for twelve months.
– I am obliged to the Minister for his interjection, because it confirms what I desire to say. I can believe that there may be a whole harvest of complaints arising from a provision of this kind. For the purpose of illustration I take the military service, and the case of an officer who has been acting as a colonel and carrying out bis duties in an efficient way.
– Military officers are not under the Public Service Act.
– I am aware of that. I wish they were under the Public Service Act, because a Board of Appeal is provided for under that Act, and if we have a Board of Appeal for the benefit of members of the Public Service, we should have such a Board also for those employed in the military service. To illustrate the matter to which I wish to refer, I take the case of an officer who has been acting as a colonel. He has been efficient, and has done his work well. There is a reconstruction of the military service under which there is no position for this particular officer commensurate with his rank and pay as a colonel. After twelve months his pay is reduced to that of a captain. I say that the Commonwealth is sufficiently wealthy to pay every officer a salary commensurate with his industry and qualifications.
– The object of the Bill is to get the best men to fill the positions that are open.
– I remind the Minister that the Bill contains several clauses setting out how these reductions of pay may be made. In one part of the Bill provision is made that when an officer who has been reduced because no position of a higher grade is left open to him has to pass out of the Service he is compensated on the basis of the rate of pay of the higher office which he held.
– The provisions to which the honorable senator refers would not be so objectionable were it not for the water-tight compartments . in the Service.
– That is so. If, when an officer who has been reduced passes out of the Service the Government admit the justice of giving him compensation on the basis of the salary of the higher position which he filled, surely they must admit the justice of continuing to such a man retained in the Service the salary of the higher position he occupied, instead of degrading him, and I say it advisedly, in the eyes of his fellow public servants by compelling him <to work for a lower rate of pay than he may have been receiving for years in another position. I hope that honorable senators will nob lose sight of the need for some remedy for this grievance. I trust that when we come to the Committee stage’ they will regard this as a Public Service Bill, and not merely as a measure submitted by the Government, and will endeavour to improve it. I hope, also, that before the measure again comes up for our consideration the members of the Public Service will give it serious attention, as they must know more of the conditions of their service than honorable senators can possibly know.
Debate (on motion by Senator SENIOR’ adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I am loth to delay honorable senators who have to catch trains for the other States. Fortunately, the debate on the Public Service Bill has ended for the time being, and this gives me an opportunity to say a few words on a matter in regard to which I addressed a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. The matter is of such importance, in particular to the State which I have the honour to assist in representing, and to the Commonwealth in general, that I make no apology for offering a few observations upon it.
For many years past the people of Tasmania have been anticipating some improvement in the steamship service between the mainland and their State. Unhappily, a project which would have given them an improved service, and which took the form of a contract between certain shipping companies and the Postmaster-General, was interrupted by the war. “ The new steamer,” as it was called in the text of the contract, was named the Nai,’ana. It was built in the Old Country, and fitted out for the purpose of what might be cai ed the Inter-State Ferry Service. The exigencies of the war caused the Imperial Government to commandeer the vessel, and use her for carrying aeroplanes in the North Sea, or as an auxiliary to a mother ship associated with aeroplane operations. Since the close of the war the vessel has been re-furnished for passenger traffic, has been brought out to Australia, and, as recently as the 16th of this month, took up the running between the mainland and Tasmania. I am net disposed at any time to take advantage of the immunity which attaches to a member of the Senate to make observations of a caustic character which cannot be replied to in this Chamber by the person who may be the subject of them. But it would have been imagined, and certainly was anticipated by the people of Tasmania, that the improved service to which they might reasonably look forward in the terms of the agreement entered into between the shipping companies and the Postmaster-General, would have been inaugurated with some decent regard for the opinion of mankind, which the great men who formulated the Declaration of American Independence said was always necessary, and should be observed by civilized organizations. That consideration should have caused shipping companies to refrain from an immediate overt act which, I think, can be legally established as a breach of the terms of the contract entered into by them with the Postmaster-General. I am credibly informed that such an overt act in breach of this agreement has already taken place, although the new vessel only took up the running as recently as the 16th inst. Some of my colleagues may desire to say something in reference to this matter, and, therefore, I shall not trespass unduly upon what they may legitimately consider their opportunity to offer some observations in respect of it. The Postmaster-General’s reply to my question, .as conveyed to me through the responsible Minister in this chamber, is very general; but it certainly sets forth that the steamship companies have approached the Government for a variationof the agreement under which the Tasmanian people expected to secure an improved mail service. It may be that the condition of things now does not offer such good prospects of remuneration and profit to the companies as were present when the agreement was entered into. But it comes with singularly bad grace from these companies to breach the agreement within a few days of the period when it annie into operation. I apologize to them if they have not committed this overt breach of the Covenant, but they certainly contemplate doing something which, beyond doubt, will be a variation of the terms of the agreement. I am informed that during the next few days we shall see not three trips per week run to Tasmania, which the people of that State expected under the provisions of the contract, but only . two trips per week. I believe that there are pains and penalties .attached to any breach of the agreement, but public utilities which are still in the hands of private corporations, should, in my judgment, be worked with a decent respect for the opinions of the people who are immediately concerned. The State of Tasmania because of its insular character, has suffered acutely during certain economic, labour, and other convulsions which have occurred during the tourist season of the last few years. Its people, therefore, are not disposed to regard with equanimity any breach of the terms of the contract which was entered into with a view to providing them with an improved steam-ship service. This question concerns not merely the people of Tasmania, but the convenience, and, indeed, the profit, of quite a number of persons on the mainland. If it be definitely shown that Tasmania is not to get the improved service which the Government endeavoured to secure for her under the agreement, there will undoubtedly be a roar of disappointment and indignation from the whole of the people of that State. As one of its representatives, I feel that they will be justified in declining to submit tamely- to any’ improper variation of the contract which has been entered into. Therefore, without any mealy-mouthed apology, I demand that the Commonwealth authorities shall see that the agreement is complied with, and that the improved mail service which Tasmania expected shall be furnished to her people, or very good reason shown why it is not. The steam-ship companies and the Government may rest assured that there is the closest collaboration between the representatives of that State upon this matter, and that we regard it as so important that no variation of the agreement - particularly a variation undertaken in an arrogant spirit by the companies themselves - will be tolerated by the people of Tasmania or by their representatives in this Parliament.
.- I am very grateful to Senator Bakhap for having afforded me an opportunity to say a few words upon this matter that is so important to the State which I have the honour to represent. Tasmania, because of her insular position, has suffered materially in many ways, especially during the past twelve or fifteen years.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the Senate. I would certainly like to hear other Tasmanian senators speaking upon this question. [Quorum formed.]
– Neither Senator Bakhap nor I ask for any favour in its consideration. It is a question which not only affects the people of Tasmania, but which must also seriously affect commercial people on the mainland, because, to a very great extent, . our trade is done with them. It came as. a shock to many of us to learn only yesterday that the steamship companies which have contracted to carry the mail between the mainland and Tasmania have, as far as one can judge by the press report, already broken their contract. Senator Bakhap has stated that a report is current that the service of three trips each way weekly, which is provided for under the contract, is to be’ reduced to two trips each way weekly. I have here a copy of the Argus newspaper, in which I find in the sailings which are advertised for next week verification of that report. The contract provides that a steamer shall leave Melbourne for Launceston with the mails every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but the advertisement sets out; that the Nairana next week will sail from Melbourne only on Wednesday and Saturday.
– I understand that the new boat is of a much better standard than the old boat.
– That does not affect the position. Provision is made in the contract for the running of the new boat.
– All shipping to-day is conditional upon the ability to get the requisite vessels. We cannot get more than a fortnightly mail service from England.
– But the contract with these steamship companies provides for the maintenance of a mail service between Tasmania and the mainland by the running of three trips each way weekly.
– The point is that there are now two vessels engaged in the service. Are they capable of doing three round trips each?
– There must be three sailings from Melbourne each week, and. three from Launceston.
– I understand that the Loongana has been so hard pressed in maintaining the service that she is badly in need of an overhaul, and is now being docked.
– The contract provides that there shall be three sailings weekly of these two vessels, or by one of them, showing plainly that the boats are considered capable of carrying on the service singly should either of them be required to do so. I enter my protest against the possibility of Tasmania being placed in the unfortunate position of having a mail service in the future, which will be inferior to that which it had in the past, despite the fact that that State has made very great progress commercially, and that her population has considerably increased during the past few years. Since the inauguration of certain undertakings in Tasmania, a great deal of capital has been attracted to that State. By reason of the natural facilities which have been given to Tasmania by an all-wise Providence, works are now in progress there which are at once the admiration and the envy of the rest of the Commonwealth. These undertakings having been commenced, the people of that State realize that it is of vital importance that their mail service shall not be interfered with in the way that the newspapers reported yesterday they are to be interfered with. I trust that the authorities will look very carefully into the question, and that as a result Tasmania will not be made to suffer.
SenatorRUSSELL (Victoria- VicePresident of the Executive Council) [3.28]. - After a long period of war the Government regret that owing to the limited tonnage that is available, our mail services are not as adequate or as expeditious as we desire.
– It is said that ships are being given away with a pound of tea in England.
– The honorable senator may ‘think so. There are lots of vessels for sale in England, but they would probably cost more for repairs than would be involved in the construction of entirely new ships. Many of them are practically only hulls, with neither boilers nor fittings. If they were brought to Australia in the hope that they might be repaired we should find that it would pay us better to build entirely new vessels than to touch them with a. forty -foot pole. It is the desire of the Government to provide greater mail facilities than we at present possess, and we are moving in that direction as rapidly as possible. The Postmaster-General, I can assure honorable senators, will do his best to see that every condition in the Tasmanian mail contract is complied with. But we cannot always insure that. In the contract for the carriage of our over-sea mails we cannot get anything better than a fortnightly service for some six or eight months to come, because suitable vessels are not available. Moreover, the shipping companies say that no vessels of a suitable character can be purchased, and that, consequently, new ships will require to be built.
– But we have the boats here which were contemplated under the Tasmanian mail contract.
– I am quite aware of that. The Postmaster-General will do all that he can to insure a strict adherence to the terms of that contract, in the interests, not only of Tasmania, but of the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 April 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19210422_senate_8_95/>.