8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to acquaint the Senate that I have this day received a letter from Senator S. E. Pratten, tendering his resignation as one of the senators representing New South Wales. In writing, the honorable senator asked me to convey to all members of the Senate and officers of this Chamber his acknowledgment of the kindness and courtesy he invariably received from them. As required by the Constitution, I shall immediately communicate the resignation to His Excellency theGovernor of New South Wales.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act. -Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 212.
Lands Acquisition Act. - Land acquired for Defence purposes at Corio, Victoria.
War Service Homes Act. - Land acquired in Hew South Wales at -Auburn; Kogarah; Lewisham; Merewether.
treatment of Mental Cases.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation, as it is the obligation of the Commonwealth to care for mental cases due to the war, if the necessary provision is being made in the different States to give returned- soldiers who are mental cases every facility to regain their normal condition of health ?
– The Repatriation Department accepts the obligation of caring for and doing what is possible to secure the restoration to normal health of the class of patients referred to by the honorable senator. If he has any particular State or institution in mind, and will intimate what it is, I shall place myself in a position to give him full information as to the actual position to-day, and what may be contemplated in the future.
– Following on the Minister’s reply, I ask him to have very stringent inquiries made with regard to the treatment of mental cases in South Australia.
– I shall do so, and will inform the honorable senator as to the result of the inquiry.
Fires Due to Engines
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Works and. Railways if the necessary provision will be made on the East-West railway to protect pastoralists and others against fires due to sparks from the engines of trains running through that country? May I add that I have just received a communication, in which it appears that train staffs have received instructions that they are not to go away from the railway line, and once they have put out fires likely to result in the burning of sleepers, their duty is completed, and they board the train again and proceed on their way? I desire the Minister to see that every necessary provision shall be made to prevent fires along the line.
– Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to make statements in asking a question.
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of his question. When I have obtained the necessary information, I shall reply to it.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Effect on Tasmanian Shipping.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– This matter has been, and is still, under consideration by Cabinet, and it is hoped that a decision will be announced at an early date.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to introduce this session a Bill to provide for superannuation for civil servants?
– A Superannuation Bill has been prepared, and will be submitted during the present session if circumstances permit.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator E. D. Millen) read a first time.
Debate resumed from 23rd November (vide page 13079), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– Yesterday, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) in moving the second reading of this measure, assured us that it was one that could better be dealt with in Committee, and the information given to the Senate was not much more than is contained in the measure itself. I frankly admit that since I have been a member of the Senate I have found it extremely difficult to intelligently grasp details contained in Bills of this description.
– I did not say that I had not any information to give the Senate, but that it could better be dealt with in Committee.
– I do not wish to be unfair; but the Minister must admit that he did not give much detailed information. On this occasion we have to sanction the expenditure of £2,518,411; and, although there may be some public men who could record an intelligent vote on such a. measure without being in possession of all the details of the proposed expenditure, I must confess that I cannot do so. As representatives of the people we shouldbe placed in possession of full particulars when we are asked to authorize the expenditure of large sums of money. In older countries, I understand, it is the practice to appoint Parliamentary Committees, the members of which exhaustively investigate the details of money Bills, and such Committees have the right to call for documents and to make recommendations, which are submitted to Parliament for the guidance of members. Unless something of that description is done, it is impossible for honorable senators to make themselves fully conversant with the actual position. I understand that the vote) in connexion with the Defence Department has been reduced by some hundreds of thousands of pounds, and, on the information submitted to the Senate, am I to be held responsible for assisting in doing something which may be detrimental to the interests of the Australian people? I freely admit that I receive £1,000 a year, but that is really paid more for time given rather than for services rendered, and if the present system were altered I could be of greater service to those whom I represent. I am paid for the time I give to my parliamentary duties; but I do not know whether the country is getting an adequate return for the expenditure involved, because of the lack of facilities afforded. If measures of this description were submitted to a Committee for the closest investigation, the people would place more reliance in our work, and it would also have the effect of creating higher efficiency and greater economy. A good deal has been said concerning the worth of the services rendered by public men, and I believe a majority of honorable senators would be prepared to render greater service, and would be able to do so if given some assistance in delving, into the details of Bills of this description. We are endeavouring to perform the duties for which we are elected, and I trust the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator E. D. Millen) will give some consideration to thesuggestion I have submitted. I am asked to swallow this Bill like a sugar-coated pill.
– The honorable senator has the right to ask for information.
– After many years of commercial experience I believe that it is simply ridiculous to submit two or three questions on a measure of such importance. Even if we were to ask a hundred questions I do not think the same information would be obtained as could be gathered by a Parliamentary Committee of investigation. It would be better if each State were represented by only one honorable senator who would have the opportunity of becoming closely associated with proposed expenditure.
– The difficulty is that honorable senators representing one State wish to reduce expenditure in another State.
– Expenditure in the State I represent could not be reduced, because it is not intended to incur any.
– Well, there can be no cutting down if there is nothing to cut. Asking questions upon matters of this kind is not satisfactory, and does not suffice. Departmental heads could supply a Committee of Parliamentarians with details of expenditure to be undertaken; but such particulars cannot be obtained in the Senate by the ordinary methods to-day. The suggestion which I have offered has been put into practice in other countries. I do not wish it to be thought that I am advocating the creation of any more costly Departments. My point is that honorable senators should undertake a task of this character as a public duty-as a service which they should be willing and ready to render in return for the payments they receive. Today, however, they have not the opportunity to render such direct and satisfactory service. Responsibility is placed upon the shoulders of Ministers ; and to them, therefore, my suggestion should be particularly attractive.
– Final responsibility would rest with members of Parliament, so for as concerns the passage of the Bill.
– I do not feel inclined to accept responsibility if I cannot secure essential details.
– If the honorable senator were to make inquiries direct to heads of Departments, he would be furnished, very readily and courteously, with every desired item of information.
– But the departmental heads would be worried to death if we alt approached them, individually, after that fashion.
– Of course! Would not my suggestion tend to create greater efficiency, and, at the same time, relieve Ministerial heads? Members of the Ministry have altogether too many responsibilities. Their burdens should not be added to by Parliament holding them responsible for the detailed working of their Departments. In order to earn their pay, members of Parliament should beready to do more work. There has been some talk of cutting down salaries. I hold that, in the case of many men, they themselves are the best judges of what they are worth, and that there is no one better fitted to make an estimate of their value. Personally, 1 have given up most of my private interests in order faithfully to attend to public duties.
– And if the honorable senator represented a still more remote State, he would find it necessary to give up every private interest. Victorians in this Parliament, however, need make no such sacrifices.
– Hear, hear! That is true.
– Senator Guthrie frankly admits; that, living, so to speak, on, the spot, heis able to carry on his own affairs while still giving full attention to public business. In that regard Victorian parliamentarians are to be envied. I trust that’ honorable senators generally will be given greater opportunities to demonstrate their readiness - their eagerness, in fact - to render public service. For that reason my proposal should carry weight.
Coining down to the details of the Bill, I strongly object to the perpetuation of the day-labour system in Government enterprises. I look to the Government always to seek to secure the best results possible for the people; and, in carrying out public works with that end in view, tenders should be called for in every instance. The Government should be particularly watchful to-day, when many of the workers’ organizations are out to secure shorter working hours. The Government should be emphatic in insisting upon the contract system.
– Does the honorable senator talk like that about working conditions after all the nice things he has said concerning Cockatoo Island Dockyard?
– I thank the honorable senator for his reminder. At Cockatoo Island I discovered that the employees were favoured with the very best working conditions that men could expect. Yet that centre of industry has been costing the Commonwealth a tremendous sum of money. Judged pound for pound, the whole “show” should have been shut- down long ago. But the Government have been anxious to develop the shipbuilding industry in Australia, and they have permitted activities at Cockatoo Island to continue. Now, however, New South Wales unionists are going for a forty-four-hours week. Realizing the financial position of the shipbuilding industry, the Commonwealth should have been strong enough, from the very first moment of the shorter working week being advocated in New South Wales, to call a halt at Cockatoo Island. When a man has to work under the wretched conditions existing at the bottom of a mine, one can sympathize with his desire for a shorter working week.
– Who promulgated the forty-four hours award in New South Wales ?
– One of the State authorities - the Board of Trade, I understand.
– That award interferes with a Commonwealth instrumentality.
– That is so.
– It was an award of Judge Beeby.
– What would be the state of affairs in primary industry if the man on the land worked no more than forty-four hours a week? If the shipbuilding industry is to be carried on, there must be co-operation and loyalty on the part of the employees, who should realize that the work is being carried on at a loss to the taxpayers. The Government should insist on a forty-eight-hours week, and if the unions refuse to accept that, the yard should be closed.
– Would you not advise the Judge, who awarded a fortyfourhours week, to start shipbuilding?
– It is time men like that left the country. That Judge should be deprived of his job.
– They are putting him out of his job now.
– The sooner the better; but I am speaking of the loss to the Commonwealth generally.
– He belongs to a band of adventurers who live by precept rather than example.
– At Cockatoo Island the men are favored by good climatic and other condition’s, and the Commonwealth is entitled to a reasonable return for the money expended.
– The unions in New South Wales will not work for more than forty-four hours. The Federal Government cannot help themselves.
– They can help themselves, and they can assist the industries of Australia by telling these men that they can either accept the work with a forty-four-hours week or see the yard closed.
– Do you expect this Government to make a stand?
– Yes; I do. We recently spent a considerable sum en an investigation of the work at Cockatoo Island. The manager, the accountant, and every other official who was examined by the Royal Commission, stated that the industry could not becarried on satisfactorily if a forty-four-hours week had to be observed.
– The Commission did not recommend that the yard be closed.
– No ; nor did it recommend that this economic waste should be permitted to continue.
– Did you recommend that the Arbitration award should be ignored ?
– No. Our fourteen points gave absolute power to the Board to conduct the work, but the State authorities stepped in and awarded a forty-four-hours week against the wishes of the Board. No reasonable man could complain of a forty-eight-hours week under the conditions obtaining at Cockatoo Island.
– What are the hours under the new management?
– Forty-four. That was the first difficulty the Board had to face.
– It meant a loss of £70,000 a year in New South Wales.
– I did not quote those figures, because the number of em- . ployees to-day is only 1,200 or 1,500. Previously, there were in the vicinity of 3,000 men engaged. The average person does not realize how great an economic waste is involved by a reduction of the working week from forty-eight to forty-four hours.
– Is the New South Wales basic wage applied to the industry, too?’
– I think so. The cost of living has decreased by almost 20 per cent. I do not intend to fight for a reduction in wages, but I am going to endeavour to obtain greater efficiency in the Public Service. It is not a question of the amount of money on the Estimates; we should inquire what the public is to receive for the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money.
Honorable senators who press for extra expenditure at Canberra will receive no support from me at present. That work can well afford to wait. I am prepared to support expenditure on work of a developmental nature, and I hope the Government will put forth every effort to raise money for such purposes. Wherever the Government can secure cheap money, with the object of spending it wisely in developmental -works, so as to justify the immigration we are desirous of seeing, they can count on my support.
– Like my colleague from South Australia (Senator Wilson), I regret that more opportunities are not given honorable senators to discuss the various matters referred to in this Bill. Whilst it may not be parliamentary to criticise the doings of another place, one may be pardoned for expressing regret at a certain curtailment in expenditure that has been insisted upon there. I, at any rate, entirely fail to see any justification for these reductions. I know that they will result in much disorganization in some of the big Departments of the Commonwealth, and unquestionably will throw very many men on to the labour market. Though I do not believe in retaining men in employment unless they can be profitably occupied, I deplore any wholesale and sweeping reduction in expenditure such as has been made elsewhere in connexion with this Bill.
I want now to say a word or two about a great Possession of the Commonwealth. I regret very much that only a small amount is set down in this Bill for very necessary works in the Northern Territory. No new work is provided for, and only a small sum of money is to be made available for the continuation of certain undertakings.
– Perhaps we are going to wait until they sober down up there.
– My honorable friend Senator Lynch is like a good many other people who know very little about the Northern Territory. I am surprised that a man of his experience should have made such a remark. I heard him say yesterday that he had voted for the transfer of the Northern Territory, knowing that the Commonwealth was making a bad bargain.
– I very much deplore that statement, and I tell honorable senators that in the transfer of the Northern Territory from South Australia the Commonwealth secured the greatest bargain that has ever been offered to any nation on the face of the earth. That is my opinion of the Northern Territory.
– Debts and all ?
– Debts and all, the Northern Territory was handed over to the Commonwealth at a cost of about 2£d. an acre.
– Would South Australia take it back?
– I do not know that South Australia could do that. But I want honorable senators, if they can, to dissociate altogether any idea of South Australia’s connexion with the Territory, because, with every other State, South Australia is paying her fair share of the burden without complaint. Under South Australian control the Territory was on a fair way to prosperity, but since the Commonwealth Government took it over it has been absolutely neglected. Honorable senators, in not familiarizing themselves with the actual conditions in the Territory, are not discharging their duty to the people of Australia. If a few more members of this Chamber visited the’ Territory occasionally, they would know a great deal more about it, and probably would talk a great deal less in the strain they now adopt. It is no “white elephant” at all. I have been through the Territory from north to south, and I have also travelled through a considerable portion of it from east to west, and with a personal knowledge of the country I say there is no better land in Australia. This are/i. of good country is not confined to a few acres. There are tens of millions of acres capable of closer settlement under conditions “of intense culture.
– But who owns the- Territory now ?
– We all admit, of course, that mistakes in regard to the land policy have been made, but I am not dealing with that aspect now. I repeat that the country in the north of Australia, right through from Western Australia to Queensland, is as good, if not better, than land in the southern areas. I could take honorable senators away up through . the great Fitzroy River district, and show them areas of land which, within five years, if the country were in the occupation . of a foreign nation, would be carrying millions of people. From the boundary of Western Australia to the eastern boundary of the Northern Territory, there are at least half-a-dozen of the finest rivers in Australia. During the wet season, which! lasts for five monthsof the year, these rivers are running 50 to 60 feet deep.
– The country is all right.
– It is, and if honorable senators realized this, there would be less denunciation of the Territory. I want nien to speak well of that country, and I want the Government to take some steps to bring about a more effective settlement of these great fertile areas in Northern Australia.
– The country would be- all right if only those who live there worked more, and talked less.
– My honorable friend has in mind a few men in Darwin who have come into prominence in recent years.
– The trouble is that you have not the courage to tell them the truth.
– The honorable senator should apply that remark to himself.
– I have always told them the truth.
– So have I. Senator Lynch attaches too much importance to a few exaggerated reports about events in Port Darwin, where a few men Have done some foolish things. There are hundreds of men settled in the interior, struggling day in and day out, year in and year out, to make ends meet, and they have no complaint to make.
– They are the worthy men.
– And they are in Northern Territory, but not in Port Darwin. I want honorable senators to forget for a moment all about Port Darwin, and concentrate attention upon the people who are settled throughout that great Territory. In our travels throughout Central Australia, we met men who had been living for months on goat and pumpkin. Imagine that. They had neither tea, sugar, nor flour, because they could not get those commodities carted to their homesteads, the camel driver upon whom, they depended having decided to take a rest somewhere in the middle of a river. Eventually, after a delay of four or five months, the goods were delivered, but only in half the quantity originally ordered. I have seen a 50-]b. flour-bag, which, when the flour had been emptied out of it, weighed 7 lbs. This bag, with the other household commodities, bad been lying in the bed of a creek for some considerable time with a result that its contents’ were practically destroyed by weevil. The people had to “ kill “ the flour before they could use it. Yet these men have not a single word of complaint, provided Parliament will take some small amount of interest .in them. Parliament is not aware even that these men are in existence; all it knows is that a few men in Darwin have done silly things. I am putting in a plea for the settlers, so that they may receive some consideration at the hands of Parliament.
– Have you any hopes of getting consideration under the Tariff?
– The Tariff has, for the present, been disposed of, and I am nob one of those who hark back on the work that Parliament has done. I prefer to look to the future rather than to the past. One of the things that the Government should do is to start surveying the land in these outback places. We met one man who had built his home, stock-yards, and draftingyards, as he thought, well on his own block. His neighbour suggested that he had built on the wrong block, and a surveyor was called in. It was found that he had built 5 miles over his neighbour’s boundary. When one considers that the area of country held by a man ranges from 1,000 to’ 12,000 square miles, it is not surprising that such a mistake should be made in the absence of a proper survey. The Government has held this country for many years,, but has not even yet surveyed it. I am not going to find fault with the conditions laid down in the leases, because it seems to me that they cannot very well be altered.
– Had the man to whom you have referred been established long?
– About eight years; but he built his house only recently. He is only one of several men who built their homes more or less on their neighbours’ holdings. In regard to stocking conditions, if I had anything to do with the settlement of the Northern Territory, I would impose no other restriction.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
– I suppose the provision of wells, bores, and works of that description comes under the provisions of the Bill. Whilst we may not discuss stocking conditions, we can say that the Government ought to take steps to provide water for those men who hold back country. Even to put down a subartesian well, and to equip it, costs at the very least £2,000, and to provide an artesian well costs anything from £10,000 to £20,000. In this connexion the Government is making no provision whatever for helping the settlers. It is only fair, however, to give credit to the Government where credit is due. It has done excellent work by opening up stock routes and putting down wells. I think seven wells have been put down between Newcastle Waters and the Daly River, and wells are now being put down on the other track from Newcastle Waters to Camooweal. Tanks are attached to the wells, and serve as reservoirs for holding1 the water. Some of the land-holders have put dams on their properties. The settlers in the Territory appreciate very much what the Government has done in opening up the stock routes, but that does not help those who axe outback. They want wells put down. They cannot possibly find the money for the work, because sinking a well requires more money than some settlers possess. The telegraph and police stations in the1 centre of Australia are in a disgraceful and deplorable condition. The Government should certainly see that they are made fit for men to live in. At the present time the blacks, if they lived in houses at all, would almost refuse to live in them. They are a disgrace to the Commonwealth and ought not to be permitted to continue for another day. In many other ways the Government is failing in its duty to this portion of Australia, notably in not providing money for prospecting and for the erection andupkeep of batteries to treat ore. I hope these matters will ““be taken in ‘ hand immediately, and that before another Bill of this kind’ is brought down some definite policy for the development of Central Australia will be formulated.
The north-western portions of Western Australia and the northern parts of
Queensland are in almost as bad a position as the Northern Territory, with the exception that they have some coastal connexion by means of which they can get the necessaries of life. There is an item in the Bill to provide for a wireless station at Willis Island. I know nothing about that. It may be a good thing. It is intended, I think, to erect wireless stations at Camooweal and Daly River, or in that vicinity. I hope that the Government, instead of installing wireless plants, will provide telephone services in that country. ‘ Wireless is no use in the centre of Australia except for communicating over long distances. The people are isolated, and in an emergency have no means of getting medical attention. A telephone would be an enormous advantage to them. At the present time white women cannot go there. At one place- we met one white woman and her two daughters, whose nearest white-woman neighbour was nearly 500 miles away, and whose nearest neighbour was nearly 300 miles away. We have to’ make it possible for men to take their women folk to these places for more reasons than one, and it is the duty of the Government to see that facilities are provided for them. Hostels are not included in this Bill, but it is a duty of the Government to make reasonable provision for both men and women when illness overtakes them. We were told at Wave Hill, on the border of Western Australia, that during this year ten men had died of enteric. If there had been a hostel established in the vicinity of Wave Hill or Victoria Downs the lives of those men could have been saved. It .needed only certain kinds of food and skilled treatment for a few days. If the establishment of a hostel would result in the saving of one life during the year, the expenditure would be justified.
– If a vote for the purpose were submitted, those behind the economy “ stunt “ would cut it out.
– That is the pity of it. In my view this Parliament has listened to the promoters of the economy “stunt” in a way that it ought not. to have done. I plead for the establishment of telephone communication for the out-back settlers and the establishment of hostels for the treatment of sick men and women, and of -cases of accident to which stockmen and workers generally in these out-back districts are peculiarly liable. I met a man who had travelled about 300 miles suffering from appendicitis. He was being driven over a rough bush track along which cattle were continually travelling. Any one who has travelled over a stock route will know what it is like, and this man had to be driven 300 miles to reach a doctor at Oodnadatta or some place perhaps further on, where he could receive medical attention. These are the hardships which men and women in the backblocks have to contend against. If their mails are not delivered within a few minutes of the time at which they should be delivered, and if telephone calls- are not promptly replied to, city people are full of complaints against the Government. The people in the out-back country have complaints against the Government, but have no voice in this Parliament. I am. not saying these things in a spirit of carping criticism of the Government, but because I believe it is the duty of the Parliament and the Government to take a greater interest than has been taken hitherto in this great Commonwealth Possession. Honorable senators may put at the back of their minds the happenings at Port Darwin, because Port Darwin is not the Northern Territory. A few men are going to gaol in Port Darwin rather than pay their income tax, but there are scores and hundreds of men in the centre of Australia who are paying income tax without a murmur, and. who also, without a murmur, have paid war-time profits tax which I think they should not have been called upon to pay. These are the, people for whom I plead, and not the men of Port Darwin, who are well able to take care of themselves, and I have no doubt will do so. I ask the Government to provide more reasonable facilities for the people of those remote districts. There are a few women out there, and they are quite happy, but they say that they would like to be able to communicate with their friends occasionally, and to have a hostel to which they might go when illness overtakes themselves or their children.
There are many other matters to which I might refer, but which, because of the nature of my mission, must be dealt with in another ‘place. I hope that the Government will take such notice of the matters to which I have referred as their importance deserves. I am confident that Parliament will lend a very sympathetic eai- to anything the Government may propose to do to make the lot of the men and women settled in the centre of Australia more pleasant than it is to-day.
– I should like to say a word or two regarding certain reductions o-f expenditure proposed in connexion with votes for the Defence Department. I recognise, with most of the critics of this Parliament,, the necessity for economy not only so far as Government expenditure is concerned, but for every individual in the community. But I wish ‘ to enter my most emphatic protest against certain reductions proposed in connexion with the Defence Department. I express my regret that the Government should have yielded to illinformed criticism inside and outside Parliament in regard to these matters. I find that in- 1913-14 the total vote for the Department was £3,278,000. For the current financial year the total vote is only £3,250,000. There is a substantial reduction of £28,000, . but comparing the value of the sovereign to-day with its value in 1913-14, the actual reduction, proposed amounts to” £169,000. A Conference is being held at Washington on the subject of disarmament, and, in my opinion, it represents no more than a pious hope. Is that any reason why the people of this country should be asked to depend on the good intentions of their friends, and should lay themselves open to the mercies of their enemies? I say that there are enough able-bodied men in Australia today to defend this Commonwealth against all -comers, provided - and this is where the responsibility of the Government comes in - there are put into their hands the means of defending the country. In some quarters there is a very definite movement to take out of the hands of Australians the means of defending themselves. There is a vote of £196,839 for machinery recently imported for the manufacture of guns and gun ammunition for Australia. Of that amount, £60,000 has already been expended, and yet it is proposed that the balance of the vote shall be wiped out, with the result that this valuable machinery will be practically scrapped and allowed to rust.
– Is the plant about half completed!
– The plant has been imported, and is lying in Australia ready to be installed, but because the Government have yielded to the pressure of the insane cry for economy, it is now proposed to reduce the vote by £130,000, which is necessary to install the machinery, and to let it lie rusting, probably for years. The first responsibility of any Government is to enable the men of Australia to defend themselves. I feel satisfied, with the courage of our men and the devotion of our women, that properly armed and equipped the people of Australia could defend themselves to-day against all-comers. That is no vain boast. We have not a sufficient supply of rifles in Australia to-day to arm 25 per cent, of our able-bodied men, and yet it is proposed that we shall practically cease the manufacture of rifles. There are some votes which might be eliminated without serious injury to the fighting capacity of the nation. For instance, there is in the general Estimates a vote of £173,800 for Senior and Junior Cadets contingencies. If we are living in strenuous times when it is necessary to conserve all our energies to insure the freedom and liberty of the people of Australia, we should spend money in a way that will give us results. Let us wait for a more favorable period to indulge in the. somewhat theoretical idea of training children to be soldiers. In my opinion, the proposed vote of £173,800 to which I have referred might very well be cut out.
– Does the honorable senator propose to move an amendment in that direction?
– I propose to move in that direction in Committee. J feel that so far as economy is concerned the very worst form of economy is that which would lay bare the breast of the nation to the attacks of her enemies.’ If there is to be any economy undertaken, I, as an Australian, would sooner, do my job here for board and lodging than I would see one man in Australia without the means of defending himself.
.- I have a good deal of sympathy with the remarks of the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat. I know that he has at heart the necessity of adequately providing for the defence of Australia. But I would like the honor able senator to remember that the vote before us for defence exceeds the expenditure for last year. Although the amount has been reduced from that originally contemplated for submission to Parliament, the amount proposed for the Department of Defence (Military) in the schedule to the Bill is £884,251, as against an actual expenditure last year of £693,255. That the ‘Government have been wise in recognising the desire which’ has been so clearly expressed, not only by members of Parliament, but by those outside who must find the wherewithal, that this year an attempt should be made to economize wherever economy can be effected without injury to the Commonwealth. We are all, I think, prepared to admit that the time has arrived when we should set our house in order, from a financial point of view, and should make it unnecessary in future to impose addi’tional burdens on the people, who have at the present time to carry as much taxation as they can bear. We have been passing through an era during which many individuals in the Commonwealth have had considerable additions to their income, and they have become somewhat prone to extravagance in expenditure. We have now reached the stage when our people must realize that we are up against a very serious financial proposition. We have incurred enormous liabilities which I have no doubt we shall be able to meet, provided Parliament sets an example for the people to follow by doing its work efficiently and well, and seeing to it that no expenditure is authorized that is not in the interests of the development of the country. I do not intend to touch upon particular items at this stage, as they will come up for consideration in Committee, and that will be the time for us to seek information from the Minister in charge of the Bill and to decide whether the expenditure proposed on particular items is justified.
I desire to take this opportunity of making a few general remarks concerning the present policy of the Government, which varies from that of the preceding year. I am glad to be able to signify my approval of the admission that it is unfair to penalize the people by compelling them to find out of revenue almost the whole of the expenditure authorized for public works which are, essential to the development of the Commonwealth. We are being asked to vote a large sum for additions, alterations, new works and buildings, and I am pleased to find that an innovation has been introduced, especially in regard to the Postmaster-General’s Department, in which last year a very large sum was expended, almost the whole of which came out of revenue, and which, consequently, caused some embarrassment to the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) at the end of the financial year. I expressed my surprise last year that a more businesslike attitude bad not been adopted in connexion with permanent public works. The Treasurer in his Budget speech said -
The more one looks into Post Office finance the more unsatisfactory it appears. There is no country in the world, outside our own, which provides the whole of its capital expenditure from revenue. There should be a review and revision of the whole system of Post Office finance, leaving the revenue expenditure to be met, as now, but placing capital expenditure on a basis of loan with graduated repayments to conform with the life of the material purchased.
– The whole business of the Department is suffering on that account.
– Yes, because we are meeting the needs of the Post Office in regard to buildings and additions of a permanent character out of revenue.
– The honorable senator’s suggestion is to revert to the system adopted by the States prior to Federation.
– The suggestion is to adopt a business-like attitude. Each year since the inception of Federation the financial liabilities of the people have been on the increase, and there is always a limit to the power of the taxpayers to meet their obligations. It seems unjust to burden the people by compelling them to contribute money to meet the expenditure on permanent works out of revenue instead of from loans and making adequate provision by means of a sinking fund to redeem the amount within a limited period. Such a. system would relieve the present taxpayers, and would at the same time be treating fairly the future taxpayers, who will benefit as much as those of the present day. No business man would ever contemplate delaying the development of his business because he objected to borrowing money.
– If he did not his competitor would. In this case there is no competitor.
– There is not.
I desire to refer briefly to the military branch of the Defence Department. A large expenditure is proposed on warlike stores, including machine guns, vehicles, harness and saddlery, accoutrements, and other regimental and personal equipment. This is a Department in which business principles could be introduced, particularly in connexion with the control of stores. If honorable senators have perused the Auditor-General’s report, they must have been astounded to find the amazing lack of supervision there has been during the last financial year in this branch of the Military Service. The Auditor-General directs special attention to the conditions prevailing in connexion with the stores and equipment account.
– Is not the trouble largely in country districts, where the Department depends upon the services of honorary officers?
– I do not know where the difficulty lies; but, in view of the need for economy, honorable senators will recognise the significance of the Auditor-General’s statement, in which he says that, in connexion with stores and equipment in charge of military units, there was a deficiency last year, when stocks were taken, of £32,050.
– Boots worn outby cadets arc shown in the stocks until they are wiped off by the Board or by some other process. I am very surprised to discover that the amount is so small, having regard to the system which obtains.
– Surely it is reasonable to write off anything worn out? There is, apparently, an absence of business principles in the control of military stores.
– They are controlled by junior militia officers, and it is impossible to get the same close supervision as would prevail in a store in Collins-street.
– I am seeking information. I have also found, in connexion with one or two units, that there has been a large surplus ; and that cannot be accounted for by accoutrements being worn out. If there are losses through lack of supervision, it might pay the Government to establish some system under which closer supervision could “be exercised. I am proud of our military organization, but I do not want the Auditor-General’s report ta appear year after year with statements in it such as I have quoted, because those who have to find the money naturally consider it a reflection on the Defence Department. Closer supervision should be exercised where a large expenditure is involved.
– Does the honorable senator expect men to do the work for nothing? Would he give his services in an honorary capacity ?
– I have not said that the work should be don§. without any remuneration, and I have not reflected in any way upon the Department. I am prepared to devote my spare time to assist the Defence Department in an honorary capacity, if my services are required.
-The honorable senator advocates economy, and at the same time suggests, additional supervision.
– It is not economy to allow thousands of pounds wo/th of material to be lost annually.
– A “Business Committee investigated the operations of the Defence Department, and, instead of effecting economies, created chaos.
– I am not responsible for that. The Auditor-General’s annual report is one of the most informative documents supplied to honorable senators, and it is our duty to give publicity to what it contains. Senator Newland deprecated any attempt being made to reduce expenditure in the Commonwealth because it would, in his opinion, mean increasing the number of unemployed. It would not be sound finance to suggest that we should support the Treasurer in submitting a Budget which would show a huge deficiency, in order that work could be found for those needing it. If every man ware doing has share to-day, I do not think the demand for labour could be met, ‘because Australian industries would receive such an impetus that the labour offering would be quickly absorbed. Unfortunately, a great deal of the distress which prevails in Australia at present has arisen because the men have adopted .the policy of doing as little as possible, with the result that many important business undertakings have been compelled to reduce hands, and in some cases close down. Every man should realize his duty to his country by giving of his best. Then there would be no need to talk of the unemployment problem in Australia.
– I desire to offer a few remarks upon the subject of defence, but I do so with some diffidence because of the tendency of the public ta believe that every man who has been associated with the military has become obsessed with militarism. Even so, every Australian should be seized of the urgent necessity for adequately protecting his country against reasonable possibility of - aggression. I have listened to and read much criticism concerning Commonwealth defence matters. The critics appear to be amazingly uninformed. Their arguments have, been based principally on. ignorance and prejudice. I concede that some of the money which is being devoted to defence matters at present might be better employed. Senator Bolton has drawn attention to the training of cadets. There might be a cutting down, or out, of expense in that direction without doing Australia any great harm in the matter of effective defence. When one is giving consideration to the effective defence of a community, it should be realized that the first essential is an efficient staff. The next consideration covers stores and munitions, and factories for their production; and the next factor concerns the men themselves. Men, no matter how gallant, are not of much use unless they can be adequately equipped for defence or offence. The cuts which have been made into Defence Estimates in another place have been altogether wrongly directed. I trust .that honorable senators will be supplied with full details of the retrenchments decided upon.
– The actual particulars have been left for the consideration of experts. m If honorable members in another place had in their search for economy turned their attention to individual items they would have created chaos.
– That I can readily believe. And, as for certain of the* gentlemen in another place, I imagine that they would be delighted if they could succeed in creating chaos in the Defence Department. No matter how brave may be our manhood, unless there is sufficient equipment, adequately maintained, the men will be practically useless for purposes of defence. I wonder if non-military members of the Senate realize the magnitude of the inevitable waste of equipment and stores in time of war. Senator Bolton has mentioned that there are not in Australia at present sufficient rifles to arm 25 per cent, of our available manhood. If that be the case, it is deplorable; for, as a matter of actual fact and practice if the equipment which can be served out to a force represents only 25 per cent., it means that there is less than 8 per cent, of the necessary equipment for any extended operations available. When we say that we have 100,000 rifles, it is generally understood that we mean that we have sufficient rifles to arm 100,000 men for service. Such is not the case, however. The waste in time of war, with regard to rifles and every other branch of supply, is appalling. If an army is to be sufficiently equipped, there must be a tremendous reserve of all munitions, and there must be the necessary factories to keep up replacement requirements. May I quote a specific instance of unavoidable war-time waste during a very brief period? At Messines, where the 4th Australian Imperial Force Division was operating on the right of British troops, a youthful subaltern of the 27th British Division saw certain movements, so he reported, on his right. He sent back a message somewhat as follows: - “ I am all right, but the Anzacs on my right are retiring.” He sent up S.O.S.. signals, and one of the most terrific barrages which I have ever seen was promptly put down; quite unnecessarily, however. The Anzacs were not retiring. It is not a habit of theirs, and they were not even feeling like it on that occasion. That mistake on the part of a British subaltern who had got a bit “ jumpy,” cost, in ammunition alone, that night, £2,000,000. I remember seeing a regiment about 800 strong -come out of the Somme. The men had been in the mud pretty well up to their necks. When they were mustered so that the number of rifles held among the 800 might be ascertained, it was discovered that there were only about 200. The other 600 rifles had been left in the mud. The wonder was that the men had got themselves out - putting aside all consideration for their equipment. Of course, those rifles had not been long in the mud before they became useless. I could give illustration after illustration of the same kind. I want honorable senators to rid themselves of the idea that a reserve of 20,000 rifles will equip 20,000 men. If we are to have an efficiently equipped army there must bo large reserves in every department; and - which is even more essential - there must be means of replacing losses of equipment as they occur. What is happening now through this insanely-directed search after economy will mean the deprivation, so far as concerns Australia’s Defence Forces, of a great deal of efficiency. If it is desired to cut into the Military Department, such retrenchment - if properly applied, and at the direction of men with the requisite knowledge - might prove of some assistance to the finances of the country while not really undermining the country’s safety. If there must be a cutting-down of defence expenditure, let the pruning be applied to the least essential matters. It would be a sad thing to see training in Australia any further reduced; but even the training of our adults is of secondary importance compared with the question of staff and equipment. With adequate warning and sufficient time men can always be trained, given the necessary expert staff and the material with which to arm the force.
– Does the honorable senator think it essential to maintain the staff at full war strength in time of peace?
– BROCKMAN. - I am inclined to think it very necessary. Australia cannot afford to have a smaller staff than is requisite to train the largest possible number of men capable of being called upon to take the field.
– But the permanent staff to-day is not equal to manning a full Army Corps.
– BROCKMAN.It is very nearly so. Possibly the attack on the Defence Estimates has been undertaken by certain individuals with their tongues in their cheeks, men who have been moved with the pious hope that all the things predicted of the Washington Disarmament Conference will he realized. I would prefer to see the hopes and expectations of Australia founded on a solid base of munitions and supplies.
– No one can anticipate what may be decided upon at Washington.
– BROCKMAN. - That is so. Many critics of the Military Forces, and of the Defence Estimates, are anticipating what all people hope will be the outcome of the gathering at Washington. Upon that hope, the critics are rushing in where angels would hesitate. They are gambling with the safety of Australia in a way that they have no right to do. I hope’ there will be a pause in the search for places where the Estimates can be cut, in order to appease the hungry appetites of gentlemen outside of Parliament, who, for their own glory, and to establish reputations as economists, are clamouring for the blood of politicians. This cry. for economy is brought about to a great extent by gentlemen who have no real information, no knowledge, and no experience. Among one section the popular cry is for economy, and in another section the desire is to cut down the Defence expenditure. Those two sections have combined, and an attack is made on the Defence Department because that is the line of least resistance. I hope there will be no further inroad into the Defence Estimates.
– I think we may, without apology, congratulate ourselves on having the honour, in the Senate, of being associated with gentlemen whose experience during the late great war has enabled them to speak with authority on the very subject to which Senator Drake-Brockman has directed our attention. The presence of those honorable senators is of great advantage, not only ‘to this Senate, but to the Parliament and the people of Australia as well. I join with previous speakers in pointing to the need for a very close scrutiny being kept on the public ac-. counts. We should see that the taxpayers’ money, very hardly earned in most cases, is so expended that 20s. worth of honest work’ is obtained for every 20s. expended. I am sure that even the best friends of the Public Service do not- wish members of that Service to receive payment from the public purse and not be in a position to render the equivalent in honest service. There may be some who, perhaps, through a faulty form of public organization, are not in a position to render that service; but I am confident that those civil servants who have the interests of Australia at heart do not wish to be regarded as not rendering efficient service for the money paid to them.
Turning to the Defence Department, I agree that the crusade for retrenchment has been misdirected, by reason of the attempt made to curtail Defence expenditure. Honorable senators have at their command facts supplied by the Defence Department itself, and it is quite clearly shown that the amount proposed to be expended this year, about £2,600,000, is really less than was voted in 1913-14, when the world was at peace. The vote prior to the late war amounted to £3,250,000, which, owing to the decreased purchasing power of money, is equal to only £2,108,000- to-day. Even with the expenditure of £3,250,000 in 1913-14, it cannot be said that Australia had a creditable Defence organization.
– There were hardly enough « rifles to equip the First Division that left Australia.
– That is so. Evidence has been given on that point over and over again. What has been indicated by Senator Drake-Brockman as to the inefficiency of the Defence expenditure in 1913-14 would, no doubt, be re-echoed by the other honorable and gallant gentlemen in the Senate who have a similar acquaintance with the Department of Defence. If the result was so unsatisfactory from the expenditure at that time of a larger sum than is now asked for, why cavil at the present proposed expenditure when the need of Australia for defence is equally as great? I do not knowthat the menace of aggression is any further ‘ removed from us. Events are developing at Washington in a mannerwhich does not give much food for comfort to. the robust optimists who want peace and goodwill among men, as I do. Each nation is thinking of what is to become of its own safety if certain thingsare not done. There are many pious aspirations as to the outcome of the Disarmament Conference, but nothing tangible has been done, up to date, to warrant this Parliament voting a lesser sum for defence than was expended in 1913-14. I support Senator Bolton’s suggestion to substitute for the reduction of one item the cutting down of another, so as to provide for the completion of the machinery required for the manufacture of ammunition. Common business principles suggest that this enterprise should not be left in a half-finished state. It will be a waste of money to let the machinery at the Ammunition Factory rust.
I regret to say that up to the present we have been backward in the matter of providing telephones in the interior of Australia. What Senator Newland has said concerning outlying parts of the Northern Territory and other remote places applies with equal force to districts which are nearer the cities, but where the population is sparse. Tha best way to encourage rural life is to provide the best and latest means of communication, and the telephone is one of the conveniences which will greatly help in that direction. Past Governments have not been as farsighted as they should have been in administering to the needs of residents in the back country, who are an infinitely greater asset to the Commonwealth than the people who tread the city pavements. If men and women are contented in the country they will remain there, but if not they will come to the electric light areas, the picture shows, and those shadowy attractions.- of the cities, which Thomas Jefferson has referred to as the festering sores of civilization. The crowding of populations -into large cities 13 merely the corollary “to our long strides after a higher civilization. To make a comparison, let me read the following remarks from the Budget speech of the Prime Minister of New Zealand (Mr. Massey), as showing what that Dominion, with a population of less than one-fourth that of the Commonwealth, did last year: -
Owing to the non-arrival of a large quantity of material essential for the carrying on of telegraphic and telephone construction and maintenance works, a sum of about £200,000 will have to be carried forward to the vote for 1921-22. . . . The total amount expended for the year out of a vote for telegraph extension for the construction of telegraph and telephone lines was £336,000.
The total of these sums is £536,000. If we turn to our own Estimates of Expenditure under this heading, we have need to be ashamed of the comparison. On page 17 of the Treasurer’s Budget speech we find that last year the expenditure on telephones and telegraphs by the Commonwealth, with four times the population of New Zealand, and with correspondingly greater financial resources, was only £900,000. . If our expenditure had been on the basis of population, in comparison with that of New Zealand, we should have been spending over £2,000,000 on these works last year.
-t-A great deal of the money expended in the Commonwealth was on trunk lines, too.
– I believe that, unfortunately, what the honorable senator says is quite true. This year our estimated expenditure from loans and revenue on telegraphs and telephones is £1,747,000»- still a deficit, if based on the New Zealand expenditure, of £387,000. Facts speak for themselves. If we want to adopt a policy creditable to ourselves, and just to those people who go far afield to engage in production, we should anticipate the needs of the future, and, if necessary, raise loans in order to carry out this beneficial work on a much larger scale. I hope that, as the result of what has been said here on the Defence vote, and the necessity for efficient telegraph and telephone services in the interior of the Commonwealth, the Government will, if necessary, bring down an excess vote to give at least the same facilities as the Government in New Zealand so wisely provide for the people of that country.
– I have listened attentively to all that honorable senators have had to say concerning the various items in the Bill. - The suggestions made are worthy of consideration ; but, unfortunately, are not applicable in every instance to this measure, which, I remind honorable senators, is a Works Bill. The suggestion made by Senator Wilson for the appointment of a finance committee to advise the Senate is one for the determination of the Senate itself. If the Senate decides that the appointment of such a committee is desirable, it may be brought into existence by means of a specific motion.
– Such a. proposition would have little chance of success unless the Government supported it.
– It is a matter for the Senate to decide. If honorable senators’ desire information other than is provided, in the usual way by the Minister, they may consult the Minister and approach responsible heads of the various Departments, who, I am sure, will always be willing to supply whatever information is available. In the meantime I can only promise - and in this matter I feel sure I speak for my colleagues in the Cabinet - that I shall be glad to supply the fullest information at my disposal at any time.
– But is it not the correct procedure to get information through the Minister, and not go to the Departments ?
– The Minister does not know all the details of administration. His function is to deal with principles, not details, and the matters mentioned by ‘ Senator Wilson concern administration chiefly. In regard to Senator Wilson’s references to Cockatoo Island, I may say that we have succeeded in reducing the overhead costs by £84,000 per annum, and the Dockyard is now working satisfactorily. The Government are powerless to do anything in the matter of tile forty-four- hours per week rule. Like other people in the Commonwealth, we are expected to obey the law. As Ministers, we must administer the law as we find it.
– But when it is shown conclusively that you cannot economically carry on, what are you going to do?
– The honorable senator’s remarks apply to more than onehalf of our industries in Australia. Nearly all of them are under the fortyfour hours’ rule now.
– Very few.
– That is riot so. Judge Beeby extended the rule to no fewer than forty-one industries in one day.
– But the New South Wales Government have no right to legislate to control Federal activities.
– I can only repeat that one-half of the skilled trades in Australia are working not more than forty-four hours per week ; and we would not be permitted by this Parliament to defy the industrial laws of a State. Our authority in the industrial arena is limited under the Constitution. We may not interfere in an industrial dispute unless it extends beyond the boundaries of a State.
– But you have power to close down an industry that does not pay.
– If we did that, we should have to close down about ninetenths” of our activities.
I turn now to Senator Newland’s remarks concerning the Northern Territory. Honorable senators will notice the proposed expenditure of £22,500 on water boring. I agree that it is useless to spend money in small sums on developmental works in the Territory. If a man is not in a position to stand an expenditure of about £2,000 in well sinking, he has not much prospect of success in the Northern Territory.
– He would also have to spend £4,000 or £5,000 in stocking up his run.
– It is. not a,t all likely- that individual settlement will be successful in the Northern Territory for a long time to come. Development at this stage can best be secured by companies with a sound financial backing. The successful occupation of that great area must be by a process of evolution in production.
The House of Representatives gave a direction for the reduction of expenditure on defence, but the Government were not prepared to specify any particular item in respect of which reductions should be made I hope, therefore, that the Senate will not attempt to do so. This might result in a dislocation of some of the DeCpartments. The Defence Estimates include an item of £250,000 for machinery, &c, for the Small Arms Ammunition Factory. Of that sum, £60,000 has been spent on machinery, and the balance will be for labour. There is a rumour abroad that the Government have decided to close down the Factory, but I believe that will be the last thing to be done, because, as I have stated, the balance of the proposed expenditure will be on labour. In the Navy there is to be a reduction of £80,000. Who is competent in this Senate - I, for one; am not - to say what clauses shall be struck out of the Air Service Bill?
Some people advocate encouraging civil aviation, and using the civil machines for war purposes when necessary. Aeroplanes are developing in two directions. The machine necessary for war is a fasttravelling, racing type; the civilian machine is heavier, with smoke-rooms, and sometimes bedrooms. “We can do without civil aviation; but it may be absolutely essential to develop military aviation. The relative importance of the two should be determined by experts. It is better that the adjustment should be made by men who understand what they are doing than that the Senateshould make a hurried detailed decision which might be regretted to-morrow. All Ministers are co-operating to eliminate waste, and I feel sure that their action will be appreciated by Parliament.We cannot be judged in advance; but I think that at the end of the financial year Parliament will say to the Government, “ Well done, thou good, and faithful servant! “
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 postponed.
The Parliament, £1,986;and Department of the Treasury, £2,405, agreed to.
Home- and Territories Department.
Proposed vote, £42,432.
. - I would like to know whether the item of £3.900 provided for the subdivision “Federal Capital Territory,” has any relation to the proposal to move the Commonwealth Parliament and Administration to Canberra.
– The question of moving Parliament to Canberra will be dealt with in a Bill which will follow this one. There is nothing relating to Canberra in this Bill.
– In regard to the item “Establishment of Wireless Station on Willis Island, £4,000,” will the Minister explain what is the purpose of this station, and whether it is intended to proceed with theerection of the proposed wireless stations at Camooweal and Daly River ? I understand that departmental officers have been sent to these last-mentioned places, and that, to an extent, the Commonwealth is committed to the erection of the stations. I can assure the Minister that the people in that part of Australia are nob at all keen on wireless installations. What they desire is telephones.
– The station on Willis Island is intended mainly for the purpose of protecting shipping, and as an aid to navigation generally. Severe storms and cyclones are experienced on the Queensland coast, and it was thought that Willis Island was a suitable distance from the coast for a wireless station. . By sending warnings of approaching storms the station may be the means of enabling shipping to take shelter before a storm arrives. Many accidents occur on the Queensland coast because shipping does not get notice of approaching storms. If £4,000 spent on a wireless station and the maintaining of a small staff at Willis Island will prevent some of the disasters that would otherwise occur on that coast, it will be money well spent in the cause of humanity. The station has been completed by Captain Davis, who was one of the members of the Shackleton expedition to the South Pole. In addition to warning shipping, the station will be able to warn people living in the coastal regions of Queensland of approaching storms. In regard to the proposed establishmentof wireless stations in the Northern Territory, I will see that Senator Newland’s statement is brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General for his consideration.
– I do not wish to detract from anything that Senator Newland has said regarding the proposed establishment of wireless stations at Camooweal and Alice Springs, but I know something of the back country, and I think that there is a good deal of wisdom in having these stations erected. They can get into touch with large areas of country that would be too expensive to reach by telephone, and they can be worked in conjunction with the telephone system. Some of the sheep stations have telephones along their wire fences. After laying telephone wires they found that the fences served equally well. The difficulty in the cattle country is that there are no fences.
– I desire to ask the Minister (Senator Russell) whether any provision has been made for giving more decent homes to the men employed along the trans-Australian railway. It is about time that something was actually done. The overland train, as General Pau has told us, is one of the finest in the w.orld, but inter-State and international visitors, travelling in that comparatively luxurious train, have to look out on bag. shanties in which the men working on the line live. There is a clamour for retrenchment at the present time, but I am quite satisfied that the Government cannot retrench as far as these bag shanties are concerned. The difference in the accommodation provided for the men on the State and Commonwealth railways is very noticeable when one leaves the State system on either side, particularly on the Western Australian side. In the one case the men are housed in decent habitations, and in the other case in shanties that disfigure the landscape. The time has arrived when the Commonwealth should give these men something in the shape of a presentable residence, where they can have some comfort along that desolate stretch of country.’ I ask the Minister again to stir this Department up and see what can be done. Apart from the humane aspect of the question, the unsightly appearance of these shanties should induce the Government to improve them. I ask the Minister to state what has been done and what is proposed to be done. In the past we have had promises, but nothing more.
– I am glad that Senator Lynch has raised this question again. The employees on the Trans-Australian railway have been sadly neglected, and the homes provided for them along that line are nothing short of eyesores. A married couple, who are very old friends of mine, have been living in a rude hut at one of the stopping-places on the line that is not fit for a black gin to live in.
– What are these huts built of?
– -Partly of galvanized iron, and the walls I know are of calico. The best homes provided along the line are the portable homes which many years ago were erected for the temporary accommodation of construction gangs. Visitors from the Old Country landing at Fremantle, and seeing the homes provided for permanent workers on the Trans-Australian line, must be given a very bad impression of the Government of Australia.
– Do the Government provide these homes, or do the workmen provide them for themselves?
– So far as I know, the huts referred to belong to the Commonwealth Government, but they are of so little value that if the Railways Commissioner were asked whether he owned them, I believe he would repudiate them. They are a disgrace to the Commonwealth, and the sooner decent homes are provided for employees of the Government on the line, the more credit Ave shall gain. . No man whose family reside at Port Augusta or Kalgoorlie would feel justified in asking them to go away out along the line to live in the huts that are provided. It is neglect on our part that we should have allowed such a condition of affairs to continue for so long, and Senator Lynch is to be complimented for having directed attention to the matter again. The higher-paid officials on the line take good care to live in Melbourne, thousands of miles from where the work is carried on. They draw high salaries, and are supposed to be performing work on the line, and while that is permitted it is a downright disgrace that the real workers along the line should have to put up with such conditions. I do not wish to discuss this particular matter at this stage, but I say that unless these highly-paid officials live on the job, and under somewhat similar conditions to the men working along the railway, something more will be heard of the matter in the future. We have a big staff living in Melbourne under the best possible conditions, whilst at Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta, the two places at which the real business of the line is done, very small staffs are provided. That is a state of affairs which has been tolerated altogether too long. I again emphasize the necessity for better homes for those who are actually doing the work of the great transcontinental railway.
– There is an item on the Estimates of £ 1,S00 for additions to the Darwin Hospital, and in connexion with this I think it is only fair to the Government that I should say that very considerable improvements have been made to the Darwin Hospital since my previous visit to the Territory five years ago. The Building has been very much improved, and the conveniences for the staff and for patients have been added to considerably.
– We spent £699 on the hospital last year, and are proposing to spend £1,S00 this year.
– I compliment the Government upon putting this vote on the Estimates for a most deserving institution. There is a vote of £22,500 set clown for water boring in the Northern Territory. I should like to know whether that amount is intended to finish the chain of wells already sunk from the Daly to Camooweal, or is to be spent on what is known as the Murrunji track on the new stock route from the Western Australian border to Newcastle Waters. The bores sunk on the stock routes are very much appreciated by every cattle raiser in the Northern Territory. The Murrunji track is in ordinary seasons quite impassable, unless some provision is made for the supply of water. While on this matter, I should like to say that there is a very great improvement in the method of sinking bores and conserving water on the eastern track from Newcastle Waters to Camooweal as compared with the north and south track from Newcastle Waters to the Daly. On the north and south track the iron tanks erected are falling into- disrepair. They were very badly erected, and I expect to hear shortly that considerable sums will be required to replace them. On the Newcastle-Camooweal track a new method of constructing earth tanks has been adopted. A certain area of ground is ploughed up, and then scoops are used to construct an earth tank of from 100,000 to 300,000 gallons capacity. These tanks hold water like a bottle, and whilst they cost very little more than the iron tanks, are very much more effective. It is only fair- to say that in the matter of boring the Government are doing some very excellent work. Perhaps the Minister will say what the proposed vote of £22,500 for boring is to be spent upon.
– The vote is intended to complete the scheme already undertaken in the Northern Territory. It does not mean that when it is expended that will be the end of all boring in the Territory. There are only seven months of the current financial year to go, and £22,500 is a fair amount to expend on boring within that time. We hope to be in a position next year to take a much wider field, because on these stock routes water is essential. We hope to continue the expenditure of money in the Northern Territory on water boring and the construction of roads, and, perhaps, other public works according to the character of the country. In some places, of course, there are natural roadways, but the Northern Territory is a place of vast extent, and the roads connecting important places should at least be shaped and formed. I have seen accounts of motor cars being lost in the sand at times, and horses being required to drag them out.
– I had a good experience of that.
– I hope that the honorable senator enjoyed it, and that it improved his health. With the many more urgent calls for expenditure it has been impossible for the Government to find more money for works in the Northern Territory. Conditions may be easier in the future, as many of our liabilities are being reduced, and I hope the country will take a reasonable view of expenditure for development in these outside districts. I recently travelled in Northern Queensland, and it appeared to me that a new State or two might be created in Queensland territory.
– Does the Minister propose to raise the question of the creation of new States on the vote before the Committee?
– No, but I was speaking generally of the wisdom of carrying out boring for water and the construction of railways for the development of the country. I remember that two mining friends of Senator Lynch were driven out of country somewhere near the Macdonnell Ranges for lack of water. The Government are anxious to take a generous view of expenditure for development purposes, but they cannot do more than is proposed this year.
– It appears from the schedule that last year we voted for items in Division No. 6 for expenditure in the Northern Territory the sum of £30,319. We are asked by this Bill to re-vote £4,908. That is practically one-sixth of the amount voted last year. Last year on one item for roads, culverts, and bridges we voted £4,000. I presume that was in accordance with Estimates passed by the Minister for Home and Territories and by the Treasurer, and yet it appears that only £1,160 of that amount was spent. The amount set down for expenditure on that item this year is only £1,340. I point out that the amount spent last year on this item, and the amount proposed to be spent this year, do not together make up the amount which was voted twelve months ago for this purpose. Some time ago when dealing with a supply measure, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) said that while the Senate had been clamouring for economy the Government had been practising it. For instance, he added, the Government had not spent, during the previous year., by a sum amounting to about £4,000,000, as much as had been voted. But what kind’ of economy is that? Is it not a fact that the Government must have asked for £4,000,000 more than the Departments could spend ?
– I would not underrate the capacity of a Department to spend money.
– No. But, apparently, it is possible for Parliament to authorize an expenditure which a Department cannot absorb. If the instance, which I have been quoting, is typical of the Estimates as a whole, may it not be said that only a small fraction of the expenditure authorized is disbursed ? Much has been heard recently of the narrow escape of the Government over the matter of a deficit of about £2,000,000. Would it not have been easily possible for the Government to balance the ledger if proper consideration had been given originally to the demands of the Departments, which have proved that they cannot spend as much in one year as is made available to them? I am not opposed to the outlay of Government f unds in the Northern Territory. If spent wisely and well, I would favour an expenditure of still more than has been proposed. But why should it be necessary, for example, to appeal for an amount of £30,000 to be disposed in a specific direction, when, as a matter of fact, only a small portion is drawn upon ? Such a practice involves an unfair and misleading inflation of the Estimates. Instead of the Departments hav- , ing insufficient money with which to carry on the position is, apparently, that nearly every Department is actually provided with more than it can spend.
– Departmental heads will always apply for plenty of .money in order to make sure of carrying on their activities. But, even when specific sums have been authorized, if ,the Treasurer has not the money the Departments cannot spend it.
– Am I to understand that, even after Parliament has voted a sum of money upon public works in one direction and another, the Treasurer can refrain from making the necessary amount available)
– Yea. In order to secure a reasonable balance at the end of the year the Treasurer might see fit to stop the Disbursement of money upon works._
– Even after Parliament has voted definite amounts to carrying ‘out such works ?
– Yes. If the Treasurer has not got the money he cannot let the Departments ha.ve it.
– Then, does the sole reason why Departments da not spend all the money voted by Parliament lie in the fact that the Treasurer has not got it to give them?
– I do not say that that would be the only reason. For example, in the. Northern Territory a contractor may be given a road construction job. He may see fit to turn his activities in another direction. Or, possibly, labour or supplies may not be available to complete the work in one year. The Government can have no control over that; and, thus, the whole of the funds allocated for the job may not be absorbed.
– That is a hypothetical reply. Cannot the Minister furnish specific facts explaining why the money, voted has not been spent upon roadmaking in the Territory ?
– I cannot secure detailed information at a moment’s notice, but the whole undertaking is merely a detail, after all. The Treasurer, no doubt, secured all the money he possibly could for the purposes of the Commonwealth. Thereafter, he had to cut his coat according to his cloth. There is no violent hurry to complete some of these works when money is scarce.
In connexion with Senator Lynch’s inquiries concerning housing accommodation for employees upon the East-West Railway, I have been furnished with information from the Home and TerritoriesDepartment to the effect that a sum of £3,000 has been provided to effect improvements to the accommodation along the system; while, for the erection of additional residences at Port Augusta, £4,200 has been set aside.
.- I desire to call attention to the subject of boring for water along the stock routes in the Northern Territory. I received a letter from a friend which I have passed on to the responsible Minister; but, so far, I have not had a reply. My correspondent calls attention to the fact that the tanks which are being constructed to hold the water after it has been pumped up from the bores are too small. When a mob of cattle comes in after a dry stage the tank is frequently emptied before half of the stock have been watered.
– Is the honorable senator referring to iron tanks or to excavated ground tanks?
– I am not in a position to say which, but I believe that the reference is to earthen tanks. It is a difficult job to hold back a thirsty mob of cattle after a tank has been emptied. My point is that the holding capacity of these tanks is far too small ; and - the attention of the Government should be urgently turned to the matter. While I admit that there is often considerable trouble in obtaining plant for boring and tank excavation, and in securing the necessary labour, the fact remains that the contractors are making a good thing out of the work.
– The honorable senator does not imply that the workmen also are not making a good thing?
– I do not know the rates of pay; but these jobs are costing the Government too much. The tanks should be sufficiently large. *
– What tanks are being provided ?
– I do not know the capacity. I have been waiting for over three weeks for a reply to She letter- which I forwarded to the Department, and I hope the Government will see that the tanks are large enough, to enable a mob of bullocks to get a drink.
– Three weeks is not a long period to elapse in obtaining a reply from Port Darwin.
– It was not a question of getting an answer from Port Darwin, but from the Queensland end.
– I am not quite satisfied with the statement of the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen). We find that £3,070,502 was voted, for 1920-21, while only £2,098,203 was spent last year.
– You do not blame the Government for not spending the whole of the amount voted.
– They have no right to ask for more money than is required. I asked why the amount voted for the Northern Territory last year had hot been spent. Of course, the Minister could not be expected to have the matter at his fingers’ ends. In the other Chamber, members are able to obtain information at once, because departmental officials are seated behind the Ministers. When an honorable senator asks for information, Ministers may promise to obtain it, but they may forget to do so.
– There is no occasion for us to forget. The officers study the Hansard reports, and replies are obtained.
– I realize that a Minister cannot always supply information off hand, and I think it would be of advantage to honorable senators if departmental officers were present to furnish Ministers with replies to questions.
– When you were Postmaster-General, did you ever overestimate your expenditure?
– No. The last year I was at the Post Office I saw that every penny was spent. When Supply Bills and Estimates are under consideration, officers should be present, in order that information might be made available without delay.
– So they are.
– All I can say is that, if there is a responsible officer from the Home and Territories Department present, who cannot give the reason why the amounts voted previously on works in the Northern Territory have not been spent, he cannot know his work.
. - It is fully recognised that honorable senators are entitled to the most detailed information. They have a perfect right to demand it before they pass Supply. But this afternoon some information has been sought of a detailed nature, which nobody could expect at . call. For instance, the capacity of a tank has been asked for, without the name of the tank being mentioned. Is it imagined that the specifications of a tank or a culvert can be ascertained by reference to an officer behind the Minister’s bench? Any information desired can be furnished, but it may mean delay. I take it that the real question is not so much why the sum voted last year for a particular work was not spent, but, generally, why there is sucha discrepancy between the amounts voted and the sums expended. The Senate is presumably dealing with the principle, and not with the details. It seems to me that there are three reasons for the discrepancy. In the first place, the Estimates were prepared on the assumption that they covered twelve months’ operations) and it is frequently well into the year before the Estimates are passed.
– Does that not happen every year?
– Then, why not base the Estimates on nine months’ operations instead of twelve?
– Because there may be a Minister who, like Senator Thomas, on his own admission,would expend the whole of the money allotted to him. I do not say that the effect of the delay could not be avoided, but before the Department can proceed three or four months of the year have frequently gone by, and it is not always possible to spend the money voted in the remaining eight or nine months.
– Seeing that that occurs every year, it is not such a good argument as it otherwise would be.
– Then people may be out of work for three or four months.
– No; there may be work carried over from the previous year. Another matter referred to by Senator Russell was that, although Parliament may approve of certain sums being voted for certain undertakings, there rests in the Treasurer the power to decline to make the money available., The Treasurer may say, after a review of a proposed work, that it might be postponed without much detriment. That is another reason for the discrepancy between the sums voted and the amounts expended, and it very often accounts for a substantial diminution of the amount voted. Particularly at a time of financial stress, there is a tendency to see if any works can be held over without detriment to the public service. The third reason why money voted is not always spent, is the delay which occurs in carrying out works. Prices may not be regarded as satisfactory, and there may be the necessity to invite fresh tenders. Then, also, strikes are not unknown, and many other causes may delay the progress of works contemplated, with the result that plans are not carried through without interruption, and the amount provided is not all expended within the financial year.
– Is there not also one more reason? The Minister has given us three.
– There are probably many other reasons which I could name.
– Is there not another? Are not heads of Departments in the habit of asking for more money than they know they can spend in the financial year?
– I do not think there is anything in that suggestion. It must not be forgotten that the Estimates are carefully revised before they are presented to Parliament. If Departments received all that they asked for, there might be something in the honorable senator’s contention, but it is well known that most Treasurers, with a brutality that should commend itself to all economists, insist upon a serious cutting down of the preliminary Estimates.
– That is so, and therefore heads of Departments may ask for more than they are likely to get.
– I do not think that Treasurers are blinded by any artifice of that kind. When a Treasurer sets to work to prune the Estimates, he satisfies himself, before submitting them for the final approval of Cabinet, that there has been no overloading in any Department. At all events, that is my impression, and it is founded upon the experience of more than one Treasurer. I do not know whether Senator Thomas 19 complaining that money has not been spent, or that the Estimates have been overloaded.
– I think they have been overloaded.
– I do not think there has been much intentional overloading, at all events, although here and there a little matter may escape the observation of the keenest Treasurer.
– -Put a drop of 33 per cent, is very appreciable.
– If the Committee wants details, I shall endeavour to furnish the necessary information, but it may mean delay. I assume that a great proportion of the saving will arise from, the Treasurer, after consultation with the heads of Departments, deciding that certain works may be held over without detriment. Honorable senators are asked to approve of a smaller sum than was spent last year, in spite of the fact that mari.y delayed works must necessarily come into this year’s operations. If honorable senators were asked to vote for an enlarged .amount there might be something in the suggestion that the Estimates had been inflated, but it has been reduced, and there1 is the carry-over of new works not started last year. I do not think that £28,000 can, in the circumstances, be regarded as an excessive amount.
– I am net complaining that information has not been given, but I think that the Minister might be able, before I sit down, to reply to one or two matters to which I shall refer. Just a word with regard to water boring and the construction of tanks in the Northern Territory. Formerly, there were three steel tanks of from 800 gallons to 1,000 gallons capacity attached to each bore, which was operated by a windmill. If there was a calm for any lengthened period, the water supply would easily be absorbed by a couple of mobs of cattle, if they happened to come along. The Department is now providing the same kind of windmill, but instead of steel tanks of limited capacity, they are constructing earth tanks with a capacity of 100,000 gallons and perhaps more. The method adopted is to plough up the whole area, and by means of scoops build up an earth embankment the water supply being drawn off by pipes into long troughs for the use of cattle. Constructed in this way the earth embankment becomes quite watertight. The entire area, is fenced to keep out cattle, which is an advantage. Station-owners in the Territory adopted this method many years ago, and now the Government are fallowing suit with quite satisfactory results.
I want now to direct attention to the position of the batteries at Arltunga, Maranboy, and Hayes Creek. Last year, the sum of £787 was voted for the maintenance of these batteries, but only £46 was expended. This year the vote is £140. I have no hesitation in saying that the treatment meted out to the prospectors who were served by the Arltunga battery was an absolute - disgrace. The battery was a splendid one with ten head tff stampers, and was erected by the South Australian Government very many years ago. When the Arltunga goldfield de- .clined, the battery was kept going for a certain period each year to treat ore! that had been raised by sundry parties of prospectors, and it was also utilized for the treatment of cyanides. After a time the battery was closed down, and a caretaker appointed. Subsequently he was informed summarily that his services were no longer required, and the battery was shut up altogether. It was a very valuable plant, but not one ounce of anti-rust composition was used to prevent rust, and no precautions were taken against white ants, with the result that to-day I -do not think that any expenditure can make it fit for service again. There were three or four of these batteries in South Australia in charge of one general manager, who went from one to the other in the course of the year, when a sufficient quantity of ore had been made available for crushing. In this way the operations were kept going and prospectors encouraged. All this was changed when the Commonwealth Government took over control at Arltunga. The cyanide tanks have idi rusted, and the flood waters have come down, and have washed away the whole of the valuable deposit from which a considerable quantity of gold would have bean obtained one day. The Arltunga field is regarded as one of the best lowgrade propositions in the Commonwealth, but, unfortunately, the cartage from the railhead is about £30 per ton, and this has the effect of shutting out the poor man. I am satisfied, however, that if a large company began operations there, it would be successful. The Maranboy battery is on the Maranboy tinfield up near the Katherine River. This battery has been well looked after by a general manager, and it is doing good work. There is only a small battery at Hayes Creek near Pine Creek, and I do not know much about it, except that it is a Government battery and ought to be kept in repair. The sum provided on the Estimates this year will not do anything at all towards keeping any of these batteries in repair.
With regard to the post-office buildings, I do not know what the position, generally, may be in the Territory, but the Deputy Postmaster atPort Darwin is living in a. private house, and the driest spot in this place is a little lean-to outside, which he erected himself. When rain comes, and sometimes they get two or three inches in about anhour up there, his wife has to gather up all her precious articles of furniture, pile them on the table, then take off her boots and paddle about the house in her bare feet. On one occasion when the Deputy Postmaster and his wife were endeavouring to entertain some friends at afternoon tea, the rain fell suddenly, and they had to adjourn to the little outhouse and finish their afternoon tea, there. Honorable senators must realize surely that it is time something was done for the Northern Territory.
Sitting suspended from 6.50 to 8 p.m. Progress reported.
– I move -
That - in order to expedite the building of Canberra, and thus honorably to fulfilan obligation entered into by the people of Australia with the people of New South Wales - inthe opinion of this House the Public Works Committee Act should be so altered that it would not be necessary to submit to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works proposals for works to be carried out in Canberra.
In proposing this motion I wish to emphasizethe fact that I have not the slightest antagonism to the Public Works Committee, or its personnel.Whether the Public Works Committee should remain in existence, or whether it has done excellent work, are not under discussion. I believe the testimony of its members that it has done good work. I know that some members of another place think, because certain members of the Public Works Committee have expressed opinions adverse to the early occupation of Canberra that the Committee will not squarely and fairly do its duty, and that the members of it will allow their political opinions to warp their judgment. Not for one moment do I indorse that view. I think the members of the Committee would be prepared, whatever their political views, to give a just decision without allowing their judgments to be distorted by their personal opinions. My main reason for proposing the motion is to prevent delay in carrying out the works. Those members of the Senate who think that Parliament ought to be moved to Canberra as soon as possible are justified in asking that no unnecessary delay should take place. The Senate has already, I am glad to say unanimously, carried a resolution in favour of moving to Canberra at the earliest practicable date. That means that we ought to go there as soon as possible. By submitting all the Canberra works to the Public Works Committee, delay must inevitably be caused. I am not suggesting that the delay would be the fault of the Committee. It would be the result of the way in which the Committee has to conduct its inquiries, and the procedure that has to be followed when the Committee has finished its work. In another place, there is a motion on the noticepaper to submit certain work connected with the sewerage system at Canberra to the Committee. That is a work which is absolutely necessary; until the sewerage system is installed it will be impossible for any considerable population to go to Canberra. If the question were submitted to the Committee to-morrow, and the inquiry were to be started without delay, it would be impossible for the Committee to make the proper and necessary investigation before Parliament rises. The work has already been* submitted to Parliament, and if the Committee came to a decision two or three days before the rising of Parliament for the recess it would probably be six months before Parliament would be able to deal with it. The delay occurring in connexion with that work would be repeated in connexion with all other works to cost over £25,000. There must be a Parliament House at Canberra, and a printing office. I do not ask for anything so elaborate as the Advisory Committee suggests. These matters would have to be referred to the Public Works Committee, and the inevitable delay would ensue. To some extent the Government could get round the position by submitting proposals to Parliament that would cost £24,000, instead of £25,000 or more. Something similar has been done, I understand, in other Parliaments, but I do not suggest that it should be done here. As long as the law stands as it is, it is the duty of Parliament and the Ministry to carry out its provisions. If the various works have to be submitted to the Public Works Committee, they could be submitted one after the other, without delay, but if that is done it will occupy time which the Public Works Committee ought to devote to the consideration of other developmental works in Australia.
– Other works want checking, but, according to the honorable senator, works at Canberra need not be checked.
– I do not say that other works do not want checking, or that there should be no check on works at Canberra.. If the Committee devoted the whole of its time during the next twelve or eighteen months to the investigation of works at Canberra, works that are necessary in other places could not be carried out. I think that, as a representative of New South Wales, I am entitled to ask that the :Sea>t of Government should be transferred to Canberra as soon as .possible; still, I do not say, in order that that might take place, that the construction of necessary public works in other parts of Australia should be suspended. Then, again, it might reasonably be contended that it would not be fair to members of the Public Works Committee that they should be asked to devote their attention continuously to works at Canberra. There are times when members of the Committee must necessarily leave their parliamentary work to conduct the inquiries of the Com- mittee, but they would have a right to object if they were asked to be continually away from their parliamentary duties in order to carry out the work of the Committee. I have said that if works at Canberra must be submitted to the Public Works Committee, there must inevitably be delay. On the other side, it is fair to consider what advantage is secured by inquiry by the Public Works Committee. The advantage is that where they report favorably upon works proposals which they have scrutinized we have some assurance that the money proposed to be voted for those works- will be expended wisely.
– It is claimed that many mistakes have been made in connexion with works at Canberra. Were those works inquired into by the Public Works Committee?
– I am not in a position to say. From the last report wo have had on works ‘ carried out at Canberra it would appear that not many mistakes have been made. I am aware that one gentleman who was for a time a member of the House of Representatives holds the opinion that a great many mistakes have been made at Canberra. It is strange that this gentleman, who is, I believe, a Protectionist, should hold that the mistakes made at Canberra were made by Australians, and that the only person who did not make mistakes there was a gentleman who had to be imported from America. It might be contended that, even though it should cause delay, it would ultimately be better from the stand-point of efficiency and economy that all works at Canberra should be submitted to- the Public Works Committee, but I should like to point out that there is one reason why it is unnecessary to refer works at Canberra to the Committee which does not apply to works carried out elsewhere. It is that a Federal Capital Advisory Board has been appointed to advise concerning works at Canberra. This is a Board of five members, two only of whom are public servants. ‘ One reason why works are submitted to the Public Works Committee is that the proposals are .made by officers of the Public Service, and it is well that they should be criticised by persons who do not belong to Government Departments. In making appointments to the Advisory Board of persons outside the Public Service, the Government had a very wide range within which to make their choice. I am satisfied that there are very few engineers, architects, and town planners in Australia who would not be very glad to be associated with the building of Canberra. The Government could, therefore, appoint the best men to these positions, and if they have not been able to do so we can have very little confidence in their capacity to deal with the very important issues arising in the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth. I say that, in view of the establishment of the Federal Capital Advisory Board, it is unnecessary that the works at Canberra should be submitted to the Public Works Committee.
– I think the honorable senator will be alone in that view.
– I would prefer to stand alone “ with conscious pride assured, than err with millions on my side.” In times past I have admired the zeal, enthusiasm, and ability with which six senators and five representatives from Western Australia were able to carry the construction of the transcontinental railway through this Parliament. They thought that Western Australia was entitled to have that line constructed. They worked hard for it, and succeeded in getting it done. Six senators and twenty representatives from New South Wales have not been able in twenty years to do what the representatives from Western Australia did.
– Surely there is some difference in the merits of the two undertakings 1
– It depends upon how they are looked at. If Senator Earle wishes to detract in some way from the credit due to the representatives of Western Australia I cannot join him. I give them credit for their zeal and ability, especially in view of the fact that New South Wales had to provide about half the expenditure on the transcontinental railway, .and must bear about 43 per cent, of the loss on that railway. It should be remembered that New South Wales will also ha.ve to bear the principal burden of the .cost of works carried out at Canberra, and if increased ‘expenditure should become necessary, because works at Canberra are not submitted to the Public Works Committee, New South Wales will have to bear the greater portion of that increased cost.
– We have heard that cry before.
– It is a foolish argument. The honorable senator is antagonising his friends.
– I am. stating facts. Seeing that other Federal undertakings have been carried out, I think it is only fair that there should be no undue delayin the carrying out of works at the Federal Capital. I have pointed out that through no fault of the members of the Committee, and merely because of the procedure laid down by the Act, there must be delay if these works are submitted to the Public Works Committee. I want to avoid that delay, and I do not see why we should not regard the supervision of the Federal Capital Advisory Board as sufficient in respect to works carried out at the Federal Capital.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilson) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed, vide page 131S4).
Home and Territories Department.
Proposed vote, £42,432.
– At the dinner adjournment I was describing the unsatisfactory condition of many of the buildings at Port Darwin. That is no more the fault of the present 1 Government than of previous Governments. The residences in Darwin have been going from bad to worse for a great many years. It is fair to say that the climatic conditions are apparently more injurious to iron at Port Darwin than in any other part of Australia; but there is no excuse for the Government permitting Commonwealth employees to live under such conditions as I have described. I hope that the Government will gee their way clear to spend something more than £200 on these buildings. The Minister has himself ‘said that it is of little use to spend small sums of money on repairs.
– What I said was that from the point of view of the development of the Territory small sums are merely thrown away.
– I say that small sums will be thrown away if they are spent in the repair of old cottages, when they really ought to be replaced by new buildings. I might include the whole of the public offices in Darwin. All were “ built many years ago, when the Territory was under the control of South Australia. They are unsuitable, and it is difficult to get employees to do a fair day’s work under the conditions in which they are housed. With respect to the item* “ Roads, culverts, and bridges,” I note that £1,340 has been set down. There are no such things as roads in the Territory, outside the streets of Darwin itself. Along the North-South telegraph line there is a more or less well-defined track. It is used by persons having business which causes them to travel up and down the country; but white ants have built their homes - some of them as high as 30 feet - along the track, and they frequently represent formidable obstructions. The Post and Telegraph Department sends out along that route a repairing gang which occupies about a year in doing the trip down from Darwin and back. Its business is to see that there is no interference with the wires by branches of trees and the like, and that no damage has been occasioned to the telegraph poles. But the gang, although it regularly patrols the route, has nothing to do with its upkeep or repair. I suggest that here is a sphere in which the Post and Telegraph and Home and Territories Departments might well be associated. The linesmen, as they pass, could well be employed to carry out small repairs and effect minor clearances. The job to-day, however, is no part of their business, and they do not touch it. Some arrangements should be made whereby the road from Oodnadatta to the Katherine River could be maintained in a suitable state for motor vehicle traffic carrying mails throughout most of the season. The necessary work could be well and cheaply done by the utilization of native labour. There are many hundreds of blacks who are fed by the Government, or by station-owners, butt,who do very little for the food and clothing supplied them.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- Like other honorable senators, I have received a letter from Mr. Trower, recently of the Northern Territory Service. I do not know the gentleman personally; but he was, at one time, prominent in the Queensland Public Service. It appears from the contents of his letter that, in his dismissal from office in the Northern Territory, he has been unjustly treated. Mr. Trower has asked for an inquiry, and is prepared to substantiate his assertions. I would like to know why he has been dismissed.
– I also have had a letter from Mr. Trower. I ask Senator Reid not to assume, on the basis of. an ex parte statement, that the Home and Territories Department has been guilty of injustice in its treatment of Mr. Trower.
– I have not done so; I merely asked for information.
– It would appear from his statements that the former Territory official has a good case. However, I have no knowledge of the facts. I have written to the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton). It does seem apparent that there is scope for an inquiry.
– Although mention is made of bridges in one of the items having to do with Northern Territory expenditure, there are really no such things as bridges away from the railway. All the bridges I saw in the course of recent journeys through the Territory were corduroy affairs, which I and my companions had to throw temporarily across creeks, in order to push or pull our car3 to the other side. I am not asking that actual bridges be constructed, which might be washed away in time of flood, but that reasonable repairs be made which would render the routes more practicable for ordinary traffic.
Concerning the matter of the aborigines, it is, in my view, a bad practice to place their protection in the hands of the police. When a crime has been” committed, the police are required to make the necessary inquiries, and effect an arrest. They then become the gaolers and the prosecutors and defenders at Court proceedings; and very often they are called upon to suggest the nature of the punishment to be meted out. Thus they act in the capacity of Poo-Bah over ;the natives, and the effect is to give the police an undue measure of control and -authority.
– Are the police in every instance the protectors of the aborigines ?
– Outside of Darwin I think they are. The men who are on the spot, and who li aye the handling of the natives in their own territory* are best fitted to act as their protectors.
With respect to the item of £1,043 for a storage well at Myilly Point, I do not doubt that such a work is necessary. Myilly Point is a suburban portion of Darwin, where the better class of houses have been erected. I am sure the residents are thoroughly entitled to a storage well; but the people living in Port Darwin proper should also be given similar consideration. (There is really i no water supply at all. The only storage consists of iron tanks, which catch the rain falling upon the roofs in the rainy season, and one or two wells. The sooner the Government take into consideration the question of a permanent water supply for Darwin the better. In a few years that port will become a very important centre. There will be tremendous traffic to the East. The East is our natural market; we must look to it for the disposal of much of Australia’s surplus produce. Darwin is within five days’ steamer sail from Java, which has a population of more -than 47,000,000. One can picture what Darwin will be like under proper control in a few years’ time. I visited Java, and saw anchored at each of the three principal ports as many as forty or fifty ships. There is no reason why there should not be a dozen ships at a time at Darwin, instead of only two calling each month.
– If there were, the wharf lumpers would not work them.
– I am glad to say that the trouble with the wharf labourers has been settled. For every ship now, as it comes in, lumpers are picked, and they do the necessary work without fuss. I ido not anticipate any more trouble regarding shipping matters at Darwin. It was a difficulty which could have been controlled and settled many years ago had the Government adopted proper, methods. They should have been firm with the men, letting them know where they stood and where the
Government stood. I blame this and previous Governments as much as any other influence for the troubles which have been inflicted oh Darwin.
I note that there is an item, under the same subdivision, having to do with the erection and equipment of a building at Darwin for the sampling and treatment of ores and concentrates, and that the sum of £10 is set against it. I do not know that there is any need to spend money at all upon mining buildings, seeing that the Director of Mines ((Mr. Oliver) has been dismissed. He has been in the Northern Territory for at least six or seven years. During the time when Dr. Jensen was Chief Geologist, Mr. Oliver, held a subordinate position, but he was appointed Director of Mines when Dr. Jensen’s services were dispensed with. He has been one of the most hardworking officers in Australia. He is a practical miner, and knows a. great deal more about mining than many so-called geologists. His health has to some extent been affected by the rough life he has led in the bush in the discharge of his duties.
– When was he dismissed ?
– Within the last few months^ after the return- of the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) from Port Darwin. The dismissal of Mr. Oliver is one of the greatest blows tha,t the mining industry in the Northern Territory has ever received. I believe Mr. Oliver offered to lead a prospecting party, and asked only a nominal salary, but the offer, for no apparent reason except that the Government desired to damn .that country absolutely, was turned down. Another officer, Mr. Witherden, who was the Government Assayer, has also been discharged, after many years’ residence in the Territory both in his private capacity as an as’sayer and in his Government position. Mr. Witherden had such a reputation among the metal buyers of Australia that His assays were never questioned. Nobody in Port Darwin knows why those two officers were dismissed. We hear jeering remarks about the lack of progress there, but Paradise itself would not prosper under such treatment as has been meted out to the Northern Territory. It is shameful that it should be administered by men who have never been there, and who have hardly been beyond the sound of the Melbourne town clock.
– During the years those officers were there, was any progress made inmining?
– Yes. Tin, wolfram, gold, copper, and other mines were working, and quite a number of men were making a decent livelihood. They were men without much capital. A case was brought under my notice at Pine Creek where a battery had been promised by Mr. Oliver to about forty tin miners at Hidden Valley. The battery arrived at Pine Creek, and lay in the trucks at the railway station for several months before it was unloaded. Then an officer from Port Darwin condemned the field, and suggested that the battery should not be lent to “the miners. Thereupon it was taken away, and those miners were deprived of their means of livelihood. They were not Bolshevists or Red-Raggers, but eminently practical men who should have received every encouragement. The present Government’s attitude is no worse than that of previous Administrations. I hope the Government will try to frame some scheme for the proper development of the Territory.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Defence: Military.
Proposed vote, £884,251.
.- I desire the other Chamber to reconsider its decision with regard to the reduction made in the Defence vote.
– If the honorable senator refers to the total amount, other honorable senators should first have the opportunity to discuss specific items.
.- I have seen various statements in the newspapers lately as to the excessive cost of the manufacture of small arms at Lithgow. I notice that a large sum is sot clown for a reserve of rifles. Is it a fact that these rifles cost the Commonwealth on the average £16 15s. each? I understand that the same rifles are being turned out in England at about £7, and prior to the war they were manufactured for about £3 15s. Cannot the excessive price of £16 15s. be reduced ?
– I believe the statement that the rifles cost us £16 15s. has been attributed to the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), and I have no reason to deny its accuracy. When I was Acting Minister at the Defence Department I reduced the number of rifles being made, because I thought that, as the war was over, and rifles were coming back from Great Britain, we would not need so many. The machinery at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow is not running at its full capacity at present, and I think that if more rifles were being manufactured the average cost would be less. I quite agree that £16 is too much to pay. I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Assistant Minister for Defence.
.- It has been suggested to me that one of the items which will go to make up the reduction of £250,000 in this vote is the proposed expenditure of £45,000 for additional machinery and plant at the Federal “Woollen Cloth Factory. Honorable senators have been informed thatthe question of reductions is to be left to experts, but the rumour is abroad in Melbourne that the Woollen Cloth Factory is to suffer. In my opinion, if sucha thing is done, it will be a great mistake, because the Factory has been placed on a sound business basis, and it has been eminently successful, inasmuch as last year, after providing for everything in the shape of interest on capital and every overhead charge that should be allowed for, it showed a very substantial profit. A visit which I paid to the Factory last year convinced me that its usefulness could be very much extended by providing additional plant. No saving would be effected by striking out the £45,000 put down, but, on the other hand, there would be an absolute financial loss.
– A suggestion in the direction indicated by Senator Payne was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), but subsequently the other Chamber decided to give him a free hand in the matter of reductions. The Woollen Factory has been such a success that I believe every member of the Government would be loath to in any way limit its usefulness.
– It would not be sound finance.
– No, but we have to cut our coat according to our cloth. I do not think that Factory will suffer very much if the Government can possibly avoid it.
– Is the Minister (Senator Russell) in a position to say whether the Factory is able to cope with all the work that is required of it? Last year it was able to spare a large quantity of cloth for returned soldiers; but I assume that will not be done in future. Therefore, the machinery should be available for the supply of ordinary requirements of khaki cloth for Citizen Forces, and blue cloth for the postal officials, and there should be no occasion to expend a large amount on plant this year.
– Would you deprive the returned soldiers of the privilege they have enjoyed hitherto?
– We have to realize that our returned soldiers are becoming rapidly absorbed in the civil population of the Commonwealth. Besides, they are establishing a mill of their own, in which I have some shares. At a time like the present, when machinery is so expensive, the Government, I think, are wise in restricting plant to meet their own immediate requirements.
.- I support Senator Payne’s statement as to the value of the Woollen Cloth Factory. This is one of the Government establishments that pays its way. It is on a sound business footing, and the material produced is of excellent quality. During the war it was instrumental in saving the Government thousands of pounds.
– While we were selling the material at from 5s. 6d. ti 7s. a yard, one of the largest manufacturers of clothing in Queensland paid a visit to the Factory, and said that he was prepared to buy the whole output at £1 a yard.
– Many other clothing manufacturers would have been glad to buy the whole of the cloth turned out by the Factory at £1 a yard. I used a good deal of the material myself in the business at that time, and had to pay 27s. 6d. to 30s. a yard for stuff that was not so good in many respects as that produced by the Factory. It is a credit to the Government, and I think it would be exceedingly unwise to interfere with it. I do not see why the Government should not contract to supply cloth to State Governments for State employees’ uniforms. I hope that nothing will be done that will interfere with the efficiency of this establishment.
– I have something in the nature of a grievance in connexion with the Defence vote, though I am not quite sure whether I should blame the Government or some members of this Parliament. I think, however, the Government are due for a certain amount of the blame for what I consider is an irregularity in connexion with this matter. We expect the Government to accept full responsibility for the defence of the Commonwealth. We had the experience of parsimonious economy practised by the British Government prior to 1914 in failing to make preparation for the contingency of war. To-day there are thousands of good British soldiers in their graves who would not be there had Great Britain been ready for what everybody except British statesmen believed to be inevitable. The British Government were guilty of parsimonious economy in defence prior to the war, and we have their prototype in Australia today clamouring for economy in connexion with our defence expenditure.
– Economy at any cost.
– Yes, at any cost. These men have launched upon an economy “stunt” for the purpose of tickling the ears of the electors. As a supporter of this Government, I feel aggrieved, because all along I have .been informed by the Ministry, and in turn, I have informed my electors, that the Goverment were doing all that was possible to economize commensurate with the efficient defence of the Commonwealth. Natu-rally, those to whom I gave this assurance! concluded that everything possible in the direction of economy had been done. But now, in one fell swoop-, and at the behest of a few members engaged on the economy “ stunt “ in another place, the Government have dropped £250,000 of proposed defence expenditure. I want to know the reason. What is the position of honorable senators supporting the Government, who have told their electors all along that the Government have been economizing ? They now believe, of course, that they were deceived by the Government.
– But wait until the full effects of the disorganization resulting from this economy are seen.
– I blame the Government for having given away to this pressure to reduce the Defence Estimates, if the expenditure originally estimated was necessary for the adequate protection of Australia. It is all very well to say that negotiations are in progress for a limitation of armaments leading to a world peace, and that the reports from Washington should render unnecessary the expenditure of large sums of money on any defence scheme. It is too early yet to arrive at that conclusion. If events justify this hope, there will still be time for the Government to economize in the expenditure authorized by this Parliament. It seems to me to be an unwise policy to be cheeseparing in the expenditure for defence purposes. Those who are clamouring for retrenchment, and forcing the Government into the adoption of measures that may mean inefficiency in defence, should Australia become embroiled in any future trouble, will be the very first to charge the Ministry with treachery to Australia. They will then ignore all that they have said or done to bring about this state of affairs, and will throw the blame entirely on the Government. I feel rather sore about this matter. There -must be something wrong. Either the Government have deceived us by leading us to believe that they were economizing to the utmost limits commensurate with .efficient defence, or else, as the result of pressure in another place, they have been forced to adopt an inefficient defence policy. One of the two. I am very sorry, if the expenditure originally provided by the Government was necessary for the defence of this country, that the Government have given away. I would sooner they had gone to the country to get the verdict of the people on this matter. I must, of course, content myself with voicing my protest. We have to submit to the will of the Chamber responsible for the finances of the country, but we are placed in a most unfortunate position. If the money that is now authorized ‘ is sufficient for defence purposes, I repeat that members supporting the Government were not taken into the confidence of the Ministry. If, on the other hand, it is insufficient, we shall be committing an act of treachery to Australia in accepting the revised Estimates. (Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) [9.13].- I remind Senator Earle, in defence of those who have been demanding economy in defence expenditure, that the financial position of Australia is very rocky indeed, and it may be that the Ministry, in setting out their defence proposals, imagined that with the promise of prosperity this year they would be able to make greater provision for defence than they now find to be possible. At no time in our history could we afford to take the chance of reducing defence expenditure more than at the present. There is a fine reserve of men who have not forgotten their active service training in the field. We have also the equipment with which these men fought, the worn equipment and guns having been replaced by the British Government by new equipment and guns. With the exception only of the supply of munitions, we are therefore in a more favorable position for defence than we have ever been before.
– Senator Bolton said a little while ago that we have no rifles.
– We have more rifles than we have ever had.
– Are you sure? I think you are wrong.
– We have the whole equipment of the Australian Imperial Force brought out here. It has been admitted by Senator Russell that we are paying most extortionate prices for the rifles manufactured at the Small Arms Factory. Until conditions become normal, it is certainly up to the Government to restrict their production as much as they can. It seems to me that we must have economy somewhere. That appears to be admitted, and I know -of ‘no part of our governmental activities where we can curtail expenditure more safely at the present time than defence.
– Before dealing with the question of retrenchment in the Defence Department, I wish to say a word or two about the Federal Woollen Cloth Factory at Geelong. Senator Russell has said that he does not think the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is likely to do what has been suggested in the public press, namely, cut out the item of £45,000 provided foi* the extension of the plant at the Factory. I understand that this £45,000 is required for the purchase of machinery to make worsteds. Practically all the woollen mills of Australia are making woollen goods. The output of woollen goods in Australia is a mere bagatelle, but still it is three times that of the output of worsteds. Worsteds are a lighter and tougher material, and will be used for uniforms, as Senator Reid has pointed out, for men in the railways, tramways, Navy, and other Government Services. Unless the additional machinery is .provided foa- the Factory, it will be necessary in a very short time to close down a considerable portion of the existing machinery. That will be very unfortunate, not only for Geelong, which, after all, is only a small item in the matter, but also for the woollen and worsted manufacturing industry of Australia. I hope the Senate will clearly indicate to .the Government! that it desires that this amount shall be allotted to the Geelong Factory. If that is not done, it will depreciate the commercial value of the’ Factory, which stands at about £500,000. by about half. No private individual, nor even Parliament, can afford at the present time to depreciate the value of public property in that way. I am very anxious to know that the money will be allotted.
Coming to the item of Defence, I notice in to-night’s Herald that there is a very disquieting paragraph to the effect that 400 men are going to be dismissed from the Defence Department. That is only a commencement, I presume, and an indication of what is going to happen in this Department in the future. As Senator Keating said, by way of interjection recently, it is easy to discharge 300, 400, or 500 men from a great concern like the Defence Department, but it is not so easy to re-organize the Department after the gaps have been made so that it will be as efficient a machine as formerly. One or two things must have happened. Either the Defence Department has been greatly overstaffed-
– The men referred to are duly temporary employees.
– Temporary employees are necessary for nearly every Government Department. A section of the press in Victoria is never finished flogging the Government for the amount of money paid to temporary employees. Surely it is better to employ temporary employees who can be put off when not required, and set on when required, than to employ an army of permanent men who cannot be put off. I see no harm in having in all Government Departments a certain number of temporary employees.
– Does putting temporary employees off disorganize the Department ?
– It must. I venture to say that twenty nien, could not be sacked from the Defence Department without causing more or less disorganization. Apart from that, Ave have to consider the effect of throwing so many men upon the labour market to-day. Even 400, which is the first instalment, will be a considerable addition to the number of unemployed in Australia. Doubtless, in the near future, there “will be larger numbers of unemployed. I do not profess to be a military authority, but I do profess to have a (certain amount of common sense. I believe that the men appointed to control military affairs in Australia know something about their job. ‘I believe that, the men appointed to reorganize the Defence Department have carried out their work on sound, sensible, business lines. In a large Department like the Defence Department, there are certain to be a few men employed who are not really necessary. The same thing applies to every large department or private business. I believe these men, with their training and knowledge, are capable of reducing the number of employees in the Defence Department to the very lowest number required to carry on the work effectively. For Parliament to come along in a haphazard way and strike off an amount from the Defence Estimates, without caring how the Department is going to be re-organized, is one of the greatest blunders that Parliament has ever made. Although conferences are going on at Washington, Geneva, and elsewhere, human nature ‘has not changed one iota. There is as much talk of war in “ the* world to-day as ever there was.
We find men in one breath suggesting that we should cease arming and building battleships, and in the next breath glorying in the fact that one of the greatest battleships ever built has just been launched. These are facts that we cannot close our eyes to. We, in this outpost of the British Empire - if I may be permitted to use a word that has been hackneyed by men who did not know the meaning of it - have a right to take a hand in our own defence, and there is an obligation upon us to be ready when the day comes, as come, I believe, it will, but hope it will not, to defend this country. I cannot see any inclination on the part of nations to cease fighting. I fear that we in Australia, instead of being the first to cut this wad out of our defence machinery, should wait until other people have put their house in order, and shown some inclination to cut down their defence expenditure. We should wait until other nations of the world have done something more than talk. I fail to see that they have done anything, up to the present time, except talk about disarmament.
.- It has been suggested to me that it is quite possible, in the near future, that I shall have to submit myself to an election. As a politician, it would be very unwise for me to go in the face of what may be regarded as public opinion in the matter of economy. I, lite other honorable senators, do not think that personal considerations should influence a member of this Chamber in the discharge of his duty. I honestly believe that this economy proposal for a reduction of the Defence Estimates is false economy, if not dangerous economy. Believing so, I propose to submit a motion in the direction I have indicated. A few months after the commencement of the great war, it was disclosed to the most unobservant of Australians how absolutely helpless Australia was in regard to essential matters necessary for the defence of the people of this country. Since that time, with the approval of Parliament, theGovernment has been slowly and gradually, within the means at their disposal, building up something that will fill the gap which was so plainly apparent when the great war broke out. The other day I was in the vicinity of Seymour, and a gentleman said to me, “ Will you be here to-morrow morning?” I said, “No; I must get the early train.” He said, “ I wanted to take you round this great camp in Seymour and show you hundreds and hundreds of munition waggons and large quantities of military stores lying exposed to the weather. They will not be worth anything at all unless someexpenditure is undertaken and something done to put them under cover and take care of them.” A retrenchment that proposes to interfere with necessary works of that kind is false economy. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the totals for the Department of Defence (Military) by -
Reducing the total of £250,000, being the further amount estimated to remain unexpended at the close of the year, by the sum of £171,400.
Increasing the total of £884.251, being the revised total, Department of Defence (Military), by the sum of £171,400.
Making the consequential amendments in the total of’ the schedule and in clause 2 of the Bill.
That sum of £171.460 is made up of three items, which honorable members will find in the Bill. There is an item of £17,460, for “warlike stores, including machine guns, vehicles, harness and saddlery, accoutrements, and other regimental) and personal equipment.” The second item is “Woollen Cloth Factory - additional machinery and plant, £45,000.” The third item is “ Munitions supply, machinery and plant, towards cost, £196,839.” A definite statement was made by the Government in another place that these three items would be among the items to be affected by the reduction. It was distinctly said that the items of £17,460 and £45,000 were to be reduced by the Government, and a sum of £109,000 was to be deducted from the third item, thus making a total reduction of £171,460. The Government are advised by very capable, efficient, and perfectly trained military officers who are devoted to the best interests of the people of this country. When they submit schemes and plans it is a very risky thing for Parliament to say, “ You know nothing about the business. We will do as we like,” and upset plans that may havetaken many days or weeks of serious thought and consideration by experts. It -was suggested earlier in the debate that a reduction might be made in the number of permanent officers, which it is represented is practically at war strength. Such a suggestion is absurd, because the number of permanent officers employed by the Government to-day is only 313 all told. If the Forces of this country were mobilized they would number, at a low estimate, 500, Q00 men, and would require 20,000 officers. This clearly indicates that if increased to a war strength our staff officers would number some 3,000, instead of 300.
– I support Senator Bolton’s request. What I have already said will stand repeating to the extent of reminding the Committee that the total defence expenditure proposed for this year is considerably below the expenditure of- 1913-14, when we take into account the purchasing power of money. Senator Bolton’s request to restore the reduced expenditure of £171,460 can easily be met if the Government will make neces-sary economies in some of the subDepartments, and particularly in the manufacture of rifles. I am sure that no statement gave greater satisfaction to honorable senators than that made by the Minister (Senator Russell), and by Senator Elliott, to the effect that the manufacture of clothing for our Forces by the Government Cloth Factory has been so satisfactory as to leave nothing to be desired. The best cloth, at most reasonable prices, is turned out by the Government mills. But when we turn to the manufacture of rifles a vastly different picture is presented. Why should that be so? If the Government Cloth Factory can turn out satisfactory cloth at a low price I cannot imagine why similarly efficient work cannot be done at the Small Arms Factory. The fact that it is not done can only be accounted for by assuming that, in the manufacture of rifles at .Lithgow, there is something wrong and rotten in the “ state of Denmark.” The cost of manufacturing rifles in Australia at the Lithgow Factory can be explained only by assuming that either the management or the men at the Factory are playing “ ducks and drakes “ with their trust. We are paying £16 for a rifle manufactured at Lithgow that could be obtained from the Old Country for £6. On the face of it, that is outrageous.
– -May not the difference in the cost of raw material be the explanation ?
– We have heard a lot about the superiority of the Australian workman.
– I do not know that he is any better than are workmen in other places.
– Assuming that he is not worse, he should make a better showing at Lithgow. As has been made plain by the passage of the Tariff, it is the policy of this country to give a reasonable, and indeed a generous, measure of protection to industries. We have been prepared to give protection up to 40 per cent, upon the manufacture of fabrics, up to 25 and 30 per cent, on boots and clothes, and other articles of daily requirement. We have given protection up to 55 per cent., our high water mark, to the manufacture of articles that might be described as luxuries. But if we wished to protect the manufacture of rifles at Lithgow we should have to give a protection, not of 55, but of 155 per -cent. We cannot go so far as that. If the Government will only make the people engaged in the manufacture of rifles .’ ‘ toe the scratch ‘ ‘ and do their duty, they .will be able to save sufficient there to meet the increased expenditure in other ways which Senator Bolton desires. I understand that the Lithgow Factory is capable of turning out 50,000 rifles a year. I believe that ordinarily the output is 20,000 rifles. If we gave a protection of 50 per cent, on the manufacture of a rifle, that would permit of a manufacturing cost of £9 to the Defence Department. It would still leave a margin of £7 per rifle to be saved, and if that amount were multiplied by 50,000, the number of rifles the Factory could turn out, it would (represent a clear saving of £350,000 on the manufacture of rifles alone, which would more than cover the increased expenditure proposed by Senator Bolton. I hope that we have got past the talking stage in this matter, and that Ministers are heeding what is said. If they do not bring up the management and the men at Lithgow with a round turn, there is a bad time in store, not only for Government enterprises of every sort, but for the-
Nationalist party and the Nationalist Government in the country. This is not the first, second, or third time that we have heard of what is taking place at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, and the Government must take stock of the extraordinary position existing there. When I heard the Minister admit that it cost £16 to make a rifle in this country, I was shocked when I remembered what persons far afield are called upon to do to make a living in Australia. The Government have here an opportunity to discover a backbone for the first time. Senator Earle has referred to their lack of strength to resist appeals made in another place and outside to make serious cuts in the Defence vote. I agree with the honorable senator that the Government have not shown sufficient strength to maintain the Defence vote. I believe that it is necessary still to maintain it, until we are assured of absolute security or of some tangible result from the Washington Disarmament Conference. In putting the Tariff through the Government did show some backbone. Apparently they are strong when they ought to be weak, and weak when they ought to .be strong. They were strong in dealing with the Tariff when they should have been pliable and reasonable, but weak when submitting their Defence Estimates when they ought to have been strong. I support Senator Bolton to the full. When he goes before the electors of Victoria it will not matter what the newspapers say. The newspapers be hanged ! Very often a man’s political reputation is made in this country because he has the grit and courage to stand up against the newspapers and against articles written by a goggle-eyed gentleman shut up in a dark room, who says, “I hereby ordain that human destiny shall follow certain lines.” Senator Bolton will head the poll yet, and it does not matter what any scribbler may write in his back room, because the honorable senator is in the right, and desires to see this country made safe. . He wants to see us through the dark wood, and we are not through it yet, and will not be unless the Washington Disarmament Conference is going to do something for us. The Government, if it has backbone, will restore abandoned votes to the Defence Estimates.
.- The attitude of the Government towards the Estimates of this particular Department is to me absolutely inexplicable. Criticism has been levelled against them from two quarters. First of all Senator Thomas said that the Government must have deliberately allowed the Defence Estimates to be loaded last year, because they asked for £3,000,000 and spent only £2,000,000, or they are asking to-day for more than is really needed because they think they will be able to do the same thing. On the other hand, Senator Earle has suggested that they have yielded to pressure in another place, and are prepared, without admitting any need foi’ economy in this Department, to yield to a clamour for economy and say, “ There has been no waste, but still we will cut these votes down by so much.” I do not wish to criticise military authorities in this ‘Chamber, who know more about strategy and defence than I do, but I hear some say that because the financial position of Australia is rather rocky at present, we should postpone expenditure on defence until we are in a better position financially. That would be all right if we could choose the time for war. But not one of those same gentlemen would fail to insure his home against fire. Not one would say that, because there was less likelihood of fire in the winter, he would refrain from insuring during the cold months, and take out a fresh policy in the summer. ‘Had honorable senators been asked in. 1913, or early in 1914, whether they regarded war as probable or imminent, they would have replied, as some do to-day, “ There is , not much chance of that.” Yet war came, and caught us suddenly, and unprepared. The same possibility still, and always, exists. We should be in a position to be able speedily to organize our defences. Senator Bolton referred to three specific items which he said the Prime Minister had dealt with at length in another place. Last year, out of a total vote of £1,300,000, the actual sum expended was £693,000. That fact suggests either that more money was asked for than it was possible to spend, or that the late Treasurer (Sir joseph Cook) emphatically got to work, as he indicated he would do when he announced that he was economizing in every possible direction. I am prepared to believe that this policy of the late Treasurer was one of the principal reasons why so little money was spent in relation to the amount voted last year. But, even aside from the items to which ‘Senator Bolton ha3 drawn attention, there still remains another amount of £250,000. That sum is for the Small Arms Ammunition Factory. T understand that the money is to be placed into a Trust Fund, practically as a capital account, for the purchase of the Colonial Ammunition Company’s works. The money must be found, therefore. ‘So the proposed saving of £250,000 must be drawn from the three items dwelt upon by Senator Bolton. I have been struck by the statement of Senator Lynch that, if one compares , the expenditure agreed upon by the Government with that during 1913-14, and takes into account, at the same time, the relative value of money in the two periods under review, it will be seen that the actual amount proposed to ‘be expended to-day - after all our experience - is less than in 1913-14. I do not know whether it will be worth while, however, to support Senator Bolton’s request, in view of the fact that the reduction of the Defence vote was eventually made upon the initiative of the Government in another place. It is true that amendments emanating from -other directions were launched; but the Government survived those noconfidence threats, and the Prime Minister himself suggested a specific reduction. The Government were prepared to accept dictation from anybody and everybody, although they had told the members of their own party that it would be impossible to make further reductions to the extent of one penny. Still, the fact remains that it was upon their own initiative that the Government agreed to cut off £250,000; and, in the circumstances, I doubt whether it would be wise for this Chamber to tell the Government to take no notice of what they have agreed to do, or of what people may say, but to go ahead and spend the money upon defence which they had originally proposed to spend. Although the reduction of the Defence Estimates has met with the approval and active support of certain people who have, in effect, been traitors to their country, if they have thereby im- paired its defences, I feel that it would not be wise to support Senator Bolton’s request, especially in view of the fact that it could have little result.
– I am surprised to learn the attitude of certain honorable senators.
– The request is almost tantamount to a no-confidence motion. .
– Apart from that aspect, I am still greatly surprised. I say SO, in view of the courageous manner in which the Government withstood challenges in another place. The Government deserve every credit for the way in which they met the challenge on their Estimates. They are now keeping in view, all the while, the urgent need for economy. They acted . wisely in subsequently agreeing to a reduction of the Defence Estimates. The very spirit of the time favours cutting down expenditure upon warlike activities to the lowest possible limit. In view of the Washington Disarmament Conference. I maintain that what the Government have done is right and proper. What has been said and proposed .at Washington is the greatest step in the direction of peace in our time; and it is well that Australia should get in line. I fail to understand the spasm of jingoism which has apparently overcome certain honorable senators. Their attitude is quite in conflict with the spirit of the time. The cry on all sides has been for economy. Yet, after the Government have agreed to a reduction in respect of expenditure upon the one Department where there might well be reduction nowadays, a request emanates from the Senate which is practically equivalent to a vote of noconfidence. If there is money to be spent there are many avenues, disregarding warlike activities, along which it can be allocated.
– I was surprised to hear what Senator de Largie has said regarding the position of the Government. The Government have spoken with two voices at two different periods, and but a short space has divided those periods. I had been assured, from statements made from, time to time, by the late Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), that he was economizing in every possible way, and that the Budget submitted for this financial year would be founded on principles of economy appropriate to the circumstances of the Commonwealth, at the present time.
– That was before the declaration of the American Secretary for State (Mr. Hughes) at Washington.
– I think not: but. in any case, I am not hopeful that the Disarmament Conference will bring about anything like a state of absolute disarmament in the immediate future. And it would appear that the Governments both of the United States of America and of Japan are of the same mind. I have noted that the naval authorities of those nations have been actively launching battleships of unprecedented size.
– Not, so far as the United States of America is concerned, since the opening of the Washington Conference.
-I think so, if press reports are to be relied upon. And, certainly, I understand that there have been launchingsof gigantic vessels from Japanese naval dockyards. When the Government in another place saw the approaching storm of criticism, based upon an economy “ stunt,” the Government willingly bowed to that storm. They actually took a direct part in cutting down their original Estimates for Defence by approximately £250,000. Even if a majority of honorable senators supported Senator Bolton’s request to the Government to increase the sum to be devoted to defence, they would surely not expect the Government to turn a complete somersault. The Government could not ask the House of Representatives to accept their original Estimates. That is beyond the realms of possibility.
– Then why not recall Senator Pearce from Washington?
– Senator Pearce will not be required here, because I do not think Senator Bolton’s suggestion will be agreed to. No result can come from making such a request, unless the Government take up an attitude in another place which. I am quite certain they would not be disposed to . adopt. They would not go to the House of Representatives, and say,” We now bow to the criticism levelled against us in the Senate, and we want to go back to where we stood when the Estimates were originally introduced.” If the Government- took that stand, the other Chamber would not agree to it.
– That does not sound like the Prime Minister.
– No, and it does not sound like the House of Representatives. Had the Government stuck to their original vote for defence-, I would have supported them notwithstanding all the outcries for economy. I believe strongly with those honorable senators who have preceded me that the maintenance of our integrity and the preservation of the Commonwealth from outside attack is the first essential. To cut down expenditure on defence may prove not only false economy, but a disastrous policy. Had the Government made this a vital question in another place the House would have followed them. Senator Bolton’s proposal can lead us nowhere, and, therefore. I cannot support it. I regret the attitude the Government have taken on the question of defence. It is only when the chaos and disorganization which will be caused in the Defence Services have revealed themselves that we can expect an outcry on the part of the public.Apart altogether from dispensing with the services of temporary employees in the Defence Department, I believe the reduction of the vote will lead to chaos in both arms of the Defence Force.
– If your statement is correct the Government have deliberately taken a wrong course.
– Perhaps they have. I regret it, but I do not think that the wrong can be redressed by following Senator Bolton. Disorganization will reveal itself soon enough.
– Suppose we refuse to withdraw the request for the restoration of the original vote. What then ?
– In view of what has taken place in the last month or more in the other Chamber, I do not know what might be the constitutional eventualities. So many things have happened which seem to be outside all the. ordinary rules of tradition and. experience that I am not prepared to hazard a guess as to what would be the result of making this request, of the other Chamber refusing to accede to it, and of the Senate pressing it. Ithink the time will shortly arrive when Parliament will be asked to reconsider what is being done now, and when there will be some justification for Parliament retracing its steps in connexion with this particular vote.
– I acknowledge the very practical nature of the latter portion of the speech which the honorablesenator has just delivered. I have listened to the Government being denounced at one time for being too weak and at another time for being too strong. It rather reminds me of the story of the man with the donkey, who was blamed for riding it on one occasion and for carrying it on another. The original proposal in the other House was to cut down the Estimates by £500,000. The Government declined to accept that on the ground that such a reduction would place our defences on the borderline of danger. That proposal was defeated, and there was a subsequent motion that the Estimates be reduced by £400,000. For the same reason the Government opposed that, but later on,they suggested that a reduction of £250,000 be made, and it was believed that such a reduction could be effected without incurring the grave risk that would have been run had the larger reduction been insisted on. I subscribe heartily to the doctrine that there should be no impairment of our efficiency for defence to such an extent as would involve Australia in any danger. Like other honorable senators, I hope very much from the Washington Conference; but, until the results of the deliberations there are made a little more manifest to us, we ought not to assume that the time has yet arrived for beating our spears into reaping hooks and our swords into ploughshares. At the same time, Washington does encourage the belief that we should mark time in our defence preparations, which is a very different thing from scrapping the organization we already have. The item of £45,000 set down for additional machinery and plant for the Woollen Cloth Factory, in connexion with which it has been suggested that a reduction could be made, has no relation at all to the requirements of the Defence Department. That proposed expenditure is to enable the Factory to cope with orders for the supply of cloth to customers other t han the Defence Department. It may be urged that the Government are losing an excellent opportunity in not going into the cloth-making business, but it cannot be contended that our defence system would be impaired by such a reduction.
– But it would be false economy.
– I am dealing with the argument that such a reduction would impair the efficiency of the defence system.
– In view of the present financial position of the Commonwealth, and the insistent demand for the reduction of public expenditure, the Government may reasonably say that, as such a reduction would not impair the efficiency of our defence system, they should not go in for that venture. All around me I can see opportunities for profitable investment of capital, but the Government have abstained from taking such opportunities because of the shortage of money.
– You will go into the market and buy the material at a dearer price from the private mills.
– It is not the primary function of Governments to manufacture goods for private citizens.
– Is not the idea of the extension of the Federal Woollen Mills to supply cloth to returned soldiers?
– I cannot say that it is. The proposed vote of £45,000 is for extra machinery to enable the mill to supply customers other than the Defence Department.
– Why has the mill been carrying on the business for so long?
– That raises another point. I again affirm that abstaining from voting this £45,000 will not impair the efficiency of our defence system. Take the next item, “Munitions supply.” I have not the slightest doubt that, as it becomes necessary to continue our land or naval armaments, provision in that direction will be necessary, but if the proposed vote is passed this year, the Defence Department will not be in a position to provide munitions, because the vote is only an instalment towards the cost of machinery and plant for the supply of munitions. We should delay this work until the financial position becomes easier, and the necessity to continue war-like preparations becomes obvious.
The Government would not have accepted this reduction if they had thought that it would jeopardize the safety of Australia. I shall now take up the point so forcibly put by Senator Keating, who asked what would be the practical result of Senator Bolton’s proposals. It has always been regarded as primarily the prerogative of what is known as the popular Chamber - but which at present may be termed the unpopular Chamber - to deal with such matters as these, and to determine what burdens should be placed on the people. I believe that those who are f amiliar with the working of the Constitution will recognise that if this Chamber on every possible occasion attempted to exercise its power of veto, the Constitution would be unworkable. It is inconceivable that the other House would willingly give up its undoubted right to a predominant voice in financial matters, and I ask honorable senators if it is probable, in view of what took place last week, that it would be likely to reverse its decision? I speak with many years of parliamentary experience. Circumstances not entirely unlike this have arisen before, and unless the Senate felt the strength of its position and was prepared to push the matter to the extreme, it has given way. Otherwise, there is the possibility of a double dissolution.
– We have not all had that experience.
– That is quite true; but those who are younger in parliamentary life should gain knowledge of the practicalities from those who have been through these experiences. The Government cannot accept the amendment, for very obvious reasons that have been so ably stated by Senator Keating. An insistence at this stage can only lead ultimately to this House withdrawing from its position. Those honorable gentlemen who have spoken against the reduction approved by another place will achieve their purpose by attracting public attention to another side of the question which, I submit, was not sufficiently stressed elsewhere.
– Then why not allow the request to go forward in its present form?
– I submit that this House should not put forward any request in the same spirit as the pilot who ordered the anchor of his ship to be let down one moment, and drawn up the next, just to show his authority. No honorable senator would care to see this Senate placed in a false position. In view of these circumstances, I ask Senator Bolton to withdraw his request; and failing its withdrawal, I must ask honorable senators to join with me in declining to accept it.
.- My principal motive in submitting my request was to draw attention to the fact that in the general Estimates there are other items which I think could be readily eliminated with very little danger. There is, for instance, the item £173,000 for Junior and Senior Cadet training, which, so far as the immediate future is concerned, will be useless for defence purposes. We have to cut our cloth according to our measure.It appears to me that by striking out such items as these we may be able to maintain those that are essential. I appreciate all that the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) has said, and, in the circumstances, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Request, by leave, withdrawn.
– I was very much surprised at the Minister’s statement with regard to the proposed reduction of expenditure in connexion with the Woollen Cloth Factory, because only about half-an-hour ago we had an assurance that it was not intended to touch that item.
– Who gave that assurance?
– The Minister’s colleague, Senator Russell. I mentioned that there were rumours abroad that it was proposed to interfere with that establishment, and I desired to enter my protest against the suggestion. I have paid more than one visit to the mill, and from my inquiries and observations there I have found that the management contemplated entering upon a further stage of the industry by supplying public Departments, but we were unable to turn out the material required with the present plant. It is not fair for the Minister to give the public the impression that the original proposal of the Government with regard to this expenditure was that it was to be incurred to compete with the private trading people of Australia.
– And is it not!
– The Minister says itis, and you say it is not. Who is right?
– Let us see in what direction the products of the Factory have gone hitherto. The material manufactured by the mill has been supplied to the Defence Department, the Navy, the Police Department, and, I believe, the Railway Department.
– It is advertised by the Defence Department, and sold as the public require it.
– Who are the private customers supposed to have been supplied? Are they not returned soldiers? From what Icould gather when this item was being discussed last year, it was contemplated to increase the plant at the earliest possible moment, in order that the mill would be ableto turn out all the material required by the various Departments, and to insure that returned soldiers should be able to got a supply of tweed and cloth.
– There was nothing inconsistent with that in my statement.
– The impression was that the proposal to spend the £45,000 on machinery was to enable the Factory to supply individual requirements. I want to emphasize now that it will be false economy to interfere in an undertaking of this kind, which’ is becoming more and more valuable to the Commonwealth. The balance-sheet last year showed clearly that, after providing for all expenditure, including interest on capital and overhead, charges, the Factory showed a profit of £26,000.
– And because it is paying, they are going to wipe it out.
– It is false economy to touch that item at all. I simply rose again’ to urge the Minister to see that this kind of economy is not adopted. The whole business will be ruined unless facilities are provided for the management to carry on in a satisfactory way.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Navy, £419,000; Air Service, £300,000; and Department of Trade and Customs, £4,831, agreed to.
Proposed vote, £823,506.
– I desire again to stress the point I raised earlier in the evening with regard to the necessity of providing telephone facilities for settlers in the Northern Territory.
– I will send a copy of the honorable senator’s remarks to the responsible officers for report.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance that something will be done as soon as possible.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Health, £40,000, agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Postponed clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment or request; report adopted.
Senate adjourned at 10.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 November 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19211124_senate_8_98/>.