8th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator JOHN D. MILLEN brought up the sixth progress report of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts, dealing with War Service Homes in ‘South Australia.
Senator NEWLAND brought up a re port from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence relating to proposed provision for office accommodation for the Federal Taxation Department, Melbourne.
The following papers were presented -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Federal Capital purposes at Fergus, in the Territory for the Seat of Government.
New Guinea.- Ordinance No. 20 of 1922 - Succession Duties (No. 2).
Postmaster-General’s Department - Eleventh Annual Report, 1920-1921.
Public Service Act - Promotion of E. P. Geraghty, Department of Trade and Customs.
Railways Act - By-law No. 22.
Treaties of Peace (Austria and Bulgaria) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1922, Nos. 85, 86.
Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 84.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers supplied by the Defence Department are. -
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to -
That the days of meeting of the Senate, unless otherwise ordered, be Wednesday, Thursday,and Friday of each week; and that the hour of meeting, unless otherwise ordered, be Three o’clock in the afternoon of Wednesday and Thursday and Eleven o’clock in the forenoon of Friday.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to -
That during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, the sittings of the Senate, or of a Committee of the whole Senate, be suspended from 1 p.m. to 2.30 p.m., and from 6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to -
That during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, at 4 o’clock p.m. on Fridays the President shall put the question - That the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall not be open to debate; if the Senate be in Committee at that hour, the Chairman shall in like manner put the question- That he do leave the Chair and report to the Senate; and upon such report being made the President shall forthwith put the question- That the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall not be open to debate: Provided that if the Senate or the Committee, be in division at the time named, the President or the Chairman shall not put the question referred to until the result of such division has been declared; and if the business under discussion shall not have been disposed of at such adjournment it shall appear on the business-paper for the next sitting day.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to -
That on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business on the noticepaper, except questions and formal motions, and except that private business take precedence of Government business on Thursday after 8 p.m.; and that, unless otherwise ordered, private Orders of the Day take precedence of private notices of motion on alternate Thursdays.
Motions (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to -
That a Standing Orders Committee be ap pointed, to consist of the President, the Chairman of Committees, Senators Crawford, de Largie, Duncan, Elliott, Foll, Gardiner, and Lynch, with powerto act during the recess, and to confer with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
That a Library Committee be appointed, to consist of the President, Senators Benny, Bolton, de Largie, Gardiner, Keating, and J. D. Millen, with power to act during the recess, and to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
That a House Committee be appointed, to consist of the President, Senators Benny, Buzacott, Guthrie,Rowell, and Thomas, with power to act during the recess and to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
That a Printing Committee be appointed, to consist of Senators Cox, MacDonald, J. D. Millen,Newland, Plain, Reid, and Senior, with power to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to -
That a message be sent to the House of Representatives requesting the House of Representatives to resume the consideration of a Bill intituled “ A Bill for an Act to consolidate and amend the Law regulating the Public Service, and for other purposes,” which was transmitted to the House of Representatives for its concurrence during the last session of the Parliament, the proceedings on such Bill having been interrupted by the prorogation of the Parliament.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to -
That a message be sent to the House of Representatives requesting the House of Representatives to resume the consideration of a Bill intituled “A Bill for an Act to amend the Defence Act 1903-1918’,” which was transmitted to the House of Representatives for its concurrence during the last session of the Parliament, the proceedings on such Bill having been interrupted by the prorogation ofthe Parliament.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to -
That a message be sent to the House of Representatives requesting the House of Representatives to resume the consideration of a Bill intituled “A Bill for an Act relating to Air Defence,” which was transmitted to the House of Representatives for its concurrence during the last session of the’ Parliament, the proceedings on such Bill having been interrupted by the prorogation of the Parliament.
– (New South
Wales - Minister for Repatriation) [11.20]. - Owing to aneventwhich has happened elsewhere the Supply Bill, which I had hoped would be before this Chamber this morning, is meeting with some little temporary delay. I anticipate now that it will not reach the Senate until after lunch. Therefore I would ask you, Mr. President, with the concurrence of the Chamber, to suspend the sitting until a quarter to four o’clock this afternoon.
So far as I can learn at present that is the earliest hour atwhich it is likely that we shall receive the Supply Bill.
– That is when we want to adjourn.
– There are, no doubt, many things which we would like to do, but circumstances do not always permit. When we resume the sitting we shall be able to take stock of the situation. It is, perhaps, advisable that I should remind honorable, senators that the Supply Bill is required during this month, and that there is very little time now to deal with it. Whether it will be possible to dispose of the measure to-day or whether I shall be under an obligation to ask honorable senators to meet to-morrow can only be determined in the light of events that may occur to-day after a quarter to four o’clock.
– In view of the statement made by the Minister as to the state of public business elsewhere and inthis Chamber, and to meet the convenience of honorable senators and the requirements of the Government, I suspend the sitting until a quarter to four o’clock, at which hour I shall resume the chair.
Sitting suspended from 11.22 a.m. to 845 p.m.
SenatorE. D. MILLEN (New South Wales - Minister for Repatriation) [3.45]. - (By leave.) - I wish to explain that yesterday I gave notice of a series of motions for the appointment of the usual Committees, and those motions were approved to-day. In bringing the motions forward I had asked the officials to reproduce the Committees as adopted last session, but in connexion with the House Committee two errors occurred through an inadvertence in copying the names of the previous Committee. It will be noticed that in the motion I submitted only six names are included in the House Committee, whereas the usual number of members selected is seven. The names of Senators Bakhap and Wilson were unfortunately left out, and the name of Senator Benny was wrongly inserted. I apologize for the mistake, and propose next week to take the necessary steps to correct it.
– I regret to have to inform the Senate that, owing to the great pertinacity with which another place addresses itself to the business before it, we are not yet in possession of the Supply Bill, the passage of which is necessary to enable Australia to keep faith with its creditors tomorrow morning. In the circumstances I ask for a further suspension of the sitting to 5 p.m., by which time it. is reasonable to suppose that the Bill will be in our possession.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) [3.48]. - Owing to the state of business, and to meet the convenience of the Senate, and the necessities of the Government for Supply, I accede to the Minister’s request, and suspend the sitting until 5 p.m., at which time I shall resumethechair.
Sitting suspended from3.48 to 5 p.m.
Operation of Sessional Order
– As the Senate was not sitting at 4 o’clock, at which time, under a sessional order passed this morning, the question, “ That the Senate do now adjourn,” shouldhave been put, I interpret the order to mean that if the Senate is not sitting at 4 o’clock, as soon thereafter as possiblethe Senate should have the right and opportunity of deciding whether it will continue the sitting after that hour. I will,therefore, put the question, “ That the Senate do now adjourn,” and if honorable senators desire to continue this sitting they will negative it.
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
Fir st Reading.
The Senate and Supply Bills - Telephone Services - The Government : Redistribution or Portfolios - Australian Commissioner, United States or America - Redistribution of Seats Commission.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) proposed -
That this Bill be now read ft first time.
– Although I voted for the suspension of so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent the passage of this Bill through all its stages without delay, that did not mean that I should let it go through withoutsaying a few words, in which I shall not occupy time unnecessarily. I realize that there are strong reasons why this Bill should be passed to-day. At the same time, there are also good reasons why the Government should have convened Parliament at an earlier date, in order to givehonorable senators an opportunity of ventilating public questions with which they are much concerned. We are all aware that, on the first reading of a Supply Bill, an opportunity is rightly afforded to each member of the Senate to discuss those questions in whichheand his constituents are vitally interested. I was going to say more than 1 now purpose to say about what has happened in the interval that has elapsed since this Parliament was previously in session.
The Post and Telegraph Department, which comes into the most intimate contact with the people of this country, and particularly in remote districts, calls for some attention at our hands. I remind honorable senators of the position of the Department as revealed in press reports published to-day. We are informed that there is a very ample balance to the credit of the Department from the last twelve months’ operations. That isone side of the picture; but another side is the manner in which country residents particularly, and residents of towns also, are dealt with in the matter of facilities for telephonic communication. From first-hand knowledge, I am in a position to say that it is almost impossible to secure telephone connexion in centres of population, let alone in the country. I want to know the reason for this. On the one hand the Department shows a surplus, and yet there is a stereotyped reply that, because of lack of money, telephone connexions cannot be made.
– Lack of material.
– I understand that the material required is being manufactured in this country.
– In any case, the matter is one which should be cleared up. It is paradoxical that there should be a substantial credit to the account of the Post and Telegraph Department, and that, at the same time, the conveniences which the Department is supposed to furnish should be so sadly lacking as they are at least in the State I have the honour to represent.
That is one matter which I had intended to ventilate at length. Another is the question of immigration; but I shall postpone what I hare to say on that question.
A further matter to which I wish to refer is what has taken place in connexion with the reconstruction of the Cabinet since we last met. This is a matter with which the interests, dignity, and importance of the Senate are closely connected. All I wish to say now is that, in my opinion, the Government are not warranted in keeping the number of portfolios held by their representatives in this Chamber at the present number. I am not a candidate for office, thank God, and so I can refer to this matter in a perfectly disinterested manner. I say that, as a result of the allotment of portfolios in the recent reconstruction of the Cabinet, justice has not been done to the Senate. I could, if necessary, support that statement by reference to the actions of different Governments during the last twenty years of Federation. I repeat that the manner in which portfolios have been allotted to representatives of the Government in the Senate is not warranted, in view of the status, importance, and constitutional rights of this Chamber. That is all I shall now say on the subject.
Minor matters requiring detailed reference can be dealt with later. I understand thatthe Bill is to provide Supply to meet the ordinary services of the Commonwealth for only one month. There will, therefore, be another opportunity in a month’s time to discuss those matters, and what I haveto say upon them will not suffer in the keeping.
– Under our Standing Orders, it is not necessary that what is said on the motion for the first reading of a Supply Bill shall he actually relevant to the motion. I take this opportunity of referring to two matters. First of all, I take no exception to the attitude ofthe Government with regard to this measure. It was essential that it should be introduced as soon as possible after Parliament met; but I, personally, strongly resent the attitude adopted elsewhere. I think I shall not be out of order in what I intend to say, because I shall not refer to another place. I do strongly resent the attitude adopted elsewhere when it is assumed that the Senate can simply stand by until the personal and individual convenience of other people is considered, and that we shallthen deal with a measure covering over £2,400,000. I strongly resent any such attitude on the part of any one. I have stayed here during the whole of today at very great personal inconvenience. I cannot, and I do not propose to, take part in any discussion of this measure that would enable me to analytically consider the proposals submitted to us. I say that because this is a Bill for only one month’s Supply.
– For the ordinary services.
– I hope that Senators E. D. Millen, Pearce, and Earle will not hereafter say, with regard to any item which I may feel called upon to criticise in a future Supply Bill or Appropriation Bill, that I have committed myself to anything by allowing any particular item in the Bill now before us to pass. I have been a member of this Parliament since its inception, and I never remember such an occurrence as that members of another place should advertise themselves, air themselves, and take their trains home while members representing the whole of the States should stand by here simply to say ditto to what is done elsewhere. What would happen now if this Senate took up an attitude involving reconsideration of important proposals in this Bill ? Would the Government be able to get a quorum? I do not know. Honorable senators today have stood by loyally co-operating with the Government to keep a quorum for the purpose of dealing with this measure. I only wish to say that my non- participation in the discussion in Committee on any particular item must not be taken by the Government, or any. individual member of the Senate - and I am sure no individual member will so take it - as in any way binding me hereafter to a continuance of any particular item of expenditure that may be indicated in this Bill. The measure has just been circulated amongst us. Is this fair to the House which represents the States of ‘ the Commonwealth ? I say, No ! There are one or two items to which I’ might direct attention and invite discussion, but we have now got beyond the hour for discussion. Those members who have gone back to their respective States should be considered in this matter. I hope other honorable senators will support me in my attitude, and take the stand that whatever is done with regard to this Bill shall be without prejudice to the right of future criticism.
– I donot propose to take more than two or three’ minutes. I join with Senator Keating in protesting against the treatment meted out to the Senate. I do not blame the Government in the slightest for the fact that we have not had an opportunity of dealing with and criticising this Supply Bill, but I have in mind what happened on a former occasion. When I objected to certain expenditure that went through the Senate without previous legislative sanction, it was pointed out to me by the Minister that the necessary authority was contained in an item of a Bill such as this, and that, as the item had been passed by the Senate, it must be taken that the necessary sanction and approval had been given by this Chamber. It is possible, also, that on that occasion the financial statement went through without opportunity for very careful review by honorable senators. I find myself in the same position this afternoon. I am now asked to deal with a money Bill covering an expenditure of £2,481,850 without an opportunity of examining any items in it. I do not want it to be said at some future time by anybody inside or outside of Parliament that I have been a party to legislative sanction for any line of expenditure that may be contained in this Bill. I do not want it to be said that I have committed myself to any particular item of expenditure in the schedule attached to this measure. I also join with. Senator Keating in entering my protest against the action taken by the members of another place, without any regard to the convenience of members of this Chamber, by appropriating to themselves the limited amount of time that was available to Parliament in order to give vent to their personal grievances and advertising themselves to the electors of Australia, but advertising themselves, as I believe, to their detriment.
– That thought ought to make us tolerant, then.
– It is about the only thought that makes me slightly tolerant, and curbs the natural anger which I feel concerning the selfish attitude of members of another place.
– I do not desire to delay this measure. I understand from what has taken place elsewhere that it is the desire of all parties to expedite its passage. It involves the expenditure of something like £2,400,000. As a new member, and as one to whom things, by their freshness, are somewhat mystifying, it seems to me that, having received a copy of the Bill only this morning, and. without having received previous advice that it was to be rushed through on the same day-
– Did not the honorable senator attend a meeting of his party t
– Yes, I did.
– Then you ought to be in the “ know.”
– He knew more than we did.
– This Bill was available six days ago.
– This, at all events, is the first opportunity I have had of perusing the measure, and I remind the honorable senator that I was not officially a member of this Chamber until Wednesday. However, I do not intend to delay the Bill, and I do not want to pretend that I do not know of certain events elsewhere. It seems to me that the treatment we have received from another place indicates the need for serious thought being given to the future of this Chamber, which subject, as honorable senators are no doubt aware, is already under the consideration of the party which I have the honour to represent. But I shall not labour that point. This is the first opportunity I have had to examine “the Bill, but already I notice several items upon which, if time permitted, I should like information, notably concerning the expenditure on immigration’ and the Australian Commissioner in the United States of America. But, as it is the desire of honorable senators to get away as soon as possible, I shall not persist in my request for - information on these points. Like Senators Keating and Drake-Brockman, I do not intend to take any responsibility for anything that may be contained in the Bill, because, as I have already said, I should like some information in regard to a number of items, and as the time is limited, I shall not be able to get it. The fact’ that, owing to the exigencies of political affairs, I am the sole representative of Labour present this afternoon, is, I think, another reason why the” future of the Senate as one branch -of the Legislature should be reviewed at the earliest possible date. I do hot intend to deal further with these matters, but later I shall have something to say on such items as immigration, the Australian Commissioner to the United States’ of America, and tropical diseases. I am allowing the Bill to go for to day, and taking my place amongst the seventeen or eighteen members who by their votes give their indorsement to it.
– I think that most honorable senators will support the attitude of Senator Keating and Senator Drake-Brockman with regard to this measure. I feel pretty certain that to-morrow the press of Melbourne will come out with an announcement that a Bill dealing with an expendi”ture of something like £2,500,000 has been rushed through the Senate without debate. I recognise the position in which the Government has been placed. Wedo not want to embarrass them in regard to the expenditure of this money.
– Was there any debate on the Bill in the other place ?
– No. I know that the Bill, in the other place, was passed in a very short space of time, without debate in the Committee stage. We have been kept back for the convenience of the other House. Personally, I have remained and missed my train, with inconvenience to myself and family, because I felt it was my duty to be here while the Bill was going through.
– Why advertise the Melbourne newspapers- in this Chamber t
– I am not advertising the Melbourne newspapers. I am simply pointing out what will be said if this Senate agrees to a. Bill involving an expenditure of £2,500,000 without debate. I recognise that most of the items in it can be discussed by us at a later stage on the debate on the AddressinReply.. We shall then have an opportunity “ of expressing our opinions. Having uttered that protest I leave the matter there.
Senator E. D. MILLEN (New .South
Wales - Minister for Repatriation) [5.23]. - I should like; to say a word to two regarding the nature of the protests, which have come, rather generally,- from all around this Chamber, at the somewhatbelated’ appearance of this Bill. First of all, I regret, as much as anybody else, that very frequently circumstances do seem to shorten the time which this Chamber might reasonably ask for the consideration of money Bills. I admit that; but there are reasons, which come under two headings, as to why that frequently happens. There are circumstances which no Government - not even this very model Government - can obviate. A Government may make reasonable arrangements for the conduct of its business. Something happens elsewhere, and those responsible for it are acting entirely within their rights - as to the discretion of their exercise I say nothing - in bringing forward any matters regarding which they feel strongly. Another reason sometimes operates, as in the present case, although I might almost bracket the two reasons together. Circumstances frequently cause a Government’s calculations regarding the time that will be available for a measure to miscarry. In this case I say unhesitatingly that the Government cannot be held blameworthy.
– Nobody said the Government were blameworthy.
– That is so. Two things have happened. First of all, it may have been an oversight, and as to that it may be said the Government isblameworthy. I would direct attention, however, to the fact that we somewhat closed in the time available to both Houses for this measure by adjourning on the first day before we had taken the customary stages following the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. This threw into yesterday the work which, in ordinary circumstances, would have, been completed on
Wednesday. Nobody demurred to that adjournment. It was the correct and proper thing to do, but it did cut into the time available for the consideration of this legislation. The other circumstance was that the Opposition in the other House felt called upon to occupy the time in discussing, not this Bill, which the Government invited them to consider, but some other matter which they could just as well have dealt with next week upon the Address-in-Reply.
– Could not the Government have applied the closure ?
– If the Government applies the closure to anything which must be accepted as a challenge, what is the answer ? No Government can apply the gag to a challenge. An amend-‘ ment was moved to the first motion necessary to bring the Bill before this Chamber. ‘ The motion was to go into Committee to consider the question of Supply.
– During the whole time of the debate nothing that was said had relevance to this Bill.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
– I admitthat the matter is. not worth discussing,, but the debate in the other place occupied time which the Government desired1 should be devoted to this Bill. The Government was in this position : it had to face the possibility to-morrow morning of * creditors of ‘the Commonwealth presenting their claims over the Treasury counter - and there being no money to pay them. As an alternative it had to ask this Chamber to submit to the possible inconvenience of continuing on Friday afternoon at this hour. Honorable senatorshave shown their appreciation of that position by helping the. Government through with this measure. There is oneother matter that calls for comment from me. Senator Keating and others - have referred to proposals being submitted to vote millions of money “ without honorable senators having an opportunity of scrutinizing the items, and “ they have been careful to make it plain that they themselves do not accept responsibility. I remind them that they - have voted for every item in this Bill ai- - ready. They are not bound in the future. . ‘ but they have in the past, and last year, voted for all the items that appear in the Bill.
– I see one or two items, even in a. cursory examination of the Bill, that we have not voted upon. I shall deal with them on the next Supply Bill.
– The position is, that last year this Chamber voted a salary for, say, John Smith, an officer in a certain Department. It is asked now to continue John Smith’s salary for a month, amounting to £50. It approved of his getting £600 last year, and is now asked for £50 for this month. That is all this Bill means. There is nothing in this Bill which, in some form’ or other, was not covered by the Estimates and Appropriation Bill passed a few months ago.
– What about the item of £750 for contingencies for the Australian Commissioner in the United States of America?
– Last year there was an appropriation for that office, then filled by Sir Mark Sheldon. Last year the vote was for a yearly amount. Now it is. for a. month. This Chamber last year approved of the maintenance of that office in America, and made the money available to maintain it. - All it is asked to do to-day is to continue that for a month, at approximately the same rate as would represent one-twelfth of the yearly amount previously voted. There is no great responsibility- in that.
– As long as the items relate only to annual appropriations, there is no great responsibility; but there are items, I think, which go beyond the annual appropriations.
– Senator Keating, as an old parliamentarian, and *specially as an ex-Minister, knows that these details will be fully open for discussion later on. The most this Chamber commits itself to now is a continuation for another month of payments which it has approved of for twelve months.
– £1,000 is set down for the redistribution of seats in the electoral divisions. The Commission has been sitting only for the last six months.
–The Commission has been acting for nearly twelve months. In any case, Parliament approved of the appointment of the Commission for that purpose. It is nothing new to this Chamber, and nothing has been’ sprung upon honorable senators who, when they appoint a Commission to do work, know that certain funds- have to be provided for its expenses. I submit that it is a rather exaggerated suggestion that there is a great weight of responsibility resting upon senators who have approved of expenditure for twelve months and are now asked to approve of it for another month, at the same rate as before, until there is a further opportunity for considering it in detail.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read, a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Under the Audit Act, most grants made by Parliament for the expenses of carrying on the Government lapse on the 30th June. This does not apply to votes given by .Parliament under special appropriations and under Loan Acts. The Treasury, too, has some money at the credit of Trust Accounts, such as the oldage and invalid pensions account, and the war pensions account. The votes which are now about to lapse are so numerous, however, and relate so intimately to the everyday work of government, that it is necessary to ask Parliament for immediate Supply. The present Supply Bill is for a total of £2,481,850. Included “ therein are the following items: - Refunds of revenue, £170,000; Treasurer’s Advance, £750,000; total, £920,000. Deducting that sum from the total of the Bill, there is a balance of £1,561,850. The total of the Estimates of last year under the ordinary votes was £24,715,282, from which we may deduct a payment made to the British Government under the funding arrangement amounting to £5,548,815. We are not asking for any sum in this Supply Bill on account of the funding arrangement, because there is now a special appropriation for that purpose. The balance of those ordinary votes1 is therefore £19,166,467, onetwelfth of which comes to £1,597,206. As the Government is asking for only £1,561,850, it will be seen that the amount now required is slightly less than one-twelfth of what was voted by Parliament for last year. The reduction, as compared with last year, is really greater than these figures indicate, because we have had to provide in this Supply Bill for the pay of public servants for a period of five weeks, including the payment due on 4th August. The provision under refunds of revenue does not involve any question of economy of administration, because it represents merely the amount necessary to do justice to persons who have made payments to us in excess of what were due, and to make payment of some other things, such as the proportion of cable receipts due to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, and to the Pacific Cable Board. Under the head of Treasurer’s Advance, the Government is asking for Supply amounting to £750,000, which is exactly the sameas the sum which was granted in the first Supply Bill of last year. This money is required in order to carry on works which are now in progress in accordance with approvals given by Parliament during the last session. We also require money for temporary credits to carry on the activities of the several printing establishments, and it is usual for the Treasurer to have a sum. in hand to meet unforeseen requirements. The Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) would, have been glad to lay before the House a full statement as to the financial position of the Commonwealth. In view of the fact, however, that we are now practically at the close of the financial year, it would seem unwise that any statement should be. attempted at this stage. Only rough and approximate figures can be used, and these would certainly be subject to considerable alteration within two or three days. The Treasury accounts are now approaching completion, and the Treasurer hopes, during next week, to make a statement covering in considerable detail all the transactions of the expiring financial year. The figures will still be approximate, but will afford a general indication of the state of affairs. The real position cannot be fully stated until the delivery of the Budget speech, which the Treasurer expects to make some time in August, and before the next Supply Bill. All that the Treasurer feels justifiedin, saying at the present moment with regardto the general position of the finances is that the revenue receipts of the year have been of a satisfactory character.
SenatorLYNCH (Western Australia) [5.35] - One itemin the schedule is an advance to the Treasurerof £750,000.
The Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) has said that the granting of this sum isonly following a precedent set up last year in connexion with the first Supply Bill, but I believe that there was no previous precedent. So far as my recollection goes., this £750,000 represents a clear increase of 50 per cent, over all previous advances to the Treasurer, and I desire, to know the reason for the increase. Last year, there was some strong protest against it, and I raised my voice against certain payments made under this heading. This grant gives the Treasurer such freedom of action that, being human, he pays certain claims on the Commonwealth which would never be paid if they had to come under the purview of Parliament, at any rate, not so far as my vote is concerned. Amounts have been disbursed under this heading to strong unions who stood up in opposition to the Government, and who, because they were arrogant and bullying, obtained from the Government such terms as weaker unions could not have received. They obtained thousands of pounds, whereas if the Treasurer had been kept down to half-a-million, or even less, he might not have been quite so free in his payments to these unions. I shall, at all times, refuse to countenance the principle that the Government may be bullied into the position of paying out of the taxpayers money, sums which would not be paid’ to. weaker and more law-abiding unions. It ishighly improper for this, or any other Government, to differentiate, as they have done, in giving, thousands of pounds from the public funds towards paying the expenses of strongly entrenched industrial bodies, whether employers or employees, when they come to deal with the Government in matters of public concern. There are organizations which, by the exercise of common sense, and a recognition of their allotted station in the industrial world, make no such demands, and, because of their modesty, they are penalized to the extent of being kept in the background, while strong and bullying characters can exact money from the Government in the manner indicated. No less than £6,000 was. paid out on one occasion in this wayout ofthis very fund. If my words direct public, attention - to the ill-balanced and unjustifiable action of the Government in rewarding the bullying, arrogant section of the community with, contributions from the Trea- sury, I shall be satisfied. I decline to sanction such expenditure. I hope the Minister will tell us why the Treasurer’s Advance has been increased.
– I am informed that it has been the practice for the last twenty years to provide £750,000 for the Treasurer’s Advance Fund in the first Supply Bill of the year.
– This is not a monthly contribution.
– No. The vote is necessary to provide money for the multifarious concerns which the Government handles.
-It provides the Treasurer’s petty cash.
– Yes, and something more. For the conduct of an ordinary business, not only is there available the petty cash fund, but, if needed, a cheque may be obtained from the manager at a moment’s notice.
– The expenditure of the Treasurer from this fund is dealt with in the. Auditor-General’s report.
– Yes, and every item of it will subsequently come before Parliament for review. The Senate has for many years seen fit to approve of an advance of, the amount now asked for, recognising the necessities of the case.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Glauses 1 to 4 agreed to.’
– Senator Lynch has, with justice, complained of the delays which have occurred in making telephone connexions. There have been some thousands of persons in the cities and in ‘the rural districts whom it has been impossible to supply with telephones. I am pleased, however, to be able to say now that extensive contracts have been let for the supply of the necessary material, and that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Poynton) is sanguine of meeting the large demands for telephones in the near future.
SenatorVardon. - Could not the contract have been let earlier?
– Supplies have not been obtainable-. The PostmasterGeneral informs me that later even more liberal terms than are given now will be extended to rural telephone subscribers.
– Is the telephonematerial that the honorable gentleman speaks of manufactured in this country?
– No, unfortunately. Our population is not yet large enough to enable it to be made locally with economy.
– It is reassuring to have the statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that telephone material is now available. Can the honorable gentleman say how long those of us who want telephones will have to wait for them?
– I cannot say that.
– I have been informed that I shall have to wait, possibly, two years for a telephoneto my present residence.
– I think that that is an exaggeration.
– I hope so. Throughout South Australia persons have been waiting a long time for telephone services.
– It is so in every State.
– I hope that they will not be kept waiting much longer.
– The supply of telephones will be more rapid inthefuture.
– I would like to know from the Minister whether the votes of £100f or tropical diseases, and £550 for the grant towards eradicating the hookworm disease in Australia, are monthly or annual payments.
– These items are monthly instalments’ of animal payments:
SenatorLYNCH(Western Australia) [5.51]. - Is thesum of £1,560 towards the establishment of an Australian War Museum a new item in this, schedule, as the words “establishment of” would indicate it to be?
[5.52). - If Senator Lynch had visited: the Melbourne . Exhibition Building,, he would know that the Australian War Museum has been am established fact for a long time past. Provision wasmade for it on the last Estimates, and Parliament was notified at the time that the money -was to be devoted to an Australian War Museum. This is not a new item of expenditure.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported, without request; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 5.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 June 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1922/19220630_senate_8_99/>.