13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
[10.3]. -by leave - It has come to the knowledge of the Government that, during the last few days, there has been an organized and determined attempt to cause dissatisfaction in the navy by the spread of false propaganda. Honorable senators are aware that by the Financial Emergency Act introduced by the Scullin Government, certain reductions of pay were approved by Parliament, and were applied in the navy, the army, the air force and the Public Service generally. There is in the navy what is known as a welfare committee, which is representative of the lower ratings. That committee is recognized by the Naval Board as the channel through which representa tions shall be made regarding alleged disabilities suffered by those ratings. When the reductions were made, the welfare committee made representations to the Naval Board regarding what it claimed to be inequalities, and injustices consequent upon those reductions. The Naval Board considered the matter, and made certain recommendations to the Government. When the additional salary reduction of £8 per annum was made, based upon a fall in the cost of living, the Government, bearing in mind the recommendations of the Naval Board, appointed a committee, consisting of the chief finance officers of thenavy, army and air forces, to consider how those reductions should take effect in regard to the members of those forces. When the last salary cut was made, certain variations were effected in respect of the navy and army, the result being that the lowest ratings in the navy did not suffer that additional cut. A graduated scale was adopted, affecting only those above the lower ratings, and embracing the commissioned officers, who sustained the full reduction of £8 per annum. The Naval Board made further recommendations concerning matters which the lower ratings in the navy believed to constitute an injustice to them when compared with the treatment meted out to members of the Public Service. Those matters particularly affected travelling when on leave, child endowment, and the allowance made to a rating for rations when on leave. It was pointed out that’, in respect of the last-named matter, conditions in the Australian Navy differed appreciably from those obtaining in the Royal Navy. I shall not now go into details on the subject, as that can more properly be done when we are discussing the Estimates. It is sufficient to say that all of these matters were receiving the consideration of the Government last week. On the 8th November the Government arrived at the decision to rectify the anomalies in respect of the three matters to which I have referred, to give to naval ratings concessions in regard to travelling to and from their home when on leave, to increase the child endowment allowance for married ratings from £9 to £13 per annum, as in the Public Service, and to raise the allowance for rations made to sailors when on leave, because, obviously, it costs a man more to live when on leave than when he is “ found “ aboard ship.
Unfortunately, a day or so before that determination was arrived at by Cabinet, the Government became aware of a movement, obviously organized and cunningly directed, to use these known grievances to seduce the men of the fleet, and incite them to disaffection, and so bring about an organized strike
Or mutiny. The first outward manifestation of this was the publication in a Melbourne newspaper of the statement that the naval ratings had held a meeting, formulated an ultimatum, and forwarded it to the Federal Cabinet, that ultimatum purporting to convey the decision that unless the demands of the men were conceded, they would refuse duty. Accompanying the article was a picture bearing a caption, which indicated that armed force might be used to achieve the object of the men, and depicting bluejackets with rifles and bayonets, the suggestion being that the navy would mutiny, or go on strike.
During the recent stay of the fleet in Melbourne, the ships were, as usual, thrown open for inspection, and, as is customary in British communities where the public takes great interest in the navy, they were visited by a large number of persons. Those who were directing this conspiracy took this opportunity to distribute many hundreds of copies of a roncoed document among the ratings, suggesting that the men of the fleet should organize and join hands with their “ comrades ashore “ to bring about a strike or mutiny, in order to force the hand of the Government; and declaring that, while ashore it might be possible for the forces of law and order to control the situation, those forces would bc ineffective if the men in the navy took the action suggested. The whole document was an incitement to disaffection, to mutiny or to strike. The newspaper article which I have mentioned has been referred to the Attorney-General, and as certain action is pending in that respect, ] shall not deal further with that point.
– What is the name of the newspaper?
– I shall not at this stage give its name. The decision which the Government arrived at on the 8th November was duly communicated to the Naval Board and, I presume, has been transmitted to the admiral commanding. But, naturally, it has not yet been promulgated in the ordinary way by regulation. That will be done shortly.
When the Senate adjourned for supper at midnight last night I was met in a corridor of the Parliament House by two pressmen, who told me that they had received an intimation from the Argus newspaper, or that the Argus newspaper had received an intimation - I am not quite sure which - that in Melbourne yesterday afternoon 200 men marched off the ships of the navy, which were then in harbour, and held a stop-work meeting, at which it was advocated that they, and the remainder of the ratings on those ships, should refuse duty, but that eventually the resolution was carried that they should leave the matter in the hands of the Naval Board, with an intimation, that unless their demands were conceded, further action would be taken. It is reported that the men then returned to the ships.
About an hour later several other pressmen came to me with the same information, one stating that he had received it from Adelaide, through the Adelaide Advertiser. As honorable senators would naturally expect, as soon as possible this morning, I got in touch with Admiral Hyde, the First Naval Member. Admiral Hyde informed me that those statements were quite inaccurate, and that the fleet sailed this morning without trouble, in accordance with the pre-arranged programme.
I direct the attention of honorable senators, and of the public generally, to this sinister aspect of the matter: During last evening, Admiral Hyde received several calls on the telephone from various quarters, but apparently all by arrangement, and he was told in each case that the fleet would not sail. In every instance the person who gave the message refused to disclose his name. Admiral Hyde, while investigating the matter, learned that newspapers in Melbourne had received anonymous messages yesterday containing the same statements as he himself had received, and stating that the fleet would not sail. Honorable senators will understand that one of the easiest wways to promote disaffection - as it was evidently hoped to do - is to create the impression that such disaffection -already exists. In the roneoed leaflets which were distributed in hundreds aboard the fleet while the ships were open if or inspection, reference was made to the trouble which had occurred in the British Fleet at Invergordon, and it was stated that similar action would be taken in the Australian Fleet.
I have consulted the Prime Minister, and have his authority for making this statement to-day. It is advisable that the people of Australia should know of this dastardly plot to foment disaffection in that branch of our defence forces on which the safety of our country chiefly depends.
– So far as I know, the Customs Bill will be considered as soon as the business before the Senate permits.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Has the: attention of the Government been drawn to the acute position that has arisen in the glass industry, owing to the rationing of imports by the Government and the continued failure of local manufacturers to supply?
If so, will the Government immediately remove the prohibition in order that the interference with trade and employment may be relieved?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Bill returned from the House of Representativeswithout amendment.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 9th November (vide page 2019).
Proposed vote, £59,200 - agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Proposed vote, £260,000.
– I desire to draw attention to that portion of the vote intended for the maintenance of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It is with regret that I have taken the step of moving for a reduction in the vote, hut I feel that it is necessary to call the attention of honorable senators on both sides of the chamber to what has taken place in connexion with the Newnes shale oil deposits. We know that, as a result of scientific discoveries, more and more of the world’s work is being done by mechanical power, generated by various means, but mainly by the use of oil. To-day, the United States of America which, although an English-speaking nation, is nevertheless a foreign country, exploits Australia most shamefully in regard to the oil fuel which we buy from her. This has been going on for years, although we have it on the authority of eminent scientists, including Professor David, that at Newnes there is practically an unlimited supply of oil shale. At one time this field was exploited by an Australian, John Fell, but it was sold to the American oil interests, who suspended operations, and allowed the enterprise to languish. A caretaker was installed to protect the plant and equipment. Subsequently Mr. Scullin, who was then Leader of the Opposition, and a party of members of the Labour party, visited the northern coal-fields where conditions at that time were chaotic. Thousands of coal-miners had been forced out of the mining industry in consequence of the increased use of oil-burning engines in ships and otherwise. Mr, Scullin promised the people of Cessnock and Kurri Kurri that if a change of administration should occur, and his party come into power, substantial assistance would be given to the coalminers. Not long afterwards a Labour government came into office. Efforts were then made to get Mr. Scullin to honour his promise to give assistance to the coal-miners. Severalbitter debates occurred in the caucus, but ultimately a promise was extracted from the Government that assistance to the extent of £100,000 would be given to the coalmining industry.
– There was no opposition to that in the caucus.
– If the honorable member refers to the Hansard reports of speeches delivered by representatives of coal-mining constituencies about that time he will realize that his memory is at fault. A part of the £100,000 was allocated by the Government for the reopening of the Newnes shale oil fields, and the hope was expressed that this enterprise would be developed on commercial lines. Unfortunately, the whole of the money allocated for this purpose was not expended. The Lyons Government then came into office, and decided to hand the Newnes field back to private enterprise.
– That decision was made before the Seullin Government went out of office.
– I am interested to hear that statement. At any rate, the Lyons Government called for tenders for the leasing of Newnes. , Numerous conditions were stipulated. It was provided, for instance, that the capital must be Australian, and the outlook of the successful tenderers in accordance with Australian sentiment. Mr. Gepp, the technical adviser of the Commonwealth Government, visited Newnes about this time, and reported that his estimate of the value of the field was about £1,000,000. Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers, “who endeavoured to float a company for the development of the field, stated in their prospectus that the value of the deposits and the equipment was about £1,800,000.
– The honorable senator is confusing the valuation with the amount of money spent on Newnes by the British interests and Mr. Fell’s company.
– At any rate, Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers were not successful in floating a company. There was a great deal of political bally-hoo at the time in relation to the proposed re-opening of Newnes by private enterprise. A short cinema film was “ shot “ and displayed in various Australian picture houses, and we were told that Newnes would soon be in full production. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) and certain other people visited Newnes in a spirit of considerable optimism. In fact, they were so optimistic that the train in which they were travelling nearly ran off the line travelling from the Newnes Junction down into the valley. Perhaps this quenched the optimism of the honorable gentleman and his companions; but it revived to such an extent after the dinner that I understand, on the return journey from Newnes, they were inclined to sing the whole of the 47 verses of “ Mademoiselle from Armentieres “. Mr. Treganowan, who could not float a company for the development of this field, is interested in the industrial life of Melbourne. I believe he has imported a small oil cracking plant from the United States of America, but I am not concerned about him, or about Mr. Chambers or Mr. Ramsay, or any other private individual.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The subject which the honorable senator has been discussing does not concern the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to any extent, and concerns the Development Branch of the Prime Minister’s Department to only a small degree. The only relation between the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Newnes is that Mr. Rodgers, whom I temporarily attached to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, was sent to England some years ago to study cracking processes and the obtaining of oil from coal and shale. It is true that the Scullin Government set aside £100,000 for the assistance of the coal-mining industry, and that a certain amount of that money was devoted to the purpose of rehabilitating the Newnes shale oil field. The honorable senator was quite right in saying that Newnes had been operated by Mr. Fell. It had also been operated on a tremendous scale by certain British capitalists. The amount of money that has been spent on the field is in the neighbourhood of £1,800,000. Colossal works were constructed there on the assumption that a vast quantity of shale would be available at a low cost for the production of oil. The plant is in excellent order, and the £30,000 provided by the previous Govern-, ment for the rehabilitation of it was sufficient to put it partially in order. That money was used by a limited company, which Cabinet saw fit to incorporate, to undertake the rehabilitation of the field. The railway was put in repair, and it was found, on examination, that the tanks and other structures were in a wonderful state of preservation. For some reason, which is scientifically quite beyond me, the exudations from the huge cliffs contained certain preservative qualities which protected the machinery. A number of miners were employed, and a certain quantity of oil of various grades was obtained from the retorts; hut, unfortunately, the economics of the situation were not thoroughly examined. I do not propose to discuss the relations between the Government and Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers. These remain the subject of discussion in another quarter; but the Government holds the bond of a wellknown bank as an assurance that the covenant entered into by Mr. Treganowan will be observed. Certain factors which have emerged, indicate the reasons why Mr. Treganowan has not been able to proceed with his scheme. Apparently the
Mines Department of New South Wales has throw some doubt, not upon the existence of the shale in the Newnes field, but upon the quantity of the shale in the neighbouring valley. It is suggested that this is faulty in certain respectsThat is one factor which prevented Mr. Treganowan from getting capital and assistance to carry out the covenant into which he had entered. The other factor is that, while it is quite true that cracking is the right process in relation to crude oil, neither Mr. Gepp nor any one else is satisfied that the cracking process as applied to flow oils, which have a different base altogether from the shale oil produced at Newnes, will operate satisfactorily. I attribute the failure of these gentlemen to float Newnes to those two factors. There is a doubt in the minds of a certain number of people as to how far the fine seams of shale in the Capertee Valley extend. My opinion is that there is a tremendous body of shale in that valley. The action of independent officers of the State Mines Department in hinting at the existence of fault in the seams has naturally been a deterrent to investors. Then an effort was made to get the persons who are contracting for the supply of this cracking plant to guarantee its efficiency, and the guarantee given by them was so unsatisfactory that investors refused to put their money into the venture.
– Neither the Scullin Government nor this Government ever owned Newnes.
– That is so. The Shell Company has never had anything to do with Newnes, and Senator Dunn has confused the position. I understand that the Shell Company did buy a refining plant which Mr. Fell erected somewhere in the neighbourhood of Sydney. An option was taken on behalf of the Scullin Government.
– No; it was taken on behalf of the Coal-miners Federation.
– I assure Senator Dunn that every effort is at present being made to eliminate those two factors cf uncertainty which still exist, and are, no doubt, acting as a deterrent to the flotation of a company. The development of Newnes by itself would, from an economic stand-point, be worthless, but the idea is to connect the huge deposits in the Capertee Valley with the magnificent works at Newnes. I do not propose, for the reasons that I have already indicated to Senator Dunn, to discuss the relations between the Government and Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers. I assure him that the position is being closely watched. Negotiations are at present proceeding. The matter is under the consideration of Cabinet, and the honorable senator can rest assured that we shall do our best to persuade private enterprise to embark on what I believe will be a profitable undertaking.
– Senator Dunn seems to be under a complete misapprehension as to the position at Newnes. As Senator McLachlan has pointed out, the previous Government did secure an appropriation from Parliament of £100,000 for the purpose of providing work for the coal-miners. Certain schemes were submitted to the Scullin Government by the Coal-miners Federation, among which was the extraction of oil from coal. It was also suggested that certain money should be made available to the Newcastle Town Council for construction work. Eventually the Coal-miners Federation suggested that it might exploit the possibilities of extracting oil from shale, because the conversion of a number of “vessels from coal-burning to crude oil and coal fuel-burning craft, had caused a good deal of unrest among its members.
– The honorable senator is referring to the use of crude oil.
– Yes. That proposition was put to me, as Acting Minister in charge of development, by the Coalminers Federation. At that time Mr. Gepp had an option on Newnes for a certain group, and as it was thought advisable to explore the possibility of producing shale oil at Newnes, The Coalminers Federation took over the undertaking. Prior to this Government taking office, the Coal-miners Federation was trying to float a private company. The works at Newnes had nothing whatever to do with the Commonwealth. We had no control over the mining regulations operating there. That was a matter for the State Government, which ot that time was led by Mr. Lang, and the Lang Government worked in harmony with the Scullin Government in endeavouring to develop this particular enterprise. All that the Commonwealth did was to agree to the Coal-miners Federation scheme of subsidizing its expenditure pound for pound out of the £100,000 appropriated by this Parliament, but in order to protect ourselves, and to ensure that the money would be used for the purpose for which it was appropriated, it was subsequently decided to float a limited company. But it was never intended or suggested that the Commonwealth itself should re-open the Newnes works with a capital of £40,000.
– That sum was intended really for the purpose of rehabilitating the industry.
– Exactly. Had the Coal-miners Federation worked Newnes as an enterprise, and produced shale, that would have been the concern not of the Commonwealth Government, but of the State Government. Our concern was the subsidizing of the employment of coalminers in exploiting the possibilities of shale. I should like Senator Dunn to understand that the Scullin Government never at any time had control over Newnes; but it did finance the Coalminers Federation to enable it to exploit the possibilities there.
– - I appreciate the remarks of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan). I look upon Newnes as the future centre of production of crude oil in Australia. While the Minister believes in the development of Newnes by private enterprise, I believe that the shale deposits there, and in other parts of Australia, including Tasmania, should be owned and worked by the Government. I am glad that the Government of the day is still endeavouring to rehabilitate this industry. The coal-miners in the Lithgow valley and on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales are in desperate straits. Thousands of the miners and their dependents who are receiving food relief, are in a state of semi-starvation. Only the other day we read of hundreds of school children attending the Lithgow schools with- out having either breakfast or dinner. Newnes is a part of the Lithgow valley.
– I rise to a point of order. I understand that there is no vote for Newnes on the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department. The money for that venture is being taken from a trust account which does not appear in the Estimates. I therefore submit that the remarks of Senator Dunn are out of order.
– Although no item appears on the Estimates in respect of Newnes, the salary of the officer who is dealing with the matter does appear in the Estimates. I therefore rule that the remarks of Senator Dunn are in order.
– I submit’ that the salary of the officer dealing with the trust fund from which the expenditure referred to is being made, does not appear in the Estimates.
– It comes under the item of Scientific and Industrial Research.
– This expenditure does not come under that item at all.
– In view of the Minister’s statement, I rule that Senator Dunn is not in order in discussing the Newnes shale bil deposit on these estimates.
– Is not the committee considering the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department, which controls all activities in connexion with Newnes? I am surprised that the Leader of the Senate is allowed to put the Prussian jackboot into honorable senators on this side. He should be ashamed of himself.
– Order !
– The estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department include an item of £1,800 for the Director of Development. The Vice-President of the Executive Council admitted that Mr. Gepp has investigated the Newnes field on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
– Mr. Gepp is not the Director of Development.
– Can the Leader of the Senate assure me that there is no provision in the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department for the salary of an officer dealing with the development of Newnes?
– I have already pointed out that the estimates for the Council for Scientific and Industrial R< search, with which Senator Dunn was dealing, contain no provision for expenditure on Newnes. I am unable to say whether any officer in the Development Branch is dealing with that field.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether these estimates contain any provision for the salaries of officers dealing with Newnes?
– Newnes is actually controlled by a limited liability company, without any capital, and financed entirely from a trust fund created by the Scullin Government for a particular purpose. These estimates do not relate to that fund, but out of courtesy to Senator Dunn, I replied to his remarks. Mr. Gunn’s salary is included in the estimates of the Development Branch, but Mr. Gepp has had no association with the present Government in relation to the development of Newnes. What he has done has been actuated by patriotic motives and consideration for Messrs. Treganowan and Chambers, the promoters of the Newnes Company. Mr. Gunn is one of the directors of the fund which the Scullin Government created to enable the Coal-miners Federation of New South Wales to embark upon this industry if it saw fit. These estimates do not include any provision for the Newnes field.
– That being so, I abide by my previous ruling that Senator Dunn may not discuss the Newnes shale oil field on these estimates. The honorable senator had an opportunity to deal with this matter on the motion for the first reading.
– Without desiring to traverse the ruling of the Chair, I submit that Mr. Gunn, Mr. Lee and other officers whose salaries are provided for in these estimates are connected with the Newnes activities. How, then, can I be out of order in discussing the field in connexion with the provision made in th<i Prime Minister’s Department for the Development Branch.
– Order !
.- Oan the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) inform the committee of the amount paid in other countries for work similar to that performed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ? I have pleasant recollections of my association with that body, from which the Commonwealth is getting valuable service at a comparatively low cost. The Journal of Chemical Industry, vol. 51, No. 27, printed in London on the 1st July, 1932, contains a very informative article by Dr. Rivett on “ The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Australia “. It is highly informative, and would convince honorable senators of the valuable work being performed by this excellent body. Will the Government make copies of the article available to them?
Provision is made for the payment of £2,000 to the Standards Association. When the Scullin Government assumed office, the annual subsidy to that body was £8,000. Inquiries convinced me that the association was of some value to New South Wales, hut not to other portions of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has no power to enforce any recommendation by the association. When I consulted members of the Chamber of Manufactures in .South Australia I was informed by that body that the association was of no value except to assist the Labour party in bringing about unification. For instance, if we could standardize sewer fittings throughout Australia and produce them in mass in New South Wales, they could be sold more cheaply. I was of opinion that there were more useful avenues of science in which this money could be expended, and at first was disposed to discontinue the grant entirely, but finding that there were certain contractual obligations, I reduced the amount to £1,000. I cannot see why the Australian taxpayers should be required to pay £2,000 towards the maintenance of an organization that is of no real value to any State but New South Wales.”
– Last year £1,000 was provided for the investigation of the buffalo fly pest and £1,181 was expended. Apparently this year, no provision is made for the continuation of this research. Will the Minister explain why?
– Senator Payne will observe that under the heading of “ Investigations “, an amount of £17,456 is provided for entomology which covers the research in connexion with the buffalo fly. As a matter of fact, these activities were actively prosecuted by that distinguished scientist, Professor Handschin. 1 appreciate Senator Daly’s, observations regarding the value of the magazine article by Dr. Rivett; the Government is reprinting it, and it will be circulated in due course.
With regard to the Standards Association, Senator Daly has overlooked the international aspect of standardization. The Government has thought it necessary to increase the vote to £2,000 this year because of certain commitments of the association.
– Of what value is this body to the people of Australia?
– The honoraide senator has already indicated its potential value in the standardization of sewer fittings. But standardization applies not only to production but also to commercial practice. The Government has received numerous letters from distinguished commercial gentlemen, including a Victorian gentleman who is President of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, expressing appreciation of the assistance which the Government is giving to the Standards Association. Obviously, in a large and sparsely populated continent, the manufacture of varied patterns may be uneconomic, whereas standardization and mass production would be much more economical.
– Why not leave that to the States?
– This is an Australian-wide concern. I am afraid that Senator Daly suffers from an “ antiStandards Association complex “. I am of the opinion that this expenditure was well warranted. The increase was necessary, otherwise we should have been compelled to relinquish our inter-Empire membership of the Standards Associa tion. Not long ago Australia was visited by a Canadian member of the association who had travelled the world in connexion with the subject. The exposition which he gave to other members of the Cabinet and myself satisfied us that -.ve should make every effort to retain our membership. The amount voted in previous years was much in excess of this sum. It was only because of the exigencies of the times that the Scullin Government reduced the vote to £1,000.
– At the outset I wish to say that I am a member of the executive of the Standards Association. The work that that organization performs for Australia is such that £2,000 is an absurdly inadequate grant. Senator Daly has made certain observations on the subject, but he has omitted to refer to important factors. Let me mention cement. The Standards Association went to a great deal of trouble to solicit and co-operate the activities of scientists and engineers in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania in an endeavour to arrive at a standard formula for cement. Previously, because of the variation of standards, it was an utter impossibility to effect a decent contract.
– The standards still vary.
– They do not. Now, when Government contracts are let, either the Australian or the British standard is insisted upon. Take again motor patterns, of which there were previously 10,000. The Standards Association took action, with the result that the number of patterns is at present comparatively few. Similarly with electrical fittings and other articles used in industry in. Australia.
– For instance, water taps.
– I could quote hundreds of articles which have been standardized as a result of the appeal made by the Standards Association to engineers and others, who have performed a wonderful work for the country, for which they have received only travelling expenses, and not one penny in fees. As a result of the yeoman service rendered by the Standards Association, the people of Australia have been given standards that can be asked for, which is to the good of industry, manufacturers and the people generally.
– A few months ago, I attended a function that was held at the Brisbane City Abattoirs, under the aegis of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. .Senator McLachlan was also present. In the speeches that were made, attention was directed to the necessity for evolving a chilling process which would enable Australian beef to be transported to the London market so that it could compete on favorable terms with Argentine beef. I should like to know whether success has attended the endeavours of scientists of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in that direction; also whether certain private individuals have brought a chilling process under his notice?
– The chilling process evolved by private individuals, to which the honorable senator refers, has been brought to my notice. I can assure him that the experiments so far conducted by the Council foi” Scientific and Industrial Research have proved more than encouraging, and I look forward with considerable hope to our overcoming the difficulties at present associated with the marketing of our beef in England. In view of the Ottawa agreement, the matter is of first rate importance to the Australian meat industry.
.- Will the Minister explain the item which appears at page 21, “Legal costs of Privy Council appeal - proposed abolition of New South Wales Legislative Council, £324 “.
– That concerns last year’s expenditure.
– I should like an explanation on the subject.
– As the expenditure was incurred for the year 1931-32, the honorable senator is not in order in discussing it.
– I ask the Minister who is responsible for the control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research what success has attended the experiments which were inaugurated by the Scullin Government two years ago, for the purpose of discovering a specific which will make Pinus insignis, Queensland hooppine, and other Australian pine timbers, suitable for use as butter boxes for our export trade? I understand that an experimental shipment has been made to England of butter boxes impregnated with a certain specific, and I should like to know the result.
– As may be expected, I have interested myself in these experiments. While I am very hopeful as to the outcome, I can only report that as yet no definite result has been obtained, nor is a report to hand concerning the trial shipment to the Old Country. I understand that those boxes are to be returned to Australia for examination.
– I should like to know why an increase is shown in the payments made to five Public Service inspectors in the second division, while no similar increase is shown against the sum set aside for typists, messengers, and other lower paid officials in the office of the Public Service Board?
– The increase referred to is the ordinary statutory increments which have been paid to those officers who are eligible.
– An amount of £3,580 is set aside for the payment of four Public Service inspectors on the central staff. Does that sum make provision for the salary of the Public Service inspector who is now in Parliament House, watching, in the interests of the Government, the meanderings of public servants in this building, and also examining the work of parliamentary officers?
– I know of no such officer.
– At page 35 provision is made for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Last year there were eight clerks, who received £1,876; this year there are seven clerks who are to be paid £2,109. The number of typists is the same for both years, five. Yet the wages paid in 1930-31 amounted to £977, while the appropriation for this year is ?1,212. That suggests an anomaly to me, and I should like an explanation on the subject.
– As a matter of fact, the positions were provided for last year, but were not filled. This year the appointments have been made. I can assure honorable senators that, apart from this circumstance, no new expenditure has been undertaken.
– I should like to obtain some explanation from the Minister regarding the expenditure on the High Commissioner’s Office. Various items appear on the Estimates, including expenses for the ex-High Commissioner, Sir Granville Eyrie, during his meanderings through the united States of America and Canada. Then there is an item for ?2,000 for cables and telegrams, and another of ?7,400 for municipal and other taxes. The general cost of upkeep for Australia House was ?10,000 which, taken with other items set down, makes a total of ?17,850. What has been done to justify this expenditure? Are the authorities cleaning up the premises in order to welcome the nev/ Resident Minister? I also observe that provision is made for the expenses of the Resident Minister to the extent of ?2,100. That seems to me to be a lot of money for us to spend in these hard times.
[11.34]. - The contract under -which the Government appoints the High Commissioner provides that the Government shall pay his passage and expenses while returning to Australia, via Suez. MajorGeneral Sir Granville Ryrie elected to come back via America, and he paid the extra cost himself. The position regarding the allowances and expenses of the Resident Minister in London has been fully explained before, but, for the honorable senator’s benefit, I shall go over the matter again. Sir Granville Ryrie received as High Commissioner a salary of ?2,250 a year, and an allowance of ?1,500 a year, making a total of ?3,750 a year. While in London Mr. Bruce will receive an allowance which, added to his ministerial salary and parliamentary allowance, will represent a total payment at the rate of ?3,750 a year. Obviously, the arrangement will result in a saving to the Commonwealth equivalent to the amount of his ministerial salary and parliamentary allowance.
– I observe that provision has not been made this year for investigation by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research into methods for the control and’ eradication of the buffalo fly pest. In 1931-32, ?1,181 was voted for this purpose, but apparently no expenditure is to be incurred this year at all. When ex-Senator Cooper was in opposition a little while ago, he asked Senator Dooley, who was then representing the Minister in charge of the Northern Territory, the following questions: -
Senator Dooley replied as follows:
In spite of that, however, we find that no provision is made in this year’s Estimates for pursuing that investigation. The inspectors attached to the New South W ales Agricultural Department are much concerned about the spread of the fly, lest it should get into the valuable dairy herds on the north coast of that State. I do not suggest that the Minister tried to deceive honorable senators when he said that provision had been made for continuing the investigation, but I should be much more relieved if I saw in black and white that a sum had been set aside for this purpose.
.- I should like to know whether the Minister is satisfied with the progress that is being made by the Department of Entomology with regard to the destruction of pests. We have a huge laboratory here in Canberra, and we were told that one of the first tasks it would undertake would be to control the blowfly pest in the Territory. A certain species of wasp was to be released to eat the flies, but, judging by the number and ferocity of the flies now in Canberra, it would appear that the wasps and the flies must have inter-married. It is certain that the activities of the department have resulted in no improvement so far as the blowfly pest in Canberra is concerned.
To some extent I endorse the remarks of Senator Dunn regarding the buffalo fly. This pest is rapidly spreading, and is seriously affecting the cattle industry. If it is not being handled by the department any more successfully than it handled the blowfly pest in Canberra, I do not see that we are justified in passing a vote of nearly £20,000 for the upkeep of the Department of Entomology.
, - I have already pointed out to Senator Dunn that the amount of £1,181 provided in last year’s Estimates for the control of the buffalo fly is included this year in Item No. 3 for entomological research. During the regime of the previous Government, Professor Handschin, of the University of Basle, was invited to conduct certain investigation in Java into the buffalo fly pest, with a view to introducing a system of biological control through the use of parasites. Those parasites have now been released, and the department is awaiting results. In the meantime, the State authorities are doing what they can by insisting on dipping, &c, to pre vent the spread of the fly. It is recognized that the buffalo fly threatens to become a serious menace to the cattle industry, and it was thought that the best scientific knowledge should be brought to bear on the problem. Ample provision for continuing the investigations has been made in the vote for entomological research.
The control of the blowfly pest in Australia was one of the purposes for which the School of Entomology was founded. I might say, however, that the original idea in regard to the blowfly pest was to institute a system of control by parasites, but that idea was tried in this district and had to be abandoned owing to the peculiar conditions prevailing here. The wasps have to go to earth at a certain time of the year, but the hard sand encountered in this area while they are burrowing, so affects their wings as to produce a condition which leads to their extinction. The investigations along those lines have been temporarily abandoned. A person has to speak carefully on this subject, otherwise his enthusiasm may run away with him; hut several important discoveries have been made by this department. Science is a slow process. We are fighting, in this connexion, the greatest force in the world, for we are endeavouring to bring about a condition of things contrary to the natural condition. Pastoralists and others closely associated with the pastoral industry know that two kinds of fly attack the sheep. The scientists of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have ascertained that the secondary fly never strikes the sheep until the primary fly has first struck it. It has now been ascertained also - and the credit for this is due principally to a member of the opposite sex - that the primary fly does not attack the wool unless it is in a certain chemical condition. Investigations are at present proceeding to see whether something may not be done along these lines to restrict the ravages of this pest. As for the domestic blowfly, all I can say is that if the experiments with the wasp had proved as effective here as in some other parts of the world, it may have been possible to add to the convenience of honorable senators in their peregrinations around the green fields adjacent to the Hotel Canberra, but, unfortunately, they have not.
– While I appreciate the interest of Senator Dunn in the efforts that are being made to counteract the buffalo fly pest, I assure him that this subject is not being overlooked by either the Queeusland or Commonwealth authorities. A Labour Government is in lower in Queensland, and the Minister for Agriculture and Stock there is a young man who is very much alive to the need of combating this pest. He is in close collaboration with the Commonwealth authorities and is quite satisfied that the most effective steps possible are being taken to deal with this pest on scientific lines.
It must be remembered that scientific investigation is a slow process. It is rather amusing to hoar some honorable senators speak of the disadvantages of Canberra in this connexion. Senator Foll is the latest recruit to the ranks of such honorable gentlemen. I regret that he has seen fit to exaggerate the difficulty of dealing with the blowfly. If 1onorable senators would emphasize the advantages of this city they would be performing a useful service to the country.
The Labour Governments of Queensland have not infrequently been responsible for actions that have won the admiration of the world, and I wish to draw attention to at least one outstanding success that has followed their interest in scientific research. For very many years prior to 1915 the various administrations in Queensland had consistently and splendidly failed to do anything to combat the spread of the prickly pear in that State. It remained for a Labour government to tackle the problem with anything like vigour. Labour governments are usually comprised of individuals who are alleged to be uneducated and without those attributes of refinement which are expected to mark those associated with governments ; but it was left to these supposedly uneducated and common working people to attack the great problem of the prickly pear. When the first Labour administration came into office in Queensland 10,000,000 acres of the best country in the State were under the domination of the prickly pear. But this did not deter the Labour administration from making provision for scientists to attack it. An insect known by the somewhat fearsome name of Cactoblastus was imported from overseas, and our scientists set to work to breed from it a species which would eat the prickly pear but would not eat anything of importance in the domestic plant economy of the State. Eventually, a species was bred which would not only not eat anything else but the prickly pear, but also die unless it could feed on the pear. The results of this development have been that millions of acres of land have been saved from the ravages of the pear, and, what is more important, millions of acres previously ravaged have been actually reclaimed, and are to-day settled by prosperous people. This is the result of the encouragement of scientific research by a sympathetic Government.
Honorable senators need not fear that the scientists of Canberra will fail to do their best to combat the blowfly. I believe that they will do everything possible in this regard. Fortunately, scientists, unlike politicians, are. not imbued with party political animosities. I do not believe in criticizing those who give their time and attention to the great work of scientific research. The technical officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are doing their work well, and I regret that they get so little encouragement from certain honorable senators. I believe that if these honorable gentlemen would visit the headquarters of the various sections of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in. Canberra, and make themselves familar with what is being done, they would be better equipped to speak of the exceptional educational facilities that exist in Canberra, and would not, like Sir Oracle, speak without the requisite foundation of a knowledge of their subject.
– I am not very much concerned with what Queensland may be doing to combat the buffalo fly pest, but I am quite ready to give credit where credit ‘ is due, whether it be to Governments or Ministers. I believe that (he scientists associated with the Council for
Scientific and Industrial Research are doing their best to fight the various pests which afflict agriculture in this country. My complaint is that whereas £1,000 was voted in 1931-32 for expenditure on buffalo fly investigations, and £1,181 was actually spent in that direction, nothing is specifically voted for the purpose this year. Why is this so? An amount of £17,456 is provided for expenditure on general entomological investigations. I wish to know what proportion of this sum will be devoted to buffalo fly experimentation, and also how much of it will be spent in Queensland and New South Wales respectively? In reply to Senator Collings’ suggestion that honorable senators should visit the headquarters of the different sections of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, I point out that before that honorable senator became a member of this Parliament, most of us had already made ourselves acquainted with these activities. On numerous occasions, we have, at the invitation of different Ministers, inspected the laboratories of the scientists.
– I assure the honorable senator that the Government is not overlooking the need for continuing the investigations in relation to the pest.
– Then why is no amount provided this year?
– If a specific amount were provided for this purpose, the hands of the Government would be tied. It is far better for us to make an inclusive vote for work of this kind and to leave the authorities concerned free to spend it in the way that seems best to them.
– I accept the assurance of the honorable senator that the subject is not being overlooked.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £666,200.
SenatorO’HALLORAN (South Australia) [12.0]. - I wish to have some information respecting the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act as recently amended by the Financial Emergency Act. Provision is made in the Estimates for the salaries of certain administrative officers of the Pensions De partment. We are not permitted at this stage to refer to that legislation, but I desire to draw attention to certain serious disabilities which are being placed upon the aged and the infirm people of this country as a result. The law now provides that on the death of a pensioner the amount of pension paid to him shall be deducted from the proceeds of the sale of his property and returned to the Commonwealth. I have received numerous complaints from land agents and solicitors engaged in the negotiation of mortgages, deeds of transfer and other documents connected with the ownership of property, respecting the administration of this provision. I am casting no reflection upon the officers responsible for the administration of the department, because I believe that they are doing their best to meet the needs and wishes of the pensioners affected by it. But the new provision is causing a great deal of confusion, and is depreciating the value of the homes of pensioners. When these properties are placed on the market there is a reluctance on the part of possible purchasers to make offers for them because they fear that the transfer of such properties may afterwards be affected by claims by the Commonwealth for refunds of pension payments. The longer this position is permitted to continue, the worse it will become, and I want an assurance from a responsible Minister that the Government will take early steps to remove this anomaly. I think that, when Senator McLachlan on his next visit to South Australia ascertains how the operation of the splendid provisions of the Real Property Act are being disturbed by the recent amendments of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, he will recognize that there is urgent need for further amendment of that act. It is difficult to sell any property to-day and any chance that the old-age pensioners have of disposing of their homes is being completely nullified by the operation of the Financial Emergency Act. As the revenue of the Commonwealth is becoming more buoyant, so much so that the Government is seriously considering a scheme under which substantial assistance will be given to the wheat-growers, the disability to which I have referred should be removed, either by administrative action or, if that is impossible, by an amendment of the law.
– As a protest against the manner in which the invalid and old-age pensions law is being administered by the present Government, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the vote by £1.
I support the remarks of Senator O’Halloran. As he has stated, the revenue of the Commonwealth is becoming more buoyant and the Government now intends to assist the wheat-growers. We do not cavil at that.
– The honorable member is not in order in referring to existing or anticipated legislation.
– Many of the old-age pensioners are being subjected to severe cross-examination in respect of their family affairs. It is a direct insult to them. In the Estimates a sum of £780 is provided for the appointment of a Deputy Commissioner. In the existing law there is a provision to the effect that Deputy Commissioners may appoint officers to go into the homes of old-age pensioners and to subject them to the American system of the third degree. The Government is appointing a vast army of pimps.
– The honorable senator is not in order in describing an officer of the Pensions Department as a pimp.
– Then I shall call them examiners. No doubt the Deputy Commissioner will appoint a number of examiners to question old-age pensioners about their property and the number of their children who are in employment.
– That is the method of the third degree.
– Exactly. The Resident Minister in London receives an allowance of £2,100 in addition to his salary to enable him to enjoy afternoon teas at Mayfair and elsewhere. Yet this Government is taking every step to reduce the old-age pensioner to a state of abject poverty. I urge the Government to take early steps to restore the pension to the aged and infirm people of this country.
– There is no doubt that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is, in many re spects, practically unworkable. Let me give a case in point.
– The honorable Senator must confine his remarks to the administration of the Department. He is not in order in referring to the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– Every senator is interested in this matter, and I think it should be discussed at this stage. I have received communications from several persons respecting the operation of the act. One person approached me and said that some time ago his grandfather left a house in the name of the grandmother and himself.
– The honorable senator is discussing a matter affecting legislation recently passed by this Parliament, and I contend that a discussion as to whether that legislation is right or wrong is not relevant to a discussion of the Estimates.
– I have already asked the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the administration of the Pensions Department and the salaries of the officers of that Department.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [12.16]. - Unnecessary discussion may be avoided if I make a statement at this stage of the Government’s intention regarding anomalies in the pensions law. Almost invariably vital alterations in any form of legislation are followed by the discovery of anomalies arising out of such alterations, and they have been coming to light since the passage of the Financial Emergency Act. Some have arisen out of the old legislation, although they have only come under notice as a result of the increased attention given to the invalid and old-age pensions recently. Many of them can be rectified by administration or regulation. At the request of the Government the pensions branch is already investigating these matters, and I ask honorable senators who are aware of anomalies or injustices - I do not refer to the recent reduction of pensions, which has been approved by Parliament - to forward them either to the Assistant Minister (Senator Greene) or to the Treasury officials direct. Certain officials have been deputed to report on the matter with a view to corrective action being taken.
– A pensioner aged 84 years and physically feeble came to me recently for advice which should have been furnished to him voluntarily by the pensions branch. Ho is the owner of a little home which had been partly paid for by his : SOn. He should have been informed by the pensions branch that his pension would cease on a certain date unless he assigned his property to the Government. Always when new conditions are created by amending legislation, the pensioner should be informed of their effect, and, I hope, that in future the department will show more consideration for the aged and infirm.
– I understand that when these Estimates were prepared by the Government, the conditions governing the rates and assessment of pensions were different from those now obtaining. The considerable amendments made by -the Financial Emergency Act in the pensions law must mean an increase of official work and extra cost of collection. Should not these Estimates be varied in accordjuice with the altered conditions governing pensions?
– These Estimates were framed with a view to the alterations proposed in the Financial Emergency Bill, which have since been approved by Parliament.
– A man died and left property to his widow and grandson. The latter has already expended a considerable amount on the property, and is uncertain whether he should accept a transfer of it from his grandmother, or await her death, when be will inherit it. He sought my advice, -and I told him that I would write to the Deputy Commissioner. The reply I received was that he would have to ask permission from the Deputy Commissioner for the property to be transferred, but that he did not know what conditions, if any, would be imposed in the event of .such permission being granted. I do not reflect upon the capacity of the Deputy Commissioner (Mr. McGuire), who is an efficient and obliging officer, hut it is plain that he does not know how this new law is to be operated. The Government may make regulations em powering the Deputy Commissioner to impose conditions regarding the transfer of property. That is wrong. If the new law is to be enforced, these conditions should be prescribed by Parliament, but we say that an amending bill should be introduced to withdraw the power of the Government to demand a lien over the property of pensioners.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [12.25]. - Obviously we shall make no progress by discussing in this chamber the pros and cons of individual cases. That is why I have suggested that honorable senators should communicate to the Assistant Minister (Senator Greene) particulars of all cases of hardship and all anomalies in the administration of the pension law that come to their notice. The uncertainty mentioned by Senator Brown should be cleared away, and I invite the honorable gentleman to communicate the facts direct to my colleague.
– I welcome the promise by Senator Pearce of a complete investigation of all anomalies. But the committee is entitled to information, from the Government regarding the effect of the Financial Emergency Act upon old-age pensions. For instance, one pensioner has written to me that she and her husband have for many years held industrial insurance policies and they desire to know whether they can be seized by the Government as security for repayment of the pension. I communicated with the Deputy Commissioner in New South Wales who replied that no real property belonging to a pensioner may be mortgaged or transferred without the consent of the department; insurance policies, he said, are not real property, but pensions payments made subsequent to the 12th of October are recoverable from any estate left by a pensioner. Whilst insurance policies are not real property, they are a portion of a person’s estate and, therefore, can be levied upon by the Government.
– At the pensioner’s death.
– That is where injustice may occur. Many pensioners are physically infirm for many years before their death and relatives assist them with food and clothes, and often supplement the modest pension. Conceivably, these old-age pensioners might have been unable to manage their affairs had it not been for the personal services and monetary contribution with which relatives supplemented their pension allowances. In gratitude for those services and desirous of repaying their benefactors to some extent, the old folk may make over to them any insurance benefits that they possess, to be payable after death. If the Government is to have first claim on that insurance money, an injustice will be inflicted on the relatives who afforded assistance to the old folks. In many cases children or grandchildren have kept insurance policies going when the old people have no longer been in a position to pay the premiums. Yet the Government is to have power to levy on those insurance moneys. The regulations covering such transactions should be common knowledge, so that pensioners may know where they stand. As a matter of fact, I know of many old folk who are surrendering their policies, and are prepared to submit to the direst poverty rather than permit the Government to benefit under this iniquitous legislation.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [12.33]. - I am advised that, as the law stands, the amount paid by the Government to any pensioner may be claimed by the Commissioner against the benefits under an insurance policy which belongs to the pensioner’s estate.
– Surely we have a right to know exactly how the provisions of the act are to be interpreted.
– That is the way in which they are being interpreted; the amount paid in pension will be deducted from any benefit derived from any insurance cover over the pensioner concerned. In effect, the Commissioner represents the community, for the community provides these pensions which, to a degree, relieve children from the maintenance of their parents. Let us presume that there i3 an estate left by a pensioner. There are two claims upon that estate, on the one hand that by the community, which, by the payment of a pension, has contributed to the upkeep of the pensioner, and on the other hand, a claim by the relatives who have also helped the pensioner. Surely the community has the stronger claim, and should receive preference. The obligation to maintain a parent is greater upon the child than it is upon the community. The law recognizes that; and consequently gives the Commissioner, or, in other words, the community, first claim on any benefit accruing under an insurance policy over the deceased’s life. That principle cannot be affected by any action taken in connexion with the Estimates. To alter it we should have to alter the law.
– I realize that what the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) has said is correct. But the Senate has a right to know just what regulations and rulings are to be made in connexion with this matter, and should be given an opportunity to say something thereon. The reply given by Senator Pearce to Senator Rae raises several intricate points which are worthy of our attention. When a man takes out an insurance policy he makes a contract with the company concerned. Hitherto, it has been considered that the contract is inviolate. When its provisions are fulfilled, the money is paid to the insured or to those whom he delegates to receive it. But all of that is now altered. I am a comparatively new member of the Senate, and not familiar with the machinery which will enable that state of affairs to bc rectified. Surely there is some means by which we can refer the matter back to another place, so that it may receive further consideration by the Government.
– The position cannot be altered by any motion in connexion with the Estimates. It is a matter of law, not of administration.
– Can we not take action to prevent the Estimates being further proceeded with . until we receive an assurance that our rights as senators will be preserved. Is it contended that, under the Financial Emergency Act, the Government can issue regulations which will frustrate the generally interpreted intention of the law? I should like an assurance from Senator Pearce that the rights of this branch of the legislature will not. be abrogated by regulation without our having an opportunity to lodge an effective protest.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [12.30]. - This Senate has already amply demonstrated that it possesses some powers with regard to the making of regulations. If Senator Collings will ax amine the Acts Interpretation Act, he will find that he can move to disallow a regulation and that, under our Standing Orders, such a motion must take precedence. I am aware, of course, that the Scullin Government frequently disregarded such motions, even when they were carried by the Senate, but I assure the honorable senator that the power exists for him to take the necessary action if he chooses.
Sitting suspended from to 2.15 p.m.
– I support the request moved by Senator Dunn as a protest against the manner in which the pensions law is being administered. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has told the committee that money received by a pensioner under an insurance policy is recoverable, so at this stage I have nothing to say on that point. Senator Dunn was reproved for using what, in the opinion of the Chair, was an objectionable term as applied to certain officers of the department, but I think it may, with every justice, be applied to writers of anonymous letters who advise the department that such and such a person is not entitled to the pension. Immediately a communication of that kind is received the pensioner is informed, and is required to return his card pending a complete investigation into his case. While I have no intention of discussing the act, this method of administering it seems to me to be absolutely infamous. It means that instead of the pension being regarded as a right, it is, in certain circumstances, looked upon as a loan subject to most onerous conditions. To me it is scandalous that merely because some “ pimp,” writing anonymously, may make a charge against a pensioner, the pension is withheld, and the time of the department is taken up in investigating a charge which may be entirely without foundation. This method of administration is provided for not in the legislation itself but in regulations, which I contend are quite alien to the spirit of the act. No anonymous communication should result in the withholding of a pension from a deserving recipient. We have been told that the claim upon insurance money to which the pensioner may be entitled; is in strict accordance with law. The Leader of the Senate has put it that the community as a whole must be considered before relatives who may be contributing to the support of aged pensioners. I consider it anomalous that relatives should be penalized in the manner now provided. If sons or daughters were not contributing to the support of their parents the pension payable by the Government would, in many cases, be much greater. Why should relatives bear the whole burden of -these confiscatory regulations by being forced to recoup the department in full? Bad as the act now is, the administration of it appears to be a thousandfold worse. The whole of the regulations should be overhauled. The Leader of the Senate was hardly frank when he stated that either House of the Parliament has power to object to a regulation.
– What has all this to do with the Appropriation Bill?
– I am replying to remarks made by the Leader of the Senate, who stated that if any injustice were inflicted on pensioners or relatives, by means of any regulations, Parliament had the power to apply the remedy by disallowing them.
– All the regulations have to be laid on the table of the Senate, and action to disallow may bo taken within fifteen days.
– I challenge the Minister to prove that those who assisted in passing the original act contemplated that such regulations as have been framed in recent years would have been promulgated; such regulations, for example, as those which permit persons writing anonymously to make charges against recipients of pensions whose payments are withheld pending a complete investigation of the circumstances.
– I wish to direct attention to the following criticism which appeared in a Sydney newspaper recently: -
The new proposal outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), to a meeting of the Nationalist Caucus provides for the maintenance of the present rate of 17s. 6d. a week in the case of pensioners relying solely on this money for their livelihood. Where, however, the pensioner has other income, the rate is to be reduced to 15s. a week. If a pensioner has near relatives who are in a position to contribute towards his maintenance the payment of the pension will be continued, but the relative is to be compelled to refund the whole or part of the pension to the Government. The onus is to be thrown on the relatives to prove that they are not in a position to do so. There is to be a complete investigation into the circumstances of every pensioner.
This will provide plenty of work for “ pimps “, who will be able to cause a great deal of annoyance to pensioners by making it appear that they have authority to carry out an investigation into their circumstances. With Senator Rae, I strenuously protest against the appointment of examiners who may apply American third degree methods to pensioners whose only crime is that they have grown old in the service of the citizens of this country.
.- I should like some information with reference to the taxation office, the estimates for which show an increase, in both personnel and cost. The number of officers employed has been increased from 796 last year, to 900 this year. At a time like this, when every effort is being made to economize in departmental expenditure, it is strange that there should be an increase in the Taxation Department of £19,113, or roughly 12^ per cent. Recently I received, in one assessment, a demand for three years’ land tax, and I had to pay it at once. Probably the cost of the labour involved in compiling the return was much greater than the sum which I had to pay. It is obvious that there is urgent need for the simplification of our taxation legislation.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [2.29]. - I am advised that the increase of expenditure for the Taxation Department is due entirely to an increase of the number of officers required to deal with the collection of sales tax.
– I understood that there were to be no new appointments.
– It is extremely unwise to allow information with regard to taxation matters to be dealt with by temporary officers. Possibly, the honorable senator remembers that some time ago, temporary officers employed in the department obtained confidential information with reference to income tax matters and subsequently, when they went out of the department, used that information for their own advancement. Prior to the passing of the legislation imposing a sales tax, the Taxation Commissioner had been pressing for an increase in the staff, so it has now been found necessary to make greater provision for the carrying on of this work. I can assure the honorable senator that every appointment made has been carefully scrutinized by the Public Service Commissioner as well as by the Government, and that it is intended to keep down expenditure to the lowest limit possible.
– This morning, I said that these Estimates did not appear to take any account of the change in the policy of the Government in relation to invalid and old-age pensions. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) assured me that when these Estimates were drawn up the change had already been decided on. I at once accepted his statement; but I am afraid that the Minister has been misinformed. The amount set down in these Estimates is the same as that set down in the original Estimates submitted to Parliament, and signed by Mr. Sheehan, the Secretary to the Treasury, on the 1st September, 1932, the day on which the Treasurer delivered his budget speech. It was not until some weeks later that the Government altered, or, so far as I know, contemplated altering its policy. These are, therefore, the Government’s original estimates. I do not complain of there being no supplementary or revised estimates, and I accept the view that it was an inadvertence on the part of the Minister. I point out again that the change of policy embodied in the financial emergency legislation passed about a month ago will inevitably make a difference in the amount which will be expended in this branch of the Treasury. It seems to me that the Estimates which we are now discussing with regard to pensions are not likely to bear any resemblance to the final expenditure involved. It was for that reason that I rose this morning, and I only desisted then because of the assurance of the right honorable gentleman that these were revised estimates. One has only to study the provisions of the act to see that the amount of work thrown on the staff will be considerably increased. I pointed that out when speaking to the bill. This recently passed legislation must inevitably involve further expenditure, and it seems that no useful purpose can therefore be served in further discussing the expenditure upon the pensions office as shown in the Estimates before us.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [2.34]. - I assure the Senate that I did not intentionally misinform it. Nor, I submit, did I mistakenly do so. When these Estimates were being drafted, the budget speech was also in course of preparation, and before these Estimates were submitted to Parliament, the Government had made up its mind as to the policy it would adopt in regard to invalid and old-age pensions.
– I - It changed its mind later.
– It is true that changes were made subsequently, but although there will be a decreased expenditure in relation to the pensions themselves, in the first year, and probably also in the second year after the coming into operation of the amended law, a considerably increased volume of work will have to be performed by the department. Once the changes rendered necessary by the amended legislation have been made, and the new system is in operation, it should be possible to decrease the number of employees. That will not be possible, however, during the first two years. When these Estimates were drafted, the Government had already decided on the cut to be made in expenditure on pensions.
– According to the remarks of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) this morning, the Government will take charge of the insurance policy of a deceased pensioner. It may be that a pensioner has taken out an insurance policy for, say, £20, in order to meet his burial expenses. Will the Government take control of his policy irrespective of the amount for which his life was insured; or is there a minimum amount below which this policy will not be put into operation? I should like to know, further, the position of a man in receipt of a war pension, who is called upon to show why he should not support his parents. In assessing his income, will the department take into consideration his war pension as well as his salary or wages ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [2.37]. - I direct the honorable senator’s attention to section 52j of the Financial Emergency Acf which reads -
There shall be exempted from the realization of any property of any pensioner for the purpose of satisfying a charge created by this act such personal effects as prescribed of a value not exceeding fifty pounds, and such other property of a value not exceeding fifty pounds, as the Commissioner determines.
It will be seen that provision is made for burial expenses, and something in addition.
.- The Minister’s reply to Senator Grant regarding the increased cost of administering the Taxation Department does not cover the position fully. In addition to an increase of 12^ per cent, in the number of persons engaged in the department, expenditure proposed this year is practically 38 per cent, more than last year. On page 62 of the Estimates, the expenditure on salaries last year is shown as £218,415. This year we are asked to vote £294,233, an increase of nearly £76,000.
– That amount is less certain deductions shown at the foot of the page.
– The deductions applied also last year. I am referring to the additional gross expenditure.
– I am informed that it is due to the sales tax.
– Notwithstanding that we are told that temporary employees are not desirable in the Taxation
Department, the sum of £10,300 is set down for temporary assistance this year, as against £7,000 last year. The actual expenditure last year was £16,S96. The Government should recognize the strong public opinion in favour of economies in administration, and should make every effort to effect savings.
– Under the recently passed legislation a person may be called upon to show cause why he should not contribute towards the pension of his parents. Assuming that a man has a war pension of 30s. a week, and is earning, in addition, 70s. a week, will his weekly income be regarded as £3 10s. or £5 ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [2.43]. - The case of the war pensioner was considered by Cabinet, and, speaking from memory, Cabinet agreed to give the Commissioner authority to exempt an amount at least equivalent to the basic wage. I am not sure whether the Commissioner has yet expressed that intention in a regulation, but I assure the honorable senator that Cabinet has endeavoured to make provision to meet such cases.
– The Minister will agree that we should endeavour to be consistent in these matters. We have been told that there will be no reduction whatever of any war pension, yet one member of the Cabinet speaking at a meeting in New South Wales, appealed to returned soldiers in good positions to forgo their pensions. Assuming the basic wage to be 70s. per week, I desire to know whether a person who, in addition to receiving that amount for his services, draws a pension of 30s. a week, -will have that additional 30s. taken into account when his income is assessed. If so, I submit that it would amount to a reduction of his war pension. If, on the other hand, a regulation to that effect is not issued, and the war pension is not to be taken into account, what is the position of a man in receipt of a superannuation payment? If there is to be equality of sacrifice under the Premiers plan, the two classes of pensioners must be treated alike. I impress on the Minister the urgent necessity to consider these estimates, with a view to ascer taining whether they provide sufficient remuneration to obtain the services of officers with the necessary amount of common sense for the proper administration of the regulations. Does the Minister assure me that the salaries are such as to ensure that these officers will not regard a worker’s superannuation as part of his income, and that, consistent with the Government’s policy, they will not reduce war pensions, irrespective of whether an employee because of his war pension may be receiving more than the basic wage?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [2.46]. - I am informed that the whole of the income, no matter from what source it comes, will be considered, but my remarks were not quite accurate. in regard to the basic wage. What will be estimated will be an income of £312 per annum for a man and his wife, and £50 for each child. Unless a son receives that wage, he will not be called upon to contribute to the support of his parent who is a pensioner.
– That means that war pensions will be included?
– The whole of the income will be taken into account.
– The Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce), owing to his association for many years with the trade union movement, will appreciate the importance of what I am about to say. The economist of the Bureau of Census and Statistics is provided under these estimates with a salary of £1,000 per annum, and the ten compilers of the cost of living statistics are to be paid, in all, £4,039 per annum,” but under the federal basic wage a worker, who is employed 48 hours a week, receives only £3 lis. 6d. per week. Does not the Minister consider that the time has arrived for the Government to make provision for a representative of the trade union movement to take part in the work of compiling the cost of living statistics?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [2.51]. - Does the honorable senator fear that the compilers of these statistics will be underpaid? They do not work for 48 hours a week. The hours of employment in the Public Service are36¾ and the rates of pay are governed by the Public Service Act and the regulations made under it-
– I understand that the Government has decided that the postponed census shall be taken next year. Some time ago, a circular was issued stating that a number of temporary officers would be required at the head office of the Bureau of Census and Statistics, in Canberra, for a period of approximately twelve months, for the purpose of collating the records obtained from the various States. It was said in the circular that examinations of candidates for these positions would be held in Sydney and Melbourne. I drew attention to the matter at the time by means of a question in this chamber, and I was informed that the Government had not decided whether examinations would be held. I now ask whether this matter has been determined, and, if examinations are to be conducted, whether, instead of confining them to Melbourne and Sydney, as suggested in the circular originally issued by the department, an opportunity will be given to unemployed clerical workers in particular, and to others with the necessary qualifications, who may reside in Hobart, Brisbane, Perth, or Adelaide, to become applicants for the positions and to sit to qualify for them.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [2.54]. - This matter came before the Government recently, and the proposal was made that the examinations should be held only in Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra. The Cabinet was not satisfied with that suggestion; it shared the view expressed by the honorable senator. The matter has been referred back to the Public Service Commissioner to ascertain whether undue expenditure would be involved in following the usual practice of holding an examination in each capital city. I think that the honorable senator may assume that that method will be adopted.
– The Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) entirely missed my point. I was not referring to the hours of work in the Public Service; but I drew attention to the fact that no provision had been made for a representative of the trade union movement to take part in the compilation of the cost of living figures. I also showed that, while an economist was to receive £1,000 per annum, the average industrial worker received, under the federal basic wage award, £311s. 6d. for a working week of 48 hours.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [2.56]. - In this matter we have followed the example of the great trade union movement of Australia. I am informed that the secretary of the Sydney Labour Council receives a salary of about £1,000 per annum, and the clerk who works under him has the ordinary clerk’s salary. As to the employment of a representative of the trade union movement to check the official work of compiling the cost of living index figures, I point out that no inquiry is made in connexion with this investigation, whether a wage-earner is a member of the trade union movement or not; but I am informed that a number of members of the Public Service support the movement to which the honorable senator belongs.
– I flatly contradict the statement that Mr. Garden, the general secretary of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council, receives a salary of £1,000 per annum. I doubt whether he is paid even £300 per annum, because that council is now experiencing difficult times.
– When I was in Brisbane during the recent recess of the Senate, I hadat least three cases brought under my notice in which old-age pensioners showed me an intimation from the Repatriation Department to the effect that their pensions would be reduced by a certain amount, or the notice mentioned a new amount which was less than the sum that had previously been collected by them. They were instructed to present the Repatriation Department’s notice to the Commonwealth Pensions Department in sufficient time to ensure that the reduced payment would be received on the next pension pay-day. I telephoned the department asking if it were competent for it to reduce a war pension, and the reply made was that the war pension was not being reduced, but that the old-age pension was being reduced because of the war pension. Seeing that this notice has been issued by the Repatriation Department, is this not equivalent to a definite reduction of the war pension ? The right honorable gentleman said a few moments ago that a war pensioner whose total income does not exceed £312 per annum, will not be called upon to make any contribution to the Consolidated Revenue on account of a pension paid to either of his parents. I point out, however, that one who receives £500, £600 or more per annum, and whose parents are in the fortunate position that they do not need a pension, will not be required to make any contribution to the Consolidated Revenue.
[3.1]. - As the maximum war pension is £4 a week, the case to which the honorable senator refers cannot arise. In regard to the first point that he raised, I draw his attention to the fact that the law provides that claimants for old-age pensions must state their income, and that thus it is not an administrative act to call upon such persons to furnish the necessary particulars.
– But the notice issues from the Repatriation Department.
– That is so, the reason being that the two departments work together in seeing that the law is observed.
– When I referred to war pensioners in receipt of £500 or £600 per annum who will not be called upon to make any contribution to the Consolidated Revenue, I had in mind their total income, including war pension. I know that in Queensland, many war pensioners are drawing a substantial income from government departments.
– The honorable senator is not in order in discussing the case of such men, because no pension payment is involved.
– There does not seem to be equality of sacrifice in the two cases.
Question - That the request (Senator Dunn’s ) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £142,500.
– Provision is made in the vote for this department for the maintenance of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. That item has appeared on the Estimates for many years, and it is proper that it should find a place there this year. But we are entitled to demand from the Government some guarantee of its bona fides, and of the sincerity of its professed belief in the principle of arbitration, especially in view of the action that it took recently while there was before the court an application relating to the wages and working conditions of its railway employees in South Australia.
– On a point of order, I submit that the principle of arbitration has no reference to any item that appears in these Estimates.
– If the honorable senator is merely making an incidental reference to the question in order to advance arguments against the Administration:, he is in order; but a general discussion on the principle of conciliation and arbitration would not be in order.
– It It was not my intention to initiate a discussion on the general question of arbitration, but merely to register a protest against an administrative act of the Government recently, while a case for the determination of the wages and conditions of its railway employees in South Australia was before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. By that act it made certain vital and serious alterations to the wages and salaries of those employees. It ought to have permitted the court to determine the point, instead of withdrawing the ruling given by the previous Government that the 10 per cent’, financial emergency reduction should, be suspended until the cost of living adjustments under the different awards had been absorbed. Before we agree to these Estimates, we should obtain from the Government an assurance that, in the event of a similar case arising in the future, the court will be allowed to determine the question untrammelled by any consideration of administration or any power that the Government for the time being may have the right to exercise.
I have recently received a number of complaints concerning the considerable delays that sometimes occur when matters that concern disputes, for example on the waterfront, are referred by an industrial magistrate to the Conciliation Commissioner. Particular attention is directed to what has happened on the waterfront in North Queensland ports.
These delays cause considerable inconvenience to all parties, and I urge the Minister to request .the Conciliation Commissioner in Queensland to expedite his decisions so as to avoid what might lead to further trouble.
.- Senator O’Halloran has referred to what is essentially a matter affecting government policy. The present Government merely adopted a different principle from that of its predecessor.
I understand that the matter raised by Senator Foll was brought under the notice of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) some time ago, and that he communicated with the Conciliation Commissioner in Queensland with a view to seeing whether decisions concerning the far-distant centres of the honorable senator’s State could not be expedited.
.- The sum of £1,190 is provided to meet the cost of the Public Service Arbitrator’s office for the current financial year. In view of this appropriation which suggests that the Government proposes to continue the Public Service Arbitrator’s office, I should like to know if it is the intention of the Government to continue to flout deliberately the determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator, and thus destroy the usefulness of this branch of the Service? I trust that the Minister representing the Attorney-General can give us an assurance that it is the intention of the Government in future to observe the determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator.
– My answer to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) is similar to that given in connexion with the point raised by Senator O’Halloran. As the honorable senator is aware, the Government merely exercises its power under the law; it is a matter of government policy.
– The Government propose to appropriate this year £10,613 to meet the cost of the High Court. Included in that amount is £3,000 to cover the travelling expenses of High Court justices. The amount voted last year was £4,000, of which only £3,330 was expended. It seems unreasonable ito appropriate such a large sum to cover the travelling expenses of such highly paid men, and the policy of the Government in this respect seems altogether out of harmony with its expressed desire to effect economies. These economies seem to have been made at the expense of the poorer section of the community, while the remuneration of the “ tall poppies “ has not been reduced. The amount provided for travelling expenses seems unnecessarily high, seeing that the justices in question travel only between Sydney and Melbourne, and do not roam all over the country like commercial travellers. Although the Constitution provides that the salaries of judges shall not be diminished during their term of office, there does not appear to be any reason why these unnecessarily high travelling allowances should not be reduced. Members of the Public Service receive less than £1 ls. a day as a travelling allowance, while judges, in receipt of an exorbitant salary, and who are more able to meet expenses incurred in travelling than are members of the Public Service, receive £3 3s, a day. It is a scandal, and some drasic reduction should be made. Provision is also made for the expenditure of £300 on telephone services, including installations, rent calls, extensions and repairs and maintenance, whereas the amount provided for similar service in the Crown Solicitor’s office, where the telephonic work must be infinitely greater, is only £450.
.- I am sure that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) must realise that the Bankruptcy Act is not operating in the best interests of the community; there are complaints from one end of Australia to the other. The cost of bankruptcy proceedings is now much higher than it was when the bankruptcy law was administered by State authorities, and delays have increased. Creditors expect little if anything from a bankrupt’s estate. When the bankruptcy law was administered by the State authorities fairly large compositions were possible, but under federal administration there is practically no return to creditors. Moreover, the expenses of the department are increasing every year. That means a loss to the unfortunate creditors, whose experience is that a bankrupt’s estate is dissipated once it gets into the federal bankruptcy court.
– Justices of the High Court are frequently compelled to travel between Melbourne and Sydney, and their expenses, as well as those of the staff, are necessarily heavy. The proposed appropriation this year is less than last year. In the matter of telephone services it is true that the Crown Solicitor’s office has to undertake more detailed work; but as the justices of the High Court have to function both in Sydney and in Melbourne, there is necessarily a good deal of telephonic communication between them and the Attorney-General’s department. Travelling expenses are lower than previously, because the High Court does not sit in Adelaide or in Perth.
– Does the Government have to pay for unoccupied seats in compartments in which the justices are travelling ?
– When a justice of the High Court and his associate occupy a whole compartment, payment has, I think, to be made for the full number of seats in the compartment. Travelling expenses are curtailed wherever possible.
In reply to the points raised by Senator Grant, I may say that I have not studied the cost of our bankruptcy administration recently, although I perused the figures some time ago. I do not think that it is excessive compared with the cost incurred when bankruptcy was under State administration. This is a big department, which, I understand, is functioning fairly satisfactorily.
– When it was established it was said that it would be only a small department.
– Yes, but the depression is largely responsible for the increased activities of the department. It has no desire, I am sure, to aggrandize itself. In many places, its functions are discharged by State officers, and at present proposals are under consideration for simplifying the procedure and reducing expenditure. An unofficial committee is now considering our bankruptcy legislation, and I venture to say that if the amended Bankruptcy Act and the regulations proposed to be framed under it were in operation to-day, expenditure would be reduced and bankruptcy proceedings expedited.
– I suggest to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) that inquiry should be made by the Attorney-General’s department with respect to the legal work undertaken in the States. In Queensland it is done by one firm. Would it not be fairer to distribute the work?
– With a few exceptions, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Crown Solicitor’s office are not instrumental in placing bankruptcy work. There are Commonwealth agents representing the Crown Solicitor in some State capitals. It has been found less expensive to have such representatives than to establish a branch of the Crown Solicitor’s office in each State. I admit that it would appear as if the work is going to one firm, but a practice has grown up among solicitors of having one firm as agents to represent them in each State. In some cases there are two agents.
– Some arrangement should be made for a distribution of the work in Brisbane.
– I should like to know if the spirit of Darwin has been at work in the preparation of the estimates for this department, because I am afraid there is, somewhere, a missing link. On numerous occasions, the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has advised honorable senators to study carefully the various bills and schedules that come before the Senate, so as to be well informed as to the nature of proposals made. I have always done this, and, as I cannot find provision in the estimates of this department for the special police which, it was reported, had been enrolled some time ago to check the army of unemployed then said to be on its way to Canberra at the instigation of “ Jack “ Lang, I should like to know what has been done about the matter? What was the cost involvedin enrolling the special “ defence “ force, and were those enrolled supplied with batons to repel the invaders? Altogether, how much was spent, andwho were in it?
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £355,000.
– I direct attention to the item “Ministerial visit to the Northern Territory, £240.” While I applaud the action of the former Minister for the Interior (Mr. Parkhill) in visiting the Northern Territory, the expenditure appears to be fairly heavy.
[3.35]. - To appreciate what is involved in a trip to the Northern Territory and through Central Australia, one should have personal knowledge of the country traversed. Some years ago I went over practically the same route as that taken recently by the former Minister for the Interior (Mr. Parkhill), and I know that, if the journey is to be made within a reasonable time, it must be done by motor car. Therefore, it is necessary to employ camel teams to lay down petrol supplies some weeks in advance, and the cost is necessarily fairly heavy. The Minister did not make the trip alone. He invited the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) to accompany him. It is a distinct advantage for Ministers to have personal knowledge of the territory over which they have administrative authority. It would be also advantageous if members of Parliament could obtain first-hand knowledge of the distant portions of the Commonwealth. We should then probably have more sympathetic administration and a better understanding of the difficulties under which people in outback country are living. In the circumstances, the amount provided for the ministerial visit is not extravagant.
– I should like information with reference to the item “Rent of buildings, £45,523.” A footnote states that this sum includes provision in lieu of rent to cover outlayby lessors in the direction of alterations or additions to buildings held under lease. From time to time we have been told that one of the advantages of having transferred the Seat of Government to Canberra is that the Commonwealth is not now required to pay heavy rents for buildings in the various State capital cities. This is not quite correct, because several Commonwealth departments are now housed in buildings privately owned at Civic Centre, although I cannot believe that the rent paid approximates anything like the amount to which Ihave referred. I should like to know if the Governmenthas extended thoseleases, or if it intends to transfer some of the departments to the empty government hotels, which are available. Any private businessfirm would have takensteps, long ago, to move into one or other of the well-furnishedand equipped but unoccupied government hotels, those government departments which are housed in privately-owned buildings in Canberra.
.- I should like to know how much longer the Government intends to make provision fox the annual rental of the residence in Melbourne formerly occupied by the Governor-General. Seeing that the building has not been used by the Commonwealth for some years, it is time that the Government ceased paying over £5,000 a year towards its rent and upkeep.
– Ientirely agree with the remarks of Senator Grant, and believe that we should discontinue any payment to the State Government in respect of the residence in Melbourne formerlyoccupied by the Governor-General. I also endorse the remarks made by Senator Johnston concerning the housing of federal departments in Canberra. Recently, the Auditor-General, Mr. Cerutty, refused to come to Canberra, and the Ministry allowed him to “get away” with it, instead of sacking him.
– The Government cannot sacktheAuditorGeneral.
– If the law prevents the Government from doing that, the law should be amended.Mr.Cerutty is a public servant and, as such, should be amenable to the law applying to the Public Service. For the last three or four years, a number of departmental heads have really constituted themselves the government of this country. I am at all times willing to protect public servants, but I object to any departmental head saying that he declines to come to. Canberra. I agree with Senator Collings that this is a beautiful city. If it is good enough for the Governor- General to live in, surely, it is good enough for Mr. Cerutty. Several years ago, other public servants were compelled to sever their home ties in Melbourne, and do thepioneering work in Canberra. No time should be lost in bringing other officers here. If necessary, the transferred departments should be housed in the unoccupied government hotels.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [3.44].- The item of expenditure £45,523 for the rent of government buildings, to which Senator Johnston has referred, includes rents paid by theCommonwealth in all States. The amount payable for rents in Canberra is approximately £4,000 a year. The Government offices available in Canberra are all fully occupied. In view of the possibility of further removals, the question of utilizing some of the vacant hotels has been considered. Before they could be used for the accomodationof departments some structural alterations would have to be made.
As to the point raised by Senator Grant, some time ago it was decided to surrender Government House in Melbourne. Since an agreement was in existence, the Government of Victoria demanded, as it had a right to do, compensation for its termination. It was to expire on the 31st December, 1936. Eventually, the Commonwealth agreed to pay the State Government £5,277 per annum, or a total of £42,865, by way of compensation. Although that is a substantial sum to pay as compensation, it actuallyrepresents a saving on the amount which would otherwise have been spent. Honorable senators will understand that the maintenance of the property involved considerable expense. It was found cheaper to terminate the agreement and pay com pensation rather than continue in possession of the property.
– Has the property been handed back to the State Government?
Senator Dunn referred to the transfer of the Auditor-General’s department to Canberra. This matter has been considered by several governments but it has not been considered advisable to effect the transfer, not because of consideration for the feelings of the Auditor-General and his staff, but because of a lack of accommodation in Canberra. When the finances of the country permit it, the Government believes that it will be true economy to bring al! the central administrations to Canberra. The best way to cut the loss on Canberra is to have all the departments here. So long as they are scattered throughout the Commonwealth, losses will’ occur. If they were all here, rents in Melbourne would be saved, and we1 would have cheaper administration by reason of concentration of departmental officers in one capital city. It is the intention of the Government to transfer all .the central adminstrations to Canberra as money becomes available.
– There is a discrepancy between the amount we are asked to vote for the Solar Observatory and the amount which will be- expended,, if the sum estimated to- remain unexpended is taken into account. Instead of an expenditure of £6,266, the actual cost for salaries is expected to be £3,177. It seems strange that such a large amount should be provided, and only about half of it expended, and I should like the Minister to give me some information upon the point. Originally, the observatory was in charge of a Director, Dr. Duffield, who was to have as his staff, a first assistant, a second assistant, and others. There never has been a first assistant. Unfortunately, Dr. Duffield died, and there being no first assistant, the second assistant has, 1 believe, since acted’ as director. It is unfair that one man should be expected to do the work of three men, particularly when it is of such a highly specialized character. Suggestions have been made that the meteorological departments of the Commonwealth and the observatory work carried on by the States should be amalgamated. On the 26th February last, I asked the following, questions:–^
As almost nine months have elapsed since that reply was given, I hope that the Minister now1 has some information upon the subject. The committee referred to must, by this* time, have considered, the location of the two national observatories proposed to be retained. At any rate, we should know what is intended in connexion with the Solar Observatory at Mount Stromlo. I am not an expert on scientific questions ; but I understand that the solar observatory at Canberra is inquite a different category from the other observatories and meteorological stations in Australia. It would, therefore, appear inadvisable to amalgamate the work done at Mount Stromlo with that done by State observatories, or to place officers- of the State observatories in charge of the work at Mount Stromlo. That would he like putting a man in charge of a sheep station because he was an expert in Hereford or1 Ayrshire cattle. It is not always possible to amalgamate- departments ; and it is- undesirable to- do so when the work they perform- is quite different. Somevaluable instruments at Mount Stromlo were donated for specific purposes. I submit that the terms of the trust which was created in connexion with the observatory ought to be complied- with. The fund out of which it arose was first established about 25 years ago. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) is well acquainted with the .history of the Mount Stromlo Observatory ; he, more than any other Minister, has taken a deep interest in it. It was my privilege about 25 years ago to have some small part in obtaining funds for the establishment of the observatory, and it is not pleasing to me to see how matters have been allowed to drift. There seems to be a general idea that, so long as there is an observatory in existence, all is well, and there is no need to have a highly trained personnel; but I suggest that that is altogether a wrong attitude. The value of the work of this and other observatories depends on the ability of the two or three head men entrusted with it. They should be highly expert in their respective spheres. To the Mount Stromlo Observatory private individuals, not only in Australia, but also on the other side of the world have contributed generously; and although I am not competent to express an opinion on the excellence of the work performed, I believe that it has been of high quality. Unfortunately, things have been allowed to lapse. I know that for some years there has. been a shortage of funds; but if the observatory is not to be closed altogether, and the instruments, which have been donated, returned to the donors, the Government should at least have a sufficient number of first class officers to carry on the work of the observatory until it can be placed on a stronger financial footing.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [3.55 J . - I must associate myself with everything that Senator Duncan-Hughes has said regarding the Solar Observatory at Mount Stromlo. This observatory was intended to fill a very important part in the link of solar observatories established to carry out certain definite scientific work in various parts of the world. One of the primary objects of solar observatories is the observation of meteorological changes due to electrical discharges from the sun, and the study of the spots on the sun which indicate those discharges. Scientists in other countries pointed out that it was desired to have a number of observatories girdling the world, so that the sun could be kept under observation at all times, and that the absence of a solar observatory in Australia made that impossible. Until the Mount Stromlo Observatory was established, no observations of the sun could be made from that portion of the surface of the earth occupied by Australia. Observatories in Japan, the United States of America, and certain European countries were carrying, on this important work and collecting valuable meteorological data, but the information was incomplete, and the Commonwealth Government then in office was asked to endeavour to fill in the gap in the chain of world-wide observatories. The late Dr. Duffield, an Australian, whose reputation as a scientist stood high, and who had made a special study of this particular branch of science, took up the matter wish tremendous enthusiasm, and largely through his efforts, and those of Senator Duncan-Hughes, a considerable sum ofmoney was raised. Valuable instruments were donated by generous donor: and, ultimately, a solar observatory was erected at Mount Stromlo. Dr. Duffield was placed in charge at a modest salary, which was altogether disproportionate to his qualifications, and he carried on the work until his death. Then the depression came, and successive governments apparently felt that this matter must wait. Dr. Duffield’s position has not been filled, nor has a first assistant yet been appointed. The form in which the Estimates appear is due to the Government’s desire to fill the positions as soon as possible. The full vote appears each year in the Estimates, but the line “ Amount estimated to remain unexpended at close of year “ informs honorable senators that it is not intended to fill the vacancy during the current financial year. I note the honorable senator’s remark about the State observatories. 1 understand that the inquiry to which he referred has not yet been completed. The Premiers agreed that there were to be two observatories - one in the east, and one in the west of Australia - but at the moment I do not know whether one of them is to be at Mount Stromlo. The observatory there was not established to carry out work usually performed by State observatories. The decision to have only two observatories still stands.
But it has not been possible to get the six State Governments which are concerned to agree as to which observatories are to remain and which are to be closed. I was glad to hear what the honorable senator had to say on this important subject, and to know that he will not allow interest in it to abate. I shall have pleasure in bringing his remarks under the notice of the Minister.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Defence.
Proposed vole, £2,995,000.
[3.59]. - I promised the Senate that, in committee, I would make a statement in relation to this department. First, I wish to say that the criticism of myself by Senator Daly was perfectly justified. Had our positions been reversed, I should probably have offered the same criticism. I have no complaint to make regarding the honorable senator’s action. Governments have to do what they can, not always what they would like to do.
– I wanted the right honorable senator to realize that that was the position of the late Government.
– In what I said then, I was sincerely actuated by a desire to do all that we could afford to do in the matter of defence. I attribute to the honorable senator the same motive. The Estimates before us do not tell the whole story, because certain sums out of last year’s surplus were put into a trust fund in that year for defence purposes. The expenditure for 1931-32, shown in the main Estimates, amounted to £3,095,919. Comparing that with the amount shown in the present Estimates, it appears that there is a still further reduction of expenditure in this direction, but actually that is not so. The explanation is that a sum of £60,000 was transferred out of the surplus of last year to a trust fund for ammunition supply factories, and £44,000 to a trust fund for works at Darwin. Although those expenditures were provided for in last year’s Estimates, they will occur during the current year. Furthermore, we have been able to obtain amounts from the unemployment relief money which the Commonwealth has, from time to time, made available, and by an arrangement with the States have been able to get some defence works carried out as unemployment relief work. These items represented an expenditure of £97,111, making a total expenditure of £3,172,420 for the year. The provision for 1932-33 in the main Estimates is £2,995,000, but as from the trust fund for the ammunition factories, we shall have £60,000 available, and from the trust fund for works at Darwin, £44,000, and as the allocation up to date from the unemployment relief fund is £56,2S0, the total expenditure on defence for this year will be £3,196,S72, or an excess over 1931-32 of £24,452. In the provision for 1932-33 a reduction of £47,180 has been made on account of the £8 cut in salaries under the Financial Emergency Act 1932, which did not operate during the previous year. In fact, the provision for the current year is actually £71,632 more than was expended during 1931-82.
I am not prepared to say that the present Estimates make adequate provision for the defence of this country, but I desire to give the Senate and the public the factors thai influenced the Government in not making a larger provision this year for defence purposes. There was, first of all, the urgent necessity, which is still with us, of keeping down all government expenditure, even necessary forms of expenditure. But there was another factor. When these Estimates were being prepared, Australia was about to be represented at a disarmament conference, and just before the Estimates were actually presented this country was represented at Geneva by its Attorney-General (Mr. Latham). Certain definite schemes for disarmament were placed before that conference. I know that they have not yet come to fruition, but the conference is still proceeding, and we are hopeful that something of a definite nature may yet be done to reduce the burden of armaments, which all civilized countries are now carrying. The Government thought it would be unwise and not quite in conformity with sincerity if, while we were taking part in a disarmament conference, we proposed a substantial increase of our expenditure on defence. Australia, of course, is not an aggressive country; we are not likely to interfere with any other power, and our expenditure is purely for defence purposes. Nevertheless, it would not be showing a right spirit to enter a disarmament conference at a time when our defence Estimates showed a substantially increased expenditure. I suggest to honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, that, no matter how strongly they may feel on the subject of defence, they should recognize the logic of the Government’s attitude. Australia is part of the Empire, and we hope that in any threat against its safety, all portions of the Empire would rally to resist such a danger, no matter which part of the Empire was affected. We owe our liberty to the might and power of the British Navy, and we make some contribution to its cost because we believe that it is a joint responsibility which should be shared by every section of the Empire with some regard r,o the risks run by each member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I have no hesitation in saying that at the present time the Mother Country bears more than a fair share of the cost of the naval defence of the Empire. Australia is the second largest contributor to the cost of that defence, but some portions of the Empire give very little, although their sea-borne trade is in some cases greater than that of Australia. It is only fair, therefore, that this matter should be reviewed. The Government also believed that the Ottawa Conference, dealing as it did with the subject of Empire trade, and probably having the effect of linking up the subject of defence, would, as a logical consequence, lead to a development of a sense of responsibility for the defence of the Empire sea routes over which that trade must flow, and that every portion of the Empire having secured agreements which would be mutually beneficial might perhaps look anew at the subject of Empire responsibility for sea defence from a slightly different angle from that from which it was formerly regarded. It was not possible at Ottawa to develop that view, but the Government still hopes that while Mr. Bruce is in England, as Resident Minister, it may be possible to bring about a recognition of the fact by other dominion governments, and that, perhaps later, an arrangement may be reached by which the cost of Empire sea defence may be shared on an equitable basis by the British Commonwealth of Nations. This might mean a slightly - increased expenditure on the part of Australia, but it would certainly mean a substantially increased contribution to sea defence by some of the other dominions. Leaving Britain herself out of consideration, Australia has been bearing a far greater share of this cost than has any other dominion. For the reasons that I have outlined, the Government considers that this year it should not prejudice the position by setting aside any largely increased provision for military, naval or air defence. There may be some development of naval defence which would mean a reorientation of our ideas of the Empire’s needs in this direction. Some radical proposals have been made before the disarmament conference regarding air defence; for instance, one proposal was to prohibit the use of machines for the purpose of bombing from the air, and it would be foolish of this Government to ask the Parliament to authorize the purchase of new bombing machines, when, as a result of this conference, their use may be prohibited.
Senator Hardy made reference a fewdays ago to the paucity of our air defence, and remarked that we had only 24 planes. I was not in a position at the time to correct his statement, but our fighting aeroplanes number 88. It is by no means an insignificant force, yet is probably insufficient for the adequate defence of this country.
I desire the. . enate to know exactly what is in the ii ina of the Government in connexion with the whole question of defence. I hope that this will become a non-party matter. It certainly should be so regarded, because defence is vital to Australia, no matter what party is in power. We sincerely hope that the disarmament conference may be successful. It would be well for Australia and for the world in general if defence expenditure were being reduced instead of increased; but if other countries continue to expend large sums in providing warlike equipment it is impossible for the British Empire to go on disarming at the rate it has since the war. Of all the great powers of the world, Great Britain stands alone in respect of the amount of disarmament it has actually carried out, but unless the other great powers are prepared to adopt a similar policy it will, obviously, for selfprotection, be compelled to make provision for its own defence. I ask that any criticism of the defence estimates may be viewed in the light of these considerations.
.- I I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item “ Secretary, £2,000,” by £250.
I t is not the policy of the Labour party io reduce wages; but in view of the general tightening-up that has occurred in regard to wages, pensions and social services, the “ lower dog “ being cut to the very bone, Senator Bae and I believe that the “ tall poppies “ should also make :i sacrifice. I was employed as an artisan for many years in the naval dockyards at Cockatoo Island. When I was elected to the Senate I took part in many deputations to the Minister for Defence regarding employment and other matters at Cockatoo and Garden Islands. I recollect introducing deputations to the honorable member for Kalgoolie (Mr. A. Green) when he was Minister for Defence. . On those occasions Mr. Shepherd was the first to justify, in no uncertain terms, the cuts that had been made in the wages of the artisans. If it is right that the secretary to she department should be in a position to make such recommendations to the Government of the day, Senator Baf and I are justified in asking that that gentleman also shall make a further sacrifice. It. is all very well for the “ tall poppies “ in the Public Service to make recommendations to Ministers in relation to the lower grades. I have no knowledge of whether Mr. Shepherd is a good or a bad public servant.
– He i3 one of the best public servants that we have.
– That may be so. But there is no reason why he should not. bc called upon to suffer equally with the artisans and other trade unionists in th, Defence Department.
– I have always opposed tb fixation by this Parliament of the wage or salary of any person ; consequently, on principle, I intend to vote against Senator Dunn’s request. If we supported it, we should have only ourselves to blame should our opponents on some futureoccasion choose to use the same weapon and charge us with inconsistency if weopposed the proposal. While the Scullin Government was in power, its supporters in this chamber several times took the then Opposition to task for using the Senate as an instrumentality in the fixation of salaries or wages. We then affirmed the principle that wages should be fixed by some tribunal that was absolutely removed from the political atmosphere. I still adhere to that principle.
I had a brief experience of the work performed by Mr. Shepherd as Secretary for Defence, and a longer experience of him in dealing with cabinet matters. There is not in the Public Service to-day a fairer mau to those who work under him. I venture to assert that no recommendation upon industrial matters had ever been made by him unless and until it had passed through the hands of Mr. Murphy, the industrial officer appointed by the Defence Department. Mr. Shepherd is a highly capable officer, and I do not consider that he is being too highly paid.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [4.20].- The net salary of. Mr. Shepherd to-day is £1,502. The position of this officer is briefly this: In 1921, he was secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department at a salary of £.1,250 a year a position that is now classified at £2,000 n year. When the position of Official Secretary in London became vacant in 1921, the Ministry of the day offered it to Mr. Shepherd at. a salary of £2,000 a year. He held it until 1927, when he was transferred to Australia as Secretary for Defence, exchanging positions with Mr. Trumble. He did not apply to be allowed to return to Australia, and under the provisions of the Public Service Act, the transfer could not have been made unless a position carrying the same rate of salary as he was then receiving was found for him. Mr. Trumble and
Mr. Collins receive the same salary in London. A reference to Hansard, page 1081, of the present session, shows that there are in the Public Service a number of officials who receive the same rate, and in some cases, a higher rate. Mr. Shepherd is at present the senior permanent head in the Commonwealth Public Service, having had 42 years of service and experience.
– Considered in relation to some of the other salaries, that of this officer appears to be fairly high. I do not believe, however, that this chamber is the proper place in which to deal with the fixation of salaries. Nor should we pick out an isolated case, and apply our well-meaning efforts in the direction of what we may consider an improvement of the position.
Looking through the Estimates, I find that this particular officer does not occupy a singular position. The salaries of the Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, to which exception has not been taken by honorable senators, the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, and the Director-General of Health, are identical with that of Mr. Shepherd. I believe that they are all subject to the same deduction under the financial emergency legislation. It would not be at all proper if we were to select one of them, and say that he should suffer a further reduction which did not also apply to the others. I have no intention of voting for any reduction, in the case of officers of the Defence Department, when a similar reduction is not . applied to officers of other departments. For several years, the Defence Department has been subjected to very heavy attacks, and to severe treatment generally. Bather should I feel inclined to cut less in its case, on account of our dependence as a country upon it.
I was interested in the remarks of the Minister (Senator Pearce) in relation to the general question of defence. For the last five years the defence estimates have been steadily decreasing.
– Hear, hear!
– I do not applaud it. Senator Pearce rightly emphasized 1. o r int that defence, in the case of Australia, does not consist of offensive preparations. It is our duty, however, if a certain event should occur, for which we do not look, and which we do not desire, to see’ that we are in a position to play some part in it, and shall not have to lie down and be walked over by others who prepared while we slept. The expenditure on this department declined from £8,000,000 in 1926-27 to nearly £7,400,000 in 1927-28, to £6,500,000 in 1928-29, to £4,800,000 in 1929- 30, and to under £4,000,000 in 1930- 31, while this year the estimate is under £3,000,000.
– Has any enemy country taken advantage of that fact?
– Is the condition of the world at the present time such as to justify these constant reductions in what I may term our fire insurance? I am perfectly certain that it is not. The honorable senator may read any book that he like3, on any country in the world, and he will not find the existence of a state of affairs justifying our continuing year by year to whittle away whatever defensive preparations we have.
– Our aim should be to have a happy, contented people.
– I notice that those who talk about happy, contented people, and the abolition of war, nearly always do so in a most bellicose manner. I do not rejoice in war; I have seen sufficient of it to last me for the remainder of my life; but I shall not remain silent while these reductions continue to be made. I feel that the Minister is strongly of the same view. “We were 3ent into this Parliament to safeguard the interests of our country. It was really the relation of Australia to external affairs which led to this Parliament coming into existence.
– In the defence of any country, of what is it to have guns without’ men who are properly fed?
-Tha t is not an argument that will avail in the future, if Australia is attacked.
– It would be of no use to meet an invader with men who were starving.
– At all times, and in all countries there have been, and there will continue to be, starv- ing men and women; but their number ia fewer in this country than in, probably, any other country, with the possible exception of the United States of America. If we dispense with all our defence preparations until we have placed our people in the greatest degree of comfort - which does not always mean contentment - we shall find that we have merely left ourselves open to attack. Some precautions must bc taken to ensure our own safety.
I am sorry that a definite reduction has been made in the amount provided this year in respect of the minor, but at the same time important and valuable item, “Rifle Clubs”. Even the number of clerks has been reduced from seven to two. I should not imagine that the nations of the world, sitting in Switzerland, would regard as a cams belli the retention of those few clerks. As members of rifle clubs, many men obtain useful and enjoyable sport on Saturday afternoons, and in the process fit themselves to fight for Australia should the occasion to do so arise. A trained personnel is necessary for the conduct of a war. Those of us who participated in the last war will not always be so agile as we were twenty years ago. Our young men are not now undergoing compulsory military training. We are inviting trouble.
– The majority of those who fought in the last war were not trained under a compulsory system.
– A large number of them were.
– The nucleus of the first contingent was trained under the compulsory system.
-That i.i so. One of the best things which the Labour party ever did for Australia was to realize that it was its responsibility to make the members of the community, if necessary, defend their country, as was done under the compulsory training system it set up. The Labour party was also responsible for the establishment of the Royal Military College at Duntroon, which, unfortunately, has now been closed.
– I do not intend to give a silent vote on the proposed expenditure in the Defence Department. I do not intend to support the request moved by Senator Dunn, for the reasons submitted by Senator Daly. I believe that we should be inviting trouble of the worst possible kind if, by any action we took in this connexion, we should endeavour to establish our right to enter the battle arena in the matter of wages and working conditions of public servants. I regret, however, that it is considered necessary to spend approximately £3,000,000 this year for defence purposes. There is no subject upon which there has been more sophistry uttered than upon the amount of money which we should spend upon defence. I have no desire at this juncture to enter upon an academic discussion on the expenditure of money for defence purposes, and for which we cannot possibly expect to obtain any return unless we should engage in war with some other country. Some honorable senators suggest that the expenditure on defence can be likened to an insurance policy; but I suggest that the best insurance we can provide is a happy and contented people. Instead of drawing the lifeblood out of the country by expenditure in this way, we should endeavour to make the conditions of our people more comfortable than they are to-day. If we were to do that we should not then have to consider any expenditure as an insurance against war. Senator Duncan-Hughes referred to the reduced expenditure on rifle clubs. Are honorable senators aware that these clubs are at present subsidized by private firms, not with the intention of giving the members of such clubs healthy sport in the open air on Saturday afternoons, but in order to provide some sort of insurance against civil war, which may some day occur if the Government makes no attempt to ameliorate the condition of the masses. Indeed, we have been informed that, during the last two years, there was a possibility of a clash of armed forces in Sydney, and that arms and ammunition were under private control.
I should have been prepared to allow this vote to pass had it not been for the sentiments uttered by some honorable senators opposite, which, from a national view-point, I believe to be vicious. They are always working in the wrong direction. If we, as legislators, talked of peace as freely and as eloquently as some are prepared to tait of war, it would be unnecessary to vote money for defence purposes. “We should set an example to the world. I am in entire agreement with the remark of Senator Pearce that it would have been a bad gesture if, prior ito the meeting of the Disarmament Conference, the Commonwealth had disclosed that it was increasing its defence vote.
– Unfortunately, we have to recognize that other countries are increasing their expenditure on defence.
– Even if that bo the case we should show to the world that we have no desire to increase our defence expenditure, and that we are genuinely anxious to assist in securing international peace. Obviously, the difficulty in the way of decreasing armaments is the fact that some countries wish to increase theirs. But we should set an example to them. Instead of expressing regret that the defence vote has been reduced, as did Senator Duncan-Hughes, wc should show our appreciation of the fact that such wasteful expenditure is not, at least during this year, to be tolerated. This is one of the few opportunities -which honorable senators have to show their aversion to war and all its horrors. The talk of preparedness does not mean anything. In 1914 the nations of the world were bettor prepared for war than they have ever been, and we know the disastrous consequences which followed. Any amount we may appropriate for defence is a mere bagatelle when compared with what other countries are prepared to pay. Is it suggested that a country with a population of 6,500,000 persons - less than 1,000,000 being wealth producers - can continue to shoulder the heavy taxation burdens imposed in preparing for war?
– This provision, is for defence only.
– No ‘ country ever admits that it is on the offensive; it is always said to be on the defensive. The bully one meets in the street at times is never on the offensive; he is always on the defensive. I take this opportunity to register my protest against this proposed vote and to express the hope that, during my time in tills chamber, whether it be short or long, this will be the largest sum that will ever be appropriated for defence purposes. Instead of the amount increasing I hope that it will progressively decrease.
– It is easy to understand the relationship which undoubtedly exists between Senator Daly and the Secretary of the Defence Department. When Senator Daly was Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister for Defence, he was doubtless brought into close contact with Mr. Shepherd.
– If that is so, his opinion is worthy of consideration.
– No doubt Mr. Shepherd may be a fine fellow ; but we cannot forget the way in which the various departments in New South Wales have been controlled since he has been the principal executive officer in the Defence Department. I refer more particularly to the cuts made in the wages of the men employed at Cockatoo Island and Garden Island. I agree with Senator Daly that Mr. Murphy was the Industrial Officer, but I suggest that the honorable senator should peruse the correspondence and documentary evidence available in the Trades Hall in Sydney. He should read the correspondence received from engineers, moulders, shipwrights, joiners, bricklayers and others who’ worked in the departments I have mentioned, while Mr. Shepherd was secretary of the department.
– Was the Defence Department in charge of Cockatoo Island?
– It is a naval establishment.
– It was not under the control of the Defence Department.
– I submit that Cockatoo Island Dockyard and Garden Island were under the jurisdiction of that department. I refer the honorable senator to the statements made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), in another place, concerning the attitude adopted by this gentleman towards the lower paid workers in those establishments, and when the remuneration of the “ tall poppies “ was not reduced. Senator Daly is quite entitled to give this gentleman a pat on the back, but, on be- half of the trade unionists in New South Wales, I contend that everything he did during the last two or three years has been detrimental to their interests. I do not care whether I am called a “ Red “ or a Moderate; I intend to put up a fight. The Lang Government in New South Wales made a determined attempt to secure equality of sacrifice by reducing the salaries of the highly paid officials. When Senator Daly administered the Defence Department for a few months, he became friendly with those “peacocks,” who adorn themselves with feathers and spurs, and I suppose that is why he is opposing my request. I am not attacking the honorable senator personally. I am not doing anything of the sort. I am directing attention to what I regard as a basic principle, namely, that what is good for one officer in the Public Service is good for another. The files at the Melbourne Trades Hall will reveal the hand of the Secretary to the Defence Department in many of the recommendations for reductions of salaries of the men employed at Westernport, in Victoria. I do not set myself up as a censor of the thoughts in the minds of Senators Daly and Collings on this subject. I merely say that as the rank and file of the industrial organizations which sent me to this Parliament are unable to speak for themselves, they are fully entitled to ask me to do so on their behalf. I, therefore, repeat that if rationing is considered good enough for members of industrial unions employed in government establishments, it should be applied also to the “ tall poppies “ in the Defence Department.
– I intend to move that the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item “Defence Liaison Officer, £2,000”, by £250. We are paying £2,000 to this officer. He may or he may not be doing good work in London. Probably, at the present time, he is at Whitehall, telling the British defence authorities how successfully the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) recently issued a military order to members of the defence forces to slaughter emus in Western Australia.
– It may interest the honorable senator to know that this liaison officer is on his return to Australia, and is leaving the Service.
– That will suit me. In the circumstances, I shall not move the request.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Departmentoftrade and Customs..
Proposed vote, £470,100.
– I should like to know what arrangements the Government is making for the payment of the gold bounty that has accrued for the nine months of this year. I am aware that it is provided under a special act, but it is administered by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and I should think some reference would be made to it in the Estimates.
– It can be done at any time by a special appropriation.
– The Government, has given a definite undertaking that if the present exchange rate falls, the bounty will be restored.
– If the honorable senator will turn to the Special Appropriations, Part 1, he will find there provision for the balance of the gold bounty, £100,000.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Health.
Proposed vote, £93,600.
– Under the heading of Veterinary Hygiene, provision was made in 1931 for a director at £1,000, and an assistant director at £200. For this year the amount set down for the director is £994, but there is nothing for an assistant director. Apparently, the Government can find the money for high-salaried officers of the Defence Department, but exercises strict economy in the Health Department.
– The office of assistant director is now vacant, and, on the advice of the Director-General of Health, it is not considered necessary to fill it. at this juncture.
.- I should like some information from the Minister as to the practice of the department in controlling the price at which serum, obtained from the Commonwealth laboratory in Melbourne, is made available to the general public through the medical profession. Recently when I was in Brisbane, I was told of a man in poor circumstances whose child had contracted a contagious disease - I believe it was typhoid - and I learned that the medical man who attended the case charged £1 ls. extra for one inoculation of serum. 1 am informed that serum sold over the counter by a chemist is obtainable at a much lower figure than that. Has the Government made any representations to the medical profession not to charge exorbitantly high prices for serum obtained from its laboratory? Seeing that the Government has expended a large sum in experimental work and on the erection of a laboratory in Melbourne, the serum should be made available at a reasonable price to those who need it.
.- The salary of the Director-General of Health is shown at £2,000, and there is a footnote stating that the amount of deduction under the Financial Emergency Acts is £450. The salary for the senior medical officer, the next in the list, is stated to be £1,394. I should like to know why, in the case of some officers only, there appears an explanatory note, stating the amount of deduction of salary? I am assuming that all have suffered the same percentage deduction.
– I admit that uniformity is not observed throughout the schedules. The salary of the chief officer of each department is shown at the total amount, less the percentage deduction under the Financial Emergency Act, but as it was found impossible to burden the Estimates with similar footnotes respecting all other officers, the net amounts of their salaries are shown. I shall have inquiries made with regard to the suggestion made by Senator Foll. When the Estimates were being considered in another place, the position was explained by the Minister for Health (Mr. Marr), and I believe that he is reviewing the charge made for serum obtained from the Commonwealth laboratory. At all events the representation made by the honorable senator will be brought under his notice.
– The provision made this year for the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine is £3,500. Last year the vote for this work was £6,500, and the actual expenditure was £3,673. The Government can find money for its delegates to the Ottawa Conference; for a Resident Minister in London, for the Right Honorable William Morris Hughes and the ex-federal member for Brisbane, Sir Donald Cameron, to go to Geneva and talk political “ bunk “ ; but apparently it deems it necessary to economize in the expenditure on .research work in connexion with tropical diseases to protect public health. Because of our proximity to, and our trade intercourse Avith, the Dutch East Indies, there must always be a definite risk of the introduction of bubonic plague or some other tropical disease. Therefore, the necessary financial provision should be made to deal with such a contingency.
.- It may interest Senator Dunn to know that the sum provided for this year is the same as the amount, voted last year.
Last year, money was voted under three or four headings for which no provision is made this year. For instance, for the eradication of hookworm disease, £1,600 was voted last year, of which £490 was spent. This year, no sum appears under this heading. From my own observations, I know that hookworm disease was prevalent in New Guinea some years ago, but by the untiring efforts of the scientists there, aided by Commonwealth funds, it was practically eradicated in certain districts. Unfortunately, hookworm disease has made its appearance in the northern part of Australia, and I urge the Government not to relax its efforts to destroy it. I should like to know why no sum is being voted this year for the purpose.
Last year, £600 was voted for the investigation of industrial diseases, including miners’ phthisis and lead- poisoning. Of that amount, £168 was spent. Why is nothing provided this year ?
Similarly, no provision is made for a contribution to the tropical diseases bureau, whereas last year, the vote of £400 was all expended. An explanation by the Minister may do much to allay our fears that this important work is being discontinued.
– Grave dissatisfaction has been expressed in Queensland at the failure of the Government to provide funds to deal with the hookworm disease, and tropical diseases generally. Now that travelling by aeroplane is becoming more common, the danger of introducing dread diseases from other countries is greater than before, and consequently, the people are alarmed at any lessening of expenditure in the interests of the public health. I have been interested in hookworm, because at one time, my three children were examined, with many others in Queensland, for traces of this trouble. This disease attacks the feet, and if not dealt with promptly, is difficult, if not impossible, to cure. I, too, should like to know why no expenditure under this heading is contemplated.
Victims of miners’ phthisis are to be found throughout Australia; practically every Queensland town contains sufferers from this dread disease. Anything that can be done to prevent these troubles ought to be done, and, therefore, I regret that no money is being provided this year for the purpose.
– The curtailment of the expenditure under the headings to which reference has been made has been made on the recommendation of the DirectorGeneral of Health, who has found that economies can be effected by combining the work of certain officers. In those cases in which trust funds are concerned, any balances to the credit of the funds will still remain in them.
In regard to the eradication of hookworm disease, I am not in a position to say more than that the Government does not consider it necessary to find any further money this year for the purpose. If necessary, it will seek supplementary provision to deal with it.
Last year, the sum of £6,500 was voted for the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and of that amount, £3,673 was expended. The saving was due to a co-ordination of the work of the staff, with which the Director-General of Health was entirely satisfied. I assure the committee that the Government has no desire to risk the health of the community : these economies are the result of combining certain offices, and will not lead to any loss of efficiency.
.- The Minister’s reply does not satisfy me. Is it intended to continue the contribution to the imperial fund for the investigation of tropical diseases, and to the tropical diseases bureau? I do not care under what heading provision is made so long as the work is to be continued.We should be willing to make these small contributions if they will help those engaged in research into tropical diseases elsewhere to continue their valuable work.
– The payments have only been postponed.
– I hope that the matter will not be lost sight of.
– The Queensland Government has advised that it is in a position to carry on its work in connexion with hookworm disease without any aid from the Commonwealth above that provided in these Estimates.
Request (by Senator Dunn) - put -
That the House of Representatives be requested to increase the item, “ School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, £3,500,” by £1,000.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Commerce.
Proposed vote, £301,900.
.-An amount is provided for a supervisor of dairy exports. 1 consider that the answer supplied to me this morning in reply to a question that I asked regarding butter, which is exported under a system of governmental control, was, to put it mildly, extremely vague.
– The honorable senator may now discuss only an item appearing on the estimates of the Department of Commerce.
-I have before me the seventh annual report of the Dairy Produce Control Board for the year ended the 30th June, 1932. It is signed the ex-Minister for Commerce (Mr. H awker), and that fact should show that I am dealing with a matter which is germane to the vote under consideration.
– The question asked by the honorable senator this morning had relation to certain butter factories, and to a matter of State administration.
– I contend that the matter is of Commonwealth concern.
– I submit that it is closely linked up with the special appropriation for the Dairy Control Board, and has nothing to do with the vote before the committee.
– I presume that honorable senators will not deny that under the system under which butter is exported from Australia, the price is controlled. A duty of 6d. per lb. on New Zealand butter grown under white con ditions has been imposed, and the price of butter throughout Australia has been fixed to enable exporters to dump a certain quantity of butter on the British market. The question that I asked this morning was based on the finding of a royal commission - -
– The honorable senator must take an opportunity to deal with that matter on another occasion, such as on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £1,172,200.
– “For the relief of distress among unemployed returned soldiers and their dependants “ £3,000 was expended in 1931-32, but no vote for this purpose appears on the Estimates for the current year. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to place £20,000 on the Estimates for the relief of unemployed soldiers and sailors and their dependants.
– If, as the honorable senator has admitted, no appropriation is to be made for this purpose this year, I submit that it is not competent for him to move that the House of Representatives be requested to include such a vote. If such a request were permissible, other honorable senators could submit similar requests on every subject under the sun.
– I rule that the request is out of order.
– Why is it necessary to provide £3,000 this year towards the cost of the Australian delegation to the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa, seeing that last year £4,294 was expended for this purpose? Apparently, in order to pay this £3,000, the vote for the Cockatoo Island Dockyard has to be reduced. It means that men in Australia are to be thrown out of employment to provide the money required to send a delegation to Ottawa. I notice that for the maintenance of the dockyard, £2,000 less than last year is to be voted.
– It will cost £2,000 less than last year to maintain it.
– One result of the Ottawa Conference has been that this Government has lost a very fine member of the Cabinet. If, at. a cost of £4,294, that delegation created such a state of uncertainty, why reduce the vote for Cockatoo Island Dockyard by £2,000, so as to provide £3,000 for the expenses of another delegation that may result in the ranks of Cabinet Ministers being further depleted?’ Has portion of the cost of the last delegation to be met this year?
– Then the cost of that delegation was in the vicinity of £7,000?
– Possibly, but it was cheap at the price.
– If Australia achieves the results that the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr.Fenton) in another place considered could not be obtained, the cost of the delegation would not be too great even if it amounted to £70,000. But it must be admitted that there are some grounds for the suspicions that we entertain.
Australia’s contribution to the cost of the secretariat of the League of Nations last year was £42,656, but this year the vote has been reduced to £20,000. If there is scope for such a considerable reduction in one year, there would seem to be room for investigation of the secretariat along the lines adopted at Australia House by the ex-member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). I should like to know the reason for this tremendous decrease. Have all the other nations made similar cuts, and is our proportion equal to theirs? The proposed vote for the Commonwealth representation on the Imperial Economic Conference is £1,438. The expenditure on this item last year amounted to £1,470. Honorable senators should regard with scepticism a proposal to cut down an Australian institution, thereby decreasing our absorptive capacity in relation to population, in the vain hope that we may increase our overseas trade. I should like the Minister to explain the reason for the reduction of the vote for Cockatoo Island Dockyard by £2,000. A good deal has been said concerning the defence of Australia. To this establishment may be applied the remarks of Senator DuncanHughes upon defence, becauseit is cer tainly capable of rendering an effective national service in times of peace.
[5.34]. - The contributions to the cost of the secretariat of the League of Nations are assessed by the League, and have been paid in full to the end of June, 1932. The League’s financial year is the calendar year, and it has been decided to limit the payments during the calendar year to £20,000 gold, which is equivalent to approximately £27,650 sterling or £34,660 in Australian currency. The contribution fixed by the League is £34,856 gold, or £60,400 in Australian currency. The amount of £20,000 which appears on the estimates is sterling and represents £3,441, being the balance due to make up the 1932 payments to £20,000 gold and to provide payments at the rate of £20,000 per annum gold from the 1st January to the 30th June, 1933.
In regard to Cockatoo Island Dockyard, the simple explanation is, that each year a sum is placed on the Estimates which is thought will be sufficient to provide for the maintenance - not wages or anything of that kind - of the institution. Last year the sum of £42,000 was provided and the cost was £40,000. It is estimated that this year the maintenance cost will be only £40,000, and. that at that figure the dockyard will be maintained as efficiently as it has been in the past.
– There is the qualification that it is on a “ nucleus basis.”
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That qualification appeared in last year’s Estimates also and in those of the year when the honorable gentleman was in charge of the administration of the Defence Department. The provision of £10,000 for repairs to plant and buildings at the dockyard equals that made last year, and the expenditure then incurred.
– I should like an explanation of the item, “ New Hebrides’ grant for special services, £850.”
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That grant is made to cover the salary of £600 per annum, and the tropical and house allowance of £150 per annum of Mr. Wallace, the legal representative of the Commonwealth in the New Hebrides, whose function it is to watch the interests of the Commonwealth in connexion with laud matters. He also assists in the preparation and presentation to the Joint Court of the New Hebrides of the claims of British settlers. In accordance with the Financial Emergency Act the salary, which nominally is £750, but not the allowance, has been reduced by 20 per cent. As the honorable senator is aware, the New Hebrides is governed by a condominium, in which Great Britain is a partner. Australia is the portion of the British Empire that is most interested in the New Hebrides, and Mr. Wallace is appointed by the Commonwealth Government, under an arrangement with the British Government, to watch the legal interests of British settlers, who are mainly Australians, in land matters.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the item “Contribution to cost of Secretariat - League of Nations, £20.000” by leaving out the amount of £20,000.
During the financial year 1931-32, the sum of £3,000 was granted for the relief of distress among unemployed returned soldiers and their dependants, but this year there is no provision under that heading. It is, however, proposed to appropriate £20,000 so that the respective nations, including Australia, may maintain an institution which consists of delegates who praise one another in the newspapers and make pronouncements concerning the ideals of Christianity. The boy scout movement is to receive assistance to the extent of £100, and £500 is to be made available towards the cost of a Chair of Anthropology at the Sydney University, to enable researches to be made in musty volumes for the purpose of ascertaining whether the human race of to-day sprang from monkeys or blackfellows. In addition, the sum of £2,200 is set down on account of the world conference on the reduction and limitation of armaments. I ask honorable senators in all seriousness, are they prepared to vote these amounts when no provisionwhatever is made for returned soldiers and their dependants? On the 11th of this month, with others, I shall be asked to observe two minutes’ silence to honour the memory of those who fell in the last war. I, for one, shall not perform that ceremony on the front steps of this building ; I shall pay my tribute to my fallen comrades elsewhere. I absolutely refuse to agree to the allocation of the sums thatI have specified in connexion with the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference.
Question - That the request (Senator Dunn’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Refunds of revenue, £1,150,000; Advance to the Treasurer, £2,000,000- agreed to.
War Services Payable out of Revenue.
Proposed vote, £1,100,900.
– There is an enormous amount of dissatisfaction concerning the way in which the War Service Homes Department is being administered. Time does not permit me to deal at length with the numerous cases of hardship which have been brought under my notice, and in which the greatest possible injustice has been inflicted upon persons who, through no fault of their own, have been unable to keep up their payments on their war service homes. A case was brought under my notice a few days ago of a man who had paid a deposit of £150 on his home, and who had kept up his instalments for eight years. He then lost his employment, and because he could not meet his commitments to the department, was subjected to the most unfair treatment. He was served with a bill the amount of which exceeded the original purchase price of his home, although he had paid a deposit of £150 and kept up his instalments for approximately eight years. That is only one of many similar cases that have been brought under my notice. There must be something radically wrong with the administration of a department if persons purchasing war service homes are treated in that way. There are, of course, instances of purchasers who have been given every reasonable opportunity to do a fair thing, and who, after wasting their resources, have rendered themselves liable for heavy payments. I am not defending persons who are manifestly at fault; but there must be something wrong when persons who try to meet their obligations are treated in such a harsh manner. Many of the homes are not worth what the purchasers have been charged for them.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [5.51]. - It is impossible, in the time available, to deal in detail with cases such as Senator Rae has brought under my notice; but I will bring his remarks before the Minister, who is a returned soldier and is very sympathetic with the occupants of war service homes. A committee was appointed some time ago to conduct an inquiry, and, as the result of its investigations, certain concessions have been made. The particular case mentioned by the honorable senator will be brought under the notice of the Minister, who is desirous of sympathetically administering the act.
– It was my intention to bring under the notice of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) a number of cases similar to that mentioned by Senator Rae; but in view of the assurance given by the right honorable gentleman, I shall not do so at this juncture. Many complaints have been made concerning the manner in which the act has been administered, and I trust that the Minister will see if greater consideration cannot be shown to many who are, unfortunately, unable to meet their commitments.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Commonwealth Railways, £541,770 ; Postmaster-General’s Department, £8,622,800 ; Northern Territory, £125,780; Federal Capital Territory, £275,850; Papua, £35,670- agreed to.
Proposed vote, £3,500.
– I direct the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) to the fact that the Liquor Ordinance in force in Norfolk Island provides that all beer, ale, wine and spirits shall be Under the control of the Administrator, who is empowered to issue permits for its sale, and also, under medical authority, to issue a supply to any person needing it for medicinal purposes.
– I rise to a point of order. I should like to know whether the honorable senator is in order in dealing with a liquor ordinance under this item.
– The honorable senator will be in order if he connects his remarks with an item before the committee.
– The committee is asked to appropriate the necessary funds for administering the affairs of Norfolk Island, and included in the amount is the salary of the Administrator. In 1927, when the population was 851, the liquor sold was valued at £516; but, in 1931, when the population had increased to only 992, the sales had reached £3,003. Will the Minister ascertain why there has been such an enormous increase in the sale of liquor?
SenatorSir George Pearce. - I shall bring the honorable senator’s request under the notice of the Minister.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Second schedule agreed to.
Postponed clauses 2 to 4 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented :–
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 19 of 1932 - Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal - Report for year 1931-32.
Government Business - Debate on Appropriation Bill - Research Work - Secret Commission Payments in. Dairying Industry.,
[6.3].- I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
To-morrow I shall move the second reading of the New Guinea Bill, and as the principles contained in it are not difficult to understand, I shall be glad if honorable senators will be prepared to proceed immediately with the debate. I hope before the dinner adjournment tomorrow to indicate whether it will be necessary’ for the Senate to sit on Friday. I am not able at this juncture to say so, because I do not know what progress has been made in another place. In the following week the Senate will meet on Wednesday, because it is hoped that by that time sufficient business will have come up from another place to keep the Senate sitting for the remainder of the. week, and possibly into the following week. I anticipate that by that time a somewhat lengthy adjournment may he possible, as the House of Representatives will be discussing the tariff schedule, and there will be no other business for this chamber to consider.
One matter to which I desire now to direct your attention, Mr. President, arises out of the discussion of the Appropriation Bill which the Senate lias just passed, and touches upon a very important privilege which has been enjoyed from the inauguration of federation, namely, that on a motion for the first reading of a bill which the Senate may not amend honorable senators are at liberty to discuss subjects which need not be relevant to the subject-matter of the bill. Unless a certain course is followed, that certainly provides an opening for two principal debates on a motion for the first reading of such a measure - one a second-reading debate on the subjectmatter of the bill itself, and the other a debate on subjects which are not relevant to the bill. This aspect was raised during the presidency of the late Senator Givens, and whilst he did not give a definite ruling that in a debate on the first reading of such a bill honorable senators should confine their attention to subjects not in the bill, in other words, that they could criticize the Government with regard to various matters or aspects of administration, he did not hold that they could also dean with matters contained in the bill itself. In October of last year I raised this point and asked your predecessor, Senator Kingsmill, for advice. The Senate was then about to debate the first reading of a customs tariff on a motion moved by Senator Barnes, who was then Leader of the Senate. Referring to this matter, I said -
Before proceeding with this debate I ask you, Mr. President, for my guidance and that of other honorable senators, to state whether we are required on the motion for the first reading of this bill, to discuss the bill itself, or are wo to confine ourselves to general questions that do not affect the bill, and discuss the measure itself on the motion for its second reading.
The then President, Senator Kingsmill, gave a lengthy ruling, from which I extract the following: -
Without prejudice to the powers of requesting amendments to money bills on the first reading, as contained in Standing Order 2G2, matters of general interest not relevant to the bill shall be discussed during the debate on the first reading. During the debate on the second reading, of such bills, matters discussed must be strictly relevant to the subject-matter of the bill, and ‘must relate only to the principles of the bill without reference to details, the discussion of which is confined to the committee stage.
The President then went on to say that he believed this interpretation of the standing order carried out, not only the intention of the framers of the Standing Orders, but also the practice of the Senate. During the discussion of the first reading of the bill which has just been passed by the Senate, a very wide range of subjects was dealt with, some of which were in the bill and some not. I looked up the standing order dealing with this matter, because I was under the impression that those honorable senators who were referring to subjects covered by the bill were out of order, but my reading of it indicated that they were in order. I am bringing this matter under your notice now, Mr. President, because I think it is one that should be reconsidered by the Standing Orders Committee, and because I do not think that there ought to be the possibility of two secondreading debates on one bill.
– The Standing Orders Committee might also consider the length of time occupied in the discussion of such bills.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is another point. I suggest that the Standing Orders Committee might consider whether honorable senators taking part in the debate on such bills should, on the first reading, not be permitted to debate matters relevant to the subjectmatter of the bill in question. I merely bring this matter under notice now to ask if you, Mr. President’ will direct the attention of the Standing Orders Committee to it, because I understand that the committee is considering a number of other proposals to amend our Standing Orders.
– Knowing that the Government desired to pass the Appropriation Bill without undue delay, I refrained from referring to certain investigations made by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on King Island, including the Braxy-like disease of sheep. ‘ I should like now to know if the Minister can furnish me with any information on this subject.
– The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has been conducting a number of investigations of importance to the primary industries in Queensland, notably in connexion with food preservations and the maturing of cattle. Can the Minister give any information as to the progress made?
– Replying first to Senator Sampson, I may say that the soil survey of King Island has been satisfactorily completed, and the report is in the course of preparation. It is expected that it will be issued very shortly. During the investigation the soils were divided up under five groups, and it was found that what is known as coastal disease was associated with one of these groups. The result of the investigation should prove of great value to King Island in the future. Senator Brown has referred to the work being done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Brisbane. Recently I had the honour of accepting, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, the gift of the food preservation laboratory at Brisbane from the Queensland Meat Industry Board. The council is at present actively engaged in experiments’ a* this laboratory relating to food preservation, notably in connexion with the export of chilled beef to the United Kingdom. These experiments are promising, but it is too early yet to make any definite pronouncement as to the probable results. I merely say that the position is full of hope.
– I wish to bring under notice a matter which I was prevented from discussing during the committee stage of the Appropriation Bill, the Chairman ‘ suggesting that it would be better if I referred to it on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. I am not at all satisfied with the replies furnished by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to questions which I asked yesterday, relating to inquiries made by the royal commission into allegations of secret commissions paid to dairy company directors and managers in Queensland. That practice is not confined to Queensland, and it was disclosed that secret commissions have been paid for the last ten years in other States. I have had experience on a dairy farm, so I have some knowledge of what takes place in the dairying industry. I should, therefore, like to know if the Government will inquire to what extent secret commissions are paid by machinery manufacturers in States otner than Queensland, and cause inquiries to be made whether in other States machinery firms carry on their business by such payments. The Australian dairying industry has an effective protection against New Zealand competition, the duty on butter being 6d. per lb., and we export the whole of our surplus to London. That the Commonwealth is intimately concerned in this matter, is shown by the membership of the Dairy Produce Control Board, upon which it has one representative.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The matter to which the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has directed my attention - the Standing Orders which govern the debate on the first reading of a bill such as the Appropriation Bill which the Senate may not amend - is one upon which, in the past, opinion in this Senate has been by no means unanimous. Although to the ordinary observer it would appear that considerable time is wasted in discussing a motion for the first reading of an Appropriation Bill or a Supply Bill, I think it desirable, keeping in mind the fact that this Parliament is the legislative authority for a vast continent, that the observations that may be made by members of this chamber on the presentation of such bills, should not be so circumscribed as some persons would perhaps like them to be. In. the consideration of this matter, we also should keep it in mind that, while the opinions expressed on any given subject by certain members of this chamber may appear of little consequence to others, they are supremely important to the members themselves, and it is, therefore, right that they should have a fitting opportunity to ventilate them. In other words, all sections represented in this chamber should have the fullest opportunity to express their views. Furthermore, it should be remembered that our membership is not so large as that of another place, and that the Senate has not the many opportunities that members of another place have for the exchange of ideas on such occasions as when they regularly go into Committee of Supply, or Committee of Ways and Means, which is the equivalent of our first-reading debates on bills which the Senate may not amend. We in this chamber have not what is known as “grievance days,” upon which members of another place have the opportunity to bring under the notice of the Government subjects which in their view should be ventilated and discussed. I mention these points for the purpose of showing that, compared with members of another place, members of this chamber have not under our Standing Orders, quite the same opportunities for the frequent expression of opinion upon public matters, and in the public interest. As the Standing Orders Committee is about to consider certain alterations of our Standing Orders, I shall make it my special business to bring under its notice the point that has been raised by the right honorable the Leader of the Senate. When that committee makes it report, if it should recommend an alteration, honorable senators will have ample opportunity to say whether or not the scope for debate on the first reading of bills that the Senate may not amend, should be restricted in any way.
– On a personal explanation I should like to make it clear that I did not raise the point with any desire to curtail the privilege of honorable senators during the first-reading debate on a bill which the Senate may not amend. Apparently you, Mr. President, assumed that I did, and I assure you that I had no such intention. My sole purpose is to avoid the possibility of two second-reading debates on one bill.
– If on the first reading of an Appropriation Bill, honorable senators were prevented from referring to the subjectmatterof the bill it would be necessary for every senator taking part in the debate to undertake the almost impossible task of making himself thoroughly acquainted with every item in the bill. Again, if an honorable senator were called to order every time he touched upon a subject to be found in the bill itself, points of order would continually be raised and a great deal more time occupied than is now taken up under the existing practice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at6.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 November 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19321109_senate_13_136/>.