15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
SenatorFOLL.- On the 6th October, Senator Cooper asked me, as the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, the following questions, upon notice: -
Has his attention been drawn to a paragraph headed “ Teaching England to America “, appearingin the Brisbane Courier -Mail of
Monday, the 4th October, to the effect that Mr. CecilKellaway, an Australian actor who has just returned to Australia fromHollywood for a few months to play a part in the Cinesound production, Mr.Chedworth Hilt Out, said there was an amazing lack of knowledge of Australia, even among those occupying the very highest executive positions, inHollywood. Because of the English Film Quota Act, every American studiohas now to make a proportion of its films in England. Those films had to get distribution throughout America as well as in England, and the result was that they were making the people in America “ England conscious “. It would be an excellent thing for Australia if it enacted similar legislation to provide that for every yardof Americanfilm distributed in the Commonwealth so many inches had to be produced in Australia?
Will the Minister consider adopting this suggested system in Australia, in order that this country may benefit by teaching Australia to America?
Ithen stated that considerationwas being given to the question, and that further information would be supplied at a later date. The Minister for Trade and Customs has now furnished the following reply : -
The function ofthe Commonwealth is limited to dealing with films at thetime of importation to ensure that they comply with the customs and censorship requirements. Any control over the distribution or exhibition of films after they have been imported is a matter for State authorities. Laws designed to encourage the production and exhibition of Australian pictures are in force in New South Wales and Victoria. These laws provide for the exhibition of an annually Increasing percentage of Australian films in proportion to foreign films, which latter include United States of America films. It would appear,’ however, that up to the present, the State legislation in this respecthas been a comparative failure. It is considered that there is little, if any, prospect of action such as that suggested being successful. Australia has neither the financial nor the’ technical resources to make a sufficient number of good-quality films, and it is hard to conceive of any legislation which would successfully compel foreign film-makers against their will to produce good pictures in Australia. If the suggested yard-inch system were enforced the immediate result would be a shortage of films in the Commonwealth.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral any further information for the Senate as to the intentions of the Government regarding the broadcasting of racing odds, on which matter I asked him a question about a week ago?
– Certain conclusions have been reached by the Government. The first is that all broad casting stations in New South Wales, both regional and commercial, are to discontinue the broadcasting of betting odds on all races in all States until after the conclusion of the day’s racing, in terms of the amending law passed by the Parliament of New South Wales. The regional and commercial stations at Canberra are to be similarly required to comply with the New South Wales laws. With regard to any further action that may be taken, the Government has despatched to the governments of the States a communication asking them to be prepared, at the meeting of the Loan Council to be held next week, to discuss the whole matter, with a view to reaching uniformity as to what they desire should be done.
– Some time ago the Government proposed to have a special vessel built for the purpose of discovering the breeding grounds of pelagic fish. Will the Leader of the Senate state how far the Government has gone in this direction, what discoveries have been made, and whether, within a reasonable time, the fishing industryis likely to be furtherdeveloped in Australia?
-I have relinquished my association with that activity of the Prime Minister’s Department, but I shall get the information desired by the honorable senator. I am in a position to say, however, that discoveries of considerable importance have already been made by the research vessel on the eastern coasts of the mainland and of Tasmania, and also in parts of the ocean between Tasmania and New Zealand. An article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald a day or two ago drawing attention to the discovery by the research vessel of a vast quantity of tuna.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice-
SenatorFOLL. - The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
Report of Sir Edward Ellington
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
SenatorFOLL. - The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
How many of the 100 labourers and linemen to be discharged from the Postmaster-General’s Department in Victoria this week are returned soldiers ?
– The services of 28 temporary employees in the lines section of the Department in Victoria are being dispensed with this week, thirteen of whom are returned soldiers.
Compensation - Permits
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What claims for compensation has the Government received in connexion with the embargo on the export of iron ore from Australia?
– The Acting Prime Minister has supplied the following answer: -
Claims for compensation have been received by the Government in connexion with the pro1* hibition of exportation of iron ore from Australia from Mr. A. G. Lyon, P.O. Box 234, Newcastle, New South Wales; . Mr. B. G. Nicholl, 551 Flinders Lane, Melbourne; and Cossack Lightering & Traders Limited, 104 St. George’s Terrace, Perth. In addition, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, Mr. Curtin, has asked the Government to give consideration to the question of the payment of compensation, in respect of’ loss of wages, to workmen employed at Yampi Sound. These claims are at present receiving consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. In connexion with the prohibition on the exportation of iron ore from Australia, representations were made to the Government to the effect that hardship would be occasioned to exporting firms concerned, shipping companies, &c., if the prohibition were not relaxed to permit of the shipment of quantities of ore which had been contracted for prior to the imposition of the prohibition. The Government accordingly decided that cargoes contracted for prior to the19th May, 1938, the date on which the prohibition was announced, and which would be shipped on or before the 31st December, 1938, could be exported. This general relaxation up to an amount not exceeding 150,000 tons is provided for in Statutory Rules 65 and 86 of 1938. The shipments by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited are being made under this authority. Permits have been granted to the company for shipments totalling 54,933 tons during the period 1st July to 31st December, 1938, to the United States of America.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
SenatorFOLL. - The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers: - 1, 2 and 3 . In connexion with the prohibition on the exportation of iron ore from Australia, representations were made to the Government to the effect that hardship would be occasioned to exporting firms concerned, shipping companies, &c., if the prohibition were not relaxed to permit of the shipmentof quantities of ore which had been contracted for prior to the imposition of the prohibition. The Government accordingly decided that cargoes contracted for prior to the 19th May, 1938, the date on which the prohibition was announced, and which would be shipped on or before the 3 1st December, 1938, could be exported. This general relaxation up to an amount not exceeding 150,000 tons is provided for in Statutory Rules 65 and 80 of 1938. The shipments by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited are being made under this authority. Permits have been granted to the company for shipments totalling 54.933 tons during the period 1st July to 31st December, 1938, to the United States of America.
Customs and Excise Duty
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. The amount of customs and excise duty on petrol collected in each State during 1937-38 for the purposes of the Federal Aid Roads and Works Act, and the allocation of the total amount to the various States, arc as follows : -
Western Australian Aerodromes - Blind Flying Equipment - Citizen AirForce Unit in Tasmania.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers : -
The Commonwealth has already made certain grants amounting to £1,000 to this council towards the preparation of the aerodrome and the council has been advised of the requirements to bring it up to departmental licensing standard.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Has the Minister given consideration to the advisability or otherwise of compelling all aircraft to be fitted with instruments for blind flying?
SenatorFOLL. - The Minister for Defence states that the answer is “ Yes “.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, uponnotice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers : -
Motion (by Senator Allan MacDonald) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Seamen’s Compensation Act 1911.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Foll.) read a first time.
[3.22J. - I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
Honorable senators will recall that, in my speech on the motion for the printing of the Estimates and Budget Papers, I stated that the expenditure proposed to be made from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for public works during the year 1938-39 .would be £5,423,000, excluding defence works and excluding -assistance to the States through the federal aid roads grants and the like. The federal aid roads and works grants to the States in this financial year will amount to £4,150,000, and, in addition, the Government is making payment at the rate of £100,000 a year to the State governments, in aid of interest and sinking fund on local authority public works. The amount estimated to be expended from revenue on defence works ii> £1,619,000, which, added to the amount of £5,423,000 to which I have already referred, will bring the total to be appropriated under this bill.’ to £7,042,000. Honorable senators will find details of this proposed expenditure on pages 284 to 293 of the Estimates. Briefly, this amount will be allocated as follows: -
The increase of £1,582^000 under “Departments and Services, other than Business Undertakings and Territories”, is due to the fact that for 1938-39 the provisions for defence works from- revenue is £1,619,000, .whilst in 1937-38 it was only” £14,000. A comparison of the sources of finance for defence- works for this year and last year is shown in the following table: -
The proposed expenditure from loan fund will be financed by the balance of £400,000 of the £2,500,000 loan raised in London in 1937-38, and by the £4,000,000 raised for defence works in the last new money loan raised in Australia. No further loan appropriation is proposed during the. current financial year. A- summary of the total proposed defence works provisions from all funds will be found on page 299 of the Estimates, j
The total provision’ for postal, telegraph and telephone works last year was £3,184,000, which ‘’ included £1,000,000 expended from a .trust account which had been created by parliamentary appropriation from the excess receipts of 1936-37. The estimated expenditure in 1938*39 is £3,938,000, the increase being due to the increasing requirements for works, and, in particular, o”f new telephone services. The whole of the works expenditure for the Post Office is fully reproductive.
The allocation for public works in the territories shows an increase of £265,000, of which £197,000 is for the development of the Northern Territory. Most of the increase is due to the necessity for providing a permanent water supply, hospital, and other services. The increase of £68,000 in the Australian Capital Territory works vote is due to the. need for further office and housing accommodation. Details of the specific works to be undertaken during the year will be given, as desired, by the respective Ministers during this course of the debate. Works in progress at the 30 th June are being carried on by’ credits furnished from Treasurer’s advance, but this can be considered as a temporary measure only. It is npt usual to authorize new projects until the new works’ Estimates -have been approved by- Parliament. In accordance with the practice in recent years the
Government submits the works schedule to Parliament so that there may be no delay in embarking on the newworks provided in the current year’s programme.
– As I took the opportunity to say allI thought it necessary to say in a general way when we were debating the Estimates and Budget Papers, of which this measure is the result, I do not propose to make a formal second-reading speech. As the measure is essentially a committee bill, I shall reserve any further remarks until it has reached the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Proposed vote -Parliament, £7,000 - agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Proposed vote, £3,600.
– I move-
That the amount be reduced by £1.
If the amendment be agreed to, it will be an instruction to the Government -
That all work done on buildings, works, sites, fittings and furniture be done under daylabour conditions, and that all labour engaged for these purposes be engaged through the labour bureaux of the various States concerned.
I take this action for a number of reasons, first of which is that experience has shown that, wherever there is an efficient public works department, far better service is renderedif contractors are eliminated, or, failing that, if certain conditions are imposed upon them. Personally, I prefer that contractors be entirely eliminated. Honorable senators on the Government benches may disagree with me, but I remind them that, in thousands of cases, officers of the various public works departments of the Commonwealth and the States have carried out work under day-labour conditions at prices considerably below the estimated cost. If I wanted to point a moral and adorn a tale, which I do not propose to do because of my desire that the bill shall bo passed without undue delay, I could give illustrations of the results of contractors in Canberra having been given a free hand. Wherever profit is the only incentive, the temptation to slum the work exists; but where service is the incentive, as it always should be under any efficiently managed public works department, the men engaged on the undertakings perform work in which they can take a life-long pride, and a much better job results. I realize that the case for and against day-labour conditions and the engaging of labour through the labour bureaux of the States is a controversial matter, but I shall not dwell on it to-day.
.- The Government cannot accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) for the sufficient reason that it would be almost impossible to give effect to it. The ramifications of the Commonwealth works branch extend from one end of the continent to the other, and there are many places at which it would be impracticable to have work performed under day-labour conditions. In such places, tenders must be invited and the work done by contract. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that officers of the Commonwealth works branch give the closest scrutiny to all work carried out for the Commonwealth Government by contract. When tenders are called for the carrying out of Commonwealth works the Government’s requirements are very carefully set out, and there is careful supervision by a staff of experienced architects and engineers. Without wishing to initiate a long controversy on the subject, I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the day labour system has not been entirely successful in Queensland. He will remember, no doubt, that some years ago an inquiry into the relative cost of certain State works, including school buildings, disclosed that in someinstances costs under day labour were three or four times greater than under the . contract system. We must remember also that many firms and individuals employ specialists and have efficient plants for the economical carrying out of contracts. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned the temptation to which contractors were exposed to “ slum “ work if they thought that supervision -was riot efficient; hut I think it can truthfully be said that some of. the finest buildings erected in our cities as well as in country-, districts have been carried out by private contractors,. ;so it is ridiculous for any one to suggest that they are in the habit of slumming their work. The Government cannot accept the amendment and will not undertake to carry out the whole of its public works programme under the day-labour system. Some works are being proceeded with by the Commonwealth works branch, but when tenders are called adequate supervision is exercised. In the War Service. Homes Commission which at present is under my administration, whenever contracts are let the tenderers are under the supervision of our own architectural staff, which ensures that the work is carried out properly and that the specifications are fulfilled to the letter. The argument, day labour versus contract, is as old as the hills. I again give the committee an assurance that all work carried out for the Commonwealth by private contractors is carefully supervised to ensure that it is performed in a satisfactory manner.
– Senator ..Foll said that the subject of day labour versus contract work - was as old as the hills. It is at least as old as’ the Labour party. We on this side, believe that if the Commonwealth Works Branch is efficiently staffed with architects, draughtsmen and works inspectors, there is no reason why it should not expand its activities by employing a qualified staff of skilled workers. Why should an outside professional man be employed when the Commonwealth has in its employ efficient architects? If the Government employs its own architects and supervisors why should the policy not be taken to its logical conclusion, and the work carried out by skilled artisans in the employ of the department? The Government is deserving of criticism because of its attitude in connexion with the plans for a new community hospital at Canberra. It paid a large sum of money to secure the services of an outside architect, Mr. Leighton Irwin, whereas the work could have been done by departmental architects. Senator Foll argued that work could be done more cheaply by contract than by day labour. I do not agree with him. I could point to hundreds of instances in Queensland where work has been carried out by Government departments, more cheaply, and sometimes better than it could have done by contract. This Parliament House is badly constructed, and on many occasions it has been necessary to place buckets on the floor to catch water dripping from the roof. I have seen water leaking through the roof of the refreshment block. It has been necessary to spend thousands of pounds in effecting repairs because, in the first place, the work was “ shoddy “.
– Parliament House was built under the day-labour system.
– If that is so, the supervision could not have been efficient. I understand, however, that the roofing of the building was carried out by contract.
It cannot be denied that in the building of Canberra thousands of pounds were wasted under the contract system. Nobody knows that better than does Senator Foll. Huge sums of money are also being frittered away in Darwin by the present Government, and if the existing policy be continued there is likely to be a public scandal. J ‘
– Thatshould be a job for the Public Accounts Committee.
– The Public Accounts Committee should be reconstituted so that inquiries may be made and steps taken to prevent money from being wasted. In my opinion, construction work in Darwin should be carried out by the Commonwealth itself. If an organized effort were made, thousands of pounds could be saved there. Among the works being undertaken at Darwin are a water scheme, a new gaol, quarters for military and air force officers, and a new hospital. For these undertakings, material of many kinds is required. I understand that the work is being done under the contract system. The Government has its own architects and supervisors at Darwin, and, as one of the main items of cost in carrying out works of this kind is that of transport, a large sum of money could be saved if the necessary materials were conveyed to Darwin in a wholesale manner in ships’ bottoms, instead of being obtained piecemeal as at the present time, The cost of freight is extortionate. If the Government can organize a navy and an air force, I see no reason why it should not be able to construct efficiently the works required at Darwin; yet I understand that they are being carried out by private enterprise under the contract system, each contractor working independently. Under proper supervision, public buildings have been erected by day labour at a lower cost than the price demanded by contractors, and the work has been more satisfactorily done. One contractor at Darwin explained to me that private employers found themselves in a difficult situation. In submitting tenders, they had to reduce their prices to ‘ a minimum, but of course they tried to make a profit. On the other hand, the workers naturally endeavoured to command as high a price as possible for their labour, and between those two influences the contractor was forced to seek profit in directions in which he would not otherwise look for it. Consequently, the temptation to slum work and to use inferior materials is- ever present.
– Year after year, the subject of contract work versus the day-labour system is discussed, but I hope hon’orable senators will not agree to the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). The practice followed by the Government in the past, has proved satisfactory. On many occasions, it is to the advantage of government departments, and of the people generally, to have government work done by .private contractors. There are highly qualified contractors who employ competent staffs and have always carried out their work well. They take a pride in their jobs. Many railways, roads and public buildings throughout the Commonwealth reflect nothing but credit upon the contractors responsible for their construction. Would the Leader of the Opposition suggest that the Department of the PostmasterGeneral should arrange for the carriage of mails throughout the Commonwealth by the department itself? Mail contractors are subjected to the strictest supervision, and the people reap the benefit of the satisfactory arrange) ments made for the carrying of mails and passengers. In many instances, contractors for buildings and . other public works adopt the percentage basis.
– Does that apply to the capital cities?
– It operates in many parts of Australia, and according to the nature of the work. If a government finds that the prices tendered are too high, negotiations take place with the contractors, who may be permitted to carry out the work for a percentage of the cost of construction. The remark by Senator Brown that work done under the day-labour system is nearly always superior to that done by contractors was most unfortunate. He cited Parliament House, Canberra, as an example of the slumming of work by a contractor, although this building was erected under the day-labour system.
– It cost double as much as it otherwise would have done.
– I am not in a position to say that. We should leave the selection of the system under which public works are carried out to the discretion of the Government, as is done in the various States. These works should be carried out preferably by contract. Private contractors employ a great number of workmen, who are transported by them from one part of Australia to another, and it would be foolish to require a Commonwealth department to purchase plant and equipment, which costs a great deal of money, in order to carry out its own work. At times of curtailment of public expenditure this plant would be idle, and the men whom the department had been employing would have to be discharged. A sound policy in regard to public works would be to authorize a fixed expenditure annually to make continuity of policy possible. There would then be a regular supply of workers trained for this purpose, and it would not then be necessary to offer attractive wages to draw men from other avenues of industry. At the present time, when the funds available for public works become depleted, men find themselves stranded in States other than those in which they usually reside, and they fail to find work. The function of a government is not to become an employer of labour, but to govern. It should not enter into competition with private contractors who are carrying on their business efficiently. I think that it will be found that slumming has occurred in connexion with work done under the day-labour system as well as under the contract method, and blame cannot be allocated in one quarter more than in another. In the shipbuilding trade many contractors have been carrying on their calling for generations, and they are justly proud of their achievements. Why did the Commonwealth Government practically abandon the Cockatoo Island Dockyard as a shipbuilding proposition, and hand it over to private enterprise? The company now engaged onthe island is doing government work with excellent results, as far as costs are concerned, and doing it expeditiously. The Leader of the Opposition knows quite well that many contractors have been working satisfactorily for many years for Commonwealth and State Governments.
– I support the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), for it expresses the considered opinion of the Labour party. If the Government is sincere, it now has an opportunity, by accepting the amendment, to provide employment for many men who need it. For a long time the party now in power has insisted on the performance of government work under the contract system. The contractors, of course,belong to the master class, and we know that big business ment have sent the party opposite into the Commonwealth and State Parliament. This class is the main supporter of the Government, and, naturally, it opposes the day-labour system. If the members of the United Australia party will not avail themselves of this opportunity to assist the unemployed, surely the members of the Country party in this chamber wish to help many deserving men toget work. There is little opportunity to assist them unless the Government adopts the day-labour system in connexion with works for which provision is made in this bill. Those who support the contract system contend that contractors always have a plant available; but it is only reasonable to assume that the cost of such plant is added to the tender price.
– If that were so the contractor’s price would be so high that he would not get the contract.
– When a contract is completed the contractor has not only made a profit, but also owns a plant which is used on other jobs. Frequently contractors are able to purchase expensive plant and make excessive profits because of the low wages paid to the workmen. I could cite instances in which contractors have been brought before the court for paying wages below award rates.
– A condition of all government contracts is that the contractors shall pay award rates.
– That may be so; but some contractors avoid paying the wages to which the workmen are entitled.
Senatorfoll. - The fact that some contractors have to appear in the court proves that the awards are policed.
– There are instances in which they are not detected.
– There is usually an army of union organizers to see that award rates are paid.
– Union organizers cannot always be on the spot. When the Petersham Council, which is in the electorate represented by Senator Dein when a member of the House of Representatives, proposed to undertake the construction of concrete roads, tenders were called, but it was found that the lowest tender was unreasonably high. The council purchased a plant of its own and carried out the work by day labour, ‘ and when the work was finished it was found that the total expenditure had been £60,000 less than the lowest tender received. Those who know the concrete roads at Petersham will realize that the work is of a very high standard. Many of the municipalities throughout Australia do their work by day labour, only a small portionbeing done by contract. Many State instrumentalities, such as the railways departments and tramways trusts, do their work under the day-labour system. The New South Wales Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board, which is an extensive organization, carries out some of its work by contract and some by day labour. The Nepean dam, a gigantic undertaking, was carried out with labour obtained from the State Labour Exchange under the supervision of the board’s officers. That dam is a credit to the officers and men responsible for its construction. A.most any work which the Commonwealth proposes to undertake, including its defence works, could be done by the day-labour system. If the Government should adopt the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition an opportunity will be afforded to provide work for many deserving men, particularly in New South Wales, who have not had any employment for a long time. In that State the law gives preference to returned soldiers, prevents many men from obtaining work and even the sons’ of returned soldiers, some of whom are married and have families to support, are thus prevented from getting work. If the amendment be adopted an opportunity will be afforded them to get work, particularly the sons of mcn killed during the Great War.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of the repeal of - the preference?-
– Undoubtedly.’ Many returned soldiers who refer to their, friends, including the sons of returned’ soldiers, as “ cobbers “ do not wish these men to be prevented from securing a job. If they do they cannot ‘be regarded as “ diggers “ all of whom are supposed to have some regard for the needs of their fellow men.
– New South Wales is the only State in which such an act operates.
– It is one of the results of “ Stevenism “ and was passed by means of a political trick. It stands to the discredit of the .Stevens Government and any ex-soldier who supports it.
- (Senator James McLachlan). - I ask the honorable senator to discuss the’ amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I am merely show-‘ ing that if effect be given to the amendment the sons of returned soldiers will have an opportunity to work. The war service homes were constructed under’ the contract system, and many of them are a disgrace, not only to the contractors, but also to the departmental officers who were supposed ‘to supervise their construction. Some of the houses which have been built in later years are of a much better quality due to the closer supervision which has been exercised. Surely the department could employ bricklayers, carpenters, plasterers, tilers and plumbers on the work which it -proposes to undertake, and in that way ensure that it will be carried out. more satisfactorily than it will be under the contract system. The department maintains a staff of draughtsmen, architects, engineers,- electricians and other officers who supervize work done under contract, and it would not be difficult for the Government, in cooperation with the works departments of the States, to arrange for all Commonwealth works to be carried out in conjunction with such departments under Commonwealth inspectors. Under the present system a contractor who secures a contract for excavating, say, a gun pit , at North Head, may at a later date be the successful tenderer for a similar job at South Head with the result that he moves his plant to the new job and-‘ takes the same men with him.
– Such men become proficient and have continuity of employment.
– In many instances they are working at less than the award rate.
– If they join a union they are sacked.
– Surely there is. not so much dishonesty amongst men.
– Senator Herbert Hays asked what the position; would be when a job done by day labour was finished. .The plant would be always available, and, if” further work were not offering, the services of the men would be terminated as they are under the contract system. Surely honorable senators opposite have not forgotten- thai private enterprise fell down on. its iol in 1930, and in effect told the people that it could do no more. Even if day labour cannot be adopted permanently, Government works can be carried on for a time under that system, and in that way provide work for many deserving - men.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Senator- CUNNINGHAM (Western Australia) [4.19J. - I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition .(Senator. Collings). I understand that the committee is dealing with the summary; but no explanation has been given as to the way in which the £3,600 provided for the Prime Minister’s Department is to be expended. Under the Department of the Interior we find the reference - Buildings, works, sites fittings and furniture, £3,600; that is all the information that is given to us in respect of this expenditure.
– I can give the honorable senator all the details of that item.
– We shall be pleased to have them. It has become the Government’s practice to bring down these Estimates and simply throw them at honorable senators without offering any explanation whatsoever as to details. This committee is entitled to details of all items of expenditure at the outset, and not merely in reply to remarks made by honorable senators. If that course were followed, we should get on with the business very much better, and we should save quite a lot of discussion.
I support the amendment. Throughout Australia, various organizations are paying serious attention to the vocational training of youths, and are attempting to devise ways and means. of absorbing them in industry. Naturally a contractor who secures a tender in respect of public works does his utmost, by speeding up or by a closer system of organization, to make the greatest possible profit. That is a contractor’s business ; we all admit that. My experience, however, is that very few, if any, of these contractors offer opportunities to youths in the form of apprenticeship on their jobs.. For instance, not one apprentice was trained during the construction of the General Post Office at Perth, which was a very big job, and took many years to complete. As honorable senators on all sides of the chamber are sincerely interested in the vocationaltraining of our youths, this Government should endeavour in connexion with public works to provide opportunities for the employment of apprentices. If this be not done, all our talk on this subject will be futile.
I admit that it is preferable to let tenders for the construction of public works in’ certain districts, particularly in more remote areas. In such cases a substantial outlay is required in order to assemble the necessary organization, but the majority of public works are undertaken in the larger cities and the more densely populated areas ‘where ‘ every opportunity is afforded to provide extra employment and also to indenture apprentices. Another evil of the contract system is” sub-letting. Although it is provided in government tender forms that award wages and conditions must be observed, no provision whatever is made to prevent the successful tenderer from sub-letting. That practice conduces to speeding-up and very often is responsible for skimping and the use of inferior materials. Such a system cannot be claimed to be of advantage to any department, and should be discontinued in connexion with public works. This aspect of the matter is most important, for it so vitally affects’ the training of youths in industry. For these reasons I support the amendment. I repeat that I should like the Minister, when he is introducing a measure of this kind, to supply right at the outset details of the expenditure proposed, and in that way enable honorable senators to discuss the proposals intelligently.
– I appreciate the point made by Senator Cunningham in respect of the extension of the apprenticeship system in connexion with public works, but I fail to see how the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) will help to achieve that objective. If the amendment be carried and it becomes mandatory for the Government to undertake all its public works by day labour, skilled artisans will still have to be employed. ‘ It does not necessarily follow that greater opportunities will be provided to indenture apprentices. I decline to accept the amendment, because I refuse to have the Government’s hands tied in this manner. All honorable senators know of instances in which contractors have tendered at prices designed to return exorbitant profits. In such cases it is imperative that the authorities shall retain a free hand to employ day labour in. order to counteract attempts of this kind on the part of contractors. If the amendment be carried, it will tie the Government to one form of construction. To that I cannot agree.. A case in point was suggested by Senator Brown when he referred to this building, which was erected under the system for which the Leader of the Opposition now contends. I assure Senator Cunningham that the Minister in charge of the measure will be only too pleased to give detailed information of any item raised by honorable senators, but seeing that we are dealing with the expenditure of millions oi pounds, he considered it hardly necessary to supply details concerning the expenditure of so small an amount as £3,000. However, my colleague is in a position to supply the minutest details in respect of all these items. Moreover, an amendment to affirm a principle has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition and must first be disposed- of. If the amendment be rejected, my colleague will be free to answer any question. I urge honorable senators to reject the amendment and thus refuse to tie the hands of the Government to day labour. They should leave it optional with the Government to adopt the day-labour system in cases where it is considered desirable to do so, in order to counteract undesirable practices on the part of contractors. During the course of my career as a Minister, several instances have come under my notice in which contractors have tendered at exorbitant prices; in those cases the Government has been able to meet the situation satisfactorily and save money by relying on the day-labour system. Nevertheless, as a general rule, it is better to give to the Government a free hand than to tie it, as the amendment “proposes, to one system alone.
.- Some of the biggest works undertaken in this country have been done by day labour, including the north-south railway, the construction of wheat elevators in Victoria by the Railways Construction Branch, and the building of one of the most modern bridges over the Yarra River. These works illustrate, I claim, the superiority of the day-labour system over the system of private tender. In reply to the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) I point out that apprentices can be trained under the daylabour system, equally as well as under the. contract system, and proof of this is available in every railway workshop in this country.
– To whom, would apprentices be indentured in respect of work undertaken by day labour ?
– I visualize the day when the Labour party will be in office in this Parliament, and this will be one of the first improvements it will make. We shall have a Works Department and to the leading journeymen or artisans in charge of the various phases of that department’s activities we shall apprentice a certain number of youths each year. I cannot see any objection to that system.. It is in operation in the Works Departments of various States to-day. Such a system would lead to a regular registration of youths, and would not in any way affect the cost of the works. This system is adopted by the Railways Construction Branch in Victoria, which has shown that it can build wheat elevators better than private enterprise. I agree with Senator Cunningham that one of the gravest objections to the contract system is the evil of sub-letting. Every honorable senator knows that this evil is rampant in every city of Australia. I recall that on a job of home construction in North-road, Brighton, during the depression, when the award wage for bricklayers had dropped from 27s. a day to 18s. a day, an individual took advantage, of a certain contract and paid bricklayers engaged on that job as little as 8s. a day. It is futile to say that that kind of thing cannot occur again. Every citizen of the Commonwealth should bo eligible for work on Government undertakings, but private enterprise does not take that point into consideration. As the representation of the Labour party in this chamber has increased considerably the Government should give heed to the views expressed by honorable senators on this side.
– I support the amendment, for it is only under a system of day labour that workers in industry can be assured of reasonable wages and decent conditions as prescribed by duly constituted industrial tribunals. The Leader of the Senate ( Senator A. J. McLachlan) said that the carrying of the amendment would not improve the position of youths undergoing training in various trades. I submit that there is scarcely a building contractor in Australia who is in a position to train youths, for the reason that he. is unable to guarantee that continuity of employment which is essential to proper training. The position is such that in Victoria, and probably in other States also, technical schools are being constantly extended in order that youths may be trained in various trades. A building contractor may obtain a contract which will occupy his men for -three, four or six months, but he may not get another contract for several months, with the result that in the meantime the training of any youths that he may employ is neglected. That is the reason why the army of semi-skilled workers is growing, whilst the number of properly trained skilled workers is diminishing. Day labour is advocated by the trade unions in order to guarantee proper wages and working conditions, and to ensure the proper training of young men and women. Unlike private contractors, a government can provide continuity of employment, and, therefore, as Senator Keane pointed out, it is in a position to train youths. If the Commonwealth Government had sufficient imagination and courage, the work of standardizing the railway gauges of Australia could be undertaken, thereby providing a much needed reform as well as giving a large amount of employment. The principle underlying the contract system is the obtaining of the maximum profit for the minimum cost. Because of that underlying principle, the sub-letting of contracts is being increasingly resorted to. Even if he has secured a contract at a satisfactory price, a contractor will sublet it if he can increase his profits thereby. The result in many instances is that his employees work under unsatisfactory conditions, and, at times, do not receive their full wages. There have been instances of contracts let by the Government of Victoria having been sub-let to men who did not pay their workmen. In some cases the amounts due to them have been recovered, but only after considerable trouble ; in others, the men have had to suffer loss. That would not be possible under the day-labour system with competent supervision.
– Generally, contractors have to make substantial deposits which will cover such liabilities.
– That may be, but the Minister will agree that it is impossible to prescribe, on paper, conditions which are absolutely rogue-proof. So long as the incentive to make greater profits exists, contractors will exercise, in the evading of the conditions of their contracts, an ingenuity which is not always displayed in their work. I speak as one who worked for years in the building trade, under both the day-labour and contract systems. Consequently, 1 feel qualified to say which is the better method from the point of view of the workers. I confess that in this matter I am concerned more for the workers than for the contractors. Honorable senators have spoken of costs. I remind them that under the contract system the cost of supervision is greater than where day labour is employed. “Where work is carried out by day labour under strict government supervision, the opportunities to indulge in corrupt practices are not so great as when work is done by contract. In order to ensure that value shall be obtained for the money expended, constant supervision of contractors is necessary. 1 Where the supervision is lax, the work is rarely, if ever, carried out in accordance with the specifications.
– If the honorable senator were building a home for himself, would he prefer to have it built by a government department or by a private builder ?
– I should prefer that it be built by a government department. In Western Australia, some homes for workers which were erected by the Government under day-labour conditions about twenty years ago, are still almost as good as when they were built, whereas other homes in the same district which were built under the contract system have shown unmistakable evidence of faulty workmanship. Even if the cost under the day-labour system were a little greater, as it may be in some instances, better value is received. Moreover, profits which now go into the pockets of the contractors would be available to provide the workers with decent wages and working conditions.
– Day labour means a saving to the taxpayers.
SenatorFoll.-i cannot see any prospect of savings under that system.
– Where does the contractor get his profits?
SenatorFoll. - His profits depend on efficient management.
– I submit that, under existing conditions, the cost of work is constantly being reduced. If we measure the cost in terms of labour, time and gold, as compared with the cost in terms of an inflated currency, that is so. Every day the currency is being inflated more and more, which means that people are obtaining service and commodities for paper. The so-called high cost is only apparent; it is not real: Gold is the measure of value of all commodities in every market of the world. Whether we know it or not, we are attempting to mislead the people when we say that costs are increasing. They are not increasing. I support the amendmentin order to challenge the fallacious arguments that are being adduced in support of the contract system. Senator Herbert Hays referred to Cockatoo Island Dockyard, which has reverted to private control in accordance with the policy of the Commonwealth Government. If a Labour government were in office, workwould be performed there by day labour. Under the contract system, costs are brought down to the irreducible minimum in terms of labour, time and gold. To the extent that that is done, wages, both relatively and in the aggregate, are reduced, whilst profits increase. The Government has not reverted to the contract system because it is cheaper, but because it is in accordance with the policy, and in the interests of the class which it represents. As a result of that economic conflict which is continually taking place we now have, as Senator Keane has indicated, thirteen additional Labour senators in this chamber. Our presence here is due to the fact that the workers are being compelled by economic necessity more and move to challenge the contract system, which is progressively impoverishing them.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I am opposed to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), not because I am an uncompromising opponent of the day-labour system, but because I believe that its adoption is impracticable. One has only to remember that the area of the Commonwealth is approximately 3,000,000 square miles, to understand bow impossible it would be for the Commonwealth to supervise effectively all the works that will be authorized by this bill. If all jobs were carried out by day labour, the Government would probably have to employ as many as 100 different teams of workers, one for each undertaking. That would be quite impossible. I am inclined to think, therefore, that those who suggest the adoption of this system are talking with their tongues in their cheeks. There must be some authority in charge of each particular job under the proposal contained in the amendment. Each team of workers would have to be supervised from Canberra, unless supervising authorities were established in each capital city. Even then supervision could not be efficient.
– That suggestion was never made by any honorable senator on this side.
– As complete plant would be required for every job, and as there would probably be 100 different works to be carried out in the different States, it would be necessary for the Government to have that number of plants, unless the practice were adopted of transporting plants from completed jobs in one State, say, Western Australia, to one of the eastern States, to carry out other works. The proposal has only to be examined to be rejected by all practical men.
– We never suggested that that should be done.
– By his interjection the Leader of the Opposition admits that such a state of affairs would be impossible, yet for some reason he persists with his proposal. I was surprised by Senator Amour’s reference to the huge saving which he said had been effected by the Petersham Council by carrying out concrete road construction by day labour. The honorable gentleman stated that this method had resulted in a saving ..to the. council of £60,000. I point out that the Petersham Council has jurisdiction over an area of only three-quarters of a square mile, and since that section of the metropolitan area is very old, little money has been expended on roads maintenance during the last 30 or 40 years. I am, therefore, much surprised at the statement that the council has saved that amount of money, and shall take an early opportunity to go into the figures with council officials.
Senator Keane expressed the fear that under the contract system there are fewer opportunities for the apprenticeship of youths. I do not .agree with the honorable gentleman. If apprentices are required under the day-labour system they also will be required under the contract system. There is ample opportunity for the employment of youths in the building industry, whether work is carried out by private contractors or by the Government.
During this debate and in earlier discussions Victorian Labour senators have drawn harrowing pictures of the dreadful conditions obtaining in the State of Victoria. Pleading for a “better housing scheme some time ago, Senator. Cameron spoke of slums existing in certain parts of Victoria and reinforced his argument by painting pitiful pictures of some of the homes in the metropolitan area. He also alleged that there was a tremendous amount of sweating in the clothing industry in Victoria. Senator Keane said to-day that bricklayers in that State were being compelled to work for 7s. or 8s. a day. My reply to these allegations is that the remedy lies in the hands of the Labour party, which for the last two years has supported the present Government of Victoria. Such .conditions do not obtain in New South Wales. If this amendment be carried the Government’s hands will be tied. Even Senator Cunningham knows that, yet he intends to support it, knowing quite well that it will not be in the best interests of the community.
– Senator Cunningham did not say that.
– I do not think I am misrepresenting Senator Cunningham. The honorable gentleman also said that in certain circumstances it was not practicable to have Commonwealth Government work carried out by, day labour .r If the amendment be defeated, as I hope it will be, the Commonwealth Government will be free to carry out certain works by day labour if it feels justified in doing so. On the other hand, if work can be done more efficiently and more economically by contract, this method will be open to it. The suggestion that in carrying out public works over an area of 3,000,000 square miles the Government should be compelled to observe the day-labour system is ridiculous. I doubt if the Leader of the Opposition himself approves of the amendment which he has moved.
.- I support the amendment for two reasons which, hitherto, have not been mentioned in this discussion. As a result of a court case heard in Hobart recently, it was discovered that tenderers for Government contracts received benefits about which little is known by the people. It was stated during the hearing that in tendering for jobs it was the practice among contractors to make some allowance for payments to unsuccessful tenderers to compensate them for loss of time in preparing tenders. In this way costs under the contract system are increased. I understand that such an arrangement is very common among building contractors, at all events, in Tasmania. Another aspect of this matter to which no reference has so far been made, is that in carrying out work let by tender the contractor looks for his profit not so much from what he puts into the work as from what he leaves out.
– I support the amendment. Like Senator Cunningham I am somewhat in the dark regarding what the measure implies. If the procedure is to discuss the bill without full information about the works to be carried out under it, it is time the procedure was altered.
– The committee is discussing the amendment to reduce the amount by £1. The Minister in charge of the bill will supply information if the honorable senator asks for it.
– Senator Dein said that the contract system in Victoria had given rise to certain anomalies. The honorable gentleman showed a lamentable lack of knowledge of industrial history. He asserted that the Dunstan Government was being kept in power by people who complained of the conditions obtaining in that State, and he mentioned the sweating that prevailed in the textile trade. May I remind the honorable gentleman that that industry is operating under a Commonwealth award? In almost every instance of sweating under the contract system in Victoria, the blame is attributable to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which is presided over by judges appointed by the Government that Senator Dein supports.
– The Commonwealth court is not responsible for all industrial awards in Victoria. There are dozens of State awards in operation.
- Senator Foll referred to the employment of youths as apprentices under the contract system. The reason why, in the past, apprentices have not been employed to a greater extent under the day-labour system, is that the Commonwealth has never had a properly ordered or balanced economy in the conduct of the government of Australia. The apprenticeship system is adopted in the Government’s munitions establishment at Lithgow and is a decided success.
– There must be some continuity of work. The contractor may be here to-day and somewhere else to-morrow.
- Senator Dein interpreted the amendment to imply that it would be necessary for the Commonwealth to have 50 or 100 plants to transfer them to different localities where works were to be undertaken. In certain localities, it would be necessary to adopt the contract system ; but, under a - properlyordered plan, in areas where it would be economically possible, work could be carried out successfully with day labour. I recently drew attention to the danger of occupational disease being caused by the methods adopted in the erection of buildings in metropolitan* areas. Where excavations are made in ground of a rocky character, it will be found, without exception, that under the contract system the worker uses a jack hammer with a drill hollowed down the centre for the purpose of .conveying water to- the bottom of the hole, thus eliminating the danger to the workers from- dust; the contractor, however, does not allow the workman to use the water hose, but compels him to blow the borings from the bottom of the hole with compressed air, creating a dust for all in the vicinity to inhale. I hope that, in the expenditure of the huge sum of money to be voted under this bill, every care will be taken to prevent contractors from dispensing with the use of water.
- (Senator James McLachlan). - Will the honorable senator connect his remarks with the question before the Chair?
– A . contractor who obtains work from the Commonwealth Government may dust the lungs of his employees, * causing them to apply for the invalid pension, and thus becoming a charge on Commonwealth revenue. Where excavations are taken out in rock, the contractor should be compelled at least to .use a water hose. The statement has been made that certain portions of Parliament House, Canberra, were faultily built by day labour. Although the day-labour system may have some faults, it has also provided benefits in many directions in Canberra, to which I shall refer at a later stage of this debate.
– I notice that Senator Arthur has spoken on similar lines to those followed by Senator Cunningham. I have no desire to withhold from honorable senators any details of the item in the bill before us. The custom usually adopted in discussing these Estimates in committee is for honorable senators who desire information regarding them to ask the Minister in charge of the bill to supply it. Any information in my possession will be furnished in the minutest detail. On the first item, however, Senator Collings submitted an amendment on a matter of principle, and it has led to a general debate on the merits of the day-labour system as opposed to the contract method.
I have no desire to prevent, a full discussion, but I respectfully suggest to honorable senators that the matter raised has been well thrashed out, and that no good purpose will be served by further debating it. The longer we take in considering the amendment, the shorter will be the time at our disposal to deal with items, of expenditure under the various departments.
Reference was made by Senator Brown to the fees to be paid to Mr. Leighton Irwin, the architect who prepared the plans for the new Canberra hospital. I point out that architects who specialize in hospital design are rare. This gentleman has been responsible for the architectural work in connexion with practically all hospitals built in Australia in recent years. He drew the plans for the new Hobart hospital, which I inspected recently, and which is certainly a credit to the Tasmanian capital. The new Women’s Hospital in Melbourne was constructed under Mr. Irwin’s supervision, and I have had a good deal of correspondence with him regarding a scheme that may be necessary for the rebuilding of the Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick. I am sure that Senator Brown would not suggest that the services of an architect of Mr. Irwin’s standing should not be availed of by the Government.
– I was rather surprised at the attitude of Senator Dein to the argument advanced by my colleague, Senator Cunningham, who conscientiously compared the advantages of day labour with those of contract work. Like my colleague, I tell Senator Dein frankly that, although I support the amendment, 1 realize that it is sometimes better to have work done by contract, because of the geographical position of the work to be done. Generally speaking, however, day labour is much to be preferred. Senator Dein claimed recently that there were plenty of opportunities for the employment of youths in the building trade. During the building of the Perth post office, despite the extent of the work, I understand that not one apprentice was employed. At one time, the services of stonemasons and .their apprentices were required, but in the con struction of a modern concrete building few tradesmen are necessary. Junior labour is employed in setting out the boards for the plaster work. For every plasterer or fixer, employed, there are about half a dozen boys assisting him. When new government buildings are being designed, I hope that due consideration will be given to the attractiveness of the stone edifices which adorn some of the cities of Australia.
– In most cities those buildings are being replaced as rapidly as possible.
– Unless we have a sound political economy in this country we shall destroy everything, even humanity.
– I have risen at this stage on account of the remarks of the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Foll). The former intimated that he desired that the amendment should be defeated so that the Government could please itself whether it adopted the contract system ot day labour. Possibly the Leader of the Senate, who must realize, the advantages of day labour, thinks it desirable to have the power to carry out works under either system. This subject shows the pronounced line of demarcation between the policies of the different political parties in this chamber. Honorable senators opposite, consciously or unconsciously, support the exploiters while the members of the Opposition desire to eliminate them.
– We do not think that a man is a criminal merely because he is in business.
– Unfortunately some of them are. Those whom the Government regard as good business men utilize every opportunity to “ fleece “ it. We are opposed to exploitation. The Government should build up an organization that would enable it to carry out all its work by day labour instead of giving it to contractors. I do not agree with those honorable senators who contend that it is impossible to employ the : day-labour system in some districts, because I know of no part of Australia in which it would be impossible, if there were the desire, to do all Government work by day labour. Surely t it is not contended that in some parts of Australia it is impossible to provide the necessary machinery. That presupposes- I commend these remarks io Senator Dein - that the Government is so lacking in initiative that it gives to the contractors the right to do the work without supervision. On the other hand, if the work of contractors is supervised properly, there is no reason why. work done under the day-labour system cannot also be supervised. Senator Keane mentioned some of the important activities performed in Victoria under the day-labour system. It has been found that the estimates of the Construction Branch of the Victorian Railways Department which undertakes many important works are considerably below those of contractors, showing conclusively that when profit is eliminated, work can be performed at a much cheaper rate. The sole object of a contractor is to make a profit. Contractors are not philanthropists.
– They also obtain cheap labour.
– Exactly. Senator Dein said that the Labour party in Victoria is keeping the Country party in office ; but Victoria is not in a worse position than any other “State. With due respect to my Victorian colleagues opposite, I should like to say that up to the present the Labour view of Victorian electors has not been placed before this chamber. Senator Brand, Senator Leckie and Senator Gibson represent interests directly opposed to those which we represent, and it is not to their advantage to ventilate the grievances which we bring before the Senate. Should they do so their supporters would not, perhaps, be too friendly towards them at election time. For that reason it is our duty to bring under the notice of the committee what is acutally happening. I know that honorable senators representing New South Wales will be able to state what is occurring in that State under the contract system. Of course Senator Dein will object and say “ It is all rubbish “.
– I merely want an accurate statement.
– I can produce irrefutable proof that the statements of some honorable senators opposite are inaccurate. The methods adopted in Victoria and in every other State are well known. Certain Commonwealth Ministers have been approached concerning existing contracts in Victoria, and the Government has refused to assist the unions to police awards. Under the contract system Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards awards are being flouted, but under the day-labour system that could not occur. The Commonwealth maintains a staff of expert architects, engineers, costing officers, electricians and other officials to prepare estimates of projected works, but immediately that is done the Government hands the work over to a contractor who carries it out generally at a huge profit. The Government, which has a large staff of professional officers on its pay roll, should instruct them to do the work now handed over to contractors, and thus save thousands of pounds which now goes into the pockets of others. A department in Victoria with which I was once associated instituted the contract system in connexion with the cleaning of railway carriages. We pointed out that it was losing hundreds of pounds a year, and that the work was not being done as efficiently as it would be done by day labour! .That contention was challenged. Our representatives informed the Labour Minister then in office that other departmental officers were trying to put it over him. He was told that the union representatives .did not know what they were talking about, to which he replied, “ I do not know so much about that “. We asked that a test team be provided to perform the work by day labour under similar conditions. The result was that- the day-labour system won handsomely. Notwithstanding that and other instances in which it has been clearly demonstrated that the day-labour system is preferable, there are still some who wish to retain the objectionable contract system, merely because they are slaves to this particular form of economics which makes a fetish of private enterprise. Some honorable senators opposite have referred to Cockatoo Island Dockyard; but that is not the only establishment that has been destroyed by non-Labour governments.
– Over ?40,000 was lost there in one year.
– The dockyard was disposed of in order to play into the hands of private enterprise. The Commonwealth harness factory was disposed of for a similar reason. A non-Labour government actually gave away the vessels of - the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, because the whole of the purchase price has never been collected.
- (Senator James McLachlan). - The honorable senator must connect his remarks with the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I am showing the futility of the contract system which honorable senators opposite support, and I trust that as a result of my remarks some of them may be converted to the day-labour system.
– ‘Why did the Queensland Labour Government sell the State Saw Mills, and why did the Western Australian Government sell the State steamships ?
– The Western Australian Government sold only one of its ships.
– This matter is of vital importance because if the amendment be rejected, the Government will be able to carry out all the important works for which provision is made in this bill under the contract system, and the men whom we are anxious to assist will be in no better position than they are to-day. The Senate is a house of review, in which the proposals of the Government can be considered in a calm and dispassionate manner. I trust that the amendment will be carried.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I do not agree entirely with the views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), who believes that all government works should be carried out by day labour; on the other hand, I do not think that all such works should be done under contract. The government which has the responsibility of handling the taxpayers’ money must have certain discretionary powers, and it should have the right to determine whether the works under its control shall be done by contract or by day labour. I remind Senator Collings that, under the Queensland workers’ dwellings scheme, which is one of the finest of its kind in the Commonwealth, the majority of the homes are built by contract under the direction of the Works Department.
– That is a different thing.
– That is exactly the system being followed by the Commonwealth Government in connexion with its public works. Furthermore, the biggest work now in progress in Brisbane, the Story bridge across the Brisbane River, is being built by contract by Messrs. Evans, Deakin and Hornibrook Limited under the supervision of the Works Department. What is the difference between the Queensland Works Department supervising these works and a Commonwealth department supervising the construction of public works by contract ? I cannot see any difference at all. In any case, the Commonwealth Government does not believe in doing all its public works by contract. In many country towns in Queensland it is doing a lot of work, such as the laying down of runways on aerodromes, by day labour, and in such instances preference of employment is given to local residents, who carry out the job under the direct supervision of a Commonwealth official. Much of the work of this Government which honorable senators opposite stated is being done under contract is being carried out by day labour. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), I believe, will admit that, in respect of a government’s building programme, no fixed rule can be applied. A government cannot say that certain specific works must be done by contract and others by day labour.
– Where would the honorable senator draw the line?
– I leave that decision to the Government. If it does not satisfy the people they have the remedy in their own hands. As the Government itself must take full responsibility in this matter, it should definitely have the determination of what method should be adopted in respect of any particular work. Senator Brown, as a member of the Public Works Committee, will remember evidence given before that body in connexion with the proposed new Canberra hospital, that the Commonwealth Works Branch was taxed to the limit of its capacity, chiefly in connexion with defence preparations, and in supervising works which were being done by day labour. It was also stated that it would be impossible for that department to undertake much extra work.
– Could not the staff be increased?
– Certainly, and it has been increased recently, but the honorable senator will agree that this Government is at present handling an enormous building programme. If his suggestion were adopted, the Commonwealth would need to build up a very large department, but what would be its position in the event of another depression? It would have to be disbanded.
– The honorable senator is looking a long way ahead.
– I certainly hope I am, because I pray that we shall never experience another depression. Nevertheless, history has a habit of repeating itself. In connexion with all Commonwealth public works, our works branch thoroughly supervises operations, and examines every item of expenditure. If a tender is considered to be too high, the department has the option of either calling for fresh tenders or of undertaking the job by day labour. I am of opinion that, in the main, the speeches of honorable senators on this subject have been merely as a sop to their supporters outside. I assure them that I have met many labouring men who are opposed to the day-labour system, whilst many others take the view that it does not matter whether a job is done by day labour or contract so long as it provides work.
– The Workers’ Dwellings Department in Queensland only makes money available to applicants for the building of homes; it has nothing to do with the building of homes.
– That department lets contracts for the building of those homes. What is the difference, between such a department letting contracts for
the building of homes, and another government department letting a contract for the construction of an important public building? The estimated cost of the Story bridge is £2,000,000, and that work has been let by the Queensland Government to contract. In view of the fact that the Labour Government in that State finds it advantageous to let its important works by contract, I believe that honorable senators opposite have been merely indulging in kite-flying in this debate _thinking to please Labour supporters. ‘
– I was interested in the remarks of Senator Cameron, who said that in the early stages of the workers’ homes system in Western Australia, a number of the homes were built by day labour. That is correct, but in recent years that department, which has been operating on a more restricted basis, has been letting private contracts for the construction of new works, including homes and their renovation. That system is being followed in that State where there is a Labour government. In respect of the more important public works in Western Australia, I confess that both Labour and non-Labour governments in recent years have let such work to contract. Of course, for a number of years, railway construction was carried out solely under the day-labour system, and as a consequence contractors were frozen out and forced to disband their plant. That was the set policy in respect of railway construction. The present Labour Government in Western Australia quite’ properly, with a. view to economy and in order to get good value for its expenditure, has carried out many of its public works by contract. I have in my hand a copy of the Western Australia Government. Gazette of the 1st July inwhich tenders are called for the following public works - Kalgoorlie hospital, supply and installation of boiler plant; window cleaning at various government buildings; Lake Grace, Agricultural Bank quarters; Norseman court house, renovations; Kalgoorlie hospital, extensive additions; and Lake Grace hospital, additions. If the Western Australian Labour Government finds it preferable to undertake some of its public works by contract, how much more justified is the Commonwealth Government in adopting the same system in respect of some of its public works, which are undertaken throughout the length and breadth of Australia?
– I understand that the Legislative Council in Western Australia is anti-Labour.
– The Government of that State can decide to build workers’ homes and similar works by day labour, or by contract, whether the Legislative Council approves of such action or not. If that Government were undertaking the construction of a railway, it would build it by day labour, and I do not think that any one would object to that. But the Government itself has power to undertake public works by day labour irrespective of the views of the Legislative Council.
– That is not correct.
– The Government has power to construct public works either by day labour or by contract irrespective of the views of the Legislative Council. Recently the Girls High School at East Perth was constructed by day labour, but many buildings undertaken by the present Labour Government in Western Australia have been done under the contract system. A list of tenders accepted, published in the Western Australian Government Gazette, of the 1st July, includes the following : - 10th March, 1038. - B. Humphries, Narrogin. - East Popanyinning School (8811), £327. 10th March, 1038. - J. J. Donald, Mr Lawley. - Perenjori School: Additions (8809). £524. 14th March, 1938.- H. Mapstone, South Perth- Jarrahdale Hospital. - Septic tank (8794), £167. 14th March, 1938.- W. T. Clark, WembleyMuresk Agricultural College: Cheese and butter factory, £2,218. 16th March, 1938. - R. Donald and Son, Busselton. - Yallingup New Caves House (8810), £20,450.
It will be seen that, in regard to both small and large works, the Labour Government of Western Australia carries out by day labour undertakings of the kind with which we are now dealing.
.- Members of the Opposition wish to obtain some information in regard to the money which is to be expended.
– I have been waiting for a chance to inform honorable senators
– The Commonwealth Government ought to undertake a policy of public works construction under a commission, for it would then be in a position to find work for youths, and so help to solve one of the outstanding problems of the times. In connexion with the standardization of railway gauges in Australia and the storage of waters there is plenty of work to be done, and opportunities to train lads in various trades would be provided.
– The committee is discussing, not unemployment, but the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– In order to prove that government undertakings cas be successfully carried out by day labour, I remind the Senate that the Government of Western Australia has carried out large sewerage works under that system. The first section of that undertaking was completed by day labour for £3,000 less than the estimate. All these undertakings can show similar results, provided the right men are placed in charge of them, but where four bosses are employed to supervise one worker, as I have seen in Western Australia and elsewhere, no system can be satisfactory. The trouble with day labour is that in some instances too many government officials have to make inspections in order to justify their holding of the positions which they occupy. I agree that in remote districts it is not always possible to adopt the daylabour system, but I hope that there will be no sub-letting of contracts. Senator Johnston was wrong in his statement regarding the homes built in Western Australia by the Workers’ Homes Board. That body has full control of its own finances; no government, whatever its political character, can interfere with it. Most of the schools which were erected under contract in Western Australia were in remote places, away from the metropolitan area.
– Some of them were erected in the suburbs of Perth.
– The point is that the Labour Government of that State has broken away from the principle enunciated by honorable senators opposite.
– The State governments have been able to adopt a system of youth training, and 1 see no reason why the Commonwealth should not do the same.
– I am not a friend of any exploiter, as Senator Sheehan suggested. I have my own opinions, and I vote as I think best. On this occasion I shall vote against the amendment, because it would tie the Government’s hands. In carrying out these works, I prefer that the Commonwealth branch shall have a discretionary power. Both the day-labour system and the contract system have advantages. While listening to Opposition senators I found it somewhat difficult to reconcile their condemnation of the contract system with their support of that system in connexion with shearing throughout the Commonwealth, and cane-cutting in north Queensland. I have not heard of any outcry by the Australian Workers Union against the contract system in those spheres.
– There is some dissatisfaction among the shearers.
– The shearers are paid at award rates.
– So also are the employees on the works now under discussion.
– In consequence of the remarks of Senators Cooper and Johnston, I shall deal with this subject from another angle. While the latter was speaking, I interjected that Labour governments had adopted the contract system only under duress. The difference between Labour governments in the States and the present Commonwealth Government is that the former are in conflict with the institutions which control this country’s finances, whereas the latter is not. Labour governments in the States, not having the powers necessary to give full and complete effect to their policy, are compelled to depart from that policy to some extent. They enforce the principles of the Labour party to the full extent possible, but until they get greater powers, their policy cannot be given full effect.
– The committee is concerned, not with the powers of the governments in office in Western Australia and Queensland, but with the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I was replying to Senator Johnston’s remark that the Labour Government of Western Australia had let contracts for various undertakings, the implication ‘being that it preferred contract work to day work.
– For a particular class of work.
– We cannot consider the implications of the honorable senator’s remarks, but only what he said.
– Some meaning must be given to his statements. The only construction that I can place on them is that the Labour Government of Western Australia is not adopting the day-labour system, although it could do so if it chose. My reply is that that Government has hot sufficient control over finances to give full effect to its policy. I was trying to correct the false impression which the honorable senator’s remarks might give. Senator Dein said that a Labour government was in office in Victoria.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator’s statement is inaccurate; I did not say that there was a Labour government in office in Victoria.
– I accept the honorable senator’s assurance. I certainly thought that he said that there was a Labour government in Victoria, but probably he meant that the Labour party in that State supports the Country party. The position in that State bears out my contention that the Labour party there is, to some extent, acting under duress, whereas the Commonwealth Government is not so hampered.
– The Labour Government, of Queensland is not in that position.
– It is, for even there it has not full control over finance.
– If it has sufficient money to pay contractors, it has money to pay for work under the daylabour system.
– We are trying to get the best value for the money that is expended.
– So is the Queensland Government.
– That Government has to comply with conditions that are laid down. For instance, negotiations are pending for a big conversion loan, and we know-
– I must ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the amendment.
– I emphasize that Labour governments are frequently forced to do things which they would not do in more favorable circumstances. In all fairness, I ask honorable senators to take that point into consideration. Either intentionally or unintentionally, their remarks may create a false impress sion in the minds of the people. Honorable senators supporting the Government know that Labour is not in power in Victoria. I emphasize this point, so that it cannot be claimed that criticism of what has been done in that State went unchallenged.
– Senator Clothier stated that the Labour Government in Western Australia adopted the contract system for government works in country districts only. That is not so. I do not wish to repeat what I said earlier this afternoon; but in the Government Gazette of Western Australia there appeal’s a list of several works carried out in the metropolitan area under the contract system. These include additions to the Scarborough school, costing £1,124.
– Does the honorable senator agree with everything that is done by the Labour Government of Western Australia?
– I agree with that Government whenever it does tie right thing. This is one of the rare instances in which it is doing right. Other works in the metropolitan area which were carried out under the contract system were - Osborne Park school, costing £594; additions and alterations to Bicton school, £1,245 ; new latrines and sewerage at the Inglewood school, £1,161 10s. ; and the provision of sewerage at the Maylands school, £1,939 10s. The two last-men tioned schools are in the electorate of which Senator Clothier was, for some time, the representative in the Parliament of Western Australia.
– The Girls’ High School was built at a cost of £100,000 by day labour.
– I mentioned that undertaking in my earlier remarks, and said then that it was built by day labour. The State Government has the option of carrying out its public works by either day labour or contract,, whichever system it deems advisable in the circumstances.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). I was pleased to hear the Minister (Senator Foll) say that the Commonwealth had in its works branch an efficient staff of professional men to supervise work. Had that efficient staff been available when this building was in the course of erection, no doubt some of the complaints now being made about faulty workmanship would not have arisen. The Minister also stated that the Government considered it wiser to have public works carried out by contract. I have seen private contractors engaged on all classes of undertakings, and in nine cases out of ten the work is handed over to a foreman or supervisor, on whom responsibility rests. I see no reason why the Government could not delegate its work in this way, and obtain the same results as private contractors do, for the same wages paid. The only difference then would be that the profit which is at present being made by private contractors would be retained by the Government for expenditure on other works.
Senator Herbert Hays said that it would be of more advantage to both State and Federal Governments if all public works were carried out by contract.
– No; I said that both systems had merits, and I would leave it to the Government to exercise its discretion.
– It would be much better if public works were carried out by day labour. The work could then be evenly spread throughout the year and a larger number of employees would be benefited. Usually, contracts are kept in the hands of u few contractors, who give steady employment to their own teams. Under the day-labour system, men who at present have few opportunities to work would get their turn.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Senator Herbert Hays seemed to be perturbed about the fate of government employees on day labour if public works ceased on account of financial stringency, but he appeared to have no concern for the men thrown out of employment through the cessation of private contractors’ jobs. Men engaged by private firms are just as much entitled to consideration as are those employed on government undertakings. Contractors who accept large jobs when times are bad are often rushed by men looking for work. Many of these men do not hold union tickets, and, where unskilled labour is required, contractors often pay them less than union rates. When a union inspector calls and suggests that they join the trade organization, those who have the courage to do so, or even talk of joining, are immediately dismissed.
– That practice is not general.
– I have known it to happen in Tasmania. Contractors do not undertake jobs unless they can make a good .profit for themselves.
– It is their living.
– Certainly it is, but contractors always provide a wage for themselves far above that given to their employees, and in every tender for work they add at least 25 per cent., and even up to 50 per cent., for profit. In government work carried out by day labour it is* unnecessary to make a profit, and the people obtain better results for their money.
The suggestion has been made that, owing to the enormous area of Australia, it would be impracticable to carry out all government undertakings by day labour; but I point out that a very large staff is employed by the Postmaster-General’s Department, and the employees are scattered throughout the Commonwealth. If that department can do practically the whole of its own work by day labour. T see no reason why other government, undertakings could not be carried out by that system.
It seems to me that Senator Dein misconstrued some of the remarks of Senator Cunningham, who said that, whilstsome slight disadvantages were experienced in Western Australia in applying the day labour principle, its advantages far outweighed its disadvantages, and he would, therefore, support the amendment. He certainly did not say that it was impossible to do all government work by day labour.
A good deal has been said about what Labour governments have done in the several States. In only one State is a Labour government actually in power. In other States Labour is in office, but it is unable to exercise full power.
– Is Labour in power in Tasmania ?
– No, it cannot exercise full power, because of the composition of the Legislative Council. The Labour Government in my State has put into operation such works as the Tarraleah hydro-electric scheme, which cost over ?1,000,000. The whole of this work was carried out successfully by day labour. Owing to the increased demand for electricity, it is anticipated that the scheme will be extended, and such extent sion, which will cost a further ?1,000,000, will also be executed by day labour. A big programme of road construction is also being carried out successfully under this system. I admit, of course, that small jobs are sometimes performed under the contract system, but the Labour Government in Tasmania has been able to get the major portion of its works programme carried out by day labour by giving way to the Legislative Council to the extent of allowing the construction of a few schools and hospitals under the contract system. It gave way on minor items of its policy in order to score with regard to major ones.
- (Senator James McLachlan). - The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
.- A misunderstanding appears to have arisen regarding the amendment. Although a discussion has ensued concerning the merits of contract labour as compared with day labour, I think that the real question to be considered is whether the Government should have the right to determine whether departmental undertakings can be best carried out by day labour or by contract. What is done in the various States is beside the point, except insofar as it shows that in some instances day labour does not suit thb State authorities and that they have reverted to the contract system. The Commonwealth Government should have a free hand to determine which system should be employed. Some honorable senators opposite have not followed their arguments to their logical conclusion. In the first place, they say that day labour results in cheaper and better work, and creates more employment at higher wages. They also contend that contractors sweat their employees, and do not pay union rates. It is clear that if day labour will provide more employment than contract labour, it will also cost more. Senator Cameron let the cat out of the bag by saying that States which were handicapped for finance adopted the contract system. The statement was also made that day labour would provide training for apprentices and others ; but, of course, it would do nothing of the kind.
– I pointed out that apprentices were not employed in the construction of the Perth Post Office.
– In Victoria, the number of apprentices employed in the building trades has increased considerably during the last two or three years. One apprentice is allowed to three journeymen, and, unless more men are employed, the number of apprentices cannot be increased. It is highly desirable to plan for the training of apprentices, but not allowing more recruits to industry than the various trades can absorb. It is necessary to adopt the system that will provide the best results for the people of Australia. Every one will admit that more supervision is needed under the day labour system than when work is done by contract. An army of public servants would be required to do the work by day labour, and for them permanent jobs would have to be provided, unless they were to bo dismissed when the work on which they were engaged terminated.
– Supervisors are employed under the contract system.
– A government contractor has a works overseer and other officers watching his interests, and the Government also arranges for one of its officers to supervise the work in hand. Many contractors are not wealthy men, and if the day-labour system were adopted possibly some of them would be employed supervising the work which formerly they had done on their own account. Senator Cameron, in his support of the amendment, was rather too inclined to denounce the State which he represents, and the .labour conditions which prevail there. The labour conditions in Victoria are quite as good as those in any other State; the conditions imposed under Arbitration Court and Wages Boards’ awards are as rigid in Victoria as elsewhere. All contract work is keenly scrutinized. It would appear from the speech of Senator Cameron that in Victoria, Arbitration Court awards are disregarded, but I do not think that that is so. I am inclined to believe that some government works should be done by day labour; in fact, both Labour governments and non-Labour governments do carry out certain works under that system. The Government should have the power to determine, according to the circumstances of each job, whether the contract system or the day-labour system should be employed.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) which directs the Government to depart radically from its set policy. I believe that most honorable senators opposite desire to help those unfortunate persons who are at present unemployed, particularly if they may do so without conflicting too strongly with the policy of the Government which they support. During the debate, Senator Foll said that the workmen employed by contractors become proficient and enjoy continuity of work. I do not deny that assertion; but that is exactly the position which has to be faced. Many unskilled men find it difficult to obtain work because contractors employ fairly regularly men who become proficient, and when a contractor obtains a fresh contract he naturally takes the experienced men with him. “Under that system some men are becoming proficient and having continuity of employment at the expense of their less fortunate fellow-men. In portions of the State which I represent, large numbers of unskilled men are employed in the wool stores and along the water front where very little training is necessary ; but if the Government adopted the day-labour system many of them could obtain employment in other spheres and become skilled to some extent in their new vocations. Honorable senators know how difficult it is to obtain employment for a man in the Commonwealth service, and that those who are fortunate enough to get a job are very thankful, even if the work be for only a limited period. The adoption of the amendment would enable a large number *of unskilled men to be employed by the Government. As an alderman of the Sydney City Council for over four years, I know that when the two systems have been compared the council, has invariably found that the best work is done by day labour. It has been said by honorable senators opposite that as supervisors are employed by the Government, contractors are compelled to pay award rates of wages, but I direct their attention to the tactics of a contractor manufacturing military hats for the Defence Department. It is almost impossible to keep a check on him. His works in Melbourne are visited by an inspector, but a union organizer is not permitted to make the necessary inquiries as to the conditions under which the work is being carried out. It is almost impossible to say at what stage a hat becomes a military hat, because apparently the foundation work of all hats is the same. Up to a certain stage of the process, the manufacturer defies our representative to say that he is making hats for the Commonwealth.
– Would the honorable senator suggest that hats should be made by day labour?
– I am not dealing with that point at the moment; I am merely emphasizing the difficulty of supervising the work done < by contractors, some of whom are always trying to defeat the Go vernment. The strong Labour opposition in the Sydney City Council examines closely the tenders submitted by contractors to be assured that award wages are paid. Occasionally it is found that a tender is submitted by a contractor against whom convictions have been recorded. Some contractors are always endeavouring to escape the observance of paying award rates and conditions. I do not blame contractors who make profit, because that is their object; but they should not endeavour to do so at the expense of those whom they employ. Naturally they submit the lowest price at which they believe they can carry out the work because competition amongst them is keen ; but when a tender has been accepted they proceed by devious means to obtain as much profit as is possible, and usually at the expense of their employees. Some honorable senators opposite have said that mails in outback portions of the Commonwealth are carried under contract, but I know that in northern and western New South Wales the people to whom these mails are delivered are not satisfied with the service. Some in the outback parts of Queensland complain that the service given by ‘the contractors is unsatisfactory.
– I have not heard such complaints.
– Perhaps the honorable senator does not visit those places ; if he did he would hear a good deal that is unfavorable to this Government. As a representative of a large number of unskilled men, I sincerely trust that the Government will accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and in that way provide an opportunity for large numbers of unskilled men to become proficient at some kind of work. If that were done the labour now available would be spread over a larger number instead of restricting it to a few.
– If the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Collings) were carried, it could only be regarded as an instruction to the Government to carry out all future Commonwealth public works by day labour. One of the arguments adduced by honorable senators opposite is that under that system there would be a greater opportunity to train apprentices than obtains under the contract system. I ask honorable senators opposite what section of industry has been most responsible for training apprentices in Australia? It has not been governmental enterprise. Contractors have been responsible for training a majority of the apprentices in Australia. The statement made by Senator Cunningham, and repeated by Senator Fraser, that no apprentice was employed on the construction of the General Post Office at Perth reminds me of similar statements made by a colleague of honorable senators opposite, the Honorable Harry Millington. They are absolutely incorrect. I happen to know the contractor who did that work. As a master builder, he has probably trained more apprentices than has any other in-‘ dividual employer in Western Australia. He is possessed of a high civic sense, and regards it as his duty as an employer to give every opportunity to youths to learn a trade. For the information of honorable senators opposite I now state definitely that eight apprentices were employed on the- ‘construction of the Perth General Post Office, and, in addition, sixteen trainees were engaged under the repatriation scheme on the same work. In contradistinction to the claims made by honorable senators opposite we find that not one apprentice was employed on the construction of the high school at East Perth, a job which was carried out by a Labour government with day labour at a cost of £72,000. Honorable senators opposite, I suggest, should endeavour to be more accurate. Senator Sheehan said that honorable senators on this side were undoubtedly friends of the exploiters, meaning, of course, the contractors. I emphatically deny that charge. If such a charge can be justified merely on the ground that this Government carries out some of its public works by contract, it can, with equal force, be levelled against members of the Labour Government in Queensland. When I visited that State nearly two years ago I found quite a number of public works being carried out bv contract, but no one would suggest merely for that reason that the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Forgan Smith, is a friend of exploiters. On my way south from Cairns to Mackay, .1 found roads being built by contract, which in Western Australia would be constructed by the Main Roads Board. To my astonishment I discovered that theMackay Harbour works, which are situated in Mr. Forgan Smith’s own electorate and which are estimated to cost £250,000, were being carried out under contract. Senator Aylett enumerated a list of important public works which were being constructed by day labour in Tasmania, but he failed to mention the bridge over the Derwent River which is built by contract.
– The Government is not paying for that work.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The Government of Tasmania is vitally interested in it. Furthermore, Senator Cunningham was a Minister in a Labour government in Western Australia which undertook by contract many important, public works similar to those mentioned by Senator Johnston. The ball was kept moving merrily in this debate by honorable senators opposite until Senator Cunningham made his speech and, subsequently, supporters of the amendment have been endeavouring to excuse themselves. They have endeavoured particularly to save the face of their deputy leader, Senator Keane, who stated that day labour was one of the basic planks of the Labour party’s platform. The honorable senator even went so far as to suggest that the recent accession of strength to the Opposition forces in this chamber was largely due to the fact that his colleagues had so staunchly advocated day labour during the election campaign. I know of many good Labour men who do not subscribe to Senator Keane’s view on this matter. When we find State Labour governments undertaking important, public works by contract, it cannot be said that the policy of this Government is entirely wrong. It believes in undertaking certain public works by contract, and it will continue to pursue that course, at the same time realizing that, in certain circumstances, the day-labour system is to be preferred. Certain honorable senators opposite have suggested that the Labour Government of Western Australia undertakes public works by contract because the Legislative Council in that State is hostile to the Government and more or less exerts an influence in favour of the contract system. That is not so. I recall one occasion on which the Legislative Council endeavoured to provide that certain work should be done by contract ; this proposal was resisted by the Government, and after a conference of managers of both Houses was rejected. Thus the argument that the Government of Western Australia, because of the influence of a hostile Upper House, is a government in name only will not hold water. I feel sure that the amendment will be rejected.
– Ministerial supporters have advised the Opposition to reject the amendment, but I remind them that we were not elected to this chamber by those who support the Government. Throughout this debate they have persisted in camouflaging the real issue by endeavouring to divert the attention of honorable senators to what State governments are doing. They have failed to advance any sound argument why the Commonwealth Government should not adopt the daylabour system. They have merely contended that the Government should not be tied to any system. An ex’pression favoured by many of them was that they would support the Government on this occasion. Already three matters have been debated during this Hession, and in respect of each of them they have used a similar expression - they will support the Government on this occasion. We know, of course, that they will support it on every occasion. Criticism of what the State governments are doing in the carrying out of their works programmes is beside the point. This Government could consider the issue purely on its merits, and if it wishes, decide to adopt the day-labour principle, and thus ensure continuity in the activities of its Works branch for many years to come. No honorable senator believes for one moment, for instance, that the money already voted, or proposed to be voted under this measure in respect of defence works, will bo sufficient for very long. They are aware that move money will have to be provided for defence in the near future. The amount voted in any one year to any department is never sufficient to enable the Minister in charge to carry out all of the important work which he would like to see done. In this matter, the Government has the ball entirely at its feet. Tor instance, it could alter the constitution of the Commonwealth Bank Board, so that sufficient credit would be released to enable the Government to undertake any work considered to be essential. Some honorable senators opposite have shed crocodile tears in qualifying their support of the daylabour system. At heart, they want only private enterprise. If they had the courage to do so, they would not hesitate to hand over the postal services of this country to private enterprise. That is the considered opinion of the Labour movement.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the amendment.
– I am pointing out that this Government is so enamoured of private enterprise that it would like to turn over the postal services to private enterprise.
– Why does it not do so?
– Because it lacks the courage to do so. The Assistant Minister contradicted the statements of Senators Cunningham and Fraser that no apprentice was employed on the construction of the Perth General Post. Office; but, if there be any doubt on this point, I, for one, am prepared to accept the statements of my colleagues. When the crisis came in 1930, private enterprise failed miserably, with the result that thousands of men and women were thrown on the industrial scrap heap. Although the Government has supported private enterprise in the past, we ask it not to attempt to maintain an unsound system, but to do something which will be of lasting benefit to the community. I remind honorable senators that when a contractor can no longer make profits out of his employees, he puts them off. The Government, through its officers, should know the cost of carrying out various works, as well as the profit which the prices submitted by tenderers include. It would appear that departmental officers have not the courage to place these facts before Ministers, for 1 feel confident that if they did so, Ministers would accept their opinions, and good results would follow. We on this side are not indulging in sensationalism when we say that in almost every town of any considerable size in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales hundreds of persons are unemployed.
– That is an exaggeration.
– The solution of the problem of unemployment is the responsibility of this National Parliament. On the eve of an election, Government supporters do not deny that it is a matter for this Parliament, but after the election they say that it is the responsibility of the States.
– The position in Queensland is not as the honorable senator has stated.
– Nor is his statement true of New South Wales.
– I know what the position is, and I remind honorable senators that in this chamber last week it was admitted that unemployment had increased since October of last year.
– That is not correct.
– There are 100,000 unemployed persons in the Commonwealth at the present time. If that be not sufficient to cause the Government to do something for men and women with an Australian outlook - they are better than any immigrants - I do not know what would be.
– The Government wants these Works Estimates to be passed in order to provide work.
– That is an old story. The Government does not like criticism, and for that reason it urges that .this bill be rushed through the Senate. However much its passage were expedited, these contemplated works would ‘ not be started one day sooner. The reason for the undue haste on the part of the Government is a desire to stifle criticism. If this measure be so important’ as is claimed, why was it not dealt with last week?
– It had not then been dealt with by the House of Representatives.
– Had the Government been really sincere in its desire to provide work, and, if the early passing of this bill was essential to that end, why did not the Government take steps to hasten its passage through the House of Representatives? The Government seeks to make the people believe that the Opposition is postponing the commencement of these works by delaying the progress of this bill through Parliament. We on this side are sincere in our desire that the day labour system be established throughout the Commonwealth in connexion with governmental undertakings, and we believe that the officers of the departments concerned would carry out the necessary duties as efficiently as officers of the Trade and Customs Department and the Postmaster-General’s Department now carry out their duties.
– Evidently the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan McDonald) has some information in regard to apprentices, for he mentioned that during the construction of the Perth General Post Office, sixteen trainees were employed by the contractor.
– The committee is discussing the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) relating to day labour.
– I agree with the Assistant Minister that the contractor for the Perth General Post Office is an excellent citizen, who pays good wages and treats his men well. Many other contractors come within the same category. I make no attack upon individual contractors, but I am opposed to the contract system. The Assistant Minister knows also that although there is not a majority of Labour members on the Perth City Council, that body favours the day-labour system, by which it has saved the ratepayers thousands of pounds. The Assistant Minister also referred to the members of the Legislative Council of Western Australia as a fine body of men, but I point to the fact that when a bill seeking to appropriate moneys for the erection of homes for workers came before them, they threw it out. It is probable that the new hos- pital which Perth is likely to have soon will be built by day labour. Were it not for the opposition of the Legislative Council, it might be possible for the Government of Western Australia to provide continuity of employment for apprentices. I have no desire to vilify any contractor. The amendment makes no attack upon a body of men, many of whom are desirable citizens and treat their employees well, but members of the Opposition are definitely of the opinion that the contract system is wrong. We point out, moreover, that the general adoption of day labour would merely mean a strengthening of existing staffs. Nor should the Government lose sight of the fact that it can buy the materials necessary for its undertakings at prices below those at which contractors can obtain them. I refute the suggestion that the Opposition has cast any reflection on contractors. I say confidently that there were not eight apprentices working on the Perth General Post Office from the commencement of operations, although, possibly, the contractor continued on that job apprentices already being trained by others.
– As honorable senators opposite have charged Labour governments in some of the States with not having availed themselves of opportunities to train youths as apprentices in various trades, I point out that in Western Australia arrangements were made with the Arbitration Court to allow transfers of apprentices from one employer to another. Moreover, when during and prior to the depression many employers of labour were unable to retain their apprentices, the government came to their rescue by taking over the lads and training them until the original employers were ready to re-engage them. So it will be seen that the Minister was’ not altogether correct, even in regard to the erection of the East Perth high school. Some improvers we’re employed on the post office building in Perth. These lads were apprenticed not only to the contractor but also to other employers who were doing certain classes of work for him, with the result that some of them worked for only a short period of their apprenticeship on that job. I am informed on what
I believe to be good authority that no apprentices on that work were indentured for the sole purpose of training. In Western Australia every opportunity is given to small contractors, as well as to the large employers, to provide continuity of work for apprentices.
Question put -
That the amount be reduced by £1 ( Senator Collings’ amendment).
The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator James McLachlan.)
N oes . . . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of External Affairs.
Proposed vote, £100.
– Last year the vote under this head was £350, and the expenditure was £210. We appreciate greatly the work which is being done by the Department of External Affairs, particularly in the publication of Current Notes on international happenings. I hope that the reduction of the vote to £100 this year does not mean that an attempt is to be made at cheeseparing, because the department should be encouraged rather than discouraged in connexion with the publication of Current Notes.
– This item refers only to furniture.
Proposed vote agreed to.
DEPARTMENT t of the TREASURY
Proposed vote, ?13,182.
Senator WILSON (South Australia) [9.10 1 . - There is an alarming increase in this vote in comparison with the vote last year. Australia, in common with other countries, recently passed through one of the gravest crises in its history, and the people have willingly accepted additional tax burdens in order to meet defence requirements, but they expect the Government to make an effort to reduce expenditure in other directions. The total expenditure provided for under this measure is ?7,042,000, as compared with ?3,721,000 last year. Of that increase only about ?1,600,000 is attributable to additional expenditure on defence. I fear that the Government is not making strong enough efforts to reduce expenditure generally in order to balance the increased vote necessary for defence. It is, I think, fitting that I should, at this stage, outline my ideas on the .principles of public finance. I consider that in normal times the aim of government should be to leave as much money as possible in the pockets of taxpayers. In other words, taxes should be no more than aire necessary to carry on the general services of the community. I admit certain exceptions to this general rule. First, for defence purposes, it is necessary to spend an amount sufficient to ensure safety against attacks from overseas. Secondly, in times of depression it is the responsibility of a government to increase its public works programme, in order to keep the purchasing power of the community fairly even. I consider that many of the undertakings which are provided for in this bill are in no sense urgent. Australia is at present enjoying a good measure of prosperity. Production this year has been almost as great as that for any other yeal” in our history. Similarly, employment has reached almost a record level. Surely it is logical to assume, that in times such as the present, the Commonwealth Government might easily postpone much of its expenditure on public works so that employment may be increased and an even purchasing power placed in the hands of the people during a period of depression.
- (Senator James Mclachlan). - The honorable senator is talking of finance in a general way. Does he intend to connect bis remarks with the item before the Chair?
– The point I am endeavouring to make is that the Government proposes to spend this year ?f3,182 in the Department of the Treasury as compared with ?7,423 last year, and that this vote is only one of many that show alarming increases.
– That is so;, but the honorable’ senator’s remarks should have been made on the first or second reading of the bill.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but I submit that when the expenditure on an item is to be increased one should be entitled in dealing with such increase, to refer to other items which show the same tendency, and swell the aggregate expenditure. The increase of the vote now under discussion is nearly 100 per cent., and it is proposed at a time when heavy call? are being made on public funds for defence purposes. When an item of ?6,000 can be read in conjunction with fifteen or sixteen other items totalling ?2,500,000, one realizes that the expenditure on this and other items i? entirely unjustified. My contention is that the increase by 100 per cent, of the expenditure under this item, considered in the light of the heavy calls on the Treasurer for defence and other purposes, is not justified. I draw the attention of the Government to the fact that, whilst the public willingly accepted an increase of taxation to enable additional expenditure to be incurred for defence purposes, it expected the Government to reduce expenditure in other direction.’, and not, as appears in this item, to increase it bv 100 per cent.
Senator FOLL (Queensland - Minister of SenatorWilson, as you, Mr. Chairman, have pointed out, would have been more appropriate on the second reading of the bill, but an opportunity will be afforded for discussion of General Estimates at a later stage. The present bill merely votes certain sums for additions, new works and buildings. Every form of government expenditure is being carefully watched, and the estimates of the various departments have been examined many times in order to avoid waste. The increased vote to which the honorable senator has referred is mainly brought about by reason of the extra office accommodation required by the National Insurance Commission. The National Health and Pensions Insurance Act having been passed, the commission is now carrying out its work, and office accommodation is essential.
– Does the Minister say that none of this expenditure could have been postponed ?
– It is all of an urgent and important nature ; otherwise it would not have been provided for in the bill.
There is a vote of about £600 for improved ventilation in the Federal Taxation Office in Melbourne. It must be recognized that this improvement is necessary. An amount is provided for furniture in Canberra for the National Insurance Commission, and provision is made for certain improvements at the Taxation Office here. One of the larger items, which accounts for a considerable proportion of the increased vote, is £3,990 for the erection of a store for paper at the Government Printing Office, Canberra. If the honorable senator visited the printing office, he would realize that thisaccommodation is badly needed.
-Could not that work wait ?
– I suggest that it is long overdue.
– I understood that this afternoon, in reply to Senator Cunningham, the Minister intimated that he would inform honorable senators of the details of these votes. As a number of senators returned only recently to this chamber are not familiar with the procedure, we desire to know whether it is necessary to criticize proposed votes before information regarding them will be supplied.
– The usual procedure is for honorable senators to ask for information on specific items. I shall be glad to furnish any details for which I may be asked.
– What sum is to be provided for the furnishing of the offices of the National Insurance Commission?
SenatorFOLL (Queensland - Minister for Repatriation) [9.21]. - The sum of £4,244 is available for fittings and furniture for the office of the commission in Canberra and all States where staffs have been appointed.
– Has the Government considered the necessity for the expenditure of this large sum for office accommodation for the National Insurance Commission, in view of the fact that we have no assurance that the doctors will be willing to work under the scheme ? In these circumstances, is all this expenditure justified?
– I cannot answer hypothetical questions.
– Neither the Government nor the commission has been able to supply the general public with the information that is urgently desired regarding the meaning and scope of the scheme. Many persons have written to the newspapers asking various questions about national insurance, but they have not obtained satisfactory replies. The Government has promised to introduce a measure to apply the national insurance scheme to small farmers and business men-
– The National Health and. Pensions Insurance Act has been passed, and provision is now being made to give effect to that legislation.
– But the doctors have not been prepared to work under it. ‘The scheme cannot properly be called a “national” one, and, as the commission is unable to answer questions submitted to it, I suggest that the expenditure now proposed is unwarranted.
– I cannot allow the honorable senator to proceed on those lines.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £2,500.
– Will the Minister supply details of this proposed expenditure?
– The sum of £567 is required to cover liabilities in respect of uncompleted services carried forward from last financial year, leaving a balance of £1,933 for new services in the nature of fittings and furniture required by the various branches of the Attorney-General’s Department. The details are -
I shall now give the details of expenditure on new services.
– It will satisfy me if item’s of less than £100 are omitted.
– The sum of £200 is proposed to be voted for new services for the High Court, £473 is for bankruptcy administration, and £813 for improvements in the Patents Office.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £283,600.
Senator ABBOTT (New South Wales) erection of, and additions and alterations to, meteorological buildings. The Government should do all it can to encourage the study of meteorology, particularly for the benefit of primary producers. I emphasize the importance of a matter raised some time ago by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), who suggested that assistance should be given with regard to the studies of a gentleman in Queensland who is conferring a great benefit on the primary producers of the whole of Australia. In New South Wales, the name of Mr. Inigo Jones is held in the highest esteem by the big man and also the small man on the land. Occasionally one meets persons who have not a great deal of faith in the work which he is doing, but I venture to say that throughout the length and breadth of Queensland, and in many otherparts of Australia, his services are appreciated. The primary producers base their operations very largely upon his forecasts. Although the graziers and pastoralists of New South Wales and other States, have assisted him to a very great extent, in my opinion he should not have to depend upon the efforts of private individuals to enable him to pursue his scientific work. The Government might very well consider the advisability of providing the necessary funds to carry on his very valuable research. As was pointed out recently by the Leader of the Opposition, because some officer said that Mr. Inigo Jones was not working upon what he was pleased to call “ scientific principles “, that has remained in the files of the department as a standard opinion. The results of Mr. Inigo Jones’s observations of sunspots have been of immense value to primary producers, not only in New South Wales, but also in other States of the Commonwealth.
-Order ! These Estimates provide only for additions, new works, and buildings.
- Mr. Inigo Jones may need housing accommodation for the pursuit of his studies. It is the opinion of those who receive the benefits of his studies that it is high time that the Government reconsidered its attitude in connexion with the work of this very learned gentleman. He has demonstrated in the paSt that. his methods are by no means unscientific. 1 have been requested by a very considerable body of graziers in this country to ask the Government to reconsider its attitude to the services rendered by Mr. Inigo Jones.
-The discussion of that matter is not appropriate to the consideration of the Works Estimates.
.- As the Department of the Interior comes in for a certain amount of criticism from time to time, I propose to discuss the question of the general policy adopted by that department when the General Estimates are before us. I would be glad, however, if the Minister would supply particulars in regard to the additional accommodation required at the Forestry School.
– The amount provided for this purpose is . £3,800. Approval was granted during the latter portion of last financial year for the erection of a building adjoining the Forestry Bureau building at Canberra to consist of a museum, with accommodation for a seed store, soils, carpenters’ shop, woods, and storage of publications. The estimated cost of the work is £3,771.
– I wish to refer very briefly to this item but for an entirely different reason from that which prompted Senator Hays to refer to it. I am delighted to see this item included in the list of proposed expenditure. If there is one thing we must continue to do in Canberra to an ever-increasing extent as the years advance, it is the development of our forestry branch and the work which comes within its scope. I am very glad to have this opportunity to express my entire approval of the proposal explained by the Minister. I hope that this is merely the beginning of the extension of the operations of the forestry branch.
– I shall be glad if the Minister will supply details concerning the item “ Governor-General’s establishments - buildings, works, sites, fittings and furniture- £5,000.”
– Of the total provision of £5,000, an amount of £238 will be required to cover liabilities in respect of uncompleted services carried forward from last financial year. The balance is for new services at Admiralty House, Sydney, and Government House, Canberra. At Admiralty House, the services include pathways, storm-water drainage, treatment of grounds, &c. The major portion of the estimate of £5,000 is for Government House, Canberra, in regard to which various proposals designed to provide additional accommodation are under consideration, These proposals, which have not been finally developed or approved, include alterations to the dining room, extra guest bedrooms, alterations and additions to servants’ quarters, new administrative quarters, and a ballroom and reception room. Only a small portion of this work could be carried out from the provision in these Estimates, as the total cost would be approximately £18,500. It is only fair to point out that His Excellency has found that the increased importance of Canberra, and the large additional influx of distinguished visitors who come to this capital city, have taxed to the utmost the accommodation available at Government House. In fact many of those whom His Excellency desires to entertain have not been able to be accommodated at Government House. This expenditure is proposed in order that we may have a residence worthy of the King’s representative in this capital city, and distinguished guests from overseas may be accommodated and entertained by His Excellency in a fitting manner.
– It seems to me that we do not very often have the honour of the presence of Lie Governor-General in Australia.
– His Excellency recently took the usual leave after a long term of service.
– This is the second time since his appointment as Governor-General that Lord Gowrie has been abroad, although he has filled that distinguished office for only a comparatively short time. His salary of approximately £10,000 per annum is paid to him whether he is in England or Australia. It is extraordinary that the Governor-General’s residence, which is so little used, should involve the expenditure of such a large amount of money. I hope at least that the expenditure of the money proposed in these Estimates is an augury that His Excellency will spend more time here in the future than he has in the past.
– I cannot allow Senator Armstrong’s remarks to pass without challenge. His Excellency having served a long term in his high office took advantage of the leave to which he was entitled in order to go abroad. No representative of the King has worked harder in the interests of the Empire than has Lord Gowrie. The suggestion that the GovernorGeneral has not used his residence in Canberra to any great extent is hardly fair. The fact must be remembered that during his absence the residence was used by the Administrator, Lord Huntingfield. ‘ I resent any suggestion that Eis Excellency has not carried out his duties as he should have done.
– I made no such suggestion.
– I feel sure that nobody could raise serious objection to the granting of leave, to His Excellency. He was perfectly entitled to it.
.- I fail to understand why it is necessary to provide an official residence for the Governor-General beyond that at Canberra. If people desire to interview the chief representative of the King in the Commonwealth, there is no reason why they should not come to Canberra to do so. [ have no objection to the provision of additional money for the improvement of the Governor-General’s residence at Canberra, but I do strongly object to the expenditure of any money on ViceRegal residences elsewhere.
– I point out for the benefit of those honorable senators who are unfamiliar with the procedure in this chamber that they have a perfect right to ask any questions relating to items in the schedule, and also to discuss each item if they desire to do so, or move an amendment thereon.
– Is it in order for honorable senators to discuss the purposes for which this money is to be expended?
– The honorable senator may ask for information in regard to any item included in the schedule.
– I should like the Minister to explain what expenditure is proposed in connexion with Admiralty House, Sydney.
– Only a small amount is to be expended on pathways, stormwater drainage, and treatment of the grounds.
– I shall not pursue the matter further, other than to say that the expenditure in connexion with the Governor-General’s establishment has been increased by 100 per cent, since the conclusion of the term of Sir Isaac Isaacs as Governor-General of the Commonwealth.
– The actual expenditure on architectural and engineering services in Commonwealth and other buildings last year was £11,195, and the amount proposed to be expended this year is £10,200, with an estimated further liability of £4,000. On “ fittings and f furniture” the amount expended last year was £4,859, and this year the Government proposes to expend £7,500. Will the Minister explain why the increased expenditure is necessary?
– This item is to cover additions and alterations, including accessory engineering services in the Commonwealth offices in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Canberra, which are occupied by various departments, and services associated with other Commonwealth-owned buildings under the control of the Department of the Interior. The principal items are: - Alterations to Redfern telephone exchange and post office, £218 ; alterations and additions to the Acton offices in Canberra, £209 ; and alterations and additions to the Works Branch in Canberra, £500. Owing to the additional defence work being undertaken, the War Service Homes Branch in Melbourne has had to make way for the increased, activities of the Works branch. Provision has also been made for the erection of a caretaker’s quarters at the Commonwealth offices in Brisbane, and for storm water drainage at Keswick, in South Australia, for which £3,750 is being appropriated. The proposed vote of £7,500 for “ fittings and furniture “ is to cover the supply of fittings and furniture for various branches of the Department of the Interior. The major portion of this vote will be’ required to provide the necessary office furniture for the growing staff of the “Works and Services Branch which at present is directly associated with the execution of a large programme of defence works, in addition to the normal works operations. The meteorological branches are also being expanded to serve civil aviation requirements and additional fittings and furniture will be required by them.
– In view of the reply given by the Minister to my inquiry concerning the Forestry School at Canberra, I should like to know the number of cadets receiving tuition there.
– I cannot state the number of cadets at present at the Forestry School; but I shall supply the the information to the honorable senator when the General Estimates are under consideration.
– I notice that the total appropriation for the Department of the Interior this year is slightly less than the amount expended last year. “Will I be in order, at this juncture, in directing attention to the need for increased expenditure on railway construction?
– That matter might be more appropriately considered under Part III.
.- 1 notice that although £50,000 was expended last year on the Australian “War Memorial at Canberra only £5,000 is to be expended this year. A footnote states that the estimated further liability in this respect is £106,000. Will the Minister state what the actual total cost of the building is likely to be, and why the memorial is allowed to remain in what appears to be an unfinished state?
– The total estimated cost of the “Australian War Memorial is £281,000. The progress of the work has been retarded somewhat, owing to the necessity to prepare working drawings embodying certain alterations and modifications of the original design, including an increase of the height of the Hall of Memory. In August, 1936, Cabinet authorized the completion of the building, involving an additional expenditure of £175,000, and including provision for the facing of the structure with Hawkesbury stone.
– I understand that the item, “Fittings and furniture, £7,500”, is in connexion with the Migration Branch. Will the Minister state why this increased expenditure is necessary?
– Portion of that amount is required to purchase office furniture and fittings for the Migration Branch, Department of the Interior.
.- Will the Minister indicate if the amount of £135,000 for war service homes is to be devoted to the construction of new homes or to the maintenance of the existing homes?
.- Of the amount proposed to be appropriated, £41,000 is for the construction of new homes and £35,400 for loans for the acquisition of existing properties, including the discharge of onerous mortgages. Onerous mortgages are those on which an interest rate of 5 per cent, or over is charged, and if the security is suitable and funds are available, a new mortgage is taken up at a lower rate of interest. We are providing £24,100 for loans to purchasers to connect sewerage and to discharge sewerage costs, and £26,250 for loans to purchasers who wish to provide additional accommodation. A large number of requests received relate to improvements to existing homes. Owing to the better economic conditions, many occupiers of war service homes are anxious to provide additional accommodation, and whenever possible loans are made available for that purpose. It is also desirable that these homes should be kept in good condition, and in some instances paint is supplied to unemployed occupiers so that they may paint and in that way preserve their homes. The amount provided for ordinary repairs and renovations is £2,300.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department op Defence.
Proposed vote, £1,618,768.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence state whether this vote includes any special expenditure for the defence pf the north Queensland coast, parts of which are vulnerable ? We are to;d that the Barrier Beef affords practically all the protection that that State needs, but there are openings in that reef, particularly at Townsville, which the people of Queensland consider should be protected. Has any such provision been made in these Estimates?
.– I move -
That the vote- Division No. 10, £88,502- be reduced by £1.
My object in moving this amendment is to bring before the Government the necessity for developing these defence annexes as additional industrial units of the railway and other engineering establishments controlled by the State governments, and of the arms and munitions establishments controlled by the Commonwealth Government. It is clear that, from now on, there will be an enormous expenditure on defence in this country, and the Opposition believes the cooperation of the Labour party with the Government in the carrying out of these works will be imperative. The average man in the street assumes that the Government will follow the example of other countries, and hand oyer to private firms the manufacture of the necessary arms and munitions, despite the fact that this practice has proved so injurious in the past. The Commonwealth Government has its own munition factories, and all the State governments have huge railway workshops equipped with the very latest engineering appliances that can readily be converted to the manufacture of munitions. It may be claimed that not much evidence has so far been adduced that the Government proposes to let this work to private contractors, but there is some evidence, as I shall show. Up to date, the. following tenders have been let to private firms: -
Shell bodies, high explosive, 18-pounder. - Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Newcastle.
Primers. - Electricity Meter Manufacturing Company Limited, Sydney.
Plugs, fusehold, 2 inches. - Metal Products Proprietary Limited, Brisbane.
Plugs, fusehold, 1-2 inches. - Purvis Glover Engineering Company Limited, Melbourne.
Bombs, aircraft. - Commonwealth Steel Company Limited, Newcastle.
Boxes for 18-pounder shell. - Bolton’s Limited, Perth.
I do not doubt that the Government will do everything possible to prevent the making of unfair profits out of the manufacture of munitions by private firms, but in practice it will be impossible to prevent it. I make that statement as one with some knowledge of accountancy, and as one who has handled some pretty good orders. The contention of the Opposition in this respect is supported by evidence from all over the world. It is supported by Mr. Henry Ford, a man for whom this party holds no brief, but who must bc acknowledged as a master of industry. At one time, he was held up as an ideal employer; now he is recognized as one of the greatest speed-up employers in America. Mr. Ford, speaking in Florida on the 7th March last, said -
The people in general do not want war. but it is forced on them by scheming munition makers, who are looking for enormous profits through the sale of arms. The outlawing of war depends upon the people. In the past they have followed the war makers. If we could get rid of approximately 100 men who were responsible for wars, this world and its people would enjoy peace.
A message from New York, published in the Australian press, states -
During the debate on the Naval Bill in the Senate on Monday, Senator Borah denounced munition makers as “ international criminals, who would sell war implements to kill their own nationals “. He did not believe the manufacturers of munitions could cause war with Japan, but if they should succeed the world would bear witness that American soldiers were shot down with munitions made by the people of their own country. Complete government control of the production of munitions was the only solution of the problem.
The following report appeared in the Western Australian Worker, of the 5th June last: -
Vickers Limited, the armament makers, report a big advance in profits as a result of war preparations by Great Britain and other nations. In 19:32 the net trading profit was £B10,3U2; in 1934 it rose to £970,352; and in 1935 to £1,368,279.
The International Nickel Company, of Canada, which produces one of the most vital war materials, is also doing nicely. Its profits in 1!)32 were only a bit over three million dollars, but they rose to fifteen millions in 1923, to 20 millions in 1934, and to 37 millions in 1935.
That shows what is possible when private individuals enter the armaments race. In a New South Wales journal, published on the 14th July, 1934, the following appeared: -
The profits of the arms companies have risen enormously in the last two years. The increase from 1934 to 1935 was 65.5 per cent. The total production of 30 important iron, steel and ship-building companies busy with armament orders increased by £5,000,000 in two years. And all of this occurred before the announcement of the present £1,500,000,000 programme.
I do not think that any honorable senator will challenge the statement that these profits have been made, or that similar profits will bc made in the future. The Labour party is opposed to that, particularly when there are public utilities such as the State railway workshops which could undertake the work of munition making. The use of the railway workshops for this purpose would go a long way towards securing the support of the trade unions for the principle of industrial co-operation in defence matters. Tho personnel of the unions’ representatives on such a panel is entirely a matter for the industrial movement. We suggest that, had the recent war clouds burst, one of the first actions that would have been taken by this Government would have been to call into conference the railways commissioners, because the railways offer the best means of coping with the transport of troops and materials. Briefly, the main reasons why this Government should call on the railway workshops in the various States to play a part in the building up of Australia’s reserves of defence material and in providing mechanical units are as follows : - To ensure co-operation between the Federal and State governments and provide an incentive and a responsibility for State governments to participate in the defence programme; to obviate, as far as possible, the danger of private enterprise drawing undue profits from the manufacture of defence equipment; to spread the increased employment arising from defence expenditure throughout the Commonwealth; and to reduce costs generally, thus making for more economic provision of defence needs in widely separated areas. The colossal organization represented by the railway workshops in the six States is revealed by the fact that at this time last, year those in New South Wales alone were valued at nearly £5,000,000 and employed just under 10,000 men. The cream of the craft unions of this country are employed in our railway workshops, and their workmanship is of the highest quality. It is not excelled by craftsmen in other industrial undertakings. In this connexion, I refer particularly to the rolling-stock in each State, and of particular interest is the Victorian train - the Spirit of Progress - and the electrical railway system in Sydney. Those are products of Australian workmen employed in railway workshops. The Newport Workshops in Victoria are valued at £1,456,000, and government workshops throughout that State, which are valued at £1,830,000, employed 5,723 men at the 30th June, 1937.- The capital cost of workshops and machinery at Islington, South Australia, at the same date’ was £1,168,000, and the men employed there numbered 1,700. All of these workshops are at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government should it need them for .the manufacture of defence requirements. It seems ridiculous that we should have to rely upon private companies like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for the manufacture of shell cases when such efficient governmental workshops which have proved their ability to manufacture almost any kind of machinery are at our disposal. The decline of railway business during recent years provides another reason why the Commonwealth should utilize these workshops for the manufacture of its defence requirements. I venture to say’ that they could be placed on a defence basis within two or three weeks. Railway workshops and machinery in Tasmania were valued at £314,000 at the 30th June, 1936, whilst the workshops al Midland Junction in Western Australia and Ipswich, Queensland, have operated for many years at a standard equal to that of similar establishments in the other States. “With these facilities at its disposal there is no necessity for this Government to place any of its orders for defence requirements with any private organization. If I were campaigning on this subject I should emphasize the point that private enterprise, which supports this Government, will naturally be given every opportunity to make profits out of war contracts. It would be difficult to refute that argument, but I do not wish to advance it on this occasion. However, I urge this Government to remove that suspicion from the minds of the people.
- (Senator James mclachlan). - The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I cannot, merely in order to secure the adoption of the amendment, offer the cooperation of the trade union movement on any panel that may be created to deal with defence. That is a matter for the trade union movement itself to decide, but honorable senators opposite should support the amendment because its object is to remove from the control of private enterprise all preparations for war. Should the blast of war blow it will be from the ranks of the industrial movement that the most important factor in the defence of this country will bo drawn, namely, our soldiery. The workmen of this country will supply the occupants of the war graves of the future. If it makes money available to private enterprise in order to build these annexes this Government will be guilty of handing over to private enterprise valuable machinery and buildings that will be paid for with the taxpayers’ money. Thereby it will sow the seeds in this country of the most diabolical trade the world has ever known. By such action it will give free rein to the Basil Zaharoffs and others of that type, who have for years played upon the cupidity of the nations and manoeuvred one country against the other in order to create a demand for their instruments of destruction. Several honorable senators opposite have voiced enthusiasm for the ideal of peace. To be con sistent, they at least should support the amendment. If it is necessary for Australia to prepare its defences, and no one will suggest that we should fall down on that joo, we must refuse to have any dealings with private enterprise in our defence expenditure. Governmental institutions exist throughout this country which are capable of manufacturing all the requirements of the army and navy and to those workshops we should confine “munitions activities. As Senator Keane has pointed out, up-to-date engineering plants have been established by the railways department in every State. The railways workshops in New South Wales are among the finest mechanical establishments in the southern hemisphere. The most modern equipment and facilities are also available at Newport, in Victoria, and Midland Junction, in Western Australia. Those are the places to which money should be allocated for defence equipment purposes. Private manufacture of munitions should be shunned.
A peculiar situation exists in respect of a near neighbour of Australia. We are told, on the one hand, that we have near to our shores a potential enemy, and, on the other hand, and at different times, that that nation has no eye on Australia and is not to be regarded as a potential enemy. Which is right and which is wrong? It seems to me that, when it suits some people to create a war scare, we are told that we are in danger of invasion, and then, when the same people are better suited by peaceful propaganda, we are told that the nation which waa allegedly about to gobble us up is the most peace-loving nation under the sun. That shows the extent to which some interests will go in order to seek their own ends. If the Government persists in providing private enterprise with, money with which to enter into the manufacture of armaments, although the. amount may be small to-day, we shall soon find that instead of the Commonwealth’s war machine being in the hands of the Government it will be in the hands of those who are ever willing to make profits out of bloodshed. That sort of thing has besmirched the history of Europe, and we should take care, to see that we keep it out of this young country. During the last war certain Australian products were used against Australian soldiers at Gallipoli anu elsewhere. The armaments which at the moment are ready to be trained by nations of Europe upon each other have been sold by each to the other. Because of the known ramifications of the munitions industry, I hope that my colleague’s motion will have the overwhelming support of honorable senators. Earlier to-day, when I discussed the sale to private enterprise by a previous non-Labour government of important adjuncts to the Australian defence scheme, which had been developed by a Labour government, it wds suggested by honorable senators opposite that the sales were made not for the benefit of private enterprise, but for the benefit of the Government.
– What were those “important adjuncts?”
– The Commonwealth Woollen Mills and the Commonwealth Harness Factory. Honorable senators will show their insincerity if they do not support the amendment. It would not mean, if it were carried, that the Senate was not prepared to expend the money on defence, but it would be an indication to the Government that it-was opposed to private enterprise being placed in a position to create a war hysteria with consequent profit to itself.
– There was no necessity for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Keane) to move this amendment. What Senator Keane said about the profits made by private companies in the United States of America and other countries during the last war has no bearing on the policy of this Government in respect of the manufacture of munitions. What the honorable senator referred to has never occurred and will never occur in this country. When I last spoke on the Defence Estimates I made the Government’s policy perfectly clear. It intends to utilize not only private firms, but also the railway workshops, upon which so much stress has been laid by honorable senators opposite, for the manufacture of munitions and defence equipment. An. annex to the railway workshops in Vic toria is being provided for the manufacture of high explosive shells. It should be borne in mind by Senator Sheehan and other honorable senators opposite that if war occurs - God forbid that it should ! - railway workshops will have to work the round of the clock in building rollingstock and other railway materials, which will be almost as necessary as munitions. In addition, however, the railway authorities in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia are being asked to operate annexes in which defence requirements, such as high explosive shells and tools and gauges, will be manufactured.
The Defence Department has made a complete stocktaking of the facilities available in this country for the manufacture of defence materials. The railway workshops in the various States are actively associated with the Defence Department in this matter. I endorse all that has been said about the efficiency of those workshops. The existing workshops have not available the machinery to manufacture munitions of war, and consequently the Government is arranging, where such are necessary, for annexes in which suitable plant for the purpose will be installed. One of the benefits of this scheme is that on the spot will be trained artisans’ capable of being diverted immediately to the manufacture of munitions in the event of an emergency. Already in New South Wales and Victoria, definite arrangements have been entered into between the Commonwealth and State Governments for carrying out the very work which honorable senators say should be done.
– Similar arrange ments have been made with all sorts of people.
– Negotiations are now proceeding- with authorities in the other States with a view to building up an organization which would be useful in time of need.
Reference has been made to the utilization of private firms for the making of munitions. Honorable senators max recall that the chief cause of the setback* to the allied forces in the early stages of the Great War was the lack of munitions. Although there were arsenals and government shops to produce munitions, it was found that when the country was at war the requirements of shells, guns, and other war equipment required exceeded the output of the government’s establishments. The resources of the whole nation were therefore organized under the direction of Mr. Lloyd George, who afterwards became Prime Minister of Great Britain. “We do not propose to find ourselves in a similar position in the event of war, and consequently arrangements are being made with various firms to undertake the manufacture of munitions at a moment’s notice, if necessary. Wherever there is a suitable workshop containing fitters, turners, boiler makers, etc., the Government is prepared to construct an annex and to install in it machinery of the kind necessary to produce munitions. The Government is looking ahead and preparing for an emergency. I assure honorable senators that there is and will be no profiteering. The only orders that have been issued by the Defence Department have been of an educational character. So far, only about £40,000 has been expended in this way. I repeat what I have said on previous occasions as to the Government’s intention to prevent profiteering. Every honorable senator on this side of the chamber deplores that any person in the community should take advantage of a national necessity to make unfair profits. The Government will not tolerate the making of unreasonable profits out of government contracts for the supply of munitions. Would honorable senators say that such efficient establishments as the Newcastle steel works, Walker’s Limited, of Maryborough, Queensland, or Edward Stevens and Company, of Brisbane, should not be asked to assist in providing munitions” which may be urgently needed by Australian soldiers for the defence of this country? It will be realized that with the amount of money at our disposal it would be impossible to build huge arsenals such as those which exist in other countries. The Government believes that by a co-ordination of effort much can be done in the defence of Australia. There was no necessity for the amendment, for nothing that its mover has predicted is likely to occur while the present Government is in office. All that has been done has been undertaken with the object of utilizing the services of all who can help should the time come when munitions will be required in large quantities. In carrying out its policy, the Government will see that ample safeguards to prevent profiteering are provided.
– Who will own the machinery and plant that it is intended to install and who will own the buildings ?
– In most cases, the buildings will be owned by, or leased to, the Defence Department. They will be annexes, which can be used in time of emergency.
– And they will not be utilized in the meantime?
– Not for the manufacture of any other type of materials, for the simple reason that they will be suitable only for this class of work. They will be utilized for the manufacture of munitions, if required.
– How, then, will the engineers get the training of which the honorable senator spoke?
– By the use of the machines it is intended to install in the annexes.
Relay or Broadcasts from Daventry.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- Can the Postmaster-General state when he proposes to furnish me with a reply to a question I have asked in respect of the relay through the national network in Australia of the broadcast of certain information from Daventry by the British Broadcasting Corporation?
. - in reply - I shall be dealing with that matter, as well as with a number of other matters that were raised during the debate on the Estimates and budget papers, when I make my reply in the course of the next day or so. The honorable senator will then be given a full explanation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
War Service Somes Act - Report of the War Service Homes Commission, together with Statements and Balance-sheet, for the year ended 30th June, 1938.
Science and Industry Endowment Act - Auditor-General’s Reports on the Science and Industry Endowment Fund for the years ending 30th June, 1937, and 30th June, 1938.
Senate adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 October 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1938/19381013_senate_15_157/>.