Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 21 August 1912


Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - I have had no opportunity to inquire as fully into these proposals as would justify me in debating them at any length. Still, I should like to say a word or two on some of the matters contained in the Bill, and on one or two subjects which have been raised in connexion with them. Senator McColl has stated that the debate has ranged largely on the questions of day labour versus contract labour, and preference to unionists. I am not going to dogmatize on day labour, but I should like to point out that the cases referred to by Senator Fraser, where a contractor takes/a job and sublets to others, are . not so common as is the practice of carrying out works by day labour, even where they are let on contract. Those who criticise that principle seem to quite ignore the fact that, as a general rule, works - whether they be public or private works - are carried out on the .day-labour principle, even though they be let by contracts 10 some person. The contractor in every case finds ways and means of securing good work, as a general rule, from the day labourers employed by him. He has to get a profit out of the work, and make his contract a paying speculation. It is quite clear that a contractor cannot, any more than a Minister, exercise a personal supervision over the details of a big work. He has to depend on his subordinates, down to the gangers who supervise individual workmen. If this can be done by a contractor undertaking a big contract, the same thing can be done by a Government. Instead, therefore, of there being any wide difference involved, it is merely a question of supervision, and the methods adopted for carrying out works effectively. A private contractor makes a big profit out of the work of the men engaged by him, and these works can be carried out as effectively, if not more effectively, and certainly more economically, by a Government, if proper means are adopted for carrying them out.


Senator Sayers - Are there any estimates of cost in connexion with works carried out by the Government?


Senator RAE - No Government ever undertakes a public work unless some estimates of the cost have been prepared by the Department concerned.


Senator Sayers - Surely Parliament should be told what those estimates are.


Senator RAE - I am not to be drawn into side issues. I wish to say a word or two on the question of preference to unionists. I have been pleased to hear suggestions from honorable senators opposite which are very good in their way. I recognise that no one party can monopolize all the wisdom in the State. I recog nise also that under the system of party government, a political party may overlook or deride even good suggestions from their political opponents, but I have never been very much in favour of party government as we have it now. I regard it as a survival of barbarism. However, I am satisfied that there is a very deep gulf between honorable senators on this side and honorable senators opposite on the question of preference to unionists. I certainly hope there is. On that question we are at hopeless variance. There are such fundamental differences between us, that I not only think they can never be bridged, but I hope they never may be.


Senator St Ledger - Does the honorable senator believe in absolute or qualified preference.


Senator RAE - I shall express what I mean in absolute and unqualified language if the honorable senator will not interrupt me. Senator McColl raised the matter of a certain unionist being refused employment.

SenatorMcColl. - I did not raise it. It was raised by an honorable senator upon the other side of the Chamber.


Senator RAE - When the honorable senator stated that Senator Needham desired to make an outcry against him, I think he misunderstood the position. Senator Needham read a letter, not for the purpose of condemning the iniquity of this private employer, but for the purpose of pointing out that, where preference is not granted to unionists, preference will inevitably be granted to non-unionists.


Senator Vardon - That does not follow.


Senator RAE - I say that it does. Where unionists and non-unionists are to be found working together in any establishment, I say either that the former are of a milkandwatery character, or the latter are merely waiting to be converted. Where an active and militant unionism exists - as it does in every State of the Commonwealth - there is always a section of the employers who desire to break it down, and they will attempt to gain their object by granting preference to non-unionists. The only way in which that movement can be counteracted is by extending a preference to unionists.


Senator Chataway - There is a section of unionists who desire to break down the power of the employers. >


Senator RAE - Undoubtedly. The present system under which we' live needs to be radically altered, and preference to unionists only marks a step in that direction. Honorable senators opposite confess the failure of their own system when they affirm that, if we grant preference to unionists, other men will be starved. That is an admission that there is not sufficient work for all, and that, as a result, somebody must starve. As we will not allow unionists to starve, they raise the dismal wail that their own system always leads to somebody being unemployed, and, consequently, they desire non-unionists to get the first "cut."


The PRESIDENT - I hope that the honorable senator will not continue that line of argument.


Senator RAE - I was not aware that T was out of order. I wish now to say a few words on one or two items of the Bill, and particularly upon the question of the Federal Capital. When the Government recently decided to erect woollen mills at Geelong, I raised no objection to their action. I have no complaint to make of the distribution of expenditure amongst the various States. I think that New South Wales possesses sufficient natural resources and manifest advantages to enable her to continue to be the leading State of the Commonwealth for many years, if not for cenruries. Therefore, the expenditure of a few thousand pounds, either here or there, will not materially affect her position. Nevertheless, 1 do not think that the question of the Federal Capital has been dealt with in altogether the best way. Last year the Senate by resolution affirmed that all Commonwealth factories should be erected in Federal Territory. I do not think the report which has been submitted in favour of establishing woollen mills at Geelong has justified any departure from the terms of that resolution. The report states that it would not be advisable to establish woollen mills at the Federal Capital, because sufficient population would not be available there. That reasoning seems to me to be utterly farcical. If we had various factories established in the Capital, the families who would accompany the employes of those factories would rapidly build up a population which would provide a sufficiency of all classesof labour to cope with Federal requirements.


Senator Millen - The Government might have condemned the establishment of the Military College in the Federal Territory, on the same ground.


Senator RAE - It is most illogical to argue that labour would not be available. The report states that probably a large amount of female labour will be employed in the factory, and as it was manifestly undesirable to draw that labour from distant centres it could not be found on the spot.


Senator Keating - Was not something said about the lack of water?


Senator RAE - That was not considered a leading disadvantage. It was incidentally referred to as offering some sort of excuse regarding the lack of labour.


Senator Pearce - It was not the supply of water which was questioned, but the quality of it.


Senator RAE - The quality of the water was said to be inferior to that of Geelong, but it was not alleged that it is unsuitable for the purpose. The site of the Federal Capital having been determined there should be no delay in proceeding with the work of erecting the city. Some months have elapsed since the designs for it were accepted, and yet they are still being hawked round the country in the most leisurely way merely for the purpose of exhibiting them to sight-seers who are not competent to judge of their merits. Nothing like business aptitude has been displayed in determining which design will be given effect to. My own opinion is that we. shall never get satisfaction until this Parliament insists upon a temporary Parliament House being erected at the Federal Capital so that we may go there and practically exercise a general supervision over the various works in progress there.


Senator O'Keefe - There will be a lot of men on the job then. .


Senator RAE - I expect to hear honorable senators denounce my suggestion as one which is impracticable on the ground that too many cooks would probably spoil the broth. There has not been that consideration given to this question which its importance undoubtedly merits. A Federal Capital is not likely to be erected within a measurable distance of time in any other country in the world. Therefore, this work" should be regarded as worthy of the best efforts of the members of all parties in politics. 1 am surprised to observe the very narrow attitude which has been adopted by many Victorian representatives upon this matter. Members of shire councils, and other exalted persons who have condemned expenditure upon what they are pleased to describe as a " bush capital," are entirely at sea in regard to their socalled facts, whilst their arguments are scarcely worthy ot the name. Still, a little more business method should be exhibited in getting on with the work. In order to fulfil our constitutional obligation in the spirit in which it was entered upon, the work of erecting the Capital should be proceeded with promptly. There is nothingto prevent waterworks, and all other necessary undertakings, being put in hand tomorrow. The estimated population will require the same quantity of water, irrespective of whether it be a German, Swiss, or any other design that is adopted for the Capital. In the same way there will be much territory outside of the actual Capital area which may be availed of for afforestation, and other purposes, and' these works might be proceeded with, without delay. Similarly, a temporaryParliament House, and official residences, should at once be erected. Anybody who views this question impartiallymust admit that the Capital may easily bemade self-supporting in time. The fact that the values of land in all our Statecapitals have enormously exceeded anything; that man dreamed of when those citieswere founded is sufficient evidence that, with the certainty of a considerable population being centred in the Federal Capital,, the values of land there will eventually- more than compensate us for our expenditure.


The PRESIDENT - I hope that the honorable senator will not continue that line of argument.


Senator RAE - I think I shall be very unjustly treated if I am not permitted to condemn the smallness of the amount provided in this connexion upon these Esti- m ci tes


The PRESIDENT - I do not wish to prevent the honorable senator from taking exception to the smallness of the proposed vote. But he was discussing the influence which land values would exert on the expenditure of public money at the Federal Capital.


Senator RAE - Just so. My contention is that if we are to justify the expenditure which has already been incurred we shall require to spend more money so as to impart a value to that land. One can easily understand that to spend a little money upon any particular work may be to waste it, whereas to spend ten times as much may be a wise and profitable procedure. Whilst we are spending these small amounts upon the Federal Capital we are merely frittering away money, whereas by expending more we should attract a big population there-


Senator Vardon - Does the honorable senator expect to make the Federal Capital a big commercial centre?


Senator RAE - I do not expect to make it a centre to be compared with London or New York, but if the honorable senator means a centre to be compared with Ade- laide, I should say yes. There is nothing Senator Vardon to get away from-


Senator Vardon - There was nothing parochial in what I said.


Senator RAE - We should do what we can to concentrate the national expenditure at the national Capital, so that whatever advantages may accrue from it will accrue to the nation as a whole, and not to any particular State. My contention is that we :are, to some extent, frittering away money little by little, year by year, in so far as New South Wales is concerned in keeping the word of promise to the ear and breaking it to the heart, and that we are not doing it in such a way as to command public confidence in the integrity of our intentions in regard to the establishment of the Federal Capital. If the work is going to be done in the dim and distant future ; if it is to be put off indefinitely in order to appease the provincial feelings of representatives from other States, that is not a policy which I would expect from this Government, nor is it one which I would indorse from any Government. I think, therefore, that we should insist upon having a very much larger expenditure on the Federal Capital, and, for that matter, a definite time fixed - with a reasonable margin, of course - as to when the Parliament and the public Departments shall be housed there. Under the control of the Treasury Department I find an item of .£2,000 for machinery and plant for Government Printing Office and works in connexion therewith, and an item of £2,400 for machinery and plant for stamp printing and works in connexion therewith. The total of £4,400 is not much, but it is required for the establishment of works which should be of a permanent character, and housed in the permanent home of the Federation. For printing the stamps for the whole of the ' Commonwealth we require only one Federal Printing Office. Of course, there may be detail work which, at times, can be done better at the State Printing Offices. We should allow the matters which have been conducted through those offices to go on until such time as we can have a Federal Printing Office established at the Capital. I certainly think that we could very well allow the stamps to be printed wherever it is most suitable to print them until such time as we can establish a printing office.


Senator McGregor - But we can shift the machinery.


Senator RAE - I know that we can, but the honorable senator must admit that the breaking up of a home, and shifting to another place, costs money. There is always a lot of plant which it is found better to scrap than to shift 500 miles.


Senator McGregor - So does getting things done here and there cost money.


Senator RAE - I want things to be done in the future home of the Federal Government as a guarantee of good faith, at any rate, and not to carry out what may be termed permanent works, some here and some in another State, with the idea of appeasing the parochial spirit of certain people, and putting off the evil day, as it may appear to . them, when we, as a Parliament, shall have to make up our minds definitely to live in one place. I want to see this shilly-shallying business put an end to, and a more generous spirit shown by much larger items being provided in the future than are provided in these Estimates. I do not intend to detain the Senate with any prolonged discussion of the Bill ; but I should like, to refer to an item of expenditure in connexion with the Victoria Barracks at Paddington, Sydney. I wish to know whether there is any intention of going on with the negotiations which are said to have taken place between the State Government and the Defence Department with regard to the rumoured removal of the Victoria Barracks to a site outside the city boundary, because, if so, it would seem most unwise to erect further buildings on the present site.


Senator Pearce - We are taking no action. We do not want to move, and we have told the State Government that if they like to take action they can.


Senator RAE - I do not think that that is unsatisfactory. If the Defence Department here is satisfied with the Military Barracks being in their present position, it is the place of the State to make a request and open up negotiations if they desire the barracks to be removed. But I thought that there was a mutual desire to adopt another site, and, therefore, I suggested that if there were unfinished negotiations, it would be unwise to spend more money in building on the present site. I trust that honorable senators opposite, so long as they are in Opposition, which I hope will be a very long while, will not waste the time of the Senate and the country by discussing the question of preference to -unionists, because they are so hopelessly at variance with us on the matter that they can never expect to change our opinions.


Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - Is there no chance of a coalition ?


Senator RAE - Not on that particular point. I feel sure that if they had only had a little experience of the manual side of labour in their youth, many of them would be stronger sympathizers with unionism than they are; and I am inclined to give, not only the credit, but a little of the profit, to those who have borne the heat and burden of the day in winning for all sections, when they can get employment, whether unionists or non-unionists, a rate of wages which they would never be able to look for but for the efforts of organized unionists.







Suggest corrections