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Wednesday, 21 August 1912


Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) . - The main feature which occurs to me in connexion with this Bill is the fact that we are called upon to pass an enormous number of re- votes, and to vote considerable amounts for new services. . In the case of the Home Affairs Department, the re- votes amount to about £280,000. There do not seem to be any re-votes for the other Departments, but that may be explained by the fact that they have passed to Trust Account money which is lying practically idle, but ' available. Here are some extraordinary figures, which I have taken out, showing the manner in which the moneys have gradually been put away to Trust Account, and Parliament has lost the control of them. I will take the receipts and the expenditure for the last four years. In 1908-9, the expenditure from the Trust Fund was £1,205,001 7s. 11d. ; the receipts were £1,608,030 19s. 11d. ; and the balance carried over was £1,072,289 17s.11d. In 1909-10, the expenditure from the Trust Fund was £3,366,907 19s. 6d. ; the receipts were £3,205,836 15s. 9d. ; and the balance carried over was £911,582 13s. 2d. It will be remembered that the present Government came into power about three or four months before the 30th June, 1910,the figures for which I have just quoted. In 1910- 11, the expenditure from the Trust Fund was £4,921,798 15s.11d. ; the receipts were £15, 544.23315s. 7d-; and the balance carried beyond the control of Parliament was £11,526,339 2s. 8d. - that is, £1.0,500,000 more than the amount which remained to the credit of the Trust Fund at the end of the previous year. In 1911- 12, the expenditure from the Trust Fund was £10,190,997 ns. 4d. ; the receipts were £14,103,260 is. 8d. ; and the balance carried forward into the present financial year was no less than £15,442,568 13s. 5d.


Senator McGregor - I suppose that you cannot trust them with it.


Senator CHATAWAY - The Trust Fund under the control of the Government can be dealt with pretty well as they like, judging from what happened in 1910,- when they- took money out of the Trust Fund, and passed an indemnifying Bill immediately afterwards. Roughly speaking. they have £15,500,000 to the credit of the Trust Funds.


Senator Gardiner - What has that to do with the items in this Bill?


Senator CHATAWAY - Surely my honorable friend knows perfectly well that the Bill contains various items, less so much out of the Trust Fund. I am not to be "gagged" by the honorable senator or anybody else when I am dealing with such items.


Senator Gardiner - I do not desire to " gag " the honorable senator, sir, but I should like to know whether he is in order in this line of discussion which he has followed since he began his address.


The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator is speaking on the general aspect of the financial question, and 1 understand that he is entering a protest against the method in which these Estimates have been framed - that is, the commitments of the Government.


Senator Gardiner - I could not connect them with the Bill.


Senator CHATAWAY - The Bill covers a number of re-votes, and also a certain amount of new expenditure. In some Departments no re-votes are shown. That is so in the case of the Post and Telegraph, Defence, Treasury, and External Affairs Departments ; but in the case of the Home Affairs Department there are re-votes to the amount of .£280,000. If we take the documents that have been handed to us, we can discover that during the last two years the Government have been accumulating money in the Trust Fund which is far in excess of the amount standing to the credit of the Trust Fund in previous years, and is far too large a sum to allow any Government to hold in its hand and be able to " monkey with " at pleasure.


Senator Lynch - Does not Parliament direct what the Government shall do with the Trust Funds?


Senator CHATAWAY - No, and that is the whole trouble. It is quite possible for a Government to misapply a certain amount of the Trust Fund, and then, if it has the necessary majority in .Parliament, come down with an indemnifying Bill next session.


Senator Gardiner - If a Government spent money illegally we should not indemnify them.


Senator CHATAWAY - Did not the present Prime Minister take money out of the Trust Fund at the latter end of the year 1910, and bring down an indemnifying Bill in the next session?


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Why?


Senator CHATAWAY - Because he used the money illegally. I believe in the principle that the financial transactions of the year should end with the close of the financial year, and that any balance to credit should go to wipe off public debt. That is the system that has praviled in Queensland. If there is a deficit, the Government can float Treasury Bills. But we ought not to permit this system. of building up enormous Trust Fund balances which amount at the present time to the sum of ,£15,000,000. It is a very bad system, and the sooner we abolish it the better. We should not tax the people more than is necessary to carry on the business of the year ; and if there is a slight balance at the end of the financial year it should be applied to the reduction of debt, either State or Commonwealth.


Senator Lynch - The Commonwealth has no debt.


Senator CHATAWAY - The Commonwealth owes two- thirds of the amount of gold deposited against Treasury notes, and that was taken out of the Treasury. When an honorable senator says that the Commonwealth has no debt, I can only say that he is not speaking absolutely in accordance with facts. I call attention to one or two items in these Estimates. Under Defence, we have a sum of £200,000 for naval works. So far, we have had no explanation of what " naval works " means. It is a beautifully vague expression. It may mean anything. Then we have the item of ,£110,000 for the Fleet Unit, to be paid into the Trust Fund. Going further, we find under the heading of External Affairs a sum of £1,650 for a hospital at Darwin.


Senator Blakey - Does the honorable senator object to that?


Senator CHATAWAY - I do not Know whether the Darwin Hospital wants the money or not. I should like to have some information on the subject.


Senator Blakey - If the honorable senator had been there, he would have known.


Senator CHATAWAY - I have been there within the last four or five years. My honorable friend got bushed up there, and probably wants the money to be spent in erecting finger-posts. Then there is an item of £21,000 for the erection of houses for Government employes. We want to know who these employés are.


Senator Findley - The men on the job.


Senator CHATAWAY - Possibly they include the Administrator, who was appointed because he is a good man for catching ticks; and Professor Somebody, who was appointed because he is a good man for destroying mosquitoes.


Senator Pearce - That is a useful thing to do in a tropical country.


Senator CHATAWAY - Quite so; but it appears that we are to have a number of officers suppressing ticks, destroying mosquitoes, and making the Territory habitable for the hardy pioneer. Mr. Thomas tells us that he is going to appoint an extra doctor and two hospital nurses. Apparently the hardy pioneer is to go forward with one professor ahead of him exterminating the ticks, another professor by his side killing the mosquitoes, a doctor on one arm and a hospital nurse on the other. Is that a reasonable way to settle the country ? Was Australia settled in that way?


Senator Blakey - An additional doctor is certainly wanted to prevent the introduction of contagious diseases.


Senator CHATAWAY - Really, < the honorable senator ought to grow up I Mr. Thomas tells us that this doctor is to be stationed at Pine Creek, which is 145 miles from Palmerston. How can stationing a doctor at Pine Creek prevent the introduction of small-pox at Port Darwin?


Senator Blakey - There was a recent case at Port Darwin, and. the medical officer there is too overworked to deal with every case.


Senator CHATAWAY - But why aptpoint a doctor at Pine Creek to look after the prevention of small-pox at Port Darwin? Then we have items 20, 21, and 22 - one for building a station at Alligator Creek, £750; the next for building a station at the Daly River, £750; and the third for a station for half-castes, £750. What stations are these? They cannot be railway stations, because there are no railways near Alligator Creek and the Daly.


Senator Long - The honorable senator does not pay attention to the monthly reports from the Territory, or he would know the necessity for these buildings.


Senator CHATAWAY - The Government do not furnish monthly reports to us.


Senator Needham - They are supplied to every member of Parliament, but evidently the honorable senator does not read them.


Senator CHATAWAY - It is the duty of the Government to explain these items to the Senate. 1 turn now to item 24, where I find a sum of £2,500 for Government steamers. A statement which has appeared in the press, and has not been denied, is that the Government have bought, for something like £1,000, a steamer called the 1 mo gene. She is to be sent to the Northern Territory, but apparently the Government did not care to risk the lives of the crew by sending them up in the vessel under her own steam. The I mo gene is a 50-ton boat. A man is being paid £300 odd for taking her up to the Territory. She is making her way there now.


Senator Millen - Is that being done under the contract system, or by day labour?


Senator CHATAWAY - It is a contract, I suppose. The steamer carries 5 tons of coal in her bunkers, and has a ton of coal in the saloon. She consumes, roughlyspeaking, a ton of coal per day, travelling about 12 knots. She is supposed to be at the disposal of the Administrator, and is to go round to the Adelaide and Alligator Rivers, and along the coast even to the McArthur and the Roper. I admit that she is a yacht, and probably will use her sails to a certain extent; but, even so, she can only go from Port Darwin to the Roper or the McArthur in about six days. The distance is about 900 miles, and the vessel would not be able to get back to Port Darwin unless a coal depot were established at the McArthur and the Roper rivers. Such' a vessel would be practically useless for Customs purposes. I understand that the Government did not care to risk the lives of the permanent crew on her, and have, therefore, let a contract to take her up to Port Darwin. They apparently do not object to risk the lives of the crew the contractor must employ.


Senator Blakey - Because the Shipping Ring would not take her up.


Senator CHATAWAY - How can any one suppose that one of the shipping companies would take a vessel out of her ordinary running to tow this boat of 50 tons all the way up the coast to Port. Darwin?


Senator Millen - Why should she not be taken up by her own crew ?


Senator CHATAWAY - Because the Government did not think that safe. They have gone in for the contract system, and I understand have contracted with a man to take her up there for £312.


Senator Millen - Do the Government intend to pay passages for the crew who are to work the vessel when she gets to Port Darwin?


Senator CHATAWAY - That is another point to which I intend to refer. If the Government must get this little tiddliwinking steamer up to Port Darwin, it would have been better for them to hire a decent Queensland bullock waggon and team of bullocks, and take her overland. I suppose that when she gets to Brisbane she will be reloaded with coal, and will then go on to Goode Island and load with coal again there. It has been arranged that a pearling lugger is to meet her half-way between Thursday Island and Port Darwin with sufficient coal to carry her on to that port. If the facts are as I have stated them, and I have every reason to believe that they are, of what use will this vessel be in the Northern Territory? She may go from Point Charles to Port Darwin, and might get round to the Daly river or the Alligator river, but for Customs purposes she will be absolutely useless, as it would be impossible to take her down into the Gulf of Carpentaria.


Senator Blakey - Is the honorable senator opposed to having any additional steamer for the Northern Territory?


Senator CHATAWAY - I am not in the position of the doctor called in to prescribe, and when I am, it will be time enough to give my prescription


Senator Millen - I want to know why the vessel should not be taken up by her own crew.


Senator CHATAWAY - If she can be taken up to Port Darwin by a private person, under contract, why should she not be taken up by her own crew? I should like to know if the crew are being carried on the vessel as passengers, and, if so, what passage rates are being paid for them to the contractor ?


Senator Needham - Does the honorable senator think the Federal is a suitable boat for the Northern Territory? He was on her himself going to the Arthur river.


Senator CHATAWAY - I was never on the Federal, and I have never heard of a river called the Arthur river. I asked a question concerning this steamer earlier in the afternoon, and, perhaps, when we get into Committee, the Government will be able to give the information which they were not prepared to give in answer to my question. The main point I wish to make is that it is entirely undesirable for any Government to have .£11,500,000, as we had last year, and £15,250,000 as we have this year, lying idle in the Trust Fund. The money should be spent on the public works of the country, thus giving employment to the people, and, if it is unnecessary to spend it in this way, it should not be collected, and the taxation of the people would be reduced by an equivalent amount.


Senator Givens - The moneys in the Trust Fund are required for specific purposes.


Senator CHATAWAY - Senator Givenswas not present when I previously referred to this matter. I pointed out that when there is money in the Trust Fund the Government may be tempted to plunge its hands into it for certain expenditure as the present Government did when, towards the close of June, 1910, they took money from the Trust Fund, relying upon Parliament to subsequently pass an Act to indemnify them and make their action legal.







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