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Thursday, 24 November 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - I have listened attentively to all that honorable senators have had to say concerning the various items in the Bill. - The suggestions made are worthy of consideration ; but, unfortunately, are not applicable in every instance to this measure, which, I remind honorable senators, is a Works Bill. The suggestion made by Senator Wilson for the appointment of a finance committee to advise the Senate is one for the determination of the Senate itself. If the Senate decides that the appointment of such a committee is desirable, it may be brought into existence by means of a specific motion.

Senator Wilson - Such a. proposition would have little chance of success unless the Government supported it.

Senator RUSSELL - It is a matter for the Senate to decide. If honorable senators' desire information other than is provided, in the usual way by the Minister, they may consult the Minister and approach responsible heads of the various Departments, who, I am sure, will always be willing to supply whatever information is available. In the meantime I can only promise - and in this matter I feel sure I speak for my colleagues in the Cabinet - that I shall be glad to supply the fullest information at my disposal at any time.

Senator Wilson - But is it not the correct procedure to get information through the Minister, and not go to the Departments ?

Senator RUSSELL - The Minister does not know all the details of administration. His function is to deal with principles, not details, and the matters mentioned by ' Senator Wilson concern administration chiefly. In regard to Senator Wilson's references to Cockatoo Island, I may say that we have succeeded in reducing the overhead costs by £84,000 per annum, and the Dockyard is now working satisfactorily. The Government are powerless to do anything in the matter of tile forty-four- hours per week rule. Like other people in the Commonwealth, we are expected to obey the law. As Ministers, we must administer the law as we find it.

Senator Wilson - But when it is shown conclusively that you cannot economically carry on, what are you going to do?

Senator RUSSELL - The honorable senator's remarks apply to more than onehalf of our industries in Australia. Nearly all of them are under the fortyfour hours' rule now.

Senator Wilson - Very few.

Senator RUSSELL - That is riot so. Judge Beeby extended the rule to no fewer than forty-one industries in one day.

Senator Wilson - But the New South Wales Government have no right to legislate to control Federal activities.

Senator RUSSELL - I can only repeat that one-half of the skilled trades in Australia are working not more than forty-four hours per week ; and we would not be permitted by this Parliament to defy the industrial laws of a State. Our authority in the industrial arena is limited under the Constitution. We may not interfere in an industrial dispute unless it extends beyond the boundaries of a State.

Senator Wilson - But you have power to close down an industry that does not pay.

Senator RUSSELL - If we did that, we should have to close down about ninetenths" of our activities.

I turn now to Senator Newland's remarks concerning the Northern Territory. Honorable senators will notice the proposed expenditure of £22,500 on water boring. I agree that it is useless to spend money in small sums on developmental works in the Territory. If a man is not in a position to stand an expenditure of about £2,000 in well sinking, he has not much prospect of success in the Northern Territory.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He would also have to spend £4,000 or £5,000 in stocking up his run.

Senator RUSSELL - It is. not a,t all likely- that individual settlement will be successful in the Northern Territory for a long time to come. Development at this stage can best be secured by companies with a sound financial backing. The successful occupation of that great area must be by a process of evolution in production.

The House of Representatives gave a direction for the reduction of expenditure on defence, but the Government were not prepared to specify any particular item in respect of which reductions should be made I hope, therefore, that the Senate will not attempt to do so. This might result in a dislocation of some of the DeCpartments. The Defence Estimates include an item of £250,000 for machinery, &c, for the Small Arms Ammunition Factory. Of that sum, £60,000 has been spent on machinery, and the balance will be for labour. There is a rumour abroad that the Government have decided to close down the Factory, but I believe that will be the last thing to be done, because, as I have stated, the balance of the proposed expenditure will be on labour. In the Navy there is to be a reduction of £80,000. Who is competent in this Senate - I, for one; am not - to say what clauses shall be struck out of the Air Service Bill?

Some people advocate encouraging civil aviation, and using the civil machines for war purposes when necessary. Aeroplanes are developing in two directions. The machine necessary for war is a fasttravelling, racing type; the civilian machine is heavier, with smoke-rooms, and sometimes bedrooms. "We can do without civil aviation; but it may be absolutely essential to develop military aviation. The relative importance of the two should be determined by experts. It is better that the adjustment should be made by men who understand what they are doing than that the Senateshould make a hurried detailed decision which might be regretted to-morrow. All Ministers are co-operating to eliminate waste, and I feel sure that their action will be appreciated by Parliament.We cannot be judged in advance; but I think that at the end of the financial year Parliament will say to the Government, " Well done, thou good, and faithful servant! "

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee:

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clauses 2 and 3 postponed.


The Parliament, £1,986;and Department of the Treasury, £2,405, agreed to.

Home- and Territories Department.

Proposed vote, £42,432.

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