Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 13 October 1911

Senator McCOLL (Victoria) .- I join with other speakers - and they do not all belong to this side of the Chamber - in objecting to the late introduction of this Bill. I can remember that at one time this was an opportunity for the Government of the day to declare their policy to a. considerable extent, and for a searching examination of the public finances. But the introduction of a. Supply Bill seems to be regarded as a mere matter of form. We are expected to rush this Bill through practically under duress, because, if it goes over to-night, the public servants will have to wait for their money. It is not a fair way of treating the Senate. It is little wonder that we hear, all round, talk about the decadence of the Senate. Not only are we criticised in leading articles in the press, but our fellow members go about the country saying that the Senate is a useless encumbrance on the body politic, and ought. to be swept away. All these things tend to lower the Senate in public estimation. Unless honorable senators are prepared to stand up for the right of the Senate, to have the public business done in a legitimate manner, to see that revenue and expenditure are properly criticised, it will simply sink lower and lower in public opinion. I do not propose to occupy very much time to-day. I do not often trouble the Senate with a speech, but there are a few matters to which I wish to call attention. I join with Senator Millen in protesting %'ery strongly against the manner in which the competitive designs for the Federal Capital are likely to be treated. I feel that the Commonwealth is in a somewhat disadvantageous position with a man like Mr. O'Malley at the head of the Home Affairs Department, and having full control of this matter. I hope that the Cabinet will take it into their own hands and see that a Board is appointed which will be competent to examine the designs and report on them, and will not leave the Minister of Home Affairs to be the final arbiter. It will be nothing short of a calamity, 1 think, if, as is threatened, the leading architects, builders, and engineers of the United States of America, Great Britain, and Australia, are shut out of this competition. Ours is the latest capital to be built, and so we ought to employ for this purpose the best skill and talent that we can secure. The Minister of Home Affairs professes to know everything, and talks of the great work which he has done.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And so he has.

Senator McCOLL - The earliest reference I find in Who's Who to the man who manages the Home Affairs Department is to his arrival in this country. If he had carried out stupendous works, as he claims to have done, and was such a great man in the country from which he came, surely there would be some reference in the book to his career in that country.

Senator Needham - Is there any reference in Who's Who to the work of any other men whose 'names are mentioned therein ?

Senator McCOLL - Yes.

Senator Needham - Who are they?

Senator McCOLL - In many cases the honorable senator will find such references.

Senator Needham - By men who wrote their own biographies. It shows how modest Mr. O'Malley is.

Senator McCOLL - I had hoped that on this measure we would have had a definite statement made in regard to the Government's policy on immigration. During the recess I travelled 300 miles about the north of Victoria, and since then I have been over New South Wales for a few hundred miles, and everywhere the cry is for more workers. We cannot get our lands cultivated and dairies carried on because of the scarcity of labour. There has lately been published a report by Mr. A. B. Piddington in which he, after having gone carefully into the matter, without political or trade bias, recommends that there should be imported 3,247 workers, namely, 1,722 men for the Sydney metropolitan area ; 205 men for the country ; 416 men for the Government Dock; 255 men for railway construction and maintenance; and 550 female workers. His recommendation does not include any rural workers, that is, men who are required to develop the country, te work our farms and dairies, in order that we may have that measure of production of which the country is capable. I admit that previous Governments have not faced this question as they should have done, but I hope that the present Government will take it in hand. I am not satisfied with the way in which the question has been treated. In my opinion the exhibition of the beautiful picture, a copy of which is exhibited in the Queen's Hall, will not attract one person to the Commonwealth. If we had representations of farm life and products it might have some effect, but certainly that picture will not. If we want people to come here we shall have to pursue the same policy as Canada and the United States of America.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The trouble is to get ships to bring persons out.

Senator McCOLL - You will alway.s get ships if you have the freight.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - If we have a drought for a few years where will they be?

Senator McCOLL - I notice that there is a large increase in the expenditure on the Post and Telegraph Department. Acr cording to a statement which has been laid before the other House, the increase since the 1st January, 1910, has' been £79,700, distributed in the following manner : - Telegraph messengers, ,£18,000; telephonists*.- £18.000; letter-carriers, £13.000; mail drivers, £600 ; assistants and postal servants, £17,000; linemen, £6,500; mechanics,. £6,000 ; and monitors, £600 The ultimate increased cost for these classes of officers will amount to £107,000. I do not intend to raise any objection*. I have no doubt that all the increments were deserved and that we are doing, perhaps, tardy justice to a number ot valuable public servants. But I do object to the fact that the increases are confined to persons employed in the towns - that is in places where a number are bound together, who have a certain amount of political influence - while nothing is done for poorly-paid persons anywhere else. A little while ago I raised the question of the mail services. I do not intend to raise it again to-day, but I wish to refer to the case of the receiving officers. They are not mentioned* in the Postal Guide, and, therefore, I do not know the number. There must be some hundreds who are taking mails on two, or three, or four, or five, or six days a week. The highest rate paid is £8 a year, and the lowest is £1. That is simply a scandal. If it is desired to do justice to those who are in the centres of population, I ask the Government to lay before the Postmaster-General the condition of the people in the country, and pay them something better than the mere pittance which they now get. I think that for being always in attendance for mails, the least allowance which the Department should pay is £5 a year, and I commend that suggestion to the Government. Had the Minister of Defence been here this afternoon, I should have asked for some information regarding the retirement of certain officers a few months ago. As the matter was put to me - and I may mention that it was not put to me by any one who has been retired, as I have not spoken to any of them - it seems to me that a very great hardship has been inflicted on a number of men who have rendered splendid service - one man had left the country for Africa, and done magnificent work there - by retiring them several years before their time. To some of them pecuniarily it did not matter, because they had means, but to others the retirement came like a thunderclap. They had made no provision; they thought that they had five or six years' salary to look forward to. It was most unjust to come down on them without warning and dragoon them out of the service.

Senator McGregor - Tell us the names of some who had five or six years of salary to look forward to.

Senator McCOLL - Some men were retired at 56 and 57 years of age, who had expected to be retained until over 60.

Senator McGregor - I do not know them.

Senator McCOLL - I can deal with the point on another occasion. I am bringing the matter forward to-day in order that we may have justice done. I am told that some of these men did not receive the courtesy of an official notice that they were to be dispensed with. Whether that is so or not I am not prepared to say. I join with Senator Gardiner in taking exception to the number of items marked "Contingencies." Under zoo items in the schedule between 90 and 100 are marked " Contingencies." If the accountant, to a company were to prepare a statement for its shareholders in which nearly half the amount involved was put down as "Contingencies," it would be returned at once with a request that the details be supplied. In the future we should be supplied with the fullest details. I think, too, that the points which have been raised by Senator St. Ledger ought to receive the serious attention of the Government. That honorable senator devotes a great deal of time to the preparation of information for the Senate, and his remarks concerning the note issue are worthy of the closest scrutiny.

Suggest corrections