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Friday, 28 May 1915

Mr FINLAYSON (Brisbane) . - I do not intend to speak long. I am very strongly tempted to follow the lines just adopted by the Leader of the Opposition, and make a few remarks in regard to his statement about class feeling and racial feeling, but the time is short. My purpose in rising is to get some information about the Estimates and the lighthouses. I am very sorry indeed that there has been so much delay on the part of the Commonwealth Government in taking over the charge of the lighthouses. A start was made, and now I understand action is postponed until the 1st July of this year.

Mr Tudor - We hope to take them over then.

Mr FINLAYSON - Here is the position which appeals to me. The total expenditure provided on the Estimates for the current financial year is £61,999. That covers the salaries of 293 or 294 employees. If the Commonwealth has not taken over this service-

Mr Tudor - We have not paid the money.

Mr FINLAYSON - Then the expenditure will not be as it appears on these Estimates ?

Mr Tudor - Oh, no.

Mr McWILLIAMS (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) - You cannot put up new lighthouses without providing for their maintenance.

Mr FINLAYSON - The erection of new lighthouses is a different matter. I regret very much that it is not proceeding more rapidly than it is. The coasts of Australia are exceedingly dangerous, and with the growing size of steamers they are becoming increasingly dangerous. The northern coasts of Queensland, in particular, are dangerous, and though an effort was made by the previous Minister of Trade and Customs to erect two lighthouses there, I understand that very little progress has been made.

Mr McWILLIAMS (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) - You put him out before he could finish them.

Mr FINLAYSON - Why is not the work being finished ? On page 146 of these Estimates there is an expenditure of £530 on salaries noted in regard to No. 2 District, which extends from Torres Strait to Cape Moreton, but there is not a hint or suggestion as to the person for whom, or the purpose for which the money is expended. Careful particulars are given as to the contingencies, but no information is given as to the salaries of officers. The same thing occurs on page 147.

Mr Tudor - There is an officer up thereyou know.

Mr.FINLAYSON.- Why is it not specified? A sum total of £485 is set down on the page, but there is nothing to indicate to honorable members the purpose for which the money is spent, by whom it is received, or indeed whether there is any justification for the expenditure. Careful particulars as to contingencies are given in regard to No. 3 District, which includes New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and Bass Strait. Items as low as £1 are particularized under that heading, but regarding what is done with the £485 for salaries we know nothing. The total expenditure for last year was £6,031. I do not think that is a very heavy expenditure, considering the importance of the work. The probability is that the expenditure for this year, although £61,000 is provided, will not exceed £10,000 or £12,000. What possibility is there of the lighthouses being taken over by the Commonwealth on the 1st July, and what progress is being made with the erection of the new lighthouses, which, to my mind, are urgently required ? That information I would like to get from the Minister. May I say a word now in regard to the questions raised by the honorable member for Denison? Some four years ago I put myself in communication with the State Premiers, and, without exception, they favoured me with some very useful information in reply to questions. I discovered that in all the States there were some arrangements, more or less well organized, for the provision of libraries, magazines and newspapers to the various lighthouse-keepers, but there was a considerable divergence in the methods adopted for ensuring a regularity of the exchanges, and particularly in regard to the transfers of the men. In some of the States there was a very good system, and in others a very loose one. The main point which needs to be borne in mind is that special consideration should be given to the men in the more isolated places, which perhaps the Government steamer only visits once in two or three months. Where the families are grown to school age and have to be brought to the mainland to be educated, special arrangements in regard to leave of absence to the men ought to be made. I think that, as a rule, two months is considered a fair time for a man to occupy a position in an isolated lighthouse. The same thing applies to other conveniences which we know the men engaged in this work have to sacrifice. It is too early for us to criticise what may be done. But it is not too early to express the pious hope that the Minister, in making regulations for the taking over of the lighthouses from the States, will provide for the regular and frequent interchange of hooks, magazines, and newspapers, and . above all will make such arrangements as will permit the education of families by transferring married men from the more isolated stations to places convenient to schools.

Mr Mcwilliams - That is done now in some of the States.

Mr FINLAYSON - Not in all. The Commonwealth will establish a uniform system, and we hope that it will be at least equal to the best system now prevailing. Married men with families ought to receive special consideration.

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