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Friday, 31 August 1906

Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I remind honorable senators that this is one of the measures which the Senate can amend. The votes dealt with were some years ago separated from the ordinary Estimates in order that the Senate might be given that opportunity. Last year for this purpose we voted ^41-6,911, and spent £3i9>72°> We propose this year to vote £479i724Last year ,£97,000 of the amount voted was not spent, and that is probably due to the period of the financial year at which the Bill similar to this was finally passed.

Senator Dobson - Why are we asked every year to vote far more money than is required ?

Senator PLAYFORD - It is impossible to estimate accurately the amount of money that will be expended on the works proposed within the year.

Senator Turley - We might make arrangements to carry out the works for which money is voted in the year in which it is voted.

Senator PLAYFORD - That is done as far as possible, but until the money is voted the Departmental officers hesitate to incur the necessary expense in preparing plans, specifications, and so forth. Very frequently also something occurs to prevent a particular work being carried out as quickly as was at first anticipated.

Senator Dobson - There is something wrong somewhere, when the Departmental officers suggest a certain vote and are unable to spend during the year a sum of nearly £100,000 within "their estimate.

Senator PLAYFORD - There is noth-ing wrong so far as I know. Precisely the same thing has occurred in South Australia year after vear. We always had an unexpended balance at the end of the year. There were two sheets brought forward, one dealing; with excess on votes, and the other with unexpended balances. It' was very often found that the excess on votes came to about the same as the unexpended balances, and one was practically put against the other. We have here established a Treasurer's Advance Account, and though I cannot at the present moment give honorable senators the exact particulars', I have little doubt that since the commencement of the present financial year the whole of the £97,000 unexpended balance from last year's vote has been absorbed. That is to say, the works had been commenced, were not completed at the end of the past financial year, and have been continued into the present financial year. The Treasurer makes the necessary advances against those works, and I believe honorable senators will find that the unexpended balance of £97,000 has in this way been absorbed by this time. Honorable senators who, like Senator Drake, have had practical experience in office, are aware that it is impossible to estimate what will be required to carry out the public works projected in a particular year with such accuracy that,, in a total expenditure of about £500,000, there will not be a considerable sum unexpended at the close of the year. Contracts may be entered into and the works may be in progress, but may not have absorbed within the financial year the whole of the money voted for the purpose. The Treasurer has laid down a rule that he will not permit the expenditure of .money in connexion with new works until Parliament has appropriated it. That is a very wise provision, and I now ask honorable senators to assist me in- getting this Bill through at the earliest possible moment, in order that the officers of the Home Affairs Department who are intrusted with the duty of carrying out these works will be able as quickly as possible to undertake their construction with money voted by Parliament. The Treasurer will not give them the slightest advance for new works, and they cannot go on with them until Parliament has voted the necessary money, I repeat that the Treasurer has made a very wise rule, but a consequence of it is that if we allow three or four months of the year to elapse before we vote the necessary money we have the balance of the year in which to spend it.

Senator Dobson - Does this apply to ' necessary repairs to buildings?

Senator PLAYFORD - No, there is a general vote under which absolutely necessary repairs are provided for. ft is only where we are dealing, with absolutely new works that the Treasurer says that until Parliament gives the' necessary authority he cannot permit the expenditure of the money, since the Auditor-General may say to him, " What right had you to expend this money?" The Treasurer has therefore put a stop to expenditure in that way.

Senator Dobson - Have we up to the present time voted money for works that subsequently have been found not to be required ?

Senator PLAYFORD - I cannot from memory refer to any particular works at the present moment, but I have no doubt such things have occurred. They certainly occurred in my experience in the State Parliament of South Australia. Sums have often been voted for works, and it has subsequently been considered advisable not to expend the money. Such things will always occur. I do not propose to refer to every item dealt with in this Bill, but 1 shall direct the attention of honorable senators to those which are most important. A vote of £4,000 is provided towards the cost of erecting a store at Darling Island, Sydney, for the purpose of the Defence Department. It is only fair that I should inform the Senate that this work is estimated to cost eventually £22,300, and this item of £4,000 is a first instalment towards the cost of the work.

Senator Guthrie - What is. the work for?

Senator PLAYFORD - It is for a magazine. At the present time we have some magazines situated close to Circular Quay, which we took over from the New South Wales Government as transferred properties. It is found that they are very inconveniently situated. They are not very close to the wharf, and there is no communication with them by rail. We have a piece of land at Darling Island on which we can erect magazines to take the place of those we occupy at the present time. When the proposed magazine is erected at Darling Island we shall hand back the magazines we at present occupy, and the land on which they are situated to the New South Wales Government, The advantage of a magazine at Darling Island will be that we shall have the wharf on one side, and communication by rail at the back. We shall thus be able to convey warlike stores in New South Wales to the places at which thev are required bv water or by rail.

Senator Guthrie - Is not the proposed store to be erected at Darling Harbor, and not at Darling Island ?

Senator PLAYFORD - lt is connected with Darling Harbor. I visited the old stores, and the site on which it is proposed that the new magazine shall Le erected. It appears to me that what is proposed is the most economical course we could take. We should have to pay £20,000 Or £30,000 to the Government of New South Wales for the stores at present occupied as transferred property, whilst as I have said, thev are most inconviently situated for the purpose.

Senator Walker - Does the honorable senator refer to Dawes' Point?

Senator PLAYFORD - No, we have given up Dawes' Point entirely to the New South Wales Government, and are removing the material stored there to the neighbourhood of the present barracks. Honorable senators will find a large item at £8,000 for a' trawler. This is an entirely new vote, and the object is to procure a trawler for the purpose of exploring our coast to ascertain whether we have not in certain localities large quantities of fish that could be secured by means of trawlers. .

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.

Senator PLAYFORD - When the Senate adjourned for lunch, I was pointing out that we had placed on the Estimates a sum of £8,000 for the purpose of purchasing a trawler. As it will be an uptodate boat, we anticipate that it will cost £7,500, and that the annual expenditure on the crew and upkeep will be about £2,500.

Senator Macfarlane - Had we not better Have a sufficient number of honorable senators present to hear the Minister? [Quorum formed.']

Senator PLAYFORD - The trawler is intended to perform pioneering work in connexion with the deep-sea fisheries on the coast of the Commonwealth. We believe that the waters beyond the three miles' limit have not yet been explored, and that they ought to be explored for the purpose of ascertaining first what fishes of value they contain ; and, secondly, in what manner they may be caught. Trawling is the method most frequently employed in connexion with such fisheries, and under certain conditions it is ' the most effective method.

Senator Walker - Will the trawler be made here, or will it be purchased ?

Senator PLAYFORD - I have no information as to where the trawler is to be made or procured. I only know that we have placed on the Estimates a sum for the purchase of a trawler, and that until the item is voted, a decision as to what shall be done will not be come to. We have the experience of Cape Colony to guide us. It purchased a trawler for about £7,500, and therefore we anticipate that our trawler will cost about that sum.

Senator de Largie - Have the Government in view any particular part of the deep-sea fisheries which they intend to explore ?

Senator PLAYFORD - I do not know, nor do the papers give any information on that subject. I have here a mass of papers showing what has been done in other parts of the world, and with what success. But I do not know in what part of Australian waters the trawling will- be commenced.

Senator de Largie - Seeing that we have a tremendous length of coast line, we ought to be supplied with some information of that kind.

Senator PLAYFORD - There are other methods of deep-sea fishing which, of course, the trawler will try. Over rocky bottoms there is what is known as great line fishing, and. in addition, there is surface fishing with drift nets - the method bv which herrings are captured in Europe. So far as we know Australia is the only civilized country with a large sea-board which has done nothing to establish this industry. I propose to explain what has been done in this direction by the Government of Cape Colony. It was said by some persons that so far as that Colony was concerned, there was no deep-sea fishing which would be profitable. But the Government determined to purchase a vessel for the purpose of testing the point. In 1897, therefore, thev purchased a vessel called the Pieter Faure. a modern type of steam vessel, on which a skilled crew was placed. The report from the Government biologist says -

It was soon demonstrated that there was an abundance of fish, notwithstanding what was said to the contrary, and that there was an excellent trawling ground rivalling with the North Sea in productiveness.

The people of Cape Colony soon discovered that they had an excellent trawling ground. Let us now look at the results.

In 1902 four trawlers were engaged on the work, and a large number of fish were landed.

In 1903 the report of the Government Biologist stated that - " Four large steam trawlers, each considerably larger than the Pieter Faure, and over ^'30,000 in value in all, arrived during this period from Europe, in order to follow up the work, initiated by the Cape Government." Further - " Two other vessels, fitted up with special refrigerating arrangements for the South African trade, have arrived during the course of the year. Another large boat, 250 tons gross register, designed as a carrier and trawler, was valued at ^7,500. Other trawlers are at work in addition to those mentioned, and continue to do profitable business."

Writing to the Prime Minister in April, 1906, the Premier of Cape Colony said -

The latest information from the trawling companies now established indicates that they are doing well, and are sending large quantities of fish to the inland towns.

The expenditure of a considerable sum on the purchase of a trawler to do exploring work has resulted in the establishment of a big and growing industry. So far, Australia has done nothing in this direction. Canada, as honorable senators know, has done a great deal. She is spending about $160,000 per annum in bounties in connexion with her fisheries.

Senator Turley - That is a different thing.

Senator PLAYFORD - I admit that it is a. different thing. But, so far as the Government are concerned, I am not quite sure, but I believe that they did send out vessels originally, as we propose to do. New Zealand hired a boat which was sent round the coast with the result that it was found that large quantities of fish could be obtained by that means, and the industry in that Colony is now a very large one. According to my notes -

The amount of fish imported into Australia is 13,000,000 lbs. annually, valued at about ^300,000. The local supply is spasmodic, and the people away from the sea-board have virtually no opportunity of obtaining it. This is shown by the fact that the consumption is only 9-4r lbs. per head per annum. The quantity landed in Great Britain is 47.5 lbs. per head per annum. Fish is three times as expensive in New South Wales as it is in Great Britain. The value of the fish obtained by Canada is about 16s. per head, by Norway about 14s. 6d., and by New South Wales 2s. iod. As the fisheries of New South Wales are more developed than in any of the other States, a comparison with the Commonwealth would be less favorable. Reference has already been made to the large amount of known edible fish on the Australian coast. The question of their habits, however, is not well understood, and their location is not defined.

I do not think that I need say any more on the subject. " If honorable senators ask any questions, I shall get all the informa- tion I can. What we want to do is to get a trawler and send it out on an exploring expedition, as was done in the case of Cape Colony, to ascertain whether fish can be obtained outside the three-mile limit, and their habitat; also whether they can be caught by trawling or by deep line fishing, or bv other means. It will be merely an exploring expedition, 'in order to ascertain the facts.

Senator Findley - Did I understand the Minister to say that the cost of a fish in Canada is only a third of the cost of a fish in New South Wales?

Senator PLAYFORD - I said that fish are three times as expensive in New South Wales as in Great Britain.

Senator Findley - Does the honorable senator say that the cheapness is due to the existence of the trawlers in Great Britain?

Senator PLAYFORD - I think so. An immense quantity of fish is obtained by the fleet of English trawlers, which, as we all remember, was fired upon by the Russian fleet. Fish is exported from England to all parts of the world.

Senator Macfarlane - Is it proposed that the trawler shall be worked by the Federal Government?

Senator PLAYFORD - The trawler will be worked by the Government just as is done at the Cape

Senator Pulsford - The Ministers will take it in turn to be skipper of the boat.

Senator PLAYFORD - We might like to take a few members of the Opposition outside the three-mile limit and clear the political atmosphere. I propose to call attention to only the more important items on the Estimates, especially to new items. On page 15, for instance, there is a new item of £1.0,000 for installing wireless telegraphy. The Marconi Company and others have been approaching the Defence Department with a view to the adoption of that system in connexion with the defence of the Commonwealth. I have considered all through that it is more a matter for the Post and Telegraph Department to take up than for the Defence Department. However, the minute I have on the subject reads as follows: -

This amount has been placed on the Estimates as a first instalment of the cost of introducing the wireless telegraph system into the Commonwealth. It has not yet been determined in which part of the Commonwealth the system will first be introduced, but full inquiries will be made into a number of proposals which have been submitted to the Department, and when a decision has been arrived at, tenders will be invited to instal the system

What we are really asking the Parliament to do is to vote £10,000 as a preliminary amount for the purpose of starting the installation of wireless telegraphy.

Senator Turley - We are asked to give the Government an open cheque without any information as to where the system is to be established or anything else.

Senator PLAYFORD - That will have to be determined subsequently.

Senator Mulcahy - But the Minister ought to have some sort of a scheme to submit. As in the case of the trawling, he does not know where the start will be made. Possibly the wireless telegraphy will be used to communicate with the trawler.

Senator PLAYFORD - The Department has not decided what the scheme shall be. The sum is required to be voted so that the authorities mav commence making the necessary arrangements. When a definite scheme is carried out, other sums will have to be voted, and it will then be explained how the money is to be expended, every information being given. Of course, if Parliament says that it will not vote anything for the purpose, the Postmaster-General will not proceed any further in his inquiries.

Senator Drake - He may continue his inquiries, but he can do no more.

Senator PLAYFORD - He cannot take steps to instal the system anywhere. It will be observed that large sums are set down for Defence purposes. Altogether £169,156 is asked for, less anticipated unexpended amount of £39,156, making £130,000 to be spent. This is an amount that has been voted year by year since a paper was laid before Parliament - I think in 1903 - explaining that about £500.000 was proposed to be expended upon new war-like material. The £160,000 now proposed to be expended will exhaust the sum which it was thus proposed to spend for this purpose. Considerable alterations have been made in the proposed allocation of the money at different times. Last vear, instead of buying a quantity of saddles and similar accoutrements, I induced Parliament to agree to buy rifles. This vear honorable senators will see that there is an item of £8,000 for purchase of accoutrements, saddle trees, stirrups, and bits. These are required for the Australian Light Horse, field and garrison troops. The next item is £53>°4° for guns, harness, waggons, and ammunition for the Field Artillery. The purpose of the vote is to provide - 12 18-pounder quick-firing guns, carriages, and limbers, with 300 rounds of ammunition each, to complete three batteries attached to the garrison force; 36 18-pounder ammunition waggons and limbers for the 24 guns arranged for last, and for the 12 guns above mentioned.

Saddle blankets to complete harness and saddlery already obtained.

The present establishment of field guns is : -

Field force - 36 ^-pounder breech-loading guns attached to light horse brigades. 24 18-pounder quick-firing guns attached to infantry brigades.

Garrison force - 24 18-pounder quick-firing guns.

Total,' 84.

Sufficient 15-pounder breech-loading guns for the light horse brigades are already in the Commonwealth ; the 24 18-pounder guns for the infantry brigades have been arranged for ; 20 of them have been received, and the remaining 4 are expected to arrive very shortly. 12 of the i8-pounder guns required for the garrison troops are provided this year, as shown above.

Senator Pearce - Are the guns we have now all up-to-date?

Senator PLAYFORD - Practically all. There is a vote of £6,000 for camp equipment -

To provide tents, waterproof sheets, &c, towards completing the requirements of the field and garrison troops to peace establishment.

Colonel Le Mesurier has put - this note 011 my papers -

When the Estimates were prepared, it was anticipated that this sum would complete the peace requirements on the lines proposed in Major-General Sir E. T. Hutton's scheme, but a recent overhaul of the equipment on hand in Tasmania reveals that the requirements of that State are much greater than originally set out.

The next item is £400 for miscellaneous purposes. It is to provide various tools and materials, including field sketching instruments for the purposes of the garrison forces. Under the heading of " Field Engineers' equipment," there is a sum of £2,216 to provide - certain Royal Engineer pattern carts and waggons with necessary equipment for instructional purposes to complete the proposal embodied in General Hutton's scheme.

Senator Guthrie - In what States are there engineers?

Senator PLAYFORD - I think there are engineers in New South Wales and Victoria. The money is to be. allocated to each State on the basis of the forces there situated.

Senator Guthrie - There are no field engineers in South Australia and none in Western Australia.

Senator PLAYFORD - I really do not know. There is also an item of £16,000 for machine guns and ammunition.

Senator Pearce - What type of machine gun is referred to?

Senator PLAYFORD - The type we are going to obtain is that recommended in the report of the Imperial Defence Committee. I forget the name of the gun. I am not sure whether it is the Colt gun or the Maxim automatic machine gun. I know, however, that the Imperial Defence Committee recommended us not to get anymore pom-poms. When I saw that recommendation, I telegraphed at once to Captain Collins, in London, to countermand the order which we had given for the supply of those guns.

Senator Guthrie - On whose recommendation were they ordered?

Senator PLAYFORD - On the recommendation of our own officers, because up to that time they were being used in the Imperial service. I do not know exactly why they have been abandoned.

Senator Pearce - A new machine gun has lately been adopted.

Senator PLAYFORD - A sum of £r 2,000 is set down for the purpose of purchasing cadet rifles. The intention is to provide 300 Francottes and 5,500 Wesley Richard rifles for our cadets. The rifles already in the Commonwealth, and those ordered will together complete the number of miniature rifles required by us. the total number being 16,000. Then there is the large sum of £21,500 for small arms ammunition. We propose to purchase 4,000,000 rounds. That quantity is necessary to keep up our stock of reserve ammunition. We have not sufficient at present to meet what military authorities consider to be our requirements. But we are getting close up to the quantity we ought to have in reserve. I also ask for £50,000 for the purchase of 10,000 magazine Lee-Enfield rifles and parts.

Senator Pearce - Will the cut-offs be provided in this case?

Senator PLAYFORD - I expect so. I sent for the cut-offs for the other rifles to which the honorable senator refers. Why the War Office did not send them out, I do not know. These cut-offs are merely little discs which can be obtained without any difficulty. It is undoubtedly an advantage to have them and, therefore, I have taken steps to see that they are provided.

Senator Staniforth Smith - I think there are cut-offs for some of the rifles which the Department has in its possession.

Senator PLAYFORD - Yes ; but in the case of a number of the short rifles of the present English pattern, by some means or other the cut-offs were not sent.

Senator Drake - Is it the short rifle that the Department is getting?Is it considered satisfactory ?

Senator PLAYFORD - Yes. It is recommended by the Imperial authorities, and is being furnished to the Imperial troops. We are getting the exact pattern of rifle with which the British Army is being supplied. According to the latest return, we have about 26,000 Lee-Enfield rifles, single-loaders. Of quick-firers we have in the Commonwealth at present 36,093. We have on order 8,604, making a total of 44,733. I propose to order 1 0,000 more, making 54,733. But it also has to be remembered that the members of our rifle clubs are armed with rifles, and that we have in addition a considerable number of single-loaders.

Senator Staniforth Smith - How many effective rifles will the Department have when all orders are filled, including the 54; 733 quick-firers mentioned ?

Senator PLAYFORD - We shall have 54,733 quick-firers when the rifles to be ordered come out. These are all thoroughly effective up-to-date magazine rifles. The single-loaders which we have are, however, very useful rifles indeed. In fact, I know officers who have been in the Boer war, and who say that they would not wish their men to be entirely armed with magazine rifles. They would prefer that some should have single-loaders. The tendency is, when the men are armed with magazine rifles, for them to fire away their ammunition too quickly. Then they' have to go to the rear to get fresh ammunition, and sometimes it is difficult to supply them. Some of the officers consider that it is better to have a proportion of the men armed with singleloaders and the rest with magazine rifles, in preference to the whole number being armed with magazine rifles. Passing from military matters, it will be observed that the sum of £12,000 is set down for New South Wales in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department for the extension of telegraph lines, instruments and material. Honorable senators will notice a note at the bottom of the page stating that £2,400 of this sum is for work necessitated by the proposed erection of the new telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne.

Senator Drake - Why is not that sum included in the other vote for telephone lines ?

Senator PLAYFORD - Part of the vote for telephones is allocated to New South Wales, and part to Victoria. The £2,400 in this instance is to be spent in New South Wales. In erecting a telephone line between Melbourne and Sydney, the money that is spent in Victorian territory is allocated to that State, and the money spent in New South Wales is allocated to New South Wales.

Senator Drake - It will be all "other" expenditure now. There is a vote of £23,000 for the New South Wales portion, and I desire to know why £2,400 for the same work should be included in this item of £12,000?

Senator PLAYFORD - I cannot say, because this is not in my Department; but I shall have inquiries made. The note I have in regard to the item is -

Of this amount, £2,400 is required to complete the re-poleing in connexion with the trunk telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne - the total cost of which re-poleing is estimated at £4,400. The balance of the amount, viz. : - £9,600, is required to provide for instruments, material, labour, &c, in connexion with the construction of new telegraph lines, and the extension of existing lines.

The note I have as to the item of £27.500 is as follows : -

This amount is required to provide for the construction of additional conduits in the city of Sydney and suburbs ; the establishment of new telephone exchanges in New South Wales where the telephone system is being availed of to an extensive degree ; the establishment of bureaux telephone offices ; the erection of private telephone lines in accordance with regulations ; labour, material, instruments, &c.

As to the item of £5,500, my note is -

This is towards the establishment of metallic circuits, £5,500. This amount is required to provide for the extension of the metallic circuit system in connexion with the metropolitan system, so as to prevent interference with the service by the electric traction system of tramways in the city of Sydney and suburbs, and also to provide an improved service.

I have full informationhere in regard to every item., and that information I shall be happy to place at the disposal of honorable senators when we are in Committee. I have called attention to the fact that most of the items are simply intended for the continuation of work under votes previously made.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee :

Clause1 (Short title).

SenatorPLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence) [2.33]. - I promised Senator Mulcahy to give him an opportunity this afternoon to submit a motion in regard to the regulations under the Commerce Act. I undertook that my speech on the second reading of the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill would not occupy more than half-an-hour, and I have not exceeded the time by more than a few minutes; and I should now like to know whether the honorable senator desires that progress should be reported in order to give him the opportunity to proceed with his motion.

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