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Wednesday, 21 August 1912

Senator LONG (Tasmania) . - During the course of this debate the Leader of the Opposition levelled charges of extravagance against the present Government, and those charges have been repeated by other honorable senators opposite. But, after making the charges, they all resumed their seats without pointing to any specific instance of the extravagance of which they complained.

Senator Millen - Will one instance satisfy the honorable senator?

Senator LONG - It would be refreshing to get one instance from the honorable senator sitting down which he was unable to give when he was standing up.

Senator Millen - I gave the honorable senator one to-day. I referred him to the great national steam laundry.

Senator LONG - We know that Australia is committed to a very much larger expense this year, and had to undertake a larger expenditure last year than during any previous year of Federation. This applies particularly to the expenditure upon defence. There is now five times the expenditure per head that there was even three or four years ago. This is an expenditure which honorable senators opposite know, as well as we do, must be ever on the increase until we have established in Australia a complete and effective scheme of defence. The people of -Australia realize their obligation in this matter. They know that this expenditure must be incurred, and they will be prepared to meet it until the time has arrived when we shall be in a position to say that our shores are well and safely guarded. Several honorable senators opposite laid special stress on the fact that a tremendous expenditure has been incurred in connexion with what may be called the manning of the Northern Territory with officials. But we all know that officials are necessary for the administration of the Territory, and that their appointment must precede settlement. The Government have gone a long way in the making of the necessary preparation for that development of the Territory which we all hope to see take place in the near future. How could the Government be better engaged in the preliminary stages of the development of the Territory than in appointing an Administrator, a Protector of Aborigines, a Director of Lands and Water Supply, a Director of Mines and Geologist, a Director of Agriculture, a Chief Medical Inspector, and an Inspector of Stock ? Who could reasonably cavil at these appointments ? Who can say that -they are not absolutely essential ? The Opposition know that they are, as well as do honorable sena-» tors on this side, but they are bound to discharge, however badly, the function of an Opposition, and to criticise as adversely as they can the Administration of the day. A great deal has been said concerning the day-labour system as carried on under the Commonwealth Government. To me it was pitiable in the extreme to see honorable senators opposite degrading themselves by indulging in a miserable petty slandering of good, honest toilers at the instance of a party journal. Wholesale allegations were made to the effect that the men engaged on the undergrounding of our telephone wires were loafing. Senator Vardon inquired in respect of these allegations, " Why have we not reports?" What reports? The newspaper which originated these complaints did not make a specific charge, nor has any honorable senator opposite had either the courage or the capacity to do so. If that course had been followed, it would have been incumbent on the Minister to have obtained a report. But it was altogether unworthy of honorable senators to ask him to answer general statements, which amounted only to a slander. I know that not one honorable senator opposite, in his heart, was serious in his insinuations, because every time the matter has been referred to by honorable senators «upon this side of the chamber they have hung their heads in shame. I have been to some little trouble to ascertain whether loafing is indulged in on these particular works. I do not say that there are not loafers in such a large body of men. But is that a reason why the entire mass should be held up to public obloquy ? I have seen the employes at work, and, as one who knows something about work, I can indorse the statement of Senator Russell that in almost every instance they are giving an adequate return for the wages they are receiving. I would like to remind honorable senators that even members of Parliament loaf sometimes. They are just as great sinners in that respect as is any other section of the community. When this Senate has been .dealing with Estimates involving an expenditure of £2,000,600, I have seen only three members of the Opposition present, and two of them were asleep.

Senator Sayers - How many honorable senators are upon the Ministerial side of the chamber now?

Senator LONG - I am not referring to those who are absent through illness. That is a good and sufficient reason for absence, and I know that at least one member of the Opposition is absent on account of illness. Upon the occasion to which I have referred Senators Vardon and Sayers were present, but I will not say which of them was awake. There is one item on these Estimates to which I take strong exception. Without leaving myself open to a charge of parochialism, I believe that the most suitable place for the erection of the woollen mills, which it is proposed to establish in Geelong, is either in the northern or southern portion of Tasmania.

Senator Blakey - Good old State Rights.

Senator LONG - I am a good Australian first and always. I do not desire to see industries established in Tasmania merely for the purpose of benefiting that State.

Senator Vardon - Does not the honorable senator think that the woollen mills should be located on the banks of the Molonglo River?

Senator LONG - I do not, although they would then be within Federal Territory. But the woollen products of Tasmania cannot be excelled in any part of the world. The quality of the water which is obtainable there is superior to that of the water obtainable at Geelong, and it is entirely suitable for the manufacture of woollen products.

Senator Vardon - There are woollen mills at Geelong now, r,

Senator LONG - I am aware of that. But the same quality of woollen goods is not produced at Geelong as is produced i 1 Tasmania. Further, motive power can be secured either from the municipality of Launceston, in the north, or from the great electric power scheme in the southern portion of the island, at a cheaper rate than it 'can be obtained in any other portion of Australia if not in the civilized world.

Senator Blakey - The Government acted cn the report of an independent man - Mr. Smail.

Senator LONG - Too much reliance is placed upon these reports. The gentlemen whom we intrust with their preparation, however capable they may be, seem to have a rooted objection to getting away from the hig centres of gaiety to places where they would not be able to attend the leading theatres and witness the latest dramatic productions. It seems to be a crime to establish a Commonwealth factory outside the confines of New South Wales or Victoria. The latter State has within its borders a Cordite Factory, a Clothing Factory, and a Saddlery and Harness Factory. When we consider what Tasmania has suffered as the result of Federation-

Senator Blakey - She is getting a good return now in the form of a financial grant.

Senator LONG - Give us some industries, and we do not want the grant.

Senator Vardon - Build up Tasmanian industries by means of up-to-date factories, and she will be able to compete with any State.

Senator LONG - It is all very well to say that. But under present conditions it is extremely difficult for Tasmania to compete with Victoria, where large aggregations of capital have been invested in one particular industry. Without cavilling at Victoria for having all these factories within her confines, I do say that when Tasmania is peculiarly suited to an industry some consideration should be extended to her.

Senator Gardiner - What about poor old New South Wales?

Senator Givens - What about YassCanberra ?

Senator LONG - There would be less cause for complaint if the woollen mills were established in the Federal Territory which, perhaps, is the proper place for them... But if they are to toe erected outside that Territory, they ought to be established in the most suitable spot, which, I contend, isin Tasmania. However, I do not intend coal low the matter to rest where it is. Last session the Opposition were good enough to assist me upon a very important matter which affected a considerable section of the people of Tasmania, and, as I havedone nothing to alienate their support, we may yet be able to see that justice is done to the State from which I come. I now wish to make one or two observations upon our Postal Department. I am distinctly dissatisfied with the means of postal communication which are provided for settlers in our out-back country. When this Parliament adopted penny postage, it was understood that when the revenue which was bound to be temporarily lost, had been overtaken, more attention would be given to the requirements of these settlers than had been previously bestowed upon them. I had every confidence that that understanding would be respected. But in Tasmania, I regret to say, settlers in our rural districts are not getting that consideration which they have a right to expect at the hands of the Government. Many of the Ministerial supporters know the difficulty under which these people .get their mails once or twice a week.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator is out of order in discussing the administration of the Postal Department outside of the works which it is proposed to undertake.

Senator LONG - Having got my statement upon record, I shall obey your ruling, sir, and I shall have more to say upon this question when it comes before the Senate in proper form. I do not wish to occupy more time at the present juncture. I merely intimate to the Government that I intend to take an active part in the discussion when the proposal to establish woollen mills at Geelong is submitted for our consideration. There are one or two other matters to which I had intended to refer, but, as I do not desire to incur your displeasure, I shall refrain from touching upon them now. I had collected some facts which would demonstrate the superiority of the system of day labour over that of contract. Howeve:, I shall reserve my remarks in that connexion till a more fitting opportunity presents itself. «

Senator SHANNON(South Australia)

Presidentof the Executive Council, I should like to embrace this opportunity to /make a few observations upon the Bill which is now before us. From the remarks which were made by the Leader of the Government in this Chamber upon my first appearance here, I almost expected to see a halo encompass his head., At any rate, I recognise that I require his permission to address myself to these Estimates. I do not wish to discuss the particulars of this Bill so much as I do its general principles. Several items have been alluded to by honorable senators on each side, but there is one matter to which I should like to refer, and that is the poor old Northern Territory. I do not know what it has done that it should be so sadly neglected by everybody who has anything to do with its administration.

Senator Findley - My word, we are1 pushing things on up there.

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