1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for
Home Affairs inform the House when the return showing the salaries paid to officers. in the public service who are receiving less than ?110 per annum, ordered on the 7 th February, will be ready ?
– I thought that it had been laid upon the table, but I shall make inquiries, and get it as soon as possible. Applications for the information have been sent to the various branches of the service, but the preparation of returns of this kind takes time.
– I wish to remind the Minister that, two days after the return in reference to section 25 of the Public Service Act, about which the honorable member for Yarra has asked, was ordered, the Prime Minister promised me that he would also have a return prepared showing what public servants will be affected by section 21. Will the Minister see that this matter is attended to?
– I shall be very glad to give instructions in regard to the matter. I would point out, however, that these returns will be very voluminous, because the service is a large one, and therefore they cannot be prepared very quickly.
– Does the Minister for Trade and Customs expect that the Committee upon the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill will be able to report this session ? If not, what action does he propose to take in regard to the measure during the recess ?
– It is beyond theregion of possibility that the committee’s inquiry can be completed this session. I think that a progress report will be presented, and that steps will be taken to enable the members of the committee to continue as a Royal commission the inquiries which the legislature has determined upon.
– Does the Acting Minister for Defence intend to take Colonel Stuart’s case into consideration at once ?
– I promised last night to inquire into it, and I shall do so, but I have not had much time to deal with the matter yet. I cannot promise to rush into the consideration of matters of this kind.
Mr. KINGSTON laid on the table
New Customs regulations.
asked the Acting Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’squestions -
In reply to question 2 -
Those salaries are all provisional. I said last night that the arrangements with regard to salaries were provisional only. In reply to questions 3 and 4 -
The following scale has been provisionally approved in connexion with the salaries of officers of the Royal Australian Artillery : -
Second Lieutenant and Lieutenant. - ?200 per annum for two years.
Five annual increments of ?20 per annum up to ?300 ; provided, however, that no claim for any increment for a Second Lieutenant shall be admitted until he has passed his examination for lieutenant.
Less a deduction for the value of Government quarters occupied ; such deduction shall not exceed one-tenth of the pay.
Captain. -£325 to £400 per annum.
Three annual increments of £25 per annum ; provided, however, that the second increment shall not be admissible unless, and until after, having qualified for promotion for the next step of rank.
Less a deduction for the value of Government quarters occupied ; such deduction shall not exceed one-ninth of the pay.
Major. - £425 to £500 per annum.
Three annual increments of £25 per annum ; provided, however, that the second increment shall not be admissible unless, and until after, having qualified for the next step of rank.
Less a deduction for the value of Government quarters occupied ; such deduction shall not exceed one-eighth of the pay.
Lieutenant-Colonel. - Rate A, £600 per annum; rate B, £550 per annum ; rate C, £500 per annum.
Lessa deduction for the value of Government quarters occupied : such deduction shall not exceed one-seventh of the pay.
Officers holding brevet rank will receive the rates of pay fixed for their substantive rank.
In fixing salaries under the above scale, it is intended to observe the following rules : -
I took a great deal of trouble about this scale, and went through it with the General Officer Commanding, making many alterations. While a few salaries were raised to bring them up to the minimum, more were reduced to bring them down to the maximum.
In addition to the Head-Quarters Staff and State Commandants, the only Officers whose salaries have been provisionally fixed by OrderinCouncil, are as follows : -
Salaries of individual officers not yet fixed.
With regard to the last question asked by the honorable member, I do not think I shall be able to obtain a reply before the session closes, and I therefore ask that it may be withdrawn.
– I may remind honorable members that information such as has just been afforded by the Minister should be obtained by means ofa motion for a return. It did not appear from the form of the question that such a reply would be elicited, and I shall be glad if Ministers will communicate with me in similar cases, so that the information may be presented in the proper form.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 2nd October, vide page 16430) : additions,newworks,andbuildings.
Division 1 (Trade and Customs) - reduced vote, £4,766, agreed to.
Division 2 (Defence)- £29,221
– I should like to ask the Minister what provision is being made with regard to the sewerage of the Parliamentary buildings?
– That would be a matter for the State Government to deal with. I believe an application has been made to them to expedite the work, which is regarded as a structural alteration.
– Is the £29,221 provided for defence works to be added to the £762,000 already voted for the Defence department.
– Yes. These are the works and building mentioned at the end of the Estimates previously dealt with.
– I thought that the £762,000 would represent the total expenditure upon the Defence department.
– I mentioned the amount that was to be spent on works.
– I did not hear the Minister. If we had understood that this amount was to be voted in addition to the £762,000, we should probably have added the £29,221 to the £62,000 by which it was desired to reduce the Estimates in chief.
– I should like the Minister to give us some explanation with regard to the proposed apppropriations for the erection of drill-halls. The Treasurer has asked us to consider a very reduced schedule of general works, and it is a question whether weshould agree to any proposals for the construction of defence works unless they are absolutely necessary. Of course a number of the items, such as those which relate to the emplacements for guns, and so on, are no doubt necessary.I should like information regarding the £1,500 provided in the New South Wales Estimates for the “ erection of Drill Hall and Orderly Room for and to recoup 1st and 2nd Infantry Regiments.” Then there is another item of £3,000 for a drill room for the Metropolitan Volunteer Corps in Sydney. A large drill-hall was recently erected at the rear of the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, and I should like to know whether this £3,000 is intended to be devoted to recouping the 1st and 2nd Infantry Regiments for the money expended there. In all these cases the Minister should give us some assurance as to the absolute necessity of the expenditure before we are asked to commit ourselves.
– The £1,500 is intended to pay for the erection of the hall to which the honorable member has referred. The hall was built by the 1st and 2nd Infantry Regiments out of some allowances that were made for other purposes. I referred the question whether this money could be recouped out of the military vote in the ordinary way to the Auditor-General, who held that a special vote would be necessary. The £3,000 referred to by the honorable member for Bland is to be devoted to the erection of a drill-hall for the metropolitan volunteer corps.
– How much is the building to cost? The £3,000 is provided for as a first instalment.
– My impression is that the building will not cost more than that amount. If it is erected within the Victoria Barracks area, it will not cost more than £3,000, but if a site has to be purchased, the expenditure may be greater. I think, however, that there is plenty of room at the barracks. There is, however, another question to be considered. I have felt for some time past that the site occupied by the barracks is such a valuable piece of land that it may be better for us to hand it back to the State Government and go elsewhere. The barracks occupy one of the choicest building sites in Sydney, and we do not need such a valuable piece of land for military purposes. It is desirable that this question should be settled before the site of the new drill-hall is decided upon. The drill-hall at Kyneton, which is to cost £1,200, was provided for on last year’s Estimates, and it is desired to re-vote the amount.
Mr. WATSON” (Bland).- It. is mentioned in the Estimates that the drill-hall for the metropolitan volunteers at Sydney is to be erected at the Victoria Barracks, and that the £3,000 will be a first instalment of the cost. Therefore, if the information now supplied is correct the Estimates must have been framed under a misapprehension, because it is assumed that the Victoria Barracks site will be adopted. If the barracks were sold the buildings would go for nothing.
– No : we should have to pay for the buildings which are there. Some of the States seem to be under an erroneous impression with reference to the properties which have been handed Over to the Commonwealth. We have to pay for the buildings, but if we hand them back we shall get rid of the liability attached to them.
– Is it expected that we shall pay cash 1
– No. The States wish that a definite method of payment should be adopted, and nothing will be done until an agreement is arrived at between the States and the Government. I understand that there is no building at the Victoria Barracks suitable for the metropolitan volunteers. The new premises will comprise an orderly room, stores, ite.
– I also wish to direct the attention of the Minister to item 3 of subdivision 1. The honorable gentleman has told us that this amount is intended to recoup regiments which have erected these buildings out of the capitation grants or other allowances which have been paid in the past. If j that be so, I desire to know whether he is prepared to similarly recoup all the regiments which have acted in a similar way ? In Victoria there are two volunteer regiments which make it a ‘ point of honour to avoid touching any portion of the capitation allowance. The whole amount goes into the companies’ funds, and is expended for regimental purposes. If the 1st and 2nd Regiments in New South Wales are to be given a recoup, I think that all the other regiments are entitled to the same treatment. «
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).Seeing that the Acting Minister for Defence entertains such very grave objections to paying the South Australian Government a commission of 10 per cent, for supervising the Commonwealth public works undertaken in that State, I wish him to explain the item of £1,813 for “ supervision of works by State officers,” which appears upon page 39 of the Estimates. I desire to know whether that amount covers supply of plant, railway fares, and the drawing up of plans and specifications 1 If it does not, it is very much in excess of the sum which the Minister refuses to pay to South Australia.
– The total expenditure in connexion with the division which is now under consideration amounts to £29,221. That sum is in addition to the £762,000 which is set down as the total cost of the Defence department. But I would point out that upon page 39, there is an item of £25,805 for “Works and Buildings.” Are the committee to understand that in addition to the £762,000, which is set down as the total cost of the department we are to spend £29,221 for “Additions, New Works and Buildings,” and a further sum of £25,805 for “ Works and Buildings.”
– The sum of £25,000 which appears in the Estimates of the department for Home Affairs is intended to provide for repairs, fittings, and maintenance of buildings for defence purposes, and for the payment of rents, whereas the £29,000 is to cover the cost of entirely new works. The first amount is for the maintenance of existing works, and to provide funds for the payment of’ rents in various places, particulars of which are given in the Estimates for the department of Home Affairs commencing on page 22. In New South Wales the outlay involved in repairs and maintenance aggregates £9,000, whilst the payment of rents represents an additional £2,095. Under these headings there is thus a total expenditure in that State of £11,095. In Victoria the total expenditure is £6,680 ; in Queensland £3,300 ; in South Australia £1,721 ; in Western Australia £1,398, and in Tasmania £770. The vote of £29,000 odd is for entirely newworks.
– Then the”1 total expenditure upon defence is increased from £762,000 to £S17,000?
– The object of supplying the footnote was to show honorable members the exact expenditure of the department.
– In reply to the remarks which have been made regarding the item of £1,S13 for supervision of Commonwealth works by State officers I merely desire to say that that amount represents the Defence department’s proportion of the £5,500 which has to be paid in that connexion.
– Is it a fact that the £29,000 for “ Additions, New Works, and Buildings,” together with £25,805 provided for “ Works and Buildings” on page 39, has to be added to the £762,000, thus making the total cost of the Defence department, roughly speaking, £820,000 1
– Yes. Honorable members must know that it is impossible for £762,000 to cover the cost of works and buildings. I gave the committee that information last night.
– I was under the impression that the £29,000 included the entire cost of “Works and Buildings,” and I would point out that the £25,000 is not shown anywhere in the Estimates, save in the footnote.
– It is shown in the vote for the department for Home Affairs in the earlier portion of the Estimates.
– I clearly explained to the committee last night that the amount of £762,000 did not cover the cost of carrying out defence works. That fact, I think, is obvious, inasmuch as an expenditure of £500,000 might be required for defence works in one year.
Mr. MCDONALD (Kennedy).- I am certainly of opinion that a line should have been placed upon the Estimates to indicate to the committee that this additional amount of £25,000 is to be spent. I make bold to say that when honorable members were discussing the general question, they had not the slightest idea that that additional sum was required for the erection of works and buildings.
– The matter was referred to last night.
– In the course pf debate many matters are incidentally referred to, both by Ministers and honorable members, which slip the memory. To secure the passage of items in regard to which honorable members are utterly in the dark, is no laughing or sneering matter, and it is not becoming of Ministers to exclaim afterwords, “How nicely we did it.” The practice is a bad one, and is not in the interests of the community generally.
– I could not have given the committee further information than is contained in the foot-note. The whole matter is there placed before honorable members openly and above-board.
– In addition to which I took the trouble to specially refer to it last night.
– The honorable member made such an explanation that there was not a member of the committee who could follow the figures which he gave. He should have emulated the example of the Treasurer, and have circulated that information. Notwithstanding the honorable gentleman’s knowledge of the Defence department, I will undertake to say that such an array of figures as he read yesterday would not have been intelligible to him. It is impossible to follow figures which are reeled off by the yard. I am satisfied that had the committee known that a further amount of £25,805 was to be expended for “ Works and Buildings,” a request would have been made that the Estimates of the Defence department should be still further reduced.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- I think the Treasurer will see that by putting the item- “Works and Buildings, £25,805,” in a footnote upon page 39 of the Estimates, and omitting, any mention of the items which make up the £29,000 for “Additions, New Works and Buildings,” he has with the best possible intention led honorable members to believe that the one item was a duplication of the other with a few slight additions. Yesterday a great deal was said regarding the Convention estimate of £750,000 for defence purposes, but it seems to me that if we now vote the amount proposed, the total cost of that department, allowing for the reductions which have already been made, will be in excess of that estimate.
– Did the Convention Estimate include the cost of the naval squadron ?
– I think it did.
– I do not think the Minister answered the question I asked in regard to the charge for supervision. I asked if the charge was purely for supervision, or whether the supplying of plant would add to the cost. The Minister demurred to the amount which was asked by the South Australian Government, and yet he proposes a very large sum apparently for supervision only.
– I thought I had answered the question of the honorable member. This money is voted in order to pay the cost of supervision under an arrangement yet to be made. If a charge for plant is made by the Stat.es Government, it must bea charge against works ; and that is what I stated to the South Australian Government. Foi the cost of supervision a percentage should be fixed irrespective of other charges ; and the item to which the honorable member has called attention amounts to only 3 per cent, or 4 per cent. As I said before, I do not think that any money has been paid up to the present, no definite arrangement having yet been made. That is why I was so particular not to allow a charge of 10 per cent, to be fixed in the case of South Australia. I saw that that would have set a precedent which it would be difficult to avoid in the other States. I shall deal with the remainder of the States exactly in the same wA, as with South Australia.
– We have been told that there is a reduction of £175,000 in the Defence Estimates.
– But for the new works and buildings the saving would have been £188,000, and not £175,000.
– On referring to the footnote to the Defence Estimates we find that the total cost of the Department, exclusive of compensation, is £762,000, and that the total reduction made is £175,000.
– The new works and buildings are not included.
– On further looking at the figures, however, we find that the total Estimates last year were £853,000, nd t hat this year they are £791,000, plus 29,000 for works and buildings, thus showing a total of £820,000. From this it will be seen that the Estimates are not reduced by £175,000, but by only £33,000.
– The honorable and learned member is wrong.
– Prom the figures given in the foot-note, it is perfectly plain that the total I have arrived at will have to be drawn from the Treasury in the ensuing year. I see that £1,500 is provided for a drill-hall at Kyneton. Is the weather so dreadfully inclement at Kyneton that a drill-hall is necessary for the protection of the members of the force ?
– The honorable and learned member voted for that item last year ; at any rate, he did not draw attention to it.
– It may be remembered that when the last Estimates were before us it was discovered that many items which ought to have been in the military Estimates had been placed in the works Estimates.
– Does the honorable and learned member not think that a drillhall should be provided at Kyneton1!
– Certainly not at the present time. The whole system of warfare has been changed, owing to the experience gained in the Boer war ; but military men, apart from the strictly professional branches of engineering and artillery, are generally a generation behind the times.
– The amount was voted last year, and it is only fair to now re-vote it.
– It is unfair to spend money on drill-halls, when telegraphic and telephonic communication is so badly wanted throughout the Commonwealth. The latter works are of genuine use, and in immediate demand, whereas the erection of drill-sheds may very well be postponed
Mr. SALMON (Laanecoorie). - I should like to ask the Minister whether future applications for recoups, similar to that of the 1st and 2nd Infantry Regiments in New South Wales, will be entertained 1
– It is quite impossible for me to give any promise, seeing that I do not know how far-reaching any future applications may be. These two regiments applied for authority to use the clothing capitation grant for the purpose of erecting a drill-hall : and it was subsequently found that money belonging to other regiments had been used. This, the Auditor-General regarded as unconstitutional, and he refused to allow the expenditure. This vote is intended as a recoup, and the money will be distributed amongst the regiments which should have received it originally. I have heard no suggestion of any similar claims from other regiments, but if there arose a legitimate, case, such as this evidently is, where the members of the regiments, had in their enthusiasm erected a drill hall, I should suggest that it be treated in the same way. I cannot, however, give any absolute promise.
Mr. MCDONALD (Kennedy).- I think this sets a very bad example. “We all admire the enthusiasm displayed by these men in the erection of the hall, but it appears to be very bad taste on their part to now want the money returned. If the item be passed, we shall no doubt have claims of a similar description from all over the Commonwealth.
– I do not think that is very likely. This money, which belonged to somebody else, was used in mistake.
– And do those who made the mistake still occupy their positions 1
– I suppose so.
– I think that those who use other people’s money ought to be dealt with severely.
– In this case there was a good reprimand from the Minister.
– Reprimands are not of much use in these cases, and to pass the item will, as I say, create a very bad precedent, and debar us refusing a recoup under similar circumstances. I feel inclined to move that the item be struck out.
– Would not that be punishing the regiments whose money under a misapprehension was improperly used ?
– The explanation we have up to the present is not satisfactory, and I can foresee endless trouble if the item be passed.
Sir MALCOLM MCEACHARN (Melbourne). - I was strongly inclined to oppose this item, on the principle that a regiment which receives a capitation grant has no right to any kind of refund. I know that some regiments in Victoria cannot get even the most ordinary repairs done which are necessary for the proper drilling of the men. There are big holes in the asphalt of the drill halls, and while that state of affairs has to continue, we have here a proposal for the recoup of a large sum of money. Some explanation is due to the committee. I shall be sorry to oppose the item if the circumstances be such as the Treasurer has stated, and further explanation may assure us that this is an isolated case which presents no danger of a precedent.
– I have just received a memorandum to the effect that there is no similar case known. There are instances where regiments have erected drill halls with money raised by public subscriptions.
– Surely, public subscriptions are not recouped 1
– No; I am merely mentioning the fact that drill-halls are erected under such circumstances.
– Who will get the money in this case ?
– It will go back to the regiments whose clothing capitation has been improperly used. The Minister for Defence- I was nob acting at the time - authorized this money to be used, not knowing that it belonged to other regiments, as well as to the 1st and 2nd Regiments. The money was used, and the other regiments will be out of pocket unless this item be passed. All this arose from a mistake for which it would be hard to say that anybody is to blame.
– Was it not. the fault of the department ?
– No ; it was all a mistake. A great deal of enthusiasm was shown about the erection of this hall, and I suppose the Minister for Defence did not want to damp the ardour of the men. Had this money belonged to the 1st and 2nd Regiments there would have been no trouble. If an exactly similar case should arise it ought to be considered on its merits.
– Then all that is required is a mistake in order to have money made available by this House 1
– The Minister for- Defence was under a misapprehension when he approved of the work being done, and in order to get money under similar circumstances in the future it will be necessary to cajole him into once more approving under a misapprehension.
– I should like the Minister to give us some particulars of the expenditure in Western Australia, which I notice is considerably less than that in the other States.
– The item of £1,000 is a re- vote.
– A total sum of £1,450 is to be spent in Western Australia, but it is not stated in the Estimates where it is to be spent. Before the honorable member speaks, I wish to refer to the question of fortifications and defence. Western Australia needs as much, if not more, attention in that respect than any other portion of the Commonwealth. Fremantle is a very important port, as it is the first place of call in Australia for mail steamers, but it is in no way defended. If fortifications are needed in other portions of the Commonwealth, surely in Western Australia, which might be made the base for an attack on the rest of the Commonwealth, ought to receive some attention in that regard? When an examination is made of the figures in the Estimates it is found that the expenditure is considerably less there than in any other- portion of the Commonwealth. Although the Minister for Defence is a representative of that State, still I think that he might see his way, or might be supported by the Ministry, in any desire he might have to spend more money in the State or, at any rate, a fair proportion of the vote for the purpose. I am not in favour of a large expenditure on defence, but I hold that Western Australia is entitled to a reasonable proportion of the vote. On the gold-fields there is a very large adult male population. For a long time these men have been desirous of establishing volunteer corps - and volunteer corps are established on the gold-fields - but the amount of support they have received has been very insignificant. They have no drillhall, and I am not sure whether they have rifle ranges yet. It is. for that reason that I wish to know where this item on the Estimates is to be spent, and .also if the Government have taken into their consideration the need for the defence of Fremantle.
– I had intended to raise the question of the defence of Fremantle. It is absurd that a sum of only £450 should be placed on the Estimates for fortifications to protect the entrance to Australia from the Indian Ocean. I wish to know in what way it is proposed to expend that sum. It is being voted for the purpose of fortifications, barracks, rifle ranges, and drill-halls. It would take a great deal more than that sum to erect a decent building for a drill-hall. Fremantle is quite unprotected, and no doubt it would be one of the first points for which an enemy would make. I hope that the Minister will consider this question and place on the Estimates, the sum which Fremantle deserves for its protection.
– I do not think that the explanation of the Acting Minister in regard to the drill-room in New South Wales is altogether satisfactory. When the last Estimates were under consideration we had an instance of what the Minister for Defence did in Western Australia. “ Why,” he said, “you parsimonious lot, I spent £600,000 without the sanction of Parliament,” and now the Acting Minister is left to get him out of the trouble into which he has run the corps. If the committee pass the item for a recoup it will establish a precedent. Perhaps there are many other corps which have done the same thing. . .
– Until a precedent is established the Acting Minister cannot know, and then he will receive applications for recoups by the dozen. If it is granted for corps in New South Wales it will be claimed for corps in South Australia, Victoria, and Queensland, and it will be impossible to give a valid reason why it should not be granted. They will have just as much right to get their money back as have these corps in New South Wales. While the wave of enthusiasm was on it was all right, but as soon as it subsided other corps wanted their dollars returned. If the Minister chooses to do illegal things let him pay the piper.
Mr, CONROY (Werriwa).- On these Estimates I find the sums of £791,087 for the department ; £25,137 for compensation ; and £29,221 for works, which give a total of £S45,445 for the year. .While the cost of the department last year was £853,830, it is put down this year - and now we know that the figures are correct - at £845,445, so that the marvellous saving of which the Government speak has all disappeared. The difference between the actual cost last year and the estimated cost this year is £8,385.
– The honorable and learned member has not taken in works and buildings for one thing.
– There is no escape from the fact that the difference between the actual cost last year and the estimated cost this year is £8,385.
– I shall be very glad if the Acting Minister can give details of the item of £1,800 on the Queensland Estimates for fortifications, barracks, rifle ranges, and drill-halls.
– The amount is £1,650.
– I include the item of £151 for new works and buildings, as it is under the same head. The honorable gentleman knows that I have been in communication with the head department for some time with reference to the closing of One-Mile rifle range. I expressed the opinion that it is quite safe, notwithstanding the reports of the officers to the contrary, but they have come to the conclusion that some alteration is required to be made. I wish to know whether the Acting Minister is prepared to spend the little sum which is necessary, in order to provide facilities for the two old-established rifle clubs at Ipswich to continue their practice?
– In reply to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, I desire to say that the re-vote of £1,000 is required to change the rifle from Martini-Henry to Martini-Enfield303, while the other amount to which he referred is required to provide for increased store accommodation, drill sheds at Fremantle, alterations and additions to rifle ranges, and for unforeseen new works and alterations in connexion with defence works and buildings. The question of drill-halls is rather an important one. Some very large claims for drillhalls have been made. I referred the general question to the General Officer Commanding, who is now making inquiries, and will make a recommendation to me. The question of fortifying Fremantle is to receive attention during this year. In reply to the honorable member for Moreton, I desire to say that the smaller item is required for protecting the search-light. I am advised that -
The electric search-light, in a concrete complacement, is an essential part of the artillery and submarine depot at Lytton. The searchlight is at present in a temporary wooden hut, but without any protection whatever, and would therefore be useless in action.
The item of £1,650 is required to provide for -
Minor alterations in connexion with water supply and reticulation at Lytton, new latrines at the same place, improvements to various rifle ranges, construction of rifle range at Stanthorpe, fencing Warwick rifle range, stop-butt Howard rifle range, alterations to rifle ranges generally, and for minor unforeseen alterations to defence works.
With regard to the rifle range outside Ipswich, so far as I could do I have done all that the honorable member for Moreton has asked me. I do not know whether he has yet been informed, but last time I communicated with Commandant Price, and his report is against the rifle range.
– He is expecting it to be done by private subscription.
SirWILLIAM LYNE.- From the description given by the honorable member, I cannot see that it is a dangerous range. The objection is that the firing is done over the railway line mainly. The shots pass many hundred feet over the top of the railway line, which runs along a valley. I do not think the objection is a valid one. It is a question which I can decide just as well as the military authorities can do ; and if it can possibly be done I wish to carry out the improvements which the honorable member requires.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- Before we dispose of these Estimates I desire to ask the Acting Minister if it is the intention of the Government next year to bring down the Estimates for each department as a whole, and not in parts, so that the committee may know what it is asked to vote ; and, also, if they intend this year to reduce the expenditure to £700,000, including the extra amounts which we are now called upon to vote?
– The honorable member for Kennedy has asked me a question that was discussed and decided last night. The amount of £700,000 was intended to be for the total administration of the Defence department, and did not include either the construction of works or repairs and maintenance. It so happens that at the present moment I am Acting Minister for Defence, and also Minister for Home Affairs. If the Minister for Defence were here he would be in charge of the Defence Estimates, but the works for the Defence department would still be under the control of the works branch of the Home Affairs office. Otherwise I should have no control over works and buildings. I must impress upon honorable members that it is impossible to say that in the future we shall bring the whole of the expenditure for the Defence department, including construction and repairs, within £700,000. A question has been asked with regard to the defence at Fremantle, and similar questions might be put as to other places. If we were to say that £700,000 was to cover the whole of the expenditure, it would be of no use thinking of erecting defence works at Fremantle or elsewhere. The spirit of the discussion last night was not to the effect that the whole of the defence works were to be included in that sum. What was meant was the general administration of the department, not works which sometimes might cost £100,000, sometimes £300,000 or £400,000, and sometimes £50,000, according to circumstances.
– I wish to ask whether the sum of £1,000, which is set down for rifle ranges in Western Australia, is not a re-vote?
– Yes. The vote was passed last year, but very late, so that we could not expend the money.
– I hope that on this occasion the item is not to be merely a book entry, because last year, in Western Australia, strong complaints were made about the inadequacy of the targets throughout the whole of the State. There is a range at Karrakatta which has to serve both for Perth and Fremantle. Many of the men who go there to shoot have to come back without getting near a target. The sum here voted is altogether inadequate for Wstern Australia, and I certainly hope that the money will be expended this year.
– The money in question was not spent, because it was voted so late in the year.If the work had been commenced it would have had to be stopped on the 30th June, because we should have had ho more money, and should have required a further vote. There is a great deal in what the honorable member says about the sum forWestern Australia being very small. I hope that after honorable members have visited that State during the recess they will have a little more consideration forWestern Australia. They need to see what sort of a country it is.
Vote agreed to.
Division 3 (Post and Telegraph offices) - £140,110.
SirWILLIAM LYNE.- I wish to omit some items from Division 3. The PostmasterGeneral says that themoney for switchboards is not absolutely required this year. I move -
That the following items be omitted: - “New South Wales, switchboard (total cost, £30,000) £15,000; Victoria, switchboard (total cost,£30,000) £10,000; South Australia, switchboard (total cost, £1 3,000) £5,000 ; Tasmania, switchboard, £2,000. “
– I wish to have some information as to the proposed expenditure in Queensland of £13,500. It is to be spent on the erection of post-offices at Charlieville, Tambo, Pratten, and other places, and on the purchase of sites. Possibly the last item, “Purchase of sites, £2,500,” may be a re-vote. I should like to have details concerning the £9,000 for offices.
SirWILLIAM LYNE.- The items to which the honorable member calls attention are nearly all re-votes. As to the post and telegraph offices, £9,000, the information is as follows : -
This sum is to provide for new post and telegraph buildings at Charlieville, Pratten, Tambo, Killarney, Longreach, and Woollongabba, and at other places as may be required from time to time as circumstances demand.
The item of £2,000 for “ Sundry offices as required,” is -
To provide for additions - stone, brick, and wooden - to existing post and telegraph buildings. The expenditure is required to meet the demand for better and larger accommodation for both the public and officers.
Then there is a sum of £2,500 for the purchase of sites. That is for sites for the erection of Government buildings, and post and telegraph offices. It has been already decided to purchase land atWoollongabba and Charlieville.
Mr. KIRWAN (Kalgoorlie). - I desire to refer to the expenditure upon post-offices inWestern Australia. There are several circumstances in connexion with that State that deserve the special consideration of the Government. The increase of settlement and of progress is very much more rapid in Western Australia than in any other State in Australia, and, as the requirements of the people are growing so very rapidly, I hope that in connexion with the proposed works, speed will be exercised.
– These are all revotes.
– There is one item in particular to which I wish to refer. It is proposed to erect offices at Trafalgar, Brown Hill, and Boulder. Those works tire urgently needed. At Boulder there is a large town with a population of, I suppose, 20,000 or 30,000 people. The postoffice already in existence there is really a disgrace to the department. Some time ago there was an official report to the effect that the office was in a very unhealthy state - unhealthy to the public who had business to do there and to the officials engaged in it. When the previous Estimates were under consideration it was stated that additions to this office had been urgently required for some time past.
– The plans for the Boulder office are ready now.
– I wish to emphasize the necessity for urgency in regard to this work. The official information shows, according to latest returns, that the revenue from the office is £9,899, and the expenditure £7,212, so that there was a net gain on the work of the office of £2,6S7. In one year the Government will be recouped for the proposed expenditure. Provision is here made for the erection of a post-office at Canning at an expenditure of £550. I do not know whether there is any need for that. I wish to hear some . reason given as to why the office should be built. The returns furnished to Parliament show that the total revenue from Canning is £52 a year, and the net expenditure is £85, showing a loss on the year of £33. If £550 is to be expended on the new office there, it will mean the employment of a postmaster and officials at additional expense, and the present loss will be considerably increased. An explanation should certainly be made in regard to it.
– There is an item under the heading of Victoria, of “Sewerage,- £3,000.” I should like to have some information from the Minister with regard to it.
– That is a re-vote.
– Is it on account of the Melbourne General Post-office ?
– Are any of the suburban offices provided for ?
– Not in this vote, I think.
Mr. FOWLER (Perth).- I am sorry to have to refer to the Post-office at Canning, Western Australia, but I think that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is not fully seized of all the circumstances. Canning is not in my electorate, and I have no particular interest in it. It is the electorate represented by the Minister for Defence. But I would point out that it is a growing suburb of Perth, and at present has absolutely no postal facilities whatever. It is only fair that a post-office should be erected there, and considering the comparatively small amount to be voted for Western Australia, I trust that no attempt will be made to strike out this sum.
– I wish to ask for an explanation in regard to the expenditure for New South Wales. The total amount to be spent on additions to postoffices is £13,930, and on new works and buildings, £43,580. This money includes expenditure for the purchase of sites, but I notice that apparantly no provision is made to carry out works in connexion with the Orange post and telegraph office. I understood last year that this work was provided for in the Loan Bill, but subsequently I was informed that it was to be done out of revenue. Is this work covered by the vote under consideration, or is provision made for it elsewhere 1
– As to the erection of a post-office at Cunderdin, which is’ in the electorate of the Right Honorable the Minister for Defence, I desire to say that some of the people interested have written to me about it. The town is on the railway line to Coolgardie, and is a pumping station for the Coolgardie Water Supply scheme. A considerable population has arisen there, and the people have asked for a post-office. I understand that before the department was taken over by the Commonwealth, the Western Australian Government decided to erect a post-office at a cost of about £500. The work has since been hung up, and the residents desire to know whether or not the Federal Government propose to proceed with it.
– Last year’s Estimates were dealt with so late that it was impossible to spend the money before the close of the financial year. It is now being re- voted.
– And the erection of the building will follow 1
– Presumably; we are providing the money for the works.
– The only other matter to which I desire to draw the attention of the Minister is in regard to the provision of the sum of £1,200 for the erection of a brick postal building at Mount Leonora. That town is situated on the gold-fields, about 500 miles from Freemantle, and bricks are so expensive there that I am certain that £1,200 will be found insufficient to erect anything like proper accommodation for the growing needs of the district. I find that even at Tarcoola, South Australia, which is an insignificant township in comparison with Mount Leonora, a sum of £1,300 is to be spent in erecting a post-office. Mount Leonora is at present the terminus of the railway. The district is a very extensive one, and within a radius of about 5 miles there must be a population of about 5,000. The mines are opening up well, and I would suggest that if it could be done the sum set apart for the erection of the post-office there should be increased to £2,000. Owing to the high cost of all commodities at Mount Leonora, it will be found impossible to do the work for the amount now proposed to be voted.
Amendment agreed to.
Reduced vote, £1 IS, 110, agreed to.
Division 4 ( Victoria) £500, and Division 5 (Victoria) £6,000, .agreed to.
Division 6 (Defence), £1,200
– I have been asked by some honorable members to put before the committee figures showing what difference the transference of these works from loan to revenue account will make in regard to the surplus to be returned to the States. I have had prepared the following table, which fully explains the position : -
As the result of providing out of revenue instead of out of loan moneys for these works there will be a difference of £96,358 iri the surplus returned to New South Wales, £29,655 in the surplus returned to Victoria, £49,967 in the surplus returned to Queensand, £25,515 in the .surplus returned to South Australia, £14,13S in the surplus returned to Western Australia, and £5,336 in the surplus returned to Tasmania.
– These figures relate to works included in the original Estimates, but now to be paid for out of revenue ?
– In my Budget statement, I said that the States would receive back a certain surplus. I made that statement upon the assumption that the particular works with which we are now about to deal would be paid for out of loan money. The committee having determined that we should not raise a loan, it became necessary to recast our proposals so as to make the expenditure, moreespecially in those States which occupy the least favorable position, as low as we could reasonably do. The figures I have quoted show how much the different States would receive if we adhered to our former proposals. But we have struck off the revenue Estimates £32,000 in respect of works which we do not propose now to carry out.For example, we have struck off the £5,000 provided for a telephone switchboard in South Australia. That means that the difference in regard to the surplus payable to South Australia will really be £20,000. These amounts are taken after making allowance for the sums already charged to the States and paid out of the Treasurer’s advance account.
– Have the Government struck off the provision for undergrounding the telephone wires in Victoria?
– We have struck off the whole scheme. It would be useless to do the work piecemeal. It is better that it should be left until brighter times come.
– I should like to make a few observations in regard to these additional estimates of expenditure. I take it that they have been circulated as the result of the division which took place a few days ago when the committee refused to consent to a loan being raised for public works. These works, which should be provided for out of loan moneys, and which should be treated as new expenditure, must now be provided for, if undertaken at all, out of revenue. So far as Queensland is concerned I am afraid that with the reduced revenue it will be found a matter of impossibility to carry out these works, and I am sorry to say that what applies to Queensland applies more or less to several other States.
– The amount to be expended in Queensland is onlysome 26,000. The balance has already been expended and charged. We have cut down the expenditure in Queensland as much as possible.
– These Estimates provided for new works and buildings in
Queensland at a cost of £54,795. That sum is to be taken out of revenue, but if a Loan Bill had been passed the works would have been provided for out of loan moneys. I think that the committee made a mistake in refusing permission to the Government to raise a loan. As honorable members are aware, the necessity for a loan at this time is due to the general depression which exists throughout the Commonwealth. I have no doubt that if the depression passes away, as I hope it soon will do, many necessary works in connexion with the extension of the telegraphic and telephonic system will be carried out for the most part out of revenue ; but I think it is impossible at the present time to provide for them in that way.
– We provide for only those which are absolutely necessary.
– I hope that will be the case. The Treasurer estimates that as compared with the revenue for 1900, Queensland’s net revenue from customs and excise this year will show a decrease of £361,486. Taking for granted the Treasurer’s assertion that the transferred departments will not cost more now than they did in 1900, we have to add to that sum the cost of federation, and I estimate Queensland’s share at £38,348. These two sums added together mean that the Treasurer of Queensland will be £400,000 worse off than he was before federation.
– But not in consequence of federation.
– Federation has had something to do with it.
– I do not attribute the whole of the blame to federation. I do not think Queensland would have been in its present position if good seasons had been experienced. I have no desire to discuss the question of federation, although I still hold” the opinion that the Federal Government have not risen to the occasion at the beginning of our national life as a united Australia. They have failed to realize the varied climatic and other conditions of the different States, and I am sorry to say that New South Wales and Victoria have too largely influenced their policy.
– This is provincialism.
– I have always endeavoured to look upon the members of this Parliament as being members of a federal family, but we have not all regarded our position in the same way. There has been too much provincialism. I trust, however, that we shall overcome that failing, and that each State in the Commonwealth will be considered equally one with the other. The Treasurer puts down £54,795 as Queensland’s share of expenditure on works which he had intended to execute out of loan money. That sum will also have to come out of Queensland’s income, so that the Treasurer of that State, instead of receiving £45,000 less than last year, will receive £95,000 less. Another point is that Queensland will thus receive £45,000 less than the actual three-fourths of her net customs and excise revenue - an experience which no other State anticipates. If these works were treated as new expenditure, as they should be treated, Queensland would be called upon to pay this year only about £30,000 instead of £54,000. This and other matters have given rise to the great dissatisfaction at present existing in Queensland and elsewhere with regard to federation. I am very sorry to say that under existing circumstances it would be nothing less than actual cruelty for the federal Treasurer to appropriate from the Queensland revenue the amount of money proposed for this year. I do not desire to place any obstacle in the way of carrying out any necessary public works, but I do not see how it is possible, under the present circumstances, for the Queensland finances to bear additional expenditure to the extent of £50,000 or £60,000 a year.
– I should like the Treasurer to give the committee some revised estimate of the amount of surplus revenue to be returned to the States, in view of the reductions in expenditure which have been proposed since the original estimate was given. The Government propose to expend out of revenue £220,969.
– We have already expended a certain amount of money out of the Treasurer’s advance. We propose to expend altogether £257,000.
– The original estimate of the surplus revenue to be returned to the States amounted to £915,000, but certain savings have been arranged for, an amount of £35,000 in connexion with the military Estimates, and certain reduction in connexion with the Works Estimates, the result of which will be to increase the surplus to be returned.
– lt is probable that there will be from £80,000 to £100,000 unexpended.
– - To the original estimate of £915,000 must be added the amounts to which I have just referred, and I should like to know what will be the balance left to be returned to the States after the amount proposed to be expended upon public works is deducted. As it appears to me, the Treasurer’s proposal to spend £220,969 less on works than his Original proposal will leave an estimated balance to be returned to the States of £674,031. I arrive at that by deducting £220,969 from the original estimated balance of £915,000. To this we have now to add the £80,000 to £100,000 which will not be spent, leaving an estimated balance to be returned to the States of from £754,000 to £774,000.
– I have the amount of the surplus returnable to each State, and the amount of the reduced surplus. I have given honorable members those figures. The total surplus to be returned will be £915,000, the amount previously stated, less the £220,969 proposed to be expended on works. That will be about £670,000.
– That will be £674,000, but we are proposing to make large sa rings.
– Yes, we have to add to the amount of £674,000 the savings that will be made by the nonexpenditure of certain votes, and I think we may put the total reductions we propose to make at from £80,000 to £100,000.
– One cannot help sympathizing with the honorable member for Oxley upon the depressed condition of the great State of Queensland. But some of the statements which the honorable member made, if telegraphed to Queensland without explanation, are likely to create a false impression. The honorable member referred to a falling off in the Queensland customs revenue to the extent of £200,000 or £300,000. It is hardly necessary to point out that that is one of the inevitable results of the adoption of a uniform Tariff, and that as that money will not have to be paid by the people of Queensland in the shape of customs revenue, it will still remain in their pockets, and may be attached by other means of taxation.
– Then the foreigner does not pay the duty ?
– The money is not extracted from the people of Queensland by the tyrannical authorities of the Federation.
– The honorable member did not say that.
– Yes, the honorable gentleman said that Queensland would be deprived of £200,000 or £300,000 of revenue from taxation. I point out that the money is not taken from the people of Queensland, and the State Treasurer may propose some other form of taxation by which that amount of revenue may be made available for State purposes. ‘ It would be very unfair if it went forth to Australia that the Federal Parliament had deprived Queensland of that money.
– The honorable member did not say that.
– The honorable member certainly said something to that effect. ‘ The statement will be telegraphed to Queensland, and we shall have Mr. Philp, the State Premier, utilizing it in enlarging upon the evils of federation. The honorable member also claims that the vote of £54,000 for public works proposed to be constructed in Queensland ought to have been provided for out of loan money. That would mean the distribution of the burden amongst the whole of the people of Australia according to population. But I remind the honorable member that this money proposed to be spent out of Queensland revenue is to be spent upon buildings and property which will become and remain the property of the Queensland people until it is taken over by the Federation, and when that is done the people of Queensland will have the money refunded to them.
– And in the meantime they will get the revenue to be derived from the telegraph and telephone extensions proposed.
– In the meantime’ they will have the advantage of these public works in Queensland, the money will be spent in the State, and the people of the State will have the benefit of the expenditure. Under the circumstances I fail to see why the honorable member for Oxley should make such a doleful appeal or paint such a terrible picture of Queensland being robbed. I should like honorable members representing that State to say whether they would prefer that this £54,000 proposed for public works in Queensland should be 46 p struck out. Would they prefer that the people of Queensland should be deprived of the benefit of the construction of these works ? It is surely only necessary to mention these facts in order to cut from under the feet of the so-called “secessionists” the main basis upon which they are constructing their flimsy edifice of opposition.
– I went outside the chamber for a minute or two in order that some of the fireworks might escape through the roof or elsewhere, and that none of them might fall upon my shoulders. The last few sentences which I have heard have opened my eyes to the fact that there is a great deal of parochialism displayed. Victoria appears to desire always to get on the top of the tree and crow there like a rooster. Honorable members representing Queensland have been asked whether they would like to have this vote of £54,000 for works in that State struck out. I say that Queensland does not desire to spend that money out of her revenue for Commonwealth purposes.
– It will be for her own. purposes.
– It will be for Commonwealth purposes.
– But in Queensland.
– I say that we do not desire a brick to be set in mortar or £1 of that “money expended, but we do desire that it should be given to the State Treasurer.
– Will the honorable and learned member move that the amount be struck out ?
– I leave it to the honorable and learned member for Bendigo to do that, as he initiated the matter. The honorable and learned member referred to some complaint about the robbery of Queensland. It is most amusing to hear these absurd observations coming from honorable members representing Sir John Robertson’s “Cabbage Garden.” My honorable friend the member for Oxley, made a statement at which the honorable and learned member for Bendigo has taken umbrage, but the honorable member for Oxley never complained that Queensland was being robbed.
– Deprived of its revenue.
– PATERSON. - Yes ; and the honorable member for Oxley stated the face when he referred to the difference between the revenue of Queensland in 1900, before federation, and the revenue of the past year as being to the disadvantage of that State. What the honorable member intended to convey is that federation has produced certain results under the Tariff which has prejudiced the finances of Queensland. Who took the duty off tea ? Has that not been a result of federation? I have given the key to the observations of the honorable member for Oxley with respect to the reduction of Queensland revenue . resulting from federal legislation. The honorable member has really pointed to the difference between the Customs Tariff of Queensland and the Customs Tariff of the Commonwealth as showing how the revenue of Queensland has been prejudiced.
– So far as I can understand the position of South Australia, we had a total revenue from customs and excise last year of £687,182, and the total revenue which the Treasurer expects for that- State this year is £680,000. We have already included in the Estimates of expenditure and ‘ revenue a sum of £20,105, for post-office buildings, . and so on, and on the Supplementary Estimates it is proposed to spend another £20,000, that is deducting the £5,000 for the switchboard, making a total expenditure of £40,105.. It is very evident that the State treasurer of South Australia will have some trouble to balance his accounts, and that was the reason for my anxiety when I so strenuously opposed the construction of works from revenue at this particular stage. Under all the circumstances it* seems to me that it would be fair to leave it to the State Governments to say whether they desire that these works shall be pushed on at the present stage, when they know that if they are pushed on the Cost will be deducted from the State revenue.
– The Commonwealth Parliament is charged with the duty of carrying out some of these works - those connected with the post-office, for example.
– I have reduced the amount for South Australia, and have taken off £15,000. The main item is for the construction of the telegraph line to Tarcoola, and that work was specially pressed upon u3 by the State Government, who informed us that they would do the work themselves, and find the money, if we did not.
– As a matter of fact, some portion of the work is being constructed already.
– So pressing was the work that we have gone on with it out of the Treasurer’s advance.
– Is it a fair thing that we should suspend these works, and, at the same time, allow the States Governme*nts to go on with the works which they have proposed ? Why should we not ask the States Governments to suspend some of the works they have proposed ? We have the money for these works.
– We have the money, and that is an unfortunate position for the States. It is very unfair that this House should take upon itself to insist upon the construction of certain works when the additional expenditure involved will only create further confusion in the State finances.
– Does the honorable member advocate the suspension of all necessary -works in connexion with the Postal department ?
– I do not advocate the suspension of necessary works. I know that some of these works will be revenueproducing. Under existing circumstances the time seems to me inopportune to insist upon the ‘payment for all works1, out of revenue. However, as the matter has been decided by the committee, I do not want to re-open the question ; but I hope that the Commonwealth, in carrying out new works, will consider the financial position of the various States, and, where possible, let the expenditure stand over until next year, by which time, perhaps, a good season will have put things in a better position.
Vote agreed to.
Division 7 (Post and Telegraph Offices), £26,500, and Division S (Telegraphs and Telephones), £229,7.95, agreed to.
Resolved (on motion by Sir George Turner) -
That the standing orders be suspended in order to allow the report of the committee to be adopted at once, and to enable the Appropriation Bills for 1901-2 and 1902-3 to be respectively passed through all their stages without delay.
Motion (by Sir George Turner) proposed -
That the report be now adopted.
– I move-
That the motion be amended by the omission of all the words after the word “ be,” with a view to the insertion of the words “ referred back to the committee for the reconsideration of Division 16.”
Some dissatisfaction is felt by myself and others in regard to the division taken last week on the proposal to reduce the salary of the Secretary to the Attorney-General, because some honorable members appeared then to be voting under a misapprehension regarding the real question before the committee. As to my remarks at the time, concerning the action of the Chairman of Committees in voting with the Government, I am convinced, from what that honorable gentleman has told me since, that he did so inadvertently, and not with deliberate intention, and therefore I withdraw my imputation of unfairness. I shall not detain honorable members by dealing with this matter at length, because we all know what the question at stake really is. The attitude I take is that the Government are asking Parliament to add as a permanent increase to the salary of the Secretary to the AttorneyGeneral the sum of £50, because an allowance of that amount was voted for him last year, as a reward for the extra duties imposed upon him by the length of the session. The sum in question is not a large one, but I object to the increase on principle.
– The honorable member for Bland is under a misapprehension. After the services of the gentleman referred to were first secured by the Commonwealth, he was, and remained for a long time, the only officer in the Attorney-General’s department, his duties being those of Parliamentary Draftsman, Crown solicitor, and Secretary to the AttorneyGeneral. He was appointed for the performance of those duties at a salary of £800 a year. When the first set of Estimates was prepared, as he was acting as permanent head of the department, and the salary fixed for officers in thatposition, except where a larger remuneration had been previously enjoyed inState employ, was £750, the £800 per annum at which he was appointed was divided into two amounts - £750 as salary as head of the Attorney-General’s department and £50 for additional professional services. The arrangement was made to secure uniformity, and does not fairly represent the claim in his case. This gentleman is the chief professional officer of the Commonwealth, upon whom, especially in the early years of federation,an exceptional burden has fallen, and a salary of £800 per annum is a very moderate remuneration for his services, especially if measured by the salaries paid in the States to Crown Solicitors and to heads of departments.
– The Crown Solicitors of the States are all men of more experience.
– Yes ; but this gentleman is not merely Crown Solicitor ; he is also Parliamentary Draftsman and Secretary to the Attorney-General. He and the Chief Clerk have constituted for two years the entire permanent staff of the Attorney-General’s department. The £50 by which the honorable member for Bland wishes to reduce the salary was not an extra allowance last year, nor is it an increase this year. It is part of the salary at which the officer in question was originally appointed. I trust that honorable members will not single out for reduction the salary of an officer of great responsibility and great merit.
– I thank the honorable member for Bland for the withdrawal of his remarks against me last week. I voted on the occasion referred to through pure inadvertence. You, Mr. Speaker, had left for Adelaide, and I asked the honorable member for Kennedy to take the chair in committee so that he might report to me as Deputy Speaker. When the division bells rang, it was perilously near the time at which my. own train was to start, and I therefore remained in the chamber, and inconsiderately voted. Had I given any thought to the matter, I should either have resumed the chair in committee, and allowed the honorable member for Kennedy to record his vote, or, as Deputy Speaker, have followed your example, sir, by remaining outside the chamber.
– I think it will be convenient to regard the determination upon the amendment which the honorable member for Bland has moved as a test vote upon the question of the proposed reduction. Honorable members who do not wish to reduce the salary can vote against the recommittal.
– Hear, hear.
Question put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means :
Resolved (on motion by Sir George Turner) -
That towards making good the supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year ended 30th June, 1902, a sum not exceeding £52,407 be granted out of the consolidated revenue fund.
Motion (by Sir George Turner) proposed -
That towards making good the supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year ending 30th June, 1903, a sum not exceeding £2,621,197 be granted out of the consolidated revenue fund.
– With regard to the Military Estimates, it is desirable that the Acting Minister for Defence should understand that the desire of the committee is that the expense of administering the department shall be reduced, and that the money available forwarlike stores, or ammunition, or for carrying out defence works shall not be interfered with. We wish to deal with those matters upon their merits as they arise, and we ask the Government to put aside all these elements, and make a reduction at the rate of £60,000 per annum on the present Estimates.
– That is from December next.
– Yes; and to bring down next year’s Estimates in the reduced form. If the Government do that I shall certainly do all I can to help them in preventing incessant alterations of our Military Estimates, which tend to demoralize the whole of the forces. If the Government carry out the wishes of the committee they will have a solid majority behind them, not perhaps in regard to the exact distribution of the money, but in resisting further reductions of the Estimates.
– There is one point which, I think, ought to be made clear. The. Defence Estimates which were discussed last night include certain votes for the purchase of warlike stores.
– We wish the reductions to be made apart from those items.
– I desire honorable members to understand that the reduced amount which they indicated as the maximum expenditure upon defences, less £106,000, which has to be contributed towards the maintenance of the Australian auxiliary squadron, includes votes for warlike stores, such as rifles and ammunition.
– Only to the extent of £14,000 for rifles and ammunition.
-The Estimates include rifles and warlike stores, but do not embrace the construction and maintenance of works. The leader of the Opposition says that it is desired that the reduction which is to be effected this year shall not apply to the provision which is made for warlike stores. That is not intended, and will not be done. Next year a little mire or a little less money may be appropriated for warlike stores, according to the requirements of the year. I reduced the amounts provided on the Estimates for the purchase of warlike stores quite as low as I felt justified in doing, and the reductions to be made in accordance with the wish of the House will be effected in connexion with the administration, from the headquarters staff downwards.
– I desire to direct attention to the necessity of providing a military hospital at Queenscliff. Unfortunately, when the members of the defence force require to be nursed, they have to be taken to a small room measuring about 12 yards x 14 yards over a store in the Queenscliff fort, and in some cases they have to be carried up a narrow staircase with two turns in it. I do not notice any proposal for the erection or equipment of a proper hospital, and I should like to know if some provision cannot be made. “When I spoke last night with reference to the examinations which officers have to pass before they can obtain commissions in the Royal Australian Artillery, the honorable member for Melbourne, who is one of the board of examiners, said that I was incorrect in stating that Latin, German, French, algebra, euclid, trigonometry, and other subjects were among those in which candidates had to be examined. I find, by reference to the Government Gazette of 9th May last, that examination in these subjects is essential, and that, therefore, my contention was correct. It is peculiar that a member of the board which has to judge as to the qualifications of candidates should not know the subjects for examination.
– I think that a large number of members take the view that the £700,000 expended on the upkeep of the defence forces should include provision for the ammunition which is used in ordinary rifle and gun practice, and so on. A proposal for the purchase of new rifles, or of guns for arming forts, or for the establishment of an ammunition factory, would have to be dealt with on its merits and specially provided for.
– We expect our defence forces to cost us £845,000 this year, whereas last year the expenditure was £853,000. What the committee desire is that, except under extraordinary circumstances, the expenditure upon defences shall not be more than £700,000 per annum.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolved (on motion by Sir George Turner) -
That towards making good the supply granted to His Majesty for additions, new works, and buildings for the year ending 30th June, 1903, a sum not exceeding . £406,092 be granted out of the consolidated revenue fund.
Resolutions reported and adopted.
Bill presented (by Sir George Turner), and passed through all stages without amendment.
Bill presented (by Sir George Turner), and passed through all stages without amendment.
Bill presented (by Sir George Turner), and passed through all stages without amendment.
. I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill which I have the honour to bring under the notice of the House, is intended, as its title indicates, to make temporary provision for enforcing claimsagainst the Commonwealth. If it were designed to be a permanent measure, it would have been presented in another form. Honorable members will realize that it is submitted at the present time because there has been obviously no opportunity for the passage of the Judiciary Bill or of the High Court Procedure Bill during the current session. The immediate cause of its introduction is a judgment given by the Supreme Court of New South Wales in a case in which my honorable colleague, Mr. Drake, consented to be defendant. In that case, the Judge held that his submission to the State jurisdiction was given by him as PostmasterGeneral ; that he could not accept that individual submission, and that consequently the plaintiff could obtain no redress in that court. This Bill is not intended to anticipate more than is absolutely necessary the passage of the measures to which I have alluded, which make permanent provision for enforcing claims against the Commonwealth as well as for all other classes of cases, and for the creation of a High Court whose jurisdiction shall embrace these and other causes of action. I have observed in the press some comments upon this measure, which appear to have been -founded upon a misapprehension of its character. It is merely intended - as its title indicates - to make temporary provision for the enforcement of claims, and it is not proposed to forestall, further than immediate necessities require, that fuller legislation which we hope will be passed next session, providing for the establishment of the High Court of the Commonwealth, one of the three great powers essential to our complete Constitution, and whose decisions are essential to the interpretation of that Constitution under which we now live, move, and have our being. The necessity during the current session for subordinating every other interest to the passing of the Tariff has compelled us most reluctantly to postpone the consideration of the measures to which I have referred, and we now find ourselves, just prior to the recess, called upon to take the requisite steps to provide that during the interval which must elapse before those Bills are placed upon the statute-book there shall be no injury for which the Commonwealth is responsible that will not be subject to jurisdiction even in our States courts. Honorable members are aware of the ancient doctrine which originally placed the Crown, in every dependency in which it was represented, beyond the reach of the ordinary courts of law. A very special procedure was necessary, and iri every instance, both in the mother country and its colonies, the consent of the Crown was essential - before it could be made the defendant in any action. Gradually, however, it has become the practice to provide by statute for the submission of the Crown to the courts of the realm, and that, in a varying degree, has been the aim in the several States of this Union. In some of them the very amplest authority is delegated to the courts to deal with cases against ‘ the Crown. In others that power is of a more limited character. But it must be recognised that the trend of modern legislation is to render it perfectly possible for the subject to bring even the Crown before the courts in regard to any matter upon, which he may feel aggrieved. This concession was made by a succession of stages to which it is unnecessary to refer. But I wish specially to call the attention of honorable members to the fact that, temporary as this measure is, it marks one very serious departure. In the mother country, and in the various colonies, the Crown has consented by statute to become liable, more or less, to the jurisdiction of the courts, but in every single instance that liability has been limited to the courts directly associated with the Crown. That is to say, in Great Britain the Sovereign - the Crown - consents to submit to the jurisdiction of its own courts. In the same manner, in each of the States of Australia, the Crown consents to submit to the courts of that State. In no instance does the Crown in any one of its dominions accept the jurisdiction of the courts of any other of its “ dominions except by way of final appeal to the Privy Council from its oversea dependencies. The proposals contained in this Bill, however, mark an entirely different step, and one of a very much more serious character. In this measure the Commonwealth proposes not to submit to the jurisdiction of its own.courts - as will be proposed in the subsequent legislation to which I have referred - but to the courts of the States. That marks a very grave and distinctly new departure. It is because of the gravity and novelty of that departure that it appears to the Government desirable that we should take whatever steps are required to meet the present emergency in such a manner as to indicate the comparative strangeness of this proposal, and also to preserve the dignity of the Commonwealth. Honorable members will observe that in this measure those who desire to make any claim against the Commonwealth pray the Governor-General to appoint a defendant, and that the GovernorGeneral is left perfectly free to exercise his option - on the advice, of course, of his responsible Ministers - in each and every regard. Of course it would be idle, to bring forward a proposition of that character if it were not the intention of the Government to give effect to it. I call attention to this provision because by it we do not seek merely to keep the word of promise to the ear, but because it is our intention, in the exercise of this option, to submit the Commonwealth to the federal jurisdiction of State Courts in the case of all claims of which we have’ now any knowledge, or which are likely to arise. That submission is made optional in order to maintain the dignity of the Commonwealth - to act as a perpetual reminder on the face of the measure that the.
Commonwealth is submitting itself to courts which are not its own, and that those who take advantage of the provisions do so by its grace. When our permanent measures come before the Chamber, it will be found that provision is made for rendering this a matter of right, and not of grace, in the courts of the Commonwealth. But, as those courts are not established, and as this is a temporary measure, this provision has been inserted, not with the object of defeating the intention of the Bill - not with the object of enabling the Governor-General, after having been authorized under this Act to appoint a defendant, to evade his responsibility - but merely to mark the fact that it is by a concession that the Commonwealth ‘submits to the federal jurisdiction of State courts which is here vested in them. The temporary character of the measure is prominent in clause 7, which is as follows : -
In any action or suit brought under this Act, any appeal, or application for leave to appeal, from a decision of the Supreme Court of a State, which in the opinion of the Attorney-General involves a constitutional question, or a question of importance to the Commonwealth, shall on the application of the Attorney-General be postponed until a time not later than the date of expiration of this Act.
There is no attempt here to take away any right of appeal. It is plain on the face of the clause that the object is to enable a case, although it may arise upon some simple or even trifling incident, and be of small importance from a financial point of view, if its decision broaches a constitutional or other question of magnitude, to be postponed until the High Court shall have been established. The .Federal High Court will be able to deal with such matters, and will have an opportunity of exercising the further powers which it’ possesses under the Constitution of deciding whether a particular constitutional issue, if it be one which affects the respective rights of the States and the Commonwealth, shall receive its final decision in Australia, or if, like every other question save the exceptions contained in section 74, shall be allowed to go to the Privy Council. The object of the clause is simply to enable the appeal in cases involving questions of such magnitude to be suspended until time has been allowed this Parliament to create the High Court and provide for its procedure. This will permit questions of federal interest, involving the interpretation of the Constitution or of federal law - the determination of federal rights and powers of the greatest moment - to be considered by the Federal High Court before they are remitted, if they are to be remitted, to the Privy Council as the final court of appeal. I do not pro pose to enter further into the clauses of this Bill or the particular mode of drafting which has been adopted. I hope I have conveyed to honorable members’ minds the fact that this is a temporary measure which, by the fashion in which the clauses are drawn, emphasizes the fact that it is intended to operate only until the establishment of a Federal High Court has been obtained. Some of these proposals were submitted in the Judiciary Bill, and the remainder were tobe submitted in the High Court Procedure Bill. The temporary nature of the measure I use as the ground of a request to the honorable and learnedmember for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, not to raise the vast issues involved in the amendments of which he has given notice. I shall submit at the proper time that those amendments cannot be entertained in connexion with this particular measure ; but, in any event, urge the honorable and learned member not to press his amendments on the consideration of Parliament in this session. To deal with them would need, not only far more time than we can spare to-day, but far more time than Parliament san spare this session. They involve some of the most fundamental issues of the main Judiciary Bill and the High Court Procedure Bill, which the Government intend to submit next session. The amendments, undoubtedly, show the devotion of the honorable and learned member to those ideas, which, with him, are not of to-day or yesterday ; he has been perfectly consistent ever since he advocated similar proposals in the Convention which preceded the passing of the Federal Constitution. But while I admit the honorable and learned member’s consistency in again, at the first opportunity, bringing these matters under the attention of the House - and, indeed, he has previously directed the attenof honorable members to them - I would urge him not to complicate and overload the issues which we are called upon to consider. We are all wearied by the prolonged session, and in no mood to entertain the very vital changes which he suggests. When we come to deal with the clauses in committee, I shall be prepared to show reasons why the particular form of the measure has been selected. Honorable members will see by the side-notes that all the clauses are more or less based on provisions already in force in the several States.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral know of any State law which gives the right to press an action in tort?
– There is that right, I think, in all the States except Victoria and South Australia. But, to leave points of detail, I commend this measure to the House as a means by which it will be possible for those who. are aggrieved by any failure of the Commonwealth to perform its obligations, or by any wrongful act on the part of the Commonwealth, to submit their causes to the federal jurisdiction of State courts. That has been done in the simplest manner, because we shall be called on nextsession to legislate in what I hope will be a final and practical manner for these and all similar judicial needs.
– The Bill and the observations of the AttorneyGeneral offer a very attractive field of criticism, but I feel that, at this time, under the great pressure of public business, we must really restrict discussion as much as possible.- I believe there is a general desire that a Bill of the kind shall be passed, and, therefore, the second reading need not form the subject of a long debate. I am prepared to waive my right of making a speech on the second reading, so as to get as soon as possible to the practical issues involved in the clauses.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I want to say a few words on this measure, and may as well do so now as at a later stage. The honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, has given notice of certain amendments, in the substance of which I concur. The effect of these amendments is simply to make the Bill less cumbrous, and to allow the Commonwealth or a State to be sued directly, in place of adding to the costs of litigation, by insisting that there shall be a petition asking the Government to allow certain persons to be put forward as nominal defendants. The provision for a petition is absolutely useless, and I think that the amendments, if they are proceeded with, will commend themselves to honorable members. But I desire to deal with a matter which is raised by clauses 7 and 8, which provide that an appeal of a State from the Supreme Court shall be delayed.
– “May” be delayed.
– The words are “ shall on the application of the Attorney-General.”
– That is so, if the AttorneyGeneral makes application.
– The idea is that one of the parties to the litigation has the right to stop or delay an appeal. I know, of course, that the object’ is that an appeal may wait until the High Court be established, but in turning the proposal over in my mind, I have come to the conclusion that the clause is not only improper, but invalid. There is no right on the part of the .Federal Government to delay or obstruct the operation of an Order in Council under an Imperial Act, nor to hinder the operation of a State Act. We have no power, as a Federal Parliament, to say that a certain State Act shall not operate or shall be delayed. If we consider how it is that there is at present an appeal to the Privy Council, we may refer to an Order of Council dated 9th June, 1860.
– Does the honorable and learned member not consider that the question is affected by the fact that these are appeals from causes heard under authority conferred by this Bill 1
– I have carefully thought over the Order in Council, and, in my opinion, its effect is absolutely clear. It does not matter from what source the Supreme Court gets authority to decide a question. There is under the Order in Council a right in the litigant to appeal, within the time limited, to the Judicial. Committee of the Privy Council. The Order in Council is as follows : -
Whereas D3’ an Act passed in a session of Parliament holden in the seventh and eighth years of Her Majesty it was enacted that it should be competent to Her Majesty, by any Order or Orders in Council, to provide for the admission of appeals to Her Majesty in Council from any judgments, sentences, decrees, ov orders of any court of justice within any British colony or possession abroad, although such court should not be a court of errors or appeal within such colony or possession, and to make provision for the instituting and prosecuting such appeals, and for carrying into effect any such decisions or sentences as Her Majesty in Council should pronounce thereon.
There is a right given to any person who feels aggrieved from an order of the Supreme Court, if the amount exceeds in value £500, to appeal to Her Majesty, her heirs and successors. So far, I think, it is perfectly clear the Imperial Act confers on the litigant a right to appeal from the judgment of any body which is given jurisdiction. And then, if one takes the Victorian Act - and I believe that each State has a similar law - section 231 says -
If any person feel aggrieved by any decision of the court in any civil proceeding of any kind depending in the court in which the matter in issue amounts to ?1,000 sterling in value, by which the merits of the ease moy be concluded, it shall be lawful for such person, within 30 days after such decision may have been pronounced, to apply to the court for leave to appeal therefrom to He;- Majesty in her Privy Council.
Here, again, are two rights of appeal to the Privy Council, which are given, one by the Victorian Act, and another by the Imperial Act and Order in Council” thereunder. But it is proposed by this Bill to say that, although that right of appeal is so given, it shall not be exercised if the AttorneyGeneral see fit to move the court. I know his extreme dislike to allowing these appeals to go to the Privy Council, and at the Convention I did my best with him to have it provided that all our appeals should go to the High Court, but we lost by three votes. It is a most interesting fact that, owing to a mistake in the drafting of the Constitution, to which I shall point presently, an optional right of appeal to the Privy Council was left, and the result is disastrous. Even when the High Court is established it will be optional with a litigant who is beaten to appeal either to the Privy Council or ‘to the High Court. That was a mistake which is easily traceable. At page 2455 of the Melbourne Convention Debutes I find that the question was raised by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, of whether there would be an optional appeal to the Privy Council. He, as well as I, was against the option of appeal ; but the chairman of the Judicial Committee, Mr., now Sir Josiah Symon, who of course very properly had great weight, assured the Convention deliberately that there was not the least danger ; that there would be no such option. I shall quote an extract from the report of the debate, as follows : -
Mr Symon It appears to me that the point to which the Honorable Mr. Glynn has directed attention will not in practice arise at all. The intention certainly was not to multiply appeals or to give an alternative option to an appellant in a State court to appeal either direct to the Privy Council or to the High Court. .We have dealt simply with appeals from the High Court to the Privy Council. Under clause 73 a general jurisdiction in regard to appeals is given to the High Court. The natural anxiety of the honorable member is that there should be a power in the Parliament to put an end to appeals direct from the Supreme Court of a State to the Privy Council without going, of course, through the High Court. It appears to me that under clause 73 the appeal direct to the Privy Council is practically abolished.
– Under the new clause 73 ?
Mr. SYMON Yes.
– Was the clause worded then as it is now 1
– I think it was. I never could see how clause 73 had much to do with the question. In the Constitution we have firmly embedded an option for a litigant to choose whether he will so to the Privy Council or to the High Court, if there is such a body. I am sorry for it ; I think it is a mistake.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that that question is involved in the Bill t
– Yes. Clause 7 is an attempt to prevent an appeal being brought to the Privy Council within a certain time. One of the essential points in Magna Charta was that the King would not only not deny to any one justice and right, but would delay to no man justice and right. Supposing that next month a judgment should be given by the Supreme Court in Sydney on such a question as arose the other day when a man was injured >y some electric wires. As the law now stands he could appeal to the Privy Council right off upon paying a certain deposit. Under clause 7 of the Bill that right is stayed and stopped. The opposing party - the AttorneyGeneral - ma)’ simply move the court, and say, “I am- entitled to have this appeal stopped.” Unless a man can prosecute his appeal within a certain time it is lost, and there is no provision here for any suspension of the operation of the New South Wales Act or Order in Council. I am quite sure that the Attorney-General will admit that it would be incompetent for us to interfere in the slightest degree with the Victorian Actor the Order in Council. Of course, he is anxious to get this Bill passed as quickly as possible, and I shall help him to expedite its passage as far as I can, but I do not wish to have an Act of this Parliament treated as being void and nugatory, while being at the same time misleading to litigants. I shall suggest, when the proper time comes, that clauses 7 and 8 be omitted. There is no need for any anxiety with regard to giving jurisdiction to our Supreme Courts. In America, however, there was danger in that respect. The condition of the courts in the thirteen States that seceded was simply lamentable, and it was extremely important to have a court where the Judges had a higher tenure and where there was a higher class of work done. But with all their faults the Supreme Courts of these States are as strong as we can expect the High Court to be in the near future. I do not think that if we were to create the High Court to-morrow we should have a better class of men on its bench than we have at present on the benches of the Supreme Courts. I am not raising at this stage the question of whether we ought to create a High Court at present, because I admit that it must be dealt with on a much larger basis and in a different aspect. But whether it is advisable to establish a High Court soon or not we ought not to deprive any man of his right to appeal to the Privy Council.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 (Short title).
– There are three or four amendments of which I have given notice, and if they are carried it will be necessary to amend the short title.
– I shall take a preliminary objection now. This is a Bill distinctly to make temporary provision for enforcing claims against the Commonwealth; at the stage which we have reached, it is not possible for us to consider such an immense enlargement of the order of leave as those amendments require. My honorable and learned friend wishes to introduce claims by the Commonwealth, and, as a glance at his amendments will show when we come to them, he also proposes to introduce provisions to enable actions against States and between States to be dealt with. Each of these means an enormous extension of this measure, as he will admit. Although I am extremely loath to take such an objection-
– I asked my honorable and learned friendto give me an opportunity of amplifying the scope of the Bill.
– So far as giving notice to me, personally, is concerned, he certainly did. If this were an ordinary period of the session I should have been inclined to withdraw my proposal, as as to bring it forward in such a shape as would give my honorable and learned friend an opportunity of discussing his views. But does he really propose at this stage of the session to raise questions of such magnitude? I must say that I do not think that they can be disposed of.
– What is the necessity for it ? Surely, if the Commonwealth chooses to submit itself to the jurisdiction of the State courts, it can commence an action.
– The honorable and learned member also wants to give the Commonwealth power to enter actions against the States, and vice versâ.
– That is the reason why the power was put into the Constitution.
– I do not dispute the constitutional power. It is a matter which must be considered when we come to deal with permanent legislation upon the subject. But this is merely a temporary measure, brought in at the close of . the session to carry us on until next year, when the clauses in which the honorable and learned member is so deeply interested, and upon whose effects he is so admirably informed, will require to be dealt with. I should be the last to endeavour to evade their discussion at such a time. The sooner a determination is arrived at with regard to these matters the better. But manifestly it is perfectly impossible for this Parliament at this time to consider them properly. The honorable and learned member knows that practically the whole of this session has been sacrificed to the necessity for dealing with customs duties, and, under the circumstances, the Bill for the establishment of the High Court had to be postponed. Surely he does not think that this committee could to-day arrive at a final decision on matters so important as are raised in his amendment?
– Inasmuch as the amendment referred to would, if made, be inoperative if the Government did not take advantage of it, and inasmuch as it is clear, from what the Attorney-General states, that the Government would not take advantage of it, clearly it would be a dead letter, because no proceedings in the name of the Commonwealth could, I take it, be had except at the instance of the Federal Government. I must say, with every respect for the good objects which my honorable and learned friend has in view, that I do feel that it would be impossible at this period of the session, when we have practically only an hour or two hours available, to deal with the matter. The task seems to me to be too great to take up at present. So far as the first amendment is concerned, the fact that the Government are against it, shows that they would not take advantage of it, and therefore it would be idle to pass it. The omission from this Bill of provisions such as my honorable and learned friend speaks of, however important and pressing they are, will only create the necessity for proper legislation being proposed at the beginning of next session. Of course, there may be some who want to dispense with the High Court altogether or for an indefinite period. I am not one of those ; and, in any case, whether that is to be so or not, the matter should be one of the first to be settled in the ensuing session of the Parliament. I feel so strongly about the necessity for a short Bill of this kind, to give the fullest remedy against the Commonwealth, that I do not want to imperil the chances of its becoming law this session by going into other matters of greater importance. I am afraid the result might be that we should get no Bill at all if we did that, and I, for one, should regard that as a calamity.
– I thoroughly agree with what the Attorney-General and the leader of the Opposition have said. This is an emergency Bill for temporary purposes.
– It is what every sensible man except the members of the Ministry saw to be necessary eighteen months ago.
– The Ministry have had a great deal of very important work to do. They cannot do everything at once. It would be wise not to complicate this Bill with very large questions, that ought not to be settled until we have the fullest opportunity of considering them in all their aspects. It would complicate matters very much indeed if we introduced provisions having, perhaps, for their main object the settlement of disputes of very long standing between States. It is quite sufficient to say that we know - they have been referred to in the Convention and elsewhere - that there are very deep-seated disputes which have remained in abeyance for a long time, and which ought to be settled by a tribunal that will command the fullest confidence, and in a manner which will, as far as possible, effect a final decision. But to attempt to provide for that at this stage of the session would be to make a great mistake. Apart altogether from the technical difficulties that the Attorney-General has referred to, about the suggested amendment not being within the scope of the title of the Bill - with which objection I thoroughly agree - it seems to me that there are substantial reasons why we should not embark upon such a very difficult investigation now. I indorse the suggestion made to my honorable and learned friend, the member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, not to persevere with his amendments to-day, because they would lead to a very long and difficult debate, and we should not, I believe, be able to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia). - I should like to say a few words before the committee finally decide upon this matter. I am very much impressed with what has been said by some of the leading members of this committee as to the undesirableness of precipitating a debate upon matters of such importance at the end of the session. But, unfortunately, it is not my fault that the matter comes up for discussion at this time. Several months have passed since I drew the attention of the Attorney-General to the necessity for carrying amendments to the same effect as those which I have tabled. It is somewhat imperative that the giving of effect to the provision of the Constitution for remedies of States against States should not be postponed too long. For instance, suppose that New South Wales to-morrow wished to stop Victoria from infringing upon riparian rights. There is no possibility of doing it. There is no court in which the case could be tried.
– Would the honorable and learned member try a case of that kind in the State courts 1
– Certainly. What on earth is the reason for this fear of the State courts ? In England there are no courts but the courts of the State itself. You could not, in England, have a case tried by the German courts, for instance.
– The people of New South Wales would not consent to a test case affecting them being tried in a Victorian court.
– I desire to settle that point by my amendments, which are simplicity itself, and also, I believe, efficacy itself. I wish to point out to the committee that there are several pressing matters as to which there is no jurisdiction, and goodness knows when the jurisdiction will be conferred. I would remind the Attorney-General that, so far from those clauses being of a revolutionary character, at the Convention they had the indorsement of the present Prime Minister of Australia, who, when I suggested that such provisions should be embodied as part of the Constitution, supported the idea strongly. Therefore, honorable members will see that I am not bringing forward any novel proposal in asking that this subject should be considered. The Prime Minister was quite willing to embody these provisions in the Constitution itself, and was supported by Sir John Downer and, I think, also by Senator O’Connor ; only Senator 0’Connor came in finally, after Sir Josiah Symon and others had opposed the pro.visions, with the suggestion that the power should be handed over to the Parliament. I thought that we should not quickly legislate upon it, but that provision against frivolous actions might be mads such as is made in this Bill. However, I do not wish to be unreasonable. My chief object - for I did not hope that I could carry these important clauses now, at the end of the session - was that the matter might be mooted, and that the public might know exactly how we stand in regard to the Judicature. I concur in -thinking that under present circumstances it might be better to postpone these suggestions of mine to give a remedy for a State against a State and for a State against the Commonwealth until we have time to consider them fully. I might also mention that I had intended to alter the wording so as to make it agree with the form which was suggested to me by the drafting committee of the Convention, and which obtained the approval of the committee and of the Prime Minister.
– I hope that the honorable and learned member will go on with his proposal about the form of the petition.
– That proposal simplifies the form of the Attorney-General’s Bill, and its procedure. It is a matter which I think we might go on with. There is one clause in my amendments that, instead of asking a State to appoint a nominal defendant, allows a State to be sued as a State - as the State of New South Wales or South Australia for instance - and also allows the Commonwealth tobe sued as the Commonwealth, which is the designation used in the Acts Interpretation Act. That provision is simplicity itself, and I do not abandon it. One of my amendments is to enable any question that arises under the Constitution, or under any of the Acts passed by this Parliament under the Constitution, to be tried by the Supreme Court of the State, subject, of course, to the ordinary rules of common law ; and from such a court the appeal would go to the Privy Council until we established the High Court.
– Does the honorable and learned member connect that with a Bill for claims against the Commonwealth 1
– I mentioned the subject when this Bill was introduced, and I think it is relevant to the purpose of the Bill, because it only extends the provisions of the Bill by making it more applicable than it is at present. It does not change the nature of a Bill. However, I do not propose to proceed with the first amendment now.
– I I quite agree with what has fallen from the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, and I must add that the blame with regard to the introduction of this Bill at this stage must rest upon the shoulders of the Government. We, on this side of the chamber, complain very strongly about their action. I have gone over the suggested amendments carefully with the honorable and learned member, and fully concur in the suggestions made by him. Therefore, I had intended to support him. But, as the leader of the Opposition thinks that it is rather too late to discuss the matter now, I shall fall in with his opinion. As pointed out by the right honorable member, if the Government itself refused to avail itself of the power suggested by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, we should be absolutely hopeless, and it is clear that we cannot enforce this provision against the opinion of the Government. As we find the Attorney-General taking a technical objection to the suggested amendment, it is’ evident that the Government would not take advantage of it. The position in Australia at present is that there is no remedy for any citizen against the Commonwealth Government. In order to prevent that, this Bill must be passed. But the measure is not as wide in its scope as it ought to be. How, for instance, could any one sue the Minister for Trade and
Customs under this measure for a wrong done ?
– The Bill gives a remedy for wrong done.
– I am surprised to hear that. How can any one get an injunction against the Minister ?
– One could take actions in tort.
– The Minister can detain goods at his own sweet will to-morrow, and no one has any remedy against him ; and we know the nice idea of justice the Minister for Trade and Customs has shown in some cases already. The Government do not propose to remedy that state of affairs, although half-a-dozen alterations in this Bill would secure what was necessary and give the people of this country a remedy for wrongs done to them. The remedies are not given under this measure. As the leader of the Opposition has said, I think it is hopeless for us to attempt to pass this proposal when the Ministry are opposed to it. I therefore shall not press it, but leave the Government to fight out their worthless measure for themselves.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General whether this Act will be retrospective? Two years have already elapsed since the inauguration of the Commonwealth, and during that time some claims against the Government must have arisen. Unless the Bill be retrospective they cannot be enforced even in view of clause 2. The claims therein referred to will be read as future claims.
– We could not have wider words than those in clause 2, “ Any person making any claim.”
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 -
– I move-
That the following sub-clause be added-
Those are the words used in the New South Wales Act, save that the Treasurer is referred to as the “ Colonial Treasurer.” I think that the simple word “ Treasurer “ is the proper word to apply to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth.
– Is the Treasurer sued by name in New South Wales ?
– That is the custom. For example, the Minister for Public Works is sued as Mr.O’Sullivan. There is no practical difficulty in the way of the acceptance of this amendment.
– It follows the Queensland as well as the New South Wales law.
– Inasmuch as I believe that in no State in which power is given to the Governor-General to appoint a nominal defendant has there been a refusal to exercise that power, there is really very little in the way of the acceptance of the amendment.
– Under this measure we consent by an act of grace to go before a court which is not our own court.
– Private individuals would say to us - “We cannot appoint a court, but you can.”
– And we appoint one.
– Yes; we say that since by the pressure of public business we cannot create our own court we will go to any of the States courts. I presume that if we could go to our own court there would be no objection to the amendment ?
– Therefore we had better remove from the Bill the slightest shred of the appearance of limiting justice. The clause as it stands would have a very ungracious appearance, although in real practice I do not think the power of refusal would be exercised. For that reason there can be no objection to my amendment, and it would remove a great deal of criticism.
-I apprehend that the object of inserting the words that -
The Governor-General may, if he thinks fit, appoint any person to be a nominal defendant accordingly, is to give a certain amount of power to the Federal Government to prevent the launching of frivolous actions against the Commonwealth.
– Yes ; or to settle in a friendly way an action which would otherwise go on. It enables the Government to know before the claimant goes into court what his claim is.
– Quite so. Where there is an honest bonâ fide action against the Government, that right of action ought to be unqualified. In other words, the Governor-General should not by his inaction have the power to obstruct the launching of a bona, fide action against the Commonwealth. It may be that power should be preserved to prevent the institution of frivolous actions against the Government that would put them to great expense - for example, a frivolous action brought by a pauper plaintiff. If the amendment is carried - and I see no objection to it - some provision should be inserted giving the Attorney-General power to go to the State court and have an action stayed . unless security were given for costs, or some good cause of action shown.
– If we open the States courts to persons having claims against the Government we should open them as they stand.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I fail to see that any advantage is gained by going through the form of petitioning to the Governor-General to appoint a nominal defendant. Why should we not at once appoint some one to act as nominal defendant in all cases against the Commonwealth. I should say that properly the nominal defendant should be the AttorneyGeneral. For my own part, I agree that a still simpler and more proper course to follow would be to allow the Commonwealth to be sued as a Commonwealth. Nothing would be lost by making such a provision. If a frivolous action were started it could be dealt with. In Victoria we have no special provision against frivolous actions ; but I remember a petition against the Queen for about £1,200,000, which was so obviously frivolous on the evidence presented to the court before trial, that action’ was stayed. It always happens that before a man begins to sue the Crown he makes some claim for payment. There are invariably some negotiations, and therefore there is no danger of an action going into court because of a want of opportunity for settlement. The issue of the writ is a very simple thing, and I fail to see why, in giving the right to sue, we should not give a right to sue as freely as between subject and subject. I think the Attorney-General could adopt with safety the proposal to strike out all the words relating to a petition in this clause.
– Who would be the indi.vidual to be served, and so forth 1
– We could have a provision for service upon an officer in the Crown Law department.
– Regulations would be necessary.
– That would not be difficult. In America we repeatedly see reports of such actions. It would be a grand move in the direction of ‘simplicity, if power were given to bring actions simply against the Commonwealth as a Commonwealth. The little device now proposed - and I speak from experience - looks like one to make costs. Although I know there is such a provision in the laws of other States, looking at it from a knowledge of the law of the State in which it is not found, I fail to see what would be gained by requiring a nominal defendant to be appointed in every case. We should either allow the Attorney-General always to be the nominal defendant in actions against the Commonwealth, or else provide that the Commonwealth shall be sued in its own name.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I would suggest to the honorable and learned member that the provision in the Bill is a wise one, because we are conferring jurisdiction upon the Supreme Court of each State. There is a separate procedure in each State, and the desire is that the action may be prosecuted in the particular State in which the cause qf action arose. We wish, therefore, to go purely by local procedure. I presume that in each State there is some person who could be nominally sued ; for instance, the Deputy Postmaster- General in Sydney could be sued in the case which led to this Bill being introduced. The desire is to have a person made defendant who may be readily served with the processes of the court in ‘ the State in which the cause of action arises. If the Attorney-General or the Treasurer is made the nominal defendant, there may be some difficulty in the case of an action brought in Queensland, unless we can appoint a solicitor to accept service after the action has started. I presume the desire is to take advantage as far as ‘possible of all local procedure in the courts, and inasmuch as this is only a temporary measure I think it would be better to agree to the proposal of the Government. I shall, however, support the amendment proposed by the leader of the Opposition.
– In regard to the suggestion made by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, I would point out that in the Property Acquisition Act we have already accepted the principle laid down by him. Section 50 provides -
For the purposes of this Act the Commonwealth shall be deemed to be a corporation sole by the name o£ “The Commonwealth of Australia,” with power to purchase, take, and hold land, and all legal proceedings by or against the Commonwealth in respect of any matter under this Act may be instituted by or against the Commonwealth in that name.
For the sake of uniformity I would urge that the suggestion of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne should be adopted. I think the Attorney-General in quired by way of interjection who would accept service of processes and so forth if the Commonwealth were allowed to be sued as a corporation. Even that is provided for in the Property Acquisition Act.
– But not under the amendments of which notice has been given.
– With very slight amendment, sub-section (2), section 50, of the Property Acquisition Act would meet the case. It sets forth that -
All acts, matters, and things which may be done or suffered by the Commonwealth under this Act in connexion with the making and execution of agreements, and the payment of purchase money, compensation, and costs may be done or suffered by the Attorney-General on behalf of the Commonwealth.
In reading the American law reports one cannot fail to notice the simplicity which is associated with the right to sue in the name of the Commonwealth. Differences of opinion have frequently arisen as to who should be sued under the Victorian Crown Remedies Act, and the system of requiring a nominal defendant to be appointed gives rise to many difficulties. If we provide that the Commonwealth itself shall be sued we shall save litigants much trouble.
– It is much better that we should keep in line with the procedure in the States courts. This is a special measure.
– I think we should secure uniformity in our laws when we have an opportunity to do so, and as a large part of our litigation must arise in connexion with land, and as the Commonwealth as a corporation is a party in such cases, why not in all cases?
– There can be no uniformity in this matter. Each State has its own laws, and every action will be governed, not by uniform laws, but by the laws of the State in which the cause of action arises. This is only a temporary measure.
– There is an AttorneyGeneral in each of the States, and in order to make a distinction between the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth and those of the States, it would be far better to provide that the Commonwealth of Australia should be sued. After hearing the arguments which have been urged by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, I hope that the Attorney-General will adopt his proposal.
– We are really debating two separate issues, the substitution of the Commonwealth for the nominal defendant, and the amendment moved by the leader of the Opposition which is directly before the Chair. Taking first the proposal to substitute the name of the Commonwealth, the honorable and learned member for Geelong has perhaps not noticed that in the Act to which he has referred there is no power” to sue in State courts, while this is a temporary measure in which it is sought to take advantage of then existing machinery and, as far as possible, then existing forms in every State of the Union. Why should we introduce a new form of entering a defence for the Commonwealth until we introduce by permanent legislation a uniform proposal which will give us our own court or courts invested with federal jurisdiction throughout -the Commonwealth 1 While utilizing the . State courts, we are bound to retain the State procedure and methods generally, as far as we can. That appears to me to be a complete answer to the proposal which has been made - excellent as it is in itself. Then, with reference to the amendment moved by the leader of the Opposition, I have already indicated the nature of my objection. The clause is not put in this optional form with any idea of evading our responsibilities. If my honorable and learned friend asks why we should object to make the change, I repeat that it is simply for the reason already given ; it is an act of grace for the Commonwealth to submit itself to the jurisdiction of State courts. It ought to be and to appear an act of grace for the Commonwealth to submit itself to courts not of its own creation. It is establishing a novel precedent even in Australia. The Crown, as represented by the Government of New South Wales, would never consent to submit itself to the jurisdiction of a Victorian, South Australian, or Queensland court. I admit a new departure when the Crown as represented by the Commonwealth, having the power to create courts of its own, yet agrees to submit its case for trial to a State court, but greatly prefer the form of consent adopted in this Bill. I do not regard the matter as one of substance, but of form. The form selected seems to me to express the true relation which . the Commonwealth holds to these courts and to this Bill - that is to say, that it consents to submit itself to the jurisdiction of the State courts, but without in any way abrogating its independence of them.
– I do not know why the Attorney-General should, be so timid of allowing the Commonwealth to submit itself to the jurisdiction of State courts. Surely if the Commonwealth was a consolidation rather than a federation it would have a much bigger power, but it would still have to submit to the jurisdiction of the State court.
– They would then be its own courts.
Mi’. GLYNN.- They are all courts of the Crown. The Commonwealth is but an idea in the matter, and surely the Crown is the same Crown whether in relation to the Commonwealth or the States 1
– -Why does not South Australia submit to a Western Australian court ?
– This Bill actually makes it submit to a Western Australian court, because the principle of the Bill is that where the cause of action arises, there is the court, and a citizen of New South Wales must sue in Western Australia if his cause of action arises there.
– I spoke of a State Government.
– The Attorney-General’s fear is unjustifiable, because there is still the Supreme Court of the Empire, the Privy Council, to correct any unfairness or errors committed by a State court. As a matter of fact, in Germany, which is a great consolidation, the State courts have this power to entertain all matters, whether between subject and subject or between Crown and subject. It is an absolute right under the German Constitution, that any action of a subject against the Crown is capable of being entertained in any court. I think the Attorney-General is adhering too pedantically to these ideas, which are figments rather than realities. I intended to propose an amendment to the effect suggested by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, but I shall not do so now, because in the first place there is no time, and, secondly, the Attorney-General will perhaps consider when introducing a more comprehensive measure for the establishment of a High Court, or some separate Bill like this, the expediency of making the Commonwealth sue, or be sued in the name of the Commonwealth which is its title.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - I should like to state the view I take of my proposal, which is the opposite of that of the Attorney-General. My honorable and learned friend speaks of this as an act of grace, but I speak of it as an act of justice to every man who has a cause of complaint against the Government. We ought to have put the Commonwealth in a position to do justice to every one at the earliest possible moment.
– We do so by this Bill.
– Yes, .but under this Bill we -reserve the power in ourselves to decide whether we shall allow a person to get justice or not. To a layman it is odious that the Commonwealth should affect to give a right of redress while reserving the power to say to any individual person aggrieved - “ No; we will not allow you to have a cause of action.” I can assure my honorable and learned friend that this will not give satisfaction to the public, who are keenly criticising what we are doing. We ought to remove every justifiable ground of complaint. That should certainly be done in this case, especially as my honorable and learned friend will not say that he is prepared to refuse this right to a single human being.
– I entirely agree with the leader of ‘the Opposition that when adopting a scheme of procedure we should take care that no man’s right is prevented from being debated, but this is only a temporary Bill, and we cannot believe that the Government who brought it forward are going to act in bad faith. I am sure that if there is a claim made against them with a shadow of justice in it the Government will not hesitate for a moment to appoint a nominal’ defendant. There is great force in what the Attorney-General, has said, that this is laying down a precedent that we are not yet prepared - that I, at all events, am not yet prepared - to accept that the Commonwealth is to be subjected at all hazards, and under all circumstances, to the courts of the States. That is not in accordance with the Constitution. This Bill is intended to be of temporary effect ; and, during the few months that will elapse before we pass a comprehensive measure - and I thoroughly agree that we ought to deal with the subject as early as possible - I am not going to suppose that anybody will be deprived of justice. To lay it down in this Bill once and for all that the Commonwealth must appear in any court of any State to which it is summoned, would be contrary to the whole framework of the Constitution. The right honorable member for East Sydney, who wasa distinguished member of the Federal Convention,” knows that it was held to be a most vital part of the Constitution that there should bea High Court of Australia in order not only that Commonwealth rights, but that State rights, should be properly and absolutely regarded.
– I never thought of any such provision as that to which the honorable and learned member is referring. I never dreamt that our legislation would not embody this principle.
– I think it ought to embody the principle when the Federal High Court is established. No man should be at the mercy of the Federal Government as to whether he should be permitted to bring his case before a court or not. But in this case the Commonwealth Government come down and say : “ There is no High Court yet established to which an appeal can be made, if an adverse decision is given by a Supreme Court of the States “ - and we do not know what varying decisions may be given in the courts of the States - “ We will go to the extent of allowing an action to be brought, but we are not prepared to say that in case any person chooses, for any vexatious or frivolous cause, to summon the Commonwealth before a State Supreme Court we shall absolutely and unnecessarily submit ourselves to that jurisdiction.” While I agree thoroughly with the principle, I ask the honorable and learned member for East Sydney to remember that this is not merely an act of justice, but that there is also an element of concession in the proposal that the Commonwealth shall submit itself to a State Court without the right of appeal to a Federal High Court which does not as yet exist.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- Surely if the High Court were established the objection of the honorable and learned member for Indi would be quite as tenable ?
– It certainly would if it was urged that no State ought to submit itself to the jurisdiction of the Federal Court.
– But the States have accepted the Federal Constitution.
– The honorable member objects to the Commonwealth submitting itself to a State court, but will not the State court be a Commonwealth court ? The honorable and learned member says that the Federal High Court will be the court ofthe Commonwealth. But the States courts will also be Commonwealth courts. As regards this particular amendment, the grave injustice which might arise under existing circumstances is instanced by a case which was recently brought in South Africa, when Sir Gordon Sprigg refused to appoint a nominal defendant, and the plaintiff, Cooke, had to go to the Privy Council to compel him to do so. If the Bill is permitted to pass as it stands, the same difficulty may arise here.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The committee divided.
– I shall follow the ordinary precedent, and vote with the Noes.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - I regret that the clause is to be left as it stands in the Bill. It justifies, not by its intention or design, but as an evidence of the inherent clumsiness of the manner in which the Government manage the affairs of the Commonwealth, what is being said all round Australia about the way in which they deal with the rights of individuals.
– The right honorable member is, of course, at liberty to overlook any aspect of this question if he. chooses to do so. Small as the matter is, an important principle is involved in the form adopted. The Government are willing to submit to the judgment of the State courts, but we propose to do so by our own act, not to be dragged before them under compulsion.
– That is a very nice arrangement for the public.
– The public will not suffer by it. The purpose of the Bill is to give every citizen the right to bring actions against the Commonwealth, but the Commonwealth will submit to the decisions of the court by its own act, and not under coercion.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I regret that the amendment just moved was defeated. The proposal of the Government is a most unbusiness-like one, though it is quite in accord with what has been done under the Customs Act. To require a man who has a claim against the Commonwealth to go, cap in hand; to the Governor-General, asking that he may be allowed to prosecute it, is monstrous, and an infringement of. the rights of the individual. I hope that tlie clause will be amended in the other Chamber.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Nominal defendant not/ to; be individually liable).
Mr. REID (East Sydney).- This- clause is on a. piece with the peculiar old-fashioned Tory ideas which seem to actuate the Government. It is clearly provided that the nominal defendant on behalf of the Commonwealth shall not be individually liable for any verdict which may be entered against him, and there is an omission of any provision under which a claimant could recover a single penny from the Commonwealth for the grossest wrong done to him by its officers.
– If the right honorable member will refer to clause 5, he will see that, although the Commonwealth is not to be subject to coercion, there is a practical obligation upon the GovernorGeneral to cause to be paid out of the consolidated revenue fund the amount of any damages and costs awarded.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- In the case of Evans versus O’Connor, where an application was made to prevent the PostmasterGeneral from stopping the passage of newspapers through the post, it was in 1891 decided by the New South Wales court that they could not grant an injunction, since the section of the local Act under which proceedings were taken, the effect of which is similar to that of the clause under discussion, gave them no power to do so. Under that decision, a claimant could not make the Minister for Customs deliver up goods, which, in some cases, have been detained for as much as nine months. If a collector refused to make an entry, application could be made to the courts to compel him to discharge his statutory obligation, but no injunction or mandamus would be granted against the Minister. As a nominal defendant, he would not be individually liable, and as the representative of the Crown* no action could be taken against him.
– I doubt whether the case referred to by the honorable and learned member is analogous to those which would be affected’ by this clause. The Commonwealth will name a nominal defendant, and will’ stand behind him. The. nominal defendant will not be the person whom* the plaintiff chooses to sue. The Commonwealth will pick any Minister or officer it may choose, and it is necessary that the person so chosen should be protected from individual liability; The Commonwealth itself will accept responsibility for any judgment.
– Why should not the Minister for Trade andi Customs be arrested, if he refuses to deliver up goods.
– This clause has nothing to do with a case of that kind. It relates only to the liability of a nominal defendant appointed under clause 2.
Clause agreed- to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Supreme Courts invested with Federal jurisdiction).
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia). - I think that this clause should go much further. Until we create the High Court we should invest the State courts with ample Federal jurisdiction. We are at present in a grudging fashion giving them jurisdiction under special Acts, to decide questions arising under those Acts ; but why should we not allow them, to deal with every case arising under the Constitution, or under any Act passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, with, if necessary, an appeal to the Privy Council 1 Only yesterday, according to the newspapers, a resolution was passed by the Chamber of Commerce of Adelaide in these terms : -
This committee is of opinion that steps should be taken at once by the general council to urge on the Commonwealth Parliament the carrying; through of legislation for vesting in the State courts the necessary, jurisdiction; pending the construction o£ the High Court.
– That is what this Bill is doing.
– It vests the State courts with jurisdiction only in respect to claims in contract and in tort against the Crown.
– In what way does the honorable and learned member want that jurisdiction enlarged ?
– I wish it to cover all cases arising under the Constitution, or under Acts of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– Would that give South Australia the right to refer to a State court questions relating, to the use- of the waters of the River Murray ?
– No ; that would not be possible.
– Tes ; it would.
– No ; we have not given tile State of South Australia power to- sue.
– LYNE - We should, if the honorable1 member’s ideas were carried out.
Ma-. GLYNN. - I have withdrawn the proposal to which the honorable- gentleman is referring: Some such power, however, will have to be- given, or the Constitution will not be- worth the paper on which it is written. Surely the Minister does- not suppose that the State of South Australia is to be for all time deprived of the power to prevent other States from interfering with the river waters?
– No ; but I would not give a State the right to appeal to a State court.
– That question is not raised now. I fear that it is too late to press my point, and, under the circumstances, I shall not move an amendment.
Clause agreed to=
Clause 7 -
In any action or suit brought under this Act, any appeal, or application for leave to appeal, from a decision of the Supreme Court of a State, which in the opinion of the Attorney-General involves u constitutional question, or a question of importance to the Commonwealth, shall on the application of the Attorney-General be postponed until a time not later than the date of expiration of this Act.
– This is another of those delicious clauses to which I have referred. Whilst we give a man the right to bring an action against the Commonwealth, and obtain a verdict, it is to be within the power of the AttorneyGeneral, if- he considers the matter of importance to the Commonwealth, to stay the right of the- plaintiff by postponing the final appeal. This is marvellous legislation. It is a mockery to allow people to test their rights in the States courts, and then to give the Attorney-General the power to say that, in his opinion, the matter is one of: importance to the Commonwealth, and that the time allowed for an appeal against the judgment shall be indefinitely extended.
– The clause will operate only in cases where a judgment adverse to the plaintiff’ is- given.
– I did not understand the clause to mean that. If that is so, the provision is- a very peculiar one.
– Has anyone said anything regarding the constitutional question? We have no power to limit appeals except in respect to the High Court ; but it is proposed here to limit the power of appeal given under the State laws.
– The Order in Council to which the honorable- and learned member for- Northern Melbourne alluded, and the Act under which it was made, in my opinion, apply only to the States and States jurisdictions. The Commonwealth Constitution Act is also an Imperial Act, of a later date. Under that Constitution we are authorized to invest the States courts with federal jurisdiction. We have absolute power in that regard, and if we have absolute-power we must also
46 Q 2
possess conditional power. This postponement of certain appeals is one of the conditions subject to which we invest the States courts with federal jurisdiction.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - I have had time to look more carefully into this clause, and I now see its object. We pretend to l’ive the claimant against the Commonwealth an immediate remedy, but, if he secures a verdict, the effect of this’ clause will be to entirely set aside the provisions of the States laws with regard to the time within which notice of appeal shall be given.
– But in these’ cases the plaintiff will not get a verdict.
– The clause relates to appeals against adverse decisions.
– Would the AttorneyGeneral stop his own appeals ?
– The effect of this clause is to entitle the Commonwealth, contrary to the laws of the States, to postpone the redress of the plaintiff by extending the right of appeal, so that the Attorney-General may act at any time he chooses.
– No ; only until the 31st December, 1903.
– If a man brought an action against the Commonwealth Government during the present month, and obtained a verdict, the Government would have the right to postpone the right of appeal until, the 31st December, 1903. In the meantime, the man who had obtained the verdict, and who would probably have had to wait eighteen months before he could commence an action, would have the settlement of his claim still further deferred. The object of the clause is to give the Commonwealth the right of postponing an appeal until the High Court is established, so that the final decision may rest with that tribunal. Having exposed the manifest wicked injustice of the proposal, I am content to let the clause pass.
– If the matter were as represented by the honorable and learned member for East Sydney, I should be with him entirely ; but I am satisfied that what he has described is not the intention of the clause.
– That is the effect of it.
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). -If the honorable and learned member will permit me, I should like to put a case to him. If a man recovered a verdict for £10,000 against the Government next month, it would be permissible, under the laws of our State - and I suppose it is much the same in other States - for the Commonwealth Government, within eight days, to move for a new trial, or to give notice of appeal. If the unsuccessful litigant allows that period to elapse, and does not appeal, the verdict goes without any further question, and is final and conclusive. Under this clause, however, the appeal of the Attorney-General against the plaintiff who obtains redress can be made at any time not later than the 31st December, 1903.
– To whom is the appeal to be made ?
– The clause is rather ambiguous upon that point, but I will read it in the way most favorable to the Government. Within eight days the Government must appeal from the jury verdict-
– Oh, no ; that is hot what the clause says.
– Then I will assume that the ordinary procedure is followed, and that the Supreme Court in Banco has decided the case against the Commonwealth Government.
– That is not what the clause refers to. The honorable and learned member has to assume that the case has been decided by the Supreme Court in Banco in favour of the Commonwealth Government.
– Does my honorable and learned friend, mean that under this clause the Commonwealth Government could not postpone its right of appeal, whereas it could postpone that of the plaintiff? The clause must have some object, and the AttorneyGeneral admits that that object is to enable the Government, if they think fit, to make a conclusive appeal to the High Court of Australia. Therefore, the right of appeal is to lob extended until the end of- 1903, before which time it is hoped that the High Court will be established. The effect will clearly be to take away the right of the claimant to proceed in the ordinary course of law. If the Government wish to appeal, they should appeal to the Privy Council, and give the necessary notice within eight days. The clause will interfere with the ordinary course of the law. If a litigant is dissatisfied with the decision of the Supreme Court in Banco, the next course open to him is to appeal to the Privy Council. The clause is not inserted for the benefit of the private litigant, but the object is to put off the final decision of cases in which the Government have been defeated in the States courts. The right of appeal is to be kept alive, so that the Government, instead of going to the Privy Council, may refer to the High Court. If we give the people the right to use their own courts, in order to obtain redress against the Commonwealth Government, according to the laws of the States, why should we postpone the operation of those laws with regard to appeals? I never yet heard of any man who obtained a verdict desiring to have the decision of the case postponed for a year or eighteen months, and the obvious intention of the clause is to give the right to the Commonwealth to keep those who obtain verdicts against them in a state of suspense until the end of 1903.
Mr. ISAACS (Indi). - I said a little while ago that if I thought the operation of this clause would be productive of the dreadful consequences that my right honorable friend has portrayed, I should be very much inclined to agree with the attitude which he has taken up. But I do not understand that it will have any such effect. The position, I take it, is this: If a judgment be given in favour of an individual or plaintiff, it naturally follows that he will not appeal against that judgment. As he will not appeal, he will make no application for a stay of proceedings. It is only in cases where judgment has been given against the plaintiff that he may wish to appeal.
– He has a right to do so.
– He has no constitutional right of appeal.
– The whole tenor of the Constitution is against it.
– When the plaintiff wishes to appeal, this clause simply confers upon the Attorney-General the power to say, “ I will consider whether this matter involves a constitutional question or a question of importance to the Commonwealth.” Then, as I think, according to the spirit of the Constitution he may ask the court to delay the decision of that appeal until some time not later than the date fixed for the expiration of this measure. But in all probability this Bill will be superseded by another measure long before the date fixed for its expiration. I would further point out that section 78 of the Constitution says -
The Parliament may make laws conferring rights to proceed against the Commonwealth or a State in respect of matters within the limits of the judicial power.
Those rights may be conferred absolutely or conditionally - either with or without limits. There is no constitutional right of appeal. Therefore, when for a temporary purpose we are conceding to an individual the right to proceed against the Commonwealth Government in the States courts, the Government say to him - “Judgment has been given in your favour, but we must consider whether or not we shall appeal against it.”
– I am perfectly aware of that.
– Therefore, no such position as the right honorable member has portrayed can possibly arise. If a plaintiff obtains a verdict of £1,000 against the Commonwealth, the Attorney-General cannot say - “ I will prevent you from obtaining that money until after December, 1903.” The Attorney-General must immediately make up his mind whether or not he will appeal. Should he decide to proceed with the appeal, the Supreme Court has power to say to him - “ You must either pay this money at once, or give us security, as is provided by the Privy Council orders.”
– The honorable and learned member need not trouble to discuss that sort of case. My remarks were applicable only to judgments given against the Commonwealth.
– In such cases the provisions of the clause do not apply. Where a judgment is given in favour of an individual, the Attorney-General must at once make up his mind whether or not he will appeal against it.
– The course of appeal to the tribunal cannot be altered and another tribunal substituted.
– With great deference, I venture to think that that is another question. If the operation of this clause would introduce such a dreadful innovation as the leader of the Opposition seems to fear, I should be absolutely in accord with him ; but I do not think that we need apprehend any such consequences.
– I should have interposed before, had I recollected that the leader of the Opposition was absent from the Chamber when I moved the second reading of this Bill, explaining that this provision was intended to preserve the fights of the Commonwealth under section 74 of the .Constitution, which-says -
No appeal shall be permitted to the Queen in Council from a decision of the Sigh Court upon any question, howsoever arising, .as to the limits inter se of the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and those of any State or States, or as to the limits inter se of the constitutional poower of any two or more States, unless the High Court shall certify that the question is one which ought to be determined by Her Majesty in Council.
– I designedly omitted reference to that portion of the clause.
– The probability is that the power conferred by this provision will not be exercised, but I have already explained that it is introduced so that if any matter brought before the courts involved these particular principles, the Commonwealth would be able to obtain the decision of the High Court, either upon ‘the question itself, or upon any subsidiary question, before it could be referred to the Privy Council.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - I purposely omitted all reference to that part of the clause which has reference to constitutional questions. I designedly confined my remarks to the words, “ or a question of importance.” Now, a question of importance may arise upon a contract which has nothing whatever to do with the ‘Constitution, and the evident object of this .clause is to delay the final decision of such a matter after judgment has been given by the Supreme Court. We have not time now to debate this matter at length, and, therefore, I shall leave it to be threshed out in another place. In my view, the clause confers upon the Government a most objectionable right.
– Like the honorable and learned member, for Indi, I should be very loth to agree to this provision if I thought that it could .conceivably mean what the leader .of’ the Opposition suggests. Evidently .he assumes that when the Pull Court of a State ,has decided in favour of .a plaintiff -who has proceeded against the Commonwealth, the ‘Commonwealth will -give -notice of .appeal, but immediately afterwards ‘-will apply to have its own notice of appeal stopped. His position implies that upon Monday the Commonwealth might .ask for leave to appeal, and on Tuesday might request the Full Court to stay its own .appeal, and that the Court would be sure to,comply with the request.
– I must ask my honorable and learned friend to observe the word “ shall “ in reference to the application. Whatever that may mean, it certainly means that the court must do something.
Clause agreed ‘to.
Clause 8 (Duration of Act).
– Although I should prefer to see this clause eliminated : from the Bill, I recognise that, having agreed to the previous provision, the committee must fix a date for the expiration of the Act. At the same time, I hope that at the beginning of next session the Government will bring forward the matter of the establishment of the High Court, because under the operation of this measure the :people of the Commonwealth will be subjected to an intolerable injustice.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report, adopted.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s message, vide page 16.165) :
Amendments in clauses 22 to 24 inclusive not further insisted on.
Clause 151 (How votes to be marked in Senate elections).
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the. amendment omitting the words “ The voter shall vote for the full number of candidates to be .elected” be not now insisted on.
– I wish to point out how utterly the power and the dignity of this House will be frittered away if we, in a mere spirit of bluff, keep on taking up positions from which we ultimately intend to recede without a word. Here we have a .number of amendments for which we fought almost to the death, and yet the Senate is .now treating .us like a lot of little children, and forcing us to swallow the very things we swore we would never .accept. We ought to .give way when we,can do so with .dignity. In this House we .had the Minister urging us to .adhere steadfastly to .a certain proposal, while his .colleague in the Senate advised members of that Chamber to insist on an opposite course. What a travesty of responsible ‘ government ! Is it any wonder that we are humiliated, and that the members of the Senate have this session proved themselves the strong men of Parliament % ‘ We knew that we should have to give way on this point, and we ought to have taken that step when we could do so with dignity.
– I have been so accustomed in the past to little flourishes of trumpets from the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney that now I do not mind them. Honorable members may, however, be led astray by the .glib tongue of the right honorable.gentleman, who, however, knows .perfectly well that the Government , are now taking up a proper and constitutional position. We all know that the Senate, in the case of the Customs Tariff Bill and other measures, adhered to its position up to a certain point, and ‘ then gave way ; and it would be just as reasonable for the leader of the Opposition to.apply to that Chamber the language to which we have just listened. The Government were anxious to have the clause remain as agreed to by this House, but the -stage has arrived when, unless -we -give way, there may be danger of losing this .most important and liberal measure. I, .myself, should have preferred to see the clause .as .passed on two occasions in this House, but exercising practical common -sense, I fear .1 should be.going too far at this time of the -session if I proposed to insist on our amendments.
– As one -who worked for the clause as it was passed by this House, I -must express my regret that the Senate has not seen its way to accept our amendment. I should have liked to see the members of the Government in the other Chamber .make some effort to .get the proposal of this House, accepted ; but, under present circumstances, ;I recognise that, if we desire to pass -this Bill, which applies a number of very liberal conditions to election matters throughout Australia, and marks a distinct advance in most of the States, it is evident that it .is .of no use attempting to;fight .for every .principle which we desire to see -incorporated. Under .the circumstances I am prepared to .let .the amendments .go.
Mr. JOSEPH .COOK (Parramatta).The Minister :for Home Affairs represents himself as one who has consistently voted for plumping, and only surrenders when he sees no chance of carrying his point ; but when the Bill was introduced the Minister was against the proposal. There was noplumping clause in the Bill when it was introduced, and the honorable gentleman fought hard against such a provision being incorporated.
– That is not correct ; I did not fight hard against it.
– Was there a plumping provision in the Bill when it was introduced ?
– There was a provision for conditional voting, which was altered by the Senate.
– The record shows that the Minister fought against the plumping proposal for hours before he gave way.
– - Nonsense !
– Why, the honorable gentleman made two or three speeches in committee against’ plumping. ‘When the Bill came from the Senate the honorable member accepted the principle, though an arrangement was made with other Ministers to take an opposite course.
– The Minister is doing the right thing now, at any rate.
– What else can he do 1 There never has been a greater outrage on responsible government than the “backing and filling” of Ministers over this important Bill.
– The honorable .member for Parramatta forgets that when the Bill was introduced there was a provision for conditional and exhaustive voting, which prevented the insertion of a plumping clause. It was only when the former provision was struck out by the Senate that the plumping clause was introduced. That caused the alteration’ in the view taken by the Government, and it is rather unfair to suggest that T have turned a somersault in this matter. As T have said, it would not be right to force the matter further at present, though I know the position has been brought about by the free-trade majority in the other Chamber, who were in want of a “ticket.” T do not intend on this occasion to go further in trying to get my opinion accepted by the Senate, and I am .glad that the honorable member for ‘Bland takes a similar view. .
Motion agreed to.
Amendments, in Form M and Form Q, not further insisted on.
Resolutions reported ; report adopted.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Deakin) -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Thursday next.
. I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In submitting this motion, I should like to read the following letter addressed to myself by the honorable member for Yarra, the honorable member for Cowper, and the honorable member for Illawarra, who are the trustees for the Parliamentary fund organized for the relief of sufferers from the mining disaster at Mount Kembla : -
My dear Mr. Deakin, -
We think it desirable to formally report to you, as chairman of our Mount Kembla disaster fund, the amount of money collected and its disposal. We have, collected £193 15s. in all; of this amou nt,£150 was paid to the Mayor of Sydney as a first instalment on the 22nd August, and we are now sending a second cheque of £4310s. 9d., which represents the balance, less 4s. 3d. for exchange. We are pleased to say that members of both Houses contributed readily to the fund, and we wish particularly to express our appreciation of the kind and generous action of the clerical and non-clerical staffs of both Houses who voluntarily subscribed to our fund.
The House may take a proper pride in having been, I think, the first of all the Parliaments in Australia to respond with sympathy and assistance for the sufferers from this great disaster, and although , no association with such an event can be otherwise than painful, such a recollection at least relieves the sombre hues with which it would otherwise be entirely draped.
– The honorable member for South Australia, Sir Langdon Bonython, who has had to leave to catch his train, asked me to bring under the notice of the Minister for Home Affairs the following telegram from Adelaide which appears in the press to-day : -
In the Assembly to-day Mr. McDonald asked what proportion South Australia would have to pay of the £10,000 named as the cost of the proposed tour of the federal legislators to the various States in the Protector. The Treasurer thought the expenditure would be classed as new expenditure, and that South Australia would be liable for about a tenth of the amount, or £1,000.
Perhaps it is peculiarly appropriate, as a sort of penance, that I should be asked, quite innocently by the honorable member, to ascertain from the Minister whether that statement is a correct presentation of the facts in regard to the vote of£10,000.
– The honorable member for South Australia spoke to me about this matter before he left to-day, and had not a question been asked I intended to make a statement. The paragraph referred to shows a little ignorance as to what this money is voted for. A sum of £10,000 was voted last year, and between £8,000 and £9,000 was used to pay the States for the railway passes for honorable members and their wives, and to meet incidental expenses.
– Some of it was spent to bring the members from South Australia to Melbourne.
– A portion of the vote was applied to the conveyance of the representatives of South Australia, including my honorable friend, Sir Langdon Bonython. But it is ridiculous to suppose that any honorable member would imagine that that sum was intended for the purpose of a tour by federal members. Probably a small portion could be taken for the purpose. In any excursion or official visit which may be made to any part of the States, the greatest economy will be observed, and I should think that a few hundred pounds at the most would be required, so that South Australia need not fear that its Treasury is going to be ruined in consequence of the expenditure.
– Will the Minister say definitely that the trip is going to be made ?
– Will he stick to his guns ?
– I do not know whether it will be made in that way. All I have done has been to have some communication with the Premier of Western Australia, who is very anxious that it should take place, and I am very anxious - and the Government is too, I know - that honorable members should have an opportunity to go to outlying places in States of which they know very little. The trip will not be undertaken in an extravagant way. It may not be undertaken in exactly the way which I have described, because I do not know what the accommodation in the Protector is. I do not know whether it is possible to get a Government boat which would serve the purpose.
– Not large enough?
– - All the expense -would be, perhaps, the cost of the coal and the rent of the boat.
– Nothing to drink 1
– Whether there is anything to drink or not it will not be “ a champagne booze,’”’ as I heard some one say that the trip by the member!) of the Senate and the House of Representatives to the federal capital sites was to be, but was not. So much for that matter. I have been told to-day by an honorable member that when I agreed last night to a proportional reduction in the Defence Estimates I had already found and decided that I could reduce them by that sum. I do not know how that report got abroad. It is not true. For some days I had been trying ‘ if I could reduce the Estimates further. There are -a few items amounting to, perhaps, £1 0,000 or £15,000 which might be dealt with. ‘ But still I did not think it was very advisable, and it was not in the direction in which the committee last night wished reductions to be made. I desire to give the statement made an emphatic denial, so that it shall not be used in thi way in which it might be used. I intended to go to Sydney to-night, but I shall remain here to-morrow and, perhaps Monday, to see that the foundation is laid at once for dealing with the Estimates in the way which honorable members indicated last night by their-expressions of opinion.
– I desire to bring under the notice- of the Acting Prime Minister the representation of the General Council of the Chambers of Commerce -
That in view of the early completion of the Pacific cable the Federal Government be respectfully asked to have extra land wires erected between Brisbane and the southern States, so that the greatest possible advantage may be taken of the new cable by the people of those States.
It seems that already there is a difficulty in conducting business - so much - so, that the following memorandum has passed from a New Zealand firm to a firm in Australia : -
In reference to cablegrams, we desire to draw your attention to the fact that a great -deal of time in transit of messages is saved by sending them vid the Eastern Extension line. Being the more direct route, and therefere tending to reduce mistakes in transmission to a minimum, we strongly advise you to make a rule df sending all your cable messages to us marked “vid extension,” so that we may actually gain oil the benefits of the quicker service.
If there is difficulty experienced now with cables from New Zealand - and I understand that there is delay on the land lines - it will be much increased if provision is not made for the Pacific cable traffic from Queensland to the southern States. It is time that this was undertaken. I do not know whether it is intended to be undertaken, but it is necessary, and the earlier it is undertaken the less delay there will be in the transmission of messages by the Pacific cable when it is completed, and the more use will be made of that line as against its competitor.
– I desire to ask - the Acting Prime Minister if he intends, before it is prorogued, to give- the House an opportunity to discuss the reports of Judge Dashwood, and Mr. Warton on the pearl-shelling industry in Northern Queensland and Western Australia 1
– Last night the question of the treatment which had been accorded to the late Acting Commandant of South Australia was brought up on the Defence Estimates. It is my intention to bring forward this question when the House meets on Thursday next, and in- the meantime I hope the Minister will get together all the information regarding the proposals which were submitted to Colonel Stuart with respect to his further employment, and the reasons which actuated the General Officer Commanding in making such proposals.
– I wish to know if the Acting Prime Minister can state on what date the House will be prorogued, and if there is any intention to have any public ceremony at the close of the first session of the Commonwealth Parliament ?
– I desire to know if the Acting Prime Minister has received any report from the boring party between Port Augusta and Western Australia, on the route of the suggested transcontinental -railway, and if it is intended to go on with the operation during the recess.
– Some time ago I asked the Acting Prime . Minister a question regarding the taxation of federal incomes by State Governments, and he replied that it was a matter for the decision of the High Court later on. In view of the recent judgment of the Victorian Supreme Court, I wish to know whether the honorable and learned gentleman will take action, to test the question whether the salaries of federal officers can be taxed by the States.
-(In reply.)- With respect to thePacific cable, I have to inform the honorable memberfor North Sydneythat one new line fromBrisbane - a copperline - has just been constructed, and that foranother line the money has been voted on the Estimates. It is thought that these lines togetherwill provideample means of communication between that capital and thesouthern States. I do not think that time will permit of the discussion of the reports on the pearl-shelling industry by Judge DashwoodandMr. Warton. What is more probable is that the Governmentwillbe able to meet the House with some proposition based on a consideration of those reports, and any facts which may be collected in theinterval.The boring in Western Australia is undertaken by the State Government, which, I believe, does us the favour of forwardingcopiesof the reports obtained, but any control of those partiesrests solely with that Government. I have beenasked privately about the business to be transacted on Thursday. So far as I know, the only Government business will be the despatch of the Claims Against the Commonwealth Bill to the Senate, and thereturn of anymeasures with whichthe Senate may have been dealing. This afternoon the honorable member for Coolgardie hasgiven notice ofa privatemotion for Thursday next, and I do not think there can be any doubt but thatan opportunity forits discussion will then be found.The question as to the income tax payable by Commonwealth officials to State Governments is one for those officials only. It is not a matter in which the Commonwealthcan intervene. It rests betweenthe officersthemselves and the courts ofthe States, although, of course,therearepossibilities of appeal to thePrivy Council, and by-and-by to the High Court.Theprorogation willtake place, I hope, on this day week. I do not know that it will be attended by any special ceremony; certainly it will not be attended by any ceremony ofa social character, forthe very sufficient : reasonthat probably a majority of the members of the House will not he present. Although the session will be closed in the usual manner, it will not afford an occasion for the display witnessed at its opening, and which might, under other circumstances, have fittingly marked the close of so fruitful and laborious a session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 October 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19021003_reps_1_12/>.