1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Sir PHILIP FYSH presented two petitions from certain electors of Glenorcby and Hobart, praying the House to prohibit the importation, sale, and manufacture of intoxicating liquors in British New Guinea.
Mr. McCAY presented a similar petition from certain electors of Corinella.
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON presented three similar petitions from certain electors of South Australia.
– I wish to know from the Minister for Homo Affairs if the Government have yet received asecond report from the Capital Sites Commission?
– The honorable member no doubt refers to the report upon the Dalgety site. That site has, I believe, been inspected, but I have not yet received a report upon it, though I understand that the report will be sent to me within a day or two
– There has been a telegram saying that there will be no unavoidable delay.
– I should like to know from the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether, in view of the numerous petitions presented by the residents of Kadina, South Australia, for the erection of a new post-office there, the work has been started yet? Tenders should, at least, have been called for. I wonder that the South Australian members, considering the urgency of the matter, have not moved the adjournment of the House to discuss it.
– Tenders have not yet been called for the work.
Basis of Representation in the House of Representatives.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Kennedy that he desires to move the adjournment of the House, to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz. : - “ The basis of representation in the House of Representatives.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– The matter to which I desire to call attention affects particularly the representation of two States. There seems to be a doubt in the first place, as to whether Queensland is entitled by reason of her population to a representation of nine or of ten members in the House ofRepresentatives ; and, in the second place, if Queensland is now enjoying her proper representation, it would appear that there has been an inflation of the population of Victoria which gives that State a proportionately larger representation. I do not desire to go into the legal question involved in the discussion of the right of a State to have the coloured alien population residing within its borders enumerated as part of its population for the purpose of determining its representation in the House of Representatives ; I shall leave that matter to be dealt with by the legal members of the House, and I understand that the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has given particular attention to it. All I intend to do is to state the position as it appears to a lay mind. Under the Constitution, to determine the representation of a State in the House of Representatives, it is necessary, first of all, to ascertain its population, and to divide that by twice the number of senators, the number of members of the House of Representatives being practically twice the number of senators ; though, as Western Australia and Tasmania are each given five members, which is more than they are entitled to on a population basis, the members of the House of Representatives actually number twice as many as the members of the Senate. As the figures have been worked out, Victoria is shown to be entitled to a representation of 22.40, which means that her people elect 22 members, and Queensland to a representation of 9.47, which means that our people elect nine members. But the 16,000 aliens residing in Queensland have been deducted from the population of that State, whereas the 7,000 coloured aliens residing in Victoria have been included in its population. I do not wish it to be understood that I think that the coloured alien population of the Commonwealth should be taken into consideration in regard to the representation of the States in the House of Representatives ; but if they are to be counted in Victoriathey should be counted in Queensland. I understand that in Victoria coloured aliens who have become naturalized can, under the Electoral Act of 1890, have their names placed on the electoral roll, and thus become entitled to vote ; and that, although only 69 of these people have availed themselves of the privilege, the whole 7,000 aliens have been counted, because they ore entitled to avail themselves of it. In Queensland a coloured alien to obtain the right to vote must not only become naturalized, but must also acquire freehold property of a certain value ; and although a number of coloured persons in Queensland have become naturalized and hold property, and in some instances have their names on the electoral roll, . the coloured alienpopulation of Queensland has net been counted.
– Have those whose names are on the roll not been counted?
-I do not know whether they have been counted ; but the coloured alien population of Queensland, amounting to 16,000, has not been counted, whereas the coloured alien population of Victoria has been counted.
– We contend that if the alien population of one State is counted, the alien population of every other State should be counted.
– Has the coloured population of Victoria, which is not naturalized, been counted ?
-Yes; the whole 7,000 coloured aliens. The provision in the Constitution dealing with this matter - section 25 - is as follows : -
If by the law of any State all persons of any race arc disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State, then, in reckoning the number of the people of the State or of the Commonwealth, persons of that race resident in that State shall not be counted.
Passing from that aspect of the question to the purely statistical aspect, I would like to point out that Coghlan gives the population of Tasmania on the 30th June, 19.02, as 172,572, whereas the Gazette notice published by the Department for Home Affairs gives its population on the 31st December of the same year as 177,072, an increaseof 4, 500 for the six months. If those figures are not. absolutely correct, and the actual population is slightly more than is given, Queensland is entitled to a representation of 9.50; which means that she has a right to send ten members to the House of Representatives. It has been stated that the population of New South Wales has been very largely inflated. One reason for the inflation is that Coghlan does not now allow - I do not know why - for theunrecorded departures, although in previous estimates he has always made provision for them. A slight inflation might make such a difference that Queensland would he deprived of the additional representative to which she is justly entitled. I can quite understand that there may have been some mistake with regard to the Tasmanian figures, because I do notimagine for one moment that the population of that State would have increased to the extent of 4,500 in six months, whilst the population of Queensland was increased by only 1 20 during the same period. I am inclined to think that Mr. Coghlan has omitted from his calculation the year 1901, and that the increase of 4,500 in the population of Tasmania instead of having taken place within six months should have been spread over a period of two years. If we adopt the Gazette figures, we find that during the year 1902 the population of Queensland increased by 4,301. Even that was a large decrease upon the figures of the previous year, which were 12,270, whilst for the year before they were 15,850. I hope that the Minister for Home Affairs will be able to give us some definite official statement with respect to the returns, and that the Attorney-General will explain his attitude with regard to the exclusion of the alien population of Queensland from the Federal count. “We desire to know exactly the position in which we stand. If the alien population is to be included Queensland will be clearly entitled to an extra representative. If the aliens in Victoria were not included that State would be entitled to only 22 representatives instead of 23, and ,1 think that it will be unjust to Queensland and to the whole of the Commonwealth if any State is permitted to enjoy representation beyond that to which it is fairly entitled.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).The honorable member for Kennedy has directed attention to a very important matter, and has very properly asked the Minister for Home Affairs to give an explanation regarding the basis upon which the statistics have been compiled. “Under section 24 of the Constitution the responsibility for their compilation is thrown upon the Commonwealth, but, so far as I can ascertain, the Minister for Home Affairs has simply asked the statisticians of the various States to supply him with returns. Apparently no instructions were given, nor were any inquiries made as to the basis upon which the statistics were compiled, and no attempt was made to secure that uniformity which was not only desirable but absolutely necessary. So far as Queensland is concerned, I desire to deal first of all with the question of the .exclusion of aliens from the Federal count. That exclusion depends upon section 25 of the Constitution, which provides -
For the purposes of the last section, if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State, then in reckoning the number of the people of the State or of the Commonwealth, persons of that race resident in that State shall not be counted.
Another section dealing with this matter is section 41, which enact3 that -
No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State, shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Common- . wealth.
Then section 127 excludes aborigines of Australia from the count. The Chinese, Hindoos, and South Sea Islanders, and other coloured races in Queensland have been excluded from the count, and we are entitled to ask why this has been done? Section 25 of the Constitution, as I have already pointed out, provides that all persons of any race who are disqualified by the law of any State shall not be counted. “ All,” in that case, means “ each and every “ person of such race ; and it must be used in a collective sense. In the case of Burnett v. Hie Great Worth of Scotland Railway, 54 L.J., Q.B., 539, it was held that “all” is equivalent to “each and every”; and my contention is that the meaning of -the section is that if by the law of any State each and every person of any race are excluded, they cannot be taken into account. Some question ma)’ be raised as to the meaning of the word “ disqualified “ ; and in order to arrive at a sound conclusion it is necessary for us to refer to the law of the State, and ascertain if it imposes disqualification upon every member of a particular race. Each and every person of a particular race must be absolutely disqualified in order to exclude the whole of the race from the Federal count. Maxwell says -
The business of »the interpreter is not to improve the statute, but to expound it. The ques- . ti on for him is not what the Legislature meant, bub what its language means.
There appears to have been a good deal of confusion at the Convention with reference to the section I have quoted. It was amended several times, and no definite opinion was given with regard to it ; so that we are absolutely thrown back upon the wording of the section, and have to determine its intention for ourselves. My contention is that if by the law of the State of Queensland any person of a particular race is entitled to exercise the franchise, the members of that race must be included in the count. Under the Consolidated
Elections Act of 1897 of Queensland, it is provided that -
Every man of the age of 21 years, being a natural born or naturalized subject of Her Majesty shall . . . be entitled to be entered upon the roll of electors.
Then, under the heads of the qualifications, residence, freehold, leasehold, and others which are clearly set out, it is provided -
No aboriginal native of Australia, India, China, or of the South Sea Islands shall be entitled to be entered on the roll, except in respect of a freehold qualification.
Therefore a Chinese who is a naturalized British subject, or a natural born British subject is entitled to the franchise in Queensland if he owns a piece of land of a certain value. If, as a matter of fact - and we know it is a fact - even one Chinaman is on the roll in respect to this qualification, and is entitled to exercise the franchise, each and every member of his race is not excluded from the franchise, but on the other hand each and every member of his race should be included in the count. The Queensland Act distinguishes between qualifications and disqualifications. Disqualifications under the Queensland Act are set out in section 8, which reads as follows : -
Every person nevertheless shall be disqualified from being entered or retained on the roll who
Is of unsound mind, or in the receipt of aid from any charitable institution ; or
Has been attainted or convicted of treason, felony, or other infamous offence in any part of Her Majesty’s dominions, unless he has received a free or conditional pardon for such offence, or has undergone the sentence passed on him ; or
Is in the naval or military service of the British Empire or of Queensland on full pay; or
Is an officer or member of the police force.
– Does the honorable and learned member say that the word “disqualified” in the Constitution must be interpreted in the light of the disqualifications under the Queensland Act?
– No ; but I say that it must be interpreted for each State in the light of the provisions of the laws of that State.
– Does not the term “disqualified” include those who are not qualified?
– Yes; but “disqualified” is used in contradistinction to “qualified.” In Queeusland the Chinese, Hindoos, and South Sea Islanders have been excluded from the count in determining the quota.
Such persons, in order to possess a qualification under the Queensland Elections Act, must be naturalized or natural born British subjects. Now, there is a further point for consideration. The definition of naturalized subject under the Queensland Act is -
A person who in England or Queensland, or in any colony to which the Act of the Federal Council of Australasia, intitutled “ The Australasian Naturalization Act 1897,” extends, has been naturalized, and a person made a denizen of Queensland.
If we turn to the Aliens Act of Queensland we find that Europeans and North American aliens are entitled to be naturalized under certain conditions, but that Asiastics and African aliens, in order to become naturalized, have also to be married, and to have resided within the State for a period pf three years, and their wives also are required to have resided within the State. Therefore, by the Queensland Aliens Act, Chinese, Indians, and others who may be naturalized, and who have fulfilled the conditions I have mentioned, can be admitted to the franchise. We do not, however, depend only upon that Act. By reference to the British Naturalization Act of 1870 we find that provision is made that any alien can be naturalized in England, no matter where he comes from, and, therefore, if he becomes naturalized in England he is a naturalized British subject within the terms of the Queensland Electoral Acts. The AttorneyGeneral of Queensland has expressed the opinion that South Sea Islanders are excluded because no provision is made for their naturalization under the Aliens Act of Queensland, and that they cannot therefore acquire freehold. South Sea Islanders may be naturalized under the English Act. If so naturalized, they would be within the definition of “ naturalized subject “ under the Queensland Elections Act. It would only be a question of a right to hold freehold. But some of these South Sea Islanders are subjects of no power, some are subjects of foreign powers, some are natural-born British subjects. If by the law of the State of Queensland any South Sea Islander who is a natural-born British subject can acquire the franchise, then the South Sea Islanders should not be excluded from thecount. I submit, with all due deference, that possibly the Minister for Home Affairs was wrong when he excluded Pacific Islanders from the Federal count for that State. In Queensland the limitation of the freehold qualification is only to an aboriginal native of Australia, India, China, or the South Sea Islands. Now, the word “aboriginal” means an original inhabitant of any part of the world. But the word “ native “ has been added, and that seems to imply that an aboriginal must be born in a particular locality. This limited qualification, therefore, does not appear to apply to Chinese who are born in Australia, or to Pacific Islanders who are natives of Queensland, but only to members of aboriginal races who are natives of India, China, or the South Sea Islands. If that be so, members of these races who are born in Queensland are entitled to have their names placed upon the electoral roll of that State. If, under our law, there isa possibility of them becomingqualified, they arenotexcluded from the exercise of the franchise under the provisions of section 25 of the Constitution, and therefore the members of their race in Queensland should have been included in the Queensland count. But I would point out a peculiar thing which has happened. In the New South Wales count, Chinese, Hindoos, and other alien races totalling 14,833, have been included. That number of the coloured aliens is made up for the year 1901 of 11,263 Chinese, 467 Pacific Islanders, 161 Japanese, and 1,681 Hindoosand Cingalese. In Queensland there are only 9,313 Chinese, 9,327 Pacific Islanders, and a little more than 2,000 Japanese. In1 902 the Pacific Islanders in Queensland were only some 8,000. The Chinese Restriction and Regulation Act passed in New South Wales in 1888, provides that no certificate of naturalization shall be issued to any Chinese in the future.
After the passing of this Act no certificate of naturalization shall be issued to any Chinese on any ground whatever, and all Chinese leaving the colony, except those who have been naturalized therein, shall, on returning, be subject to all the provisions of this Act.
In order to become an elector of New South Wales a person must be a naturalized subject of that. State, and must comply with the provisions of the qualification under the Electoral Act. By a statute New South Wales has excluded the whole Chinese race from being naturalized there. At the same time there are Chinese in that State whose rights are preserved under section 41 of the Constitution. I am not asking the Minister for Home Affairs to exclude Chinese from the New South Wales count. At the same time, I claim that if the Chinese, who in the future cannot acquire any qualification in that State, are to be included in its count, the Chinese of Queensland, where they can still be naturalized and acquire a freehold qualification, should also be included in the count of that State.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to be further heard, Mr. Speaker.
-Is it the pleasure of the House that an extension of time shall be granted to the honorable and learned member.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I thank honorable members for their indulgence. I would further point out that in New South Wales the Chinese Restriction and Regulation Act has to be read in conjunction with the Parliamentary Elections Act of 1902, because the definition of that Act provides that -
A person made or hereafter to be made a denizen, or who has been or shall hereafter be naturalized in New South Wales in accordance with the denization or naturalization laws in force for the time being, but subject to the provisions of the Chinese Restriction and Regulation Act of 1888 or any Act amending or consolidating the same.
The restriction depriving Chinese of the franchise in New South Wales must therefore be read into the qualification of an elector. That appears to me to constitute a distinct racial disqualification in future to members of that race. A suggestion has been made that in interpreting section 25 we must distinguish between manhood and property qualifications, that the franchise as regards property attaches to the property, and is not a personal right which is conferred upon the individual if he possesses the necessary property qualification. Certainly that has not been the accepted definition of the word “franchise” in the English law. In English law that word has two meanings. It denotes both the right to vote and the qualifications upon which that right is based. I would ask whether in England the franchise has always amounted to manhood suffrage? We know that practically, from time immemorial, the county franchise was based upon a property qualification. We know that in Victoria a similar qualification exists in the case of voters for the Legislative Council. The right to exercise the franchise implies that the individual is possessed of certain qualifications which entitle him to vote. The franchise has always been the personal right of the individual, provided that he possessed certain qualifications. That is exactly the position of a Chinese who is resident in Queensland, and who is a naturalized or natural-born subject. If he is 21 years of age, and in addition owns freehold of a certain value, he is entitled to become an elector of that State. If disqualified altogether from exercising the franchise, the members of his race have no title to consideration. We are entitled to a clear decision upon this matter. Ali I ask is that in making the Queensland count, that State should be placed in the same position that is occupied by New South Wales, Victoria, and the other- States. If the Minister for Home Affairs, upon investigation, discovers that in making their computation the statisticians have not adopted a uniform basis, I think that he should instruct them to do so with a view to definitely settling this matter without delay, I apologize’ to honorable members for having occupied so much time, but must plead, as my excuse, the urgency of the question under consideration.
– I think that the position occupied by Queensland has been pretty well covered by the honorable member for Kennedy and the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs. There are, however, one or two points to which I desire to direct attention. Before doing so, I should like to say that the first gentleman to move in this matter was Senator Dawson, who took action during the recess, whilst the Queensland representatives were absent in their constituencies. He sought information from the Home Affairs Department and from the Electoral Registrar’s office. Upon our return to Melbourne the other representatives of that State followed the matter up with anything but satisfactory results. The Department seem to be in as big a fog regarding the basis of the calculation for determining the quota of electors ,as we were. I take it, therefore, that we are dealing with one of the most important questions that could occupy our attention, especially when it is remembered that during the Tariff discussion a matter which materially affected the timber industry of that State was decided by the vote of one honorable member. The effect of that vote was’ to inflict great injury upon the industry in question. It is almost unnecessary for me to point out that the loss of one representative in this House by any State may alter the whole trend of its legislation. The law bearing upon this matter has, to my mind, been well laid down by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs. At first we were disposed to think that the Pacific Islanders might justly be excluded from the Queensland count, because at present it seems as though they are debarred from the exercise of the franchise. I sought from the officers in Melbourne the reason for the exclusion of the coloured races of Queensland from the count of that State, and I also asked the Minister for Home Affairs certain questions, to which he replied as fully as he was able. Those replies, however, did not convey the information which I sought. Thereupon I wired to the Electoral Registrar in Queensland, asking him if at any time Pacific Islanders had been naturalized in Queensland, and, if so, whether any of them were enrolled, including Fijians. To that message I received the following reply : -
Your wire to-day. Chief Electoral Officer, Melbourne, has information. Kindly apply him. -We had unsuccessfully applied to him for that information time and again. I then went to an outside source, and wired to Mr. Hamilton, the Government Whip in Queensland, to the same effect. The reply which I received was as follows : -
Three kanakas have been naturalized, but not registered voters. Coloured Manilla man at Thursday Island is naturalized and on roll.
These facts clearly prove that the rights of the kanakas as voters have been recognised. If only one member of a race is possessed of the franchise, we have a right to include the whole of that race in our count for representation in this Chamber. In Queensland the Chinese are allowed to vote, but they are not eligible for appointment to the Legislative Council, or for election to the Legislative Assembly. That disqualification is to be found in the Queensland Elections Act of 1867. The same- disqualification applies to others. It reads as follows : -
No person shall be capable of being elected a member to serve in the said Assembly, and of sitting and voting therein who shall be a minister of the Church of England, or a minister, priest, or ecclesiastic, either according to the rites of the Church of Rome or under any other form or profession of religious faith or worship.
It may be said that because a coloured alien cannot be elected a member of the Legislative Assembly, Legislative Council, or Executive Council, he is not in full possession of the franchise. From the quotation which I have just read, it will be seen, however, that there is a similar restriction operating against ecclesiastics, so that if that were the only objection to the inclusion of coloured aliens, clergymen should also be excluded from the count. We have no wish to see Victoria deprived of its twenty-third member, but we believe that there is very great need of a revision of the figures upon which the representation of Queensland has been determined. All that we claim is that that State should be treated as other States have been-treated. If Victoria is entitled to have her 7,000 coloured aliens included in the count because 69 of them are naturalized and appear on the rolls, then we claim that the 18,038 coloured aliens of Queensland should also be included in the count because some of them are registered as voters. That is our contention. If the coloured aliens of New South Wales are to be taken into account for this purpose, so also should the coloured alien population of Queensland. In making that request, we are surely asking for nothing more than, fair play. If we are to be denied this right, the other States should certainly be denied it. If the coloured aliens of Queensland are excluded from our count, we shall be restricted to a representation of nine members in this House. In the same way Victoria’s representation would be reduced to 22 members. New South Wales, on the other . hand, would still be entitled to 23 members, but her proportion of population would be considerably reduced, and she would be unlikely to secure increased representation for a very considerable time. As’ I am suffering from a severe cold, I shall not deal with the question at greater length. I believe that it has been clearly put before the House by other honorable members, and I shall content myself by urging the Minister for Home Affairs, and the Government generally, to look into this matter and see that justice is done.
– The question of representation, which is always important, is of more than ordinary importance in the case of the Federal Parliament, where the proportionate representation of the States deals more or less with separate interests, and must do so for some time. So far as I Lave been able to. discover, there is no desire on the part of the people of Queensland that she should secure additional representation merely because of her alien population. What we complain of is that other States have been able to obtain a larger proportion of representation, by reason of the fact that their coloured alien population has been taken into account in, determining their respective populations. I agree with those who have complained of the difficulty experienced by honorable members in obtaining any reasonable information in relation to this question. That difficulty emphasizes the necessity for the creation at the earliest moment of a Federal Statistical Department. It is impossible to obtain anything like reliable information by means of different States systems controlled by men who, while adopting a uniform system in regard to certain matters, may be’ wholly antagonistic in their treatment of other points. I urge the Govern.ment bo make ample provision this session for a Federal Statistical Department. Even if the discussion does no more than draw attention to the imperative necessity for such a Department, it will serve a useful purpose. I do nob hesitate to say that I find it difficult at present to deal with, this question, owing to the inability to obtain information bearing on the subject. A general election will bake place within a very short time, and it seems impossible that a re-arrangement can be made in the meantime so as to remove this injustice. It seems to me to be somewhat singular that, the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth^, as well as the Attorney-General of Queens^ land, have agreed on this question, and: whilst we have the right to complain that an injustice has been done to Queensland, it is well that we should point out that it has not been due to any action taken by the representatives of that State in this House. The course proposed to be followed has been agreed bo by the principal law officer of the State, and he should certainly be as well able as we are to preserve Queensland’s rights in this respect. The honorable member for Kennedy has performed a public duty in bringing this matter before the House, but as the salient points relating to it have already been well discussed I do not propose to enlarge upon them. I hope that the Minister will make a statement as to the position which the Government take up, and that no uncertain pronouncement will be made by him in regard to the establishment of a Federal Statistical Department.
– The importance of this question amply justifies the action taken by the honorable member for Kennedy in bringing it before the House. Their object is to secure some satisfaction for that State. It has been said, and said very well, that there is no desire on the part of the representatives of that State to take away from Victoria her twenty-third member. All that we ask is that in this respect Queensland shall be placed on the same footing as Victoria. It appears that in determining the population of Victoria for the purposes of representation in this House, regard has been paid to the existence of a population of 7,000 coloured aliens in the State. On the other hand, no account has been taken of the thousands of coloured aliens in Queensland, with the result that she will be deprived of the additional representative which every one in that State believed would have been allotted to her at the next general election. I trust that this matter will be carefully considered. Avery seriousmistake hasbeenmade in estimating the population of the Commonwealth. I do not think Queensland complains about that fact, but I hold that one system should be observed in determining the population of Australia for this purpose. At present varied systems are in vogue, and nothing is done correctly. I trust that the Minister for Home Affairs will give this question greater attention than it has received in the past, and that Queensland will be placed on the same footing as Victoria.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - I do not intend to detain the House by discussing this matter at any length, but the question, affecting as it does the representation of Queensland, is one upon which something should be said by every representative of that State. The honorable member for Moreton waxed eloquent in regard to the timber duties, and said that if another honorable member had been present, the determination of the Committee in regard to those duties might have been different. It is hardly necessary to point out that the same argument would apply to the freetrade, as well as to the protectionist, side of the case. I contend that if we are entitled to a tenth representative we should have it. The statistics relating to the question are certainly peculiar. So far as the growth of population is. concerned, Queensland has long held second place in the group ; but, according to the figures which have been supplied to us, I find that her population has increased by only 125 during the last six months. On the other hand Tasmania, which, in this respect, has been at the bottom of the list for the last 25 years, is shown to have had an increase of 4,600 during the same period. Surely, some mistake must have occurred. No alluvial gold-fields have been discovered in Tasmania during the last few months, nor has anything else occurred to account for such a rapid increase in her population. I agree with honorable members that it is time to consider the desirableness of establishing a Federal Statistical Department. If we had our own Statist we should be able to secure reliable returns, and should not have to depend upon figures obtained in a haphazard way. No doubt the Minister for Home Affairs will say that he is entirely in the hands of the Statisticians, but the fact remains that if a proper count had been made Queensland would have been allotted another member. I do not wish to see the alien population of that State taken into account in determining a question of this kind, but if allowance is to be made for the alien population of Victoria I fail to see why the coloured aliens of Queensland should not also be counted. I presume that as the decision has been gazetted it is impossible now to revoke it ; but it is the desire of honorable members from Queensland that the matter should be cleared up. The honorable member for Wide Bay has referred to the opinion given by the Attorney- General of Queensland. I feel satisfied that that gentleman was not in possession of the figures with respect to the estimated population of Tasmania and Queensland, when he gave that opinion, otherwise his verdict would have been different.
-I said that he agreed with the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth on a point of law.
– I am satisfied that he was not in possession of these facts. It was only a few weeks ago that we succeeded in dragging them out of the Department for Home Affairs. When an honorable member applies to that Department for information he finds that he can obtain only what the officers choose to give him.
– I do not think they have any further information to give.
– I am reminded by the honorable member for Canobolas that if the population of the other States were not inflated Queensland would be entitled to ten members, without taking into consideration her coloured alien population. Any one reading the opinion given by the AttorneyGeneral of Queensland, must readily see that it is based on the figures supplied to him and the views expressed by the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth. I desire to congratulate the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs on the very able and lucid way in which he has placed this matter before the House. He dealt with the question very concisely, and stated our position well from the legal point of view. I hope that the Minister for Home Affairs will be able to combat the arguments advanced by that honorable and learned member and others who have spoken.
– This is a question of very great importance, not only to Queensland but to the whole of the Commonwealth. The position of the Federation is very different from that occupied in the past by the separate States. The States Parliaments are able to increase or decrease the representation in the local Legislatures at their own free will. We are differently situated. The Constitution lays down the means by which the population shall be estimated and the quota fixed in order that the representation of the different States may be determined. Thus we have no voice in the matter, and the Parliaments of the different States have no right to say what their Federal representation shall be. I should like to emphasize the fact that no honorable member for Queensland desires to deprive Victoria of one of its representatives; but we are particularly anxious that we should receive fair play ourselves. Apart altogether from the reckoning of our alien population, we are indubitably entitled to an additional representative, and it is a serious reflection upon the administration of the Department for Home Affairs that the honorable member for Kennedy should have been driven to move the adjournment of the House to draw attention to the matter. The Department is furnished with the latest statistics of population, and has the AttorneyGeneral to refer to in regard to the electoral laws of the States, and their operation in respect to aliens and other members of the community. There is % significant silence on the part of Victorian and Tasmanian representatives in regard to this matter. Those States seem to stand on velvet, because, in any case, they have an ample representation, and, it appears; probable, a representation in excess of their actual rights. Queensland, on the other hand, has a smaller representation thant that to which her population entitles her. The honorable member for Wide Bay stated that it is impossible to rectify matters in time for the coming general elections. I take a different view. If we are-entitled to> an additional representative, provision should be made for his election.
– Let justice be done, though the heavens fall !
– I say let justice be> done even though the office of- the Minister for Home Affairs should fall. The representatives of Queensland should demand the giving to that State before the next general elections of the representation to which it is entitled. It devolves upon the Minister to> see that we get that representation, and get it at once.
– Suppose Queensland is not entitled to it 1
– The fact that the Minister puts his interjection interrogatively is to me evidence that he is not certain upon the point.
– I .am quite certain upon the point.
– The matter is a very important one to the State of Queensland. As has been pointed out by the honorable members for Moreton and Macquarie, on many occasions when the Tariff was under discussion another vote would have made a. serious difference in the incidence of the duties. Sometimes the free-traders would have lost, and on other occasions they would have gained. But in any case the representation to which a State is entitled should be given to it without delay.
Mr. KINGSTON (South Australia):I hope and believe that the Government will give this matter their most careful consideration. It would be utterly repugnant tothe sense of fair play possessed by every member of the House if one State weretreated differently from another in regard. to the computation of its population for purposes of representation. I strongly entertain the opinion that the contention of the representatives of Queensland in this instance is correct, and in saying that I need hardly add that I am dealing with the matter purely as one of the scientific construction of the Constitution. If I allowed my feelings to sway me, which I should not do in the consideration of the proper interpretation of an Act of Parliament, 1 would, of course, pronounce against’ the counting of the Chinese. My whole record will satisfy honorable members on that point. But having listened to the arguments which have been advanced, and having considered the question before, I cannot help thinking that the words of the Constitution do not exclude the reckoning of the Chinese population of Queensland in the computation of the population of that State to determine the number of representatives which it is entitled to return. Section 25 of the Constitution says, in regard to this computation, that -
If by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State, then, in reckoning the number of the people of the States or of the Commonwealth, persons of the race resident in that State shall not be counted.
I call the attention of honorable members to the words - “If all persons of any race are disqualified.” The people of the various States enjoy the franchise for different reasons. In some of the States they possess the right to vote in virtue of their manhood or their womanhood, while in other States, of which Queensland is one, the possession of property also confers that right. If, as has been admitted, persons of the Chinese race residing in Queensland who f are naturalized, and possessed of property) are qualified to vote, how can it be said that all persons of that race are there disqualified? They are not. The number of Chinese holding property and qualified to vote in Queensland may be a large or a small proportion of the whole number of Chinese residents in the State; but that makes no difference. The Constitution says that “ all “ such persons must be disqualified. The language is strong and definite. It is only when it can be shown that all Chinese are disqualified by the laws of a State that it can be contended that persons of that race must, not be counted in reckoning the population of the State. The provision in our Constitution differs materially f/’om that in the American Constitution. If we had adopted the American provision, no doubt the Chinese population of Queeusland would be excluded. It was open to the members of the Convention to provide that if the electoral rights of the persons of any race residing in a State were in .any way abridged, such persons should not be counted in the population of that State. That is a very different matter. If we ask the question, “ Are all Chinese in Queensland disqualified to vote V the answer must be “ No.” But if we ask the question, “ Are the rights of Chinese in Queensland abridged?” the answer must be “Yes.” Why is it not stated in the Constitution in so many words that where the rights of any persons of any race are abridged, those persons shall not be counted in. the population of that State ? When the American people were dealing with this matter, they provided, not -only that persons of disqualified races should not be counted, but also that persons whose electoral rights were abridged should not be counted. The omission from our Constitution of the provision that persons of any race whose electoral rights are abridged shall not be counted, differentiates the position here from that which obtains in America. This is the provision in the American Constitution -
When the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and “VicePresident of the United States, representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of the State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being 21 years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any va3’ abridged, except for participation in rebellion or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens 21 years of age in such State.
As all Chinese residents of the State of Queensland are not disqualified to vote, how can we apply to them a provision of the Constitution which applies only where all persons of a race are so disqualified ? If it had ,Deen intended by the Constitution that persons whose electoral rights were abridged should not be counted, that could have been made clear, as it was made clear in the American Constitution. But as a definite provision to that effect has not been inserted in our Constitution, section 25, which I have read, must be held not to apply in this instance. While my political views - would have made me delight in a- differently-framed provision, I cannot help holding the strong opinion that the Constitution as framed applies only to the case in which all persons of a race are disqualified. Therefore, the alien population of Queensland must be counted, and I invite the Government to give the matter most careful consideration, with a view to securing what is fair and right in the interests of that State.
– Some honorable members have dealt with this matter as though the Department over which I preside had not properly taken it into consideration, but I think I shall be able to show that that is a mistaken idea. The question is a very complex one, and involves a problem which is suited rather to legal than to lay minds. The matter was first brought definitely under my notice by a telegram from the Government Statistician of New South Wales, when he was preparing for the press a new edition of the Seven Colonies qf Australasia. This is a work for the compilation of which the Commonwealth now pays ; and, therefore, the figures given in it must be regarded, not as State, but as Commonwealth figures.
Mr.Page. - Buthave we no right to question those figures ?
– Certainly. But I am now speaking upon the technical point, which was brought under my notice by the much abused Electoral Officer, Mr. Lewis, that sub-section (1) of clause 24 of the Commonwealth Act required that the statistics used should be the “ statistics of the Commonwealth.” I informed him that these figures were prepared by a statistican who was acting for the Commonwealth, and that they were therefore officially compiled for our purposes. Some time last year I received a telegram from Mr. Coghlan as follows : -
Re your telegram. Important to have decision if proviso, section6 of Queensland Elections Act 1885, and similar provisions other Acts, exclude Asiatics and Africans within meaning of Constitution Act, section 25. These aliens have votes for property only.
I asked for advice from the AttorneyGeneral, whose opinion was given as follows : -
Section 6 of the Queensland Act1885 provides (proviso 1) that “no aboriginal native of Australia, India, China, or of the South Sea Islands shall be entitled to be entered on the roll except in respect of a freehold qualification.” Section 25 of the Constitution, with reference to the ascertainment of the quota under section 24, provides that “For the purposes of the last section, if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State, then in reckoning the number of people of the State or of the Commonwealth, persons of that race resident in that State shall not be counted,” Aboriginal natives of Australia are excluded from the reckoning under section 127 of the Constitution. The question appears to be whether by the Queensland Act “ all persons “ of the other aboriginal races mentioned are disqualified from voting at elections for the Legislative Assembly of the State - in view of the exception of a freehold qualification. In my opinion, the Queensland Act does disqualify “all persons” of the races named, within the meaning of section 25 of the Constitution ; and persons of those races should, therefore, not be reckoned for the purpose of the quota.
That was the opinion upon which I acted. I do not pretend, as a layman, to say whether the Attorney General’s view is correct; but he is the legal adviser of the Commonwealth, and therefore I naturally accept his opinion.
– Is a Chinaman any less a Chinaman because he possesses a freehold?
– I do not suppose that he is, but he is less a Chinamanif he is naturalized. There has been no misconception so far as the Home Affairs Department is concerned, but there has been some misapprehension on the part of honorable members. Reference has been made to Tasmania. It was found’ that a slight mistake had been made in the figures relating to the Tasmanian population, as printed by Mr. Coghlan on page 273 of the Seven Colonies. The figures for that State on the 30th June, 1902, should have been larger than 172,572. The mistake was rectified in the figures supplied to the Commonwealth. In any case it was too slight to affect the representation. Queensland has no claim to a tenth member under any conditions with respect to the calculation of the population.
– She never will have any claim.
– I am not so sure of that. Queensland was entitled to only nine members on the 31st December, 1902. It is true that if the coloured aliens had been reckoned in the population on the 30th June, 1902, Queensland would have been entitled to ten members at that date, but owing to the small increase in the following six months she lost the position she had gained. The change has been caused by the access of population in the other States having affected the quota. The 18,038 coloured aliens excluded from the population of -Queensland at the end of 1902, in accordance with the decision of the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, were thus composed : - South Sea Islanders, 8,760 ; Chinese, 8,445 ; Natives of India, 833, a total of 18,038. Coloured aliens were not excluded from the populations of Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania. The numbers in these States were : In Victoria, 7,000 ; New South Wales, 14,000; and Tasmania, 1,000. The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs referred to the provisions of the New South Wales Act, and possibly the view which he took is correct, but only so far as a few of the Chinese are concerned. His remarks would not apply to the larger number of the Chinese because they arrived in the State before 1888. Even if he were correct in his assumption, it would not affect the question as to numbers, but only the principle.
– How did the Minister come to the conclusion that Queensland was entitled to ten members ?
– Because the calculation was made in the first place up to 30th June, 1902, and at that date Queensland was entitled to ten members. But the populations of the other States varied in such a way that the quota was altered, and Queensland lost her position as a State entitled to ten representatives.
– How does the Minister explain the increase of 4,500 in the population of Tasmania in six months, whilst the population of Queensland was increased by only 120 during the same period.
– I have been trying to obtain some definite information upon that point. I have no Statistical Department of my own, and I have to rely upon the States Statisticians. It is stated that the figures given for Tasmania relate to eighteen months instead of six months, but I cannot say whether that is correct or not. The matter is now being investigated. If the coloured aliens had not been included in the populations of Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania, there would not have been any difference in the representation of the States. The figures would have been as follow: - New South Wales, population 1,387,163, actual representation 26-09, members 26; Victoria, population 1,198,242, actual representation 22-54, members 23 ;
Queensland, population 491,676, actual representation 9-25, members 9. Queensland, therefore, has a long way to go before she will be entitled to 1 0 members. The other . figures are : South Australia, population 363,929, actual representation, 6-83, members 7 ; Western Australia, population 21 1,43.1, actual representation 3-98 ; Tasmania, population 176,072, actual representation 3 “3 1 . In the case of Western Austral ia and Tasmania the actual proportional representation to which those States would be entitled falls below the minimum of five members. ‘ If coloured aliens had been included in all the States, Queensland would not have been entitled to ten representatives, but Victoria would have been entitled to only 22 members. I need not give the figures relating to population, but those relating to the actual representation, and the members to which each State would be entitled work out as follow : - New South Wales, 26-04, or 26 members ; Victoria, 22-40, or 22 members; Queensland, 9-47, or 9 members ; South Australia,. 6-80, or 7 members. Victoria would lose a representative, but Queensland would not gain. The Victorian Statistical Office and the Age both say that the New South Wales figures are too high. No objection was lodged against the figures at the time,, and the Federal Government were bound to accept them. If the New South Wales population,, however, had been 18,000 less, Queensland would, with the inclusion of the 18,038 coloured aliens in her population, have had ten members, and Victoria her present number of 23 members. . That would be the result of the quota being varied.
– Order ! The Minister’s, time has expired ; but I take it that it is. the pleasure of honorable members that heshould be permitted to continue his remarks.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– A statement was made in the press that the AttorneyGeneral of Queensland had taken a view adverse to the opinion given by the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth ; but I find that what Mr. Rutledge said was as follows : -
With regard to natives of India, it may be said that, in respect of intelligence and education,, very many of them now in Queeusland may claim to be the equals of the average European, and there is nothing to prevent them from at any time acquiring or holding land in fee simple in Queensland, while, as to natives of China and the people of the other Asiatic races, it is provided by the Aliens Act, passed in 18(>7, that upon the conditions therein specified they may become naturalized, as indeed a considerable number of them already have. Once naturalized, every one of them may, if he pleases, acquire a freehold, and if that freehold is of the required value, and no valid objection on other grounds exists, he will be entitled, by virtue of his freehold qualification, to be entered on the roll of electors for the electoral district in respect of which he is so qualified. The aboriginal natives of the South Sea Islands Stand upon a different footing. Unlike Asiatic and African aliens, their existence receives no special recognition from the Aliens Act, which contains no provision for their naturalization.
That being so, lam of opinion that they are incapable of acquiring a freehold, and, as a result of that incapacity, and not by reason of their colour or nationality, are - within the contemplation of section 25 of the Commonwealth Constitution Act - “ Persons of “a” race disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State,” and therefore should not be counted in reckoning the number of the people of Queensland for the purposes of section 24 of that Act.
When first approached by a representative of the press within half-an-hour of my leaving Brisbane on a visit to the Downs, and without having had an opportunity of conferring with the RegistrarGeneral as to the basis upon which he had proceeded in calculating the population and consequent proportion of representation of the State in the House of Representatives, I verbally expressed my concurrence in that officer’s contention that the number of such representatives should in future be ten instead of nine ; but, since my return, I have tor the purposes of this opinion made proper inquiry, and have ascertained that the whole number - totalling about 9,000 - of South Sea Islanders in Queensland are included in the statement submitted by the Registrar-General to the Chief Secretary. If from 498,129, stated to be the population of Queensland, we deduct the South Sea Islanders, it will be seen at once that, after dividing the population of Queensland by the statutory quota of 52,416 (which is obtained by dividing the population of the Commonwealth by twice the number of senators) the remainder is only 17,385, or 9,000 less than half of the quota.
I am of opinion, therefore, that this State is not yet entitled .to an increase in the number of its representatives.
Thus the Attorney-General of Queensland supported the view entertained by the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth in regard to the 9,000 South Sea Islanders, the exclusion of whose names from the rolls would doubtless leave Queensland with the same number of representatives that she has at present. I have offered this short explanation with a view to show exactly the steps which I have taken in dealing with this matter. I have acted carefully, and upon the best advice that could be obtained. I have adopted the figures relating- to population which were supplied to the Department of Home Affairs by the Statisticians of the States. I took M r. Coghlan’s figures, and I recommended the Cabinet to adopt the returns submitted as to the 31st of December .last. We could not obtain any later reliable data. Those figures were gazetted. It seemed to me to be right to take them up to the end of the year, and that is what I did. The matter was settled in the way it has been, upon the figures supplied by the New South Wales Statistician, Mr. Coghlan. I am sure that the honorable member for Herbert will not seriously urge for one moment that the Department for. Home Affairs does not know what it is doing. I have given a fairly lucid explanation of the matter, which’ is one surrounded by great difficulties. Only this morning we have heard a legal member of the House insisting upon one interpretation of the Constitution, and another submitting a different interpretation.
– We a,re at issue as to the facts, as well as upon the law.
– As to the numbers t
– I cannot do other than rely upon the figures supplied by the Statisticians. It is impossible for me to go into these details personally. I must take the best figures that are available. There has been no muddle in connexion with this matter. It has been dealt with in the best way possible under the circumstances, and upon the most reliable information obtainable. It is too late to effect any change now, unless the elections for this House are to be postponed, and that is a course which honorable members do not desire. But even if we adopted the method suggested by the representatives of Queensland, that State would not be entitled to an additional member, although another State would be deprived of a member.
– Which State would get an extra member ?
-No State would gain an additional member. Honorable members will find that section 24 of the Constitution does not require the return of a. specified number of members to this House. It sets out -
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators.
That section does not lay it down that the number of representatives in this Chamber shall be 75, 76, or 77, but that it shall be as nearly as practicable double the number returned to the Senate. I have only dealt with the departmental aspect of this question.
– I should like the Minister to make a declaration of the intention of the Government in regard to it.
– The intention of the Government at the present moment is to proceed upon the basis that we have already adopted.
– And to put the whole of the subdivision scheme through the House?
– That question is not raised by the motion under discussion, and I should not be in order in debating it. But even if I were, I am not prepared to say what course will be adopted by the Government in regard to every subdivision. No doubt some subdivisions will be dealt with in a different way from others. I hope that we shall be able to consider all but two of those subdivisions next week. I had hoped to do so on Wednesday next ; but to-day I received a telegram from the New South Wales Commissioner, Mr. Houston, informing me that he would post the New South Wales maps to me on next Tuesday night, so that I shall not. receive them until Wednesday. If the Government business will permit of it, I trust that the Prime Minister will agree to this matter being dealt with next week. Probably the subdivisions effected in four of the States will be brought forward simultaneously. The maps for Western Australia and Tasmania will not be completed until the end of next month ; but I scarcely think it would be right to defer consideration of the subdivisions made in the other States upon that account.
– How is it that Queensland had an. increase of only 124 inhabitants during six months, whilst Tasmania had an increase of 4,500 1
– I have already instituted inquiries in regard to both those matters. In the case of Tasmania, I have not yet received any official information, but I am informed that the increase in question covered eighteen months. A slight mistake of about 400 has also been corrected in Mr. Coghlan’s figures. I have dealt with the practical and departmental aspect of this question, and at a later stage I shall- ask the Attorney-General to deal with its legal aspect.
– I am one of those who protested against the delay which occurred in the preparation qf the data necessary to enable the Government to satisfactorily settle this question. I rise now with a view to correct an erroneous impression which has been formed by the honorable member for Kennedy. He declared that Mr. Coghlan had made no deduction whatever for unrecorded departures. The Minister for Home Affairs also referred to the fact that the accuracy of the figures supplied by Coghlan had been questioned by the Age and other authorities. As a result of the challenge ‘by the Age, Mr. Coghlan was called upon for a report by the Prime Minister. In his reply - which, by the way, was not published in the Age–
– Does the honorable member intend to connect his remarks with the question of the basis of representation for the House of Representatives 1
– Undoubtedly, if you, sir, will allow me an opportunity of doing so.
– The question of the unrecorded departures from New South Wales has no relation to that matter.
– I think that it has, because I intend to show that Mr. Coghlan, in making his calculations, made a certain allowance for unrecorded departures.
– The question under discussion is the basis of representation for the House of Representatives. I shall be pleased if the honorable member for Macquarie will connect his remarks with that question. If he does not, I am bound to call attention to the matter.
– With all due respect, I think that I should be permitted to finish my sentence.
– I listened for some moments to the honorable member, being anxious to ascertain what was the connexion between his remarks and the subject under consideration. If the honorable member intends to connect the two, I shall be pleased to hear him.
– It is my intention to connect them. The following is an extract from the Age -
The official explanation of the discrepancy between the population and the electoral rolls of New South Wales, which was telegraphed from Sydney to the Age, proves on investigation to confirm strongly our contention that Mr. Coghlan has erred on the generous side in his estimates of the increase of population in New South Wales since the census was taken, and to strengthen the impression that it would be unwise to reduce Victoria’s representation in the House of Representatives before the question of the accuracy of the population estimates has been settled.
The figures were questioned by the Age, but I wish to point out that an explanation was furnished to the Prime Minister by Mr. Coghlan, in which he stated that he had made a calculation of the unrecorded departures since the taking of the census. Mr. Coghlan says -
The following appear to be the allowances for unrecorded departures made in the population estimates of the different States : -
New South Wales. -11 per cent. on departures by sea, with allowance for unrecorded overland traffic. These allowances, taken together, equal 12 per cent. on departures by sea.
Victoria. - 113/4 per cent. on departures by sea, i.e., the equivalent of 13 per cent. for males, and 93/4 per cent. for females.
Tasmania. - 13.45 per cent. on departures by sea.
Queensland. - 12 per cent. on departures by sea.
South Australia. - 8 per cent. on departures by sea.
Western Australia makes no allowance for unrecorded departures, as experience shows that such is unnecessary.
I mention these facts in order to show that the attempt made by the Age to discredit Mr. Coghlan’s figures had a wrong foundation. It was intended to show, from the point of view of the newspaper, that no reliance was to be placed on the figures of the Government Statistician of New South Wales. Mr. Coghlan points out that he made the allowance referred to, and, therefore, his figures cannot be questioned, as they have been done in this regard. The question raised by the honorable member for Kennedy is one with which the legal members of the House must deal. It is a question in regard to which the lay members of the House are unable to express a definite opinion. It relates to the interpretation of certain sections of the Constitution.
– The position is that the Government has adopted one system for Queensland and another for Victoria.
– My own opinion is that the administration of electoral matters by. the Department for Home Affairs is worthy of the earnest consideration of the Government, and that an effort should be made to see whether it cannot be placed on a more satisfactory basis.
– The honorable member says that because he has some feeling of spite towards me.
– No. I had occasion some time ago to move the adjournment of the House in order to call attention to a serious inaccuracy in the rolls which were submitted to the Electoral Commissioner as the basis for the division of the State of New South Wales into Federal electorates. I showed then that a loss of 15,000 voters appeared to have taken place’ in two years, but that the Minister for Home Affairs had made no investigation into the matter. The electoral rolls submitted to the Commissioner contained some 15,000 names less than the number on the electoral rolls of New South Wales nearly two years previously. The electoral rolls referred to the New South Wales Commissioner in relation to eleven Sydney electorates contained 21,183 names, whereas, according to the census return prepared by Mr. Coghlan, exclusive of the increase in the adult population since 1891, there ought to have been 31,742 on the rolls, showing a deficiency of nearly 1 1,000.
– What has that to do with this question?
-I contend that the officers in the Department for Home Affairs should have had a roll prepared some time ago on the basis of the Federal franchise, and that roll should have been referred to the various Electoral Commissioners as the basis for the division of the various States into electorates.
– What would have been the cost?
– I have no hesitation in saying that the Minister will have to pay far more for the preparation of the rolls of males and females, so far as the State of New South Walesis concerned, than he would have had to pay the State Government if he had arranged with them to have the rolls compiled by the police simultaneously with the compilation of the State parliamentary rolls. He could have had a special roll prepared by the State Government at a much lower cost.
– The cost will not be half as much.
– The Government have to pay half the cost in regard to the roll of females.
– That is all we are going to pay.
– I feel sure that the Minister could have made a satisfactory arrangement for the compilation of a Federal roll by the police of New South Wales, and would thus have avoided considerable trouble and expense. The Minister said in the first instance that he did not know that a roll was being prepared in New South Wales, but some four or five days later he took action.
– Before the State roll was being compiled.
– No; the work had been going on for four or five days before the Minister took action. I am referring to this matter, in order to show that the failure of the Minister to deal with the compilation of the rolls in a business-like way has resulted in a shortage, so far as the number of electors on the Federal rolls for New South Wales is concerned, and that there is still danger that no proper Federal roll will be prepared. I am satisfied that the Minister will find that the roll now being compiled will amply justify the action taken by me some days ago in moving the adjournment of the House in order to direct attention to this question. Of -course, it is not a serious matter for the honorable gentleman to disqualify 50,000 or 60,000 electors. According to the census returns, the original Federal rolls would have shown a shortage of 65’,000 electors.
– Mr. Coghlan says that there would have been a shortage of only 9,000.
– No. Mr. Mclntyre makes that statement. But he took as the basis of his calculation the roll prepared in 1901, which contains the names of 15,000 electors in excess of the number on the roll for 1 902. The 1 902 roll, according to the statement made by the Minister, was the one that was actually sent to the Electoral Commissioner of’ New South Wales. Another roll is now being compiled, and although it is not being prepared in a manner altogether satisfactory to me, I think it. will show that a much larger number of electors should have been included on the rolls in the first place.
– I desire to say a few words solely on the question of the construction to be placed on section 25 of’ the Constitution. The very cogent and complete argument of my honorable and learned friend, the member for Darling Downs, by its merit demands the consideration of the House. It has to be admitted that it is based upon a reading of the section which, taken apart from Constitutional considerations and the circumstances of its origin, could be well sustained. I am unable to share the conclusion at which the honorable and learned member has arrived. As he is aware, when a section admits of more than one reading, as this section undoubtedly does, one of the first principles of interpretation requires that we should look for the mischief to be cured - the particular purpose to be served - and, therefore, at the intention which led to its introduction. It is perfectly fair to say, as the honorable and learned member has said, that an examination of the Convention debates discloses a somewhat confused state of mind. But if he has regard to the two forms in which the section was drafted before being finally adopted in the form in which it now stands, he will see that both were very -much further away from his interpretation of the section than the section itself. Those drafts are to be found at page 465 of Quick and Garran’s Annotated Constitution. Neither of the draft clauses contain the words on which my honorable and learned friend relies in his restricted construction of the meaning of the Section. On the contrary both clauses, which were adopted, but subsequently altered by the drafting committee, show that the aim of the Convention was either to exclude all the people of any race who were already excluded, or at all events to exclude those who were not except for some other consideration qualified to vote. The reading which I put upon the section is not that urged by the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston. I do not think that the words with reference to abridgement which occur in the United States Constitution were absolutely essential. As I read section 25, the words -
For the purposes of the last section, if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections - mean that if those persons are disqualified on racial grounds, they are to be excluded. On that interpretation I have already advised. But the important consideration which, I think, practically concludes the matter is that when this provision was introduced there were only two laws in existence in the States to which reference was made in the Convention, and at which this section was aimed. One of the provisions in question existed, and still exists, in the Western Australian Act, and the other in the Queensland Act. Both are identical in phraseology. The consequence is that this section was drawn with the disqualifications imposed by those States laws in view, and in view of nothing else. Next, if it does not mean a disqualification on racial grounds it means nothing. If the interpretation which my honorable and learned friend so strongly urged were adopted, it could not apply to any condition of things which now obtains in Australia, or has obtained in any State in the Commonwealth. To say that no race is to be excluded from the calculation under this section, unless no member of that race under any conceivable circumstances as to place of birth, acquisition of property, or naturalization could succeed in getting on an electoral roll would be to render the section nugatory. If because a member of one of the races aimed at succeeded in fulfilling the conditions necessary to enable him to enjoy the franchise, the whole of that race became entitled to be counted, this section would palpably be of no effect. Consequently we are coerced into the adoption of the only reading which fulfils the intention of the Convention and the Constitution by assuming that this provision relates to a racial disqualification as such. Even though certain members of a race are permitted conditionally to qualify by passing over the series of obstacles which the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has enumerated, that, in my view, does not remove the general racial disqualification. The mere words of the section are open to a great deal of interpretation, but the conclusion to which I have arrived is supported by the fact that the section refers to those twolaws or to no laws. It is either meaningless, or it must have the interpretation which I have placed upon it; and I think that, under the circumstances, any court would rather adopt this reading of the section than say that it has no meaning.
Mr.Fisher. - If Victoria passed a similar law would it apply against the State in the future?
– Certainly. But the Chinese residents of Victoria are now subject to no other disabilities than attach to Frenchmen, Germans, or other aliens. No disqualifications apply to those who are naturalized, and, of course, no alien can vote until he becomes naturalized. The New South Wales provision contains a future, rather than a present disqualification, because very few Chinese have entered that State since the passing of the Act of 1888.
– That Act was in force prior to federation.
– Yes, but it did not operate to disqualify the Chinese who resided in the State previous to its enactment. The honorable and learned member has today raised that question for the first time. In his remarks he has given evidence of a thorough study of the whole matter, and his interpretation of the section itself is logical, if we put aside its origin and the necessity for giving it an effective meaning.
– I am afraid that if this controversy is prolonged we shall, get many more readings of the section, allof them differing or conflicting, and therefore must in the last resort fall back upon the Attorney-General. At any rate, under the circumstances, I have no complaint against the Minister for Home Affairs in relying upon the official opinion of the Attorney- General in preference to conflicting outside opinions. But the question of the proper representation of the States is one of such vital interest that whenever a doubt exists it should be settled without the least delay.
– This matter cannot be dealt with in the interests of one State without prejudicially affecting the interests of another State.
– That is so, and before taking a representative away from any State, it should be made clear beyond the possibility of doubt that that State has obtained a larger representation than that to which it is entitled. So long as there is a doubt on that subject, no alteration should be made. In this instance the conflict of opinion seems to be as wide as it is possible for it to be, and therefore under present circumstances we cannot cavil at the position of Victoria.
The time for the resolving of these doubts is, however, now very short, if anything is to be done before the next general election. This House will have a very heavy responsibility to bear if it does not see that a proper and effective redistribution of seatsis made in all the States before the next general elections. I cannot conceive of anything which would lead to a greater violation of the principle, one adultone vote, than for theelections to be conducted upon the present basis of distribution. I was, therefore, glad to hear the Minister for Home Affairs say that he intends to give the House an opportunity of considering the proposed divisions of at least four of the States not later than next week. It is quite time that the divisions of all the States were finally determined, and I welcome the announcement that we are about to have an opportunity to consider the matter with a view to their final determination.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).-I do not wish it to be thought that I, in any way, question, or desire to throw a doubt upon the correctness of Mr. Coghlan’s figures ; and in stating that he has on this occasion made no allowance for unrecorded departures, I merely mentioned the matter casually. I regard Mr. Coghlan’s work as probably the most valuable statistical record in Australia. The debate which we have had clearly proves that the Department of Home Affairs has had no clear or definite basis to work upon in reference to the computation of the population of the States for the purpose of representation.
– What other course could I take ?
– I make no accusation against the honorable member, but the fact is clearly as I state, and I am afraid that the discussion has served only to make matters appear more confused than ever. In my opinion, the Minister is in an unfortunate position in not having a Statistical Department of his own to rely upon, instead of being dependent upon the figures furnished to him by the Departments of the States. On the legal aspect of the question we have had the opinions of the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs and the right honorable member for South Australia, and that of the Attorney-General, who differs materially from the other two, although they have given earnest consideration and thought to the matter. To my mind it is difficult to see how a satisfactory conclusion is ultimately to be arrived at.
– Why not toss up ?
– I think we should be as likely to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion in that way as in any other. I brought the matter forward to obtain an expression of opinion upon it, and I hope that a satisfactory result will flow from the discussion. .
Question resolved in the negative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 30th July, vide page 2909):
The Lieutenant-Governor may make and execute, under the Public Seal of the Territory, in the name and on behalf of the King grants and dispositions of any land within the Territory which may be lawfully granted or disposed of in the name of the King.
Upon which Mr. Kirwan hadmoved , by way of amendment -
That the following words be added - “Provided that no grant of Crown land shall be made for any freehold estate.”
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).Under the Bill we are delegating our powers to the Legislative Council of Papua which it creates, and are giving the Territory a limited form of self-government. But I think that it is not incumbent upon us at this juncture to place in the measure the proviso which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has moved. The insertion of that provision would prevent the Council from passing such ordinances for the alienation of land as they believed best calculated for the advancement of the country. The honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, has given notice of an amendment which meets my views on this subject to the very letter. Clause 31 provides that certain ordinances shall not be brought into operation until twelve months after they are passed, and have been assented to by the Governor-General, which, of course, means that the Ministry responsible to this House, have approved of them. The honorable and learned member for South Australia proposes to amend that clause by adding the following words : -
Provided that in the case of an ordinance dealing with the alienation of Crown lands such notification shall not be published until after the expiration of forty days from the date on which the ordinance shall have been laid before both Houses of Parliament.
That will afford honorable members an opportunity of considering the ordinance passed by the Legislative Council of Papua. In connexion with the assessments of the lands for the purpose of fixing rentals, we have to consider the economic values. The unimproved value of the land in British New Guinea has been assessed by the Executive at Id. per acre. That value is dependent upon what the land will produce, and therefore areas outside the centres of population are not likely to increase in value to any great extent. Those who clear land in the Territory, and thus improve climatic and other conditions, will not necessarily increase the unimproved value of the land, and the element of unearned increment will therefore apply only in the case of land situated at or near the centres of population. We should give the people who are settled in the Territory an opportunity of expressing their viewwhether the legislation should be in the direction of leasing the land or alienating it in fee simple. We could then review their decision and finally determine whether their wishes should be complied with. We propose to confer upon the settlers the right of limited self-government, and we should, therefore, at least consult them before taking any definite action. At present we are not in possession of the facts necessary to enable us to arrive at a sound conclusion. The Prime Minister told us that information was being obtained as to the area of land available for settlement, its situation, and the purposes to which it could be applied, and I think we might very well .await this before coming to the conclusion that no land whatever shall be sold. If we adopt a system of leasing in perpetuity, or for very long periods, we may bring about those evils which the opponents of alienation desire to avoid. ‘ If settlement increases in certain localities in which the whole of the land has been leased in perpetuity, those who desire to occupy such lands will have to sub-lease from the original holders, who will be able to extort just as high rentals as if they held the land in fee simple. I recognise the complexity of the land question, to which I have devoted much study for many years past, and although I am fully as democratic in my sentiments on this subject as are any other honorable members, I cannot shut ray eyes to the necessity for considering the local conditions to which we have to apply our legislation. We have already alienated a large area of Crown lands in the Territory.
– The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne told us last night that 600 acres had been alienated, but as a matter of fact we have no definite information upon that subject. Beyond the land that has been already sold, leasehold rights have been granted in respect to very large areas, and until we know the extent and nature of these rights, which may include right of purchase, we cannot judge how far large tracts may be removed from our immediate control. In view of the extent to which land has been alienated, we can conceive of a position arising somewhat similar to that in Western Australia some few years ago. When that State obtained its Constitution as a self - governing colony, I thought it- a most desirable place in which to acquire holdings for grazing and other purposes. When I arrived at Perth I found that just after the Constitution was granted the Government had ‘doubled the upset price of Crown lands in the district in which I desired to obtain an area. I was informed that a large syndicate, composed largely of Members of Parliament, had acquired large tracts in that particular district prior to the increase of the upsetprice, and that I could purchase from the syndicate upon much better terms than from the Government.
– Is not that a very strong argument in favour of the amendment?
– The point is that we have already alienated large areas of Crown lands in the Territory. The presumption is that these comprise some of land most suitable for settlement. Therefore, if we now decree that no further land shall be alienated, we shall compel those who desire to secure freeholds to treat with the holders of the alienated land, and we shall thus offer a heavy premium to these persons. This proposal would prove most beneficial to land speculators - the very class whom the honorable member does not wish to favour. I hope that the Prime Minister will carry out his intention of ascertaining the area of land in British New Guinea, which is suitable for settlement, its situation, and the purposes to which it could profitably be devoted. We shall then be in a better position to deal with this question than we are at the present moment. In my judgment no injury could result from postponing action in reference to land settlement in the Territory, if the course suggested by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, were adopted. There is no greater land nationalist in Australia than he is-
– The honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, is in favour of my amendment.
– I had a conversation with- him last evening, and if I understood him aright he intends to adhere to his own proposal.
– There is nothing inconsistent between his proposal and my own.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie desires to insert a clause in this Rill declaring that no land shall be alienated. But the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, has pointed out that if we adopt his proposal no ordinance relating to the sale of Crown lands would become operative within twelve months of its being passed by the local authorities of the Territory, because it has to receive the assent of the Commonwealth Government, and would require to lie upon the table of this House. Altogether I feel disposed to support the proposal of the honorable and learned member for South Australia, rather than the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has suggested that it would be wise to defer action in connexion with this matter until further information concerning the area of land in Papua that has been alienated or is in course of alienation, is forthcoming. I think that the Prime Minister promised to make that information available during the course of this debate.
– How could I make an inquiry in New Guinea during the course of this discussion 1 There is no cable. It would be a physical impossibility.
– I am sorry that the information is not available. We have been told that last year the revenue derived from the sale of lands and leases in British New Guinea was approximately £700. It was added that the revenue which it was estimated would be received from the same source during the current year was about £1000. What I desire to ascertain is the area of land that has been alienated or is in course of alienation. I was under the impression that the Prime Minister promised to make the information available. I imagined that having all the papers at his disposal he would be in a position to supply it.
– What the honorable member wants is a comparison between the relative success of freehold and leasehold tenure in the Possession, and I do not think there is any report which makes such a comparison.
– I do not desire any comparison between the success of freehold and leasehold tenure. I merely wish to know the area of land that has been sold or is under contract for sale.
– I have the information for the year ended 1902. It is contained in the report which is before honorable members.
– But does that comprise the total area which has been alienated 1
– No, it refers only to the operations of one year.
– I desire to know the total area of land that has been sold or has been put under contract for sale since the Possession came under British, occupancy.
– I have not the least objection to obtaining as much of the information desired by the honorable member for Canoblas as can be secured from the records in my office, which consist of the annual reports and despatches relating to the area of land that has been sold or leased from the date of British occupancy of the Possession. What is specified in the last report published - which indicates what was done up to the 30th June, 1902 - is that, taking the several divisions together, of which there are six, the largest amount derived from . the sale and leasing of land was in the eastern division, where £285 2s. 6d. was received. The central division returned the next largest sum, namely, £229 16s. 3d., and in the four other divisions the revenue from this source was, respectively, £51 9s. 10d., £58 17s. 6d., £12 12s. 6d., and nothing - a total of £637 18s. 7d.
-Can the Prime Minister tell the Committee the area which that amount represents?
– Unless it is stated in the report, I cannot do so at this moment, but I think I can do so by Tuesday next. As the. honorable member desires the information, I will see that it is procured by Tuesday, so far as the areas and the amounts are concerned.
– Is that an intimation that the debate may be adjourned ?
– That is a matter which is in the hands of the Committee. I ask honorable members not to agree to the amendment. If they do, I trust that they will not attempt to impose conditions relative to land tenure in the Territory until those on the spot have had an opportunity of reporting or furnishing us with any ordinance bearing upon the matter, which can then be either allowed or disallowed. I take the amendment in its present form to be a provision that no grant of Crown lands for any freehold estate shall be made. Down to that point it seems that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne are in accord, although the supporters of the amendment seem to be divided upon the question of whether leased lands should be subject to periodical re-appraisements at reasonably long intervals or to annual appraisements.
– No. I shall support the proposal of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie for annual re-appraisements, though I do not regard that portion of it as being so essential.
– But there are other honorable members who have spoken, and who are not at one with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie on that point. However, I do not wish to comment upon that fact any further than to say that, if the amendment is carried, it should go no further than the present point in the Constitution. The debate has covered a very wide range indeed, but, after all, there are only two points which I am called upon to consider. The first is whether the land system of British New Guinea should be one of leasing exclusively, and the second, whether we are in a position to decide that matter at the present moment.
– If leases in perpetuity at a peppercorn rental are allowed, the results may be worse than under a freehold tenure.
– That does not affectthe argument whichIam now advancing. It seems to me that one fact has to be steadily borne in mind ; and that fact I am adducing not so much as an argument against the leasing system as against some views which have been urged. Wherever a leasehold system is in operation, it is a singular circumstance that those who hold land under it are always to be found moving heaven and earth to get their leases converted into freeholds. Whether they are right or wrong I do not pretend to say. I know that in New South Wales perpetual leaseholders are clamouring for the feesimple. There the leasing system was embodied in a Land Bill which was introduced in 1896 or 1897 by the present leader of the Opposition inthe New South Wales Parliament, Mr. Carruthers, and has operated ever since, but it is well known that the perpetual leaseholders are constantly endeavouring to turn their estates into freehold.
– Because they would thus secure a more liquid asset.
– That may be, and I am not quite sure that a man should be deprived of the opportunity to obtain that liquid asset.
– We do not give him the land for that purpose.
– The reason why many of them apply for the conversion of their leaseholds into freeholds is that they believe that in that event they will be able to raise money on the security of their land and devote it to the development of their property. But with all respect to my honorable and learned friend, that does not constitute a very strong argument in favour of perpetual and unalterable leaseholds. In the first place, let me deal with the question of whether it is better that there should be aleasehold system exclusively. I am afraid that the information which the honorable member for Canobolas requires, and which I shall do my best to secure, would scarcely be sufficient to establish that proposition or to enable us to deal with it either in the affirmative or the negative. I do not think that the mere figures will prove much, unless they are illustrated by those who have been on the spot, who know what the comparative inducements have been, who know how far the locality of various classes of land has led to it being taken up under one tenure or the other, “and who can say to what’ extent the taking up of leaseholds has’ been regarded merely as a preliminary to the acquirement of freeholds. Those are a few points, among many others, on which information should be gathered. My opinion is that we should either have a report, which I am willing to obtain, before action is taken - and it would be perfectly open to us to take action after receiving that report - or that we should assume that the Executive and Legislative Councils of the Possession know a little more about the. local circumstances than we do. ‘ If they do not they have been there in vain. I could obtain a report before they expressed their opinion in an ordinance, but an ordinance passed by them on the subject, and suggested by the altered circumstances and government of the Possession, would be a fit subject for the exercise of our judgment, notwithstanding that it had been allowed by the GovernorGeneral, because we have power, even at that stage, to set it at nought. I arn at one with the honorable member for Wentworth in saying that we are in danger of proceeding to deal with this matter on insufficient information. I cannot say that I found it very easy to obtain information. Honorable members know of the time occupied- in the transmission of mails, and they know also, if I may be permitted to say so, that it was hardly natural that I should have anticipated that the debate would take this turn in favour of an exclusive system of leaseholds. I have striven to see that we should not at present take any irrevocable step, that we should be guided by the information obtainable, and that until we obtain further information we should not take any steps which might prevent the settlement of the Possession. Upon, the question of settlement I wish to join issue with the honorable member for Parramatta and others who share his view. I do not agree that the sole purpose of the acquisition of British New Guinea was to provide for the better military defence of the Commonwealth. From the whole course of the debate which took place on the resolution submitted to the House some twelve months ago to provide for the acquisition of the Territory by the Commonwealth it is evident that our minds were affected by other considerations. The debate dealt with the class of population that would occupy British New Guinea, or which was originally there, the indigenous products, the products acclimatized or fit to be acclimatized, and the general question of development. These facts show that honorable members discussed the question with the idea in their minds that the Territory, if properly governed, might become a fair and fit field for development and investment.
– Geographically it belongs to Australia;
– It was put forward that by reason of its geographical position British New Guinea was fit to be held with Australia. But apart from that matter, and from the influence which, as the debate shows, was very small, that the question of defence exercised, there was nothing that distinguished in the minds of honorable members the question of the acquisition of the Territory from the considerations ordinarily involved in such an acquisition, namely, the development and settlement of the Possession by our own race so ‘ far as that could be done without injustice to the original holders of the land. That it should be so developed I have always urged, and in the administration of the Possession I shall do, as I have- done in the past, all that I can to enforce that consideration. That was the general purpose for which . the Possession was acquired. Defence may have been an element which weighed with us, but it was not by any means the largest element. The geographical position of New Guinea; the fact that the Conference held in 1883, at which Australia was fully represented by responsible Ministers, had made a request for the annexation of the Possession, without limiting itself to any .question of defence ; the fact also of the natural riches o£ the Possession which were well known, notwithstanding the limited extent of exploration and prospecting that had occurred, contributed respectively to the decision at which this House arrived. Therefore, unless honorable members have changed the view they held when we resolved to take over’ the Territory, these are fit questions for us to entertain to-day ; and they enter into the consideration of the way in which the land should be dealt with. I have already explained that, as a matter of business, I think that the leasehold system might well be applied to such an area as the Federal i territory is likely to be. That territory will be in a somewhat central position, as far as accessibility and the movements of people are concerned. It will besituated in a population of nearly 4,000,000, and therefore it presents a wholly different aspect from the case presented by British New Guinea. If it be part of our purpose to deal with that Possession in such a way as to lead to its future development, then we ought not, in the first instance, immediately it comes into our hands, and without awaiting further information than we have before us, to come to a determination that the land system shall be exclusively of one character . I can quite respect the opinions and feelings of those who think that the leasing system, if possible, should be the only one allowed in any country. But I am not at one with those who hold that opinion. I think that we should have to undo not only much that has been done in the past, but much that has actually entered into the character and nature of the people, if we attempted toenforce that proposition. But I am willing to recognise the principle in a case in which, from obvious business considerations principle, it can be fully applied. The distinction between the Federal territory and British New Guinea is that we are fairly satisfied that the principle can be applied to the Federal territory as a business transaction. The constantly increasing revenue might be fairly regarded as a set-off against the loans necessary in connexion with the Federal capital. Those considerations do not apply in the case of British New Guinea. It will be difficult to settle British New Guinea, but I take leave to say, as amatter of illustration, that no difficulty will be experienced in settling the Federal capital. There will be certain causes which must necessarily attract a considerable number of people to it. Experience tells us that a Federal capital, even when created in localities where there has not been much settlement before, has attracted people anxious to pursue the ordinary avocations of mankind. We find British New Guinea differently situated. It is a place which will not be attractive under any system of land tenure ; but we are told now that, without having the means of thoroughly comparing the effects of the two systems, we are to cut ourselves down to the enforcement of the one. That means, so far as I can gather, that in any case, and in all circumstances, no matter what the condition of the country may be, or how much or how little we know of it, the leasing system is the only sound policy. As an individual member of the Committee I am not prepared to subscribe to that view. I do not think that we have reached any stage of even theoretical perfection which enables us to say that, in all circumstances and cases, the policy proposed in this amendment is invariably and unalterably the best. One would have to come to that conclusion before he could legitimately vote for the amendment. On the other hand, what is there to hinder the House on another opportunity from expressing its opinion fully and effectively after full information has been placed before it ?
– After all the land has been granted.
– How much would be granted in the meantime ?
– We are told that there are some 206,000 acres being dealt with.
– What will be the difference if we grant leaseholds in perpetuity - or under such circumstances that the occupiers will obtain a fairly perfect hold of theland - or grant freeholds? I am speaking of what may take place during the interim. Nothing thatwould be irrevocable ; nothing that would largely affect the enormous extent of that Possession, comprising, as it does, 97,500 square miles, could be done by any sort of alienation which might take place in the meantime. There will be a Government of this Commonwealth - it does not matter from which side - controlling the affairs of thePossession, and that Government is not likely to lend its assistance to any kind of illegitimate or enormous acquisition of land. If any one were to tell me that capital could be prevented from exercising its influence under a leasehold system, but could not be prevented from doing so under a freehold system, I should say that that was an opinion expressed without due thought.
– No one has said such a thing.
– It has practically been said. It has practically been urged that under the freehold system the acquisition of land by dummying and other illegitimate means is inevitable, but that those practices can be prevented under the leasehold system. In my opinion, what could be done under the one could be done under the other. But that is not the pivot upon which the virtues of either system rests.
– “We can make residence a condition.
– We have only to look at the very country in which we live to see that condition of residence is not a sufficient precaution against the aggregation of land by the capitalist. The leasehold system does not bind a man down to his residence to a greater extent than does the freehold system. It depends upon the provisions of the law imposed upon the occupier. If the law as applied to one system is weaker than the law as applied to other system, that system will become weaker in its withstandment of the influences of capital, and vice versâ. I think that this is a case in which the Committee should be appealed to, to hold its hand.
– That is all we want.
– The continual repetition of the statement that that is all the honorable and learned member wants does not add force to his arguments. x If Papua becomes settled under a system of leasing, then upon the extent to which settlement trader that system proceeds will depend whether the settlers will remain under a leasehold system. For this reason : If experience shows, as I contend it does, that those who hold land under Crown leasing systems are almost unanimous in their endeavours to convert their holdings into freeholds, then the time when in any country freeholds will take the place of leaseholds will depend merely on the progress of settlement under a system of leasing, and the extent to which the settlers become factors of political influence.
– A large number of the leaseholders in New South Wales are opposing the conversion of their leaseholds.
– No doubt some of them are; but a very large number of them have done their best to have their leaseholds converted into freeholds. Does’ any one doubt that those who hold land for pastoral occupation under lease from the Crown are always endeavouring, so far as their means will allow, to convert their leaseholds into freeholds 1 This tendency is so universal in practice that it seems almost to be a tendency of human nature, and a tendency which will have its effect whatever kind of leasehold may be adopted. I know that it will be said that this argument applies also to the principle of reserving the Federal territory from alienation in feesimple. But, until the time comes when there is an irresistible demand for the conversion of leaseholds into freeholds, there will be a period of some years during which the leasing system will be of great advantage in helping us to provide for the payment of interest on money borrowed to carry out necessary work, the provision of sinking funds, and other expenditure incidental to the initial stages of the foundation of the capital. Therefore, there is a good ^businessaspect to the principle as it affects the Federal territory. But it seems to me that the same considerations will not apply tothe land system of New Guinea. If the Committee is of opinion that no land in New Guinea should be alienated, I will, if honorable members consent to hold their hands in the meanwhile, undertake to give instructions that no alienation of land shall take place there until I can procure full information from those who alone know the conditions obtaining in the Territory. This will prevent what the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has termed “ irrevocable action “ being taken, and when the information, which I am only too anxious that honorable members should have has been obtained, it will be open to them to- lay down on permanent and settled lines the conditions which they think should govern the system of land tenure there. That is, I think, as fair a proposition as I can make. To my mind it would be an exhibition of undue haste, if, in the face of that proposal, honorable members were to attempt to carry the amendment. In asking for the support of the Committee in taking this stand, I would also refer them to the fact that the amendment which the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, proposes to move in clauses 37 and 38, and which I have already accepted, afford a. sufficient safeguard against alienation, even without my undertaking. Clause 37 provides that an ordinance reserved for the pleasure of the Governor-General shall nothave any force unless and until- within one year from the day on which it is presented for his assent, the Lieutenant-Governorpublishes within the Territory a notification that it lias received that assent. To that provision the honorable and learned member wishes to add the proviso that, in thecase of an ordinance dealing with the alienation of Crown lands, such notification shall not be published until forty days after the ordinance has been laid before both Houses of Parliament. He also proposes to amend clause 38 by adding to the ordinances to which the Lieutenant-Governor shall not assent until the signification of the Governor-General’s pleasure thereon, any ordinance dealing with the alienation of Crown lands. This is an important matter, and one which, as the Minister within whose Department the administration of the Territory falls, I have greatly at heart. I hope, therefore, that honorable members will come to no definite decision in regard to it until they have obtained the best information upon all the surrounding circumstances which I can procure for them. I ask the honorable member for Kalgoorlie not to press his amendment. If he does persist I shall oppose it ; but I further ask him, in the event df the amendment being agreed to by the Committee, riot to proceed further in tying the hands of those who will be called upon to administer the affairs of this young community by laying down hard and fast provisions as to the way in which the Government shall receive its rents from the land that is leased ; that is, as to whether the appraisement of values shall be annual or shall take place at other periods.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).The only question before the Committee at tile present time is whether land in New Guinea shall be granted in freehold. I therefore deprecate the wide range which the discussion has taken. Although the settlement is not a very live one just yet, we have to deal with a practical matter, which will eventually become of great importance. The object which the Prime Minister has in view seems to be exactly that at which honorable members are aiming. He wishes that no irrevocable step shall be taken in regard to the alienation of land in New Guinea until we have full information on the subject. That is what those in favor of the amendment desire. We wish to prevent irrevocable alienation in perpetuity until, we are convinced that it is necessary, when, I am sure, honorable members will be willing to cast their theories from them, and bow to the inevitable. In the meantime, however, we desire to prevent the irrevocable appropriation of the lands of the territory by speculators, of which there is a present danger. All this doctrinaire talk about the possession of the fee-simple making men careful not to exhaust the soil, and so forth, is beside the question, which is - Should we not prevent all alienation until we have full information on the whole subject ? I find it stated in the last report on the administration of New Guinea, that -
The total area applied for was 202,529 acres, but the bulk of this was represented by two or three applications for very large blocks, which the Government were not able to deal with definitely.
So that the sword is actually hanging over our heads, as these applications may be dealt with any day.
– The Prime Minister has promised to prevent any further alienation in the meantime.
– If he had made that statement earlier in the debate I think that a great deal of discussion would have been saved. There is a great deal to be said in favour of not acting rashly, and without full information, though, having hurriedly glanced through the provisions of the Bill, I do not think that a grant of land in feesimple would be invalid, or that the Prime Minister could put a stop to alienation if the administration which now has control of New Guinea were to assent to it. Therefore I suggest the insertion before the amendment of that honorable member for Kalgoorlie of the words -
Until Parliament shall resolve to the contrary there shall be no grant.
– These words are unnecessary, because that is implied.
– No. We can repeal an Act only by formal stages, but it is a simpler matter to obtain a resolution of the two Houses.
– I think that we should make provision for the passing of an Act.
– As the Prime Minister has shown a disposition to compromise on the question, I think it would be an important gain to provide that, until -the passing of a resolution by the two Houses permitting the granting of land in feesimple, no such grants shall be made.
– Let us fix the principle now.
– The honorable member may wish to do that, and I, too, should like to see it done, but it has been said that “ The better is often the enemy of the good.” If we try to get too much, we may get nothing. ,
– We have a majority.
– I am glad to hear it, but I should like to have the co-operation of the Ministry.
– What does that matter, if they are in the wrong ?
– The honorable member speaks as an out-and-out opponent of the Government ; but I, as a loyal supporter, feel constrained to adopt a different attitude. The Prime Minister appears to think that the proposal to prevent the alienation of land in fee simple is a novel one, but he, surely, must be aware that the Germans have proceeded upon exactly the same lines in Shahtung. They have acquired control over a large area of land there, and have adopted the non-alienation principle in regard to it. The amendment does not contemplate the leasing of land in perpetuity at a pepper-corn rental, because the honorable member proposes that there shall be periodical re-appraisements. I have no patience with doctrinaire theories as to the freehold system being the best to apply to all countries, under all circumstances. The honorable member for Gippslandwas eloquent in his support of this idea, and stated that theman who owned the land in fee simple did not exhaust the soil. I quite agree with him. He very often does not do any thing with it. When I was in TasmaniaI passed through large areas of country held for the last 90 years by the Van Diemen’s Land Company. The failure of the company to turn this land to any account had had the effect of retarding the development of the west coast of Tasmania for many years. The same conditions obtain in the Tamworth district of New South Wales, where the Peel River Company hold large areas of land, and in South Australia where the South Australian Land Company occupy a similar position. The granting of land does not necessarily secure the settlement of it. Land grants often retard settlement. If we permit the sale of land in fee simple in the Territory, we shall find that immediately the miners begin to obtain good results, the land speculators will flock there and buy up land for which they will make the miners pay afterwards.
– But would not leaseholders round about such mining settlements make their sub-lessees pay higher rentals ?
– Lessees as a rule take care to pay rent only for such land as they require for their own purposes. The land speculator is not a land settler. A man holding land in fee simple can do what he likes with it, but under proper leasing conditions a lessee does not hold more land than he requires for his own use, especially when the land is subject to re-appraisement at intervals, and cannot be sub-let with any advantage. I realize that immediately we broach the subject of land legislation we touch upon the most complex feature of our civilization. No doubt we could, in connexion with this subject, discuss the whole history of civilization. I desire, however, to simplify the debate as much as possible. I understand that the Prime Minister is in accord with us, but that he does not wish us to do anything that would be irrevocable. We hope that the amendment will not commit us beyond recall, and I shall vote for it, because I think we ought to insist that no land shall be alienated in fee simple until Parliament has had some say in the matter.
– Since I spoke last night I have become more than ever convinced that, upon broad political grounds, it would be a great mistake for this Parliament to irrevocably bind itself, or the Legislative Council of the Territory, to any hard-and-fast principles in regard to land tenure. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne was a little inconsistent. The question before us is not that of the value of the leasing system as against alienation. That is not the point at all. It is possible that, when full information is placed before us in an official manner, I may support the extreme attitude ta,ken up by some honorable members. It is admitted, however, that, at present, we have insufficient information regarding the land, and the conditions under which it could be successfully occupied. It is proposed that there should be no alienation of land, but, in order to make such a proposal perfect, it is necessary to provide for leaseholds, and to specify the periods at which appraisements shall take place, and other conditions. No wholesale alienation of land is how taking place, and we have the word of the Prime Minister that he will give instructions that no land shall be alienated. But what is proposed? Not merely that we shall assert the principle of non-alienation because we believe in it, but that we shall absolutely tie the hands of the Government. If the amendment is incorporated in the Bill, it will, in effect, give the Lieutenant-Governor and the Council of New Guinea to understand that in any land proposal they may have to make there must be no alienation.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– That may be the ultimate decision of Parliament.
– Hear, hear ; that is what we want.
– Yes, no doubt. But there are three parties in this Chamber in regard to this question.. There are those who believe in alienation, those who do not under any circumstances believe in alienation, and those who desire to stop any attempt at alienation or any drastic dealing with the lands of the Territory until Parliament can fully consider the question. The proposal that we should legislate upon the land question in a mere machinery Bill of this kind and tie the hands of those who could give us valuable information and assistance is absolutely opposed to my ideas regarding the province of the Commonwealth Government. We have the word of the Prime Minister that the information at present available is incomplete, and surely as a matter of courtesy, and in order to set ourselves right before the people of the Commonwealth, and in the eyes of those from whom we derive the control of this Territory, we might stay our hand. We have the express word of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth - and if that is not good enough he is not fit to occupy his position - that no alienation of land shall take place until we have had an opportunity of legislating upon the subject, and if we accept that assurance, and rest content for the time being, we shall place ourselves in a far better position before the country, and before the people who gave us the Territory, than if we forthwith make drastic regulations applying to a territory which few of us have ever seen, and to which none of us have any desire to go. It is very clear that those honorable members who are so strong])’ supporting the amendment are afraid of an investigation. Why should they be so anxious to embody a provision of this kind in the measure before us ? Surely they are not afraid of the matter being placed before us in a concrete shape after all possible information has been obtained. I have no feeling in this matter, and I am not now entering into the relative merits of the freehold or leasing systems. I do not care very much about that ; but I have some concern for the corporate honour of this House, and I do not think we should legislate upon a matter relating to a distant territory which we have taken under our control until we are in possession of all the facts which will enable us to deal with it in a sensible manner. Even if I believed in non-alienation, I should still, in consideration of the surroundings of our position as a legislative and deliberative body, accept the Word of the Prime Minister, and leave the matter in abeyance until Parliament could arrive at a sensible and judicious decision.
Mr.KIRWAN (Kalgoorlie). - I am sorry that the Prime Minister could not see his way to accept the amendment. Having considered his representations, and all the arguments advanced in support of his view, I utterly fail to see why there should be any delay. The amendment involves a principle which is either right or wrong, and I do not see how any information subsequently obtained can affect that principle. With me, therefore, the question is one of asserting a principle now or at some future time ; and I cannot conceive that in the case of New Guinea any time would be more opportune than the present. Some honorable members seem to think that the future prospects of New Guinea are not very bright, but they seem to forget that large areas of land in Australia, which were at one time regarded as utterly worthless, now possess a very high value. I represent a district extending over thousands of square miles, and yet, within the memory of every honorable member - ten or eleven years ago - the wholes of the land in that district was utterly worthless; it could not be sold for a farthing an acre. If a proposal had been made at that time to apply the principle of non- alienation to all the Crown lands of Western Australia, arguments exactly similar to those now used would have been directed against it, and yet since that time the land referred to has increased immensely in value. If the principle of non-alienation had been applied to the Crown lands of Western Australia, the settlement upon the gold-fields would not have been affected in the slightest degree. The people who went there were attracted by the gold, and they would have been quite indifferent to the conditions of land tenure. Many prospectors, whom I know to be good judges, have told me that, sooner or later, there will be valuable gold finds in New Guinea, and, if their pro phecies should ever be fulfilled, the history of the “Western Australian gold-fields will be repeated in the Territory. In Western Australia it was not the men who opened up the country who derived the benefit of the added value given to the land as the result of their work, but a number of speculators, some of whom never even visited Western Australia. Further, whilst New Guinea is ‘at present an unhealthy country, its future may be altogether different. The time will come when its forests will have been cleared, and the Territory will have been drained. Then climatic changes will be sure to occur. In addition, there is land in the interior at a considerable elevation, which might easily be made a sanatorium, so that a large population may eventually settle in New Guinea. For that reason I think that the present is a singularly opportune time to submit my proposal. In reference to an interjection by the right honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, it is quite true that a leasehold might be granted at a peppercorn rental for 999 years. In granting a lease which extended over that period, the terms of the amendment might be complied with, but to all intents and purposes such a lease would be equal to a freehold. It will be necessary to prevent that, and for that reason I think the leases should be subject to an annual re-appraisement.
– The debate last night and to-day has passed through many curious phases. The arguments advanced by the Prime Minister do not support the position which he has taken up. The right honorable gentleman desires delay in order that we may be supplied with further information. Yet honorable members have before them the fact that applications have been made for the freehold of many thousands of acres of land in the Territory. Even those who ask for further information admit that only the fringe of the island is populated, and that comparatively few acres have been alienated. That is an argument in favour of those who advocate the leasing system rather than of their opponents. The Prime Minister declares that he has never yet heard of a lease-holder who did not wish to convert his lease into a freehold. That is always the case. The individual is ever anxious to make his land a more negotiable asset. It should be remembered, however, that we are not legislating for the individual, but for the community. What information can we obtain beyond that- which is already in our possession 1 We are aware that applications have been made for the freehold of 200,000 acres in New Guinea. In my opinion delay in deciding the system of land tenure’ to be adopted in that Territory will only accentuate existing difficulties. Possibly, if we wait till the facts are cold, some honorable member will then suggest the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the matter, and the next Ministry may not be prepared to deal with it. I am extremely glad that the amendment has been submitted, and I trust that it will be carried.
– As I am one of the very few members who are sorry that we ever had anything to do with New Guinea, I can approach this subject with a perfectly open mind. But the satire of the situation appears to me to be very full of sting. Here we have a democratic Australian Commonwealth, and yet upon the first possible occasion the Government propose to create a class of ground landlord’s. As I read the signs of the times, there is no class in the world which has produced so much misery and depression as have the ground landlords. There is a great advantage in being a ground landlord. The Prime Minister spoke very strongly upon this matter, and pointed out that lease-holders universally desire to become landlords. Of course they do. But we desire that the nation shall become the landlord, and then our difficulties will disappear, because the profits made out of the rentals will be appropriated for the good of the Commonwealth. Expressed in a phrase, I think that the proposal of the Government to sell the freehold is a partial wealth idea. It elevates one class. But the amendment of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is a Commonwealth idea, because it makes for the common weal. We should lose no time in settling this matter, because we cannot tell what influence may be brought to bear in the future. Of the 200,000 acres which hare been applied for in New Guinea, only about 3,000 acres have been granted. But the fact remains that there were only two or three applicants for that enormous area of land. We talk about Australia belonging to the Australians. Nothing of the kind. The finest parts of it belong to the landlords. We cannot do better than to alter this system by insisting upon the substitution of a leasehold system. I feel very strongly upon this point, and I shall support the amendment.
– Before this question goes to a division, I should like to point out to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that there is one very important matter which might have been dealt with in his amendment, but which has been entirely overlooked. No provision has been made either in the Bill or in the amendment to preserve to the Commonwealth Government the mineral rights of the territory. Inferentially, if the surface of the ground is leased or sold, the mineral rights go with it.
– No; they are reserved to the Crown.
– I should like to know where that is provided for ?
– In another clause of the Bill.
– If that is so, I have no more to say.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– In addition to the amendment which has just been carried, there is another of which I have given notice. In speaking yesterday upon this proposal, I expressed the opinion that the State should acquire the unimproved value that might be given to the land by the labour’s of the community of British New Guinea, and I suggested that the clause should be amended by the addition of words to the following effect -
No lease shall be given except at an annual rental based on the unimproved value.
In view of the speeches which have been delivered by various honorable members, who appear to be opposed to the suggestion that the land should be leased at an annual rental, I do not propose to proceed with that proposition, although I am personally in favour of it. I move -
That the following words be added: - “The rental of leasehold land shall be appraised on the unimproved value, and the amount of such rental shall be subject to periodic re-valuation, to be fixed by ordinance. “
As every ordinance will be laid on the table of this House, we shall have an opportunity of determining the terms upon which land may be leased in the Territory. I believe this is a more moderate proposal than the one which I first put before the Committee, and will meet with the wishes of the majority of honorable members.
– I recognise, after the vote which has just been given, that it would be useless to contest this proposal, because I take it that the amendment which has just been carried, together with this proposition, emanate from the same source, and will have practically the same support. In these circumstances I do not wish to detain the Committee by dealing at length with the question. I shall simply reiterate the view that I do not think that the Legislature of the young community of Papua should be bound by any such proposal. I believe that it should be left to work under its own Constitution, subject to the powers which we have over it. The objection which I have already urged to this proposal, especially in the absence of further information, remains as before. Having made this statement, I shall not further delay the vote.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 20 (Executive Council).
– I desire that this clause shall be postponed, as I intend to consider the propriety of fixing some limit to the number of members of the Executive Council, as suggested I think by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne.
– I have no objection to the postponement of the clause, but I desire to ask the Prime Minister to indicate when we deal with it again whether the members of this Council are to be paid, and, if so, what salaries are suggested. I think we should see that in arranging for the administration of British New Guinea we do not commit ourselves to unnecessary expenditure. I quite agree that a certain amount of expenditure must be incurred, but we should have some indication of the intention of the Ministry in that respect, before we pass a clause, which, whilst permitting of appointments being made, gives no indication of the salaries intended to be paid.
– This is a provivon which in any case will not occasion much expenditure. The time has not arrived for the establishment of responsible Government, and therefore it has not come for Ministers. The Executive Council, as usual in a Crown colony, will consist mainly if not wholly of officials. I do not propose to go to any considerable expense. We shall, perhaps, go to jio expense in this direction, but if there be any, it will be trivial. ‘ The object of the clause is simply to provide am ordinary Executive Council for the purpose of carrying out mere administrative work as distinguished from that which has to be performed by the Legislative Council. I believe that the Legislative Council of the Possession can be carried on also as at present constituted without any payment of members.
Clauses 21 to 23 agreed to.
Clause 24 -
The Lieutenant-Governor shall alone be entitled to submit questions to the Executive Council for advice or decision ; but if the LieutenantGovernor declines to submit any question to the
Council when requested in writing by any member so to do, that member may require that his written request, together with the answer of the Lieutenant-Governor thereto, be recorded on the minutes.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether he considers that there is any need for this very stringent provision that the Lieutenant-Governor shall alone be entitled to submit questions to the Executive Council. This clause will give him the absolute power of initiative. It must be observed that under the following clause he will be able to act independently of or against the advice of the other members of the Council. Having regard to the fact that it is a Crown colony, and that in Western Australia the Lieutenant-Governor used to have a Council, but was free to act against its advice, I do not think that the provisions of clause 25 are unreasonable. As the LieutenantGovernor is the person from whom this Parliament will require the proper administration of the Territory, it must place it within his discretion to act in contravention of the advice of his Executive Council. But T ask the Prime Minister what need is there for clause 24 1 In my opinion, the office of Executive Councillor ought to be filled only by men of initiative and activity, who have ideas to bring forward for the development of the country in the interests of the settlers there. There may be reasons which I have not heard, and which have not entered my mind, for the retention of this provision, but at present I see no sufficient reason for it, and therefore propose to ask honorable members to negative it. No matter how valuable an idea may be, a member of the Executive Council cannot submit it to that body for consideration ; the sole initiative is with the Lieutenant-Governor. But if there is one thing which is always in evidence in connexion with the administration of Crown colonies, it is the tendency of Governors to inertia. They do not want to be bothered. They consider persons who submit questions more or less of a nuisance, and regard, with the kindliest eye, those who are prepared to leave things alone. The members of the Executive Council, .however, should be more than mere dummies. It may be right to allow the Lieutenant-Governor to refuse to act on their advice, but I do not see why they should not be allowed to submit questions to the Council for consideration.
– There is a distinction between the position of a member of an Executive Council in a Crown colony and the same position under responsible Government, but even under responsible Government it is technically the Crown that submits questions to the Council. The provision to which the honorablemember objects is a usual one in the Constitutions of Crown colonies. The Lieutenant-Governor of Papua will have a much more real and actual power, with a commensurate responsibility, than is given to the Governor of a country which enjoys responsible Government, and it has always been thought advisable to give those holding such positions the sole power of initiation in the submission of questions to their Executive Councils. I know of one case in which the Governor of a Crown colony refused to submit to his Executive Council a question raised by a member of that Council, and the Minister for Defence has some recollection of the matter, too. He will, however, bear me out in the statement that it would be an extraordinary thing for a Governor to take that course, and that no Governor knowing the ordinary trend of events, would refuse to submit to his Council, unless it would be manifestly outrageous to do so, any question which a member of the Council desired to have submitted. It is thought that, as the LieutenantGovernor has the responsibility, he should have the reins of Government in his hands to this extent at least. The provision is strongly safeguarded, inasmuch as a member of the Executive Council, if his request to have a question submitted is not granted, can require that the terms of that request shall be recorded in the minutes, and, as a copy of the minutes will be always accessible to the Governor-General and bis Ministers, the whole circumstances will be known to us. Therefore, the LieutenantGovernor would refuse at his own risk to submit a reasonable question. I think that honorable members may well consent to leave in the Bill what is a very ordinary and usual provision, which will work good rather than harm.
Mr. WINTER COOKE (Wannon).There is one point which I should like to bring before the Prime Minister, and it is this :Whereas under the Royal Instructions the Administrator of a Dependency is bound, when a capital sentence has been pronounced, to ask for a report upon the case from the Judge, andto submit it to his Executive Council, there is no such provision in this Bill. The LieutenantGovernor might think it inadvisable to bring such a case before his Executive Council, and it would be too late to do any good for a member of the Council to have it recorded on the minutes that he desired to have the case brought forward for consideration. I therefore ask the Prime Minister if he can amend the Bill so as to compel the Lieutenant-Governor to bring such cases before the Executive Council.
– There is no risk of a Lieutenant-Governor allowing a man to be executed before he has brought the case before his Executive Council.
– But it was thought well, in preparing the Royal Instructions, to require him to do so.
– The practice which exists in Crown colonies in this respect is similar to that which exists under responsible government. These matters are always brought before the Executive, to whom the Judge reports.
– DoI understand that the Lieutenant-Governor will be bound to bring these cases before the Executive Council?
– Undoubtedly. He would incur grave censure from the Federal Government if he did not. It is as certain to be done as it is certain that the prerogative would not be exercised or withheld in England, except on the advice of responsible Ministers.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I am grateful to the Prime Minister for his explanation ; but he has not referred us to Constitutions in which this provision obtains.
– It is a usual provision in the Constitution of Crown colonies, and my recollection is supported by the Minister for Defence, who was for a long time a member of the Executive Council of a Crown colony.
– All the world knows of the part which the Minister for Defence played when a member of an irresponsible Cabinet. I am sure, however, that when he was an Executive Councillor he was brimming over with ideas which were of much value to the administration of the colony, and I cannot see why, when such men are appointed to the Executive Council of New Guinea, they should not be allowed to bring their ideas before the Council.
– The LieutenantGovernor would not dream of refusing to submit a question, unless it would be absolutely wrong to do so, and in that case his refusal could be recorded. The underlying idea is that responsibility should rest where the power rests.
– Under clause 25 the Lieutenant-Governor can act in opposition to the advice of his Council, and, that being so, I see no reason why he alone should have the initiative in the submission of questions to the Council. I hope honorable members will negative the clause.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).It seems to me that no harm would be done by striking out clause 24, because, as the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has pointed out, the LieutenantGovernor is not bound to accept the advice of his Executive Council, though, if he refuses to accept it, the fact must be reported to head-quarters, and would therefore come under the notice of the Federal Ministry. But if the Lieutenant-Governor declines to submit the question to his Council, and that fact is merely recorded in the minutes, although the minutes will be available to the Federal Government, they may notbe read. We know, indeed, that minutes are very rarely read. But, even if it happens that they are read, these records may have very little significance for Ministers. As a matter of fact, members of the Executive Council who are continually asking to have questions submitted to the Council which the Lieutenant-Governor does not wish to submit will be regarded as obnoxious individuals. High officials would not be at all likely to regard such persons with favour. The object which the Prime Minister has in view would still be achieved if the clause were struck out, because all that is necessary is embodied in the following clause.
– I can conceive that the Lieutenant-Governor might have good reason for declining to allow certain matters to be brought before an Executive Council composed of Government officials. There might be a certain movement on the part of these officials to reflect on the Lieutenant-Governor, and an opportunity might be taken to bring forward motions which might have the effect of temporarily discrediting him. I do not think it desirable that such motions should be discussed by the Council.
– It would very often result in unseemly proceedings.
– Undoubtedly. So long as a record has to be made of any refusal by the Lieutenant-Governor to allow a motion to be brought forward, I think that the case will be met. I understand that this is not an absolutely new clause, but that it has been adopted from other enactments of a similar character.
– It is the usual Crown colony clause.
– That being so, I am quite sure that good reasons must have existed for adopting it, and I do not think that we shall incur any danger in retaining it in the Bill. The power of initiative on the part of members of the -Executive might be used in a very improper manner, and therefore I think that the clause affords a very necessary safeguard.
– I take a view exactly opposite to that entertained by the honorable member for North Sydney. I do not apprehend any misuse of the power of initiative, but, on the other hand, I can conceive of grave injustice being done through the refusal of the LieutenantGovernor to allow motions to be discussed. It is true that the members of the Executive have the power of protest, but mischief might be done before the protest could be dealt with by the Federal Parliament. It is only reasonable to give the power of initiative to the members of the Council, and I shall therefore support the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned memebr for Northern Melbourne.
Question - That the clause as read stand part of the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Royal assent reported.
Royal assent reported.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In doing so, I desire to intimate to honorable members that upon Tuesday next we shall first proceed with the consideration of the Papua (British New Guinea) Bill, and that I shall then move the second reading of the Naturalization Bill, although I shall not attempt to force a division upon it that day. Afterwards, the Defence Rill will be further considered in Committee. I have acceded to a request made to me not to resume the debate upon the Budget statement upon Tuesday next, but I ask honorable members to hold themselves in readiness to proceed with it the following day.
– As the Minister representing the Postmaster-General is now in his place, I desire to ask him the following formal questions standing in my name: -
– I am sorry that I was absent from the Chamber when the honorable member was prepared to ask these questions at the commencement of the sitting. The answers to them are as follow : -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 July 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030731_reps_1_15/>.