1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. DEAKIN, on behalf of Mr. Speaker, presented Standing Rules and Orders relating to publio business ; also those relating to private Bills, as further amended and agreed to by the Standing Orders Com; mittee, and recommended to the House, together with the minutes of the proceedings of the Committee.
Ordered to be printed.
Ordered (on motion by Mr. Deakin) -
That the consideration of the said Rules and Orders in Committee be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
Mr. CHANTER presented a petition from certain electors of New South Wales, praying the House to pass the Bonuses for’ Manufactures Bill.
Mr. R. EDWARDS presented a similar petition from certain electors of Queensland.
Mr. WILKINSON presented a similar petition from certain electors of Queensland.
Mr. CLARKE presented a similar petition from certain electors of New South Wales.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Home Affairs, without notice, if it was not the policy of the Government, in appointing Commonwealth divisional returningofflcers, to choose officers already in their employment, that is to say, the local postmasters 1 If so, why has that policy been departed from in so many instances?
– I am not aware that it has been departed from in many instances. I told the House that, generally speaking, postmasters would be appointed, and, while it has not been possible to follow that rule in every case, I have, as far as possible, carried out what I stated would be the action of the Department.
– Are we to understand that, as far as possible, the services of postmasters are to be used for electoral work, and that where in the past, under State arrangements, returning-officers and assistant returning-officers have given satisfaction, they are to be engaged, or is there to be a new staff created?
– The intention is to as far as possible utilize the services of Commonwealth officers. Where it is not convenient to do so, the rule followed will be to employ men who have been engaged before, and have experience of. the work.
– Has the Minister had proclaimed the regulations under the Electoral Act for giving facilities to electors to vote at polling places other than those for which they are registered ? If so, will he explain to the House what provision he has made?
– I hope that the regulations referred to will be approved in Executive Council to-morrow. In the meanwhile, I may inform honorable members that it is proposed that persons who are absent from their divisions in any other part of the State for which they are enrolled, and who are entitled to vote, shall be allowed to do so as nearly as possible in the manner for which provision is made under form Q, with this difference : That whereas under that form such absent voters may vote at any other polling place in their division, the voting of persons who are in other parts of the State can be done only at polling places where there is a returning-officer or an assistant returning-officer. I think it was the intention of Parliament that voting should not be permitted at every polling place, and it would be very confusing if such were allowed.
– That arrangement will disfranchise thousands of voters.
– Is the Electoral Department making arrangements for the appointment of assistant returning-officers in large centres of population, so that the votes may be counted where they are polled, and not all taken to the one polling place ?
– That will be done where it is considered necessary.
– Will there beany minimum number of votes required ?
– Only returning officers and assistant returning-officers will be able to count the votes, and no counting will be allowed where the votes cast are likely to number less than 100.
– Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the complaints which have been made in several divisions of the State of Queensland with regard to the manner in which names have been grouped round particular polling places t If specific instances are given will ‘ he take steps to try to have the matter rectified by a general instruction instead of by a specific request in each case i In one instance 600 or 700 names have been wrongly grouped.
– Every care is being taken to have the rolls correctly compiled. My last action to secure that result was to write a courteous letter some days ago to the mayors of all the municipalities in the Commonwealth, asking them and the town clerks to assist in the work. If the honorable and learned member will bring the specific instance to which he refers under my notice there will be no difficulty in effecting a re-arrangement. This must be done quickly, because dates for the sitting of the revision courts have already been advertised, and after the revision courts have completed their work there will be no opportunity to make alterations.
– I desive to ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether, in the event of my placing upon the notice-paper a definite question with regard to the appointment of divisional returning-officers, he will give the reasons in each case for the deviation from the rule which he has laid down?
– I shall do the best I can to supply the information desired.
– “Will the Minister for Home Affairs cause copies of the rolls to be exhibited at the municipal and shire council offices as well as at the post-offices and public schools throughout Queensland ? Complaints have been made that at present the rolls are inaccessible to a considerable number of people.
– I shall be very glad to do so.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if it is correct that the postal officials in Western Australia have not received extra pay for Sunday duty since January last ? If so, will he see that pay for such work is promptly made in the ‘ future ?
– The matter is one which does not come under my administration ; it rests entirely with the Public Service Commissioner. I have learned from that gentleman, however, that the practice in Western Australia has been assimilated to that in other parts of the Commonwealth.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Defence, without notice, whether the Government have arrived at any decision with regard to the granting of railway passes to riflemen proceeding from other States to attend the Commonwealth match shortly to be fired in New South Wales?
– Authority has been given for the issue of passes over the railways to teams and delegates from other States.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General, without notice - When the Committee of Government electrical experts now discussing the new regulations dealing with electric telegraphs and electric traction will have the said regulations completed? Also whether the Postmaster-General will arrange that such regulations shall be submitted to electrical experts representing electrical traction companies and municipal and private lighting companies and whether he will further arrange for such electrical experts to meet in conference the Board of Expertsrepresenting the Government, before such regulations come into force 1
– I am very hopeful that the report of the Committee el Experts will be delivered within the courseof a few days. When the regulations referred to are drafted, it is “my purpose to have them reconsidered by those immediately concerned ; that is, those who are associated with the development of electrical power in the various States. Before the final adoption of the regulations, suggestions from such experts will be duly considered. While it is not intended to appoint other electrical experts to the board which has been nominated, such experts will be invited to give evidence before the board.
– A few days ago I asked the Postmaster-General the followingquestions, upon notice : -
Is he yet prepared to furnish a reply 1
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether, in view of the uncompromising attitude of the Parliament and Premier of New South Wales in regard to the granting of at least 900 square miles cf the territory required for Federal purposes, he will promise to in no way compromise this Parliament unless he can obtain the full area of 1,000 square miles?
– I have yet to learn that the attitude of the Premier of New South Wales is in any way hostile to the proposition that the Federal territory shall consist of an area of not less than 1,000. square miles, since that proposition has not yet been submitted to him or to any one else. I feel sure that when it is submitted, it will receive courteous treatment ; but in any case I have already informed honorable members that no final decision can be arrived at in regard to either the site or the area without the consent of Parliament.
– About a fortnight ago I directed the attention of the Prime Minister to certain amendments of the Public Service Regulations proposed in another Chamber, and asked him whether the Government intended to give effect to the amendments ?
– I understood the honorable member to ask me, first, as to the power of the Senate to make such proposals, and, secondly, how it was intended to deal with them. I find that the resolutions of the Senate as passed would have no financial effect. They amount to an expression of opinion, which the Senate has a perfect right to offer. If time permits, the regulations dealt with by the Senate will be considered here, and then of course the Government will take the sense of the House.
– Could the Prime Minister give honorable members any idea when the present session is likely to close ?
– Our sittings will, I hope, be brought to an end next week. There is a prospect of the session closing this week, but that would involve a brevity of debate in another place upon the Federal Capital sites question such as we can hardly expect. I think that honorable members can more safely rely upon the session closing next week.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home Affairs if it is true, as stated in the press, that the general elections will be held about the 17th December, and, if so, whether in view of the displacement of population during the holiday period, he does not think that that date is too close to Christmas?
– I regret to say that I have no information on the subject.
Bill returned from the Senate with requests.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Sir WILLIAM LYME laid upon the upon the table the following paper -
Excise and Sugar Bounty Acts - New sugar regulations.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable and learned member, I have to state that -
The sale of the magazine rifles that are available in the Commonwealth for rifle clubs has already commenced, at cost price, viz., £3 15s. 9d. each.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr. Stephen Mills having been borrowed temporarily to act as secretary in the Minister for Trade and Customs’ office, will the Minister -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions : - 1. (a) The requirements of the case are such as to necessitate the appointment of the best officer available. The neces- sary steps will be taken to secure this object.
The Minister has no power to fill the position. The course to be followed in such cases is prescribed by the law.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister for
External Affairs). - I move -
That the Bill be now recommitted to a Committee of the whole House for the reconsideration of clauses 44 and 84, and the second schedule, and for the consideration of new clauses 6a, 28a, 88a, and 88b.
I may explain that the first new clause provides for the extensionof State patents to the Commonwealth ; the second is intended to permit of the lodging of applications for patents prior to the commencement of the Act; clause 88a will empower the Commonwealth to acquire patents, and clause 88b will confer a similar power upon the States.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 44 -
Unless a complete specification is accepted within twelve months from the date of application then save in the case of an appeal having been lodged against the refusal to accept the application shall lapse.
– I move-
That after the word “application,” line 2, the words “or such further time as is prescribed “ be inserted.
In consequence of the changes and extensions made in this Bill it has been found necessary to enlarge the fixed term mentioned in the clause, and consequently it is proposed to give power to prescribe in special cases that patents shall not lapse, even after the twelve months’ period has expired. This is a reasonable and practicable proposal, which will facilitate the working of the office.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Second Schedule (Fees) -
On acceptance of complete specification, £2.
For preparation of patent for sealing, £5. . .
On the expiration of the seventh year of the period of the patent, less a discount of 3 per cent, per annum for any earlier payment, £5
– I move-
That the figure “2” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figure “1.”
Afterwards I intend to move -
That the figure “ 5 “ first occurring be omitted,, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figure
These amendments will have the effect of reducing the fee payable upon the acceptance of a complete specification from £2 to £1, and of also reducing the fee for the preparation of patents for sealing from £5 to £3. The loss of revenue that would result from this change would not be very great, and we should be fully compensated by the advantages conferred upon patentees. I do not wish that the Patent Office should be conducted at an absolute loss. The fees should be so adjusted as to provide a’ sufficient amount of revenue to defray the expenses of the office, but we have no right to expect to make a profit out of patentees. On the contrary, we should encourage in every possible way every person, however poor, to preserve whatever rights he may have in regard to an invention. It is notorious, and at the same time unfortunate, that patentees are, as a rule, very poor. One pound or £2 may not be a matter of much consideration to the Commonwealth, but it may represent a great deal to a poor patentee who may have incurred heavy expense in perfecting his invention. Of course, I am bound to admit that the fees chargeable under this Bill constitute a very great reduction upon those which were previously operative throughout Australia.
– An immense reduction.
– I am willing to adopt the ‘Prime Minister’s term, and to call it an immense reduction. At the same time, there was never any justification for the heavy fees which were formerly charged throughout Australia, and which have operated to the disadvantage of this country for many years. In the United States I believe that the charges for the issue of patent rights amount to only £6. Prior to the accomplishment of Federation a similar fee was charged in New South Wales. My amendment proposes that the rates throughout the Commonwealth shall be exactly the same as those which were operative in New South Wales prior to the inauguration of the Federation. I do not think that we should ask any more from patentees than was previously charged in any one State. Of course, I do not urge for a moment that my opinion can be justified from a financial stand-point ; but I take up the position that, under my proposal, the loss to the Commonwealth will be so small that we need not cavil about it, whereas the gain to the inventors will be so great that we ought cheerfully to accede to it. Men like Sir William Thompson or Mr. Edison are of such value to any country that it would pay us handsomely to allow them to procure their patents without any charge whatever. There may be a number of persons in this country who are possessed of equal merit, who have any number of inventions which they desire to place before the industrial public of Australia, but who, for lack of a paltry pound or two, cannot secure the patent rights which they could obtain were the fees less. I would further point out that a man like Edison is practically the employer of hundreds of thousands of Americans to-day. Whilst it is true that his inventions are very profitable to himself, it is equally true that they have been the means of establishing huge industries, which employ hundreds of thousands of workmen in supplying hundreds of thousands of others all over the world with the commodities which they produce. If that be so in America, why should it not be so in Australia? I have as much faith in the genius of Australians as I have in the genius of Americans ; and it may be that the intentions of some amongst us will yet be the means of establishing industries in the Commonwealth which will repay us many thousands of times over for the slight reduction in the fees which I propose. I ask the Committee not to consider this matter too closely, from a revenue standpoint, but to adopt the larger view, that in helping forward the poor inventor we are conducing to the ultimate gain of the Commonwealth.
– Of course the plea of the honorable member is a very attractive one, and might be urged almost as forcibly in favour of further proposals to reduce these fees to nothing. They have already been brought down practically to the standard that he desires, which is, roughly speaking, the standard of the State in which the lowest fees were charged prior to the accomplishment of Federation. In New South Wales these charges amounted to £5. But the system followed in that State was that which exists in the United Kingdom, where, as the honorable member knows, less endeavour is made to assist the inventor by informing him whether, his invention is novel, or otherwise, which is. of great importance to him, than is made in the other States. Consequently, though the office there was worked at much less expense, the inventor did not get the same advantage which he derived in other States where the fees exacted were larger. As a matter of fact, under this Bill the total charges which require to be paid to obtain a Commonwealth patent amount to only £3. An outlay of £1 affords a patentee provisional protection, whilst an expenditure of £3 gives him absolute protection. He is required to spend only £8 to enable him, not only to be protected, but to take the aggressive, if need be, against other patentees by sealing his patent.
– But £8 is a fortune to a poor man.
– The patentee is not required to spend that amount immediately. It may be spread over some time. He is obliged to pay only £1 upon filing his provisional specification. When once he is provisionally protected he has something to sell, and when his specification is finally accepted be has a great deal to sell, but even then he need not have paid more than £3. It is only when he desires to seal his patent - and that may be some time after - that he is required to pay the final sum, which makes the aggregate of his payments £8.
– Over how long a period may his payments extend?
– Under clause 63 of the Bill I find that he is allowed sixteen months, but that he may be granted an extension. His first payment of £1 will probably cover his provisional year ; a further outlay of £2 will take him a further stage ; and it is only when he wishes to get his patent sealed that he is asked to contribute an additional £5. This allows him sixteen months from the date of his application, and that period is capable of being extended upon special grounds.
– He is practically required to spend £3 at the outset.
– No ; he is merely called upon to spend £1. The rates which were previously operative in the different States are as follow : - New South “Wales, £5 ; Victoria, £9 ; South Australia, £8 : Western Australia, £18; Queensland, £18; and Tasmania, £38. I believe that even in progressive New Zealand to-day the fees total £37 10s., whilst in Canada they aggregate £8. In England the conditions are somewhat different. There a series of payments have to be made over a number of years. These payments amount to a considerable sum - nearly £100 - before the patentee secures absolute protection.
– Would it not be well to extend the period for the payment of the additional £5 ?
– From our point of view there is no objection to that proposal, but there is some objection from the stand-point of other patentees. Before a patentee has sealed his patent, he may discover something which induces him to conclude that it is not worth his while to proceed any further. If he does seal it is a guarantee to all other applicants for patents that he is of opinion that his patent contains some merit. As a rule, under any patent Act by so much as we increase the advantages which are conferred upon a person who is seeking to obtain a patent by so much do we place under a disadvantage other applicants who desire to secure similar patents. Whilst we ought to deal with patentees as a body in the most generous manner, any concession to a single patentee imposes certain disabilities upon those who are aiming at the same end. Taking the usual cost of specifications, plans, &c, it has been calculated that a fairly complicated patent could be obtained under this measure for about £20, whereas formerly it would have cost at least £120. In addition, the patentee will be required to attend one office only and to appear before one set of officers instead of having to deal with six offices and six sets of officers, who often require amendments to be made in his specifications which involve him in considerable expense. The expenditure of £20 is distributed over two or three years. In my judgment, we have gone as far as it is desirable to go under present circumstances. I am presently to make a proposal with a view to meeting the wishes of the Committee in regard to the protection which is to be given to persons who desire to apply for Commonwealth patents before we are in a position to grant them. I intend to ask that no extra payment shall be made by patentees for the issue of such patents. It goes without saying that for a few years the adoption of that proposal will involve u in a very heavy tax.
– Upon the Commonwealth treasury 1
– Why ?
– In order to meet the convenience of investors during the period of transition, we shall require to send their patents to the patent-office in each of the States, whereas we shall receive from the inventors only the Commonwealth fee, which will necessarily involve us in an absolute loss. However, I think the opinion of the Committee is that patentees ought to be thus protected. It would be exceedingly difficult to frame a new scale of fees for this period of transition ; and therefore I shall ask the Committee to accept the responsibility of saying that the work shall be done in the six States without any additional charge being made upon the inventors.
– What will be the amount of the loss ?
– That will depend upon the number of applications that are registered and the complexity of the cases which are dealt with. Of course, we shall have to make an allowance for searching. In some instances that will involve only a few minutes work, but in others it may occupy days, and even weeks. Until we have our index prepared, and our register absolutely reliable, we cannot afford to dispense with the servises of the States officers. They will disappear gradually. In view of this very liberal concession to inventors all over the Commonwealth, I ask the Committee to affirm that we have gone as far as we possibly can, and that if any further reduction is to be made it shall be made when we are issuing patents from one office, and, consequently, require to institute only one search.
– I think that the Government have adopted a proper principle in providing that portion of the total fees to be levied shall be payable after the lapse of a certain number of years. That will give a patentee an opportunity to find out whether his invention is commercially valuable before he is called upon to pay the whole of the charges. It struck me that it would be possible to extend that principle so as to meet, to some extent, the wishes of the honorable member for Bourke. I am doubtful whether the extension of the payments over a period of sixteen months would be of any great value to an inventor from the point of view of the time during which he would be occupied in ascertaining the commercial value of his invention. A man might put in an application for a patent, but he could not make an effort to dispose of his invention with any safety until he had received a report from the Patent Office that in all likelihood his application would be granted.
Mr.Deakin. - They sometimes adopt that course.
– Probably some six or eight months would elapse before such a report could be obtained.
– If it were a complicated matter.
– Quite so; during the interregnum between the passing of this measure, and the amalgamation of the six different offices, at least that period would elapse.
– Certainly ; in that case a greater time would be occupied.
– Let us say that twelve months would be occupied in that way. That means that, after receiving an intimation that his patent would be granted, an applicant would have only four months in which to put his invention on the market before being called upon to pay a further fee of £5. It seems to me that applicants would be materially assisted if the period within which the third payment of £5 has to be made were extended. I admit that we cannot be expected to so reduce the fees as to involve the Commonwealth in any loss; but I believe that, for some time after the measure comes into force, there will be a very considerable rush of applicants for patents. A large number of inventors have been holding back their applications for patents, pending the passage of this Commonwealth legislation, and, if the rush which I anticipate takes place, the cost of dealing with each application will be reduced. The larger the business the lower, proportionately, will be the cost of dealing with each patent.
– Not at first. This work will be done in our own office.
– I believe that the same principle would apply to some extent even in the Commonwealth office. I would suggest to the Prime Minister the possibility of extending the period within which the payment of the fee of £5 must be made, or else of providing that the payments of the fees of £5 and £3 - £8 in all - shall be made within three or four years, instead of within sixteen months. I trust that the Prime Minister will, consider this suggestion.
– I can undertake to give effect to the honorable member’s suggestion without proposing to amend the clause. We have already amended clause 63, so that it now reads -
A patent shall be sealed as soon as may be, and not after the expiration of sixteen months from the date of application, or such further time as is prescribed.
The word “prescribed” gives us control over the matter, and I think that the honorable member’s proposition as to the reasonable consequences of the amendment we are about to make by the new clause would justify us in prescribing an extension of this period over the time during which Commonwealth patent applications will require to be examined in six different offices. While that procedure is necessary, a great deal of time will be lost between the making of an application and the granting of a complete specification. It will not be necessary to amend the schedule in order to give effect to the honorable member’s proposal. I can undertake that in the regulations framed under this measure prevision will be made- for a special extension. I think it is a legitimate request that Commonwealth patent .applications which are registered before we combine the several States offices into one central department, should be dealt with in this way.
Mr. HUME COOK (Bourke). - The Prime Minister, has, in part, met some of the objections which I raised, but the principal one which I put forward has not been answered by him. The new point advanced by him, that the Commonwealth will have to suffer, more or less, for a time the cost of making examinations in the offices of the several States, is a matter that is necessarily incidental to Federation. Under any circumstances, such an expenditure would have had to be met by the Commonwealth, and I do not know that we could very well ask inventors to make up the loss. I fail to find any answer by the Prime Minister to the propositions which I put forward. I asked, first of all, that the fees should be made as low as possible, consistently with the proper working of the Patent Office. I do not desire that a loss shall be made in connexion with the office, but I do not wish to see a profit made out of inventors.
– There is no chance of a profit being made for some years to come.
– I do not think that there is, but the Prime Minister quoted 110 figures on this phase of the subject, and, indeed, made no statement in regard to it. I endeavoured to obtain some information on the question by examining the official documents prepared at the Conference of Colonial Premiers ; but, whilst they are of some service to honorable members, they do not enable us to form an opinion as to the amount of the fees which are likely to be received by the Commonwealth office. The position I take up is that an applicant should be asked to pay no more for the registration, sealing, and granting of his patent than it actually costs to carry out that work. In other words, no attempt should be made to make a profit out of applicants. The Prime Minister has not answered that point. On the other hand, an argument in support of my contention has been put forward by the honorable member for Bland, who states that a number of inventors are waiting for this Bill to be passed, and desire to take advantage of the Commonwealth law. I know that to be the case, and there will thus be a greater rush of applicants for patent rights than has previously occurred in the several States.
The gain made by the increased number of applicants might well be placed against the loss which the reduction of the fees will involve. I believe that gain will be greater than the officers of the Department are able to guage. I have spoken to several officials in the Attorney-General’s Department, and find that they are unable to give me any reliable data. On the contrary, they do not care to express any definite opinion on the subject, because they have no means to ascertain the number of patents that are likely to be applied for. I represent only a very small part of the Commonwealth, but I know that quite a number of men in my constituency have been waiting for the passing of this measure, and they will be amongst the number to form the rush at the Patent Office to which the honorable member for Bland has referred. The second point which I made was that some concession should be given to applicants as to the time within which the fees shall be paid. It is at the initial stage of his application for a patent that an inventor experiences the greatest difficulty in finding the means to pay the necessary charges. The very first payment that he is called upon to make is perhaps the most difficult for him to meet, and I think it would be better to help him at a time when he has nothing to show in support of his contention that he has a marketable commodity rather than when his specification has been accepted, and he has some saleable article to put before the public.
– To what extent does the honorable member wish to help such an applicant 1
– I would reduce the first fee by half, and the second from £5 to £3. We know that for the most part inventors are not men to whom £1 is of no consideration. As a rule, even 5s. is a matter of some moment to them, and we should make the fees as low as possible. If I thought that we could successfully conduct the Patent Office by charging a fee of only ls. for registration, I should propose that such a fee be levied ; but in any case the charge should not be more than the actual cost of dealing with applications. I admit that the Prime Minister has offered, in a sense, to help inventors ; but he has offered to help them at the wrong time. The honorable and learned gentleman has not met my two objections. He has not answered the revenue argument, and he has not brushed aside my contention that most applicants for patents are poor men, by saying that under this Bill the fees, as compared with those charged under the States laws, will be considerably reduced. As a matter of fact the fees which have hitherto prevailed have been so high that applications for patent rights have been restricted. I think that under the clause as proposed there will be an increase in the number, and that there would be a still greater increase if my proposition were adopted. I do not, therefore, feel justified in withdrawing my amendment. I do not propose to interfere with the provision that a charge of £1 shall be made for filing an application, although I should probably do so if I had further information on the subject, I propose, however, that the fee payable on the acceptance of a complete specification shall be reduced from £2 to £1. That may not appear to be a very great concession to some honorable members ; but it will be a great consideration to a number of poor men who I know are about to apply for patents.
– I am sorry that the honorable member insists upon pressing his amendment. I spoke to two patent agents on the question of fees, because it had been suggested that the fee of £5 should be reduced to £3, and I found that they considered that the fees were particularly liberal. It has been stated that our patent indices require to be made uniform, and put in a condition in which they would compare with those in England and the United States of America. That will involve very great expense. The United States of America incurred great expense in bringing its index system to the stage of perfection that it has now reached. We have also to remember that libraries will have to be established. In England, according to last report, there is a library of over 200,000 volumes in connexion with the central Patent Office, and there is also a very extensive library in America. These libraries facilitate searches for previous specifications, as well as on the general question of novelty. We have inserted a provision in the Bill as regards the search for general novelty, and we ought to have, in the near future, the nucleus of a good Patent library. That cannot be obtained unless we make the Patent Office a paying concern. In the United States of America it is a paying Department with separate finances of its own. In these circumstances, although I am inclined to sympathize with the honorable member’s proposal, I shall not be able to vote for it.
– I rise only for the purpose of assuring the honorable member for Bourke that I did not ignore his argument, but thought that I had indirectly answered it. As to the rush of applicants which the honorable member anticipates, it must be recollected that under the clause which I am about to propose, that rush will mean a loss to the Commonwealth. We are going to give new applicants for Commmonwealth patents greater protection even before this measure, so to speak, comes into operation, and it cannot be expected that the revenue derived from this source will make the Department a paying one. The greater the number of applicants at the outset the greater will be the loss. We have also to remember the great cost which will be involved in bringing our States registers and indices to a state of reasonable perfection.
– It is not fair to ask patentees of the present generation to pay for all that work.
– We do not propose to do so. We shall have to find a great deal of money for this work out of the Consolidated Revenue. I cannot say what the cost will be. I did not attempt to estimate the number of patents that would be dealt with, for the reason that I have been associated with applications for a few patents, and know that the discrepancies between them so far as the cost they involve and the time occupied in dealing with them are concerned, are so great that one can only arrive at an average worth speaking of by careful and elaborate calculations. No accurate and trustworthy information can be obtained as to what either the expenditure or the revenue of the office will be for the next two or three years ; but it is practically certain that the expenditure will greatly exceed the revenue. Therefore, I ask the honorable member not to press his amendment.
– I am decidedly in favour of the amendment, because I do not think we can make the cost of obtaining a patent too little. During the second reading debate I quoted authority to show that inventors do not mainly come from the ranks of those who are able to pay high fees. In my own electorate I know a number of men who have discovered inventions, some of which I have seen tried in confidence, and they have been waiting for a Commonwealth Patents Act in order to patent them, because the fees charged by the Departments of the States have been too high. The Prime Minister takes a mistaken view when he speaks of the cost of running the office. Many of the most progressive business men run their business concerns upon the principle that small profits bring quick returns. By increasing the number of patentees we are not likely to materially increase the cost of the Patent Office, while we shall increase its revenue. Moreover, it is of advantage to the country, especially under a protective policy such as this Government has introduced, and we on this side of the Chamber have supported, to have as many inventions as possible patented. We desire to make Australia self-contained and selfsufficient, and a good patents law is one of the measures which will help to bring about that state of affairs. That has been the effect of the patents laws of Canada and the United States.
– In Canada the patents fees amount to £1 2.
– But in the United States they amount to only £6.
– To £7-35 dollars.
– To takeout patents under the laws of the States would cost £160. It must be remembered that the patents fees are not the only expenses which a would-be patentee has to incur. Very often he is not a draftsman, and has therefore to pay, perhaps,£l 5 or £20 to obtain a specification and design of his invention or improvement. Then, again, he has to show that his invention contains the element of novelty, and is not known elsewhere, and he has at times to travel from remote districts to the metropolis in order to search the records of the Department to ascertain the true position of affairs. In my opinion, we should make it possible for the inventor to see the plans and specifications of patented inventions at most of the populous centres of the Commonwealth.
Question - That the figure “2,” proposed to be omitted, stand part of the schedule - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. HUME COOK (Bourke).- In view of the decision at which the Committee has just arrived, I shall not proceed with the second amendment of which I have given notice. I think that the adoption of the suggestion of the honorable member for Bland, to which the Prime Minister has referred, will probably meet the case.
Amendment (by Mr. DEAKIN)agreed to -
That the words, “less a discount of 3 per cent, per annum for any earlier payment,” be omitted.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 84 -
– As a doubt has. been expressed whether the Court alluded to is the Court of the State in which the principal registry is held, and as in matters of infringement it is intended that the action or proceeding shall be taken in the Court of the State in which the infringement is challenged, I now propose to place the matter beyond doubt by moving -
That after the word “Court” the words “of the State in which the action or proceeding is brought “ be inserted.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted : - “6a. (1) The patentee under a State Patent Act of an invention, whose patent is in force at the time of application, may make application under this Act for a patent for the invention.
The Commissioner may grant a patent under this Act for the invention, but if he is satisfied that the subject-matter of the patent under the State Patents Acts -
Each of the new clauses proposed involves some important question, to which’ I have given the best consideration that the time at my disposal would allow. I had to take up this Bill originally as I took up another important measure, fresh from the hands of the right honorable and learned member for South Austialia, Mr. Kingston. At the outset, I entertained very grave doubts whether it was possible to accomplish what my late honorable colleague sought ; namely, to allow the Commonwealth to grant patents nominally for the whole Commonwealth, but practically for any number of States - for one State, if necessary - only excluding from the operation of the Commonwealth patent the States in which either another patent of the same character had been taken out, or in which there had been a publica1 tion, or the patent had in some way ceased to possess the requisite novelty. Looking at the matter broadly, it seemed to me that that was inconsistent with the dower received by us, because we should in effect grant State patents instead of Commonwealth patents. My right honorable and learned friend had very ingeniously avoided making the proposal in such a way as to flaunt this characteristic. He made the patent take the form and name of a Commonwealth patent. I have considered the proposal in the light of certain Canadian cases under the Liquor Prohibition Act and others which seem to show that the patents issued would sufficiently conform to the requirements. The matter is not beyond doubt even now ; but certainly the balance has been shifted. Formerly, I lent to the side of doubt ; but now I lean to the belief that patents of this kind will be upheld. I have always admitted that the balance of convenience would be on that side. I am now swayed to some extent by the consideration that the Court would not and could not ignore the fact that any irregularity or partiality in the patent would not be of our creation. We are compelled to deal with the Commonwealth as we find it - to deal with six different Acts, six different offices, and six different sets of affairs. Consequently if we preserve the Commonwealth character of the patent, as my right honorable friend proposed, and adapt ourselves as far as we can to the existing circumstances, by making the Federal law run evenly and equally as far as possible throughout the Commonwealth, it will have great weight with the Court. Therefore I conclude that the insertion of the clause is constitutionally justifiable, although from the stand-point of the practical difficulties that may arise, the fears which I previously entertained have been reinforced by further inquiry. I have endeavoured to make the provision as simple as possible; but the patentees who endeavour to take advantage of it will certainly find themselves confronted with a very difficult task. Very often, practically, the same patent has been granted with variations in different States, and it ‘will be difficult in some cases to decide whether the patents cease to be the same owing to such variations. The question as to novelty will also be very much complicated in some instances. The practical benefits to be derived are, therefore, likely to be much smaller than the sanguine supporters of the measure expect. If, however, the position is too difficult, inventors need not proceed ; whilst, in other cases in which they find their way clear, there is no doubt that provision will prove of great advantage.
– Have the State patents been granted in any case for a longer period than is provided for in the Bill ?
– No ; so far as I can remember, the State patents have in all cases been granted for a period of fourteen years. It is expressly stipulated in the clause that the patent shall be granted for a period not exceeding the unexpired period of the patent under the State Patents Act. Otherwise we shall be confronted with a great difficulty. If an inventor took out a patent in Victoria, and two years after took out a patent in New South Wales, and two years later still extended his patent to Western
Australia, it might be possible for him, if we gave him the choice, to select the Western Australian patent, and to secure an extension of four years beyond the term of the original patent. It seems to me fair to make the provision elastic, so that the patent may be issued under conditions which will meet the equities of the case. I am afraid also that serious difficulties will arise with regard to the persons to whom patents should be issued, owing to the extent to which interests in patent rights have become divided in different States. However, my present view, as I have stated, is in favour of the constitutionality of the provision, and I trust that it may operate for the public convenience.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted : - “28a. Application for patents may be lodged at the Patent Office immediately after the Commissioner is appointed, notwithstanding that- this Act has not then commenced, and all applications so lodged shall have priority according to the time when the3’ were so lodged, and the lodging of an application under this section shall have the like effect as the lodging of an application after the commencement of this Act, but any patent granted pursuant to the application shall be dated as of the clay of the commencement of this Act. Until forms are prescribed, applications shall be in such form as the Commissioner directs. “
This clause provides that applications may be lodged, notwithstanding that the Act has not commenced. The object is to allow patentees to protect their patents by lodging provisional specifications, which shall be immediately registered in order of priority. As these applications will have to be referred to other offices, it will probably take considerably longer, than if the application were made for one State only, to satisfy the Commissioner that the patent should be granted throughout the Commonwealth. It is proposed to date the patent as from the commencement of the Act. I doubt whether we should have the power to grant a patent prior to that. The procedure in these cases will involve the Commonwealth in very considerable expense. Having regard to the numerous difficulties with which the path of the inventor is beset, it would be scarcely fair to ask the first inventors who seek Commonwealth patents to meet the extra expense that will be incurred during the transition period.
– No provision is made for applications for patents under the State
Acts being accepted as applications for Commonwealth patents.
– No; but a patentee may abandon his application for a State patent, and make an application for a Commonwealth patent ; or, if he prefers to do so, he may pursue his application for a State patent and add the other.
– If a patentee abandoned his application for a State patent the want of novelty would prove an obstacle to his applying for a Commonwealth patent.
– I should think not. A provisional specification is never disclosed to anybody save the patent officers, and that does not constitute “ publication.”
– I think that the words used are “ previously lodged.”
– I shall look into that point, but I do not think the honorable and learned member will find that in any part of the Bill the lodging of a provisional specification amounls to its publication. Everywhere it is kept secret, and is carefully excluded from the public gaze, because the official verdict has not been given upon it.
– Paragraph a of clause 37 seems to relate to the matter.
– If it be the same person who is applying, how can his act be regarded as publication 1 The complete specification has not been published, and if merely a disclosure to officials is involved, I do not think the Commissioner will consider that that constitutes “publication “ within the meaning of the Act.
– If, upon reconsideration, the Prime Minister finds that the fact of an application having been previously made in a State and afterwards withdrawn is not a bar to an application for a Commonwealth patent, I shall be quite satisfied. To my mind, provision should be made whereby applications which have been lodged under State Acts should be considered applications for Federal patents. In Canada, a provision of that sort is operative. If the Prime Minister is of opinion that a previous application in a State does not constitute a bar to an application being made for a Commonwealth patent, I shall be satisfied.
– If an application for a Commonwealth patent is affected by the fact that a man has made a prior application in a State, it will be by reason of the words which are employed in clause 37, to which the honorable and learned member has referred. But I am inclined to think that the provision is clear as it stands.
– The addition of a few words to the clause would remove all doubt.
– With the permission of the Committee, 1 move -
That the proposed new clause be amended by the addition of the words : - “Applications made under a State Patent Act may be lodged as prescribed before the commencement of this Act as applications under this Act.”
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether he can do anything under the authority of an Act before it comes into force t I believe that there is some special provision relating to this point in the Acts Interpretation Act. Otherwise we can scarcely make a regulation which can take effect before the Act under which it is framed comes into operation.
Amendment agreed to.
– I understand that this clause is intended to make provision for applications which may be lodged as soon as the Act comes into force. It says -
Applications for patents may be odged at the Patent Office immediately after the Commissioner is appointed…..
I should like to ask when it is proposed to appoint the Commissioner 1 A considerable time may elapse after the Act has come into operation before the Commissioner is appointed.
– AVe shall have to appoint the Commissioner immediately the Act becomes law, because his work will begin at once.
– That assurance will remove my objection.
Mr. KINGSTON (South AustralianReferring again to the point which I raised just now, I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied that, before the Act comes into force, the Government have power to appoint an officer whose appointment is provided for only by the Act ?
– Section 4 of the Acts Interpretation Act deals with that point. It reads -
When an Act is not to come into operation immediately on the passing thereof, and confers power to make any appointment, to make grant or issue any instrument (including any rules regulations or by-laws), to give notices, to prescribe forms, or to do any other thing for the purposes of the Act, that power may, unless the contrary intention appears, be exercised at any time after the passing of the Act for the purposes of bringing the Act into operation at the commencement thereof.
Surely that language is strong enough for anything.
Proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted : - “SSa. (1) The Governor-General may direct that an)’ patent shall be acquired by the Minister from the patentee.
The Governor-General may thereupon by notification published in the Gazette declare that the patent has been acquired by the Minister, and upon such notification the patent and all rights of the patentee thereunder shall by force of this Act be transferred to and vested in the Minister in trust for the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth shall pay to the patentee such reasonable compensation us is agreed upon, or as is, in default of agreement, settled by arbitration in the manner prescribed.
This clause raises some nice questions, to which it is necessary to make only passing allusion. It is designed to enable the Minister who is charged with administering the Act to acquire a patent in trust for the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth having granted a monopoly to an individual, and having subsequently purchased that individual’s patent rights, the question of how far it could retain a monopoly itself might form the subject of a good deal of argument. I assume that in this form it can be upheld, although whatever limitations are imposed upon the powers of the Commonwealth by the Constitution will require to be taken into account in considering the authority of the Commonwealth to become the owner of its own monopolies.
– The patentee could not use the invention himself and allow the Commonwealth to use it also.
– Not under this clause ; the Commonwealth must acquire it absolutely. Of course there are other questions associated with this power, which is one that may prove of much advantage to the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth so that the Committee need not hesitate to adopt it. If, upon deliberate consideration, Parliament authorizes the payment which will be necessary for the acquisition of any patent, we may be sure that the invention will be one the purchase of which can be publicly defended. That being so, this provision - which practically amounts to a condition in the case of all patents granted, although the power conferred by it will probably be exercised in very few instances - may upon certain occasions, prove of the utmost value. Of course there are inventions which relate to deadly weapons employed for the defence of a country, in respect of which it is essential that we should possess this power. That being so, it would seem inconsistent if we did not reserve to ourselves power to secure rights for the whole of the people in respect of useful and beneficial inventions when that course seems desirable. Accordingly, I have drafted this clause to meet the undertaking which I gave in Committee, although I am not blind to the fact that it raises some considerations which do not appear upon its surface.
– I notice that this provision differs from the following one, in that the Parliament has no voice in the acquisition of any patent.
– Parliament must vote the money.
– But, in the following clause, the Government of a State can direct a patentee to assign his rights in any invention patented in that State only if authorized to do so by an Act of Parliament.
– That is so.
– Why is not a similar condition inserted in this clause 1 If we grant this unlimited power, it will certainly, be exercised. I can see that in some cases it might be very desirable, but in other cases it would be highly undesirable. I think that Parliament should have a voice in regard to the purchase of any patent.
– It has to find the money.
– Parliament is often called upon to find the money necessary to carry out a work to which it has practically been committed by the Government.
– I am not grumbling about that. I simply say that Parliament will have to find the money to enable the Government to acquire any patent.
– Under this provision Parliament might be committed by the Government to a very large expenditure in connexion with a matter which, rightly or wrongly, was considered to be open to grave suspicion. I think that Parliament should be able to express its opinion on any proposal to acquire a patent. The Prime Minister himself proposes that the States Governors shall be limited in that way.
– This provision gives a general authority to the Governor-General, and a State Parliament will be able to pass an
Act giving a general authority in the same way to the Governor of that State-
– The honorable and learned gentleman means that the authority from the State Parliament might bie general.
– It might be in terms such as these.
– I did not at first read the clause in that way. We might have a Government trafficking in patents in a most undesirable way ; we might have a Government taking up patents which, if submitted to the full light of parliamentary criticism, would be shown to be wholly undesirable to acquire. In these circumstances, it would be wise to insert the words “if thereto authorized by Act of Parliament “ after the word “ Governor-General.”
– The clause would then be of no service.
– This will be the Act of Parliament authorizing the GovernorGeneral to take action.
– This clause will give the Government of the Commonwealth a free hand to purchase patents of every description. Why should we not provide that it shall be necessary for the Government to obtain the authority of Parliament to make any purchase ?
– Why not provide that the Government may acquire a patent on being authorized to do so by resolution passed in both Houses 1 The resumption of land in New South Wales is dealt with in that way.
– I am willing to adopt the honorable member’s suggestion. I move -
That the proposed new clause be amended by inserting after the word “Governor-General,” line 1, the words “on resolution of both Houses of Parliament passed to that effect.”
I should not like to see a Government intrusted with such unlimited powers as the clause as it stands would give, and I think that greater safety will be secured by the adoption of my proposition.
– I think that this clause requires to be more fully considered. I am aware that under the Bill as it stands, the Government have power to use any patent on payment of compensation ; but this clause goes very much further, and provides that the Government may acquire all the rights under any patent on paying compensation.
Mr.Watson. - Take the case of the cyanide patent.
– The patent rights of that process were acquired by the Victorian Government. Resolutions to sanction their purchase were submitted to the State Parliament, but I did not like the way in which the matter was treated. It is not as a grievance against the patentees that this clause should be considered. We have to look to the danger that a patentee and his friends might bring pressure to bear on a Government to acquire his rights. As a matter of fact, no coherent opposition is offered by a Parliament to a Government proposal to acquire patent rights. When a Government submits to Parliament a proposal to purchase certain rights, it supplies official information on the subject, and a private member finds it practically impossible to resist the proposition. The whole procedure becomes almost a farce. I have seen instances of the grossest abuse of public money under a power such as this, and I do not think that the suggestion of the honorable member for North Sydney would be a sufficient check on the power of the Government. The parrot phrase that “ They must find the money before they do it,” is idle. We have in reserve a tremendous power, but it is never used, and practically it cannot be brought into play. If a Government have made a conditional contract, subject to the approval of Parliament, to acquire a patent, and bring down a fair report in support of their proposal, they may generally rest assured that it will be agreed to. Can the Prime Minister tell us of any other instance in which a Government has power, on paying compensation, to acquire all rights under a patent, as distinguished from the power after granting compensation to acquire the use of a patent ? Until lately, at all events, the British Government have been able to make use of a patent without paying any compensation.
– That is an inherent right that most of the States have sacrificed by their legislation.
– I think it is reasonable that it should be sacrificed. A patent ought to be good against the Crown, more particularly when we consider how wide an area of industry is covered here in Australia by governmental action. In America it is the practice to award compensation in respect of the use of a patent I by the Government, but I do not think that they go any further there. I should like to think out very carefully what is the best means to safeguard the interest of the taxpayer in relation to the purchase of inventions. It often happens that it is only when a patent is “petering out,” and has almost reached the term of its usefulness, that the holders are willing to dispose of it, and in such circumstances they usually say - “ Why should not the Government take over our patent 1” I do not feel justified in opposing this clause, but I consider that it has not been sufficiently thought out. I should prefer to see the Bill stand withclause88as it is, giving us power only to use a patent on payment of compensation. I understand that the intention is to allow a State Parliament to pass a law, generally permitting the Governor of that State to acquire patents, or a law specifically applicable to the purchase of a particular patent. It is also provided in this clause that the patentee shall assign all his rights in a State. If, after the patentee had assigned all his rights in a State to the State Government, the GovernorGeneral proposed to acquire those rights, what would be the position?
– That is provided for in sub-clause 5.
– If a State Government has acquired the patent rights of a certain invention, will the Commonwealth be able to acquire them for the remaining States without making terms with that State 1
– The Commonwealth should have power to acquire the patent rights of such an invention for the other States, because when the Commonwealth is under compulsion to make a bargain with a State Government, that Government will be apt totakeadvantage of theposition. Ishould not like the Commonwealth Government to be compelled to go on its knees to a State Government to ask it to sell its rights. All I desire is an enlargement of the powers of the Commonwealth so that we shall be able to say to a State Government, “If you will not sell your rights, we shall be content to use the invention in the other States.”
– I do not wish to take this power in too absolute a form, by placing the Governor-General and his advisors for the time being beyond the reach of Parliament.
I therefore suggest to the,honorable member that the proposed new clause should be made to read -
The Governor-General, if thereto authorized by resolution of both Houses of the Parliament, may direct -
– I am willing to accept that.
Amendment amesded accordingly, and agreed to.
Proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 88b. (ll The Governor of a State, if thereto authorized by an Act of the Parliament of the State, may, by order published in the Government
Gazelle of the State, direct the patentee of any invention to assign all his rights in the State under his patent to some officer or person named in the order in trust for the State.
Bill reported with further amendments ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Royal assent reported.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
– A very large number of amendments have been made by the Senate in this Bill; but I am glad that, for the most part, they are not very important, and I propose to ask the Committee to agree to them all, with the exception of the amendment in clause 27, providing for a Council of Defence, and consequential amendments in clause 120, while I propose to agree to the insertion of a new paragraph in clause 39 with an amendment. The amendment which provides for the insertion in clause 9 of the provision that -
The General Officer Commanding and the Naval Officer Commanding shall have such powers and perform such duties as are prescribed, or as the Governor-General directs, is a very useful one. I move -
That the Senate’s amendments in clauses 4, 6, 9, 10, and 17, and transposing the words “ military” and ‘ ‘ naval “ wherever occurring, unless otherwise indicated, be agreed to.
-! notice that the Senate have inserted the following new paragraph in clause 4 : - “Oath” includes affirmation, in the case of any person who has a conscientious objection to take an oath.
It seems to me that that definition is unnecessary, in view of the following provision in the Acts Interpretation Act : -
The words “ oath” and “affidavit” shall, in the case of persons allowed by law to affirm, declare, or promise, instead of swearing, include affirmation, declaration, and promise, and the word “swear” shall, in the like case, include affirm, declare, and promise.
– Have we an Act authorizing persons to make an affirmation instead of taking an oath? Is not that specially provided for in each Act 1
– The word “ oath “ includes an affirmation. The object of the Senate’s amendment is that persons who have a conscientious objection to the taking of an oath shall not be required to take one.
– Are persons now required to take an oath?
– Then why should we alter the conditions?
– It is not that we alter the conditions ; but when we require the taking of an oath, that may cover an affirmation if the authorities are willing to accept an affirmation. The amendment provides that the authorities must accept an affirmation, if a man says he has conscientious objections to taking an oath. .
– Is this privilege given by any other Act?
– Not so far as I am aware.
– Then why should we make an exception in this Bill ?
– Why sh6uld a man be required to take either an oath or an affirmation?
– Men must be required to put themselves under some obligation.
-I think that the amendment should be accepted. We have allowed an affirmation to be taken in place of an oath of allegiance in other cases, and why should we not give the same privilege under the Bill?
– Then let us give it by a general Act.
– Hitherto we have been giving it under separate Acts ; but I agree with the right honorable member for South Australia that it would be better to have a general Act. The Acts Interpretation Act allows an oath to cover an affirmation only where an Act of Parliament allows an affirmation to be made-
Mr. KINGSTON (South Australia). - I am thoroughly in favour of the abolition of oaths, because I think they are unnecessary, or worse ; but if we are to lay down a new rule as to the circumstances under which men may make affirmations, let us do it in a general Act. However, the matter is not one of much consequence.
Motion agreed to.
The Governor-General may appoint a Board of Advice to advise on all matters relating to the Defence Force submitted to it by the Minister.
Senate’s Amendment - After “a” omit re mainder of clause; insert “ Council of Defence, consisting of -
– I move-
That the Senate’s amendment be disagreed to.
Honorable members will recollect that when the Bill was before us the honorable member for Melbourne Ports made a proposal similar to the amendment of the Senate ; but it received so little support that, after discussion, he withdrew it, and moved as an amendmentthe provision which now stands as clause 27. The Council of Defence proposed by the Senate is quite as objectionable as that proposed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The honorable member proposed a Council consisting of the Minister, the General Officer Commanding, the Naval Commandant, the Senior District Commandant, the Senior Militia Officer, the Senior Volunteer Officer, two members of Parliament, and the Secretary to the Defence Department. The proposal of the Senate is that the Council shall consist of the Minister, the General Officer Commanding, the Naval Commandant, a member of the Senate, and a member of the House of Representatives.
– Could not the Minister manage to include a representative of each of the Melbourne newspapers?
– Is the proposed clause to be a check upon the Minister, or is it to be a check upon the General Officer Commanding?
– I think that the shot is probably intended for the General Officer Commanding, but would probably hit the Minister.
– Shall we be able to dismiss the members of the Council if they make mistakes ?
– The power that makes can also unmake.
– It would be much more difficult to dismiss five men than to dismiss two.
– I do not think that the matter received all the consideration it deserved in the other Chamber. With the exception of the Council of Defence which existed in Victoria, and which, as far as I can gather, was not of very much use-
– It was of great use.
– There is certainly no precedent for the creation of a body such as that now proposed.
– The Minister is wrong, because there is a similar body in Switzerland.
– The proposed Council would be irresponsible, and would interfere with and certainly lessen the responsibility of the Minister and the Government to Parliament. I can scarcely understand the position which would be occupied by the two Members of Parliament who are to be appointed to the Council. They would practically be selected by the Minister, and it would be difficult to find Members of Parliament who. would have sufficient time to devote to the duties which would devolve upon them as members of the Council.
– That would depend upon th6 f 36S
– No fees are provided for.
– Then that settles the proposal.
– If the Members of Parliament who are to be appointed to the Council of Defence are to represent the branches of the Legislature to which they belong, it is to be presumed that each Chamber would have a voice in the selection of its representative. The appointment of such a body could not be regarded as consistent with our ideas of constitutional government. The Council would be interposed between the Minister and his responsibility to the House. Ministers are individually and collectively responsible to Parliament for every act performed, and I cannot conceive of this responsibility remaining intact, if the Council of Defence is to be interposed between the Ministry and Parliament. It has been stated that the Admiralty Board affords a precedent for the creation of a body such as that proposed, but there is no similarity between them. The Admiralty Board consists of paid experts and of one Civil Lord who is a member of the Government. All the members of the Board are subordinate to the Minister, who is called the First Lord of the Admiralty;
– -The Council of Defence would be subordinate to the Minister.
– I do not think so. The two Members of Parliament who were members of the Council would not like to be told that they were subordinate to the Minister. The First Lord of the Admiralty is a Minister responsible to the Crown and to Parliament. Then there is the First Sea Lord, of whom it has been said that he is almost in the position of a Commander-in-Chief. No doubt he occupies a position of great importance. It is recorded that Lord Hood of Avalon, who was the First Naval Lord of the Admiralty, said that he could not recollect a single instance in which the First Lord of the Admiralty had vetoed any important proposal placed before him by the First Naval Lord. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty goes out with the Government, and there is therefore a bond of cohesion in the case of the Admiralty Board which would not exist in the Council of Defence proposed by the Senate. A board constituted like the Admiralty Board would not interfere with the responsibility of Ministers, as the Minister is supreme. We all know that two methods of control are adopted in England. First of all, there is the naval method which is represented by the Board of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty with a Minister at their head, and there is the War Office system, with a Commander-in-Chief at its head. ‘ The latter system was adopted in the Bill. If, as time goes on, the English system is changed, there is no reason why we should not amend our Defence Act in order to bring ourselves into line. In order to meet the wishes of honorable members, we have already gone a considerable distance. We proposed an Advisory Board which would not however be able in any way to interfere with the executive functions of the Government or their responsibility to Parliament. I very much regret that the Senate were not satisfied with that. It has been stated that changes are being made in England in regard to these matters, and that there is an inclination to do away with the office of Commander-in-Chief, and adopt a system of military administration somewhat similar to that which now obtains in regard to the Navy. One of the reasons why this matter is now occupying so much public attention in England is that the public are not satisfied with the conduct of the recent war. We know that public dissatisfaction is nearly always expressed at the conclusion of a war, and we must not lose our heads on that account. There is no reason why we should enter upon any rash experiments.
– Surely this is not an experiment.
– It is a pure experiment. The proposed Council of Defence would have no responsibility to Parliament, and yet if their advice were followed they might entirely upset the plans of the Government. There is no reason why we should create a board with the high sounding title of “ Council of Defence.” The advantage of appointing the Council is not apparent, because it would place us in no better position than we occupy at present. The Council would be constituted of the Minister for Defence, the General Officer Commanding, the Naval Commandant, and two Members of Parliament. We already have the Minister for Defence and the General Officer Commanding, and we have also the assistance of the Naval Commandants. The two Members of Parliament selected to act upon the Council must be always at the seat of government, because they would have to receive and review all communications of the General Officer Commanding and of the Naval Commandants with respect to the organization, administration and financial policy of the Minister. The Council would also have it within its power to obtain expert advice. Just imagine the General Officer Commanding and the Naval Commandant asking for outside advice. They would certainly be opposed to any such proposal. The Minister might find himself in a minority, and yet he would still be responsible to Parliament. He might be utterly thwarted. It is provided that the Council shall from time to time make such recommendations to Parliament as they may consider desirable. The General Officer Commanding already makes a report to Parliament, and the Minister is directly responsible to the House for his administration of his Department. It is proposed that -
It shall be the duty of the Council from time to time to make such recommendations to Parliament as it may think desirable for most effectually securing the efficiency of the Defences and Defence Forces of the Commonwealth, and to take such steps as ma3’ be necessary to secure effective compliance with the directions of Parliament in respect to all such matters.
Prom where is this Board to derive power to secure effective compliance with the directions of Parliament ? I really cannot understand a proposal of “this sort. I could understand the appointment of a Board which was either entirely independent of the Minister, or which was subordinate to him ; but I fail to see any wisdom in the creation of a body constituted as this would be, to control the Defence Forces of Australia. No single member of it would be saddled with any special responsibility. I should like to know where the idea underlying the appointment of such a tribunal originated.
– A Committee of Defence upon somewhat similar lines was recently advocated in Great Britain.
– But effect has not been given to the proposals or recommendations. In my judgment we ought to accept the Bill in the form in which it passed this House. We have no full knowledge of what it .is proposed to do in England. Upon the strength of a report of a commission, are we justified in adopting a proposal which the Imperial authorities have been considering for years 1
– Why, their report is available ; I have it here.
– I trust that.the honorable and learned member will not support a proposal to establish our Defence Forces upon the basis of a scheme which is embodied in a report to which effect has not yet been given in England. I have in my hand the report of a Royal Commission which sat in the old country in 1901. That Commission made a good many recommendations, but it did not recommend the appointment of a Council of Defence to control the Army. When some such scheme has been adopted in England, it will be time enough for us to consider it. The proposal there is that the Army shall to a very great extent be placed under control similar to that which is exercised over the Navy.
– It is the same kind of control, but not the same control.
– No ; it does not interfere with the responsibility of the Minister. I think that we should be given time to work out the system which we have already adopted. To initiate a new system of control is not necessary at the present time. We have secured the services of an Imperial officer for three years for the purpose of re-organizing our Defence Forces. His work has not yet been completed. Indeed, he has never been given a fair chance. He has been handicapped by the fact that great reductions have been made in the defence vote from year toyear, and by the absence of uniform defence legislation throughout the Commonwealth. The Gazette notice consolidating the Defence Forces of Australia has only just been published. A great deal of influence was used to prevent the Government from carrying out the recommendations of the General Officer Commanding. We were told that we were- acting illegally, although the only result of inaction would have been to discredit those in authority, and to engender discontent I throughout the Forces. We require this Bill to complete that work. The idea of the proposal which was adopted by the Senate is that Parliament should be represented upon this Council of Defence. In other words, we are asked to send a delegate to watch the Minister during the recess. Such a provision mu3t necessarily provoke friction, and can accomplish no good. No Minister would consent to be controlled by two members of Parliament if he considered that he was acting in the interests of the country. In giving the Government power to make regulations for jthe establishment of an Advisory Board, 1 think we are doing all that is necessary in the interests of the Military and Naval Forces, and, at the same time, we are complying to the fullest extent with the wishes expressed by honorable members themselves.
– I am extremely sorry that the Minister has taken up the attitude which he has adopted in regard to this matter. He does not appear to have studied contemporary history. He has merely produced a musty, time-worn document, containing the report of a Royal Commission which sat in England, the recommendations of which he practically asks the Committee to adopt.
– It is not a musty document. It is dated 1896.
– Even 1896 is comparatively ancient. I would remind the right honorable gentleman that a similar body to that which is contemplated by this clause is already in existence in Switzerland, where it has been found to work very admirably. Within the past three months a somewhatsimilar proposal has been adopted in America, where the office of CommanderinChief has been abolished. I should like the Minister for Defence to assure the House that he will give this proposal the consideration which it merits. I am confident that it will have to be faced, and that sooner or later our experience will lead us to the same conclusions as those at which they have arrived in America, Switzerland, and England. I admit that I do not like the per sonnel of the Council as suggested by the Senate. But, notwithstanding all that has been said to the contrary, I am convinced that the present organization of the Forces is extremely unsatisfactory.
– We have not given the General Officer Commanding a chance.
– Yes, we have.
– The Board of Advice will prove unsatisfactory.
– I am inclined to think that the provision relating to that body will remain a dead letter, unless we insist that effect shall be given to it. The present condition of affairs is not satisfactory. The General Officer Commanding is . not in touch with the aspirations of our citizen soldiers. His whole environment and training has brought him into sympathy only with the paid military forces. If we are to establish our citizen soldiery upon a proper basis and free from the jingoistic spirit which is so detrimental to progress, we shall have to adopt a proposal somewhat upon the lines of this clause. I quite recognise that the feeling of the Committee is opposed to me, but I appeal to the Minister to promise that he will give the matter consideration and endeavour to bring our military control more into touch with the aspirations of our citizen soldiery than it is at the present time. The Minister for Home Affairs speaks as if the proposal for the creation of a Council of Defence were revolutionary and impracticable. I would again urge that he should study contemporary history. Instead of being revolutionary, it is quite in accord with modern ideas. I thoroughly recognise the force of his remarks upon the question of Ministerial responsibility. Personally, I should like to see a Board established, with the Minister at its head, which should be responsible to Parliament. I feel sure that it must come. Then there are the regulations to which, the Minister for Home Affairs has referred. I do not know to what opposition he was alluding.
– Much opposition was shown in the press.
– The press in that instance, I think, was very near the mark in declaring that we were making regulations that we had no authority to make, and that we should wait until we had a comprehensive Bill under which they might be framed. I hope that the Minister for Defence will seriously consider this matter, and will give the Committee a definite promise that a proposal for an organization on line3 similar to that desired by another place will be carefully considered by the Cabinet and submitted to Parliament.
-! think that the Committee should endeavour to support the action of another place in embodying this amemdment in the Bill. The Minister states that he is anxious that the Bill shall become law without delay, and it appears to me that the Senate has determined that this provision shall be contained in it. When the proposition was originally brought before the Committee by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, I did not address myself to it, and I was rather doubtful as to the wisdom of the proposal. Since then, however, I have had an opportunity to discuss it with those who are familiar with the subject, and T have ascertained that the general opinion of those whom I regard as having the best interests of the Defence Forces of Australia at heart, is that a Council of Defence is necessary. I wish to impress upon the Minister for Home Affairs that what is necessary in military matters is a continuity of policy. That cannot be obtained unless we have some such Board as this which will see that each succeeding Commanding Officer does not vary the procedure laid down by his predecessor. In Victoria not many years ago, Major-General Tulloch, an officer in the Royal Engineers, had charge of the State Forces. He was succeeded by an infantry officer, Major-General Sir Charles Holled Smith, and subsequently Colonel Bingham, an artillery officer, acted as Commanding Officer for a short time.
– We had Major-General Downes, not Colonel Bingham.
– Major-General Downes also acted for some time as Commandant of the Victorian Military Forces. We have now a Commonwealth Defence Force, and our first General Officer Commanding, MajorGeneral Hutton, is a mounted infantry man, and in his work he deserves hearty support, as there is no doubt as to his ability, energy, and devotion. We find him consequently almost entirely abolishing infantry drill. As the honorable member for Melbourne will know he has introduced a system of mounted infantry drill and is even training the infantry in that class of work. That is due to the fact that he is a mounted infantry officer. I have here a drill book which was issued by the War Office over the signature of Lord Roberts in 1892, and if honorable members look at it they will see that it has been altered in so many ways that it is now a mere patchwork. Notwithstanding those changes, however, Major-General Hutton, since taking charge of the Commonwealth forces, has made two or three thousand further amendments in the book, and officers, non-commissioned officers, and men are expected to make themselves familiar with them.
– The changes made by Major-General Hutton have been due to a desire to simplify the work.
– They have been made with a view to provide a system of mounted infantry drill for our infantry. This is a point which should receive some consideration. The next commanding officer may be a member of the Artillery or Engineering forces, and, in the absence of a Council of Defence, is sure to have special regard to that branch of military tactics in which he has been trained. In that event all the work done by MajorGeneral Hutton will be thrown aside. The Minister for Home Affairs, when dealing with this question found it necessary to refer to a cable message in regard to the report of the South African War Commission, and it appears that, although he is responsible for this Bill, and is recommending that the amendment made by another place should be rejected, he is not familar with that report The Chief Justice of New South Wales, Sir Frederick Darley, who is accustomed to weigh evidence, was. the Australasian member of the Commission, and I would remind the Minister that he joined in the recommendations as well as in certain minority reports. I wish to read some extracts from the weekly edition of the London Times, in order to show that in the opinion of the Commission the breaking down of the War Office under the strain of the South African campaign was largely due to the absence of a Board of this kind in England. The Times states that -
Attention is also directed to the position of the Commander-in-Chief. Lord Salisbury’s Government, when they took office in 1895, continued the post with some modifications, and thereby deliberately set aside the recommendation made by the Hartington Commission, which had advised that on the expiration of the Duke of Cambridge’s tenure, the office should be abolished, and that its most important duties should be transferred to a chief of the staff. The Rosebery Govern ment fell a few days after they had announced their intention to carry out this proposal. While retaining the title, Lord Salisbury’s I Government practically limited the direct control of the Commander-in-Chief to the Intelligence and Mobilization Department, thus attempting to combine the old title with the new policy. But the associations connected with the title proved to be too strong for the policy. Lord Wolseley resented these limitations, and, as the evidence seems to show, did not sufficiently concentrate his energy upon his special and most important department.
Then it goes on to say that -
Lord Lansdowne and Mr. Brodrick stated in evidence the obvious difficulties which lie in the way of Lord Wolseley’s alternative proposals. The Commission point out that the position of the Commander-in-Chief has been greatly modified since the beginning of the war, first by the restoration in 1901 of the Adjutant-General’s department to his direct control, mid secondly, and still more, by the formation of the new or reconstituted Imperial Defence Committee. The lastmentioned change is a great one, because the supreme direction of preparations hyland and sea is now vested in a body of which the CommanderinChief and the Director of Military Intelligence (who in the War OfFice is still his subordinate) are equal members.
Are we to fly in the face of the best expert evidence which the Empire can produce - in the face of the testimony of men who went through the South African campaign, and saw the complete failure of the War Office absolutist system. We are dealing with a Bill which is supposed to be based on the most up-to-date advice that it is possible to obtain; yet we are ignoring completely the recommendations of this Commission. The Minister for Home Affairs who has had charge of the measure has been content to satisfy himself as to the nature of the Commission’s report by referring only to cablegrams dealing with it. The Times points out that -
The Commission evidently feel that there was before the war a great and dangerous want of cohesion and co-ordinated action among the different departments of the War Office. Committees for special purposes appeared and disappeared, or were transformed with kaleidoscopic rapidity, but there was not at the War Office as at the Admiralty any supreme board of control, bringing together those responsible for the different great departments and acting with corporate authority. The absence of such a board led to various evils before and during the war.
The statement made by the Minister, that this would lead to an absence of responsibility, has been accepted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
– Is there a Council of Defence in Germany ?
– No ; but the German Defence Forces, fortunately for the Minister’s position, are not under the control of Parliament. They are under the Emperor, who has practically the life and death of his troops in his hands. An autocratic system such as that would not be tolerated in a British community, and we have to make some provision for that continuity of policy which is not to be found in the British Empire, but which prevails in Germany. The Minister has declared that the appointment of this Council would lead to an absence of responsibility ; but, according to the Times -
Mr. Brodrick states that “his position is strengthened by the fact that his responsibility will be shared, or, rather, the responsibility o adopting his schemes.” The committee, we were told, would, if there were again a possibility of war, call for plans at an early date, and such a state of things as existed in 1 899 could not again exist.
The Australian Minister declares that the appointment of this Council would lead to an absence of responsibility, while, on the other hand, Mr. Brodrick, who until recently was the English Secretary for War, asserts that his position will be strengthened by the fact that his responsibility will be shared in the way proposed. The Minister for Home Affairs has said that regulations can be framed in regard to a Board of Advice ; but the British Commission declares that regulations in relation to such a matter are of no avail. The Times states that -
The Clinton Dawkins Committee of 1901 recommended the establishment of a central board of this kind, and Mr. Brodrick maintained that this recommendation had been carried out by his establishment upon a more regular footing of the previously intermittent, one might also say, flickering, “ War Office Council.” The Commission are not satisfied. They say - “The constitution of the War Office Council is, as we understand, to rest as heretofore on a memorandum by the Secretary of State, which he can himself revoke. We do not think that this was the intention of the Dawkins Committee, or that there is any reason why this particular form of constitution should be maintained. The duties of most of the high officers, who are members of the War Office Council, are already defined by Orders in Council, and, in our opinion, there is still more reason that the duties which they are to perform as members of the council, and the constitution of the council itself should be defined in the same formality. The issue of an Order in Council would give the whole arrangement a more correct status and a larger measure of permanency. “
I regret that the ex-Minister for Defence has not read this report. He declares that what is good enough for England should be good enough for Australia ; but I venture to say that no Army Bill will be dealt with in the British Parliament without very serious consideration being given to the Commission’s report. If we do not accept this amendment, we shall not have an opportunity to deal with such a proposal for many years to come. We do not know when we shall have another Defence Bill before us. This Bill has been before Parliament for nearly three years, and it is not sufficient for the Minister now to say that he will give this matter consideration. The reason why we have not had a provision of this kind before in England is that the Government acted on the advice of the English Prince Consort, who said that we must adhere to the German “model - that we must keep the position of CommanderinChief of the British Army in Royal hands. He urged that it. should be a Royal appanage. The British Government, of course, broke away from that system after the retirement of the Duke of Cambridge, by appointing Lord Wolseley to the position of Commander - in - Chief, and that soldier was in turn succeeded by Lord Roberts. There is a suggestion now that the position occupied by Lord Kitchener should be handed over to the Duke of Connaught, although probably Lord Kitchener is the abler man. If we are alive to the interests of Australia, we shall agree to the amendment made by another place, although perhaps it would be well to slightly modify it. There may be one or two phrases in the provision which I do not like, but the principle I approve. If we do not adopt the board system now, we shall have to adopt it in the end, particularly since we are likely to have every three years a new Commander-in-Chief, who may make 2,000 or 3,000 alterations, such as I have referred to, in the drill-book. I think that the amendment deserves not only consideration but appreciation and acceptance. Probably its acceptance is the only way of getting the Bill through this session. I trust that the Committee will see that the Minister gets his Bill through with this amendment, and that he gets it through now, instead of waiting for the Senate to return it to us again, with the probability of losing it altogether.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).There is a great deal to be said for the object of the Senate, but their proposal is absolutely unworkable. What we really want is what is called in England an Army Board, which comprises the heads of the various branches of the service, but of which the Minister is not a member. Its duty is to see that the different branches of the service act co-ordinately and in cooperation for a common purpose. The proposal of the Senate is to create a futile board, over which the Minister is to preside and which he must rule, because, so long as a Minister retains the confidence of Parliament, he must have his way in regard to matters coming under his administration. A similar arrangement has been tried in “Victoria in the creation of a Board of Lands and Works, of which the Minister for Works is chairman. This board consists of heads of Departments and certain non-political persons. But what is the result? The Minister does whatever he chooses. He simply leaves certain works to be carried out under his control by one or two men, and other works to be carried out, also under his control, by other men. It has been found to be absolutely futile, however, to attempt to put the Minister upon a level with the other members of the board. The only result if a system like that is that a Minister is able to shunt responsibility for mistakes on to the board. While we have parliamentary government, the best control over the administration of a Department is through the Minister. The Minister for Defence must rule over both the General Officer Commanding and the Naval Commandant. There has been a’ continuous struggle in England to bring the CommanderinChief of the Army and the rulers of the Navy under the control of the Minister. That has been achieved now, with the result that the people have much more control than they used to have. The subject is discussed in the late Dr. Hearn’s Government qf England. At page 278, he says that it has been maintained -
That the control of the army is part of the prerogative ; that the pleasure of the Crown should be taken on all military matters by the CommanderinChief alone, and that the Ministry of the day is not entitled to interfere in any way with this branch of the Public Service. In accordance with these views, the late Duke of Wellington urged the Prince Consort to accept the command of the army, either immediately or as the Duke’s successor. Fortunately, however, the Prince, with a rare perception both of his own position, and of the principles, as they are now developed, of our Constitution, declined the proposal. There is, indeed, no difference in this respect between the army and any other part of the Public Service. . . . The Commander-in-Chief must be a permanent officer ; and if permanent, then necessarily subordinate. His position would, indeed, be unsafe if he could not depend upon the support of Ministers in case his measures were questioned in Parliament. But this support
Ministers cannot be expected to give unless the officer who trusts to it communicate with them in the performance of his duties in such a manner as to enable them to guard against his taking or omitting to take any step for which they will not be prepared to defend him.
The proposed Board is to review all recommendations of the General Officer Commanding and of the Naval Commandant in respect to the organization, administration, and financial policy of their respective branches of the Defence Forces. Fancy the Minister being dictated to in regard to the financial policy of his Department by a Council of subordinates ! As I wish the Minister to be responsible to the House and to the people, I shall oppose the amendment. It is, of course, of the utmost importance that he should have the best expert advice that we can afford, and the correct lines upon which to proceed will be, not to relieve the Minister of responsibility, but to provide for a Board of Advice consisting of the heads of the various branches of the service. That seems to me to be necessary, so that the Minister shall not be completely under the influence at one time of a General Officer Commanding, who has come from a line regiment, at another of a General who has come from an artillery regiment, and, at a third, of an officer who has come from a regiment of engineers, each of whom will naturally be governed by his own experience. I should like the heads of the various branches to meet together, so that the arrangements of one branch may be made to dovetail in with those of another branch. The Minister would receive their recommendations, but he alone should have po%ver to act.
– Does the honorable and learned member propose to put the command of our forces in commission 1
– I would not do that, because I think that we must have a CommanderinChief ; but it would be of ad vantage to the Commander-in-Chief to be assisted by a Board of Aci vice whose members had come from other branches of the service. If we are attacked we shall have to use all our arms of defence. »
– The difficulty is to define the limits of the powers of the General Officer Commanding.
– Yes. I would, however, provide only for a Board of Advice. The Board provided for in clause 27 is, I think, likely to prove futile, but experience will show us how to modify that provision.
I certainly do not think that a force such as ours justifies the appointment of the Council proposed by the Senate. Their proposal is unworkable. It would be better to even do without a Board of Advice than allow the financial policy of the Department to be reviewed by it.
– The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has put the case against the amendment as plainly and forcibly as it can be stated. We should be careful not to go too far in the way of handing over administration to Boards and Commissions. My views coincide with those expressed by the honorable and learned member, and are views which have gradually asserted themselves in the government of the old country.
– They have not made a great success of the Defence administration there yet.
– Neither system of management has yet been a success, but we may hope to get out of our present trouble. I do not think that the proposal of the Senate will assist us. It seems to me that we might have derived advantage from a report of a Royal Commission as to the best system of defence for Australia obtainable for the means at our disposal, but in allowing the Ministerial policy to be reviewed by a Board we should be wandering from the true principles of Parliamentary government. It has been argued that we cannot expect the ordinary Defence Minister to be thoroughly conversant with military affairs, since a member of Parliament is not appointed a Minister on account of his knowledge of the business of the Department which he is to control. The honorable member for Parramatta, however, had a distinguished career as Postmaster General of New South Wales, although he knew nothing of postal matters, and of the intricacies and secrets of electrical systems, before he took charge of the Department. Similarly the Minister for Defence may not be a trained soldier, and may know nothing about military strategy or warfare, but he may administer the Department successfully. We have to look to our successful public men to administer the Departments as private individuals administer their business concerns - by the exercise of their common sense and the assistance of expert advice. Under clause 27 the Minister may appoint a Board of Advice, and can thus from time to time call to his assistance the best expert opinion within the Commonwealth. Indeed, there is nothing to prevent him from obtaining advice from outside, and Parliament as a whole would gladly support any proposal to obtain advice upon troublesome points. But the proposed Council of Defence would be a failure. It is to be a semi political Board, two of whose members are to be heads of Departments, and it is to be presided over by the Minister. “What can we expect from such a Council ? The members of Parliament selected as members of the Council would probably be of the same political colour as the Minister for Defence. Consequently, on the civilian side of the Council, the Minister would have an absolute majority. The other two members of the Council would be officials regarding whom the Minister would be in precisely the same position as to-day. The result would be that in nine cases out of ten the decisions arrived at by the Council would really be those of the Minister, but they would not be accompanied by that sense of responsibility which should attach to them. If any fault were found with the Minister, he might say - “ That decision was arrived at by the Council of Defence, which is provided for in the Defence Act.” Consequently, we should have the responsibility shunted from the Minister to the Council of Defence, and we should introduce confusion into the management of the defences instead of securing the better results which we have a right to expect. The proposal is decidedly a move in the wrong direction. I do not look upon the Bill as representing the final resuit of our deliberations with regard to the defence of Australia. Good results might oe achieved by enlisting the services of a Board of really first-class experts to report upon the best system of defence and organization for Australia. In regard to the administration, however, we should stand by the principles of Parliamentary government under which Ministers are always responsible for the management of the affairs of their Departments. The proposed Council of Defence would be similar to other bodies which have been created in connexion not only with the Defence but with the Mines and Lands Departments, and which have always failed. Parliament would no doubt authorize the Minister to obtain expert advice from abroad if he required it, but he must under all circumstances be responsible to Parliament for the administration of the Department.
– I have listened with great pleasure to the remarks of honorable members, because it seems to me that even those who are opposed to my nonor able colleague have strongly supported his arguments against the amendment proposed by the Senate. Nearly every honorable member who favours the creation of a Council of Defence has urged that more light should be thrown upon the best system of defence for this country. If that be so, I take it that the Board of Advice originally proposed in the Bill would be preferable to a Council of Defence. “What would the creation of the proposed Council involve? It would be constituted of the Minister for Defence, the General Officer Commanding, the Naval Commandant, and two members of Parliament. The only benefit that the Minister could derive from the Council would be such assistance as might be given by the two members of Parliament. A question has been raised as to how these two members of the Council would be selected. It has been suggested, and with good reason, that they would be of the same political complexion as the Government which appointed them, and would not be likely to do anything to interfere with its policy, and, therefore, to my mind, entirely unsatisfactory. I quite understand the intention of the Senate; but I feel sure that their design would fall far “ short of accomplishment, and that it would be very unwise to adopt their suggestion. I do not see how any good result could follow from the appointment of a Council of Defence ; but, on the other hand, I think a properly constituted Board of Advice would be of great assistance to the Minister. If the Minister could avail himself of the advice of such a Board with regard to every arm of the service, he would probably be able to make many desirable changes. Some honorable members have stated that much discontent prevails among members of the Defence Forces, and, no doubt, it is necessary to institute certain reforms ; but, under all the circumstances, I think we should hasten slowly. The honorable member for South Sydney gave us the benefit of his opinion as to the best system of defence for Australia. “We are not dealing with that subject now. We have already practically decided that point. But some honorable members are endeavouring, under cover of the amendment, to raise the whole question as to whether or not we should have a Commander-in-Chief. This is not the time to debate that matter. I would ask those who criticize the General Officer Commanding so severely - and I have found it necessary to express my own opinion freely - to remember that so many drastic changes have been made that it is easy to understand why discontent prevails. When, however, we can adopt one set of regulations, instead of six, and we can exercise full control over the whole Defence Forces of the Commonwealth, we shall be in a very much better position to bring about a settled state of affairs. The defence finances have been so much disturbed by drastic changes and reductions during the past two or three years that it has been almost impossible to avoid dissatisfaction and friction. The best course to pursue would be to hold our hands until we see what form is taken by the changes contemplated in Great Britain. We should very carefully study the report of the Commission upon the conduct of the war in South Africa before making any radical change in our system of administration. I am at present considering that report very carefully, and it would be very foolish on my part to express an opinion upon it at this stage. The general opinion in England seems to be that some change is necessary, and without doubt some reforms will be instituted. It may be wise for us to follow upon similar lines at a later stage. But I would ask those honorable members who think that we should do away with the General Officer Commanding, not to kill the Bill upon which so much labour has been expended, and which will undoubtedly prove to be a good measure. A Council of Defence, such as that proposed, would tie the hands of the Minister to such an extent that no selfrespecting man would occupy the position. The Minister has to bear all the responsibility, and he should therefore have the fullest power. If he does wrong now, Parliament is in a position to call him to account ; and that is the very best form of control that can be exercised over any Department. If it is desired that the Minister should be in a position to consult experts, and to deal with military matters - as I intend to do - in a common-sense way, no Council of Defence is required. I hope to be guided by the experience gained in England ; but, at the same time, I recognise that some of the methods adopted in Great Britain may prove entirely unsuitable to our conditions. Some honorable members seem to expect that I should make some promise with regard to this matter. I do not care to make a promise lightly. The only undertaking I feel disposed to give - and I hope that it will prove acceptable to honorable members in the Senate - is to consider the whole matter carefully. I am quite aware that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction among members of the Defence Forces, and I intend to get at the root of it. I shall not hesitate to propose radical changes if I think they are necessary ; but I do not intend to make any promise until I am fully seized of the whole of the facts. I undertake that an effort shall be made to reduce the existing dissatisfaction and friction ; but, first of all, I want to find out the cause of the friction. I believe that most honorable members desire to see the Bill passed into law, and I should regard it as almost a calamity .if it were lost at this stage. I have no fear that the Senate will persist in its amendment. I propose to look very carefully into, the whole question of defence organization, and I hope in the near future to be in a position to consult the heads of the different branches of the service, and to obtain the best possible information upon every essential point. I do not see how the Council of Defence could aid the Minister in that respect, and therefore I urge honorable members to adhere to the original proposal. If I find that any change is necessary I shall not hesitate to introduce a short amending Bill to meet the requirements of the case. I hope to obtain some good - results from the Board of Advice provided for in the Bill.
– How will it be constituted “i
– That matter will require very careful consideration. I should not like to make any statement upon that point at present. I can assure the honorable member, however, that the Board will be of such a character that the Minister may rely upon it for advice regarding every branch of the service. I hope that the result will be to do away with a great deal of the existing friction, and also to silence the cry that the General Officer Commanding has no interest in or sympathy with our citizen soldiers.
That is the only assurance which I can give honorable members at the present time. I shall inquire into the matter very carefully, and I have no doubt from the little knowledge which I have already gained that I shall be able to effect many changes - changes which will meet with the approval of honorable members and which will place our Defence Forces upon a better footing - but changes which could not be adopted by my predecessors in office because of the absence of necessary legislation. I shall have no hesitation in making any requisite recommendations, no matter how drastic the desired change may be, because I am not wedded to any particular system, but desire only to do that which is best in the interests of the Commonwealth. I ask honorable members to accept my assurance, because I believe that it will be better to establish a Board of Advice than to give effect to the clause which is under consideration. Whilst I strongly sympathize with the intention of honorable members in another place, I am of opinion that the adoption of this provision would result in chaos.
– I think honorable members generally will be satisfied with the assurance of the Minister for Defence that he will look into this matter. Personally, I am of opinion that a Royal Commission should be appointed to investigate the real position of affairs so far as our system of defence is concerned. In the New South Wales Parliament the Defence Estimates were always debated at considerable length.
– They are much simpler now.
– But, although the Department has been transferred to the Commonwealth, there is still ground for objection to the system that is adopted. I well remember that during the first session of the present Parliament, the right honorable gentleman submitted estimates for an expenditure upon the Defence Department aggregating more than £900,000. In 1 902, the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, moved to reduce the expenditure by £1, upon the understanding that if his proposal were carried, the vote would be reduced by £200,000. Later on, Major-General Hutton recommended that £125,000 should be expended in properly equipping the Defence
Forces. Yet in defiance of that recommendation the Government cut down the amount to £75,000. Equipment constitutes one of the most important features in connexion with our Defence expenditure. We all know the trouble which has occurred in the old country. Every one was astonished - not to say shocked - at the disclosures which were made by the Royal Commission which recently investigated the condition of the Imperial Defence Forces. I desire to see our Defence Department effectively administered. The Government do not appear to realize what is the true position of affairs. When the General Officer Commanding the forces recommended an expenditure of £125,000 for the purpose of providing our men with proper equipment, why did the Government reduce the amount bv £50,000?
– The Treasurer would not grant us the money.
– The right honorable gentleman admits that the expenditure is necessary, and merely urges as an excuse for the Government action that the Treasurer could not spare the money. I do not believe that the people of the Commonwealth would object to that expenditure if they could be shown that it is absolutely necessary to furnish us with an effective system of defence.
-Would it not be wiser for the Department to make better use of the money which they now spend?
– It is of no use Australia possessing a large body of men if they are not properly equipped. Assuming that war were to break out to-morrow, is it fair to ask our men to sacrifice their lives in defence of the country - because that is what it means - when they lack up-to-date equipment?
– The General Officer Commanding recommends an expenditure of £400,000, to be distributed over a number of years. That recommendation is embodied in his report.
– The report in question does not reveal a very satisfactory condition of affairs. Indeed, if any reason were needed as to the wisdom of appointing a Royal Commission to investigate our defence system it is supplied by that document. Speaking upon this very question some time ago, Mr. Balfour emphasized the fact that upon an inquiry of this kind civilians could elicit information of great value to the Government. Personally, I know of men to whom officers’ commissions were issued, and who never had a day’s experience of military matters. This happened in our own State a few years ago. I trust that the Government will take into consideration the advisableness of appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into this question.
– We should gain very little by that.
– The Commission which recently sat in England revealed a shocking state of affairs. It proved the utter incompetence of a great many officers
– It is very easy to criticise after the battle.
– I wish to criticise before the battle. I ask the Minister for Defence not to wait until the best of our manhood is sacrificed on account of inferior equipment ; but to see that this matter is investigated. “When reading the report of the Royal Commission to which I have referred, I was staggered to learn of the utter incompetence of men who were charged with the duty of making proper preparations for the conduct of the South African campaign. The report revealed a most discreditable state of affairs. I appeal to my honorable friend the Minister for Defence to give this matter his earnest consideration. I advocate the appointment of a Royal Commission not because I wish to involve the Commonwealth in unnecessary expense, but because I am one of those who believe that your Defence Forces are not on a satisfactory footing. The Board of Advice which it is proposed to appoint will not be able to elicit the necessary information to enable us to get rid of our present difficulties and shortcomings.
– The Board is not intended to deal with the past, but with such matters as may be referred to it by the Minister.
– Quite so. It seems to me that the question is one which deserves earnest consideration. There is a paragraph in the report of the British Commission which shows that even members of the British Government attach great importance to evidence given before such a body. The Commission consisted, not merely of military men, but of civilians capable of dealing with commercial matters, such as questions of transport, and the purchase of stores and warlike material. A Commission of this kind should be appointed to inquire into the position of the defences of Australia. We have to see that we are not imposed upon.
– The authorities give one a rifle which throws IS inches to the left at 500 yards.
– Exactly. We know that scandals of that kind have occurred recently in South Africa. There may be some who do not believe in a Defence Department ; but even those who hold that view - and I am not one of them - will admit that we should take care that the Department is efficiently administered. Let us make sure that we have the proper stores at our command, and adequate supplies of ammunition and rifles for our men, so that if, in the future, they are called upon to go into action, either at home or abroad, they will be adequately equipped to meet the foe.
– Does the honorable member think the Council would deal with such matters 1
– No ; I am referring only to the desirableness of appointing a Royal Commission. When the sug-: gestion that a Commission should be appointed was made to the Minister, he said that he thought a Board of Advice would do all that was necessary.
– Under this Bill.
– Even a machinery Bill should be properly administered. This Department has been under the control of the Commonwealth for two years, and now we find the General Officer Commanding, who was appointed in order that our troops might be placed on a satisfactory footing, pointing out that, in many respects, various branches of the Defence Forces are deficient. He strongly urges the Government to expend a sum of £125,000 in securing the proper equipment of our forces ; but the reply of Ministers is that they must cut down the amount to be set apart for that purpose to- £50,000. They take up that stand, not because they disagree with Major-General Hutton, but because the Treasurer cannot find the necessary funds. That was the excuse put forward, but I do not think it was a proper one. If our forces are not to be efficient we might as well get rid of them altogether. The Minister for Defence has a splendid opportunity now to distinguish himself. He knows very well that whenever the Defence Estimates came before the State Parliament of New South “Wales, there was invariably a complaint that members were asked to vote in the dark.
– No such complaint can now be raised.
– It seems to me that we must be working in the dark in view of the fact that in reply to a request by the General Officer Commanding that £125,000 should be spent on purchasing necessary equipment for the forces, the Government declared that they had not that money to spare. We are regularly returning to the States thousands of pounds which, if necessary, might be retained for the purposes of the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member know that, as a matter of fact, less than three-fourths of the Customs revenue to which Queensland is entitled is being returned to her 1
– I do not wish to say anything in regard to that matter ; but under the Constitution we can retain 25 per cent, of the revenue collected through the Department for Trade and Customs. We have not availed ourselves of that provision.
– I hope that we shall not do so.
– All that I contend is that we should be prepared to spend any reasonable sum in securing the efficiency of our Defence Forces. My desire is to impress upon the Government the importance of appointing a Commission to inquire into the position of this service, so that when the next Estimates are submitted to it the Parliament will, at all events, be enabled to cast an intelligent vote upon them.
– An able and a long speech, such as that which has just been delivered by the honorable member for Macquarie, should not be allowed to pass unnoticed. One of the statements made by the honorable member was that more money should be spent upon our Defence Forces.
– I say that, if necessary, the expenditure should be increased ; but I wish to have some evidence on the point.
– Has the honorable member ever heard of a State Commandant who was not prepared to take all the money that the State could collect, and then to say that the forces under him were not sufficient 1
– Such an officer should be dismissed.
– The honorable member must know that there are such men. Few Ministers were able to deal effectively with the various States Commandants under the old regime. These men are always prepared to spend money in keeping up big military establishments. I do not blame them, but what we require is the nucleus of a force sufficient for the hour of need, and I should blame any Minister who would consent to an expenditure in excess of the sum actually necessary to provide that nucleus.
– We should see that the forces are properly equipped.
– In the matter of equipment there is a substantial charge to be laid at the door of the Government. It is for this House to say how much money shall be expended on the Defence Forces, and for the Executive to declare the way in which it shall be spent. If a Commandant says that he cannot carry on with the money placed at his disposal, it is open to him to resign. I remember that in 1893, Queensland found it necessary to retrench in all the Departments, and Sir Thomas Mcllwraith thought the Defence Forces should share in the general reduction. The State Commandant, however, said that such a thing was .utterly impossible, that to reduce the forces would be to destroy their efficiency. To this Sir Thomas Mcllwraith, in effect, replied in a minute which is yet to be seen, “I am requesting you to cut down the forces by one-half, only because, you know which would be the best half to retain. If you cannot do the work, I shall undertake it, and carry it out in two or three minutes.” Needless to say the necessary retrenchment was effected; but very few Ministers have been able to cope with the difficulty in so forcible a way. While the Government are to blame for their failure to supply the troops with uptodate rifles, I do not say that they are to blame in cutting down the Defence expenditure. I trust that less will be expended on the brigade officers and that more consideration will be given to those who will be the backbone of any offensive or defensive force which may be required by the Commonwealth. I am against the amendment.
– I can quite understand why the Ministry, as represented by the present and the late Minister for Defence, opposes the amendment of the
Senate to provide for a Council of Defence consisting of five members. They feel that a certain amount of the importance which now attaches to the office of Minister for Defence will be lost if he is not given the full control of the forces.
– Then cannot u n : “ stand why Ministers object to the amendment. J t seems to me, as a layman, a very fair one. The Minister for Home Affairs told us a short time ago that when he was in charge of the Defence Department, and required £50,000 to put the forces in a proper state of efficiency, the Treasurer declined . to give him the money,
– I asked for£125,000, and he gave me £75,000.
– On that occasion the Treasurer was, in a small way, acting on the same lines as the English Chancellor of the Exchequer. The report of the Royal Commission which was appointed in England to inquire into the manner in which the Boer war was conducted, shows that the Minister for War was influenced by the action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in refusing to grant him a sufficient sum of money to make adequate preparations. I can understand that the Minister may think it derogatory to him that a Member of the Senate and a Member pf the House of Representatives should be appointed to the proposed Council ; but the arrangement has my warmest support. There is at present a Member of the Senate who went through the late war in South Africa, and has therefore practical experience of military matters.
– He voted against the amendment.
– Although he will not always be a Member of the Senate, that body may contain other members of equal knowledge, whose advice would be of the utmost value. Neither the present nor the late Minister for Defence has any knowledge of warfare, except, as has been suggested, political warfare. Therefore, they should welcome whatever system can be obtained at the hands of experienced officers. We have been told ‘that a Minister is subject to the control of Parliament, and that if he makes mistakes he can be hauled over the coals or turned out of office ; but upon how many occasions has a Minister been turned out of office, either in Australia or elsewhere, because he has made mistakes 1
All that is generally said is that the Minister behaved badly, but that he did not know better, and he is therefore whitewashed. We wish to prevent, if possible, mistakes from happening. We spend about £600,000, moreor less, upon our defence forces, and contribute a certain amount for the maintenance of an Imperial Squadron in Australian waters, and it is likely that in afew years we shall establish a navy of our own. Under these circumstances, I do notthink that a layman who has no knowledge of military or naval matters should be given uncontrolled authority over our naval and military forces. No doubt, the General Officer Commanding and the Naval Commandant will make good suggestions; but the Minister is at liberty to accept or reject them as he pleases. If, however, they were supported by a Council of Defence consisting of, amongst others, a Member of the Senate and a Member of the House of Representatives, their suggestions would cany much more weight.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 35 -
Persons voluntarily enlisting as members of the Active Forces shall engage to serve for a prescribed period of not less than threeyears.
Senate’s Amendments. - Omit “Active,” insert ‘ Permanent and M ilitia. “ At end of clause, add “ and as members of the Volunteer Forces and Reserves for a prescribed period of not less than twoyears. “
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That the Senate’s amendments be agreed to.
Clause 39 -
Every soldier or sailor…… may except in time of war, claim his discharge . . . . . on the following conditions -
He shall, if he is not exempted from such payment for special reasons, pay such sum, not exceeding £2, as is prescribed.
Senate’s amendment. - Omit paragraph 6, insert new paragraph - ‘ ‘ (bb) He shall, if a member of the Militia Forces, pay such sum not exceeding £2, and if a member of the Volunteer Forces poy such a sum not exceeding £1, as may bo prescribed, but such payments may, for special reasons, be waived by the C4eneral Officer Commanding, upon the recommendation of the officer commanding the corps or ship’s company from which the member seeks to be discharged.”
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to -
That the Senate’s amendment be amended by omitting the words “General Officer Commanding, upon the recommendation of the officer commanding the corps or ship’s company from which, the member seeks to be discharged,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “officers authorized by the regulations to waive them,” and be agreed to.
Senate’s amendment inserting new clause 39a agreed to.’
Senate’s amendments in clauses 43, 51, and 52 agreed to.
Senate’s Amendment. - Insert the following new clause : - “54a. (1) When any member of the Defence Force dies or is killed” while on active service, or is killed while in the performance of his duty, or dies from injuries received or disease contracted while on active service, or from injuries received while in the performance of his duty, provision shall be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, at the prescribed rate, for his widow and for his children under sixteen years of age.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed
That the Senate’s amendment be agreed to.
– I think that the amendment of the Senate is open to the objection that it is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. Section 53 of the Constitution provides that -
Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate. . . . ‘.
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation….. The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
It seems to me that the Senate, in- making the provision for families of men killed or incapacitated wider than it was in the original clause are amending a proposed law so as to increase a proposed charge or burden upon the people. I think it will not be contended that, because there is no amount specified, this provision does not impose taxation. The same point arose in regard to the sugar duties, and it was settled adversely to the claim which would be established by the Senate if we accepted this amendment. We cannot be too particular in these matters. If the Senate has not the power, we should not allow any amendment to pass which asserts the right to the exercise of such power. I hope that the Minister will ask the Committee to disagree to the amendment.
– I am sure that the Government desire to preserve the privileges of the House, and this matter, although it may seem a small one, is of tie utmost consequence. We must look with jealousy on all possible attempts by the other branch of the Legislature to invade our sole rights. I do not know that that is the intention, but it is- certainly the effect of the amendment. We made provision for the payment of compensation if certain events arose, and the Senate, in redrafting the clause, and perhaps improving it, have provided for the payment of compensation in cases which we did not contemplate Provision is made that compensation shall be paid for injuries received whilst in the performance of duty, irrespective of active service. The original clause 55 provided that whenever any member of the Defence Force was killed on active service, or on duty, or became incapacitated from earning his living from wounds or disease contracted on active service, provision should be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund at prescribed rates. That does not say anything as to becoming incapacitated by injuries sustained whilst on duty. Of course, the matter is a very simple one ; but a question of principle is involved, and if we allow a precedent to be established, in derogation of our rights, we shall do wrong. The amendment practically provides for an appropriation of revenue. The Senate rejected the clause passed by this House, and proposed a new clause, which we should have had a right to insert, but which they ha ve no right to substitute for ours. If the Senate cannot provide directly for an appropriation of revenue, I do not think they can indirectly declare that revenue shall be appropriated. They say, in this case, that provision shall be made out of the Consolidated Revenue at a prescribed rate. The Senate have no right to insert an amendment which has the effect of imposing an increased charge or burden on the people. Rut that is the effect of their amendment.
– The proposed new clause goes beyond the provision which was contained in the original clause, because it provides that compensation shall be paid to the man himself, whereas the original clause stated that provision should be made for his wife and family.
– That is another point. We should be very . jealous of our constitutional position, because the amendment is undoubtedly a substantial invasion of our rights, and a departure from the principles of the Constitution, which prevent the Senate from increasing the burdens proposed to be imposed by us. I venture to say that honorable members do not desire that a mischievous precedent should be created in derogation of our rights. If we pass the new clause we shall certainly sanction a very undesirable departure.
– I think that it could be contended that the clause, as originally drafted, contained all that is now proposed in the Senate’s amendment; but it must be confessed that the full meaning could be extracted from the original clause only by means of a good deal of ironing out. There is also the danger that the new clause may contain some fresh provision. Perhaps we might overcome the difficulty bv substituting for the words “out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund “ the words, “ moneys provided by Parliament.”
– But you could not get money out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund unless it were provided for by Parliament.
– The words “ money provided by Parliament,” would show that Parliament would require to provide the money in order to give effect to the clause.
– That would not overcome the difficulty as to the proposed increased burden upon the people.
– There would be no increased burden unless Parliament voted the money.
– We should open the way for driving a coach and four through the Constitution. Does the Prime Minister suggest that if we proposed £5,000 the Senate could double the amount.
– But they are proposing to increase the amount by introducing new objects into the clause.
– It might be contended that the new clause did not really extend the objects of the original clause.
– The provision for compensation for injury sustained whilst in the performance of duty undoubtedly widens the scope of the clause.
– But the term “active service “ has a wider meaning than “ on duty.”
– No ; a soldier may be on duty when not on active service.
– I rather think that the right honorable member is correct. The term “ active service “ is defined in the Bill as service in time of war. Perhaps the difficulty might be overcome by substitutingfor the words “out of the Consol ida ted Revenue Fund “ the words “ out ‘ of moneys, if any* from time to time appropriated by Parliament for the purpose.”
– That would open the way for the Senate to direct us as to what we should do with the finances.
– I do not think so. We sent up a clause which was obscurely drawn* and with our consent the clause was redrafted to place its meaning beyond doubt. In some way words have been introduced! which technically increase the ambit of the clause, because it now covers cases which would not have been embraced within* a strict construction of the original clause.
– The result being that an increased burden would be imposed upon the people.
– Not if the clause were amended in the way I suggest.
– But an additional object has been introduced into the clause.
– The Senate could introduce any further object they pleased, solong as no financial result was reached. By adopting the wording I have suggested we shall rob the clause of its financial effect, and leave the appropriation of the necessarymoneys to be dealt with separately. We shall remove the technical objection raised by the right honorable and learned memberfor South Australia.
Mr. KINGSTON (South Australia).- I desire to point out that the Senate are absolutely forbidden to appropriate money. Therefore, the suggestion that because we made a certain proposal, the Senate have the right to reject our proposal, and to substitute one of their own, can hardly be defended. There are two objections to be urged, namely, that the Senate have noright to appropriate money, and that the Constitution provides that the Senate shall not increase the burdens of the people. The Constitution provides that the Senate shall not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden upon the people. We proposed to make certain payments tocertain people under certain circumstances.
The proposal now before us relates to eases which would not be covered by the original proposal. Surely that would involve an increased charge or burden upon the people. It was clearly laid down in connexion with the Sugar Bonus question that any action on the part of the Senate which had a tendency to increase expenditure would amount to a proposal to increase a charge or burden upon the people. In this case the Senate has said, in effect - “The clause is wrongly drafted, and we shall put it in better form. We shall go further. You provide for payments in six cases, but we shall extend the provision to include payments in seven cases.” It is necessary to resist the amendment in order to safeguard the right of this Chamber under the Constitution. I think there are very good reasons for rejecting the clause altogether, and holding the Senate to the position that, as regards the expenditure of money, neither shall theydirecfeiy appropriate nor indirectly require that an appropriation shall be made. This is the House which holds the pursestrings ; this is the Chamber from which must emanate all propositions for the expenditure of money. If there was one provision of the Constitution more than another which was fought over and settled definitely, it was that. It is not for the other Chamber to arrogate to itself a power which is expressly forbidden within the four corners of the Constitution. The Senate is undoubtedly providing for an expenditure which was not contemplated by us. It is imposing an increased burden on the people, and therefore the clause ought not to be accepted by this Committee.
– I shall ask the Committee to strike out the clause rather than leave the question in doubt. I have amended clause 55 to express what we intended by that provision in its original form.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the Senate’s amendment be disagreed to.
Clause 55 -
When any member of the Defence Force is liilled on active service, or on duty, or dies, or becomes incapacitated from earning his living by wounds or disease contracted on active service, provision shall be made for his wife and family out of the consolidated revenue at the prescribed rates.
Senate’s Amendment. - Omit clause.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the Senate’s amendment be disagreed to but that the clause be amended by the insertion after the word “ service,” line 4, of the words “ or on duty,” the omission of the word “ wife,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “widow,” and the insertion after the word “family” of the words “or for himself, as the case may be. “
– Would it not be possible to still further extend this definition ? Under the clause in its present form, if a young soldier, who was the sole , support of his mother and sisters, were killed upon active service, they would have scarcely any claim for compensation. I do not think that the Committee’ intend that in such a case she should derive no benefit.
– I think such a case might be held to be covered by the word “ family.”
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s amendments in clauses 59, 71, 74, 78, 81, and 86 agreed to.
Senate’s amendment inserting new clause 87a agreed to.
Senate’s amendments in clauses 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 105, 107, and 108 agreed to.
Senate’s amendment inserting new clause 108 a agreed to.
Senate’s amendments in clauses 109 and 116 asreed to.
Clause 1 20- (1.) The Governor-General may make regulations . . for securing the discipline and good government of the Defence Force . . . and in particular prescribing matters providing for and in relation to - (a) The establishment and composition of a Board of Advice and the convening procedure and powers of the Board. (3.) All regulations shall be laid before both Houses of the Parliament within thirty days after the making thereof if the Parliament be then sitting, and if not then sitting within thirty days after the next meeting of the Parliament.
Senate’s Amendments. - Omit “and composition of a Board of Advice,” lines 5 and (5, insert “ of a Council of Defence.” Omit “Board,” line 7, insert “ Council.” After paragraph h insert new paragraph ” hh The maintenance, control, regulation, and training of cadet corps.” After paragraph r insert new paragraph ”s The payment of compensation to wives and families of members of the Defence Forces as provided in Part til, division 4, of this Act.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That the Senate’s amendments omitting “and composition of a Board’of Advice,” lines 5 and 6, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ of a Council of Defence,” and omitting “Board,” line 7, and inserting “Council” be disagreed with ; and that the amendments inserting new paragraphs hh and s be agreed to.
Senate’s amendments in second and third schedules agreed to.
Resolutions reported ; report adopted.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That the Minister for Defence, the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, and the mover be appointed a committee to draw up reasons for disagreeing to certain amendments of the Senate.
The Commitee presented the following report : -
As to clause 27 -
As to new clause 54 -
Because clause 55, as now amended, renders this amendment unnecessary.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Probably honorable members have already familiarized themselves »with the proposals which are contained in this measure. At the present time the Imperial Extradition Act of 1870, and the Acts of 1873 and 1895, construed together express the English Statute Law. Of course, extradition arises out of treaties which are made between contracting Powers - the Powers in this case being the mother country and practically all other foreign nations. Under these treaties British legislation has been passed, and it has been possible under it for the several States to so legislate as to apply the British law. The object of our Acts has been to transfer from the Governor of a State, in whom the exercise of the authority under the Imperial Act was vested, to magistrates for the convenience of administration. A question has now arisen as to the effect of the Constitution of the Commonwealth in reference to these powers, and it is proposed to remove all doubts upon the matter by the introduction of this measure. The case in which they presented themselves in a practical shape was that of one Gerhard. The learned judges of . the State of Victoria, before whom the application for his extradition was heard, expressed a doubt as to whether the Constitution of the Commonwealth had or had not deprived the Governors of the States of the exercise of the powers they previously enjoyed. We propose to remove that doubt by treating the Commonwealth as one British possession, by vesting in the GovernorGeneral the authority under the Imperial Act, and by enabling him to appoint his deputies in the States to carry it out. By adopting the system which already obtains in the various States, and applying it to the Commonwealth as a whole, we put the position of persons for whom extradition is asked beyond question. Indeed we go a step further. Amongst the whole of the British possessions Canada is the only one which has set aside British law in respect of this question, and enacted legislation of her own which prescribes not merely the procedure under which the Dominion will grant extraditicm, but provides that application for the extradition of persons who have committed offences within its borders may be made directly to any foreign Power instead of through the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The last clauses of this Bill contain a similar proposal. Following the Canadian Act this measure gives the Commonwealth power toast directly should we need to ask a foreign country to return to us persons who have committed criminal offences within Commonwealth territory. That is the sum and substance of the Bill. In other respects it merely substitutes the Governor-General for the State Governors.
– Can the right honorable gentleman give me an idea of what the offences comprise ?
– As a matter of fact applications for extradition are usually made in connexion with crimes such as embezzlements or frauds. They may, of course, relate to far more serious offences.
– Clause 3 refers to the Imperial Act, which we have not before us,, and therefore we do not know the meaning of it. Is that convenient?
– It is by the authority of that Act that we are passing this law. Tt is therefore necessary
– Is an extradition crime “ among the terms which are defined in the Imperial Extradition Act?
– We use the term 11 extradition crime “ in clause 6, and we do not know from anything in the Bill what it means. If the provision in the Imperial Act were repeated it would avoid questions as to the nature of the crimes to which this term applies.
– My right honorable friend suggests that we should repeat the definition in the English Act, so that those upon whom it falls to administer this law will have no difficulty in regard to it.
– The English Act is always tied up among a lawyer’s papers for the purpose of reference. It is never incorporated in an Australian Act relating to it.
– No doubt it would have been found a convenience had the course suggested by the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, been adopted ; but, after all, no proceedings under this Act would ever be taken except under legal advice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time..
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
– I am anxious to know, before we proceed any further with the consideration of the Bill, what it will embrace. Suppose, for example, that some socialist from Germany had the temerity to say that the reigning head there had overstepped his rights-
– We do not grant extradition for offences of a purely political nature.
– An assertion such as that to which I have referred would be a crime in Germany, and if an application were made for the extradition of a man in respect of a crime of a political nature, without any statement to that effect, how would the question be decided 1 I wish to know exactly how we stand.
– The Court has to be satisfied in each case of the nature of the charge which is made. In addition to that there are two classes of cases in respect of which extradition will not be granted. In the first place, a fugitive criminal will not be surrendered if the offence in respect of which his surrender is demanded is one of a political character. The offence in respect of which the extradition is sought must be against the ordinary criminal laws . of the
I country to which the offender is to be sur- I rendered. Secondly, it is provided in the Imperial Act that a fugitive criminal shall I not be surrendered to a foreign State unless provision is made, by the law of that State, or by agreement, that he shall I not be tried in respect of any offence I committed prior to that with which he is charged. As the honorable member is aware, one of the most honorable phases of i the foreign policy of Great Britain has been its consistent refusal to surrender offenders charged with merely political offences. To make assurance doubly sure, there is the further enactment that a fugitive shall be surrendered only on condition that the law of cbe country to which he is surrendered provides that he shall not be tried for any offence committed prior to that with which he is charged.
Mr. KINGSTON (South Australia).I wish to know whether this clause is in the usual form ? It provides that the Act shall come into force from the date of the proclamation of the King’s Order in Council. I do not know how the form usually runs, but we might not wish the Act to come into operation as from the date of the proclamation. We might desire it to come into force from a date fixed in the King’s order, or in the proclamation itself. There is no power given to the King or the Government to fix as the date upon which this measure shall come into, operation a date other than that of the proclamation. The honorable and learned member knows that we usually take power to fix the date of the coming into operation of an Act by proclamation ; but under this provision our hands will be tied.
– My reading of the clause is that the measure will come into operation on the date of the proclamation.
– But it cannot be directed that it shall come into operation on a date subsequent to that of the proclamation.
– It will come into operation on the date on which the GovernorGeneral makes known by proclamation that the King has directed that the Act shall have effect in the Commonwealth as if it were part of the Extradition Act, 1870. It is true that we cannot provide that the Act shall come into force on a date subsequent to that of the proclamation, and so give notice that it will come into operation on a particular day ; but we can keep back the issue of the proclamation until we think that the States have received sufficient notice.
– We shall have no power to give notice by fixing the date by proclamation.
– No ; but we shall have power to hold back the proclamation until the date on which we wish to declare that the Act shall come into force.
– Even then it would be sprung upon the public.
– We shall, of course, intimate to the States Governments ‘our intention to publish the proclamation on a particular date and the communications which will pass between the States and the Commonwealth will operate as a notice to magistrates and others affected by this measure. We shall in that way attain the object which the right honorable member has in view.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Terms defined in Imperial Extradition Acts)
Mr. KINGSTON (South Australia).The Prime Minister has probably by this time secured a copy of the Imperial Act setting forth the definition of the term “ extradition crime.” I suggest, and the little debate which has taken place shows the necessity for it, that it would be highly desirable if instead of referring the public to an Imperial Act, which may not be available - and, as a matter of fact, it is very difficult as a rule to obtain the Imperial Acts in some places - we repeated the definitions, particularly of the words “extradition crime,” given in the English Act. If the Prime Minister has a copy of the Act in front of him he might give us the benefit of the definition of that term.
– I have a copy of the English Act, and it sets forth that-
The term “ extradition crime” means a crime which, if committed in England or within English jurisdiction, would be one of the crimes described in the first schedule to this Act.
The list of crimes is set out in the schedule, and it is a very lengthy one.
– It would be well for the honorable and learned member to read it, in order that it may be embodied in Hansard.
– The schedule provides that -
The following list of crimes is to be construed according to the law existing in England or in a
British possession (as the case may be) at the date of the alleged crime, whether by common law or by statute made before oralfter the passing of this Act i Murder, and attempt and conspiracy to murder ; manslaughter ; counterfeiting, and alteringmoney, and uttering counterfeit or altered money ; forgery, counterfeiting and altering, and uttering what is forged or counterfeit or altered ; embezzlement or larceny ; obtaining money or goods by false pretences ; crimes by bankrupts against bankruptcy law ; fraud by a bailee, banker, agent, factor, trustee, or director, or member, or public officer of any company made criminal by any Act for the time being in force ; rape, abduction, child-stealing, burglary and housebreaking, arson, robbery with violence, threats by letter or otherwise with intent to extort, piracy by law of nations, sinking or destroying a vessel at sea, or attempting or conspiring to do so ; assaults on board a ship on the high seas with intent to destroy life, or to do grievous bodily harm ; revolt or conspiracy to revolt by two or more persons on board a ship on the high seas, against the authority of the master.
All this is provided for in the Act of 1870 ; but the Act of 1S73, 36 and 37 Victoria, chapter 60, provides that -
The following list of crimes is to be construed according to the law existing in England . .: - Kidnapping and false imprisonment; perjury and subornation of perjury.
Then follow a series of acts relating to larceny and the malicious destruction of property. They are all serious offences. In every treaty a list of the crimes to which it relates is enumerated ; and, as a rule, simple thefts - I know it is the case so far as the Netherlands are concerned - are excluded. Only the higher and more serious offences are covered by the term “ extradition crime.” I think that the Prime Minister has followed the proper course in declaring in the Bill that we are acting under the authority of the Imperial statute, because we shall thus have the benefit of the English decisions to guide us.
– It is highly inconvenient to have to refer to the English Act for the meaning of certain terms.
– It would be advantageous if, in the publication of the Commonwealth statutes, the rule adopted in Queensland were followed. Imperial statutes affecting Australian relationships are always included in the volumes of Queensland statutes.
– We should either adopt that course or insert the necessary parts of the English Act in this Bill, otherwise a man will find it necessary to go to a lawyer in order to ascertain to what cases the Act applies.
– In order to set out all the definitions, we should practically have to re-enact a great portion of the Imperial statute ; but it would be a great advantage if, in the -next edition of Commonwealth statutes, Imperial Acts with reference to which we have legislated were reprinted.
– We did that with regard to the Constitution of South Australia, and we have also bound up the Commonwealth Constitution with our State Acts.
– The more convenient plan to adopt in this case would be to reprint the Imperial Acts and bind them up with our statutes.
– I would ask the Prime Minister either to make the Imperial Acts bearing upon this Bill available to those who will have to use the measure by binding them up with it, or to adopt what I think would be the simpler method, and repeat in the Bill itself those definitions which have a special meaning under the Imperial statute. I think that the most important of them is the definition of the term “extradition crime.” If in placing this law in the hands of the people we render it necessary for them to search through the Imperial legislation in order to arrive at the meaning of our statute, we shall adopt a regrettable procedure. I am inclined to think that it would be sufficient to incorporate in this Bill the definition of the words “extradition crime,” although as I have not the Imperial Act before me I am in the dark so far as this question is concerned.
– It is provided in the Imperial Act of 1870 that-
The term “extradition crime” means a crime which, if committed in England or within English jurisdiction, would be one of the crimes described in the first schedule to this Act.
The first schedule gives the list of offences which the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has just read. The suggestion made by the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, appears to be reasonable - that is to say, that we should attach to this Act, not exactly as a schedule, but for purposes of information, the definition to which he has alluded, and any other definition or list of offences which may appear to throw light upon its provisions. Extradition proceedings cannot be taken without the assistance of a lawyer, and are not matters with which the ordinary citizen is greatly concerned.
– They are ako very technical proceedings.
– Why use a term that challenges attention t
– I will take care that something of the kind proposed is done, just as we have inserted in some of our Commonwealth legislation extracts from - the Constitution.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 7 agreed to.
Mr. KINGSTON (South Australia).- Is the Prime Minister satisfied that it is sufficiently clear that the Attorney-General referred to in clause 6 is the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, and not of a State ?
– I think it is clear. Preamble agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The introduction of this measure has been rendered necessary by the reduction of the number of Justices of the High Court. The provisions of the High Court Procedure Act were framed upon the assumption that there would be five Judges, one of whom would be always at the principal registry. Section 8 of the Act provides that any party to a cause in the High Court may at any time apply to the Court for an order transferring the cause from the registry in which it is pending, if that is not the principal registry, to the principal or some nearer registry, to allow of the decision of some interlocutory matter before the visit of a Justice to the district registry, so as to prevent delay and save expense ; but in drawing up the rules, it has been found that with the curtailment of the number of Justices it will be impossible for one Justice to be always at the principal registry. Consequently, I propose to amend the original Act so that whenever a party to a cause desires to make application to the Court, and no Justice is present in the place where the registry in which the cause pending is situated, he may have his cause transferred to some other registry where a Justice is present. It will be noticed by the legal members of the House that this is an absolute provision for the granting of ex parte applications as a matter of course, and it may be contended that it is liable to be availed of for vexatious purposes. My reply is that it is impossible, owing to the infinite variety of the causes in regard to which it may be thought desirable to make use of the provision, to frame any other. The safeguard is that the question of costs is entirely in the hands of the Court, which will have power to punish any attempt to use the provision for other than legitimate purposes. The provision is necessary to give greater elasticity of procedure for dealing with cases arising all over the Commonwealth by a small number of Justices. A cause may arise in Victoria, and no Justice may be available in Melbourne to hear any interim application. A party to the cause may, therefore, have it -transferred for the purpose of some interim application to the registry in Sydney or Adelaide, or wherever a Justice is sitting, so that it may be ripe for trial when a Justice is due to sit in the Melbourne registry. The Bill enables the machinery already in existence to be worked more easily for the benefit of litigants.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
– I agree with the Prime Minister that this is a remedy which we should afford to litigants ; but I do not accept the reasons which he has given for the introduction of the Bill. As it was intended that the High Court should sit in Banco at Brisbane, there would have been no Justice at the principal Registry at times, even had there been five Justices instead of only three.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I would suggest to the Prime Minister that in future it may be advisable to adopt, in regard to amending Bills, some such practice as has been adopted in Queensland, to prevent the necessity for consolidating statutes. Under section 26 of the Queensland Elections Act of 1897, it is provided that in future the Government Printer shall embody amending statutes in the original Act, so as to make the publication practically a consolidated statute. The arrangement is a great convenience to those who have to deal with Acts which have been amended.
– I think the suggestion an excellent one.
– I am glad that the suggestion has been made. I referred to the matter early last session - I think when the Acts Interpretation Bill was before us. To my mind, it is an inconvenient arrangement to have amending Acts printed separately from the original Act, because it makes our legislation difficult for people to follow. The honorable member for Darling Downs has shown us how the Queensland Parliament has got over the difficulty, and I think that the adoption of a similar system here, or the passing of an Act for the consolidation of amending Acts with the original Acts, would prove a great public convenience. In New South Wales there is a whole series of Acts amending the Land Act, so that unless one has a lawyer’s annotated copy, it is extremely difficult to know what the law upon the subject is. If we can obviate the present inconvenience it will be a wise thing to do.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 and preamble agreed to. Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests) :
Divisions 1 to 10, £30,207.
Senate’s requests. - That the salary of the Clerk of the Papers and Accountant £380, be increased to £420 ; the salary of the Shorthand Writer and Typist £188, be increased to £200 ; the salary of the Housekeeper and Doorkeeper £205, be increased to £235 ; and that the salary of the President’s Messenger £188, be increased to £204.
– The Senate has requested certain amendments in the second schedule of the Bill. They are four in number, and they relate solely to the officers attached to that Chamber. It is requested that the salary of the Clerk of Papers and Accountant shall be increased from £380 to £420, that the salary of the Shorthandwriter and Typist shall be increased from £188 to £200, that the payment to the Housekeeper and Doorkeeper shall be increased from £205 to £235, and that the provision for the President’s messenger shall be increased from £1S8 to£204. The figures proposed to be inserted are those which appeared in the original Estimates. In other words, we are now asked by the Senate to restore the Estimates to their original form. The reductions were made by this Committee on the ground that the number of members in the other Chamber was smaller than in this House, and that, consequently, the work to be performed by the officers was not so great as that devolving upon the officers here.
– The reasons why the items were challenged was that they provided for increases of salary.
– Yes. I find on inquiry that although it is obviously true that there are twice as many members in this House as in the other Chamber, it was not noticed at the time that the matter was discussed in this Committee that the number of officers affected connected with the other Chamber was much smaller than the number holding similar positions attached to this House. There is only one Clerk of Papers, whereas there are two officers performing similar duties on this side. Then, again, as against three messengers on the Senate side, there are five on this side, and if this part of the staff of the other Chamber be taken as a whole, it will be found that it has little more than half the strength of the staff of this House. That aspect of the matter did not appear to be considered during the short discussion which took place in this Chamber. It was assumed that an attempt was being made to increase the salaries of officers on the other side, irrespective of the fact that their duties were less onerous than those performed by the officers of this Chamber. Apart from that consideration, however, I would ask honorable members to consider the attitude which should be assumed with regard to the officers and attendants of the other Chamber. Are proposals made in connexion with the officers of this Chamber to be subject to review elsewhere, and are proposals upon reasonable lines with regard to officers in another place to be scrutinized here ? That is a matter which I think honorable members may very well consider. In regard to the public expenditure generally the powers and privileges of this House are laid down and carefully defined in the Constitution, and it is absolutely necessary that they should be preserved in order to secure the harmonious working of the Constitution. But I think that we may fairly regard from a distinct point of view matters relating to the immediate expenditure upon the Parliamentary staffs. Honorable members are brought into association with the officers of this Chamber, and see their work and know how they are occupied, and surely they are in a better position to judge of their claims than the members of another place can be. If that argument be sound, as applied to this Chamber, it can surely be appropriately applied to the other House in regard to this special matter. This is not a question in regard to which the ordinary procedure need be followed, because if there is any matter with which honorable members in another .place may be regarded as specially acquainted, and upon which they are specially entitled to be heard, it is in regard to their own officers and the remuneration to be paid to them. Without attempting to lay down any hard and fast principle, I would suggest that what may be termed the courtesies to be observed between the Chambers might be well established, if it were recognised generally that in regard to proposals relating to the officers of this House honorable members were entitled to the first and practically the last word, without regard to the fact that another Chamber required to be consulted. In the same way, the wishes of members in another place within ordinary and reasonable limits should be similarly regarded, and they should be credited with the same direct and personal knowledge of the duties and value of the services of their officers.
– Is not that reducing the whole thing to a farce? Is it not absurd to contend that we must not say anything regarding a matter which affects the Senate ?
– I contend that the expenditure with which we are dealing occupies a position different from any other. We should be regarded as specially competent to deal with the expenditure which takes place under our own eyes, and members in another place should be looked upon as quite capable of managing the affairs relating to their own officers.
– But they are subject to more pressure than we are from their officers, and we ought to check them, whilst, on the other hand, they ought to check us.
– If that attitude were assumed it would not conduce to those harmonious relations which should be sustained between the two Chambers.
– Does the Prime Minister mean to say that we are not more familiar with the duties of the officers of the Senate than with those discharged by the great majority of the public servants ?
– Probably we are, but that does not affect the question.
– The principle is that the officers who do the most work should receive the most pay.
– But the Senate staff is not nearly so large as ours.
– The Senate officers have not to work such long hours as have our officers.
– Perhaps the burden upon them is not so great ; but still it must not be forgotten that a fewer number of officers have to discharge these duties. Increases provided for at the request and by the advice of the Senate and its officers, should receive the most considerate attention from this Chamber. The amount involved is trivial. The Government in the first place were satisfied that the increases proposed were reasonable, and after honorable members in another place have by a large majority requested that this House should agree to the restoration of the salaries to the amount originally proposed, it appears to me desirable that we should grant the concession. That is the least that courtesy demands.
– But is it the right course to adopt ?
– Yes, I think it is, under the circumstances.
– Do these officers get through as much work in proportion as do our officers?
– I am sure that they are not overpaid.
An Honorable Member. - They are not underpaid.
– I hope not. I should be very sorry to think that any public servant was underpaid. I would point out to honorable members that it is not proposed to increase salaries which are already large. The officers concerned have been engaged for many years in the State service, and none of them receive large salaries. The whole amount involved does not reach the I sum of £100. An opportunity is now ‘ presented to us to perform a graceful and at the same time a just act.
– I think that the number of officers on each side is the same.
– I am speaking upon the strength of the statements which were made during a debate in the other Chamber. It was clearly stated that the staffs affected by these proposals were considerably smaller than similar staffs in this House.
– The total number of officers employed upon the Senate staff is sixteen, as against nineteen who are employed upon the staff of this House.
– We voted- increases in the salaries of some officers of this House to the amount of £70, and struck off increases which were proposed in the salaries of officers elsewhere to the extent of £98. I do not think that the difference between the number of officers employed upon the Senate staff and those employed upon the staff of this House is as small as the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, seems to think. The official statement upon the matter, which I venture to believe is correct, reads as follows : -
But leaving out the Clerks at the table and the Serjeant-at-Arms in the one case, and the Usher of the Black Bod in the other, there are five men in the House of Representatives to do work which is done by two men in the Senate. In the House of Representatives there is a Clerk of Papers and Accountant at £420, and a Clerk of Records at £350. W e have no such corresponding officer as the Clerk of Records. In the House of Representatives there is an Assistant Clerk of Committees and Reading Clerk at £300, and we have no such corresponding officer. We have a shorthandwriter and typist at £180, and there is no such corresponding officer in the House of Representatives. There is an Assistant Reading Clerk at £200, and a junior clerk at £80, and we have no such corresponding officers. It will be seen, as 1 say, that there are fi ve officers in the House of Representatives to do work which is done by two officers in the Senate, and the officers of the House of Representatives receive £1,350 per annum, as compared with £568 paid to officers of the Senate.
That statement shows that there is a very considerable discrepancy between the cost of the staffs of the two Houses. Under these circumstances I hope that honorable members will agree to reconsider their former decision in favour of a reduction. If they do so we shall dispose of a question which has its difficulties, because it relates to the control of officers by each House. I therefore move -
That the Senate’s requests be agreed to.
– I think that every honorable member will recognise the conciliatory attitude which the Prime Minister has adopted upon this question. It is not my intention to discuss its constitutional aspect. No doubt honorable members have their opinions regarding the power of the Senate to fix the salaries of its own officers if it think fit to do so.
– It has not that power.
– The Senate has no more exclusive power in that matter than it has in any other public matter.
– I admit that.
– How the honorable gentleman can dissociate high constitutional principles from the action of the other Chamber because it relates to officers of the Senate, I cannot understand. A distinct majority of this Committee intimated to the Treasurer that these increases should not be paid. The Treasurer thereupon affirmed that he would accept the vote which had been arrived at as a declaration as to the reduced salaries which these officers were to receive. I do not say that the officers in question are not worthy of a higher remuneration if we were in a position to pay it. They may be worth twice their present salaries, but they are not worth them to a poor Commonwealth which is crying out every day that it can scarcely meet its engagements. Take the case of Queensland as an example. How many people with a university education in that State have earned £200 a year during the arduous period through which they have recently passed ? We should be treating this matter in a way which would be quite unworthy of us if we did not openly express our opinions. There are other parliamentary officers who no doubt doubt perform their work in a most admirable manner, and personally I . should be exceedingly glad to give them an increase of salary. But these are hard times, and this Chamber having emphasized its opinion upon the question of increases generally that opinion ought to prevail. I should be verymuch surprised if honorable members now went back upon the attitude which they adopted when these Estimates were introduced. I am exceedingly sorry that the Treasurer is not in his place, because he at least understands what is the position. I desire to distinctly disavow any intention, in any remarks which I have made, to make an attack upon the Senate. I merely claim that we are here as the custodians of the public purse, and that if we neglect to inform the other Chamber of our views upon this matter, we shall fail to discharge the highest obligation which attaches to our position. Whilst we all sympathize with the conciliatory spirit which has been evinced by the Prime Minister, I trust that none of us will give way merely for the sake of keeping peace. There is no peace to ‘ be found in such tactics, and there never can be. If we permit the Senate to successfully assume this position once, it will certainly repeat its action in the future. I trust that the Prime Minister will withdraw from the attitude which he has taken up, and will indorse the sound and constitutional principle of adhering to the expressed will of this House.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay has referred to Australia as a “ poor Commonwealth.” I admit that it is poor ; but at the same time I do not think that an expenditure of £98 will ruin it. I altogether object to the reasons which have been advanced by the Prime Minister as to why we should agree to the request of the Senate. We have been told that a good Chairman of Committees is a man who never assigns reasons for his action. Certainly the Prime Minister in attempting to offer reasons for the course which he proposes has placed himself in an extremely awkward position. He has declared that the amount involved is a trivial one. I thoroughly agree with him. He also affirms that the officers of the Senate deserve the increases which are proposed. In such circumstances why did he not defend them when these items were previously under consideration 1 I did not vote for the reduction. But when the Prime Minister informs us that the request to reinstate these increases carries with it a policy of “ Hands off the Senate “ in return for the Senate keeping its hands off the House of Representatives, I cannot indorse his proposal.
– I said within “ reasonable” limits.
– Who is going to define the meaning of that adjective? I believe that the officers of the Senate earn their salaries and that the amount which it was proposed tq grant them under these Estimates was small enough. The Government therefore should have defended them. Under the circumstances, however, I cannot support the proposition which has been laid down by the Prime Minister.
– Every honorable member will agree with the statement that the officers attached to the staff of the other Chamber are subjects of dual control. At the same time we cannot forget that they are servants of the Senate.
– Of the Commonwealth.
– They are servants of the Commonwealth absolutely ; but they are also servants of the Senate. If the other House is not fit to manage half-a-dozen officers, what is it fit to do 1 To me it always appears to be unwise to fight great principles upon small occasions. To induce the people to interest themselves in any great cause, we must appeal to their imagination ; but the sum of £98, would not appeal to the imagination of a wombat. We desire, as far as we can, to be fair to our officers. It is very rauch more important that we should be fair to them than that we should quarrel with the Senate over a small question of detail! I find that the Clerk of Papers in the Senate was appointed to the State service upon the 17th March, 1890, whilst the Clerk of Papers in the House of Representatives entered the service upon the 1st August, 1883. No doubt they are excellent officers, since they both come from the State of New South Wales. A position was offered to a senior officer in the House of Representatives and he accepted it. His junior was subsequently offered a similar position in the Senate, and he likewise accepted the offer. It now appears that the junior officer will receive as high a’ salary as does the senior officer who accepted the position in the House of Representatives. I do not say that that is unjust. If the President thinks that the officer in question is worthy of a higher salary we shall no doubt be pleased to see him obtain it ; but the point is that, rightly or wrongly, it is generally presumed that service in the Senate ranks higher than does service in the House of Representatives, inasmuch as it involves less work and less pressure upon the energy of the individual. If the Senate chose to give a man £150 a year for doing less work than we should expect to be discharged for that remuneration, we should have to bow to its judgment, unless we were prepared to quarrel with it. If the Clerk of the House of Representatives felt that he would be promoted by being transferred to the Senate, and if other officers in this Chamber considered that they would obtain legitimate promotion by being transferred to another place
– Why should they? Higher salaries should be paid to the officers of this House.
– The Clerk of the House of Representatives would accept a position in the Senate if the opportunity offered. I presume that officers of the House of Representatives consider that transfer to the Senate means promotion, and, therefore, an officer joining the Senate staff obtains priority over an officer of the House of Representatives. Obviously, from a comparative stand-point, an officer of the House of Representatives in those conditions would be treated unjustly.
– That would be a good argument for the reduction of salaries in another place.
– The honorable member thinks that any argument is a good one for the reduction of salaries. Would it not be possible to suggest to the President and Mr. Speaker that an arrangement should be made to determine the seniority of officers of the Parliament. If that course were adopted, some injustice would be avoided, and the whole matter would be placed upon a fairer basis than at present.
– In view of the emphatic vote taken on this question in Committee of Supply a week or two ago, I am rather surprised to learn that the Government propose to agree to the request made by another place.
– I showed that there were certain grounds for the adoption of this course, to which no allusion was made on the occasion to- which the honorable member refers.
– I do not think that they are likely to alter the position as put forward on that occasion. The point was not that the officers in question might not be worth higher salaries. It was that in the first place their salaries had been fixed on what was considered only two years ago to be a fair basis. I do not object so much to the amount of money as to the principle involved, namely, that every year or two increases are to be made in the salaries of the officers of these Chambers. I emphatically object to that position. I should not mind the salary of an officer who had rendered long service to the Commonwealth, -and whose responsibilities had increased from time to time, being raised at the end of occasional long periods. It is proposed, however, that at the expiration of two years from the date of their appointment these officers in the Senate should be placed on a level with the officers of the House of Representatives. Even allowing for the fact that there are one or two additional officers connected with this Chamber, I still contend that the officers of another place have not nearly so much work to do. It is well known that the Senate does not sit as regularly as we do. We cannot expect the Senate to be kept going as regularly and as continuously as is this Chamber. All large measures involving taxation and expenditure must originate in this House, and consequently much longer sittings will be. the rule in this Chamber as compared with another place, and we shall always have a much greater amount of work to perform. As to the suggestion put forward by the President that we have no right to touch the salaries of officers in the Senate, I would say in the first place that in dealing with the Estimates we did not have before us any expression of opinion on the part of another place as to what these salaries should be. It would also appear that a number of senators take the view that we had no right to. touch the Estimates relating to that Chamber, and that whatever was suggested, not by the Senate, but by the House Committee, ought to have been accepted by us. This Chamber has absolute control over the public purse, and, apart from any question of merit which may be involved, I consider that as a matter of principle we should resent the attempt on the part of another place to dictate to us what these salaries shall be. I have not a word to say against the ability of the officers concerned1, but it is altogether wrong that we should have these increases of salaries forced upon us at frequent intervals. If we accept this principle on the present occasion, we may be asked next year, on the initiative of either Mr. Speaker or the President, to increase salaries which, to say the least of them are already reasonable. I trust, therefore, that honorable members will repeat the vote which they gave when dealing with the Estimates a week or two ago. The Committee was then emphatic in declaring its objection to the proposed increases, and I trust that it will be equally emphatic on the present occasion.
– The variety of reasons which have been put forward in support of the granting of these increased salaries has caused me some astonishment. I am sure that any honorable member, if convinced that these officers were called upon to do the same amount of work as that discharged by the officers of this Chamber, would be perfectly ready to grant these increases. There has been a failure, however, to show that they do the same amount of work, even although there are three officers less in the Senate than in the House of Representatives. If I understand the position rightly, when this matter was first brought before the Committee, the increases, were urged on the ground that the Senate considered that its officers should be paid salaries as high as those received by officers holding corresponding positions in this House. It was apparently on that ground that the reductions were made. I do not see that there is any reason for such a contention on the part of another place. I should not object to an officer of the Senate receiving a higher salary than that paid to an officer of this House holding similar rank if it could be shown that he performed more work, and the same principle should apply to officers of this House. If they do more work than do the officers of the Senate they should certainly receive a higher salary. The Prime Minister to-night based his contention on what is a wholly bad principle, namely, that each Chamber should be left to deal with its own officers as it sees fit.
– Within reasonable limits.
– If that principle were accepted we should have a discussion every year as to what were reasonable limits. I think that we must exercise our control over the expenditure in connexion with another Chamber, just as fully as we do in relation to the expenditure of this House, or of any branch of the Public Service. The stress laid by the Prime Minister upon the argument to which I have referred renders it almost impossible for the Committee to accept his proposal, because it would be understood that in doing so we had adopted the argument on which it was based.’ The one good reason which the honorable and learned gentleman put forward in support of his proposition has not been substantiated to the full satisfaction of the Committee. It is stated that equal work is performed by certain officers in both Houses, but I fail to see that such can be the case. If that statement were true, I certainly should not object to similar salaries being paid to the officers in each Chamber, but in the circumstances which I have related I do not see my way clear to support the Prime Minister’s proposal.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- I would respectfully suggest to the Prime Minister that he should allow this matter to stand over until to-morrow.
– Let us deal with it at once. ‘
– It is a very important question, and we wish to ascertain the full reasons given by the Senate for making this request. We have agreed to the adjournment of the House on far less important considerations.
Mr. KINGSTON (South Australia).I think that we occupy a rather happy position in relation to this matter. The position is certainly somewhat different in the State from which I come. In the South Australian Constitution there is practically a provision requiring that the salaries of the various officers of the two Houses of Parliament shall be somewhat similar. Here we have nothing of the sort. I venture to suggest that we should undoubtedly treat the suggestions of the Senate with every courtesy. At the same time, in justice to the public, and in the proper discharge of our duties if we hold strong opinions we should certainly give effect to them, just as we should expect the Senate to do. The amount that is spent in respect of salaries in the Senate - a much smaller body than is the House of Representatives, and a body which has certainly not the same amount of work to perform - is out of proportion to the expenditure of this House. I would call attention to one or two little matters to which the honorable member for North Sydney has, to some extent, already addressed himself. Speaking generally, the House of Representatives has twice as much work to do as has the Senate ; but the only difference in the number of men on the respective staffs is a difference of three. Sixteen officers are engaged in the Senate and nineteen in the House of Representatives. As regards the cost, the House of Representatives, whose officers have twice the amount of work to perform, incurs an expenditure of about £6,800, while the Senate expenditure amounts to about £6,000.
The smaller body, which does less work, costs within 12£ per cent, of the cost of the larger body. I am inclined to think that there is a disposition to* introduce here the South Australian system. It is most desirable that the South Australian example should be followed in many cases, but this is not one of them. Do honorable members think it necessary that the Senate, with half the number of members to be attended to, should have the services of the same number of messengers as we have 1 Yet I find between £1,300 and £1,400 in the schedule for eight Senate messengers. The increases requested are not reasonable, and I venture to think that the Senate will not be disposed to find fault with us in exercising our undoubted right and duty in refusing to grant them.
Department of Home Affairs.
Divisions 18 to 24, £213,739.
Senate’s Bequest. - That the number of Superin tendents of Works be reduced to two, and the aggregate salaries to £1,200.
– I move-
That the Senate’s request be agreed to.
My honorable colleague, the Minister for Home Affairs, finds, upon reconsideration, that the appointment of two superintendents will not be necessary during the present year.
– Then why were they asked for?
– Because it was contemplated that more work would be undertaken than we now see our way to carry out during the financial year. Certain changes must take place before these appointments are made.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported ; report adopted.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments.)
– The Senate have made two amendments in the schedule to this Bill. In division 4, subdivisions 2 and 4, the following items appear : -
Telegraph line from Melbourne to South Australian border, owing to the use of the line having been granted to the Eastern Extension Company in connexion with international traffic, £5,043.
Additional wires from Adelaide to New South Wales and Victorian borders, owing to the use of lines having been granted to the Eastern Extension Company in connexion with international traffic, £6,000.
The Senate have struck out all the words after the word “ border” in the first item, and all the words after the word “ borders “ in the second item. These words merely constitute explanations which it was not necessary to insert in the Bill, but which were placed there to afford information to honorable members of both Houses. Now that they have served their purpose, I see no reason why the Senate’s amendments should not be agreed to. I therefore move -
That the Senate’s amendments be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported report adopted.
– Do I understand that the Senate have made amendments in a Bill for the ordinary annual services of the year 1
– I have looked into the point, and I find that the Bill is clearly not a measure providing for the ordinary annual services of the year, but an appropriation for the purposes of additions to new works and buildings.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I hope that to-morrow honorable members will find leisure to deal with the proposed new Standing Orders. The Standing Orders Committee, which represents every party in the House, has, after devoting a great deal of time to their consideration, both last session and this, unanimously approved of them.
– Were they not circulated some weeks ago?
– Yes ; but some minor alterations have since been made. Copies of the Standing Orders, as finally amended, will be circulated to-morrow.
– -I hope that the Prime Minister will not ask us to undertake the task of passing the Standing Orders at this stage of the session. They will have to be looked into and criticised very carefully.
– Copies of them were circulated some time ago.
– Yes, but the statement was made that there was no likelihood of dealing with them this session, and consequently honorable members have not familiarized themselves with them.
– If we adopt the proposed Standing Orders we can afterwards alter any that we find inconvenient.
– It is not an easy thing to alter Standing Orders. In my opinion it would be a hopeless task to begin their consideration at this stage of the session. We should not be asked to undertake that duty until we have an opportunity to consider them fully. I, and I daresay other honorable members, have not looked at them, because, in view of the statement of the late Prime Minister, we understood that there was no likelihood of dealing with them this session.
– They have met with the unanimous approval of the Committee.
– The House must not abrogate its functions merely because a Committee is unanimous.
– But the fact is a strong recommendation.
– What chance have we of passing the proposed Standing Orders if they are to be questioned one by one, perhaps for want of an opportunity to thoroughly study them beforehand ? I would urge upon the Prime Minister the undesirability of dealing with the matter this session. We have conducted our work under the draft Standing Orders without difficulty. Even allowing for the few circumstances which might be mentioned as not quite bearing out that statement, the business of the House has been conducted satisfactorily, during the long and trying sittings of this Parliament, under the temporary Standing Orders. We shall not have had a fair opportunity to consider the new Standing Orders if they are to be dealt with to-morrow.
– A large number of them are identical with those in use in other Parliaments, and will be accepted without question.
– I am not certain that they will be. We should at least have an opportunity to fully consider the whole of the Standing Orders, not only separately, but in their relation one to the other. It was represented that there was no likelihood of our being asked to deal with them during this Parliament, and I think that a strong protest will be justified if any attempt is made to proceed with them at this stage of the session.
– I would point out to the honorable member that it is now over twelve months since the new Standing Orders were first laid upon the table. About five months ago they were again presented to honorable members in a slightly revised form, and the late Prime Minister stated that, if an opportunity presented itself, honorable members would be invited to consider them. Further than that, honorable members were asked to make any suggestions which they might deem desirable, in order that the Standing Orders Committee might take them into consideration. I do not think, however, that a solitary suggestion was received, and it was naturally supposed that the proposed Orders met with general approval. It would be wise, if possible, to dispose of the Standing Orders this session rather than leave them to be discussed by the new Parliament. I do not think that honorable members will find in them very much to cavil at. I attended almost every meeting of the Committee, which unanimously adopted the Standing Orders in the form in which they were finally laid upon the table. I hope that honorable members will consent to deal with them to-morrow.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Inter-State certificate system has been, or is to be, abolished. Some few weeks ago it was reported that the present system was to be discontinued early in the present month, but I find that it is still in vogue. I wish to know whether the harassing and annoying’ regulations now in force are to be done away with.
– There is some difficulty in the way of dispensing with Interestate certificates. The two-year period mentioned in the Constitution expired on the 8th of this month. The duties which were formerly collected between the various States are no longer being levied, and for that purpose the Inter-State certificates are no longer necessary. But they are still required to facilitate the financial adjustments between the States, which must be continued for five years after the imposition of uniform
Customs duties. If the Inter-State certificates were abolished, some other system would have to be adopted in their place. I have communicated with the Treasurer with a view to ascertain whether it is not possible to make arrangements which will afford greater freedom. So far we have not been able to devise any means, but I expect a recommendation from the Customs officers to-morrow which will perhaps enable me to partially, if not wholly, do away with the certificates. Some of the States object to the abolition of the certificates, because they are afraid, and perhaps with reason, that in the absence of the check they afford they would not receive full credit for the duties upon goods imported into other States, but consumed within their borders. I can assure the honorable member that if possible a less irritating system will be adopted.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question in reference to the statement just made by the Minister for Trade and Customs, to the effect that the two-year period fixed for the collection of Inter-State duties expired on the Sth of this month. If the same principle be applied to section 93 of the Constitution, the five-year period there specified will begin, not from the date upon which the Customs Tariff Act ‘received the Royal Assent, but from the- date upon which the Tariff was first brought into operation. I admit that the construction of the section depends upon the meaning to be attached to the word “imposition.” If the imposition of Custom duties were held to date from the time at which the Royal Assent was given to the Customs Tariff Act, the State of Queensland, which is at present drawing a large revenue from the duties upon goods imported into New South Wales, would have her rights conserved for a year longer than if the five-year period were to date from Sth October, 1901. Probably the matter is one for the interpretation of the High Court. The matter was incidentally mentioned recently by the Chief Justice of Queensland.
– The question wi 1 assume a verv acute form in connexion with section 95.
– No doubt ; but I am now dealing with section 93. The Minister for Trade and Customs apparently assumes that there will be no dispute as to the time at which the two-year period commenced ; but I hope that he will bear in mind the possibility of another construction being placed upon the word “ imposition.” Queensland would lose a very considerable amount of revenue unless her interests were conserved for the full five-year period. I desire to impress upon the Prime Minister that as regards the construction of section 93 for the purposes of the collection of duty in the future, the five-year period should date from the time at which the Customs Tariff Act received the Royal assent. If the view apparently taken by the Minister for Trade and Customs is shared by the Government, a serious injustice may be inflicted upon Queensland, which is now receiving £100,000 a year in the form of duty upon goods imported into other States.
– The whole question of the book-keeping system must be debated before any alteration is made.
– Yes ; but the date upon which the book-keeping period terminates will depend upon the meaning attached to the word “ imposition.” I desire to conserve to Queensland the £100,000 per annum which she is now receiving in respect to duties collected upon goods imported into other States.
– The honorable and learned member wishes Queensland to enjoy the benefit of the duties for six years instead of five.
– No, I do not. But I desire that Queensland shall have the full benefit of the arrangement contemplated by the Constitution. Of course, I can understand that for the purpose of validating the collection of duties under the Tariff it was necessary to give a retrospective effect to the Act. But my contention is that the date fixed by the Constitution for the bookkeeping period cannot be altered in such a way as to deprive the State of Queensland of revenue for one year which properly belongs to it.
– -I desire to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the necessity of making a slight amendment in the Public Service Act before the session closes. Under section 80 of the Public Service Act power is given to make regulations - for examination?, for fixing the fees payable for entrance examinations, and for registering in the order of merit the names of all persons who have passed the entrance examinations, and of those candidates who, having qualified at any such examination, may be appointed to fill subsequent vacancies arising within nine months thereof.
As a matter of fact, this provision has proved an utter failure. The nine months’ period was never referred to during the discussions in Parliament, and is condemned by the Public Service Commissioner and others as altogether too short. A number of estimable’ citizens who desire to see their sons in the Public Service have made strenuous efforts to qualify them’ as candidates. In Queensland a large number of lads passed with a very high percentage ; and, although the nine months’ period is now drawing to a close, not one of them has been appointed. It is ridiculous that candidates should be asked to renounce all claim to appointment at the end of that period, and to pay fees for another examination. I understand that the Public Service Commissioner desires that a period of two years should be fixed, but I think that eighteen months would be a reasonable term. I hope that the Prime Minister will consent to introduce a short Bill which will protect these candidates who have qualified against loss, and absolve them from the payment of fresh fees. Judging from the opinions expressed by a number of honorable members in both Houses, it is not likely that a proposal in the direction I have indicated would meet with any substantial opposition.
– I think there is a great deal in the suggestion of the honorable member for Wide Bay. I know of a number of cases in which candidates have passed the examinations, and although many months have elapsed they have not secured appointments. It seems a pity that we should insist, after the lapse of nine months, upon the examinees again submitting themselves for examination. I think that the result of an examination ought to hold good for twelve months. Judged by its cost to the Commonwealth, once a year is quite often enough to hold an examination.
– I think the Government promised to deal with that matter sometime ago.
– There ought not to be much objection offered to the passing of a Bill which contained only one paragraph, and which was designed to remedy what was evidently an error on the part of both Houses of the Legislature when the Public Service Act was passed. I should also like the Prime Minister to say whether he can spare time for a discussion of the regulations under that Act, which were mentioned by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, to-day. It is rather important that the decisions of the Senate should be considered by this Chamber. I admit that the resolutions which were arrived at by the other House will be without force even if they are adopted here. Nevertheless Parliament ought to express its opinion upon important regulations of this character, and if an hour or two can be spared for the purpose I think that the House may well be granted an opportunity to discuss them before the session closes.
– I desire to say a word or two in regard to postal facilities in my district. I have received some very strong complaints in this connexion. I do not say that the fault rests altogether with the Government ; but the matter is one which deserves early consideration at the hands of the Postmaster-General. In various portions of the North-Eastern district there is a great want of proper telephonic and other means of communication, to which I drew attention when the Estimates were under discussion. But I wish particularly to refer to the lack of facilities in connexion with Bright and other towns in its neighbourhood. Although Bright is a very important centre it enjoys fewer facilities to-day than its residents enjoyed some thirty years ago. Upon Thursday no letters or newspapers reach that town from the metropolis, and the same remark is applicable to the period intervening between Friday and Monday. I know that a great deal of difficulty is attributable to the changes which have been made in the Victorian railway arrangements. At the same time I strongly urge this matter upon the consideration of the Postmaster-General. I trust that he will ascertain whether arrangements cannot be made to maintain proper communication between Bright and the metropolis. The present position is very severely felt in business circles and in every other direction. I understand that other honorable members have experienced similar difficulties. I think that the regulations of the Postal Department are much too drastic, and that in some cases they are actually prohibitive. The other matter to which I wish to call attention has reference to the electoral rolls. Day after day I receive information which convinces me that a great proportion of the population is not enrolled.
– Not a large proportion.
– I am afraid that is so, if the information which I have received from municipal clerks and shire officials is correct. In one town alone I am informed there are at least 500 residents whose names do not appear upon the electoral rolls.
– Is not that their own fault?
– Certainly not. I do not know that it is anybody’s fault, but it will certainly be the country’s misfortune if the evil is not remedied very early. I understand that the Minister for Home Affairs announced to-day that he had written to the mayors and presidents of the shire councils iu reference to this matter. I think that was a very proper step to take, and I should like arrangements to be made whereby these officials can be directed to forward the names of electors immediately to the Electoral Officer. I have no doubt that they would be willing to undertake this work. Unless some steps are taken to secure the proper enrolment of all eligible persons, and to rectify omissions which have occurred, we shall have a considerable disenfranchisement. Whatever the result of the elections may be, that is a matter which we should all deplore.
– I understand that the honorable member for Wide Bay wishes to proceed with the consideration of the Standing Orders tomorrow. I think that is an undesirable course to adopt. A majority of honorable members have not even had an opportunity to read them. The Government themselves have made no serious effort to deal with the Standing Orders, and it is unfair that, at this late period of the session, we should be asked to pass them without consideration. I spoke to half-a-dozen honorable members to-night upon this matter, and I found that not one of them had read the Standing Orders.
– More shame to them.
– There is no shame attached to the matter, because nobody expected that in order to fill up time at the fag end of the session we should be asked to discuss the Standing Orders.
– We want to finish the session this week.
– We shall not finish the session by entering upon a consideration of the Standing Orders if I can prevent it. The provisional Orders have worked very well for two and a half years, and the Government have made no serious attempt to amend them, and I fail to see why at this late hour of the day we should be called upon to -pass permanent Orders, seeing that they can be of no possible use to this Parliament. ,
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister for Externa] Affairs). - I propose to consult the Public Service Commissioner in reference to the amendment of the Public Service Act in the direction indicated by the honorable member for Wide Bay. I have had the advantage of a short consultation with the Minister for Home Affairs and my colleague, who lately occupied that position, and it is just possible that a Bill containing a single clause dealing with the matter may be introduced to-morrow. I hope that, the honorable and learned member for Indi will indicate to the Minister for Home Affairs the particular township in which it is suspected that the names of a number of electors have been omitted from the rolls. I need scarcely assure him that every effort is being made to cope with circumstances of that kind, wherevor they are . known to exist. The action which has been taken by the Minister for Trade and Customs represents the views of the Government in regard to the date upon which the uniform duties were imposed. Tho Ministry reckon that date from the time those duties were imposed by resolution in this House, although they were afterwards authorized by Act of Parliament. I am aware that the contrary opinion has been held ; but, from the first, the Government has acted upon the view which I have expressed. I feel sure that when the honorable member for Macquarie examines the Standing Orders he will discover that those which have given him most concern are conspicuous by their absence. The Orders proposed are the result of long experience in’ other Parliaments, and I think may be accepted with very little alteration.
– I have often seen an Order adopted without fair consideration being given to it, and that practice has caused a great deal of inconvenience.
– I attach much importance to the opinion of the honorable member for Kennedy. Standing Orders which can withstand his criticism must be framed upon exceedingly safe lines.
– I venture to say that the Prime Minister himself has not read these Standing Orders.
– But I will undertake to say that by to-morrow I shall have read enough of them to enable me to deal with them. Concerning the request of the honorable member for Bland, that an opportunity should be given to discus3 the Public Service Regulations, I hesitate to . make a promise. At any rate, I cannot undertake that any matter will be considered out of its order.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 October 1903, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19031014_reps_1_17/>.