2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to refer the Minister of Home Affairs to replies published in this morning’s Argus to questions asked last night by Mr.Prendergast in reference to the carriage of coal on the Victorian railways. Apparently, between Jumbunna and Melbourne, the charges are 1s. 7d. per ton less for Victorian coal than for New South Wales coal, while between Melbourne and Ballarat or Bendigo the consignor or consignee is charged 8s.5d. for Newcastle coal, but only 7s. 8d. for Victorian coal, the balance being made up by the Victorian Government. Does he consider these rates a breach of the provisions of the Constitution, seeing that the Government of Victoria is practically paying a bounty to the State coal industry ?
– I do not wish to express on the spur of the moment an opinion as to the constitutionality or otherwise of the rates in question ; but if the honorable member will supply me with a copy of the paragraph to which he refers, I shall inquire into the matter. The subject of railway charges was brought up by the honorable member for Angas, who referred certain instances to us ; and although we have been informed by the Railways Commissioners of the States that there is nothing in their charges contrary to the Constitution, the Department is looking into the whole question.
– When I asked a question on the subject at the beginning of Federation I was told that the Railways Commissioners intended to re-arrange their rates on a proper basis.
– They held a conference, and we were informed, as a result, that there are no railway charges which contravene the provisions of the Constitution. Since then several instances, particularly one or two relating to Queensland, have come under our notice, and we are investigating them.
– Have not the Railways Commissioners acknowledged that therates of which I gave instances are in force, and do they not seek to justify their imposition on the ground that similar rates have been sanctioned by the Inter-State Commission of the United States of America?
– I am not aware. All I know is that at the present moment we are in communication with the Railways Commissioners of the States in order to ascertain the exact facts, with a view to the investigation of the whole subject.
– In view of the congested state of business in another place, does the Government seriously intend to proceed with all the Orders of the Day on the notice-paper, including no fewer than twelve Bills? If it is intended to proceed with that business, is there any possibility of closing the session before the end of another month?
– Several of the Bills on the notice-paper are almost ready for return to the Senate, while others are short and simple, and can be disposed of very quickly. There are at the bottom of the programme several measures with which it is not likely that we shall be able to proceed further this session.
– I wish to know from the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether the Defence Department has recently changed its policy in reference to the obtaining of supplies, confining tenders to the manufacturers of the State in which the supplies are wanted? If so, will he ask the Minister of Defence to consider whether the old practice of allowing all manufacturers within the Commonwealth to tender is not a better one?
– The attempt was made to obtain the supplies needed in each State within that State; but as it has been found to have serious objections, tenders will in future be open to the whole Commonwealth.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral in a position to state when the plans and specifications for the new mail steamers will be submitted to the representative of the Commonwealth in London, under the terms of article 9 of the contract? Has he received any authoritative information as to when it is proposed to commence the construction of the vessels? Does he know whether there is any truth in the reports which have been published in the newspapers to the effect that the keels of two steamers have already been laid ?
– The keels of the vessels have not been laid, but plans are being prepared, and will be submitted in due course.
– Has the VicePresident of the Executive Council had the interview with the Minister of Defence, promised yesterday, in reference to the production of the papers in what is known as the Crouch surrender case?
– The Minister informed me to-day that to obtain a full and comprehensive grasp of the measures which he is submitting to the Senate he finds it necessary to read the Hansard reports of the speeches delivered in this Chamber in regard to them; but, as soon as he has discharged that duty, he will look into the matter.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
That the message be considered forthwith.
– I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
They are purely verbal and formal, affecting no change of policy or principle.
Motion agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests) :
Clause 2 -
In lieu of the Duties of Excise imposed by the Excise Tariff, 1902, on spirits, Duties of Excise shall, from the seventeenth day of August, One thousand nine hundred and six, be imposed on spirits in accordance with the schedule.
Provided that spirits distilled wholly from grape wine and spirits, n.e.i., which were on the seventeenth day of August, One thousand nine hundred and six, in the spirit store of any distillery, or in any Customs warehouse, may, until the first day of March, One thousand nine hundred and seven, be delivered at the rates of duty specified in the Excise Tariff 1902.
Senate’s request. - Leave out proviso and insert - “ Provided that all spirits distilled in Australia, and not having been matured by storage in wood for a period of two years, may, until the thirty-first day of December. One thousand nine hundred and seven, inclusive, be delivered at the respective rates of duty specified in the Excise Tariff 1902.”
– The effect of the proposed amendment will be to extend the time allowed for the delivery of spirits which have not been matured in wood for a period of two years from1st March, 1907, to 31st December, 1907. It is only a question of a few months’ difference, and I move -
That the request be agreed to.
– I do not think that honorable members are being treated fairly.Last night the Prime Minister gave me his assurance that the South African preference proposals would be the first business taken to-day, and that the consideration of these requests would afterwards be entered upon.
– I was not aware of that. The fault is mine.
– My honorable colleague asked me to reverse the order of business.
– But I ask whether it is fair to do such a thing.
– I did not know that the Prime Minister had made the promise referred to, or I would not have asked him to alter the order of business.
– Ministers can do what they like. I am absolutely disgusted. We cannot rely on anything they say.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s request. - That at the end of clause 2 the following words be added - “Provided further that if the distillers -
– The provision proposed to be inserted is very similar to that which we have embodied in another measure which was recently before us. and, as I have no objection to urge, I move -
That the request be agreed to.
.- I think that it is a great mistake to insert such provisions in Bills dealing with only one or two items in the Tariff. When the Australian Industries Preservation Bill was under consideration, I moved in the direction of inserting a provision similar to this, because that measure professed to protect labour engaged in Australian industries generally. It was appropriate that we should make express provision of this kind when we were passing a. law of general application, but now we are dealing with one or two special lines in the Tariff. If it is found that protection fails to secure proper labour conditions for the workers, and it is necessaryto make special provision in that direction, we should pass a law which would be applicable to all industries enjoying the advantage of protective duties. Ministers have not initiated any of the provisions for the protection of labour that have found their way into our legislation. I made one proposal in that direction, and in other cases the initiative was taken by members of the Tariff Commission. Instead of adopting, as one of the necessary concomitants of a protectionist policy, a general provision for the protection of all labour, Ministers are dabbling with the Tariff and inserting special provisions, which, owing to their restricted application, will become ridiculous. If this provision is, inserted, a staff of inspectors will have to be employed to insure that proper wages are paid and proper conditions are observed in particular manufacturing industries. I think that it is a mistake to lay upon the Administration the necessity of employing a special class of officers whose duties will be restricted to one or two industries. Although I do not object to the spirit of the amendment,I think that the Minister, when he found how the wind was blowing, should have introduced a Bill declaring that whenever protection is given to an industry fair rates of wages shall obtain.
. -I agree with the honorable and learned member for Angas. No one objects to the employes having assured to them fair rates of wages and good conditions of employment. But the question is whether we are adopting the proper means to bring about that result. It is now proposed to set up two different classes of conditions for employment throughout the length and breadth of Australia. One set of employers, whilst obtaining every advantage that the Tariff can give them, will be under no obligation to pay fair wages, and to otherwise treat their employes with reasonable consideration, whilst other employers will be required to subscribe to such conditions. We should endeavour to make our Commonwealth legislation apply fairly all round. In spite of the fundamental principle of the Constitution that there shall be no distinction such as that now proposed to be made, we are busily engaged in the closing hours of this Parliament in making fish of one set of industrials and flesh of another. This proposal involves a very grave departure from anything that has been done in Australia before, and I do not think that it should be brought forward in the dying hours of this Parliament. The Government have apparently made up their minds that all this kind of legislation must be pushed through without consideration and without discussion.
– Would the honorable member vote against the provision?
– He is not game.
– No; I shall not vote against it. No doubt the honorable member would like me to do so.
– I know that the honorable member is not game.
– I am sure that the honorable member does not care twopence how the provision applies. I am pointing out that it ought to be made to apply all round. The honorable member for Yarra has not proposed anything of that kind. He is content to allow anomalous conditions to continue. We are embodying in every measure of this kind provision for a minature tribunal for the determination of wages and the conditions under which certain industries are carried on. I think that some intelligent plan should be adopted for placing all the industries of the Commonwealth on the same footing.
– The honorable member would have a fit if we proposed anything of the kind.
– Yes, he would oppose it as he did the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
– I am afraid that the honorable member for Yarra cannot appreciate the advantage of providing for the general application of a principle. He seizes hold of that which is uppermost at the moment, and is only careful to see that the principle is applied to the extent to which he is personally interested. I contend that this Parliament has a higher duty to discharge. However, I can do no more than point out that this is a piecemeal way of legislating, and the manner in which these measures are being rushed through without fair and full consideration. Nothing could be more important than this proposal, to the principle of which I have no objection. I am merely concerned as to its application. We have no right to impose conditions of this kind, having a partial application. I shall not vote against the amendment.
– Hear, hear.
– I believe as much in good industrial conditions as does the Minister who is now taunting me. I have done more in my time to improve the position of the worker than he could do if he lived for another fifty years.
– I have passed more good democratic legislation than the honorable member would do if he lived for a thousand years.
– The Minister has passed only such legislation as he thought would win for him momentary popularity, and keep him in office, or help him to it. That has been his outstanding motive throughout his political life.
– I have acted whilst the honorable member has been content to talk.
– What about the time when the Minister fought the Labour Party?
– That is ancient history. The Minister will have to work for many years along present lines before he will be able to make amends for all his former bitter, keen, and unrelenting opposition to every proposal for the benefit of labour. I say again that I do not think this proposal ought to be rushed through the House without honorable members being afforded time to consider it. My point is that the conditions embodied in the amendment ought to have a very much wider application, if they are to be applied. They ought not to apply only to industries upon which we are supposed to be conferring a special advantage.
– I have no complaint to make in respect of the objection urged by the deputy leader of the Opposition that this proposal is being “ rushed through,” for the reason that the Prime Minister promised yesterday that other business would be taken this afternoon. But when he endeavours to make it appear that he and his party are being denied a fair opportunity of criticising it he is stating what is not correct, and what is calculated to convey a wrong impression to the public.
– Does the honorable member think it is fair to put a schedule like this before us, and to expect us to proceed with its consideration instanter?
– The honorable member has had ten days to consider it.
– It has been published in the newspapers.
– I relied upon the statement of the Prime Minister, and it seems that I ought not to have done so.
– I wish to say a word or two upon the merits of the proposal.
– Has it any merits?
Mr.FISHER.- If it had not, there would be no complaint. The honorable member for Parramatta admits that the proposal is a good one, but says that, from the stand-point of the Government, it is only good in a particular instance. That is the attitude which is taken up by every Conservative in every Parliament. They say. “ This is a good thing, but it does not go far enough.” That attitude represents the first string to every Conservative bow.
– It is the attitude of the Labour Partv towards the Gambling Bill.
– The interjection of the honorable member for Franklin reminds me that, whilst the deputy leader of the Opposition was speaking, he interjected, “ This is not preference to unionists.” Let me tell him that we do not desire it. All we say is, “ Here are manufacturers carrying on operations under certain favoured conditions which have been prescribed by Parliament, and every one of their workmen shall receive a share of the benefit which they enjoy.” We are not so bigoted as to say that, because all the employes are not unionists, they shall not participate in the same advantages. What we say is that fair conditions shall obtain in those industries which are protected. That is a position which, from my point of view, is incontrovertible. It is sound in every particular. That it does not go far enough, I regret equally with members of the Opposition, but I will not reject a good proposal simply upon that ground.
– I accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Wide Bay that we should view this proposal from the standpoint of its merits. I am inclined to think that if we look at it closely we shall see that it is absolutely unworkable. Under its operation, if the distillers do not employ sufficient men, or if they employ too many boys, they will be denied the concession proposed to be conferred upon them in the form of a lower rate of Excise. Let us suppose that at some future time the fact is brought under the attention of Parliament that distillers A, B, C, and D have failed to pay a reasonable wage to their employes, or have employed too many boys, whilst distiller F has complied with all the conditions prescribed by us. Under the operation of the amendment, distiller F would be prevented from paying only the lighter rate of Excise.
– I think not.
– It seems to me that it is so. The amendment states -
Provided that if the distillers, &c.
Obviously that refers to all those who are engaged in distilling. If the Minister desires that those who comply with the conditions shall receive a benefit, he will certainly need to alter the language of the amendment. Otherwise, if one distiller complied with all the conditions prescribed, and the vast majority of the manufacturers did not, the heavier rate of Excise would have to be imposed upon the whole of them. Upon a previous occasion I addressed myself to the question of the expediency of adopting what is known as the “new protection.” I say at once that, if we are to adopt a new form of protection, under which concessions are to be given to the manufacturers only upon condition that the operatives employed by them participate in the advantages conferred, it is open to free-traders to consider whether there is not some merit in the proposal. I am perfectly free to approach such a proposal with an open mind. At the same time there is a good deal of force in the contention of the honorable member for Parramatta, that it is not just to enact laws to improve the social conditions of only a section of the workers. But I ask the Minister whether the language of the amendment - if it be adopted - will not create a very serious difficulty? If a large majority of the distillers fail to comply with the Act, and in all its details, and a minority do comply with it, it seems to me that the latter will be prevented from enjoying the benefit which it is intended to confer upon them. Its effect will be quite contrary to what is anticipated. It will penalize the individual who does extend good conditions of labour to his employes. I ask the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne to consider whether the language of the proposal will not make the whole principle underlying it inoperative? Does it not require to be amended in order to make the intention of the Legislature clearer, and to enable effect to be given to that intention?
.- I trust that the Minister will look into the objection which has been urged by the honorable member for South Sydney, because I am one of those who desire to see the amendment made workable. For years past I have opposed the imposition of protective duties, because in their incidence they benefit only a few individuals at the expense of the rest of the community. One of my great objections as a freetrader
– I thought that the honorable member had become a protectionist ?
– I have not. I am quite able to answer to my constituents for any of my political actions. My great objection to protective duties has always been that they benefit the employers, whilst they confer no advantage upon the workers. I recognise that the object of the amendment is to insure good conditions of labour for employes in the distilling industry. That represents an instalment of a good principle. As I understood him, the complaint of the deputy leader of the Opposition was that similar treatment was not extended to all workers. The proposal represents what is called the “ new “ protection. That term, however, is in the nature of a mere afterthought. I can well remember the days when protectionists advocated pure, unadulterated protection. , Subsequently they pleaded for a discriminating protection, and now, in the dying hours of this Parliament, we are faced with what is called the “new” protection. I heartily support the amendment. Although I am a member of the Opposition, I do not forget that a man can be a free-trader and a radical.
– There are sane men upon both sides.
– In Great Britain the protectionists are always allied with the Conservatives. In New South Wales a similar condition obtains.
– In New South Wales the protectionists are always the Liberals.
– The Minister’s liberalism is only of very recent date.
– When the Minister attempts to make a little political capital out of his action in respect of this Bill, it is fair to remind him that only eight years ago no man fought the Labour Party more bitterly than he did.
– That statement is not correct. The honorable member has never found me a George Reid in politics.
– The Minister should be quite satisfied with fighting for the Bill in this House without attempting to make political capital out of it. I am very pleased that the workers are about to receive some slight assistance under what is known as the “new” protection. The deputy leader of the Opposition did not oppose the amendment, but merely insisted1 that it should be made general in its application.
– The honorable member knows how to cover a retreat.
– I am merely advocating a principle which I have advocated for years.
– It is easy to say, “I am in favour of this proposal, but.”
– I am in favour of it without any qualification, and I intend to vote for it. I merely ask that the Minister shall apply similar conditions to alf other industries.
– I shall if I get half a show.
– Then I shall be found voting with the honorable member.
– I knew that the honorable member was a protectionist.
– If this policy is to be adopted, and the people of Australia have to pay for it, the workers should, at all events, receive a fair share of the benefit secured by the manufacturers.
– I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that it is to be regretted that the application of this principle is not universal. He must remember, however, that industrial legislation is by no means universal. We have industrial protection in Victoria, and, to some extent, in New South Wales, and one or two other States, but there are some States in which no such protection exists. This amendment will place on a level the manufacturers of spirits throughout the States, and, in that respect, will certainly be an improvement on the existing state of affairs.
– But it changes the relation of the Excise to the import duty, and upsets the general policy.
– I do not think that it is the best way of securing that which we desire. If we are to have a thorough, complete, and satisfactory system of industrial protection, the Parliament which grants protection to the employer must have power to extend industrial protection to the worker. I am supporting this proposal largely because I think it will impel that change.
– By the anomalies that will be set up?
– By the fact that the proposed system will prove cumbersome and difficult to apply. I am so anxious to protect the worker that I am prepared to avail myself of even an expedient of this kind to bring about a thorough reform. I regret that in many respects this amendment is not the most desirable means of securing the end we have in view, but it is certainly better than nothing at all, and should be supported. I am not a distillery man. My attitude towards the drink traffic is well known; but I do not think the distillers will complain about this provision. I have not heard a whisper of complaint, and since this condition will apply to distillers all over the Commonwealth, it should, in that respect, prove advantageous. It is also to be remembered that employers cannot be expected to observe the eight hours principle, and give what are called fair wages unless they have something like adequate protection. A very striking feature of this proposal is that whilst under it the conditions which we all favour will be applied to the industry, the protection which the Tariff. Commission deems adequate will be reduced. It is nonsense to talk about securing protection for the workers unless we can first find work for them. Adequate and effective protection must be a preliminary to protecting the employe. I hope that, notwithstanding the difficulties to which attention has been directed, this principle will be affirmed; that we shall apply it whenever the opportunity offers, and that our action to-day will be the forerunner of provision being made to enable this Parliament to regulate industrial conditions as well as to grant protection to the emplover.
.- I thoroughly believe in the principle that when we grant adequate protection to the manufacturer, we should provide that a proper proportion of that protection shall go to the workers; but I think that fragmentary legislation of the description now under consideration is highly objectionable. I am not going to vote against any principle in which I believe; but I would point out to the Minister that we are at present engaged, not in framing, a new Tariff, but in endeavouring to redress grievances existing under the present Tariff. It seems to me highly objectionable that in raising the protection granted to a few manufacturers to the level of that enjoyed by other industries, we should seek to impose upon them conditions that are not applied to the others.
– The principle is applied in a number of cases.
– We began quite recently to impose these conditions.
– We have only applied them to industries that are not working under Wages Boards, and to which the Conciliation and Arbitration Act does not apply.
– I should support the application of Wages Boards or provisions of this kind to all industries.
– Is it suggested that these conditions are not to be applied to any industry working under a Wages Board ?
– I shall vote for their being applied to every industry.
– I am surprised that my honorable friends who are supporting this amendment do not recognise the limited distance to which they are proposing to go. This amendment will affect only a few workers. There are not many persons employed in the industry.
– Our attitude in this case shows that we are prepared to take a step at a time.
– I believe that the Parliament is in favour of the application of the principle to all protected industries, and I rose only to draw attention to the fact that this provision will have but a limited application. I know that the Minister will not take much notice of a suggestion of this kind, especially when it comes from this side of the House, but I repeat that the proposal is very inadequate.
– And our attempt to rectify Tariff anomalies is very inadequate.
– Our desire is to put this industry on an equal footing with the great majority of the protected trades.
– We have merely increased duties in one or two places.
– We are now dealing with only a few exceptional cases. We were engaged for more than twelve months in framing a protective Tariff to apply to the great bulk of our industries, and I hold that any provision we make to secure to labour its fair share of the protection accorded these industries should have a general application. I am in thorough accord with the spirit of the amendment, but think it is a mistake that the principle should be applied to these few individual cases, lt will be found difficult to administer, and we shall have to appoint officers to superintend its application to a few cases, when we might as well apply it to the whole of the protected industries of Australia.
– I am free to admit that if I were in charge of the Bill I should think this a wrong way of instituting a system of protection in favour of the employes. I quite admit that the proposed application of a principle to only one industry is generally inexpedient, but, at the same time, I think that the mere insertion of a provision of this sort in the Bill, as a condition precedent to granting protection to the distillers, will” have a very wholesome effect upon all industries. I feel as strongly as does any honorable member that no industry should be protected unless the workers in it are fairly used. I well recollect what happened in connexion with an analogous case in the Victorian Parliament. In dealing with a Bill providing for the construction of certain railways we inserted a clause declaring that the lines should not be constructed unless a minimum wage were paid to those engaged upon the work. When the clause was submitted to the House, it was urged then, as it is to-3ay, that it was wrong to apply to the construction of one railway a principle that had not been applied to others. We insisted, however, in making this provision, and the result was that a similar clause was inserted in all succeeding Railways Bills. This had an effect upon the wages paid generally by the Railway Department, and in turn had an effect on outside industries. I take it that it is well for a Parliament to say, when giving protection to any industry, exactly what it desires. The honorable member for South Sydney appealed to me to express my opinion of his criticism of the amendment. I think his view is correct that the effect of it is that the order made bv the GovernorGeneral in Council must apply generally to those who pay fair wages, and those who do not. That, I am sure, is not the object of another place, nor the end we have in view. If. as the honorable member for South Sydney has said, six out of seven distillers observed these conditions, I do not think we should desire to deprive the six of this protection because of the action of the seventh. I have, therefore, suggested to the Minister a slight variation of the amendment, which I trust he will agree to. It would have the effect of enabling the Governor-General in Council to take away the protection only from those distillers who failed to comply with what Parliament deems to be fair conditions of labour. There will be no difficulty in regard to the verbiage. The matter is one for the Committee to decide, but if the Minister has accepted, as I understand he has, the principle of the amendment, I think the way I have suggested is the only one by which if can be properly applied. If six distillers comply with the fair conditions of labour, and the seventh does not, then the latter only should be deprived of the benefits of the protection granted the industry. At this stage of the session, I do not think it is worth while for us to consider the question of whether this will have any direct effect upon industries. It certainly will do no harm, and, as I have already said, it will have the effect of indicating what is the strong wish of the Parliament, that where protection is granted to an industry, the workers in that industry should also be protected.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson) £3-3°]- - It is to be regretted that we are unable to complete the work commenced by the Government. It shows that free-trade writers are not far wrong when they say that it is because we cannot protect every one that protection is a bad thing. The speeches which have been made by those who have preceded me go to show that, while many persons will be protected in their industry others will not. The manufacturers in the particular industry immediately concerned by the amendment make a profit of ^18,000 a year, and it borders on absurdity to propose to protect them further. It is admitted that they have not a reputation for paying adequate wages, or for being satisfied with a reasonable number of hours’ work a day, while they have not been brought under the operation of the Wages Board system, which, in my opinion, is better for the protection of the workers than the Arbitration Acts which have been tried elsewhere. We are asked to give protection to an industry in which possibly 500 workers are employed; but it is forgotten that probably 200,000 persons in and around Melbourne are entirely unprotected. The masses are to be taxed excessively to provide increased protection for so-called languishing industries, which return handsome profits, and which the evidence of the Tariff Commission shows require no protection. The facts are that spirit can be obtained for 6d. per gallon, and sold for 24s. a gallon, though the distillers say that it costs them 9d.
– But the honorable member does not object to the proposal now before the Committee?
– I am merely laying down general principles, because it is very likely that this subject will be discussed again. Henry George, the greatest of free-traders, uses the argument that protection would be all right if we could protect every one. But how can you protect parsons, or other professional men, or a great many of those engaged in industries?
– If every one were protected we should soon get back to free-trade again.
– Yes, and then there would be none of the waste which now occurs in connexion with the collection of protective duties.
– Did not Cobden say that free-trade is useless unless it can be applied to every one?
-I do not think so. If every one were protected we should soon have universal free-trade, though I am afraid that attempts to secure the protection of” all classes are doomed to failure. But as Parliament has decided upon protecting certain industries, it is our duty to see that legislation is passed which will enable the employes engaged in those industries, as well as the manufacturers to share in its benefits. We ought to see that the highest rates of wages are paid to workmen in protected industries. To properly carry out the protective policy we must protect, not only the manufacturers who reap the profits, but their workmen as well.
– I recognisethat if conditions like this under discussion are attached to all Tariff proposals, the complications and difficulties which will arise will make the demands for protection much fewer than they have been up to the present time, and manufacturers will be less ready to ask for assistance from the public purse. For that reason, as a free-trader, I am rather favorably disposed towards the amendment. But looking at the matter from a broader aspect. I feel that Tariff and Excise Bills should not be used for this enactment of industrial laws. Not only is this proposal foreign to the main intention of the measure, but it does not provide an effective way of dealing with the subject, if it is intended to treat all industries in the States alike. It may not be ineffective in respect to the comparatively small industry dealt with by the Bill, but the great bulk of our industries cannot be dealt with in a similar manner. Therefore it should be omitted, unless honorable members are ready to affirm that they are in favour of unequal legislation. How can industries which are not protected be affected by legislation of this kind? They cannot be dealt with, and thus this legislation is unequal. Therefore I object to the provision. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has made a suggestion to the Minister, of which I doubt the constitutionality.
– I have been told that it is constitutional.
– As the point is almost certain to be tested, the Minister should hold a clear opinion on the subject before adopting the suggestion. The honorable and learned member was quite right in urging that all the distillers should not be mulcted by the imposition of special rates of Excise because one of their number is not complying with this provision. He has therefore proposed that the Ministry should take power to impose special Excise in regard only to the productions of any offender. Such a provision, it seems to me, would be at variance with the spirit and the letter of the Constitution. We should be imposing taxation discriminating between one taxpayer and another to effect a purpose beyond our constitutional sphere - an interference in industrial matters, with the object of regulating the rates of wages paid ina certain industry. We are not given by the Constitution the power to interfere in industrial matters, except in regard to Inter-State disputes. We are endeavouring to exercise a power which has not been granted to us by the Constitution. We are attempting to differentiate between the amount of duty which should be paid by one man and that for which another should be liable. I feel satisfied that the High Court would never sustain our position. It would hold that we might deal with a trade, or production, as a whole, or might impose certain conditions in connexion with duties, but that we could not charge one rate of duty’ to one man, and an entirely different rate to another. I cannot conceive that the proposal is constitutional. I trust that the .Minister will consider this point very carefully. In none but our recent proposals relating to Customs or Excise duties have any differential rates of duty been suggested, and I think that Ministers would do well to hesitate before accepting the proposal now before us. We are acting in an almost hysterical manner. We have no right to deal with this important question in connexion with any stray measure which may be thrown upon the table in the last hours of this Parliament. The whole question should be faced in its relation to all our industries. Our powers should be careful I v examined, the best methods of attaining our ends should be considered, and action should be taken, not in an isolated instance, such as this, but according to some general plan which would equalize conditions all round. It has been stated that we are making a beginning. But is it right that we should begin by establishing an inequality ? We should examine the whole sphere of our legislation, and pass a measure covering the whole ground, and providing for equality of treatment. No wonder that reflections are passed upon us, when we lightly consent to the introduction of important provisions in such a haphazard fashion. Viewing the matter from one aspect, I am pleased that those persons who have declared that the necessity for granting them more protection is due to the fact that they have to pay high wages - although very often when they obtain assistance, they do not pay high wages, but reduce the rates previously prevailing - are going to carry some of the burden themselves. I trust that if this policy is pushed sufficiently far, a reaction will set in, and that those who are now so anxious for protection will say, “ Save us from your favours, because they are anything but beneficial to us.” That would be a desirable result. I protest against our legislating in a way to bring about inequality and injustice.
– Not injustice.
– It is unjust to impose certain conditions upon one protected manufacturer and to leave another alone.
– The honorable member would have some difficulty in showing that there is any injustice.
– Does not the honorable member consider it unjust to attach certain conditions to one and to leave another enjoying the benefit of an equally high protective duty free from all restraint?
– That might be unequal treatment, but not necessarily unjust.
– What is inequality of treatment but injustice?
– That does not always app.lv.
– If an industry enjoys protection to the extent of 25 per cent., and we impose conditions which cause the employers to surrender an equivalent to 12
– It is unequal, but it may not be unjust. Inequality of” treatment is sometimes demanded by circumstances.
– I am speaking of inequality of treatment under similar circumstances - of industries that do not differ as to the protection extended to them, but which are subjected to different conditions. I think that it is distinctly unjust to impose certain conditions in one case and not in another. At any rate, I am sure that the honorable member will admit that it- is very undesirable.
– It would be preferable to go through the whole Tariff and impose similar conditions in every case, if we had the time to do so.
– Why should we attempt to deal with an isolated case which is unimportant in itself, when we have not the time to face the whole question and pass a law of general application. Ministers should resist the introduction of such a provision until the whole matter can be properly considered, and our legislation extended to its full scope. I think that we have done enough by our spasmodic legislation to justify some of the reflections which have been passed upon us, and I do not think we should proceed any further.
– Honorable members have objected to the proposed amendment on the ground that its application would be partial. It has been pointed out that similar provision has been made in regard to only a few items which. have been dealt with by legislation this session. I should like to know how this question could otherwise be introduced at this period. Should we, so far as the matters with which we have already dealt are concerned, fail to provide for that protection of the workers, which honorable members opposite profess to be so anxious to secure? They say that this is not the time to take action. I contend that such action should be taken whenever opportunity offers, and that provision of this kind must be made in a piecemeal fashion when it cannot be done in a wholesale way. When the general question of Tariff revision engages our attention, as it probably will, in the new Parliament, I shall do my best to see thatsimilar conditions are applied to all industries.
– The Minister will not be here.
– I shall be here, and very much alive too, although some honorable members are doing their best to prevent me coming back here. I propose to accept the provision, because I look upon the principle embodied in it as a good one. I do not think that any difficulty will be experienced in the work of administration. I thoroughly approve of the suggestion made by the honorable member for South Sydney. I have consulted the AttorneyGeneral, the Prime Minister, and the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who are of opinion that it would be absolutely constitutional. I propose, therefore, to leave out the word “the” in the first line, and to insert the word “ any.” The first words of the proviso will then read, “ Provided further, that if any distiller.” Then I propose to add to the proviso the words, “ as regards such distiller.”. This will enable us to avoid inflicting injury upon distillers who may be disposed to comply with the conditions set forth when others may not be so disposed. That will meet the objection of the honorable member for South Sydney, and will make the amendment work much more equitably than it would have done in its original form.
– I do not profess to know anything about the constitutionality or otherwise of the amendment. But I am inclined to think that it is ultra vires of our Constitution. I would suggest to the Minister that it should take this form : “ Provided that any distiller or distillers,” &c.
– The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne says that “distiller” would mean “distillers.”
.- It has been urged by some honorable members opposite that the amendment would work injustice, and would apply unequally. That seems to me to be a most remarkable contention. I would point out to the honorable member for North Sydney that, in this Bill, we are not dealing with the whole of the manufacturing industries of the Commonwealth. Parliament has not dealt unjustly with any industry, because, wherever an increased measure of protection has been granted, this provision, or a similar one, has accompanied it. Therefore, it is absurd to talk about injustice having been done. If a dozen needy men applied to the honorable member for assistance, and he helped two of them, his action would not be an unjust one.
– If I made different terms with two of them who were equally deserving. I should do an injustice.
– It certainly would not be unjust to the remainder. The fact that conditions are unequal does not constitute an injustice. All manufacturers derive some advantage from protective duties, and in the proposal under consideration we are merely Taying down the principle that their employes shall share in the benefits which they enjoy. The injustice of which the honorable member complains would apply to the different measure of protection which has been extended to various industries. According to his dictum, the same rates of duty should be applicable all round.
– The honorable member does not think that that argument is sound. As a protectionist, he is supposed to grant a sufficient measure of protection to any industry, and that presupposes equality.
– We propose to grant a certain measure of protection to the distilling industry to improve the conditions of the workers, by enabling the manufacturers to pay reasonable wages.
– How many hands are employed in those distilleries altogether ?
– It does not matter whether they number one or 5,000. Is there any reason why we should not help the persons whom we are in a position to aid simply because there are hundreds of others whom we are unable to assist?
– Is that the way to legislate?
– Certainly. It is the way in which every bit of legislation has been enacted. A beginning must be made somewhere. To argue that the amendment is unfair, because it cannot be extended to everybody, is ridiculous. The party with which the honorable member for North Sydney is allied were most pronounced in their desire to exempt agriculturists from the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– What about the Minister of Trade and Customs?
– I voted for their inclusion.
– In these matters the Minister generally rings pretty true. When the Tariff is revised during the next Parliament, I am of opinion that the principle which we are now laying down ought to be extended to other industries. The objection of the honorable member for South Sydnev that, under the amendment, a number of distillers might be injured bv the action of one or two was a reasonable one, and the proposal in, its present form is a great improvement upon the amendment as it reached us from the Senate. I am sure that the distillers of Australia will not raise the slightest objection to it. It is only those who refuse to pay reasonable wages, or who favour the employment of boy labour, who will be required to pay the higher rates of Excise. There can be no injustice done to those who comply with what may be called standard conditions. We may be quite certain that the additional Excise of is. per gallon will not be collected at all* because the manufacturers will comply with the prescribed conditions as a matter of course.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong [4.13]. - I do not take exception to the amendment of the Senate upon the ground that it is objectionable because it is not to have a general application. I am free to admit that I personally favour the principle which is embodied in the amendment, and hope to see it justly applied hereafter. But if it is intended in this piecemeal fashion to incorporate great principles in our legislation, I think that we shall be doing an injustice to the whole of the Commonwealth. This great question might have been dealt with at a more opportune period, namely, when the whole Tariff is under review. At that time it could be dealt with in a broad way. Had that course been adopted, the whole merits of the question .would have received consideration, and, judging by the temper of the Committee, I think that the principle would be generally supported. I * enter my protest against the slipping into this Bill of an important principle which was never dreamt of by the Government when they introduced the Bill. The probability is that the power on which the Government rely at the present time insisted ‘upon its insertion, and that, consequently, they are prepared to support it.
– Our legislation is so accidental that an Act no sooner becomes law than an amending Bill is necessary.
– Unfortunately, our legislation is of a patchwork character, and there is no consistency of principle underlying it. The principle that the worker, as well as the manufacturer, shall receive a, share of the protection granted to the industry is one that I favour, and it has caused me to alter my attitude in connexion with the general question of protection. I feel, however, that, in this case, influence has been brought to bear upon the Government, and that they are lending themselves to an irregular proposal, which they ought to resist. We should deal with a principle of this kind when an opportunity is given for its general application in an equitable way. I do not attach as much weight as the honorable member for North Sydney has done to the objection which he raised ; but I do think that this is a patchwork proposal. The people will have to search from one end of the statute-book to the other in order to ascertain the extent of the restrictions placed upon them in their daily life and business. I repeat that I favour the principle underlying the amendment, but think it unfortunate that the Government did not embody it in the Bill as introduced. Had that course been followed, the question, instead of being dealt with by this House that is rapidly becoming moribund, on an amendment made by another place, would have received full and proper consideration.
.- As afreetrader, I welcome this new-born zeal on the part of the protectionists for a principle that has always been insisted upon by the party to which I belong.
– I never heard that they had.
– Free-traders have always insisted that when protection is granted in response to the cry of manufacturers that it is necessary to enable them to pay fair wages and observe reasonable conditions of labour,, the employes should receive a legitimate share of the benefit of that protection. Hitherto, however, protectionists have been opposed to anything of the kind, and it is only within the last two or three months that protectionist politicians have begun to espouse the principle. We now find them, so far as this matter is concerned, stealing the clothes of the free-trade party. I do not begrudge them this new-born zeal, because I recognise that if we make provision for the payment of proper wages and the observance of reasonable conditions of labour in protected industries, we shall hear less and less of the cry of the manufacturers for protection, and shall see less and less of that lobbying which has always been conspicuous in connexion with the passing of Tariff legislation by this and other Legislatures. Mr. McKay is reported to be feeling very dissatisfied -because of the conditions that we imposed in the Tariff, Bill relating to stripper-harvesters.
– I wish the honorable member would sit down.
– I do not expect that what I am saying will be palatable to the Minister. The truth in relation to economic and many other matters is never acceptable to him. The honorable gentleman took up a characteristic attitude when he claimed credit for the insertion of an amendment with which he had really nothing to do. If honorable members opposite thought so highly of this principle, why did they not seek to embody it in the Bid before it was sent up to another place? The Minister and his enthusiastic supporters are seeking to cover themselves with glory, and to secure praise and credit to which they are not entitled.
– Just as the honorable member is not entitled to any praise for the suppression of the opium traffic.
– I never sought any praise: but the Minister claimed credit for “ something that I initiated long before he thought of it. I did not take the trouble to reply to his letter in the press.
– I discounted the honorable member’s statement.
– One has only to refer to Hansard of 22nd March, 1:904, and later dates’, to see that the statement made in that letter by the Minister was absolutely contrary to fact. Why do not the Government propose to apply this principle to all protected industries? The Minister seeks to shelter himself behind the argument that we can deal with only one industry at a time. What is there to prevent the Government bringing in a Bill applying the principle te every industry ? I am certain that the honorable gentleman never thought of this proposal until’ it was brought forward in the Senate.
– I caused a similar provision to be inserted in the Bill relating to the duty on stripper-harvesters.
– Again the Minister is wrong, and is taking credit to himself for what was done by the House at the instance of another honorable member. The principle is to be applied to two industries. I do not suppose that more than 100 hands will be affected by this amendment. There are only twelve men employed in the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s distilllery, which has the largest output of any distillery in the Commonwealth, and in some of the Victorian distilleries not more than halfadozen hands are employed. In these circumstances, therefore, only a handful of workers will be affected. So all this blowing of trumpets and great parade of interest in the welfare of the workers is purest humbug on the Minister’s part. What is to be done to secure compliance with these conditions? Notwithstanding that the labour conditions are not complied with in the protected industry, the duties cannot be interfered with except on action taken by the Governor-General, who, only ! after the tedious and cumbersome process of a joint address from the Senate and House of Representatives, may impose an additional Excise duty of is. per gallon. The whole matter must first be threshed out in both Houses. If the Minister is reallyanxious that effect shall be given to this principle, why does he propose that complicated machinery must be put into operation to enforce it? Is the Parliament to become a wages board to inquire into the conditions of labour, and wages paid in the industry ? How is the Parliament to be made cognisant of the fact that fair wages are not paid?
– The whole of this paraphernalia must be brought into operation when, perhaps, the position in regard to only five men is in question.
– The honorable member may vote against the provision.
-*-If the Ministry were sincere in this matter, they would bring in a Bill applying a principle of this sort to all the industries which enjoy the benefit of protection; but I shall be very much surprised if they do so. The proposal is merely another electioneering placard, such as has been put before the public so frequently of late. It is farcical only to apply this principle to the very small number of employes in the industry under discussion - who, I am informed, do not number more than 100 - and leave hundreds of thousands unaffected. I have no fault to find with the principle itself. . In my opinion, it should be applied to all industries, so that the workers may receive higher wages and enjoy better conditions, and thus get some return for the immense load of taxation now imposed on them for the benefit of the manufacturers. If t’he principle is extended, and made to apply to industries employing thousands of hands, the Joshuas, McKays, and other hungry manufacturers who now are continually, like Oliver Twist, but without the same excuse, “ asking for more,” will be seen in the lobbies very rarely; the cry for higher protection will gradually cease, and there will be a general healthy demand for free-trade.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the request be amended by leaving out the word “ the,” line i, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ any.”
Request further amended consequentially.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the request be amended by adding the words “ as regards any such distiller.”
– I would point out that no provision is made for the removal of this additioii.il Excise duty in the event of the distiller, upon whose productions it is imposed, paying fair and reasonable wages. I think it would be well to insert the words “until a fair and reasonable rate of wages be paid by such distiller.”
– The honorable and learned member overlooks the fact that there might be a relapse on the part of the distiller, and then the additional Excise duty would have to be re- imposed. It seems to me best to intimate to those engaged in the industry that if they do not pay fair wages they will be liable to this penalty.
Motion agreed to.
Request, as amended, agreed to. .
Spirits, viz. : -
Blended spirits, distilled partly from grape wine and partly, from grain, and containing not less than 25 per cent, of pure grape wine spirit (which has been separately distilled by a pot still or similar process at a strength not exceeding 40 per cent, over proof), the whole being matured by storage in wood for .1 period not less than two years, and certified by an officer to be spirits so blended and matured, per proof gallon, 12s.
Whisky, distilled … at a strength not exceeding 45 per cent, over proof . . 10s.
Blended whisky, distilled … at a strength not exceeding 45 per cent, over proof … ns.
Gin, . . . matured by storage in wood lor a period of not less than two years, . . . per proof gallon, 12s.
Spirit for fortifying Australian wine, subject to regulations, per proof gallon, 6d.
Request, leaving out item 3, agreed io.
Request, leaving out the figures “ 45 n and inserting “35,” in items 4 and 5, disagreed to.
– - I move -
That the request, leaving out “ 11s.” and inserting “ 12s.,” in item be disagreed to.
The proposed alteration would make a very serious difference. It would destroy the harmony between the recommendations of the Tariff Commission, the members of which were specially strong on the point that duties suggested by them represented what in their opinion was a fair balance of advantage between the different kinds of spirit produced.
– After having made a closer examination of the report of the Tariff Commission, I find that certain conditions which it was recommended should be imposed have not been adopted. Take, for instance, the suggestion with regard to the allowance to be made for spirits 16.-5 degrees under, proof.
– The Chairman accepted the provision with which we are dealing.
– Yes, but there are other members of the Commission. We understood, in the first instance, that we were accepting the whole of the recommendations of the Commission, but only some of them were adopted. Some of the conditions suggested have a very important bearing upon the incidence of the proposed duty. Under present circumstances, and at this stage of the session, it is impossible to get fair consideration, but in view of the fact that the Bill may be jeopardized if we do not accede to this request, I suggest that the alteration should be agreed to. Personally, I do not think that the local distillers need any more than the allowance provided for. I feel sure that the Senate will persist in its request.
– I recognise the political force of the argument used by the honorable member, but find that, by increasing the duty as proposed to 12s., we should place blended whisky upon exactly the same level as rum. The latter spirit is distilled from a by-product, which costs nothing, whereas whisky is made from grain, which is an expensive material. In addition to that, there is the condition in connexion with blended whisky that 25 per cent. shall be pure barley malt spirit. If the duty is raised, an undue advantage will be given to rum distillers over those who make blended whisky. I think that there is good ground for keeping the distinction first proposed by the Tariff Commission.
– I do not know very much about this subject, but it is represented to me that great hardship will be inflicted unless the proposed amendment is made. I trust that the Minister will yield to the representations of the honorable member for North Sydney.
– I am advised that the proposed alteration would be very unfair to some of our distillers.
– The Government did not accept the whole of the recommendations of the Tariff Commission.
– The Minister did not wish to open up the whole question of the allowance to be made for under-proof spirit. When the Tariff generally is dealt with, that matter will have to be considered.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the requests, leaving out the words “ matured by storage in wood for a period of notless than two years,” in item 7; inserting after the word “ wine,” in item11, the words “or for making vinegar,” and adding the new item - “ 12. Spirits for the manufacture, from Australian products exclusively of scents and toilet preparations, subject to regulations, per gallon,10s.,” be agreed to.
Reported that the Committee had agreed to certain requests, disagreed to others, and amended another.
Report of Committee on Senate’s amendments adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to-
That Mr. Ewing, Mr. Groom, and the mover be appointed a Committee to draw up reasons for the House of Representatives disagreeing to amendments Nos. 4,5, and 6.
Report read by the Clerk, as follows : -
As to Amendment No. 4. - That the alteration made by the Senate would be undesirable from the trade point of view.
As to Amendment No.5. - That the alteration made by the Senate would be undesirable from the trade point of view.
As to Amendment No. 6. - That the alteration made by the Senate would be a detriment to the export trade, and would place the Australian wine-maker at a disadvantage as compared with the importer.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Deakin) read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause1 (Short title).
– If honorable members will turn to the fourth volume of the Statutes, they will find, at page 81, an “ Act to amend the Excise Tariff Act 1902.” Section 2 contains the following proviso : -
Provided that this Act shall not apply to or affect the duty imposed by the Excise Tariff 1902 upon sugar produced from cane grown and delivered for manufacture before the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seven.
According to the proviso quoted, cane produced in 1906, but not converted into sugar until 1907, would have to pay Excise duty at the rate of £4, instead of £5 per ton. That was not the intention of honorable members at the time that the Act was passed, and we therefore propose to make the position perfectly clear by substituting the following new proviso: - “ Provided that the duty of excise payable on sugar produced from cane delivered for manufacture before the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seven, shall be three-fourths of the aforesaid rate.”
– Without any desire to be hypercritical, I do think it is unfortunate that we should pass so many Bills which immediately afterwards require to be amended. It seems to me that it does not reflect credit upon the draftsmanship.
– This particular amendment was made in the Chamber. It met the view which was then put forward, but does not meet the contingency for which we are now providing.
– In view of the explanation of the Prime Minister, I see no objection to the amendment proposed to be effected by this clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the Bill to pass through its remaining stages without delay.
Bill read a third time.
– By way of personal ex planation, I must admit that to-day I failed to consult the deputy leader of the Opposition - as I should have done - before making any alteration in the order of business. The change was made to meet the wish of my colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs. It was only after I entered the Chamber that he informed me of his special desire to deal with the measure which we have been discussing. Now that the deputy leader of the Opposition is in his place, it is due to him that I should make this acknowledgment, and that I should add that he was perfectly justified in making his complaint. That change in the order of business was proposed just as we met at the urgent request of my colleague, who believed that the consideration of the Senate’s amendments in the Excise Tariff (Spirits) Bill would occupy only a few minutes.
– It is a pity that the Prime Minister does not stand up to his colleague a bit.
– I am perfectly prepared not to proceed with the next business on the notice-paper, if the honorable member would prefer that we should first deal with the proposed Tariff Agreement with Btitish South Africa. I am entirely in his hands.
– I do not mind. The Prime Minister mav please himself.
– I do not think that the debate upon the second reading of the Pacific Island Labourers Act Amendment Bill need occupy more than five minutes, and we will, therefore, proceed with it.
– In moving -
That the Bill be now read a second time,
I wish to say that it represents another addition to an existing law. Honorable members will recollect that under the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1 901 the deportation of those labourers will commence after the 31st December of this year, after which date they cannot be employed in the Commonwealth under any agreement. Inasmuch as they cannot be employed at any time without an agreement, it follows that as the law at present stands they cannot be employed at all while awaiting deportation immediately after the 31st December next. Any delay which may occur in providing them with the means of transportation would mean their enforced idleness. They would not be able to maintain themselves, and unless they were maintained by us would require to consume whatever savings they may have made in Australia. Consequently, we propose to ask the House to pass this measure, which makes two alterations in the existing law. After section 8 of the principal Act, we propose to insert a provision enabling the Minister to grant a certificate to any Pacific Island labourer, exempting him from all or any of the provisions of that Act. To that general provision are attached two sub-clauses providing two classes of certificates. The first is intended to aid in the identification of Pacific Island labourers who, under the Queensland or any other law, are entitled to remain in the Commonwealth. We propose to issue to them what may be called a “permanent” certificate. That certificate will prove their title to remain should their presence here ever be questioned. The intention, therefore, is to enable every kanaka entitled to reside in Australia to establish the fact by production of his permanent certificate.
– Are there any reasons other than that of long residence which entitle him to remain?
– Yes. Marriage with a white woman or with an aboriginal woman, or the possession of a plantation may entitle him to remain in the Commonwealth.
– What period of residence will entitle him to remain?
– The uncontested cases are under the Queensland Act of 1884, which required a five years residence, making now twenty-seven years. But it is generally recognised that where a kanaka has been in Queensland for more than twenty years, and has settled down, it is undesirable to remove him. The Islanders will be dealt with individually upon the report of the officers, which will fully set out the grounds upon which any one of them obtains his certificate.
– Would the Prime Minister exempt a kanaka who had married during the last year or so?
– Yes .
– Then the Prime Minister has a good means of defeating the Act.
– No kanaka who marries hereafter will be exempt from the provisions of the principal Act. The permanent certificate is intended to identify those who are entitled to remain in Queensland as long as they please. Then we provide for the issue of special certificates, which will enable kanakas to be employed under an agreement between the 31st December next and 30th June following. We are arranging with a shipping company that their boats shall call regularly at the various ports, and the special certificates which will be issued will, as far as possible, be timed to provide a full passenger list for these vessels. Thus a Pacific Island labourer will be enabled to know approximately the clay upon which hrs ship will be ready to receive him. That provision will confer a benefit upon the kanakas themselves, inasmuch as it will prevent their savings from being dissipated, and it will benefit the residents at the various ports, who might otherwise be embarrassed by the presence of a number of Islanders waiting for the vessels by which they are tobe deported. The issue of the certificates, whether general or special, is safeguarded in sub-clause 3 by a power which is vested in the Minister to cancel them at any time.
– I absolutely concurin the proposals embodied in this Bill. It seems tome that they are dictated only by a humane spirit. Upon the very lowest grounds of humanity they represent the least that we can do for a class of people who have been seriously affected by the legislation which we have passed, and which has evidently been found to be of too drastic a character. I do not mean to suggest that it has been too drastic in regard to its general application-
– But that it has been too abrupt ?
– Exactly. These people are to be deported, and it devolves upon us, on the grounds of common humanity, to render their departure as complete and as easy as possible. Where marriages have been contracted, they should be honored, and where other engagements have been made, which make it impossible for us to deport the kanakas without outraging considerations of common humanity, we must allow them to remain here if they choose to do so. I am glad that the measure has been introduced, and I hope that the Government will adopt a humane course in respect of these people against whose employment our legislation has been directed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
After section eight of the Pacific Island Labourers Act1901 the following section is inserted : - 8a. (1) The Minister may grant a certificate to any Pacific Island labourer excepting him from all or any of the provisions of this Act.
Certificates under this section shall be of two classes, namely -
Island labourers whom in the opinion of the Minister it will not be convenient to return to their islands immediately, after the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and six.
– Of course the Pacific Islanders will not be retained in the Commonwealth in idleness after the 31st December next. It is presumed that they will accept engagements. I do not know whether it is intended to enforce that provision of the Act under which anybody who employs a Pacific island labourer except under agreement, will be liable to summary conviction.
– We shall get rid of that provision by this Bill.
– What I desire to know is whether it is intended that agreements shall be entered into by the kanakas awaiting deportation ?
– The agreements may be for any time? In some cases the period would be very short.
– That is so.
– It is still intended that there shall be an agreement, and that that provision shall be in force ?
– The agreement is not to be for the period contemplated by the original provision?
– Not for years.
– But for any period, however short?
– Those are the only points that I desire to have cleared up.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 28th September, vide page 5684) :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
After section fifty-seven of the Principal Act the following section is inserted : - 57a. - (1) If the Postmaster-General has rea sonable ground to suppose that any telephone is being used by any person in connexion with or in furtherance of gaming or betting, or any illegal or immoral purpose, he may by order forthwith determine the agreement with the subscriber relating to the telephone, and thereupon the telephone shall be disconnected from the telephone exchange, and all instruments, wires, and other property of the Postmaster-General in connexion with the telephone shall be removed from the premises of the subscriber. . . .
In this section - “Gaming” includes promoting, carrying on, or taking part in any sweepstakes, totalizator, lottery, or scheme in which money or any valuable thing is paid to or distributed amongst or is to be paid to or distributed amongst subscribers or contributors on any event or contingency of or relating to any horse-race or other race or any fight, game, sport, or exercise.
.- It seems to me that the Government are yielding unnecessarily to outside clamour in submitting this Bill, which is something in the nature of panic legislation. There has-been some little demand in Melbourne for a Bill of this kind, but I scarcely think that the Government are justified in proposing to apply such legislation without occasion to all the States. If a man is not to be permitted to use a telephone for the purpose of making a bet, I fail to see why we should allow the telephone to be used in connexion with gambling on the Stock Exchange. There is no essential difference between the two transactions. The honorable member for Kooyong knows that the illegitimate gambling transactions which take place on the Stock Exchange are quite as numerous as thosewhich occur elsewhere. I am not an advocate of the gambling fraternity. I do not know one of them. I have never made a bet on a horse race that I can remember.
– It is just as well to make some reservation.
– I have never in my life made a bet on a horse race, a bicycle race, or anything of the kind.
– We do not wish to know anything about what the honorable member has done in that regard.
– But it may be. said outside, if not here, that I amin sympathy with the gambling fraternity. As I never attend a race meeting, and do not bet, it cannot be truthfully said that I hold a brief for those who do. I am aware, however, that on the Stock Exchange shares are sold by men who do not hold them, and never expect to hold them for any length of time. The use of the telephone in connexion with such transactions, however, is permitted. I do not think that we should give the Postmaster-General power to disconnect a telephone merely because, as provided in this clause, ‘he “ has reasonable grounds “ to suppose that it is being used in furtherance of gaming or betting, or any illegal or immoral purpose. Something more than reasonable suspicion should be required. Even assuming that gambling has an injurious effect on the community, I think we ought to provide that, before taking this step, the PostmasterGeneral shall be satisfied by such proof as would be required by a court of law that the telephone is being used for betting or illegal or immoral purposes. I for one shall not, at the present stage, vote for this provision. It is, to say the least, singular that the deputy leader of the Opposition and others who frequently complain of legislation being rushed through at the fag-end of the session, when members have lost interest in the business of the House, have not a word to say in opposition to this proposal, which means a serious invasion of the liberty of the subject, and is sought to be rushed through the House without reasonable consideration. I think the clause should be amended in the way I have suggested, and that we should also require the Postmaster- General to give notice of intention to disconnect a telephone from the Exchange. Under the clause as it stands, it would be open to the Minister or his officers, on being informed that a telephone is being used for betting purposes, to cut it off without warning to the subscriber. That is not a- reasonable proposition. I shall oppose this Bill at every stage, unless its provisions are so modified as not to restrict the right of the people to the use of this great public convenience. I should like also to know how the use of slot telephones for these purposes is to be prevented. We are going too far. This is a proposal to elevate the Minister to the position of a censor of public morals. He has quite enough to do at the present time without being called upon to discharge the duties of such an office. If there is one Commonwealth Department which is undermanned, and requires to be overhauled in order that it may give satisfaction to the public, it is this; and yet we have before us a proposal to place on the shoulders of the Minister other and additional responsibilities.
.- I do not know what useful purpose this Bill will serve. ‘The Minister is already able to exercise the power for which it provides, and it seems to me that it has simply been put forward as a sort of placard. Cases have occurred in which people who have been, perhaps, impudent to the postal officials have had ‘ their telephonic communication cut off. Speaking from memory, I believe that in the telephone agreements there is a reservation of power to disconnect at any time.
– Not without warning.
– It has been done.
– Only after a conviction.
– I know of a case in which, because of alleged impudence to a postal official, a subscriber had his telephone removed. I would also point out that under the Post and Telegraph Act the Postmaster- General1 is granted immunity from action in respect of anything done by him in the discharge of the duties of his office. In a recent case the High Court refused to issue a mandamus to compel the Postmaster-General to deliver certain postal matter, but I think it decided that he could be sued for conversion. A man, however, could not take action for the nondelivery of a verbal message, so that if his telephone were disconnected Re would have no remedy. He has not even the remedy of suing for conversion. As I have said, the Postmaster-General cannot be sued for acts done in the discharge of his administrative duties, the only exception being that he may be sued for trover. This is a pretty little* platitude for the end of the session. It will assist some who, not having subjected themselves to sufficient temptation to strengthen their morality, require the subvention of an Act of Parliament to keep them straight. As the result of this class of over legislation in regard to gambling, we shall ha,ve a crop of moral exotics; and the Bill will be a further inducement to men to resort to subterfuge. If the rising generation are not cute enough to make their little gambling communications, notwithstanding this measure, then some of us have been woefully deceiving ourselves as to the mental virility and the capacity of the rising generation of Australia to think out expedients.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I should like to hear from the Minister a reason for the proposed amendment of the law. At the present time the telephone attendants cut off any person who is carrying on small talk, and surely the Department has power to prevent the use of the telephone for immoral purposes.
.- In his very short second-reading speech, the Minister, it seemed to me, did not give sufficient reasons for this proposed extension of his powers. To my mind the Bill goes further than the Committee is aware. I am not prepared to vote for measures which will not be used.
– The honorable member has helped to place on the statute-book many such measures.
– If so, I have done it unconsciously; I shall not knowingly err in that direction. The measure is not likely to be generally used by any Administration, and its partial application would be unjust. Will the Postmaster -General, on the passing of the Bill, be prepared to terminate the agreements for telephone service with the authorities of the Flemington and Caulfield race-courses? No one will deny that gambling is indulged in very extensively on those race-courses whenever a race meeting is held there. We should know exactly what we are doing in this matter. If honorable members are in favour of cutting off the telephone from all gambling institutions, well and good, though I am opposed to doingso. But I certainly object to allow the Minister to exercise discrimination in this matter, and to say that one race-course is moral and that another is not. The Bill says that the Minister may terminate an agreement when he has reasonable ground to believe that a telephone is being used for gambling purposes.
– Will he visit disorderly houses himself?
– I am afraid that he will not ; and he may act on insufficient evidence. Any man in the city can ring up the Victorian Club, Melbourne, or Tattersalls Club in Sydney, and make a bet with any of its members, provided that he is known to that member as one who pays his debts of honour.
– How does the honorable member know that ?
– Because I have done it. I am not playing the part of a Puritan in this matter. From my point of view, there is nothing objectionable in betting on horses, if one can afford to lose the money that is staked. Would the Minister use the Bill against the Victorian Club on such evidence as I have just given of the fact that that institution is used for gambling, or would he require further information before taking advantage of its provisions ? I wish to know in what cases he intends to act.
– This is not panic legislation, introduced because of the representations of deputations. The measure has been in print for a considerable time, and has been brought forward because the legal advisers of the Government think that the Department has not now sufficient power to terminate agreements in cases where telephones are being used for immoral purposes. The instruction has been given that fresh agreements, and renewals of existing agreements, shall not be made except on the condition that this power shall be reserved to the Department. That applies to all subscribers. The Postmaster-General already has the power to prohibit the delivery of letters and telegrams to particular persons.
– After proclamation in the Gazette.
– Yes.; but would a Minister exercise any of these powers on his own initiative? The honorable member for Kalgoorlie asked what will be done in the case of a club. I say that the Minister would be justified in using the power given him By the Bill in regard to any club used for gaming or betting or other immoral purposes. The words in the clause are the same as those contained in section 57 of the Post and Telegraph Act. That section provides that if the Postmaster-General “ has reasonable ground to suppose “ any person to be receiving money or any valuable thing as consideration in respect of any one of various immoral agreements there set out. he may direct that any postal article addressed to such person shall not be delivered.
– Is not that power sufficient?
– The legal advisers of the Crown think that it is not. No Minister would dare to exercise the powers provided under the Bill without due inquiry, and on the advice of responsible officers, and if any improper discrimination is shown, Parliament will call the Minister to account.
– The honorable member for Coolgardie said that he wondered that the Opposition, having objected to the rushing through of legislation at this late period of the session, did not take exception to this particular Bill. I may tell the honorable member that the Opposition object to the action of the Government in rushing through a large number of measures at the last minute. They contend that only necessary measures, such as some of those which we have been already considering this afternoon, should be dealt with. If, however, the honorable member expects that he, while assisting the Government to push through unnecessary Bills, is to be assisted in the solitary case where he has taken exception, he is mistaken. This Bill should have been introduced at an earlier stage of> the session. Every Minister now seems to be raking his Department with a view to finding some measure which he can bring down in the dying hours of this Parliament. I am quite willing to give the PostmasterGeneral the powers that he is now seeking. He already has fully as much authority in regard to other matters. There is no doubt that great evil is being wrought by the spread of gambling. The careers of many of our most promising young men are being ruined owing to their pursuit of this vice. Any one who has had experience in commercial circles must know that the facilities now afforded for betting, particularly in small sums, are productive of the very worst effects. So strong have some of the gambling institutions become that thev are actually attempting to defy the Government and the law.
– The Stock Exchange has been doing that for a. long time
– That is another question. If Parliament considers that the proceedings of the Stock Exchange are detrimental to the morals of the community, there is nothing to prevent them from applying a remedy.
– Some of the operations carried on on the Stock Exchange are worse than those of the three-card-trick men.
– Although some of the proceedings upon the Stock Exchange mav not be above reproach, it cannot be denied that a large amount of legitimate business is transacted there. The fact that we have not dealt, or cannot deal, with evils that may exist there should not beurged as an excuse for allowing illegitimatetransactions to be carried on in other places. I think that it is necessary to exert the strongest powers of government and the law in order to diminish as far as possible the evils resulting from the prevalence of gambling. “ I shall support the Bill.
– - I congratulate the Postmaster-General upon having introduced this measure. It seemsto me that the powers which, under the Bill, he will be able to exercise in regard to telephones form a natural complement to those which can now be brought into operation in regard to other business connected with the Department of which he has control. There is no doubt that gambling is a very great evil, and that we should abstain from offering any facilitiesfor engaging in betting and similar transactions. Personally, I see verv little difference between Tattersalls Club and the Stock Exchange. There is, no doubt, a great deal of gambling carried on in the latter institution.
– Would the honorable member be in favour of making the Bm apply to the Stock Exchange?
Mir. WILKS. - Yes. in so far as gam. bling transactions are concerned.
– Then I shall move in that direction.
– There is no doubt that the gambling element plays too prominent a part in connexion with mining share transactions.
– There is more thieving done on the Stock Exchange than upon the race-courses.
– If it could be shown that the operations of the members of the Stock Exchange were proving detrimental to the best interests of the community, the facilities now offered to them by the Department under the control of the PostmasterGeneral should be withdrawn.
– Does the honorable member contend that no legitimate business is transacted on the Stock Exchange?
– No; but I say that miningshare transactions are not free from the gambling element, and that, in many respects the Stock Exchange is as bad as n race club. I think that it is the dutv of the Commonwealth to set the very best example it can in its administration of public affairs, and I regard the step now being taken as distinctly one in the right direction.
.- I had hoped that this measure would be passed without the slightest opposition. Those honorable members who are practically opposing the Bill must represent a very small section of the community. A very serious condition of affairs exists in Victoria, and I presume also in other States, and I am sure that the action of the Ministry in bringing forward this measure will meet with the approval of a great majority of the people. It is in the highest degree necessary that we should by every means at our disposal discourage gambling. The evil is a perfect canker in the community, and the public are realizing the necessity of adopting sternly repressive measures. The honorable member for Coolgardie made some reference to the Stock Exchange of Melbourne. I presume that if any operations of an illegitimate character, detrimental to the public interest, were carried on in that institution, the PostmasterGeneral would have power to deprive the members of the advantage of the public services now rendered to them by his Department.
– Underlying most of the speculative operations upon the Stock Exchange, there is supposed to be some legitimate business.
– The mere introduction of the element of speculation is not in itself an evil so long as the end in view is a legitimate one. The gamblng evil, which it is specially desired to discourage, is so rampant, and is being attended with such evil effects, that many large public organizations, including the Australian Natives’ Association and the Chambers of Commerce, have united with representatives of all the religious bodies, and have asked the Postmaster-General to take action. Upon their behalf, I should like to add my congratulations to the Postmaster-General and the Government for having taken this step to cope with an admittedly growing evil. If similar justification existed for the introductiionof the otheramending Bills which have recently been submitted, I am sure that they would have commanded the unanimous support of honorable members. To me it is a surprise to learn that any honorable member is not prepared to support the Government in suppressing an undoubted evil, by giving the Postmaster-
General the increased power which he seeks. I have no doubt whatever that that power will be justly exercised. The public interest, as a whole, demands the enactment of special legislation of this character to prevent our youths from being corrupted by the vice of gambling, which seems to permeate our offices at the present time.
.- Personally, I am thoroughly in favour of vesting the Postmaster-General with the power which he seeks. Inasmuch as he will be called upon to deal with some very clever individuals, it is necessary that we should clothe himwith correspondingly wide powers. I am content to trust him to exercise a wise discretion, and not to discriminate between gambling institutions to the detriment of those which happen to be supported by poor people, whilst granting immunity to the more fashionable organizations, whether they be turf clubs or Tattersall’s.
– A man who can pay 10s. to visit Flemington is to be at liberty to bet, but it is to be a crime for another man to wager1s.
– I do not wish to discuss which is the worse - to bet through the Collingwood “ tote “ or through the medium of the Victorian Club. The same end is sought to be attained in each case. If the Postmaster-General intends to cut off the telephone in the one instance, he should do it in the other.
– Will he give us an assurance to that effect?
– If he would discriminate in favour of the wealthy institutions he would be unworthy of his office.
– Besides, this House exercises a control over his administration.
– Exactly. If he acted improperly it would be our duty to change the Administration. To restrict his power to effectively deal with admitted evils because we fear that an unfair discrimination might be made, would be to betray weakness. We. must clothe the Postmaster-General with very wide powers, and trust his administration. If that administration, be not satisfactory we can deal with it. I shall support the Bill, in the belief that the Postmaster-General will exercise a wise discretion in the public interest.
. -I listened with a great deal of interest to the speech delivered by the honorable member for Kooyong. His speech reminds me that he champions the doctrine of granting to the individual the widest possible liberty. Yet we heard him urging the Postmaster-General and the Committee to adopt a socialistic method of restricting individual action-
– Is it socialistic to pass a law against burglars?
– I should have expected the honorable member for North Sydney - who is usually clear-headed - to have perceived a very important distinction between the two things. When a burglar enters a man’s house, he does so from a desire to take awav something which belongs to another. But if I make a bet - and I am glad to say that I have never lost a pound upon any game of chance - the individual who wagers fully realizes that he incurs the risk of losing a certain sum of money. The burglar takes away something against the will of its proprietor, whereas the gambler merely receives money with the full consent of the individual who has lost the bet. The honorable member should not confuse the issue by instituting false analogies of that kind. I wish to enforce what I said regarding the inconsistency, not merely of the honorable member for Kooyong, but of all who belong to his school of thought, in attempting to use the socialistic power of the community to restrict individual liberty.
– It is individual licence.
– No. If I have a pound to spare, and choose to bet upon a race-course, I have a perfect right to do so. The honorable member for Kooyong, in taking the stand that he does, very inconsistently desires to restrict the liberty of the subject, which in other directions he wishes to extend. I do not agree with the position which has been assumed bv the Postmaster-General. He has quoted section 57 of the principal Act to justify the granting to him of power “ upon reasonable grounds “ to cut off telephones. Although in the Post and Telegraph Act we inserted those words, we did not clothe him with the power which he now seeks. Section 57 of the Act relates to the transmission of gambling matter through the post. But, in this Bill, the PostmasterGeneral asks us to empower him to cut off telephones if he has reasonable grounds to suppose that they are being used for anv illegal or immoral purpose. I would remind the Committee that the courts of justice should determine what is illegal, and it is rather an unusual thing to clothe a Minister- behind the back of a person accused - with power to declare that what he is doing is illegal.
– It isquite an ordinary power with which to clothe the Minister.
– Certainly not. If I were accused of an offence, it would not be the Attorney-General who would decide whether I was guilty, but a judge and a jury.
– At the present time, if a subscriber allows other persons to use his telephone, the Postmaster-General may cut it off.
– I do not deny that for a moment. It is provided for in the contract.
– I think that, under existing legislation, the Postmaster-General has power to do what he seeks.
– That may be. So long as there are courts of justice in existence, he has no right to be made the judge of what is illegal and what is not. Upon the question of what is immoral, I am not prepared to speak with any degree of authority.
– Would the honorable member include the Stock Exchange in the operation of this Bill?
– I have already said that I would. At a later stage,I intend to move an amendment to that effect. I think that before a subscriber is disconnected, he should be afforded an. opportunity of proving to the Postmaster-General that he has not used, or knowingly permitted his telephone to be used,, for any illegal or immoral purpose. It is only reasonable that he should be allowed an opportunity to prove that he has done nothing wrong. As the clause stands, however, the PostmasterGeneral may cut off a telephone without a word of warning, and without any explanation to the subscriber. He might simply say to him, “ I have reasonable ground to believe that your telephone is being used for gambling or betting or illegal or immoral purposes, and I propose to remove it.”
– If the honorable member allowed any one to use his telephone to-morrow for any purpose whatever, it could be cut off.
– That rule, however, is more honored in the breach than the observance.
– The new regulations provide for emergency calls.
– Although we may desire to give the Postmaster-General full power to take action in these matters, I do not think that we should confer on any Minister the tyrannical and despotic power which this clause contemplates. Unless some other honorable member takes action, I shall move to insert the word “knowingly,” or if the Attorney-General thinks that we can best secure our object by a different amendment, I shall move the addition of the words, “ Provided that no telephone shall be removed until the subscriber has had an opportunity of bringing forward proof that it has not been used for betting or for any illegal or immoral purpose.”
– I listened carefully to the speech made by the Minister, and feel constrained to say that, after all, this is a purely electioneering squib, designed to cater for a particular vote, and to meet the wave of morality now passing over Melbourne. I do not suppose the Postmaster-General will deny that he has been on a race-course.
– I have frequently been on one.
– If the honorable gentleman has been at Flemington, is he prepared to deny that betting takes place there?
– The Minister is not in the witness-box.
– But the administration of this measure is likely to be for some time in his hands. The Bill dennes betting as “ betting or wagering on the result of any horse race,” &c, and the Minister is well aware that betting is carried on at Flemington race-course. That being so,” I wish to know whether he will be prepared to cut off the telephonic and telegraphic conveniences on that course?
– If I am advised by my advisers that any telephone is being used for illegal or immoral purposes, and that it is -in the public interests that it should be cut off, I shall order it to be cut off, whether it be associated with the largest or the smallest club.
– That is a delightfully vague answer. The honorable gentleman says that he would require to be advised first of all that it was necessary in the public interests that the telephone should be removed. There is nothing about the public interest in this Bill. I hold that every individual should be treated alike, and that if this measure is, in certain respects, to remain a dead letter, there is no reason why we should pass it. No one could deny that gaming and betting are carried on at Flemington, but the Minister has dodged the question that I put to him.
– I shall not hesitate to take any action that I am advised is desirable.
– If the honorable gentleman is prepared to take any. action that he is advised is desirable, we have no right to confer upon him such an extraordinary power as that for which this clause provides. If he avails himself of the discretionary powers ‘conferred upon him by this clause to convenience some and inconvenience others - to discriminate between one subscriber and another- he ought to take care that in every case he does the right thing.
– Does not the honorable member think that my advisers would act only upon strong evidence, and that what he suggests would probably be done ?
– They will probably be requested to tender advice in certain cases, and to refrain from doing so in others. It is open’ to argument whether decisive steps should not be taken to prevent any -increase of gambling in Australia ; but at present I am not dealing with that point. At present it would seem that a man who can afford to go to Flemington may bet as much as he pleases there, while others in less affluent circumstances, are to be prevented from wagering a shilling when they cannot go out to the course. To be consistent, we should apply this principle not only to the telephonic, but to the telegraphic system. Nine-tenths of the betting that takes places is transacted on information transmitted by telegraph as to whether certain horses are to start, their place in the betting, and their chances of success. I hold, therefore, that if the House is prepared to apply this principle to the telephone system, it should apply it : to the telegraph system. As - the result of action taken by this Parliament to prevent the delivery of letters addressed to “ Tattersall “ the Department has suffered an annual loss of revenue representing thousands and thousands of pounds, while the profits of the banks, the ‘directors of which have no conscientious scruples in this regard, have been largely increased,
The money which used to be transmitted through the Post Office to “Tattersall “ is now sent through the medium of the banks. Since the passing of the provision in question, the amount of money invested in Tattersall’s sweeps has increased.
– Is the honorable member sure that it has?
– During the recent controversy in Tasmania, it was said that notwithstanding our legislation, the sweep money was greater than ever. There is no justification for the proposal to allow the Minister to discriminate, and to take action without sufficient cause. No one would defend the extension of telephonic facilities to those who are carrying on anything that is illegal or immoral, but I agree with the honorable member for Coolgardie that we should provide that the Minister shall take action only when it has been proved that a subscriber has been guilty of the act complained of. If the Minister will agree to so amend the clause, and to take into consideration the desirability of extending this principle to the telegraph system, I think that he will take a step in the direction of consistency. It is not reasonable that he should have this discretionary power.
– What discretionary power ?
– The PostmasterGeneral has to be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that a telephone is being used for betting, gaming, or immoral purposes.
-The honorable member would not have him act without reasonable grounds?
– I think that he should take action only when it has been demonstrated that there are justifiable grounds for cutting off a telephone.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– In my opinion, it is proposed to give an unreasonable power to the Postmaster-General, and one which Parliament should not, without full consideration, give to any Minister. It may be necessary in some of the States, and, perhaps, in Victoria, to do something to control what I believe is undoubtedly becoming a social evil. But we should deal directly in our attempts to suppress gambling, and should not give an unreasonable discretion to a Minister. The PostmasterGeneral has told the Committee that he will take certain action if his officers report, and he believes, that certain practices are taking place against the public interest; but the Bill says nothing about public interest. A measure like this should apply to all alike. I am not in favour of preventing the use of the totalizator at race meetings at Flemington, Randwick, or other reputable courses, or of preventing betting in legitimate clubs conducted under the laws of the States. But if the Minister is prepared to use the powers given by the Bill in regard to all places and establishments where betting is carried on, I am willing to make- a statutory declaration that betting is carried on at Randwick and Flemington race-courses and the Victorian and Sydney Tattersall’s Clubs, where thousands of pounds are won and lost every year in connexion with betting transactions. If he is not prepared to bring these places under the Bill - and I am inclined to think that he is not - I do not think that he should apply the provisions of the measure to other places equally respectable, but on a smaller scale. A short time ago he used his discretionary power to prohibit delivery of letters to a firm, for interfering with whose business I think he had no more justification than he had for interfering with the business of many others engaged in the same line. It is to prevent unreasonable discrimination of that kind on the part of a Minister, who may be disposed to use these powers to court popular approval, that I oppose the Bill. If the honorable gentleman’s desire is to prevent the telephone from being used where gambling is being carried on, I will give him proof that gaming and betting is taking place at the big betting clubs, and on the race-courses, so that he may take action accordingly. If he is not willing to terminate the telephone agreements made with the authorities of those places, but wishes to apply the provisions of the measure to other places, I am justified in regarding the Bill as hypocritical..
.- I am in the happy position of having had no personal experience of gambling, but I have heard the painful appeals made by mothers and wives on behalf of unfortunate sons and husbands whom this terrible vice has brought into trouble. During my short political career I have known men whose early days were surrounded with good home influence, and who had the best training that our schools could give, afterwards mounting step by step to high positions in the Public Service, to become addicted to the curse of gambling. Yielding to its temptations to do wrong, they have fallen from the high estate to which they Had attained after years Of patient work, and are now confined in the prison cell.
– Some persons go mad over religion.
– Seeing how prevalent gambling is, right-thinking men should wish well to every legitimate effort to put an end to it. The Postmaster-General cannot deal with all the varied phases of this terrible curse, but he is attempting to deal with one phase of it, and may hope to meet with some degree of success, because the large city betting establishments known as “ tote shops “ could not carry on their business so easily if they were deprived of the means of getting and giving information provided bv the telephone service. If there is the least chance of this attempt to lessen the gambling evil proving successful it should be supported.
– Would the honorable member prevent the telegraphs from being used to convey information relating to betling ?
– Would the honorable member prevent the distribution by telegraph of all news connected with horseracing ?
– I believe that the evil cannot be successfully checked until that is done, and I am prepared to vote for it. The Postmaster-General is asking for power to cut off the telephone service from places where it is used for the circulation of information relating to gambling. In in opinion, he is not likely to take action except on the advice of officers who will not make any recommendation unless they h:We. good grounds for doing so.
– They will not throw away business.
– I do not think that any sensible, man in control of a big Government Department -would do so. It is necessary that the Postmaster-General shall have power to act quickly, and therefore the onus of proving that a telephone is not being improperly used must lie on those to whose action objection is taken. To put the onus of proof on the Department would be to prevent effective action. I feel sure that the powers asked for will not be abused, and will be used with due discretion. These are not new powers. The Postmaster-General already has the right to refuse to transmit postal matter which may be regarded as indecent or immoral. This power has been used to the advantage of the community to prevent the distribution of post-cards which, if not grossly indecent, were, at least, extremely vulgar. Knowing .something of the extent to which the vice of gambling is undermining the morals of the community, this attempt to minimise it meets with my hearty approval. Our people cannot expect to grow into a strong and virile nation so long as they remain a race of gamblers. I shall support the clause.
.–I hope that the Postmaster-General will see his way clear to accept reasonable amendments in this clause. I think that he would be well advised if he permitted a provision to be inserted to the effect that a telephone should not be cut off until the subscriber had received notice of the charge made against him, and had been afforded an opportunity to prove that it was unfounded. If necessary, I shall move an amendment in that direction. I should like to hear what the Attorney-General has to say with regard to the use of the word “ illegal “ in the clause. I do not know of any legislation by which we have conferred upon a Minister power to usurp the functions of a Court of Justice, and determine whether or not an act is illegal. The Courts of Justice exist for the purpose of determining questions of illegality, and we should not empower the Minister to pass them by, and settle such matters for himself. ‘The Postmaster-General might pronounce to be illegal a perfectly legitimate proceeding on the part of a subscriber. I object to the use of the words “ if the PostmasterGeneral has reasonable grounds.” Although these words are used in the principal Act, there is no reason why they should be employed in this case. The Minister should not only have reasonable grounds for believing that a telephone was being put to improper use, but he should require something in the nature of, legal proof before depriving a subscriber of the service. The honorable member for Kooyong admitted that this Bill was introduced in response to the clamour of a number of irresponsible, mischievous busybodies who want to improve the morals of the people by Act of Parliament. I feel exceedingly sorry for those who have fallen victims to the gambling evil, and would do what I could to reclaim them; but I am not so foolish as to suppose that we can reform humanity by methods such as those now proposed. Gambling is one of the primary instincts of the human race, and we shall not eradicate it by merely indicting a certain number of words on a sheet of parchment. Other agencies will prove far more effective in that direction than any attempt to interfere with the legitimate liberty of the subject. The members of the Opposition are continually shrieking against proposals made at the instance of, or with the approval of, the Labour Party, in the direction of extending the collective control by the people of. their own affairs ; but, in a matter which affects the individual alone, and in which rational men ought to be allowed to decide for “themselves, they are silent as the grave. We ought not to deprive a man of the use of his telephone upon the strength of a charge made in secret, heard in secret, and decided in secret. Any subscriber against whom a charge is levelled should have an opportunity of disproving it. Not only should the nature of the charge be communicated to him, but also the name of his accuser. I move -
That after the word “ being,” line 5, the word “ knowingly “ be inserted.
– - That would enable subscribers to evade the law.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that a subscriber should be penalized if, during his absence from home, a stranger entered the premises, and, after obtaining the permission of, say, a servant, .used his telephone to make a wager? I would point out that, notwithstanding the drastic character of this Bill, there would be nothing to prevent any person from using a slot telephone for the purpose of making as many bets as he chose.
.- The honorable member for Coolgardie has had a great deal to say with ‘regard to the proposed interference with the legitimate liberty of the subject ; but, during the last three years, he has never raised his voice in defence of the legitimate liberty of those whose lawful trades and occupations have been interfered with bv our legislation. On the contrary, he has very cordially supported the extension of the functions’ of Government in that direction. Although’ he Was been quite ‘indifferent as to the liberty of those engaged in lawful trades and occupations, he is now very much concerned about the liberty of those who engage in unlawful occupations. He has not only defended the liberty of the subject, but has gone so far as to advocate that license should be granted. There is no question about the right of the Government to exercise full control over the telephone service. The Postmaster-General is now in a position to prevent the transmission of objectionable matter through the post. When the honorable member for Coolgardie was Postmaster-General, he did not hesitate to exercise such powers. Did he then consider that he was interfering with the liberty of the subject?
– I did not exercise the powers referred to.
– I am sure that the hon- 01 able member would not have Hesitated to interfere with the liberty of the subject if he had ascertained that objectionable matter was being transmitted. He certainly prevented the transmission of moneys through the post to “ Tattersall,” in Tasmania, and that was certainly an interference with the liberty of the subject. If it be right to prevent literature of a harmful character passing through the post, and to exercise a censorship over telegrams, it is equally right to prevent our telephones from being used for illegal and immoral purposes. I take it that the Bill is directed against well-known gaming institutions, and that the Postmaster-General will use it to suppress these flagrant evils. So far as I am concerned. I would make it applicable to the Stock Exchanges and the leading clubs in Australia.
– It will be enforced against all-comers.
– The Postmaster- General says that it will be enforced against allcomers. To my mind, his statement savours of the language of the turf.
– How- does the honorable member know that?
– I used to take a prominent part in aquatics, and I recollect that we frequently held competitions for allcomers. I wish to emphasize the statement of the Postmaster-General that he will exercise the powers conferred bv this Bill against all evil-doers, irrespective of whether thev be found in a club or in a tobacconist’s shop. I certainly think that the Bill should be made applicable to the Stock Exchanges. I trust that the honorable member for Coolgardie will never again twit the Opposition with a desire to interfere with the liberty of the subject. Does he not recognise that all law is more or less an interference with the liberty of the individual ? Even imprisonment can be regarded in that light. The man who goes to Pentridge does not go there of his own free-will.
– He is sometimes the victim of too much legislation.
– I regret very much that the honorable member for Coolgardie should have advanced the argument which he did in regard to the suppression of unlawful practices. I have no wish to indulge in any Puritanic talk, but I do say that the greatest besetting evil of young Australia to-day is that of gambling. The rising generation spend not only their own money, but that of other people, in this vice. I think that we shall be acting wisely if we refuse to allow any portion of our Postal Department to be used for gambling purposes.
– This Bill is in no sense a party measure, and. although the honorable member for Dalley has claimed to defend the Opposition
– I claimed to defend myself.
– Although the honorable member essayed the task of defending the Opposition from certain insinuations which he thought he detected in the remarks of the honorable member for Coolgardie, I am bound to say that his protest reminded me of the quotation from the players’ scene in Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” In spite of his protestation, his address afforded strong evidence of his intimate knowledge of racing. He could not resist telling the Committee what he knew about the very evil of which he protested that he was innocent. Under the circumstances, I think it would be well if we had a few words from the deputy leader of the Opposition, who could put the case with some claim to real innocence. I have no desire to discuss the question of whether or not gambling can’ be suppressed bv legislation. That is a matter of opinion. The question that we have to consider in connexion with this Bill is, “ Shall we allow a Government institution to be used to further the evil of gambling?” Having established a post-office and a telephone department, shall we allow them to be used for purposes which we know to be inimical to tha public interest? I ‘am sorry that, in his address to the Committee, the honorable member for Coolgardie should have altogether ignored this point. I have seldom heard him make a weaker speech than he did this afternoon.
– To what point does the honorable member refer?
– I am referring to the question of whether we should allow the instrumentalities of the Post Office to be used for the purpose of furthering illegal practices.
– Is the honorable member in favour of preventing the transmission of telegraphic messages giving the results of horse-racing”?
– The honorable member is seeking to draw a red herring across the trail. At the present time we are not discussing horse- racing, but gambling, and the honorable member altogether misses the point when he asks whether the Postmaster-General ought to prevent racing telegrams from being transmitted from the race-courses. I do not imagine that the Postmaster-General will do any such thing.
– It would be gaming, from one point of view, to transmit over the wires the starting prices of the horses engaged in any race. Would the honorable member prevent that?
– I would prevent the transmission of any messages in furtherance of gambling. The honorable member for Coolgardie has moved an amendment which would have the effect of nullifying the whole clause. Need I remind him of the legislation which has been passed by the various States Parliaments in respect of Sunday trading. I have known cases of Sunday trading to be brought before the Court - cases in which the hotelkeeper has escaped punishment simply because he has declared that the offence was not committed with his knowledge. State legislation in relation tq these matters has had to be amended bv the omission of the word “knowingly,” for the reason that every proceeding under it has broken down. I should like to ask the honorable member for Coolgardie, who has held office as Postmaster-General, whether he thinks it would be possible to obtain a conviction under the clause as proposed to be amended by him.
– Then the honorable member is more sanguine than I imagined. Reference has been made to a certain gambling establishment in one of the suburbs, and I think it would be practically impossible for the PostmasterGeneral to prove that the keeper of that house knowingly allowed his telephone to be used for illegal purposes. I agree with the honorable member that ample notice should be given a subscriber of the intention of the Postmaster-General to remove his telephone. I do not imagine, however, that the Minister would take action on a mere rumour or unsupported statement that a telephone was being used for betting purposes. If the honorable member for Coolgardie moves to amend the clause by providing that reasonable notice shall be given, I shall vote with him, but I am opposed to his proposal to amend the clause in a way that would completely nullify it.
.- I desire to know whether, in the event of his receiving sworn evidence that betting is carried on at Flemington, Randwick, Caulfield, and similar courses, and at the Victorian Club, Melbourne, and Tattersall’s Club, Sydney, and similar institutions, the Postmaster-General will be prepared to remove their telephones.
– In reply to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, I desire to say. that this measure is designed, not for ornament, but for use, and that, if it be passed, it will certainly be brought into operation. It will not permit the big fish to escape while the little ones are caught. If I receive definite evidence that a telephone is being used for gambling, betting, or illegal or immoral purposes, in connexion with either the biggest or smallest club in the land, I shall be prepared to carry out the mandate of Parliament. I shall be ready in such circumstances to remove telephones, whether they belong to big or to small clubs.
– The honorable gentleman has not given me a straight-out answer.
– As to the amendment, I would remind the honorable member for Coolgardie that the words “ he may by order forthwith,” which appear in this clause, were inserted so that the law should not be evaded. If we are to act under this clause, it is well that we should take action at once. It is true, as pointed out by the honorable member for Fre mantle, that the Department would not be prepared to interfere with the rights and privileges of a subscriber, and thus to suffer a loss of revenue merely because of some rumour that his telephone was being used for betting purposes. We should require definite and conclusive information.
– Action will be taken in flagrant cases.
– Quite so. If the Committee think that we ought to stop an abuse of the system, it will pass this measure as introduced. If, on the other hand, it takes the opposite view, it will so amend this clause that it will either be ineffective or lead to litigation. There is some doubt as to whether we have not power under the existing law to take action in this direction, and we wish to remove that doubt. The Bill has been carefully framed by the Attorney-General who advises me that it would be inadvisable to insert the word “knowingly.” That being so, I cannot accept the amendment. I fail to see why there should be any suggestion that it is intended to apply this measure to one man, whilst allowing another equally guilty of these offences to escape.
– Will the honorable gentleman say that if the telephone at Flemington is used for transmitting messages in connexion with horse- racing, he will declare that it is being used for betting; purposes ?
– If it is being used for gambling or betting purposes, as provided in this Bill, it will be cut off. Why should we pass a law that would prevent the use of a telephone in a “tote” shop, whilst at the same time permitting it to be used in some other gambling establishment? I do not know what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has in his mind ; but I can assure the Committee that if this Bill be passed I shall, as long as I remain in office, administer it without respect to persons.
.- I think it is immaterial whether we insert or refuse to insert the word “ knowingly.” The clause gives the Postmaster-General power to act without evidence; under it there will be no nossibilitv of challenging his decision. In the case of The King on the Prosecution of Howard and Freeman v. Arndel, an application was made for an order to restrain the PostmasterGeneral from refusing to deliver certain letters. There was a suggestion that the letters in question were connected with a purpose which was not very commendable, and the matter went to the High Court. The proceedings were taken under section 57 of the Post and Telegraph Act, which deals with the non-delivery of postal matter, and to which this provision is to be added. The Court declared, however, that under that section the PostmasterGeneral was not acting in a judicial capacity, the test being that he was not compelled to call evidence. Had he been compelled to do so, and to allow the defendant an opportunity to call evidence, he would have been acting in a judicial capacity. Mr. Justice Barton held that, although the Minister might not be acting in a Ministerial capacity, he was acting in an administrative capacity. Apparently, with a great deal of judicial acumen, the learned Justice drew a distinction between acting in an administrative rather than in a judicial or Ministerial capacity, and it was held that under that section the Postmaster-General had power to stop the delivery of postal matter. A person so treated might institute proceedings for conversion, but since the Minister was carrying out an administrative duty in respect to which his decision was final, he could not obtain from the High Court a prerogative writ commanding the Postmaster-General to deliver his letters. We are now dealing with a proposed addition to that section, and if the Postmaster-General has reasonable cause to believe that a certain set of facts exist with or without the knowledge of the subscriber concerned, he may cut off his telephone. I do not see that the insertion of the word “ knowingly “ would affect the stringency or liberality of the clause.
– Would not the insertion of such a word give an aggrieved person a stronger ground for appealing to the Courts?
– It might give him more right to complain.
– It might complicate matters to a considerable extent.
– I do not think so.. It would simply mean that the Committee was of the opinion that the Postmaster-General should not take action unless he considered that a subscriber was knowingly allowing his telephone to be used for any of these purposes. As a matter of fact, this provision depends on reasonable administration, and I shall not oppose it. I am still of opinion that the Minister could take action without it. There is nothing in the Post and Telegraph Act prohibiting the Department from entering into new agreements with subscribers, and reserving the power of cancellation. Under such agreements, if a telephone were removed, no one would be able to sue for breach of contract. I was under the impression that there was a similar reservation in the existing agreements. I know that under them a subscriber has been cut off, and that, although complaints were made to the PostmasterGeneral, the telephone was not restored. It may be that, whether we pass this Bill or not, anything prescribed in this clause may still be done, but if the Minister has been advised by the Attorney-General that he needs this power, I shall not object to his obtaining it. If, however, it is to be applied to every subscriber who sends a telephone message about the odds or the result of a particular horse race, the administration will be absurd. Section 57 of the principal Act is not directed against messages passing between Jack, Tom, and Harry, as to what horse won a certain race, or what were the totalizator odds. It was not intended to put a stop to a telephonic communication passing between a man on the race-course and his friend who happened to be at home as to the totalizator odds or the result of a race. It was designed to prevent the Post Office being used as a part of the machinery of a betting shop. In that respect, this may be a useful auxiliary to the campaign now being carried on in some of the States to stop the excessive growth of gambling. I do not profess to be such a purist as do those who, with an eye to coming events, have proclaimed that they have perfect innocence of a race-course ; but there can be no doubt that there is an overgrowth of gambling. I have not made a bet for fifteen years, but, like other persons, I admire a good horse. I believe that the best class of racing is that in connexion with which no betting takes place. This provision is to prevent the telephone system being used as an aid to betting shops or illegal totalizators; but the sanction of the State law has been granted to the totalizator in South Australia, and I think that it would be absurd to say that a telephone should not be used by a person who wished to communicate to a friend the totalizator odds on a certain race, and the name of the winner. Assuming that the provision will be administered on common-sense lines, I am prepared to support it.
.- I move -
That the word “ illegal,” line 7, be left out.
I need not reiterate what has already been said on the subject. We have the Courts to determine what is illegal, and therefore should not empower any Minister to declare a practice to be so. If it can be demonstrated by the Postmaster-General, Or the Attorney-General, that the former should have this power, I may recede from my position, but it seems to me that we should not, until we have had more light on the subject, allow the provision to pass as it stands.
– The Commonwealth cannot do very much directly towards the repression of illegal or immoral practices, and gaming or betting; but in the Bill we take power to say that we are not going to give facilities for what we believe to be illegal or immoral. The PostmasterGeneral is not empowered to declare anything illegal or immoral, but he will be able to say that the Commonwealth property shall not be used for what he believes to be illegal or immoral purposes. A private individual might say that he would not permit his property or business to be so used, and, in doing so, would not be usurping the functions of a Court of law. We desire to enable the PostmasterGeneral to take up the same position.
.- In order that subscribers may know that the Postmaster-General proposes to disconnect their telephones, and to give them an opportunity to submit to him reasons why that action should not be taken, I move -
That the following words be added to subclause 1 of clause 57A : - “ Provided that no telephone shall be removed until the subscriber has had an opportunity ofl bringing forward proof that the telephone has not been used for betting or for any illegal or immoral purpose.”
That is a reasonable provision which I think will find acceptance with a large number of honorable members. The AttorneyGeneral has not satisfied me, nor has he, I think, satisfied the Committee, that the Minister is not virtually given power to say what is an illegal or. immoral purpose. The Postmaster-General, in preventing a telephone from being used, for any purpose, must decide that that purpose is illegal or immoral, and the point I took just now was that he has no right to decide a question of that sort, which should be referred to the Courts of the country. The argument of the AttorneyGeneral seemed to me so much special pleading, and did not shake my opinion that the Postmaster-General will practically be called upon to decide these questions, and, in doing so, will ignore the functions of the courts of law. How-, ever, the Committee being against me, [ now appeal to its sense of fairness not to allow a charge to be made and decided against a man in the dark, and whose telephone may be cut off before he can know that such action is proposed, or the reason for it. The amendment merely provides that, before action is taken” for the disconnexion of a telephone, the subscriber shall know what the charge brought against him is, and mav have an opportunity to show that he has not used or allowed his instrument to be used improperly.
– Does the honorable member mean that a subscriber should not be disconnected without warning?
– The amendment speaks for itself. If it is carried, notice must be given by the Postmaster-General to the subscriber complained of that his telephone has been used for purposes not allowed Wythe Department, and he must be permitted an opportunity to show cause why action should not be taken against him.
Mr. ISAACS (Indi- Attorney-General [8.53].- If the amendment is carried, the administration of the measure .may be practically paralyzed.* Although the PostmasterGeneral might have no doubt that a telephone is being used improperly, the subscriber could laugh him to scorn bybringing forward so much evidence in support of his case as to delay a decision for a very long time, and. in the meanwhile, he could go on doing what was prohibited bv the rules of the Department.
– Would the honorable and’ learned gentleman condemn a man unheard ?
– Np; and no PostmasterGeneral would do so. The provision simply means that if the Postmaster-General -is satisfied that a telephone is being improperly used, he may order its disconnexion ; but, upon a subscriber showing that a mistake has been made, and that he has been wrongly charged, or upon giving an undertaking that the- offence will not be repeated, he can obtain a new agreement.
– That would cost a lot of money.
– I venture to support very strongly those who are trying to repress gambling, because I think that .it does more damage to the community than can be estimated in mere money. The moral fibre of the people is being injured, and I should be glad to see unanimous support given to the .efforts which we are making to repress this evil. No Postmaster-General would be desirous of cutting off subscribers. These, after all, are the customers of the Department. A Minister would never wish to diminish his revenue, or to burden his administration, without very good reason ; but, if a telephone is disconnected, valuable plant is thrown out of work, and part of a subscription already paid has to be returned. Besides, a sense of justice would cause any Postmaster-General to give an opportunity to the person proceeded against to show that he should not have been disconnected.
– The PostmasterGeneral would not net unless on the advice of his departmental officers.
– No; and they would subject themselves to very disagreeable reflections if their advice were not properly grounded. I think that the measure will be administered firmly and with justice. If a mistake is made, it can be rectified. It is not as though a subscriber were liable to imprisonment.
.- The Attorney-General has made the most of an exceedingly weak case. His arguments, though verv cleverly presented, as is usual with him, do not demonstrate that subscribers mav not be unfairly treated if the provision is left as it stands. He points out that the action taken by the PostmasterGeneral will not be final; that a subscriber, on showing that he has been unfairly treated, or that he will not repeat his offence, can be reconnected.
– That would not remove the injustice.
– No. If it is contemplated that subscribers may, after action has been taken, prove their innocence of the charges brought against them, surely there is reason for an exhaustive inquiry before any action is taken.
– Does not the honorable member feel sure that there will be an exhaustive inquiry before a telephone is disconnected ?
– There is nothing in the Bill allowing a subscriber to show that action should not be taken against him.
– He may not know that action is contemplated until he finds that he has been disconnected.’
– That is so.
– Why assume that the Minister will be unreasonable?
– We cannot assume that all Ministers will be angels.
– We should provide that every subscriber shall be fairly treated, and not be punished until he has had an opportunity to lay his case before the Minister. To prevent unjustifiable delay in the hearing of a case, I am willing to vote for an amendment which will require the subscriber to present bis objections within a certain time. I think that three days would be enough to allow.
– We might very well say that a subscriber shall have a reasonable opportunity to present his case.
– Yes. We should, at all events, prevent the injustice which, according to the Attorney-General, is possible under the clause as it stands. It is not sufficient to give a man the right of appeal after he has been exposed to inconvenience and loss by unjust action on the part of the Postmaster-General.
– I am afraid that the honorable member for Coolgardie will not achieve the results that he anticipates by means of his amendment. The obligation would be laid upon any reasonable Minister to exhaust every means at his command to fully satisfy himself as to the soundness of his ground for taking action before he deprived a subscriber of the use of his telephone. If the amendment were carried, however, the Minister would be authorized to act hastily, so long as an opportunity was presented to the subscriber to show that he should not be deprived of his telephone. The moment a complaint was made, he would notify the subscriber affected. In no case would the Minister take the drastic step of cutting off a telephone before he had fully satisfied himself that his action was warranted.
– How is it that a number of telephones have already been cut off?
– I do not know anything about that. I do not consider that this Bill is necessary, because I believe that the Minister already has ample powers. In New South Wales, we had to take action in regard to Tattersall’s sweeps under the Postal Act, and we experienced no difficulty. I do not recollect any case in which it was afterwards proved that injustice had been done. I know that the officers exhausted every means to satisfy themselves that action by the Department would be warranted. An officer would assume a very serious responsibility if he lightly advised the Minister to deprive a telephone subscriber of the benefit of his service. I do not think that the amendment would increase the safeguards surrounding subscribers,or that the interests of justice would be better served.
.-Ishould like to know how it is that a number of telephones have already been disconnected. Five telephones were cut off in one locality.
– Were the subscribers working a tote?
– I have not the remotest idea. I know nothing whatever about totes. If the Postmaster-General now has the power to cut off telephones, where was the necessity for introducing this Bill?
– I believe that some telephones have been cut off because subscribers, after having been warned, continued to allow persons other than members of their families or their employes to use the instruments.
– But those cases had nothing to do with the use of telephones for gambling purposes.
– If the honorable member will give me the names of the subscribers to whom he refers, I shall supply him with the particulars of each case.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided -
Ayes ……… 8
Noes …… 20
Majority …… 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That after the word “ includes,” line16, the words “ gambling on any stock exchange,” be inserted.
The amendment would have the effect of bringing gambling upon any stock exchange within the definition of “gaming.” Even the honorable member for Kooyong admitted that a good deal of gambling was engaged in on the various stock exchanges.
– Not gambling of the description specially aimed at in this Bill.
– I am sure that the honorable member will not deny that at times shares are sold on the stock exchanges by men who never held any interest in the companies in whose shares they deal. Then, again, shares are sold every day by men who have no intention to hold them, except for an immediate rise.
– Men buy and sell wheat and sugar in the same way.
– Exactly. If the honorable member moves an additional amendment which will cover such operations, I shall support him.
– I do not recognise that such operations come within the same category as ordinary gambling.
– I should like the honororable member to indicate where gambling begins and speculation ends. If we are going to put down innocent games, such as is carried on at bazaars and charity fetes, we should try to catch some of the big fish who make money by gambling on the stock exchanges.
– I cannot agree to the amendment; the Bill was never intended to apply to such cases.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided -
Ayes … … … 10
Noes … … … 18
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 2B. The Postmaster-General may refuse to transmit any message over the telegraph lines in connexion with gaming or betting, or in connexion with any horse race or other race, or any fight, game, sport, or exercise.”
– Why does the honorable member refer to a “ fight “ instead of to a boxing contest?
– I am simply following the language which is employed in the principal Act. The PostmasterGeneral has laid it down that he will prevent the transmission over the telephone wires of any messages relating to gaming or other unlawful practices. To be consistent in this matter, he must take similar action in respect of the telegraphs of the Commonwealth.
– Is this the honorable member who told us this afternoon that we should take one step at a time?
– I do not believe in the Bill but if it is to be applied to one branch of our Postal Department it should be applied to all. The Postmaster- General professes that he intends to apply,the Bill impartially, but the moment a proposal is submitted to make it applicable to the biggest gaming institution in Australia - I refer to the Stock Exchange, where more people are robbed than on any race-course in the Commonwealth - he evidently fears to administer it in the way that he suggests. Apparently, the individual who gambles on the Stock Exchange is respectable, whilst the man who bets upon a racecourse is an outcast. If we are going to prevent racing news being disseminated by means of the telephone, why not extend the prohibition to the telegraph? I hope that the Minister will see the wisdom of accepting my proposal.
.- I credit the honorable member for Kalgoorlie with perfect sincerity in thismatter, although I claim that his ideas are utterly illogical. How could the PostmasterGeneral decide whether a cyphermessage which was despatched by telegraph related to a racing event or not? How would the honorable member deal with a case of that description?
.- I think that the Government might very well accept the amendment of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie - that is, if they believe in their own Bill.
– But his proposal would prevent the transmission of any telegram which set out the result of a horse race.
– I think that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is quite consistent in the attitude which he has taken up. To a large extent, the evil of gambling is due to the publication in the press of all sorts of information relating to horse racing. The London Daily News sets a good example in this connexion by refusing to receive advertisements relating to turf matters or to sporting fixtures. If the Government seriously intend to use the powers of the Postal Department to prevent the telephones from being used to assist gambling, they must also take similar action in respect of the telegraph.
– But the amendment would prevent any sport from being indulged in.
Mr.WILKS. - If we are to prevent the telephone being used for gambling purposes, we should apply the same restriction to our telegraphic system.
– But the honorable member’s amendment would prevent the sending of a report of a cricket match over the telegraph wires.
– My intention is that the amendment shall be read in the sense that it is designed to prevent the use of the telegraph system for gambling purposes.
– We are willing to limit it in that way.
– Then I shall support the Minister. I understand that the PostmasterGeneral is prepared to apply the same restrictions to the use of the telegraph service as have been applied to the use of the telephone service.
– If the Morse instrument be used for the transmission of gambling information, it is equally as bad as the use of the human voice for such a purpose in connexion with the telephone service. As to the point raised by the honorable member for Hunter, I would remind him that cipher messages are sent over the telephone wires, just as they are transmitted by telegraph. All that I desire is that we shall provide that telegraph wires shall not be used for purposes for which we forbid in thisBill the use of the telephone system.
– My reading of the amendment is that it proposes something entirely different from that which the honorable member for Dalley has just stated. It does not deal with the use of the telegraphic system in connexion with the furtherance of gambling, or betting, or any illegal or immoral purpose, but would prevent newspapers receiving reports by telegraph as to sporting news. Had the honorable member desired to deal with, the telegraph service as we have dealt with the telephone system, he would have used the words in clause 2. and proposed that if the Postmaster-General has reasonable grounds to suppose that any telegraph message is being sent in connexion with, or in furtherance of, gambling or betting, or any illegal or immoral purpose,he may refuse to receive or despatch such message. There is some reason in the argument that the conditions which apply to the telephone service should also be applied to the telegraphic system. But if the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie were carried, it would accomplish a purpose that no one of common sense desires.
– The amendment would have the effect of preventing a message giving the result of a cricket match or any sporting event being sent by telegraph. That is not the intention of the Bill. We might accept the amendment if the honorable member would agree to so alter it as to provide that the principle which we have applied to the telephone service shall be applied to the telegraph system. We cannot accept the amendment in its present form, but should be prepared to agree to it if it were altered to read -
The Postmaster-General may refuse to transmit any message over the telegraph lines which he has reasonable ground to suppose is in connexion with gaming or betting upon the result of any horse race.
We should then go on to repeat the words used in sub-clause 3. I move -
That the amendment be amended by inserting after the word “ lines,” the words “ which he has reasonable ground to suppose is.”
– If amended as proposed by the Postmaster-General this provision will read -
The Postmaster-General may refuse to transmit any message over the telegraph lines which he has reasonable ground to suppose is in connexion with gaming or betting on the result of any horse race - and so forth.
– Why not use the words of clause 2, “ in furtherance of”?
– There is no objection to that.
– Every one must recognise that the sole object of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is to make this Bill ridiculous.
– The draftsman has already succeeded in doing that.
– Then the honorable member would do well to seek to amend the Bill in the direction in which it ought to be amended to carry out the original intention.
– That is what I am trying to do.
– The honorable member has already told us that his object is to defeat the Bill.
– The honorable member says that he is in favour of legislation to prevent gambling andthe dissemination of news relating to gambling. My amendment will enable him to achieve that object.
– I hold that it would not. The honorable member says in effect that the way to abolish gambling is to abolish sport.
– Nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member declares, in effect, that news relating to honest sport must not be transmitted by telegraphlest in some way it may amount to a gambling transaction.
– That is not the effect of the amendment as submitted by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– I hold that it is. It provides practically that the news of a cricket or football match shall not be sent over the wires. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie is seeking to place innocent sport on the same footing as gambling, and his object is to make the Bill ridiculous. That, too, seems to be the object of the honorable member for Coolgardie, who is assisting him.
– I admit it.
– That, at all events, is a frank admission.
– And I differ from the honorable member for Coolgardie only in so far as I believe that the Bill as introduced was ridiculous.
– What has the honorable member for Newcastle to say to that?
– The honorable member objects to the telegraph system and the telephone service being placed on an equal footing, so far as this matter is concerned.
– I do not.
– Then I shall vote with the honorable member. I am going to support the amendment of the amendment, and I ask the honorable member for Parramatta to do the same.
– I intend to do so, but at present I am denouncing a bogus proposal intended to make the Bill ridiculous.
.- This is one of those little Bills which enable some honorable members to show how virtuous they are in comparison with their fellows. Probably five or six months after the general elections there will not be so muchenthusiasm shown in regard to a measure of this kind as has been discernible this evening. In my opinion, the Bill will have no effect, unless a particularly straightforward and vigilant Minister cuts off the telephone communication of the immoral places which are so well known. Probably, however, the sending over the telephone of not even one betting message will be stopped. I do not object to clothing the Minister with powers for the repression of evil; but I am of opinion that this measure will have no effect.
Amendment of the amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Isaacs) agreed to -
That the amendment be further amended by inserting after the word “ with,” line 4, the words “or in furtherance of”; and by striking out the words “ or in connexion with,” with a view toinsert in lieu thereof the words “ upon the result of.”
.- I wish to know from the Government whether they think the provision, as has been amended, is necessary. We may be stupid, but we need not be hypocritical, and it is absurd to suppose that an army of officials will be employed to examine every message, with a view to discovering whether it conveys something in the nature of a bet.
– At the present time these messages are transmitted in cypher.
– If the honorable member thinks that this provision is hypocritical, what is he going to do in regard to it?
– I shall vote against it. Does not the honorable member know, when he announces himself in favour of the suppression of gambling, that the wave of feeling now running through the community will, to some extent, recede?
. -I wish to point out that at present it is a common thing, prior to a big race meeting, for the news to be. telegraphed to the leading newspapers of Australia that, on the card being called at a certain club, such and such a horse stood at 100 to 5. So Ministers think that the telegraphing of a message of that description would come under the clause?
– Yes ; and it would have come under the honorable member’s amendment.
– My humble opinion coincides with that of the Attorney-General.
– There is no intention of storming the sending of such messages.
– That shows what a farce the whole thing is. Why should the Postmaster-General be allowed to intercept some messages while the transmission of others equally objectionable from a certain point of view, is permitted ?I consider the provision so impracticable that I shall vote against it.
.- In my opinion, the only justification for the Bill is to give the Postmaster-General, in respect to the telephone service, a power similar to that which he exercises under section 57 of the Post and Telegraph Act. Under that section, he may refuse to deliver postal articles to gaming establishments, the intention being that men who are keeping betting establishments shall not be allowed to make use of postal conveniences for the prosecution of their business. But, to prohibit the transmission of messages conveying information regarding betting transactions, which will mean the stoppage of race telegrams throughout the Commonwealth, is impracticable, because the community has not attained a sufficient degree of Puritanic development to support such an administration. I am not prepared to vote for the Bill now that it goes beyond providing that the telephone service shall not be used as an auxiliary to a betting establishment. If the clause, as amended, is to be enforced, the States may well go a step further, and prohibit the publication of accounts of immoral proceedings and divorce cases, which some of us regard as, at least, as pernicious as the dissemination of racing intelligence.
Question - That the proposed new clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 3.30 p.m. to-morrow.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish to intimate to honorable members that to-morrow we shall first deal with the Constitution Alteration (State Debts) Bill, and afterwards consider the South African Preference proposals.
– I would suggest to the Minister of Home Affairs that in connexion with the forthcoming general elections special arrangements should be made in the more populous, centres for separate polling booths in which to record the votes of electors in regard to the various questions submitted to them by referendum. I am afraid that if only the ordinary polling booths are provided serious congestion will take place. If each elector has four or five different ballot papers placed in his. hands, the voting will occupy a considerable time and considerable confusion will result. I do not think that any increased expense need be incurred. Even an increased outlay should be faced without hesitation when the sole end in view is to obtain a true reflex of the opinions of the electors.
– I would remind the honorable member that at the last election we took a referendum in New South Wales on behalf of the State, and that the arrangements then made appeared to be adequate. However, they are now undergoing revision with a view to prevent any congestion or confusion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 October 1906, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19061003_reps_2_35/>.