3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
German and British Boundary - Administrative Difficulties - Appointment of Administrator
– Has the Prime Minister any official information about the action of German officials towards British miners in Papua, reported in to-day’s newspapers, and will he inform’ the House if any arrangement has teen made by his Depart-, ment for the survey of the boundary line between German and British New Guinea?
– I have no official information, but .that from unofficial sources Is quite credible. British miners, working in territory beyond the Papuan border,, when asked by German officials for dues required of persons mining in German New Guinea, have paid them. As to the statement that a constable had been taken capfive, the fact appears to be that he offered himself as a guide.’ In neither case has there been friction or aggression. As I informed the House a few weeks ago, we have sent a letter to the Colonial Office requesting it to ask the German Government to authorize the local Administration of German New Guinea to meet our representatives with a view to a final determination of the boundary.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister - i. Has his attention been called to a cablegram in this morning’s papers, stating that the attention of the Imperial Government had been called by question in the House of Commons to the ‘ unsatisfactory state of affairs existing in Papua”? 2. Has his attention been called to an article in to-day’s Age dealing with the need for administrative reforms in Papua, and setting out the position thus : - («) The Minister for External Affairs knows “ little or nothing of the doings of the local nominee Legislative Council ; (i) Efforts have been made to secure the passing of Ordinances in Council favouring the compulsory acquisition of native lands, and =the taxation of natives for enforced labour purposes? 3. Have the issues raised in this article received attention yet? What steps have been taken to place the Public Service and administration generally of Papua on a proper basis ; and can the Prime Minister say when an Administrator will be appointed?
– I am not aware of anything justifying the allusion in the House of Commons to Papuan affairs, because, apart from the difficulty which” arose in connexion with the application for land-6, certain officials, there has been nothing to call for attention. Probably some exaggerated newspaper statement has given rise to the question. Administrative difficulties existed at the time of the land difficulty, to which T propose to make allusion at an early date, in view of a statement from the Director of Agriculture, which should be taken into account. There is no administrative friction now, so far as I know.
– The friction is as great now as it was before.
– So far as I can learn, it- is only those to whose .views effect has not been given who are dissatisfied. Even where there are not representative assemblies there are parties and the statements of neither side in regard to its opponents is to be received without qualification. Iri my opinion, the present administration of the Territory is satisfactory. What was proposed in regard to the native lands is a comparatively old story. The Government of Papua submitted a land ordinance, one of whose clauses contained ambiguous, terms as to the mariner in which land might be acquired from the natives. As the wording did not satisfy me, I sent back the ordinance, so that the clause’ might be expressed in terms which would put it beyond doubt that the native lands are not to be trenched upon. The proposal emanated from non-official members of the Council, selected to temporarily represent the white settlers ; but I hope that settlement’ will proceed so fast that the population will soon become large enough to justify some form of representative government. This will enable the views of the people, which are entitled to be taken into consideration, to be clearly expressed. I hope to provide for the appointment of Administrator in the course of the next three or four months.
– The Prime Minister, in replying to the question put by the honorable member for Calare, said that the opinion that friction now existed in the Public Service of Papua was held only by what might be called the “opposition party” in the Territory. Does he regard the Anglican Bishop of New Guinea - who, when in Melbourne -recently, made strong statements bearing out the contention that friction does exist - as being numbered amongst the opposition in Papua, and will he take care that the appointment of an Administrator is made whilst this House is sitting and not during a recess ?
– I am not aware on which side the Bishop of New Guinea is to be ranked, but should suppose that he could not be properly classed with either. Without knowing the source of his information, I arn unable to say whether he shares the view that friction exists. As to the. second question put by the honorable member, -I have
– Is it not a fact that almost the whole of the white population of Papua desire that the present Acting Administrator shall be permanently appointed, and has not that fact been conveyed to the Prime Minister by a member of the Legislative Council of the Territory?
– Subject to my former doubt whether the present nominee members of the- Council - who are not Government officials, but were nominated after inquiry on the recommendation of- the late Administrator - really do on all questions represent the exact opinions of those whom they were appointed to represent, I reply that they have made a recommendation in that behalf.
– -But has not the white population by petition urged the appointment of the present Acting Administrator to the permanent office ?
– I have no means of ascertaining whether the nominee members speak on behalf of the whole white population, or merely express their individual opinions. As experienced members of the Council, their opinion, apart from any other consideration, is entitled to weight; but 1 am unable to say how far they Speak on behalf of the people outside oh that particular point.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether it is not a fact that, although, certain gentlemen claimed to voice the opinions of the white residents of Papua in reference to the permanent appointment of the present Acting Administrator, their action has since been repudiated by other white residents of the Territory?
– I have had communications, both commendatory of, and in opposition to, the proposition of those gentlemen. In each case individual opinions only were expressed.
– I desire to elicit from the Minister of Trade and Customs some information about the sugar industry. Referring to the deputation from the Queensland sugar growers who waited on him yesterday with a view to secure his consent to a reduction of wages on the plantations, was a shorthand note taken of what transpired at the interview ? If so, will he cause a transcript of the proceedings to be laid on the library table ? Is it true that one of the deputation contended that 3s. 9d. per day was adequate payment for white workers on the plantations, or that the planters could not afford to pay more? Did the deputation deny the Minister’s contention that the rate of payment for day work should be higher than when the worker is engaged by the week? What is the substance of the regulation to which the deputation took exception? .Does he intend to comply with the wishes of the deputation by so altering the regulation as to bring about a reduction of the wages of the workers engaged in this industry ?
– Without notice it would be difficult, as requested by the honorable member, to deal seriatim with the questions that he has put to me. A deputation waited on me yesterday, and as I had a shorthand writer present I shall be able to make available to honorable members a report of the proceedings. It was contended that the new rate for casual labourers fixed under the order issued this month - namely, 5s. per day and keep - was too high, and that the industry could not stand it. I felt that the evidence on which the order was issued was sufficient to warrant it, and I shall be pleased to furnish honorable members with a full report of what took place at the deputation, so that they may learn for themselves what representations were made and what answer was given.
– Has the Treasurer noticed the resolution passed by the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia, now sitting in Brisbane, to the effect that as the Commonwealth is arranging to mint its own silver, it is desirable that the decimal system of coinage should be simultaneously adopted? Is he also aware that a Commonwealth Committee on coinage and weights and measures reported in favour of the decimal system, and that its report was adopted by this House? Further, will he take that report into careful consideration when arranging for the coinage of silver by the Commonwealth ?
– I have not seen the resolution to which the honorable member has referred, but the whole question has been brought prominently before me on several occasions. The matter requires careful consideration, and probably joint action bv Australia in regard to the decimal system should be concurrent with that taken by other parts of the Empire. The matter is being looked into in connexion with the question of silver coinage. I have given it consideration, and intend to discuss it with the Prime Minister before making any definite promise as to what is likely to be done.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether he is aware that the Committee did consider the question of whether the Commonwealth should await the adoption by the Empire of decimal coinage and of the metric system, or whether it should anticipate that adoption, and that this House also had that question before it when it adopted the report of the Committee ? When he is considering this matter will he refer to the Committee’s recommendations in that regard ?
– I certainly will do so, and I shall obtain all the information that I can if any records are available as to how the Committee discussed the question. That will be considered as well as any other phase which may present itself. In replying to a previous question by the honorable member I said that the point was whether it was desirablethat we should wait till this matter hadbeen dealt with throughout the Empire before taking action.
– Has the Prime Minister any further information to give the House regarding his urgent representations to the Home Government as to the necessity for the appointment of a Commissioner to the New Hebrides?
– I have no further reply, but have either in the office or expect to receive within the next day or two representations from a recent gathering in this city connected with mission work in the New Hebrides, which will probably give me an opportunity, of which I propose to take advantage, to revive the question.
– Is the Prime Minister in favour of the Tariff being submitted to a referendum of the people at the next general election?
– In any circumstances, at the next general election the Tariff will be submitted to the criticism of the electors by all candidates who choose to express their views upon it. I do not know that the interests of the Commonwealth would be served by submitting the Tariff to a re ferendum, which, after all, would have a merely negative effect. We couldreceive a direction to alter the Tariff without any clear indication of what alterationshould be made.
– I desire toask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the urgent need of securing an expression of opinion, from the electors upon the Tariff - especially in the absence of any legislation in regard to the new protection - he will hurry on the general elections when such an expression of opinion may be obtained?
– I am sure that the honorable member realizes that the first part of his question is to be taken seriously, because any proposition in regard to an existing Tariff would require to be accompanied by alternatives. Otherwise, a merely negative resolution might be affirmed, the effect of which would be to dislocate the business of the whole of the next Parliament.
– It would take some time to think out the questions to be submitted.
– The next portion of the honorable member’s question divides itself into two parts, namely, the means - desirable or undesirable - of hurrying on a general election, and the grave and serious risk indicated by the interjectionby the honorable member for West Sydney, that the question might be submitted in such a way as to prejudice the public interest unless all the alternatives were presented to the. electors.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to a question of Commonwealth rights. In a letter dated 14th instant, published in the Argus, the writer says -
I wish to bring before the Argus the following facts : - Several of my f ellow-officers in the Federal Service forwarded sums of money for payment of income tax year by year, holding the view, though now erroneous, that they were liable to pay, stipulating at the same time that should the final Court of Appeal decide to the contrary the sums in question would be duly paid back.
The writer goes on to state that applications for refunds addressed to the Commissioner for Taxes in Victoria, Mr. Prout Webb, have been refused, and his action is described as “ repudiation pure and simple.”Does the Prime Minister think that these men have been fairly treated, and will the Government take action with a view of securing the recognition of their rights?
– Any action by public servants of the Commonwealth was taken on their own judgment, and they must bow take the consequences of that action. I should not be inclined to express an opinion, even if I held one, as to the course to be followed by them, except that, having taken a certain action, each public servant must be the judge of the best procedure to adopt for asserting any right that he deems to have been violated.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he will look into the question of the extent to which these payments have been made by Commonwealth officers under protest, and whether - if a large amount has been paid in the aggregate - he will seek to amend the Commonwealth Salaries Act of last year so as to provide that any sums thus paid shall be credited against the taxation for which Commonwealth servants may be liable in future years?
Mr.DEAKIN.- As the honorable member suggests, I willlook into the matter.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether anyarrangements have yet been made for establishingcommunication between the mainland and Papua by means of wireless telegraphy, and, if so, when the work will be proceeded with?
– We are expecting to receive tenders in that connexion.
– Yesterday a number of questions were put to me, having reference to the compilation of the electoral rolls - questions to which I promised an answer to-day. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports asked whether an official had been instructed by the Department to deliver forms of application for enrolment in his electorate. The reply with which I have been furnished is -
The Department has no knowledge of the person referred to by Mr. Mathews.
The honorable member for Kennedy asked what steps were being taken in respect of the compilation of new rolls. The official reply is-
Action is being taken in all States with a view to the preparation of new rolls at an early date, and every endeavour is being made to secure the co-operation of the Governments of the several States in the matter.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports also asked whether orders had been issued to returning officers to hold them selves in readiness for a general election. The reply with which I have been furnished is -
No orders have been issued. The Returning Officers are expected to be in readiness to hold an election at a reasonably short notice whenever required.
The honorable member for Boothby asked a question having reference to the removal of names from the electoral rolls, and the answer with which I have been furnished reads-
The officers are well informed as to their duties under the Act in relation to the purification of rolls. If Mr.Batchelor will submit any names said to have been improperly removed from the rolls, the matter will be investigated.
– Referring to the Minister’s reply that the Commonwealth rolls are being compiled with the assistance of State officials, I desire to ask whether the Department is confining itself to the information given by those officials, seeing that the franchise for the Commonwealth is of a more liberal character that the franchise for some of the States. I need scarcely point out that if the Commonwealth officials are confining themselves to the information supplied by State officials, many persons will be disfranchised?
– The answer which I gave was not that the Commonwealth officials were relying upon the State officials, but that they were acting in cooperation with them. So that wherever they could be so used, the rolls for both. the. State and the Commonwealth would be the same. Of course, in Victoria where adult suffrage does not prevail, the rolls must necessarily be different.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs to the fact that when speaking on the Electoral Bill, in 1902, I said that the States should be consulted with a view, if possible, to getting the State franchises assimilated with the Commonwealth franchise so that there could be one set of rolls for all the Parliaments. The only objection then urged to that suggestion had reference to the State of Victoria. I wish to ask the Minister whether he recollects also that subsequently two reports were presented by Committees in the same direction.
– I point out that on the notice-paper there is a question, No. 4, which, I am afraid, covers the same ground, and in such case the question cannot be anticipated.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister when we may expect the promised statement in reference to the readjustment of the financial relations of the Commonwealth to the States, and whether honorable members will be afforded an opportunity of hearing that statement before we are called upon to deal with the Surplus Revenue Bill ?
– The outline of the Government’s scheme has already been laid upon the table of the House.
– That was the scheme outlined before the Conference of Premiers ?
– But the Prime Minister told that Conference that he would submit his proposals to this Parliament.
– The full report of the proceedings of that Conference, in further exposition of the Government scheme, is expected to be laid upon the table of the House. But the consideration of those proposalsin further detail, which I apprehend will be undertaken bythis House, cannot be undertaken upon this side of the recess.
– We cannot deal with the Surplus Revenue Bill until we have considered those proposals.
– I think so. The Surplus Revenue Bill stands upon a perfectly independent footing. It is associated - as every financial proposal must be associated - with all propositions which affect the financial position of the Commonwealth. But the Bill is, so to speak, a separable part so far as our financial proposals are concerned.
– Only up to 1910.
– I have the honour to report that the Select Committee upon Parliamentary privilege met to-day, and adjourned until 11 o’clock to-morrow morning. It appears, however, that there is a standing order which prevents the Committee from sitting coincidentally with the House. . As honorable senators will be leav ing for their homes to-morrow afternoon, we shall, unless we sit to-morrow, probably be unable to get a quorum before Thursday next. With the permission of tha House, I, therefore, desire to move -
That leave be granted to the Committee to sit to-morrow during the sitting of the House.
– As the Committee is a joint Committee of both Houses it will be necessary to obtain the consent of both Houses. If this House consents to the honorable member doing so it will be quite competent for him to submit his motion. Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member should be permitted to move the motion he has indicated ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Australian Bureau of Agriculture - Memorandum on the Establishment of, by the Hon. J… E. Groom, M.P.
Defence Department - Memorandum by the Minister of State for Defence on the Estimates of the Defence Department for the Financial Year 1907-8.
– It is very unfortunate that we have these memoranda placed on the table at such a time that they are utterly useless for the purpose of public discussion.
– Honorable members were in possession of the papers six months ago.
– The paper was then circulated, but was not laid on the table; and it is now sought to repair anomission.
Ordered to be printed.
Customs Act - Regulation 130 Amended - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 54.
Sugar Bounty Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules1908, No. 53.
Public Service Act - Regulation 104 Amended - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 58.
– When does the Prime Minister intend introducing a Bill for the purpose of establishing a Bureau of Agriculture?
– If the honorable member is suggesting that a Bill should be introduced this session, I must say no, but if he is suggesting next session,I may say yes.
– Am I right in assuming that the cordite factory, for which provision is made on the Additional Estimates, will not be established merely on the passing of the vote, but that a Bill will be introduced for the purpose?
– When the vote of, I think,£10,000 is passed, thus showing the approval of Parliament of the principle, the Government will take steps in the direction of establishing a factory. I previously informed honorable members that the House would be given all information they desired on the subject before final action was taken by the Government. When the Additional Estimates are under consideration to-night, I shall be glad to give that information.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member, I beg to state that some of the matters referred to seem to be outside the scope of the Commonwealth legislation, but further inquiries will be made.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether, under the following Regulation, drawback will be allowed upon goods, the raw materials of Australian manufacturers, when reexported either in a more lightly manufactured state or as an ingredient of a locally manufactured article : -
Regulation No. 130 of the Regulations made under the Customs Act 1901 (Statutory Rules 1904, No. 25), dated 16th June, 1904, is hereby amended to read as follows : - 130. Drawback of the full amount of duty paid, not exceeding the import duty then payable, shall be allowed on all goods other than spirits, wine, beer, tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, and opium, on the due exportation thereof, either in the original packages or in packages packed in the presence of an officer, provided that goods shipped for drawback in other than original packages are exported within three years from date of importation ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questi on is as follows : -
Drawback is at the present time allowed, under the circumstances mentioned, not under the regulation quoted, but under the following regulation, viz. : -
Regulation No. 131 of the regulations under , the Customs Act 1901 (Statutory Rules 1904, No. 25), dated 16th June, 1904, which reads - “ As to manufactured articles, a drawback may be allowed on the actual quantity of imported material used in such manufacture to the extent of the duty paid on original importation. Drawback under this regulation shall only be allowed in respect of such material as the Minister may specify by order in the Gazette, and under such conditions and restrictions as the Minister prescribes in each case.”
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
What progress has been made in the negotiations with the States Governments, with a view to preventing duplication of the electoral machinery of the Commonwealth and States?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Arrangements for co-operative action are well advanced in the case of Tasmania and Western Australia - negotiations are proceeding in Queensland - and the Governments of the States of New South Wales and South Australia have been invited to appoint representatives to confer with the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth with a view -
The State of Victoria, in common with the other States, has been subdivided for Commonwealth registration purposes with due regard to State electoral boundaries, and whatever action is practicable on the part of the Commonwealth in the furtherance of co-operation will be taken.
Motion (by Mr. Webster) agreed to -
That there be laid upon the table a Return giving the following information : -
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- I move -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “1. A Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the statements made to the Postmaster-General, particularly . in connexion with the Butts and Short charges against the medical firm , of Freeman and Wallace, and the reasons which caused the Postmaster - General to issue, through the Commonwealth Gazette, instructions addressed to all postal officials not to deliver any correspondence addressed through the post to the Freeman and Wallace Medical Institute.
I do not think I ought to apologize to the Committee for submitting this amendment, nor do I think an apology is expected. I have previously attempted to bring this matter under the notice of honorable members, but, through unforeseen circumstances, was prevented from doing so. The session is drawing to aclose, or so it is believed, and the time at our disposal is limited ; and my only object is to have a Select Committee appointed to inquire into the facts and mete out justice. It is not necessary, nor is it proper, that I should go into the whole of the facts, seeing that I am asking for an inquiry in order that steps may be taken to have justice done to those concerned. It is my duty, however, to advance some reasons for my opinion that justice has not been done, and to suggest a remedy. When Parliament passed the Post and Telegraph Act, giving the PostmasterGeneral power to act on his own initiative, honorable members thought that an action of such gravity as one involving interference with the liberty of the subject by preventing a business firm from receiving the correspondence of its clients, would not be taken unless approved by the whole Cabinet. Had the action of which I complain been the result of an Executive act, the position would be very different; but I believe that the House, like every other British Assembly, will declare that no punishment shall be meted out to an accused person until he has been given an opportunity to refute the charges brought against him. Quite recently Mr. Justice Hood, of the Victorian Bench, laid it down as a principle of law that no person should be punished without trial, and the honorable member for Flinders, in dealing professionally with the case of the Rev. Mr. Gladstone, made a similar statement. Dr. Rentoul, too, as recently as yesterday, laid down the dictum that trial should precede punishment. But the Minister has not acted on that maxim. He has been content to act on the statements of one side without giving the firm affected an opportunity to reply to the charges brought against it.
– Has he differentiated between this firm and others?
– He has stopped its correspondence without hearing its reply to the charges made against it.
– Has he dealt with it differently from the way in which he has dealt with other firms whose correspondence has been stopped?.
– I do not know what has been done in regard to other firms, though I understand that a number of cases are under the Postmaster-General’s review.
He acted on statements made to him by the Victorian police. A trap was laid for the firm by certain officials, and the results put before the Crown Law authorities of Victoria; but, although the State AttorneyGeneral and Solicitor-General went carefully into the evidence submitted to them, they found that there was nothing in it to warrant the bringing of a charge of fraudulent practices against the firm.
– My honorable friend has not looked at the papers in the case.
– I am prepared to prove what I am saying. If the Minister is always ready to act on ex parte statements, any business firm may be severely injured, if not ruined, through the action of evil-minded persons in making serious charges against it. During the past five months, I, and others, have repeatedly asked for an inquiry before any tribunal which the Minister mayappoint, the members of the firm being convinced that such inquiry must lead to the granting of redress. The Minister has refused to grant an inquiry, or to give the firm an opportunity to get relief by going into the lawcourts.
– The papers in the case were laid on the table of the Senate directly that House met after the Christmas adjournment, and the. representative of the Government there said that a motion for the appointment of a committee of inquiry would not be opposed.
– This House represents the people, and will see that justice is done to those on the lowest rungs of the ladder as well as to those on the highest. A charge was brought against the firm, twelve or eighteen months ago, by a detective in theemployment of the Victorian authorities. The papers in the case were left with him, and he was allowed to take them to his own house - an unheard-of and unofficial proceeding, I am authorized to make the statement that before these papers were submitted to the Postmaster- General, through the police, they were offered for sale to the firm in a manner amounting to an attempt to levy blackmail - the promise being made that if they were bought the whole matter would be hushed up.
– By whom were the papers offered ?
– By an individual whom the firm is prepared to bring before a committee of inquiry.
– Was he an official?
– No. When the firm refused to be blackmailed, the papers - on which the Crown Law authorities of Victoria had refused to take action - were sent to the Postmaster- General. I shall not go into the merits of the case, resting my claim for an inquiry upon the position that redress should not be refused to any one claiming it from the highest Court in the land. I shall not refer to what was behind the application to the Postmaster-General. v He may know nothing about it, though I know something of the facts. I merely ask that justice shall be done. I am sorry that, the leader of the Opposition is not present to-day, because he is with me in this matter, and would have supported the motion for a committee of inquiry. All I ask is . that a committee be appointed to take evidence from all parties, and to report to the House. If such a report is made, and the firm is freed of the charges brought against it, so much the better; while if it is proved that the charges w.ere justified, I shall not attempt to shield it from punishment. I hope honorable members will recognise the justice of my plea. A decision of the High Court prevents the firm from going to law for redress, and, therefore, Parliament should give it an opportunity to vindicate itself. Since the Postmaster-General took action, he has had the opinion of three medical experts - Mr.’ Wilkinson, the public analyst of Victoria; Mr. Churchill, the President of the Analysts’ Society ; and Dr. Amess, recently house surgeon to the Melbourne Hospital ; while three great legal luminaries - Messrs. Purves, Coldham, and Duffy - have expressed the opinion that he acted wrongly, and that the firm should not have been punished as it has been. In the light of this evidence there will be no loss of dignity if the Minister retires from his position, and I hope that he will do so, and permit a full and exhaustive inquiry by a committee of the House.
– The matter which the honorable member for Riverina has brought forward is so. important that the House should be taken,, to some extent, into the confidence of the Postmaster-General. The Minister should inform honorable members of the grounds on which he took this drastic action. It must be recognised that in clothing the Postmaster-General with these extensive powers, Parliament intended that they should be exercised only when regard for the public welfare absolutely rendered it necessary to do so. They certainly ought not to be indiscriminately employed because of some complaint against persons trading in the Commonwealth. The PostmasterGeneral, in dealing with such cases, should exercise the greatest caution, and satisfy himself before using his farreaching powers that he will be able to present to the House reasons that are amply sufficient to justify his action. I do not propose to discuss the merits of this case; but I hold that’ if the PostmasterGeneral took action on what he believed were sufficient grounds, the House should be so informed, in order that it may be able to deal fairly with the complaints of this firm. Possibly there lies behind the question a very grave issue. We know that the business in which this firm is engaged is of a peculiarly delicate character, involving the private domestic concerns of various sections of the community. It may treat its, clients in a proper way, and conduct its business on the lines indicated by the honorable member for Riverina ; but, on the other hand, in connexion with such a business, unprincipled men could blackmail those having relations with them. If the PostmasterGeneral took action after mature consideration, he must’ have had submitted to him evidence showing that this firm was not conducting a clean, honest business, and that it was not’ in the interests of the community that it should be permitted to utilize the postal conveniences of the Commonwealth to forward its interests. If that is so, then the tribunal which the honorable member for Riverina desires to be appointed could not properly sift out the facts.
– The Government will not let this firm go to the Court. It desired to do so.
– In connexion with some businesses of this description there is, unquestionably, a state of affairs that should not be tolerated. I am not prepared to say whether, in this case, the Postmaster-General was right or wrong, but I am satisfied that a Select Committee of this House would not be competent to thoroughly investigate the issues involved, and to place the whole of the facts clearly and properly before this House.
– There is no other tribunal to which the matter could be submitted.
– I atn not sure that there is no other tribunal to which this investigation could be delegated. If a Select Committee be appointed, it will be prepared to receive evidence on both sides. The fact that the persons primarily concerned do a large business through the Post Office, implies that their clients are distributed all over the Commonwealth. Whilst’ the members of that firm would be able to place their case in a most plausible way before the Committee, how would it be possible to bring before that Committee evidence as to any injury or injustice done by it? It seems to me that the case for the firm would go by default if the Committee were unable to thoroughly investigate the facts, and that a grave injustice might be done to a very large section of the community. As the result of its findings, this firm, as well as others, might be licensed to inflict an injustice upon many people. It is in this regard that I think that the honorable member for Riverina’ s proposals are weak. He must recognise how difficult it would be to obtain evidenceon the other side, so as to place the House in a position to judge this case, and others of a similar kind, upon their merits. At the same time, I should not deny a fair investigation to the firm. Every individual against whom a charge is made should have an opportunity to meet and repudiate that charge. That is a sacred right.
– That is all that is asked for.
– To that extent, I am with the honorable member, unless the Postmaster-General can, show that a thorough investigation has been made, and that the persons concerned have been given facilities to meet the charges made against them. The firm should certainly have an opportunity to clear its reputation. At the same time, I desire to avoid the possibility of a tribunal being appointed of such a character, that instead of arriving at a true understanding of the position it might, unconsciously, lead to a big injustice being dope to the community generally, and to unprincipled firms being allowed to continue a business which is absolutely disgraceful.
– No one desires to uphold such firms.
– I am sure that the honorable member would not. To get at the true inwardness of the matter we need to appoint a Commission with power to take evidence wherever it may be offered, and to make a searching investigation. If in order, I should like to move an amendment providing that the words “Select Committee” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Royal Commission.” The matter is of such importance that a Commission consisting of one individual, or of several, thoroughly competent to deal with it, should be appointed in the interests of those who complain, as well as of the general public, who are liable to be subjected to injustice and blackmail by persons carrying on a business of this very delicate description.
– Would the honorable member say that the Commissionshould consist only of medical men?
– I should throw upon the Government the responsibility of determining the number and the qualifications of the Commissioners. They are responsible. They initiated this trouble by taking the action which they have taken. If they are justified in resisting the proposal of the honorable member for Riverina they should be prepared to grant, not a partial investigation, which might lead to a serious miscarriage of justice, but an inquiry which would sift this matter to the very bottom. I desire to move -
That the words “ Select Committee “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “Royal Commission.”
– I would remind the honorable member that the question now before the Chair is that the words” that the Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply “ be left out of the motion. Until that matter has been decided no other proposal can be made.
.-I confess that I find myself in a difficult position in regard to the attitude which I should adopt towards the motion of the honorable member for Riverina. Here is a firm which professes to treat persons medically. As the result of certain evidence which has been brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General, he has decided that an embargo shall be placed upon all correspondence addressed to that firm.
– Is that the only firm in the Commonwealth upon whose correspondence a prohibition has-been imposed?
– I am surprised that the honorable member should endeavour to throw me off the track. I may tell him that I hold no brief for either side. I am merely anxious to see that justice is done in this particular case.
Mr.Page. -Is the honorable member unbiased ?
– I am, as far as it is possible for any person to be unbiased who has had a similar experience to my own. Only the other day I heard a legal luminary declare that it was very difficult for any man to be unbiased, because his experience naturally inclined him either one way or the other. In the present instance, the action of a particular firm has been called into question by the Postmaster-General. The course which he has pursued may be either right or wrong. The honorable member for Riverina has submitted a motion with a view to righting the injustice to which he considers the firm in question has been subjected. I have nothing to say as to the conduct of that firm. I know nothing concerning it beyond that which I have gleaned from advertisements which I have read in the newspapers. It is true thata member of the firm endeavoured to interview me upon one or two occasions, but I declined to see him, because I desired to be able to deal with this question without any bias whatever. I am quite preparedto support any inquiry into the action of the Postmaster-General which is likely tobe a thorough and satisfactory one. But I ask honorable members to consider whether the proposal of the honorable member for Riverina, if adopted, is likely to result in such an inquiry? In the first place, he merely proposes the appointment of a Select Committee, which has no power to take evidence upon oath.
– The Committee can be empowered by the House to take evidence upon oath.
– If the Committee cannot put witnesses upon their oath, it will be of no value whatever.
– That is what I think. . Further, the business carried on by this particular firm is of such a character that it would be very difficult to induce witnesses to come forward and give evidence which might bring disgrace upon themselves, or upon their wives and families.
– That is the great safeguard of blackmailers in this business.
– I do not know whether the honorable member alludes to this particular firm in that way.
– I do not.
– I repeat that I know nothing of the firm beyond the fact that it has advertised in a certain way. A firm which would advertise in that way is not one with which I should care to be associated.
– It is not one with which the honorable member would be connected.
– It is not one with which I could be connected and still consider myself a member of an honorable profession. I do not think it necessary to go into details in respect of the nature of the business which this firm apparently carries on. No medical men with any experience can be ignorant of the fact that persons have suffered untold injury as the result of illegitimate practice of the character suggested. Another objection which I would urge to the proposal under consideration relates to the personnel of the Committee which the honorable member for Riverina desires. That Committee includes the names of the honorable member for Illawarra and the honorable member’ for Capricornia - both of whom sit upon this side of the House - the honorable member for . Kalgoorlie, the honorable member for New England, and the honorable member for Riverina, who sit upon the opposite side of the Chamber. I do not think that such a Committee constitutes a well-balanced selection of the members of this House. Personally, I should like to see a somewhat larger Committee appointed, and I think that it ought to include the names of one or two members of the medical profession who are also members of the House. I cannot understand why the honorable member for Riverina did not include members of the medical profession in his proposal. Quite recently, when the City Coroner proposed to sit alone upon an inquest into the Sunshine railway accident, we knowthat public feeling was aroused to such an extentthat persons with technical knowledge were selected as a jury to assist him in his investigations.
– In that case, the jury is composed of business men, and persons with expert knowledge are being called to give evidence.
– It is a specially selected jury, comprising the representatives of various parties. I think it strange that the honorable member for Riverina did not select at least one medical man as a member of his proposed Committee.
– I asked the leader of the honorable member’s party to nominate two honorable members from the opposite side of the House.
– Had the honorable member been earnest in his request, he would not have experienced any difficulty in that connexion. I was never given the option of refusing a seat upon the Committee.
– The honorable member would not support any Committee appointed from this side of the Chamber.
– I am not for a moment opposing an investigation into this particular matter. It is only right that the firm accused should be given fair play.
– That is all that we ask.
– If the complaint of this firm were properly investigated, I think that it would effectively settle a great many other similar cases. At the same time, I cannot support a Committee of the character proposed.
– Would the honorable member support the appointment of a Royal Commission?
– The Government will not appoint a Royal Commission.
– To a certain extent, my sympathies are with the PostmasterGeneral. He has to administer the Act, and I desire to extend to him all the support that I reasonably can.
– This is no party question in that sense.
– It is no party question, but it is a question which has been brought to such a stage by the action of the honorable member for Riverina that it ought to be investigated. As I say, however, I am altogether opposed to the method of investigation suggested.
– I shall avoid as far as possible traversing my previous remarks, and confine my reply to the observations made this afternoon by the honorable member for Riverina. In the first place, I desire the House to distinctly understand, once and for all, that I have in no way discriminated. Up to the time the prohibition was made, this was the first case of the kind brought under my notice. Let mesay, in passing, that during last week a considerable number of cases came up, and are now awaiting my consideration and decision ; and I take it that, if a Select Committee be now appointed, there will be demands for a Committee on each of the other prohibitions. Next, I desire to make it clear that neither in this case nor in any other case of prohibition - and there have been many - have I taken any initial steps to seek them out, or to have them sought out for me; they have been brought under my notice in such a way that they had to be dealt with, and I dealt with them, as I believed, conscientiously. . As I say, I have been charged with discriminating, but every case has been dealt with in order, and has been brought under my notice by the officials.
– What other cases have been dealt with, except the gambling cases?
– Other cases of a similar kind are waiting to be dealt with, but this was the first of its nature brought under my notice.
– Are those other cases to have the benefit of special committees of inquiry ?
– That will depend on Parliament.
– They show the greater need for theappointment of a Royal Commission.
– The Government under the Postal Act has been’ intrusted with certain powers.
– The Minister, not the Government, and there is too much power.
– That may be. I am not discussing the merits or demerits of the particular power, but merely stating the fact that the Minister has been intrusted with it.
– It is a dangerous power.
– I shall admit that for the sake of argument, but I think the honorable member will agree that the Minister, having been intrusted with the administration of the Act, would be unworthy of his position unless he did what he believed to be right.
– But I think he might take the precaution of hearing evidence on the other side before giving his judgment.
– That is a. matter of opinion, and I am so satisfied that my action was warranted, that I am prepared to take all responsibility for it.
– Still, the PostmasterGeneral heard one side only.
– That is a statement that I am not prepared to either deny or affirm at this juncture. I submit that the step I took was, in my judgment, fully warranted. The papers were submitted to me through the Chief Commissioner of Police, on the minuted recommendation of the Crown Prosecutor, who stated that he could not recommend the State authorities to prosecute, not because he did not consider there was a strong case, but because it was necessary to prosecute an individual, as he could not prosecute a firm.
– For what?
– For fraudulent practices; and, hot being able to find out the individual, the Crown Law authorities recommended that what they considered a strong case should be sent on to the Federal authorities to be dealt with under the powers of the Postal Act. I sent all the papers to the Commonwealth Crown Law officers, and got their opinion ; and after considering the. matter over and over again, and fortifying my opinion by consultation with the Prime Minister, I arrived at the decision which is now under discussion. But the House should remember that I showed plainly I had nothing to hide. Immediately another place commenced its sittings I placed the whole of the papers on the table there; and every opportunity has been afforded from then till now for the appointment of a Select Committee if so desired. Moreover, every opportunity has been taken by the firm interested to endeavour to get a Select Committee appointed but without success. However, I do not propose to go into the merits or the demerits of the case, but merely to state that my action was in accordance with my judgment and conscience.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral approve of the appointment of a Select Committee?
– I shall deal with that matter presently. It would have been much easier for me to put the papers on one side and pigeon-hole them ; that would have saved me no end of personal worry and trouble with letters, interviews, and threatenings of boycotting, such as, I am sure, it would be difficult for honorable members to realize.
– If that be so, it only proves that the matter requires thorough investigation.
– That is a matter of opinion. Honorable, members should bear in mind that this is not the first time that similar action has been taken against this firm, because, as a matter of fact, their correspondence is prohibited in New Zealand.
– Not on a charge of this kind.
– The prohibition in New Zealand is on account of the character of their general business.
– Does the honorable member deny the fact that this firm’s correspondence is prohibited in New Zealand ?
– It is prohibited, as that of every other medical institute is there, for advertising.
– I say that the correspondence of this firrh is prohibited in New Zealand on account of the character of its business.
– Every other advertising firm of the kind is prohibited in New Zealand.
– I have been urged to prohibit the correspondence of every other similar firm, and I have pointed out that as soon as similar papers are placed before me, and I am satisfied in the same way as in this case, I shall prohibit the correspondence, leaving the House to deal with me as they think fit.
– It would be doing a lasting good to the community.
– The honorable member for Riverina quoted Mr. Duffy and some other gentlemen very high in the legal profession. But the honorable member might have quoted another gentleman who has also given an opinion, and, further, he should have stated that the opinions he did quote were formed on a case submitted by the people interested.
– It was formed on the papers with which the Postmaster-General dealt.
– No ; it was formed on a case submitted by the people interested - a case which I read and re-read and submitted to the Crown Law authorities, and I am confirmed by our legal officers in the’ opinion that it was not relevant to the matter.
– The opinion was founded on the papers.
– It was founded on ex parte statements by the people iterested, and hence was of no value whatever. The attitude of the Government in rega d to the matter is that if the House chooses to take the responsibility of appointing Select Committee, and thus opening the door to claims for Select Committees in m: ny other similar cases - which must ariseif I continue to hold office, because I shalldeal with every one as quickly and conscienti ously as
I can - if the House chooses to accept the motion with the amendment which has been indicated, the Government will abide by that decision.
– But this motion is a direct attack on the honorable gentleman’s administration.
– Undoubtedly it is.
– Then surely the Government will not accept it with or without, an amendment ?
– I am now stating the position. The Prime Minister is strongly of opinion that this House, which is the only tribunal that can review this particular action, should not ha denied the right, if it thinks fit, to review it.
– Surely we have not altogether jettisoned responsible government ?
– The Prime Minister is apparently inviting the House to pass a vote of want of confidence in the PostmasterGeneral.
– I have stated the position taken up by the Government. I certainly shall not vote for the appointment of the proposed Committee.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether the Government are supporting this motion?
– In a previous discussion the Prime Minister said he ‘certainly would not support such a motion, but I cannot say whether or not any individual member of the Government intends to support it.
– What is the PostmasterGeneral going to do?
– I am not going to support the proposal. The Government leave the matter entirely to the House.
.- I was prepared to agree entirely with the Postmaster-General until I heard the extraordinary announcement he made at the close of his remarks. We have a Minister of the Crown stating that, when a motion of this sort is proposed, asking the House to appoint a Select Committee to investigate the performance of a purely administrative act - an act of discretion - by him, the Government have practically decided to accept it, if it be coupled with a slight amendment that somewhat . enlarges its scope. We have not yet, I think, arrived at the stage of adopting a system of elective Ministries, or any system, other than that on which we, and every other British community, have hitherto carried on responsible government.
I have always hitherto understood that one of the essential elements of the .system of government under which we live, and under which our political life has been evolved, it that when there is an attack on the administration of any Minister, not only can the Minister not lie. down under it, or accept it, with or without an amendment, but the Government are absolutely obliged to support the Minister, or to tell him that his administration is such that he cannot be supported, and decline to accept the proposal irrespective of any amendment. Mr. Deakin. - Does the honorable member call this a matter of administration?
– Absolutely ; and that is the point to which I propose to direct attention. This Parliament made provision in the Postal Act - whether wisely or unwisely it is not for us now to discuss or determine - vesting in the PostmasterGeneral a discretion. In my opinion., it was’ a. very wise discretion, whereby, without having any trial, if he became convinced that the machinery of the Post Office was being used for immoral, improper, or scandalous purposes, he could step in and, without inflicting any punishment, refuse to allow the Department to be so used.
– That is very different from the pleading of the honorable member in the Gladstone case the other day in court.
– I am not now dealing with the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Riverina. Those arguments have been sufficiently answered, and I have nothing to do with them ; so far as that aspect of the case ]s concerned, my “ withers are unwrung.” I am now dealing with the amazing position taken, up by the Postmaster-General, who says that when his act is challenged the Government are prepared to accept the motion provided there be an amendment which somewhat enlarges its scope. The Prime> Minister asked me whether this was an act of administration. When a Minister of the Crown is given by Parliament discretion in the ordinary control and management of his Department,’ and allowed to say how its services may be used, is not the exercise of that discretion, by prohibiting their use for the spreading of .scandalous matter, in all respects an administrative act similar to any other?
– Distinctly no.
– How is it suggested that such an act differs from any other administrative act?
– There is the right to appeal to Parliament against the administrative act of any Minister, and Parliament can say that it does not approve of what has been, done. That is the only appeal.
– Then every case must be tried on the floor of the House.
– No; but when the action of a Minister intrusted with the responsibility of administering a Department is questioned, the challenge cannot be made in the courts of law. Unless you do away with the whole basis of responsible government, it must be made in Parliament. The only appeal is to Parliament, when wrong is alleged to have been done by an act of administration. I am not aware, in any community under responsible government, of any other appeal, from the exercise of his discretion by a Minister which has done wrong to an individual, than that provided in the right of every member of Parliament to ask the House to condemn the Minister’s action. I challenge the Prime Minister to bring forward any case to the contrary. For. my part, I am of opinion that the Postmaster-General’s action was justified by the facts of the case, and I was entirely with him until I heard his extraordinary statement, which showed his attitude and that of the Ministry to be subversive of the very principle of responsible government.
– On this question I hold an opinion quite opposed to that just expressed by the honorable and learned member for Flinders. When Parliament conferred upon a Minister charged with the control of a Department power, without consulting the Cabinet, to take action which may affect the prosperity, and even the solvency of any private business or private citizen, it took an unusual step, and one difficult to parallel, though it might be to some extent illustrated by the powers conferred in other Acts. A decision such as that of the Postmaster-General can be taken at any time, whether Parliament is or is not in session, and it is in its essence judicial.
– Then is it not to be exercised until both parties have been heard ?
– It may be so exercised. A number of judicial acts are done onex parte representations, and the Post
– How does.it differ from an ordinary administrative act?
– The contention of the honorable and learned member for Flinders, who indorses the action of the PostmasterGeneral, seems to be that when a citizen of this country who considers that he has been wronged by that action comes to this House, which is the only tribunal available to him-
– If wronged by administrative act.
– The honorable and learned member declines to make a distinction between this and other administrative acts. But I draw a broad distinction. There have been numerous cases in which a House recognising the impossibility, without undue expenditure of time of arriving at a satisfactory conclusion, has appointed Committees or Boards to inquire for it into matters with whichit was competent to deal without such reference.
– Does the honorable member speak of inquiries as to the right or wrong of an administrative act?
– Yes ; especially when the consequences of such an act may have been to deprive of one of the greatest necessities of civilization the humblest citizen in the land, or to strike a blow at the foundations of one of its greatest commercial institutions, by cutting it off from post and telegraph communication. .
– Would not the Minister what did such a thing be cut off from the Ministry ?
– The Minister must take that course when he thinks it right to do so. The question . is whether there is an appeal, and, if so, to what court? The only appeal is to Parliament.
– May we have a Committee to inquire into every act of adjudication by. the Minister of Trade and Customs without imperilling his position or responsibility ?
– I do not recognise the analogy as complete.
– Would the Prime Minister allow the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the case of every person who alleged that he had been aggrieved by the action of the PostmasterGeneral ?
– I cannot answer more than one question at a time. Replying to the honorable and learned member for Flinders, I say that while there have been important Customs cases in which the transactions challenged have stretched over long periods, in every such instance there is a right to appeal to the courts of law.
Mr.W. H. Irvine. - There is no appeal from the determination of the Minister of Trade and Customs in regard to matters left to his discretion.
– They are minor matters ; every decision of consequence is subject to appeal to the courts. But in this case the appeal must be to Parliament. The courts are closed to the complaint. If the proposition of the honorable member for Riverina impugned the authority of Parliament or the responsibility of the Ministry, no one would be more prompt than I to resent it. The PostmasterGeneral in no way withdraws from his position. He states that he is satisfied that he has acted justly.
– The motion is a deliberate attack upon him.
– Is hepersonally in favour of the appointment of a Committee?
– If the amendment which has been suggested is made, he will be content to leave the case to the adjudication of his fellow members, who by reading the papers and calling evidence, will have an opportunity to satisfy themselves whether he has done justice between the citizen and the State.
– The Postmaster-General says that he will vote against the proposal for a Committee.
-He stated that he would not vote for it, and that he would not vote against it.
– Did the PostmasterGeneral suggest to the Cabinet the course which it was proposed to take?
– This course here? No.
– Is he going to walk out of the Chamber when the vote is taken ?
– Yes. I said so when the question came before the House last night.
– He will not vote for the Committee?
– Certainly not. I am prepared to justify his position. If any one be at fault in this matter, it is I. I was suddenly appealed to by the honorable member for Riverina to grant a Select Committee. As the case could not be tried on the floor of the House, since details must be entered into which should not be published in Hansard, or made the subject of general report, and questions dealt with on the evidence of experts -
– The Prime Minister’s argument is leading to this: that whenever the administration of the Government is attacked, a Select Committee must be appointed.
– I fail to see that that statement contains more than the soupçon of truth necessary to justify its utterance. In unnumbered cases, it does not apply. I ask the House to consider whether this great power, gravely affecting the commercial stability of any of our citizens, ought to be exercised by a Minister without a right of appeal.
– Then, should not provision be made in the Act for an appeal ?
– That is another matter. We have to deal with the position, as it exists. At. present there is no right of appeal except to Parliament.
– I take it that the Prime Minister will propose later on to give the right of appeal in these cases.
– No other right of appeal is needed to-day, since Parliament can select members, who can take evidence - if necessary in private - and report, so that it may take advised action. What will be the position of this House when a Committee of its members has reported on this case? If the report discloses that the PostmasterGeneral has acted unjustly, he and the Government are prepared to answer for it. If the. Committee find that the inquiry which the Postmaster- General undertook in this connexion was not sufficient to justify his action-
– In what way?
– The Committee will report.
– No charge has been made against the Postmaster-General from this side of the House.
– Nor from any other side.
– A direct charge of unfairness against the Minister is the basis of this proposal.
– The charge against the Minister is that he has committed an error of judgment.
– Hear, hear.
– I listened to the opening remarks of the honorable member for Riverina, and did not hear any charge of unfairness.
– I make no such charge against the Postmaster-General. I simply say that there has been an error of judgment on his part.
– The charge is that an error of judgment of the most serious consequence to the persons concerned has been committed by the Postmaster-General. Even if persons stepped from a prison to be tried, who were known to have been guilty of nefarious practices for which they had already been punished, they would be entitled to a fair trial.
– And if there has been an error of judgment on the part of the Postmaster-General the Ministry are to get off.
– They deserve to get off if the error of judgment is shown to be an honest one.
– What ! Are they to be relieved of their responsibility to this House by saying that they have simply been guilty of an error of judgment?
– Has the honorable member for Flinders ever made a mistake?
– I have, and have taken the consequences.
– I am just showing - and apparently showing too clearly to please some honorable members - that no reduction of Government responsibility is involved in this, regard. What has the Government done ? It has said that the decision of this question rests with the Parliament. We are so fearless of consequences, so satisfied that the action taken by the Postmaster-General will be upheld, that we offer no opposition to the appoint-^ ment of a Select Committee upon such terms and conditions as will permit of a thorough examination of all the facts.
– Then why not vote for the appointment of a Select Committee?.
– Because I think it best for the Government to take no part whatever. We have come to a conclusion and are prepared to take the consequencesof .our action.
– Do the Government intend not to vote, but to walk out of the House when we proceed to a division?
– Certainly. I said io on the last occasion.
– Then I think we. shall all walk out with the honorable member.
– And the House will be counted out.
– The honorable member may regard this as a fit subject for merriment, but I feel it to be a very serious problem. If the course taken by the Government is not fair and reasonable, we wait for it to be impugned. Will any honorable member venture to say that, a judicial and severely punitive action having been taken, the Government could deal with the case more frankly, fairly, and openly than by trusting to the judgment of the House to appoint, or to decline to . appoint, a Committee to review the action of the Minister and to report?
– Do I understand that all the members of the Government will retire when the vote is taken ?
– That is my proposal.
– Let us all go.
– Certainly not.
– Supposing the Select Committee condemns the action of the PostmasterGeneral ? ‘
– We shall be prepared to accept the responsibility.
– Then we are to have a want of confidence motion suspended until the Committee reports its findings ?
– My honorable friend is -introducing into the discussion technicalities that are almost trifling, which make neither for justice nor for constitutional principle.
– The firm have at their disposal to-day every avenue of justice.
– They have none except that which this House chooses to grant.
– The Government by its own action could remove the suspension to-morrow if it chose to do so.
– We do not choose to do so. We say that our action has been properly taken. When it is challenged, instead of making an appeal to honorable members to support us, whether we are right or wrong, ,we say .that since the act complained of was a judicial one from which there is no appeal, except to Parliament, we are prepared to submit to the judgment of Parliament in this regard when honorable members shall have qualified themselves, as my honorable colleague has done, bv a full and searching examination into all the circumstances, to deal with the case.
– Is the Prime Minister satisfied with the personnel of the proposed Select Committee?
– I have nothing to do with its composition. It will be for the House to satisfy itself oh that point before appointing the Committee.
– I am not satisfied with it.
– So far as the Government are concerned the members of the proposed Committee may be selected by ballot. The Government has no interest in the personnel of the Committee. Its only desire is that it shall be such as will satisfy the House that a just and complete inquiry will be made. The nature of the charges is such that they cannot be debated in this House, and evidence upon them should not be taken in public. They require to be dealt with in an exceptional fashion.
– And provision should have been made for the investigation of such charges in some other way.
– If it had, I should have been saved the personal responsibility of improvising this means ofdealing with what is, at all events in my political experience, an entirely novel situation.
– The case is to be dealt with in a sketchy sort of way. just as other matters have been dealt with ?
– It is to be dealt with in the only way possible to meet the emergency, and when there is no time to do anything else. I concur that this power should be vested in the Postmaster-General and with his exercise of it, but I certainly cannot concur in a proposal to shut the door to a reasonable appeal on the part Of a citizen of the Commonwealth who believes that by the exercise of that power the Postmaster-General has done him a serious wrong. There should be a reasonable appeal against a decision that might involve the person concerned in heavy pecuniary loss. The case not being one that can be debated in this House, nor one that should be debated here even with closed doors, it must, like many others, be referred to a Select Committee, in whom the House has confidence, with a view to evidence being taken privately, and a report upon the merits being presented. But this Committee will not merely report on the merits of the case. If it were to stop there it would be insufficient. In reporting on the merits of the case it will criticise, either directly or indirectly, the action of the Minister concerned, and Irepent that for that action the Government accepts entire responsibility.
– If the Select Committee decides that the suspension mustbe lifted, will the Postmaster-General and his colleagues allow the firm in question to continue to avail itself of the postal service for the purposes of its business, although they believe as they do now that their action was justified? Are the Government going to surrender their judgment to the Select Committee ?
– If the Committee recommends that the suspension be removed it will be the duty of the Postmaster-General to advise his colleague’s regarding the new evidence laid before them. If that evidence satisfies him that the suspension should be removed he will makea recommendation to that effect to the Cabinet. If it does not satisfy him he will make the opposite recommendation, and the Government takes the responsibility of accepting or rejecting the finding of the Select Committee. Although the Committee will be appointed as a Court of Appeal from the decision of the Minister, the responsibility of accepting or rejecting its finding will rest first Upon Ministers and then upon the House.
– How can this Committee be a Court of Appeal if there is to be no finality ?
– There will be finality.
– Then its finding may or may not be a motion of want of confidence.
– I have leplied to that point.
– Is the Committee to be a Court of Appeal whose decision can be reviewed by Ministers?
– Yes. We cannot and ought not, according to constitutional principle, to escape responsibility for our action, and we are not escaping responsibility for action in this matter by accepting a Com mittee revision.
– The Select Committee is to be not a Court of Appeal but merely a Court of Inquiry.
– We can never have constituted by Parliament a Court of Appeal in the full and final judicial sense. The honorable member has correctly described the Committee as a Court of Inquiry.
– Why should not the Government support their own decision by voting against the appointment of a Select Committee ?
– Because we should then be voting in our own case as judges of our own cause.
– Then the Prime Minister recognises that the Government are being attacked in this matter?
– It seems to me that in an important matter of this kind, a citizen of the Commonwealth ought to be entitled to challenge the action of the responsible Minister without at the same time compel ling the Government to shut the door against an inquiry by members of Parliament, to whom he can appeal,because the finding might affect their political position.
– Is this not a new and a dangerous proposal on the part of the Government ?
– It is a new development of an old principle. The right honorable member may say that it is dangerous, but every new development is to some extent.
– Why should not the Government defend themselves?
– We have nothing to defend.
– The Government should vote against this motion.
– If we did, we should possibly prevent an inquiry.
– Has there been no inquiry by Ministers?
– Yes ; there has been an inquiry by the Postmaster-General, who recommended a certain course of action. He took the responsibility of his act, and we were satisfied with his judgment.
– Then the Ministry support the action of the Postmaster-General?
– I have said so.
– Has the Ministry no confidence in its own decision?
– It has absolute confidence in it.
– Then why should it not support it by voting against the appointment of a Select Committee?
– I ask the honorable member, if he has not parted with his elementary sense of justice, to say whether it would be fair for us, because we have formed an opinion in this case, to use whatever power and influence we possess to prevent a further inquiry?
– The Government should certainly support their own decision.
– They should either oppose or support the proposal to appoint a Select Committee.
– The honorable member may think so; I hold a different view. We should never close the door to the complaint of any citizen who believes that he has been done an injury under an Act of Parliament. When such a complaint is made, it appears to me to be magnanimous, and outside of politics would be at once treated as magnanimous - although I hesitate to apply that word to any action of the Ministry - for the Government to step aside and to say, “ We throw open to you a Court of Justice. We do not even appear to plead against you. We are content with the papers disclosing the facts on which we took action, and are prepared to leave them to the judgment of the House.” Mr. Sampson.- It is a magnanimity that is calculated to destroy the principle of responsible government.
– Not at all. This being a judicial matter; we grant a fair inquiry. When that inquiry is made, and a report is submitted to the House, we shall deal with it as a Ministry, and lake the responsibility of accepting or rejecting it.
– When will the inquiry be made?
– At once.
– Supposing we do not want one?
– Then the right honorable member should vote against the motion.
– We are to take the responsibility while the Government walk out of the House?
– On the contrary, by its action, the Government leaves the responsibility for its action where it is content that it should rest, with the Government itself. No vote of the House refusing an inquiry will relieve my honorable colleague from the responsibility of the action taken by him months before this motion was submitted. In the circumstances, my right honorable friend will see that his quip , does not apply. We have taken the responsibility for our action. Nothing that we can do will relieve us of that responsibility.
– Why do not the Government stand by their action?
Mr.DEAKIN.- We are doing so.
– Had this motion emanated from the Opposition, the. Prime Minister would not have spoken in the way that he has done.
– That statement is entirely incorrect.
– What has it to do with members sitting in the Labour corner?
– The members of that corner are dangerous.
– I have not the least idea of the opinions entertained by members of the Labour corner upon this motion with the exception of the views held by the honorable member for Riverina, and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– The Prime Minister’s statement is quite right.
– I do not know whether they indorse the action of the Government or whether they disapprove of it.
– We have never discussed it.
– I claim that in this difficult and dangerous case, we have taken a course which is straightforward - a course which is fair, and one which is not unconstitutional. We take all the risks.
-“ Straightforward “ - right out of the door.
– Rather than cast our votes simply to uphold our own decision, so much confidence have we in it, that we are prepared to submit it to the strongest searchlight which can be brought to bear upon it, and afterwards to accept our responsibility in connexion with it. I admit that the course which we propose to take is a new one; but, so far from being unconstitutional, it is within the bounds of constitutionality, since it does not reduce our ultimate responsibility one iota. It leaves this House free to appoint any Select Committee that it may choose to inquire into a Ministerial action into which we are not only willing to permit inquiry, but actually invite it. Although it is a new departure, and one which I was called upon to take upon the spur of the moment, when this matter was brought forward, upon further consideration, I see no other course open to us. We have either to refuse an inquiry altogether or to postpone it indefinitely until the Post and Telegraph Act has been amended, or to take the course that we propose. Of the only three courses open to us, that which I have outlined is the least objectionable. It certainly is one which exposes us to the greatest risk of independent criticism-
– What risk is there?
– The risk of having an inquiry made by honorable members whom this House may select who will look into this case, and make any recommendations or comment upon Ministerial action that they may choose.
– We need not adopt their recommendations.
– That is so. But, instead of Ministers saying, “ Our desire is to close the door upon the man who is crying out for his right of appeal,” we open the door to him. We say in effect to him, “ We are so positive that we have done justice to you, that we are content to accept the judgment of the House upon our fiction, without endeavouring to bring any influence to bear upon honorable members who may be disposed to assist us.”
– It is a generosity which will be misunderstood.
– We mustbe confent to act right, no matter how our action may be viewed. Of the three courses available, I ask honorable members to point me to a fairer one than to allow Parliament - which is the high court of justice in this country to which every citizen has the right of appeal - to decide this matter, and for the Ministry to put what it considers to be right first, and what it regards as constitutionally a new departure, second.I do not think that this is the best means that can be devised for dealing with such cases.I am of opinion that subsequently the House should be invited to supplement its own machinery in this connexion. That ought not to be dealt with as a party matter.
-But, by his action, the Prime Minister is making this a party matter.
– I am merely pointing out that the Government are content to allow this matter to be decided by the House. Surely that is not making the question a party one.
– The Government are not taking up a proper attitude when they decline to record their votes upon this proposal.
– We take a proper part when we abstain from voting upon it, seeing that our votes might prove the determining factor in refusing a hearing to a firm which in the absence of our votes would be accorded that hearing.
– What about the opinions of the people outside ?
– They are reflected in this House.
– I am referring to the opinion of the Prime Minister’s constituents.
– I am perfectly prepared to answer to my constituents. The step proposed to be taken by the Government is new. I know of no case in my parliamentary experience which has presented similar features’ or demanded similar action. In order to meet the position at once we have improvised a course of action which I believe to be essentially just to the person complaining, and also just to those who are inclined upon the facts known to uphold the action of the Government. It is unjust to no person, and is not unconstitutional in any sense. Ministers are prepared to welcome the appointment of any Committee of Inquiry, no matter how searching it may be, and when that Committee reports they will accept full responsibility for dealing with its recommendations as they have accepted it for their past actions.
– I had no intention of speaking upon this matter until it assumed a very grave aspect in respect of the practice of this House. The extraordinary announcement of the Prime Minister, however, has elevated it from a simple protest against the action of the Postmaster-General into a high constitutional question. The honorable member for Flinders has very properly pointed out that the course proposed by the Government is a complete departure from constitutional practice. The Prime Minister has admitted that he knows of no precedent for such a course, and that ‘the whole movement has been improvised by the Government to escape from a situation which has no parallel in our Australian history.
– The occasion has not previously arisen when a man was denied the right of appeal to a Court.
– I desire to deal with the points connected with this case in my own way. The Prime Minister has affirmed that no similar case has arisen or could have arisen. But that does not get rid of the charge made by the honorable member for Flinders, that the Government proposal is a complete abrogation of their obligation to deal exclusively with matters of administration. Everybody with an elementary knowledge of constitutional practice knows that legislation is a matter for the Parliament and administration a matter for the Executive. As soon as the Government are unable to satisfy the House by their methods of administration they are called upon to take the opinion of honorable members as to their fitness to retain their positions. I am entirely in accord with the honorable member for Flinders in regard to the constitutional aspect of this question. But after sitting here for seven years I begin to look upon a regard for constitutional practice as being somewhat archaic. We have not had responsible government since 1901. Can honorable members say that we had an exhibition of responsible government last night when the Treasurer-
– The honorable member must not refer to another debate.
– We have become so accustomed to this loose view of constitutional practice that even the Prime Minister begins to forget the guiding principles of that branch of knowledge. He now tells us not only that it is constitutional for the Postmaster-General to admit that his action should be the subject of independent inquiry by the House, but that when the proposal for an inquiry is about to be put from the Chair, he and the whole of his colleagues will leave the .House and express no opinion one way. or the other. Surely, if the Prime Minister thinks that the decision of the Postmaster-General is a just one, he and his colleagues should remain in the Chamber and assist to negative the proposal of the honorable member. If, on the other hand, they think it just to have his decision reviewed, they should support the motion. Certainly they ought not to run away. I agree with the Prime Minister that the occasion is somewhat unique, because under the Post and Telegraph Act we have placed unusually arbitrary powers in the hands of the PostmasterGeneral - powers which have never previously been vested in a Minister.
– Yes they have - in Queensland.
– They are powers which ought not to be placed in the hands of any Minister ; because the way in which they will be exercised will depend entirely upon his moral outlook. I do not wish to say anything in reference to the PostmasterGeneral, except that when he is .in the country -as a Minister he never loses an opportunity of delivering “ goody goody “ homilies to the people as to the way they should conduct their lives.
– The honorable member does the same thing himself.
– How can we expect the Postmaster-General’ to take the view that a man of the world would take upon a question of this sort in the administration of his Department? He alone, knows the whole of the details which prompted him to take action. I have never seen the papers relating to this matter.
– They were laid upon the table of the Senate.
– We have permitted the Postmaster-General practically to stop the whole business of a firm which has no appeal. I charge the Government with moral cowardice1 in running away from this motion. 1 have always contended that this Parliament has nothing whatever to do with the morality of the contents of letters. If those contents touch the security of the King or of the Commonwealth, the Government have a perfect right to interfere. But, as carriers of letters, we have no more right to interfere in regard to the moral contents of letters than have the Railways Commissioners to inquire into the object of a man or a woman in travelling from Sydney to Melbourne. But since we have conferred this arbitrarypower upon the Postmaster-General there must be some- safety valve in cases of injustice - otherwise we have created and perpetuate a veritable Star Chamber. It is a monstrous proposition that a PostmasterGeneral with “goody goody” notions such as are possessed by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, should be invested with the arbitrary power to place an- embargo upon the whole correspondence of a business firm without a right of appeal. I do not care what the letters may contain - there must in all fairness be a right of appeal on the part of that firm. All that is proposed now is that there shall be an inquiry, and the proper course for the Government, if the Prime Minister was so anxious to do justice, was to say to the people concerned, “ It is true that the Minister has decided against. you, but, if you will name certain persons whom we ap- prove, we are perfectly willing to have an inquiry by an impartial tribunal, in order that we may ascertain in what way, if any,’ the Minister has gone beyond a reasonable exercise of his powers.” To come to the
House and say that they will allow this motion to be carried, but that they are not going to support it, because they do not care whether the Committee be appointed or not, is to take up, not only an unconstitutional, but a cowardly, attitude. If the Government believe it just to have a Committee of inquiry, they ought to support the motion; or, if they think the motion unjust, they ought to oppose it. But I am beginning to be inured to breaches of constitutional practice.
– This goes further than any breach we have seen hitherto.
– I do not think so. Only yesterday, there was a greater breach of constitutional and parliamentary practice, when the leader of the Labour Party peremptorily denied the Government the right to arrange the business of the House; and, if the honorable member for Flinders did not observe the incident, he missed a spectacle of importance. But constitutional practice is what we like to make it. We may carry on Parliament for years and make so many and constant inroads on recognised constitutional practice that at last the inroads become a part of our constitutional practice. I am perfectly satisfied to see an arbitrary power of the kind under discussion to some extent mitigated by the appointment of a Select Committee, in order that there may be an impartial inquiry as to whether those concerned have or have not received justice at the hands of the PostmasterGeneral.
– I agree in the. main with the reasoning of the honorable member for Parkes. The position of the Government, as disclosed in the speech of the Prime Minister, is certainly the most extraordinary 1 have witnessed since I entered Parliament. I do not know whether the Postmaster-General had sufficient evidence to. justify the action he took; but I think that the Government, now that action has been taken, should know whether or not it is one which requires review, and they ought to have the courage to either support or oppose the motion. That appears to me to be the’ straightforward attitude that the Government ought to adopt. I do not agree with the placing of such extraordinary powers without appeal in the hands of the Postmaster-General, who on ex parte evidence might absolutely ruin the business of an institution or firm in. Australia.
– That may be a reason for amending the Act, but not for relieving the Minister of the responsibility for its. administration.
– I am opposing the continuance of such enormous powers in the hands of the Postmaster-General by means of this section of the Postal Act ; but, the power having been given, the section ought to be repealed, or the Government ought to be prepared to abide by the consequences of action under it. Those people who have had their mails stopped are denied the right granted to the meanest criminal in the land, of appealing to a court of justice. The Postmaster-General has admitted that he acted on ex parte evidence, although the Prime Minister has endeavoured to show that the whole of the facts of the case had been presented. Such a power ought to be exercised only after the most careful inquiry, both for and against those who are accused ; but, in this particular case, only the evidence for the prosecution, as it were, appears to have been heard. I know nothing of the merits of the case ; and if the honorable member for Hunter is desirous to form one of the Committee, I am perfectly willing to make room for him. The personnel of the Committee is a matter for the consideration of the House; and there should be no hesitation in striking out the name of any man whom honorable members may deem incapable of forming a correct judgment in accordance with the evidence. I think it would be most unjust to refuse to grant an inquiry, seeing that that is the only means by which it can be ascertained whether the persons accused or the Postmaster-General be right or wrong. It appears to me the position is developing into a farce. The Government are taking up the attitude that they are not prepared to say whether or not the PostmasterGeneral did the proper thing in taking action as he did on ex parte evidence.
– I have said over and over again that the Postmaster-General did the proper thing.
– Then the proper course for the Government is to oppose the motion and accept the responsibility.
– We are satisfied that we are right, but we are not opposed to an inquiry.
– If the Prime Minister is not opposed to an inquiry, he ought to vote for the motion.
– I do not ask for an inquiry, and I do not oppose one.
– But supposing honorable members as a whole followed the lead of the Ministry and walked out of the Chamber ?
– That would only be a trick.
– It would be a trick on the part of honorable members, but is not a trick on the part of the Ministry !
– We act on a principle.
– If the Ministry show such cowardice as to walk out of the House, surely other honorable members are entitled to also walk out. It would be unparalleled in the history of parliamentary institutions for the members of the Government to walk out, and allow other honorable members to accept the responsibility of doing something in their absence.
– It is for honorable members to decide whether or not there shall be an inquiry.
– I regret that this question has assumed a party complexion. My only desire in supporting the motion is tosee whether the evidence in this particular case justified tha action of the Minister.
– Has the honorable member seen the papers?
– I have seen the papers for the prosecution, on which the Postmaster General acted, but I have seen no replies on the part of the accused. If these people have been guilty of the acts alleged, they are deserving of a total prohibition; but in my opinion it is the duty of Parliament - and the Government should have given the lead - to say whether or not there shall be an inquiry.
– In the first place I express a hope that the Prime Minister, when he does attempt to leave the Chamber, will, for the sake of his reputation as Prime Minister of Australia, get jammed in the doorway. Of all the speeches I have ever heard-
– The honorable member only wishes he could make as good a one.
- Mr. Speaker, may I ask protection from this offensive member. I never rise but he immediately begins to be offensive.
– I did not hear what the honorable member for Melbourne said; but if the honorable member for Parramatta feels the words to be offensive, I ask that they be withdrawn.
– All . I said was that I suppose the honorable member for Parramatta wished he could make such a good speech as that of the Prime Minister. If the honorable member for Parramatta’s brain is so super-sensitive as to induce him to regard the remark as offensive, I withdraw it.
– I have never heard a more meretricious specious bit of pleading than that to which the House was treated this afternoon by the Prime Minister. He tells us that he thinks the action of the Government ought to be inquired into.
– No; I said the House may have an inquiry or refuse an inquiry as it thinks fit.
– Then, although the Prime Minister does not believe there should be an inquiry, when the issue comes to be decided the members of the Government propose to leave the Chamber without having the courage to vote either for or against Does the Prime Minister believe there should be an inquiry?
– If the House assents to the motion.
– But the Prime Minister has not the courage to vote for or against it.
– I have the courage to do what is right.
– He has the courage to run away.
He who fights and runs away,
May live to fight another day.
– In my judgment, the action of the Government and of the Postmaster-General is a sorry comment on all that has gone before. For months past the Minister has been receiving the approbation of the churches and various other public bodies throughout Australia. Resolutions have been passed approving of the manly and courageous stand which he has taken in the interests of morality ; but now it seems that his courage is oozing out of his finger ends, and that nothing is to toe done which will in any way imperil the position of the Government.
– My courage would have oozed out long ago if it was going to ooze at all.
– The PostmasterGeneral does not ooze out of his place.
– That is the trouble.
– He stays there and subjects himself to this furtherhumiliation at the hands of his colleagues.
– He does not fear an inquiry. He does not run away from it, as the honorable member would do.
– The Prime Minister talks of running away !
– If I were to run away, I should be following an excellent example set this afternoon. It has been said by the Prime Minister that no charge of maladministration has been brought by the honorable member for Riverina. He said that what is alleged is that there has been a mistaken judgment, and that was assented to by the honorable member for Riverina.
– Hear, hear.
– This is what the honorable member for Riverina said when launching his charge the other day-
The Estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department are before us at present, and I am about, regretfully, to charge the Minister with practically an act of maladministration.
There is more than mistaken judgment there. The Government so far believes that there is something in this accusation of maladministration against the PostmasterGeneral that it courts an inquiry to ascertain its correctness.
– The honorable member for Riverina hasshifted his seat from the Ministerial supporters’ bench to one of the cross benches.
– Did the honorable member for Riverina make a general charge, or did his words refer only to this particular case?
– He merely said -
I am about, regretfully, to charge the Minister with practically an act of maladministration.
Surely I can show why I, and others, too, have formed that conclusion.
– There is a great deal more besides that.
– Yes; fifteen pages more.
– The speech is a long one, and, of course, I cannot quote all of it; but the implication was that I was omitting something material. The Act leaves no room for doubt as to whether this is or is not a judicial act. In the performance of his ordinary administrative functions, the Postmaster-General - may by order under his hand published in the Gazette direct that any postal article received at a post-office addressed to such person, either by his own or fictitious or assumed name . . . shall not be registered or transmitted or delivered to such person.
The Minister has exercised the power so conferred on him. He has decided that certain letters shall not be carried through the Post Office, and he says now that he believes that he did the correct thing. The Prime Minister, too, says that he did right; but he asserts that because the honorable member for Riverina has charged the Minister with maladministration, and party issues have been raised, there must be an inquiry. I ask the House whether, if the case had been brought forward by a member of the Opposition, the Government would have agreed to an inquiry? The request fora Committee would have been laughed at, had it not come from a Ministerial supporter about whose loyalty there was for the moment some doubt.
– When the matter was first mentioned in the Senate, we offered to agree to the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry. That was months ago, and long before the honorable member for Riverina mentioned the matter.
– Then why will not Ministers vote for the appointment of the Committee ?
– I was not aware that the Government had in the Senate offered to agree to the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry ; but the fact makes the present position the more remarkable. If Ministers have throughout been ready to allow an inquiry at any time, why do they now refuse to vote for it?
– We said that we should not oppose an inquiry.
– The honorable and learned gentleman has declared that there is no need for an inquiry.
– I did not say that.
– Did not the honorable and learned gentleman say that the PostmasterGeneral has done right ?
– I said that he has done right, but that we do not fear an inquiry.
– I asked the Prime Minister whether he thought an inquiry necessary, and he said “ No,” while the Postmaster-General has stated more than once that an inquiry is not necessary. The Prime Minister wishes to submit the administration of the Postmaster-General to a Committee of Inquiry which may condemn his action. Are future Minister’s likely to accept full responsibility for their actions if they know that these may be reviewed and condemned by Parliamentary Committees? Will not the knowledge prevent them from performing the functions which they are appointed to perform? If it does, constitutional government will go by the board.
-It will not prevent Ministers from acting, but it will relieve them of responsibility.
– Surely no Minister would consent to act under such conditions. I can conceive of nothing tending more directly to the undermining of independent administration. The Prime Minister tells us that there should be a Court of Appeal. The Act does not provide for that ; but, in any case, what advantage is there in having a Court of Appeal, if its findings are to be reviewed by the Ministry of the day ? There would be nothingjudicial about such procedure. What the Prime Minister advocates is really a Court of Inquiry, whose findings may be flouted by Ministers. This is nothing more nor less than an attempt to placate a Ministerial supporter who strongly favours the appointment of a Committee. I candidly admit that I have not investigated the case, and know nothing concerning its merits. The honorable member for Riverina stated offensively the other night that I am prepared in all such cases to give a decision without investigation. I accept the word of the Postmaster- General that he has acted on what he believes to be sufficient evidence, and shall yote against the appointment of a Committee; that is, if I vote at all. But I am not sure that I should not follow the example of the Prime Minister.
– What would Happen if we all followed his example?
– Why should we force a Committee upon the Government if Ministers have not the pluck to vote either for or against the amendment?
– What about those who have been injured, who are appealing to Parliament for redress?
– That question might well be addressed to the Prime Min ister, whom the honorable member so faith fully follows. If the honorable member thinks that injustice has been done, heis right in straining every nerve to get it remedied.
– The only appeal is toParliament, and the honorable member being a member of Parliament, I appeal to him.
– The honorable member should appeal to his Prime Minister, who says that he is going to leave the chamber when the question comes to be decided. He will not vote on the amendment, although he tells us that if a Committee is appointed, and reports the result of its investigations, he will see what should be done. If I were selected to serve on such a Committee, I should decline to do so, in view of the possibility that its recommendations might be flouted by the Ministry. There would be more to be said for the proposal if the’ Prime Minister were to undertake to abide by the finding of the Committee; but he says, “I shall commit myself to nothing. I do not see why T should be bound by the finding of this Court of Appeal, which- 1 say should be set up. When the .evidence is presented, I shall determine what ought to be done.”.
– The Prime Minister wishes to set up a Court to try one. of his colleagues.
– Yes ; on a direct charge of maladministration. That should be clearly understood.
– We shall vote on the intendment, and shall not be bound by the emarks of the honorable member for Riverina
– The remarks of the honorable member for Riverina explain what lis amendment means.
– The honorable member for Riverina desires the appoint- ment of a Committee to inquire into a charge of maladministration by the POSt.masterGeneral.
– I do not think the Post.masterGeneral is charged with acting mala He.
– There is more han an allegation of mistaken- judgment. So Postmaster-General has ever before teen similarly humiliated by his Prime Minister. Were I in the honorable gentlenan’s position, I should not be prepared b submit to such treatment. He does not think that he has done wrong, or that there hot,ld be an inquiry, and if he had the <our age to stand by his opinions,, he would lave the country, and a parliamentary ma- 1 brit, at his back.
– He is not afraid of .an inquiry
– He is so afraid of it that’ he will not vote for the appointment of the Committee. He is weakly and unwisely yielding to the pressure of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.1
– Not in the least.
– No one ever had a stronger case. However, Ministers must take their own course; it is left for us only to protest against these unusual methods, and against the creation of a precedent which, if followed, will ‘undermine independent Ministerial action, and bring about the decay and death of responsible government.
.- The proposal made ‘by the Prime Minister has occasioned me great surprise. He admits that it is unusual, and I should say that it is almost without ‘precedent. I see no difference between this criticism, of a member of the Government - and inciden-. tally of the Government as a whole, since it has indorsed the action of the Minister of which complaint is made - and an ordinary want of confidence motion. Trier are many statutes under which Ministers are vested with far-reaching powers, and these they are expected 16 exercise with discretion. Does the Prime Minister propose to lay down the rule that when an action taken by a Minister, by virtue of statutory powers conferred upon . him, 01 otherwise, is challenged, the Government are to leave the chamber in a body and not defend themselves? If that principle is to be adopted, it will probably lead the Government into a position of difficulty which they ought not to OCcUPY. hold that they are bound to defend, by their voices and their votes, every one of their administrative acts. I have no knowledge of the facts of this case, save that which I have gathered from the debate, but 1 certainly do not think that it was the intention of Parliament that the powers vested in the Postmaster- General should be exercised without careful investigation. It is only ‘reasonable that persons against whom a charge is made shall have an opportunity to defend themselves. The intention of Parliament was that the Act was to be administered -with care, and that the powers vested in the Minister should be exercised only after an investigation of the case for as well as against the person or persons accused.
– This firm’s case has been carefully considered.
– I understand that the Postmaster-General, in dealing with the case, did not give the persons concerned an opportunity to be heard. He ought, in my opinion, to have heard them before arriving” at a decision. I go further, and say that there is no reason why the PostmasterGeneral, on learning .that many persons, including members of Parliament, considered, that he had not acted fairly - that the accused persons had been wrongly re- fused an opportunity to be heard - should not have re-opened the case.
– I heard their counsel; I heard themselves ; I received their letters ; and their whole case is to be found in the papers.
– Did they appear before the honorable gentleman?
– I have heard them halfadozen times.
– After inflicting the punishment.
– Evert so, that fact is in the Minister’s favour. He could have reversed his decision if the evidence subsequently brought before him satisfied him that the suspension should be removed.
– The Minister says that he heard the parties, as well as their counsel.
– If that is so, I have no fault- to find with him, although I am inclined to believe that at the outset he acted rather precipitately. Before giving his decision, he should- have heard what the accused persons had to say. We are now told that they have had arn opportunity to place their facts before him.
– I do not think that the Minister intended -to convey all that the right honorable member assumes.
– I repeat that I have heard their counsel and themselves.
– They demanded. ari inquiry in some form, and that was refused.
– I told them to put in whatever documents they desired, and papers from them have been received from time to time.
– That explanation removes much of the objection that I had to the action of the Minister. It would be very inconvenient if every person dealt with under the powers conferred upon Ministers by Acts of Parliament could demand an inquiry by a Select Committee. Persons so dealt with must be satisfied to have their case heard by the Minister concerned. If they are dissatisfied with his decision, it is open to them to appeal toParliament, which I am sure will grant them redress if they show that they hare suffered injustice. I contend that the action of the Postmaster- General was an administrative and not a judicial one. He availed himself of certain statutory powers vested in him, and the amendment involves a most serious charge against the Government The speeches made in” support of it by th» honorable member- for Riverina are a> strong an indictment against the action o? the Postmaster-General as could be made, for he deliberately charged him with maladministration. That being so, it is very necessary that the Government should defend, not only by speaking, but by voting, the action taken. The Prime Minister’s proposal that whenever the Government is attacked in respect of an act of administration, he and his colleagues shall not vote, means really that the Government are to shirk the full responsibility of their position.
– Does not the right hon.orable member recognise the unprecedented character of this situation?
– I regret to say I do not. It is by no means unusual for the action of a Minister or a Ministry to be questioned in Parliament. There are many statutory powers vested in Ministers. The Minister of. Trade and Customs, for instance, is given wide powers under the Customs Act, and he exercises those powers, I am sure, to the best of his ability. Some of. them are very arbitrary, but then exercise and the exercise of the powers conferred on the Postmaster-General wide the Post and Telegraph Act involve1 responsibility. The honorable member fo: Riverina has really made a direct charge o: maladministration against the Postmaster General, and if he succeeded in carrying his proposal, the Government would hav. no option but to resign. The honorable member alleges that the Postmaster-Genera has done an injustice to a certain firm and has denied redress to the injured per sons. No more serious charge could b levelled against an Administration, and i: his amendment be carried, the Governmenmust vacate the Treasury benches. I regret the attitude taken up by the Prim Minister and. his colleagues. I certainlhad no intention of voting against them on the contrary, my sympathies were Wit them. It is true that, believing that th Postmaster-General had refused tq givthe members of this firm an opportunity t> present their case to him, I felt very Strongly on this question; but I now find that they have been heard, so that my objections to .the action of the Minister on that score have been removed.
– I shall be able to show the right honorable member .that his objections must still hold good.
– I should have t>een very loth to vote against the Government on a question of this kind ; but 1 dp not see why I should be asked to vote in support of an action by the PostmasterGeneral, when he himself is not prepared to do so. I fail to see why I should take upon my shoulders the responsibilities of the Government, when the Prime Minister and his colleagues decline to bear their part of them. This is not a party question on which there is. any desire to defeat the Government. If it were, and the House were, fairly evenly divided, it would be an act of magnanimity on the part of the Government to leave the Chamber and allow the House to determine it. The point is that a member of the Ministry has exercised a very great power vested in him, and that his action has been indorsed by his colleagues. That being so, they should support by their voices and their votes what they believe to have been a just act of administration.
– I was not present when the Prime Minister made his announcement, and found it hard to believe that he should have decided to take up this extraordinary position. Since the Government as a whole believe, as they say they do, that the Postmaster-General has acted properly in this matter, I could have understood ‘their supporting him by voice and vote. Had the Prime Minister and the PostmasterGeneral said that they were quite willing that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into and report upon this case, I should not in the case of this Government have been surprised, although I should have thought that- they were deserting their contention that the action of which Complaint is made was a proper one.-
– In these circumstances, when the only appeal open to the parties is an appeal to Parliament, should we refuse it?
– But is there no other appeal open to them?
– The honorable .member knows that this- power stands by itself.
– It is a power which the Postmaster-General has exercised in scores of cases. Is a Select Committee to be appointed to inquire into every case in which that power has been exercised ?
– If Parliament approve.
– That is another question altogether. I shall deal with the merits of the proposal for an inquiry in a moment. But when Ministers - feeling as they must that they are upon their trial, because otherwise they would not absent themselves from the Chamber while this matter is being decided - say, “ We will not defend ourselves even by our votes “- -
– We say that we will not close the door upon an inquiry if the House desires to have one.
– Are not Ministers in every Parliament accused of acts of maladministration and have they ever said “ We shall. not defend ourselves by our votes, but shall leave the -matter to the decision of Parliament? “
– The same situation has not previously arisen.
– It arises in every case in which a Government is charged with maladministration. Does thePrime Minister say that the situation is changed because the charge proceeds from one of his supporters?
– It has been suggested that this is a judicial matter.
– And the Prime Minister is attempting to convert his Cabinet into ‘a Cabinet of Judges.
– No; but the Act makes the Postmaster-General a judge in this matter.
– Only in the sense that- every Minister is a judge. How does that circumstance relieve Ministers of the .responsibility of supporting their own opinions by their votes in this House? Is not a Select Committee a judicial body? Are its members to be debarred from voting upon any report that they may submit to Parliament? Ministers must have a very weak case when they seek to shelter themselves behind such an argument. They are here to do their duty as members of the House, and ought riot to vacate the Chamber when a proposal affecting their position is being considered.
– We merely lay the whole’ case before Parliament.
– The acts of the Government have been frequently questioned, but they have always taken the manly course of supporting their acts by their votes. Do they suggest that members of Parliament - who are equally responsible with themselves for the provision in the Post and Telegraph Act under which the Postmaster-General took action - should regard the position which they occupy as a judicial one, and that when the division is about to be taken they should leave the Chamber ? Or are honorable members supposed to vote upon this motion and thus relieve Ministers of a responsibility which they decline to accept? We want to see a little more backbone evidenced in our politics. Ministers may be right upon some occasions and wrong upon others; but whether right or wrong, if they are prepared to fight for their cause and to accept the consequences of their actions we can respect them, even if we assist to defeat them. But it was not anticipated that there was anything in the way of a reflection upon the Postmaster-General or upon the Government likely to result from this motion. It is not a party question, and that is why I was the more surprised when I heard of the extraordinary announcement of the Prime Minister. I know that upon this side of the Chamber, the votes of honorable members would have been divided.
– The Government knew that they would win.
– I cannot say whether they knew that or not.
– The honorable member is assuming that they did not.
-I am merely replying to a suggestion that this matter was to be treated as a party; one. But if it were so, surely that was an additional reason why the Government should record their votes upon it.
– How does the honorable member account for the solemn assurance given by the leader of the Opposition to the honorable member for Riverina that he would help him.
– I know nothing about that. If the Minister of Trade and Customs thinks that the action which the Government propose to take is a proper one under the circumstances, there has been an extraordinary change in his mental attitude.
– The leader of the Opposition stated upon the floor of the House that he was in favour of my proposal and would support it in every way.
– He made that statement as an individual, and not as leader of the Opposition.
– He made it as part ofthe machine.
– Partor the machine which the honorable member is supporting refuses to act. It is an extraordinary political machine.
Mr.Hughes. - Very likely it requires oiling.
– I wish that the honorable member could oil it, because the exhibition which we have witnessed this afternoon tends to degrade parliamentary institutions. The lightness with which the Prime Minister will tamper with established parliamentary . procedure is amazing. He possesses a good knowledge of constitutional procedure, and poses as a supporter of constitutional methods, but yet we find him - when a certain situation arises - permitting everything to go by the board in order that some little object which he has in view may be gained. To achieve his purpose all our constitutional procedure is to be changed. I do hope that the Ministry will not adhere to their expressed decision. If they do, their action will not add to their reputation, and if this sort of conduct is repeated we shall become the laughing stock of Parliaments. To me the position is almost beyond belief. The Prime Minister declares that he believes that the Postmaster-General was right in the action which he took. Obviously, then, it is his duty to support his colleague by his vote in this Chamber.
– And shut the doorupon an inquiry.
– If Ministers believe that any inquiry is necessnry they will not shut but will open the door upon it by voting for the proposal under consideration. But to adopt a luke-warm attitude upon a matter of such importance
– We are adopting an impartial and judicial attitude.
– Then if all the members of this House left the chamber when the motion was about to be put from the Chair, we should all be acting impartially? Apparently that is the course which the Prime Minister desires us to take.
– I am ‘ surprised at the honorable member talking such nonsense.
– I am very much surprised that I have to talk in this way. If the Prime Minister is not going to accept his responsibility-
– I have accepted it.
– If the Prime Minister takes the view that he must be impartial, must not other honorable members be equally impartial ?
– . They have not acted.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to say that whenever they have acted they should not vote?
– Apparently he thinks that because honorable members have not taken action, they occupy a very different position from that which he occupies. Why has he not adopted that attitude upon other occasions? We do not want to see attempts to interfere with the ordinary procedure and precedents of Parliament whenever a little difficulty arises. But we do want to see Ministers boldly supporting their opinions and their positions by their votes.
– And supporting the Act which they have to administer.
– Yes. If they cannot do that, the PostmasterGeneral should resign His position. I do not know that he has treated this particular firm differently from other firms.
– This is the only firm which has .been so treated.
– I think that the honorable member’ is wrong. I am speaking of the persons upon whose postal (Correspondence an embargo has been placed irrespective of the nature of their business. In this connexion I cannot find that the Postmaster- General has made any discrimination.
– I have not.
– Then if we support the appointment of a Select Committee in the present instance we shall have to support the creation of a similar tribunal in respect of every decision which has been given by the Postmaster-General under this particular section of the Post and . Telegraph Act.
– In the absence of a Select Committee” we shall not get the required evidence.
-*- We shall not get it with the aid of a Select Committee.
– We shall not get it with the assistance of the honorable member. I know that he has a motive.
– Mention it.
– The British Medical Association.
– I have nothing whatever to do with that Association.
– The honorable member is a member of it.
– I am not.
-The Postmaster-General has affirmed that’ he has afforded this particular firm every opportunity to put their case before him. That is a reason why I should support his action, but I cannot understand why his colleagues decline to do so.
– Because we will not close the door upon an inquiry.
– In order to be logical the Prime Minister and his colleagues should withdraw from the chamber upon every occasion that a charge . is levelled against the Government.
– They should not vote even upon a want of confidence motion.
– If the Prime Minister thinks that the Post and Telegraph Act requires amendment, his ‘ proper course is to seek, to alter it.
– I have already intimated that probably it will be amended. “ Mr. DUGALD THOMSON.- The honorable gentleman has no right to act .in the way that he proposes to do until that measure has been amended.
– Its amendment will take time.
– i could understand the Prime Minister declaring that the Act required to be amended, and that pending its amendment he would oppose the appointment of a Select Committee.
– Surely the honorable member does not believe in punishment preceding trial ?
– Under some of the powers we have given Ministers - and some of them, I think, are unnecessary - it is intended that action shall precede trial.
– Where is there similar power given. in nil v but the Postal Act?
– There are the Customs Act, the Immigration Restriction Act, the Commerce Act, and others. Under the Customs Act, certain imports may be stopped, and, under the Immigration Restriction Act, certain persons may be excluded from the Commonwealth. I objected to some of those powers, because I thought them unnecessary ; but I regard the power under the Postal Act as one that ought to be exercised, because, otherwise, the Postal service would become a great medium pf fraud and dishonesty.
– And the exercise of- the power ought not to be contingent on- reference to Parliament.
– No, the Postmaster-General must act- without Parliament ; and I am inclined to support his action, unless injustice is shown. In the case under discussion, I do not know that the Postmaster-General has acted” wrongly in any way; and I would give an adverse vote only when it was proved that he had unfairly differentiated in regard to some particular person or firm.
– Could anything be more unfair than what occurred in this case? The State authorities, with all the knowledge of the facts, took no action, because they knew there was no case, but they caused the Postmaster- General to stop the correspondence.
– I do hotsay that even that statement constitutes an argument’. If the Government consider that the final power, resting, with the PostmasterGeneral, is unfair, and they desire to amend the law, which affects not only th’is firm, but many others, the same opportunity of appeal should be afforded to all. But the Government support “ the Postmaster-General on the ground that fie has acted quite rightly. What could be weaker than the position of Ministers, who, while they do not object to an inquiry, declare that they will not vote for or against the motion? Such an attitude abrogates their’ position in Parliament, where they ought to be the leaders ; and it is an attitude which they would absolutely refuse to adopt in other cases where their action was- attacked. Does it make , any difference from which side of the House the attack comes? We, as the Opposition, attack the Government frequently, but they do not then propose to take any such course as that which has°been indicated by the Prime Minister. In the. present instance, the Government have been attacked by a supporter, and they propose to’ do what’ I have never known any other Ministry to do under the circumstances - declare that they will be impartial, and that they will walk out’ of the House.
Colonel Foxton. - And what about their colleague, the Postmaster-General ?
– Their colleague is left, to the wolves. If the Government do not object to an inquiry, why do not’ they vote for the motion ?f But they choose to adopt a mid- way position, and to abandon the PostmasterGeneral to the House without their support’. The Government are refusing to accept the responsibility which rests on Ministers, and the position they assume is weakness personified. And all the time the people of the Commonwealth are waiting for some evidence of backbone in the leader of a Government.
.- According to the honorable member for Parramatta, who seems to speak with the general approval of his party, the PostmasterGeneral has acted quite rightly. So far as I can- see, the main complaint against the Government is that they will not vote on the motion. We are told by the honorable’ member for Flinders, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, and the right honorable member for Swan, that it is simply unprecedented for the Ministry not to vote in support of a member of the Ministry.
– I said nothing about not voting.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie and the honorable member for Flinders may not know the practice of Commonwealth constitutional law or the procedure of this Parliament, because they have not been here long enough, but the right honorable member for Swan is in a different position. On the 20th June, 1 901, when he was a member of the Ministry, he, with others of his colleagues, deliberately walked out of the House, and allowed honorable members to wore on a question, thus creating a precedent completely new to me. The right- honorable member said a few minutes ago -
Every Government should defend by their actions and their votes -
– I think I said, by their voices and their votes.
– Well- every act of administration which they made.
I ask the right honorable . member how it was that, when the question of the emolu- ments of Ministers was under discussion, he, and all the rest of the Ministry, deliberately stated that they would not vote?’
– Because it was a matter of - personal interest.
– But surely the question under review was an “ act of administration ‘ ‘ ; and it was pointed out at the timethat the position of Ministers was only that of temporary trustees. .As a matter of fact, the question affected the members of every future Ministry, and, therefore, became an act of administration, and of vital permanent interest. Honorable members in the Opposition corner seem willing to wound, but afraid to strike; they are anxious to grasp at every opportunity of weakening the position of the Government, and of giving rise to a motion of want of confidence.
– The honorable member is a voting machine.
– The right, honorable member for Swan is one who acknowledged that, for months and months, he had been a voting machine at the call of the Labour Party ; and he did not discover the fact until he found it convenient to cross to the other side of the House.
– Will the honorable member discuss, the question now before the Chair?
– I only desire to point out that I am not a voting machine, that at no time have I voted against my convictions, and to show the inconsistency between the words of the right honorable member for Swan to-night and his action in i90i._ The honorable member for North “ Sydney told us that he was surprised at the attitude taken up by the Prime Minister, and then the honorable member for Flinders, in that tone of sarcasm which distinguishes him, exclaimed, “ They call this a judicial matter.” Fortunately, however, we have the words of the Chief Justice, in giving judgment in the case of -Freeman and Wallace, who appealed to the “High Court in reference to this very matter. In the course of his remarks, reported in 12 A.L.R., the Chief Justice said -
But it is clear that this is not merely a Ministerial duty ; it is a duty involving the exercise of discretion, and upon which he must form his own independent judgment, and he may form a conclusion in one way ‘or the other; and this Court cannot revise his judgment in a case where he is called upon to exercise, his discretion.
And after saying that this was not purely a judicial proceeding, the Chief Justice added -
It is quasi-judicial in this sense, that it is to be made upon evidence.
That is admitted right through the judgment. It is said that this is not a judicial proceeding, because the parties cannot be heard; but I point out that it would be simply impossible in many of the cases for the parties to be heard prior to the prohibition. For instance, if it were desired that the promoters of a German lottery should be prohibited from sending circulars throughout Australia, the PostmasterGeneral could not wait until they had been heard, because, :n the meantime, the country would be swamped with the circulars, the replies, and the lottery money sent, and the proper administration of the Act rendered impossible. The prohibition should be declared, followed by an in (mediate demand on the parties to show cause why it should not be continued. Amongst the affidavits in the case I have just mentioned there is one from the present Minister of Trade and Customs, showing that he, as Postmaster-General, called on the people concerned to show cause ; and, although tha present Postmaster-General stated that he had the evidence before him, and considered the matter time after time,” we are told that this is not a judicial proceeding.
– Was not the whole result of the case that the writ of prohibition was not issued because it was not a judicial proceeding?
– Yes, in the Courts.
– The prohibition could not be issued, not because it was not a judicial proceeding, but because there was the large discretion of the Minister, and it had to be considered whether by certiorari, or mandamus, or prohibition was a proper thing.
– If it be judicial, the only judge is the PostmasterGeneral. The other Ministers, who are not going to vote, cannot be spoken of as judges.
– The Government has been attacked because it is willing to allow this case to be brought on appeal from the decision of the Postmaster-General to a higher Court, that of Parliament. But is not the position) virtually what it would be if the decision had been given, not by the Postmaster-General, but by a single Judge, and the Ministry, when asked to appeal to the Full Court, said, “ We have no wish to appeal, but if you think that there should be an appeal, we are willing to allow it to be made?’’ I did not like the action of Ministers in abstaining from voting on a previous occasion, and I spoke against it; but the honorable member for North Sydney made no protest, notwithstanding that he took part in the debate on the main question.
-on that occasion, Ministers abstained from voting because they were pecuniarily interested.
– It will be long before the honorable member is similarly interested. I object to the insinuations of members of the Opposition that the Government is trying to placate a supporter. In my opinion, the Prime Minister is too generous, and has too fine and over punctilious a sense of honour. I should have liked him to say that he would vote, as I shall vote, against the amendment for the appointment of a Committee. In my opinion, the PostmasterGeneral has given to the case all necessary consideration. If the amendment for the appointment of a Committee be carried, I hope six honorable members will support me in a request for a ballot, so that the case may be investigated by an impartial and independent Committee.
Mr.WILKS (Dal ley) [6.14].- These third Thursdays are becoming famous. Ever since the Prime. Minister discovered that all sorts of definite proposals could be brought forward by amendments omitting all the words after “ That,” there has been nothing but trouble.
– We missed the last two Thursdays.
– The Prime Minister seems to wish to miss this too, because he tells us that he is not going to vote on the amendment. The machine which he has devised flies back and strikes him like a boomerang. Now we are in thisburlesque situation, that the Government indorses the action of the Postmaster-General, but refuses to vote for or against a motion to investigate it. The policy of the Prime Minister is a policy of “ skedaddle, scuttle away and vamoose; do anything rather than vote.” We were returned to vote on the questions coming before Parliament. The Prime Minister is introducing a new idea in suggesting that when inconvenient questions are brought forward, honorable members should leave the Chamber without recording their votes. What electorate would choose a candidate who announced that he would shirk his responsibility in that way ? I have known members to get out of voting; but no one respected them for doing so; and, personally, I would rather have a vote cast against me than no vole registered. Am I to understand that the Prime Minister and the PostmasterGeneral are not going to vote, but that remaining Ministers and their supporters are to stay behind and do what theywill not do? It has been hinted that it would be well for honorable members on this side not to record their votes; but I shall record mine. I shall take the part oft he PostmasterGeneral, although he himself may run away.
– Then the honorable member will be doing what the PostmasterGeneral wishes him to do.
– If the PostmasterGeneral shirks his responsibility as a Minister and a member, that is no reason why I should shirk mine. I told the honorable member for Riverina, months ago, that I should oppose the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into this case. If the Postmaster-General exceeds his powers, Parliament should punish him. The friends of the honorable member for Riverina - Messrs. Freeman and . Wallace
– I am in noway personally connected with the institute.
– I do not suggest that the honorable member is personally interested. He says that he appeals to Parliament, as the last resort, for justice for these persons.
– I say that they have been condemned without trial.
– Is not that an attack on the Postmaster-General ?
– Parliament should at all times be ready to remedy grievances, however humble the sufferer may be.
– In this case it is the Postmaster-General who is humble. He is making himself the accused person.
– We cannot humble the Postmaster-General ; but he is humbling himself beyond measure, and other Ministers are humbling him. The papers relating to this case were laid on the table of the Senate, and are now public property, so that the firm could prosecute for conspiracy those who gave the evidence upon which the Postmaster- General based his action.
– The firm has asked that a charge may be brought against it, so that the case may be tried in the Courts. The statements in the papers are protected by privilege.
– The Prime Minister has said that that is not so.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has pointed out that a large section of the community has given the Postmaster-General great credit for what he has done. Buthis halo is becoming tarnished, because he is receding from his original attitude. As for the leader of the Opposition having made this a party question, I know nothing of it.
– He did not mention the matter to me.
– There is too great a tendency in Australian Parliaments to allow the appointment of Select Committees of inquiry, and I cannot understand how a Minister who thinks that he has acted rightly can agree to such an investigation. If it is thought that the Minister has done wrong, a motion of censure should be moved. The charge of maladministration brought against the Postmaster-General by the honorable member for Riverina is practically a motion of censure. If other honorable members followed the example which is going to be set by the Prime Minister, and refused to vote on it, the House would be counted out, which would be a convenience to those w’ho wish to go to the theatre, though not tending to the advancement of business. The Prime Minister, who should lead the House, refuses to act on this occasion. There are many questions to come before us upon which it will be inconvenient to vote; but those who tried to avoid responsibility by abstaining from voting would soon be drummed out of public life. The Prime Minister says that he believes that the Postmaster-General had, good ground for acting as he did, and the PostmasterGeneral has stated that he heard the defence of Messrs. Freemanand Wallace. Therefore, the case has been dealt with on its merits. He says that he heard their counsel, and is still of opinion that justice has been done. Therefore, I am astonished that the Prime Minister should justify his inaction by the plea that every one should have his grievances rectified by Parliament. I do not care much for party warfare, nor do I indulge in mudthrowing. Ministers are. bedaubing themselves with mud more thickly than the Opposition could plaster them, and Parliament would be a laughing stock if members generally, by refusing to vote, tried, as Ministers are doing, to escape their parliamentary responsibility. I could understand honorable members availing themselves of this opportunity to give notice of the most severe motion of censure that could be tabled against a Government.I could well understand the leader of the Labour Party, who wishes to speak to this question, concluding his remarks by moving a further amendment which would have the effect of a motion of censure. If I were a member of his party I should certainly avail myself of the opportunity to do so. If the Labour Party ever gets into power and refuses to accept responsibility for its administrative acts, the newspapers of the Commonwealth will quickly endeavour to hound them out of public life. They have now a splendid opportunity to table a most effective motion of censure that will, have the effect, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, of placing responsible government for all time upon its proper pedestal. If a motion of censure be tabled, I shall strongly support it. I cannot understand the attitude taken up by the Prime Minister, unless he is riding for a fall. The stand which he has taken upon this question, considered in conjunction with his attitude on another motion a few days ago, seems to suggest that that is what he is doing. Having regard to the Prime Minister’s knowledge of parliamentary procedure and of the principles of responsible government, it is difficult to account in any other way for his action in inviting his colleagues to walk out of the House when this question goes to a vote. Seeing that he has indorsed the action of the Postmaster-General, one would have expected him to strongly support him on this occasion and. to fight for rather than to go back upon him. I know that the honorable member for Riverina is a solid supporter of the Government, and had no hostile intentions towards them in submitting this amendment; but I repeat that we ought to avail ourselves of this splendid opportunity to assert the principles of responsible government..
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fisher) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 20th May, vide page 11 300):
Department of External Affairs
Proposed vote(Divisions 11 to 16) £8,299
.- Notwithstanding that large sums have -been voted to enable temporary assistance to be secured in the various Departments, I notice that in the Additional Estimates for this Department, in common with those relating to others, provision is made for further expenditure in that direction. We have an item of .£110 in respect of tem’porary assistance for the Department of External Affairs.
– There has been an extraordinary increase in the correspondence of the Department. We have a great number of inquiries from outside as well as from within the Commonwealth, and temporary assistance is necessary to cope with the rush. Our permanent staff is very small.
– I .quite understand that, but I think that the. practice of tiding over such difficulties by means of temporary assistance is unwise.
– We employ temporary assistance to have a clearing up.
– And another accumulation immediately follows. Since similar items are to be found in the Estimates relating to all the Departments, it would appear that ‘ the necessity for temporary assistance is a normal, rather than abnormal, state of affairs. If that is so, it would be more conducive to the efficiency of the service to make permanent . appointments. Temporary hands can be employed for only nine months-
– The system enables all to have a turn.
– The item provides for only .£110 in respect of temporary assistance for this Department, so that it will not enable many to have a turn.
– It would be better to ascertain what it is necessary to provide for the additional permanent assistance required for the Department. There can be no doubt that the Department is, and will be, a growing one, and that is an argument in favour of the appointment of more permanent officers. Just as temporary hands become acquainted with the routine work of a Department, and become adept in dealing with it, they have to make room for others. The whole process of training has to be gone over again, and only with the same result at the end. The unfortunate part of this business is that there is an inherent idea in the minds of applicants that, notwithstanding any notifications to the contrary, the fact of being temporarily employed -will give them a preferential claim for permanent employment when a vacancy occurs on the staff. I notice that the vote for incidental and petty cash expenditure is also mounting up month by month. In every Supply Bill, and all through the Estimates, we find substantial sums for that purpose. Although the financial year has . only six weeks to run, yet we are now asked to vote £150 under that head. These sums, small as they seem in their individual places, represent a very considerable total when added together. I think that there ought to be some indication as to the purpose for which this vote of £150 is required.
– Chiefly for books of reference and papers which had to be acquired.
– I have no wish to oppose these items, but I thought, it worth while’ at this stage to call attention to certain points and to suggest to the Government that for the purpose of putting the Departments’ on a ,proper footing they should permanently appoint the hands necessary to effectively carry out the work.
.- I should like to have an explanation from’ the Prime Minister with regard to the item of .£1,500 for the New Guinea mail service.
– We have entered into a new contract, and this item represents thefirst payment.
– I congratulate the Government upon doing something in this way to further settlement iri Papua. One of the best things which can be done will be to provide a permanent and reliable mail service’ which so far the Territory has not had. When we realize the strenuous efforts that are being made’ by other nations ‘to outdo us not only in Papua, but in other Pacific islands, I think that we must sympathize with any proposal which will promote ‘settlement .there in favour of either Great Britain or this Commonwealth. I notice that £20 is required for a paying officer at the Commonwealth offices in London.
– That is his yearly increment. It was left off the EstimatesinChief.
– In conclusion, I wish to congratulate the ‘ Prime Minister upon asking for a vote of £5,000 as a contribution towards the funds of the Antarctic expedition under Lieut. Shackleton.
Mr. THOMAS BROWN (Calare) to give an explanation regarding the item of£424 for the repatriation of distressed Australians from South Africa. I desire to know what expenditure has been incurred in that direction, and whether it comes under the immigration scheme of the Government?
– No; it is separate.
– Is there any probability of. any further expenditure being incurred under this head ?
– No; this is the last payment.
– I understand that the money for the repatriation of distressed Australians from South Africa was advanced with the expectation that some portion of it would be repaid. I desire to know if any repayments have been made?
– I have not been furnished with precise information, but not long ago I saw a return showing that repayments were being made in New South Wales and in another State. The other cases are being watched.
– And efforts are being made to secure the repayment of the money advanced ?
– I do not propose to dwell upon the matters to which the honorable member for Lang has alluded, because I dealt with them on a previous occasion. The various items for incidental and petty cash expenditure when added together represent a large sum.
– We have a very small share of it.
– The Departments do not seem to recognise their responsibility to keep the expenditure within the votes. They incur additional expenditure, and then we are presented with Additional Estimates. It may be said that this particular expenditure does not amount to a great deal under each head, but it aggregates a very large sum, in addition to a very large increase in the Estimates-in-Chief.
– It mounts up, I confess.
– I do not know whether this is the time to ask the Prime Minister to explain his intentions with regard to advertising in London the Commonwealth’s resources. I apprehend that I shall be in order in making a few observations on that matter, since it is connected with the Department of External Affairs, whose Esti mates we are now considering. I take it that all outside matters come within the purview of the Prime Minister, and, therefore, as he is asking for an additional vote of over£8,000, it will be appropriate to interrogate him about the methods pursued in his Department with regard to the dissemination of literature. Somehow pr other, it seems that some writers gethis ear in a way which I think would be extremely gratifying and profitable to other literary men in Australia if they had the same access to him, and could persuade him to do the same thing for them. I am anxious to learn what was the realgenersis of this arrangement with the London Standard? What occurred to the honorable gentleman’s mind to persuade him to subsidize it?
– For advertising? There is no subsidy.
– It is a special payment, not for advertising in the ordinary sense, but for publishing literature relating to Australia. It is out of the category of ordinary advertising matter, and should not be so regarded. Does the. honorable gentleman know anything about the circulation of the Standard? Does he know where it principally circulates in Great Britain, and, if not, how came it that he selected that organ of all others to receive this money? There are many other journals in London with a larger circulation ; and it seems a coincidence of a very striking character that the honorable gentleman should have hit upon a journal which has a very moderate circulation, but which, at the same time, is the representative organ of the Toryism of London.
– Order. I must ask the honorable member not to go into a detailed discussion of that matter. We have already voted a sum for that special purpose. That was the time when a discussion should have been raised.
– The matter had not arisen then.
– Many things may have arisen since that vote was passed. The honorable member will see that if I were to allow him to discuss the matter, the discussion might occupy the whole of this evening. It is not connected with any item in these Estimates, and, therefore, I must ask the honorable member not to proceed any further on those lines.
– I am willing to give any information to the honorable member.
– The Prime Minister will see that, after preventing the honorable member for Parramatta from discussing the matter, I can hardly extend to him that latitude.
– So far as he has gone, I mean.
– I would rather that the honorable gentleman did not.
– Do I understand you, sir, to rule that I may not refer to anything which the Prime Minister is doing in the way of encouraging immigration to Australia by means of this special advertising?
– If we are not to discuss the actions of the Minister of External Affairs in his Department in connexion with the departmental Estimates now under consideration, I should like to know in what other way they can be discussed. The general administration of the Department is so far ineffective as to require an additional vote of over £8,000 to make it effective. Does not the application for that money bring under review all the acts of the Prime Minister in his Department ?
– I cannot allow the honorable member to discuss the matter on this item.
– May I discuss the question of the selection of a site for Commonwealth Offices in London?
– That matter has already been dealt with under a special item. The honorable member can see that if I were to allow him to. discuss it again on these Estimates we should have two discussions on exactly the same point.
– 1 would rather, not rely on any item on which to refer to the administrative acts of the Prime Minister, but surely when w’e are asked to vote ever £8,000 more for its effective administration that raises the whole question of the control of the Department by the Prime Minister. All these things are taking place every day,- and we should have the opportunity to ventilate our grievances before voting supplies to the Department.
– I point out to the honorable member that during the afternoon he had an ample opportunity, if he had so desired, to ventilate any grievances, as it was “ grievance “ day. The Com- mittee is now considering Additional Estimates. The Estimates-in-Chief have been passed, and it is only in connexion with them that the administration of the various Departments can be discussed, unless, of course, the Additional -Estimates contain a special item to which the honorable member takes exception. I must ask him not to discuss any matters which are not relevant to the items before the Committee.
– Then you, sir, rule that when the Ministry ask for a vote of ,£571,000 we cannot , ventilate any grievances connected with the Departments unless they are specially relevant to a particular item in the Estimates?
– The rule is that the matters discussed must be relevant to the Additional Estimates.
– I think that that is a very extraordinary ruling.
– That is a reflection on the Chairman, surely.
– The honorable member has nothing to do with this matter. Why can he not keep quiet? I did not intend, sir, to reflect upon your .ruling, but in my many years’ experience I never heard a Chairman give such an extraordinary ruling until this evening. However, I suppose that I ‘must obey it.
– Is not that a gross reflection on your ruling, sir?
– It was not intended to be so.
– I did not understand it as such.
.- Does the item of £1,500 for the New Guinea mail service refer to the new contract promised some time ago?
– Can the Prime Minister state how many mails run now per month from Cooktown to Port Moresby?
– We -get twenty-one trips in the year.
– How many more services will be given in the year under the new contract?
.- We. get larger boats by the new contract, and they call, in addition to the places that were formerlycalled at, at Tulagi, Woodlark Island, and Yule Island on the outward voyage; and at Woodlark Island and nine or more ports in the Solomons, only some of which were called at formerly, on the return voyage. The smaller steamer of the two is larger by over 200 tons than the smaller steamer under the old contract. Both steamers are fitted with insulated space, refrigerating machinery, and electric light. We are getting a better service, with more ports of call, and with refrigerating space and other advantages.
.- The Prime Minister has not stated whether the service will be more frequent.
-There is no greater number of voyages, Gut there is a greater number of ports of call on those voyages.
– That is” not what the people of Papua asked for. I understood that what they wanted was, not better ships, but more frequent mails.
– That is a later application.
– That is the. application I am referring to.
– The proposition that there should be a direct service from Cooktown to Port Moresby, in addition to what might be called the twenty-one allround trips that take place during the year, in order that in between those trips the short run from Cooktown to Port Moresby might be made, has been favorably considered by us. But, so far, we have had no proposition from those formerly engaged in this trade, nor, so far as we are aware, is there any other . boat that can immediately take it up. I have already indicated that we are prepared to consider proposals for an additional service between the ports named.
– That will mean additional expense.
– Yes; but we shall have to come to the House for authority first.
.-“ Is the item of £555 for the representation of the Commonwealth at the Imperial Conference intended to cover the expenses of the Prime Minister when in London ?
– This amount’ consists of small items of expenditure in London, such as a portion of my steamer fare on my return from England, but the chief part of it is for the employment of clerks. The total cost of my visit to London was less than the amount here stated.
– I did not seek any of .those particulars. I admit that the’ amount is very small, and I did not wish to question in any way the expenditure on the Prime Minister’s visit to London. Notwithstanding the magnificent service, which he rendered to the Commonwealth when there - as to the quality of that service there will be no two opinions in the House - I am not sure that he would not have employed his time much better if, instead of delivering political addresses as he did on several occasions, he had confined himself to the settlement of some of those outstanding questions that are pressing for finality. For instance, I may ‘ mention the matter of the site on which we are to erect those palatial residential quarters for Australians when in London. We. were told some time ago by the Treasurer that this was a very urgent and pressing matter. The Prime Minister, when in London, might have taken an opportunity of clearing the matter up and settling once for all the question of ‘the acquirement of that site.
– Order ! I must ask the honorable member not to discuss that question.
– Do you rule, sir, that I am not to discuss the Prime Minister’s actions in London ?
– The honorable member will see that he is merely trying to evade my ruling. If I allowed him to discuss that question in the way he is doing, he could immediately turn round and say that the Prime Minister, when in London, might have employed his time better in arranging for some better newspaper in which to advertise than, say, the Daily Mail or the Standard. By that means he could evade my ruling just as effectively as he is trying to do in regard to the question of the site of the Commonwealth offices- . in London.
– I wish to get my full right to discuss the’. Minister’s actions. I hope I may do so without being charged with trying to evade your rilling. All the Prime Minister’s actions in connexion with his visit to London are under review, and anything connected with him when” in London is a fair subject for debate when we’ are voting the expenses of his trip.
– The honorable , member will not be in order in discussing the question of acquiring the site of the Commonwealth offices’ in London. There was a special sum in the Estimates-in-Chief for that object. That was the time when the honorable member should have dealt with it.
– That may be, but I claim that I may, if I wish, complain of the Prime Minister’s action in connexion with any matter when he was in London1, and for which this vote is specially set down. If you rule that I may nol do that, I do not see why these items are submitted unless it is for us to vote them in silence. The Prime Minister went to London ; here is a sum to cover his expenses whilst in London, and therefore anything he did, or failed to do when there, is a proper subject of debate., I am unwilling to dissent from your’ ruling, but I think -it is an extraordinarv one.
– The sum of £555 does not represent the total cost of the representation of the Commonwealth at the Imperial Conference. It is in addition to .£670 already voted, bringing the total up to £1,225. I merely mention that, as perhaps some of the pre- ‘vious vote was not used for purposes which the Prime Minister mentioned.
– There were the expenses of Dr. Wollaston, Mr. Hunt, my colleague, and myself, and the cost of the five or six temporary clerks engaged iri London and working extra hours.
– I take no exception “ to the item. I propose later to move the omission of the item of £424 for “ repatriation of distressed Australians from South Africa.” That is in addition to £9,862 voted on the Estimates in Chief, making a total of £10,286 for that purpose.
– This is the last of it.
– This money is not being wisely expended- It has come to the knowledge of several honorable members, and, I think, to the knowledge of the Government, that some of it has been utilized, not for repatriating Australians who went from here to South Africa, but for sending to Australia persons of undesirable character who were never here before. I think I myself have drawn attention to the statements appearing in the press in regard to that matter. Some of those undesirables have already come under the official notice of magistrates in this country ‘in a not too creditable way. It is about time we put a stop to this kind of thing, especially as it is now proposed to spend. another sum for the repatriation of other Australians who have gone to New’ Caledonia and other places: There does not appear” to have been a careful watch kept over this expenditure, in order to see that it was applied only to the- purposes for which it was voted, and that the necessitous people who wished to be brought here had actually been residents previously of Australia. We ought not to vote this sum.
.- During the general discussion on these Estimates last night, I observed that as most of the money had been expended, any attempt to reduce a vote would be only so much wasted time. All we can do now is to avoid occupying the time of the Committee longer than is necessary. I rise to make sugges-. tions to the Prime Minister as to matters which he may have overlooked in regard to External Affairs. We start on . this page with “other printing,” and end with “ Shackleton.” It is difficult to get anything out of .those items, but I know that the Prime Minister is only too glad of suggestions, no matter how humble the quarter they come from, for the improvement of his Department. The Department of External Affairs is one which is not usually very much in evidence at question time, but it controls- matters of the greatest importance to the Commonwealth. I find that there is a vote of £20 put down for a paying officer in London. I assume that the salary of this officer was really passed in the General Estimates.
– I am compelled in the interests of economy to ask why we. should pay £20 to a paying officer. if we are not to be told what he has to do. The honorable member for Parramatta endeavoured to raise a question as to the- work done by the officer who is called upon to pay for advertising by the Commonwealth. I should like to know whether the vote of £26 to which I refer is required to compensate some officer for seeing that our advertisements appear in the right newspapers.
– Order. I ask the honorable member not to discuss that question.
– I am sorry that you will not stand that, Mr. Chairman, as I should like to have said a few words on the matter, and I know that the honorable member for Parramatta has something of import- ,ance to say in connexion with it. I shall, however, strictly obey your ruling, especially as I know you will not permit me to go any further in that direction. I notice a vote of .£490 to cover the refund of .fines under the Immigration Restriction Act. I should like to know why these fines are to be refunded, and how it is that fines are imposed in connexion with the administration of that Act?
– Fines may be inflicted upon those in charge of steamers for permitting the landing of members of their crews who come under the description of prohibited immigrants.
– I am afraid that the Prime Minister is assisting the Chairman, and not the honorable member for Dalley. I am anxious to obey the Chairman’s ruling, though I may appear to be trying to evade it. We have passed no better legislation than that covered by the Immigration Restriction Act if’ it is properly administered, and none that will be more freely canvassed if the Act is not properly administered.. The reverse of immigration restriction is immigration encourgement, and whilst it is the duty of the Department of External Affairs to prevent the introduction of undesirable immigrants, I am afraid that the Department is not as active as it might be in encouraging the immigration of desirable immigrants. We know that at the present time there is a vast stream of emigration from Great Britain to other parts of the world.
-Order. I ask the honorable member not to discuss that question.
– I am sure that the Prime Minister sees the difficulty in which the honorable member for Parramatta and I are placed. The honorable gentleman’s wellknown affability is of great advantage to him in the passing of the Estimates of Departments of which he has charge, and I trust that he will find a means in replying to the observations which have been made to afford information on the matters which have been referred to, both with respect to immigration and the course to be adopted in the future in making arrangements for advertising the Commonwealth. The sum of £550 is set down in connexion with the representation of the Commonwealth at the Imperial Conference in London, and I am sure that if the amount were increased by another .£500 it would not be considered too much to pay for the services ‘which the Prime Minister performed for Australia during his recent .visit to the Old Country. It is not often that it is possible for men to pay compliments of this character to political opponents, but that is all the more reason why, where they are deserved, they should be paid to men who have satisfactorily performed a public duty. I recognise the value of the services which the
Prime Minister rendered to Australia at the recent Conference, and also during his visit to watch the passing of the Commonwealth Constitution. . The Bill submitted by the honorable gentleman for expenses was about the lowest submitted by any representative of Australia. I think that should be said, although I do not suppose the honorable gentleman will thank me for putting it on record. The services rendered by the honorable gentleman at the Imperial Conference cannot be estimated in pounds, shillings, and pence. The ‘ important work which he did during his visit was really surprising, and must have left him neither time nor energy to do work of a kind which would have claimed the attention of smaller men.
– This is eulogy.
– Because one is politically opposed to the Prime Minister that is no reason why he should always be pouring out vitriol. A political oppo- ‘nent does not lose his independence by recognising good work done by any public man holding different, political views. The honorable member for Parramatta and T have been very anxious to discuss certain matters, the discussion of which apparently is not in order on these Estimates. I regret very much that I have been unable to discuss the stream of fresh blood that is flowing at the present time from the United Kingdom to other parts of the world, and the desirability of- some effort being made to divert some of the stream to Australia.
.- In dealing with the Estimates-in-Chief honorable members can freely criticise,’ not only the items, but the general policy of the various Departments. ‘ We are discussing now, not the EstimateS-in-Chief, but Additional Estimates, and are being asked to vote sums of money to give effect to a policy additional to the general administration policy of the year.
– I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the items.
– I propose to do so; but I should like to say that if we are not permitted to discuss the policy underlying these Additional Estimates it is a waste of time to submit them, and Ministers might just as well take the money and say no more about it. I understand from the Prime Minister that the vote of £555 is the only vote in which his own expenses in connexion with the visit to London are dealt with.
– No ; this vote for the most part covers expenses in connexion with the employment of clerks. Ibelieve that the greater portion of the amount paid to me for expenses was included in the vote which appears on the EstimatesinChief.
– This vote covers some expenses in connexion with the Prime Minitesr’s visit to London which ‘ do not appear in the Estimates-in-Chief ?
– That is so. I believe that all the vouchers had not been received when the Estimates-in-Chief were made up.
-I can quite understand that. I assume that if anything controlled by the Department of External Affairs and connected with the visit of the Prime Minister to England transpired since the passage of the Estimates-in-Chief this is the proper occasion on which to refer to it.
– No; that would not be in order.
– I shall not questionyour ruling, sir, but I record my regret that a matter of great public importance in connexion with the. administration of the Department of External Affairs, and the advertising of the Commonwealth, cannot be ventilated in this Committee in such a way that we may let the public of Australia know exactly what has been done in their name.
.- If no other honorable member desires to speak, Imove -
That the item “ Repatriation’ of distressed Australians from South Africa,£424,” be left out.
– The honorable member’s proposal is that the vote covering the final amounts paid in connexion with the repatriation of distressed Australians from South Africa should be struck out. I do not think that the honorable member has given any reason why this should be done except that he has seen it stated in the press that certain individuals have been brought from South Africa who had no title to describe themselves as Australians.
– Hear, hear”.That the money has been improperly expended.
– I will not deny that such statements have appeared in the press, and that in a few instances they may correctly describe what has taken place. The honorable member for Lang should recollect that between 1,000 and 1,500 persons were returned to Australia from South Africa.
– I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- If in order I should like to ask whether . anything is being done to increase trading facilities with the New Hebrides? I see a reference to the mail service to the Pacific Islands, and I should like to know if increased communicationis being provided for. In connexion with the vote of £20 proposed for a paying officer in London, I think that the Prime Minister might give some information as to the progress . of negotiations for the establishment of Commonwealth offices in London.
– I ask honorable members not to deal with those matters.
.- I expected that in connexion with the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lang he would get a statement from the Prime Minister as to the view he took of the selection of an individual in Durban to take charge of the repatriation of Australians.
– The honorable member refers to Mr. Valder, the New South Wales agent.
– I was going to ask whether the Prime Minister is satisfied with the selection of the men who were returned as repatriated Australians, and whether it is his intention, should he be faced with a similar emergency in future, to give more care to the selection of the person who is to be responsible for incurring considerable expense on behalf of the Commonwealth ?
– There were some mistakes made, and I think we have benefited by the experience.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote (Divisions 17 to 20),
.- I wish to call the attention of honorable members to the amounts which it is proposed to appropriate in connexion with this Department, under the heading of “ Temporary Assistance.” In the Professional Division, I observe that the amount required to cover the cost of temporary assistance is set down at £300. In the Crown Solicitor’s office, a further sum of £100 is required for the same purpose, and under “ Contingencies “ connected with the High Court, a still further sum of £80, making a total of £480, notwithstanding that upon the Estimates-in-Chief the amount appropriated for temporary assistance amounted to only £90. It will thus be seenthat for the current financial year the aggregate expenditure under this heading is £570. That I regard as a large item. I suppose that this expenditure will be of a recurring nature?
– In that case there may be some justification for it. It must be due to exceptional circumstances.
– The honorable member is right in his surmise that the expenditure to which he has directed attention is due to exceptional circumstances. The £300 which the Committee are asked to vote for temporary assistance in the professional division is accounted for by the fact that the secretary to the Department was absent in England for five months, and it was necessary to obtaina professional officer to assist the Department, as there was a large amount of drafting, as well as of administrative work, to be done.
– That explanation is satisfactory.
– The £80 for temporary assistance in connexion with the High Court is due to the fact that Mr. Stewart has been appointed to the position of registrar of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and if, therefore, became necessary to appoint a permanent junior clerk. The expenditure of the £100 to which the honorable member referred was rendered necessary by big constitutional cases, which came on for argument in Sydney, and the decision in which will be given shortly.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Home Affairs
Proposed vote(Divisions 22 to 29),
.Under the heading of “ Miscellaneous,” upon page 16 of these Estimates, I notice an item, “ Legal expenses, disputed Senate election, South Australia, £176.” I desire to know whether, in the case of Senator Vardon, who suffered great hardship, owing to a mistaken decision on the part of the Government, it is intended that the Commonwealth shall bear the costs of the legal action which he was obliged to take?
– In all cases where the Electoral Department has been found to be at fault, the practice has been to pay the candidate concerned the actual amount that he is permitted to expend under the Electoral Act. I have no doubt that that practice will be observed in all similar cases in the future.
– I wish to direct attention to the item, “ Cost of Commonwealth elections, £3,450.” I do not know whether this amount is intended to be devoted to general purposes, but if so, I wish to impress upon the Minister the urgent necessity which exists for revising our electoral rolls. Unfortunately, our population is of a shifting character. That statement is just as true of the metropolitan as it is of the country districts. When an elector removes from the division for which his name is enrolled-
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter. I would point out that, by the gene ral consent of the Committee, a general discussion took place upon the first item of. these Estimates. Strictly speaking, that discussion was out of order, but, with the consent of the Committee, it was allowed to proceed, it being understood that honorable members would subsequently be confined to the particular items included in the division under consideration. I am not taking this course of my own initiative, but I am supported in it by no less an authority than May. Upon page 621 of the eleventh edition it is laid down -
Debate on supplementary and excess grants is restricted to the particulars contained in the Estimates on which those grants are sought and to the application of the items which compose those grants; and the debate cannot touch the policy or the expenditure sanctioned, on other heads, by the estimate on which the original grant was obtained, except so far as such policy or expenditure is brought before the Committee by the items contained in the supplementary or excess Estimates.
– I rise to a point of order. If you, sir, will read a note which appears at the bottom of the page to which you have directed attention, I think you will see that the. honorable member for Calare is quite in order. The note in question refers to a ruling given by a Speaker of the House of Commons. Exception seems to have been taken to a ruling of the Chairman restricting debate, and, upon reference to Mr/ Speaker on the following day, the latter, while expressly dissociating himself from the question then under re-, view, went on to say -
I think, however, that I ought to state that items of supplementary Estimates may raise in themselves questions of policy, but the interpretation whether they do raise questions of policy, or not, must clearly be left to the Chairman of Committees. If I may be allowed to Illustrate what I mean, I would say the. question of the draining of Constantinople would clearly not raise the whole question of foreign embassies. But, on the other hand, . a vote which would largely increase a vote for a’ railway to Uganda might raise the whole question of the policy involved in the original vote for Uganda.
In the’ present instance, an excess grant is needed for electoral purposes, and, according to the decision which I have quoted, that item raises the whole question of the original grant for those purposes.
– But in this instance the proposed grant is for a specific purpose - in connexion with the Echuca election and the disputed Senate election.
– What Speaker gave the decision which the deputy leader of the Opposition has quoted?
– I cannot say. The matter was raised by Mr. W. H. Smith. It- appears to me that there is a clear parallel between the two cases.
– -The item to which I have directed attention relates to an expenditure upon Commonwealth elections, and I take it that the proposed appropriation is intended to enable the Department to carry on electoral work generally.
– 1 do not think that a vote is asked for any specific purpose. The item reads, “ Cost of Commonwealth elections, £3,450.” In that connexion, I wish to impress upon the Minister the need for more efficiency in the compilation of our electoral rolls.
– I must ask the honorable member not to pursue that line of argument.
– Then I should like to hear what this particular item covers.
.- When he is replying, the Minister might also inform the Committee what steps are being taken in the compilation of the electoral rolls in view of possible contingencies.
– Cook. - I should like a direction from the Chair as to the extent to which we may discuss Commonwealth elections under this item. The proposed vote is put in the baldest possible way. It reads, “ Cost of Commonwealth elections, £3,450.” We are being, asked to vote a large sum to defray the cost of Commonwealth elections, and you,. Mr. Chairman, rule that we cannot discuss the subject.
– No. I have ruled that it is not in order to discuss the policy of the Department. Honorable members had an opportunity to do that on the. EstimatesinChief, and .during the general discussion last night. If I were to allow th~e matter to be again debated now, the consideration of these Estimates would never end.
– The sum here set clown is to cover the cost of the second ‘election fpr the Senate in the State of South Australia and for Echuca in the State of Victoria.
– The cost seems very great, though, of course, a Senate election is expensive. But, as- the complaint has been made that enormous sums are being asked for on Additional Estimates, which should have been asked for on the Estimates-in-Chief, I ask whether it was not known when the latter were being prepared that this sum would be required.
– The EstimatesinChief were framed long before there was any knowledge of the complications which caused the South Australian election.
– They should have been brought up-to-date before presentation to Parliament.
– As the honorable members admits, a Senate election is not a cheap affair.
– What. was the cost of the Senate election ?
– Speaking from memory, and subject to correction, about £2,900. .
.- I do not propose to canvass the policy of the Government in regard to elections, because I. know that their main object is to avoid such things. I rise to ask whether it is proposed to obtain in advance authority from Parliament for the payment of money for the celebrations in connexion with the visit of the American Fleet, or to ask Parliament to ratify the expenditure in the next Estimates, after the money has been disbursed ?
.- Yesterday I asked the Treasurer whether an increase ,in the allowance of officials located in the interior of Western Australia, similar to the 5 per cent, allowance now being paid to those in the coastal districts) is to be given. The expense of living in the interior is much greater than that of living in Perth or Fremantle.
– How ‘does that arise in connexion with these Estimates?
– At the bottom of page 14 there is an item which allows me to mention the subject. It has been shown that the cost of living in Perth and the coastal districts of Western Australia is» sufficiently high to warrant an allowance of 5 per cent, to the public servants living there. The allowance paid to those on the gold-fields, however, was fixed on the assumption that the cost of living in Perth was the same as it is in Melbourne. I have got the Postmaster-General to acknowledge that .there is justice in the claim that the living allowance of those in the interior should be correspondingly increased, though he has not promised to do anything.
– I said last night that I would confer with the Public Service Commissioner.
– If the Minister proposes to do that, with the object of obtaining more consideration for the officers living in the interior of the State, I can hope for little more at this stage of the financial year ; but I should like to know whether the Treasurer, with whom I have discussed the matter, is in accord with him. I have risen also to ask for information regarding the proposed expenditure of £1,792 on repairs and maintenance for the Thursday Island Defences. In every part of . the Estimates one finds expenditure in connexion with the Defence Department.- On the last page £’260,000 is provided as New Special Defence expenditure.
– That is for the new scheme..
– Yes. The Government have adopted a new Defence policy.
– But Parliament has not approved of it.
– No;. though I think that this House will be compelled to recognise our Defence necessities.
– But not necessarily to indorse the Government policy.
– At all events, we should have some explanation as to’ why the expenditure of this money has become ne cessary- since the framing of the EstimatesinChief. There seems to have been a very poor appreciation of the necessities of the case, or great recklessness in connexion with the public expenditure.
– I, too, should like some information in regard to the proposed expenditure of £1,792 011 the repairs and maintenance of the Thursday Island Defences. What is the character of the work to be undertaken there ? When I visited Thursday Island some time ago, its defences seemed very antiquated, and I know that there is great difference of opinion amongst those who have studied the question as to whether that is the best place. for a fortified coaling station.
.- I wish to know why officers living in Western Australia should be treated more favorably than officers living in the other States. Is living dearer in Perth or Albany than in” Wilcannia or Bourke, or the back-blocks of Queensland ?
– Or in the Northern Territory ?
– Where transit is difficult, the tost of living is always higher than where there is train and steamer communication.
– This allowance is not paid to men living in the interior.
– Then why should it be paid at all ?
– It is granted because the Public Service Commissioner recognises that it costs 10 per cent, more to live in Perth than to live in Melbourne.
– One can get as cheap hotel accommodation or board and residence in Perth as in’ Sydney or Melbourne, and that being so, what justification is there for this extra allowance?
.- There are many important items under the Department «of Home Affairs- which might well be discussed, but you, Mr. Chairman, are holding the reins pretty tightly. The grant of a special living allowance should not lie confined to certain officers in Western’ Australia, for, as the honorable member for Lang has pointed out, there are places in New South Wales, . such as Bourke and Brewarrina, where it is difficult to obtain board and residence at the rates prevailing in populous centres.
Colonel Foxton. - But this item relates only to officers who are not in receipt of a district allowance.
– No doubt the Minister will explain the matter later on. I wish now to refer to a question more closely touching ourselves, namely, the item of £1,125 for repairs to and the maintenance of this building. I do not wish it to be thought that I am cavilling at the proposed expenditure, because no honorable member recognises more fully than I do the generosity of Victoria in allowing us the use of this building.
– And their willingness to keep us here for all time.
– Quite so. We are not very payable tenants, and Victoria is a generous landlord. I should like us to be in our own House. I wish to know whether the item relates to expenditure to be incurred in sewering Parliament House and providing a perfect system of ventilation which is urgently required. These buildings are of Oriental splendour-
Mr.W. H. Irvine. - And Oriental sanitation.
– The honorable member has aptly described the sanitary arrangements of Parliament House. I trust that this amount is to be used inthe direction I have indicated. I also desire to obtain from the Minister some information in regard to items under the heading of “ Home Affairs (New South Wales)” providing for a sum of £200 in respect of rent, and £100 for repairs and maintenance. Is the money designed to provide for repairs to buildings temporarily occupied by us? It seems to show a want of ordinary business management, to say nothing of Scottish caution, to propose to effect repairs at a cost of £100 to a building the yearly rental of which amounts to only £200. I understood that the Customs House, Sydney, was to be altered for the purposes of the Home Affairs offices.
– So did I.
– Then the honorable member, like myself, has been misled.
– I have not been misled. I think that the alterations have not been made for the reason that the whole building has not yet been given up by the State Government.
– Then the item for repairs relates to premises temporarily occupied by us. I hope that the Minister will give us an explanation with respect to these matters.
– I desire to obtain from the Minister representing the Minister of Home
Affairs some information regarding the proposed expenditure of £1,792 on repairs and maintenance in connexion with the defences of Thursday Island. I understand that the population of that island consists of about 2,000 Japanese and 61 white men.
Colonel Foxton. - No. The white and coloured populations are about equally divided.
– Is this money to be expended to encourage Japanese immigration ? I understand from military men that Thursday Island is not important, as a strategical point, for the defence of Australia.
Colonel Foxton. - Who told the honorable member that?
– I received the information not from local colonels, but from real military men. I do not wish the Commonwealth to be military mad ; but the whole country seems now to be talking fight. Is this money to be expended in repairing the forts at Thursday Island, and is the work to be carried out by white men or Japanese? I wish to know whether the hard earnings of the workers are to be paid out for the encouragement of an alien race and to maintain settlement on Thursday Island, which is absolutely useless for the defence of this country.
– It is said that alien races run the whole show there, and are allowed to inspect the forts.
– So I am told. I understand that the Japanese fleet which visited Australia a few years ago made a survey of these waters, and that the Japanese and the Germans are the only two nations that are absolutely familiar with every inlet and outlet of this country. Such information was obtained by the Germans, not because of any desire on their part to take Australia, but for the safety of their merchant shipping in Australian waters. The Japanese, however, did not make a survey for the same reason. They have no commerce with this country.
– They have Japanese steamers trade regularly with these ports.
– The Japanese surveyed these waters after the nation had entered into an alliance with Great Britain.
– Is not the honorable member aware that any one can purchase Admiralty charts for nearly all these seas?
– 1 know that the honorable member for Wentworth is a recognised military authority, but I was not aware that he was also a naval expert. I am opposed to anything, in the “shape of military -madness. The debts of the world, due to military madness, amount to £7,000,000,000, and the world is paying £625,000,000 a year to keep military roosters on horseback.
– The honorable member for Darwin certainly needs to obtain some information regarding the defences of Thursday Island. I have inspected them, and think that there is room for a much larger expenditure upon them. I doubt, however, whether any further expenditure should be incurred on fortifications as we saw them on the last occasion of the parliamentary visit of inspection. I rather think that it would! be wise to obtain from the Minister the fullest information before we pass the item in question. I may inform the honorable member for Darwin that the Japanese did not succeed in inspecting the fortifications on the island, and did not obtain’ the information they desired.
– I read in an American newspaper that they did.
– The honorable member must not take notice of every statement he sees in the press. I am satisfied that the Japanese did not get an opportunity to ascertain the strength of the defences on Thursday Island. Unless they were allowed to visit the forts, they could not make drawings of them. It is ab- solutely necessary that the Island should be fortified, since it commands a very important waterway. It is necessary that our fortifications there should be strengthened, but some military authorities hold the view that the forts are now wrongly placed. Before we expend £1,792 on their maintenance, we should obtain, from experts, reports dealing with that phase of the question. Let us exlend our money on defence’s properly placed. I do not think that we ought to express opinions in this House regarding the defences at different ports of the ‘Commonwealth, but I certainly think that we have not spent nearly sufficient upon the fortification of our important points of which Thursday Island is one.
– Has the honorable member also got the military fever?
– No, but I ‘Have always held that to insure peace, it is necessary to be ready for war. No one is more opposed to militarism than I am’; but I am not so foolish as to believe that by refusing to keep a rifle at hand, and to learn how to use it, we are likely to enjoy immunity from aggression on the part of other nations. I have no desire that the Commonwealth should1 trespass upon the domains of other countries, but I think that we should take care to have adequate defences. I am glad to see that the Minister of Defence has returned to the chamber. If he can convince the Committee that it is wise to expend further sums on the fort at Thursday Island as it stands, I shall be quite prepared to allow the item to pass. But if he shares the idea which seems to be entertained by military experts - that the defence of Torres Strait should be transferred to another point - I think that the sooner we stop spending money on Thursday Island, and set about fortifying the proper place, the better it will be.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh has certainly raised an important point, because it involves the question of what is the proper place for fortifications in Torres Strait. That has been a very debatable question for a considerable time, and when it is determined whether Goode Island or Thursday Island is the proper place, it will mean an expenditure of not £1,700, but very many thousand pounds. With regard to the defence of Australia that is one of the points yet undecided. I do not desire to speak more fully in that regard. Recognising that the question was under consideration and must be decided, I presume in the course of two or three years, and seeing that it was possible that the main fortifications would be at Goode Island, it was regarded as an unwise thing to expend any considerable amount upon the fortifications at Thursday Island, and so things went on for two or three years, until ‘ the fortifications fell into such a state of disrepair that it became absolutely necessary, unless they were to be abandoned at once, to put them into something like order. The Department came to the conclusion that it was not possible to abandon- the .defence of Torres Strait altogether, and that the best course was in the cheapest possible way to put the fortifications into something like fighting efficiency as far as the money would go.
– Is it not a fact that the fort is useless?
– I do not say that it is useless.
– Is that a fair question to put?
– I think that a. person in any part of the world, if he desires to know, could learn the number and character of the guns in Sydney, Melbourne, and Thursday Island.
– Is an inefficient defence of that description of any use?
– It is of just about the same use to the Commonwealth as is a bullock dray to a man who has not felt justified in obtaining a buggy. The same question arises continually in connexion with defence. Some modem authorities would rather have some other defence than the mines. They say, “ Not exactly what we want ; not quite up-to-date ; but keep what we have- till better can be done, as it is a deterrent for the time being.”
– Something like the second-hand torpedoes.
– No; they were obtained at cheap rates for practice. The question is whether we are prepared to abandon the defence of Torres Strait?
– An Imperial officer asked the Minister to put. a fort on Thursday. Island;
– That is prehistoric; action, if any, was taken many years ago. The defence of Torres Strait may- be eventually moved from Thursday Island to Goode Island. In the meantime the best is being done with what we have until something better is obtained. Some representations were made to me in regard to the employment of aliens by officers and others and undue access to our forts, and I directed inquiries to be made. I am informed that in no part of Australia now is an alien employed in connexion with the . Defence Force in any way.
– There was on Thursday Island a good while ago.
– I am speaking of only the present time, and honorable members may rest satisfied that no alien will be employed in connexion with our forts.
– But are they allowed free access to the forts?
– No. One hears a large number of statements made, some of them being correct and others perhaps not quite correct. A considerable time ago I came to the conclusion that the access and publicity in connexion with our forts were deplorable. “Every commandant has now very special instructions that there shall be no such publicity or possibility of obtaining information concerning the forts. It ceased, I understand, some months ago.
– I walked all over a fort at Newcastle about a month ago,- and no one said a word to. me.
– If any honorable member will inform me of access being permitted to forts or places contiguous thereto the responsible officer will hear something very definite, .and I know that honorable members will sustain my action.
– The honorable member for Hunter has just said that the other day he walked over a fort at Newcastle, and that he was not troubled by a soul.
– They would allow members of Parliament to go over the forts.
– I am surprised not at the officers allowing the honorable member for Hunter to enter the fort, but allowing him to go out. ‘ A’ reference has been made to a recent explosion on Thursday Island. The military authorities and the police are working together, and so soon as definite information is received, honorable members will be informed.
.- I wish to tender a feeling tribute to the Minister of Defence for his earnest effort to preserve a little more secrecy in the affairs of his Department than has unfortunatelybeen the case.
– If proper secrecy were maintained, the honorable member would not get information which he very often has.
– If the honorable member “ cares to come with me and pay a visit which I have not yet paid - to wit, to the editorial room of the Melbourne Age - he. will probably find out more information about this Department than the Minister holds. The information I get is obtained from public records. I have not had any improper dealings with members of the Defence Forces in any way, as honorable members should know.
– That shows that the Age is an enterprising newspaper.
– It is an enterprising newspaper. If the Minister wishes to maintain -a reasonable degree of common caution and ordinary secrecy in his Department, he should start at the fountain head. He should deal with the newspapers, especially with one newspaper which can always get -any military news prematurely if it so desires, and he should cut off the leakage at its source - at head-quarters.
– Order ! In these Estimates there is. no item for military news.
– No, sir ; but I am grateful for the opportunity of being able to draw attention to the absence of an item for that purpose. I want to know how much longer the Minister of Defence proposes to wait before he brings the defences of Australia - the fortifications on Thursday Island, with the others - up to the standard prescribed by the Imperial Defence Committee?
– To make our forts fairly effective will take something like £320,000; but the Ministry has not felt inclined to ask the House to vote so much money in one year for the purpose.
– That was the first thing we were told about it. The Government sought what they were pleased to call the highest expert opinion in the Empire with respect to the defences of Australia.
– They accepted the opinion.
– They got a verdict, and accepted it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must not pursue that line of argument.
– I shall not do so, but will ask the Minister definitely when it is intended by the Government to re-arm Thursday Island, which, I presume, will not be taken in hand before other places, in accordance with the verdict of the Imperial Defence Committee ?
– £50,000 a year is to be spent for the purpose.
.- Some information ought to-be given tothe Committee about the item in regard to the extra allowance to public officers in Western Australia. Up to the present time, officers on the gold-fields have, been given a. special allowance owing to the excessive cost of living there as compared with the coastal districts. Some time ago, the Public Service Commissioner came to the conclusion that the cost of living, even’ in Perth, was higher than the cost of living in the eastern States, and consequently he allowed an increase of 5 per cent. to the officersliving there. But the officers on the gold-fields have not received a corresponding increase. The disparity which prevailed before the Commissioner made the increase does not now exist. What I want to know is whether the Treasurer can see his way to promise to pay the allowance, so as to put the gold- fields, officers in relatively the same position as the coastal officers?
– This matter does not relate to my Department, but to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. In the first instance, it is under the control of the Public Service Commissioner.
– It is under the honorable gentleman’s control, because he has to find the money.
– Yes, that is where I come in. Senator Needham came to me on this subject, and I think that several members of Parliament wrote to me. I am not quite sure if the honorable member came to me, probably he did.
– I spoke to the honorable member nearly a year ago.
– I think that the honorable member did. I was approached toascertain whether I would find the money for this extra payment to the officers. A deputation waited upon me in, I think, one of the Senate rooms. I referred the matter to the Public Service Commissioner, in orderto know exactly the position, and he declined to recommend a further allowance. I asked him to furnish me with a statement as to the position. He says -
District allowances are granted to officers in remote localities’ ranging from 10 to 50 per cent. on salaries, with a sliding scale of allowance after the first £100 of salary. These allowances have been in operation since the classification of 1904.
I hold in my hand the scale of allowances. These have all been published.
– The Commissioner’s reasons have not been published.
– I will read them -
As an outcome of the Commissioner’s visit to Western Australia last year,and his investigations into cost of living in Perth, it was decided to recommend that officers stationed in Perth, and at all localities in Western Australia not already subject to District Allowance, -should be granted a special District Allowance of 5 per cent. on their salaries. The officers on the gold-fields who have drawn their District Allowance since 1904 now urge that if Perth officers are to draw. 5 per cent. allowance, the allowances already paid on the gold-fields should be augmented by an additional 5 per cent., and this demand is supported by the argument that as the gold-fields allowances were originally based on a comparison of cost of livingat Perth, and as Perth salaries are being increased by 5 per cent., the gold-fields salaries should be similarly increased. The original District Allowances were not based on a comparison between Perth and the gold-fields -
– Does he produce any evidence that he said so in 1904?
– I have only these papers with me - but between the cost of living at the gold-fields and in the Eastern States, and the granting of the Perth special allowance does not in any way affect the position of gold-fields officers in relation to District Allowances.
– That is too thin.
– I had a conversation with the Commissioner, and he said more then than appears in this memorandum. He told me that if that 5 per cent. was given to the gold-fields officials, it would have to be extended to all remote parts where the district allowance has been paid - in the north of Queensland, and a number of other places that I was not aware of before -
The Commissioner is satisfied that the goldfields officers are at present liberally treated, not only in comparison with Perth officers, but also those stationed in remote localities in other States. This view is supported by the opinions expressed by leading officers in Western Australia. Only recently they reported that the granting of the small allowance (5 per cent.) to officers in the Soulh-Western division of the State should not be followed by a corresponding increase to gold-fields officers-
– Who did that?
– The Commissioner says “ leading officers. “
– That is very convenient.
– inasmuch as, in addition to their District Allowance - which varies in accordance with the distance from the railway system or ports - the latter have, where necsssary, special water allowance, and in the remoter parts, privileges as to leave, &c, not shared by officers of the South-West. The further concession asked for by gold-fields officers is not justified by the circumstances.
That is the memorandum which the Commissioner gave me to-day. I thought this matter would be brought up, and I wanted to know exactly the reasons for the course that had been followed. These gentlemen came to me because the money is not voted, and they wanted me to advance it if it was to be given at all. But I think the whole question of giving these allowances should come before the Cabinet. It is not in my Department, and therefore it is not for me to bring it under the consideration of the Cabinet.
– The question of the 5 per cent. allowance came before the Cabinet.
– Probably it did. I think the honorable member had something to do with it, but that did not involve the extra 5 per cent. now asked for by officers on the gold-fields and in other places.
– Because it has not been recommended by the Commissioner.
– When the increased allowances were granted they caused a considerable additional expenditure. This is an important question of policy, and I do not feel disposed to take upon myself the responsibility of dealing with it. If it is decided to grant the extra allowances, of course the money can be found, but there is a principle involved which will have to be considered, and the Cabinet, if it decided thatthey should be paid, would have to override the Public Service Commissioner’s decision.
.- There appears under Works and Buildings for Tasmania, in connexion with the Department of the Attorney-General, an item of £270 for rent, and another of £212 for fittings and furniture. I could understand a Department supplying its own furniture, and even fittings, for its own property ; but not fittings for a rented place. It would be better to show the expenditure on fittings and furniture separately. There is also an item of £975 for fittings and furniture for the Post and Telegraph Department in Victoria. That seems a large sum. I can find no similar expenditure for the Post and Telegraph Department in any other State. Are those fittings and furniture for the new building, or do they appertain to the officer whowas brought from Queensland ?
– The item of £975 is primarily in connexion with the installation of a new ventilating system and electric fans for the General Post Office, Melbourne.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [9.45].I gather from the documents read by the Treasurer that, in view of the granting of a 5 per cent. allowance to officers not in receipt of district allowances to meet the increased cost of living in Western Austra lia, it is intended to raise proportionately the district allowances already granted to officers who live in remote parts.
– No. That is what has been asked for; but the Commissioner does not agree with it, because the district allowances have been paid since 1904, and the officers in Perth and other places have not got them.
Colonel FOXTON.- The cost of living in the capital of an important State like Western Australia is not likely to be greater than in Townsville or Rockhampton.
– The honorable member thinks 3s. 9d. a day is enough for a worker up there.
Colonel FOXTON.- I do not. The honorable member omitted to state this afternoon that 14s. or 15s. a week is the cost of keep. Do the Government propose to grant the increased allowances in places like Townsville and Rockhampton? Is the cost of living in Perth, which is nearer to the Old Country than any other port in Australia, greater than in out-of-the-way places like those I have mentioned? Has the 5 per cent. allowance been given to officers in Perth and its neighbourhood as a concession to the Western Australian representatives in both Houses who have interviewed the Government, or has it been granted upon some broad principle which is to be applied to officers similarly situated in other parts of Australia? It is somewhat invidious to single out the officers in and around a capital city. I have not mentioned Brisbane, which is not much nearer Melbourne than Perth is, but I do not see why officers in and around the south-eastern portions of Queensland, to say nothing of those in remoter parts, should not receive the same treatment. Do the officers in and about Townsville receive the district allowance?
– Officers at Rockhampton and Townsville receive theunstrict allowance.
Colonel FOXTON.- Then what steps do the Government propose to take to grant those in receipt of the district allowance an additional 5 per cent. to preserve the proportion between their salaries and those of the public servants who live in and around Perth ?
– Where does Tasmania come in in this matter ?
– Officers in Tasmania get a district allowance.
Colonel FOXTON.- I should likean answer to my question.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Trea sary to take any action with respect to officers stationed in Northern Queensland. I understand that those stationed at nearly all the places referred to by the honorable member for Brisbane alreadyreceive a district allowance.
Colonel Foxton. - I spoke with special reference to the extra 5 per cent. given to officers stationed at Perth.
– The officers stationed at Perth did not receive a district allowance. What is being asked now on behalf of officers stationed in remote districts of Western Australia is that over and above the district allowance which they have been receiving they should be given the extra living allowance of 5 per cent. granted to officers stationed at Perth.
– It is asked that officers in remote ditricts of Queensland and all the other States should be treated similarly.
– That is so, and it is, of course, a matter for the Cabinet.I was asked to advance the money for the purpose, but on the recommendation of the Public Service Commissioner I did not agree to do so. If the Cabinet decide that these extra allowances should be paid throughout the Commonwealth the money can be found, but it should not be forgotten that the expenditure is creeping up, and we should be very cautious about what we do in this way.
– Why should we make fish of one and fowl of another?
– We are not doing so. The 5 per cent. living allowance given to officers in Perth and surrounding districts is givenon the recommendation of the Public Service Commissioner after examination and inquiry on the spot, and only to those who did not previously receive a district allowance. Now the request made by the honorable member for Coolgardie and by pther honorable members is to extend the additional 5 per cent. living allowance granted to officers stationed in Perth and surrounding districts to those who have previously been in receipt of district allowances on the gold-fields of Western Australia and elsewhere.
Colonel Foxton. - Surely they are entitled to have theirallowances relatively increased.
– If that be so. officers stationed at Perth might claim that they are entitled to receive adistrict allowance as well as the allowance granted Vo them on -. the recommendation of the Public Service Commissioner, on the- ground that the cost of living in Perth is greater than the cost-of living on the eastern coast.
– It is not greater.
– I should think that it must be, and the Public Service Commissioner made inquiries on the subject before making his recommendation.
.- The statement of the Public Service Commissioner quoted by the Treasurer is somewhat disingenuous. I find that he says -
The original district allowances were not based on a comparison between Perth and the gold-fields, but between the cost of living on the gold-fields and the eastern States.
I have searched through the Public Service Commissioner’s original classification scheme, and have been.- unable to find a sentence in it to support that assertion. My opinion is that this excuse is merely an after thought. The basis of comparison actually used must have been the cost of living in Perth. Moreover, there is extrinsic evidence that it was so based, because the district allowances paid to officers on the gold-fields and in the remoter parts of Western Australia prior to Federation were practically the same as those which the Public Service Commissioner recommended. And those allowances were fixed by the State Government of Western Australia upon the basis of the difference between the cost” of living on the gold-fields and in the remoter parts of the State, and’ the cost of living in- and around Perth. That is at least corroborative evidence that the district allowances recommended by the Public Service Commissioner were not based upon a comparison between the cost of living on the gold-fields with the cost of living in the eastern States. In any case, as the, honorable member for Brisbane has pointed out, it is but justice that officers employed at remote stations should have their allowances relatively increased. I suggest that the Treasurer obtain another statement from the Publie Service Commissioner. He should ask that officer where in his original classification scheme he has said that he based the district allowances upon a comparison between the cost of living on the gold-fields and in the eastern States.
– I shall be prepared to submit the honorable member’s remarks to the Public Sen-ice Commissioner.
– He cannot deny that, when the State Government fixed these district allowances they had regard entirely to the difference in the cost of living, in various parts of Western Australia, and not the cost in the other States. I should like the Public Service Commissioner also to name the officers in Western Australia who believe that there should be no corresponding increase to gold-fields officers. It is curious that the Public Service Commissioner should make such . a statement without giving his authority for it.
– I suppose the authoritywould be his own inspector.
– Then why could he not say so? What he says is -
This view is supported by opinions expressed by leading officers in Western Australia.
Colonel Foxton. - Is that as to the extra, cost of living?
– No;- as to the refusal to make a corresponding increase in the allowance granted to gold-fields officers. I suppose it is useless to expect to produce much effect on the mind of the Treasurer just now. But I may remind him that the matter- to which I have, directed attention has given rise to a sense of injustice amongst- officers stationed in the remoter parts, not only of Western Australia, but of Queensland and New South. Wales. They’ naturally feel that, serving the Commonwealth at places where the cost of living is excessive and the conditions of life hard, -some extra payment should be made to them to compensate them for the hardships and deprivations they endure.
Proposed .vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote (Divisions 30 to 33A), £4,976-
– I wish to direct the attention of the Treasurer to a matter to which I have already referred, and which I do not intend to raise again on these Estimates. I refer- to the increase in the amounts asked for incidental expenses. I notice that the increase in his own Department is not as large in proportion to the original vote as the increase in connexion with some other Departments. Although the original- Estimates showed a large increase as .compared with last year’s expenditure on these bread-and-butter items, ‘ I find that in some cases the Additional” .Estimates submitted provide for votes which are’ actually in excess of those included in the original Estimates. I do not wish to move any reduction, because I recognise that that is a very unsatisfactory way of testing the opinion of the Committee. I have already shown that, taking all the Departments except the new. Departments, the votes . for incidental expenses on the Estimates-in-Chief exceed by £14,000 the expenditure on this account for last year; and’ yet the Additional Estimates provide for a further increase of expenditure amounting to many thousands of pounds. In the circumstances, I feel that I am justified in asking the Treasurer to give special attention to the matter, in order, if possible, to prevent the continual increase of these votes for incidental expenses.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether the small vote of £18 appearing under the heading of “ Miscellaneous “ for the Royal Commission on Papua represents the final payment in connexion with the expenses of that Commission? In this connexion, if I remember rightly, the Commission referred to made some recommendation in the direction of enforcing native labour by means of a hut tax. I notice that to-day a statement has been made that ordinances are to. be introduced, to give effect to the. proposal, and so bring about a condition of enforced labour in Papua. I should like the Treasurer to give the Committee some undertaking that before any ordinances of that kind are approved, this House will be given an opportunity to discuss the policy of enforcing labour upon natives of Papua.
– In reference to the remarks of the honorable member for Calare, I can only say that the administration of Papua is under the control of the Department of External Affairs. I shall bring under the notice of the Prime Minister the matter to which the honorable member has referred.
– We shall want ari explanation of the whole management of Papua before Parliament prorogues.
– I have not the information which the honorable member desires in my possession. J have enough to do to look after: my own Department. I do not think that the honorable member for North Sydney can complain much of the expenditure under the heading of “ contingencies “ in connexion with the
Treasury Department. In regard to other Departments he must recollect that during the current year there has been an abnormal volume of business transacted. I cannot very well control the expenditure on con1tingencies, because very frequently it is authorized before it is brought under my notice. That is one of the subjects about which I have frequently complained.
– -But it does not look well to have such increases all through the Estimates.
– All I can tell the honorable member is that my hair is turning grey very rapidly. Sometimes I do question these authorizations, and I endeavour at all times to keep the expenditure of large amounts within bounds. 1 do not wish’ the Estimates to be “ jumped up “ by reason of any negligence on my part. I will direct the attention of the Departments concerned to the criticism which has been levelled at the expenditure under the heading of “contingencies,” but that is all I can do. The Prime Minister can give a further instruction if he so desires.
.- I wish to’ ask the Treasurer what is the practice generally in regard to departmental communications between Melbourne and Sydney. I take it that the Departments will always avail themselves qf the easiest means of communication unless some check be imposed upon them. Now the cost of sending an ordinary wire from Melbourne to Sydney is is., whereas the cost 6f transmitting a message by telephone is about 6s. ‘
– I think that during the day it is 5s. for a conversation of three minutes, and 2s. 6d.- after 8 ‘ o’clock at night.
– But it would cost about ‘ 6s. to transmit by telegraph the words spoken during a three minutes’ conversation through the telephone.
– Not necessarily. Some time ago a person approached, the Treasurer with a request that he should make certain representations to a Department ‘in Melbourne. Instead of making these representations by means of a public wire, the honorable gentleman made them by telephone.
-There is nothing in ‘ these Estimates relating to the matter which the honorable. member is discussing..
-Thereis an amount of £200 set down for incidental and petty cash expenditure upon page 18 of these Estimates. Probably the telephone message to which I refer is debited to that item.
– What telephone message?
– The message which the Treasurer sent to the Department of Trade and Customs with a view to getting the covering paper of the Bulletin admitted free. I desire to ask the Treasurer whether the practice of long distance telephoning between the Departments is a general one, and whether it springs from any motive other than a desire to maintain secrecy.
– I ask the Treasurer to impress upon the Public Service Commissioner the necessity of again revising the district allowances granted to officers in the light of the experience gained under the old classification.
– In some States, if not in all, that is now being done.
– Dissatisfaction naturally arises where officers are not treated alike. The officers located in almost every remote portion of Australia naturally think that they ‘ labour under special disabilities. But I know that there is a strong feeling amongst South Australian officers - particularly amongst the linemen employed between Port Augusta and Western Australia - that they are very badly treated in the matter of these district allowances. In some cases they were very much better off when they were under State control. For instance, one of the heavy items of expenditure with them is the cost which they have to incur for the conveyance of rations and other goods. Owing to the extremely high cost of conveying goods to these distant parts, the South Australian Government used periodically to send up goods upon being requisitioned to do so, and to pay the cost of carriage. But under the present system the officers themselves have to pay that cost, and the district allowances do not nearly cover theextra expenditure which they have to incur. I have been informed that no district allowances are paid to the linemen to whom I have referred. They feel that they labour under a special disability as compared with the Western Australian officers at Eucla. Whether this is so or not, I am not in a position to say, but certainly the complaint ought to be investigated.I know that there is a strong belief that the South Australian officers at Eucla are treated worse than are the Western Australian officers at that place. While both technically receive the same district allowances, the fact is that all the Western Australian officers have been placed in the senior positions. No doubt this is due to the fact that prior to Federation theWestern Australian officers received higher salaries than did the. South Australian officers. But I desire to impress upon the Public Service Commissioner the necessity of dealing out even-handed justice in this matter. I wish also to emphasize the objection urged by the honorable member for North Sydney in regard to the large amounts involved in these Additional Estimates. He referred particularly to the amounts set down for contingencies. In my opinion, there is a great deal in his complaints. It seems to me that the Estimates-in-Chief should have provided more fully for the probable expenditure of the year, and the large sums appearing in the Additional Estimates are not evidence of foresight on the part of those responsible for their preparation.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs.
Proposed vote (Divisions 37 to 45), £12,867.
– I should like some information in regard to the amount of £1,776 asked for in connexion with Dr. Danysz’ experiments for the extermination of rabbits by communicating to them a disease. Does the amount cover the total expense incurred by the Government, or will further accounts be presented later on, and has finality been reached in connexion with the experiments ? I should be glad if the Treasurer would make a general statement as to the position of affairs. Some New South Wales pastoral ists spent a large sum of money in bringing out Dr. Danysz, and when he returned to Europe strong efforts were made, by circularizing pastures protection boards, local government boards, progress committees, pastoralists’ unions, and farmers and settlers’ associations, to bring pressure on the Government to allow the dissemination of the virus on the mainland. Apparently that effort failed ; but the public should know what view the Government take in regard to the request. At one time it seemed that the difference of opinion as to the advisability of allowing experiments on the mainland would be a casus belli between the State and the Commonwealth ; but feeling has since cooled off. No doubt, however, the interests at stake are sufficiently strong to cause further efforts to be made to secure the end aimed at, namely, the free distribution of disease for the extermination of the rabbit pest.
– This matter was intrusted to me at the outset by the Prime Minister. The history of the experiments is well known. The Department of Trade and Customs, of which I was head, took charge of the virus when it was brought to Australia, and it has been in Dr. Tidswell’s keeping ever since. It was agreed that experiments should be made on Broughton Island, and we contributed towards the cost of erecting premises and obtaining animals for the purposes of the experiments.I saw Dr. Tidswell in Sydney last week, and as the assistant left behind by Dr. Danysz had complained that we intended to keep the virus and use it, taking credit for the destruction of the rabbits, which should be given to him, after consultation with the Prime Minister I wired to Dr. Tidswell to send it back, which he has done. The experiments are now at an end, and I have authorized the destruction of all the cattle on Broughton Island.
– What is the result of the experiments?
– The virus, in practical application, has proved useless. It has not the effect which it was thought that it would have.
– It has not realized the expectations of Dr. Danysz.
– So far as I can find out, it has not. Dr. Tidswell says that there is an Australian microbe similar to, if not the same as, that introduced by Dr. Danysz, but that it does not destroy the rabbits. He thinks that the Danysz virus, under natural conditions, would not have the effect expected from it, and that it is useless to experiment with it further.
– Was the amount set down here paid to Dr. Tidswell?
– The amount covers the payments made for the purchase of animals and the erection of buildings, and to Dr. Tidswell, whose services were lent to us by the State. I believethat the
New South Wales Government have made a further claim since these Estimates were prepared, but that the amount is small.
– Is Dr. Tidswell still acting for the Commonwealth. Government ?
– No; the experiments have ceased. With the sending away of the virus his services to the Commonwealth ceased.
– Is the Government taking care to prevent the introduction of the disease?
– Yes; we have done everything possible to prevent its introduction, and Dr. Tidswell says that the rumours afloat as to its introduction to the mainland are without foundation. He informs us that he has exercised great care, and is confident that none of the virus has been distributed here. If Dr. Danysz had any more virus in his possession we could not exercise any power over it. The virus is in small phials which one might carry in one’s waistcoat pocket; but so far as I am aware Dr. Tidswell has exercised every precaution to prevent it reaching the mainland.
.- I have again to call attention to the extent of the proposed votes in the Estimates of this Department as well as in those relating to all other Departments in respect of ternporary assistance. The honorable member for NorthSydney has protested strongly against the enormous expenditure for which provision is made under the headings of “ Miscellaneous” and “ Incidental expenditure and petty cash.” The expenditure amounts to many thousands of pounds, and the Committee is not supplied with any details in regard to it.
– I think that I can explain satisfactorily the matter of temporary assistance.
– The EstimatesinChief providedfor an expenditure of £10,000 in respect of temporary assistance for the Department of Trade and Customs alone, and yet in these Additional Estimates, with only six weeks of the present financial year to run., we find provision made under the same heading for an expenditure of £4,755 in connexion with the same Department.. That total includes - New South Wales, £1,000 ; Victoria, £500; Queensland, £2,000 ; South Australia, £390; Western Australia, £20; and Tasmania, £125. Thus the total expenditure on temporary assistance in the Department of Trade and Customs for the financial year ending 30th June next will be, in round numbers, £15,000. This seems to indicate either that the Department is mismanaged, as the Post and Telegraph Department is - with the result that under ordinary circumstances v sweating takes place - or that there is unnecessary extravagance allied -with the management Of the Department itself. There must be something radically wrong somewhere when we realize that this is not the result of a sudden and temporary emergency, but that it goes on all the year round, and- year by year assumes greater proportions. If the Department is undermanned and this temporary assistance is. required to cope with the increased and increasing business of a big Department, steps should be taken to appoint a sufficient permanent staff as the urgent heed arises. The practice ‘ of appointing temporary hands is really unjust to those so engaged. Many men apply -for temporary positions in the belief that by securing them they establish a claim to be appointed to the first vacancies that occur on the permanent staff. This- belief is general, notwithstanding that there is a notice that such appointments carry with them no such preference. The; unfortunate feature of the system is that o after serving nine months temporary hands must ;necessarily be discharged. Just asthey commence to become useful their services . have to be dispensed with, and a fresh batch of temporary “employes has to be taken on and instructed. The efficiency of the Department is impaired under this arran’gement, because proficient permanent employes have to be taken from their ordinary work from time to time in order to instruct new recruits. If the Department is undermanned and additional assistance is necessary to tide it over what- is not a mere temporary, congestion of business, But a normal development which must be anticipated unless’ we are to become a commercially stagnant community, more permanent hands should be employed. The” sooner the practice of too generally employing temporary assistance is abolished the better. It is giving rise to an evil that is assuming large proportions, and steps will have to be taken very soon to remedy the trouble. The attention of the Public Service Commissioner should be directed to the enormous expenditure incurred under this heading. ‘ I should move a consider - able reduction in such votes but that I do not wish it to appear that I desire to do an injustice to a large body of men upon whom the blame does not rest. Then, again, I understand that a considerable proportion of this amount has already been spent. It would, therefore, be futile to move a reduction, and even if I did. I do not think it would be agreed to. I think, it only fair to notify Ministers that when the Estimates for next year are submitted I shall take a very decided stand upon this question. We are not in a position tonight to do more than to enter a protest, and, unfortunately, that will be unavailing in the direction of lessening the immediate, expenditure under these heads.
.- Perhaps the item for temporary, assistance- may be explained by the fact that last year the Tariff had to be prepared ; and also by. the necessity to employ some persons in connexion with the payment’ of the sugar bounty. When the Estimates-in-Chief were under consideration, I asked for some particulars as to why a sum of £8,000 was required for the repatriation of kanakas. I should like the Minister of Trade and Customs to state whether these Estimates contain any item for that purpose. According, to what the Prime Minister said some time ago, the Commonwealth was not. to be put to any considerable expense. There was a distinct agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland that the amount paid- by the planters into the fund’ should be repaid by the State to the Commonwealth. I have searched all the papers which have been laid upon the table to find a record of any payment of that sort.
– Order !
– I do not wish to refer to the matter, sir, but merely to ascertain whether these Estimates contain ‘ any item covering such a payment. If the Minister has not the information at hand, perhaps he can make a statement later on. So fatas I can see, these Estimates contain no item covering the matter, unless it be the one for temporary assistance.
– Order ! I must ask the honorable member . not to discuss the matter:
– I say that, unless it be covered by this item relating to overtime;
– That would not justify the -honorable member in discussing the matter. ‘
– I do not propose to discuss thematter, but I am certainly entitled to know what that item covers. If if refers to outlay of that sort, we ought, to have some information on the point.
– On these Estimates we are asking for a sum of nearly . £5,000 for the purpose of temporary assistance. When honorable members recollect the. amount of revenue which we have collected’ and, the extra work which we have had to do, and when I mention that the heads of the Department advise that they do not expect the same amount of work to be done next year, no doubt they will recognise at once how unwise it would be for us to make permanent appointments until it. is made clear that there is permanent work to be done. That accounts for the increased amount for temporary assistance. I agree with the honorable member for Lang that it is most undesirable that we should have temporary men doing any work which is of a permanent character. As soon as it is made clear that any work is of a permanent character, I think it is desirable that per- . manent bands should be employed. As a justification for these items, . I may mention that last year the revenue amounted to £9,753,000, and that this year it is estimated that it will be £11,931,000 The. cost of collecting the Customs and Excise revenue’ last year was £2 13s. 3d. per cent., and the cost this year is estimated at £2 7s. 6d. per cent.It will be seen -that the cost is decreasing. Consideringthe tremendous increase in the work, that messages relating to the Tariff have been passing between the Houses, and that whenever a Tariff item has been dealt with a telegram has had to be despatched to every Customs House in the Commonwealth, honorable memberscan easily understand that, not only do we require a lot of temporary assistance, but also that our account for telegrams must be very large.
– What is the cost for telephones?
– I understand that the honorable member dealt with that question on the Estimates for the Treasurer’s Department. This item for temporary assistance is not required in connexion with the service of which the honorable member for Coolgardie has spoken. The question ‘ of sending the kanakas back to their islands comes under the Department of the Prime Minister, to whom I shall convey his representations.
– Order ! I ask the Minister not to refer to that matter.
– I thought that it was only fair to the honorable member for Coolgardie to say that in these Estimates there is no item covering that service. I take it that my answers to the inquiries are satisfactory. I hope that honorable members, recognising that the Department is well administered, will allow the Estimates to pass, especially as it is getting late.
.- The Minister has talked about the care exercised in keeping down the expenses of his Department I desire to know how much of this ‘ ‘ temporary assistance ‘ ‘ is called in to interpret the regulations which were referred to at question time to-day, and which enable persons to claim drawback on imports which have passed out of the country in another form. I can quite understand the expense to which the Department has been put in connexion with the Tariff, but my information is to the effect that a good deal of this extra assistance has been called in in order to follow up goods, for instance, sugar, which is imported and then exported as an ingredient of jam.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the Estimates.
– Exactly, sir. I am. dealing with the item for temporary assistance, which is specially called in to follow up imported sugar.
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in discussing that matter.
– I do not wish in any way to transgress your ruling,sir, although it seems particularly hard, especially in view of the fact that a large number, of persons have to be engaged for the special purpose of following up commodities and ascertaining what has happened to them.
The CHAIRMAN.Order !
– Can the Minister- tell us how many clerks are employed in the Department in registering Ministerial decisions to deem imports other than what they are, and so tolet them in free when they’ are the imports of the Bulletin or theLone Hand?
– Order ! I point out to the honorable “member that this continued attempt on his part to -evade my ruling can only lead to certain steps being taken by the Chair. He should not pursue that course.
– I think, sir, that your remark is unnecessarily severe.
– The honorable member has not referred to clerks taking down telephone messages from Sydney.
– I have given that up as hopeless, because I have taken it for granted that the- Minister is the only man who has sent a message by telephone for the purpose of gaining secrecy.
– Order !
– Your remark, sir, was unnecessarily severe, because you know me well enough to be aware that I would not attempt to evade .your ruling. I ask the Minister, in, all seriousness, how much of that temporary assistance has been due to the action of Ministers in deeming things to be other than what they ‘really are when imported ?
– I cannot give the honorable member the exact amount, but, already in connexion with the present’ Tariff, over 10,000 decisions hare been given, and I can quite .understand! that the registering and recording of them has cost a considerable sum. I am not in a position’ to say exactly what the cost has been, but if the honorable member wishes, I will endeavour to ascertain the approximate amount.
– I had intended to make reference to the question of experiments with the rabbit virus. I should like to ask the Minister’ whether the Commonwealth Government have completely obliterated the whole question of rabbit extermination from their minds, because, in my opinion, there is no more serious question to Australia. If seems to me peculiarly a function for the Federal Government. I will not press the matter now,, but it ought to be seriously raised’ in this House at an early date, with -a view of obtaining from the Government a statement of what they propose to do further with regard to the grave national peril that- is threatening our pas7toral industry.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate, . with a message intimating that that House had considered the messages of the House’ of Representatives with regard to it, and did not now request the House to make certain amendments originally requested, and had agreed to modifications made by the House with regard to certain requests, had agreed to certain consequential amendments made by. the House, had resolved to further press requests for certain amend- * ments, and again requested the House to make such amendments. The Senate also requested the House of Representatives to further amend the Bill as indicated in regard to requested amendments not made, or partly made, or modified by the .House of - Representatives.
Motion (by Sir- William Lyne) proposed -
That the consideration of the foregoing message in Committee of the whole House be made an order of the day for Tuesday next.
The Senate may at any stage return to . the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting by message the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein, and the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make an 5- of such omissions or amendments, with or without modifications.
I submit for your ruling the question whether, having done that,- the Senate has not complied to the full with the provisions of the Constitution, and’ whether, when this House has dealt with the requested omissions or amendments, with or without modifications, and returned- theBill to the Senate, the power of the Senate has not ceased. I . submit that it has ceased, and that the Senate cannot cavil further at the decision arrived at by this House in regard’ to its requests’. ‘
– I am not prepared to give a ruling on the question, but on’ being asked so to do, I ought to give the House such information as I am possessed of. In the first place, it is impossible to look anywhere for precedents, because I know of no other Constitution which so distributes the financial power between the. respective Houses as does ours. We must therefore be guided wholly by our own Constitution, and by the practice which we have set up. Precisely the same point arose on the consideration of the first Tariff, and it was agreed by the then House that whether or not the message which was sent, as this message has been sent, from another place to us, shouldbe received, was entirely a matter to be determined by the House itself. There were not then, there are not now, any joint Standing Orders dealing with the matter, so that when this question is again called on on the day for which it may be set down, it will be for the House either to proceed with the consideration of the message, or to deal with it as it may think fit, or to refuse to consider it, precisely as the House at that moment pleases. I may remind the House that, on the last occasion, it was decided to take the message into consideration, but the following resolution was adopted-
That, having regard to the fact that the public wel fare demands the early . enactment of a Federal Tariff, and pending the adoption of joint Standing Orders, this House refrains from the determination of its constitutional rights or obligations in respect to this message, and resolves to receive and consider it forthwith.
That is the course that was followed on that occasion, and that may, or may not, be followed on this occasion, as the House, led by the Government, decide.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) pro posed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– May we take it that the Minister intends definitely to proceed with the Tariff on Tuesday ?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at11.0 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 May 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19080521_reps_3_46/>.