3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. MALONEY presented a petition from certain electors of Victoria, praying’ for the regulation of elections by prohibiting newspapers to refer in any way to candidates during the three months prior to the date of a general election, or to direct electors in the selection of candidates; and prohibiting candidates from advertising in the press; arrangements to be made in lieu of this for the Government to transmit through the post to the electors the names of the candidates, a statement of their views, and a list of their proposed meetings.
Petition received and read.
Mr. CROUCH presented a similar petition.
– I have received the following letter from Mrs. Kingston, in reply to the address recently passed by this House -
Convey my heartfelt thanks to the members of the House of Representatives for their kind appreciation of my beloved husband. Among those with whom he has worked for so many years it is a consolation to me to know that his labours were appreciated. I am sure that his memory will for ever live in the hearts of those for whom he toiled.
I shall direct the. letter to be recorded in the Votes and Proceedings .
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General whether he will cause the comparative statement submitted in connexion with the Old-Age Pensions Bill, which was dealt with yesterday, to be laid on the table of the House, so that it may become a. Parliamentary document, and be bound up with other Parliamentary papers. A similar statement, issued in connexion with the Immigration Restriction Bill, was not made a Parliamentary paper, and no one can now obtain a copy of it.
– I have much pleasure in complying with the honorable member’s re- quest. I beg to lay the paper on the table of the House, and to move -
That the document be printed.
It is already in type.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Yesterday, whilst I was absent from the chamber, an amendment was made - I understand, with the concurrence of the Attorney-General - in the Old- Age Pensions Bill. I desire to know whether the omission of the words in clause 17, providing that an old-age pension shall not’ be paid unless an applicant is unable to maintain himself - I have no desire to argue the question -
– I gather from the right honorable member’s question, so far as it has gone, that it relates to a Bill, now before another branch of the Legislature; and, in that case, the well-known, rule must prevent any reference to it now.
– When the Bill shall have been passed by another place, shall I be in order in referring to the matter ?
– I cannot tell, of course, what occasion there may be, but, when, the point is raised, I shall be glad to decide it.
– It is a very important matter upon which I desire information.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General a question, without notice. It has become the practice of the drafting branch of his Department, in preparing Amending Bills, to merely refer to the sections in the original Acts proposed to be amended, instead of repeating the sections, and to provide for the elimination or addition of certain words. It is inconvenient when travelling or without a copy of the Statutes - and honorable members often look through Bills while journeying to and from the Seat of Government - to have at hand no copy of the sections proposed to be amended in order to see in what way an amending Bill affects the original Act. Would it not be possible for the Department, when distributing such Bills, to attach to them printed copies of the sections in the original Acts, which it is proposed to amend?
– The honorable member’s suggestion is well worthy of consideration ; but its adoption must largely depend upon the nature of the amending Bills that are introduced. I think that it could readily be carried out in connexion with Bills affecting only one or two sections of an original Act. The original section might be shown in the form of a draftsman’s memorandum. I shall see whether I cannot meet the honorable member’s request.
– On several occasions during the last four years I have put questions to the Minister of Home Affairs with reference to preferential and differential railway rates, and have asked him to inquire to what extent the provision or the spirit of the Constitution is being respected by the States Railways Commissioners. In the absence of the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, I should like to ask the Attorney-General whether, during the recess, he will follow up this subject, so as to be able to put the House when it reassembles in full possession of what is being done by the Railways Commissioners as regards competitive rates?
– When I held office as Minister of Home Affairs, the suggestion made by the honorable member was adopted, and we kept ourselves in constant touch with the Railway Departments of the States. That practice, I believe, is being continued. I understand that the subject was discussed at the recent Conference of States Premiers, and as soon as we receive the official report of that Conference, I shall ask the Minister of Home Affairs to look further into the matter with a view of carrying out the honorable member’s request.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether, in view of the very unhealthy atmosphere in these buildings, due to the lavatories not being connected with the sewerage system, you will see that the necessary steps are taken during the recess to have the connexion made?
– The State Government has been prepared for some time, at the request of the Commonwealth Government, to proceed with the work of sewering these buildings. It has been held, however, that that work cannot be carried out while Parliament is in session. In anticipation of the approaching recess, the State Government is now pressing on the letting of contracts, with the intention that the work shall be done during that time.
– Will the Treasurer endeavour, during the recess, and as soon as possible, to furnish each member of the Parliament with a copy of the official report of the proceedings at the recent Conference of States Premiers. It would be a very great convenience to honorable members to be supplied with copies as early as possible.
– I have no doubt that the report is already in print, and I shall cause copies to be sent to honorable members.
Crimean and Indian Mutiny Veterans - Naval Defence Policy - Explosion at Thursday Island - Naval Agreement.
– I promised the right honorable member for Swan to place on the table of the House a list of the Crimean and Indian Mutiny veterans in Government homes, hospitals, and benevolent asylums in Australia. ‘ The figures are as follow : - New South Wales, 20 ; Victoria, 24 ; Queensland, 23 ; South Australia, 5; Western Australia, 18; Tasmania, 3; total, 93.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence whether it is the intention of the Government to provide the. veterans who are in destitute circumstances with financial assistance until such time as the Old-age Pensions Bill becomes operative?
– The veterans are citizens of the States, but I will discuss the matter with the Treasurer, and do whatever may be found to be necessary. I feel sure that the House will support the Government in rendering these men any reasonable assistance.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether it is not a fact that, owing to the differences of opinion amongst the local advisers of the Government, the naval defence policy was referred to the Imperial Defence Committee for their advice, and, further, whether the Imperial Defence Committee did not, in reply, state in effect that the scheme showed an entire inappreciation of recent naval developments, and of the cardinal principles of strategy ?
– Is the Honorable member referring to the present scheme of the Government, or to a prior scheme?
– I am referring to the previous scheme, of which the present one is a modification.
– The case stands thus: the Admiralty, in general terms, expressed no disapproval of the Government’s intentions; but the Prime Minister has already informed the House on several occasions that, in regard to details as to the provision of boats and matters of that kind, no work will be carried out without the approval of Parliament.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether he is in a position to make any statement with reference to the explosion which occurred at the Thursday Island fort a few months ago?
– The military authorities, in conjunction with the police, investigated the matter, and the former have submitted a report which they ask should not be made public until we have had an opportunity of receiving the report of the police. As soon as I get that report I will inform honorable members.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, in the absence of the Prime Minister, a question relating toa cablegram published in this morning’s newspapers in reference to the approaching visit of the American Fleet. The cablegram, in referring to an article published in a London newspaper states -
The article proceeds to remind Australia that it is impossible for the British navy to be maintained strong at all points unless it receives greater support from the states of the empire.
In view of that article, will the Minister of Defence say whether the Government still contemplate reducing, in the near future, the amount paid to the Imperial Government under the Naval Agreement? If the article is correct, will the Government favour an increase instead of a reduction of the subsidy ?
– There has been no statement put before the House with regard to the reduction of the Naval Subsidy. There seems to be some confusion in respect to this matter. The London Times, and a number of other leading journals in England, think it inconceivable that Great Britain can’ maintain her supremacy on the seas unless the Commonwealth and the other parts of the Empire immediately proceed to provide for their own coastal defence, and, eventually, for navies of their own. They say that it is impossible to maintain naval supremacy without it.
-What do the naval authorities at Home say?
– I am speaking of public feeling in England. It is somewhat remarkable and very satisfactory to find the ablest Englishmen believing that’ the best kind of progress will be by concerted action from Australia and the Mother Country.
– I desire to ask the Minister whether instead of attributing to the editorial columns of the Times opinions which have not been expressed there, he will endeavour to enlighten the people of Australia as to the actual merit from an Imperial stand-point of an Australian coastal flotilla by publishing side by side with the past references of the Prime Minister his own most valuable speeches upon the subject which show most conclusively that an Australian coastal navy would be of no practical value for the protection of Australia or the Empire ?
– The people ofAustralia do not require enlightenment. That fact is rendered obvious by the present occupants of the Ministerial bench.
– Will the Minister be good enough to facilitate a reference to the able communications to which allusion has been made by furnishing the dates when they appeared in the press?
– Does the honorable member refer to the dates of my speeches?
– I am speaking of the Minister’s letters upon the subject.
– I have not kept them. They accomplished what was intended, and I have not altered my opinion upon the subject. I shall try to find them for the honorable member.
– I wish to ask the Minister whether he sees any diplomatic objection to allowing honorable members to see the correspondence that has passed between the Prime Minister and the British Naval authorities since December last ? I would remind him that by the time Parliament reassembles after the recess nearly ten months will have elapsed, in which the whole of that correspondence, so far as the merits of the Prime Minister’s proposals are concerned, has been kept in the dark.
– A question of that kind must be placed before the Prime Minister himself. I am sure that he will eventually give the honorable member all information in regard thereto. I may add, however, that matters are not yet complete.
– I wish to ask the Minister whether it is not a fact that the opinion of the responsible Imperial Naval authorities is in direct conflict with those whichhe has, I think, erroneously attributed to the Times and other newspapers ?
– I am not aware that there is any conflict of opinion. Any communications that take place are between the representatives of the people here and those of the people of Great Britain - that is, with the British Government.
– Seeing that so much time is daily taken up by questions without notice, does the Treasurer think that the intention of the Government to deal with the Federal Capital Sites question this session will be interfered with?
– Questions without notice undoubtedly occupy a good deal of time. In the New South Wales Parliament we had to entirely discontinue the practice of allowing such questions to be put, because they used to occupy half the period of the sitting between 4.30 p.m. and the adjournment for dinner. A limit should certainly be placed upon the time devoted to such questions. It is not very likely that the Seat of Government Billwill be submitted again this session.
– It is not a very pleasant subject to bring up to-day, having regard to the weather.
– It is never an unpleasant subject to me.
– In reference to an application by the Mayor of Wollongong for a letter-box to be placed on a lamp-post, to be erected by theCouncil, I have received a letter from the Postmaster-General’s Department, in which it is stated that the request will be complied with “ as soon as financial arrangements will permit.” I understand that several honorable members have received similar replies to requests for works involving an expenditure of only a few shillings. Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether it is true that the finances of his Department are so straitened as to warrant such answers, and does he not think it undesirable in connexion with applications for small works like this to make the Commonwealth appear to be bankrupt.
– I do not know that the answer does make the Commonwealth appear to be bankrupt. I certainly deprecate the sending of such replies, and will take steps, if possible, to bring about a change. I might remind the honorable member that the matter relates. to a question of decentralization. The House is anxious that such small matters should be dealt with by the- Deputy Postmasters-General, and perhaps my honorable friend will ask the Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales what he thinks of the request.
– In view of the large sum of money voted for the Postal Department, does the Postmaster-General think it necessary to postpone dealing with small matters till “ financial- arrangements will permit “ ?
– Now that the Estimates have been passed, I hope that the practice to which the honorable member has directed attention will be avoided in the future.
– I desire Jo ask. the Postmaster-General whether, where residents of a district guarantee to maintain a telephone line, and it is subsequently found that the revenue therefrom is sufficient to provide for working and maintenance, he cannot see his way to relieve the guarantors of the cost of maintenance?
– I can see my way clear to say that I shall consider the matter.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether he is in possession of any further information in regard to the business done at the Mount Gambier and Port Pirie post-offices?
– I find that the mails despatched per week from Mount Gambler number 225 bags, and those from Port Pirie 162 bags. Mount Gambier receives weekly 211 bag’s, and Port Pirie 174 bags. The Mount Gambier office also performs Customs and electoral work, whereas the Port Pirie office does not do Customs work.
– In view of the reply of the Postmaster-General to my question, I desire to know whether he will see that justice is done in regard to the classification of these offices ?
– Trie honorable member should address his question to ‘the Minister representing the Minister of Home
Affairs, seeing that this is a matter entirely for the Public Service Commissioner.
– That being so, I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs whether he will make inquiries a’s to why the Port Pirie post-office has been classified above that of Mount Gambier ?
– When the Public Service Commissioner graded these two offices, I have no doubt he believed he was doing justice. However, the information submitted to-day seems to disclose a discrepancy ; and I shall, therefore, ask the Commissioner to reconsider the matter, and give a reply to the honorable member for Barker at a later date.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether it is the intention of the Government to include as members of the proposed Postal Commission any experts other than members of Parliament, and, if so, will the Government consider the advisability of inviting Mr. C. N. J. OlliverC.M.G., of New South’ Wales - one of the ablest Public Service administrators in the Commonwealth - to accept a seat thereon?
– I cannot say what the composition of the Commission will be. The Prime Minister has not yet spoken to me upon the matter, and I do not think that he has given any attention to it during the past two days, in consequence of the bereavement which he has suffered. Certainly, the gentleman to whom the honorable member refers is a good man, and, as a result of the honorable member’s question his name will be placed before the Prime Minister.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Old-age Pensions - Comparative Table of provisions of the Commonwealth Bill and certain State Acts, together with the recommendations of the Royal Commission relating to Rate of Pension, Deductions, &c.
Ordered to be printed.
Tasmanian Cable -
Papers relative to recent interruptions to the submarine cables of the Eastern Extension Australasia and China Telegraph Company Limited between Victoria, and Tasmania.
Correspondence between the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Eastern Extension Australasia and China Telegraph Company Limited, relative to the proposed purchase by the Commonwealth of the Company’s two submarine cables between Victoria and Tasmania.
Papers relating to the tenders invited by the Postmaster-General for supplying and laying two submarine cables between Victoria and Tasmania.
Defence Acts. - Military Cadet Corps- Provisional Regulation 25a (substituted for 3 and 13) - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 59.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending appropriations for the purposes of the following Bills-
Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Anglo American Finance Co., London; Fekete Bank, Buda Pesth ; Benko Bank, Buda Pesth ; Paul Goldenburg, Hamburg ; S. Strauss, Hamburg; Fritz Dorge Bank, Buda Pesth; H. Langenhahn and Co., Bremen ; Ernst Harmsen and Co., Hamburg ; Heinrich Schliephake, Neustrelitz, Germany; R. T. Schroder, Hamburg, conducting a lottery. Oswald Schladitz and Co., Berlin, conducting an indecent business. Professor D’Astro, Melbourne; R. Herschell, Melbourne; “Pharos,” Glasgow, foretelling future events. H. Oxenham, Sydney; E. J. Lenny, Melbourne; J. Wren, Melbourne, being engaged in the Commonwealth in receiving money as consideration for an assurance or agreement implied to pay money on an event or contingency of or relating to horse races. A. E. Salier, Launceston ; N. E. Tagle, Launceston ;
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the High Court decided about a month ago in favour of the payment of the maximum amount of retiring allowance to a number of public servants, will the Postmaster-General facilitate the early payment of amounts due to letter-carriers and others affected by the judgment?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Yes ; so far as I am concerned every effort will be made to facilitate early payment of amounts due to those affected by the judgment referred to.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– I think I should reply generally to the whole of the questions as follows : -
Whether it is advisable that members of Parliament holding commissions in the military service should exercise the right of criticism which they undoubtedly possess with regard to details of military procedure and administration, is a question upon which there is much difference of opinion. The Minister has no alternative but to reply to any apparently reasonable question which may be submitted by any honorable member, and cannot regard such questions as having been dictated but by genuine desire for useful information and in the interest of the Commonwealth.
The difficulty of the situation, as suggested by these questions, is appreciated by the Government. The following are the main considerations : -
These are the three main points in regard to which all are in agreement. The Government will endeavour to harmonize these difficulties in the proposed new scheme.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether. his attention has been directed to the statements made in the Age to the effect -
In viewof the fact that in the United
States, the Standard Oil Company entered into far-reaching business combinations to destroy fair competition and to exploit its customers, and for years past practically defied the Government of that country, does he not think that prompt and drastic action should be taken by the Commonwealth Government, to prevent the Standard Oil Trust from pursuing in Australia that policy of trade piracy which has become so hateful to the American people and destructive to American national interests?
– The answers, to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Mr. Chanter) agreed to -
That copies of all papers, letters, and other correspondence relating to the postal prohibition against the Medical Institute of Messrs. Freeman and Wallace be laid on the Table of the House.
Progress report (No. 2), presented by Sir John Quick, and read by the Clerk, as follows -
PROGRESS REPORT No. 2.
The Joint Select Committee appointed to inquire and report on matters of privilege, have the honour to submit a Second Progress Report.
Your Committee, having recommended that the proposed new procedure should not be retrospective, have taken preliminary steps to inquire into some recent allegations published reflecting on Parliament. Their attention has been directed to a statement published by a Sydney newspaper containing charges of political corruption against unnamed members of Parliament. It would be dishonouring to Parliament if such charges were allowed to remain unproved, unwithdrawn, and the maligners unpunished. Your Committee regret to find that in the existing state of the law, they are unable to prosecute their inquiries in an effective and complete manner. There is no statutory law in force authorizing Select Committees to summon and secure the’ attendance of witnesses before them, and above all there is no law requiring, and if, necessary, compelling, witnesses before Select Committees to be sworn and to answer questions relevant to the issues involved. It is true that the Standing Orders provide that Select Committees may summon witnesses, but they do not enable such Committees to take evidence on oath, nor do they provide any punitive measures in case of disobedience to the summons, or refusal to be sworn, or to give evidence.
Your Committee do not think it would be wise to proceed further with an investigation in which they would be powerless to deal with witnesses who may refuse either to prove or withdraw scandalous charges made by them against Parliament, or to give the names of their informants. If the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill at present before the House of Representatives be passed into law with some slight amendments, Select Committees would be armed with effective authority to take evidence on oath, and to recommend the prosecution of recalcitrant witnesses.
John Quick, Chairman.
Melbourne, 4th June,1908.
Ordered to be printed.
.- I move -
Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Procedure be now taken into consideration.
Two reports have now been presented to the two Houses by the Select Joint Committee appointed to consider questions of’ procedure in cases of privilege, of which the first dealt exclusively with questions of procedure, while that presented to-day dealt with certain recent press allegations reflecting on this Parliament. The Committee consisted of members of both Chambers, representative of all parties, and was quite impartial. It commenced its work with an investigation, in obedience to the first mandate of the Parliament, as to the best procedure for the trial and punishment of persons charged with interference with,, or breach of the powers, privileges or immunities of Parliament. We found it undesirable to submit recommendations for procedure which would be retrospective in operation, and therefore did not recommend the application of new modes of trial or measures of punishment for past offences. Our first report dealt only with procedure to meet future cases. In determining what procedure to recommend, we had first to consider section 49 of the Constitution, which enacts that the powers, privileges, and immunities of the Parliament shall be such as are declared by it, and that, until they are so declared, they shall be those of the British House of Commons. Therefore, we now enjoy, and can exercise all the powers, privileges, and immunities possessed by the House of Commons, and can pass laws defining, prescribing, or increasing them.
– Assuming that to be reasonably necessary.
– Yes, -and incident and relevant to the constitutional power. On examining the records and questioning witnesses, we found that breaches of the privileges and immunities of Parliament can be summarized as’ (1) libellous statements reflecting on Parliament, (2) slanderous statements reflecting on Parliament, (3) interference with or obstruction of Parliament, (4) undue influence and bribery, and (5) . insulting and assaulting members in the discharge of their duty. The British House of Commons has hitherto been the sole judge of what constitutes a breach of. its privileges. If it finds that a certain act or offence amounts to a breach of privilege, it can so declare it, and a general warrant of commitment issued after such a declaration is not examined by the Courts. It possesses the power - as we do: - to summon offenders to the Bar, to interrogate them there, and, if it thinks fit, to commit them to prison for the term of the current session. But I believe that for some time the consensus of opinion here has been that this ancient method of punishing breaches of privilege and contempt o? Parliament is cumbersome, ineffective, and undesirable, and the Committee unanimously determined that the time had arrived when Parliament might delegate or assign to the ordinary Courts of law the enforcement of its privileges and immunities. In the past it has often happened that offenders who have been brought to the Bar of the State Parliaments- and I believe that the same thing has occurred in England - have practically triumphed, the whole procedure being reduced to a farce, such as I should’ be sorry to see re-enacted, here. Therefore, I had no hesitation in agreeing to the recommendation that the enforcement of our privileges should be relegated to the Courts of law, and, preferably, to the Commonwealth Courts. Either House of Parliament, - it is thought, might, when it considered that a breach of its privilege or an act of contempt had been committed, pass a resolution authorizing the Attorney-General to institute the prosecution of the offender before a Justice of the High Court or a Judge of a State’ Court. That, in my opinion, would be a more dignified and effective course than that which has been followed in the past. Such a step would be taken only with great deliberation.- Parliament would not authorize a prosecution unless in very extreme cases, when its decision would be reviewed by a Court. It may be said that Parliament should be sufficiently strong and independent to stand above criticism, and should waive the enforcement of penalties against offenders against its honour,’ dignity, or independence. But if either Chamber became indifferent to its honour, or lacked the courage to assert its dignity and independence, it would in time sink very low in the estimation of the community. No doubt the assertion of privilege should be made only occasionally. The power to punish breach of privilege and contempt should be kept in reserve; to be used only when necessary to prevent every idle slanderer or reckless libeller in the community from impugning the honour of. Parliament. But, when necessary, Parliament should resent such attacks, calling on the offenders to sustain their charges or to withdraw them. What would be the position of the Courts of Justice if the Judges allowed themselves to’ be assailed, to be accused of negligence, carelessness, or corruption in the discharge of their duties? They would sink beneath contempt. I believe that the Congress of the United States of America has, either because of want of power, or because of carelessness, not sufficiently resented attacks and insults on its honour, with the result that now the public opinion of it is very low. Any idle scribbler or irresponsible person seems at liberty to attack it without fear of being brought to book. The time has come when, in the estimation of the great public of the United States of America, it is not much honour to be a member of Congress.
-Congress has powers quite as ample as we claim to possess.
– That statement was challenged by a witness whom we examined.
– I can refer the honorable member to a case on the subject.
– If Congress has the power, it has not discreetly asserted it, and it has, consequently, fallen very low in public estimation. It is quite common for charges of bribery and corruption to he hurled against members, without Congress raising its voice in protest. I hope that this Parliament will show a determination to maintain its honour, and to be very jealous of charges of that kind, so that those outside will know that there is a strong arm, able and ready to intervene, if necessary, for the protection of either House. I have enumerated a list of what are considered contempts, and breaches of the privileges of Parliament. No doubt there are gradations in that list. Some offences are not as serious as others, and Parliament, in the exercise of its discretion, may not consider it necessary or desirable to hand over the whole of them to the jurisdiction of the High Court. In submitting this list for the consideration of the House, however, we have merely performed our duty. We have submitted to both Houses a list of offences, the power to deal with which, we think, may fairly be delegated to a Justice of the High Court, upon a resolution of the House affected. There can be no doubt that most of these offences have hitherto been regarded as breaches of privilege, and contempt of Parliament. Professor Harrison Moore, in his evidence, said clearly and distinctly, that these breach of privilege cases are well summarized, and defined on page 501 of the Annotated Constitution, to which hon orable members may refer. Among the list the only offences which may possibly suggest new ground, and may, perhaps, slightly exceed previous privileges, are those refer ring to improper interference with, or obstruction of, honorable members in the exercise of their duties. There can be no doubt as to direct interference with the proceedings of Parliament - such as the action of a person who attended this Chamber, and interfered with, or obstructed, the proceedings - would be a breach of privilege. The only point is whether the slight extension that we propose - the extension to interference with members outside the Chamber, but within the precincts of the House - may not be considered a legitimate development of the privilege against interference with, or obstruction within, . the Chamber.
– Does that refer in any way to lobbying?
– It would cover a case of improper interference with members by importunate lobbying, or taking improper action within the precincts of the House. Lobbying, or unduly interfering with, members, with a view of persuading them to vote in a certain direction might come under the heading of “ undue interference with members in the performance of their duties.” There might be a certain measure of undue interference with honorable members, not . amounting to bribery, yet decidedly improper. This is a fair and legitimate assertion of immunity on the part of honorable members - an assertion that they should be protected against undue influence in the exercise of their duty. Certainly, it is a common law offence for any person to attempt to bribe a member of Parliament. No declaration is necessary to deal with matters of that kind, for they are offences against Parliament. The offences we have enumerated are offences against Parliament, but are not intended in any way to cover offences committed against members in their private capacity. Offences against members in the discharge of their duty as members of Parliament, within the Chamber, or within the precincts of Parliament House, are alone dealt with. So far as offences against members outside Parliament House are concerned the ordinary law will apply.
– How does the Committee propose to obtain evidence against persons trying to bribe members of Parliament ?
– That is a difficulty which occurs in all criminal cases ; if a case of this, kind is brought before Parliament an investigation will be made, and if possible the truth arrived at. I wish to summarize this branch of the report by saying that we desire, in the first place, to recommend the transfer from parliamentary control of the breaches of privileges enumerated in paragraph 1. The safeguards against abuse of that power, and against frivolous prosecutions, is, first of all, the requirement that the sanction of the House affected shall be obtained to the initiation of a prosecution ; and, secondly, that such prosecutions will be under the charge of the Commonwealth Attorney-General. It has been urged that this power might be exercised for the benefit of a majority in Parliament, and that a minority might be defenceless. Such a suggestion is unworthy of a moment’s consideration. The recent appointment of a Joint Committee, and the reference to it of certain allegations for investigation, was at the instance of this side of the House, which, as is well known, is in a minority. That minority demanded an investigation, and that justice should be done.
– And the. investigation was started because the charge was a general one.
– It was started because the allegation referred to a group of members - probably a minority- and in such a way as to reflect on the House in its corporate capacity. Where names are not mentioned the honour of the. House as a whole is necessarily involved. Where names are mentioned in connexion with any charge of corruption, breach of duty, negligence, or disloyalty to the Commonwealth, those” so named have their own remedy by criminal or civil action. This power is proposed to be brought into operation only where Parliament itself thinks that its honour, purity, or independence is involved, and where it would be almost a public scandal to pusillanimously rest under insult.
– Is not’ the honour of the one the honour of the whole?
– Yes. Parliament may consider that a charge made against one member is so cruel, so conspicuously false, or disgraceful, that it is its duty to go to his rescue and protection. Primarily, however, this great power would be brought into action only where Parliament was assailed in its corporate capacity, or where there were special circumstances justifying intervention on behalf of one member. In recommending that these various offences be dealt with by a Justice of the High Court we recognise that there are gradations, and’ that some are not so serious as others. Some do not demand such immediate action as others, and it will be for the House to determine what cases should be handed over to the High Court. The Committee submits this branch of its work to the judgment of the House, having done its best inframing what it considers is a fair summary of the most serious charges. With the exception of the slightly enlarged definition of improper influence and obstruction, they are old offences known to the law, and could previously have’ been punished by either House without reference to a Court. Newspapers as well as the general public have hitherto complained’ about Parliament, or a single. House being allowed to act as its own prosecutor, judge, and gaoler, and no doubt that complaintwas to some extent justifiable. But now that Parliament is asked, and will probably, be willing to surrender that ancient prerogative - enjoyed by the House of Commons, whose traditions, immunities, and privileges we enjoy - to Courts of Justice, it is confronted with a general chorus of oppositionto such a proposal, and we are asked to leave matters as they are. If we do, the timewill undoubtedly come when the House will feel called upon to intervene and to assert its honour and dignity ; whereas if we bring offenders to the bar, we shall be met withthe old complaint, “ Here you are acting as your own prosecutor and judge and, in the case of conviction, as your own gaoler.” Whichever course we adopt, we shall be subject to criticism and opposition. I, and’ my fellow committeemen are unanimous, however, in recommending that Parliament should take these matters into its own hands and do what it thinks right. If it does, it will agree to transfer to Courts of Law the work of dealing with these offences. There are other matters in the recommendations 10 which I need not refer. I come now to the second reference to the Committee, the reference to inquire into recent allegations reflecting upon Parliament. We had before us certain statements published some months ago in a Sydney newspaper, serious] v reflecting on unnamed members of the Federal Parliament. We took a preliminary step to investigate those matters, but found ourselves practically powerless for want of statutory power to proceed further. We had no authority by Statute to summon offenders before us to give evidence, and to submit to cross-examination. We had no power to demand from them the source of their information. It would have been idle to call, before us libellers who endeavoured to shield . themselves behind the plea that they obtained the information from some person or persons unknown and who refused to disclose the names of the originators of the libellous statements. Before launching upon an inquiry of that kind it is desirable that we should have the power of examining the offenders, and if they refuse to answer questions relevant to the issue we ought to be in a position to report the matter either to Parliament or to the Attorney-General. A law ought to be passed which would enable these witnesses to be summoned before the ordinary tribunals and either fined or imprisoned for refusing to give evidence. That is the only way in whch the authority of a Select Committee or a Royal Commission can be exercised.
– A similar law should be applicable to witnesses before Royal Commissions who refuse to answer Questions.
– Royal Commissions already possess the power to compel witnesses to answer questions. I know that the Tariff Commission - in the event of a witness refusing to answer” a. question - had power to direct a prosecution.
– Can a Royal Commission enforce the attendance of witnesses?
– Yes. All that we need to do is to confer upon Select Committees the power which is already vested in Royal Commissions. But we decline to go through the farce of summoning witnesses who might refuse to answer questions. We were not successful in obtaining the information that we sought, and under the circumstances we thought it desirable to present our report to the Senate and to this House. Until we have been equipped with the necessary authority to prosecute our inquiry to a successful issue we resign our trust to this House. If the House will give us the requisite authority the Select Committee may be re-appointed next session, and it will then be prepared to proceed with the execution of its trust.
– In reference- to past cases?
– Yes. The Committee will then have to decide whether the offenders should be summoned to appear at the bar of the House. But in respect of all future, cases we recommend that that ancient practice should be abandoned, and that the offenders should be dealt with by the courts of law. If that be done Parliament will be protected, and there will be an effective method of guarding it against unwarrantable and unworthy insults, which tend to its degradation.
– I desire to invite the attention of the honorable member to the fact that in the form in which his motion stands at present it might be taken in future to limit the rights of honorable members. Upon giving notice of a motion honorable members have a right to secure the consideration of that motion. The only condition precedent to their exercise of that right is that they must give notice. From the form in which the honorable member’s motion stands- at present it might be taken that a motion of the House requires to be carried before the consideration of any matter can be entered upon. That is not so. I therefore suggest that the honorable member should amend his motion by leaving out all the words after “ be “ in line 3 with a view to inserting the word “adopted” in lieu thereof.
– I am quite prepared to adopt your suggestion, sir, and ask leave to amend my motion accordingly.
Motion amended accordingly.
.–I think the House will congratulate the members of the Committee not only upon having performed their work expeditiously, but upon having done it very thoroughly, considering the time at their disposal. The House is particularly indebted to the honorable member for Bendigo for the. care which he has taken in the presentation of the Committee’s report to honorable members. It is characteristic of him that hf- always investigates matters thoroughly, and faithfully puts before the House the result of his researches. Practically, the report of the Committee is a recommendation that a statutory mod: of procedure !3e adopted for punishing breaches of privilege of a particular kind. So far as the Government are concerned, I can promise that immediately the report has been adopted, it will be taken into careful consideration by the law officers of my Department with a view to the preparation of a Bill which will be submitted to the House next session. My own opinion is that it is unsatisfactory to allow our privileges’ to rest upon section 49 of the Constitution, which confers upon us the same powers, privileges, and immunities as are possessed by the House of Commons. At present, in order to ascertain what are our powers, privileges, and immunities, we have to make an elaborate search into the powers, privileges, and immunities of the House of Commons, instead of being’ able to learn what they are by reference to a statute of our own. That is unsatisfactory, and therefore I will consider the advisableness during recess of preparing a Bill which shall, declare our powers, privileges, and immunities, and which will also contain a general clause setting out that any other privileges and prerogatives that we possess shall not be deemed to be taken away by virtue of that measure.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral think that our privileges depend upon the grant contained in the Constitution?
– Certain powers are inherent in Parliament apart from those expressly conferred. It has’been held by the Privy Council that every Colonial Parliament possesses inherently all the powers that are essential to its preservation. Even if the powers conferred by section 49 of the Constitution were withheld, this Parliament would still possess certain powers and privileges arising out of the very nature of the institution created by the Statute: But the Imperial Parliament has gone further than that, and has conveyed certain express powers. I wish to direct the attention of the honorable member for Bendigo to paragraph 7 . of the Select Committee’s report, which recommends that a law be passed defining the mode of proving by legal evidence what are the powers, privileges, and immunities of the House of Commons. .1 think that he- knows- from his researches that considerable conflict has taken place between the Courts and the - House of Commons upon the question of whether the House had power to declare its privileges, or whether the Court had power, as a matter of law, to determine whether such privileges existed. Upon this subject the following appears in Thomas’ Constitutional Cases -
The present condition of the question is, -according to Sir Erskine May, unsatisfactory. Assertions of privilege are made in Parliament, and denied in the courts ; the officers who execute the orders of Parliament are liable to vexatious ^actions ; and if verdicts are obtained against them, the damages and costs are paid by the Treasury. The parties who bring such actions, instead of being prevented from proceeding with them by some legal process acknowledged bv the courts, can only be coerced by an unpopular exercise of privilege which does not stay, the actions.
In a leading case - that of Stockdale, v. Hansard - the Courts decided that the House of Commons under cover of a declaration of a privilege could not create a privilege which it did not possess. Of course the British Parliament has plenary power to enact a Statute creating any privileges that it may think it ought to possess.
– It is the privilege of the House of Commons there, and not of the Parliament.-
– Quite so. I am not quite sure of the exact meaning of paragraph 7 of the Committee’s report.
– It merely recommends the enactment of a clause in the Western Australian Act, which provides that the production of the Government Printer’s order, or a copy of the Standing Orders, shall be prima facie evidence.
– It reads as if any tribunal in deciding these questions would- have to decide them by legal evidence.
– It merely means that the production of a copy of the Standing Orders, for instance, shall be regarded as prima facie evidence.
– That would not be final as to what they are, but only as to what it is claimed they are.
– That is the reason why I mentioned the circumstance of the conflict which took place between the Courts and the British House of Commons. Whenever a man claims that a right of his has been infringed, and seeks . redress in a Court, the Court will inquire whether or not he has really been injured in law. That means an inquiry as to whether - if the act complained of has been done in pursuance of the exercise of a privilege - such a privilege exists.
– That shows the necessity for declaring by Statute what are our privileges.
– Exactly. It was the consideration of that fact which prompted me to say that we should declare what are our powers, privileges, and immunities in a Statute.
– It will have to be done very carefully and . delicately.
– We can safeguard ourselves by incorporating in the Act a general clause declaring that notwithstanding anything contained in the Statute-, it shall not be deemed to take away any of the privileges of Parliament.-
– We shall need to be. very careful that we do not define our privileges in terms of Statutes enacted a hundred years ago.
– Yes. Regarding the obligations of witnesses who appear before Select Committees, I would remind the honorable member for Bendigo that a Parliamentary Witnesses Bill is at present under consideration. I promise that during the recess 1 will look into the whole matter, and that next session a Bill will be introduced to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee. If I can see my way to submit a fuller and more complete mea-“ sure I will do so. I trust that at this stage we shall not have a long debate upon the motion for the adoption of the report, because we shall be afforded an opportunity to consider the matter fully next session.
.- I think the recommendation of the AttorneyGeneral, that we should adopt the report without much discussion, is a good one. Certainly it is not open to the objection which might reasonably be urged against measures - such as the Bill which was introduced yesterday - involving an expenditure of millions of pounds, and which are passed- with extraordinary celerity. The Bill is merely an expression of opinion, or a direction to the Attorney-General as to the lines on which the legislation to protect us are, 1 suppose, to run. I confess I do not share the hyper-sensitiveness of some honorable members as to the effect of lobbying, or of imputations cast on us. If a man is pure and honest, as I suppose the whole of us are, he can stand a good deal of that kind of treatment without his standing in the estimation of the electors, ‘who think they know him, being to any extent lowered. The public generally have to stand a’ good deal of knocking about in these days of a free press. Some public men, I dare say, have the estimate of themselves changed by, perhaps, the not particularly delicate pens of some anonymous writers for the press. But it is more consistent with the man’s dignity to ignore such references, than to be always squealing, just because a few critical bolts seem to hit him pretty hard. Then, there are the reciprocal rights of the public to speak their minds, even though they may not always express their opinions in the words of politeness.
– Quick. - I do not see how a man’s political reputation can’ be killed politely.
– I do not say that it can ; but I am merely warning honorable members against the danger of going too far in legislation of the kind. I personally recognise the rights of the public to lobby. How can the public bring even their delusions here and have them cleared up, except they may come within the precincts of the House. How could the Opposition, for instance, gather information, unless from what is reported to them within the precincts of the House, if occasion require? We ought not to be too sensitive.
The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together; our virtues would be proud if our faults whipped them not, and our crimes would despair if they were not cherished by our virtues.
I am merely throwing out a hint to the Attorney-General that he must not, under powers given to Parliament by the Constitution - and, perhaps, not altogether intended - exceed even the privileges of the House of Commons, and introduce a Bill, full of penalties against those who may attempt, by rather too strong moral suasion, to affect the independent judgment of members of Parliament. Assuming that we do not go beyond what is reasonable and necessary for our protection, there can be no harm, as far as I can see, in the legislation suggested. But what I have just indicated is the measure of our rights, and, while the House of Commons may be as omnipotent as the Imperial Parliament chooses to make it, we here are to some extent limited as to Acts of Parliament we can pass. We have no authority to create privileges, or to define privileges, in a way that is not reasonably necessary for the effective discharge of our duties as representatives - that is the limit to our.’powers. I hope that limit will be respected; and that we shall keep within the bounds of reason, and certainly not exceed the privileges’ of the House of Commons. What we are endeavouring to do is to hand over the power of inquiry and punishment to a Court of justice, rather than to determine such matters for ourselves. There may be something to be said for, and something to be said against, such a proposal. In the first place, we are asking that, the High Court shall be made .a Court of summary jurisdiction - a jurisdiction that is somewhat abnormal and peculiar to such a Court - and that it shall act not according to the ordinary methods of legal inquiry. The High Court is a dignified tribunal ; it is the highest in the land, and principally a Court of Appeal. It is now suggested, however, that that tribunal should be brought down to the level of a Court of summary jurisdiction ; and simply because we desire to “ get over “ the provision of the Constitution which makes an indictable offence tryable only by a Judge and jury. If these offences were described as indictable, they would have to be tried by a Judge and jury, and to avoid that, we declare these offences to be matters of summary jurisdiction, and propose to invest the High Court with” the power of trying them. I do not know that the High Court will altogether relish being invested with this jurisdiction, in view of the loose description of offences, and if the somewhat elastic provisions of the Bill be in line withthe recommendations of the report. It will be seen that libel, according to the report, involves a very great extension when compared with ordinary libel, as between subject and subject - that it relates not to mere matters of insult, but to defamatory statements which bring honorable members into ridicule, to obstruction, and so forth.
– These are definitions of contempt of Parliament.
– No doubt. We must remember, however, that the law of privilege arose 200 or 300 years ago, when Parliament required a good deal of protection against the Monarch, and, sometimes, against the Monarch’s soldiers ; and when liberty of speech was not recognised then as now, the press being under a ban. It was then that some of the greatest ornaments of eloquence were delivered in favour of the liberty of the press. But the protection which was necessary in those times for members of Parliament may not be necessary under the enlightened conditions of the twentieth century.
– Are the public not interested in the independence of members of Parliament and their necessary protection ?
– I am quite aware of that fact; but that is not involved in the point I am now advancing. I am now pleading against excess.
– Against inquiry?
– Certainly not. In the case of an attempt to bribe an honorable member, or to libel him, I should not object to our privileges being used as a check, but do not let us go too far - do not let us define the privileges of members of Parliament by the terms of the necessities of 250 or 300 years ago. If I were speaking in favour of the liberty of the pressI should take very much the same view ;I merely throw out the hint that we should not be too extreme. I do not happen to be so sensitive as to object to the occasional moral suasion which some honorable members seem to reprehend.
– Perhaps the honorable member has not smarted so much as others.
– I have had my own experience. Within the last week I have had two presents sent to my house by a foreigner who, I suppose, thought that they would to some extent affect the importunities I was supposed to bring to bear on the Prime Minister in order to have consideration of a reasonable request made by letter sent through me as a representative. But I did not come to Parliament howling about the matter ; I merely ceased all interference with the case, sending the information that if the presents were not removed from my premises within a certain time, something else might occur. When the honorable member for Bendigo was speaking, he said something to the effect that the power of Congress is more limited, or at all events had been frustrated in some way by the Courts of America. I have kindly been supplied by the Attorney-General with vol. 19 United States Law Reports, in which there is a report of the case of Anderson v. Dunn, one of libel on Congress.
– There is a later case in 103 United States Reports, Kilburn v. Thompson.
– I question, however, whether that case reverses the judgment in Anderson v. Dunn, which has always been regarded as laying down the law.
– We have the evidence of Professor Pitt Cobbett on the point.
– Like most other honorable members, I have not had the opportunity to read the evidence given before the Select Committee, but I dare say that if I read the particular evidence just referred to, it would show that the one judgment did not in all respects correct the other. In any case, the judgment to which I desire to refer will help to clear the air. As I have said, the caseof A nderson v. Dunn was one of a libel on Congress. An arrest’ was made under a warrant, and it was challenged, and the whole question of the power to punish for libel and for insult - the terms used in the report of the Select Committee - was gone into. I may say that in the course of the judgment in the case of Sir Francis Burdett, which was decided in 1810 in England, a libel on members had appeared in two English newspapers. For this Sir Francis Burdett was arrested, and thereupon he sued for assault in the Courts of Justice. Arguments having been heard for Sir Francis Burdett, Lord Erskine did not call on the representatives of Parliament to reply, considering the matter so clear. He said -
The House of Commons, whether a Court or not, must, like every other tribunal, have the power to protect itself from obstruction and insult, and to maintain its dignity and character. If the dignity of the law is not sustained, its sun is set, never to be lighted up again. So much I thought it necessary to say, feeling strongly for the dignity of the law; and have only to add, that I fully concur in the opinion delivered by the Judges.
That opinion was that the House of Commons had power to punish for insult or libel, and that the House could also delegate that power. In the United States case the Court also decided that the power to punish for libel was necessary in the case of each House, and Judge Johnson, who delivered the opinion, said -
This result is fraught with too much absurdity, not to bring into doubt the soundness of any argument from which it is derived. That a deliberate assembly, clothed with the majesty of the people, and charged with the care of all that is dear to them ; composed of the most distinguished citizens, selected and drawn together from every quarter of agreat nation; whose deliberations are required, by public opinion, tobe conducted under the eye of the public, and whose decisions must be clothed with all that sanctity which unlimited confidence in their wisdom and purity can inspire ; that such an assembly should not possess the power to suppress rudeness, or repel insult, is a supposition too wild to. be suggested. And accordingly, to avoid the pressure of these considerations, it has been argued, that the right of the respective houses to exclude from their presence, and their absolute control within their own walls, carry with them the right to punish contempts committed in their presence; while the absolute legislative power given to Congress within this district, enables them to provide by law against all other insults against which there is any necessity for providing.
Well, I think it is also “too wild” to suggest that the decision as to the extent of the privilege, by whatever tribunal enforced, has been subsequently upset by another of the United States Courts. But the honorable member may be right as to the enfor cement of a later case. My desire is, not todiscount the recommendations of the Committee, but to ask that, whatever declaration of privilege we may make, shall be determined by the necessities of the present time, and not in accordance with views held 200 or 300 years ago. The Committee has done good work, and I think that its recommendations might be adopted without much discussion.
.- The honorable member for Angas has rightly complimented the Committee upon the expedition which it has shown, and the work which it has done. I wish to revive the recollection of the events which brought about its appointment. In the first instance, a question was asked by the honorable member for Hunter, as to certain general charges of corruption in regard to the Tariff, published in the Sydney Bulletin. A few weeks later, I drew the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that no action had been taken in the matter. After he had been questioned on the subject on several further occasions, he promised to go into the matter, and, at last, moved for the appointment of this Select Committee. I opposed the appointment of the Committee, which was directed, not only to recommend procedure for the future, but to say how the charges which had been made should be dealt with. In the meantime, the charges published in the Bulletin had been emphasized by the Age, and levelled particularly at the free- trade members of the Opposition. I asked the Prime Minister why he should not investigate matters for himself, and, if necessary, introduce a Procedure Bill. The witnesses who gave evidence before the Select Committee could have communicated their information to the officials in the Prime Minister’s Department, and the Attorney- General could have been instructed to draft any Bill that might be necessary. I contended that the Committee’s investigations would be ineffective, because witnesses, if summoned, would refuse to attend. To my mind, members of Parliament must not be too squeamish. They cannot affect the graces of a drawingroom miss of seventeen, who pretends to be offended at the slightest provocation. The more hostile criticism a public man gets, the better it is for him, so long as he gets enough. There is no better suit of clothes in which to go to an election, than the abuse of the press. Charges of bribery and corruption are, of course, another matter. The Bulletin has a large circulationin Australia, and is read outside the Commonwealth. It is looked upon as a comic journal, though only those who possess vivid imaginations can really consider it comic. Consequently) the publication by it of charges against the honour of Parliament was a serious matter, especially when they were reiterated by the Age. The honorable member for Angas says that he knows that the charges were false. Personally, I do not think that any member was bribed in connexion with the Tariff discussion. But the charges, having been made, should be inquired into. The Select Committee says that it would dishonour Parliament if such charges were allowed to remain unproved, or unwithdrawn, and the maligners unpunished. We are also informed that the editor of the Bulletin has been written to, though we do not know whether he has replied. It is rumoured that the Bulletin authorities discovered, before their next issue, that they had made a mistake. If so, they should have had the courage to climb down. It requires greater courage to do that than to keep on proclaiming what is false. I shall not vote for any measure to punish persons attempting to bring members of Parliament into hatred, ridicule, or contempt, because the libel laws are already sufficient to protect the personal honour of individuals. Our experience, however, is that a man who brings an action for political libel, is bound to fail, thejury taking the view that politicians are fair game for comment. Of course, charges of bribery and corruption are different; I am referring to minor charges. Recently there has been a great deal of discussion in regard to postal administration ; but if a newspaper published an article headed “ Mauger, the Muddler,” although the Postmaster-General might consider that he was libelled, the adage being “ the greater the truth the greater the libel,” he would not succeed before a jury, nor would the Prime Minister succeed if he were referred to as “ Deakin, the Doubtful.”
– Nor the honorable member if spoken of as “ Wilks, the Wobbler.”
– I should Be referred to as “Wilks, the Willing” - willing to do my work. The Ministry is ready to instruct the Attorney-General to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee by framing a Bill ; but if such a measure is passed into law, what advantage will it be to the private member ? It would be all very well for a Minister with His pack of followers, or a strong party man ; but the ordinary member would be told that he had his remedy under the libel laws. One phrase used by the Committee I cannot understand. It says that it does not propose to “ elevate breaches of privilege to the high criminal grade of indictable crimes or misdemeanours.” I do not know how anything can be elevated to a high criminal grade. I hope that if a Bill is drafted, a jury, and not merely a Judge, will be necessary to decide any cases arising under it. We are protected, and the public should be so, too. The average member does not abuse his privilege. No one worth his salt would make statements here which he would be afraid to make outside. Nor would the average newspaper print statements which it knew to be untrue. As for the “ yellow “ press, what harm does it do?
– It is an advertisement for a politician to be abused by a newspaper.
– The trouble of some of us is that we do not get enough newspaper abuse. I agree that a new system of procedure is necessary for the defence of the honour of Parliament. When charges of corruption are made, we should punish those who make them, if they are false, and the guilty members, if they are true. In regard to the recent charges, we should know what members, if any, have been bribedso that we may purify the House by expelling them. The newspapers have said too little or too much. I hold that they should make specific charges so that we can protect our honour. There is no wish in my mind for revenge ; my only desire is that the honour of Parliament should be maintained. Apparently, however, we are to go into recess without an investigation of the newspaper charges, or of those raised by the Treasurer. Where, then, has been the use of appointing the Select Committee? Should a Bill be introduced later, I shall move to make it retrospective in regard to these charges. But action should not be taken by Parliament in regard to any but grave allegations ; minor offences should be overlooked.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill has been introduced, in the first place, because it is thought desirable, in order to avoid misapprehension, to print in the preference column, where there is only one rate, the duty applicable to importations from the United Kingdom. The Bill gives power for this to be done. What may be termed the second part of the Bill - clause 4 - provides that -
Section nine of the Customs Tariff 1908 is amended by adding thereto the following provisoes : - “ Provided that no higher duty shall be payable under that Act on any goods than the duty under the General Tariff in this Act : “ Provided further that no duty shall be payable under that Act on any goods which under the General Tariff in this Act are free of of exempt from duty.”
In certain cases the duties charged under the South African preference on imports from that country would be higher than the duties under the new Tariff, and clause 4 is designed to overcome that difficulty. Where the duty under the South African preference is higher than the ‘duty under the new Tariff, imports from South Africa will be allowed to come in at the lower rate.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short Title).
– It would really seem that the object of this Bill is to provide that blanks in the Customs Tariff are not blanks. It provides, in effect, that where no duty appears in the preferential column of the new Tariff in respect of an item, the duty charged shall be that under the general Tariff.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Additional provisoes as regards South African preference).
– I have sent for a copy of the Customs Tariff of 1908, but have not yet been able to obtain one. If the Treasurer would kindly read section 9 he would enable us to better understand this provision:
– As an illustration of the difficulty which this clause is designed to remove, let me refer honorable members to the position in regard to imports of hay and chaff from South Africa. Under the South African preference there is a duty on such imports from that country but under the new Tariff hay and chaff are free. If this clause be agreed to imports from South Africa will be treated as are imports from other parts, and al lowed to come in free. We do not want to charge on imports from South Africa, simply because of the treaty made some time ago, higher duties than prevail under the new Tariff.
– This clause, as I understand it, is designed to meet cases where the dutyor an item under the South Africa preference is higherthan the duty charged under the new Tariffin respect of imports from the rest of the world. It is proposed under this Bill to reduce the South African preference where it is higher to the level of the general Tariff.
.- Some Melbourne merchants recently informed me that under the South African preference they would be called upon to pay duty on a shipment of hay and chaff from that’ country, although under the new Tariff hay and chaff were free. If this Bill be passed such imports from South Africa, I understand, will be free. This clause is designed to meet such cases?
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended so as to allow the Bill to be passed through its remaining stage this day.
– I should like, at this stage, to ask what business the Government contemplate dealing with before the end of the session. We have a right to have from the Minister a statement on the subject before we agree to the suspension of the Standing Orders to facilitate our remaining work.
.- The next Bill that I shall ask honorable members to consider is one to amend the Excise Tariff 1908. Honorable members will also be asked to pass two Appropriation Bills, one providing for an appropriation of £250,000 for naval defencepurposes, and the other for an. appropriation of£750,000 in respect of oldage pensions. Then there is the Manufactures Encouragement Bill - what is known as the Iron Bounties Bill - and another measure which I have shown the deputy leader of the Opposition. The last-named Bill, of which the Minister of Trade and Customs is in charge, is to provide in certain cases for a reduction of certain duties of Customs. It relates to the harvester duties. Under the new Tariff, certain duties were imposed upon harvesters, and the passing of that Act meant the repeal of the Act under which restrictions were imposed on the prices that might be charged for harvesters during certain years. If honorable members will afford me the opportunity, I should like, onbehalf of the Minister of Trade and Customs, to put. that Bill through the House.
– Is it fair to ask us to deal with such a Bill at this time of the session, and whilst the whole question is still under review by the High Court?
– Is it a shot at Mr. McKay ?
– If the Bill be passed, it will be disadvantageous rather than helpful to Mr. McKay, and other local makers of harvesters. Unless it is passed, they will be free to charge what they like for their harvesters.
– The Bill is merely designed to continue an Act repealed by the passing of the new Tariff?
– Yes. It is also designed to regulate the charges that may be made for harvesters sold on terms.
– That is a very debatable matter.
– I thought that, in view of the question put to me by the honorable member for Parramatta, I ought to mention the Bill, but I shall not ask the House to deal with it at present. There are other measures to which I intend to give precedence. Honorable members are aware that I intend to submit to-night or to-morrow a Supply Bill.
-For what supply will the Treasurer ask?
– The supply asked for will.be on the basis of the EstimatesinChief and the Additional Estimates for this year.
– Then I think the Minister is in duty bound, before he asks us to agree to such a Bill, to give us a full statement of the finances of the country.
– I think that the Prime Minister spoke to the leader of the Opposition as to the number of months in respect of which supply should be granted.
– There is no trouble as to that, but the honorable member says that he proposes to go on spending as he has been during the present year.
– If, for instance, I were to cut down the expenditure of the Post and Telegraph Department, there would at once . be an outcry as to the inability to secure extensions of the telegraph and telephone service, and so forth. I merely wish to give honorable members an idea of what we propose to do. In addition to the measures I have mentioned, I shall ask honorable members to deal with a small Bill to amend the Public Service Act, and the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill. I think that I have enumerated all’ the measures with which we propose to proceed this session, but I may have omitted one from the list. With the exception of the Supply Bill, not one of them is likely to involve much debate. I think that it is the intention of the Prime Minister that, if possible, we should conclude the business of the session to-morrow afternoon. If necessary, we may sit late to-morrow night, and also meet on Saturday, but the Prime Minister hopes to be able to conclude the business of the session this week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I may say that the object of the proposed amendment is to make the intention of the Tariff clear. If members will refer to Tariff item 94, in division IV. of the Tariff, they will find the following : -
Rice, viz. -
Uncleaned, per cental, 3s. 4d.
Rice for use in the manufacture of
Starch may be delivered free, as pre scribed by Departmental . By-laws,
When the present Excise Tariff item, relating to starch, was prepared, it was intended that the duty should be collected only on starch made from rice delivered under Tariff item 94 (b), free under departmental by-laws. As the item now stands, however, the duty would be collected on starch made from any imported rice. It has been pointed out that the provision to limit the Excise duty, as is now done, has rendered it extremely difficult for manufacturers to separate the starch manufactured from rice from that manufactured from any other material and that the present necessity to do so is very irksome. The proposed requested amendment will confine the Excise duty to starch made from imported rice, delivered free, and will then allow manufacturers to use imported duty-paid rice without having to pay Excise duty, or be under Excise supervision.
– As far as I can gather, the intention of this Bill is to equalize the conditions relating to the manufacture of starch - to give the manufacturer a fairly equal choice as between imported rice, which is admitted free, and the dutiable article.
– I think that is a fair thing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to-
That the Standing Orders be suspended so as to allow the Bill to be passed through its remaining stage this day.
Bill read a third time.
Mr. HUME COOK (Bourke- Honorary
Minister) [4.45]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure, as its title indicates, has been introduced for the purpose of dealing principally with Public Service Inspectors. In the administration of the Public Service Act it has been found rather irksome to have the Commissioner and his Inspectors restricted in the way that they are at present, and with a view to providing them with opportunities for promotion, it has been thought advisable to place this Bill before the House. Honorable members will recollect that the Public Service Commissioner was appointed for a term of seven years at a fixed salary, and that consequently he is precludedfrom being appointed to any other position. Of course, I do not suggest that it is proposed to appoint him to any other office. But let us assume that the Royal Commission which is to be appointed to inquire into the condition of the Post Office recommends that that Department shall be placed under the control of Commissioners, and that a strong man is required as its head, at an even higher salary than that which the Public Service Commissioner receives, surely it would be an injustice to debar him from obtaining that office.
– Because he was appointed for a fixed term, and at a fixed salary, and in a fixed position.
– There is nothing to prevent him resigning his office and applying for another position.
– That is perfectly true. But as this Bill had to be introduced to provide for the Public Service Inspectors, the Government thought that provision might well be made in it which would permit of the promotion, if necessary, of the Public Service Commissioner. Such a provision might obviate the disorganization of the whole Public Service. Let us assume for a moment’ that a better position than that of Public Service Commissioner was offering, and that the Commissioner thought he was entitled to it. In order to obtain it he would have to resign his office, and the result of this might be to throw the whole service into disorder.
– His resignation and appointment might be simultaneous.
– Is there another position in the Public Service of equal value ?
– Let us suppose that a better position is created in the Service which the Commissioner desired to fill. It might be desirable to appoint him.
– Who would recommend him ?
– I presume that the Government would do so. In order to obtain that position he would Have to resign his present office. There would then be no Public Service Commissioner, and no officer to take his place. Under such circumstances it will be recognised that an Act of Parliament is necessary. With a view to providing in advance for difficulties of that kind, the Government seized the present opportunity of dealing, not only with the Public Service Inspectors, but with the Public Service Commissioner. In regard to the Inspectors, I think it will be recognised that it is desirable that they should be permitted to occupy, at any rate, temporarilv, some other office. Both under the Public Service Act and regulations they can occupy only the office of inspector. They are special officers who are appointed for a special term at a special salary.
– They are not under the Public Service Act. They were appointed, for a fixed term of seven years.
– They can act only as inspectors for a certain period, and they cannot be promoted to any other position.
– Cannot’ they be reappointed ?
Mr. HUME’ COOK. Certainly; but being outside the Public Service Act, they are not eligible for appointment to positions within the Service. In short, promotion is denied them.
– Have the Government nothing in contemplation in regard to the appointment of the Public Service Commissioner to another office?
-Absolutely nothing. It has been remarked on several occasions by honorable members that it is unfair that, an inspector should be called upon to report upon -an officer who occupies a position in the service to which the inspector himself might aspire. Under such circumstances an inspector might so harry an officer occupying a good position as to compel him to vacate it, and then might apply for and secure the position himself. This Bill will prevent that sort- of thing. Clause 3 provides -
After section 6 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “6a - (i)- A person holding the office of Commissioner or Inspector shall, during the continuance of his term of office, be eligible for appointment to any other office under the Government of the Commonweath for which he is qualified :
Provided that this section shall not make a person holding the office of inspector eligible to. fill a vacancy arising in the State or part of the Commonwealth in which he performs his duties as inspector.”
This will not prevent an inspector from obtaining a position in the Public Service iri any State other than that in which he discharges’ his duties. I repeat that the Commissioner ought not to be debarred from securing promotion, nor ought any of his Inspectors to be prevented from acting as his deputy. Further, they ought not to be -denied promotion in the service should it be desirable to offer them promotion. I therefore confidently ask members to pass this Bill.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) £4.54]. - I do not intend to oppose this Bill. Its object is an excellent one, and if for no other reason than that of rendering it possible for the Public Service Commissioner to enjoy a respite from his arduous labours, I think that we ought to pass it. ,
– Does the Commissioner approve of this Bill?
– I know of no other officer who works as hard as does the Commissioner. It has been his custom to work all his official life; and he should not be debarred from even higher positions than that he now occupies. I should extremely regret, however, to see him moved from his position ; and if a tempting offer came in connexion with any position hereafter to be created, it would be in the interests of the Commonwealth to increase his salary, in order to keep him where he is. Considering the imperfections of the Act, it is a tribute to his capacity and to his knowledge of human nature and his tact, that he has performed his duties with so little friction. Whatever other position may offer, I certainly hope that, for a very long time to come,” we shall have the services of the present Public Service ‘Commissioner. I know that that gentleman has to do much unpleasant work ; and my impression is that a great deal of blame has been cast upon him, which, perhaps, would not fairly lie if we knew all the facts. However, I do not desire to raise a debatable question of that kind. This Bill is primarily intended to meet the case of the Public Service Inspectors; and, as I understand, it was suggested first by the proposed appointment of the Public Service Inspector in Victoria to the office rendered vacant by the retirement of Mr. Outtrim as Deputy Postmaster-General. The ques_tion was referred to the Attorney-General, who ruled that, under the law, the Victorian Inspector, who had been nominated bv the Public’ Service Commissioner, could not be appointed. It seems to me that if n’e pre to crib, cabin, and confine the Public Service Inspectors in the way proposed, and thus bar their promotion, we shall take away one of the strongest incentives they have to do their duty faithfully. “ ‘
– This Bill will continue the prohibition, so far as the particular office of the Public Service Inspector is concerned.
– I admit that, i’n a sense, that is .so. I understand the honorable member to be referring to that provision which compels a Public Service Inspector to go out of his own State in order to get promotion; and I have no hesitation in saying that I regard that as a cruel and unnecessary restriction. Moreover, I think there is an underlying implication which is quite unworthy of the framers of the Bill. If we cannot trust an Inspector to do his duty in His own State, we cannot trust him to do his duty in any other State; and I do not think that the fact that he has to report on superior officers in his own State should debar him from any promotion which otherwise would be legitimately open. But this Bill provides that, if an Inspector desires to be, say, a Deputy Postmaster-General, or fill any other higher office, he can only do so by breaking up all his old associations, and transferring himself to some, perhaps, distant part of the Commonwealth. That, in itself, is an effectual bar to promotion, because no man, for the sake of, say, an increase of £100 ayear, would break up his home and associations. Surely we may trust our Inspectors who have lived all their official life under the eye of the Commissioner, and have done their work so faithfully and well as to earn the approval of the Minister. I am entirely in accord with that provision which opens the whole service to the Public Service Inspectors ; but I sincerely hope that the clause, which calls upon an Inspector to move from his own State before receiving promotion, will be expunged.
– I have indicated an amendment which will perhaps meet the case.
– A Public Service Inspector is immediately under the man who has to promote him.
– The Inspectors are there to be of assistance to the Public Service Commissioner.
– But there is a prominence given to an Inspector’s work which is not given to the work of other officials.
– Even so, such prominence is inseparable from the nature of the work an Inspector has to perform, and it should not prove a disability in the way of promotion.
– No, but even Public Service Commissioners are human !
– I do not quite see the bearing of these counsels of perfection. There is no reason to entertain the implied reflection, first, of want of capacity on the part of the Public Service Commissioner, and, next, of want of in tegrity and faithfulness on the part of the Public Service Inspectors. In my opinion, it would be a slur to. tie the Inspectors down in the way proposed ; the whole service ought to be left open, and the Public Service Commissioner trusted to do justice to, his assistants. With the reservation I have indicated, I support the Bill most cordially as one which ought to have been’ passed long ago. If there had been such a measure in operation sooner, it would have been a modicum of encouragement to a man who has left us altogether, after good and faithful service, but who was debarred just promotion by. reason of the provision in the original Act.
– If this Bill had been introduced for the purpose of allowing the Public Service Commissioner to have a well-earned holiday, I should have been entirely in favour of it. In my opinion, however, the Public ServiceInspectors are in much the same position as Judges, and, therefore, ought not to have the control of their own promotion.
– How can they be judges when they finally determine nothing without reference to the Public Service Commissioner ?
– Quite so; but it is absolutely impossible for the Public Service Commissioner to make himself acquainted with the whole ramifications of the service ; and, therefore, he has to act on the recommendations of his Inspectors.No doubt, in many cases of importance, or where he has any doubt, the Public Service Commissioner makes inquiries; but it would take years for him to make himself acquainted with all the details of the Public Service in the six States. As I said before, these Inspectors are the judges ; and, therefore, there is a doubt as to whether the Bill is desirable. I quite agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that, if Public Service Inspectors are to be eligible for other positions in other States, they ought to be eligible in their own State; but, as the Bill itself indicates, I think there is a danger in this connexion, because there might be an inducement for the Inspectors to provide billets for each other. As a matter of fact, I think that the whole system of Public Service inspection is wasteful and costly. After the Inspectors had been appointed for about four years, I moved for a return, which disclosed that the cost over that period amounted to £60,000, or £15,000 per annum, and that the only result has been to fill the service with discontent and irritation.
– I should say that the work had been done very cheaply.
– But what could not have been done with this money in the way of increasing the wages of the poorer paid public servants?
– That argument could be applied to any Public Service salary.
– But the Bill itself suggests that the Inspectors- are not to be trusted in higher positions in their own States ; and, if that be so, they cannot be trusted otherwise, because they may provide positions for each other. I sympathize with any effort to do all we can for the Public Service Commissioner, because I. think the overwork which he has had to face entitles him to a holiday ; but beyond that I am not prepared to go, and, consequently,I shall vote against the second reading of theBill.
.- The Honorary Minister said that this was a little Bill which he thought would meet with ready approval, inasmuch as it would make the conditions a little easier for public officers in certain positions. In my opinion, it is a Bill, the object of which is to make it easier for officers to evade their responsibilities. We can all indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta in reference to the Public Service Commissioner. That gentleman is a personal friend of mine, but that is no reason why I should lose sight of the difficulties which have arisen in the administration of his Department. We are fortunate in having the benefit of his services; and it would-be a great disadvantage if, in consequence of his being overworked, he were to leave his present position. At the same time, there is no necessity to grow wildly enthusiastic over a man who rightly performs his duty. The salary attached to the office is a good one, but if it is not enough let us make it higher. In my opinion, it is absurd that the Public Service Inspectors should receive less salary than do heads of Departments whom they are supposed in a way to supervise. If the salary be made commensurate with the responsibility, an Inspector will not be anxious to change his status ; and I think it is most dangerous to allow men who are placed in a positon; as it were, of Judges to be at liberty to chop and change. This Bill is to make it worth their while to remain Inspectors. If those who are in that office are doing their work well, the country cannot afford to lose their services at the end of a few years.
– Does the honorable member suggest that an Inspector should receive more than a Deputy PostmasterGeneral ?
– Decidedly. The Inspector is concerned, not merely with Postal administration, but also with Customs administration, and that of any other new Department which may be created.
– Then, by the honorable member’s reasoning, an Inspector should receive more than the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, who gets £1,200 a year.
– That is an extreme case: We have had a great deal of trouble because - so it is alleged- the Deputy PostmastersGeneral, who receive £900 a year each, have not been doing their work properly. The Inspectors are answerable for the proper administration of all the Departments, and they should be given salaries worthy of their offices, so that they will have no temptation to engineer themselves into other positions. As the honorable member for Hindmarsh has said, either it is a good thing that Inspectors shouldbe eligible for promotion or it is not; the paddockingoff provided for in the Bill, the arrangement whereby the New South Wales Inspector cannot be promoted in New South W ales, but may be promoted in some other State, is unreasonable . If it would be a good thing to make Inspectors eligible for promotion, they should be eligible for promotion in any State. But it cannot be denied that the Inspectors have the earof the Commissioner, and could virtually bring about their own promotions. . What would there be to prevent them from ringing the changes from State to State for their own benefit ?
– The Deputy PostmastersGeneral are appointed by the Cabinet.
– The honorable member revolves between Inspector and Deputy Postmaster-General. It is not merely the position of Deputy Postmaster-General that is affected. There are other high offices to which Inspectors could be promoted if eligible. If the Bill were passed as it stands, what would there be to prevent an arrangement between the Inspectors . to secure promotion when opportunity offered in States other than that in which they were serving ? I am in favour of that portion of the measure which would enable a deputy to be appointed to relieve the Commissioner, should he need a holiday or be unable for some reason to do his work. But if the abilities of the Inspectors are so great that they ought to be, in the public interest, promoted to higher offices, why not allow them to resign one day and be appointed the next?
– Under what law could the vacancy thus created be filled ?
– We do not see the puisne Judges working among themselves for promotion, and I am altogether opposed to Inspectors being promoted. They should form a department of their own, and be able to aspire only to the blue ribbon of the Commissionership. If the salaries now paid are not sufficient to induce good men to continue to act as Inspectors, the service must suffer, and we should increase the remuneration.
– Then the honorable member would not allow a Deputy PostmasterGeneral to be made Commissioner?
– Who fills the higher position, the New South Wales Inspector or the New South . Wales Deputy PostmasterGeneral ?
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral has heavier responsibilities in every way.
– I think that the Inspectors should have no opportunity for promotion, except to the Commissionership, and I am willing that their salaries should be increased if that is proved to be necessary to keep good men. I am, of course, in favour of allowing the appointment of an Inspector to act as Deputy Public Service Commissioner when occasion arises.
.- The Bill should be entitled “ A Bill to give the plums of the Public Service to the Inspectors.”, The Railways Commissioners of the States are appointed for specified terms, at fixed salaries, with no claim to a transfer to any other position in the Service. What would be thought if a Bill were introduced in a State Parliament to enable these Commissioners to appoint themselves to the positions of traffic manager, secretary, or any other permanency ? This Bill, however, practically makes it possible for the Public Service Inspectors to arrange for their promotion to the highest positions, even over the heads of men. who have been instructed that by good conduct and ability they may in time climb to the top of the ladder. Every application for promotion goes through the Inspectors to the Commissioner, who must be. guided largely by their recommendations.
– Under the Act, they can be promoted to any position in the Public Service.
– No. The Bill is the result of an attempt to make an Inspector a Deputy Postmaster-General, and, in my opinion, if passed, would inflict a grave injustice on the whole service. It would practically enable the Inspectors to appoint themselves.
– No; an Inspector could not be promoted in his own State.
– Is not that provision an admission that an Inspector might arrange for his own promotion, and could it not be evaded by an arrangement between the Inspectors? If it were passed, it might be a case of “ You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”
– An Inspector can recommend only.
– As a rule, that is sufficient. If the Inspectors are not paid enough, the emoluments of the office should be increased. There is no objection to allow an Inspector, when necessary, to act as the deputy of the Public Service Commissioner; but the proposition that the Inspectors should be eligible for promotion over the heads of men who may be their seniors, is astounding. Promotion in the Service depends on seniority and merit. What encouragement will the men in the next grade to the Deputy PostmastersGeneral have to exert every effort if we make it possible for the Inspectors to be promoted over their heads? These Inspectors, having secured six of the chief plums in the service, their successors will be able to do the same. My contention is that a Public Service Inspector occupies a judicial position, and is called upon to hold the balance fairly between the various applicants for promotion in the Service.
– Why should the Inspectors not be eligible for other positions ?
– When they accepted their present positions they knew that they would be called upon, under ordinary circumstances, to occupy them for a certain number of years. Their position is analogous to that of the Railways Commissioners of the States, who are appointed for a term of years, and have no guarantee that they will be re-appointed at the end of that period. It would be just as reasonable for a State Government to propose to make the Railways Commissioners of that State eligible for any position in the Service as it is for the Government to ask us to make these Inspectors eligible for other positions in the Commonwealth Service.
– Why should not the Inspectors be eligible for appointment to any other position for. which they have the requisite qualifications?
– Because a cadet, entering the Service, does so in the belief that he has an opportunity to climb to the top of the tree.
– An Inspector may have been a cadet in the Service.
– In some cases the Inspectors were not cadets in the Service.
– I think that generally they were.
– There is not much inducement for a good man to accept the position of Inspector when it is provided that, by so doing, he shall forfeit his old right of appointment to other positions.
– These men knew what were the conditions under which they were to be appointed. The point that I wish to make is that when applications are made for appointment to any position in the Service, these officers have to report upon the qualifications of the candidates; and that they might be called upon to report upon the ability of applicants for a position for which they themselves were applying.
– Many of the higher positions for which they would apply would be created only by the Cabinet.
– The Cabinet cannot create a position in the Service except upon the recommendation of the Public Service Commissioner, and he is largely guiued by the recommendations of his Inspectors. These officers are continually under the notice of the Commissioner, and he has better opportunities of judging of their capabilities than he has of determining the fitness of officers in other Departments for promotion. Men equally as capable as these Inspectors never come under the notice of the Commissioner, and the fact that it is thought necessary to introduce this Bill points to the possibility of an Inspector practically appointing himself to another position in the Service in his own State.
– Does not the honorable member recognise that he is reflecting, not so much upon the Inspectors, as upon the Commissioner ?
– I am not. I merely point out that the Commissioner, in making an appointment, is largely guided by the recommendations of the Inspectors. I hold a very strong opinion upon this question, and’ shall vote against the second reading of the Bill.
. -In common with other honorable members who have addressed themselves to this question, I recognise that the Public Service Commissioner has’ worked hard, and needs a holiday. It is not because I begrudge him some relaxation that I intend to oppose this Bill. I believe that the Commissioner and the Inspectors discharge their duties to the best of their ability, andthat they are unbiased. But at the same time they have done much of which I disapprove. It is with some diffidence that I refer to what took place recently in connexion with the appointment of a. Deputy Postmaster-General for Victoria, because a gentleman who was recommended for appointment, but was ineligible for the position, has since passed away. But the fact remains that he was more prominently under the notice of the Commissioner than was any other applicant for the position. He was with him day after day, and the Commissioner had an opportunity of judging his capabilities, which was not open to him in respect of other candidates. I do. not deny that he was a capable man, but there were in the Department officers senior to him who were equally capable of satisfactorily discharging the duties of Deputy Postmaster-General. Whilst I do not think that seniority should count in every case, it seems to me that, all things being nearly equal it should. If seniority is not to-be taken into consideration in filling vacancies in the Service; our public servants will have no incentive to work assiduously in their respective Departments. I agree with the honorable member for Dalley that the Inspectors ought to be removed from temptation ; they should be removed from the possibility of being called upon to report to the Commissioner upon the fitness of candidates for positions for which they may themselves be applicants. If it is necessary to raise their salaries let us do so; but who would dreamof a Judge being able to appoint himself to a higher position?
– These Inspectors cannot appoint themselves.
– As Inspectors they might have to report to the Commissioner on the fitness of other applicants for a position in the Service to which they aspired. That might occur under this Bill. When the opportunity offers I shall endeavour to bring about a different system. Many years ago in Victoria an Attorney-General retired from office to take the position of a Justice of the Supreme Court. He was a politician, and appointed himself to the Bench: Many cases of favoritism might be cited. When we are closely associated with a man, and recognise that he is capable of filling a certain position, we are prone to give him a preference over others of whom we know nothing, but who may really possess better qualifications.
– Would the honorable member debar a Postal Inspector from obtaining preferment in his own State?
– Yes; and from obtaining preferment in any other State . The office of Commissioner should be the only promotion open to a Public Service Inspector, and the Inspectors should be fitting themselves by experience to fill that position.
– Would the honorable member apply the same reasoning to services within a State? Would he say, for instance, that Postal Inspectors in one State should be called upon to go to another State to secure preference ?
– The difference between Postal Inspectors and Public Service Inspectors is that the former have some one in authority over them, whilst- :
– So have the Public Service Inspectors.
– No; they have independent statutory positions.
– No parallel can be drawn between the position of a Public Service Commissioner’s Inspector and that of any other officer in the Service, I have no desire that officers in the Public Service Commissioner’s office should be placed at a disadvantage, but at the same time I fail to see why they should enjoy anadvantage over men in other branches of the Service. Some time ago a messenger was required for one of the Ministerial Departments at a salary of£2 5s. or 10s. per week, and hundreds of officers in the Service applied for the position. Some of the applicants had served twenty-two years in the
Post and Telegraph Department, but a young man whose position had brought hint immediately under the eye of the Commissioner was appointed. Ido not wish to suggest that he was not a thoroughly capable officer, but at the same time he was junior to many other applicants.
– Does the honorable member expect that it would be possible in any service to stop that kind of thing? The illustration given by him shows that, despite all we may do, there is an element of human nature everywhere.
– But we should do what we can to minimize it.
– The fact that the young man in question was junior to some of the other applicants is no evidence that he was not the ablest.
– It certainly does not prove that he was the most eligible person for the position. Does not the honorable member see the point which I am endeavouring to make ? I do not doubt the honesty of purpose of the Public Service Commissioner, who has certainly worked so hard that he richly deserves a holiday. But I contend that many things are done by his Department which do not reflect that degree of intelligence that we have a right to expect. Only to-day the fact was brought under my notice that a number of telegraph line repairers - men who have been accustomed tohard mechanical work ever since they were nine years of age - have been asked to pass an educational examination. That fact does not redound to the credit of the Department. It is not customary to compel manual labourers to undergo an educational examination. Whilst it is true that in the old days, when political patronage was rampant, there was unrest in the Public Service of the States, I maintain that there is more unrest in the Commonwealth Public Service to-day. I know that officers who have consistently applied themselves to the faithful discharge of their duties in the hope of securing advancement, find all their efforts unrewarded because they do not happen to come under the eye of the Commissioner. A radical change in the whole system of administration is needed. I contend that if this Bill be passed the. existing condition of affairs will be made worse. Personally, I would prefer to see a measure introduced which would rank the Public Service Inspectors next to the Commissioner, and which would give them salaries commensurate with the work which they perform. But I would certainly prevent them from supplanting officers of whose fitness for their positions they are the judges.
– They cannot do that under this Bill.
– It is a fact that officers in the Public Service are frequently promoted over the heads of others who should have secured the vacant positions.
– The Public Service Act provides for the promotion of officers by merit, and not by seniority.
-An intelligible plan would be for the Commissioner - whenever a vacancy occurs - to notify in the Commonwealth Gazette that a certain officer has been nominated for the position, and to afford any officer who feels aggrieved an opportunity to prove his fitness for the office.
– But the men with a grievance are legion.
– Are not men with grievances very often right?
– Yes, and very frequently they are not fitted for the positions to which they aspire.
-In my judgment there is not that great disparity between the abilities of most men which some honorable members would have us believe. . No harm could result from the adoption by the Commissioner of the plan which I suggest.
– Oh, oh !
– The honorable member for Robertson laughs, but I may tell him that there are men in our Public Service to-day who are breaking their hearts because officers no more qualified than themselves have been promoted to positions over their heads. Further, there are officers who have made up their minds to do nothing more than their bare duty.
– No wonder that they do not receive promotion.
– I suppose the honorable member will admit that there is a limit to human patience. Men will not go on for ever, hoping against hope. I recollect an occasion in Victoria, upon which one of our Supreme. Court Judges thought that he had a right - by reason of his seniority and fitness - to be appointed to the vacant position of Chief Justice. When lie was waited upon by a newspaper reporter, he said that the fact that he had not secured the appointment was enough to make a man say that he would do no more than his bare duty.
– Who said that ?
– Mr. Justice Williams.
– When a Supreme Court Judge experiences feelings of that sort, is it reasonable to expect public servants, occupying much lower positions, to feel their disappointments less keenly? Under such circumstances, can we wonder that discontent exists in the Service? The only way in which we can overcome that discontent, is by making the Department which controls promotions as able as we possibly can. While I do not wish to revert to the old system of political patronage, I say that weought to make a serious effort to perfect the existing system. I intend to oppose this little Bill, because it is not the full measure that ought to be submitted for the betterment of the Public Service.
.- I fail to recognise any necessity for passing this Bill at the present juncture. Undoubtedly, there are aspects of the question with which it seeks to deal, which require careful thought if an equitable adjustment is to be made in the interests of all those who will be affected by it. I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that under it officers who are looking forward to promotion to which they are justly entitled, will have their opportunities for securing that promotion seriously curtailed by the introduction of six additional competitors.
– But the Bill will permit of six promotions to the office of Inspector.
– And the six new Inspectors may afterwards be appointed to six other positions.
– Then the Bill permits of a move up, generally.
– It dees not. If the honorable member were a public servant, who had faithfully discharged his duties, he would feel that his opportunity for obtaining advancement was seriously curtailed if six fresh and powerful competitors were brought into the field. I do not see any reason for urgency in connexion with this Bill. Honorable members are aware that the Government have decided to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the Post Office, and it may happen that when that Commission has completed its labours, the whole position will be changed. In face of the fact that alterations are likely to be suggested in consequence of the investigations about to take place; it is injudicious to press a Bill of this kind which is not absolutely necessary, at this juncture, but which might .well’ be passed when we have had the recommendations of the Royal Commission placed before us. There may be a desire on the part of the Government to give some assistance to the Public Service Commissioner, but there is no need for a Bill to that end, seeing that the Commissioner, under the present law, can appoint whom he may require to enable him to faithfully carry out his trust. That being so - as I am informed by the Law officers of the Crown - there can only be one reason for introducing this Bill, namely, to throw open positions which are now closed to the Public Service Inspectors. However, in view of the forthcoming inquiry by a Commission, I have no desire to discuss these matters. Any Royal Commission worthy of its name should be able to make recommendations for the proper settlement . of this among other questions; and it is quite possible that anything we do to-day might be rendered absolutely useless in the light of investigation.
.- I quite agree that there is no urgent necessity for this Bill in the closing hours of the session. *It never would have been brought before the House .but for the evident influence of high-grade officers who have the ear of the Minister. This Bill has been introduced in the interests and for the benefit of the Public Service Commissioner and the Inspectors, who, although they occupy high and important positions, claim that they suffer under disabilities an3 have certain grievances. I venture to say, however, that there are many hundreds, and probably thousands, of workers in the Post and Telegraph Department who suffer under much more serious. disabilities. I now speak on behalf of the hundreds and thousands of those who are subject to the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commissioner and the Inspectors, and who have been crying out in vain for redress for years past. There is no urgency for a Bill the only object of which is to redress the grievances of, and give advantages to, high-grade officers, while the rank and file have to wait for the report of the Royal Commission. Within the last few days I and other honorable members have had brought under our attention disabilities imposed. on officers such as line repairers, monitors in the telephone exchanges, telegraph operators, letter sorters and carriers, who complain of the unfairness of the regulations enforced by the Commissioner. . I waited . ons the Postmaster-General last night, in company with other honorable members, but we were informed that he is powerless to give redress even in cases the injustice of which he admits. Most of the grievances in the Department are traceable to the manner in which the Public Service Commissioner hasexercised his powers, and certainly his complaints should not be given priority over the complaints of others who have to wait for the appointment of a Royal Commission. I hope that Commission will be appointed promptly, and will at once proceed to take the evidence’ of workers in the Department in order that justice may be done to the Commissioner, the Inspectors, and all concerned. I quite agree with the honorable member for Gwydir that there is no urgency for this Bill.
– I also agree with the honorable member for Bendigo that there is no urgency for this Bill, nor, indeed, for one or two other measures which the Government propose to introduce in the- closing hours of the session. But there have been some remarks made which, if they were allowed to pass in silence, might lead to the conclusion that the present system of supervision of the Service does not meet with the approval of Parliament. I have had experience both of the political system and of the system adopted under the Public Service Act ; and in the interests of the Service and of the community, I should be sorry to see a- return to the former.
– No one proposes such a thing.
– Quite so ;. but remarks were made this afternoon, particularly by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, which constitute a suggestion in that direction, although that honorable member did not actually express any desire for- the change. The honorable member attacked the policy of acknowledging merit, and of not being altogether guided by seniority in the matter of promotion. But we deliberately embodied the principle of promotion by merit in the Public Service Act ; and, if” properly administered, there is no doubt that that is a just system, of advantage,- not only to those in the Service, but to the community generally.
– It is not infallible.
– Of course, not; nobody could manage a large Service of this kind and not make errors sometimes. Promotion by merit, however, naturally causes complaint, because officers consider themselves aggrieved in being passed over. We all know that the opinion a man has of himself is, perhaps, higher than that which would be acknowledged by other people, and we cannot expect a public servant to quietly submit to the conclusion that he” is not equal to some one who may have been promoted over him. But if we abandon the system adopted under the Commonwealth - if we revert to the old method of advancement simply by seniority - we shall largely destroy the usefulness of our Public Service. If it is true, as stated by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that men who feel themselves to be aggrieved in this way have declared that they will take no further interest in their work, and will only do what they are compelled to do, we shall have to deal with the Service in a more drastic manner than hitherto. However, I do not think there is much of that spirit throughout the Public Service ; at any rate, I hope not. We are here, of course, to effect reforms, but I wish to indicate that the remarks which have fallen from some honorable members, and which seem to reflect on the present system and to show a desire to abandon it, do not find acceptancewith all honorable members. I should be sorry, indeed, if such a feeling were allowed to grow’. It has been said that the Commissioner is . apt to have his judgment influenced because certain individuals come immediately under his notice, and to give them preference over others equally able. But the Public Service Commissioner has Inspectors and heads of Departments to advise him, and he is therefore in a much Better position than any member of Parliament, who cannot possibly be able to judge an individual officer by comparison with others. The political system under which the Public Service has been conducted in the past must have created more injustice than does the present system.
– I do not believe it.
– I have had experience of both systems.
– So have I.
– The honorable member for Boothby knows that when we passed the Public Service Act we deliberately inserted a provision that promotion should- not depend entirely on seniority, but that merit should be considered. Did the honorable member expect that any public servant would admit that his merit was inferior to that of his fellows ?
– That principle was acted on in some of the States before Federationit is not a discovery - and the old system caused less trouble.
– Immediately such a principle is acted upon, however, there must be complaints of overlooking or unfair treatment.
– There will be such complaints, under any circumstances.
– But these complaints are made the text for an attack on the system. I can tell the honorable member for Boothby that under the old system of political patronage I have seen Departments so overmanned that the heads have declared that they . did not know what to do with the men sent to them. Of course the men who were appointed were satisfied, but such a policy cannot be in the interests of the country. Such men usually were in the first instance appointed as temporary hands.
– The honorable member is describing the other extreme.
– What I have described led to the adoption of the Commissioner system. There were men in the New South Wales service who had been there as temporary hands for as long as twenty-five years. The best officers in the Service were as disgusted with that state of affairs as was the public when it was discovered. At first, loud complaints were raised about the injustice done under the Commissioner system, and the Act was resisted ; but when it was seen that there must be a submission toits provisions, and that every effort was being made to administer it fairly, officers became more contented, and the Public Service is now in a better and more satisfactory position, so far as both officers and the public are concerned: We may have to amend the Public Service Act, because Parliament is not infallible. Nor is the Public Service Commissioner infallible, especially when dealing, as he has had to do, with new Commonwealth services ; though I recognise the honesty and zeal of the present Commissioner. I hope that the attacks which have been made on the present system will not be taken as an indication of the opinion of Parliament. I believe that a large majority is opposed to going back to the old political system, with promotion by seniority or favoritism.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mahon) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from1 st June, vide page 11784) :
Clause 10 -
Whoever, by act or omission, dissuades or prevents any witness from obeying a summons under this Act, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
Penalty : Two years’ imprisonment.
Upon which Mr. Wilson had moved -
That the words “by act or omission” be left out.
.- When we were last dealing with the Bill, it was argued that the retention of the words proposed to be omitted might lead to a man being severely punished for a mere act of inadvertence, and some of us could not understand how an act of omission could dissuade any person from obeying a summons. I think that the amendment should be agreed to, and the words, “ whoever indirectly or directly “ inserted in the place of those omitted. The Attorney -General explained that the clause is to meet the case of an employer omitting to give permission to an -employe to obey a summons.
– I gave that as one illustration.
– A person offending against the clause, even unintentionally, may be sent to gaol.
– There must be a guilty mind.
– The insertion of the word “knowingly” would get over the difficulty.
– If the amendment is negatived, I am willing to agree to the insertion of the word “knowingly.”
Amendment (by Mr. Johnson) agreed to-
That after the word “omission,” the word “ knowingly “ be inserted.
Amendment (by Mr. Johnson) proposed -
That the words “Two years’,” ‘line5, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ One year’s.”
.- The clause at present creates an offence of a very serious grade; but I think that” in this and some other instances, instead of providing for trial by indictment in a Court of criminal jurisdiction, before a. Judge and jury, it would be better to. let the case be dealt with by a Court of summary jurisdiction.
– A Committee having been appointed to inquire into something which Parliament deems worthy of investigation, and persons having been summoned to attend and give evidence,it becomes a serious thing for any one to knowingly prevent them from attending.
– The punishment equals the offence.
-In the Canadian criminal code, the punishment for dissuading a witness from attending a Court of justice is two years’ imprisonment; but I am prepared to reduce the term in this instance to one year. This is a highly important provision. It should not be within the power of any individual to prevent or block a parliamentary investigation, but we know what influences might be brought to bear to prevent a person appearing as a witness before a parliamentary Committee. I am prepared to agree to the amendment reducing the term of imprisonment from two years to one year, but I ask the Committee, subject to that amendment, to adopt the clause.
– I think that the penalty provided is altogether too severe.
– The clause merelyprovides the maximum penalty. An offender may be imprisoned for only a day.
– It provides that an offender may be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years, or, as proposed to be amended, twelve months.
– But under the Acts Interpretation Act the penalty named will be the maximum.
.- Will this clause apply to every person in the community? For instance, every one is presumed to have the right to take legal advice, and a solicitor might advise a client summoned to appear before a parliamentary Committee of inquiry that there was some defect connected with the appointment of the Committee, and that he ought not to attend.
– It would be necessary to prove guilty knowledge.
– Take the case of a man who feels that his business interests - apart altogether from the particular matter into which the Committee before which he is summoned to appear is inquiring - might be jeopardized if a roving Committee - and that is what parliamentary. Committees often are - were allowed to examine him in regard to all sorts of matters not appertaining to the issue before them. He accordingly consults a solicitor, who, after investigation, comes to the conclusion that theCommittee has not been properly appointed, and says to his client, “ If I were you I should not appear before the Committee.” In that case he would have dissuaded the man from appearing.
-No, he would simply have given an opinion.
– Then any member of. the community might advise a man not to appear before a parliamentary Committee? A parliamentary Committee, unlike a court of justice, is almost invariably, composed of laymen, whose questions may range over a number of topics altogether foreign to the issue at stake.
– And there is no Judge to stop them.
– And no procedure to limit their questions to certain lines.
– This clause relates, not to thepersonnel of a Committeeof Commission; but to the act of a person who persuades a witness not to appear before a Committer.
– We should consider this clause very carefully, having regard to the personnel of these Committees, as a rule, before deciding to pass it.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 -
If any witness refuses without just cause . to answer any question put to him … he shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
Penalty: Two years’ imprisonment.
.- This is a very drastic provision. If the Committees were guided by the ordinary principles of procedure that obtain in Courts of law, there could beno objection to a proposition of this character.. But Parliamentary Committees under the Bill have no line of procedure laid down. I should like honorable members to remember what are the ordinary lines of procedure followed by Select Committees appointed by this House. A Select Committee is appointed, and in turn appoints its chairman. Then the customary rule is for not only the chairman, but every other member of the Committee, to put to a witness whatever questions he sees fit. Only once have I had the honourof serving on a Select Com mittee, and I shall be very careful never again to undergo that somewhat lengthy and embarrassing duty. These Select Committees, in three cases out of four, have a most clumsy way of arriving at their information. They ask questions very often all round the subject that they are appointed to investigate. In the particular instance to which I refer, the chairman allowed every member of the Committee - and there were ten or twelve of them - to ask questions. There was no presiding judge to say whether or not a question was pertinent to the issue, and any lay member of that Committee was free to let his intelligence roam as widely as he thought fit. The result was that it took us a considerable time to obtain information which a Court of law would probably have obtained in one afternoon. Under this clause, a witness who refuses to answer a question put to him by a Committee or by any member of a Committee before which he is summoned, may be found guilty of an indictable offence, and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. Any lay member of this House, under this clause, could ask an unfortunate victim brought before a Committee of which he was a member, any question he pleased appertaining or not to the issue to be investigated, and if that man refused to answer questions pertinent or not pertinent to the issue, he might be sent to gaol for two years. We are not serving best the dignity or the interests of Parliament by proceeding in this insane and ridiculous way. I certainly think that there ought to be power to put witnesses before Committees upon oath - to take their evidence upon oath - and that if these witnesses broke their oaths they should be dealt with under the ordinary laws of the country relating to perjury.
– And if they would not answer any question ?
– If they refuse to answer a question pertaining to the issue, I have no objection to their coming under any maximum penalty which this House sees fit to impose. But there is no guarantee that the questions asked of an unfortunate witness before a Parliamentary Committee will be pertinent. In view of these facts, I think that whilst anxious to maintain our own dignity, we shall show a singular disregard for the ordinary rights of the general members of the community in passing such a clause as that now before us. The Bill is one that the Ministry might well hold over.
– Let us get on.
– My honorable friend, who used so ably to lead the Labour Party, is no doubt anxious, as many honorable members of that party are, to have these provisions passed into law, because they will enable all sorts of fishing inquiries to be held outside the immediate compass of the inquiries authorized by Parliament. It may be an excellent thing if any one has no information, and is anxious to obtain it, to enable honorable members to ask a witness any question they please.
-Then the Opposition do not want information.
– We want pertinent information ; but I have had enough experience of Parliamentary Committees to know that half the questions asked by them are not pertinent to the inquiries they are appointed to make.
– Is there a similar penalty in any other Act?
– The Queensland criminal code provides for a similar penalty.
– Not in regard to witnesses before a Parliamentary Committee.
– In regard to parliamentary inquiries. A penalty is also imposed in the case of witnesses before Royal Commissions who refuse to give evidence. the inquiry of a Select Committee to the question at issue, I think it is highly desirable that this “extremely drastic provision should be eliminated. Honorable members should be afforded some opportunity to reflect upon a proposal of this character.
– The Bill has been before honorable members for seven or eight weeks.
– In the closing hours of the session, when every honorable member desires to get home, it is extraordinary that an attempt should be made to push a measure of this kind through the House. I merely desire to safeguard the rights of the general community.
– The penalty provided in this clause is exactly the same as that contained in the Queensland criminal code, which was drafted by Sir Samuel Griffith.
– Why not insert the words “pertinent to the issue involved”?
– Probably the AttorneyGeneral is disposed to accept the suggestion of the right honorable member for Swan. I, therefore, move -
That after the word “question,” line 2, the words “ pertinent to the issue involved” be inserted.
– But not a penalty of two years’ imprisonment.
– Then why impose such a penalty in this case?
– I did not put it in.
– Who did ?
– The Senate.
– Surely the honorable member must accept responsibility for this Bill.
– The honorable member must be aware that this Bill was drafted by a Committee of the Senate, and that it has been passed by the Senate.
– But the honorable member must take the responsibility for it?
– I do. Does the honorable member think that no penalty should be imposed on a witness who refuses to answer questions ?
– A penalty should not be imposed on a man who refuses to answer a question that is not pertinent to the issue.
– Whom does the honorable member desire to decide what is or what is not pertinent? The witness?
– Seeing that this Bill makes no provision whatever for confining
.- The Select Committee, whose report was adopted to-day, recommended that this Bill should be passed with amendments. One of its recommendations was that Select Committees should be empowered to compel witnesses to answer questions, so long as they were relevant to the issue involved. The amendment of the honorable member for Wentworth might fairly be accepted by theAttorney- General. Select Committees merely desire the power to enforce replies to questions which are relevant to the issue involved.
– I will agree to the insertion of the word “ relevant,” which is the word used in the Queensland Act.
– I cannot see that any harm would result from the insertion of the words proposed by the honorable member for Wentworth. Let us suppose that a Select Committee were appointed to inquire into a charge of bribery.
– But it might be appointed to investigate the doings of a trust.
– In that case, the inquiry, under judicial guidance, could be restricted within reasonable limits.
– But there might not be any issue involved.
– There is always an issue involved. I regard this clause as the crux of the Bill, and it is impossible to eliminate it without destroying the. measure. Therefore, the provision, with reasonable limitations, ought to be adopted.
– I can see that difficulties may possibly arise if we insert the words proposed by the honorable member for Wentworth. Honorable members will recognise that Select Committees are appointed for many purposes. For instance, one was appointed to inquire into the working of the Electoral Act. In that case, there was really no issue involved in the strict sense of the word. Every question that is put to a witness by the members of a Select Committee ought to be relevant to the inquiry that is being made.
– A witness ought not to be sent to gaol for refusing to answer a question which is not relevant to the inquiry.
– I am quite prepared to agree to the insertion after “ any “ of the words “ lawful or relevant.”
– Does not the AttorneyGeneral see that if we insert those words a difficulty may arise in connexion with the cross-examination of a witness, because irrelevant questions are allowable in cross-examination ?.
– But the general function of a Select Committee is to ascertain the truth. I am willing to agree to the insertion of the words contained in the Queensland criminal code, section 58, which reads -
Any person who being present before either House of Parliament or before a Committee of cither House authorized to summon witnesses, refuses to answer any lawful and relevant question, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.
– What was the object of omitting those words?
-This Bill was presented by a Select Committee.
– But the AttorneyGeneral can improve it now.
– I am endeavouring to do so.
– It is taking the honorable gentleman a long time to do so.
.- The Attorney-General has requested me to withdraw my amendment, and to agree to the insertion of the words “ lawful or relevant,” upon the ground that Select Committees are sometimes appointed when there is no issue involved. If that be so, I cannot understand the meaning of the term “ relevant.” The honorable gentleman has said that Committees are occasionally appointed for no ostensible purpose.
– He. says that they are appointed when there is no issue involving either an affirmative or a negative finding.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral abandon his conservative ideas?
– I think that I am treating the Committee fairly by agreeing to the insertion of the words contained in the Queensland Statute, which has been most carefully drawn.
– I confess that I was surprised to hear the statement of the Attorney; General that Select Committees are sometimes appointed for no definite purpose. Does the Attorney-General foresee any contingency arising where a Committee might be appointed with no definite purpose in view - merely a fishing inquiry?
– I do not like to cast any reflection on Parliament ; because I think it has sufficient sense to authorize Committees to conduct reasonable inquiries.
– That of course is very safe ground for the honorable gentleman; and I do not see why I should be overwhelmed with sarcasm !
– If the honorable member will give me an illustration I shall answer the question.
– I am merely asking the Minister whether he can foresee such a contingency, and he asks me if I can name a case. For instance, a Committee might be appointed to inquire generally into the conditions of the people of Australia, which is surely a commission wide enough for the asking of almost any question ; and I should prefer such a Committee not to have the power given by such a drastic clause as this. In a case such as that of the recent gross slanders by the Sydney Bulletin on the integrity of the House as a whole,. I could understand the usefulness of such a clause. However, I see that it is of no use trying to get anything more from the Minister than he now promises, and, therefore, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I do not like to see this Bill pressed now, because, in my opinion, it goes beyond all precedent furnished in the Old Country. If I am not mistaken this measure originated in a Bill introduced in another place by Senator Neild three or four years ago, that Bill in turn being suggested, i believe, by an Act passed in England in consequence of there being a doubt whether the House of Commons had the power of the House of Lords, as a Court of Judicature, to administer oaths. That Act in England, however, does not go the length of theBill before us. In May it is laid down-
At length, in 187 1, in pursuance of the recommendations of a Select Committee of 1869, Act 34 and 35 Vict. c. 83 was passed, empowering the House of Commons and its committees to administer oaths to witnesses, and attaching to false evidence the penalties of perjury. . . . It is not usual, however, for Select Committees to examine witnesses upon oath, except upon inquiries of a judicial or other special character.
If we do not abuse these great powers all will be right; but I think the custom at Home is not to administer the oath to witnesses before Select Committees.
– But there is no power to administer the oath here.
– I may be wrong on the point; but, if I am not mistaken, the powers we have are those of the House of Commons, and there, under the Imperial Act, a Select Committee has power to administer oaths. Clause 49 of the Constitution is as follows : -
The powers, privileges, and immunities of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, and of the members of the committees of each House shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and of its members and committees, at the establishment of the Commonwealth.
I think that that clinches the matter, and the extract from May shows that the House of Commons has the power, and that, therefore, we also have the power. Why pass a Bill, which, from beginning to end, is riddled with ridiculous penalties? I do not believe that there is a Parliamentary Committee or a Court of Judicature in the British Empire which has the powers proposed to be given by this Bill. It is all very well for the Attorney-General to say that this is a copy of the. Queensland Act ; but the. moment his attention was drawn to the matter, he had to confess that two most material words had been dropped out of the clause, not by the Government,but apparently by some private member, whose view has been accepted, is there a court anywhere which has statutory power to impose two years’ . imprisonment with hard labour - because imprisonment, according to the Acts Interpretation Act, involves hard labour - on a witness for not answering a question in relation to which he would in any ordinary proceedings be entitled to claim privilege. It is all very well to say that this is a private Bill, but, in my opinion, it involves serious limitations of the liberty of the subject. We are too much inclined, with our supersensitiveness in regard to our dignity, to encroach on the liberties of the people we represent ; and personally, I should like to see the Bill suspended until it is really necessary. It is to be deplored that, with such little consideration as we have given to this matter - although a Bill was before us last year and shelved as too extreme - we should be called upon at this hour of the session to pass this measure into law. In the clause as it stands a witness may be asked a question which would- criminate him, and, although he may claim privilege, he is compelled to answer it, and. unless he shows good cause - to be determined by what tribunal I know not- he may be arraigned. I know that there is a passage in May which declares that it is doubtful whether, on the examination of a witness, privilege may be claimed. A man was before an Imperial Select Committee as the writer of an article, and when he was asked a question he claimed privilege, because, if he answered it, he might be prosecuted. In all matters affecting criminal offences, attended with such a severe penalty as this, the position ought to be set out clearly.
– Where is the urgency for the Bill?
– I see. none; because, as I have said before, we possess all the powers of the House of Commons under the Imperial Act.
– But not the power to make a witness answer questions.
– I can only refer the honorable member to the extract from May which I have already read. I know that the President of the Senate, when the Bill was introduced there two or three years ago, took the stand that I am now taking, namely, that it was not necessary.
– Senator Baker signed the report of the Committee which presented the former Bill on the 23rd November,
– I have not the dates before me, but I know that Senator Baker expressed the opinion, either from the chair or on the floor of the Senate, that the Bill was unnecessary, and he relied on the very passage from May that I have quoted.
– That may have been subsequently; but in the report of the previous Committee it is stated that although there was the power, it was considered that the time of Parliament should not be taken up, but that Courts should be constituted to adjudicate.
– I am quite right in what I have said. This Bill can only cure an inconvenience in the way of obtaining permission from the House to administer oaths. But the power does exist in the House to allow Select Committees to examine witnesses, and compel them to attend and answer.
– Mr. Chairman,-
– Move the adjournment of the debate.
– No; I think this Bill ought to go through. It is necessary that Select Committees should be given the. proper power and authority to conduct investigations referred to them. A joint Committee of both Houses has reported today that in conducting inquiries intended to vindicate the honour of Parliament, its action has been absolutely paralyzed by the absence of power to administer oaths and compel witnesses to answer questions; and that report has been adopted by the House. I was advised at the beginning of the inquiry, by officers of this Parliament, that we could not administer the oath, and I do not, believe we have effective power to do so ; above all, we have not the power to compel witnesses, however they may outrage the dignity of Parliament, by slander and libel, to answer questions and disgorge the names of their informants.
– We have the powers of the House of Commons.
– We have not the necessary power. The House of Commons may have certain statutory power, but I donot believe that all the power it possesses belongs to us. Without this Bill a prosecution may break down, and the whole proceedings of Parliament end in indignity and shame.
– I cannot understand why honorable members are blocking this Bill. We are told that we have all the powers of the House of Commons, and that the House of Commons has the power we ask for; and if that be so, what objection can there be to the Bill, which at the very outside only makes us doubly sure ? Some time ago a Select Committee inquired ‘ into the circumstances attending the presentation of a bogus petition. We ascertained the author of the false signatures, and the names of those associated with him ; but the proceedings ended in a fiasco, because we had not the power to go further. We do not wish to continue a waste of time by the appointment of Committees which can do nothing, or allow the perpetrators of offences to laugh in their sleeves because of the knowledge that they cannot be punished. We cannot do injustice in’ merely making sure that we have the power which honorable members say we have.
Mr.FAIRBAIRN (Fawkner) [8.26].- 1 was a member of two Select Committees appointed by. the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, and found . the witnesses who were examined most anxious to answer any question, reasonable or unreasonable.
– A Committee appointed by the State Parliament may have powers which a Committee appointed by this Parliament would not’ possess.
– Such a Committee would not have greater powers than a Committee of this House. The clause practically creates a new crime. The present Attorney-General does not take advantage of our Acts to make criminals; but he may be followed by one who will do so, and harsh laws are apt to make bad men. I do not think that a witness should be liable to two years’ imprisonment for refusing to answer any question that may be put to him.
– To meet that objection, I move -
That after the word “ any,” line 2, the words “lawful and relevant” be inserted.
– What is the meaning of “ lawful “ in this connexion? Does it mean anything more than relevant?
– A Select Committee having been appointed to make a certain inquiry, questions within the scope of that inquiry would be lawful.
– The use of the word “lawful” might excuse a witnessfrom replying to a question whento do so might incriminate him.
– Why insert a word the meaning of which is doubtful ?
– There is no real doubt as to the meaning of the words whose insertion I have moved. A lawful question may be a question put by a person authorized by law to ask it.
.- Now that we have the Ministerial amendment, there seems to be considerable doubt as to the meaning of one of the words employed in it.
– The Minister says that it means nothing.
– Therefore, of course, its insertion is a vital matter with the Government ! The discussion shows that in pressing on with the clause - I must not say the Bill - we are taking great risks. On the one hand, it appears that if we do not pass this clause now Parliament will have to risk exposure to calumny and ridicule, while, on the other hand, if we do, an innocent person’ may be sentenced to imprisonment for two years. In my opinion, Parliament is able to bear all the ridicule that can be put upon it; but I do not know that an unoffending and innocent person who has been dragged before a parliamentary Committee -“to the bull ring” the Treasurer would say - would regard it as unimportant to be sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for refusing to answer a question. I point out to the honorable members for Hindmarsh and Bendigo that this is probably the penultimate day of the session. A Select Committee is not likely to be appointed to-morrow, and no such appointment can be made during the recess. If, before next session, some matter arises needing investigation, there will be nothing to prevent the Government from appointing a Royal Commission, which would have all necessary powers.
– Is it not true that Mr. McKay refused to give certain evidence to the Tariff Commission?
– I think he behaved somewhat extraordinarily when before the Commission ; but it was the f ault of that body that more stringent methods were not adopted towards him and other witnesses, supposing that to have been necessary.
– We knew by his refusal to answer questions what his evidence was worth.
– So would the members of a Committee. A witness’s refusal to answer questions is proof positive that he wishes to hide something.
– Why should there not be a sufficient penalty for such an offence ?
– Why should we run now the risk of doing injustice, seeing that no Committee can be appointed until next session, when we shall have more time to consider the question?
– The honorable member is now saying what should have been said on the second reading.
– Then I content myself with pointing out that, until we have a sufficient explanation of the meaning of the phrase “ lawful and relevant,” we are entitled to refuse to allow the clause to pass, because the measure should be girt about with every provision necessary for the protection of innocent persons. Perhaps, in the absence of an explanation from the Attorney -General, the honorable and learned member for Flinders will say what the meaning of these words is?
– I hope that this drastic and useless clause will not be passed. It gives to a Committee, responsible only in a political sense to this House, larger powers than are intrusted to the ordinary legal tribunals appointed to try criminals charged with definite offences against the laws of the country. The Judge who presides over a Court of Justice to determine criminal or civil issues is bound by his oath to conduct its proceedings according to perfectly well-recognised and well-established principles and rules, devised for the protection, not merely of those charged with offences, but also of the witnesses. But a witness coming before a parliamentary Committee is not to have even the ordinary privilege of declining to answer questions when to do so may incriminate him. The AttorneyGeneral has attempted to get over the difficulty by inserting the words “ lawful and relevant.” But is not a relevant question lawful ?
– Not necessarily. The tribunal may not have been lawfully created.
– We must assume the existence of a Committee properly appointed. Let me show, by an illustration, how unjustly the provision might work. There is on the notice-paper a notice for the appointment of a Committee 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.
Let us suppose that a witness has refused to answer a question put to him to elicit the reasons which may have induced the Postmaster-General to take this course, and has been indicted in a criminal court for having refused to do so. In the first place the Judge will say to the jury : “ Gentlemen of the jury, before you can convict this man you must first of all ascertain whether the Postmaster-General has any reason for adopting the course that he did. Having decided’ that he had reasons for adopting that course, you must next ascertain what those reasons were. Then you will be in a’ position to say whether the questions which this man refused to answer were questions which he was justified in refusing to answer, as not being relevant to the inquiry.” Could honorable members imagine anything more ridiculous ? Are we to take part in a farce? Is it not little more than a farce that we should put such a provision as this on the statute-book? Instances of the kind I have cited might readily be multiplied, although the particular Select Committee to which I have referred will have perhaps a more direct issue to deal with than the issues which many Parliamentary Committees are appointed to consider.
– Does the honorable member think that a Select Committee should not be armed with any power to compel a witness to answer relevant questions?
– Having regard to the general roving character of the commission which the average Committee holds, it is absolutely unsafe to invest them with anything more than the most restricted powers of compelling evidence. They certainly ought not to have greater powers than are vested in Royal Commissions.
– That is only a question of penalty, not ofpower.
– I say that I certainly would not give a Select Committee mote power than a Royal Commission possesses.
– Why should a Select Committee be superior to a Royal Commission ?
– A witness appearing before a Royal Commission must answer any question touching the subject-matter of the inquiry under penalty of a fine of £50.
I have told the honorable member for Bendigo that I am prepared to meet him to some extent in regard to the question of penalty.
– If the AttorneyGeneral is prepared to modify this provision, so that it will not provide for a greater penalty than may be imposedon a witness who refuses to give evidence before a Royal Commission, I shall be satisfied.
– I have listened with considerable interest to the. variety of opinions that have been expressed upon this subject, and could not help reflecting when I heard the legal fraternity expressing such widely divergent views that we might be emphasizing the scarcity of litigation in this State even more than it has been by demonstrating to the public the impossibility of obtaining uniformity in legal opinion. The honorable member for Flinders has pointed to the weak spot in this Bill. It is proposed to give to these Committees a power which no Court in this country has possessed. In the case of a witness who refuses to give evidence before a Royal Commission - and Royal Commissions are supposed to be of a much more grave and important character than Select: Committees - a penalty of - as a rule - not more than £50 is imposed. In connexion with an important inquiry by a Royal Commission in New South Wales as to some land scandals - I do not refer to the inquiry conducted by Mr. Justice Owen - it was found difficult to get certain witnesses to answer questions. The Commission possessed the powers usually vested in a Royal Commission, but all that it was able to do was to prosecute a witness, who had refused to answer questions, for the penalty of £20. Turning from Royal Commissions to other important bodies like the High Court or the Supreme Courts of the different States, we find that the only power they have in this regard is to commit a witness for contempt, in refusing to answer a question. But one never heard of a Justice of the Supreme Court committing a witness for refusing to answer questions to a term of imprisonment anything like as long as one year.
– The offending witness is always allowed to purge his contempt by agreeing to answer the question.
Mr.BRUCE SMITH.- Exactly. In this case, however, an unconditional penalty of two years’ imprisonment is provided for. Having regard to the phraseology used, the difficulty is much greater than some laymen imagine.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh, like a good many more laymen, rushes in where even lawyers fear to tread. He say’s that if the word “ lawful.” is doubtful, we ought to strike it out. I differ from the honorable member for Flinders with regard to the use of that word. He will admit that a question may be relevant, but not lawful. A question may be relevant, but by replying to it the witness might incriminate himself. Therefore, although perfectly relevant, it would not be lawful. I agree, therefore, with the Attorney-General that the word “ lawful “ is necessary. The punishment proposed, however, is absurd. Let me deal for a moment with the question of relevancy. It is a well-known rule of the law of evidence that, under cross-examination, a witness may be asked a question about his early life - about something that has no connexion with the problem that is before the tribunal - because it goes to his character and credibility. The point is whether such a question would’ be relevant, although it might be allowedby the Judge or the chairman of the tribunal as haying a bearing upon the credibility of the witness.
– That may be the meaning of the word “lawful”here - it maybe designed to give authority for asking such a question.
– I think that the word “ lawful “ is sufficiently covered by the principle of incrimination. As to the question of urgency in passing the measure, I think that the honorable ‘ and learned member for Bendigo has demonstrated that it is an urgent Bill. A number of honorable members have been appointed, in all seriousness’, to enter upon an inquiry ; and they are about to begin that inquiry whilethe House is in recess. The honorable member, as chairman of that Committee, says, in effect : “I am not prepared to embark upon this inquiry unless Parliament is prepared to remove the doubt’ that exists in my mind as to my powers as chairman to compel witnesses to answer questions on oath.” What would be his position if this Bill were not passed? Let us suppose that he takes his seat as chairman of the Committee, surrounded by other members of Parliament. who give their services for nothing, and that he begins to ask questions. Thenlet us assume that witnesses refuse to answer those questions. The chairman consults with his colleagues, and then finds that, by reason of this Bill not having been. passed, he cannot go on with the in quiry because certain witnesses refuse to give the information, and he cannot enforce his requirements of them. I, therefore, think that the measure is urgent ; also that the word “ lawful “ is not surplusage, and should remain in the clause. Even if I were paid a fee for an opinion, I should say that its use is warranted. I often notice that the views of lawyers, given without fee, are not nearly so reliable as are those given by them when a fee is paid. . I repeat that, in my opinion, the measure is urgent, and that it is right that the word “ lawful “ should be retained, but I think that the Attorney-General will make a grave error if he persists with his proposal with regard to imprisonment. He will be perfectly safe in going upon the lines adopted in regard to Royal Commissions, and providing for the imposition of a severe monetary penalty for refusing to answer a question.
.- I see no reason to support the clause as it now stands. If the person refusing to answer a question were to be tried before a properly-qualified legal tribunal, the phraseology of this clause would be interpreted by judicial rules-
– The Committee has no power to impose imprisonment. The offender must be placed on trial before a jury.
– I was under the impression for the moment that the power was to be given to a Committee to order imprisonment. If “ a man is committed to take his trial before a properly-qualified legal tribunal, then, with all deference to the honorable member for Parkes and the honorable and learned member for Flinders, I say that the Court would construe the words, “any question,” as meaning any question within the meaning of the Statute. That sort of thing is constantly occurring. For instance, there is an Act in existence which forbids any person to work upon Sunday. But it has been held over and over again that that Act does not mean any person, But a person within the meaning of the Statute. Does the honorable member for Flinders contend that the words “ any question “ reallymeanany question which a Select Committee might ask a witness although it did hot bear upon the inquiry? Does he assert that if a witness declined to answersucha question, hewouldincur any risk?
– I do not think that there is much danger of a conviction being securedinanycase.
– At the present time, the position occupied by Select Committees is a farcical one. In connexion with the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the Navigation Bill, I know that a witness in Sydney declined point blank to answer a question which was put to him. 1 consulted the present Attorney-General upon the matter, but we found that we were powerless to do anything except, perhaps, hurl him down the staircase.
– The Committee could have fined him.
– No doubt; but he would not have paid the fine.
– If we declared that a recalcitrant witness might be fined £10 by a police magistrate, the penalty would be far more effective than would that which is proposed in this clause.
– I venture to say that my experience has been shared by every honorable member who has been associated with parliamentary inquiries. Witnesses are recalcitrant, and frequently decline to give evidence which they do not choose to give. That is not a proper state of affairs. I shall take no exception to the insertion of any words which will qualify the word “ question,” but I submit that under the circumstances they are not necessary.
.- This is a Bill which has been brought forward at the last moment, and which appears to have been insufficiently considered. Parliament has power at any time to appoint either a Select Committee or a Royal Commission for any purpose that it may desire. For their stronger powers, and for convenience sake, however, Royal Commissions are frequently appointed. It is a matter of importance that each of these bodies shouldpossess the necessary power to obtain any information that it may desire. Consequently, I hold that when legislation is enacted for the purpose of determining the powers of these bodies, those powers should be the same in each instance. Shall we not appear foolish if we provide two different sets of powers and penalties? If the consideration of this Bill is deferred till next session - which seems not improbable - I ask the Attorney-General to take this aspect of the matter into consideration. The provisions of the measure seem to me to be very drastic. A gaol is inserted between every second paragraph. If it be necessary for a Select Committee to be clothed with the powers and penalties proposed under this Bill, surely it is equally necessary that those powers should be vested in a Royal Commission; On the other hand, if those powers are not necessary in the case of a Royal Commission, they ought not to be necessary in the case of a Select Committee.
– It seems to me that the honorable member for Flinders does not really understand the difficulties which Select Committees of this House have experienced in conducting their inquiries. It is all very well for him to endeavour to reduce the position to an absurdity by selecting as an illustration a case which Cannot possibly arise. But I ask him to take the case of a corporation possessed of considerable’ means, the members of which decline to answer questions put to them, although the answers to those questions may be of vital importance to the welfare of the whole community. What is the position of a Select Committee under such circumstances? What awe will be inspired in the heart of a man of means who has been doing something which is detrimental to the public interest, when he is told that unless he answers the questions put to him he will be fined £10? These are the difficulties which Select Committees have had to face. A Select Committee carries with it the dignity of this Parliament, and if Parliament decides that in the interests of the public whom it governs it is necessary to institute a legitimate inquiry, surely the Committee appointed to conduct that inquiry ought to be empowered to ascertain the truth. We have already clothed Royal Commission’s with power to impose a fine upon witnesses who decline to answer questions. It is to be found in the following provision -
If any person appearing as a witness before the Commission refuses to be sworn or to make an affirmation or to answer any question put to him by any of the Commissioners touching the subject-matter of the inquiry, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a penalty not exceeding Fifty pounds.
I think that ultimately we must reserve the power of imprisonment if witnesses set a Select Committee at defiance. We might enact that if a person refuses to answer any lawful and relevant question he shall be liable to a penalty of £50. It would not necessarily Follow that the full penalty would be inflicted, but only one proportionate to the nature of the offence. But if a witness persistently refuses to answer a question put to him, he should be liable, upon a second conviction, to a term of imprisonment. What deterrent would a penalty of £50 be in the case of a wealthy corporation possessing a capital perhaps of millions ?
– What about the case of a medical man who refuses to give evidence ?
– I presume that the honorable member is thinking of a case in which a doctor has obtained certain information as the .result of the confidence reposed in him by a patient. But my point is that it would be absolutely futile to provide a small penalty if we wish Select Committees to get at the truth.
– What imprisonment does the Attorney-General suggest as an alternative ?
– I suggest that for the first offence a witness shall be liable to a fine of and for the second offence to a term of imprisonment.
– For refusing to answer the same question?
– Not necessarily.
– He may have just reasons for refusing to answer.
– Select Committees are not unreasonable. I have served on several of them, and I know that unfair questions are never pressed. Indeed, questions which a witness refuses to answer will never be pressed, unless it is necessary to press them in order to safeguard the public interests. However, as other, important legislation demands our attention, I intend to report progress with a view to resuming consideration of the Bill at a later stage. It was pointed out most strongly in the report of the Select Committee on parliamentary privilege, which was adopted by the House to-day, that it is necessary to arm Committees with- power to enforce answers to questions.
– That report has no legislative value.
– But when we adopt a report we are supposed to approve of the principles which it enunciates. A paragraph in the report to which I have referred emphasizes the’ absolute necessity for Select Committees being clothed with these powers, and recommends legislation accordingly.
– That Committee forgot that it could commit a witness for contempt.
– I do not think that it did.
– That is the law, nevertheless.
– I move-
That the Chairman do now leave the chair, report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
– There being an amendment before the Chair, is it possible to re- port progress until that amendment is withdrawn ?
– The motion to report progress is quite in order.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Motion (by Sir’ William Lyne) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of , revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to grant and apply - out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of ^250,000 for harbor and coastal defences.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth) [9.14J.- I understood from the Prime Minister that this vote was merely asked as an earnest to the Admiralty of the Prime Minister’s intention to do something in regard to naval defence, though what that something is to be, did not transpire..
– Quite so ; and no honorable member who votes this -amount will be held to be bound in regard to any particular policy of naval defence. I think that the Minister of Defence ought to make a statement confirming that declaration by the- Prime Minister, so as to leave honorable members absolutely free.
– The honorable member is quite correct in his interpretation of the attitude of the Government in regard to this vote. Possibly, the House will remember that in November last, when the Prime Minister made a statement with regard to the amount mentioned in this motion, he said -
Whether these precise vessels will be chosen will be determined partly by the association we are able to form with the Royal Navy through the Admiralty, and partly on the possibility that local advices may suggest some change.
– I think the Prime Minister said much more than that a few weeks ago.
– In addition, I am instructed and authorized by the Prime Minister to say that no expenditure of any description that would bind Parliament to any class of armament, or any type of vessel, will be undertaken by the Government without the approval of Parliament after the submission of definite details.
– I think tha Prime Minister went further, and said there would be no expenditure at all without the approval of Parliament.
– That is what I have said.
– The Minister of Defence said there would be no expenditure upon any particular class of vessel.
– Perhaps the honorable member will tell me what he has in his. mind.
– Will the Minister of Defence allow me to read what the Prime Minister said the other day when asking that this sum should be voted on the Estimates. The honorable gentleman said -
I want this sum of £250,000 to be set apart for naval defence, not a penny of it to be spent until the particular proposal, and the conditions of expenditure, are laid before Parliament and approved by it. .
I am submitting that this amount ought to be retained on the Estimates at the present time, since Parliament will not part with control over it. It is to be devoted to a special purpose, and to be expended only when Parliament shall approve of some scheme of naval construction to be laid before it.
Not one penny of this amount will be expended except with the assent of this House to the way in which it shall be expended.
That is a very definite and clear statement by the Prime Minister; and I submit that it means we are not by this vote to be committed in any way to any naval scheme, and further, that the vote shall not be used to in any way influence the Admiralty in favour, of any proposal of the Prime Minister or the Government - that in fact it shall not be used at all, but is simply to be saved for the time being. I- understood from the words of the Prime Minister that, ‘ before this money is spent, it must be revoted.
– Is the word “ re- voted “ used by the Prime Minister?
– No; but the money must be re-voted in the shape of an Appropriation Bill. The vote now asked for is simply for the purpose of paying this money into a trust account, and before it is taken out of the trust account and spent, the Prime Minister told us it would be resubmitted to the House, with a definite scheme.
– Then we must support the motion.
– If those be the conditions under which the vote is to be taken to-night, I, for one, shall offer not the slightest objection.
– Let the Government have the money if they, cannot spend it !
– Well, the Prime Minister told us he did not intend to spend it.
– The Prime Minister does not desire to spend the money until he has submitted the details.
– The Prime Minister desires to save the money for the time being, in order to prevent it going to the States; and now that the trust fund has been created, I shall offer no objection to the course proposed.
– In view of the remarks made by the honorable member for Parramatta, I may say that the Prime Minister authorized me, in submitting this motion, to repeat what he had said previously. The Prime Minister gives his word that none of the money that is placed into the trust fund, will be expended until the whole scheme has been submitted, and the authorization of Parliament obtained.
– I quite agree ‘ with what has been said by the honorable member for Parramatta. I take it that the Prime Minister asks us for this vote more as an earnest, than anything else, of his intention to do something substantia.
– It is to deprive the States of surplus which would otherwise go -to them.
– The money has not been asked from us on that ground. There is, however, one aspect which I think ought not to be allowed to pass without notice. An extensive correspondence has been passing between the Prime Minister and the Admiralty for a good many months, and is, I understand, still passing, in re,gard to the whole question of Australian naval defence. I do not desire to ask the Government at this stage to lay this correspondence on the table, because I am prepared to admit that it might prove embarrassing and inconvenient, and be unfair- to them. We must not forget, however, that at the Imperial Conference in London there Was a definite statement made by the Prime Minister, that the sense of this House and of Australian public opinion was entirely in favour of abrogating the agreement which we sanctioned some time ago. I am not going to deal with the question of the accuracy of that statement ; but I feel pretty confident that the Prime Minister does not intend in any way to abuse the opportunity which we are giving him now.
– Certainly not.
– But I should be glad to have an assurance from the Ministry at this stage, so that this vote may not afterwards be used to form the slightest ground for the Admiralty to say, “ Well, the Prime Minister made this statement in London, and Parliament has not taken any official notice of it; the only thing that Parliament has done since has been to accede to the Prime Minister’s request to vote a large sum of money.” We can easily see how. the vote might be understood as an implied sanction by this House of the representations made by the Prime Minister on that occasion. Without asking the Government to enter into the particulars of the correspondence at present - mo doubt we shall have it all when the policyis submitted - I think we are entitled to ask for an assurance that this grant of supply will not be used, or regarded, as any kind of indorsement of the attitude taken by the Prime Minister in London.
– I do not like to enter into any discussion that may break up the great harmony of the House ‘to-night. I may say at once that I have implicit faith in the Prime- Minister, but that I am absolutely opposed to this expenditure.
– I thought the caucus was unanimous?
– The right honorable member need not trouble himself about the caucus, the members of which are well able to look after themselves. I intend to move an amendment to reduce this vote from £250.000 to £50,000 in order to enable the Government to devise ways and means for the defence of the Commonwealth by direct taxation, such as a graduated- income tax, and an inheritance, absentee, land, and wealth tax, so that the owners and controllers of wealth in the Commonwealth shall be compelled to pay for its protection. I have been going closely through the items of expenditure we have voted, and I find £339,000 for bounties, or , £22,600 a year for fifteen years; that for military affairs this year there has been voted £1,079,860, all to go to. eternal and everlasting waste.
– It has gone.
– If so., we can say “ amen “ to it. Then I find that we are proposing to start to build a fleet of battle-ships with £250,000, and that special defence provision this year will absorb £216,000. This year the Commonwealth Departments cost . £5,967,992, with a special vote of , £216,050. Then, no one who has gone into the matter carefully will deny that invalid and old-age pensions - which I am delighted that the Commonwealth is going to pay - will cost us over , £2,000,000.. Now, on top of all this, we are’ asked to expend, in building what the honorable member for South Sydney calls a mosquito fleet of torpedo boats, though I prefer to refer to them as battle-ships , £250,000 as a start. Our expenditure next year will amount to £9,000,000, while the Treasurer estimates our revenue at only , £13,745,200. Thus there will be returnable to the States not more than £4,745,200.
– I ask the honorable member not to make a financial statement.
– Surely we must consider the financial position generally when dealing with a proposal such as that before the Committee? I do not claim to’ know much about finance, but I say that in a few years, if we go on as we are doing, we shall not know where we are. As the Treasurer has offered to return to the States£6,000,000, he will have to obtain, by additional taxation, at least , £1,254,800 to fulfil his promise, because wemust protect the solvency of the States. It is proposed to enter into this expenditure for the building of a battleship brigade, notwithstanding that in every part of the civilized world to-day Christian men are inventing new methods for the destruction of other Christian men. . Everywhere geniuses are planning and scheming inventions to counter-balance other inventions. Now. by the use of steel nets, they are making battle-ships proof against the attacks of torpedoes.
– The honorable member must not enter into a detailed description of methods of naval defence.
-I shall have to fight the Prime Minister on this question, even if I do so single-handed, and I wish to. enter my protest now, so that it may not be said later on : “ Why did you not do this before?” While I love the Prime Minister, my views differ from his; each one of us was sent here, not to act as a puppet, but to express his free arid independent opinions. In the United States of America they have spent millions of pounds in the construction of torpedo fleets, and the expenditure has been rendered useless by the invention- to which I have referred. At the present time, every one is frightened of Japan ; but that country is tottering financially. Why cannot we wait a little, instead of rushing into an expenditure which will be altogether wasteful? I trust that the Committee will help me to reduce this vote to £50,000, togive an opportunity for further consideration, and to prevent the Commonwealth from getting into a state of muddle such as the States were in. It is easy to fun into debt, but hard to pay back. One ought not to incur liabilities without knowing exactly how to meet them. We shall be in a dangerous position if we commence, borrowing and putting off paying until to-morrow. But I can see that it is mighty hard talking finance in this Chamber.
.- I understand that this money is being asked for because the Prime Minister, in his celebrated defence speech, delivered on the 13th December last, stated that later in the session the Ministry . would” propose a vote of , £250,000 towards the ‘ building and maintaining of a flotilla. He informed the House that probably three submarines and. two torpedo boats would be built at intervals, until ‘we had nine submarines and six torpedo boats. One would have thought that six months later he would be prepared to submit definite proposals for local ‘harbor and coastal defence. I welcome the opportunity to vote money for that purpose, notwithstanding the difficulties’ of the naval problem. Within the last few years no fewer than six schemes have ‘ been submitted to Parliament for the naval defence of Australia, and all have been abandoned.
– A good thing,too.
– That remark applies to this scheme as well.
– I think if a good thing that the construction of submarines has been abandoned, because there is a great difference of opinion amongst experts as to their usefulness in Australian waters.
– Has it been abandoned?
– I apprehend so, because it is not now mentioned. I regard this as a proposal for the creation of an Australian naval flotilla for coastal and harbor defence, to include the construction of torpedo destroyers and torpedo boats ; the vote to be quite apart from the naval subsidy. I hope that no one regards it as intended to supersede the naval subsidy. I shall be no party to the annulling or rescinding of the Naval Agreement, unless with the concurrence of the Admiralty, and in consideration of the substitution of some other agreement of which they approve.
.- This is the third time within six weeks that this matter has been before us. When the Committee was discussing the Additional Estimates, the Prime Minister asked us to vote the amount to show to the Home authorities that he was earnest in his contention in’ England that Australia is desirous of doing away with the Naval Agreement. The item having had to be withdrawn then, the matter cropped up again in connexion with the Surplus Revenue Bill. Now, according to the Treasurer, the money is being asked for so that it may be set apart under the provisions of that measure. We have already provided for such a course ‘being taken. Although the honorable member for Darwin puts things grotesquely, there was a good deal in what he said. He is shrewder than some honorable members give him credit for being.
– At all events, he is not listening.
– The honorable member need not be annoyed at my remark. It is’ not often that a member in this Chamber takes up the cudgels on behalf of a fellow member ; but it suits my purpose to doso now. The honorable member for Darwin mentioned this matter eighteen months ago.
– Five years ago.
– Similarly, four years ago, he suggested the purchase of asue in London for the erection of Commonwealth offices. That suggestion was then laughed at by the House, but the Government have since taken steps to give effect to it. I am satisfied that the position will be the same with regard to many of the views which the honorable member has expressed relative to military expenditure. If the public ask for an up-to-date defence and for an increase in the strength of our Military Forces they cannot expect that the cost of such a service shall be met out of Customs and Excise revenue. Direct taxation will be necessary. Those who will most largely benefit by it must be called upon to bear their share of this expenditure by means of a tax on incomes. In Great Britain there is in operation what is known as a war tax, and I think that we could provide for an up-to-date defence system by means of what should be known as a defence tax on incomes. At the Imperial Conference the Prime Minister said that Australia was prepared to break away from’ the ‘Naval Agreement. I do not think that he has correctly gauged either public opinion or the desire of this Parliament. We have not yet had an opportunity to indorse or reject the opinion expressed by- the honorable gentleman, but I am satisfied’ that we have no desire to discontinue the naval subsidy. Lord Tweedmouth, however, was told by the Prime Minister that the public of Australia desired to get away from it, and the Admiralty, always ready to agree to whatever Australia desires, said that no obstacle would be placed in the way of the discontinuance of that’ Agreement.
– The statement that we desire to get away from the Agreement is not true.
– That is my view. If the opportunity offered to-morrow I should vote to increase the present subsidy, and I do not wish the passing of this Bill to be regarded as an intimation to the Home authorities that we indorse the Prime Minister’s statement. At the same time, I am absolutely in favour of an appropriation being made for coastal .and harbor defence purposes. If Australia is to do anything towards -her own defence she cannot do better than provide for coastal and harbor protection.
– The honorable member would vote for such an expenditure as supplementary of the services rendered by the British Fleet?
– Exactly. This . vote, from my point of view, is supplementary of the naval subsidy. *
– The Prime Minister never said more than that.
– It has been said that the Prime Minister desires this vote to be regarded as an expression of opinion on the part of the Parliament that the Naval Agreement should be discontinued. That is not my view, although 1 am certainly prepared to agree to this vote.
– - I take it, Mr. Chairman, that the limitation which you placed on the honorable member for Darwin will apply to all of us, and that we are not to be permitted to enter upon ‘ a general discussion on the question of a naval policy. But there are certain aspects of this proposed vote that I think we should be careful to emphasize. It is fortunate- that the Prime Minister gave us the undertaking which the deputy leader of the Opposition has read and which the Treasurer has confirmed, because it will afford us something to stand upon in the future. I would’ point out, however, that it does not mean absolute safety so far as the position of this House is concerned. I have watched with considerable interest the conduct of negotiations between the Prime Minister and the Imperial naval authorities, and have found that the honorable gentleman does not hesitate to make representations to them which have no foundation in fact in this country. The honorable member for Dalley has very properly pointed out that when the Prime Minister went to London to attend the Imperial Conference he made a distinct representation to the British Government that the people of. Australia were opposed to the continuance of the naval subsidy. .
– In its present form?
– To its continuance in any form as a naval subsidy of £200,000 per annum.
– I am speaking with a knowledge of the words used by him at the Conference, and in his speech, both accessible to members.
– Did not the Government experience great difficulty in carrying the Naval Agreement Bill in this House?
– That may be ; but honorable members are aware that when the Prime Minister goes away from this House he is not excessively particular as to the accuracy of his statements with regard to its opinions.
– I think that he is.
– I shall give the Committee an instance which I have mentioned in the presence of the Prime Minister. Before the Prime Minister went to England he read in this House a number of resolutions which it was proposed to submit to the Conference. When I asked him across the table whether he was going to tell the Conference that those resolutions represented the feelings of the people of Australia or of this House, he replied, “ No ; they are the opinions of the Govern- . ment.” But no sooner had he reached London than he practically told a representative of an influential evening paper that those resolutions represented the feelings of the people of Australia and of this House. As a matter of fact, they did not. I have mentioned the matter in this House in the presence of the Prime Minister, and he has had an opportunity to contradict me. The honorable gentleman, as the honorable member for Dalley has stated, certainly did represent when in the Conference that the people of Australia were unfavorable to the continuance of a money contribution’ to the British Navy. . And he emphasized that statement so frequently that at last Lord Tweedmouth, as representing the naval authorities at the Conference, said, in effect, “ If the people of Australia have made up their minds to contribute to the ‘ defence . of the Empire in ‘ kind ‘ instead of in cash, we should like you to build a certain class of vessels which if would be very inconvenient for us to send from England to Australia.” He went on to say, however, “ If you have an Australian flotilla we shall expect you to place it under the control of the Commander:in-Chief in time of war.” The Prime Minister said in this House that that could not be, and the leader of the Labour Party said it was impossible. Those words ‘ stand in Ilansard to-day. That means-
– I would point out to the honorable member that to allow him to continue the line of argument he is now pursuing would be to open up a general discussion as to what took place at the Imperial Conference. I ask the honorable member not to follow that line of discussion.
– I wish honorable members to distinguish between the policy of this appropriation and my statement of what was put by the Prime Minister before the people of England. I am not, at present, advocating or opposing any particular scheme of Australian naval defence. I want to show the necessity for our hedging round this appropriation with precautions as to what it commits us to.
– Does the__ honorable member think that the Prime Minister will back down from his statement?
– I am not prepared to say that -he would not.
– The honorable member is the only man in this ,House who would say that.
– It is only some three weeks ago since the Prime Minister threatened to resign if a certain proposal were adopted, and to-day he is succumbing to that proposal.
– The honorable member is the only man in the House who would make such a statement.
– Then I must be the only courageous man.
– Courageous behind the Prime Minister’s back.
– I have made the former statement before, in this House, and in the Prime Minister’s presence. One of- my misfortunes, as a member of this House is tha*t I differ very frequently from the honorable member for Flinders, even on legal questions. But we always agree to differ with great amiability, .and have, I think, every , respect for each other’s opinions. The honorable member at the outset of his speech said something about not objecting to this proposed vote as an earnest to the British Government of what we propose to do. Unlike him, I do object–
– As an earnest only of the intention of the Government to do something substantial.
– I can only say that I object to the passing of this proposed vote being regarded as an earnest of what we intend to do. t am satisfied that a majority of this House will not consent to the continuation of the present naval subsidy, concurrently with the building of an Australian Navy.
– I hope that they will.
– I hope so, too. I can see that there is a jingoistic national spirit springing up in Australia, and that the people are determined to have an Australian Navy, even if it be only a toy one. I quite agree with the honorable member for Darwin that the progress of invention nowadays is so r”apid that by the time we have reached a certain form of defence we shall find that it must be superseded by something entirely new, and that by the time .we have approached it - with the slow progress which we must necessarily make in Australian manufactures of that character - that again will need to be superseded by some new invention. But still if the people of Australia are determined to embark upon the nucleus of a navy, none , of us should offerany objection, unless we think we can stop it. My belief is - however much I regret having to draw the conclusion - that honorable members will not consent to the continuation of the present naval subsidy, and also to the expenditure of some hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum upon an Australian Navy. We have already passed a Surplus Revenue Bill, which allows the Government to appropriate instead of to expend, and this Bill is to be passed to-night in order to appropriate , £250,000 to a trust fund to form the nucleus of future naval expenditure, if the Government should determine upon it.
– A very small nucleus.
– The sum that we are able to appropriate for old-age pensions is also very small, but the honorable member will see that the same policy is at work in both cases. We are to have a sort of money-box, and the Government wish to put their pennies into it in order that when the time comes to carryoutthispolicy. they may find it fairlyfull. I object to this sum of £250,000 being voted as an earnest to the British Government that we are in favour of the policy enunciated by the Prime Minister. This Parliament in 1903, passed a Bill establishinga solemn compact between the British Government and Australia that a ten years’ contribution of £200,000 per annum should be made by us for certain naval services. Although many honorable members are’ under the impression that we do not get value for that expenditure, unless the ships of the Squadron are lying either in Sydney Harboror in Port Phillip, we know that the greatest naval authority in the world has declared that the naval base for the defence of Australia is the Indian Ocean, and not the Australian ports. We cannot cancel that agreement without the consent of the Imperial Government and of New Zealand. It may be that the British Government, in their desire to placate Australia, as one of its colonial possessions, may be perfectly willing to forego that agreement-
– We inserted in that agreement conditions which Great Britain has to fulfil, and if it be cancelled
Great Britain will be released from observing those conditions.
– The correspondence clearly shows that if we cease to recognise the undertaking into which we entered with the British naval authorities,’ the ships of war which are now constantly in, or in the neighbourhood of, Australia will be immediately removed to the Indian and China seas.
– Because the British naval authorities have already announced - if the Minister had read Lord Tweedmouth’s speech he would be aware of the fact - that in the event of the agreement being cancelled, the ships will be removed to the China and Indian seas to become part of the British Fleet in those quarters.
– Why would they be removed ?
– Because it would be better for the defence of the Empire to remove them to the localities I have indicated, in order that they may be in a position to carry out the doctrine enunciated by Nelson, . and acknowledged ever since, that a navy should go out to meet the enemy rather than that they should be kept anchored in Australian ports. I object to this money being regarded as an earnest ofanything until the defence scheme of the Government has been enunciated and approved by this House. . Although in the abstract honorable members may be in favour of an expenditure of £250,000 for naval purposes, the Government might bring down a scheme relating to naval construction which the House would wholly condemn. For instance, instead of proposing to construct torpedo destroyers, or submarines, they might propose to build one huge battleship - a project which the House would regard as an utter absurdity unless it is to be a contribution to the British Navy. Therefore I contend that this Billdoes not and must not be taken to commit us to any naval expenditure whatever. All that we are consenting to is the appropriation of £256,000, which I contend ought to have been returned to the States.
– For the States to squander it.
– That may be the honorable member’s opinion. We have had no defence scheme yet submitted tous. I do not think this vote is to be used even to show the British people that we indorse the statement of the Prime Minister that we desire the Naval Agreement to be either modified or ended. I echo the wish of the honorable member for Dalley, that our contribution to the Imperial Navy will not only be continued, but doubled. I cannot forget that when we entered into, that agreement in 1903 -an agreement which was to continue for ten years - only a small number of honorable members - apart from the members of the Labour Party -voted against it. There was a majority of sixteen or seventeen in its favour.
– The honorable member declared that he differed from me, and yet he is expressing exactly the same point that I urged.
– And he is following pretty closely upon the lines laid down in the speech of the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member for Flinders declared that he did not think we were justified in pressing for the production of the correspondence which has taken place between the British naval authorities and the Prime Minister in regard to this matter. As a general principle his statement is right. When a Government is conducting diplomatic negotiations it may be highly desirable that the correspondence constituting those negotiations should not be made public, lest it might affect the chance of negotiations having a favorable termination. But where we have a Prime Minister conducting negotiations by correspondence with the Imperial Government in regard to an agreement which was solemnly entered into by this Parliament, we have a perfect right - unless the adoption of such a course is likely to interfere with those negotiations - to know what he is representing to the Imperial authorities as the wish of Australia and of this House. If the Prime Minister continues to put forward any opinion in a strong-, confident way - as if he had this House or the country at his back - in favour of the termination of the Naval Agreement, we have a right to know it. Is there any likelihood that our knowledge of the nature of that correspondence or the publicity which would be given to it, would interfere with the chance of those negotiations terminating favorably? I have asked for the productionof that correspondence again and again.Even up to the time when the Prime Minister outlined the defence scheme of the Government, in December last, he had by, no means arrived at an under standing with the Imperial authorities upon this matter. Cables published subsequently show that the British naval authorities , regard the handing over of an Australian flotilla to the CommanderinChief, in time of war, as a condition precedent to any further arrangement between themselves and theCommonwealth. I contend that we ought to have that correspondence before us. The last correspondence about which we know anything took place prior to December, 1907 . We are now in June, 1908, and we are about to disperse for three months. We shall not re-assemble until September or October, so that nine months will then have elapsed, during which period all this correspondence, which is. morally binding upon us and upon the people of Australia-
– Oh, no. That is what we absolutely dispute.
– There may be a difference of opinion as to the meaning of the phrase “ morally binding,” but I can only say that the representations which were made in London by the Prime Minister have certainly led the people of Great Britain - and even the British naval authorities - to believe that we are in favour of the views which he expressed. Not only have we done nothing to dispel that idea, but we have not been invited to do anything or to take the opinion of the House upon the subject. Although months have elapsed since the Imperial Conference terminated, we have never yet had an opportunity - except by means of occasional and intermittent expressions of opinion - of telling the British naval authorities that there is any doubt about the truth or untruth of the representations made by the Prime Minister. I do not agree . with the honorable member for Flinders that the Government are justified in withholding this correspondence. We, as representatives of the people; ought to know what statements the Prime Minister is making to the Imperial Government. If they are of a sufficiently serious character, we should then be afforded an opportunity of making a protest. I have asked for the production of this correspondence tomorrow, in order that we may know exactly what representations are . still being made to the Imperial Government in regard to the Naval Agreement.
– This debate began in such a friendly manner that I felt it would not be necessary for me to speak at all.
Almost every honorable member seemed prepared to grant the sum asked for under the Bill upon the terms laid down by the Prime Minister andquoted by the deputy leader of the Opposition. The honorable member for Parkes has informed the Committee that he is in considerable doubt upon the matter, because the Prime Minister is in the habit of doing nefarious things.
– I did not use that word at all. Quote my own language.
– The honorable member informed the House that the Prime Minister is untrustworthy - that he does one thing to-day and another to-morrow.
– I say that now.
– It is remarkable that any honorable . member should have the audacity to make a charge of that description against a man whose name is a synonym for honour and straightforwardness.
– The Minister had better not proceed on that line of argument.
– I agree with the honorable member. True courage does not consist of making statements in this House.I have heard honorable members charge each other very valorously in this Chamber, but if they had been shut . up in a room together they would have died of fright. No courage is required to make statements in this Chamber, because we are fairly protected. I should not have spoken upon this Bill but for the fact that the remarks of some honorable members, in reference to the Naval Agreement, seem wide of the mark. Everybody who has had an opportunity of reading Hansard should know that the Prime Minister placed before this House a tabulated statement, which shows the contribution of £200,000 annually, under the Naval Agreement. That is the present position.
– That is not what he said when he was in England.
– It would be very much better if, instead of charging the Prime Minister with doing objectionable things, honorable members would allow for the point of view from which they regardall political actions.
– Does the Minister believe in breaking the Naval Agreement?
– The honorable member knows that I was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of that agreement. It is not worth while discussing truisms. Everv Australian knows that so vast is our terri tory, so sparse our population, so enormous are armaments in other parts of the world, and so close are we to the shores of great and alien nations, that, without the Empire, there would be no hope of a permanent existence for Australia.
– I must ask the Minister not to pursue that line of argument.
-I am merely endeavouring to point out that this knowledge is one reason why such proposals as those under discussion are before us. I agree with the following statement of the London Times., with which we are in general agreement on naval matters -
The idea - that in an Empire of 400,000,000 of people, occupying 11,000,000 square miles of territory, the cradle of sea-power rests exclusively in certain islands containing 44,000,000 people and measuring 122,000 square miles, is not a proposition that can easily be demonstrated.
– I point out to the Minister that, if he pursues this line of argument, it will open a discussion quite foreignto the question.
– I have only to add that the view taken is that fifty years hence the predominance of the British flag in distant seas is n5t conceivable unless, not only Australia, but the whole self-governing countries of the Empire begin at once to lay the foundations of their future navies.
– The Times never spoke of abrogating the Naval Agreement.
– I have already dealt with that matter. The Prime Minister values this vote not only as one which will tend to augment locally the sea power of the Empire, but as a lead or example offered to every British settlement in all parts of the world, just in the same way as Australia has given a lead in the direction of gradually training the whole population of the country for defence purposes.
-Had the Minister not better wait to see Mr. Haldane’s scheme ?
– I regret to say that Mr. Haldane’s scheme, so far, appears to bear out the view held by a large number of able men, that volunteer effort is hopeless. With regard to naval matters I am not now concerned so much with the question of control, but rather with the fact that the proposal before us will mean augmenting the British power afloat. Lord Tweedmouth points out specially the value of this class of boat for coastal defence in this part of the world.
– What class of boat? We are not pledging ourselves to any particular class.
– Then I shall merely say boats for coastal defence. Lord Tweedmouth points to the great value to us and to Great Britain of having this part of the Empire thus protected in regard to the local trade. I admit to honorable members, who may differ from the Government in this matter, that there may be graver things to occupy the British Fleet during war than protecting the Australian ports and trade.
– Surely it is not desired to discuss naval matters fully on this vote?
– I am quite satisfied to cease, if the House is satisfied to simply pass this vote as an earnest. I thought, however, as honorable members made speeches, I might as well occupy ten minutes. Let us suppose the British Fleet to be temporarily required for greater work than defending the floating trade of Australia. In such a case Australia would, under present circumstances, be absolutely powerless.
– I hope the Minister will not make those statements, because they are fallacious, and require reply.
– I desire to point out that one foreignimprovised fillibuster, under such circumstances as I have indicated, would be sufficient to hold up the whole of the shipping of Australia; and such a possibility is absolutely scandalous.
– This is not. quite in the spirit in which the Prime Minister, I think, undertook to discuss this matter.
– If honorable members are in agreement to pass this vote with the proviso indicated, I am quite satisfied.
– But notas a guarantee of the scheme the Minister has just been enunciating.
– I have already stated, and the Treasurer has also stated, that no action will be taken in regard to the expenditure of one penny without the approval of Parliament. I should not have spoken at all, but for the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes; and though there is a temptation to drift into a discussion of the general question, I shall, in deference to the apparent wishes of honorable members to deal at once with the vote, conclude my remarks .
.- I agree with the honorable member for Parkes that it is of no use minimizing the importance of this vote ; but the honorable member, in trying to buttress up his position, committed his usual error of saying that the Naval Agreement was opposed by only some six other members of Parliament besides the Labour Party.As a matter of fact, there were eleven members, besides the Labour Party, who. voted against that agreement. But even if the honorable member’s statement had been correct, it only means that the Labour Party, then led by the honorable member for South Sydney, was on the right track, and that the Australian people are with them today.
– Not in that respect.
– We are prepared to put the matter to the test; at any rate, the Labour Party came back in full strength at the last general election.
– This issue was not before the electors.
– We are always prepared to take a question of this kind before’ the country. I shall not pursue this line of argument, but I contend that the Prime Minister is entitled tothis vote as an earnest of what he has in his mind in regard to coastal defence, my view being that the country should undertake the responsibility of defending itself. I think there is a concensus of opinion among naval authorities that it would, be cheaper and more effective fr Australia to provide at least a portion of our own coastal defences, thus allowing the British ships absolute freedom.
– Then this is only supplementary to the Naval Agreement?
– Of course.
– I have no desire to repudiate the vote I gave as to the Naval Agreement, because I still think it an error; indeed, I go further and say that the agreement was made against the instructions of this House when Sir Edmund Barton, as head of the Government, went to Great Britain, and that it was only carried because it was felt that the honour of the country was committed. While I agree with the proviso which has been advocated, I still think that in voting this money, we ought to have in our minds a national coastal defence scheme. I could, if it were necessary, quote many conservative thinkers and conservative’ newspapers, who support the view of the Labour Party in this connexion. If 1 thought that a contribution to the British Navy would be a better plan than the expenditure of a like amount on our own navy-
– I must ask the honorable member not to enter upon a discussion of the Naval Subsidy.
– I quite agree with the policy of the Prime Minister, in so far as it means giving an earnest’ of what it is proposed to do in connexion with our naval defence. Nothing worse can happen to a country, large or small, rich or poor, than to have to lean on another country for its defence. If we are worthy of the name we bear, we shall not only vote the funds necessary for the construction of war vessels, but be prepared to risk our lives in the defence of our country.
– -For the purposes of defence the whole Empire is one country.
– I admit it. But the various Possessions can support each other more effectively in the way I approve of than they could in the way of which the honorable member approves.
– I came prepared fo-night to speak fully on the question of naval defence, but was dissuaded from doing so by the Ministerial statement , that the passing of- the Bill would not commit us to any definite expenditure, and that before any money was spent we should have a full opportunity to discuss the subject generally Therefore, what I am prepared to say can. be kept until a few months hence, when the matter comes up again, seeing that there is to be no expenditure in the interval. I was rather amused at the statement of the honorable member for Wide. Bay, that we are prepared to defend ourselves. This is the second time, that he has made it within a few days. What the Prime Minister proposes is merely the making of preparations for the defence of our harbors and coasts ; our water-borne trade must still be protected by the Mother Country, and that defence will cost a great deal of money. The difference between the position of the honorable member for Wide Bay and my position is that, while I am, and always’ have been, in favour of assisting the Mother Country to bear the burden of defending the Empire of which Australia is part, he wishes her to do so without our assistance, and, indeed, without even acknowledgement. His policy is a selfish one. He thinks only of our harbors and coasts, forgetting that our existence as a country depends on the power and strength of the British Navy. We should surely assist in providing the. defence extended to us by Great Britain. We should not desire to get it for nothing. The object of the proposed measure is to enable money to be taken from this year’s revenue, and placed to a reserve fund, so that it shall not be returned to the States. I do not object to the appropriation, because that is legal; but I maintain now, as I did the other night, that to place this money to a trust fund is unconstitutional, and a grave breach of faith with the States. Parliament, however, has decided against the view I hold, and the States are to be deprived of revenue which they would otherwise receive, and to which I believe they are legally entitled. To-night we are giving effect to that decision. The money to be appropriated is to be paid into a trust fund until its expenditure is authorized; but the mode of expenditure is not to be discussed until next session, or even later. Indeed,- the money may eventually be reappropriated by law to “some quite different purpose. I think, however, that at the end of the financial year, when the States have an opportunity to test the validity of our legislation, the High Court will decide that what we have done is unconstitutional. It may be argued that if I vote for this measure, knowing that the object of the appropriation - which in itself is perfectly legal - is to prevent the return of money to the States, I shall be inconsistent. To guard myself against that charge, I again protest against the illegality of “these unexpended moneys which it is proposed to place in a trust fund, being so placed. I do not wish to be understood to say that the Bill is illegal. We . can appropriate -what we like ; my objection is to the placing of the money to a trust fund1. Ira voting for the Bill, I in. no way retract from the position 1 ‘took up when the Surplus Revenue Bill was under discussion.
– If what is beingdone were proper, we could have no more legitimate object.
– That is so. If the money proposed to be set aside could legally be dealt with in this way, I should be in favour of what is proposed. I believe in defending our harbors, ports, and shores ; but I wish it to be understood that in voting for the Bill, I in no way approve of the unconstitutional- action of depriving the States of money legally due to them, namely, the unexpended balance of the one-fourth of the Customs and’ Excise revenue expendable by the Commonwealth.
.- I should not have risen to speak again were it not for the assumption of a number of honorable members that we are being asked to sanction . the establishment of a separate Australian naval force of some kind or’ other. The Prime Minister has said definitely that the vote is not to be taken as expressing our views in regard to the construction, distribution, or administration and control of the proposed vessels.
– His idea was a flotilla capable of co-operating with any squadron that might be sent into these waters.
– In voting for the Bill, we are not pledging ourselves to give effect to his idea. I- wish it to be understood that there is a larger question than what class of vessel is to be built, or. what naval defence shall be provided.. It is this: Are we to co-operate with the Imperial Navy, or are we to engage in an isolated effort- for the defence of our coasts? However small may be the Navy brought into existence by the expenditure of ,£250,000, it will grow as Australia advances, and by whatever we do when we decide the policy to which this ,£250,000 will some day give expression, we must decide whether Australia’s naval effort is to be under one Imperial control, in co-operation with the vessels of the Mother Country, or whether the antiquated , principle of isolated effort is to be adopted.
– We are not deciding that to-night.
– No; we are not ‘pledging ourselves to Australian control of our. torpedo boats- or submarines.
– Yes, we are.
– The honorable member for South Sydney believes in enforced cooperation’ as a divine principle for the advancement of the race, but he refuses to allow Australia voluntarily to co-operate with a country peopled with his own flesh and- blood !
– I do not refuse cooperation; ‘but I -say that control must remain with us.. …
– That is the same .thing ; but I shall not debate the question. I merely ask the Minister whether he thinks we are pledging ourselves in the matter of control if we pass the Bill.
– I do not think that honorable members will pledge themselves in any way. Parliament must decide that matter later.
– To emphasize the importance of the subject, I cannot do better than to quote a passage from one of a series of able articles contributed by -.the Minister to the Sydney press some time ago. When writing on the subject, he said -
Whether Canada, Australasia, and South Africa are to remain connected with each other and with Great Britain, .or whether they are destined to drift asunder and to form separate nationalities is an alternative which insistently obtrudes itself upon the mind of every . person who attempts to formulate his views upon the topic of Imperial Defence ….
As a general rule, it may be assumed that advocates of separate colonial navies do not set great store by the Imperial connexion.
– I ask the honorable member not to go into that matter.
– I bow to your ruling, sir. The Minister’s opinions are in print, and if occasion for referring to them should arise, they will, of course, be quoted.
– Australia cannot remain a white man’s country without the help of white men in other parts of the world. .
– At all events, I understand that the question now is not whether we are to follow the trend of the age, and sensibly co-operate with our own kin across the seas, or adopt an antiquated and inefficient policy of isolated effort. Having received the Minister’s assurance on the point, I offer no further resistance to his proposal.
– I wish to say one or two words on this subject, as I lost my opportunity to speak on the Surplus Revenue Bill… I am in favour of the appropriation, at the proper time, of - money for defence; but I regard the present occasion as inopportune, and the action proposed as likely to be considered by the States a distinct breach of faith. However, I intend to make my position clear, to guard myself” against the charge of inconsistency. In my view, it is undesirable to appropriate this large sum of money at the close of the session and financial year, because it will dislocate the finances- of the States. Had the Minister of Defence adhered to the declaration made some time ago by the Prime Minister, and confirmed to-night by the Treasurer, I think that he would have found the Committee unanimously in favour of the proposed vote. But instead of doing so, he made a statement which has opened up a general discussion. I consider that our annual subsidy of £200,000 to the British Navy is a very paltry contribution, having regard to the benefits which we derive from it. Notwithstanding the suggestion that our contribution to the naval defence of the Empire may be a contribution in kind, I distinctly hope that the Naval Agreement will be maintained as an earnest of our loyalty and a recognition of the power that is protecting us. Would it be possible for us to defend ourselves from a foreign invasion ?
– The honorable member must not discuss the general question of defence.
– I shall not do so. Whilst not prepared to vote against the Government in respect to this vote, believing that, in view of the passing of the Surplus Revenue Bill, the Committee will be entirely in favour of it, I want it to be clearly understood that I do not commit myself tothe Government scheme, the details of which will have to be considered later on. The Minister, by. his remarks, gave rise to an interjection by the honorable member for South Sydney, which introduced into the debate an element that I deeply regret. We are practically proposing to-night to ear -mark a sum of £250,000 for use in connexion with a scheme which is to be brought before us later on, and if that scheme be not adopted this proposed appropriation will lapse. My desire is that the vote shall not be applied with a view to diminishing the contribution that we make to the British Navy. I shall always consider that that contribution is a very moderate one, having regard to the great services rendered to us by the British Fleet.
.- I object to our embarking upon an undertaking without any knowledge of what it is going to cost, or where it will lead us. We are setting out to-night on a dangerous course, which I feel confident will land the Commonwealth, in the near future, in an enormous expenditure. One might imagine, from the tenor of some of the speeches delivered during this debate, that the Japanese were at our doors, and that we were doing nothing for the defence of our country. As a matter of fact, however, our defence bill is far greater than is that of Canada. Whereas our defence expenditure to-day is equal to 5s. per head of our population, that of Canada is equivalent to only 2s. 6d. per head of her population. I am no more unpatriotic than is the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, yet I have strong objections to the Naval Agreement. The commerce of Canada enjoys the protection of the British Fleet just as does that of Australia, yet she contributes nothing to the Imperial Navy. But no one suggests that Canada is disloyal. to the Empire.
– But Canada spends as much as we do on defence.
– At the establishment of Federation, we were spending upon defence, a sum equal to 4s. per head of our population, as against a defence expenditure by Canada equal to 2s. per head of her population.
– According to the Budget papers, we are still expending on defence a sum equal to 4s. - or, to be exact, 3s.11½d. - per head of our population.
– I hold that our expenditure on defence is equal to about 5s. per head of our population. As soon as a newspaper article suggesting that we are threatened with a Japanese invasion is published, something in the nature of a panic takes place, and there is a wild cry for increased expenditure on defence. In 1903 the honorable member for South Sydney took credit to himself for cutting down the Defence Estimates.
– Because the money was being wasted .
– We went to the country immediately afterwards and the Labour Party scored in every direction, the people upholding its action in cutting down the defence vote.
– In preventing it from being wasted.
– The honorable member for South Sydney was successful in cutting down the Defence Estimates by £60,000 after the Committee, on the motion of. Sir Edward Braddon, had cut them down by £16,000.
– And he was always for cutting them down in New South Wales.
– Under what circumstances did we pass the Naval Agreement
Bill? We went to a division with, so to speak, a pistol at our heads. The then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, told us that when in England he made a solemn promise that such a subsidy would be granted, and it was because of that promise that the Bill was passed. I may be wrong, but I do not think Australia has . anything to fear from the Japanese. For many years to come Japan will have her hands full. I cannot forget the lessons of the South African war. It cost Great Britain over , £220,000,000 to conquer a handful of people in South Africa, and it has been said by undoubted authorities that no other power could have done what Great Britain did, in transporting so large a force there. If a foreign power attempted to invade Australia, I am sure that we should put up a record equal to that of Britishers in any other part of the world. We are asked to-night to embark upon a costly undertaking, and I regret that the Committee should be prepared to agree to this vote with no knowledge of what the Government scheme will be. We are called upon to vote blindly upon this question, and to agree to the initiation of a scheme which may cause the people of the future to curse us. I wish to place on record my objection to this vote.
– I approve of this appropriation of £250,000 being made for the defence of the Australian coast. The scheme to be propounded by the Government will have to be considered by this House, and we shall have later on an opportunity to discuss it. I certainly am in favour of our obtaining submarines and submersibles for coastal defence purposes. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has said that we need not fear invasion, and has suggested that if an enemy’s fleet set out for Australia it would be intercepted and destroyed. When I was a boy a Russian fleet reached Australian waters unheralded and anchored off Glenelg, in St. Vincent’s Gulf, before any one was aware of its presence on the coast. Sir Henry Parkes, referring later on to the Russian ‘war scare, said that he had information that the Russians at that time had designs upon Australia. Whilst I am in favour of this proposed appropriation as an earnest of our intention to provide for the defence of our coast, I certainly am not in favour of our withdrawing from the Naval Agreement under which we contribute , £200,000 per annumto the up keep of the British Navy. When the Naval Agreement Bill was introduced by. Sir Edmund Barton, he said that he had been asked by the Imperial authorities to invite Parliament to grant an annual subsidy of £500,000, and I was bold enough to remark that I was satisfied that my constituents would support me in voting tor such a subsidy. The British Navy is the chief arm of our defence. No Power can swoop down, upon us. But even if the vessels of a hostile force succeeded in raiding us, it is questionable whether they would be able to get away with the spoil, because the British Fleet, having command of the sea, would probably . intercept them before they had gone very far. Having read the discussions upon this proposal which took place in England, I see no objection to the appropriation of the , £250,000 provided for in this Bill, seeing that it is to be devoted to coastal defence. But I hold myself entirely free to oppose the Government’s scheme of defence if it does not embody what I conceive to be the best policy for Australia. The honorable member for South Sydney stated, by way of interjection, that in voting for this appropriation, honorable members would be tacitly admitting that there should be a dual control in the matter of the naval defence of Australia. I say that I. am opposed to any such control. The Admiral of the British Fleet should have full control over the vessels provided by Australia.
– The honorable member for Grey referred in terms of surprise to the fact that I intend supporting this Bill, and that I am in favour of an Australian-owned Navywhich, by the way, is a plank of the Labour Party’s policy that I am astonished to see the honorable member opposing - notwithstanding that I assisted to cut down the military Estimates some years ago. The honorable member, as well as the honorable member for Parkes and others who interjected, might have done me the justice of stating that when I moved for a reduction of those Estimates in 1902, I offered, on behalf of the party whichIrepresented, to vote an additional expenditure of , £500,000 for the purpose of providing necessary arms and equipment. The point to which I took exception was that we were spending an enormous sum of money on training, without making adequate provision in the matter of arms, munitions of war, and equipment generally. I still take the same view. I submit that it is more important that we should have a gun to put into a man’s hand than that we should have a trained man without a gun. Whilst the honorable member for Parkes was speaking, I interjected that I was in favour of Australian control of an Australian Navy. From my own stand-point, the attitude of those who say that we should be dependent upon the Empire for the defence of Australia, is a most unworthy one. Surely we have reached that stage in our development when we can stand upon our own feet.-
– Why, we are only in our swaddling clothes.
– The honorable member’s mind is undoubtedly in that condition. Surely Australia has reached a stage at which she should have sufficient pride to attempt her own defence, and to put forth efforts - should the occasion arise - to relieve the Empire of any anxiety upon her behalf. For the Commonwealth to rely upon others to defend it is contemptible. Our plain duty is to make provision for Australian defence without relying upon anybody else. Consequently, I am in favour of the establishment, at the earliest possible moment, of an Australian-owned and Australian-built Navy. .But in time of war, the control of our vessels must be a unified control. We could not hope to obtain any effective result if fleets which are supposed to assist one another were under separate and independent commands. Australia should own and control her own navy ; but we should be taking a suicidal course if we did npt arrange - in the event of war - that it should act in conjunction with the ships of the Imperial Fleet,’ under the’ control of the. Imperial authorities. At such times, it would be extremely unwise to pursue any other course. The present Naval- Agreement, about which some honorable members are so enthusiastic; has One very ugly feature from the . stand-point of Australian defence, in that the ships pro.vided under it are not of any real value, because they may be removed from our waters in time of war.
– I must ask the honorable member not to pursue that line of argument.
– I will not ; although I only offended as others have done. As far as the naval subsidy is concerned, I- wish to say that the Agreement has never been observed by the British Government since its consummation.
– Have we npt paid the money?
– Yes. But the Imperial authorities have not provided the ships that they agreed to provide.
– They have given us good service.
– They have given us no service, whatever of the class that we contracted for. I regard the vote upon this Bill as distinctly one upon the question of the desirableness of establishing an Australian Navy.
– How can that question be determined until the general defence policy of the Government has been submitted ? It is recognised that the matter will again come on for discussion when the defence scheme is under consideration.
– Only so far as the method of expending this money is concerned.
– So far as the policy is concerned.
– No. The method of expenditure will come up for consideration when the Bill is before us, and the details are presented. But this, as I take it, is to be an indication of the desire of Parliament in ‘respect of the naval side o£ defence. As to details, .we have, of course, the general scheme of the Prime Minister, but the class of ships, upon which this money and any supplementary sum is to be spent is a matter for future consideration. I trust’, that the Committee will carry the proposals of the Government, and afford: proof to. .the Mother Country that we are prepared to take our share in defending the portion of the Empire intrusted to our charge.
– The honorable member for South Sydney has stated that by voting the money asked for by the Government we shall be committing ourselves to a policy. I desire it to be understood that if I vote for the proposal I shall not stand committed to any policy. I understood from the Treasurer that- he gave the Committee an assurance, which I accept, that matters of detail would be placed before us for consideration at a subsequent stage.
– Hear, hear. :
– But the honorable member for South Sydney, who is behind the scenes, now tells us that we are committing ourselves to a policy.
– That is. my opinion, that is all.
– But the honorable member speaks as a prominent member of the Labour- Party, who are dominating this Government. I wish to refer briefly to the remarks made on this subject in England by Lord Tweedmouth. He said -
I understand that Australia puts forward a proposal that the scheme of 1902 should be ended, and that Australia should start something in the way of a local defence force.
The Prime Ministerof Australia said, in his reply to Lord Tweedmouth, that the views of the Federal Government had already been put on record in a despatch which he had sent to the Admiralty, and that the existing system of contribution was not generally popular. 1, however, say distinctly that the present system has been popular, and that the people of Australia do not desire a change. The Prime Minister further said -
Further consideration has convinced the public that the present agreement is not satisfactory either to the Admiralty, the political Lords of the Admiralty, or to the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
That is definite enough, but I still say that the people of Australia do not approve of the Prime Minister’s views on this question. The honorable member for South Sydney argues that what it is proposed to do will form the nucleus of an Australian Navy. I quite admit that we must form the nucleus of a Navy at some time. But we must not tiy to run before we can walk. To talk of a handful of people not more than 4,500,000 in number establishing a Navy is nonsense. We have developed under the protection of the British Navy. Without the protection of the British flag to-day, what would be our position as a nation? What should we do with our commerce? What would our primary producers do? We could never be successful, and Australia could never develop. It is the security that we get from the protection of Great Britain which makes us a prosperous and progressive people. It would in my opinion be far better for us to double the present subsidy than to think of establishing a Navy of our own at pre sent. I am satisfied that the views which I am expressing are those which are entertained by the majority of the people of this country. It is all very well for honorable members opposite who represent city constituencies to speak . so confidently upon this subject. But the country districts also have an interest in the matter, and their views must be respected. It will be time enough to talk about establishing a Navy of our own when we have 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 people in this country. But -we cannot do it at this stage. We need to devote all our energies to attracting population.
– Nobody talks like that when he thinks of establishing a new business. He never says, “ This is not the time to do such a thing.”
– I do not suppose that the honorable member knows very much about establishing businesses, or he would be aware that that is exactly how a business man does talk. There must, of course, be a beginning for everything, but we are not in a position to make a beginning with an Australian Navy at present. I am sure that the bargain made with the Admiralty some years ago would, be indorsed bv at least 70 per cent, of” the people of Australia, and they would rather see the subsidy doubled than the agreement’ broken.’
.- I hope that the people of Australia do not hold the views expressed by the last speaker. I should be very much ashamed of them if they did. They would place themselves before the world as a helpless crowd of people who felt unable to do anything to protect themselves. The people of this country do not adopt the view that we must for all time “ depend upon mother.” It is a hopeless policy to say that we must do nothing to protect ourselves upon the sea until we have a population of 10,000,000 or 20,000,000. Are we to erect notices asking the peqple. of other countries -not’ to attack us until we get a population of 20,000,000? That is the silliest idea that I ever heard of. Countries likely to attack us will not wait until we’ are ready. But . according to the honorable member for Grampians we should not begin our preparations until we have a population of10,000,000 or 20,000,000. The Australians have no reason to be ashamed of their efforts in the past. Those who have visited the Commonwealth have been astonished at what we have been able to do. As for our being only 4,000,000 persons, it must be remembered that on many occasions a much smaller number has given the Old Country more trouble than she has been able to cope with. The United States of America made themselves independent of her at a time when their population was much smaller than ours. But no matter how much we may contribute towards the upkeep of the Imperial Navy, . its vessels will not remain on our coasts if the enemy is to be fought elsewhere.
– We have not a land force yet.
– We shall not have anything while this doctrine is preached. At present we have neither guns nor ammunition, though we are going to get some. If the Empire were involved in war, the British war vessels would have to go where they could operate most effectively against the foe, and it behoves us to make preparations for defending our ports against privateers and raiding crews while they are absent.
– Would a raiding force try to land at a port ?
– Tasmania’s communication with the mainland depends upon the shipping, so that surely the honorable member can see the advantages of protecting our harbors, if only as places of refuge. Hobson’s Bay itself could probably shelter the greater part of our shipping, if the port were strongly enough defended to keep at bay, not perhaps a fleet of battleships, but such vessels as might be sent here to take advantage of the absence of the British Navy. . The Mother Country has not offered to do this work for us, nor have we asked her to provide submarines and torpedo destroyers for- harbor and coastal defence. Every civilized nation has to-day a naval policy. No nation says, “ Let us, before building more battle-ships, wait until our population grows.” Yet some honorable members tell us that the feeling of this country is against what is proposed.
– The people are opposed to cutting the painter.
– They are prepared to spend money for the defence of the Commonwealth., . Whether we do or do not subsidize the Imperial Navy, its ships in time of war will be sent wherever the enemy may be, while if we do not contribute a penny in subsidy, we shall still have their protection.
– Let us make whatever local defence we consider necessary in addition to paying the subsidy.
– It is bad for Australia to continue to subsidize the Imperial Navy, because we can do. better with the money by spending it on local defence, and the earlier we commence our defence preparations the better. If we start now, we shall have a decent navy by the time our population has become 10,000,000 or 20,000,000, unless the world is then sufficiently civilized to have abolished warfare. By making our own defence preparations, we shall assist the Motherland.
– We should contribute towards the expense of the Navy which protects us.
– However much we contribute, the British vessels will not remain on our coasts in time of war if it be necessary for them to go elsewhere. I understand that it is the intention of the Government not to build battle-ships, but to construct vessels suitable for harbor and coastal defence. We cannot afford to spend £1,000,000 on the construction of a battle-ship, but we can afford to spend money on other and less expensive vessels, which would be very effective for the purposes for which we require them.
.- I am very pleased that the Government have madea start of some kind to give effect to a naval policy. All the big nations of Europe have war- chests, and we should’ establish a war chest to which we should contribute something each year. When the Russians commenced their war with Japan they had something like , £90,000,000 in gold in their war chest. If we got into trouble to-morrow there would not be a single shilling in our war chest. We arequite unprepared. The Naval Agreement is to continue in force for another five years, and I do not suppose that anybody desires to repudiate the contract we haveentered into. But it is important to remember that at the end of. the ten years weshall be as unprepared as we are at present, if we do not make a start in the direction suggested by the Government. I thinkthat the Government are to be commended’ in this matter. We should do somethingat least to place our coastal- defences in a reasonable condition of efficiency. We have- three or four large cities on our coast .line which must be defended, and it is possible to defend them by the use of submarines and the smaller class, ot war boats. Vladivostock was defended in this way, and was held for a very long time by the Russians against the very powerful Japanese fleet. At present it is, of course, impossible for us to think of building a big navy, but every country must make a start, and we should do so. It is of no use to say that we must always fall back upon the Mother Country. That would not be fair to her. We should bear a reasonable share of the cost of Australian defence, and in that way do something for the defence of the Empire.
– 1 think that perhaps .the debate might now be brought to a close’. After some hours’ discussion of the. ‘subject it seems to me that we have got back exactly to the point at which we began to-night. I wish just to say that whatever may be the opinion of the honorable member for South Sydney regarding the naval policy to be pursued, and which he thinks is to be initiated by this vote, the answer to the honorable member is to be found in the remarks made by the Prime Minister. Speaking of the sum now proposed to be voted, the honorable gentleman said -
It will not be devoted to the purposes for which it was originally intended.
Clearly then the vote has been deflected from its original purpose. As it appeared on the main Estimates it was intended- to initiate the new naval policy, but’ the Prime Minister’ has since definitely stated that it is not now to be devoted to that purpose. He said -
It will not be devoted to the purpose for which it was originally intended, the initiation of a policy to which the honorable member for Wide Bay, and, I think, most honorable members have given a general support.
The Prime Minister here refers to the proposal of the honorable member for Wide Bay for setting up an Australian navy, and concurrently with that the abrogation of the Naval Agreement.
– No; that does not follow.
– I am referring to the policy of the honorable member for Wide Bay, and those who follow him, of building an Australian Navy and terminating the Naval Agreement.
– I did not say that. I said I favoured the building of an Aus- . . tralian Navy to protect our own shores and relieve the Imperial naval authorities.
– The honorable member made it quite clear, also, that ‘he was in. favour of the termination of the Naval Agreement.
– I know something of the matter, and I do not think there is any intention to take away the- vessels of the British Navy on the Australian station.
– I am not speak- ing of the Prime Minister’s policy at all, but of the vote we are discussing, and -the purpose for which it is intended. The Prime Minister has clearly said, that it is to be diverted from its original purpose, and is only to be ear-marked in order that, as the honorable member for Balaclava has said, we may establish a war chest. The way in which it is to be spent, and the policy to be propounded in connexion with its expenditure, are matters which are to be left over for the present. In voting this money, therefore, we commit ourselves to no policy, naval or otherwise, but, possibly, to the broad, general principle that Australia should begin to pay something more for the defence of the Empire and of the Commonwealth as a part of it. I have no- hesitation, in the circumstances, in accepting the position as laid down by the Prime Minister. His statement was very definite -
Not one penny of this amount will be expended except with the assent of this House to the way in which it shall be expended.
I accept that statement unreservedly, and believe that it will be strictly adhered to.
.- I shall not occupy more, than a moment or two ; but I consider that some expression of opinion is necessary when the initiation of a fund for the coastal defence of Australia is proposed. When I was before my constituents, I urged that we should make provision for the nucleus of an Australian navy for Coastal defence. I. think that that is generally accepted as’ the policy which should be pursued in Australia. The details of the scheme can be discussed when the whole question of naval defence is before us. So far as the Naval Agreement is concerned, I would say that, notwithstanding the very amicable discussion which took place between Lord Tweedmouth and Mr. Deakin, I see no inconsistency in continuing the naval subsidy and, at the same time, building up a naval defence for Australia.
. I can make my position clear in a few words. I wish it to be distinctly understood that, so far as I am concerned, the acceptance of this vote does not in any way commit this House or Australia to the abrogation of the Naval Agreement or the creation of a pop-gun navy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Williamlyne) agreed to-
That the Standing Orders be suspended so as to allow the Report to be considered and a Bill to be passed through all its stages this day.
That Sir William Lyne and Mr. Ewing do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing Resolution.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed - .
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- The House has no knowledge of what is’ in the Bill.
– The Bill simply provides that there shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, for the purposes of the trust account established under the Audit Acts, and known as the Harbor and Coastal Defence Naval Account, a sum of £250,000 for harbor and coastal defence naval purposes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly for the purposes of the Trust Account established under the Audit Acts 1901-1906 and known as the Harbor and Coastal Defence (Naval) Account, the sum of Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds for Harbor and Coastal Defence (Naval) purposes.
.- So far as I understand the agreement, it was that this money was to be voted for naval defence purposes generally. The Bill provides that it shall be put -aside for “ harbor and coastal defence naval purposes.”
– It was put that way because without the word “ naval “ it might have been construed as intended for fixed defences.
– Then why not leave out “harbor and coastal,” and make.it “naval defence purposes ‘ ‘ ?
– The Prime Minister has Seen the Bill, and it is not wise for me to take the responsibility of altering it. Whatever powers -may be conferred under the Bill, any promise given to-night will be faithfully kept. We need not bother about the phraseology in the circumstances.
– I will rest content with the Minister’s assurance.
– I have not seen the Bill, and therefore cannot discuss its terms, but it is a very unusual way to appropriate money to a trust account. The Audit Act gives the Treasurer power to establish trust accounts. Those who favour this money being appropriated and placed to a trust account contend that the power of appropriation for any purpose rests in this House. But there is no necessity to provide in the Bill that the money shall go to a trust account. If the money is appropriated, the Treasurer can, under the authority of the Audit Act, place it to a trust account.
– This is really a limitation. It confines it to the trust fund purpose, and no other.
– We have had the assurance that the money will not be spent. But placing in a trust account will hot prevent it from being spent. Moneys placed to trust accounts are disposed of by the Government for the purposes for which they have been appropriated. I submit that this Bill is doing two things, one of which is not necessary. All we have to do is to appropriate the money. It is for the Government to place it to a trust account if they think it desirable. My opinion is that we are acting ultra vires all through, but a majority of this House do not agree with me. Although it will not do much harm to provide that the money shall go to the trust account, those words are surplusage, and do not. make the money more secure. The Treasurer has the power to divert into trust accounts moneys which have been appropriated for the purposes of those accounts. If there was nothing in the Constitution to prevent it, that would be the course pursued with this money, but I submit that there are provisions in the Consti- tution which prevent this sort of thing being done, although I should be out of order in arguing the question, as the Surplus Revenue Bill has been passed.
– - I hesitate very rauch to differ with regard to constitutional practice from the right honorable gentleman who has had ten! years’ experience as the Premier of an important State. But - contrary to his view - I think that the matter is perfectly clear. ‘We must distinguish carefully between the wisdom- of this legislation and its constitutional propriety. It seems to me that this Bill must be read with the Surplus Revenue Bill. 1 Sir John Forrest. - Why?
– Generally under the Constitution the Commonwealth has unlimited powers of appropriation, but until we passed the Surplus Revenue Bill it had no power of appropriation with regard to the one-fourth share of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– There is no power in that’ Bill to make a trust account. Mr. BRUCE SMITH.- Will my right honorable friend allow me to make a connected argument ?
– But the honorable member will hot hear what I say.-
– Under the Constitution there is a general power of appropriation without’ restriction of any kind, but it places the 25 per cent, pf the Customs and Excise revenue on a totally different basis, and limits the powers, of the; Commonwealth . there, to money “‘expended,” not “ appropriated.” Then the Government brought in the Surplus Revenue Bill, which proposed that “ expenditure ‘ ‘ should be synonymous with ‘ ‘ appropriation.”
– Vice versa, I think.
– I think that the right honorable gentleman is mistaken. Under the Constitution there is an unlimited power of appropriation except’ with regard to the 25 per cent, of the Customs and Excise revenue, and it provides that it is not an unlimited power of appropriation unless the money is expended. Wisely or unwisely, this House has passed a Bill which provides that expenditure s-hall mean appropriation, and now we are asked to appropriate £250,000 to a trust fund, not. for expenditure within ‘the financial year, but at some future time, and for a specificpurpose. I do not think that it comes into conflict at all with the general powers of appropriation in the Constitution, because of the Surplue Revenue Bill which. has altered the meaning of the Constitution with regard to the 25 per cent, of Customs andExcise revenue.
– I submit that the honorable member for Parkes has not touched the point that I raised, and that was that there is no necessity to mention anything about a trust account. That is an Executive act, and the Audit Act .empowers the Treasurer to place to a trust account any money that is voted.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In Committee :
Motion’ (by Sir’ William Lyne) agreed to- .
That it is expedient that an appropriation. of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £750,000 for invalid and old-age pensions.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended so as to allow the Report to be considered, and a Bill to be passed through all its stages this day.
– We are asked by the Minister to suspend the Standing Orders to pass a Bill which we have not seen. . He must recognise that that is irregular and unreasonable.
– The Bill cannot be introduced unless the Standing Orders are suspended. The next stages will be to adopt the Committee’s report and to authorize two Ministers to bring in the Bill, and unless the Standing Orders are suspended these stages will have to be postponed until to-morrow.
– I was quite aware of that, sir, but since the Minister has taken this unusual course I think that the obligation of courtesy upon him is more imperative. I ask that he should show me the Bill privately.
– That is a fair thing.
– Here is a copy of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
. May I ask the Treasurer whether this sum of£750,000 is to be obtained next year or during this financial year?
– It may be next year or the year after, just according as there is a surplus.
– It is a surplus to be spread over any time that is necessary.
– And to be put in trust.
– I do not think anything of putting the money in trust. As the honorable gentleman knows, my view is that he has power to do that, if he has the appropriation.
– That is the object.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That Sir William Lyne and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring ina Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir William Lyne, and read a first time.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second lime.
– I understand that the object of this Bill is simply to appropriate the money for the purpose of putting it into a trust account.
– The object in this case is exactly the same as in the other.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly for the purposes of the Trust Account established under the Audit Acts 1901-1906, and known as the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Fund, the sum of Seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds for Invalid and Oldage Pensions.
– I desire to know how long this Bill will operate. Will it operate for one year only ?
– There is no limit.
– How is it proposed to raise thebalance of the £1,500,000 to meet old-age pensions?
– It will go on until it is exhausted
– I want to know where the rest of the money is to come from.
– The Bill provides for an appropriation of , £750,000, which is to form a trust fund. That amount will be saved this year and next year, and it will then be necessary to bring in a Bill to provide for a further appropriation.
– The amount proposed to be appropriated is considerably in excess of the sum which the Treasurer said would be available this year. That being so, I should like to know why he does not propose a larger appropriation ?
– I take it that this is an earnest of our intention to foot the Bill that we carried last night. It would be very improper to appropriate, under this Bill, the whole sum required. The amount is specified in the Bill, and we are thus given full control over it. It is to our advantage that the full sum proposed to be appropriated in respect of old-age pensions is not specified in this measure. It would be very wrong to make such an appropriation if there was no prospect of finding the money. The Treasurer says that he foresees the possibility of saving this’ year and next year, before the Old-age Pensions Bill comes into operation, this sum of £750,000, and, therefore; he very properly asks us to appropriate such an amount.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether any portion of this , £750,000 will be spent before the House is consulted?
– We may commence to pay old-age pensions before the 1st July, 1909, if the States are prepared to make an arrangement with us, and to provide us with the means of paying them before that date.
– Otherwise, this money will not be spent before 1st July, 1909 ?
– The Bill simply provides for the appropriation of a sum that we hope to save this year and next.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion(by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That this. Bill be now read a third time.
– I desire to say that, while voting for the third reading of this Bill, I have not altered the opinion already expressed by me that the Surplus Revenue Bill, and also this and another Bill based upon it, are unconstitutional, and a distinct breach of the agreement made with the States at the Convention.
.- I rise to say that I support this motion most heartily, because the Bill is necessary to provide funds for old-age pensions.
.- I rise to support the motion, in the full belief that in passing this Bill we are well within our constitutional rights, and are doing the best for Australia. The right honorable member for Swan must recognise that it is of the utmost importance to a very large body of people.
– I rise to congratulate the House and the country oh the passing of what is an earnest of the payment of old-age pensions resulting from the passing, this session, of a measure which the leader of the Labour Party, and other honorable members of that party, said could not be passed “ in this short session.”
– I wish to congratulate the House and the country upon the passing of a measure, unequalled in the history of European legislation, in the shortest possible time, and, I am proud to say, without a division ; and if Parliament had done nothing else, it has justified its existence.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee :
– I move -
That a sum not exceeding£1,412,625 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1909.
– I appeal to my honorable friend not to take this course to-night. There is plenty of business yet to be dealt with, and he knows that the voting of Supply, on an occasion like this, should be the last business of the session.
– I do not wish to pass the Bill to-night. My sole desire is to reach a certain stage, so that it may be circulated amongst honorable members.
– I should like the Treasurer, before this Bill is finally passed, to inform the House how long it is proposed that Parliament shall be in recess. We have our arrangements to make, and, as the prorogation has been a matter of uncertainty for a long time, a statement such as I suggest would convenience honorable members. The proposal to grant Supply in respect of portion of a financial year that has not yet begun is almost unprecedented.
– The Queensland Parliament has granted Supply until October.
– Surely the circumstances warrant what is proposed?
– But it is extraordinary that we should grant Supply in respect of a financial year that we have not yet entered upon. It is only the exceptional circumstances in which we find ourselves which “render the adoption of this unusual course necessary. Before we separate the Government ought to say when Parliament will re-assemble, so that honorable ‘members may make their arrangements accordingly. We all have our own private businesses to look after, and it is of the utmost importance that we should know when Parliament will meet again.
– I was merely waiting until another stage had been reached to make an explanation of the character desired by the honorable member. I cannot fix the exact date when Parliament will reassemble, but I know that the Prime Minister contemplates that it will be about the middle of September. Probably he will be present to-morrow, but if not, I shall ascertain from him when he anticipates that
Parliament will be called together, so that I may be in a position to make a definite statement.
– I would suggest that time will be saved in considering this Bill if the Treasurer will inform honorable members whether the amounts allocated under it to each Department are based upon the exact expenditure of those Departments during the current financial year.
-When we reach another stage I intend to give that information to the Committee.
– We shall then be able to take upon trust those items which aire based upon the expenditure of the current year, and devote our attention exclusively to those items in which the amounts differ from the expenditure authorized on a former occasion.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable all steps to be taken to obtain Supply, and to bring in, and read a first time, a Supply Bill.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, adopted.
That Sir William Lyne and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir William Lyne) and read a first time.
.- I move -
That the second reading be, made an Order of the Day for this day.
I am not at all surprised that honorable members should desire some particulars of the basis upon which these Estimates have been framed, and an approximate idea of the revenue and expenditure for the next financial year. The Bill covers a period of three months, and as far as possible I have adopted as a basis the expenditure for the current financial year.
– Including the expenditure involved in the Additional Estimates?
– The amounts mentioned in the Bill are based upon the whole expenditure for the current year. There is an increase of a little more than £50,000 in connexion with the Tasmanian cables.
– Between what States will that expenditure bedistributed ?
– The honorable member will see by reference to the Bill: My estimate of the expenditure for the next three months is, I think, a very liberal one. During the current year I had an experience with my Treasurer’s advance account which upon several occasions nearly drove me intothe Insolvency Court. I have, therefore, attempted to make sufficient financial provision to enable me, by the exercise of economy, to avoid an increase in the expenditure for the current year. I do not wish to be cornered if I am called upon to meet claims which I cannot now foresee.
– Will the probable expenditure of the year include any appropriation for the purpose of paying old-age pensions ?
– Whatever surplus there may be,will be paid into a trust account for that purpose.
– Has the Treasurer made an estimate in excess of what he thinks will be the actual expenditure?
– I had to make an estimate upon some basis, and I have taken the expenditure of this year as that basis, and have added something- to it: Thus I think that I have made a very liberal estimate. Parliament will reassemble in September next, and if it be possible I shall get the whole of the Estimatesput through early, in order that we may obviate the necessity for passing more than one Supply Bill.
– This Supply should be granted only upon that understanding.
– I hope thatthe expenditure will not be so heavy as I am now estimating: I desire to give an approximate forecast, but, of course, it must be understood that I do not put it forward as being accurate or final ; although I have taken care not to over-estimate these figures. . T estimate the revenue for next year at £670,000 less than that forthe current year; and the revenue this year, in consequence of the shrinkage during the winter months, has been less than was anticipated. As far as we can see, the Customs and Excise revenue next year will return £11,100,000. The Post and Telegraph revenue is estimated at £3,430,000. The miscellaneous revenue - including patents; &c. - is estimated at , £60,000. The total estimated revenue is, therefore, £14,590,000. The expenditure for1908-9 is estimated at £6,150,000. I wish to say here that the expenditure for 1907-8 up to the end of the present month - that is, adding to the. actual figures an estimate for the remaining three weeks of the present financial year - is £6,115,000. In the estimate of expenditure for. 1908-9, I have, I. think, made provision for everything, and. have been careful not to make the figures too low. The £6,115,000 expenditure for the current year includes the £250,000 that we have just voted for purposes of naval defence. That sum, of course, will not be repeated next year.
-These Estimates, of course, are not final ?
Six WILLIAM LYNE. - No. It is impossible to give final Estimates at this stage. When I am preparing my Budget in September, I shall give my final Estimates. The difference between the estimated revenue and the estimated expenditure on the basis of the figures which I have given, is £8,440,000 . As I have stated, the Customs and Excise revenue is estimated at £11, 100,000. The expense of collection is estimated at £300,000, making the net revenue £10,800,000. Onerfourth of that sum amounts to £2,700,000. The threefourths to be returned to the States, if my estimateworks out all right, will be £8,100,000 The amount available for old-age . pensions I have set down as £340,000; but, as a matteroffact, I anticipate more than that, because I have included £2 50,000 on the Estimates for the current year that willnot be repeated next year. Therefore, that £540,000 is likely to be increased.
-Has the; honorable, gentleman allowed for interest-on the transferred properties?
– Oh, no.
-The Treasurer will have to face that question next year.
– How will the Treasurer be able to meet the old-age pensions demands in July, 1909?
– That is a matter that we shall be able to work out easily. All that I can do is to keep the expenditure down as reasonably low as I can, and to save as much as possible without starving the Departments and carrying on the work of the Federal Government meanly.
– Is the Treasurer including anything for bounties ?
– Yes ; that is all included. . I think I have been careful not to leave out anything. . In my. opinion, a Treasurer is foolish if he manufactures an estimate that islikely to belie him in a few months.
– Allowing that the Treasurer’s estimate of. revenue is correct, how much: does he calculate will be left over to be returned to the States?
– I have told the House that the three- fourths to be returned to the States is estimated at , £8, 100,000.
– How much of the one- fourth will be returned to the States?
– Is the Treasurer going to give back to the States -any part of the one-fourth?
– Oh, no! ‘We shall pay to the States £8,100,000, and keep £2,700,000.
– How does that compare with the payment to the States during the present year?
– Do Iunderstand that the total amount that. the Treasurer expects to put by forold-age pensions at the end of the next financial year, will.be £340,000?
– Not the total amount. That is the amount. to be put by next year in addition to the amount put by this year.
– This year, the States received back about £8,800,000, so that next year they will get about £700,000 less.
– I estimate that our. revenue nextyear will be nearly £700,006 less than we received this year. The Bill is to cover the first three months of the next financial year based on the expenditure of the present year. Exclude ing special appropriations, there was voted for this year £5,796,687, of which onefourth is £1,449,172, which is more than the amount for which we now ask. In. Committee, I shall be prepared to give hon orable members any further information they may desire.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Order of Business.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) pro- posed -
That the House do now adjourn.
-What have we to do to-day in addition to the Supply Bill?
– There is the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, and a validating Bill in connexion with certain trust funds under the Audit Act, which would not take long, though I wish, to see the Prime Minister about it. ‘ I do not know of anything else; though I cannot say definitely that nothing else will be taken.
– It is not fair to treat the House in this way. The Treasurer should speak definitely.
– So far as I know, there is no further business to do; but I have not seen the Prime’ Minister for. two days, and do not know what his intentions are.
– They are not at work in the Department now drafting more Bills?
– No. With the reservation which’ I have made, there will be only the measures which I have mentioned. .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.35 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 June 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19080604_reps_3_46/>.