3rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if he can tell us when the memorandum embodying the present views of the Government with reference to the new protection will be available for general information ?
– In a few days, I hope.
– Has the Prime Minister yet come to a determination regarding the printing of certain lectures on military science delivered by Colonel Foster to students of the University of Sydney? He promised to consider the matter.
– The Minister of Defence undertook to look through a list of papers whose publication has been sug gested, and to inform me if he thought it wise to recommend the printing of any of them. I have not yet heard from him on the subject.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Telephone Instruments Insurance - Sorters’ Pay– Casterton Post Office - Ballan Post Office.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether any decision has been arrived at with regard to raising the pay of sorters, now receiving under the minimum rate of£144 per annum, up to that standard?
– The honorable member asked a somewhat similar question some time ago, and was then told that the matter was under consideration. The Public ServiceCommissioner has informed me to-day that the extra salary will be paid as from the 1st July last.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. This matter comes within the province of the Department of Home Affairs, but I am informed the State District Architect has intimated that he will endeavour to have particulars ready for advertising for tenders about the 1 8th inst.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Preparation of Defence Scheme : Consultation of Officers on Military Board - Rifles, G Scottish Company : Mount Gambier.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
In the preparation of the scheme of Defence embodied in the Defence Bill, had the Government the assistance of the Military Authorities?
– Yes. If the right honorable member makes special reference to the members of the Military Board, I may say that every one of them was consulted.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions I have to state that the order of events was as follows : -
The Government determined upon and announced a policy of universal training. All members of the Forces were asked to express their opinion on the Government’s proposal, and their views were duly tabulated and considered. Lt.-Col. Legge was chosen by the Minister to prepare, under Ministerial direction, a draft Bill. That Bill was then referred to a Board consisting of the Adjutant-General, the Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General for Instruction, Victoria, the Acting Secretary to the Department, and Lt.-Col. Legge for criticism. It was then again submitted to the Minister, and after revision by him, each member of the Board was furnished with a copy and asked for a full consideration and suggestions. The Military Board, as a Board, is not intended to suggest to Parliament the defence policy of the Commonwealth. The Board was created purely for administrative purposes, and does not deal with matters of principle.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
August, and the new ones were expected immediately, the Company has, since then, lost the opportunity of competing for three trophies, namely, Moorak, Koorine, and Dawson?
– I have no knowledge of the case, but I have given instructions that a telegram shall be sent. When a reply to it is received, I shall inform the honorable member.
.- I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The measure was introduced last session, and has been restored to the business-paper at the stage which it had reached at the time of the prorogation. Its object is to repeal section 50 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, No. 5, of 1902, and to substitute another section in lieu thereof. The Public Service Act has proved defective in some particulars, which was inevitable, seeing the variety of important questions with which it deals, and that it determines the relations between the Commonwealth and all its officers. I quite agree that it would be better if a Bill could be introduced to amend the Act generally. That, however, is far beyond the scope of a private member, and to attempt such a thing would be merely to occupy uselessly the time of the House. The Government no doubt will tell us that we should postpone dealing piecemeal with this matter, in order that we may deal with it more comprehensively later on. The one fatal objection to such a contention is that the state of the business-paper at present does not afford us any reasonable hope that such a measure would be gone on with this year, if, indeed, it might be even proceeded with next session. There is so much dissatisfaction in the Public Service regarding matters that readily admit of adjustment, and which all parties agree ought to be amended, and are capable of amendment, that unnecessary delay is inexcusable. In these circumstances no further apology for the introduction of this Bill is necessary from me. Section 50 of the principal Act relates to appeals, but honorable members will see, by referring to it, that all actions taken in relation to officers under sections 31, 46 to 49 inclusive, 65, 66, and 73 thereof, are expressly exempted from its operation. Turning to section 46, honorable members will find that -
If any officer is guilty of a breach of the provisions of this Act or any regulations thereunder ; or is guilty - of any wilful disobedience or disregard of any lawful order made or given by any person having authority to give such order; or of being negligent or careless in the discharge of his duties; or of being inefficient or incompetent, and such inefficiency or incompetency appears to arise from causes within his own control ; or of using intoxicating beverages to excess; or of any disgraceful or improper conduct then such officer shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to such punishment as may be determined upon under the provisions of this section.
In section 47 it is provided that -
Where an officer in the administrative division is charged by any person with any of the offences mentioned in sub-section (1) of the last preceding section the Minister may suspend such officer and report the charge and suspension to the Commissioner and thereupon the Commissioner shall appoint a Board of Inquiry…..
That Board of Inquiry has power to inquire into the truth of the charges made, and is called upon to communicate its decision to the Commissioner, who is then to decide what action should be taken. Section 48 provides that -
All officers upon the hearing by a Board of Inquiry of any charge against them shall be entitled to be represented by counsel attorney or agent who may examine witnesses and address the Board of Inquiry in their behalf.
The Board of Inquiry is to inquire into the truth of the charges without regard to legal forms and solemnities, and under section 49 it may conduct its inquiries in private, and, having heard the evidence, may make such recommendations as may be considered necessary. A quasijudicialtribunal is thus set up, with power to inquire into charges made, and the Act provides that it shall consist of three persons, one of whom shall be Chairman. Generally speaking those persons are selected from the Department affected, and they are called upon to make a recommendation to the Commissioner. The scope of section 50 is restricted, as I have already said, to matters other than those mentioned in sections 31, 46 to 49, 65, 66,. and 73. A person aggrieved may appeal, and that appeal must be made to a Board consisting of an Inspector, the Chief Officer of the Department to which “ such officer “ belongs, or an officer nominated by “ such Chief Officer,” and an employe of the service, who shall be representative of the division to which the person charged belongs. Now, under section 8, an Inspector is virtually Deputy to the Commissioner. If the Commissioner is indisposed he may act for him, and, in short, the Inspector in each State carries out functions with which the Commissioner is clothed, but which, by reason of circumstances, he cannot personally exercise. The duties of an Inspector, as set forth in section 8, are to inspect every Department, to examine, as far as practicable, the officers therein, with a view of ascertaining the duties of officers and the value of their services. He is also called upon to furnish, in writing to the Commissioner, a full report as to even’ inspection, examination, or inquiry made by him. In other words, it is upon the report of an Inspector that the Commissioner takes action with regard to promotions and every other matter relating to individual employes which may be subsequently made a ground of appeal. Obviously, all such inspections could not be made personally by the Inspector, and they are made largely by proxy. The head of the Department and the immediate superior of the officer usually perform this work. Now a charge made against an officer is preferred by his immediate superior, orby the head of his Department, or branch, or division. It is then submitted to a Board of Inquiry, on which the Department is fully represented, the representation of the individual affected being always in the minority. An appeal from the decision of that Board goes to a tribunal, in which the Department concerned is represented by its chief, and by the Inspector who has been throughout dependent upon* reports submitted to him by the officer, whilst a representative of the division to which the person charged belongs is also a member of the tribunal. In these circumstances it cannot be said that such a tribunal is an equitable one. An appeal goes, in reality, from the decision of an officer to that officer himself, or to his deputy, or to some person having similar interests with him. If we are to assume that this tribunal is in any way judicial in its functions - and I think honorable members will admit that the in tention of section 50 of the Act was that its functions should be judicial or quasi-judicial - its constitution is at once condemned, because it is a well-known axiom that no man ought to be a judge in his own case. If we put it the other way round, and said that in a case where the head of a Department was charged there should be upon the Board two representatives of the employes and one representative of the heads of Departments, that would be repugnant to one’s ideas of natural justice or usual custom. In section’ 47 this principle is so far recognised that sub-section 2 provides -
Where any inspector is charged with an offence or is suspended by the Commissioner, the Board of Inquiry shall be appointed by the Governor-General .
Not by the Commissioner, because the inspector is the Commissioner acting by deputy. The Act, therefore, recognises that it would not be fair to appoint a tribunal to decide a charge against an inspector which, on the face of it, would be partial, being composed of either his immediate superior, his fellow deputy inspectors, or his subordinates. It is exactly for that reason that in sub-clause 1 of clause 2 of this Bill I propose to amend section 50 so that the Board shall consist of three persons -
Of whom one shall be a Judge of a County, District or Local Court, or a Police, Stipendiary, or Special Magistrate, one shall be the Chief Officer of the Department to which such officer belongs, or an officer nominated by such Chief Officer, and one shall be the representative of the Division to which such officer belongs, elected under the Regulations by the officers of the Division to which such officer belongs in the State in which such officer performs his duties.
That is a perfectly impartial tribunal. In all where two parties are represented on the tribunal, as, for instance, in the State Arbitration Court of New South Wales under the Act of 1901, each representative has almost invariably given decisions favorable to the particular parties which he represents, and the decision of the Judge has determined the matter. But if the President of the tribunal is also a party representative, absolute impartiality can hardly be expected. So, if we have a tribunal where the person giving the decision is entirely impartial, and from the nature of his appointment is totally unconnected with the parties, knowing nothing at all about them, save what is placed before him in evidence, I think the public servants will have reason to believe that they have a body to which they can appeal with confidence - which is hardly the case now. There is a smouldering fire of discontent in the service in regard to this section. It is not always material that such discontent and dissatisfaction may be illfounded. That a Judge might give a quite impartial decision, even though personally interested, does not destroy that suspicion of his impartiality which awakes in the minds of litigants. Of course, every man knows that a Judge will decline to act though he has only the most remote interest in a case which he is asked to try. This is so well recognised that the practice has become general. The Public Service Commissioner in this and the preceding sections plays many parts. He has first to appoint a Board of Inquiry. That Board is, therefore, his creation. It submits to him its decision upon the evidence. It must, under the Act, be composed in a way suitable to the Commissioner, except that in a case where an inspector is charged the Governor-General must appoint. In all other cases the Commissioner appoints. On the Appeal Board the Commissioner is represented by his deputy, the inspector ; the chief of the Department is also represented, and he presumably, either by himself or by his deputy, also heard the case before the Board of Inquiry. In these circumstances it appears that the appeal is only a farcical arrangement, under which, in many cases, the issues are pre-judged, or, if they are not, that appearance is lent to the proceedings, which may fairly be said to give rise to suspicion in the minds of those who have to appear before the Board. The last paragraph of section 50 enacts :-
Provided that in the case of reports or recommendation made by the Commissioner to the Governor-General all such appeals must be taken before the reports and recommendation are dealt with by the Governor-General under the provisions of this Act.
I repeated that error in sub-clause 4 of clause 2 of this Bill, which I therefore propose ‘ to strike out, because it appears that it operates most unfairly, and is. in effect, a prohibition of appeal, because there is no way “by which intending appellants can discover whether a recommendation has been made or not. If they are to be limited in their right of appeal by some action taken by persons over whom they have no control, it is an unfair limitation. There ought to be no limitation of the right of appeal except that imposed by a reasonable time. If the appeal is not taken within a given number of days, no doubt the right should lapse, but beyond that there should be no limitation. The right of appeal is a necessary and effective safeguard, which is recognised in every country making pretensions to democratic government, and, in fact, in every country where an orderly method of adjusting civil disputes obtains. I therefore propose that the Bill should be read without sub-clause 4 of clause 2. This proposal has been submitted to and been approved by the various public service associations throughout Australia. It introduces nothing that is new and nothing that is dangerous. At the most it proposes to substitute for the present partial tribunal under section 50, one which has the sanction of experience. It is. similar to that which is resorted to in every civil case in the ordinary Law Courts, and which has been .approved- in industrial disputes in Courts of Arbitration.
– Does the honorable member propose that that tribunal shall deal only with serious matters, or that it shall also deal with trivial matters?
– If the honorable member will refer to the Act he will see that, under section 50, the Appeal Board deals with reports or recommendations other than those made under sections 31, 46 to 49, 65, 66, and 73. Section 31, for instance, refers to appointments made in certain cases without examination or probation.. Section [46 deals with serious offences, such as wilful disobedience, negligence or carelessness, inefficiency and incompetency, drunkenness, or disgraceful or’ improper conduct. Section 50 commences -
Any officer (except officers of the Parliament) affected by any report or recommendation made or action taken under this Act other than a report or a recommendation made or action taken under sections thirty-one, forty-six to forty-nine inclusive.
Section 49 deals with the procedure before the Board of Inquiry ; section 65 refers to cases of general incapacity ; section 66 to forfeiture of office in certain cases, such as bankruptcy and sequestration, whether voluntary or otherwise; and section 73 to the retirement of officers in consequence of age. Recommendations and reports dealing with such circumstances are not covered by section 50, which applies to promotion, or, rather, to objections regarding pro- motion or failure to obtain classification. But the ground covered by section 50 is sufficiently extensive to be regarded as of great importance by the employes. They do not take exception to the exemption from section 50 of those offences committed under the sections I have read ; and, therefore, this Bill merely repeats in words the operative portion of section 50 except as to section 65, altering only the personnel, and not interfering in any way with the nature or scope of the tribunal. Both this Parliament and the State Parliament of New South Wales have created tribunals to deal with industrial disputes, on which the employer is not a judge of his own cause ; but in which a judicial and impartial individual is appointed to settle questions as to rates of wages and conditions generally. It appears to me that it would be very proper to follow that example in regard to our Public Service. From the stand-point of the Public. Service itself the Commissioner might well approve of such a suggestion, because it would relieve him entirely of that odium which must necessarily attach to any action of his against what the employes may consider their interests, when he is compelled to act on the report or recommendation of the present tribunal. Whereas if there were an impartial tribunal, which gave, in effect, the decision of a Judge, the odium would not attach. Of course, it may be urged that an ordinary private employe ‘has no appeal from the decision of his employer, and that, at the worst, the public servant is not so badly off as the ordinary employe. While that is very true, there is really no analogy between the cases. A person who has been in the Public Service and is dismissed or disrated is absolutely helpless. When a man has been in the Public Service for many years, and is dismissed summarily, as he may be in any of the cases embraced by section 50, he is turned adrift in a world with which he is totally unfamiliar. If a man has become thoroughly accustomed to the methods of the Public Service, and is turned out to engage in the world’s competition, he is heavily handicapped as against persons who are thoroughly at home in his new environment. Therefore, to dismiss a man from the Public Service, after he has been in it for ten or twenty years, is most serious; and, such a reflection as must result ought not to be cast on anybody’s character by a tribunal which, in its nature, is partial. It is for this, amongst other reasons, that I ask the House to accept this measure. I admit,as I said at the outset, that there are many provisions in the Act which require earnest attention ; but these are so numerous that it were idle for any man to attempt to deal with them. all. This section goes to the very root of the matter, and, in any case, it would have to be amended. It is a section which can be amended without in any way affecting the scope or operations of the Act, lending itself with peculiar facility to separate treatment. For that reason I have thought it desirable to ask the House to deal with the question now; and I trust that honorable members will give me an opportunity of arriving at a decision within a reasonable time. It is quite obvious that within the time allotted to private members’ business, it is almost impossible to achieve anything like finality, if the Government or a considerable number of honorable members are determined to frustrate the attempt. This is in no sense a party measure, and it will, I hope, commend itself to honorable members. I trust that the Government will facilitate its passing, and that, if a division cannot be come to this afternoon, Ministers will give an early opportunity to press the matter to an issue during the time allotted to Government business, as otherwise its chance of becoming law this session must be remote.
– It is my duty to intimate at once that the Bill will be opposed by the Government, and I hope to give reasons sufficiently sound to convince even the honorable member for West Sydney that he should not proceed with it. The interpretation which he put on the sections of the Act to which he referred was calculated to confuse honorable members, if it did not confuse him, and I shall therefore endeavour, first, to state the actual position of matters . under the Act. A Board of Appeal is constituted of a Public Service Inspector, an officer, who is, so to speak, not in the Service, but over it, and consequently unbiased and impartial
– But surely even such an officer should not deal with appeals against his decisions?
– I shall reply to that objection in its place. The other members of a Board of Appeal are an officer of the Department to which the appellant belongs, and an officer elected by the appellant and his fellows in his particular subdivision. The Public Service Inspector represents the Commissioner and the public, while the other two officers represent respectively the branch to which the appellant belongs, and the appellant himself and his fellow officers.
– In New South Wales an officer who had previously represented the employes, but who, on resubmitting himself for election, was badly defeated, was appointed departmental representative on an Appeal Board.
– That officer might have risen, by a series of promotions, to a position which would make him a nominee member of an Appeal Board, but such a case must be a very rare one. The Bill is framed to alter the constitution of these Boards, by substituting for the Public Service Inspector a Judge or Stipendiary Magistrate, and allowing the appellant to appear personally, or be represented by counsel. Of course, if an appellant chose to be represented by counsel, the Commissioner would have to consider whether the public should not be similarly represented. The reports of the Boards now go to the Public Service Commissioner, but it is proposed that they should be transmitted direct to the Governor-General, and that the determinations therein contained shall be final. Furthermore, certain matters which cannot now be the subject of an appeal may become so under the Bill. Under section 65, officers who are permanently disabled have no right of appeal ; but the Bill gives them such rights. A short time ago an officer, whose mental incapacity was certified to by a board of medical officers, desired to lodge an appeal against his removal from the Service, and under the Bill there would be a right of appeal in such a case.
– At any rate, the appeal would be to a Judge or Stipendiary Magistrate, who would be well qualified to deal with it.
– That is largely a matter of personal opinion. At present I am merely pointing out that the right of appeal is given under the Bill in certain cases where it does not now exist. Under the Act there are both Boards of Inquiry and Boards of Appeal, the former dealing with offences coming under section 46, while Boards of Appeal deal with other actions taken under the Act.
– Has the Commissioner the power to veto the decision of a Board of Appeal ?
– Yes. The honorable member for West Sydney seemed to think that an appeal now lies from a Board of Inquiry, but that is not so; the finding of a Board of Inquiry ends the matter. Therefore the supposititiouscases which he has put forward need not be taken into account.
– Of what value is a Court of Appeal whose findings can be vetoed by the Commissioner?
– I shall answer that question in due course.
– It is the personnel of the Appeal Boards to which I take exception.
– Precisely ; but 1 desire to prevent the confusion of Boards of Inquiry with Boards of Appeal. An officer who has been before a Board of Inquiry has no right to go before a Board of Appeal. The duties of a Board of Appeal are to estimate the value of the work which is being done, or to be done, and to gauge the relative merits of the officers connected with it, both those who are appealing and those “who may be affected by the appeal. The value of the work is determined after a very exhaustive analysis by competent officers, who make inquiry into, amongst other things, its character, the conditions under which it is performed, the degree of education and intelligence required for its proper performance, the scientific or technical training necessary, and the mental or physical strain imposed upon those carrying it out. The Appeal Boards are purely administrative, being governed by principles underlying classification rather than by strictly legal points.
– They havefinally to give a decision on questions of fact.
– These are largely determined by the conditions to which I have referred, conditions which a judicial body would probably not take note of, and, by ignoring, would do grave injustice to the service generally.
– Under my proposal the representative of the Department would inform the Court as to the interests of the public, while the employe would state the other side of the case.
– That is done at the present time, and with this advantage : that legal forms and methods are avoided, and much time saved. The honorable member wishes to import more of the judicial element into the Boards of Appeal, and my contention is that the result would be to create more injustice than is done at present - admitting, for the sake of argument, that injustice sometimes occurs now. The Boards of Appeal inquire into the merits of each case ; but these are necessarily relative. It is not because an officer makes a claim that he must be given the position to which he aspires. Those who hear his appeal must inquire into the merits of other officers who may be affected, and must determine how the service generally will be concerned by a decision in his favour, or vice versa.
– I know of two cases in which men tried to appeal, but could not; though it was afterwards admitted that they should have got the positions claimed.
– It is the duty of an Appeal Board to compare the work which the appellant is doing with that of other officers similarly situated who have not appealed. It must also ascertain what would be the effect upon discipline, the conduct of the office, the general principles of classification, and the working of the Act, if the appeal were granted.
– And the Commissioner can veto everything that it has done.
– The Commissioner can do many things, but he is guided by common sense, and is not likely to do or say anything that would interfere with his desire to make his service as perfect as possible.
– I am dealing, not with the Commissioner, but with the system.
– The honorable member said that the Commissioner could veto all the work done by the Board. It is true that he could do so, but I challenge the honorable member to point to any case in which he has exercised unfairly or improperly his power of veto, or interfered with the general principles governing the administration of the Act.
– Who is the better judge of these matters, the Commissioner or the Board of Inquiry?
– Two of the men who hear the appeal might be biased. The representative of the Department on the Board might be one who had taken adverse action against the officer appealing, and the divisional representative elected by the officers of the class to which the appellant belongs might also be prejudiced.
– That is a very unfair suggestion.
– I did not say that these officers would be biased ; I merely said that they might be. As a matter of fact, I have already indicated that Appeal Boards under the Act have been fairly conducted, and I am simply pointing out that since members of the Appeal Board might possibly be prejudiced, it is wise to leave to the Commissioner the final decision in these cases. It is wise in the first place to do so, because, in the event of any member of the Board being biased, the Commissioner would veto the decision, and secondly, because, as the representative of the whole service, he would exercise his power of veto, if he exercised it at all, in conformity with the general principles of the Act, without bias, and with some degree of uniformity. As to the Public Service Inspector himself, I wish to emphasize the point that he cannot be very well charged with that partiality with which the honorable member for West Sydney has sought to surround him. He has to make himself familiar with the work of the officers, and in some cases, no doubt, knows more about it than do the heads of the Departments. He has to visit the Departments, not only to see that the work of the service is being properly carried on, but to personally examine the work of individual officers and all that they do.
– How could he examine into the work of 12,000 officers?
– There is more than one inspector. I wish now to deal briefly with the contention of the honorable member for West Sydney, that if a Judge or a special magistrate were selected as a member of the Board, we could rest assured that an absolutely impartial decision would be arrived at on the merits of every case.
– That principle has worked very successfully in New Zealand.
– The honorable member made a similar statement on a previous occasion, and I am in a position to inform him that he is absolutely incorrect in his belief. There is no such provision as he suggests, either in the Act of 1894 or in that passed last year.I have had both of them carefully examined and annotated.
– I will produce the sections to which I refer.
– If the honorable member desires it, I am prepared to produce the sections in the New Zealand Act which deal with the right of appeal, and would remind him that, so far from their being successful, they are not in operation. The provisions in the Commonwealth Public Service Act, in this respect, are far more liberal.
– What is the Appeal Court in New Zealand?
– In the first place, the Public Service of New Zealand is divided into two sections. There is, first of all, what is known as the Public Service generally, whilst the Railways and Postal and Telegraph Departments are excluded from the general service.
– And those two Departments have a separate Board?
– Exactly. The Board of Appeal, under section 5 of the New Zealand Act, is constituted to deal with appeals on classification, status, and salary, and consists of the Commissioner of Taxes, the Superintendent of the Postal Department, and two official representatives elected respectively by the officers of the postal branch and the officers of the telegraph branch of the Department. That Board has to report in each case to the Minister.
– And itis presided over, I think, by a stipendiary magistrate?
– No; the Commissioner of Taxes is the presiding officer, and the Board reports to the Minister, whose decision is final. The provisions of the New Zealand Act with respect to appeals are not so liberal as are those of the Commonwealth Act. When the honorable member interrupted me, I was about to point out that the honorable member tor West Sydney, appears to be under the impression that his proposal provides for the appointment of an impartial tribunal, and is really an excellent one. May I say that the proposal that a State officer shall sit on a Commonwealth Board of Appeal is sntirely new.
– There is a similar provision in the Commonwealth Con- ciliation and Arbitration Act.
– The honorable member’s proposal is a rather novel departure from what has hitherto been the governing practice regarding the Commonwealth service.
– That, after all, is only a technical objection.
– I shall reply to that point. The honorable member’s proposal is practically to take out of Commonwealth control officers of the Commonwealth service, and to place them, so tar as appeals are concerned, in the hands of a State official. In my judgment, that is an unwise proposition. “ A State Judge, stipendiary magistrate, or special magistrate could not be expected to have a full knowledge of the classification, or of the principles governing the classification of the Commonwealth Public Service, and his knowledge of the administration of the Act would not even be that of an officer of the Commonwealth working under it from day to day. He could have no knowledge of the general principles that had guided the Commissioner and his inspectors, in arriving at a decision. As Chairman of the Appeal Board, he would have to depend absolutely upon such information as he could glean from outside sources, since he would have none at his own disposal.
– That objection would apply to half the cases that are dealt with at the present time by our justices.
– The lack of knowledge to which I refer is not exhibited by the Public Service Commissioner or the inspectors. They act in accordance with the principles of the Act, and on a given line of conduct extending, perhaps, over hundreds of cases.
– On information supplied, perhaps by partial persons interested in maintaining the existing system.
– An officer who appeals to a Board under the Act is represented on it by one of his own class, who is familiar with the whole working of the Act. The Department concerned is also represented by an officer.
– Who is the appellant’s superior.
– But not necessarily, his superior in intelligence or in a knowledge of the matters upon which the appellant bases his case. Then we have on the Board the Public Service Inspector, against whom no such objection can be heard, and who is, and ought to be, occupying a perfectly unbiased position. A Judge or stipendiary magistrate could have no knowledge of the administration, or of the facts governing the control of the service.
– He would have as much knowledge of the subject as any Judge has of a case that comes before him. When a Judge enters a Court, he knows nothing of what is going to be brought before him.
– Precisely ; but the . Act expressly declares that all these matters shall be dealt with without regard to legal forms or solemnities. The whole procedure, in short, is to be free from legal technicalities, and the importation of trained legal minds into the inquiry would introduce that which the Act says shall be avoided. A Judge or magistrate would necessarily rely on ex parte evidence, and that would tend to create anomalies. How could any honorable member - no matter how familiar he might be with the Public Service Act, with the regulations made under that Act, and with the grievances of the public servants - say what was going to be the effect of a decision given for or against an appellant upon all the other members of the class to which the appellant belonged ? The only men who could foresee what would be the result would be the Public Service Commissioner and his officers.
– Is not every case dealt with on its merits?
– Certainly, and always with regard to the governing factors I have mentioned. The Board must have regard not to mere legal forms, but to the class of work performed by the appellant, his relative merits compared with other officers in the same class, the physical or mental strain which his work involves, and the effect of an adverse or favorable decision on non-appellants.
– The Court of Arbitration decides those facts on the lines I suggest.
– I do not know that there is any striking parallel between the position of a Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and that of an Appeal Board of the kind under review. As I have said, these Appeal Boards are not legal tribunals. Their decisions are influenced by the value of the work that is done by the appellant, by a regard for the varying classes of work appertaining to his division, by the principles governing the Act, and by the effect of the decision on non-appellants. What would happen if in five or six States similar appeals were lodged and varying decisions given? We might then have six different Appeal Boards in six different States giving decisions providing for six different and differing rates of pay and status in respect of officers doing precisely the same work under similar conditions.
– Why imagine that that will take place?
– Because the proposal is that a Judge or magistrate shall be substituted for the present Commissioner. The Commissioner administers the Act on. a uniform basis.
– Then the present system is. equivalent to having no appeal at all?
– There have been over 2,000 appeals.
– With what result?
– The result would probably astonish honorable members if I gave the figures. I will deal with that later. My argument was that whereas now we have One Commissioner who acts as the one authority for the Commonwealth service* - which is also one - and consequently gives one kind of decision on a uniform basis, under the honorable member’s proposal we might have six different decisions, and so set up six different sets of circumstances in’ the several States. That could not possibly be right, and the honorable member must admit that it would never answer.
– According to the honorable member’s own showing, the appeal is a foregone conclusion, because it must necessarily be decided in one particular way, or otherwise there would never be uniformity.
– No j but while there should be a right of appeal, the present method, however faulty it may be - and I am not saying it is perfect - is infinitely preferable to a right of appeal which might set up so many different standards in the Public Service, and create irremediable chaos and confusion.
– The honorable member prefers uniformity to justice.
– More injustice would arise from six or seven varying decisions to the great body of civil servants - and there are over 12,000 in the Postal service alone - than is caused now by the fact that appeals are finally determined by one authority who understands all the conditions, .and attempts, at any rate, to administer the Act uniformly.
– What the honorable member calls uniformity is only another name for red tape.
– I am sorry I cannot drive the case as I see it into the honorable member’s- intelligence, but I think I have made it fairly clear to other honorable members that there is the possibility of so many different decisions, and that that would be worse than the present situation, however bad that may be. The chances are that with so many tribunals, there would be an enormous increase in the number of appeals, and especially of frivolous appeals. Many officers would take advantage of the new tribunal to try their luck, so to speak, more especially as the honorable member does not propose that a non-successful appellant shall pay at least the cost of conducting his appeal.
– Is it now the practice of the Board to pay the expenses of an officer when he is successful?
– No; nor are unsuccessful officers asked under the present Act to pay costs. But if an opening is to be given for officers to appeal on the most frivolous pretexts, it is time to consider, if not to inaugurate, a system which will mulct in a reasonable amount those whose appeals are found to be frivolous and vexatious.
– If that principle is made to cut both ways I will guarantee that the men are prepared to take the risk.
– Personally I should have no objection to making it cut both ways. A Judge or stipendiary magistrate, as proposed in the honorable member’s Bill, being a State officer, the State would necessarily have the first claim on his services. There would consequently be much more delay -than at present. The present system is cumbersome enough, and proper promotions are bound to be delayed by reason of appeals; but if there is to be still further delay, hundreds of officers may have their just promotions held back, increments denied to them, and status withheld from them, pending decisions to be given by a State officer, who is too busy to deal with the cases, because State work claims him in priority to Commonwealth work.
– The honorable member just now said that there would be a rush of appeals, and now he says that there would be so much delay that nobody’s appeal would be heard.
– The more appeals, the more delay.
– The more delay, the fewer appeals.
– The honorable member, I am afraid, has not heard the general allegations concerning the Public Service, or he would know that every employe, from the office boy up to the top of the service, has some grievance which he wants remedied. All those are disabilities which render it impossible to accept the honorable member’s proposal with any degree of safety. It would render the conditions under the Act perfectly chaotic, and cause greater injustices to officers, however great the injustices now existing may be. The chairman of the Board proposed by the honorable member may change, for he does not propose any one Judge or magistrate as a permanent chairman, and so we might not only have a different decision in each of the six States, but we might have six or seven different decisions in each State, by reason of the fact that six or seven different Judges or stipendiary magistrates had been acting.
– Who gives the decisions now - the inspector ?
– No, the Board that is constituted and makes the report.
– Since the Board is different each time, with the exception of the inspector, it must be that there is uniformity, because it is the same inspector. Is that the argument?
– It is the same inspector and the same Commissioner.
– What is the use of an Appeal Board if its decisions are to be ignored by the Commissioner?
– It is obviously impossible for the Commissioner to hear every appeal. The only possible course, therefore, is to have an Appeal Board of some sort. Those Boards are at present constituted with a gentleman upon them representing as nearly as can be the Public Service Commissioner, namely, the Public Service Inspector. If it had been possible, it would be desirable for the Commissioner, to hear every case, but as it is not, we have to get- the nearest approach to him in the inspector. If, however, we are to have some one further removed from the gentleman who administers the Act and his officers, it will mean setting up all sorts of conditions which will make confusion worse confounded, and chaos as certain as that the sun will rise to-morrow.
– It is a different Board each time, except that the inspector u the same.
– The members of the Board may differ each time because the appellant may be in a different grade each time, and, consequently, the divisional representative would be a different man, while, if the appellant is in a different Department, the head of the Department would be a different man. But neither the inspector nor the Commissioner changes, and that gives an element of con.tinuity and uniformity which is absolutely impossible under the honorable member’s proposal.
– Then it is the Commissioner or his deputy who always gives the decision ?
– A Judge or stipendiary magistrate could have no possible appreciation of the effect of his decisions upon discipline - which is a serious matter in a huge service like ours - or of the financial results which would follow from a decision that was out of conformity with the general principles of the Act, or with the classification under the Act. Those are all points to which I ask honorable members to give most serious attention. Whilst I am prepared, having some knowledge of the Act, to admit that the present method of appeal is cumbersome, and, perhaps, not altogether satisfactory, I warn honorable members that the system proposed in this Bill will be absolutely unsatisfactory, and will lead to chaos, and possibly to financial disaster. Any one of these varying decisions might lead to the payment of huge sums of money throughout the Commonwealth. I therefore ask honorable members to be very careful indeed before adopting this proposed method of altering the constitution of the Appeal Board.
– The honorable member has not read section 50 of the Act, or he could not say that. It says : “ The Commissioner shall thereupon determine such appeal,” after the Board has sent in its decision.
– -I have already said that the Public Service Commissioner finally determines the appeal, and have given reasons why he should.
– Then how would he consent to financial disaster?
– The honorable member proposes to take away from the Commissioner the right of decision.
– The honorable member has not read the Bill.
– The Bill proposes to send these appeals direct to the GovernorGeneral. The Commissioner becomes therefore merely a channel of communication. He has no voice or veto, but is a mere figurehead without power or authority. He possesses not even the right to say to the Governor-General : “ This is a wrong decision which will upset our financial arrangements, break down status, and lead to chaos.”
– The Governor-General means the Government.
– I am afraid the honorable member does not understand his own Bill. To make my argument clearer, I will take two or three illustrations, of what might occur under the honorable member’s proposal. They are not strained in any way, but are such cases as occur every day. Let us’ suppose that a vacancy occurred for a fourth-class clerk on one of the central staffs - a position to which any officer having the right qualifications might aspire. Under existing conditions, that position would be advertised. Applications would be returnable in, say, three weeks from the first notification, and at the expiration of that time it might be found that seventy or eighty persons had appliedThe merits of each of them would, under existing conditions, be considered by the proper authorities. The Commissioner would recommend one of them - let us call him A - for the post, and he would be appointed. He might be an officer from Queensland. That would be the present course. The Commissioner having made his recommendation, the officer would be appointed, and take up his duties, and there would be no more about it. But under the honorable member’s proposal, the Commissioner would have to gazette a notice of intention to appoint the man. Thirty days would have to be allowed, during which time any non-successful applicant, or any other who chose, might appeal against the recommendation and the proposed appointment of the officer selected by the Commissioner.
– Too many days elapse even under the present system.
– It would be worse under this Bill. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument - though it is quite a possible case - that forty-five of the men who were unsuccessful were senior to A, and that thirty of these decided to appeal. Let us further suppose - this may be stretching a point, but, for the sake of argument, it i,s fair - that) five of the gentlemen were situated in each of the States; either in or about the metropolis, or possibly in some remote district. Each one of these officers would require to have his appeal determined as if it were A against B, A against C, and so on through the whole alphabet, and more. “A” would thus have to stand the racket of a constant round of appeals Jin the whole of the States, and although he succeeded in, say, twenty, he might finally be upset by a magistrate on the Board in the twenty-first case.
– That may happen in the New South Wales service now.
– I know nothing as to that, but, if it be so, it is most unforunate for the officers concerned. Do honorable members think that in consequence of the successful appeal the twentyfirst applicant would get the position? Not at all. All the others who had been unsuccessful would have the right to come in and have a shot at him ; and so it would go on until we should have a roaring farce, to which there would be no end, and at which the public laughter would never cease.
– Why should the Bill cause such a state of affairs?
– Because the Bill proposes to take away from- the Commissioner his present right to nominate, and have the appeal made to a stipendiary magistrate, who is a State officer, and who could, if he pleased, upset the present uniform conditions and make chaos in the service.
– The honorable member can very easily conjure up a state of things like that, but it is all due to his own vivid imagination.
– If the honorable member thinks that I have obtained these examples from my “ vivid imagination,” I shall be pleased to refer him to the public servants themselves in order to ascertain the fact. Under existing conditions there are appeals enough; but under the conditions proposed by the Bill I do not know what would happen.
– Is the honorable member stating what has happened, or what may happen?
Mr. HUME COOK. I am showing the sort of thing which would happen under the Bill. What has happened is that there have been thousands of appeals, and there must necessarily be more if every officer is given the right of a chance shot in order to bring down his man and obtain his position.
– Suppose it was proved that A were not the best man, does the Minister still say that he ought to have the position ?
– I cannot admit the premises, or I must grant the conclusion. We have the right to assume that, before any recommendation is made all the merits of the candidates have been considered by responsible officers, and that, so far as human knowledge and experience goes, the right man is nominated.
– If A happens; to be at head-quarters, and under the eyes of the authorities his claims are well considered, but if he is away in the back blocks he is forgotten.
– That sort of statement is frequently made, but I have great difficulty in believing it.
– If- A is appointed, and B succeeds in his appeal, will not the Commissioner still adhere to his nomination of A?
– When A is nominated as the best man, B makes an appeal, which is heard by a Board constituted of the Public Service Inspector, who is, or ought to be, an unbiased man, the head of the Department, and an officer of the same class or division in which appellant is.
– As a fact, the Inspector is not necessarily unbiased.
– But in an v case he is no more biased than is the divisional representative who comes up to watch the case on behalf of B. I, for one, do not think that the Inspector is a biased man.
– I do not say that he is, but only that he may be.
– Anything may be. The Public Service Inspectors are at present in such a position as to remove any inducement to them to be biased. Their excellent positions and splendid salaries are in no way threatened, and in the discharge of their special duties they are on their honour to do, as they are doing, their work with their best ability.
– It will be seen therefore that we have two unbiased men in the Public Service Commissioner, and the Public Service Inspector; and that ought to be sufficient for any reasonable man.
– But the Commissioner is, in fact, the one who makes the appointment.
– Only on recommendation after inquiry.
– Yes, by the person who afterwards sits on the Board and decides the case.
– But all the evidence in the appeal has to come before the Commissioner, and he, at least, can have no bias. Let us now take a case, which is of daily occurrence, arising out of the granting of a subdivisional increment. That is hardly promotion in the ordinary sense, but, as seniority is determined by salary, obviously the granting of a subdivisional increment may mean the promotion of some officers over other officers. There might be a recommendation to grant 500 officers a subdivisional increment, while a similar recommendation was not made in the case of 300 other officers. If the right of appeal were carried to the farcical extent proposed by the Bill, the 300 who felt aggrieved might give rise to 110 fewer than 150,000 appeals. Of course, such an occurrence is hardly probable, but it is quite possible.
– They could all appeal under the present Act.
– No ; because the Public Service Commissioner, having made an appointment, simply puts his man in, and they will not appeal when they have to deal with two unbiased men, and face a full inquiry by those who know all the circumstances. On the other hand, under the Bill, they could easily make a sporting appeal when the Chairman of the Board was one who knew nothing ‘of the circumstances, and might give a decision in their favour. The same remarks apply to the telegraphists, whose position is, perhaps, the most complicated of all from an appeal point of view ; but I shall not labour those instances further.
– The honorable member is killing his case !
– I do not see how that can be, when I am showing beyond possibility of doubt, that there would be thousands more appeals than there are at present.
– Does the Minister mean to say that there are thousands of injustices now and that the men cannot appeal ?
– No ; but I repeat that, unfortunately for the Public Service of Australia, there are a number of men in it who feel, without cause, that they axe aggrieved, and who would take every possible chance of bettering their position by a fluke. I will be no party to opening the door to those gentlemen of sporting proclivities, with the possible result of disorganizing and financially ruining the service.
– That is a libel on a decent and reputable body of men !
– Not at all! There are some 12,000 men “in the Post and Telegraph Department, and 1,200 or less could upset the whole 12,000 by the methods of appeal proposed in the Bill. The great mass of the servants are actuated by a spirit of justice and fair play, and are as much opposed to the sporting element in this connexion as we are.
– I suppose they could make 250,000 appeals?
– I have shown that 300 could give rise to 150,000 appeals; and’ the position would become ridiculous. I admit at once that the present method of appeal is cumbersome and costly, and, perhaps, not altogether effective ; but I contend that the position under the Bill would be infinitely worse, leading, as it would, to much more- confusion and to financial trouble the end of which we cannot see. I ask honorable members to be very careful before they accept this measure. Let me say one thing more, though it is not perhaps in line with my arguments. Inasmuch as there are by far the largest number of public servants in the Post and Telegraph Department I remind honorable members that there is now a Postal Commission in existence, which is carefully and conscientiously about to investigate the grievances suffered from the present Appeal Boards or any other cause.
– Is the Postal Commission overwhelmed with 150,000 appeals?
– I can tell the honorable member that there are some thirty-four associations of postal employes alone, and every one of these desires to have two, at least, and, in some cases, more witnesses heard in evidence. In consequence there will be an immense mass of testimony accumulated, and surely the case of the employes will be properly stated. The very men who are said by the honorable member to have approved of this Bill, will, when they realize what it means, scuttle away like rats from a sinking ship.
– What sort of people are going to apply to the Postal Commission? Are they not “ sporting “ people,- seeing that the Commission know nothing of the circumstances ?
– We know nothing at present, but we hope to know all before we are done. For two reasons, therefore, there is every justification, not, perhaps, for discharging the Bill, but for postponing it. The arguments I have adduced are sufficiently strong to show that the honorable member is proposing to set up a Board of Appeal which will not effect his purpose, and which will make the conditions worse than at present; and, in view of the fact that all these associations to which I have referred have already in- ,timated that they intend to ventilate their grievances, I submit that, until they have been heard, it is only fair and equitable that this measure should be delayed. The Postal Commission presents an opportunity to have the case clearly, fairly, and impartially stated, and a report presented which will have the merit of careful consideration by men who desire to do the right thing by those who at present say they are not properly treated.
– When does the Postal Commission expect to reach that stage?
– It will De some time, by reason of the large number of associations which desire their cases to be presented. There is one other reason why we should not now proceed with the Bill. It is that within a reasonable time the Public Service Act will have to be amended. The proper time to propose amendments of the present law relating to appeals will be when the Government amending Bill is brought forward.
– When will that be?
– It is impossible to say now, because, however important the claims of the Public Service may be, there are much more pressing measures requiring consideration. However difficult the situation of some public servants, and however unfairly they may consider themselves to be treated, they are better off under Commonwealth than they were under State control. Their salaries and status have improved.
– That is not true of all. Some have lost status.
– All are better off under Commonwealth than they were under State control, and can afford to possesstheir souls in patience, knowing full weir that the performance of the past holds outa promise of equitable treatment of grievances in the future. Therefore, the honorable member will be well advised not to press the Bill to a division, but to consider the arguments against it. If he cansubstitute a better proposition, or can advise the Government of a better constitution for Boards of Appeal than the present one, or that contained in the Bill, every consideration will be given to it. The constitution proposed in the Bill, however, cannot be accepted, because of its unwieldiness, and because it will promote grave injustice to the Public Service.
– If honorable members had any doubt as to the need for a new constitution for the Public Service Appeal Boards, it must have been dispelled by the Minister’s speech, which showed that appellants have nohope of obtaining justice from the present tribunals, except when the findings of those tribunals are acceptable to the Public Service ‘Commissioner. Should the finding of an appeal Board not be acceptable to the Public Service Commissioner, that officer will veto it for the sake of uniformity. I do not know that the proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney is the best that could be put forward, but he has certainly proposed an improvement upon the present system, and I am convinced that it is necessary to make a change. The Minister asked him to give the matter further consideration ; but I suggest that Parliament might well pass the Bill, and give the proposed system a trial, since the Postal Commission will have an opportunity to report upon it before concluding its labours. The honorable member for West Sydney proposes three very important departures from the present law. In the first place, he wishes to substitute in the constitution of Appeal Boards a Judge or stipendiary magistrate for a Public Service Inspector. I think that some other person should fill the position now occupied by Public Service Inspectors on Appeal Boards. At present there is only an appeal from Caesar’s understudy toCaesar himself. I do not say that any one of the Public Service Inspectors is biased, but there must always be suspicion where the officer who makes a charge is himself the judge in appeals against his finding. If the proposal in the Bill does nothing more than dispel that suspicion, and the irritation which it is creating in the Public Service, it will do a great deal. One of the Minister’s objections to a Judge or a stipendiary magistrate is that these officials are under State control, but, as under the Arbitration Act we empowered a Justice of the High Court to delegate any or all of his powers to a stipendiary magistrate or to a Judge of a SupremeCourt, I see no objection to employing Judges or stipendiary magistrates for the hearing of Public Service appeals. The most important departure proposed in the Bill is the taking away from the Public Service Commissioner of the power of veto, by making the finding of the Appeal Boards final. The GovernorGeneral is to come to a decision, not on the determination of the Public Service Commissioner, or of his understudy, but on that of an impartial tribunal.
– It would prevent the multiplying of appeals and the evils which would arise from it.
– Undoubtedly. I refuse to believe thatour public servants will make frivolous appeals. At the present time, however, it is felt that officers suffering under a real grievance may not get justice. The Minister has informed the House that a Public Service Inspector is thoroughly acquainted with the career of every officer in the State which he inspects. Now, it is possible that he may have a black mark against the name of some of those officers, and should one of them commit an offence, there would be a natural prejudice in his mind against him. An appellant may therefore, on coming before the Appeal Board, of which the Public Service Inspector is a member, be in the position in which an accused person would be if he came before a Court and was faced with the record of his past convictions. An officer may have been guilty of some trivial offence or neglect of duty, the knowledge of which may influence the Public Service Inspector should be appeal on any other matter. The position would be altogether different if the appellant came before a stipendiary magistrate. I agree with the honorable member for West Sydney that the Public Service Commissioner should be pleased to support any proposal for relieving him of part of his present onerous duties.
– Astipendiary magistrate may have friends in the service.
– If the magistrate wished to unfairly befriend his acquaintances, he would be prevented by the other two members of the Board.
– So would the Public Service Inspector if he wished to do an injury to an officer who was appealing.
– A Public Service Inspector is governed by instructions from the Public Service Commissioner, and knows that uniformity must be insisted upon. Consequently, he is prejudiced from the first. He would say to himself, “ If the Board comes to a certain finding, it will not please the Commissioner, because it will be opposed to uniformity.” Consequently, the inspector is prejudiced in a wayin which a magistrate would not be prejudiced. Under the present system an appellant has the Public Service Inspector and the Commissioner against him.
– A Public Service Inspector would have to go back on his recommendation if he found for an appellant:
– Yes ; and no man likes to do that. The Minister has stated that, in many cases, the inspector would1 adhere to his recommendation for the sake of uniformity, though I do not know why that should govern every case.
– If an Appeal Board gave to an officer in New South Wales a salary of £144 a year for doing work for which Victorian officers were being paid only£138 a year, or vice versa, injustice would be done.
– An officer living on the Western Australian gold-fields would be treated unjustly if he were being paid for his work only what a Victorian officer is being paid.
– The system of district allowances provides for differences in the cost of living in various parts of the Commonwealth.
– Quite so; but there are many other injustices which have not been provided for, and we need tribunals which will properly deal with them. Therefore, I am prepared to give the proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney a trial. His system could not be worse than the present one, and, I am sure, would give greater satisfaction to the service. This is not the first time that the constitution of Appeal Boards has been discussed. The question has constantly arisen in the States Parliaments, the difficulty being to prevent the appointment of Boards which must be one-sided. The Minister cannot say that the present Board is not one-sided.
– The honorable member appears to confuse Boards of Inquiry with Boards of Appeal. Boards of Inquiry deal only with offences, while Boards of Appeal deal with promotions and other matters which are not offences.
– That does not affect what I am saying. It is our duty to see that every employe obtains justice. If the head of a Department wishes to promote a friend who is under him, he can suggest his promotion, which the Public Service Inspector will ratify, and the Public Service Commissioner agree to, and no appellant would have much chance of getting the position. In nearlyevery case the Commissioner must indorse, without inquiry, the recommendations of the Inspectors ; he has not the time to make inquiries. The proposal of the honorable memberfor West Sydney, that an appellant may be represented by counsel, not necessarily a lawyer, is a wise one. Very competent officers may be nervous when before a Board, or unfitted to cross-examine, and, consequently, unable to bring out the facts of their case. They ought to be brought out by an officer who has made himself thoroughly acquainted with them, and is able to place them clearly before the Board. As the time allotted to the consideration of Orders of the Day, general business, has almost expired, I desire leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 30th September, (vide page 542) on motion by Mr. Kelly -
That a Return be laid upon the table of the House showing, of the suburbs in Sydney and Melbourne, where post-offices are located, and of a radius within one mile of the said postoffices -
.- I have to apologize to the honorable member for Wentworth for the somewhat abrupt way in which I interfered yesterday to obtain what I regarded as an important amendment of his motion. I have had somewhat the same difficulties in connexion with my own electorate as he appears to have experienced in his, and I think that the return would be far more useful if it were so expanded as to embrace the suburbs of each State capital.
– I am prepared to accept the honorable member’s proposal. I suggest to him that he move an amendment providing for the omission of the words “in Sydney and Melbourne,” with a view to the insertion in lieu thereof of the words, “of the six States Capitals.”
– Very well. I move-
That the words “ in Sydney and Melbourne,” lines 2 and 3, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ of the six State Capitals,” and that the words “ Sydney or Melbourne, as the case may be,” lines 16 and 17, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the capital of its. State.”
Amendments agreed to.
– I offer no objection to the motion ; but wish to say that the returns being called for are so exhaustive and numerous, that the honorable member for Wentworth must not hope to have them furnished for some little time. The officers of the service cannot be expected to keep working overtime in connexion with the preparation of such returns; but I promise the honorable member that these particulars will be furnished as soon as possible.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
That a Return be laid upon the Table of the House showing, of the suburbs of the six State capitals where post-offices are located, and of a radius within one mile of the said post-offices -
– I move -
That, with the object of securing to a much greater’ extent than at present a representation in the Senate of members personally known to and identified with the electors they represent, and in order to terminate at once a system which must be found more inequitable and impracticable, especially in the larger States, as population increases, the time has arrived when, under the powers given to the Parliament by section 7 of the Constitution, the system hitherto in force of having one electorate for the whole of each State, for the election of senators, should cease and that the following be substituted : -
That for the elections for senators, each State be divided into three electorates, each, electorate returning two senators, in the case of a general election in which the whole six senators are to be elected, and one senator each, in the case of the periodical elections for the Senate.
This proposal was considered by the House a few years ago, and also received a great deal of attention at the Federal Convention. There has always been a great diversity of opinion as to whether each State should be polled as one electorate for the Senate, or whether it should be divided. The Constitution provides that- -
The Senate shall be composed of senators for each State, directly chosen by the people of the State, voting, until the Parliament otherwise provides, as one electorate……
It was originally proposed in the Convention that -
The Senate shall be composed of senators for each State directly chosen by the people of the State voting, until the Parliament otherwise determines, as one electorate. Until the Parliament otherwise provides there shall be six senators for each original State. The Parliament may from time to time increase or diminish the numbers of senators for each State, but so that equal representation of the several original States shall be maintained…….
Mr., now Mr. Justice, Isaacs, who was one of the representatives of Victoria, moved as an amendment at the Melbourne sittings of the Convention -
That the words “determines, as one electorate” be omitted with a view to the insertion in their place of the following words : “ provides, in as many electorates as the Parliament of the State shall determine. Until division each State shall be one electorate.”
A long discussion took place upon that proposal, and important views were expressed by the present Prime Minister, who seemed then to foresee the difficulty that many have since realized, and which is the cause of my moving in the matter at the present stage. It was the same reason that led the honorable member for Grampians
Mr. Skene, to take action in this direction two or three years ago. The present Prime Minister, as a representative of Victoria in the Federal Convention which met at Melbourne in 1898, discussed Mr. Isaacs’ amendment, and in the course of his remarks said -
At the same time, there is a practical difficulty to which my honorable and learned friend did not allude, and which will weigh with a very large number of the electors in many of the Colonies. The practical difficulty is that, unless there be embodied in this measure some requirement that the elections for the Senate shall be conducted under either the Hare system or a modification of it, the effect will be to place the whole representation of the Senate in each State in the hands of the majority of the voters going to the poll on any particular day.
It often happens that the majority that elects one senator at a general election elects the three. The present Prime Minister, in making the remarks I have quoted, saw that that was likely to occur. He went on to say -
Although I have not myself attempted the task, if the members of the Drafting Committee were to receive an instruction from the Convention to draft such an amendment as would indicate that it was the intention of the framers of this measure that the States and the Commonwealth should provide for the representation of minorities in the election of members of the Senate, I should be glad to support the principle.
He said further -
I think, however, that it would allay the apprehensions which have been awakened by this proposal for a single electorate which has been laid before us in its naked form, “that is, without any requirement for the representation of minorities, if the skilful members of the Drafting Committee could propose an amendment requiring that, while the senators should be elected by each State as one electorate, some provision should be made for the representation of minorities. What we desire is the representation, not merely of the metropolis and of the country towns of each State, but of the agricultural and pastoral interests, which are the backbone of Australia.
I also spoke, offering a general opposition to the proposal that each State should he polled as one electorate, as I was in favour of some division of the States for the election of senators. I may say at once that I do not submit this motion in the interests of any particular section of the community. If it is thought to be opposed to the interests of any section, that section may naturally be expected to oppose it. I am of opinion, however that it will deal fairly with all, and that if the presentsystem advantages any particular part of the community, it is unfair. I hope that I shall be acquitted of a desire to attack any party. The party which some might think I should be disposed to attack suffers, in my opinion, as much from the present system as does any other. In my own State that is not the position, but I am dealing with this question in the interests, not of one, but of all of the States. The interests of the Labour Party are quite as adversely affected by the present provision of one electorate for each State, as are those ot any other section of the Parliament, and if my proposal is thought to be opposed to the interests of any party, then I cannot expect to receive any support for it, since no one is desirous of injuring himself or his party. In the Convention of 1891, which met in Sydney, a proposal that the members of the Senate should be elected by the local Parliament in the same way as are the senator’s of the United States, was carried by thirty-four votes to six.. But in 1897-8 a great change came over the feelings of the representatives of the States. The system of election by the people, which finds a place in the Constitution at the present time, was adopted, if not unanimously, at any rate -by a large majority. It will be noticed, however, that the Convention decided that the mode of. election of members of the Senate as regards the electorates should not be fixed in the Constitution, but should be left to this Par-, liament. There was so much difference of opinion at the time in the Convention that a compromise was arrived at by which tlie Federal Parliament should have the absolute power of legislating as to the electorates for senators, but, if no arrangement was made by this Parliament, each State was to become one electorate. Consequently, we have power by means of an ordinary Act of Parliament to divide the States into electorates if we choose. I mention this because some people think that to divide the States into electorates would mean an amendment of the Constitution. It means nothing of the kind. We have tried the one electorate system for two elections, and I admit at once that that is not a long experience. I hardly think it fair to count the first election. We had then hardly got into working order. At least, that was the case in my own State, and it was probably so in the other States also. At any rate, I do not wish to base too much of my argument on what happened at the first election, but the second was deliberately arranged, and the results show that the system of having one electorate for the whole of a State is not working satisfactorily. There can be no doubt that with such an immense electorate, it is impossible for candidates to visit the whole of their electors in any one of tha States. It would take too long altogether. If they travelled all the year round, I donot think candidates for the Senate could visit all the places in Western. Australia, and, therefore, people have to vote for candidates whom they do not know, and’ of whom, in some cases, they have neverheard by name before hearing of them as candidates for the Senate. This matterwas brought before the House on 30th- July, 1902, by Mr. Skene, the then honorable member for Grampians. He said’ in his speech, that since the last Senate election, he had made an analysis of thetown and country votes, and found that the same men would have been returned for Victoria if there had not been a single country vote polled. It is not a very satisfactory state of affairs that the Melbourne votes should decide the election of senatorsfor Victoria. Referring to the same subject, the present honorable member for South Sydney, who was then the honorable member for Bland, made some very interesting observations. He said - and, in my opinion, this is an absolute fact - that -
Though it is an admirable theory that theStates should be represented by men returned1 by the whole of the electors, it is one which does not work out in practice. . . . Thecondition of one electorate results in a newspapermade Senate or in a machinemadeSenate.
That is a strong observation, coming fromthe then leader of the Labour Party. It means that senators are elected on a ticket by some organization. It is interesting to notice who voted for the motion of the honorable member for Grampians in 1902, while I was absent in London. It was not exactly the same motion as I movetoday, but it is the same in principle - the division of the State into electorates. Those who supported the motion then wereMessrs. Isaacs, McLean, Salmon, Brown, McColl, McDonald, Spence, Watson, McCay, Watkins, Crouch, W. Cooke, Manifold. Sawers, and Bamford. That division list shows that the motion was notmade a party question, and I hope that my motion, when it is voted upon, will not be. All the parties were represented in support of Mr. Skene’s proposal.
– One might suggest the converse - that as it is not working out well for the right honorable member he wants to alter it.
– I do not think the honorable member ought to make the application so personal. J am not afraid of the results of the system I propose, or even of the results of the present system. At the Adelaide Convention, in 1897, referring to the question of having each State as one electorate, I. said -
It would give rise to combinations and cliques and societies in order to run persons on particular tickets, and the voter would not know whom he was voting for.
If I had been able to look into the future I could not have spoken more truly. Can any one deny that what I predicted’ has come to pass? We have seen men elected to the Senate who were almost, if not quite, unknown by name to the majority of the electors, but who were run on the Labour, Free-trade, or some other party ticket. Those men had never been heard of previously, and yet they became senators in the Commonwealth Parliament. When that can be the result is it not a farce to say that there is an election by the people? The people do not know whom they are voting for and trust other persons to say what kind of man he is.
– They vote for a principle.
– They do not seem to care who carries out that principle. The successful candidates are run by an organization oh a ticket, and, as the honorable member for South Sydney said, they are “ machine-made senators.” Let me show what the result would be if my proposal were brought into effect. Each State of the Commonwealth would be divided into three electorates. I am, of course, not so conversant with the internal geography of any of the other States as are the members
– The metropolitan areas would return two members to the whole of the country’s one. The electorates would have to be divided according to population.
– The three electorates would have to be devised in the best way possible. I am sure that the result would not be as the honorable member states. There are about 1,500,000 people in New South Wales, of whom, say, 500,000 live in Sydney and 1,000,000 in the rest of the State. In Victoria there would be Melbourne, Eastern Victoria, and Western Victoria, each returning one member every three years.
– How would the right honorable member get over the difficulty if a member of the Senate died and four senators had to be elected at the next election?
– There would be no more difficulty in thar case than in the case of a vacancy through death in a single electorate of a State Parliament.
– There were four senators elected in Victoria last time. If there is a death in the Senate, the State Parliament fill it until the next election, and then four senators are elected instead of
– Parliament would devise means to meet a contingency of that sort, though it would seem that the vacancy would have to be filled for the electorate the deceased member represented. In Queensland the divisions would be Brisbane, Northern and Southern. We know that there has always been a certain amount of difficulty in regard to Northern and Southern Queensland ; and it would, perhaps, improve the position if there were three divisions.
Colonel Foxton. - The natural divisions are Northern, Central, and Southern Queensland.
– Quite so. I arn merely speaking generally. In South Australia the divisions would be Ade.Ride. South - Eastern, and Northern. Western Australia seems to be admirably adapted in a way for the adoption of the proposal, because the natural divisions are metropolitan, rural, and mining. In Tasmania, I suppose the divisions would be Hobart, Central, and Northern. The result would be that each State would have its representation of three distinct parts, and the varied industries would have their interests voiced. The metropolitan districts would not, by virtue of the concentration of population within a very limited area, have the control over the elections that they have at the present time.
– That has not been the effect in Victoria or New South Wales.
– I do not think that ‘ the honorable member is correct, because Mr. Skene, who was the member for the Grampians in this House in 1902, said that if there had been no voting elsewhere except in Melbourne, the result of the election would have been the same. The fact that the Free-trade Party, the Labour Party, or any other party have gained an advantage here or there, should not be our guide in dealing with a question which affects the whole of the continent. For instance, in New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania, the Labour Party lost all the Senate seats at the last election, whereas in Western Australia that same party gained the whole of the Senate seats-; and it does not seem- to be right that the Labour Party should lose the whole of the seats in three States, and gain the whole of the seats in another. In Western Australia the Labour Party were victorious, but I do not think any disinterested person could consider the result satisfactory from a national point of view. In that part of the State, where 200,000 people lived, there was a majority of several thousands against the Labour Party, whereas in the part where 70,000 people lived there was a larger majority in their favour.
– Is that the right honorable member’s real reason for- bringing forward this proposal.
– The honorable member seems to enjoy attributing selfish motives, and I am afraid that his mind is not constructed on broad national lines.
– At any rate, this is a good academic discussion.
– It is a ques tion that was thought worth discussing at the Federal Conventions of 1897 and 1898, and it was a good deal discussed in this Parliament in 1902. I make no apology for bringing this matter before honorable members, because it is one which affects every individual and party here. We have the fact that three of the States at the last election returned a large number of Labour members to this House, and did not succeed in returning one representative to’ the Senate. New South Wales returned eleven Labour members to the House of Representatives, and not one to the Senate, and I ask whether this is an equitable and reasonable state of affairs? The fact is that, under the present system, a party must either win all or lose all. -
– Proportional representation would avert such results.
– If proportional representation, or any other method will bring about the result at which I aim, I shall be quite content to adopt it. But the fact that the large State of New South Wales, which returns eleven Labour representatives, or nearly half of its whole representation in the House of Representatives, has not a Labour representative in the Senate, shows that there is something wrong. In the case of Western Australia the representation in this House of interests other than those of the Labour Party is two-fifths, or two out of five members; but those interests nave no representation in the Senate. That, in my opinion, is not equitable, and I should take the same view whether I were affected or not ; I hope I am just and honestminded enough to urge that here there is something that requires to be rectified. The framers of the Constitution saw the difficulty and left it to the Federal Pailiament’ to decide. There were ohe or two, including Sir Edmund Barton, who, in 1891, were in favour of the State Legislatures electing the senators. In 1898, however, at the Melbourne Convention, Sir Edmund Barton strongly advocated, and was anxious to have placed within the Constitution, a provision to provide for the one electorate system ; but that idea was not carried out, and, as I say, it was left to this Parliament to decide the question. In my opinion, the idea of a single electorate for the whole State is founded on a fanciful ideal, and not on practical knowledge or on a business basis. As the honorable member for South Sydney so accurately said in 1902, “ It is an admirable theory which does not work out in practice.” My opinion is that if the present system is continued it will result in the future as it has generally resulted in the past - whichever party gains one seat will gain all.
– That did not happen in Victoria.
– There mayhave been some special reason for that ; but, at any rate, what I have stated is the tendency, seeing that in four out of the six States parties either won or lost all- - there was no middle course. No one can say that the present system results in the fair representation of interests in the Senate. Is New South Wales, which returns eleven members to the Labour Party in this House, not entitled to any Labour representation in the Senate? In the case of Tasmania, only one Labour member is returned to this House, but that State does not return a single Labour representative to the Senate. All these facts show that there is something fundamentally wrong. Owing to the immense size of the electorates the electors do not have a chance of knowing anything about the candidates for whom they are asked to vote ; and I have known men in my own State who are senators whose names were practically unknown before they were elected.
– Surely that is not quite correct ?
– I think it is. At any rate, it is substantially correct.
– What about some of the candidates which the party of the right honorable member put forward?
– I do not desire to say that one party is in a better position than another in this regard, but merely to place a fact before the House. Candidates cannot possibly travel over the large electorates, they must depend on others for their advocacy. I believe that the system I have advocated will give greater-satisfaction and be fairer” to the States than the present system. There will always be cliques, unions, and societies, but it would be desirable to localize- them somewhat, and not allow them to so strongly influence elections.
– Would the honorable member suggest six electorates?
Colonel Foxton. - I do not think that could be done under the Constitution.
– It might be possible to have six electorates, but the principle of a continuous Senate would be destroyed.
– The proposal wouldreally mean two-men constituencies.
– Yes, but only three would be elected at one time, except in the case of a general election of the Senate. I do not desire to unduly labour the matter, .and I think I have said enough to show that the present system is ininequitable and unfair to the. electors seeing that minorities have no~~ representation over the vast area of Australia. They may be represented largely in the House of Representatives, and yet be without representation in the Senate. This difficulty was foreseen - by the Prime Minister among others. I hope, therefore, that the motion will be carried, or that the Ministry, in the interests, not of any party, but of the good government of Australia, will take action to alter the present inequitable and unhealthy state of affairs.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hedges) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 30th September (vide page 589), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I asked leave last night to continue my speech this afternoon, because I wished to explain an amendment which I intend to move in order to give new and old members an opportunity to determine, by exhaustive ballot, which is the best site in New South Wales for a Federal Capital. As matters stand, we have no choice. A great deal has been said about Canberra, which was not amongst the sites previously ‘ balloted for. Dalgety was chosen by Parliament in 1904, and we are now being asked to vote for or against that site. 1 think, however, that we should have more facts as to the contour, rainfall, and characteristics generally of other sites.
– How are we to get that information - by means of a Royal Commission?
– I am opposed to the appointment of a Royal Commission. At present, I know little about either
Canberra or Dalgety. Some of the Ministers say that Dalgety is” a paradise, while to others it is anathema. Some honorable members, the Treasurer among them, declare that the place is so cold that we could not live there, while others extol its climate. This conflict of opinion is bewildering. I, for one, am loth to vote for a site which may be condemned by future generations ; and rather than be confined to one or two sites, desire an exhaustive ballot to enable the wisdom and knowledge of the House to determine which of the available sites is the best one. I said last session to members of the direct Opposition that, if the representatives of New South Wales agreed as to the site which they considered the most suitable, not only to New South Wales - with which State I wish to keep any bargain that has been made - but also to Australia, I should support it. We do not wish- to place our Capital in a desert. That is what Dalgety has been represented to be by some, though others say that it is a magnificent place. Who are right?
– Probably the twenty-three representatives of New South Wales who are opposed to Dalgety are right, while the three who favour its selection are wrong.
– But the three may be right, and the others wrong. As business men, we wish to choose the best and most convenient site, not only for ourselves, but for generations as yet unborn. If the Capital is placed in an undesirable situation, the development of the country may be retarded. I possess an open mind in regard to this matter, but unless there is an exhaustive ballot such as I propose, I must either vote for or against Dalgety, or walk out of the chamber. That is an unpleasant position in which to be placed. The amendment is not being moved to enable any one to shirk his responsibility; my desire is’ to take advantage of the information of honorable members generally. In commencing a business, one tries to start on proper lines; and in building a house one tries to get proper foundations, so that the structure shall not fall down, or be blown away. To make a proper selection in the matter of a Capital site, we should have as wide a choice as possible. If I went into an eating house, and ‘ the waiter placed a chop before me, I should ask for a menu, anr! in this case T decline to be tied down to the chop. I do not wish to be compelled to vote for or against Dalgety ; but desire to exercise my choice in regard to all the available sites. The honorable member for Indi wanted to move an amendment to give this opportunity, bet Mr. Speaker, no doubt properly, ruled it out of order. The amendment which I now propose to move has been drafted by the honorable and learned member for Flinders, and has been approved by those who have seen it, so I hope that the Government will accept it, and that it will be carried. I do not think that we should be compelled to exercise Hobson’s choice. I am fully seized of the need for settling this question, though twenty years hence will be early enough to commence the building of the Capital. The selection of a site, however, is imposed upon us by the Constitution, and the Government have dene their duty in bringing the matter forward. I wish to observe the letter and spirit of the agreement, and so, too, do other honorable members. But the House, as now constituted, contains members who have never yet had an opportunity to vote on this subject, and they should be given that opportunity. I am sorry that the representatives of New South Wales are not unanimous in the recommendation of a site.
– More than twenty will, in the final ballot, vote for one site.
– More than twenty will vote against Dalgety, but not for any particular site. If there were twenty New South Wales representatives ready to support any particular site, it would be carried. I do not want the representatives of New South Wales to accomplish their object by a subterfuge. Subterfuge is unnecessary. I listened with regret to the remarks made by some honorable members regarding the attitude of the right honorable member for Swan, and the report made by him on the Federal sites, for, to my mind, they were wholly undeserved. And so with some of the criticism to which the honorable member for North Sydney has been subjected. I am satisfied that both he and the right honorable member for Swan have been actuated bv patriotic motives, and have attempted to do what they believe to be right. In dealing with this question, we should free ourselves from parochial considerations, and endeavour to do what is best for the Commonwealth. That is the attitude that T take un in submitting this amendment, and in asking the House to support it. I hope that the Prime Minister and his followers will see their way to agree to my proposition, for I, as a new member, certainly do not want to take a leap in the dark. I want to know, from the evidence placed before Parliament - from all the evidence available - what site ought, in the best interests of the Commonwealth, to be selected. I therefore move -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words : - “ in the opinion of this House, a further opportunity should be afforded of taking a ballot on other positions besides Dalgety for the Seat of Government before this Bill be further proceeded with.”
– I cannot accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians, and I must say that I have found it difficult to follow the line of argument adopted by him in support of it. He said, at the outset of his remarks, that he desired the consideration of this question to be postponed, because he knew nothing whatever of Dalgety or Canberra. Almost immediately afterwards he submitted an amendment not to enable him to obtain information with respect to those two particular sites, so that he might give, so far as they were concerned, a judgment based on knowledge, but to allow a ballot to be taken on the whole question - a ballot that would involve a knowledge, not only of Dalgety and Canberra, but of all the sites that have been suggested. His rea.soning in support of his amendment, therefore, cannot be accepted. The only conclusion I can draw under the circumstances is that he desires the postponement of this measure. When I asked him how he would obtain the information that he sought, he declined to say. I cannot accept his amendment, because, in submitting the motion for the second reading of this Bill, I said that the selection of Dalgety by the House was mandatory and binding on those administering the law.
– But the whole question is now open.
– It was never closed..
– I pointed out that, in the circumstances, it was necessary for the Government to take certain steps ; that the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, and the Attorney-General of New South Wales, when they met in Sydney some time ago, decided that since Dalgety had been selected, the next step for this Parliament to take was to define the territory proposed to be acquired. But, since honorable members had expressed a desire to have the whole matter re-discussed, I outlined a course of procedure which, I understood, met with the approval of the House. The honorable member for Wentworth then withdrew an amendment that he had submitted, and I stated that if,- in Committee, any word were omitted from the Bill, I should take that as an indication of the desire of the House to reconsider its decision. What I wish to do is to push on with the Bill as rapidly as possible. Let us get into Committee without delay, and, if the House then decides in favour of Dalgety, let us proceed immediately to pass the Bill through all its stages, and send it forthwith to the Senate.
– But that proposal allows of no alternative to the selection of Dalgety.
– I have said on more than one occasion that if the Committee agrees to the omission of a word from the Bill as a direction to the Government that it desires to reconsider the whole question, I shall at once move that the Bill be reported so that an opportunity for reconsideration may be secured.
– The Chairman of Committees will not give that opportunity. .
– I know that he will.
– I have it from his own lips that he will not.
– I have equally good authority for the statement that he will. In justice to the Chairman of Committees I think that I ought to explain that I should not have consulted him but for a rumour that he had been interviewed with respect to this matter. I have also informed the House that in the event of such an obstacle arising, as has been suggested, I shall be prepared to consider any method by which it may be obviated.
– Last night, with a view of settling the point, I consulted the Chairman of Committees, and he informed me distinctly that such an amendment as is suggested would not be in order.
– I consulted him, too; but perhaps we are at cross purposes. The suggestion I made was simply for the omission of any word. If, for instance,, an amendment ; for the omission of the words “Schedule A” were agreed to–
– Quite ‘so:
– If such an amendment were carried I would accept it as a direction that the House wished to reconsider the whole question.
– But we should have to vote against Dalgety to reach that point.
– No. The mere omission of the words I mention from - the Bill would be taken by the Government as a direction from the House that the question was to be reconsidered. My desire is that the Bill should be taken into Committee without delay, and finality reached. I do not suggest that the honorable member for Grampians is actuated by any improper desire in submitting his amendment, but I urge that the procedure I have laid down will enable the House to attain its object. I think that when I outlined it the honorable member for Wentworth said, “ We are satisfied,” or used words to that effect, and withdrew his amendment.
– If, in Committee, a specific word be struck out, will the Government then propose to report the Bill to the House with the object of taking an exhaustive ballot on all sites that may be nominated ?
– Does not the honorable member see that his proposal means that honorable members will be compelled to strike out something, which really means “ Dalgety “?
– No. I said that in the event of any word being omitted we should report the Bill to the House and take a free, open, and exhaustive ballot on every site.
– The objection to that proposal is that it would, first of all, commit a number of honorable members to the rejection of Dalgety in order to reach that stage.
– No ; that would not be the position. I do not wish to further argue the matter. I simply appeal to the House to adopt the procedure I have laid down. The whole debate has been carried on on the understanding that it would do so.
– Is it the desire of the Government that the test vote shall be taken on a motion to omit the word “ Dalgety?”
– It is not. It will be sufficient to move the omission of any word or words that will indicate that the majority of the House is of opinion that the matter should be reconsidered, and an exhaustive ballot taken. By the adoption of my proposal, the House would have an opportunity to vote again for Dalgety if it chose to do so ; time would be saved, and it would simply be necessary to restore the word struck out, and to send on the measure to another place.
– Since the Attorney-General has mentioned my name, and referred to an amendment which I had before the House at an earlier stage, I should like to say that .1 still stand by the position I then took up. My position, however, is not that of honorable members who, in the final ballot, would be found voting for Dalgety. I am against Dalgety all the time. I find that the procedure laid down by the AttorneyGeneral is designed to permit us to take a vote on a proposal to omit the ‘word’s “ Schedule A,” which embraces the area of Dalgety.
– The Attorney-General said two or three times that the omission of any word would be taken as a direction that the House desired to reconsider the question.
– That is a matter, not for the Attorney-General, but for the Chairman of Committees, to decide.
– The Chairman of Committees will decide whether or not such a motion is in order. The honorable member for Cook is opposed, as I am, to Dalgety. Our position is clear. I do not object to the Bill going into Committee. So far as I am personally concerned, I am prepared to vote against Dalgety every day in the week, but we do not know the position of those who support the amendment that has just been moved.
– That amendment will hang up the whole question.
– No; the Prime Minister has assured us that he will take a ballot to-morrow or on Tuesday, if we desire to go to a ballot on the Capital site.
– That is contingent on Dalgety being defeated.
– Contingent on this amendment being carried. On ‘Tuesday next, we shall have a ballot on all these sites.
– The honorable member is denying the right of the Committee to report progress at any time.
– I am not ; I am simply pointing out that if the object of the Government is to give honorable members an opportunity to take a ballot, the honest way to accomplish that object is to vote on a proposal in black and white, to take a ballot, and not to vote on a motion to strike out one word or syllable.
– I am afraid that some of the amendments that are being circulated are so catchy that it is quite possible for one to be placed in a totally false position. The honorable member for Wentworth, who is a Sydney member and Opposition Whip, two or three days ago stated exactly the position in which I find myself to-day with regard to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians, a Victorian, and seconded by another Victorian member. I should like to quote his remarks -
At the present juncture, we are in this peculiar position. : By voting for the second reading of this Bill, an honorable member must declare himself in favour of fixing the site of the Federal Capital at Dalgety, and by voting against the second reading of the Bill, he must declare himself against determining more definitely the Federal Capital question. So that honorable members who take either course will lay themselves open to a misunderstanding.
– That is only so far as Dalgety is concerned.
– Certainly, according to the wording of the Bill ; but my honorable friend is aware that political opponents are not too scrupulous in these matters, and an honorable member who votes against the second reading of this Bill because he is opposed to the selection of Dalgety, will be taunted with being against “ determining more definitely “ the Federal Capital question. Let us assume that we agree not to take a vote on the second reading, and permit the Bill to go into Committee, with the object of striking out the word “ Dalgety.” What will then be our position ? Some honorable member mayraise a point of order in Committee, and ask whether it is competent for any honorable member to seek to omit from this Bill a word - Dalgety - which comprises the whole sum and substance ofit, since its object is “ to settle more definitely the Seat of Government in the neighbourhood of Dalpety.” I am afraid that a Chairman of Committees might rule against an amendmentfor the omission of the word, and we should find ourselves in another pitfall of the Government’s making. The motion at present before the Chair is -
That the Bill be now read a second time. and in order to put the matter on a perfectly sound basis, I propose to move to omit the word “ now,” and to add after the word “ time,” the words - “ to-morrow, with a view to enabling the Government to devise in the meantime some means by which Parliament can select by a system of ballot a site for the Federal Capital.”
The Attorney-General, in reply, made the position perfectly clear, saying -
But I repeat what I said in my opening speech, that it is the wish of the Government that in Committee, if honorable members so desire, the omission of words may be moved to enable a vote to be taken on the question. If such an amendment is moved and carried, the Bill will be at once reported, and a determination come to by means of an open exhaustive ballot as to the best site.
– The honorable member for Wentworth feared that that was not possible.
– If it be found impossible, I shall do all I can to give the House an opportunity to come to a decision on the question in some other way.
– That is all we require.
– Would Dalgety be excluded from the ballot?
– No. What we all desire is a free, frank, and honest expression of opinion as to the best site for the Federal Capital.
– In view of the statement of the Minister that the Government will take- all steps necessary to enable a ballot to be held even should an amendment in Committee to strike out the words “Schedule A” be declared by the Chairman to be out of order, I withdraw my amendment.
The honorable member for Wentworth then, in view of the plain understanding given by the Government, withdrew his amendment. I regret that the honorable member for Grampians was not present then, for he now asks us to go over the whole of the ground again, and brings the AttorneyGeneral to his feet once more to give an even more explicit undertaking than he did on two previous occasions. In introducing the Bill, the Attorney- General said-
I ask the House to proceed with the consideration of this Bill as quickly as possible. It is only fair to say that we know the site is to be attacked; and the procedure, if that site is not adopted, will be to give the House an opportunity to express an opinion on any site, and not only as between two particular sites - there will be the fullest opportunity for arriving at a fair and unbiased judgment….. If any step is taken which indicates a desire to review the selection, the Bill will be immediately reported, when fresh names may be nominated and an exhaustive ballot taken.
I for one am most desirous, in the interests of New South Wales, that no more time should be lost in settling this question. I cross-examined the Attorney-General this afternoon as to how the test vote would be taken. He said it could be taken on any word which the Committee selected as a test word - the word “ and,” for instance. He stated that if a majority voted to leave that word out of the Bill, the Government would immediately take it as an indication that the House desired a fresh exhaustive ballot on the whole of the sites, would report the Bill to the House, and arrange for the ballot accordingly. That is a perfectly fair way of doing the business. A reference to the speech of the AttorneyGeneral a few moments ago will prove what I refer to. It is nonsense to say that the Chairman would rule out of order an amendment to strike out some particular word. Any member of the Committee could move to strike out the word “ and.”
– What is the objection to putting in cold print what we want - to have a ballot?
– The AttorneyGeneral has already put in cold print in Hansard, in the plainest possible terms, the readiness of the Government to have a fresh exhaustive ballot on all the sites if the House so desires. To carry this amendment would be tantamount to postponing the measure. It is far better that the second reading should go through formally, and that a test vote should be taken in Committee. The honorable member for Grampians said that honorable members on his side did not wish to gain their ends by subterfuge. If the majority desire now to reject Dalgety in favour of some other site, the clearest possible way to do it is that outlined by the Government.
– If a number of honorable members feel safer by taking the course suggested, what is the objection to it ?
– The objection is that we shall delay dealing with the second reading of the Bill. By the other course we could go right through with the second reading. This is quite simple and clear, and I do not propose to place myself in the hands of unscrupulous opponents by voting for an amendment which complicates the position. It is said that both sides of the House have been canvassed, and that the numbers are up in favour of retaining Dalgety. If so, we ought not to humbug about the question, or resort to that subterfuge which the honorable member for Grampians says he wishes to avoid. If in Committee the test vote shows that a majority wish to go on with the Bill as it stands, the matter can be settled in a few minutes, and in that way we shall see that the compact in the Constitution is carried out by the Bill being passed as early as possible.
– - I hope the amendment will not becarried. The Government have met very fairly and generously those who desire toalter the previous determination of Parliament. They have brought down a Bill which gives those who desire to take that course several chances of doing so in theproper and regular fashion.
– Is not the moving of an amendment to this motion a proper and. regular fashion?
– If this werenew legislation, the honorable member for Grampians’ amendment might have some justification, but we are asked now to adopt the extraordinary course of reviewing a decision arrived at by Parliament after a most exhaustive process, in which of course somehonorable members had no part, although that was not our fault, or the fault of theAct which was finally passed. Those honorable members who desire to vote for other sites will have an opportunity of doing soif the feeling of the House is against the previous determination of Parliament. I do not wish to say anything as to the merits of the various sites. I have studiously avoided speaking on them, as, having strong opinions, I might be tempted” to make somewhat strong remarks, and I am anxious to see the legislative machine work without friction. As to the plea put forward that certain honorable members have not had an opportunity of voting for any other site than that which appears on the face of the Bill, I point out that that will inevitably happen whenever the question is brought up. The personnel of the House is constantly changing, and if we were to take heed of such arguments, it would be necessary to review in every Parliament the work done by previous Parliaments. Opportunity or excuse would certainly be found for adopting some such procedure as it is now attempted to force on the House, if we were in a similar position in the future. I desire to point out the significant fact that the honorable members who are in favour of postponing the question indefinitely, are, I believe, without a single exception, going to vote for the amendment. I am convinced that when the division is taken, I shall be found to be substantially correct in my statement.
– Is that the honorable member’s real objection to the amendment?
– No; I am simply stating a significant fact.
– What is the honorable member’s objection to the amendment?
– My objection is that it is an unusual way of amending an Act. When a Bill is brought down to amend an Act, the results of an amendment are usually more serious than would follow the carrying of the amendment on the present occasion.
– Is this a Bill to amend an Act ?
– It is a Bill to review a decision which Parliament arrived at.
– It is a Bill to affirm a decision - “to determine more definitely.”
– Does the right honorable member really believe that that is why the Bill is introduced?;
– The honorable member for Laanecoorie has, no doubt, been drawn aside by interjections; but I point out to him, and to the House generally, that the question before us is, not the merits of this Bill, or any proposed site, but simply the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians.
– I wish to say that the effect of carrying this amendment would be to altogether destroy the very generous position which the Government are taking up.
– One member of the Government is in favour of the amendment.
– That may be, but this is not a question that affects the existence of the Government, as I indicated when I said that the effect of such an amendment would not be so serious as if it were carried in regard to another measure.
– Hear, hear.
– If the Government were to introduce any other measure, and if it was, in effect, emasculated or altered before the second reading was carried, there would probably be another Government in office very soon ; and the fact to which the right honorable member for East Sydney alluded - that a member of the Government will be found voting in favour of the amendment - shows conclusively that that very unfortunate result need not be feared. I ask honorable members not to adopt this amendment, seeing that everything they may legitimately desire will be secured to them when the Bill reaches its Committee stage. The Attorney-General has said over and over again that, in the event of Dalgety being rejected, every opportunity will be given to review the whole subject, so that there will be nothing to prevent every honorable member expressing his opinion in the manner suggested. I urge that we proceed as rapidly as may be to deal with the motion for the second reading; because I object to the question being reopened in this fashion time after time, with the object of causing further delay. It is desirable that we should come to a decision as soon as possible; and I can only say that if the amendment be carried the only result, in my opinion, will be delay and disappointment.
– The honorable member for Laanecoorie made out, as he had a right to do, the best possible case for the attitude the Government have taken up on this matter. I frankly say for myself that I desire to see another ballot taken before this matter is finally settled. I do not believe that Dalgety has ever received a majority of the votes in this House on a square straight-out vote. Dalgety was selected on the last occasion because we were forced into the position, by reason of the turn the ballot took, of voting for that site against some other site we approved less. I have always held the opinion that any site which is finally selected by this House should be so selected after it has defeated every other site in single combat. That has never been done, and, therefore, in my judgment, Dalgety has never received a decisive vote on its merits. To use a vulgarism, I desire to see a “ fair go “ in the shape of a new ballot before we are finally and irrevocably committed. I hope that we are about to make a final determination of the future home of the Capital of Australia. We are told that the Government offer a perfectly fait proposition ; but I submit that it is not at all fair. We are asked to affirm the desirability of determining more definitely the Seat of Government in the neighbourhood of Dalgety, and we are asked to do that before we are offered the privilege of voting on another ballot. I object to this most strongly, because the alternative offered is to vote for a site in which I do not believe. First of all, I have to affirm the second reading of a Bill of which I do not approve before I am at liberty to exercise a choice such as the Government apparently offer. That is my preliminary objection to the procedure pf the Government. Moreover, there sire a number of new members who have never voted on the Federal Capital site question. It is idle to say that the choice has been fixed ; indeed, the Bill itself is the best of all proofs to the contrary, and until thereis a definite decision, the question is still in the political melting pot. The Government tell us that before we can have another ballot, and exercise another choice in regard to the final determination of the question, we must vote for or against Dalgety. There are a number of honorable members who, at present, are in favour of Dalgety ; but they rightly say - and the Government ought to meet the position fairly and reasonably - that, before finally fixing the site, they desire to have another choice in the shape of a ballot.
– Assuming the amendment to be carried, will the ballot be taken immediately ?
– Not necessarily.
– The amendment proposes to postpone the second reading until another ballot has been taken.
– Will there be another inspection of the sites?
– I hope not; and I for one will resist any further delay of the kind.
– How can I vote on the Lyndhurst site - I have never seen it?
– I fancy that the honorable member knows how he will vote in regard to the Lyndhurst site, though I hope, when we come to discuss the question of that site itself, to put forward some considerations which ought to induce him to support it.
– Does the honorable member propose to discuss the sites before the ballot is taken?
– We do not quite know what the course of procedure will be in regard to the. ballot; and the honorable member opens up a fresh question. In my judgment, the process of balloting by elimination is not satisfactory. We proceeded on that method on a previous occasion. I think the principle of preferential voting might well be tried in the choice of a Federal Capital site.
– That would mean more delay.
– The honorable member, who is anxious to remain in Melbourne, ought not to grumble at any delay.
– I have not said that I am anxious to remain in Melbourne.
– But that is what the honorable member means; and in any case I do not think he will be able to move from Melbourne to Dalgety very soon. The affirming of Dalgety will mean that the Federal Parliament must continue to meet in’ Melbourne for some years to come. Honorable members opposite who protest against further delay must do so, as the Age suggested the other day, with the tongue in the cheek. The amendment is fair and reasonable, and I ask the Government to put no obstacle in its way, so that we may have a fresh ballot on the various sites. I object strongly to being compelled to vote for the second reading of a measure of which I disapprove ; but if the amendment be not carried I must vote for it to obtain an opportunity to vote for an amendment in Committee. Thus the Government is forcing us into an unfair position. This is the proper time to decide whether Dalgety or some other site shall be chosen. The Government is not acting rightly in declining to allow honorable members to vote freely on the greatest of all the questions at present agitating the public mind. I understand that under your ruling, Mr. Speaker, we must not debate the merits of the various sites, and therefore I content myself with urging Ministers to allow us to proceed at once with a ballot to determine which site should be selected,
– I understand that I cannot debate the main question as I intended to do, but must confine my remarks to the amendment. I wish, therefore, to point out that the proposal before the Chair gives honorable members an opportunity to express their preferences as to which of the sites discussed shall be chosen. The Government, however, asks us to reaffirm Dalgety, and to pass the second reading of the Bill, and tells us that in Committee, on the. schedule, we shall have an opportunity to do indirectly that which the honorable member for Grampians proposes that we shall do directly. This action places us in a false position. In previous ballots Dalgety has never commanded a majority of primary votes. The history of the matter is very interesting. When, on the occasion of the first ballot, Dalgety and Bombala were treated as independent sites, not a. vote was recorded for Dalgety, and, on the second ballot, . those who cast their votes for Dalgety were those who originally voted for Bombala. Had not Bom ba.1 a been a competing site at the taking of the first ballot, they would probably have voted for Dalgety then. The result of the first vote in the ballot of 1903 was to give Lyndhurst 23 votes, Tumut 21, and Bombala i 6, Tumut being ultimately chosen because, on a later vote, the Bombala supporters transferred their allegiance to it in preference to Lyndhurst. In the ballot of 1904, the Lyndhurst, or Western site, secured 28 primary votes, the Southern, or Dalgety site, 22, and the Tumut site 21, and the Treasurer informed us last night that, but for a train being late, the Tumut site would have received two more votes, as two members who intended to vote for it reached the chamber just after the voting was finished. Therefore the Dalgety site secured second place by a mere fluke, and as, when it came to be pitted against Lyndhurst the second time, the Tumut support was transferred to it, it was ultimately chosen. But the Act subsequentlypassed was merely an Act to enable the Government to negotiate with the Government of New South Wales in respect to a certain territory.
– It in no way determined the site.
– That is’ so. Now we are proposing to open up fresh negotiations, and therefore may well be asked to reconsider the merits of the various sites.
– The amendment is the question before the Chair.
– I am justifying its submission. It was assumed that the negotiations under the Seat of Government Act would result in a satisfactory agreement, but as that has not happened, we may reasonably be asked to reconsider the whole question. There is all the more reason for this, seeing that the personnel of the House is changed, and a number of honorable members have never voted on the question. Should we not, therefore, first determine which is the best site available, and then deal with the matters covered bv the Bill? I hope that the House will clear the way for the expression of members’ opinions in respect to the various sites by voting for the amendment. We should not tie ourselves down to a vote for or against Dalgety. If we are so restricted, a number of honorable members will be placed in a false position. They may consider Tumut, or some other southern site, better than Dalgety, and to get a chance to vote for it must vote against Dalgety - a vote which they may ultimately find it difficult to explain. The way for a clear expression of opinion will be made by the acceptance of the amendment, honorable members being able to state their primary and secondary preferences in respect to all the sites before proceeding to consider the legislative proposals of the Government. The course proposed by the honorable member for Grampians will do no injustice to Dalgety, or to any other site. If a majority still favours that site, the Bill will remain unaltered. I disagree entirely with the view expressed by the honorable member for Cook, that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians will cloud the issue. To my mind, it will place it clearly before the people. It will enable them to ascertain in what way honorable members would record their primary votes when the question at issue was not that of eliminating- from the Bill the word “Dalgety “ - a site for which votes were cast, at a certain stage, by some honorable members on the assumption that it would be selected - but of dealing with every site on its merits. The honorable member for Cook says that he is not a supporter of Dalgety, and that from the whipping that has already taken place, he understands that that site has a majority in this House. If it be true that it can secure a majority of straight-out primary votes, its supporters need not fear the proposal made by the honorable member for Grampians. By agreeing to it, they will make their position stronger in the eyes of the people of New South Wales and of the Commonwealth generally. I propose, for the reasons I have indicated, to vote for the amendment, and think that the supporters of Dalgety will be well-advised in doing likewise. The adoption of the course outlined in it will give much greater satisfaction than would be possible if that proposed by the Government were followed.
.- It seems to me that the Government have placed themselves in the position’ of partisans so far as the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians is concerned.
– I have made it clear that we have no such intention.
– The honorable member may have endeavoured to do so, and may not be -a partisan ; but I have stated what is the only conclusion I can draw from the attitude of the Ministry. I am not prejudiced against them. I come here as a new member desiring an opportunity . to record a vote on the various sites. It appears to me that the Government are asking those who, on a previous occasion gave a secondary vote for Dalgety, and who have a- primary preference for some, other site, to either vote against it - with the possibility of some site other than their primary choice taking its place - or to vote straight out for it. The only conclusion one can come to is that they are endeavouring to force the selection of Dalgety. I cannot see why this House, which has been elected since the question was last discussed, should not have an opportunity to proceed to a ballot on the different sites. The Government are not giving the new members a fair opportunity to record an absolutely unprejudiced and well-considered vote on them.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.
– It will take me only a few moments to conclude the remarks I was offering when the Souse adjourned for dinner. I should like to say that whilst I accept the assurance of the AttorneyGeneral that he had no intention of taking up a partisan attitude, it appears to me that he, as the Minister in charge of the Bill, has not realized the full meaning of his proposal. It is well known that some honorable members who would, in certain circumstances, vote against Dalgety, if the opportunity offered, feel that their action would be misunderstood, and that they would lay themselves open to a charge of inconsistency if they voted that site out of the Bill - as they would have to do under the Government proposal - and then later on, owing to the exigencies of the ballot, and the conditions existing, we’re compelled to cast a vote for it again. I therefore think that the new House should have every opportunity to exercise its rights in an exhaustive vote.
– I am rather surprised at the direction which the debate has taken. Judging by the speeches to which we have listened during the last few hours, many honorable members are not in earnest with regard to the selection of a site. If they were, they would allow the matter to go to a straightout vote. I do not object to such a vote, but evidently some honorable members who have recently addressed themselves to this question do. The various proposals for delay that have been made amount to an insidious attempt on the part of the opponents of Dalgety to prevent its final acceptance. I notice that even the advocates of Canberra have practically dropped it.
– Why does the honorable member say that?
– Because I heard far more last session with regard to Canberra, and its alleged beauties, than I have heard during this debate. Is the honorable member still in favour of that site?
– Absolutely - if I cannot get a better site.
– Dalgety is infinitely preferable. The honorable member, in his speech yesterday, had very little to say about Canberra.
– Order ! The question before the Chair is the amendment.
– I rose only to say that I think that the movers of the several amendments that have been submitted have not been sincere. They have simply been sparring for wind, so to speak, with a view to ascertaining whether some other site would not be acceptable to all those who are opposed to that already selected. The representatives of the other States seem to be far more anxious to deal fairly by New South Wales than do the representatives of that State.
– The honorable member is inclined to that view because he considers that Dalgety is a fair selection:
– I cannot discuss the merits of Dalgety, since only the amendment is before the Chair, but T think that this Parliament dealt fairly bv New South Wales some years ago, and that there is no necessity for any amendment. All that remains to be done by the representatives of New South Wales is to secure a straight-out vote.
– How can we obtain it?
– Not by moving amendments relating to a Bill dealing with the site already fixed, but by standing up for a straight-out vote on the motion for the second reading. If that motion is carried, it will show that the majority of honorable members in this, as well as in the last, Parliament, considered thf Dalgety is the best site that could be selected in the interests of the Commonwealth. No substantial reason has been given for the amendments that have been moved, and they have been ridiculed to such an extent that those responsible for them have been forced to withdraw them.
– That does not apply to the present amendment.
– It is simply designed to assist the political engineers to defeat the selection already made. All the evidence goes to show that Parliament has already chosen the best site.
– The Commissioners appointed by the Commonwealth Government placed it last on the list.
– I admit that we have not chosen a site that is best designed to serve the interests of the chief commercial centre of New South Wales.
– But the Commissioners
– The amendment is the only question before the House, and neither by interjection nor by speech can any other matter be dealt with. The Issue is, whether this matter should be referred to a ballot before any further steps are taken to pass the Bill ‘ itself, or whether the. motion for the second reading should be taken forthwith.
– I am opposed, to the proposed ballot because, even if it were taken, we should have a repetition of the objections taken to the result of the last. Some train would be late, some cab would break down, or something would happen to prevent, in the opinion of some honorable members, a fair vote. The advocates of delay are hopeful that in the new Parliament they will have good reasons for demanding that the whole question shall be re-opened, and for contending that a straight-out vote was not taken on the present occasion. It will never be possible in this House, where members have to attend to their constituencies and travel such long distances, to have all the votes accounted for by ballot. We can have them all accounted for on a straight-out division by means of pairs. For that reason a straight-out vote should be taken, not on an amendment in favour of having a ballot, but for or against the second reading of the Bill.
– Will not a final ballot give a straight-out vote?
– No final ballot will be acceptable to those honorable members who are not here to participate in it. To show that I am really anxious to do what is fair for New South Wales, I have paired with a member of the Opposition, who had to go home by train to-night. If I had been determined to secure Dalgety at all hazards, I should have refused to pair. Another of my colleagues who favours Dalgety has paired with another honorable member on the other side who favours the ballot. We want to do what is fair and right, but we ought to” settle the question once and for all. If those who want a ballot are defeated they ought to be content and admit that, having had the opinion of two Parliaments, it is the duty of the House to proceed to carry out the expressed will of the House.
– Dalgety was selected only by a pure accident.
– That is the very objection that will be raised again if a ballot is taken. I want no accidents tohappen. If the honorable member, or any of his colleagues, cannot be present for a straight-out vote there will be no difficulty in getting pairs from those who favour Dalgety. In that way the vote of every honorable member can be accounted for, and there will be no reason for wrigglingout of the decision. I am dissatisfied’ with the tactics that are being adopted, not from my own point of view - for it is immaterial to me personally where the Capital is fixed - but from a New South Wales point of view. It is high time that, we were in earnest.
– What is the troublewith the New South Wales tactics?
– I will tell the honorable member the tactics I have seen on the part of New’ South Wales representatives. I have seen ardent supportersof a certain site, which might be in therunning again, immediately they changed: their constituencies, just ss ardently engineering for another site - not standing up in this Chamber and giving their views, but anxious for the ballot, because they had been engineering as hard as they could; to induce honorable members to support,, not the site they favoured before, but some new site - for reason which I am notable to fathom.
– To whom does the honorable member refer?
– To the exleaderof my own party, for one. The honorablemember for South Sydney supported Tumut, and was quite ready to accept it. I never heard him say a word about Canberra-. until ji year or two ago. When we took the vote before that site was never even mentioned.
– The honorable member for South Sydney favoured Lake George, but when it was defeated early in the ballots he took Tumut for his second vote.
– I was not a member of the House when the matter was first discussed ; but from what I have seen I am satisfied that those who are really anxious to settle this question are the representatives of other States, and not those of New South Wales.
– Do not say that.
– I am sure the honorable member for Robertson cannot disprove it.
– 1 dispute it.
– Then I ask the honorable member to join with me in voting against the amendment in order that the compact entered into with the State of New South Wales may be carried out. If the amendment is carried, the honorable member must know that the compact will not be carried out for an indefinite time. It is only fair that we should give pairs to those who are anxious for a ballot, but it would be far better if this amendment were withdrawn in the same way as others have been.
– I welcome the amendment of the honorable member for Grampians as a good way out of the difficulty into which the Government have led us. The difficulty that we have seen from the beginning is how to get that straightout vote which the honorable member for Hindmarsh asks for. When it was first proposed, that we should vote against the second reading, it was pointed out that if we did so we should perhaps block the settlement of the question altogether. The Government did not want the test vote taken on the second reading, and suggested that the Bill should be allowed to go into Committee. That meant that those who were against Dalgety were asked to vote for a Bill “ to determine more definitely the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth in the neighbourhood ot Dalgety.” That was not a fair issue to put to the House. The very fact that many of us were against Dalgety made us reluctant to vote for the second reading, and yet we were told that if we did not vote for it we should be blocking the settlement of the question. It was thrown in our faces that New South Wales members were not in earnest. We were asked in the Committee stage, after the principle of the Bill had been affirmed, to vote to leave out one of the schedules, which would have the effect of striking out Dalgety. It was then discovered that in all probability that course would not be allowed in Committee, as it would defeat the end for which the Bill was nominally introduced. So the Government suggested another arbitrary amendment, leaving out one word, and said that if that were carried they would consider it an indication that the House wanted another ballot. But the amendment of the honorable member for Grampians puts directly before the House the straightout issue that we desire. The question .that the Attorney-General put before us was whether we were or were not in favour of reopening the question.. That is the very issue raised by the amendment. I favour reopening the question. The fact that an Act naming Dalgety as the site was passed in 1904 is not a sufficient argument why the question should not be reopened. The very fact that it was passed so long ago, and that nothing has been done since is rather a very good reason for going into the matter afresh. Since that Act was passed a general election has been held, and there are in the House twenty-four or twentyfive new members who have never had an opportunity of voting by ballot for any site. The question should be reopened to give every honorable member an opportunity of exercising his choice among all the sites in the same way as the members of the last Parliament did. Dalgety was never pitted in previous ballots against some of the more important sites put forward. It was adopted in the end only because some honorable members who were strenuously opposed to it were left with the option of choosing it or Tooma. Of the two bad things they chose the one which they considered the least bad, but which to my mind was, after all, the worse of the two. The site which gained the most votes in the first ballot was Lyndhurst, which I advocated the other day, but there was never a straightout vote between Dalgety and Lyndhurst. Even in the last Parliament, if those two sites alone had been voted upon, the decision of the House as then constituted would have been different, and I am certain that the decision of tins House would be dif- ferent if we had a similar choice. All that the amendment affirms is that a new ballot ought to be taken. That will” not debar Dalgety. If a majority of honorable members are in favour of it, Dalgety will be carried again. It will be considered with the other sites, and voted upon on its merits. All that -we ask for is that all the new members, and those old members who have changed their opinions, should have an opportunity of voting for the site which they, consider best in the interests, not of their own particular State, but of this great Commonwealth. The adoption, of a procedure which By some technicality may prevent that being done would be unworthy of the importance of the issue. It is time that we indicated definitely which site amongst all those submitted we favour. The attitude of those who oppose the amendment is - “ Dalgety has been selected, and we will not give you a chance to vote for any other site.” I hope that attitude will not be indorsed by the House, but that the amendment will be carried, so that we may have the opportunity of voting on the different sites on their merits, and according to our judgment of what is best in the interests of Australia.
.- I cannot allow the amendment to be put to a vote without saying a word or two. Some honorable members have, to my mind, spoken with a bias that does not indicate a desire - at any rate, this is so on the part of the honorable member for Laanecoorie and the honorable member, for Hindmarsh - to have a fair expression of opinion. One honorable member pointed out that several votes have already been taken on the question, and that another Parliament has arrived at a decision; but the honorable member for Grampians has moved this amendment in the interests of a large number of gentlemen who are new members of this Parliament, and who ought not to be placed at any disadvantage in dealing with what I regard as a momentous question. The object now is to rectify the mistake of another Parliament ; and it must not be forgotten that we have been charged over and over again with neglecting our duty in this matter. That charge means that we are to hurry on the selection for some party purpose, to which I shall not allude more definitely; but I point out that in other countries where similar great national questions have had to be decided, the business has taken a great many more years than the Commonwealth has been in existence. When the agreement was arrived at that the Capital should be somewhere near the 100-miles limit, surely it was thought then that .there would be no difficulty in finding a suitable site. To-day, however, we find ourselves confined to Dalgety and Canberra; and there would appear to be a consensus of opinion that neither is suitable. We ought to be prepared to rise to the occasion and accept the amendment, which, if it does not mean postponement for any great length of time, means, at any rate, a ballot. In dealing- with such a matter we ought to be above any geographical or time considerations; and the amendment offers to the House fuller opportunity of arriving at a wise decision. I venture to say that no one contends that either Dalgety or Canberra is the best site obtainable; and I point out that if Dalgety be selected the South Australian representatives and Tasmanian representatives will be placed at an additional disadvantage.
– The honorable member’s remarks have nothing to do with the amendment before the Chair.
– I am endeavouring to speak to the- amendment, but it is almost impossible to dissociate it from the main question. The amendment that I submitted was ruled out of order ; and I really think I am entitled to say a word or two in favour of the amendment of the honorable member for Grampians, and to suggest why both Dalgety and Canberra should be rejected in favour of a better site. I hope we shall have a division on the amendment ; and that the House will appreciate the importance of this matter to the life of the Commonwealth, and come to a wise choice. This question must be settled, not in the interests of the 4,500,000 people here now, but in the interests of many more millions yet unborn. If the amendment be carried it will give time for fuller consideration, and we shall convince the people of the Commonwealth that we have risen above parochialism, and acted in the interests of the future of the nation.
.- It has been alleged that those who support the amendment do so because they desire to block the settlement of the question : but I shall vote for the amendment for absolutely contrary reasons. I support the amendment with a view to giving the new Parliament a say in the selection, and if, after discussion, and the final ballot, Dalgety is selected, I, at least, will make one to urge the Government to undertake the early establishment of the Capital. The amendment cannot do any damage; it simply gives a chance to all the various sites, leaving the Bill then to be carried straight through. I am uncertain as to whether there is a majority in favour of Dalgety ; but if I were certain that there was I should vote against the amendment as absolutely unnecessary. However, I cannot imagine that to be the case after what I have seen during the last few days. I also support the amendment, so that I may be given an opportunity of submitting the Armidale site, which, I consider, has not had fair play.
.- The honorable member for Indi expressed the hope more than once that we should rise to the occasion, and support the amendment. I may say, however, that I am not enamoured of the amendment, because, blunt man that I am, I prefer the direct course. I respect the axiom that a straight line is the shortest distance between two given points. .There is, however, a good deal of human nature in this House, and, very often, as may be on the present occasion, the longest way round is the shortest way home. The Government have intimated that, if any amendment is carried in Committee, they will take that as meaning! the deletion of Dalgety; and, if this amendment is submitted with the object of enabling us to have a ballot, I, as opposed to Dalgety, will vote for it with a view to securing another site. But if the opponents of Dalgety are not strong enough to have that site struck out by a straight vote, how can they be strong enough, unless some honorable members _ “go back” on their expressed opinions, to have it rejected by the course indicated in the amendment? When I find honorable members on this side declaring themselves to be noble-minded patriots, and not backyard statesmen, like myself, why should I refuse them the opportunity of proving their professions? The honorable member for Indi, in common with others, has intimated a burning desire not to cast a vote which will be inimical to the best interests of Australia, and has asked for a second ballot. But if the amendment is carried, am I to understand that the ballot would take place immediately? If so, in what better position will those gentlemen be in to vote then, than they are in to vote directly on the Bill? I shall vote for the amendment, because I do not like the Dalgety site, and shall take every opportunity to bring about its rejection ; but I know that as soon as the amendment is carried the claim will be made for delay, so that new members may visit the other proposed sites. And unless those honorable members do visit the sites, how will they be in a better position to vote by ballot on the relative merits of each proposed site than they are to vote on the Bill? If they think that Dalgety is not an acceptable site, why do they not vote against it directly? We have been told that the numbers are up, and that this is really only another attempt to cause delay. If Dalgety is to be re-affirmed, delay may as well be caused in this as in any other way ; but I have been led to beware of the Greeks when they bring presents, and though it may seem, unkind, I must say that I do not think that the amendment has been moved in the interests of New South Wales. That may be regarded as a narrow, provincial view ; but I find that other honorable members, when they throw aside their garment of nationalism, are always awake to the main chance. A Victorian opens his eyes first thing in the morning, and keeps them open all day.
– The honorable member did not come down with the last shower.
– It might be thought that I did if I were to accept the reasons which have been given for the amendment. Would you, Mr. Speaker, if you held the views of most on this side of the Chamber, and could, by voting in Committee for the omission of certain words, provide for the striking out of Dalgety, support this amendment for another ballot? However, the honorable member for Parramatta appears to be enamoured of the proposal, and he is even less verdant than I, so I think it safe to follow his footsteps. As for the argument that the amendment has been moved to give new members a chance to express their opinions, I would point out that they themselves have declared that, not having visited the sites, they are not in a position to vote on them. The honorable member for Indi says that he does not wish to give a vote’ which may harm the interests of Australia; but does his position to-night differ from what it will be on Tuesday night - will he be any better informed then? Of course, if this is an attempt to whip the devil round the stump by honorable members who, though opposed to Dalgety, do not wish to say so, I have nothing to say; but I object to the suggestion that we shall gain anything from it. When it is carried I shall be prepared to see some strong patriot from Victoria at once put forward strong reasons for delaying the ballot until further information can be obtained about the various sites.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Dalley that the carrying of the amendment will cause delay, and the moving of it, taken in conjunction with the interjection of the honorable member for Flinders that it was thought a safer course than to let the Bill get into Committee, was an insult to the Ministers. The Prime Minister has said that if the second reading is carried, and in Committee an amendment is agreed to as an indication of the wish of honorable members for a ballot, the Bill will be reported to enable a ballot to be taken, and that statement was repeated by the AttorneyGeneral, and the courseconcurred in without dissent.
– If the Bill is agreed to, what will be the use of taking a ballot?
– If the Bill is not amended there will be no ballot, and if there is any likelihood of the Bill being passed without amendment this proposal for a ballot will not be carried. We might very well have come to a vote last Friday, and were on the point of doing so last night, when the honorable member for Grampians announced his intention of moving the amendment which has now been under discussion for a couple of hours. If another ballot is taken to give new members an opportunity to select a site - which we have been told, is why the amendment was moved-
– Then why was it moved? If the new members are to express their opinions on this question they should be given an opportunity to visit the sites and to inform themselves fully in regard to them. Having done that, we shall be as well able as the members of former Parliaments to express our views intelligently.
– Ministers talked about taking a ballot.
– In the event of the House expressing a wish for one.
– The amendment has been framed on the proposal of the Government.
– If it is decided, either by carrying the amendment or by amending the Bill, to ballot again for the selection of the site, honorable members must be given an opportunity to inform themselves as to the merits of the various sites, and this cannot be done without delay.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Hans Irvine’s amendment), stand part of the question - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I wish to address myself to the amendment.
– The amendment has been voted upon, and I have now put the question that the motion as amended be agreed to. If the honorable member desires he may speak to that question.
– It may be pointed out that several honorable members are temporarily absent who would have been present had they known that a division would have been taken on the Bill. It is unfortunate that this question should be thrown once more into the melting pot, with the result that we shall have to proceed to a further ballot. The argument that since the question was last dealt with the personnel of the House has considerably changed falls to the ground. If that doctrine has any force, it might as well be argued that we should review all the legislation passed by previous Parliaments. We should never make any progress if every new Parliament is to review the Acts of its predecessors in this fashion.
– Every honorable member is accounted for.
– I cannot understand why honorable members who are favorable to Dalgety should have voted to disturb what has already been clone.
– I thought that the honorable member suggested something in that direction when he spoke the other night.
– Then the honorable gentleman is under a misapprehension. I clearly stated that I was in favour of standing by the Act that we passed some time ago. We ought to carry out the decision at which the Parliament has already arrived, and it is somewhat mysterious that honorable members who concurred in that decision should be found reversing their vote without any evidence, so far as I can discover, to justify their change of front.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
– The House has decided that a further opportunity shall be afforded to take a ballot on other sites before this Bill be further proceeded with, and, by leave of the House, I wish to move -
That the selection be made from sites nominated, without debate, by honorable members - provided that no nomination shall be received unless it is supported by at least five members, in addition to the member nominating, rising in their places.
That the House do forthwith proceed to the nomination of sites, and that the Speaker do declare the time for nominations to be closed as soon as sufficient opportunity has, in his opinion, been given to receive nominations.
That an open exhaustive ballot be taken on Wednesday, 7th October, without debate -
– Why not to-night?
– All members are accounted for.
– They could not be accounted for on a ballot.
– Honorable members will recognise that it will be necessary to have ballot-papers printed. The motion continues - in the following manner : -
I can submit the motion only by permission of the House.
– It is a clever motion.
– There is nothing behind it. The procedure I propose is that which was adopted on a previous occasion, and the motion has been drafted with a view to simplicity and fairness. I ask honorable members to agree to themotion at once. If it is passed nominations will be invited to-night, and since the matter has been discussed very thoroughly, we propose that they shall be made without debate. When Mr. Speaker is of opinion that sufficient time has been given to enable every honorable member to nominate a site if he desires to do so, he will declare the nominations closed. The question will then stand over until Wednesday afternoon next. In fixing upon that date we are actuated by the desire to give every honorable member full notice and to afford representatives of the different States an ample opportunity to attend, so that we may obtain a determination by a full House.
– How can nominations be made by honorable members who are not present and who were not aware that this proposal was to be made?
– I think that the position was well understood, and, accordingly, I ask leave to move the motion I have read.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to move this motion?
– I object.
– As objection has been taken to the motion being moved at this stage, I ask leave to give notice now of my intention to submit this motion tomorrow.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to give notice now of his intention to submit the motion to-morrow
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
Leave granted ; notice of motion given.
– I move -
That the request of the Senate contained in its Message No. 1, for the resumption by the House of the consideration of the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill, be complied with, and that a Message be transmitted to the Senate acquainting it therewith.
The Senate has passed a resolution in accordance with the Standing Orders asking this House to proceed with the Parliament ary Witnesses Bill at the stage at which its consideration was interrupted by the prorogation last session. This motion is designed to give effect to that request and to restore the Bill to the notice-paper accordingly. We were somewhere about the fourteenth clause of the Sill last session.
– Order. Honorable members will see that unless they make it possible to hear what is going on, they will be utterly unable, when the question is put, to know which way to vote. I ask honorable members not to converse aloud, but to allow the Attorney -General to proceed.
– I had finished what I wished to say.
– Do the Government intend toproceed with this Bill before the Manufactures Encouragement Bill?
– No. All that we want is to get it on the notice-paper.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the further consideration of the Bill in Committee of the whole House (the stage which the Bill had reached last session) be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I move -
That the request of the Senate contained in its message No. 2 for the resumption by the House of the consideration of the Bills of Exchange Bill be complied with, and that a message be transmitted to the Senate acquainting it therewith.
This Bill was carefully considered and passed through all its stages in the Senate last session. It was transmitted to us, and if the message be complied with, the next stage will be the motion for its second reading. By that means we gain the benefit of the whole of the proceedings on the Bill in the Senate last session. It has already been read a first time in this House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the second reading of the Bill (the stage which the Bill had reached last session) be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Debate resumed from 22nd September (vide page 242), on motion by Sir William Lyne -
That the proceedings on the Bill intituled “A Bill for an Act for the Encouragement of
Manufactures in the Commonwealth “ which were interrupted by the prorogation of Parliament last session be resumed at the stage then reached in connexion with the said Bill and that the further consideration of the Bill in Committee of the whole House be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
. ; - I believe that a promise was made when ‘ this motion was proposed by the Prime Minister in my absence that I would make a short statement before going further with it.
– The promise was that a full financial statement would be made.
– I could not make such a statement to-night. I am in a position to say that there will be plenty of money in the Treasury to pay the bounty required.
– I hope the hon- orable member does not propose to starve the Postal Department for this Bill.
– I cannot make the financial statement now. I read the statement made by the Prime Minister, and I could see no promise to the effect suggested by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– If the Prime Minister did not use those words, there was a distinct understanding to that effect.
– The words used by the Prime Minister, as published in Hansard, do not convey that meaning. I am in a position to say that there will be money available to pay any amount required for this purpose.
– (How does the honorable member arrive at that conclusion?
-I ask honorable members not to interject. At the same time I wish to inform the Treasurer that he will not be in order upon this motion in making a general financial statement. He is at liberty to make any statement regarding the Bill, but not to give a full explanation of the finances.
– I was fulfilling what I conceived to be the expectation of honorable members bv assuring them that there was money available, and that I was in a position now to say so. To go into detail, and show how I arrived at that conclusion would mean making that complete Budget statement which I do not intend to make for a fortnight or three weeks yet.
– The Government promised a financial statement before they went on with this Bill.
– The report of the Prime Minister’s speech does not show it.
– The Bill could be held! over until the Treasurer has made hisfinancial statement.
– If that is. done, I do not see much hope of getting; the Bill through this session.
– We heard the PrimeMinister promise that a financial statement should be made.
– I read thePrime Minister’s speech, and saw no such promise. If the Bill is reinstated, I intend to propose a reduction in the total’ amount in the schedule.
– Because I donot think all the money will be required during the period. If it is likely to be required by an increase in the number of those producing iron, Parliament can alwaysmake the necessary provision.
– What reduction does the honorable member propose?
– I have not put the reduction down yet. It will be something fairly considerable; but that questioncan be more properly dealt with when the Bil] is reinstated in its previous position.. I wish to make paragraph b of clause 14, regarding the payment of wages, clearer than it now appears to be. When I dealt with the question before, I had to get an amendment hurriedly written out. I . dohot think its wording is as conclusive as it should be as to the wages. I wish to make the provision as to the power of the Commonwealth to take over the works at any time clearer also.
– The Commonwealth Government has no power to take over the industry.
– I think it could be done if it were al question of defence only; but not if the proposal wasmerely to take over the industry and manufacture iron for ordinary commercial purposes.
– Could not the Government sell their surplus production?
– I understand not; but that the industry could be taken over in order to manufacture for defence purposes. I want to make the clause, which gives power to take the industry over, clearer and more conclusive, and probably will put in a provision referring to the points to which honorable members have just alluded. The wording regarding Australian ore and Australian manufacture also requires a little strengthening. I hopeI shall be able to meet the honorable member for Illawarra somewhat in regard to his amendment, and to overcome at least some of the objections that he had to the Bill. We might, I think, limit the time as to when wire-netting should be made here, and in the meantime, let the bountybe paid.
– I hope the honorable member will take the opportunity of making a public apology for saying that I was responsible for delaying the Bill last session.
– I do not want to raise that question now. We had better forget all about it. I hope honorable members will not delay the Bill any longer.
– The Prime Minister promised a financial statement before the Bill was proceeded with.
– The Prime Minister did not promise that the financial statement would be made first.
– I promised “a” financial statement.
– What does that mean ?
– It means more than the mere statement that the Treasurer has the money to pay the bounty.
– If honorable members do not believe my assurance, I cannot help it. I cannot make a financial statement unless I give the whole history of the finances of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member can hold the Bill over until he does.
– I am not going to be threatened by the honorable member. He might be a little fairer to me. The Treasury is in a position to find the money for theBill.
– And starve the Post and Telegraph Department.
– That is not so. If the House says that iron is not to be produced and manufactured in Australia, it will not be my fault. I shall do my best to get the Bill passed. I have made ah honest statement to the House ; but I cannot go into details as to the estimated expenditure, or show how much revenue is expected.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I regret that I have again to protest against the constant inter ruptions of the honorable member’s speech. I shall be driven, much against my wish, to take further action if honorable members do not heed the warnings given from the Chair.
– The Prime Minister directs my attention to the words used by himself, as follows - i am perfectly prepared to say that if this motion be agreed to we shall not proceed further with the Bill until the Treasurer has made a financial statement.
– Then make a financial statement !
– The honorable member for Robertson must not interject.
– But those words mean that the financial statement shall be made after the Bill has been reinstated, and placed in the position at which it was left last session. If honorable members then so desire, I shall give all the information that I can be expected to give. I may say, however, that there is money in the Treasury to meet any likely demand for this year, and probably the next.
– Why, there is no money for the Post Office!
– The honorable member for Wimmera must not interject.
– If the honorable member creates a debate on the Post Office, it may be a month or two before we reach the Bill. The honorable member is doing what he has always done - trying to block and destroy protection.
Dr.Wilson. - The honorable member for Wimmera is one of the strongest supporters of protection on this side of the House.
– I am very sorry to have to name the honorable member for Corangamite for persistently interjecting after the two or three warnings I have already given; and I must ask the Prime Ministerto take the necessary steps.
– I ask, as a point of order, whether the Treasurer is in order in making an onslaught on me in connexion with my votes on protection - whether that is relevant to the subject under discussion ?
– I was attending to a point of order at the time, and may not have heard what was said; but, so far as I know, the Treasurer made no attack on the honorable member. The honorable member for Corangamite is the honorable member I have named, and I do not know that he was concerned in the matter referred to by the honorable member for Wimmera.
– It was a most improper charge, seeing that the honorable member for Wimmera voted for prohibition several times.
– Does the honorable member for Indi desire to be named also?
– I had the misfortune to be engaged in reading some remarks of my own in Hansard to one or two honorable members sitting on this side, who had placed a different construction on them from that which I myself did and do, and consequently whatever transpired in the House was not audible to me. I understand, however, that what has occurred is that the honorable member for Corangamite has in some way or other-
– Will the Prime Minister allow me to point out that there is no possible misunderstanding ; and I think the whole House is aware of the facts. After a number of interjections, I had risen more than once to call attention to their frequency. I then rose again, and said I should be compelled, much against my will, to take further steps unless the interjections ceased. One or two honorable members again interjected, and I called them to order by name, those honorable members being the honorable member for Dalley, the honorable member for Wimmera, and the honorable member for Kennedy. Almost immediately afterwards the honorable member for Corangamite made an interjection, and I was obliged, unless my intimations to the House are to be laughed at and treated with scorn, to do what I had said I would do, What the honorable member for Corangamite did, in spite of my direction earlier, was to interject in such a way as to interrupt the Treasurer. If, however, the honorable member for Corangamite expresses his regret, I am quite sure the House would be glad to accept an apology. I hope, in any case, that I shall not be driven again, by the persistency and multi plicity of interjections, to take steps that would be very much to the detriment of the House. I have recognised, and have done so ever since I have occupied this position, which honorable members were good enough to confer upon me, that there are interjections of a kind very helpful to a debate, in eliciting information and making speeches more clear, but I do think that, especially during the last two or three hours, there have been interjections of a character and a frequencythat were not calculated to help debate, but rather to harass the speaker. Interjections so persistent in their character are most distracting to an honorable member addressing the Chair, and are bound, if not diminished, to very much reflect on the dignity of the House. I ask the honorable member for Corangamite if he desires to make an apology ?
– I do not see why the at tention of the Speaker should be confined to this side of the House.
– I am very sorry, indeed, that I have offended in this way. I can assure you, sir, that ft was not done out of any disrespect to the Chair or yourself ; but at the moment the Treasurer made a statement regarding my honorable colleague and friend, who, all through the Tariff debate, was a staunch supporter of the Government, and I resented that statement on his behalf. I feel that in doing so I did wrong; and I apologize, and hope that my apology may be accepted.
– I shall be pleased to take no further steps in the matter. But I feel bound to take notice of an interjection by the honorable member for Illawarra, to the effect that I ought not to confine my attention to the Opposition, but should extend it to honorable members on the other side. The honorable member for Illawarra is aware that I called the honorable member for Kennedy to order by name, just as I had done the honorable member for Dalley on the other side; and I do not think that the honorable member for Illawarra ought to impute unfairness to the Chair. I must ask the honorable member to withdraw his imputation.
– I withdraw it.
– I hope that honorable members will place no obstacle in the way of this motion. If the Government had intended to proceed with the Bill to night, I could have understood the attitude of honorable members, but that is not the intention. My own opinion was that the motion was being regarded as formal; and, if it can be carried without unnecessary Belay, I shall be very much obliged.
– The honorable member for Adelaide, who securedthe adjournment of the debate,and who intended to speak, is absent.
– But if that honorable member gets an opportunity to fully deal with the whole question, I am sure he will be satisfied.
– But the Bill is at the schedule stage.
– The Prime Minister promised to recommit it.
– I think there was a promise of the kind, with a view of giving an opportunity for general discussion. I point out that a GovernorGeneral’s message will have to be brought down before we can proceed with the Bill; indeed, I am not quite sure whether there ought not to be such a message before there can be any debate. The question is ‘ raised, . Mr. Speaker, whether an opportunity can be given after this formal motion is carried, and the Bill reinstated, for a general discussion at any stage?
– I may say that not merely may an opportunity be made, but one must come when a message is presented, and when, in Committee, every detail of the whole measure, and- especially the financial aspect, may be discussed by members at any length.
– I desire to ask whether the Government may not bring down a message at any stage of the Bill.
– The Constitution requires that any such Bill as this must have a message in relation to it brought down before the Bill is passed. I should not allow the third reading to pass unless such a message had arrived.
– I hold the message in my hand, and only await an opportunity to present it.
– I desire to know whether it is not only the custom, but obligatory, for a money Bill, when introduced, to be accompanied by a message. It is not usual, nor do I think it is proper, that a Bill should be introduced and discussed without such a message.
– If the right honorable member will refer to section 56 of the Constitution, he will find there the following provision -
A vote, resolution, or proposed ‘law, for the appropriation of revenue or moneys shall not be passed -
That is to say, the. third reading, which, under our Standing Orders, is considered the passing of a Bill, shall not be taken - unless the purpose of the appropriation has in the same session been recommended by message of the Governor-General to the House in which th’e proposal originated.
There is, therefore, no doubt as to the necessity for the message, but that message must come down before the passing of the Bill, and not necessarily earlier.
– If the motion is carried, and the Bill reinstated, a message will be immediately brought down. I did not think there were so many opposed to the establishment of the iron industry.
– We wish to know where the money is coming from.
– I am in the hands of the House, and it would, therefore, be useless to speak at length. I hope that honorable members will vote for the reinstatement of the Bill.
– It seems to me that there is not much gained by this procedure, if, on the introduction of the message at any stage, we can have a debate practically equalling that on the second reading. In South Australia, a motion for the reinstatement of a Bill was put without debate. As this matter has been partially discussed, I am surprised that the Treasurer has not shown how funds can be found for the carrying out of the measure consistently with the decent administration of the Departments. Mention has been made of the Postal Department. The honorable gentleman seems to have forgotten that in May of last year it was reported by the experts of that Department that within three years there would be required for pressing works ^2,250,000, including about ^300,000 of ordinary expenditure. As half the votes asked for have been reduced by the Treasurer-
– The arguments the honorable and learned member is using might properly be applied to the discussion pf the Bill, but the only question now before the Chair is whether the measure shall be restored to the position which it occupied on the business-paper last session, and I cannot allow him, any more than I allowed the Treasurer, to go beyond that.
– I understood that there had been a debate in which the merits of the Bill had been discussed.
– The honorable member for South Sydney discussed them very fully.
– Of course,- if you, Mr. Speaker, wish to withdraw your acquiescence in what was done, I submit; but” I understand that the desire has been expressed that there should be some intimation from the Treasurer as to the state of our finances. I merely wish to adel that, in a lecture delivered by him in New South Wales six or eight months ago, it was declared that, within about twelve years, the expenditure of the Commonwealth would be increased by about £3, 500,000, and that the Prime Minister said at the last Premiers’ Conference that there would shortly be a shrinkage of the Commonwealth revenue and an increase in our expenditure. Therefore, before we agree to restore to the notice-paper a Bill involving a certain expenditure of ^300,000, and probably a still greater outlay, we should be given an idea as to how the money will be found.
.- As I am zealous for the establishment of :the iron industry, I regard it as unfortunate that no statement has been made to show how effect can be given to this proposal without disarranging our finances.
– At the present .time, the Postal Department is being -.starved .
– We are all suffering on that account. Another measure very dear to the hearts of Labour members is the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. That is a measure which must be financed. A number of honorable members have said that they cannot support this Bill if it will :be impossible to finance it without starving the various Departments. The honorable member for South Sydney said on this point -
T desire to know how it is proposed to find the money to administer it and other measures which will involve a Big expenditure in the immediate future. If a statement is not given, T shall be content to record my vote against the motion.
As one who is inclined to vote for this proposal, failing nationalization, or a Tariff, I feel that if the consideration of the Bill is delayed until a- statement df our finances has been made, the honorable member for South Sydney may support it. The Prime Minister, speaking a little later - practically in reply - said -
A fresh message” from the Governor-General has to be laid upon the table, and that will open up the financial question, and give the fullest opportunity for discussion in that way. A statement of the financial position likely to be created by the passage of the Bill was a natural and proper request ; and it was acceded to without a moment’s hesitation. Indeed; such a statement would have had to be made even if no request had been preferred for it.
Although I am partly pledged to support the measure, I must vote against it if it is brought forward before the financial way is made clear, and, therefore, I think it best to move as an amendment -
That the words “ next day of sitting “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ day after a financial statement has been made to the House.”
– What is gained by doing that ? The financial statement must be discussed.
– It would be well to add “or such other time as may be convenient.”
– If the day fixed is not convenient, the Government can easily arrange for another date. The subject is too important to be treated cavalierly. I consider that the establishment of the iron industry is bound up with the defence question, and I hope that it will be definitely dealt with at an early date.
.- Why has not the honorable member for New England moved the postponement of the discussion until the day after the resurrection? He might as well have done so. We were told by the Governor-General that the session is to be a short one, and it is understood that the financial statement is to be delivered about three weeks hence. Surely the honorable member for New England, and those who think with him, will not be content to accept the Budget without criticising it. This criticism, judging by past experience, will occupy several weeks, and the honorable member’s amend- ‘ ment will only further delay an important measure which has already been delayed too long. The proposal to grant bounties for the production of iron is not new. It has been before several Parliaments, and our decision is awaited with considerable interest. In my opinion, no sufficient reason for the postponement has been given. I shall vote for bounties on iron, and leave it to the Treasurer to find the necessary money. He has told us that the finances are better and healthier than he expected to find them; and, therefore, I think that the measure should be proceeded with forthwith. The honorable member for New England has spoken about nationalization. Now, there are other ways of killing a pig than by choking him with’ butter, and there are other ways of killing this measure than by talking about nationalization, to which I am entirely opposed.
– It is better to have a little delay, and make sure that we can do what we want to do.
– Australia is not in such a parlous state that she cannot afford to pay bounties on the production of iron. When, a little time back, bounties on rice and other rural products were proposed, the Queensland representatives and others did not ask us to pause.
– Those bounties were not likely to go to one firm.
– The likelihood that the iron bounties will go to one firm may, with the honorable member, be a reason for voting against the Bill ; but it should not be a reason for opposing the motion for its re-instatement.
– That we blundered on another occasion, is no reason why we should do so on this.
– If honorable members are opposed to the granting of bounties for the production of iron, let them say so; but I ask them not to advance excuses for delaying the measure. Every honorable member can roughly forecast the state of the finances. The introduction of the Defence Bill was not objected to on the ground that there had been no financial statement. If we conducted our business on proper lines, no doubt the delivery of the Budget would be the first work of the session. When I find honorable members displaying so much caution in this connexion, I feel impelled to ask them to be equally cautious when a Supply Bill is introduced. The Bill relates to an industry that affects my State, and also many thousands of operatives of the right class. I am inclined therefore to vote for it, and certainly shall not do anything to delay its consideration. I ask honorable members, if they are opposed to the measure, to fight it out when it is introduced, and not to take advantage of the present motion to demand a full statement of the financial position of the Commonwealth.
– I am rather surprised at the attitude of some honorable members who, whilst realizing apparently the full importance of the industry to which the Bill relates, are prepared to make what I consider a petty plea in opposition to it. I describe their objection as a petty one because, although I do not underrate the importance of finance, I certainly do not underestimate the re sources of Australia and the possibilities which lie within the power of the Government to raise sufficient money to assist the iron industry. The industry, if it is worth supporting, is going to be supported ultimately, and I have no doubt that Australia is capable of supporting it to the limited extent that we are now asked to. sanction. To raise the bogy that the Treasurer has not at his disposal, at the present moment, the funds necessary for this purpose, is ridiculous. Honorable members who raise such a cry are apparently questioning the soundness of the financial resources of Australia. We have voted enormous sums by way of bounties for the encouragement of what, as compared with the iron industry, are second-rate enterprises, such as the cultivation of flax and the production of ginned cotton, hemp, and goat hair.
– Which cannot be a success.
– Then the money which has been hypothecated in respect of them might very well be devoted to an industry that can be successfully carried on in Australia. We have sanctioned an expenditure amounting to about £300,000 in respect of bounties for the encouragement of minor industries, and we are now asked to grant a sum to assist in the establishment of an industry that is of the greatest importance to Australia. We are not called upon to vote more than , £25,000 or £30,000 a year by way of bounties on the production of iron. The Lithgow works are not at present capable of turning out more than would absorb that amount, and yet, on the flimsy plea that the necessary funds do not happen to be actually in sight, honorable members would hang up the establishment of what every one considers is a vital industry. One would imagine from the outcry raised by some honorable members that the Commonwealth was insolvent. We cannot be come self-supporting, self-reliant, or self contained without this industry, and. yet. some honorable members hesitate to assist, it on the ground that we cannot see our. way to provide for an outlay of £25,000 a year upon it for the next few years. I am surprised that honorable membersand more particularly members of my own party, who say that we ought to be self-reliant - should take up so ridiculous a position. As I understand that I cannot on this motion enter upon the larger question of the industry and its claims, I am confining my remarks to the financial aspect of the matter, and I appeal to honorable members to say whether they do not think Australia can afford to expend .£25,000 or £30,000 a year to establish this basic industry, upon which all modern enterprises depend. It is disgraceful that an industry without which we cannot develop Australia should be denied assistance at our hands. Honorable members are aspersing the fair name of Australia by asserting that we are not in a position to grant the industry the little help now proposed to be given it.
– I think that the honorable member who has just resumed his seat has mistaken the attitude of those who object to this motion. No one doubts the ability of Australia to raise the funds necessary to assist the iron industry. The only contention is that, having regard to the responsibilities that have already been incurred by the Government in respect of bounties for the encouragement of other industries, and under various Acts of Parliament, it is necessary that a business-like financial statement should be made to the House before further large appropriations are made. When we are entering into, obligations, we must take care to provide the ways and means to meet them. The Prime Minister promised that before the Government would seek to reinstate the Bill a full financial statement would be made.
– Hansard shows that he did not do so.
– He said that such a statement would be made after the Bill had been reinstated.
– After this motion had been carried. The Government are anxious to avoid traversing the ground already covered by introducing the Bill at the stage which had been reached at the end of last session, and it is now contended that before that is done, a financial statement should be submitted. The Treasurer has stated that he can provide for the expenditure which this Bill will involve. That, however, is a very bald assertion, and we need something more. It does not follow that, because an honorable member demands that before he votes for this motion a financial statement shall be made by the Treasurer, he will not vote for an iron bounty.
– The honorable member for South Sydney said he could not vote for it unless a financial statement were made.
– That is. a very proper position to .take up. Every man who enters into an obligation before he has made his way clear to meet it, lowers himself in the estimation of the people, and we contend that before we appropriate large sums to encourage the iron industry, it should be shown that we shall be able to meet our responsibilities in that regard. I claim that the promise made by the Prime Minister shall be carried out before I vote for the reinstatement of the Bill ; but it does not follow that because I take up that attitude, I shall oppose the bounty.
.- The position, as I understand it, is that honorable members who. like myself, are anxious to vote for the bounty, desire that faith shall be kept with them. The Prime Minister, some little time ago, promised the House that a financial statement would be submitted before honorable members were asked to vote the money necessary to provide for the bounties under this Bill. The starving of the Post and Telegraph Department is a matter of great concern to country districts, and honorable members are naturally anxious to learn why severe retrenchment should take place in certain Departments, whilst moneyis being found for other services. I regard the iron industry as of supreme importance, and no technicality should’ stand in the way of a bounty being granted for. its encouragement. I claim only that the promise made by the Prime Minister shall be fulfilled. As I understand the position, however, we are merely asked now to reinstate the Bill at the stage reached last session. After that has been done,_ and after the Bill is proceeded with, the financial statement will be made. On that .understanding, I fail to see why the House should not agree to the motion. It will then be the duty of honorable members to demand that the Prime Minister’s promise shall be faithfully observed.
– That ls all I am asking.
– I am satisfied with the Prime Minister’s assurance, and desire only to add that I can afford to treat with the contempt they deserve the Treasurer’s uncouth references to myself, and my votes on the Tariff.
.- I am satisfied that honorable members who were present when this “motion was first submitted, clearly gathered from the Prime
Minister’s remarks that before it was proceeded with further, a reasonable financial statement would be made showing how it was proposed to provide for the appropriations under this and other measures. I propose to quote from one or two speeches made on that occasion, to show that the reply of the Prime Minister imparted to honorable members the impression which I have stated. The honorable member for South Sydney said -
We cannot, during the next two and a half years, expect to obtain any more from the Customs than we have been getting, if we are likely to get so much. I am inclined to think we shall not get nearly as much as we have recently been getting.
– The Government estimate is that we shall get £2,000,000 less.
– That is so. We have already incurred the responsibility of providing the balance of the money that will be necessary for the payment of old-age pensions….. The old-age pensions scheme we have adopted is so liberal, and properly so, I think, that I believe it will require considerably more than the sum at first estimated as adequate for the purpose. I am convinced that the amount required will be more nearly £2,000,000 than £1,800,000.
– It will be more than £2,000,000. We are providing pensions for invalids also.
– I will not say that more than £2,000,000 will be required, but the amount will certainly be more nearly £2,000,000 than £1,800,000. That being so, it is right that we should consider what was our balance last year. I believe we obtained an enormously increased revenue, and a much Higher revenue than we are likely to receive this year or in the succeeding year, and we had not even then such an enormous balance that we could afford to play fast and loose with the money. In addition to that big responsibility, we have other claims upon us equally pressing in the acquisition of the Northern Territory, the defence proposals, and the taking over of light-houses.
– And the appointment of a High Commissioner.
It will be seen that that honorable member raised the question of a general financial statement. Further on he said -
There are these matters of real urgency from a national stand-point staring us in the face, and it is due to the country that the Government should give some indication of where the money to finance them is coming from. If the Manufactures Encouragement Bill is carried, it will involve claims upon the Treasury to the extent of at least £250,000, assuming that the manufacture of wire netting, and trivial matters included in the schedule are left out of account altogether, and only the £250,000 bonus for the manufacture of iron is. provided for. As the industry is in some measure already in existence. it is certain that the Treasurer will be asked for that money. Personally, I view with some concern the question of where the money is to come from. If we are to impose direct taxation, I shall not grumble, but I do think that we should know exactly where we are being landed.
That speech was made a few evenings ago on this motion by the honorable member for South Sydney, who urged reasons why the Government should make a financial statement. That was really the general trend of the debate, and the Prime Minister made a reply which the Government now seek to show meant something else. The understanding really was that a general financial statement would be given as to the various commitments mentioned by the honorable member for South Sydney. The Hansard report of the debate continues -
– We require a financial statement which will not be confined to this year.
– I do not think that the Government can be expected to give a financial statement for a period many years ahead ; but we should know how Ministers propose to finance the undertakings immediately in view. . . . Before proceeding further with the Bill we should have a statement as to how its administration is to be financed.
Later on the honorable member for North Sydney followed the matter up in these words -
We have urged more than once from this side of the House - the honorable member for Flinders and other honorable members have done so, and I have done so - that there should be some better handling of our finances than is being exhibited by this Ministry. If there is not, if theHouse permits proposals such as this and others to go forward and blindly accepts them, we shall be committed to a serious financial position which will end in a crisis, and the loss of the reputation in financial matters of the Federal Parliament. I quite agree with the honorable member for South Sydney. I remember his urging something of the sort before, and he repeats it now. We as a Parliament have no right, whether we are supporters, or opponents of the Government, to accept every scheme that is brought forward, even if a majority are in favour of it, unless we know how the finances are going to meet the strain imposed by our legislation.
– The Prime Minister has promised that the Treasurer will make a financial statement.
That interjection shows what sort of financial statement the leader of the Labour Party expected. Nobody thought that it would consist of a few words to the effect that the Treasurer could guarantee that the necessary money would be forthcoming. I ask honorable members to read the whole of this debate, and see whether the construction which it is now sought to put upon the Prime Minister’s words is a fair one, in view of all that took place. In answer to this general expression of opinion all round the chamber - and the references were not limited to the money required to pay the iron bounty - the Prime Minister said -
A fresh message from the Governor-General has to be laid upon the table, and that will open up the financial question, and give the fullest opportunity for discussion in that way. A statement of the financial position likely to be created by the passage of the Bill was a natural and proper request ; and it was acceded to without a moment’s hesitation. Indeed, such a statement would have had to be made even if no request had been preferred for it.
– That meant that the statement would be made after this motion was carried.
– Certainly not. I heard the whole debate, including the Prime Minister’s reply.
– I heard it all read tonight.
– The Prime Minister then left the financial question altogether. It was a very cute dodge of the honorable member for Bass to suggest that I was leaving out the context.
– The honorable member did not read the first part of what the Prime Minister said.
– The Prime Minister began with these words -
I take the opportunity of pointing out that there was no intention, in moving the motion to-night in regard to the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, to take any unfair advantage of the formal proposal necessary for the restoration of the measure to the notice-paper. Indeed, it was only in accordance with an understanding with representatives of the Opposition that the motion would be taken as formal that it was brought forward, in the belief that there would not, and need not, be any demur. Even if the motion had been carried, there wasno such closure of debate as some honorable members appeared to anticipate.
Then comes what I have already quoted, so that I did not omit a single material word. No honorable member can honestly say that the “ financial statement “ made by the Treasurer to-night, to the effect that he has the necessary money, is a compliance with the Prime Minister’s promise that “ a financial statement will be made “ in the light of the debate which took place.
– The statement was to be made only after this motion was carried and before the Bill was proceeded with.
Mr.J. H. CATTS.- If the honorable member can show me in Hansard any such reference I shall be prepared to resume my seat without further remark. It is known that the debate on this motion was adjourned. If there was no intention to make a financial statement before the motion was proceeded with why didnot the Government go straight on with the debate at that time? As a matter of fact, the adjournment was agreed to, as every honorable member present understood, for the express purpose of enabling the Treasurer, who was then absent, to make a general financial statement before the motion was further proceeded with. I admit that the Prime Minister’s words, if read apart from the debate, can be interpreted in the way he has explained them to-night. Like a number of his utterances, and like some of those of the leader of the Opposition, the words are quite capable of two interpretations. The Prime Minister puts on them the interpretation that suits his particular purpose to-night, whereas the understanding given to honorable members was quite different. If that is the course to be pursued by the Government, honorable members will not be prepared on similar occasions in the future to resume their seats in the belief that an undertaking given by the Prime Minister will be carried out. We recently passed an Oldage Pensions Act which, according to the estimate of the Government, will involve an expenditure of £1, 500,000, and, on the showing of other honorable members, considerably more. The right honorable member for Swan had an idea that a certain amendment rendered the Bill so much more liberal as toincrease the cost from , £1,500,000 to , £3,000,000. If the Labour Party vote this money for an iron bounty, and it absorbs money which should pay old-age pensions, we shall deserve all the odium that will be heaped upon us by the poor old men and women of Australia..
– We shall have to resort to direct taxation.
– It would be impossible, I am afraid, to induce a House such as this to impose direct taxation, because there are honorable members here who would rather see old-age pensions deferred than take such a step.
– Will the honorable member debate . the question before the House ?
– I am sorry to have been led away by an interjection. .When certain honorable members are under the impression that an understanding was arrived at for a financial statement to be delivered, a statement should, I think, be forthcoming; and the Prime Minister would be very well advised, in view of the difference of opinion on the point between himself and other honorable members, to fall in with the view which so many honorable members have expressed. Some of us are placed in a rather awkward position in regard to this Bill, because, if we understood that there was plenty of money for the purpose, we might be prepared to support it; but, as a matter of fact, we are altogether in the dark, and we have to see that the old-age pensions scheme does not suffer. It would be of no use our telling our constituents that we did not know there was no money available; we should be told that it was our business to know. We may be told that we ought to pass the Bill, and throw on the Government the responsibility of finding the money ; but the Government might feel inclined to provide the means by imposing^ duties on lea and kerosene. There, again, what would be our position before our constituents when we had, as it were, been the means of casting still further burdens on the poor?
– I am told that the expenditure under the Bill will be £27,000 a year.
– There is not only the £27,000 a year for an iron bonus, but other large expenditure contemplated ; arid in the face of it we are told that there is a considerable falling off in the Customs revenue, while at the same time negotiations are going on for the handing over to the States of a large portion of that revenue. Amongst the larger items of expenditure in the near future is that entailed by the defence scheme, and I ask what would be the position if the proposals of the Government were amended in such a way as to provide that men shall be recouped the loss of their wages ? Then there is the taking over of the Northern Territory,, and, possibly, the Federal Capital, though it is very likely that we should be told that there was no money available for the latter purpose. The further- proposal is to give a bonus on wire netting, wire making, and on shale oil, and, under the circumstances, it is not fair to ask honorable members, especially those who have any objection to the Bill, to give another vote to further its progress until there has been a financial statement. As one who has very great objections to revenue duties, I do not propose to vote for an expenditure which must be met largely from that source, because it only means further taxation of the poor, to which I offer my strongest opposition. Those people who have taken over the iron industry are reputed to be wealthy already, and I am only afraid that the money paid to them must be taken from that class of people who can least afford it.. I have had occasion before to think that understandings arrived at in this House are not carried out. Before the close of last session a number of statements were made by the Treasurer in regard to this Bill - though I know the honorable gentleman is reported in H amaral, to the contrary - and I left with a distinct impression that the Bill would not be gone on with ; but in Sydney the next day I saw that it had been brought under the notice of honorable members. Owing to the collapse of the debate on the Seat of Government Bill, this motion was introduced quite unexpectedly, and I know that the honorable member for Adelaide, who obtained the adjournment, desired to speak. The Government tell us that if we go on with the matter now we shall have an opportunity of considering any objectionable clauses on recommittal. But suppose that those who object to certain clauses are in a minority, and the majority refuses to recommit the Bill. Can the Government guarantee to the minority an* opportunity for discussing those features of the measure to which they object? There are clauses in the Bill which I have not had an opportunity of discussing. The Government would be well advised in furnishing the House with a general financial statement in accordance with the understanding that we had when the matter was last under consideration. Had the honorable member for South Sydney been present, I guarantee that he would have protested vigorously, because he went away under the impression that a financial statement would be made before the Bill was proceeded with further. I am sure that the honorable member for Flinders will also bear me out that there was an idea that a financial statement would be delivered. I certainly protest against the question being carried further until we have received an indication of the financial position such as we were lead to expect when the question was last before the House.
– I have not addressed myself to the proposal now under consideration during the present Parliament, and I do not now propose to debate the merits of the question in detail. I am hot fond of the policy of granting bounties, but I recognise that there are occasions when an industry may be considerably helped by such means. If there are any industries that deserve consideration of this character the iron industry is certainly one. It is much more important than many other industries that have already been helped by bounty legislation. I have noticed that whilst a twopenny industry that perhaps employs three boys and a man can readily obtain assistance under Tariff legislation this very important iron industry, which is the mother of all other industries and without the development of which the country can never become great, receives little consideration at the hands of Parliament. I am prepared to consider the claims of the iron industry to consideration by means of a bounty, but I am not prepared to sacrifice other industries and other claims upon the financial resources of the Commonwealth. I want to be in a position to judge honestly upon all the available information what we can afford. The Treasurer has intimated that he can finance the present proposition. WhatI want to know is, to what extent other functions of the Federal Government will suffer as the result of the Treasurer’s attempt to finance the iron industry. I want to know whether we can afford to permit other interests to suffer for the sake of the industry now in question. To what extent, for instance, shall we be prevented from overcoming the chronic condition of inefficiency reigning in the Post and Telegraph Department, and to what degree shall we dry up our resources for those purposes, if we grant a bounty to the iron industry?
– And what about the condition of the starved men and women throughout Australia?
– That is another point of view. The Postal Department concerns vitally every man and woman in the Commonwealth, and is of particular concern tothose who are far removed from the centres of population. The Department furnishes the only means of communication between them and other centres of civilization.. Never during my experience of public affairs in New South Wales, even when, owing to financial crises and losses by drought the retrenchment of the public expenditure had been most drastic, was the Postal Department in a state like the present. No doubt the conditions that obtain in my electorate are general throughout not only New South Wales, but the Commonwealth. For the past twelve months everything in the way of a concession
– I have already pointed out that the question does not permit of a discussion of the position of the Post Office, or any other financial subject, and that honorable members must confine their remarks to the proposal for the reinstatement of the Bill.
– I do not propose to discuss now the condition of. the Post Office ; I hold that in reserve for another occasion, when there will be a better opportunity to do justice to it. My present object is to givereasons for the postponement of this measure. I hold that it should not be gone on with until the Treasurer can inform us what money he will have for Postal development, Old-age Pensions, Defence, and other important matters. My position is not to be interpreted as one of hostility to the Bill. I shall do all I can to assist the iron industry ; but I must be seized of the facts. I cannot vote with my eyes shut, and must know first that money is legitimately available without the starvation of important Departments, and the lessening of the provision for the relief of the aged and invalid ; and, secondly, that the proposals will effect the object intended. My position is that the Minister cannot be given carte blanche at this stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Poynton) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.37p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 October 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19081001_reps_3_47/>.