3rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m.,. and read prayers.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Statements showing the business transacted by and the details of receipts and expenditure of the Post and Telegraph Department in the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, during the year 1906.
Audit Acts.- Treasury Regulation137(v).Statutory Rules 1908, No. 120.
Lands Acquisition Act. - Land acquired under, at Brunswick, Victoria, as a site for postoffice.
– In order that the PostmasterGeneral may grasp the full significance of the question I desire to ask, I shall, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, read two extracts from the report of the Freeman insolvency case, which has been published in the Melbourne Argus. The first is from the issue of 28th November last - the evidence of Robert Charles Cole, who was for several years secretary to Freeman and Wallace -
Who was Henry Sparks? He gets £10 very often. - He is a man connected with the Parramatta Woollen Mills, who was attending to the postal dispute He used to be secretary of the protection party.
What is he supposed to be doing? - I cannot say; it is a private matter between him and Freeman.
You gave him a lot of money? - On Freeman’s instructions.
What was he to do for it? - He was attending to Freeman’s interests in the Federal postal trouble.
In a continuation of the report appearing in the issue of 1st December, the insolvent gave this evidence -
Do I understand you to convey that you had to pay so much to get this postage embargo removed? - Question not answered.
You paid a sum of money to a man named Sparks? - You had better tell him that out of Court.
How much money did you give him? - Sparks had a lot of trouble with my case, and the money given him was for a league down here, the Australian party.
How much did you give him? - I am not sure, £50 or £100, I think.
When was that?- After the Post-office trouble was over.
And you did give £50 or £100 to Sparks for his league after the trouble was over?- He had some expenses for his trip, and the other went to the Australian party.
Will the Postmaster-General ascertain if there is any record in his Department of correspondence between Mr. Sparks and the late Postmaster-General? If there is, will he produce it, for the information of honorable members?
– As I know absolutely nothing about the matter, I shall be glad if the honorable member will give notice of bis question. Of course, the fullest information will be supplied to the House.
– In view of the suggestion as to the manner in which the Australian party found money to fight the last electoral contest, I ask the Prime Minister if he will appoint a Commission to ascertain where the Anti-Socialists got their funds.
– And where the Labour Party got its funds. Ask the brewers?
– The honorable member’s request is rather a big order, but it will be considered.
– Will the Prime Minister, if he appoints a Commission to ascertain how the Anti-Socialists obtained their funds, authorize it to inquire how the Socialist Party obtained its funds? On the day of the elections, in the city from which I have the honour to come, more motor-cars were used in the service of the Labour Party than in that of any other.
– The consideration of the matter comes within what I have referred to as “a big order.”
– In view of the increase in the population of King Island, will the Postmaster-General, before approving of the route of a new cable between the mainland and Tasmania, cause inquiries to be made as to whether the cable could not be landed on the eastern shore of King Island, to provide communication between that place and the mainland ?
– I shall be glad to cause an inquiry to be made into the matter.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence if it is a fact that, when the naval forces of New South Wales are undergoing their sea training, about a dozen men are obliged to perform their ablutions in one tub of water, and that, rather than run the risk of contracting disease by reason of this objectionable practice, many of the men refrain from washing their faces during the whole period of sea training? Will the Minister give instructions that each man shall in future be provided with a separate small dish or basin to wash in?
– I am not apprised of the circumstances, but am sure that theMinister ofDefence will inquire into the matter, and that if the statements made by the. honorable member are borne out, the arrangement complained of will be remedied.
– Will the Prime Minister obtain copies of the Bills dealing with the proposed agreement about the Murray waters, now before the Parliaments of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, with a view to laying them, and a copy of the agreement, on the table of the House?
– I am sure that the Governments of the States will be willing to supply copies for the information of this Parliament.
– I have already sent copies to the Commonwealth Government.
– It has been stated in the press that experiments have been made in Australia in regard to the monorail system. I ask the Prime Minister what hasbeen done, and where the experiments were made.
– I have read the press reports, but nothing has come before me officially. However, I shall cause inquiry to be made, and shall give a definite reply to the question later on.
– Some time ago I asked the Postmaster-General, without notice, whether it would not be convenient to divide the city into postal districts indicated by the letters X., S., E., and W., as abbreviations for North, South, East, and West. I have received from the Secretary of the Department a letter stating that inquiry has been made, and that the Deputy Postmaster-General, Melbourne, reports -
The adoption of the practice would be an advantage, and would facilitate the sorting, also the delivery of correspondence.
There is no record in this office of the sug,gestion indicated in question having been adversely reported upon.
What I intended to convey was that the suggestion had been adversely criticised by the Deputy Postmaster-General of this State, who spoke without knowledge in the matter. I do not think that any official of the Department would be so ignorant as to report against a practice which is found advantageous in the great city of London.
– Is it the intention of the Government to proceed with the Seat of Government (Yass-Canberra) Bill to-morrow?
– I stated on Friday that the Bill would be proceeded with on Wednesday - to-morrow.
Mr. CROUCH. _ I wishto ask the
Treasurer a question. On 27th May, 1908, the House ordered a return as to certain expenditure by the Commonwealth on services, and particularly the estimated expenditure on old-age pensions, and on 29th September, 1908, it ordered a return showing the payments made by the Commonwealth and by the States to non-British steam-ship lines for postal and other services. Those figures are easily ascertainable, yet in one case seven months, and in the other two months, have elapsed without the returns being laid upon the table. Will the Treasurer see that their preparation is expedited?
– I shall give every facility for supplying all proper information that the honorable member desires.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state in what positions upon the Australian coast the proposed wireless telegraphy stations are to be placed, and whether a station is to be established near Fremantle or on Rottnest Island? I notice that tenders are now being called.
– Tenders have been called for in regard to certain stations ; but of course we do not know at present whether any stations will be established on account of want of funds. Fremantle is one of the places on the list, and, if any stations are built, that will be one of them.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral ascertain whether the telegraph line from Tailem Bend to Pinnaroo, which at present belongs to the South Australian Railway Commissioners - an arrangement which is very inconvenient to the people - can be taken over by the Commonwealth ?
– Inquiry is now being made into the matter.
– There is a good deal of public unrest as to whether the Government intend to give attention to a proposal put forward by a certain section of the community todo away with the £25 deposit in connexion with elections. There is also another little matter-
– Order. Will the honorable member ask a question ?
– Surely, with a Labour Ministry in power I am entitled to ask that question.
– I asked the honorable member to ask a question.
– I intended to ask another, if you will permit me.
– The proper course to pursue at this stage is to ask a question - and to ask questions one at a time. If the honorable member will ask a questionI have no doubt the Minister will be prepared to give an answer.
– And let the honorable member name the Minister to whom the question is addressed.
– Naturally I meant the Prime Minister, and I thought he would at once accept the situation.
– What is the honorable member’s question?
– It would be monstrous-
– Will the honorable member take his seat? The present is the time for asking questions, and if the honorable member will be so good as to put his question, it can be dealt with ; but The must not discuss it.
– I thought I was justified in paving the way. I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to pay any attention to the proposal - which in my opinion aims a blow at one of the bulwarks of the people - to do away with the£25 deposit at elections. I have another question to ask.
– Order !
– The matter will receive consideration when the Bill to amend the Electoral Act is before us.
Melton Post Office : Messenger - Telegraph Operators : Typewriters - North Queensland Ports Mail Service - West Maitland Telephone Exchange - Melbourne Letter Delivery
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
When the promised messenger for the Melton Post Office will be appointed?
– I might inform the honorable member that Melton is an allowance post-office, which it is proposed to raise to semi-official status when funds are available. Provision will then be made for a general delivery of telegrams, which are now only specially delivered by the Postmistress when addressed to places not more than five minutes’ walk from the post-office.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, has furnished thefollowing information : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will ascertain and inform the House of the class of telephone instrument supplied to each subscriber to the West Maitland Telephone Exchange?
– I have ascertained that during) the lasttwo years nothing tout Ericsson telephones have been supplied to subscribers to the West Maitland Exchange, with the exception of two bridging Delville sets which were spare at Maitland and in good order, and that it would take some time to get a list of types used on every subscriber’s line. This would mean an amount of work which is not considered necessary.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What is the latest hour at which the first morning letter delivery is completed in suburbs, within seven miles of the General Post Office, Melbourne, containing a population of 3,000 or over?
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Melbourne, has furnished the following information : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of plank 13 of the General Platform of the Labour Party, “ Naval and Military expenditure to be allotted from proceeds of direct taxation,” and of the motion to the same effect now before the House by the honorable member for Coolgardie, now the Minister for Home Affairs, does he propose, in future, to defray the annual defence expenditure from the proceeds of direct taxation?
– The future policy of the Government on this and other matters will be disclosed in due course.
Bill presented by Mr. Mahon and read a first time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 4th June, 1908, vide page 12076, vol. xlvi) :
Clause 14 -
If any witness refuses, without just cause, proof whereof shall lie upon him, to be sworn or make an affirmation, or to answer any question put to him by the House or the Committee before which he is summoned, or by any member thereof, or to produce any document which he is required by the House or the Committee to produce, he shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
Penalty : Two years’ imprisonment.
Upon which Mr. Groom had moved Dy way of amendment -
That after the word “ any,” line 3, the words “ lawful and relevant “ be inserted.
– As honorable members will see, the proposal is to insert, after the word “any,” “lawful and relevant.” This amendment seems to meet objections raised to the provision, ah,d I hope will be accepted.
– I thought that the Minister in charge of the Bill would have offered some justification for the proposal to insert a limitation of this kind. The provision, as amended, does not seem to get us very much nearer what we are seeking, namely, a fairly conducted inquiry, in connexion with any matter thought of sufficient importance to refer to a Select Committee. Who is to be the judge of what is lawful or pertinent ? As a matter of fact, this clause seems only to be putting the trouble a stage further back. I quite agree that the words proposed to be inserted are good as far as they go; but, instead of solving the difficulty, they seem to me only to raise the ultimate question as to who is to decide what questions are lawful and relevant.
– As the Bill stood before, it was a question without any qualification.
– And now it is any question that the tribunal may decide to be lawful or relevant.
– The honorable member for Wentworth said that the clause was not acceptable as it originally stood.
– I may explain that “there were two amendments moved to this clause. One was submitted by the honorable member for Wentworth, but that was withdrawn ; and the amendment now before the Committee is one moved by the honorable member for Darling Downs when AttorneyGeneral.
– The whole trouble, as I understand it, is that. Ave propose to give to a Select Committee greater powers so far as compelling answers to questions is concerned, than are given to any Law Court in the land. A Law Court is strictly guided by the rules of evidence, and, ira ali matters of dispute, the Judge: is the final arbiter as to what questionsought to be asked. The Judge is under an obligation to protect the person charged,, and to see that he does not answer questions which may incriminate him, or which it is not lawful should be asked. So far as I know, there are no such regulations in regard to a Committee of this House. Members of a Committee may ask questions, knowing well that they may incriminate the- witness; and I take it that, under this Bill, a witness would be compelled to answer if the questions were lawful and pertinent. What is meant by a “ lawful “ question? Does it mean “ lawful’” according to the rules of evidence?
– It means a lawful and relevant question in accordance with the ordinary rules guiding evidence, as decided by the Judge or magistrate, as the casemay be.
– Does that not suggest that somebody must be the arbiter as to what is lawful, other than the untrained men who are conducting an inquiry within the precincts of this House r*
– The Committee cannot give a witness two years, or inflict any penalty - that must be done by the magistrate or Judge.
– But a Select Committee can ask questions, and the witness can be compelled to answer, with the possible result, if he declines to do so, of more than two years’ imprisonment.
– Not at all.
– Indeed, thepenalty may be three years, or seven years,, or fourteen years.
– Two years is the maximum.
– But the inquiry might lead to a man getting into troubleelsewhere, and we ought not to leave it open to a Select Committee of Parliament to compel a man to answer any questionwhich, in a Law Court, he would not be allowed to answer. A witness should’ have at least as much protection in thehighest Court:, the Court of Parliament, ashe would have in a Court outside.
– He has exactly the same ;. if a witness refuses to answer a question inan ordinary Court of Law, ,he may be committed for contempt.
– And properly so; but the Attorney-General knows well! enough that a Judge very often tells a witness that he ought not to answer a question. This Bill is taking power beyond that recognised” in any well-ordered and regulated procedure of the kind.
– I think the Bill means that, in any case, the Judge is the final arbiter.
– If that were so stated in the Bill, it would meet the difficulty.
– It is, I think, in- evitable- -
– That the Committee cannot convict?
– I think so.
– However, that is not the point. A witness may, during his evidence, convict himself ; that is to say, he may give ground for a charge against him in a Court outside, where the punishment may be more than that of two years’ imprisonment - not for not answering, but for some other offence. If we are going to confine this question to what is lawful and pertinent, ought there not to be a further provision to enable witnesses to appeal to a Judge in Chambers in order to ascertain whether a question is lawful and pertinent ?
– Will the honorable member look at the Act of Parliament regulating the proceedings of Royal Commissions ?
– I see from that Act that a person appearing as a witness, who refuses to be Sworn or to answer any question, shall be liable on summary conviction to a penalty not exceeding ,£50.
– I am not directing attention so much to the penalty as to the power of Royal Commissions.
– That power appears to go far beyond any exercised in ordinary Law Courts at the present time.
– The Act regulating Royal Commissions has been in force some five years.
– But I think the Attorney-General will see a distinction between a Royal Commission and a Select Committee.
– A witness who refuses to answer any questions can be dealt with only according to ordinary process of law, and the matter must come before a judge, who is the final arbiter.
– That may mean that a man who is haled before the Judge has to employ counsel and may be put to enormous expense in order to prove that the question put to him was not lawful or pertinent. There ought to be some readymeans of settling this question without dragging a man before the Law Courts. I would suggest that these words be not inserted. I do not object to them; but it seems to me that they lay on the Minister the obligation of defining a standard of authority as to what questions are lawful and pertinent to the issue being inquired into.
.- The leader of the Opposition seems to be under the impression that if a man declines to answer any question put to him, or declines to be sworn, or to make an affirmation, that in itself is sufficient to justify a Select Committee in adjudging him guilty of an offence. As a matter of fact, however, his guilt must be proved in exactly the same way as is the guilt of all accused persons - he must be brought before a court of competent jurisdiction within the meaning of this Bill. If, for example, I appeared before a Select Committee of which the honorable member was chairman, and I declined to answer a question, or to be sworn, nothing could follow except that I might, upon his warrant or some process under the Bill, be committed to take ray trial before a magistrate or a Judge, as we may decide. That tribunal would determine whether I had teen guilty of an offence, and, if I had, what punishment I should receive.
.- I d > not think that the Attorney-General has dealt with the main objection to this clause. As it stands it might be made an intolerable instrument of injustice and oppression to witnesses appearing before Select Committees. It is idle to compare the jurisdiction of a Select Committee under this clause with that of an ordinary court of justice. Select Committees may be, to some extent, composed of partisans, and not necessarily surrounded with all the safeguards and securities of a court of justice. They are not even safeguarded, as a tribunal, to the same extent as is a Royal Commission, so that we must be very careful in determining the powers to be conferred upon them. The clause as it stands would enable a Select Committee of this House in the course of a general fishing inquiry to cross-examine a witness in regard not only to public but to private interests. A witness might be forced under threat of being sent to gaol to disclose most important confidential trading and commercial information.
Colonel Foxton. - And even professional secrets.
– He might be forced to disclose professional and trading secrets which it might be of the utmost importance for him to preserve. I do not say that every Select Committee would be so unjust as to force a witness to disclose trading and commercial secrets, but some Committee, appointed at a time of excitement and trouble in Parliament, might force its powers to such an extent as to inflict very great wrong. Let me illustrate my contention by referring to the inquiry at present proceeding before a Select Committee of this House with reference to the manufacture of .harvesters. I know something of that matter, because the manufacturers of harvesters were brought before the Tariff Commission, of which I was chairman. The Commission naturally desired to ascertain details as to the cost of production of harvesters and other agricultural implements, but certain representative witnesses pleaded that if they were forced to give such information, and their evidence were published, they might be placed at a disadvantage with their manufacturing rivals. They therefore asked to be. excused from furnishing full particulars. The justice of the plea was recognised, although I must admit that their objection placed them at a disadvantage in having their case heard and disposed of, since the presumption was that they were to some extent reluctant or afraid to give the desired information. That, however, was their lookout, and they took the consequences.
– They reaped the benefit of it.
– The presumption was made use of against them, and the Commission had to use such information as was supplied by their opponents. Had they been forced to give those particulars they might well have complained that they had been made martyrs. If witnesses before a Select Committee, .raise such a plea in regard to commercial and professional matters, their objection, provided that it is a bond fide one, .should be to a large extent allowed. It would be wrong, under threat of indictment for an offence punishable by imprisonment, to compel a witness in such circumstances to give evidence. This Bill, however, not only enables Select
Committees to compel a witness to disclose secrets, but allows them to force a man to give information that might even lead to his being convicted of a criminal offence, supposing that he had been guilty of one. That is contrary to the principles of British law. I am not aware of a law in any British community that compels a man to give evidence rendering him liable to a criminal prosecution, so long as he objects to do so, and his plea is a bondfide one.
– What about our antitrust legislation?
– That is a special’ matter. There may be special matters dealt with in special Acts giving judicialauthority for the exaction of certain information; but if we carry that principle of law too far, we may have a reaction in favour of those who are so examined or cross-examined. It is repellant to one’s sense of justice to carry such a principle too far. In certain cases, no doubt the parties are compelled to answer interrogatories ‘and rightly so; but we ought not to. carry that principle too far, even in connexion with judicial proceedings. A Select Committee, however, is not a judicial, tribunal. A Judge presides over an ordinary judicial tribunal, and is chargedwith the duty of protecting the witnessesana of allowing or disallowing, according, to law, questions put to them. Even a Judge is liable to have his decisionsreviewed by a higher tribunal. But thereis no such review as that with reference ta the decision of a Select Committee of Parliament. A man under the threat of being placed on his trial for an indictable offence* may be compelled to give information that may ruin his business or profession. It isa principle of law and of justice that a man shall not be convicted out of his ownmouth, except in a special kind of transaction. I admit, however, that the amendment suggested by the ex-Attorney General inserting the words “ lawful and relevant” will to some extent tone down and mitigate the drasticseverity of this clause as it originally stood.. But I should like to see the amendment gofurther in that direction, and would provide that no witness before a Select Committee shall be compelled to answer any question which may be considered to tend to render him liable to criminal prosecution.
– That is practically the outcome of the amendment.
– I do not think that the amendment goes far enough.
– Does not the amendment mean that if a witness refuses to answer the matter will be one for the Court to decide ?
– lt may be relevant to get the information desired from some quarter, and from the witness under examination, if possible ; but what we want is to protect the witness against the abrogation of a fundamental principle of justice. Why subject a witness to such a terrible inquisition as to have to choose between answering a question so as to incriminate himself, and being sent to gaol for refusing to answer ?
– But does the honorable member think that a jury would find .1 man guilty whatever question he had refused to answer?
– I presume that a jury would, under the direction of the Judge, enforce the law. Here, again, there is a difference between the law relating to Royal Commissions and this proposal as to Select Committees. If a witness before a Royal Commission refuses to answer a question, he is liable to a fine of £50; and there the matter ends. But, under this Bill, if a man, for the protection of his own business, refuses to answer a question, he will be liable, not to a fine of £50, or to any fine, but may be placed on his trial in a Criminal Court., and imprisoned for two years.
– The principle is just the same.
– There is a great deal of difference between fine and imprisonment as a penalty. A man mav be prepared to pay a penalty of £50 or ^100, but may not be prepared to stand his trial for an indictable offence. At the utmost he ought to be liable to summary conviction and have the case disposed of forthwith instead of being subjected to the prolonged agony of awaiting trial by jury.
– Would the honorable member suggest that the witness should decide what was a proper question to put ?
– I do. not say anything of the kind; I do contend that the Statute should indicate the line of questions which may be put. Therefore I shall support the amendment proposed by the ex-Attorney-General, and later on shall move another amendment with the object of further protecting witnesses.
.- This Bill had its origin in a Select Committee of the Senate. It was subsequently revised by the Parliamentary Draftsman, passed by another place, and came down to this House. It was a matter of duty for me to take the measure up, although it was early indicated by the ex-Prime Minister that, the matter being one affecting the rights and privileges of Parliament, it rested with Parliament to frame the measure in such a way as was consistent with its dignity, and with the main object in view. As the” honorable and learned member for ‘Bendigo has pointed out, this clause is really the vital clause of the whole Bill. It is the essence of the Bill. The object of it is this : At present, when a Select Committee appointed by one of the Houses of Parliament is making inquiries, a question may be put to a witness who may refuse to answer. The subject of the question may be absolutely vital to the interests of Australia, and one as to which information ought to be obtained to enable Parliament to deal with the subject in question. We must look at the matter, therefore, from the high policy stand-point. It may, on the other hand, be a question that is utterly insignificant and unimportant. The position is that Select Committees of Parliament enjoy the powers, privileges, and immunities of Select Committees of the Imperial House of Commons. It was found in one case when a Committee put to a witness a question that was considered absolutely vital to the _ inquiry, that they were met by a point blank refusal to answer. At present, the procedure which a Committee can adopt when it is faced with that position is as follows : - In the first place, the Committee must report to Parliament the fact that a witness has refused to answer a question. Then it is the duty of the House to send for the witness,’ who may be dealt with by the House as guilty of a breach of privilege, for which he is liable to be imprisoned. The procedure is so indefinite that witnesses do not knowexactly what their position is. It, therefore, became necessary to introduce a Bill. A Committee of another place has dealt with this question. Its report was signed by Sir Richard Baker, the ex-President of the Senate. That Committee considered that the matter ought to be put upon a definite foundation, so that we might know exactly, what the powers and privileges of a Select Committee are. It was therefore considered advisable to frame those powers and privileges in statutory form. Any member of a Select Committee has the undoubted right to ask any question he likes, relevant or irrelevant, and the refusal of any witness to answer a question may be a ground for report to Parliament.
– The power of asking irrelevant questions is pretty well exercised, too.
–I think it is pretty well exercised, but I am not criticising the exercise of the privilege by any member of a Select Committee in that respect. An alternative proposition is made in this Bill that any witness who refuses io answer a question without just cause proved shall be deemed guilty of an indictable offence, for which he should be liable to two years’ imprisonment. When the matter was last under consideration by this Committee, the question was raised as to whether it was advisable to make a witness liable to imprisonment. The provision was considered too wide. It was pointed out that a question put to a witness might be- relevant or irrelevant, and that it wa.s not fair to imprison a man for two years for refusing to answer an Irrelevant question. There was also a good deal of opposition to the clause itself. Listening to the argument at the time, it appeared to me that the objection was reasonable. During the discussion it was discovered that in the Queensland criminal code there was the following provision -
Any person who -
Being present before either House of Parliament, or before a Committee, of either House authorized to summon witnesses, refuses to answer any lawful and relevant question ; is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.
That section was drafted by the Chief Justice of the High Court, when he was Chief Justice of Queensland, and it was adopted by the Queensland Legislature. I believe that it has been re-enacted in Western Australia. I know that the whole code has been adopted in Western Australia, but I am not sure whether the exact wording of this section has been re-enacted there. It will be seen that under the Queensland law a witness can only refuse to answer a lawful and relevant question at the risk of prosecution.
– Is there no provision in the Queensland law exempting persons refusing to give answers which would tend to criminate them?
– I have nol looked into the code .very carefully, but I have not noticed any such provision.
Colonel Foxton. - Is there not a general section dealing with evidence, and providing for exemption in such a case?
– There may be; but I am not aware of it, and perhaps the honorable member will look the matter up whilst ‘I am speaking. What we have to consider is that a Select Committee may be making an investigation into matters vital to the interests of the whole of Australia. The operations of certain individuals may be causing wholesale ruin to particular classes in the community, and it may be vital to action proposed to be taken by Parliament that a Select Committee shall not be defied in connexion with their investigation. It may be necessary for Parliament that there should be a complete investigation into certain matters in the interests of the welfare of the people as a whole, and, in the last resort, Parliament must possess this power to obtain essential information. I admit that it is a power which should only be exercised with the very strongest reason. In trivial matters it would, of course, be monstrous to exercise such a power. If I may say so, it would be like using a steam hammer to crack a nut.
– We get some tough nuts before Select Committees occasionally.
– If the amendment which I have moved be adopted, should any person refuse to answer a question when before a Select Committee, the proof will be the same as under the Queensland law. Under that law the recalcitrant witness would be brought to trial before a jury, and the prosecution would have to prove to the satisfaction of the jury that the witness had refused to answer a question which was lawful -and which was relevant. Whether a question is, or is not, relevant will, of course, depend on the nature of the instructions to the Select Committee. If the Committee were appointed, for instance, to inquire into the operations of some trust in connexion with a particular industry, the issue would be clear and distinct, and if a witness refused to answer a question as to whether he was a member of an association that would clearly be a question relevant’ to the investigation which the Committee was charged to make. In such a case it would be the duty of the Judge in directing the jury as to what the law was to give his interpretation of the section and of the facts on which the jury were asked to pronounce judgment. If the amendment I have moved be adopted I think honorable members will find that, as under the Queensland law, sufficient protection will be afforded, since if the Select Committee asked an irrelevantor unlawful question the witness could refuse to answer, whilst he would refuse 10 answer relevant and lawful questions at his peril.
– And the Judge would decide whether the question was relevant.
– The Judge in summing up would give his directions to the jury as he does in every criminal trial. He would direct the jury as to the nature of the investigation with which the Committee was charged.
– Would he tell the witness whether the question was relevant?
– No, the witness would be on his trial whenhe appeared before the Judge. He would already have refused to answer the question.
– Would the witness be told that the question was relevant when he refused to answer it?
– He could not be, be cause his refusal to answer would be when he would be before the Select Committee.
– He would have to take the risk when before the Committee.
– The members of the Select Committee in conducting their inquiry would be obliged to confine their questions to lawful and relevant issues. If they went outside that the witness need not answer the question.
– Would the Chairman of the Committee be considered guilty of an offence for which he would be liable to two years imprisonment if he asked an irrelevant or unlawful question ?
– That is not provided for, but if the Chairman of the Committee were like the honorable member, no such provision would be necessary, because we know the honorable member has never asked improper or irrelevant questions, and no such questions have ever appeared on the notice-paper in his name. In dealing with this clause we have to consider that we must give Select Committees adequate powers to carry out the investigations committed to them. When I went through the Bill it seemed to me that the penalty of two years’ imprisonment was certainly very drastic for a first offence, and I announced that I was quite prepared to follow the wording of the Royal Commission Act as regards a first offence, and provide that the penalty should be . £50. That would not necessarily mean that a fine of £50 would be imposed. A fine of 5s. might be considered adequate to meet the offence. The witness might say that he was quite willing in certain circumstances to answer the question, and a nominal penalty might be considered sufficient, but honorable members will remember that it might also happen that a witness might consider it well worth his while to pay£50 to avoid answering a certain question. He might be prepared to run the risk of such a fine. The matter might be one in connexion with which Parliament might insist upon having correct information in order that the investigation should be complete, and there must be some reserve power by which an individual who wilfully flouts Parliament can be brought to book. Honorable members are aware that a contumacious witness who sets a Supreme Court at defiance is liable to be committed for contempt for any period. In insolvency cases this power is exercised frequently where witnesses refuse to answer material questions.
– In this case the refusal must be deliberate because the question would, I presume, be put in writingby the Chairman.
– Until the AttorneyGeneral files a bill nothing can happen to the witness.
-No, the AttorneyGeneral is responsible for the prosecution. If the suggestion I have made is carried out, a witness refusing to answer a question on the first occasion would be dealt with by a magistrate only, and might be fined no more than 5s. We have to remember that the Select Committee is appointed by one of the Houses of Parliament and carries with it the dignity and responsibility of that House. If the witness on going again before the Committee still refusesto answer questions, he would do so at the risk of subsequently being tried as for an indictable offence.
– No, he could not be punished a second time for the sameoffence.
– If he refuses to answer a question he is dealt with, and if he continues his contumacious conduct he can be proceeded against.
– But what if his continued refusal is to answer the same question ?
– The idea I had in mind was that if a witness was guilty of a second offence he should render himself liable to a penalty of imprisonment. With the modifications I have mentioned the clause will not be so drastic as it is now. I admit that in its present form it is too drastic. I should like the amendment which I moved Upon a previous occasion to be first embodied in this provision.
.^ The history of this Bill, and the orations which have been delivered in respect of it by Ministers and ex- Ministers, abundantly illustrate the wisdom of those private members who, upon more than one occasion, have pleaded with the Committee not to accept the authority of any Government in matters of this kind. When the measure first came before the House we were asked to pass it, because it was alleged to be absolutely necessary to the efficient conduct of the proceedings before a Select Committee. We are now told by the honorable member for Darling Downs that we ought to accept it, because it has run the gauntlet of the other Chamber. The advice tendered by certain honorable mem-, bers that, during the recess, the late Ministry should look into the measure, has evidently been disregarded. I wonder what the Ministry did during that recess. When the measure was previously before us. some honorable members, like the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, clamoured for its passing, upon the ground that it was imperative that Select Committees should be armed with this power. But that honorable member has now changed his front. Personally, I begged the late Government to consider the whole matter carefully during the recess, .but they do not appear to have done so. All these circumstances emphasize the unwisdom of private members trusting to Governments in such matters simply because of the advantageous position which they occupy. I very much doubt whether the last Government subjected this Bill to that close scrutiny which we have a right 10 expect. The sum total of its purport is to continue existing powers and supplement them with drastic penal provisions. But I wish to point out that by accepting an amendment such as that outlined by the honorable member for Darling Downs we may make the provisions of the Bill conflict with the powers with which we are vested under the Constitution. The measure purports not to abrogate a single privilege which Parliament enjoys under the Constitution. If honorable members wish to see that they have merely to turn to its preamble. That preamble does not say that Parliament is acting in accordance with the powers conferred upon it under section 49 of the Constitution by declaring its privileges in this matter. It purports to preserve our existing powers, privileges, and immunities. Section 49 of the Constitution states that until our privileges have been declared by Parliament, they shall be those of the House of Commons at the time of the establishment of the Commonwealth. But when we declare our powers, privileges, and immunities, we shall probably find that the powers of the British House of Commons have disappeared, because this Parliament is vested with those powers only until we declare our powers, privileges, and immunities. Evidently the draftsman realized that such a difficulty existed, as will be seen by a reference to the preamble. The final clause of the Bill also states -
Nothing in this Act shall derogate from any power or privilege of either House, or of the members or Committee of either House, as existing at the commencement of this Act.
With the provision now before us, modified in the way that has been suggested, we should give to a witness the right to refuse to answer a question when he was charged with an offence against the Act - a right which he does not possess under the existing privileges of Parliament. According to the honorable member for Darling Downs, at present a member of a Select Committee appointed by this Parliament has a right to put any question to a witness, and the witness is compelled to answer. If, for instance, a witness be asked one of those irrelevant questions which are so frequently asked by members of Select Committees, and he refuses to answer it, he may be summoned to appear before Parliament, and the Sergeant-at-Arms may march him off in custody. Thus we possess, at the present time, the power of punishing a recal- citrant witness. If a question be put 1o a witness, and he refuses to answer it, the circumstances may be reported to the House, and the Sergeant-at-Arms may be requested to appear in the full panoply ot his office and bearing that wonderful instrument - the mace - upon his shoulder, and to march him off to the underground room where he is to be incarcerated. But, under this clause, we are asked to declare that if an irrelevant question be put to a witness, and he refuses to answer it, he may be charged with an offence before a jury, and, upon conviction, may be sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. I begged of the late Government to look into this matter during the recess, but, apparently, the delicious leisure which recess brought to them was applied to purposes other than investigating the details of a Bill which might have been found wanting in many respects, and which might therefore have subjected the Government to the opprobrium of having to recast it, and of asking the House to accept a new edition of it. Throughout the whole of the discussion upon it, I urged the necessity for exercising caution. Sir Richard Baker pointed out that the Bill was unnecessary. How he afterwards came to sign the report I do not know. I still maintain that it is’ unnecessary, unless it can be shown that the provision which empowers us to punish a witness by charging him with an indictable offence before a jury six months after his refusal to answer a question, is more efficacious for the immediate purposes of a Select Committee than is the power which we already possess. Unless it can be shown that threatening to charge a witness, at the instance of the Attorney-General, with an indictable offence, and to send him on for trial before a jury six months after his refusal to answer a question, is more efficacious than is our present method of summoning him to appear before Parliament, and, if he persists i” his refusal to answer, committing him to prison forthwith, I claim that the measure is absolutely unnecessary. It is no answer to that to say, on the authority of even the exAttorneyGeneral, that Select Committees are waiting for something of this sort to be done. That is no reason why it should be done; it does not show the efficacy of the provision. What I would ask the Committee to consider is, are we ripe La passing the Bill? Are we sure that if w : do, we shall not have given up, once for all, our existing powers? On that point, I would again refer to section 49 of the Constitution. It says that our powers shall be such as are declared uy the Parliament, and until so declared shall be those of the House of Commons.
– Surely the honorable member does not contend that in exercising one power we would lose the whole ?
– No ; but to the extent to which we do exercise it we abrogate an existing power.
– Not necessarily.
– I am only arguing that, according to the Constitution, we are.
– The honorable member says that we could. not have an alternative.
– No. What I mean to say is that we may do what I suggest. I think that the last Government ought to have gone carefully into the question during the recess, and, perhaps, brought down a Bill which would be more acceptable than this one. Since it was last under consideration, the honorable member for Bendigo seems to have modified his opinions as to the necessity for passing the Bill.
– He was Chairman of a Commission previously. _ Mr. GLYNN.- That shows the necessity for being cautious.
– I merely attacked this clause, not the Bill generally.”
– I think that the honorable member argued that the Bill should be passed.
– Because the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate had recommended it.
– It is now proposed to insert the word “relevant,” and the honorable member for Darling Downs says that he would like the word “ lawful “ to be put in. What is the distinction between Tilt words “ lawful “ and “ relevant “ ?
– The amendment is to insert the words “ lawful and relevant.”
– Unfortunately, we cannot refer to the Acts on which the Bill is supposed to be based. I tried to get hold of the English Act ; I have not seen it, and T do not know whether any AttorneyGeneral has. It is not to be seen in the Library. I have followed up one of the references in the Bill, and in the New South Wales Act of 1901 I find that the expression used is not “lawful and relevant.’i but “ lawful,” which seems to cover everything. It will be a delightful position for the lawyers afterwards if we meddle with the phraseology of this Bill by using the words “ lawful and relevant,” although, in so doing, we may have the authority of the Queensland Act as to the use of both being expedient.
– Those words are in the Queensland Act.
– We may put ourselves in an extraordinary position. It is now argued that we should allow Courts of subordinate jurisdiction to determine what is lawful and relevant. But the New South Wales Act contains no provision of that sort. It has a provision that if a lawful question is not answered, the matter may be reported to the House concerned, and a Judge asked tto summon the witness. And thi only time when the Court comes in is when false evidence is given. The Parliament of the State has not abolished the English privilege, or the privilege which we still have of ourselves punishing the witness. What it has done has been simply to substitute a new method of procedure by acting on the witness through a Judge rather than through the President or Speaker. In reference to a witness refusing to answer a question, it uses the phrase “ any lawful question during his examination,” which I think is much safer for the Court than will be the case if we use the words “ lawful and relevant “ and thus introduce a distinction between the two.
– Is there no penalty provided for a witness refusing to answer a question ?
– No, he may be confined for a calendar month bv warrant under the hand of the President or Speaker.
– Is that for refusing to answer a question ?
– For refusing to answer a lawful question he is guilty as he is now of contempt of Parliament.
– Who decides that under the section?
– It does not matter a bit, because it is done under the power of Parliament to punish a contempt. It is the judge of these matters. If, therefore, a question is lawfully put - lawfully, I suppose, in the opinion of the House concerned, which was the case before the Act was passed - and it is not answered, all that takes place is that the witness is punished directly by the House itself. I believe that that method is quite as efficacious astee one we are being asked to adopt of punishing the witness a month or six weeksafterwards on a charge before a jury. It. is argued that we might give the power of punishing the man to an ordinary Court - that is, to a special magistrate or two justices of the peace. I think that the Judiciary Act makes provision for a case of that kind going before a stipendiary magistrate. There are a good many of these magistrates in the Commonwealth, and if we render a charge complex by stating that the question must not only be lawful, but also relevant, I wonder how many decisions we shall get throughout the Commonwealth as to what was a lawful! and relevant question for the Chairman, of a Select Committee to ask. Remember what confusion it may create. We may have taken one view of the matter in the House for the purpose of punishing a man. But there is a number of magistrates who may take another view for the purpose of sending him up for six months under the punitive provision. It is said that that cai? be cured by allowing an appeal. Are we (opass a measure to reconcile the decisionsof hundreds of magistrates under a Commonwealth Act inter se - we cannot make the magistrates reconcile them with the decisions of the House - by allowing an appeal from their decisions to the High Court ur other tribunal? As a lawyer I shouldperhaps, welcome the Bill . It may give plenty of work and cause plenty of litigation ; but God help the unfortunate witness. Whether the work of a Select Committee will be expedited by waiting for months to prosecutea man before a jury - six weeks or a month if he is charged before a Court of summary jurisdiction - I do not know. For that reason I am sorry that the Ministry did not look into the Acts cited in the margin to the clause, and bring in a Bill which would be more efficacious, and not be so drastic as this undoubtedly is. It has been suggested that we ought to safeguard a witness by giving him the right of refusing to answer certain questions. It is exceedingly difficult to draft a clause for that purpose. There is no doubt that it woul’d be an abrogation of existing privileges. At Home the question has been raised as to whether a witness has any privileges as regards answering a question, and the House has generally disregarded” any claim which he has attempted to sec up. If that is so, he must answer any question put to him. If we wish to limit that as regards an offence charged before a Court a very carefully drafted clause is required, because by giving this privilege to a witness on the ground that otherwise business secrets might be disclosed we might render absolutely futile the whole purpose of the inquiry.
– A parliamentarian perusing the laws relating to Parliament would very naturally come to the conclusion that these were sufficient for the purpose of conserving its rights and privileges, and that either House could bring to their senses those persons who refused, or held it up to contempt by refusing, to answer questions put to them by Select Committees. But it is on record that persons have been haled to the bar of a Legislative Assembly and fined large sums, and that it has not known what to do with the money, which, after the lapse of a considerable time, has been handed over to the Serjeant-at-Arms for all time. To bring a man to the bar and then confine him within the precincts of the House - somewhere in the depths referred to by the honorable member for Angas - is about the last thing which a parliamentarian in these days would think of doing. . No member would dare to consign a constituent to that part of the building where prisoners are confined on the warrant of Mr. Speaker. Parliament has shown a disinclination to act in these matters, and is therefore in danger of being treated with contempt by witnesses refusing to answer questions asked by Select Committees. The kudos which is to be gained from the present method of punishment is an incentive to some persons to act in this way. I refer to kudos such as that obtained by a certain gentleman from Bendigo, who was brought before the bar of the Victorian Assembly not long since. The suggestion now is that arrangements should be made for transferring jurisdiction in these matters from Parliament to the ordinary Courts. Of course, to make the offence punishable by a trifling fine, would be ridiculous ; the punishment must be adequate. It seems to me that the rights of witnesses are already sufficiently pretectal. A witness, to be punishable, must refuse, “ without just cause,” to answer questions. The fear that to answer W01.11 9 incriminate him would be “ just..cause,” it having been held repeatedly that witnesses are not to be compelled to incriminate themselves.
Then, if a man has any scruples about the taking of an oath, he may make an examination tion. Parliament, however, cannot allow itself to be flouted, by permitting persons summoned as witnesses to refuse to give evidence or to produce documents. It seems to me quite right and proper to make the offence punishable with a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment, or perhaps the payment of a fine as an alternative; but we should not make the penalty as low as a fine of 5s.
.- This Bill comes to us with very special authority. It was introduced in another place, and then submitted to the Standing Orders Committee, whose report recommended that it be proceeded with, its scope being enlarged by the addition of clauses dealing with the summoning and examination ot witnesses - those who do not attend when summoned, those who refuse to be sworn, and those who refuse to answer questions. The Parliamentary Draftsman’s office prepared for the Committee a measure embodying the necessary amendments, which was submitted with the Committee’s report, signed by Sir Richard Baker, its Chairman, then President of the Senate. When the Bill was sent to us, it was received as complete and tabled unaltered with the respect due to a measure prepared with such care, and emanating from such a body. But on looking carefully through it this morning, I was surprised to discover how extremely bald is this particular clause. Many of the objections to it were met by the amendment suggested by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, limiting the questions which might be asked of a witness to such as might be lawful and relevant. The honorable and learned, member for Angas ad- vises us to reject the measure altogether, and to rely on our existing powers. His remarks took so wide a scope that it may be relevant for me to refer to one or two other matters which seem to deserve atten-tion. They were indirectly touched upon by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, out of the fullness of his experience as Chairman of the Tariff Commission.
– I said that I am sorry that the Bill has not been more carefully considered.
– It was considered bv the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate, and under them drafted by the
Law officers of the Crown. As the Bill affects the privileges of Parliament it was received with the utmost confidence.
– Sir Richard Baker said at first that the measure was not necessary.
– His signature to the Committee’s report shows that his doubts were removed. There may be questions both lawful and relevant which ought not to be answered in public. We have made provision in this regard in the Act relating to the procedure of Royal Commissions, in the Excise Procedure Act, the Australian Industries Preservation Act, and, as I am reminded, the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It has been recognised that a Committee may be entitled to insist on getting information, but that the witnesses from whom it is asked should be safeguarded from being made the means of injuring, or perhaps ruining, their businesses, or of suffering “something more serious still should the inquiry incriminate them or others. A Select Committee may inquire into anything. We must not only bear in mind the particular Select Committees which happen to be sitting now or whose labours occur to us, but must recall the fact that not merely in our 39 Articles in section 51 of the Constitution, but even outside them, we have such a scope that practically this Parliament may appoint a Select Committee to inquire into any subject. Marriage, divorce, and certain other social questions are deliberately placed under our control. It is proposed by this clause to give to every Committee the right to ask any question, while no provision is made to prevent its publication. In an inquiry into the divorce law many matters might be mentioned which it would be undesirable to publish, and so with a number of other subjects. Again, honorable members who have criticised the clause adversely have proceeded on the assumption that questions of this nature would be put solemnly through the Chairman, with the weight of the whole Committee behind them. But the clause as it stands specially provides that any member of the Committee may put questions which a witness cannot refuse to answer without grave risk to himself. On the most carefully constituted Committees there will occasionally be found a member who on a particular subject is erratic or unwise. He may ask any question that his imagination devises, relevant or incriminatory, and insist upon a public answer. When the honor able and learned member for Angas alluded to the fact that we were disclaiming a jurisdiction which we already possessed, he said what was perfectly true. His real objection was not to the extent of that jurisdiction, but to the clumsiness of its operation. At the same time there is a strong element cf equity in the safeguard that action, when taken under the existing practice, must be taken by the whole House. Honorable members then in the light of day assume full responsibility for what they are doing. This clause avoids that responsibility. I was surprised to find om examining the Bill that two distinct channels are permitted to remain. One is provided in clause 6, which we have passed, to the effect that if any witness upon a summons fails to appear or to continue in attendance, he may be dealt with by the House or the Committee, while under clause 14, if any witness refuses to be sworn or make anaffirmation, or answer any question, it is perfectly possible for a Select Committee to proceed directly against him, so that the question may never come before the House. The safeguard furnished by an appeal to the whole House in all cases under our present practice is removed in this particular respect under this proposal. If we do not follow the line of argument of the honorable and learned member for Angas, and do riot consider whether it is wise to pass the Bill, we must at all events realize that the clause needs amendment, not only to confine the questions to those which are lawful and relevant, but to provide for the answers toeven lawful and relevant inquiries being in certain cases given in confidence. They may be used as materia] by the Committee, but not disclosed to the prejudice of the witness’s commercial standing or reputation, or the reputation of other people which he may be obliged to call into account when he is compelled to give- a complete answer.
– In regard to the other point, surely no Committee could” act without consulting Parliament?
– Under this clause, it is provided that “ The House or the Committee “ can take action. That means that the Select Committee can act.
– It might mean a Committee of the House.
– According to the definition clause, “ Committee “’ in this case may mean the Committee before which the witness is summoned. The wording is -
If any witness refuses … to answer any question put to him by the House or the Committee before which he is summoned, or by any member thereof ….
– That refers only to the putting of a question. The Committee cannot act of itself so far as the indictable offence is concerned.
– The case then has to go before the Court. But my point is that it does not come before Parliament. I am simply drawing a distinction between the existing procedure under which Parliament intervenes before a man is punished, and the method here proposed, which enables a Select Committee to remit the whole matter to a Court, and to send the witness direct to his trial - a proceeding which Parliament might consider quite unnecessary.
– I do not think any member of the Committee would put such a question, except through the Chairman. If there were any dispute, the Chairman would put it an behalf of the Committee.
– That may be so; but I should prefer to see it stated in plain English.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. I stated that in my address to the House.
– I believe the Prime Minister did so. Although we have hitherto accepted the framework of this Bill with great confidence, and properly so, considering the source from which it emanated, and the high certificate with which it comes to us from the Standing Orders Committee, and its approval by another place, a closer examination of the clause leads me to believe that it would be judicious for the Attorney-General to take into consideration the points made in this debate, and recast the clause in the plainest possible English. Even if I supply the honorable and learned member for Angas with more ammunition to use at my own or any one else’s expense, I am not concerned, because I admit that when I saw the report signed by the Standing Orders Committee, I felt that personally I was relieved of the responsibility of looking further into the measure which it forwarded, as it was a matter dealing wholly with the privileges of Parliament recommended by that Committer, and already passed by one Chamber. But now, with a little leisure to read Bills as well as to discuss them, I must confess that the clause appears to me to be unsatisfactory in its shape ; and, if we are to proceed with the measure now, I suggest to the Attorney-General that in the remarks of all the speakers who have preceded me, he can find material for re-drafting the clause.
– - I have been reading the evidence given by the Clerk of the House before the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the question of procedure in regard to Parliamentary privilege. I see the point to which the honorable and learned member refers, and I find that on page 1 1 701 of Hansard of 29th May, 1908, the honorable member for Bendigois reported as urging that legislation shall be passed dealing with this matter, and making provision for the summoning and. examination on oath of witnesses. I admit at once that the question is very difficult; but, on the other hand, it is quite impossible to go on as we are.
– Does the honorable member mean that it is impossible, to go on as we are, doing nothing?
– I say that it is quite- impossible for this House to permit its. Select Committees to be treated in the way the Stripper Harvester Committee hasbeen treated quite recently. We cannot tolerate the bringing into contempt of the highest Court in the country. ‘Witnesseshave declined to give information, and havenot even condescended to send a civil letter in reply to communications of the Committee.
– Has any one evertried to make the witnesses answer thequestions ?
– The witness referredto said that_ all the evidence had beengiven on oath before the Tariff Commission, and that he did not want to beharassed any further.
– It is quite absurd toexpect that a witness will answer any questions of the kind, unless he is com- *pelled to do so, and, as we cannot go on as at present, I am quite willing to consider the suggestions made. For that purpose, I suggest that the consideration of the clause be postponed.
– I quite agree with the suggestion of the Attorney-General, butbefore it is adopted, I desire to draw- attention to a point which has not been dealt with by previous speakers. When this measure was last before us, it was pointed out that it was in some sense contradictory, that as the honorable member for Ballarat has said, it does not provide for giving evidence in secret in certain matters ; and is excessively and unnecessarily drastic. A witness might, under particular circumstances, be most severely treated, without adequate cause or reason. But apart altogether from that, I call attention to the fact that Parliament practically has the appointment of two bodies of inquiry - a Royal Commission and a Select Committee. Of course, we all know that one body is appointed by the Crown, and the other by Parliament, but surely there ought to be some relationship between the powers and penalties connected therewith. A ‘Royal Commission has hitherto been considered the more potent body, and its powers have been found sufficient for all purposes. The Bill, however, establishes further distinction ; and I doubt whether that is necessary, or wise, in view of the fact, as I have already pointed out, that the powers of a Royal Commission have hitherto been found sufficient.
– The honorable member means that .in this Bill we ought to repeat the terms of the Act controlling Royal Commissions.
– Yes. According^ to the Act to which I refer, all witnesses have the same protection, and are subject to the same penalties as rule in any civil or criminal proceeding in the High’ Court; and, in my opinion, the same law ought to prevail in regard to Select Committees.
– The Bill is on all-fours with the Act controlling Royal Commissions, excepting the penalty.
– There may be another penalty in addition to the penalty named in the Bill. Surely it is desirable that we should assimilate, as far as possible, the powers of Royal Com- “ missions and Select Committees.
– I understand that Royal Commissions have complained of want of powers in this respect.
– I have not heard of that, and I have been on several Commissions.
– I understand that the Tariff Commission complained.
– The Tariff Commission did not have sufficient power ; I refer particularly to the stripper harvester question.
– I know a case where a man refused point blank to answer questions, and defied the Commission.
– But the power was there even if the Royal Commission did not choose to exercise it. But that does not meet my argument. If the power conferred upon Royal Commissions is insufficient, then we must grant a reasonable extension.
– In both cases.
– In both cases; but my contention is .that we ought not to provide two distinct degrees of powers and penalties. To do so is to make our legislation absurd. If the AttorneyGeneral withdraws this measure for the present or for the session - if it requires such examination that it cannot be brought on again this year - the Government will be able, if necessary, to appoint the Select Committee, of which the honorable member for Grey is Chairman, a Royal Commission so that it may have the power that it requires. I hope that we shall have introduced later on a measure which will provide for all the matters to which attention .has been called during this debate, and will create powers and penalties, sufficient, but not excessive, applicable to both Royal Commissions and Select Committees.
.- Before the Attorney-General agrees to postpone this clause I should like to put before him another view as to the penalty that should be imposed. It seems to me that he is accepting rather too readily the suggestion that he should withdraw the provision making the refusal to answer a question an indictable offence.
– The suggestion is not that it should be withdrawn altogether, but that it should be the punishment for a second offence.
– It would be most unfair to punish a man a second time in respect of the same offence. Indeed under clause 17, it would not be possible to do so. since it is provided therein that -
No person shall be liable to be proceeded against a second -time in respect of any offence or breach of privilege for which he has been proceeded against and convicted or acquitted or punished.
Under that provision a witness who had been fined, say, .£50, for refusing to answer a question could lawfully refuse later on to answer the same question. The power that we are proposing to exercise under clause 14 is really the old power to punish for contempt of court which is exercised by the Legislature as the High Court of Parliament. In the United States it is usually exercised in the form of injunctions.* The power to imprison for disobedience of an injunction is really another form of the power to punish’ contempt of court. When such a democratic people as those of the United States are endeavouring to secure an amendment of the law with regard to contempt of court, and are declaring that cases of contempt should be dealt with by a Judge and jury, it seems to me that we are showing too great a readiness to sweep away reasonable precautions that ought to be taken against the undue and tyrannical exercise of a power. I am inclined to think that if the refusal to answer a question were made an indictable offence the offender would have a much better chance of escaping punishment than he would have if he were haled before magistrates having power to inflict a fine of ^50. If I were the legal adviser of a man who had refused to answer a question put to him by a Select Committee or a Royal Commission, I should infinitely prefer to have to defend him before a Judge and jury on a charge of having been guilty of an indictable offence, for which he was liable to imprisonment, than to answer a charge on his behalf which was punishable bv a fine, to be imposed by magistrates. I should recognise that there would be a possibility of a jury having difficulty in grasping what was intended by the words “ lawful” and “ relevant,” and in those circumstances not caring to convict him. Then, again, they might consider it unjust that a man should be required to give evidence as to private matters, and might therefore return a verdict of not guilty. The power to punish for contempt always remains in the Court which exercises it. The Supreme Court exercises it as an inherent power, and the County, Insolvency, and Justices Court exercise it under Statute. The honorable member for Illawarra has said that Royal Commissions have found themselves in a difficulty because, instead of being able to punish a witness for contempt, they have to send him for trial before”* some judicial authority. Why should we not provide that the Select Committee or Royal Com mission before whom the contempt is committed shall have power to punish the offender by ordering him to be imprisoned for seven days, or even a month? The man who refuses to answer a question isusually so sensitive in regard to his own business concerns that he would not care to risk imprisonment for twenty-four hours, and so to be taken away from his business, for refusing to answer a question.
– My only objection to that is that I do not think any Select Committeo would dare to exercise it.
– Then I think we may take it that no Select Committee would bring a case of contempt under the notice of the Attorney-General, who would have to set the law in motion. Every ordinary justice who sits in a Court has to face the necessity of preserving his authority by committing for contempt, and I venture to say that the Select Committee of which the honorable member for Grey is Chairman, has sufficient public spirit to avail itself of such a power if it considered that a witness wrongfully refused to answer a question. The objection raised by the honorable member for Ballarat might be overcome by our providing that the question of whether a witness had, or had not, been guilty of contempt, should be determined by a majority of the members of the Select Committee, or Royal Commission, before whom he appeared. The honorable member pointed out that trouble might arise owing to the position taken up by an erratic or vindictive member of a Committee. But if we provided that a majority should decide whether or not a question ought tol be answered such a man would not think of putting a ridiculous question because he would know that his fellow Committeemen would not stand by him.
– The question would be put in writing by the Chairman on behalf of the Committee.
– Quite so. Although one member of a Select Committee might be erratic, the Committee, as a whole, would, I am sure, be just. I believe that such a power as I suggest would, when necessary, be exercised bv Select Committees if it were vested in them. Parliament has refused to exercise it in some cases owing to the ridiculous position in which it has been placed, or because it did not wish to commit a ma.i to gaol, or to send him to the leads. If a Committee found that, owing to a witnessrefusing for some reason or other to give evidence, it could not carry out the purpose for which it was appointed, I am sure thu it would be prepared to do its duty bv the House. I should prefer to have the offence made an indictable one, believing that if it were, we should preserve what we are in danger of losing by imposing too much work in this direction on outside tribunals.
.- It has been clearly demonstrated during the debate that this Bill has not been introduced because of the position in which the Select Committee on Stripper-Harvesters finds itself placed, although one would think from the remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo that it had. I believe, however, that it is largely because of what has occurred in connexion with that Committee’s inquiry that the Bill has been taken up by the Government, and pushed on in its present state. The experience of the members of the Committee is not a very comfortable one. Several witnesses have absolutely refused to give us information which, if we are to carry out the duty intrusted to us, we must obtain. I venture to say that if the honorable and learned member for Bendigo were Chair man of a Select Committee, and received a letter telling him to look up evidence given previously before some Royal Commission, he would say that that was not a proper kind of answer to give.
– Hear, hear ; I do not justify that. letter.
– The letter to which I refer was not only a reflection upon the Select Committee, but upon this Parliament; and if we are to elicit the information which this House has instructed us to obtain, it is necessary that we should have more powers than we have at present. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo seemed to infer that a Select Committee would not be so careful in respect to the questions put to witnesses as a Royal Commission would be. I fail to see why conferring upon a body of men the name of “Select Committee” would make it less discreet than would be a body which was styled a “Royal Commission.” He seemed to think that a Select Committee would necessarily be vindictive. I venture to say that no vindictive question has been put by any member of the Select Committee of which I have the honour to be Chairman. Every question that has been put has been relevant to the duty which we have been instructed to perform.
It is positively useless for us to meet unless we are to be in a position to obtain the evidence that is necessary for completing our inquiry. Whatever the AttorneyGeneral does in reconsidering this question, I wish him clearly to understand that he has to bear in mind not only the case of the Select Committee that is at present sitting. We may have Select Committees inquiring into trusts and other subjects vitally affecting the interests of a large number of the people of Australia. The penalty imposed should not be merely a monetary one. A money penalty is a mere nothing to some people. In order to protect the interests of witnesses, a clause may be inserted providing that a question that is objected to may be put at the direction of a .majority of the Committee. If the majority decide that the question is a proper one, a witness should be compelled to answer. I have been much struck by the attitude of members of the late Government with regard to this Bill. Surely it is a sad commentary upon the ex-Attorney General that the measure should be so slipshod and ill-considered as to warrant the criticism that has been directed towards it by the honorable member for Ballarat. His criticism is a grave reflection, not only upon the’ ex- Attorney-General, but also upon the Crown Law officers. The Bill, in the opinion of the honorable member for Ballarat, seems to be full of blemishes and of important faults and dangers, although a few weeks ago it was, presumably inthe opinion of the late Government, a perfect measure. It is singular that the question was not looked into sufficiently before the present Government came into office to enable the ex-Attorney-General to find out its defects. Whatever the present Government may do with the Bill, I trust that we shall give Select Committees full power to elicit necessary evidence.
– There is a great deal in what has been put forward by the honorable member for Corio as to the powers of Committees to deal with recalcitrant witnesses forthwith. But whether Parliament will be likely to approve of such a proposal as he has suggested I do not know. It appears to me that what is wanted is not a severe punishment in the future, but an effective one in the present. I have had some experience of recalcitrant witnesses. On a Royal Commission upon which I sat in company with the honorable member for North Sydney, we had only one witness who declined to answer a question. He was rather impudent, and defied us to do our worst. We did nothing. All that we could have done would have been to take such proceedings as would be necessary to haul the witness before a court of summary jurisdiction, where he would have been liable to a fine of £50. The real defect of this clause is that it makes the punishment rather problematical. The honorable member for Corio said that a jury would not be able to determine what was a relevant question, and that appeals would be made to a jury’s sympathies. I think that a magistrate or, preferably, a Judge, would be a better authority to determine such a question. However, I am mainly desirous of seeing that Committees appointed by Parliament shall have power to obtain evidence in a proper way.
– Not larger powers than are possessed by Royal Commissions ?
– There is something to be said for the view of the honorable member for North Sydney that we do not want to have one set of procedure for Royal Commissions and another for Select Committees. The Act regulating Royal Commissions deals with the case of a. witness who refuses to be sworn or to answer any question put to him. “ Any question “ means, of course, any lawful or relevant question. Nothing can be read into the phrase beyond that. When the honorable member for Darling Downs agreed to put in the words “ lawful and relevant,” he did not really carry the matter any further. A person who refuses to answer such a question under the Act to which I refer is liable, on summary conviction, to a penalty not exceeding ,£50.
– Any question touching the subject matter of the inquiry.
– Quite so; I say that is implied. “Any question” means any question relevant to the inquiry. It could not mean anything else. Sub-section 2 of section 7 reads -
Every witness summoned to attend or appearing before the Commission shall have the same protection, and shall, in addition to the penalties provided by this Act, be subject to the same liabilities in any civil or criminal proceeding as a witness in any case tried in a High Court.
I assume that that means liability to committal for contempt and the other penalties attached to witnesses declining to answer questions in Court. I think that in the circumstances we shall be saving time if we report progress for the purpose of recasting this clause.
In Committee of Supply:
Division 1 (The Senate), .£6,783; division 2 (House of Representatives), £8,982 ; agreed to.
Division 3 (Parliamentary Reporting Staff), £7,096
– - I wish to bring under the notice of the Committee the position of the sessional typists, who are paid at the rate of £4 10s. per week. They are employed during the time Parliament is sitting, and at the close of the session are turned out to look for other positions if they can find them. They require to be experts at their business. They are not ordinary typists who can be replaced any day by. the insertion of an advertisement in a newspaper. Unless they are able to do exceptionally fast work, they are valueless and can give no relief to the reporting staff. When the reporter leaves this Chamber to dictate his notes to one of these sessional typists, his only advantage is derived from the fact that the typist is a man capable of special speed. The average typist who secures a position in a commercial house may be able to type from thirty to forty words per minute, but it would be useless to employ men for the class of work required to be done by these sessional typists unless they are able to type up to seventy words per minute. This means that if the work of the Parliamentary typing staff is to be of value to the country, it is necessary to secure the same men every session. It would be impossible to train men for this special class of work, as the session would be nearly over before they would be sufficiently expert. and would understand the various abbreviations which are used to .enable them to get up the requisite speed. At the close of the session they would then be turned adrift and would have no work to do. I submit that something should be done for these .men to secure them employment in the Government Departments during each recess. I am unable of my own knowledge to say exactly what is paid by the various Commonwealth Departments for typewriting work, in each year, but I have no doubt that extra men are called in by the various Departments, and that they receive sufficient for contract work at typewriting to provide for the employment of the expert staff to which I refer. I do not say that a man as a typist is worth £4 10s. per week, week in and week out, throughout the year. The salaries of these sessional typists might be reduced to £3 ros. or £3 5s. per week with the understanding that they should be given employment throughout the year, and when Parliament is not sitting! I have no doubt they could be employed in the Post and Telegraph Department or some of the other public Departments. I suppose they would be called upon to do the typing work necessary in connexion with investigations by Royal Commissions and work of that kind.
– What does the honorable member suggest they should be paid during that time?
– I suggest that they should be paid ,£3 10s. or £3 5s. throughout the year.
– Would the typists accept that pay?
– I am pretty sure they would. I have occupied a similar position myself, and I would have taken that pay when I was employed as a sessional typist. I should say that a reasonable salary for an expert typist would be £3 10s. per week throughout the year. The salary of £4 10s. per week which these men get while Parliament is sitting is a higher salary than they could expect to secure outside throughout the year. But they are left with five or six months in which to seek work outside where they can get it, and the salary paid during the session is a temptation to them to refrain from accepting a permanent position at perhaps £3 per week elsewhere with the hope of working up to a higher salary. They are tempted to continue to seek employment as sessional typists, and are a number of young men who ought to be placed in a position to marry and settle down with some idea of the future that is ahead of them. I believe the sessional typists are under the control of the President and Speaker,- and I suggest that they should be made permanent employes of the Commonwealth, that we might secure the services of the experts we require for the work of the Parliament, and that the men themselves might be placed in a position to make a decent living from the business, and should not be asked ta spend half the year in luxury and the other half in comparative want.
– The matter referred to by the honorable member is not new. The “position of the sessional typists has been discussed many times. So. far as I am concerned, I shall be prepared to give what the honorable member has said the fullest consideration and to make the necessary representations to the proper authorities. Perhaps later on I shall be able to make a statement in connexion with the matter.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 4 (Library), ,£3,585; division 5 (Joint House Committee), £831; division 6 (Water Power for Parliament House), £250 ; division 7 (Electric Lighting, Repairs, &rc), >;£i,4ii ; division 8 (Queen’s Hall), £462 ; division 9 (Parliament Gardens), £482 ; and division 10 (Miscellaneous), £1,198, agreed to.
Department of External Affairs
Division n (Administrative), .£10,965; and division 12 (Executive Council), £935, agreed to.
Division 13 (Offices of the Commonwealth iti London), £2,350.
.- Perhaps the Prime Minister will avail himself of the present opportunity of informing the Committee of what is the present position of affairs in connexion with the offer of a site to the Commonwealth at Trafalgar Square. The announcement was made in the newspapers some time ago that the Government had cabled Captain Collins to inform Messrs. Lyons and Company that the offer would not be entertained, but no statement to that effect has yet been made to the House.
– That statement is correct.
– In view of the fact that the resumption of the debate upon the motion for the acquisition of the site at Trafalgar Square still appears upon the business-paper, I should like to know whether any further negotiations are in progress.
– The position of the matter referred to by the honorable member is exactly as he has outlined. When the Senate failed to ap- prove of the purchase of the proposed site in London, a communication was sent to Captain Collins, intimating that Parliament did net approve of the offer, and asking him to notify Messrs. Lyons and Company accordingly. No further negotiations are in progress.
.- It appears to me that this is the proper time for requesting the attention of the Minister to the fact that Captain Collins, a Commonwealth officer, is in London-
– This item contains no provision for the payment of Captain Collins, and the honorable member will have ample opportunity of discussing that officer’s position upon the next item.
– But under that item I shall be at liberty to debate only the allowance made to .Captain Collins, whereas I wish to refer to the fact that a certain officer is in London receiving a certain salary.
– If the honorable member desires to deal with the officers mentioned in “this item he will be in order in doing so; but he will not be in order in dealing with the allowance granted to Captain Collins, except under the next item.
– I do not wish to deal with the allowance granted to Captain Collins, but rather with the cost of the clerical work that is being performed in the Commonwealth offices in London. Under this item, it is made to appear that that cost amounts only to £490. But, as a matter of fact, if the amount were properly set out, it would include the salaries of two other officers. I should like your ruling as to whether I shall be in order in discussing the total amount of the salaries payable to those officers?
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing that matter upon this item; but he will be at liberty to accomplish what he desires upon the next item.
– This subdivision includes an allowance of £150 to Captain Collins while acting as representative of the Commonwealth in London.
– But he is getting a salary of £900.
– I did not suppose that the £150, for which provision is made here covered his salary. I take it that Captain Collins does a very great deal of work in London, and tha) he is put to a very considerable expenditure. Under these circumstances, the allowance granted to him is a very inadequate one. I do not think that any officer can be expected to discharge the duties that are discharged by Captain Collins for less than £1,500 a year. That officer is in London to represent the Commonwealth. As the representative of trie Commonwealth, he takes precedence of special representatives from AustralianStates. He has a place at all great functions. He is recognised as the representative of the Commonwealth, and to say that £150 shall be granted to him as compensation for the outlay to which he is subjected-
– It would about pay the cost of his cab hire.
– It would scarcely do that. I think that this question is one which ought to be looked into, with a view to increasing the allowance to Captain Collins.
.- The criticism to which this item has been subjected by the honorable member for Robertson is thoroughly well founded. And But for the hope which at one time there was every reason to expect would be realized early - that the House would deal with the High Commissioner Bill, and put these officers on a firm basis - there would be a proposal submitted in these Estimates. We were under the stress of conditions which obliged the Treasurer to curtail every proposal submitted to him for an increase of expenditure in any direction, and the consequence is that these Estimates represent a cutting down to the bare bone. Captain Collins deserves what the honorable member for Robertson has said of him, because he is, in the first place, a singularly efficient and active departmental chief. When he was in the service of Victoria he was one of the most useful agents of Ministers in curtailing unnecessary expenditure on defence. For getting full value for money he was one of the best servants it ever had. When he came over to the Commonwealth he performed a very useful service, as I am sure the honorable member for Swan, if he were here, would testify, in its early and trying years, when, again, circumstances compelled a cutting-down policy to be adopted. I am sure that my right honorable friend, if he were present, would admit that without the aid of Captain Collins it would have been impossible to carry on as economically as we did in the first years. When he was transferred to London he occupied at first merely the position of head of an office, which had simply departmental work to do. The present Minister of External Affairs will find that since then the Trade and Customs and Treasury Departments, like the External Affairs: Department itself, have been making continuously increasing demands upon’ the time and attention of Captain Collins. That we have used him to the best purpose for the Treasury is shown by the fact that the interest earned by the money intrusted to him has, under an arrangement with the Bank of England, met the whole cost of the London office. Through that office we have been purchasing an extraordinary quantity of defence material, and owing to his knowledge we have been able to use Captain Collins in passing the orders transmitted by him. With his assistance we have had excellent supervision of very large orders for defence material of one kind and another. Latterly the Commonwealth has developed in importance, and, owing to the continuous postponement of the appointment of a High Commissioner, Captain Collins, in spite of himself, has been thrown into a position, of increasing responsibility. The honorable member for Robertson was perfectly correct when he said that Captain Collins received invitations. One cannot accept official invitations in London or elsewhere without acknowledging their receipt. I venture to say that the allowance of ,£150 which was put on the Estimates a year or two ago, and which then was insufficient, is a ridiculous sum now for the out-of-pocket expenses of Captain Collins in carrying on his office in London. I do not know whether it is a British tradition, but certainly it is a British habit, that in London a great deal of business is done over the dinner or luncheon table. When a man is dealing with an over-worked and busy Department he is fortunate if Be can obtain an acceptance of his invitations from some of the principal men with whom he has to do the business of the Commonwealth, and if he can get those persons to come to luncheon he spends the time in discussing business which otherwise must occupy_ a very large portion of an overworked officer’s time, that he would be very reluctant to give.
– Foreign Governments always ‘ pay for such dinners.
– Yes. As a matter of fact, Captain Collins pays for the dinners which he gives. I hope that when the present ‘Government ‘deal with the next Estimates, they will not be in the position that we were in when we had to cope with these matters. I also hope that a High Commissioner Bill will have been passed. When Captain Collins obtains his chief, whatever his position in the office may be, he will be relieved of much of this expenditure which now falls upon his pocket. His present allowance is merely nominal. It does not at all approach the actual cost to which he must be put. If a High Commissioner be appointed, the state of things to which we have been looking forward will arrive, and this subject will have to be approached from another stand-point. In the meantime, if times are good, and consideration is possible, I suggest to the Minister that he should satisfy himself as regards the out-of-pocket expenses which are incurred by Captain Collins in performing official duties, but which are not recognised by the Department. If he “makes an inquiry, he will find, I think, that they very largely exceed this allowance of £150. I may add1 that, in the correspondence I received when occupying that office, I was continually thanked in writing by Londoners, and also personally by a number of Australians who had gone Home on particular missions of one kind or other, for the untiring manner in which Captain Collins had served every interest of every Australian which was a proper and legitimate interest for a public officer to support.
– I am sure that the Committee is pleased with the explanation of the honorable member for Ballarat. I have only risen to say a few words on the subject. Whilst I recognise that the Commonwealth should be represented in London, I cannot forget that when we went into Federation we did not intend to duplicate all the officers in connexion with our Government. According to the statement of the last speaker, economy has been practised ; but it is absurd to have in London seven establishments representing the Commonwealth. The sooner that they can be reduced to one establishment representing the Commonwealth, the States being subsidiary to that, the better it will be, I think. . Before a High Commissioner Bill is passed, the Commonwealth should hold a conference with the States, with a view to economizing the cost of an office in London, representing both the Commonwealth and the States. Any one who bears in mind the enormous increase in the public expenditure since Federation will, I am sure, agree with me that the Commonwealth should economize wherever it can. One of the methods by which practical economy can be effected is by ceasing to have a duplication of very many officers in connexion with the States and the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member does not suggest that we should not appoint a High Commissioner?
– We should not appoint a High Commissioner until we have made some arrangement with the States. It would be a perfect farce to have seven establishments in London. If we do not practice some economy in that regard, the people in 1909-10 will see that it is done. A splendid opportunity is offered to the present Government to open up negotiations in this particular matter and get a principle affirmed. If we had a High Commissioner, supported by a competent man from each State, with’ a special knowledge of all its requirements, we should secure infinitely better supervision and have a far better advertising medium for the Commonwealth than we now have. We do not need six States Agents-General. We require six useful men. I could select from this House six men who, in my opinion, could advise the High Commissioner wisely in regard to their respective States, and whose services could be used in a commercial sense for the benefit of the Commonwealth.
.- On this subdivision, sir, will it be competent for me to discuss the Agents-General for the several States, their duties, and their offices ?
– The honorable member will be in order in making a casual reference to the subject.
– I did not quite know, sir, whether I should be allowed to do so. 1 am not particularly troubled about what salary is paid to Captain Collins. He receives £1,050 a year, and expenses. He may be out of pocket, but that I do not know. I do not for a moment suggest that it is sufficient remuneration for even the duties which he performs. If he is really regarded as the representative of the Commonwealth in London, it seems to me an insult to offer him that small salary. We ought to vote him a sum commensurate with the dignity of the office, and the duties and expenses attached thereto. The point I desire to draw the Minister’s attention to is that £900 of the salary is included in the Estimates of the Defence Department. If Captain Collins is not required in that Department, and is required in England, why should not his salary appear under the’ head of “ Commonwealth offices in London “ rather than, as it has done for nearly two years, appear to the extent of £900 on the Estimates of the Defence Department. The work he is doing in London is quite separate and distinct from the ordinary duties which he was called upon io perform here as Secretary for Defence. Not only is that the case, but we have another officer - Mr. Savage, I think - who is receiving a salary of £580. I do not know whether it is enough. I have not looked into that position at all. But he also is being paid out of the vote for the Defence Department for doing work in London. He advises Captain Collins as to tunics, belts, straps, knee breeches, &c. For a number of years, he was Director of Stores, but he was specifically appointed to the position of accountant in London because of his practical knowledge in the matter of stores, and his ability to advise Captain Collins. If the services of those officers are required in London, why is the farce of voting their salaries under the head of Defence continued? It would be better, I think, if each Department were charged with the expenditure incurred therein.
– The only reason for continuing the present arrangement is that we want to give to the High Commissioner a chance to select his own staff.
– The Minister is just as well aware as I am that the High Commissioner, whoever he may be, would not immediately dispense with the services of those two officers, although in some cases their services might not be all that he, as an individual, could desire. They would practically be retained. Why should not their salaries be voted under the head of “ Commonwealth offices in London “ rather than make it appear that those offices are costing £1,500 or £1,600 a year less than what they really are? The Defence Department is charged with that particular sum, although il is not receiving the services of the. officers for whom the salaries are voted.
– That point might be met by a foot-note.
– I agree with the last speaker that we should know exactly what the Commonwealth is paying for the services of the officers he referred to. We are asked to vote a very moderate sum for the offices of the Commonwealth in London. But we know what perhaps the general public do not know - that the salaries of two officers are voted year after year in the Estimates for the Defence Department when they should be included in this subdivision. I think that the sooner a High Commissioner is appointed, the better it will be. We are asked to make provision for only three clerks, that is, a clerk, a paying officer, and a junior clerk. The other items “clerical assistance and typists “ may mean something. I suppose that the Minister knows what it means, but we do not. We have never been able to ascertain exactly what our offices in, London cost. Until a High Commissioner is appointed, surely we ought to get a clear statement as to how many officers are employed solely in those offices, and those whose salaries are charged to the Department of Defence. Captain Collins may be a very good Defence officer, but his service in London has not been eminently satisfactory. The first mail contract did not result in success, nor did Captain Collins, in the negotiations for the purchase of a site for Commonwealth offices r London, show himself capable of managing large affairs. As a matter of fact, while himself representing the Commonwealth, he suggested that we should employ a land agent in London to negotiate with the London County Council, which was practically an admission that he could not do the work for which he was appointed.
– No Such a thing is often done by men in the largest way of business in Australia.
– Captain Collins, as the representative of the Commonwealth, should have been able to negotiate with a public body like the London County Council. He is really little more than an inspector of material for the Defence Department, and we should be told whether that is why his salary is charged to that
Department. The Minister should tell us what the office costs, what officers are there, and why their salaries are charged to other Departments.
.. - The Committee is entitled to know how Captain Collins is to be employed in the future, and to what extent his absence in London affects the administration of the Department of Defence, of which he is the permanent head. He has now been in London for about three years. I am not prepared to criticise the way in which he has attended to Commonwealth affairs in London, but if his services are required there, it seems a great injustice to the Defence Department to continue him as its nominal head here, and allow him to draw the salary and retain the privileges of the position of Secretary. It is an injustice also to the man who has to act in his place,with the responsibility of discharging the important duties of permanent head of the Department. That officer probably receives a much smaller salary. The honorable member for Adelaide informs me that he gets £200 per annum less than is being paid to Captain Collins. That is an unsatisfactory position of affairs, and the sooner it is terminated the better for all concerned. By continuing Captain Collins in his present position the subordinate officer who is performing his work here is prevented from securing his rightful promotion to the vacancy which should be created. If Captain Collins is doing good work in London, why not appoint him to his position there with an adequate salary ? Will the Minister” state whether the present state of affairs is to be allowed to continue or whether the Government have any scheme by which to bring about a change in the direction I have indicated ?
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby - Minister of External Affairs) [5-551- - I am glad to hear from all round the chamber, with one exception, commendation of Captain Collins’ work. When the next Estimates are prepared, if I have anything to do with them, I shall bear in. mind the remarks of honorable members. It has frequently been explained, with regard to the allowance to Captain Collins for acting as the representative of the Commonwealth in London, that it is considered desirable, instead of appointing permanent officers for the High Commissioner now, that he should, when appointed, be given an opportunity of selecting his own officers. That seems a proper course to adopt. I admit that from a bookkeeping point of view it is rather misleading to the Committee, because the Estimates of the Defence Department are increased to the extent of about £1,300, while the Department of External Affairs is apparently run. more cheaply than is really the case. But after all that is only a matter of bookkeeping, and it seems of more importance that the High Commissioner, when appointed, should be entirely free to select his own officers. It would be a pity to appoint now officers to. assist the High Commissioner when they might not be found to be the most suitable for the work. I believe that Captain Collins is an excellent officer, and disagree entirely with the remarks of the honorable member for Nepean. I do not know whether that honorable member’s opinion of Captain Collins’ work has been formed on very full information. So far as I have had experience of his work I find that he is careful, and gives full- information so far as he is able.
– He did not give us some information about the mail contract until about a month after it appeared in the newspapers here.
– That may be. ‘I simply speak of Captain Collins as I find him.
– Where did the Minister have any experience of him?
– I have had to go through a great deal of his work during the past few weeks. I cannot promise that the present arrangement will be altered in the next Estimates, because I hope that the next session a High Commissioner Bill will be passed, and the High Commissioner appointed. It will, therefore, not be worth while to make a temporary appointment now, as in a very short time the High Commissioner will be able to select his own officers.
– I wish to test the Minister’s statement that Captain Collins’ work has met with commendation ali round the Chamber. The only official experience that the Minister has had of his work has been during the last fortnight. There was no evidence, in the question of the London offices, which the Minister recently submitted to the House, of the valuable qualities which he attributes to Captain Collins. That officer may be a man with a good many friends in this country, but if he is a good Defence man, I am not willing to believe that he is a good business man. He is either a bad business man and a good Defence man, or a good business man, and probably a bad Defence man.
– What would the honorable member call Lord Kitchener ?
– An organizer. Captain Collins, while in charge of the Defence Department, never showed the possession even of a small degree of Lord Kitchener’s organizing faculties. At that time we had constant turmoil in regard to the management of the Department, although Captain Collins was supposed to be in that position as a capable organizer. I wish to test the views of the honorable member for Hume, who was in London a little while ago, and had an opportunity of personally inspecting his work. I wish to remove all considerations of friendship or club influence from the question. According to extracts from London newspapers at the time, the late Treasurer was not struck with Captain Collins’ work in London.
– That is altogether a mistake. I think he has done really good work.
– The honorable member, although he thought he was a good worker, refused to grant him an increase of salary when he asked for it. A few months ago Captain Collins said he required a few extra guineas a day, but the late Treasurer refused to grant the increase.
– I do not think that that statement is at all correct. Captain Collins was not in my Department.
– But the honorable member for Hume was a member of the Ministry when Captain Collins made his application. My private opinion of Captain Collins is that he is one of the “ swagger” officers, and I am surprised that the Labour Ministry should be so keen on him. No doubt Captain Collins is a very good club man, and well known about Collinsstreet; but I remember that time after time members of Parliament attacked his Department for laxity of administration.
– The honorable member is quite mistaken; Captain Collins is so keen in his administration that he has made a lot of enemies in the Department.
– Captain Collins is so keen that he would not lose sight of the right honorable member for Swan until he got his appointment. Did Captain Collins make a success of the mail contract?
He simply bungled it, and for months questions were asked in this House on the subject.
– That is not correct ; Captain Collins did not bungle the contract.
– Did he make a success of it?
– I say that the result of Captain Collins’ action was certainly successful.
– I know no public servant who has more influential friends than has Captain Collins.
– Is that not an indication of the goodness in him?
– No; if he is a good and capable Defence administrator, why keep him in London for four or five years?
– How can Captain Collins be said to have bungled the mail arrangements when he steered Ministers through successfully?
– Of course, if it is a matter of favours received, that is another matter. I am just about tired of hearing the name of Captain Collins, and anybody would think he was a most remarkable man. But why did he not show his ability when he was in charge of the Defence Department, and when we heard nothing but attacks on him? He cannot be considered as a representative Australian.
– He is put down in the Estimates as the officer in charge of the Commonwealth offices.
– My surprise is that he is not down for a great deal more. I did look to the Labour Government to carry out some radical reforms, but, apparently, the Secretary for the Department of External Affairs is to receive an increase of £100 a year without any trouble. If we observe the Estimates, we see that all the heads of Departments have obtained increases, and I think the Labour Government might have taken some steps to prevent this. Are the members of the Government satisfied with the item for an allowance to Captain Collins?
Mr.Batchelor. - That is not an increase of salary, but is the same allowance as was paid last year to Captain Collins for doing this work in London.
– What does he do in London ?
– And what does his successor in Melbourne do?
– His successor is doing the work for £200 a year less.
– And I think the successor does the work well. Has Captain Collins anything to do besides looking after mail contracts, and sending out valuations in regard to Commonwealth buildings? He told us that a leasehold site was absolutely the best in London, and two years later he tells us that a site 2 miles further out is the best - the mail contract fizzled, and the Commonwealth sites in London have fizzled.
– Captain Collins did everything one man could do.
– What does he do?
– He is one of the best men we have in London.
– What does he do?
– He attends to the business of the different Departments in London with which he is intrusted.
– I never heard of it.
– Why should the honorable member hear of it?
– He is one of the best men in the public service.
– I remember the honorable member for Hume did not defend Captain Collins two years ago, when honorable members were attacking him.
– I think I have always defended Captain Collins.
– It is most singular, both in Federal and State Parliaments, that when a high official is brought under rebuke, he is declared to be the best possible man. At the same time, I should like to know what Captain Collins does in London. Apparently, he does so much that we cannot find out what he does.
– No; all the English and foreign work for all the Departments is done through Captain Collins.
– Does he do it well?
– I have been in the habit of receiving every mail four and five semiofficial letters, and quite a series of official lettersfrom Captain Collins himself.
– No doubt he writes letters.
– Than Captain Collins is in touch with the British Government, and has had interviews with Mr. Haldane and the Admiralty again and again.
– If Captain Collins is such an Admirable Crichton, I am afraid that he is being sweated, and ought to be paid , £3,000 or £4,000 a year.
– Which of the honorable member’s corns has Captain Collins been treading on?
– I have never spoken to Captain Collins in my life, and this i* :the most severe attack I have ever made on any public officer. In any case, I am merely asking for information. If Captain Collins is such a splendid officer, he ought to be here doing his work, and I should be glad to have a catalogue of the good work “he has done. A few months ago, Captain Collins cabled for an increase in his salary ; but the late Prime Minister did not grant it.
– Who was cabled to?
– About six months ago, Captain Collins asked for £3 3s. a day as an allowance.
– I do not think that that was the exact time ; but, whenever it was, the £150 a year was a matter of expenses, -and was a stop-gap arrangement.
– Then, I ask why. the application was refused, and I put a question to the late Prime Minister, who is Captain Collins’ strongest champion. Why did not the late Government grant “him the allowance of £3 3s. per day?
– Because we hoped to pass the High Commissioner Bill.
– That is practically £150 a year, taking the allowance in respect of only one day a week.
– But I presume that allowance would have been for six days a week.
– Some men do not work six days a week.
– I. do not say that Cap-‘ tain Collins does, nor do I suggest that he works only one day a week. When he was in Melbourne it was said that he could be found as often in Collins-street as in his office.
– That is not so.
– I am glad to have that contradiction. I certainly think that the Government ought to be very careful in granting these allowances The honorable member for Calare, who is one of their warmest supporters, is not satisfied with their attitude in this respect.
– The real cure is to at once appoint a High Commissioner.
.- The “unfavorable statements that have been made by some honorable members in reference to Captain Collins’ business capabilities would appear to be justified if he is really responsible for the bungling in connexion with several transactions be- tween the Commonwealth and certain parties in London that have recently engaged the attention of this House. I refer more particularly to the negotiations in regard to the mail contract, the site for Commonwealth offices in the Strand, and the negotiations which subsequently took place for the acquisition of a site in Trafalgar Square. Those negotiations were certainly bungled in such a way that the person responsible for them cannot be credited with high business capacity.
– The honorable member knows that Captain Collins had nothing to do with the selection of a site in the Strand.
– He simply acted under instructions in those matters.
– It is not fair to accuse an officer in this way.
– It is not fair of the Minister to make such a remark. I have made no accusation against Captain Collins. I referred to the “person responsible.” The honorable member for Ballarat says Captain Collins was acting under instructions. I understand that he was also acting as adviser to the Government.
– I would call the attention of the Committee to the printed memorandum presented to this House only last week in regard to the Trafalgar Square site. That document showed that certain valuations were made at the instance of Captain Collins. The valuator in the first instance valued a site in Trafalgar Square at £154,000, but within a week a considerably higher valuation was made by the same gentleman, and was forwarded to the Government, with a recommendation to purchase at a still greater advance upon the increased valuation, and apparently without any explanation by Captain Collins.
– That had nothing to do with Captain Collins.
– He caused the valuation to be made.
– He employed a valuator.
– Exactly. Does the honorable member, then, still say that he had no part in the matter?
– He certainly had not, except as the agent of the Government.
– I have only been, speaking of him in that capacity.
– Is it an agent’s business to review the decision of the valuator whom he has appointed?
– The honorable gentleman said just now that Captain Collins had nothing to do with the matter.
– Except as agent for the Commonwealth.
– Then, as agent, he had everything to do with it.
– He simply engaged the valuator.
– Under instructions from the Government.
– Did the late Government instruct him to employ a specific firm or leave it to Captain Collins to use his own discretion in the selection of a valuator ?
– We instructed him to employ a valuator.
– He inquired, “Shall I employ a valuator?” and the reply was “ Yes.”
– Did the Government say who was to be employed?
– Certainly not.
– Then why this attempt to deny that Captain Collins had anything to do with the employment of the valuator? We are told now that the valuator in question was employed not directly by the Government of the day, but by Captain Collins.
– Under instructions.
– Why all this quibbling? I am not suggesting that there was anything wrong or improper. Captain Collins, instead of having nothing to do with the matter, had everything to do with it. He was, admittedly, the agent of the Government and the intermediary in all the negotiations.
– The honorable member andhis friends won their case in regard to the selection of the Trafalgar Square site. Why pursue it further?
– I do not desire to pursue it. The question at issue, however, relates to an officer’s ability to do certain work, and, no doubt, we shall be asked presently to increase his salary.
– Does the honorable member think that Captain Collinsvalued the property?
– I do not; the honorable member is simply flying off at a tangent.
– That is what the honorable member said.
– No, it is what thehonorable member’s limited intelligenceled him to think I said.
– That is ourtrouble with regard to the honorable member himself.
– I am going to say everything that I want to say, even if I have to remain here all night. I am not to be put down by interjections, and the honorable member who attempts to bluff me will fail. What I was about to say when attempts were made, by way of interjection, to throw dust in the eyes of the Committee, was that, as the representative of the Commonwealth in London and the agent of the Government, Captain Collins engaged a certain valuator to make a valuation of a property, which he had informed the Government was under offer to the Commonwealth, or could bobtained by it. The valuator, in the first instance, valued the property at £154,300,- but within less than a week Captain Collins, without any explanation, so far as the printed memorandum laid before the House shows, submitted to the Government a further valuation by the same man, in which he valued the property at £163,700. Captain Collins forwarded to the Government a recommendation of the same valuator, to purchase this site at an advance of £65,000 over and above devaluation that he originally made. That increase was made without any satisfactory explanation. Nothing was put before the House to show the reason of it. The Minister would give no information, and the little he could give had to be dragged out of him bit by bit.
– That is not correct. I spoke only once, and all the information was given in the one speech.
– The Minister told us all that he knew, though he did not know much; and it was left for another honorable member to show the wires that were pulled behind this transaction. The facts as related by the honorable member for . Grey - do not show that whoever was acting as agent for the Government was a particularly smart businessman. It appears from what he told the House that after the first valuation ‘ was made some , leakage occurred in Captain Collins’ office by means of which information reached speculators outside. They were smart enough to obtain an option over the site which had been offered to the Commonwealth, and owing to that intervention of speculators the Commonwealth was not able to obtain the site upon terms anything like those of the first valuation. In regard to the last transaction there are so many matters of an unsatisfactory nature that I shall hesitate to accept at their face value the eulogiums we have heard from those who were responsible for Captain Collins’ appointment, as to that gentleman’s business capabilities. But unless I see a better demonstration of business capacity than has been shown in the recent negotiations I shall come to the conclusion that we shall not be justified in increasing his salary in the capacity of an agent, if anything of the kind is proposed. I believe that the honorable member for Dalley and the honorable member for Nepean in the light of the failures of different business transactions had fair grounds for raising the question’ as to Captain Collins’ business capacity, and I hope that in any other transactions in which he is concerned as agent between the Commonwealth and third parties we shall have more satisfactory evidence of business ability than has been apparent in reference to the Trafalgar Square site.
– I do not know Captain Collins personally, but I do like fair play ; and it is only right that I should remind the Committee that when we were dealing with the European mail contract we were told that certain of the firms forming the company that entered into the contract were financially satisfactory. Ministers told us the names of various individuals connected with the company, and every member of this House was satisfied as to their “stability. Subsequently some of the firms withdrew from the company. What happened might occur with the keenest business men in the world. Any business man who knew that certain individuals were connected with a company would be satisfied with that company’s stability; but if some of those individuals withdrew the company would become weaker. I do not think that Captain Collins was to blame because the European mail contract company was weakened by the withdrawal of some of its members. As to the Trafalgar Square site, some of the members of this Parliament were not satisfied that the property and the terms for which it was offered were good enough. I was told by a gentleman who was recently in England and knew the site well, that ,he did not think we could get a cheaper or a better one for our purpose. I am not in a position to judge personally, but I certainly do not think that Captain Collins was to blame, inasmuch as he was merely acting under instructions and furnishing information to the Commonwealth Government. In criticising an officer acting as Captain Collins has done, I think that we ought to be fair, and should treat the officer as we should wish, to be treated if we were in a similar position. We should give Captain Collins credit for what he has done, and not hold him to blame for something for which he is not responsible.
– I have listened attentively to the debate, and especially to the criticism relating to the site offered to the Commonwealth Government for the purposes of a London office. I may tell the Minister at once that I hesitate to criticise an officer who is at such a distance from us as Captain Collins is. I feel some delicacy in criticising an officer at the other* side of the tforld so freely as I should criticise an officer who was on the spot, and whose justification for what he had done could be immediately stated to the Committee through an Under Secretary seated behind the Speaker’s chair. I _ feel bound to say from what I know of Captain Collins that he is a very capable officer. While he was in Australia it seemed to me that he was most indefatigable and industrious in discharging his duties at the head-quarters of the Defence Department. I’ do not suppose that he is the ablest man in the world ; nobody suggests that for a moment. But I wish to make it clear that I impugn neither his ability nor his lack of devotion to the service to which he is especially paid to devote his energies. It is idle at this time to discuss the wisdom of sending Kim to London at all. He is there, and is supposed to be doing work which previously cost a great deal of money to be performed by other methods.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 io 7.45 p.m.
– I was saying when we adjourned for dinner that the position of Captain Collins is a most anomalous one. To all intents and purposes he is carrying out in miniature, and in an unofficial kind of way, the duties of a Hig’
Commissioner. It occurs to me that either we ought to end the present anomalous condition of affairs, or give Captain Collins *a very much better status than he has, and certainly place at his disposal a very much larger sum of money than we do. I have no doubt that any one going to London mow, and seeking information regarding the Commonwealth, must find his way naturally and inevitably to the offices of Captain Collins, and to put it on the lowest possible ground, it must be a matter of very considerable expense to that gentleman to do the needful to the visitors who call upon him from time to time. We are told that in the purchase of materials, and in other directions, he acts as agent for the Commonwealth. Every one knows what it means in the way of expense to have to deal with such matters, in the business heart of London. Reference has been made to several matters in connexion with which it is alleged that Captain Collins has not been very successful. But the late Prime Minister very properly, I think, exonerates him from all responsibility in connexion with those matters.
– Hear, hear. We take the responsibility. ,
– As I interjected when the honorable member for Dalley was speaking, it is just possible that Captain Collins has been able in London to cover, up a great deal of blundering that has occurred -at this end. Take, for instance, the case of the negotiations in connexion with the letting of the mail contract.
– Why is the honorable member trying to be nasty ?
– Is there anything nasty about that statement? Does the honorable member for Hume suggest that he has never blundered in all his life ?
– I like the frankness of that reply. I believe the honorable gentleman is the one perfect Minister, who has always done all things well, and in the way in which they should lae done j but, somehow or other, the people generally have the idea that the honorable member had just as many Ministerial foibles, and made just as many mistakes, as the average Minister. I have no doubt that Captain- Collins has always done his best, and we have a right to give him credit for having tried to do his best, to put through the various matters committed to his charge from time to time. Mistakes have been made, and I venture to think that the record of the procedure connected with the selection of various sites for Commonwealth offices in London is one of which no Government need be particularly proud. If we take, for instance, the first site proposed, it is asserted in official circles in London that there was never any serious intention on the part of the Commonwealth Government to conclude the purchase of that site, as was suggested here. Only the other day, I was reading the Manchester Guardian, and I came across this statement made by Lord Elcho, Chairman of the Public Improvements Committee of the London County Council.
– During his speech, he announced that -
The Aldwych site provisional lj’ chosen by the Commonwealth Government for its new agency offices is again in the market, as the Australian Ministers have not shown a serious temper in the negotiations.
– That is absolutely ‘ incorrect, and has been proved to be incorrect.
– That is what Lord Elcho said at a meeting. He further said that he would be glad even now to have the Commonwealth Government as a purchaser j but as they did not come along, the site was in the market for. whoever would accept it.
– The best answer to that is, that he has been waiting for more than twelve months, and has not yet had an ‘ offer at his price. We made him a definite offer at a certain price ; the same price as that paid by Victoria.
– Slightly higher.
– Might I ask the honorable member for Ballarat how he and his Government arrived at what they considered to be a fair price?
– At the moment, by the price which the London County Council accepted from Victoria.
– The honorable gentleman and the honorable member for Hume were both in London at the same time, and I suppose they inspected the site for themselves.
– Is the honorable member going to connect this with the vote before the Committee?
– I am trying to show that we ought not to blame Captain Collins for. any business in London which did not turn out as it ought to have done.
Two members of the late Ministry admit that Captain Collins had nothing whatever to do with the selection of the site first proposed for Commonwealth offices in London, and we have the statement of Lord Elcho that the late Government were never serious in their efforts to secure that site.
– We made a definite otter for it.
– Every one knows what has taken place in connexion with the last site suggested.- No one can read the papers submitted in connexion with the proposed purchase of that site without being struck by the singular want of business acumen they disclose. I hope, therefore, that we shall not blame Captain Collins for all these failures of negotiations that have not turned out satisfactorily. Ex-Ministers * take full responsibility for the initiation, negotiation, and final completion, so far as any were completed, of all larger matters of public policy and concern. But whilst we exonerate Captain Collins from blame in connexion with them, it seems to me that these things only emphasize the anomaly of the position he occupies.
– Hear, hear ! We want a High Commissioner.
– Captain Collins is in London, surely to do just this kind of work, if it is necessary that it should be done. He is in receipt of a good salary. He has some officers assisting him who are in receipt of decent salaries, and, having the whole of the paraphernalia of a High Commissioner’s office, all these failures are occurring in a way which does not add to our credit in London, or to the high opinion which should be held of Commonwealth prudence and sagacity. This arises from the fact that Captain Collins is without sufficient power and status. He has only the semblance of an office, which he is unable, from financial aud other reasons tq fill. In my judgment, the present condition of things should be put an end to as soon as possible. Captain Collins did good work as Secretary to the Defence Department, and would do good work in that position if he were recalled tomorrow. To keep him in London expecting him to perform the duties of a High Commissioner, and expect him to do the work which we require to have done there is unreasonable, and unfair to Captain Collins and to the Commonwealth.
– Is he not merely in the position of a banqueteer?
– The honorable member for Dalley suggests that he is a “banqueteer.” I do not know what significance he attaches to that word, but before he entered the Chamber I was pointing out that Captain Collins has to incur a great deal of personal expenditure owing to the very anomalous position which he occupies. We all know that, when they are in England, unofficial persons make it a point to call upon him - business and commercial men from Australia - and he can hardly be expected to treat them exactly as he would treat a stranger. He has to do what he thinks he ought to do as the representative of the Commonwealth. If we are going to retain his services in London, the money which we are now voting to him is not sufficient. Instead of surrounding him with1 the status of a Commonwealth representative, we ought to take steps at the earliest possible moment to put our London representation upon a proper footing. At the present time, Captain Collins is not satisfied with his position, and we are not satisfied with what he is able to do. He is neither a mere commercial agent, nor is he in a position to do what he ought to do as the representative of Australia in the higher and larger sense. For that reason I hope that this is the last occasion upon which we shall see on the Estimates a vote of this kind for Captain Collins in connexion with the London office.
.- I should not have said a word at this juncture but for the fact that the honorable member for Parramatta quoted what had been said by Lord Elcho, President of the London County Council, in regard to a site for Commonwealth offices in London. I will tell honorable members exactly what transpired in this connexion. But before doing so, I wish to say that since then it has been clearly shown that Lord Elcho was wrong in the statement which he made. At the time when the ex-Prime Minister and myself were in ‘London, at his desire I examined about eight sites for Commonwealth offices, including the Strand, or Aldwych site.
– I understand that the honorable member is making a personal explanation ?
– Yes. Through Captain Collins I approached the London County Council, which has a Committee to deal with matters of this kind, the said Committee meeting once every three months. At the time of which I speak, this body was not to meet again until after the ex- Prime Minister and myself had quitted England, and therefore the only person with whom the matter could be discussed was one of its accredited officers, who was brought to our rooms for the purpose. Through him the site in the Strand was offered to us at the price which we then understood was the price paid by Sir Thomas Bent for a corner block there. Since then, however, I have ascertained that Sir Thomas Bent acquired the block in question for less than the price quoted to us. We were offered the Strand site at a price which was not to exceed 13s. per foot.
– Did you get the offer in writing?
– I got it embodied in a letter from the only authority from which it could be obtained, seeing that the Committee of the London County Council was not then sitting. I brought the proposal before this Parliament, and obtained its authority to purchase the site at a price which was not to exceed 14s. per foot. But immediately that had been done the London County Council increased its price to 16s. per foot with the result that the offer was declined. Through the exPrime Minister a further offer was subsequently made - an offer to purchase the site at a sum exceeding that which we anticipated paying in the first instance, but not exceeding the 14s. per foot at which Parliament had authorized us to buy. The reason the negotiations fell through was owing to the London County Council not adhering to the honorable arrangement which was arrived at whenwewere in London. I afterwards took the opportunity of showing that the statement of Lord Elcho was incorrect.
– The offer whichwas made by the representative of the London County Council was made subject to its approval by the Committee of that body, just as the offer made by the honorable memberwas subject to its approval by this Parliament?
– Yes. Parliament authorized us to purchase the site at a price not to exceed 14s. per foot. We should have closed the bargain had
Ave been able to purchase at that rate. But the London County Council would not accept less than 16s. per foot.
– Was it not 15s. per foot?
– No. The London County Council asked 16s. per foot for the block that Ave desired, and 15s. per foot for an inferior area.
– Therewas nothing dishonorable in the Committee refusing to sanction the offerwhich had been made.
– I think that its memberswere morally bound by the arrangementwhich had been arrived at.
– Just as the Commonwealth was bound in reference to the Trafalgar Square site?
– Practically. Subsequently another sitewas offered to the Commonwealth, but the Senate disapproved of its acquisition. Regarding Captain Collins, Iwish to say that I had experience of that officer when Iwas acting Minister of Defence. Prior to that time, I knew comparatively nothing of him. But during my term as Acting Minister of Defence I was very much impressedwith his ability, his faculty for organization, and the manner in which he stood as a buffer between the Minister and the Defence Department. No man has stood up for his Minister,who occupies a very difficult position - any honorable member who becomes Minister of Defence will soon seewhat a hornet’s nest he has about him - sowell as has Captain Collins.
– What does the honorable member mean by ‘’ stood up “ ?
– I mean that he has acted as a buffer between the Defence Department, in its attempts to get more than it ought to obtain, and the Minister. The position is a very difficult one, and Captain Collins is the best officer Ave ever had to insist that too much money should not be spent by the Department.
– Does not the honorable member think that he ought to be kept in a good job like that?
– Captain Collins has had an opportunity of getting into certain diplomatic channels in London which enable him to be of great assistance to any Minister and to anybody from Australia who may visit the Old Country.
– Is it not a rather anomalous state of affairs tohave the Secretary of Defence in London ?
– Captain Collins is really not in London as the Secretary of the Defence Department.
– Then he ought not to be there and still be Secretary for Defence.
– 1 differ from ,the honorable member. It may be that he ought to be placed in a different Department. Most of the work requiring to be done in London consists of making pur- chases and of receiving moneys and making payments in connexion with the Defence Department
– The honorable member knows that the Defence Department ought .to be managed from Australia and not from London. *
– But somebody has to supervise the purchase of materials
– That is another question -entirely.
– I do not think that it is. Captain Collins has done a great work in financial matters and in effecting savings in interest payments. (He makes the main purchases of the Defence Department, and the material bought is paid for by him. The performance of this duty keeps him in contact -with the Department here.
– Has he special knowledge, enabling him to buy to advantage?
– He can employ men who have special knowledge, and his own knowledge is greater than some honorable members may think.
– He could not become a proper buyer of warlike stores without getting a fire-master’s certificate.
– He knows the channels through which our business is conducted, and sees that we are not paying too much for what we buy.
– Then, would it not be betiter to call him Purchaser to the Commonwealth ?
– I am not dis- cussing what his title should be. When we appoint a High Commissioner, and he -comes to know Captain Collins, he will ask for his assistance, so that he may avail himself of his knowledge of the work. Honorable members have spoken about the failures which have occurred, but, if there have been failures, none are attributable to Captain Collins. He has acted very carefully, and has carried out his instructions well. Whether it would be a wise thing, if a good man could be obtained, to succeed him in London, to bring him back to the Defence Department here,’ is a question which I do not wish to debate now. He is certainly a good man in his present position.
– What is his position ?
– He represents the Commonwealth in regard to the purchase of defence and other material, and attends to the communications which pass daily between this Government and London.
– He is, in fact, the High Commissioner, without that title.
– He is doing a great deal of the work which, if a High Commissioner were appointed, would still go through him. Some time ago an attempt was made to pass a Bill providing for the appointment of a High Commissioner, and in the Senate it was amended to require that the appointment should be made by Parliament.
– A resolution to that effect was carried in the Senate. The matter was not dealt with in an amendment to a Bill.
– Perhaps the honorable member is right. The Prime Minister of the day felt that the Government should not hand over to Parliament its responsibility for an appointment of this kind, and, therefore, a High Commissioner has not yet been appointed. I do not wish to champion Captain Collins unduly; but in London I received great assistance from him - as would any other visitor to the world’s metropolis - and found him to be a good man. Were I appointed High Commissioner, I should certainly ask for his help as my second.
.- What has been said by the honorable member for Hume furnishes the strongest reason for giving Captain Collins a definite position in London. The honorable member says that that officer would make an ideal lieutenant for a High Commissioner, an excellent man to be at the High Commissioner’s elbow. If it has been in the mind of the honorable member, and, consequently, largely in the mind of the last Government, which sent ‘Captain Collins to London, that he should be retained there until the appointment of a High Commissioner, to act afterwards as the High Commissioner’s second, it is time to put our Defence Department in order, by appointing a permanent Secretary, to reside in Australia. The Department is at present in a state of almost chaos, the administration being changed from day to day in the endeavour to patch up matters. Under these circumstances there is no excuse for keeping the Secretary in London, 12,000 miles away from the proper sphere of his labours. I have nothing to urge against. Captain Collins. The honorable member for Hume says that he was very useful to him in London, and I believe him to be a good man. It would be the grossest abuse of privilege to endeavour to hold him responsible for some of the gross blunders which have been perpetrated in London in the name of the Commonwealth during the last few years. He has acted merely as our agent, and has done so to the best of his ability. If he is to continue so to act, he should receive a definite appointment as agent of the Commonwealth. At present his anomalous position does not tend to advertise Australia to advantage. As an agent, he is everything to be desired, but, although in the minds of a large number of persons in London, he figures as a sort of High Commissioner, his salary is small, and it is not fair to ask his purse to bear the demands made upon it by the duties of such an office. He endeavours to cope with the position to the best of his ability, and his efforts are of no mean nature, as has been evidenced by the praise of the honorable member for Hume. He has been very useful to a number of Australians in London ; but it is not fair to Captain Collins or to the Defence Department to continue him in his present position as agent for the Commonwealth and Secretary to the Department. I have, on several previous occasions when discussing the Estimates, dealt with this glaring anomaly. The time has come for it to cease. I hope the new Ministry will put Captain Collins on a proper footing in London, if it is thought best to keep him there, and will put the Defence Department on a proper footing, by appointing a Secretary to live and carry on his work in Australia.
– r do not wish it to be inferred, from anything I said while the honorable member for Hume was speaking, that I have any feeling against Captain Collins, or in the slightest measure underrate his ability. He is a very able man, and while in the service of Australia, will do excellent work, whether located here or in London. But I object emphatically to the farce of allowing the Secretary to the Defence Depart ment to remain continuously 12,000 milesaway from head-quarters, I further object to a man being kept to do his work forthe salary attaching to the second position-, on the staff. I have never had from the Chief Clerk any but letters of a formal character connected with the business of the Department, and I have never heard’ him utter a word of complaint about hisposition. But I regard it as unfair that, asActing Secretary, he should control that very important spending Department for the pay of Chief Clerk.
– Does he not receive a living wage?
– No doubt j but theman who is charged with the responsibility of administering an immense Department should receive an adequate salary, and thesalary of the Secretary to the Defence Department being £900, the present Chief Clerk should be paid that amount, because he is doing the work of the office.
– And doing it well.
– Yes. Captain Collins,, too, for all I know- to the contrary, is doing’ good work in London. I believe that everything the honorable member for Hume said’ about him is more than justified. That may be a reason why his retention in London should be advocated. But I protest against the continuance of the present anomalous position. I trust that the Ministry will terminate it at an early date.
– We have promised todo so.
– It should be done. Whoever is appointed High Commissioner will require a permanent official at his elbowto conduct the routine work of the office.
– He need not betoo highly paid.
– I do not share theopinion of some honorable members as to the advisability of keeping down salaries. If a man does good work, he should bepaid an adequate salary. What applies to members of Parliament should apply to public servants. Decent salaries should bepaid for efficient work. Without such salaries, we shall not get good men. Thereis therefore nothing to prevent the appointment of Captain Collins to a permanent position in London, even before a High Commissioner is appointed. It is needlessto wait for that event before coming to a final determination regarding his position.
.- I waspleased to hear the honorable member for-
Hume speak so highly of Captain Collins. It is well known that the work which that officer has done in London as the representative of the Commonwealth has been done well. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that he is not paid as well as he should be. In my opinion, “he does not get more than half of what he should get. As Secretary to the Defence Department, he is paid a salary of £900, and he also receives an ‘ allowance of £150 - which does not cover his cab fares - making altogether £1,050. That sum in London is not the equivalent of £900 in Melbourne. Captain Collins is virtually acting as High Commissioner, and is so recognised by the Imperial Government, and those in high positions in the Old Country. Is it creditable to us, then, that he should receive so small a salary ? If this Government is going to appoint a High Commissioner, why not appoint Captain Collins? Any one else who is appointed would have to get Captain Collins to initiate him in his duties.
– Would not Sir William Lyne make a good Commissioner?
– I would not go to London.
– He would make an excellent High Commissioner, but he could not do without Captain Collins. I should need Captain Collins, were I High Commissioner.
– -Why not make Captain ‘Collins Acting-High Commissioner ?
– I have just suggested that. While Parliament is making up its mind - which takes a long time - we might well ‘appoint Captain Collins to act. I hope that on the Supplementary Estimates the Ministry will propose further remuneration to him. Were it in my power, as a private member, I should move to increase his salary. During a recent visit to London, I plainly saw that £900 a year is a paltry sum for the representative of the Commonwealth to receive.
– Does Captain Collins occupy that position?
– He occupies the position, and does the work, of a High Commissioner. If the honorable member for Hume were appointed High Commissioner, he would do only the same work; but he would need not less than ,£5,000 a year, a sum which, although it may seem large to Australians, leases but little unspent when the annual obligations of a position like this have been met.
.- It is abundantly evident that Captain Collins has been able, during the visit of certain members to London, to show them such consideration that they have come back with a good report. I agree that the position ot Secretary to the Defence Department ought to be definitely settled, and for that reason I am pleased to hear that the Minister of External Affairs proposes to make an alteration in the present arrangement. The Minister having been in office only for a few days, could not be expected to remodel the whole of the Estimates, and deserves sympathy for having to take the responsibility for some of the proposals of the late Government. A little further explanation is needed as to Captain Collins’ position, and the attitude of the late- Government towards the question of appointing a High Commissioner. The honorable member for Hume seems to be thoroughly seized of the fact that it is highly important in the interests of Australia, and has been so for a considerable time”, that a High Commissioner should be appointedWhy, then, did not the Government of which he was a member fill the position? Why have they waited for years in order suddenly to spring this expression of their opinion upon the House? The reason given by the honorable member for the inaction of the late Government is one of the most extraordinary that I have ever listened .to. Some of the actions of the late Government, I admit, require a good deal of explanation, but for the ex-Treasurer to inform the Committee now that the position of High Commissioner ought to have been filled, and that it is necessary in the interests of the future welfare of Australia to fill it as soon as possible, and then to explain that the late Government did not fill it on account of a resolution carried ir> another place, is one of the most unsatisfactory statements that I have ever heard. The resolution referred to was carried about four years ago. Why did not the late Government, if they were so impressed with the importance of filling the position, take some action during all that time?
– We had the honorable member barking at us all the time.
– It was the duty of the late. Government to express their opinion definitely to the House, and if the resolution of another place stood in the way they should have asked for its removal.
– Does it not stand in the way equally now?
– I hope the present Minister will not let it interfere with his decision.
– So far as I am concerned, it does not stand in the way.
– The reason given by the honorable member for Hume for the inaction of the late Government is one of the most flimsy that could possibly be advanced. I hope that the present Government, if they think it desirable to fill the position immediately, will not be influenced by it. Whether we appoint a High Commissioner or not, we ought definitely to settle the position of responsible head of the Defence Department.
.- If anything could give a man a pain in the epi- . gastrium, it would be the way in which a lot of members are defending Captain Collins. Each of them has said that that officer is very obliging to visitors to London. The least that any official of the Commonwealth stationed in London can do is to be obliging, but I do not accept the dictum that, because he has wet-nursed certain visitors to London so well, he is therefore the London representative of the Commonwealth. I know that he was the whitehaired boy of the right honorable member for Swan. Before he got the post, he pestered the very soul-case out of the honorable member to be allowed to go to London. I have never heard so much slobber in my life over a Government official as I have heard to-day. If we pay a man a salary, and he does his work well, there is no need for us to go on our bended knees and slobber over him. He is there to do his work, and if he does not do it, it is the duty of members of Parliament to attack him.
– There is no necessity to abuse him.
– If an official is so thinskinned that he cannot take an attack, what sort of a representative will he make? We all have to stand attacks. I have no personal antagonism towards Captain Collins, and have waited carefully to hear something in his defence, but no one has told us what he does. The honorable member for Oxley says that he tries to represent the Commonwealth. He is not asked to do so. If he, or any other official in a similar capacity, tries to ape the Commissioner, it is his look-out. His mission in London, as the honorable member for Hume says, is to inspect certain supplies required for the Defence Department. If Captain Collins assumes functions he has no right to assume - if he blows himself out like a frog, and calls himself the representative of the Commonwealth - let him do so at his own expense. I do not think that the Imperial authorities look on him as the Commonwealth representative, but as simply an official at £900 a year. If Captain Collins is worth more, by all means let us pay him more; but I do not see that the fact that he obliges Australian visitors in London is sufficient reason for raising his salary. I am not attacking Captain Collins as an individual, but simply endeavouring to point out that, if he is a capable defence administrator, we are losing his services here. The right honorable member for Swan cannot deny that Captain Collins pestered him in reference to this appointment.
– I was not Minister of Defence at the time.
– But the right honorable member cannot deny what I have said. I should like a man of more independent nature to represent the Commonwealth; such a representative should be the most capable man that Australia can produce. If Captain Collins is not “ big enough for the position, do not let him pretend to be the representative of the Commonwealth. If he is only a clerk, to advise the Government in small matters, he is amply paid ; but if he is the representative of the Commonwealth, he is not paid enough. It is one thing or the other.
.- The arrangement under which Captain Collins was sent to London was never, so far as I understand, intended to last so long. He went there for the special purpose of superintending the purchase of military stores, and also to act for the Treasury in regard to the payment of money Prior to this arrangement all that business was done through the various Agents-General, and we never received any interest for the balances that were to our credit. It was not a convenient arrangement, and it was felt necessary to have one central agency for the purchase of military stores, and through which financial business might be carried on. When I was in England in 1906, I made arrangements with the Bank of
England - an arrangement which, I believe, is in existence now - under which, any moneys to our credit could bear interest, if even only for a week, the bank making a certain charge, and guaranteeing the transaction. The result of this has been that the Commonwealth has saved a great deal more money than has paid for the whole of the expenses of the agency. In my opinion, we have in this way made a good financial bargain, and have, moreover, all the convenience of a central authority, instead of relying on the six separate States agencies. It was in 1906 that this arrangement was made, and, as I have said, it was never intended to last so long. Until to-night I did not know die reason why a High Commissioner has not been appointed. Of course, I may say that Captain Collins always had his eye on an appointment as Secretary to the High Commissioner, and he made no secret of the fact, and, in my opinion, he would be -a most valuable officer in the position. As to the Secretary for Defence, the circumstances are such as arise, when any head of .the Department goes on leave. The second officer remains in charge, and the circumstances are in his favour because he obtains prominence and establishes a claim to the position. I should be very glad indeed if a permanent appointment could be given to Captain Collins in London, and his excellent second in command appointed in his place here. It is within the power of the Government to appoint Captain Collins as Secretary to the High Commissioner, when one is appointed.
– That is quite impossible now.
– Because Captain Collins has hitherto been the principal person in London.
– In my opinion that is. a ridiculous view, because Captain Collins has only been Secretary to the Department under the Treasurer.
– He would assume the other position.
– Captain- Collins has had only to carry out his instructions. I am sure that Captain Collins does not desire to take any special responsibility on himself, or to be considered as High Commissioner, because there is the cable, which he can always use.
– He assumes the position.
– I do not know that he does, I told him that all he had to do was to carry out instructions, and I think he has done that very well. Captain Pethebridge may not have received a permanent appointment as soon as he might like, but if Captain Collins returned, Captain Pethebridge would not get his promotion. I think the best plan is to allow the present arrangement to go on a little longer, and when a High Commissioner is appointed, to make Captain Collins the Secretary.
– Not at all.
– That, at all events, is my opinion. Captain Pethebridge could then be appointed, as he well deserves to be, Secretary for Defence.
– What about the appointment of a High Commissioner?
– We must first of all decide as to the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States. At present, pending the transfer of the States debts and in the absence of an immigration policy, there is really little for a High Commissioner to do in London except to act as the figure-head of the Commonwealth there.
– We require a representative all the time to be in the public eye.
– That is, no doubt, the case; but we have been talking so much about the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States and doing so little that if a High Commissioner were appointed at present he could do nothing more than represent the Commonwealth on all important occasions in London. There is, however, a great deal awaiting our attention which will involve very responsible and heavy work for the High Commissioner. I rose only to say that in my opinion there is no cause for complaint in regard to the position occupied by Captain Collins in London. It certainly was not intended when he was first sent to London that -he should remain as long as he has done; but he has saved the Commonwealth a good deal more than his office has cost us, and all he has been instructed to do he has done well.
.- There is one point in regard to which some confusion exists. Honorable members, and especially the right honorable member for Swan, have pointed out clearly the duties that attached to Captain Collins’ office when he was first sent to London. Those duties were in themselves very important, relating as they did to sundry financial duties, and to the making of payments for warlike stores and to seeing that they were properly passed.
– Mere routine work.
– Quite so. That is one side of his office in regard to which I have nothing to complain. But there is still another to which reference has been made. We have listened to the eloquent remarks of the honorable member for Oxley in regard to the work done by Captain Collins, and the honorable member for Hume has assured us that he was very useful to him in London. I wish to know whether Cap-, tain Collins was sent to London to be useful to gentlemen like the honorable member for Hume, or was he sent there to carry out the departmental routine work to which the right honorable member for Swan has referred ? I confess that I have some difficulty in apprehending the exact situation. If he was sent there to attend to routine work it was distinctly unfair for the honorable member for Hume to trespass upon his valuable time ; if, on the other hand, he was sent to London to attend to highly important diplomatic work his salary is inadequate and ought to be increased. I say without fear of contradiction, that if his labours in London include the truly awful duty of “ wetnursing,” as the honorable member for Dalley put it, the honorable member for Hume, his salary is altogether insufficient.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 14 (Papua),, £20,000.
.- The administration of Papua ought to be taken into serious consideration. We were informed recently that the Government had appointed an Administrator and also a Lieutenant-Governor of the Territory. Although that may have been in conformity with the policy of compromise so often put forward by the late Ministry, I certainly expected ‘ something better from the present occupants of the Treasury bench. There seems to have been no justification for the creation of two offices instead of one. It would appear that there were two applicants for the position of Administrator, and that the late Government wished to offend neither of them since one was their own friend and the other was the friend of the party which* was keeping them in power. That being,; so, they hit upon the very happy means of getting out of the difficulty by appointingthe two of them. We have not been ableto ascertain exactly where the duties of the Lieutenant-Governor end and where those - of the Administrator begin.
– Has the honorable member ever asked for the information ?
– The right honorablemember for Swan did so.
– He inquired what, was the constitutional position in regard to appointments and he received a reply. It is unfair for the honorable member tosay that he cannot obtain information when he has not asked for it.
– Perhaps the Ministerwill be good enough to give us the information when I resume my seat. The Housewas certainly entitled to some explanation when the appointments were made. Theappointment of Judge Murray as LieutenantGovernor of Papua does- not commend itself to my mind. Honorable members are fairly well familiar with the whole position in regard to Papua and are aware of the strong feeling which existed against: the late Administrator, Captain Barton, and led to the appointment of the Royal Commission.
– He was hounded out of office.
– If any one man led: the party against Captain Barton it wasJudge Murray. He placed himself at thehead of one faction, and Captain Barton, was at the head of the other. It is only natural to suppose, and indeed we know, that in such a community consisting of only 700 or 800 white men, feeling ran very high, and that the two parties were very clearly divided. The defeat of the one party by the practical retirement ot Captain Barton put the other party for the moment in power. But it did not lessenin any way the feeling of antagonism. It was essential that some disinterested personwho had not been mixed up in this faction fight should, in the interests of the Territory, be appointed. But, instead of thatbeing done, we find that the man who, at any rate, had the credit of having hounded’ Captain Barton out of the position, the man whose actions in the matter had been traversed from time to time and commented upon unfavorably, the man whohas alienated from himself the sympathy- of a certain number of people in Papua, has been appointed to take over the administration and to manage the Territory. What reasonable hope is there of Judge Murray being now able to tone down the feeling which he was partly responsible for creating?
– What is the precise charge which the honorable member makes against Judge Murray ? All that the hon- orable member says is that he was a party to hounding out Captain Barton.
– I say that he was the leader of one faction.
– Doss the honorable member know that he was wrong?
– What has that to do with the matter?
– It has everything to do with it.
– I do not think that it “has. It was very undesirable that either party should be allowed to triumph.
– Even if Judge Murray was right in his contention, does the honorable member say that he should be turned out of the service?
– I did not say that. Neither of the persons who was a leader of a faction should have been appointed. There was an opportunity of appointing an outside man in Mr. Staniforth Smith. Although he does not fill the bill absolutely, to my mind, I think his appointment would have been a better one than that which has been made.
– Was the honorable member in favour of the retirement of Captain Barton?
– I think that, in many respects, he was an unsuitable man for the position?
– Was the honorable member in favour of his retirement?
– We must remember that the Royal Commission did not find that the charges against Captain Barton were substantiated. His retirement was purely voluntary.
– Was the honorable member in favour of his retirement?
– There is no doubt that Judge Murray is charged with being biased, and I believe that he is very often biased in his judgments and in his appointments. Some time ago, when a miner, whose name for the moment I have for- -gotten, but it appears on the papers and on the records in the office, appealed to the
Executive against a decision of the lower Court, Judge Murray overruled the appeal because notice was not given in the lower Court. But when a man named Horan, who is reported to be a friend of Judge Murray, was in exactly similar circumstances, he was allowed to appeal.
– I am told that the facts are as I have stated them. I should like to see the papers.
– Certainly ; but my recollection is that Judge Murray’s report disposes of that accusation. I am speaking from memory, but that is my impression.
– My authority is a good one, and I am. told that the facts in the two cases are exactly similar; that Horan gave no notice of appeal at the lower Court ; and that Judge Murray allowed him to appeal to the higher Court without notice. Mr. Naylor, one of the* assistant magistrates is, perhaps, one of the best officers we have in Papua. He has been for .some years in the northern district of Papua, which is the wildest and worst district to administer ih the Territory. Mr. Naylor was entitled by seniority, and by the character of the work he had done, to a more central appointment when a vacancy occurred. The practice had been that a new man should be sent to bear his share of the hard work in an outlying district. But when Mr. O’Malley went up as a resident magistrate, and there was a vacancy at Port Moresby, the Administration, instead of bringing Mr. Naylor down from the northern district, and appointing him to a somewhat easier position in Port Moresby, appointed Mr. O’Malley, the new officer, to the easier position, and left Mr. Naylor where he was.
– Does the honorable member recommend the appointment of a new man to a wild district?
– I think that the old practice worked out very well, and that the new men should bear their share of the brunt of the difficult work. Mr. Naylor was a new officer when he was sent up to the northern district. He has proved his worth, and is entitled to a little ease.
– Does the honorable member believe in putting the recruits in the front rank of the battle?
– The fact that the practice has been to send new officers to the more difficult districts, showed that the
Executive Council did not consider that it was a question of putting recruits in the front of the battle. But it is said that Mr. O’Malley is a personal friend of Judge Murray, whilst Mr. Naylor was not. Another matter to which I wish to call attention is one which Parliament and the Excutive will have to take into very careful consideration. I refer to the recruiting of native labour. On consideration we must come to the conclusion that native labour recruiting should be done under Government supervision. At the present time, licences arc issued to recruit native labour. The holders of licences have to make certain declarations as to the facts which they have put before the natives when recruiting them. In passing, I may say that I was glad to notice that one of these recruiters was prosecuted for making a false declaration not long ago.
– Is he still recruiting?
– I do not know the result of the prosecution ; but it is a known fact that in many cases these declarations are false. One man went upto recruit some labourers at a place called Kerepunu. He recruited thirty-six natives, telling them that they were to be brought down to work on the plantations near Port Moresby. He got their articles signed at a place called Rego, and then he took them on board a boat and carried them to the north-east coast to work at the mines. Many of them very strongly objected to working at the mines, and when they found they had been deceived they bolted home overland. Unfortunately, some twenty-three of them were killed by hostile tribes on the way, and only thirteen of them arrived at Kerepunu in safety.
– Did Judge Murray report that?
– I never heard of such a case.
– And we never shall hear from Judge Murray.
– How are the natives to be prevented from running away?
– The point is that the natives were engaged under false pretences.
– Who says so ?
-Only the natives themselves, and of course they do not count.
– The natives do count.
– There is some proof that theywere engaged under false pre tences in the fact that as soon as they got to the mines, they bolted back home.
– Can the honorablemember give me some idea of the date of this occurrence?
– This happened about eighteen months ago. I have not the exact date, but I believe that is about the time. The resident magistrates do their best, and I have no wish to accuse them, but I feel that we must make some alteration in the system of recruiting native labour. It is becoming every day more and more a scandal.
– Who says so, and on what grounds?
– I am prepared to say so.
– The honorable member’s “say so” does not mean anything unless he can give the facts.
– I have just mentioned one fact.
– I do not know that it is a fact.
– I think that the recruiting of native labour should be carried out directly under the Government. The Government should see that the natives understand exactly where they are going and what they are to do.
– All the recruiters are licensed, and to that extent, if not selected men, they are at least approved of by the Government.
Colonel Foxton. - But they have an interest in the numbers recruited.
– The difficulty is that the interest of the recruiting agent is purely a matter of dollars. He gets from £2 to £5 or £6 per head for native labourers, and when he recruits them and gets them on the job his interest in them ceases altogether.
– It is like the bad system under which kanakas were recruited for Queensland.
Colonel Foxton. - Exactly, but that was twenty-five years ago.
– There is a temptation to the recruiting agents to misrepresent things to the natives. I do not know whether the Department has had any reports as to the present state of the native police in Papua. The Royal Commission recommended that the office of Commissioner of Police should be done away with, and’ the management of the native police left in the hands of the assistant resident magistrates. That has not been found to be altogether a success, as the native police are not now so well organized and drilled as they were under the Commissioner of Police.
– Who says so? Excepting the Acting Commissioner himself, who has been dismissed, but is still in the Territory, I know of no one who has made such a suggestion.
– I am in a rather unfortunate position in not being able to give the name of my informant.
– Does the honorable member think that he ought to make these charges here without giving’ names? Ought he not to have communicated with the Department, so that they might have been inquired into, and the accuracy of the statements tested?
– Has the honorable member ever asked for the papers in connexion with the matters to which he refers?
– I can only say that I do not make these charges lightly.
– Certainly not ; but why not inform the Department, and give time for the papers to be looked up? Why spring these charges on the Minister, who has not had time to make himself acquainted with the facts in order to answer the honorable member?
– I say again that the urgency of the matters referred to, and the fact that it is proper to discuss the administration of the Department on these Estimates, is a sufficient warrant for my reference to these matters now.
– Quite so; but the honorable member ought surely to have given notice of his intention to deal with these matters as soon as he heard of them, if he desired an answer.
– Is the honorable member’s informant a missionary?
– He is neither a missionary nor an ex-missionary.
– The missionaries have never hesitated to communicate with the Department if they saw anything that needed attention, and’ they are not afraid to sign their names.
– After all, we must recognise that the missionaries do know something about these matters. They have played” a very important part in the development of the Territory. The ablest Administrator we have had, Sir William McGregor, paid a very high tribute to them, and it has been indorsed by, I think, every Minister of External Affairs who has come in touch with them. More than that, the missionaries and native teachers comprise a very large proportion of the civilized population of Papua. I will go so far as to say that they number as many, if not more, than the miners.
– I think not.
– I think the Minister of External. Affairs will find that the suggestion of the Royal Commission to do away with the Commissioner of Police has not been proved to be altogether a success. There have been instances in which it has not worked satisfactorily, and the organization of the police is not now as good as it was under the Commissioner. I do not wish to say anything further about Judge Murray, but very many of the officers who were working under him have gone. Mr. Monckton has gone, because, as he said himself, he would never work under Judge Murray. Mr. Drummond has gone. Hewas suspended, and I do not think that the Department treated him altogether f airly. I made representations in connexion with his case to the Department before. He was dismissed under a misunderstanding. I think that the officers of the Department practically admit that.
– I hope’ the honorable member does not take up the position that every one who has been dismissed or suspended is right and the Department wrong.
– No. The Department suspended Mr. Drummond, and then reinstated him. Whilst he was under suspension, his salary was reduced by, I think, £150 a year. Upon his reinstatement he ought to have received the full salary to which he was entitled whilst he remained in Papua. When I asked why he had not received that salary, the late Prime Minister replied that it was because he was not performing the duties of his office. That was the only explanation vouchsafed. Asthe Department by re-instating him practically acknowledged that he ought not to have been suspended, he ought to have been paid his full salary up to the date when he resigned. In speaking upon this item a few moments ago, the honorablemember for Herbert referred to the missionaries.
– I merely asked a question.
– Perhaps I ought to say that the missionaries of Papua are partly my informants upon the matter to which I am aboutto refer. Under the policy adopted by Sir William McGregor, the missionaries representing the various religious parties were confined to certain : areas. In order to prevent competition amongst the different Christian denominations, Sir William McGregor adopted what I regard as the very reasonable policy of alloting certain areas to certain religious bodies. That system worked very well, but Judge Murray is opposed to it. He entertains the view that all the Churches should be allowed to labour wherever they may desire. I think that we do not want to have anything which savours of competition amongst Christian teachers, especially in dealing with a native population.
– The honorable member wants trades unionism there.
– In my opinion the policy adopted by Sir William McGregor was the right one. In Papua the representatives of the differertt denominations ought to be confined to the areas allotted to them.
– Would not that be a very delicate step to take?
– A similar policy has been adopted in regard to the aborigines of Queensland, and especially along the northern coastline of that State.
– But the honorable member will not say that no other missionary is permitted to go there.
– I do not say that. But the Department ought to give its countenance and sanction to the policy adopted by Sir William McGregor.
– These denominations differ very widely in their methods and beliefs.
– They do.
– Would the honorable member deny certain denominations access to certain parts of the island?
– We cannot prevent any missionary visiting any portion of the island that he may choose. But the Department ought not to countenance that sort of thing. So far as possible we should seek to confine the various religious organizations to the different zones of influence allotted to them.
– The honorable member thinks that there should be certain State churches in different parts of the island ?
– Oh, no. I wish now to refer to the necessity which exists for checking the admission into Papua of undesirable immigrants. It was stated by Bishop Stone Wigg, at a meeting in Melbourne, which was presided over by the late Attorney-General, that it had been the tendency for persons to go to Papua who thought that the police were too numerous in Queensland. At any rate, there has been a certain amount of undesirable immigration into the Territory. That has been partly checked, but something more ought to be done. A greater check ought also to be imposed upon the intercourse between the black and white races. That is a problem which we must face just as it has to be faced in all other lands where the white man meets the black man.
– What does the honorable member suggest should be done to check undesirable immigration into the Territory ?
– Such immigrants should be sent back to the places from which they come. Some complaint has been made regarding the delay that has occurred in the granting of leases for which application has been made. Personally, I think that we ought to encourage a settled population in British New Guinea as opposed to a mining population.
– Is not a mining population a good one?
– Yes; but it is more or less of a fluctuating character.
– But it is always the foierunner of a settled population.
– I do not think that we have sufficient surveyors in Papua.
– A great difficulty is experienced in obtaining them.
– There is only one way of remedying that difficulty, and that is by paying them more adequately for their services. Just now there is a great scarcity of surveyors - especially in New South Wales. For instance, Mr. Drummond, who resigned from the Commonwealth service in Papua, was appointed to a much better position under the New South Wales Government immediately upon his return to that State.
– Our Papuan officers, speaking generally, are less well paid than are. our Australian public servants.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Ballarat admits that.
– The position ought to be the other way about.
– It ought to be, and if we are to obtain an effective service in Papua, we shall have to adopt a similar policy to that of the Imperial Government in reference to its Indian Civil Service, and offer special inducements to men to go there, either in the way of pensions, short service, or of bigger salaries. It is unreasonable to expect that men who can obtain employment here at £35° a Vear go to a tropical country like Papua for the same salary, or for £400 or £500 per annum. We want to offer bigger inducements to officers to go there, and until we do so, we shall not get the type of men that we require. Our resident magistrates, too, ought to be paid a great deal more than they are. An instance of the way in which we pay the officials is that of the Deputy Receiver of Customs at Port Moresby, who is in receipt of only about £250 a year, without allowances, whilst the clerk in charge of the records at the Lands Office - a very much inferior position - receives £275, with quarters. The whole of the salaries paid to our officers in New Guinea require to be revised, and, in ,a great many instances, increased.
– We are all agreed upon that matter.
– I am very glad to know that. I am convinced that we shall not secure effective administration in Papua until we establish a native Department there, similar to that which was established ;n Fiji.
– It has been established.
– Yes, a Protector ot Natives has been appointed.
– I am glad to hear that, because it was one of the points I wanted to make, and the interjection saves me the necessity of dwelling upon it.
– The honorable member for Nepean has made several suggestions which I am inclined to think are helpful, and may be carried out. He has also made certain charges against the administration of Papua. This is the proper place for criticism, and, undoubtedly, he had the right to bring the matter before the Committee, but I think that I am entitled to remark, especially in the circumstances in which I am placed to-night, that any honorable member should at least have let the Department know the nature of any charges which he intended to make, so that I might be in a position to answer them. It is manifestly unfair to the officers administering the Department that charges should be made here against their administration at the last moment, lt is impossible for me to inquire into them when they are made in that way. They have to go entirely unanswered, and the officers are prejudiced in the eyes of the public, because, apparently, there is no answer. That is not a fair position to put them in.
Colonel Foxton. - I am glad to hear the honorable gentleman say that.
– Honorable members are not only entitled, but it is their duty to bring forward what they regard as failures of administration at the proper opportunities, and this, of course, is one of them, but the Department should receive a fair notice of their intention, so that some officer may be here to furnish an answer. It is absolutely impossible for me, a.i honorable members can well understand, to know anything about cases, some of which are, according to the honorable member for Nepean, eighteen months old. So far as general questions are concerned, the position is not quite the same. The honorable member has suggested, for instance, that recruiting, as it is now cartied on, should be replaced with recruiting by the Government. It would be absurd for me to say that, in the short time I have had to look into the matter, I have crystallized my views on # the subject.-
– The suggestion is worth considering.
– Of course it is. One idea did occur to me, and I believe that it is the view taken by the officer administering the Department, and that is that recruiting by the Government, in a place like Papua, would be attended with some disadvantages. In dealing with uncivilized natives the prestige of the Government counts for a great deal. If recruiting by the Government were adopted, public officers would come to be looked upon as police officers; any suggestion would be taken by the natives as a command of the Government, and so we should interfere with their freedom of action. That must be remembered in dealing with any proposal.
– Exactly the same argument was used in connexion with the recruiting of kanakas.
– Probably that may have been the reason why humane men agreed for so long to allow “ blackbirding “ to exist. One abuse of a system does not justify a jump to the other extreme. I am not suggesting that any abuse is taking place in Papua, because I do not know that there is. But because the present system of giving the recruiting agents some interest in the number of persons whom they recruit, leads to some bad results it does not follow that it should be abolished in favour of a system of Government recruiting. It is a matter which merits careful consideration from both sides. We do not want the natives to believe that they are being coerced by police officers into taking up positions for any one.
Colonel Foxton. - Better that than have them imposed upon by licensees.
– That is perhaps not the only alternative. But I am not in a position now to say whether the Government are prepared to alter the present system. We believe that Papua was placed under the administration of the Commonwealth mainly for the purpose of protecting and preserving the natives, and after that, for its settlement and development.
– Hear, hear. Stick to that.
– I believe too that the men who go to Papua have that fact impressed upon them.
– That is not Judge Murray’s idea.
– I am quite certain that in making that statement the honorable member is not treating him fairly.
– Here is the evidence that it is not his idea.
– I believe that Judge Murray is as strongly imbued with feelings of humanity and a desire to protect the natives as is any member of this House. During the last two or three days I have had an opportunity of reading his latest report, which has not yet been printed.
– Why was not the House furnished with his report?
– The honorable member must know that it has only just come to hand. It is being printed. I do not think that it has been laid upon the table, but it certainly will be presented at the earliest opportunity. I have only just had an opportunity of going through the report with a view to having it placed on the table.
– It will be eighteen months old, or nearly so, before it is seen by honorable members.
– A resolution was come to here six months ago that the report should be presented before the Estimates for Papua were considered.
– I am not responsible for the delay in the presentation of the report. With regard to the appointment of Judge ‘Murray as LieutenantGovernor, it is necessary to state the position when the Government took office. As honorable members know, the trouble in Papua has arisen because of the division of its people into two factions or parties. The adoption of the two-party system is regarded in some parliamentary circles as the salvation of the political conditions in Australia, bringing in its train responsible government and various other things. But where you have a small community like that of Papua divided into two parties-
– Is it a fiscal issue which divides them?
– I do not think that it is a fiscal issue which is responsible for the position. According to the report of the Royal Commission and other reports which have come to hand, the people in Papua appear to be divided on everything under the sun. So long as “ the other fellow “ has a view on anything the parties on the other side take the opposite view. It was impossible to allow the condition of things which I have described, perhaps with some exaggeration - to continue, and the late Government having intended to make these appointments, Ministers thought it well to put an end to the existence of rival factions by giving effect to that intention. We felt that the sooner the matter was settled, the better it would be for Papua. The officers appointed are able and energetic men. Judge Murray was the senior of the two leading applicants for the positions. While he had acted as Lieutenant-Governor, the Territory had steadily progressed, and there was every reason for making him Lieutenant-Governor. The Director of Agriculture had been so successful that it was thought right to encourage further effort on his part by increasing his salary, and giving him the position of Administrator, to act as Lieutenant-Governor when the senior officer is absent.
– Cannot suitable men be got to go to Papua ?
– Men such as are required cannot be obtained every day.
– Judge Herbert seems to me a good man.
– He is an excellent man for his present position, and I hope will be, before long, Commonwealth Administrator of the Northern Territory, a bigger position than that of Administrator of Papua.
– Then Papua must be a small place.
– Is that why it has two Lieutenant-Governors ?
– It is not fair to say that. The Papua Act requires the appointment of a Lieutenant-Governor, and enacts that the Commonwealth Government may also appoint - which is practically a direction to appoint - an Administrator to act as Lieutenant-Governor when the latter is absent.
– And apparently when he is in the Territory, too.
– No. Petitions signed by practically a majority of the white adults of the Territory were presented in favour of these appointments.
– It is impossible to say that all the signatures attached to those petitions weregenuine.
– It is not likely, in a small place like Papua, that any but genuine signatures would be attached to such petitions.
– Strong representations were made to the Department by the other party.
– Most of the representations were in favour of the appointment of Judge Murray. To show the recent progress of the Territory, let me say that between the years 1905-6 and 1907-8 the area of land under lease for agricultural purposes there has increased from 2,089 acres to 242,395 acres.
– How much of that is held by syndicates ?
– I do not know.
– There is a limitation as to the area which can beheld by any body of proprietors.
– And it is impossible to undertake the growing ofrub ber without capital.
– Yes. The revenue of the Territory has increased in the same period from £19,274 to £26,019, the value of its imports from £67,188 to £94,061, and that of its exports from £76,435 to £80,616. The number of letters received has increased from 32,653 to 53,118, and of those despatched from 32,675 to 47,521. Those figures show that the Territory is progressing on right lines, and that the Government, instead of having done a great wrong, have done the right thing in appointing the gentleman who had control throughout the period during which this development has taken place. I shall be glad to make the fullest inquiries into the various methods of recruiting, and the means by which the interests of the natives are protected. Anything which savours of coercion, or tends to injure the natives, will have the strongest opposition of the Government. At the same time, I do not want to take violent steps to alter systems which have obtained without being quite sure that my action is wellgrounded.
.- It is unnecessary, after the statement of the Minister, to point, with that justifiable pride that would be perfectly appropriate, to the extraordinary strides that have been made in the settlement of Papua since the passage of the Papua Act three years ago. The transformation would be almost incredible, were it not that the figures supplied bear indisputable testimony to the reality of the growth. I wish it were supplemented, if it could be, by some fair estimate of the amount of capital which has been, and is being, invested in this large area of agricultural settlement. I understand that it is a very large amount, and that skilled men have been brought from other tropical countries - in one particular instance, at all events, - who are applying the best knowledge of the present day to the cultivation in this virgin soil of many valuable products. That broad situation should not be lost sight of by the Committee. Until that Act was passed, and, in fact, until very recently, the one cry has been for the furtherance of the development of Papua. We are in a position to say that that development has taken place, and is proceeding with a rapidity which the most sanguine would not have dared to estimate. Nor do I think it necessary to enter further into the vexed question of the appointments that have been made. It has to be recollected that Judge Murray, while Acting Administrator, has been conducting the duties of his office, coupled with that of Chief Justice, under the most disadvantageous circumstances possible. He was, so to speak, on his trial. He was liable to be surpassed by some other applicant for the post. He was still engaged in conflict with those of the old regime, with whom he had been in strong personal disagreement ever since his appointment, and, in these circumstances, the fact that not a single charge that has been made against him, in the many documents which have been rained upon the Department, has” been substantiated upon inquiry, is in itself a high testimony to his character and capacity to conduct the government of the territory under extremely difficult circumstances. I know next to nothing of Judge Murray personally. I know of .him from men well qualified to judge, and impartial, who speak of him in the highest terms. I believe, having regard to the circumstances in Papua, that no better choice was open to us. In supplementing his appointment by that of an Administrator, a step has been taken which was not, as has been suggested this evening, made in order at the last moment to solve a difficult situation. On the contrary, from the time when Mr. Staniforth Smith accepted an appointment in Papua, and devoted himself to the task of preparing himself for tropical administration with the ability which he possesses, and by an indefatigable training and discipline, I had him in mind as a suitable officer to be second in command in Papua. It is three years since the Act was passed, and it is more than two years since that design was formed, quite irrespective of whether Judge Murray would be chosen for the chief position or not. At the outset, when that design was formed, it was quite possible that he would have been asked to resume his duties as Chief Justice, and no others. It was only from experience of the actual work of Judge Murray in those’ troubled times that it became evident that it would be an injustice to Papua, and to a deserving public servant, if he were passed over. He now has his opportunity, with a fair field and no more favour than his circumstances have deserved. I trust that, on other occasions, the honorable member for Nepean, who, I am sure, would have followed that course if it had suggested itself to his mind earlier, will realize how impossible it is for any Minister tq reply to him as he would desire when specific statements, important or unimportant, are made for the first time across the table relating to events, some of them as much as eighteen months old. The Committee should reflect what the administration of Papua, so far as it is conducted from Melbourne, must mean. We are separated by a distance of several thousand miles, with means of communication so imperfect that you must wait for two to three months for a reply to letters, if you happen to reach the officer concerned in Port Moresby, or for a further period if he happens to be on tour, as many of the officers, and particularly the principal officer, are often obliged to be. Honorable members can, therefore, realize that charges made here remain unrefuted for so long that, although a generally unfavorable impression remains on the public mind, when the answer does come very few are able to trace it back to the circumstances out of which it arose.
– That is a strong argument for absolutely trusting the man administering the Possession.
– You must very largely trust a man at any such distance, but you are bound, in the discharge of your duty to Parliament, to require from him such full and minute accounts of his doings, and all particulars concerning them, that you may be able to answer statements made here. Necessarily, therefore, communications are voluminous. Having had the opportunity of being associated with Papua ever since the Act was passed, I have not only eagerly seized every opportunity of personal correspondence, semi-official or private, with persons in the Possession, but ha.ve taken means to see every officer who has passed through here, in order’ to obtain all information from him, to communicate with every missionary who has come from Papua, and to encourage their communications from the Territory. Traders write freely to the office, the higher officials write freely to their friends here, some of them write occasionally to the head of the Department, and, by this means, in one way or another, we have been kept in constant touch with everything going on in the Possession, through a variety of independent, and many of them unofficial, channels. Miners and storekeepers have also written. Papua being colonized by Australians, who are accustomed to express themselves freely and have an appreciation of the advantages of the post-office, the population “has been at no time unwilling to communicate with us. I can speak frankly as to the strong impression formed on my mind from all these sources of information, because, as honorable members are aware, I have not been in the Possession, and am very little acquainted with most of the persons who hold authority for the Commonwealth there. Looking at it independently, and with no other desire than to endeavour to master the situation, and to understand the developments that were occurring, I feel myself, on that evidence, perfectly competent to assure the Committee that practically none of the abuses which are suggested by some of the statements made by the honorable member for Nepean tonight are current in Papua. I do not wish to make the assertion too absolutely, because it would be rash to do so in regard to a country so extensive, and with a population so little penetrated by white influence, but I can assure honorable members that the missionaries have never hesitated to re-‘ port any proceedings which they thought departed from our high standard of civilization ; and residents have never scrupled to send on, not merely facts, but rumours. Every visitor, and every official, has been examined on these points, either on occasion of a visit to Australia, or by way of report; and, having patiently sifted these facts for three years, I have rarely found anything more than a blunder, and rarely any act, or omission to act, to call for that censure which would certainly be invited by such an incident as that recently mentioned. I understood the honorable member to say that a recruiting of natives took place about eighteen months ago, with the subsequent flight and death of a number. I have asked the Secretary, whose knowledge is more intimate, and whose memory is more trustworthy than, my own, and he says that no hint of such an occurrence has come from the magistrates, the goldfields’ residents, or other officers who ought to know the facts. No word has filtered through any channel of . such a case; and I venture to say that it is simply a myth.
– I am prepared to give the names.
– I hope that the honorable member can give the names. We have never, disregarded any complaints; but, on the contrary, have invited everybody to give testimony.
– Does the honorable member say that the recruiting work is satisfactory ?
– In regard to that, we have the testimony of the officers, who themselves are not personally interested, and of several visitors. Further, I have the testimony of a celebrated traveller - my recent unfortunate illness affects my memory as to names - who has visited Africa, South America, and Papua, and who said that, having observed the terms of the recruiting of native labour in some of the chief black labour countries of the world, he regards the system in Papua as being the most severe and complete.
– I think the visiting magistrates recommend that the recruiting should be under Government supervision.
– As a matter of fact, the recruiting is under Government supervision now. It is true that the recruiter is paid by results, but no recruiting is complete until the recruiter presents himself to the magistrate, who makes a thorough investigation in the dialect of the man recruited.
– Every time. As I say, the recruiting is not complete until the magistrate has put to the recruited person the questions when, where, and for what purpose he has been recruited. He also inquires as to the pay the recruited is to receive, whether he understands the value of the pay, the labour to which he is to be put, and the period’ of his absence. In fact, two men have complained to me that the system has apparently been devised in order to prevent and discourage recruiting - that the examination is conducted as though the recruiters are entirely untrustworthy and the recruited to be believed against them on every occasion. Our last reports are to the effect that, in view of the extraordinary agricultural developments, a time is in sight when labour will be difficult to obtain. I have been assured from all sources that in the catechism of the magistrates there is an effectual bar to any abuse. Their reports go on to’ the magistrate in the district to which the men are sent, and there is every opportunity for complaint and redress. When natives pass from one part to .another, the fact is checked, and numbers and all records are carefully kept. When, as was the case in the upper reaches of the Gira, owing largely to the sanitary neglect of the natives themselves there was unusual mortality, an inquiry was made directly, and the cause was removed. While admitting, of course, that so long as the white and the black work together, there will be misunderstanding, and, possibly, an abuse of the white man’s Superiority of knowledge, we must recollect that in Papua we are in advance of other countries, I believe that a mere comparison of State documents will show that Papua, in this connexion, is in advance of any other country in which black labour is employed. Of course, that is not to say the system cannot be improved. The interest of the honorable member opposite is, of course, we know, unselfish.
– It is a good job some one takes an interest in the matter !
– It is, and one’s sympathy is naturally with those who are least able to protect themselves. While we welcome criticisms, which will enable us to make the control of the Possession better than it is, I believe that we may take some credit for the present state of affairs. The Colonial Office has recognised that the rules and regulations represent a high-water mark ; but, of course, if that mark can be made higher, I arn sure that, not only the present Minister of External Affairs, but the officers of the Department, will welcome it, because of the responsibility they feel. This is a fascinating subject on which one might dwell at great length.
– I hope the honorable member will give us a lecture on if some da v. .
– I am afraid that is rather an insinuation that I am giving a lecture now ; but I am merely presenting the personal testimony of one who was in some measure responsible for the administration of Papua.
– I am quite sincere in what I say.
– I suppose that the occasions on which we have had to censure either superior or inferior magistrates in their relations to( the .natives could be counted on one hand.
– Is it not a fact that the Secretary to the Department found nothing wrong ?
– The Secretary had to see a very large country, in a very short time, and he was able to carry out his mission owing to the assistance and aid of very courteous officials. If the officials had made any mistakes, I do not suppose that they directed his attention specially to them. I do not suggest that the officials, concealed anything, but, of course, they pointed out, as they thought, that everything was working satisfactorily. But, as a matter of fact, when the Secretary returned, he made a series of recommendations, with proposed sweeping alterations, in the general policy with regard to thenatives and the economical development of the country.
– But he said everything was most satisfactory from an officialpoint of view.
– I do not know that, but I think the honorable member has tried to master a tropical country in a short time. I do not know whether, looking back onhis visit to the Malay Peninsula, he felt from what he saw that his conclusions werepermanent.
– This was an officer who ought to have known all about the Department.
– Remember the time ittakes to master such facts.
– Did the officer make any complaint?
– He made a report asto the economical development of the Possession.
– He could have done that without going there.
– That report was based on his own experience, and on the experience of officers whom he consulted. I was diverted from the particular point that I wished to make in conclusion. ‘ It is, and always will be, a question whether centralization or decentralization is the better policy to apply to the native police. There are honest advocates of both. The late Superintendent of Police, an effective and vigilant officer, whose connexion with the Department has ceased, was an honest and strong advocate of the system of centralization. He condemned decentralization ; but most of the magistrates, I believe, prefer it. That preference is natural, since under such a system authority is placed in their hands. Experiencealone will enable us to finally decide which is the better system to adopt. No doubt where we have a magistrate gifted with power of command, the policy of decentralization works better than that of centralization, and where we have “one who is not so gifted it does not.
– It is satisfactory where the older magistrates are employed.
– I can understand that is weaker in the case of new magisstrates; but neither in regard to that nor anything else is the administration hidebound. The Department is not committed to the course that it is now following. Every statement made in the course of this debate will go to Papua for criticism and comment, and if the Department does not discover the true inwardness of every circumstance to which the honorable member for Nepean has alluded it will not be its fault. There is accumulated in the Department a mass of information on all these points, which needs to be sifted, digested, and kept up-to-date, and it will certainly be added to from time to time. A point of some importance which has been made has escaped my memory, but to the best of my ability, speaking with an imperfect recollection, I have endeavoured to reassure the Committee, to point out that the defects, whatever they may be, found in the administration of Papua, are on the road to removal, and that I am sure that the present, or any other Administration, will welcome the assistance of honorable members in bettering the system. The point was that as we now have a Special Native Department and a Protector of the natives who will make their welfare their sole care, we may expect an advance on even the present policy.
– The position that has been taken up by the Minister to-night is an essentially fair one. No one could expect him to have mastered during the short time he has been in office, what is perhaps the most difficult of all subjects demanding the attention of Ministers at the present time. I am so satisfied with the attitude that he has taken up that I shall confine my attention to only one or two items which I desire to bring under his notice. It is desirable that we should correct what is a very general impression, that in speaking of the miners in certain parts of New Guinea we have in mind miners as we understand the term in Australia. Many of the miners on some of the fields of Papua do not work for wages; they are simply mine-owners - men who take up leases and indent black labour to work for them. In reply to a statement which the Prime Minister has fathered to the extent of passing it on to the press, let me say that I shall take another opportunity of dealing with it, but that every statement that I have made in regard to Papua has been taken from the official records. The figures I have given as to the deathrate on the Gira gold-field are not mine; they are those of the officers. When 1 said that the death-rate on that field was, I. believed, the highest known, I was quoting the actual statements appearing in the official reports. I propose now to make a short quotation from the report of the Royal Commission which sat in 1907, and I would suggest to the Minister that from that report he is likely to obtain some exceedingly valuable information,
– I have read every word of it.
– The medical officer, Dr.. Jones, in dealing with the extraordinary death-rate on the Gira gold- field, and the means of reducing it, said -
The only way in which it can be accomplished is to send a medical man with tropical experience to the Northern Division for a sufficient length of time to determine what the cause of this alarming death rate is. This could be done in two or three months. I believe the death rate could be stopped.
I would remind the Committee, in passing, that Dr. Jones said that at that time it was more dangerous for a native to be employed on the gold-field there than to be engaged in the Russo-Japanese war, which was then in progress. The death-rate, including the list of missing, was then something over 20 per cent. The point that I wish to make, however, is that the report to which Dr. Jones referred has not yet been obtained. It is true that Dr. Beaumont was sent up to furnish one; but his report, through, perhaps, no fault of his own, consisted of only half a page of foolscap. He was taken ill on the field, and was compelled to return without making a report on the subject that he was to inquire into Later the then Prime Minister informed me, in answer to a question, that a special officer was being appointed to prepare a report. I believe that the appointment was made nearly twelve months ago, but so faras I can ascertain the report is not yet forthcoming. The death-rate of the Gira field has certainly decreased, but I would remind honorable members that, although at one time it dropped to 3 per cent., it rose again to as high as 20 per cent. In view of the evidence before us, including that of Judge Murray, it is a serious charge against the Department that this long-promised report has not been obtained. Dr. Jones said that it could be secured in two or three months, but something like two years has elapsed since his suggestion was made. I ask the Minister to see that a report is obtained. It is not sufficient to say that the special officer in question has been put to other work. If the staff is insufficient to cope with the ordinary work of administration, I am sure that honorable members are not prepared to stint the Minister in his efforts to make proper provision for the work of his Department. If a special officer- is appointed to carry out a special work he should not be taken from it. A report ought to be obtained, and I do not think I am asking the Minister too much when I urge him to see to the matter without delay. I have been greatly pleased with the statements made to-night by him, and if I may say so, they are exactly what I expected from him. Had I been intrusted with the task of selecting an honorable member of his party to control the Department charged with the administration of Papua and the affairs of the natives there, the honorable gentleman is the one whom I should have chosen. I believe that he will give this matter his earnest attention, and it will certainly demand it. If the evidence given before the Royal Commission proves anything, it is that the chief issue between Captain Barton and Judge Murray was that the latter believed that the Administrator was too lenient in his treatment of the natives, and that he protected them.
– Does the honorable member want me to quote the evidence ?
– That is a statement put forward on the one side; but it is contradicted on the other side. The real difference between them was as to whether white development was to be encouraged.
– I shall only quote two sentences from Judge Murray himself. He said -
The natives have been treated extremely well - perhaps too well. I think they have been placed on a pedestal far too long with absolutely no result.
Does the Minister subscribe to that opinion ?
– Has the honorable member read the rest of the evidence?
– Is that the statement of a man who is in sympathy with the natives? The whole of the evidence of Judge Murray, the whole of the evidence of Captain Barton, and the whole of the evidence of Mr. Monckton, shows that the difficulty between the two men was that Judge Murray believes that the leniency shown by Captain Barton towards the natives was prejudicial to the development of white men in Papua.
– “ Leniency “ does not quite express the idea. There is such a thing as leniency which may be harmful even to a child.
– If the honorable member for South Sydney is prepared to take the side that his interjection leads one to believe-
– I am prepared to take the side of Judge Murray in this matter, anyhow
– Then the honorable member’s attitude now is at variance with that of his party in connexion with the employment of black labour in Queensland.
– Nonsense ! I will guarantee that the honorable member cannot point to one thing in Judge Murray’s actions to which he objects.
– The honorable member cannot adopt one line of policy so far as Queensland is concerned, and another in relation to Papua.
– Talk sense.
– This system of recruiting should be undertaken by the officers of the Department. The major part of the evidence of the officers is in condemnation of the system as at present carried on. The party that condemned the black labour system of Queensland ought not to be favorable to the principle of inducing or seducing men to come in and sign on on the pay-sheets of professional recruiters.
Colonel Foxton. - To what period is the honorable member referring in regard to Queensland?
– I am referring to the worst period of the blackbirding in Queensland.
Colonel Foxton. - That was twenty-five years ago.
– We do not want to repeat that kind of thing in Papua.
– Judge Murray is not in favour of repeating it, and it is most unfair for the honorable member to insinuate that he is.
– One would suppose that the honorable member for South Sydney was, judging from his interjections.
– That is still more unfair.
– The honorable member’s interjections seem to lean in that direction. I say that it would be better, in the interests of Papua, and better in the interests of the natives, if the recruiting were done directly by Government agents, rather than under the system of payment by results.
– Hear, hear !
– That is the whole issue. The present system of recruiting is that an agent receives payment according to the number of recruits that he obtains. It is, therefore, a profitable business only when recruiting is successful in numbers. The whole interest of the agent is to obtain recruits in order to obtain payment for them. These mine-owners - these black labour gentlemen - actually say in defence of the present system: “We are bound to treat our black men well, because it costs us to per head to obtain them.” That is, they give the agent £6 for each native obtained, and they pay the natives each for a year’s labour. Is that a system which this Committee thinks is a proper one? Is it a proper thing that the agent should have the whole of his interest centered in obtaining recruits ? I say that it is not. I believe that it would save a great deal of trouble hereafter if the Government would take up the whole question of recruiting, and make their own officers directly responsible for it. There would then be no profit to be derived from securing recruits improperly. When there is an exceedingly astute recruiting agent, whose whole interest lies in obtaining recruits, he will, when dealing with a race that is entirely ignorant, probably employ methods which are not likely to be such as we should approve of, and abuses will be bound to creep in. The Minister knows that I have no personal interest in this matter.
– The honorable member’s proposition is well worthy of examination.
– My whole desire is to show that as we are dealing with an exceedingly dangerous system, we should safeguard it with proper provisions–
– Hear, hear ; so says every one of us.
– The honorable member thinks that we are taking a big risk in allowing the present system to continue.
– I know the argument that will be urged. It was urged by
Mr. Atlee Hunt that if the Government undertook the system, there would be a danger of the natives being coerced, believing that the Government had a certain power of compelling them. But that danger is infinitesimal as compared with the one at present operating, under which the whole interest of the agents lies in obtaining black labour.
– It must be remembered that the Government would have to find the boats to transport the men from one pari of the country to the other.
– Are they nol transported very largely in the coastal boats ?
– No; the recruiters own their own boats.
– I should be prepared to take even that responsibility. If we are to permit the system o’. indented black labour, it is our duty to the natives, to ourselves, and to humanity, to take whatever precautions may be necessary to safeguard the system from the abuse that has arisen in all countries, in all ages, and amongst all peoples where there has been indented cheap coloured labour under the control of a white superior race.
– The honorable member should not forget that a new Native Department has been established, and that the Protector of the natives is Mr. Campbell, one of the magistrates, who is widely khown for his devotion. to their interests. He is now travelling through the different districts, in order to supervise the recruiting and give attention to all other matters which affect the natives.
– I heartily congratulate the honorable member for Ballarat upon carrying out that reform before he left office. I believe it is the greatest reform which could have been effected in the interests of the native races of New Guinea. I hope that the men selected will be men whose sympathies are rather with the natives than with those employing them.
– That is Mr. Campbell’s reputation.
– The reports so far speak well of Mr. Campbell. I may say that I do not know one of these officers. I have never met any of them, and have gathered the information concerning the Territory placed before the House wholly and solely from .the reports. If the officials exhibit a tendency to administer the Native Department in sympathy with the natives, I hope their efforts will not be thwarted, and that they will not be treated as, perhaps, some officers of the Territory have been treated in the past. Our principal object should be to safeguard in every way the interests of the natives. We have accepted a terrible responsibility. It is estimated that there are from 300,000 to 500,000 blacks in Papua, and, no matter who is appointed Administrator of the Territory, the reponsibility for the protection of those people rests upon the Commonwealth Government and Parliament. We cannot wash our hands of that responsibility. There has been a tendency on the part of officials in Papua to obstruct inquiries. I have to thank the honorable member for Ballarat for doing his best, as Minister of External Affairs, to obtain for me all the information concerning Papua that I sought for, but, in my judgment, there has been distinct unwillingness to supply information on the part of officials of the Territory. The fact that no medical report upon the conditions obtaining on the Gira gold-fields at the time during which the enormous death-rate to which I have referred prevailed is, in itself, perhaps the greatest condemnation of the administration of Judge Murray. If he has reported to the Department on this subject I am quite confident .that he has never complained that he had not sufficient officers to allow of this necessary work being done. If he had done so, Parliament would have been asked to vote the money to enable the services of a special officer to be obtained, and, from what I know of the feeling of honorable members, they would have refused no reasonable sum to put an end to a condition of affairs which was a disgrace to this Parliament, namely, a death-rate of 20 per cent, amongst indented native labourers employed under the auspices of the Government of the Commonwealth. I should like to urge upon the Minister the necessity of at once obtaining a report of the exact conditions under which natives are working on the Gira field. I believe it will be found that the death-rate can be considerably reduced. I am very thankful for what has been done in the way of equipping the resting-places and providing better accommodation for carriers along the various tracks. I understand that this work has been carried out on the recom- mendation of Mr. Staniforth Smith, and in this respect that gentleman has done good work. But we require information as to the conditions upon which’ natives are labouring on the Gira field. The deathrate, even at the present time, is too high, but if it should increase we ought to know, if medical skill can give us the information, what is the cause of the increased mortality, that we may take steps to prevent it. I hope that the Minister will go into this important matter at an early date, and, so far as he can, make himself master of the conditions surrounding the recruiting and “ employment of black labour in Papua.
– I regard the control and administration of the Territory of Papua as involving one of the greatest responsibilities with which the Commonwealth is charged. It is a great pity that honorable members should have so little personal knowledge of the conditions obtaining there. As I should shrink from making charges against officials or against a system without some personal knowledge of the conditions prevailing in the Territory, I deeply regret that the honorable member for Nepean, when making so many charges against individuals, did not substantiate them as he should have been prepared to do. When challenged on the subject, the honorable member said that the statements he repeated were made to him under some seal of secrecy, and he was not in a position to divulge the sources of his information. I think that honorable members are entitled to know the source of all information tendered to them in order to influence their votes upon any particular matter. In the circumstances, it would have been wiser if the honorable member for Nepean had obtained permission to give the names of his informants. I am satisfied that any one feeling so strongly as the honorable member’s informants must have done would have been prepared to give him permission to mention his name, if he was told that the information supplied could not be used except on that condition. We are at a disadvantage in dealing with affairs at Papua, not only from our want of personal knowledge, but from the fact that we have had so many varying reports from that Territory. When the Reid-McLean Government was in office a number of complaints were made on the floor of this chamber, and the then Prime Minister and’ Minister of External Affairs agreed to send the permanent head of the Department to Papua to inquire into them. We all know what occurred. The officer in question visited the Territory, remained a certain time there, and on his return assured us that everything was satisfactory, that there was no cause for complaint, and that in fact “ everything in the garden was lovely.” We know also that within a few months there was another investigation, and we found that a condition of things obtained in Papua, and had obtained for a considerable period, which we could not permit to continue any longer.
– And had obtained prior to the visit of the officer referred to, whose visit was the outcome of those complaints.
– That is so, yet we had it upon record on the word of the head of the Department, who was, or should have been, perfectly acquainted with all that was occurring in Papua, that after personal inspection he found that the complaints which had been made were not well founded. This discloses a condition of affairs which is very much to be deplored, and I have been very much surprised to find that the present Government who have often expressed a desire to see the lower grades of the Public Service favored in preference to those occupying Higher positions submitting a proposition, which I understand has been carried, raising the salary of the officer to whom I have referred by £100.
– Some of us intend to take »n opportunity of questioning the increase which has been authorized in the case of the head of this Department.
– If that course be adopted, I shall be glad to assist the honorable member.
– It will be adopted.
– I entirely agree with those who affirm that our officers in Papua are being sweated. The services which they render are out of all proportion to the payments which they receive. Their salaries are a mere pittance compared with the dangers and hardships which they are called upon to undergo. The tropical conditions of the country, the uncivilized nature of the natives, the difficulties of transport, and the inordinately high rates of living, warrant the Government in paying them much larger salaries. For instance, the greatest danger of contracting the malignant type of malaria is experienced in opening up the Territory by destroying the jungle. Under these cir- cumstances, the Government ‘ should, see that immediate provision of the kind I have indicated is necessary. Quite recently a number of miners left my own district for the Malay Peninsula, where they are to be employed as shift bosses, and are to receive £300 per annum, not: withstanding that under the best circumstances they could not earn more than £2 7s. 6d. per week in Victoria. But because they are called upon to work in a climate similar to that which obtains in Papua, they are to be paid £300 per annum. In addition, their fares are to be paid to the Peninsula, and they are to be extended liberal furlough at the end of three years, ranging from six months to twelve months, on full pay. Their employers realize that if they wish to obtain good men to work under such difficult conditions they must pay them well. I wish also to point out that, in underpaying our officers in Papua, we are tempting them to pay themselves. In regard to the question of recruiting, I was rather surprised *t the quarter from which the strong advocacy of Government control has emanated. I was always under the impression that the front bench on the Opposition side of the House was sacred to the rights of freedom of contract.
– And private enterprise.
– Yes, I am glad, indeed, to find that honorable members sitting there are so impressed with the possibilities and the happenings in Papua, that they are prepared to yield their adhesion to complete Government control of recruiting within the Territory to the ex tent even of establishing a fleet of boats for the purpose of transporting the natives from one part of the island to another. I wish also to point out that the question of the allotment of indentured labour would surely prove most embarrassing to any Government official. Such an officer would frequently find himself in a very tight corner in proceeding to allot indentured labour. All sorts of pressure would be brought to bear upon him with a view to inducing him to secure for certain persons the best ‘ specimens of native humanity. I am entirely opposed to the system of indentured labour. I would rather see the country remain undeveloped than that the natives should be treated like slaves.
Colonel Foxton. - They are not treated in that way.
– I do not suggest that they are. But I should prefer the one thing to the other. Concerning the question of missionary areas, I am surprised to hear such a remarkable condition of affairs advocated by the honorable mem- ber for Nepean. He desires’ the whole of the Territory to be mapped off into certain areas, which shall be labelled according to the various religious denominations which wish to work there. He pleads that no denomination should be permitted to labour in any area in which the Government has not decided to grant it control. Subsequently, he qualified his statement by saying that if a missionary, representing another denomination, entered that area, he should not be recognised by the Government. That is a most extraordinary attitude to take up. I take it for granted that all the denominations concerned will be Christians. I do not suppose that the honorable member contemplates that the Mahommedan should be permitted to enter into the Territory notwithstanding that in the adjacent islands the Mahommedan religion possesses many adherents. There are very wide divergencies between Christian denominations, and it would surely be setting up a most remarkable state of things to have a fencing-off and enclosing of certain areas which were to be held sacred to certain denominations. Further, it would mean that the State would be taking upon itself the responsibility of declaring to certain bodies of natives what religious denomination should be allowed to labour in their midst and attempt to convert them to Christianity. I hope that the Minister will not think of instituting such a state of things, but will see that all the denominations receive exactly the same treatment ; that they shall not be hampered in any way ; that, above all, they shall not be allotted to various parts of the Territory, and debarred from going into other parts. I do not desire to occupy any more time. There are several matters about which I should like to speak, because I have taken a personal interest in this question of tropical settlement; but I feel that in the present Government we have every guarantee that such conditions will be observed as will tend to the development of Papua, and at the same time secure the complete protection of the natives. I believe that it is the desire of the Parliament, and the people of the Commonwealth that, above all things, the interests of the natives shall be considered, and that concurrently with that, if possible, there shall be such a development as will make the Territory a very valuable addition to the Commonwealth. But we would rather see it remain in its present condition than that its development should . be accomplished at the sacrifice of a single life or of even the happiness of a single native of the country.
Mr. THOMAS BROWN (Calare? [10.47]. - Unfortunately, Papua is so far isolated, that it is with great difficulty that any information of an authentic character can be obtained about it. I do not say that the present Minister is responsible for that. The responsibility rests somewhere but I am not prepared to say where it rests. I think that a very great omission has been made in not furnishing us with a report on the Territory for the past year. The latest official report in our possession is dated 30th June, 1907, so that we have to look back some eighteen months for information of an official and authentic character. The probability is that those who will be called upon to consider the Estimates for the Territory next year will have in their hands the report which should be before this Committee to-night, and no later information. Whether the responsibility for that state of things rests with the authorities at Papua or with the Department of External Affairs, the Minister should see that in future every information is placed at our disposal when we are called upon to consider the Estimates ; because it is only in that way that we can get authentic statements. To that extent, the Committee is placed at a considerable disadvantage to-night. The last eighteen months comprise a very important period in the administration of the Territory. No one will deny that there has been a great deal of official abuse there. I think that that is amply demonstrated, in spite of official reports to the contrary. Right from the very inception of our administration of Papua, there have been complaints of continuous abuses. It has been going on for a very long time. The Commonwealth very conveniently disposed of its responsibility by claiming that it had only been responsible for the administration since the passing of the Papua Act in the latter part of 1906. As regards complaints of abuses prior to that time, it disclaims all responsibility. There was the noted case of Captain Strachan, who made some serious charges with respect to the way in which he was treated by local officials. Feeling that he was entitled to redress, he took his case to the High Court, with the result that he was quietly informed that it had no jurisdiction, as Papuan affairs had not been taken over by the Commonwealth. Then there was the case of Mr. Craig, who interviewed honorable members here, and laid before them some very serious charges with respect to the local administration ; but they were shelved on the same plea, namely, that the things complained of had happened prior to the Commonwealth assuming official control. Assuming that the charges were true, and that the Commonwealth never had the courage to investigate them, they disclose a state of affairs which was not at all creditable to the local authorities. What grounds have we for assuming that those abuses have been completely disposed of, and do not obtain now? tn a remote Territory, where everything is isolated, and where men go who do not always possess the most estimable character, there are bound to De abuses, and high-handed treatment with respect to the natives. What the Commonwealth should do is to endeavour to control matters. We are responsible for the treatment of the natives, and our first aim should be to see that a fair thing is done by them. I have not very much sympathy with the employment of indented labour. It is only a very few degrees removed from slave labour; it has always a tendency to degenerate into that. Generally, the indented conditions are such that the least amount’’ of justice is done to the natives. A recruiter goes out, and with him it is a matter of pounds, shilling’s, and pence to secure labour, and to secure it as cheaply and speedily as possible. He is not over nice in very many cases as to the conditions . under which he secures it. Very often, by those means, serious injustice is done to the natives. For that reason, I welcome the suggestion from the other side of the Chamber, socialistic though it be, that the Commonwealth should secure a greater control over indented labour, or the conditions under which it is employed. I was very pleased to hear the late Prime Minister say that steps have been taken to have more complete supervision, not only of the indenting, but also of the conditions under which indented labour shall be controlled. That is, I think, a move in the right direction, and one which should operate 10 the benefit of the natives. I hope that when next the Committee is asked to deal with this subject, it will have at its disposal more up-to-date information than can Df obtained from a report seventeen months1 old.
House adjourned at 10.57 P m’
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 December 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19081201_reps_3_48/>.