3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Temporary Pole Dressers -Postal Commission
– I wish to draw the attention of the Postmaster-General to the position of some men who, having passed an examination, and qualified as pole dressers, were given temporary appointment for the sake of experience, with a view to their permanent appointment as vacancies might occur. These men, I understand, have now received notice to leave, on the ground that the Public Service Act prohibits temporary employment for periods longer’ than nine months. Can the honorable gentleman see his way to permanently appointing them, as apparently their services are needed,or to re-appoint them temporarily until there are vacancies on the permanent staff?
– Matters like this are governed by the regulations under the Public Service Act, and I have no authority in regard to them; but I shall consult the Public Service Commissioner about the complaint, and see what can be done. I understand that similar anomalies exist in other branches, but I do not care about entering upon the field of reform until I know the recommendations of the Postal Commission, which I shall be glad to receive as soon as possible.
– In the absence of the honorable member for Dalley, I desire to ask through you, Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Gwydir, or, if he will not answer, the honorable member for Bars, when the Postal Commission will terminate its labours?
– Standing order 92 provides that the questions put to members other than Ministers of the Crown must relate to - any Bill, Motion, or other public matter con nected with the business on the notice-paper, of which such Members may have charge.
Under that rule the question which the honorable member wishes to ask is not permissible.
– Has the Treasureryet obtained the information for which I asked this day week, regarding the receipts from Customs and Excise revenue, per head of population, in the various States and in other countries?
– The Government Statistician has supplied the following information on the subject : -
Per J. G. Stonham.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs yet received a reply to the question which I addressed to him on Tuesday, regarding the statement that civil servants had taken the places of strikers in a Queensland sugar mill?
– I have been informed by the Queensland officers that no. Commonwealth public servant acted as stated in the newspaper paragraph to which the honorable member drew my attention.
– I have just received the following telegram from the secretary of the Federal Civil Service Association in Western Australia : -
Extreme inconvenience caused non-payment mid-monthly salaries. Presumed waiting passing Supply Bill. Can you kindly facilitate payment ? Urgent.
Will the Treasurer see that these men are not kept waiting for their money longer than is absolutely unavoidable?
– Have the public servants not vet been paid?
– They will be paid as soon as the Supply Bill is assented to. They will receive their money tomorrow or Saturday, or on Monday, at the latest.
– Will the Treasurer explain why the Supply Bill was introduced so late in the month that the public servants were not paid on the usual date?
– It was expected that the Bill would be passed much more quickly in this Chamber.
– It went through in one day.
– Yes ; but almost the whole day was taken up in the discussion of grievances, and only a few minutes devoted to the Bill.
– That did not make any difference.
– The discussion of grievances might well have been postponed until this afternoon, when the customary opportunity, which arrives every three weeks, ‘will occur. The Bill, which was not passed by this House as quickly as ‘ I had anticipated, was passed in another place yesterday, and will receive the Governor-General’s assent to-morrow morning. Instructions will then be telegraphed to pay the public servants. If there is any delay in making payments honorable members opposite will have been responsible for it.
– Is the Minister of External Affairs in a position to reply to the question which I asked on Thursday last regarding the discharging of coal from the steam-ship Airlie at Thursday Island with coloured labour?
– I have been informed by the Sub-collector of Customs at Thursday Island that the men employed in discharging the Airlie were free men, obtained from among the local coloured population, but not men indented for the pearl-fishing industry.
Ex-Sergeant-Major Daly - Rifle Ranges
– I wish to know from the Minister of Defence if the charges made by ex- Sergeant- Major Daly, late of Molong, have been investigated, and, if so, whether any decision has been come to with regard to them?
– They have been investigated, and the report is nearly ready. I regret that it has been so long delayed.
– I asked the Minister, yesterday, a question in regard to the closing of rifle ranges held to be unsafe; and wish now to ascertain whether he will immediately appoint an officer to confer with the various clubs affected as to the selection of more suitable sites?
– Without committing myself to the adoption of that course in all cases, I promise that, if the honorable member will indicate to me any case in which he thinks there is a reasonable, or even a remote, chance of obtaining a suitable range, I shall be glad to depute an officer to make the necessary inspection.
– Following up a question which I put to the Minister of Defence some days ago, I ask him whether a report has yet been received as to areas suitable for rifle ranges being available within the military area lately acquired for Commonwealth purposes in the neighbourhood of George’s River?
– The matter is being inquired into, but no report is yet to hand. I shall take care that the report is expedited.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Defence whether he has an explanation to make regarding the occurrence of last night, when business was taken out of the hands of the Government ?
– In view of the crushing defeat inflicted last night upon the Government, does it intend to carry on the business of the Commonwealth, or will it ask for the adjournment of the House, so that Ministers may consider their position?
– I have merely to congratulate my honorable friends on the success of their tactics, and to express the hope that, as they did so well last night, they will to-day help us to push on with business.
– The Minister of Home Affairs recently promised to collect information showing the value of Commonwealth properties throughout Australia, with a view to the payment - as an act of grace - of a sum equal to the municipal rates and taxes which such properties would have to bear if not immune from taxation under the Constitution. Will the Minister state whether the information is yet available, and when he will be able to inform the House what action the Government propose to take?
– When speaking to the motion moved by the honorable member for Wentworth in regard to this matter, I promised ‘ that the return he has mentioned should be prepared. On the following day I issued instructions for its preparation, but as information must be obtained from all parts of. Australia as to the various systems of municipal taxation in force. its compilation will necessarily take some time. A portion of the report is to hand, but the statement is not yet complete. As soon asit is, I shall carry out my promise and submit the matter to the Cabinet. The Government consider it a serious question, and I know that they will give it their earnest attention.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether any further action is being taken in regard to the Federal Capital.
– I saw in this morning’s, newspapers a report that the Premier pf New South Wales, Mr. Wade, had given notice in the State Legislative Assembly of certain resolutions, dealing with the matter, which he proposes to submit. I have nofurther information on the subject.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK laid upon the table the following paper : -
Defence Acts - Military Forces - Financial and Allowance Regulations Amended (Provisional) Nos. 158, 158(a) - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 101.
Old-age Pensions Act Administration.
.- I desire to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The administration of the Old-age Pensions Act.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– The question that I wish to bring under the notice of the House has engaged my attention for the last three months, and has been brought bv me before both the Minister and the Commissioner. It affects, roughly speaking, about 60,000 citizens. According to the figures that I have been able to obtain there are in New South Wales 43:75°’ miners, and allowing for men engaged in other industries who are affected by the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act, we have the total I have mentioned. In section 4 of the Act we have a definition of the “ income,” which is to be taken into account, in determining the pensions payable to claimants. There is a proviso to that definition which was evidently inserted with a view of encouraging thrift. The definition reads - “ Income means any moneys . . received by any person for his own use or benefit . . and shall be deemed to include personal earnings, but not any payment -
I regard that language as wide enough to include any association of workmen or other people formed with a view to providing benefits in case of old age, accident, or death; but the Attorney-General has decided that the particular association I have in view cannot be brought within the section. The fund has been in existence in New South Wales, under Act of Parliament, since 1900. Prior to that date, miners and other employes had formed local branches, by means of which the fund was collected and managed; but, under the present arrangements, contributions are made by the employers and by the Government. The payment by the Government is not a subsidy, but a contribution from a participator in the business, seeing that the State receives large royalties on the coal produced. The fund is contributed, roughly, to the extent of one-half by the men, and one-half by the employers and the Government ; and not only are temporary accidents provided for, but there are payments to widows, orphans, and other relatives in case of fatal accident, and allowances to men who have been permamently injured while following their employment. The following figures for 1908 will, I think, show that, in every sense of the word, this is a provident fund : -
Every provision that is made in any other provident fund is made in this fund. The Attorney-General merely gave a decision without any reason ; and it is to the following effect : -
The New South Wales Miners’ Accident Relief Act 1900 provides for certain payments being made to miners meeting with accidents by Committees appointed under the Act. The funds available to meet the payments arise from contributions by the miners, contributions by the mine-owners, and an annual Government subsidy. Roughly, the miners’ contribution is onehalf of the whole sum contributed, the remainder being made up by the mine-owners’ contributions and the Government subsidy. In my opinion the payments are not payments from a friendly society, trade union, provident society, or other society or association, and should therefore be treated as income.
I have examined the Old-age Pensions Act and I cannot find anything to debar a fund of this description, simply on the ground that it is regulated by Act of Parliament; there is nothing which makes it necessary for a provident fund to be either voluntary or compulsory. Whether the technical reading given to the section by the AttorneyGeneral be correct or not, it was never the intention of Parliament to make such a differentiation as has been made under the regulations. The New South Wales Act was passed with a view to encouraging the employes to make provision for themselves ; and, under the decision of the Attorney-General, the contributors to the fund are to have their pensions reduced simply and solely because they have been thrifty. The administration of old-age pensions, particularly since it has been a Commonwealth concern, shows too great a desire to punish people because they have been thoughtful enough to endeavour to make some provision for themselves. A person who, for instance, has been able to purchase a small cottage, or to join such a fund as that to which I have referred is made to suffer, while the careless and thriftless are paid pensions without demur. I may point out that a little while ago, the Treasurer was questioned as to the position of Imperial military pensioners under the Old-age Pensions Act, and we were informed that such pensions must not be regarded as income.
– Whose decision is that?
– The Treasurer so decided, and, I think, very properly.
– I do not think the honorable member is quite right, because, when I spoke to the Treasurer on Tuesday last, he said he had not given such a decision.
– I think the honorable member for Newcastle is mistaken.
– I am quoting a reply which was given by the Treasurer to Mr. Crouch.
– When was that question asked ?
– A month or six weeks ago; and if I am correct, the contributors to the miners’ fund of New South Wales are doubly wronged. The money subscribed by the men themselves, has paid for ail benefits and accidents compensation within about £6,000; and the position of the men is surely bad enough when we have regard to the calling which they follow. Surely the position of employes, whether in the leaden hell, shall I say, of Broken Hill, or the coal mines of New South Wales, in which so many accidents occur every year, is bad and hard enough, with their intermittent employment and the necessity of keeping up their contributions to this fund, without their being robbed under an Act which was intended to benefit them, owing to the way in which it is being administered. I shall be glad to hear the Attorney-General give reasons for this decision. If the Government accept the Attorney-General’s opinion as to the reading of the Act, do they not think that this point alone is important enough to warrant the immediate introduction of an amending Bill? The intention of the Legislature was not to differentiate between one provident society and another, or to deal differently with different bodies of citizens. Apart from that question, I am sorry to say that my experience shows that the administration of the Act generally has been very unsympathetic, to say the least of it. Every attempt has been made to lower the pensions of people who have come under the Federal Act from under the New South Wales Act. All sorts of flimsy excuses have been given for these reductions.
– It is curious that the New South Wales Act has always been administered in the same way in regard to those who benefit under the fund to which the honorable member refers.
– Whether that is true or not, it does not affect our position.
– I am surprised to hear that the New South Wales Act was administered in that way.
– I also am surprised to learn it ; but the administration of the Federal Act generally, although it is supposed to be a more liberal measure than was the New South Wales Act, presses more hardly upon these people. Facts speak for themselves. Is the Treasurer prepared to allow this anomaly to remain in our Act? A man who receives a gratuity or pension from a friendly society receives full consideration, but another, who receives payments from this fund, to which he has subscribed in the same way as he would have subscribed to a friendly society, is penalized. Is the Treasurer prepared to say that that practice must continue? If he will look at the question as he ought to do, I am sure he will agree that he can make no distinction between one subscriber and another.
– The administration is exactly the same as in New South Wales.
– That is not the point. The point is : Does the right honorable member believe it to be right ?
– It is not the same, anyhow.
– I do not think that it is the same. The question is : Is it right or wrong? It seems to be stretching the law to the furthest degree to exclude these people from the full benefits of the Act. Has the Treasurer decided, or has he not, that old soldiers’ pensions shall not be regarded as income?
– Certainly not. They are income.
– Then the reply received by the honorable member for Corio was incorrect. As I read it, it was that the Treasurer had decided not to treat old soldiers’ pensions as income. I do not object to that.
– I think the honorable member is in error.
– The reply that I saw came from the Department in answer to a request by the honorable member for Corio. Will the Treasurer seek to have the Act rectified so as to put those who receive benefits under the fund to which I have referred in the same position as every other person who belongs to a provident society ? The very silence of Ministers on this point, as on the other point, proves to me that during the two and a half months in which they have been administering the Act - and this has been my experience - their desire has been to cut the pensions down to the lowest possible limit.
– I suppose that this is very good “ copy “ for the honorable member.
– Unlike the right honorable member, I do not require it.
– It is insulting.
– I do not wish to be insulting.
– I have given the honorable member any number of answers, but they will not suit. Apparently he must advertise himself.
– Is not that insulting? I do not require to advertise myself in my electorate. The right honorable member cannot regard an old-age pensioner in any other way than as a rogue who is trying to get at the Treasury.
– And he is an Imperial pensioner himself.
– Although, as I am reminded, the right honorable member is a pensioner himself, he cannot consider the claims of these old people fairly. There is too great a tendency on the part of those who are at the head of this Department, at least inNew South Wales, to regard old people who have been at all thrifty as trying to get at the Treasury with respect to their pensions. The effect of such administration has been that per-, sons who have not been thrifty or successful enough to secure a bit of a cottage over their heads, or to be able to keep up their contributions to a provident fund, receive the full pension of 10s. They certainly should get it, but, on the other hand, the person who has kept up his contributions or owns a cottage should surely not be punished for his thriftiness. I trust that when the Attorney-General replies he will give cogent reasons for his interpretation of the Act, and that he will also state whether it is the intention of the Government to put the matter right at the earliest possible moment.
.- I desire to extend my cordial support to the views expressed by the honorable member for Newcastle.
– This is not “copy,” I suppose?
– This is not “copy.” I am not making an electioneering speech. I am speaking as the representative of the majority of the miners of New South Wales. This is not the first time that I have had occasion to champion their cause. I am proud to number many friends among the miners, and I trust that for many years to come I shall have the honour and pleasure of representing them in this House. I am not now canvassing for their votes, but endeavouring to do my duty, and shall continue to do it, in spite of the remarks hurled at me by honorable membersopposite, who ought to know better.
– It was the Treasurer who made the remark about “ copy.”
– I will read the portion of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act affecting the question that has been raised. Section 4 contains the following definition : - “ Income “ means any moneys, valuable con sideration, or profits earned, derived, or received by any persons for his own use or benefit by any means from any source whatever, whether in or out of the Commonwealth, and shall be deemed to include personal earnings, but not any payment -
As I understand it, the accident fund in question is maintained by contributions from the. Government of New South Wales, the employers, and the employes. Personally I can see no difference between such a fund and a friendly society, such as is mentioned in the definition which I have quoted. It would have been better had it been made clearer in the Act that it was not intended that an accident fund should be ear-marked as is now being done. But the mere fact that such accident funds were not specially mentioned is sufficient to show that it was not intended by Parliament that such a fund should be ear-marked. As a layman I do not intend to question the ruling of the Attorney-General. I know enough of what happens in my own profession in connexion with consultations to express an opinion in opposition to the ruling of the chief law officer of the Commonwealth, whoever he may be.
– What was done under the State law?
– We have no concern with the State law. Our business is with the Commonwealth Act.
– Under a motion for the adjournment of the House honorable members are strictly limited to time. Therefore it is distinctly unfair for other honorable members to take up a portion of the time of a speaker by asking questions which may or may not be relevant. I ask honorable members to permit the honorable member for Hunter to proceed uninterrupted.
– I shall not enter into such, details as were quoted by the honorable member for Newcastle, who put the matter very clearly. I agree with him that it is undesirable to levy a tax on the thrift of the people. We should remember that, although a man may not be a millionaire, yet, if he has brought up a family in such a way that its members are of use and service to the country, he deserves just as much credit as does a man who, perhaps, with a smaller family, leaves a large sum of money for public purposes. The wealth of a State is not to be counted only in pounds, shillings, and pence. We are not dealing merely with a question of gold, silver, and copper, but with the lives of men who have produced wealth for the benefit of the country. Such a man, who has lived a useful and industrious life, is, in my opinion, worth more to the country than many a man who leaves a mass of wealth behind him. I wish to make a suggestion .to the Government. I do not know that it is desirable to urge it particularly upon the Treasurer, because he is a sort of Cerberus standing at the door of the Treasury, and naturally anxious to diminish the expenditure of money. I would make an appeal to the Prime Minister, that he should, at the earliest possible moment, draft an amending Bill providing that miners’ accident funds shall not be earmarked.
.- It is evident, from w-hat has been discovered on the point at issue being submitted to the Attorney-General, that an oversight occurred in the drafting of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Such errors are not uncommon. We have frequently had amending Bills designed to improve Acts of Parliament. But no one can doubt that when the Act was under consideration there was a desire to be liberal, and not to have a narrow interpretation put upon the measure. The rapidity and unanimity with which the Act was passed is proof of what I say- The Miners’ Relief Fund was established in New South Wales for a beneficent purpose. I am glad to say that I had a hand in assisting to establish it. Contributions are made to the fund by the Govern.ment, the miners, and employers. One-half is contributed by the miners themselves. It is true that the fund is not called an association, but that is no reason why it should not be treated on the same basis as friendly societies, which have a similar object. The fund makes provision for contingencies that are likely to arise in such a dangerous occupation as that of coal mining. I do not think that there is any desire to save money for the Treasury in this way. I doubt whether the Treasurer himself is the kind of man who would desire to save a few pounds by shutting out a class on a mere technically. The Act was passed hurriedly. It was a well-designed measure, but, of course, we only find out defects after such an Act has been in working order for some time.
– Very few of the clauses were discussed at all.
– Scarcely any of them were discussed. The desire was to pass the Bill quickly, and the details were not debated. I doubt whether the draftsman realized how the measure would affect such a fund as that which has been mentioned. I have no doubt that if honorable members had been reminded of the existence of this fund in New South Wales an amendment of the Bill would have been proposed to meet the difficulty which has since arisen. I am sure that honorable members of the Labour party, and particularly those representing mining districts, would have seen to that. The provisions of the New South Wales Act which has been referred to were based to some extent upon details which I was able to supply from my- experience, and as one who for very many years was associated with miners and Labour organizations generally, I should certainly have taken some action in the matter had I remembered the existence of this fund inNew South Wales. I was astounded when the honorable member for Newcastle brought under my notice the interpretation put upon the Invalid1 and Old-age Pensions Act in this respect. I am not going to say that the Attorney-General is not right inhis interpretation. The probability is that the honorable and learned gentleman is right, and in any case we have to be guided by his opinion. In the circumstances the Government should not hesitate to propose the necessary amendment of the law. Honorable members are unanimous in their desire that the Commonwealth Invalid and
Old-age Pensions Act should be as liberal a measure as is possible, and I believe that they will be just as unanimous in agreeing that miners receiving benefits from the miners’ relief fund in New South Wales should be placed on the same footing as members of friendly societies and kindred associations. Those who have read of the conditions under which miners have to carry on their occupation at Bendigo and other places in the Commonwealth, who know how unhealthy the occupation is, and that young men working in mines frequently suffer and die from miners’ complaint, will agree that there is no class in the community more deserving of consideration. I hope that the Government will at once announce their intention to proceed with an amendment of the law. Now is the time to deal with the matter, and give satisfaction to a large section in the community who, unfortunately, because of this interpretation of the law, are shut out from the benefits it was intended to confer. They believe that they are suffering an injustice for which Parliament must be held responsible as long as the injustice continues, and the Government, having in their hands the conduct of the business of Parliament, must shoulder the responsibility for any delay in remedying the defect which has been pointed out.
.- I am very glad that the honorable member for Newcastle has brought this matter under the attention of the House. I confess that I was surprised to learn that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act wasbeing administered in such a way as to exclude from its benefits those who are in receipt of any benefit from the Miners’ Accident Relief Fund established in New South Wales.
– It is not a question of administration, but of the legal interpretation of the Act.
– I am not blaming Ministers particularly in the matter. If the interpretation placed upon the Act is correct, we must bow to it, and it will be our duty to alter the Act. I am glad that the question has been raised, because there is a bigger question behind it. I believe that what has transpired adds force to the contention which I have emphasized more than once in this House, that if the operation of an Old-age Pensions Act is to be satisfactory its application must be universal. Every one in the community should come under its operation without any disquali fication depending upon the ownership of property. I have also been surprised to learn from the Treasurer that the New South Wales Old-age Pensions Act was administered in such a way that any one receiving benefits from the Miners’ Accident Relief Fund was held not to be entitled to an old-age pension.
– As a matter of policy, not as a matter of law. I asked the question to-day, and I am informed that that was the manner in which the Act was administered. At the same time the New South Wales Act was not identical in terms with the Commonwealth Act.
– I was surprised to learn that the New South Wales Act was administered in that way, because I was a member of the New South Wales Parliament when the Miners’ Accident Relief Bill was carried, and I remember that we specially provided in the measure that the receipt of money from the relief fund should not interfere with the right of a miner to compensation in case of accident. It seems strange that the Government of New South Wales should hold that if a person is injured in a mine he can claim compensation from the owner of the mine, although he might be in receipt of benefit from the miners’ relief fund, and that at the same time they should hold that if a miner is in receipt of benefit from that fund he is not entitled to an old-age pension. I understand that as Law Officer of the Crown, the Attorney-General is of opinion that pensions (cannot legally be paid to persons receiving benefits under the New South Wales Miners’ Relief Fund.
– That is so.
– If that be so, I hope that, in common with other honorable members who have spoken, some amendment of the law will be passed to overcome the difficulty. If the Attorney-General’s view of the law be correct, the miners of New South Wales are placed in a different position from miners in any other part of Australia, because I think there are no other miners in Australia who are working under an Act similar to the Miners’ Accident Re lief Act of New South Wales.
– I think their position is unique.
– How much does a miner get under the Act referred to?
– I think a miner gets 12s. 6d. per week, and if he is killed in an accident his widow gets 8s. per week.
– The contributions from the fund cannot exceed those amounts.
– It seems very hard that because miners of New South Wales contribute 4½d. per week to an accident fund, out of which in case of death, pensions are paid to their widows, they should be ineligible to receive old-age pensions. However, that is the position, and, therefore, it must be conceded that they labour under a disability as compared with the miners in other parts of the ‘Commonwealth. If the Crown Law authorities are satisfied that that is the law, I hope that it will be speedily amended. I can assure the Government that if they will introduce an: amending Bill, which will remove this disqualification, no time will be wasted by honorable members upon this side of the Chamber in discussing it. I am glad that the matter has been brought forward, not only because it affects the miners of New South Wales, but because it shows how anomalous is the law in regard to the payment of oldage pensions. I do not ask the Treasurer to pay any claims made under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act which are outside the law.
– I have not the power to fix the amounts payable under that Act
– Exactly. But within the scope of the law, I hope that the honorable gentleman will see that the Act is sympathetically administered. It is a very humane measure, but it is one which contains many anomalies. Those anomalies will never be rectified until we provide for the payment of universal oldage pensions. I hope that at an early date the Government will bring forward an amending measure to meet the case of the coal miners of New South Wales, and to so widen the scope of existing legislation that every person, upon reaching sixty-five years of age, shall receive an old-age pension.
– - As one who, with others, originated the legislation in New South Wales to which reference has been made - legislation which seems to lay upon the coal miners of that State a disability under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, I sympathize deeply with those who take up a similar attitude to that taken up by the honorable member for Newcastle. But it is a pity that he did not state his case without tilting at the Government. After all, we are bound by the law.
– The tilting at the Government was provoked by the taunt of the Treasurer.
– I think that we ought to consider this matter free from prejudice, and absolutely upon its merits. To me, it does seem an anomaly that the contributions of the coal miners of New South Wales should be placed in a different category, so far as the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is concerned, from those made to ordinary friendly societies. Those contributions ought not to lay the miners under a disability - in fact, the contrary should be the case.. The menare compelled to make those contributions. To my mind, the anomaly seems to be that while they are compelled by law to provide this beneficial interest foi themselves under the Coal Mines Accident Act, they are also compelled as taxpayers to assist in providing funds with which to pay old-age pensions to other persons who do not labour under a similar disability. The result is that the law bears unequally upon these citizens of the Commonwealth. To tell them that their action in contributing towards an accident fund shall hereafter constitute a disability under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, is a poor way of encouraging them. There is, of course, this circumstance to be considered, that the New South Wales Government themselves contribute towards that fund to the extent of, I think, one-third.
– That contribution is .not in the nature of State aid. It is made because the New South Wales Government receive royalties, and are part proprietors in the business.
– I am aware of that.
– The men contribute one half, the mine-owners a quarter,, and the New South Wales Government a quarter.
– Originally the amount contributed by the men was a third. But the fact that the Government contributes so little makes the claim of the minersall the stronger. The Coal Mines Accident Act was passed with the idea of encouraging them to provide for themselves whenaccident befell them. It is an anomaly that their action in that connexion should impose upon them a disability under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act-
However, that is the law, and, candidly, I think that some action ought to be taken to amend it. J do not see why the coal miners of New South Wales should not be placed in the same category as the members of friendly societies and of other societies of a kindred character. In its very essence the fund to which they contribute is a provident fund. The very genius of the Act under which those contributions are made is to induce them to effect this provident assurance against accidents.
– Up to date, the subscriptions of the miners have almost covered the amount which has been paid to them out of the fund. The other contributions are practically held in reserve.
– That is the principle underlying the Act.
– Exactly. Whatever the miners receive out of the fund, they first pay into it. I do not know anything about the subtleties of law, but it appears to me that in its very essence, the fund to which these miners contribute is a provident fund. However, I cannot pretend to interpret the legal position. I have no doubt but the Attorney-General has given this matter that careful and patient study which he bestows upon all matters demanding his attention. Knowing his humanitarian instincts we may be quite sure that if he could he would stretch the law a point in favour of the miners. Every one in the House, I believe, holds that opinion of my honorable friend, but, of course, he is bound by the law. I think that the suggestion of the honorable member for Hunter, that this matter should receive the earnest consideration of the Government, is a very proper one, and, on the Prime Minister’s return, I shall put the case to him.
– Would the honorable member make an exemption where a house was mortgaged? How would he get over a case of that kind ?
– That raises another question.
– The same principle is involved.
– My honorable friend must see that if we go into all these matters, we must reconstruct the law.
– All persons should be treated alike; there ought to be no exemption made for a particular class.
– The Act makes certain exemptions. For instance, it exempts all benefits from friendly societies or provident associations of a voluntary character. .
– Provision is also made in respect of contributors to insurance companies.
– This insurance is forced upon the miners by the State law, no doubt with a very good object, and the system works admirably. The contribution to the fund means that so much is taken out of their scanty earnings every year. It seems to me that they are treated very harshly when the contribution is made a disability by the Old-age Pensions Act. If we were to take into account all the matters to which the honorable member for Dalley alluded, it would be necessary to reconstruct the law. It should be borne in mind that the very genius of our legislation is indigence as well as old age. In order to be qualified for a pension, a person mustbe not merely old and incapable of work, but also indigent. It has been suggested by the honorable member for Barrier that the old-age pension should be made a matter of right, and associated with citizenship rather than with indigence. That is one of those evolutions of the future to which we shall all look forward with great interest. Speaking quite candidly, I should like to see established a great national insurance fund under which every individual would be entitled to receive an amount, because he was a citizen and a contributor. That, no doubt, is the logical outcome of this legislation, and hereafter it may become obligatory upon a Government to bring a scheme of that kind into operation, but that time is not now. The Old-age Pensions Act has to be administered as it stands. At the present time, certain miners are deprived of an old-age pension. I think that my. honorable friends may take it that the Government will give their earnest consideration to the matter which has been brought forward to-day with a view to seeing whether a remedy can be provided.
.- I think that the Minister of Defence took a very reasonable view when he said that the omission of the miners from the operation of the Act, on the ground that their contribution has been aided by other parties to a slight degree, is a distinct anomaly.
– There is no omission of them.
– Not specifically, but for all practical purposes, there is.
– The amount of the pension is reducedif the men get more than£52 a year.
– By reason of the contribution which they make to the Miners’ Accident Relief Fund, they are deprived of rights which belong to other citizens.
– They are treated just the same as are those who contribute to insurance companies.
– The duty of the AttorneyGeneral is not to give a sympathetic opinion, but to interpret the law.
– I have had two independent opinions.
– If the Government can be assisted to a decision on the question, they may count upon the support of the Opposition to undo the law at the- earliest possible moment. There will be no difficulty in amending the law if the Government are desirous of doing away with this anomaly and injustice. I do not want to argue the question. I differ entirely from the Minister of Defence regarding the introduction of a universal insurance principle. We have borrowed some good ideas from Germany, but I hope that we shall not borrow from her that principle.
– I said nothing about Germany.
– Those who are in their infancy on questions of this kind declare for an insurance scheme, with a contribution from the State, the employer, and the worker. But that is a waste of time in a well-governed country.
– I have a great deal of sympathy with the honorable member for Newcastle in bringing forward this question, but I differ entirely from the view just expressed by the Leader of the Opposition. The whole principle of our Old-age Pensions Act is wrong. It penalizes a man who has made a little provision for his old age, but encourages the man who has squandered his means. It is quite opposed to every principle which should operate in a rightlygoverned community. It relieves unfortunate persons, no matter what they have done, so long as they are poor and incapable of work. It is wrong not to help a miner simply because he has made some provision for his old age by means of a weekly contribution to an insurance fund. A man of that type deserves encouragement, not discouragement. Again, take the case of a man who, by the exercise of selfdenial, has provided a little home for his old age. Why should he not also be considered under the Act?
– Especially if he has been compelled to mortgage his property.
– Several very hard cases have been brought under my notice. One is the case of a fine specimen of an old Englishman who has made a living all his life, and who has never cost the Government a shilling. The little home which he bought out of his hard earnings just places him beyond the pale of an old-age pension. The relief which he previously got from the State has been cut off. He has a house, it is true, but an old-age pension is denied to him. “ If a few years ago,” he said to me, “ I had sold my property, and spent the money, I could now come upon the Commonwealth, and get an old-age pension.” The principle of our legislation is radically wrong. Despite what any honorable member may say or think, I believe that in the very near future the Commonwealth will be brought face to face with the question of establishing a proper system of insurance, under which every young man will be compelled to make a little provision for his old age - receiving, not a pauper dole of 10s., but 20s. or 25s., because in Australia no one can live in comfort on 10s. a week.
– We could add an unemployment scheme.
– Then it would be a very good scheme indeed. Whether a man has provided for his old age through a provident society, or bought a little home through a building society, or established a home in the bush, it is wrong for the Legislature to say, “ Because you made this provision in your youth and strength you shall receive no aid from the State in the shape of an old-age pension.” It is time that this whole question was taken thoroughly in hand. If the Act is not based on a proper principle, and leads to wrong principles, let it be remodelled, even though we should have to make a fresh start.
– Amend the Act?
– Yes, it should be made as perfect as possible.
– Last month there was so much obstruction that we could not get the amending Bill through the House for some time.
– We have rules by the application of which an amending Bill could be passed, and I hope that the Government, in proposing an amendment of the law, will rather encourage those who have made provision for their old age than punish them, as is done at present.
.I am not satisfied that the opinion of the Attorney-General respecting the deduction from old-age pensions of amounts equivalent to the income earned during the previous year must be regarded as conclusive, and am strengthened in that view by the fact that the administration of the Commonwealth Act has been upon the lines laid down in New South Wales, in this and other matters. The definition of “income “ in the Commonwealth Act is in part copied verbatim from the. New South Wales Act, and where it departs from it. must be assumed to do so for a good and sufficient reason. The New South Wales definition is this -
Any moneys, valuable consideration, or profits derived or received by any person for his own use or benefit in any year, by any means or from any source, and computed in accordance with the provisions of this Act, and includes personal earnings, but does Dot include any pension payable under this Act, nor any payment by way of sick allowance or funeral benefit from any registered friendly society.
That is almost exactly the wording of the Commonwealth Act, but we deliberately substituted, in regard to payments of sick relief and the like, this provision -
But not any payment-
By way of benefit from any friendly society registered under any Act or StateAct, or
During illness, infirmity, or old-age from any trade union, provident society, or other society or association.
The New South Wales Miners’ Accident Relief Act created a fund vested in a Board, which, within the meaning of the Commonwealth Old-age Pensions Act is an association, just as the Railways Commissioners of the States would be within the meaning of our Conciliation and Arbitration Act, were they not specially exempted from the operation of its provisions. An old-age pensions law should always be administered sympathetically, and where there is ambiguity, the interpretation should be such as to give the fullest effect to the intentions of its framers. But in the administration of the Commonwealth Act the Department, whenever a provision has been open to a wide and a narrow interpretation, has always adopted the latter. I do not blame the Treasurer for his vigilance in protecting the revenue, but it is the duty of the Commissioner for old-age pensions to interpret the law sympathetically. In my opinion, the definition of income, and the exceptions mentioned in connexion therewith, are sufficient to justify him in treating the Miners’ Accident Relief Fund
Board as an association within the meaning . of the section. According to the AttorneyGeneral, the payments from this fund are not “ payments from a friendly society, trade union, provident society or other society or association.” I ask the honorable member whether a body having a corporate existence such as this has, is net an “ association,” and why it must not be so regarded merely because it happens to be a State Department. Had the New South Wales Government, like the New Zealand Government, provided for insurance against sickness or accidents, any person insured with it would be prevented, according to the opinion given by the honorable gentleman, from benefiting under the Old-age Pensions Act without suffering a deduction of the amount paid to him in regard thereto. I wish to know why he considers that a State Department differs from an ordinary corporation. If we took away one of the three contributors - the State - to the Miners’ Accident Relief Fund, the remaining two would constitute such a corporation as would enable any miner benefiting under it to draw an old-age pension without deduction. I think that we should proceed to the amendment of the Act only in the last resort. The Treasury has a traditional dislike to disbursing public money in a liberal fashion. That is shown by the interpretation which it has adopted as to what constitutes income, and how the amount of an income is to be determined. According to the New South Wales Act, an income year means - the twelve months ending one month before the date on which the pension claim is admitted, and at the same time in each subsequent year.
Under that Act the amount of pension payable to a claimant is determined upon the basis of the income received during the year preceding the application for the pension. Those administering the New South Wales Act, therefore, were perfectly justified in paying upon the basis of the previous year’s income, but since there is no such provision in the Commonwealth Act, there is no justification for adopting a like basis in dealing with claims made under it. Under the Commonwealth Act there is no direction to the Commissioner save that given in section 24, which provides that -
The amount of a pension shall in each case be at such rate as, having regard to all the circumstances of the case the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner who determines the pension claim, deems reasonable and sufficient. . . .
I, therefore, submit that the Commissioner has fallen into an error in assuming that the mandatory provision in the New South Wales Act, to which I have referred, applies also to the Commonwealth system of old-age pensions. His decision in that respect affects a great many more persons than does that which the honorable member for Newcastle has brought up. Both these matters can be adjusted, however, without an amendment of the Statute. In the Miners’ Accident Relief Fund Act of New South Wales, it is provided that there shall be a Committee invested with certain powers. Section 8 provides that there shall be a Board, to be known as the New South Wales Miners’ Accident Relief Board, and that it shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal. By what process of reasoning does the AttorneyGeneral declare that that Board is not an association within the meaning of section 4 of the Commonwealth Act? An “ association “ within the meaning of that section is distinctly a body corporate of some sort, registered or unregistered. A body corporate, having perpetual succession and a common seal, must be an “association” within the meaning of that section.
– Order. The time allotted to the honorable member under the standing order has expired.
– 1 agree that the Commonwealth Old-age Pensions Act ought to be sympathetically administered, and that a man who in the prime of his life has been paying into a provident fund, should not be penalized, but rather assisted and encouraged. There is, however, another aspect of the question with regard to the New South Wales Miners’ Accident Relief Fund, and the sick and accident fund of the Amalgamated Miners’ Association, which must be considered. The funds of those’ associations ought to be kept entirely apart from political purposes. A majority of the members of the Amalgamated Miners’ Association of Victoria have recently decided by vote that it shall become associated with a political body, and a compulsory levy, with a view of carrying out that decision, is to be struck. Many miners who were not* in favour of that association becoming a political body have thus been placed in a very awkward position.
– But the sick and accident fund is kept entirely distinct from the fund for political purposes.
– The point is that a member of the association who refuses to pay the levy is held to be unfinancial and cannot participate in the sick and accident fund.
– But what has that to do with the payment of old-age pensions?
– It has an important bearing on this question ; because, as the result of the decision of the majority many members of the association in this State will be deprived of the benefits which they ought to receive in connexion with the sick and accident fund. Those ‘ who are receiving an allowance from that fund ought not to be cut off from the benefits of the Old-age Pensions Act. At the same time the association ought not to be allowed to force its members to contribute to a political organization.
– The Commonwealth Old-age Pensions Act does not distinguish between those who pay and those who do not pay the levy.
– I admit that. The point I wish to make is that in the working of the association one set of men holding certain political views should not be penalized as against another set holding other political views. They ought not to be cut off from the fund because of their refusal to pay this special levy,’ and those who are receiving payments from that fund should not be deprived of the privileges of the Old-age Pensions Act. I do not understand the legal position, as put by the AttorneyGeneral, but I hope that both he and the Treasurer will be able to deal with this matter sympathetically. Men ought not to be made to suffer because of their providence. To my own knowledge the administration of the Act in some respects has been rather on the side of harshness than of leniency. Recently in the Piggoreet district an old woman who had a house and some land, but was in very bad health, applied for a pension and was awarded by the police magistrate who dealt with her claim a pension of 10s. per week. To her intense astonishment, when she applied for the first payment she could not obtain it, and pending a settlement of her case, some of her friends had to provide her with money. She then found that she was to receive 9s. instead of 10s. ; but it was about a fortnight before even that was finally settled. The house and land” she had recently transferred to her daughter, because the latter had given up a situation in order that she might assist her mother at home. The house was such a poor one that it swayed with the wind, while the land, in a mining district, was such that it would not run a billy-goat. The only product of the land was a little firewood, so that it was of no value for the purpose of income. We all admit that the Act ought to be administered so as to prevent fraud ; but when a case has been looked into very closely by the magistrates - and they are generally pretty astute - it is stretching the point too far to reduce a pension, in the way I have described, unless for very good cause. Thi? is only one case of the kind brought under my notice, but it indicates that there may be a great many more; and I plead that the Act should be sympathetically administered. People who earn comparatively small wages ought to be encouraged rather than discouraged in making efforts to provide in some measure for their old age.
– I had intended saying something on the matter of old-age pensions on the first item on the noticepaper; but, seeing that, for some reasons, which I do not quite understand, the adjournment of the House has been moved, I shall take the present opportunity. The discussion has taken an interesting, and, I think, instructive turn; and doubtless the Treasurer will have received some very useful suggestions for improvement in the administration of the Act. 1 agree with those who urge that thrift should not be penalized in the way it is under the present measure. A line could easily be drawn between indigence and competency, so that a person of the required age, and in needful circumstances, should have the advantage of the Act. But the honorable member for Barrier, in his contention that everybody on reaching a certain age should be entitled to draw a pension, has almost reached. the reductio ad. absurdum. ‘ No one will seriously contend that a person with a competency ought to be entitled to draw any supplementary sum from the public funds, though I believe that, if opportunity were given, there are people, with very respectable incomes, who would take advantage of such unusual generosity on the part of the State. In fact, I am told by a gentleman who is in ;i position to gain information, that in Victoria, there are people receiving pensions under the existing Act who are not in such a position that such assistance is a necessity. My idea is that the scheme of pensions ought- to be enlarged to include orphans and persons suffering from any infirmity which makes them unable to earn a living. Further, I should make it compulsory on all male adults to contribute to the_ pension fund until they reach the age of sixty-five. The collection could, I think, be made without much expense, and the price of a couple of beers, or a plug of tobacco in the fortnight, would result in a substantial sum. If any refused to contribute, I would first strike their names off the rolls of voters for both State and Commonwealth.
– Would the honorable member make them contribute whether they could afford it or not?
– Certainly not; the attempt would be useless in the case of a. man out of employment ; and under my scheme, men so circumstanced would receive assistance. If any person who was able to contribute refused to do so, I would ultimately make it impossible for him to derive any benefit in his old age. A contributory scheme of the kind would at once lift the pension out of the category of an ordinary State dole, and make it something that a person could accept without the slightest loss of self-respect, assuming that there are people who hesitate to take the pension under present conditions. I desire particularly to direct attention to the fact that, although there has been some improvement in Western Australia in the rate at which pensions are being granted, the officers are still very much in arrears. A large number of claims have yet to be dealt with, and, as a matter of fact, the percentage is very much higher than in any of the other States. There may be some difficulties owing to the peculiar position of old people in Western Acstralia, who have come from other States, or even from other countries. But, even allowing for that, there is delay which the Treasurer ought to be at pains to obviate, if possible. I am quite sure that the gentleman who has charge of the work in Western Australia is straining every nerve, and, if he errs at all, it is in the direction of the dictates of humanity rather than of strict officialism. There is no fear in my mind that the failure to give applicants pensions is due to the officials concerned; but there is evidently something wrong. It is just possible that the office is under staffed, or there may be some technical difficulties which the officials have some trouble in overcoming. At any rate, there is the fact that a large number of applicants are still without their pensions. Such a state of affairs should not exist to the degree to which it does exist even in Western Australia. I hope that the Treasurer will try to ascertain where the difficulty lies, and, if possible, to obviate it.
– They are getting on much better now.
-But, still, the percentage of claims awaiting settlement is much higher than in any of the other States.
– The work is new to the officers I think.
– Possibly an increase of the staff might be an advantage.
– We have offered them that, but they say that the delay is due, not to that, but to other reasons:
– I regret very .much that those reasons seem so successfully to militate against people getting their pensions. Some of them must be badly in want of them. I urge the Treasurer to look into the matter further, arid get all the claims brought up to date as speedily as possible.
– I shall not detain the House by going into the question of law, because I am sure that honorable members will credit the Department with every desire to approach the construction of a Statute like the Old-age Pensions Act in a liberal spirit. At the same time, the AttorneyGeneral is not bound to read into the words of an Act his feelings of philanthropy if he cannot, by a reasonable construction of those words, find an exemption in them. If I were to- follow the line of reasoning adopted by my predecessor, the honorable member for West Sydney, I am afraid I should ‘not only bring in societies which ought to be within the purport of the Act, but which are not, but also all insurance societies and other bodies that are, perhaps, the source of the income of comparatively rich people. The honorable member asked . me a question, which I preferred not to answer in the Socratic method of question and answer of which he appears to be so fond, as to whether the mere word “association “ itself, read altogether without regard to the words with which it is collocated, was not the test of this particular exemption. But in the definition of “ income,” which contains the two exemptions, I have to read each particular word in the light of the words with which it is in collocation, and, even by a stretch of the imagination with which lawyers are sometimes credited, one cannot read into the word “ association “ in ‘that definition a meaning which would bring within it all the mutual insurance companies that can be found throughout Australia. That, however, would be the logical result of adopting the honorable member’s principle of interpretation. The honorable member for West Sydney also asked whether we ought, under this Act, to assume that a man has this year an income which would debar him from receiving an old-age pension because he had a certain income last year. No such question has been submitted to me as AttorneyGeneral for consideration. Prima facie, the fact of a man having an income last year is hot a final test of his having an income this year.
– The officers take it as the basis of his income this year.
– On that point, I can only deal with what has come under the notice of my Department. All I can say at present is that prima facie there is a good deal to be said for the contention of the honorable member for West Sydney. The honorable member for Newcastle urged that it was rather hard to refuse the benefit of the exemption to those receiving payments from the provident fund to which he referred, when Imperial Army or Navy pensioners were not treated in the same way. I did not make any inquiries as to that matter when I was considering the point of law, but afterwards, in considering the question of policy to see whether anything could be done by an amendment of the Act, I asked the question, and was told-
– The paragraph that I read evidently did not give the full facts.
– There must have been some mistake, for I have since made inquiries, and I believe the honorable member was under a misapprehension when he spoke. Shortly put, our Act has not been based upon the New South Wales Act, although the administration in this regard is on the lines of the opinion given in New South Wales. In that State, in regard to the exemption, they stopped at friendly societies. Our Act has been based rather upon the Queensland Act, of which it is an exact copy, and it is very nearly a copy of the Victorian Act. The principle of the Act is, of course, to regard indigence as the test, with two exceptions only, and those two exceptions were put in so as not to discourage thrift ; hence the word used is “ provident.” “ Providence,” as the dictionary shows, is a matter of self help. On the question of policy, a great deal is to be said for amending the Act. I do not think it would cost very much to amend it so as to bring within it those about whom the honorable member for Newcastle is anxious. I wish we had had more help from the honorable member upon the question of the probable cost. He mentioned that about 60,000 miners were insured.
– I think there are about 60,000 employes altogether.
– I understand that about 23,000 would come under the Act, but 1 do not know what the percentage of accidents is.
– Last year (here were about ninety.
– There is no doubt that the annual outlay caused by such an amendment would be very little. These are matters that we can easily ascertain in the course of the next day or two by communication with the Government of New South Wales. I tried to get the information before this motion came on to-day, but was unable to do so. From what has been said by the Acting-Leader of the Go vernment, I am sure that the Cabinet will approach the matter in a sympathetic spirit. It is anomalous that, while men are compelled to insure, that very compulsion - for in relation to it they have not the choice which a member of a voluntary insurance society has - should disable them pro tanto from receiving an old-age pension.
– I do not think it would cost more than £2,000.
– I do not think it would. If honorable members will look at the definition of provident society in the English Acts and “in the New South Wales Acts which have been based upon them, they will find that what is meant is not “ compulsory providence,” which really would be a contradiction in terms, but societies of working men formed on the basis of mutual assistance. In the Friendly Societies Acts of England, New South Wales, and the other States, the intention is that the subscriptions should be voluntary.
– The New South Wales Government proposed at one time to subsidize friendly societies. Would the receipt of a. Government subsidy debar the members of friendly societies?
– It would not.
– Friendly societies can sue for the “voluntary subscriptions” of their members..
– The object of the Registration Act is to enable them to sue for subscriptions, but there is no legal compulsion on their members to continue their subscriptions. Any man who enters into a contract renders himself liable at law to fulfil his contract, but he can withdraw from any friendly society in relation to which he is called upon to pay his subscription. I can promise that the matter which has been brought forward to-day will be sympathetically considered by the Government, and, I hope, in the direction of recognising the evident desire of honorable members that the Act should be amended.
Debate interrupted under standing order.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Forces on the same date?
– The reply to the honorable member’s question has involved the preparation of a return which I shall lay upon the table of the House.
– The Minister of Defence has handed in a return in answer to the question of the honorable member for Adelaide. In my opinion, it would be inconvenient to read the document, and I therefore intend to follow the course of having it inserted in Hansard. But I would suggest to honorable members that questions which involve the preparation of returns would be more conveniently dealt with by way of motion.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The questions referred to are considered to have been replied to. The answers already given may be amplified as follow : -
The medal referred to is recognised by the Imperial authorities, as it is awarded under conditions embodied in the Com monwealth regulations, which comply with the requirements of a Royal Warrant. These conditions limit the award to members of the Permanent Forces, and could only be varied by Royal Warrant.
No records ranbe traced prior to 1863.
There is no such record.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What is the annual respective postal, telegraph, telephone, money order, and postal note business done at the Bungaree Post Office for years ending 30thJune, 1907, 1908, and1909?
– Inquiry is being made, and an answer will be furnished as early as possible.
Old-age Pensions : Administration - Construction of Torpedo Destroyers : Dockyards and Ironworkers, Sydney and Melbourne - Conduct of Business - Fiscal Policy of the Government - Financial Relations, Commonwealth and States - Socialistic Proposals– Locomotive Construction at Eveleigh and New- port.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- If is to be regretted that the speech of the AttorneyGeneral was interrupted by the expiration of the time allowed for the discussion of a motion for the adjournment of the House. I trust that in the interests of the country the honorable gentleman will complete his statement on the motion now before the Chair. I listened to his speech very carefully, and also to that of the Minister of Defence. Both honorable gentlemen profess themselves to be in ac cord with the suggestion made by the honorable member for Newcastle as to the cruelty of making deductions from the oldage pension on account of the receipt cf payments from the Miners’ Accident Relief Fund. It necessarily follows that there must be an amendment of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act. I trust that an amending Bill will be speedily introduced, and that it will be passed during the present session. There are hundreds of cases in which the administration has been too rigid, and has defeated the ends which Parliament had in view when the Act was passed. A case of great hardship occurs to me. An artisan in my electorate built a house for himself, and is paying for it bv instalments. Old age came upon him. The house was mortgaged. Deductions have been made by the old-age pensions authorities on account of the value of the house, although he is receiving no value from it. I have no doubt that there are hundreds of such cases in the Commonwealth. As has been said in the course of the debate, thrift ought not to be penalized. I ask the Government to extend their sympathies to such men. The Attorney-General has stated that the Commonwealth law was founded upon, the New South. Wales measure. But the deductions made by the administrators are more severe and exact ing than were those which were made under the New South Wales Act. I know many people who were recipients of pensions in New South Wales, but who today are in a worse position than they formerly were. The man to whom I” have referred was a sturdy iron worker. Because he is the owner of a mortgaged house, the officials have deducted is. 8d. per week from his old-age pension. Such a deduction, made from 10s. per week, amounts to a tremendous loss. It amounts to one day’s pension. But the administrator in New South Wales, Mr. Clegg, considers that he is bound by the terms of the Act,. and is compelled to make the deduction. I trust that no one will think” that I am bringing this case forward from political motives. As a matter of fact, the man in question was one of my strongest opponents, and I presume that he will be so in future. But if in matters of this kind, a member of Parliament were to speak only for his political supporters, he certainly would reach very low depths indeed. Every honorable member has received scores of letters drawing attention to serious deductions which have been made from the amount of the old-age pensions. It is regrettable that the Act has to be interpreted in such a rigid manner, and the sooner we amend it the better. Honorable members are so satisfied of the importance of amending the law that I am sure that’ an amending Bill would not be obstructed. ‘
– That is what we thought when the last amending Bill was introduced.
– I do not believe that the Opposition would make use of a Bill to amend the Old-age Pensions Act in this respect for purposes of obstruction. The honorable member for Newcastle has been fortunate in securing the concurrence of two members of the Ministry. The Minister of Defence has admitted that if the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is to be interpreted in a certain way, the sooner it is amended the better, and the AttorneyGeneral has said that it requires amendment.
– What does that mean ?
– I hope that it means something more than mere empty words. I hope that it will mean something for the advantage of the unfortunate persons who have had their pensions reduced. As this is “ grievance day,” I intend to say a little on the political side in the interests of my own electorate. It is just as well to be frank, and the reference which has been made to ironworkers has led me to suggest to the Minister of Defence, who appears to be in a particularly good humour this afternoon, the matter of the construction of the destroyer., Recently the matter has been brought under notice frequently byhonorable members representing Victoria, and I have myself asked a question of the Minister on the subject. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports got in early, and, about a fortnight ago, managed to introduce a deputation to the Minister of Defence, to remind him that the best place for the construction of the destroyer would be the Newport Railway Workshops.
– No, at Williamstown.
– The honorable member did not extend an invitation to the honorable member for Dalley to accompany him with that deputation. If he had done so, I should probably have used some persuasive language to induce the Minister to believe that there is a better place at which to build destroyers than even railway workshops. If some consideration is not given to the claims of the place I have in mind in this connexion it cannot be expected that I shall continue to be a supporter of the Government. There is a place called the Fitzroy dock in New South Wales, which is owned by the State Government, and in and around that dock are. to be found the largest engineering establishments in the Commonwealth. The Woolwich Engineering Works, in the electorate of the Minister of Defence, are the largest private engineering works in the Commonwealth, and, perhaps, before the honorable gentleman comes to a decision on this matter, he will see what might be done in his own constituency.
– The State Government docks should be taken over by the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member makes a good suggestion. If the Commonwealth took over the dock at Cockatoo Island, it would be good business, as we have the necessary plant there, and might assemble the parts of the destroyer ourselves more cheaply than could any private firm in the Commonwealth. The Fitzroy dock, I may say, is not in my electorate. It is in the electorate of the honorable member for West Sydney, but the men who work at it live in my electorate. If I had not told honorable members that, some other honorable member would no doubt have done so before the night was over. As we have very properly decided to go in for naval construction, I have thought it well to remind the Minister of Defence of the splendid facilities immediately at hand, to which I have just referred. I am not suggesting that there should be only one naval construction establishment for the whole of the Commonwealth, and that at Sydney. I believe thai later on there should be one in Melbourne. If it were only for the purpose of effecting necessary repairs, naval workshops must be established at other ports in the Commonwealth. The necessities of the southern coast of Australia will have to be considered as much as those of the eastern and north-eastern coast. In case of accident a vessel should be able to run into the nearest port for repairs. I think that if the Government undertook the work of construction at the dockyard on Cockatoo Island, they would get better results than by giving the work to private firms, though I do not doubt that private firms, like’ Mort’s dock, and other engineering firms that could be mentioned, could do the work that would require to be done. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports will probably admit that, as I was brought up with, and have always been associated with, ironworkers, no member of the House is likely to be better acquainted with them. All the ironworkers of the Commonwealth are not resident in either Sydney or Melbourne. To my knowledge there are hundreds of shipbuilders and other highly skilled workers in iron in different parts of the Commonwealth. There are hundreds of such men who would be quite capable of undertaking this class of work. There are scores who have had actual experience in naval construction, because most of the ironworkers of the Commonwealth have come here from Newc’astle-on-Tyne and the Belfast shipbuilding yards. These men could undertake the work of naval construction to-morrow, if the necessary plant were available. I do not contend that there is available in Australia to-day the plant necessary for the construction of iron ships. Such a plant is not available at the Fitzroy dock, or at any other shipbuilding works established in the Commonwealth.
– Repairs are effected to warships at the Fitzroy dock.
– They have a plant sufficient for repairs, but they are not able to carry out naval construction on any large scale. I have no doubt that a sufficient plant for the purpose could be secured within a very short period. I admired the last Government for their determination to have one of the destroyers constructed here. Personally I do not know why they should have gone out of Australia for the first two vessels, as models. All that they need have done was to get the plans from the Admiralty.
– They tried and could not get them.
– Surely the Admiralty would have extended that courtesy to so important a portion of the Empire ?
– The Admiralty could not get them.
– Probably the shipbuilding firms would not part with the plans. There are naval architects who could draw the plans, so that we should merely require to import for a short period the men who are known as “ leading hands.” There are scores of men available in Australia who could do the work after the plans had been drafted. The practice that is generally adopted is to draw on the plates of iron a rough plan to which the shipwrights work, and the “ leading hands “ from the workshops of the Old Country would merely be required to direct them. There are in Australia to-day thousands of good iron operatives, hundreds who have a practical knowledge of this class of work, and scores who have recently been engaged upon similar work in Scotland and Ireland. I do not pretend fora moment that my action this afternoon is not promoted by consideration for the interests of my constituents. I make no attempt to conceal the fact that it is. I find that other honorable members get up early. Only the other day the honorable member for Melbourne Ports introduced a deputation to the Minister of Defence for the purpose of urging upon him that the assembling of the parts of the third torpedo boat destroyer should be undertaken at Williamstown. I do not blame him for his action, but I think that he might have invited the representatives of other districts who are interested in this work to be present. Had he done so I should have been glad to attend. One would think from reading the Melbourne press that the representatives of New South Wales were anxious to take all Commonwealth work from Victoria. As a matter of fact there is ample room for the interests of both States to be studied. In Sydney the necessary works are already established so that the third destroyer - upon the arrival of its parts - could easily be put together there. The construction of the larger vessels should also be undertaken in Australia, and to that end the Government docks in New South Wales and Victoria should be utilized. The Commonwealth would thus save the profit which would otherwise be made by outside firms. It would merely have to incur the necessary expenditure on plant and to pay the standard rate of wages. We have already had some experience in the construction of a trawler.
– Is not this Socialism?
– I do not care what the honorable member may call it. I say that if the Government can undertake any work better than can private enterprise it should undertake it. We have to consider the interests of the taxpayers. It is our duty to guard the public funds, and we shall do that effectually by getting these vessels constructed in the Government workshops. At the opening of this Parliament some honorable members, who avow themselves antiSocialists, voted in favour of a proposal that provision should be made upon our mail steamers for the carriage of perishable produce. They were not concerned with the question of whether or not their action might be dubbed Socialism. In the same way I see an opportunity to make use of the Government workshops. I hope that the Minister of Defence will consider my remarks as favorably as he did those of the honorable member for Newcastle in reference to old-age pensions.
– It is quite refreshing to hear good Socialism preached from the Ministerial benches.
– And good protection too.
– Yes, the honorable member for Dal ley has given utterance to good Protectionist ideas to which I hope effect will be given in the near future. He has admitted that Socialism, so far as shipbuilding is concerned, is possible in Australia. He also mentioned incidentally that a few days ago I introduced a deputation to the Minister of Defence, which urge upon that gentleman the desirableness of having the third torpedo boat destroyer put together at Williamstown, and also of establishing ship-building yards there. That honorable member further stated that he would have liked to be present. I entertained no objection to his presence, but I scarcely cared to invite him to attend a deputation whose object was to make the advantages of the Williamstown site so very apparent, because being human, he would, I assume, have liked to make an interjection or two. There seems to be a general opinion that it is necessary to establish docks fori the building of ships. It is true that in Sydney the trawler was constructed in a dock, but such a procedure is never adopted by the ship-building nations of the world. In most countries ships are constructed upon slips, and upon their completion are slipped into deep water. The idea that New South Wales is up-to-date in dock accommodation is an absolute fallacy, and I am rather of opinion that the New South Wales Government recognise the fact, because, not long ago, they en- deavoured to make a bargain with the Commonwealth for the purpose of getting rid of their dock.
– It is the best dock in the Commonwealth.
– I may be wrong, but while I admit that the Fitzroy dock is a good one, it is not up-to-date, in addition to which a dock is not necessary for the building of ships.
– Has the honorable member seen the Fitzroy dock?
– Yes, I had the pleasure of seeing it last year. I admit that it is a very good dock In introducing the deputation to which I have referred, I assured the Minister of Defence that its members were not present in any captious spirit, but merely desired to place before him the advantages of a site at Williamstown for a ship-building yard. We all recognise that ships can be built in Sydney harbor, and I see no reason why States, other than New South Wales and Victoria, could not undertake the assembling of the parts of the third torpedo boat destroyer. I am satisfied that we have workers in’ Melbourne who, without any instruction from the Old Country, could put them together. But I suppose that the Government of the day wanted to be on sure ground, and therefore took a certain stand. I did not agree with their action, though I did not cavil at it. For many reasons, the site suggested by the deputation I introduced is superior to the site in Port Jackson. No site could possibly be better than the Point Gellibrand site, as a strong rocky formation offers great stability, and there is unalienated land to the area of about thirty acres. A ship could be floated im mediately into deep water without any possibility of trouble or danger arising. In the Old Country a ship could not be built end on because, if so built, it could not be launched. Therefore, every ship is built diagonally, and when it is launched, there is an arrangement for turning it down stream. No trouble in that direction would arise at Williamstown, because .a ship would be launched into an open harbor. That ‘ is an advantage which no construction yard in Sydney could offer. Again, there is no possibility of a ship-building yard at Point Gellibrand being shelled by an enemy from the open sea. I have no desire to belittle Sydney Harbor, but in view of the fact that large guns will propel a shot for a distance of fifteen miles, honorable members can understand that it would be easy for an enemy to shell a shipbuilding yard in the remotest portion of Sydney Harbor.
– So it would in Melbourne.
– Of course, I did not expect that my remark would meet with universal approval.
– -Are the forts in Sydney Harbor to be closed ?
– I have seen some gun-firing, but I do not think that the honorable member has. An honorable member has tried to point out in rather an ingenious way how a ship is at a disadvantage in comparison with a fort. I do not know whether he is an authority on the subject or not, but common sense tells us that it is harder to hit a moving object than a stationary one. To my mind, forts are placed at a disadvantage as compared with ships. There is no doubt that ships of war could stand outside Port Jackson, and shell any portion’ of Sydney. But they could not shell the site at Point Gellibrand, in Hobson’s Bay.
– Because it is situated 30 miles from the sea, and there is no gun which can hit an object at that distance. In order to shell a ship-building yard at Williamstown, ships would have to stand off 6 or 7 miles from the Heads.
– Could they not get into Hobson’s Bay?
– They might. Certainly if ships could get into Hobson’s Bay they could get into Port Jackson.
– The guns at Port Jackson would not be so defective as those in Hobson’s Bay.
– It is not necessary for ships to get into Port Jackson to shell a ship-building yard.
– They could not get within range either.
– As the wish is father to the thought I cannot blame the honorable member, who represents a Sydney constituency, and is, therefore, impelled to stick up for “ Ma.” The fact that a ship-building yard at Point Gellibrand would be beyond gun fire proves that it must be superior to any ship-building yard in Sydney Harbor. I have always endeavoured to avoid provincialism. I admit that, like other members, I have a little provincial feeling running through me.
– No, quite a stream.
– I can discern still more provincial feeling in the representatives of New South Wales, more especially in the representatives of Sydney constituencies. Whenever there is anything afloat Sydney members always look after its interests, and I do not blame them. My opinion is that they have always looked after their capital, and obtained pretty well all that could fee got, leaving little for any one ‘else.
– That is what impelled me to vote for protection.
– The honorable member took a certain stand on the Tariff, and, in my opinion, quite justifiably. When a site is required for a shipbuilding yard I would be foolish if I did not bring before the House a site which is distinctly superior to any site which the honorable member can find in Sydney Harbor.
– They could not build a canoe at Williamstown.
– I’ do not know that there are any canoe builders at Williamstown, but I do know that Melbourne iron workers can do more than the iron workers of Sydney can do.
– They must be sweated if they do more.
– Larger ships have been constructed in Melbourne than in New South Wales. That assertion cannot be denied. The representatives of the Mother State, no matter to what party they may belong, fight with bulldog tenacity for her supposed rights, even, when none exist. They regard Sydney as entitled to everything. But the time has come when they should be shown that other parts of Australia have claims to consideration from: the Commonwealth Government.
– What consideration has Sydney received from the Commonwealth?
– Sydney has always claimed, generally successfully, that the heads of the navy, the churches, and other organizations, religious and civil, shall live there. In my opinion, Newcastle has facilities which are superior to those of Sydney. As for Hobson’s Bay, it is certainly better in this respect, that it is secure from the fire of an enemy’s ships. That is a very great advantage from a naval stand-point.
– I have received numerous communications complaining of the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act and, as the subject is being debated, wish to take the opportunity to bring three or four cases under the notice of the House. I thought that the law would deal with our people in a liberal spirit, but apparently their treatment is just the reverse. In one case brought under my notice, a Mr. Bulloch, of Manus Station, an invalid 83 years of age, who has no property, has had his pension reduced from ros. to 7s. 6d. a week.- The Deputy Commissioner at Sydney has been written to, but I have not yet received a reply from him. I know this pensioner very well, and cannot think why, his pension should have been reduced. When he was receiving 10s. a week, it was little enough to live upon. The intention of the New South Wales Legislature, when the first old-age pensions measure was introduced, was to enable the old people of the State to live, not in affluence, but with some degree of comfort, and what was called an “ economy “ provision was inserted, to induce thrift, so that they might not be entirely dependent on Government assist ance. I am sorry that the Treasurer, who administers the Old-age Pensions Act, is not here, as he should be, to listen to these complaints. I have hardly seen him in the chamber this afternoon.
– He spoke of the debate as a placard. That was all the sympathy that he showed.
– I am not speaking to waste time. These matters may be of small importance to those who live in comfort, but they are very serious to the poor who depend on Government assistance for some small degree of comfort in their declining years. Another case to which I direct attention is that of a man named Harry Carrier, a native of Mauritius, and formerly a British soldier. He is totally blind in one eye, and the sight of the other eye is defective. His age is 72 years, and for seven years he received a pension from the StateUnder Commonwealth administration he has been deprived of his pension, and is now in -the Wagga Benevolent Asylum. That is an outrageous case. Why should this man be made the recipient of the charity of a benevolent asylum? lj: was intended that persons situated as he ii should receive pensions as a right, that they should not be treated as paupers. In this case, too, the Deputy Commissioner at Sydney has been communicated with, but a reply has not yet been received from him. What sort of a Government is it that will allow such cases to occur ? We expect the Ministry to accept seme responsibility, and not to allow cases to arise that are a disgrace to the community, and amount almost to maladministration of the law. The spirit of the Act is undoubtedly that a pension shall not be regarded as a charity, and that the claim of any deserving person shall not be ignored. I wish now to bring under the notice of the Minister the ease of Mrs. Mary Crandell, a widow, of Adelong, who is penniless. Under the State Act she received a pension of £22 per annum, but that has been reduced under the Commonwealth Act to £13 17 s. per annum, or about 5s. per week. 1 have received from the Department to-day a letter, stating that the reason why this reduction has been made is that Mrs. Crandell’s adopted son and family live with her, and allow her 5s. per week for the use of part of the house owned by her. The house is considered to return income, and under these circumstances a statutory deduction of £50 only can be allowed in computing her pension. I determined that if I remained in office’ as Treasurer I should endeavour to cause wealthy relatives to assist to maintain claimants for pensions, but I certainly would not have resorted to the course that has been adopted in this case. The Treasurer is not present, but he will be able to read in Hansard the report of my speech. The Ministry are the most callous lot I have met. If such a resolution as that carried last night against the Government had been carried against a self-respecting Ministry, they would have had it rescinded, or would have gone out of office. Their attitude is the most contemptible and outrageous that I have ever known a Government to take up.
– The late Sir Henry Parkes would not have taken up the same attitude.
– No selfrespecting Ministry would do so.
– The action of the Opposition was intended only as a joke.
– The honorable member will find that it was not so intended. I should like to see in power a Ministry prepared to do something. Yesterday I attended a great Show, at which some 12,000 people were present, and there I met a number of old friends - including many selectors and farmers - who told me, to mv surprise, that a large proportion of the young men in the district were joining the Labour party. When I asked the reason for this,’ I was told that they said that the Labour party would do something, whereas others would not. The same statement has been made to me by people in the districts of Orange, Tamworth, and Armidale.
– When is the honorable member going to join?
– The honorable member ought to have been kicked out long ago - a man who sells his soul and his principles.
– Do I understand that the honorable member applies that remark to any member of this House?
– I might have applied it to about one-half of the members of this House.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark.
– I will’ in deference to you, but it is most unusual for the Speaker to object to a statement when an honorable member does not do so.
– I object.
– The honorable member is a nobody.
– I would point out to the honorable member for Hume that vested in the, Chair is the right to so control debate that the feelings of an honorable member shall not be offended. The honorable member, having regard to his long and wide political experience, will bear out my statement that many honorable members suffer indignity rather than complain. I feel, however, that it is my duty to intervene on such occasions, and to protect honorable members. I shall protect the honorable member for Hume just as freely as I would protect any other honorable member.
– I do not want any one to protect me.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark.
– I have.
– The honorable member, in withdrawing, made a speech.
– Do not let us have any child’s-play. I withdraw it.
– I think that we ought to have a quorum. I do not know, Mr. Speaker, that it is competent for you to call any honorable member to order when there is not a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– I did not desire that attention should be called to the state of the House, and I repeat that I have withdrawn the remark objected to. I shall always bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but when I think that a ruling interferes with my rights, I shall take care to assert them. I do not wish to come into conflict with the Chair. I recognise that honorable members have rights, and I shall stand up for them when they are being infringed.
– When I disregard the rights of an honorable member I shall thank that honorable member if he will at once draw my attention to the fact.
– The cases to which I have referred indicate an outrageous administration, and a subversion of the spirit of the Old-age Pensions Act. Of course, I am opposed to such a liberal interpretation as would allow pensions without close investigation ; but, whenever there is a valid case, especially amongst old people, the Government should not be mean enough to take advantage of a technicality.
– I rise to a point of order. Is it in order for an honorable member to try to incite another honorable member to attack, the honorable member who is addressing the Chair ?
– It is certainly not only out of order, but a distinct infringement of the rights and privileges of every honorable member. I sincerely hope no honorable member will pursue a course so unbecoming not only to him, but to the whole assembly.
– This is either a Legislative Assembly, or a collection of fools or boys. It is about time matters were treated seriously, and not with that levity with which a certain motion was received last night. I am sorry I have not the documents with me relating to several other pension cases, but all show an extraordinarysystem in the administration. If the Department does not administer the Act properl v. the head of the Department is to blame, and the Treasurer seems to have a callous heart in this matter.
– The Departmental officers are either carrying out the instructions of the Minister, or are carrying out the Act.
– But we ought to know what instructions have been given. The method now is to keep the House in the dark until everything that should not’ be done has been done; and there will be serious scenes here if there is not a change. I once saw a Speaker pulled out of the chair for the very same reason, and another’ member put in his place.
– No threats !
– I am not threatening in any way, but merely say that, if matters continue to be dealt with in the flippant way some honorable members seem to desire, there will be serious scenes, which will become necessary in order to insure the attention of the Government. The present position is the result of the confusion we observe amongst the Ministry and their supporters. In regard to the building of naval ships, it is not wise to pit Melbourne against Sydney, or vice versa. I hope a fair arrangement will be arrived at; but’ there is no doubt that, at present, the harbor and other facilities at Sydney are superior to any in Australia. It may be that hereafter suitable docks can be made near Melbourne, but Sydney is the only place ready now. for such work.
– What part of Sydney Harbor would the honorable member suggest?
– There are many places, but I suppose the ships would be built at the Fitzroy dock or thereabouts.
– There is no better place in Australia.
– That is what I am saying. I think it was unwise on the part of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to pit one city against theother ; because, strong as I am in a reasonable way in my support of the interests of Sydney and New South Wales,
I recognise that we all represent Australia as a whole. As to the danger of being shelled from sea, we have only, to remember that modern guns carry twelve to fifteen miles,’ so that Melbourne could be bombarded from Hobson’s Bay as easily as could Sydney from Port Jackson.
– Is it not a. fact that Hobson’s Bay is little more than a drain - mud flats with a channel through them ?
– No; Hobson’s Bay is a fine inland sea ; and such contrasts as have been drawn are ridiculous. I believe that ships as large as any that enter Port Jackson can also come up Hobson’s Bay ; at any rate, I know that at one point in Darling Island, there cannot be loaded aship drawing more than twenty-eight or thirty feet.
– Does the honorable member not think that Port Stephens would be the best place of all?
– There are Jervis Bay, Port Stephens, and a number of other places, but it is a subject which I have not deeply studied. I hope that we shall have some definite “information before long regarding the decision of the Government in the matter of both naval and military defence.
– We shall know the Government’s’ policy when we hear the enemy’s guns !
– Parliament would not allow any Government to delay until then. We have asked again and again for the information, ‘and cannot get it.
– It is all in the Age this morning.
– The Prime Minister may say that he did not give the Age the information. I should like to get from the Leader of the Government a definite and authentic statement, out of which, when it is on record in Ilansard, he will not be able to slide. When the papers publish a statement, he can say that he did not authorize it, and that the papers had no right to publish it. We should have had this statement of policy long ago. If I had my way, I should not have allowed the Government to do a single bit of work if I could help it, until they told us what the agreement is in regard to deferring the consideration of the Tariff. It is not fair or just to the House, which should have the knowledge first of all, to keep it in the dark in the way the Government are doing. The Government, last night, managed to prevent any private member’s motions from being discussed. The real fact is that they are afraid of a vote on my motion regarding the Tariff, but the names of those who voted last night can be published.
– The honorable member should have seen them try to slip out of it last night.
– I believe they slid away as if they were going down Kosciusko. I want to know what arrangement has been made, and how long the Tariff is to remain in abeyance. It is palpable from what is happening to-day that there is a movement going, on among the Fusion, or confusion party, to force a revenue Tariff on the Commonwealth. That fact is becoming more and more patent.
– That is imagination on the honorable member’s part.
– It is not. If that is so, there is all the more reason why the Government should state when they are going to deal with the matter, or for how long it is their policy to defer it. I suppose we shall shortly have an opportunity of dealing with the financial problem. I tried yesterday to gauge what the feeling on the subject was amongst 12,000 people.
– Were there 12,000 people at the Albury show ?
– There were certainly between 10,000 and 12,000, and the general feeling there was that they would have nothing whatever to do with the Government’s present proposals for the settlement of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and States. A number of electors there, who have never been supporters of mine, said that such proposals would make them support me more strongly even than my old supporters did. I have tried to gauge the feelings of the people at four shows now, and I can say that the feeling on this question is very keen. The public want .the Government to bring the matter forward at the earliest possible date, or to abandon it. If there is any attempt to make the agreement with the States permanent, it will make the position of the Opposition surer than it might’ otherwise be. There is no doubt that there will be a large majority against’ any such proposition. I rose, however, mainly to speak of the maladministration of the Old-age Pensions law. If that is not remedied the House must take a serious stand, because we cannot afford to let these old people be starved out or driven into benevolent asylums. Our object in pass- ing the Old-age Pensions Act in the State as well as in the Federal Parliament, was to keep them out of benevolent asylums. It cannot be tolerated that they should be so pinched, and their pensions so reduced, or the amount of property which they are allowed to hold as an encouragement of thrift should be so cut down, that they cannot carry on at all. I commend most sincerely to the Government, and especially to the Treasurer, the necessity of looking into the matter at once, and of not allowing it to dangle until it becomes a very serious problem throughout the Commonwealth.
– I listened with some interest to the reference of the honorable member for Dalley to the building of ships of war for the Australian Navy. Although I agree with him in the attitude he now takes up, it is refreshing and also a little amusing to. hear a number of honorable members who were returned as anti- Socialists giving voice one after the other to Socialistic proposals. I remember the honorable member stating in this Parliament that at the last election he was beating the anti-Socialistic drum for the party of the right honorable member for East Sydney, but that he was now beginning to take cover under what he termed the umbrella policy. That is the policy .which a number of honorable members opposite are now adopting, because when they find that the opinions of the electorates are changing, they try to square their attitude inside Parliament to the views expressed outside. I have made a note of a number of anti-Socialists who have turned round in this Parliament and advocated Socialism. The honorable member for Fremantle on the 5th July, 1907. advocated a form of Socialism, and on the 17th July, 1907, the honorable member for Brisbane did the same. The present Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Bendigo, also advocated Socialism for the farmers in his constituency on the 17th July, 1907, and, when asked whether that was not the Socialism which he was elected to oppose, replied, “ I do not care what you call it; I call it common sense.” I notice that the honorable member for Balaclava also advocated Socialistic proposals on the 23rd July. 1907, as did the honorable member for Kooyong, while the honorable member for Capricornia did the same on the 12th September, 1907. The honorable member for Parramatta did likewise on the 25th September, 1907, and the honorable member for Moreton distinguished himself in the same way on the 27th September, 1907. The honorable member for Robertson spoke in the same direction on the 20th November, 1907, and so did the honorable member for Franklin, while only yesterday the honorable member for Wentworth was found to have on the notice-paper a motion advocating the establishment of a Government farm for the breeding of military horses. Those are only twelve of the anti-Socialists returned to this Parliament as opponents of Socialism, who have stood up time after time and urged the adoption of Socialistic proposals.
– In what form?
– I have not given the particular cases, because they are to be found in Hansard on the dates named. We ought to have the fact on record somewhere, so that people outside can turn up the references and see that the attitude of a number of honorable members has been most insincere, because whenever a Socialistic proposal is submitted, especially if it concerns their own electorates, they drop the policy upon which they were returned, and adopt the other policy which at the elections they condemned as leading to the abolition of home life, the destruction of the marriage tie, and many other evils.
– That only goes to show that the Labour party have taken up our proposals.
– It goes to show that the propaganda work of the Labour party has had some effect even upon the hide-bound Conservatives who have come together in the present Ministerial party. In an endeavour to forestall the propositions of the Labour party, these honorable members, when they find that the public have been, sufficiently educated to accept our policy, turn round and act as if they had pursued the same course all along. There is no great objection to that conduct. It is pleasing to us as propagandists to find that propositions which we put forward are accepted by our opponents. The honorable member for Dalley has referred to the question of assembling the parts of torpedo boats and destroyers at the Government Docks in Sydney. In coming to a decision as to where the boats should be put together, the Government should not take notice of whether Sydney, or Melbourne, or Perth, or Port Darwin interests are affected. They should act entirely on the merits of the case, and consider simply where the boats can be most efficiently constructed, and the best results secured. But when the honorable member for Melbourne Ports tries to compare the facilities for building at Williamstown with those at the Fitzroy Dock, Cockatoo Island, the smallest reflection will show that he is entirely in the wrong. For instance, the honorable member says that in the vicinity of the proposed construction yards at Williamstown there is a strong rocky foundation. If the foundation of Cockatoo Island is not rocky, I do not know what to call it. As a matter of fact, the island is simply a mass of rock. Another point of comparison made by the honorable member was that there are 30 acres of unalienated land at Williamstown. But at Cockatoo Island, there are, I suppose, 100 acres which the State Government could make available to the Commonwealth authorities without interfering with the present dockyards. The honorable member also said that there is deep water at Williamstown. At any point around Cockatoo Island, the largest British warships could float, and the docks there are sufficient to accommodate the largest vessels of the kind likely to come to Australia. The honorable member said that it would be impossible for the site at Williamstown to be shelled from the ocean, which is 30 miles away. Cockatoo Island is about 10 miles from the Port Jackson Heads. It is estimated that the fire of a modern warship reaches about 15 or j 6 miles. So that an enemy’s vessel would need to come within 5 or 6 miles of the Port Jackson Heads to be able to shell the Island, which, however, is situated behind a mountainous projection. Furthermore, the height above sea- level of the fortifications at the Heads give the guns a considerable range, so that it would not be reasonable to suppose that any- warship could come within 5 or 6 miles without being destroyed. I venture to say that any force that could make an effective attack upon Cockatoo Island from the sea would be able to make an equally strong fight against the site at Williamstown. There may be other arguments in favour of Williamstown than those put forward by the honorable member for the district, but upon the arguments advanced bv him. Williamstown is hopelessly outclassed. A point to which the honorable member did not refer is the proximity of coal supplies. Coal is being raised near Sydney Harbor. There are many deposits there. It is only a matter of a little time when ample coal will be avail-
Mr. /. H. Catts. able close at hand for any works which are likely to be carried on. But apart from the coal deposits near Sydney Harbor, we have the Illawarra coal-fields within a couple of hours rail, and the Newcastle coal-fields are also available j whereas even if Williamstown possessed docks and other accommodation sufficient for the purpose, the coal supplies would in all probability have to be drawn from Newcastle and Illawarra. The greater part of the coal used on the Victorian Railways is imported from New South Wales. ‘ Coal is, of course, a most important factor in the construction of these vessels. Another point is that the New South Wales Government have an up-to-date dock at Cockatoo Island, and are prepared to hand it over to the Commonwealth authorities. These docks could be made equal to anything in the world for the purpose in view. There has for many years been a disposition on the part of the New South Wales Government to place in the Fitzroy Dock machinery much beyond present requirements, in anticipation of works of this description being carried on there. The propellers of vessels like the Power fid can be manufactured and fitted there. I am sure that if honorable members, who are not acquainted with the deck . would visit the place, see the magnificent machinery, and inspect samples of the work done, they would be convinced of the suitability of both works and site. I agree with the honorable member for Dalley that many of the men working in these docks are mechanics who came from the shipbuilding yards of Ireland and Scotland. If the necessary plant were available they would be quite competent to undertake the whole work of naval construction. The reason why the Fisher Government did not decide to have the first of the destroyers put together in the Commonwealth was that the plans were in the hands of private contractors, and it was impossible for the Government to secure them. It is all very well for the honorable member for Dalley to say that a naval architect could draw plans of such vessels at sight ; but I believe that, however desirable it might be to have this work done by our own artisans, the Fisher Government were wise in coming to the conclusion that they could not afford to make experiments in the construction of vessels of this description. Skilled ironworkers are to be found, not only in our dockyards, but in the railway workshops of the various
States. I know that when it was proposed that locomotives should be built at the Government workshops at Eveleigh, all sorts of objections were raised by those who believed that it would be better to have this work done out of the country. A number of the mechanics engaged in the Eveleigh workshops had served their time with Beyer Peacock and Company, of England, and with the Baldwin Company of America, and when the work of locomotive construction was undertaken there it proved so successful that the Government of New South Wales will never revert to the old system of having the locomotives used on its railways constructed by private enterprise.
– Did they not give an order for locomotives to the Newport workshops ?
– I am not sure, but I know that locomotives are successfully constructed in the Newport workshops.
– For ,£900 cheaper than the Baldwin, and ^1,100 cheaper than English locomotives, although higher wages are paid in their construction.
– That is the case for manufacture by the State - we get at the same time a cheaper and a Better article. Although the construction of locomotives in the Old Country is carried on under the closest inspection, there is a constant effort on the part of private manufacturers to cut down the cost of construction by working-in shoddy material. 1 could give instances of all sorts of repairs having to be effected to imported locomotives. It has been found that after running them for a little beyond the necessary trial they have had to be brought into the State workshops to undergo considerable repairs.
– Is the honorable member speaking now of English or of American locomotives ?
– I speak of both English and American locomotives. I see no distinction between the greed of the British capitalist and the American capitalist. They are equally concerned in piling up wealth, and are not too scrupulous as to the means they adopt
– To supply a bad article is a funny way of piling up wealth.
– It is a funny way, but we know that some manufacturers of foodstuffs, in their endeavour to pile up wealth, do not hesitate to use poisonous in gredients. That would appear to be a funny way in which to pile up wealth, but the shareholders in private enterprises of the kind do not care how funny the methods of manufacture may be so long as the money comes in. Everything is subordinated to the rapid accumulation of profits.
– One could hardly establish a business by building bad engines.
– I do not say whether the policy adopted is a mistaken one or not, but the fact remains that locomotives built by private firms have not been as satisfactory as those built in the Government workshops of either New South Wales or Victoria. The magnificent locomotive which takes our train every Friday afternoon from Melbourne to Albury is a standing testimony to the high character of the work done at the Newport workshops. On the New South Wales side we have to employ two engines to draw a train of the same weight as that which is drawn by a single engine from Melbourne to Albury.
– That is a strong argument in favour of Williamstown as against the place mentioned by the honorable member.
– The building of locomotives is a totally different thing from the building of vessels of war.
– The Newport workshops offered to assemble the parts of the destroyers.
– I was glad to notice that the anti-Socialist Government of Victoria were prepared to carry out the Socialistic doctrine to such an extent as to offer to assemble the parts of these vessels in the State railway workshops. This only shows how strong the case is for State manufacture as against manufacture by private enterprise. I wish to say a word or two on the subject of old-age pensions. The Government must have been impressed by the fact that so great is the dissatisfaction with the administration of the Act that, although two hours were allowed for the discussion of the motion of adjournment moved by the honorable member for Newcastle, quite a number of honorable members who desired to speak upon it were unable to do so in the time allotted. I have no doubt as to the chief cause for this dissatisfaction. I attribute it to the Government, and’’ particularly to the Minister who is charged with the administration of the Act. We could not have a more unsympathetic administrator of such an Act. I remember that when the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Bill was under consideration, and Labour members, including myself, desired to eliminate some of the clauses under which this unsympathetic administration has been possible, we witnessed the nervous excitement of the Treasurer in his opposition to every attempt to liberalize the measure. I say emphatically that we cannot hope to have a sympathetic administration of this and similar Acts until we have a Labour Government in power. Conservative Governments have passed legislation of this kind only, so to speak, at the point of the bayonet and in obedience to an almost universal public clamour. But what they have given with one hand they have taken away with the other by their unsympathetic administration. Parliament having decided what the amount of an old-age pension should be, the Government have sought to limit the benefits of the Act by taking away so much for one reason and so much for another, until their action has given rise to the objections which have been continually urged in this House since the present Treasurer has had the administration of the law.
– Is the honorable member in favour of giving a pension to a coloured native of Jamaica?
– The honorable member is aware that when that particular question was being considered I not only supported an amendment to give a pension to every naturalized citizen of the Commonwealth regardless of his colour, but I voted for the amendment when the opportunity offered. The honorable member spoke in favour of it, but the moment the party whip was cracked he voted against his convictions. Only a little while ago he wrote a scathing article to the Sydney Daily Telegraph in condemnation of the Fusion and the way in which its members had abandoned their pledges. Similarly he condemned the Fusion upon the floor of this chamber, but the moment the Government were in danger he ran to their assistance. Why? Because he is bound and gagged. Despite all his prating upon the public platform about freedom, despite his protestations of sympathy with the working classes, despite his avowals that he is as good as a Labour man, the moment the party whip is cracked and the cry “ Government in danger “ is raised, he deserts his professed principles.
I have no doubt that his actions will duly impress his constituents and that at the next election a representative will be returned in his stead who is pledged to a definite programme, and who will be loyal to that programme.
– I hope that the party to which the honorable member belongs will not withdraw its candidate.
– The honorable member will discover that the electors will not trouble themselves so much about men as they will about measures. They have been too long fooled by men who proclaim themselves jolly good fellows. They want something more than jolly good fellowship. They require the sympathetic administration of our laws. The honorable member talks about what the Government have done and what they ought to do, but they know perfectly well that his teeth are drawn and that there is no bite in him. All his barking is of no account/ He has been grumbling like a bear with a sore head about a number of things. But the Government take no heed of his grumbling. They know that when the whip is cracked, he will vote submissively with them. When I was interrupted, I was pointing out that in my opinion the Treasurer is a most unsympathetic administrator of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. When that measure was under consideration in this House, clause 17 provided that a claimant for an old-age pension must be unable to maintain himself or herself. At my instance paragraph g of that clause, which contained this embargo, was eliminated. The Treasurer was absent at the time, and I well remember his troubled countenance when he entered the House next morning and learned of what had taken place. Upon page 1239 of Hansard, of 4th June, 1908, he is thus reported -
Yesterday, whilst I was absent from the chamber, an amendment was made - I understand, with the concurrence of the Attorney-General - in the Old-age Pensions Bill. I desire to know whether the omission of the words in clause 17, providing that an old-age pension shall not be paid unless an applicant is unable to maintain himself. I have no desire to argue the question
At this stage Mr. Speaker intervened, and the Treasurer then asked whether, when the Bill had been passed by another place, he would be in order in again referring to the matter. He indicated that when the measure was returned to this House, he would endeavour to have the provision which had been excised by the Committee re-inserted. Throughout the discussion of the Bill, the honorable gentleman was in a state of nervous excitement, lest the restrictions which it imposed should be removed, and lest there should be any enlargement of its scope which would involve further expenditure. In view of these circumstances, I cannot help thinking that the difficulties which are being experienced in the administration of the Act come from the Treasurer himself. I cannot believe that the officers charged with its administration are responsible. If I did think that, I should advocate sweeping out the whole of them, and putting new men in their places. Although we do not know the nature of the instructions which have been issued to these officers, I strongly suspect that they have been informed that savings must be effected in the administration of the measure, and that that circumstance explains the parsimonious attitude of the Department towards old-age pensioners. It cannot be denied that whereever the Act is capable of two interpretations, the one which is less favorable to the applicant is always adopted.
– The least liberal interpretation is placed upon the Act every time.
– Yes. Under the law, as it stands, there is ample room for looking with a more kindly eye upon applicants for old-age pensions. But where it is possible to construe the provisions of that measure to the detriment of a claimant, that course is invariably adopted. The Treasurer stated that the Federal Act is being administered in the same way as the New South Wales Act, but here is a case which occurred at Alexandria in my electorate, and in which the Commonwealth has valued the applicant’s home at 50 per cent, more than did the State authorities.
– Which valuation is correct ?
– I do not say which valuation is correct, but the case furnishes an answer to the argument of the Treasurer that the Commonwealth is doing the same thing as the State did. The Federal Act is much more liberal than was the State Act, but the former is not administered so liberally as was the latter, and the administration of the State Act was a long way from perfection.
– Take what is the right thing.
– We all know that lawyers can take an Act and argue that anything is the right thing. They will take a provision and prove that it means anything, so that an interjection of that kind is absolutely valueless. Here is the case of a man named Wm. Philpott, qf Marrickville. He owns a home which is valued by the municipal council at ^140. The Old-age Pensions Act grants an exemption of ^100, and for every £10 worth of property over that amount there is a deduction of £t from the pension. According to the Act there should be a deduction of ^4, but, as a matter of fact, a deduction is made on the assumption of a valuation of £160 over the ^100 allowed by the Act.
– It .was the municipal valuation, I suppose.
– No, the Department has accepted the valuation at ;£i6o over the municipal valuation.
– The Act says that the officers are to take notice .of the municipal valuation.
– This is the second case in which the officers have not taken the municipal valuation.
– Unless there is some good reason to the contrary, it ought to be taken.
– A poor old applicant named Mrs. Newman, of Camperdown, had a deduction made in respect of a very unpretentious cottage in which she lived. I hold in my hand a notice from the municipal authorities telling her that the cottage must be pulled down, as it is not fit for a person to live in. Yet in respect of properties of that kind, the Federal officers are making deductions from the pensions of poor old people, who are indigent.
– Has she appealed against the deduction?
– The way in which the Act is being administered places upon poor old people who are tottering on the verge of the grave the onus of fighting for a pension just as if they were fighting a civil case in a Law Court. The authorities ought to show some disposition to help old folks in difficulties of this kind. It is very easy indeed to tell them to appeal.
– The Commonwealth has the same man in New South Wales ‘as that State had, Mr. Clegg.
– The administration in New South Wales is very unsympathetic.
– It is the same as it was previously.
– The same officer is at the head of the administration there.
– I have quoted a case in which the valuation of a property was fixed at 50 per cent. more than the amount which was accepted by the State. Of course, I have no proof to submit to the House, but I conclude that, as the result of instructions issued to officers, the Act is being administered most technically.
– How would the honorable member have the Act administered ?
– It should be administered sympathetically rather than harshly, technically, and niggardly. In every case which has come under my notice, and in which a provision of the Act was capable of two interpretations the hardest and most technical interpretation - the one which would save the Commonwealth the largest number of shillings - was adopted. This is not the first occasion on which this thing has been complained of here. Time after time it has been discussed on the motion for adjournment. On every occasion when honorable members have had the right to refer to the subject, it has been brought before the House.
– It suits the honorable member very well, I should think, by the look of things.
– It would suit me a lot better if the right honorable member would administer the Act a little more sympathetically.
– That would not suit the honorable member at all.
– I am sick and tired of ventilating this grievance. I would need a private secretary to answer all the letters which are sent to me about the administration of the Act.
– Why does not the honorable member send the cases on to the Department? We will look into them.
– I did send on cases, and after the lapse of months I got an answer which left things in exactly the same position. Let me state the case of a blind man who is over the age prescribed. His wife is dead, but before he applied for a pension she kept a little grocer’s shop. When the authorities were winding up her estate, they could not make the books balance, and they assumed that the blind widower, who has not a penny in the world, knew what had become of the moneys which could not be accountedfor, whereas he knew nothing about the matter at all. I brought the case under the notice of the Department, and was told a good while ago that the matter would receive consideration. What chance has a blind man of fighting an appeal ? If the officers are free to deal with cases sympathetically, I cannot understand why they are not authorized to display more sympathy.
– Did not the blind man have a pension from the State?
– I do not know whether he had one or not ; but that is not the point. The deductions which have been made from pensions seem to me wholly unjustifiable. Is it not the height of absurdity to call upon a blind man to account for something which occurred in connexion with the estate of his deceased wife, and about which he knows exactly nothing?
– The honorable member has had a very good innings.
– I was returned to this House to see, so far as I am able, that justice is done to my constituents. I cannot do more than my best. I have used my best endeavours with the Department to get their grievances redressed. I am bringing them before the Treasurer as intelligently as I can. My next duty will be to advise the electors not only in Cook, but in other constituencies to return Labour men, so that we may have a decent administration of laws which affect old people.
– But the Labour Government appointed the Commissioner.
– I am not complaining about the Commissioner.
– Of whom is the honorable member complaining?
– What instructions has the honorable member given to the officers who administer the Act?
– I have not given any instructions.
– If the officers are free to administer the Act as harshly as they are doing, then the sooner the honorable member instructs them to be a little more sympathetic the better it will be for the poor old people of Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– The Treasurer has stated that the officers administering the old-age pensions law were appointed by the Fisher Government. I do not know whether he suggests that they have failed to do their duty. In my opinion, the origin of the trouble is at a higher source. But were the Fisher Ministry still in power, those officers would be promptly replaced by others, should it be found that their administration was contrary to the intentions of Parliament. I make no charge against them ; the responsibility rests with the Minister. He should give instructions that the old people of Australia must be treated more sympathetically in the future than they have been in the past. I have mentioned several instances in which fault has been found with the manner in which the Minister, or some of his officers, has used the discretion given under the Act. I have referred to the case of a blind man who was being supported by his wife by means of a small grocer’s shop. The wife died suddenly, intestate, leaving her estate heavily encumbered with debts. Because the Curator of Intestate Estates is unable to trace certain moneys, the responsibility of accounting for them has been placed on the widower, who is an applicant for a pension. Surely officers should be invited to go out of their way to help applicants, rather than induced to put obstacles in their way. These old persons come to members of Parliament with their applications, and we often have to go to their private residences, where, by dealing with their cases in a spirit of sympathy,we are able to set right the mistakes’ they have made in filling in their claims. Why cannot the officers of the Department act similarly ? Members of Parliament should not be called upon to do clerical work of this kind when there, are officers to do it. If, as has been suggested, the Department is short-handed, and the clerks cannot overtake the arrears, even by working late at night, assistance should be given. Mine is a densely populated constituency, containing over 30,000 electors, and my Saturdays and Mondays, and often, for the greater part, my Sundays, are taken up in attending to matters which should be dealt with by the departmental officers;
– It is very good work for a member to be engaged in. .
– Yes ; if he can attend to it all. I am glad to be able to do what I can ; but when I have been in Melbourne all the week, attending to my constituents’ interests, I ought to be allowed to have an occasional Sunday to myself.
– Many of these old persons cannot get to the pension offices to have their forms filled up there.
– Those who call ore me would be able to go to the pension officers ; but no doubt they find that the officers have either not the time or not the inclination to attend to them. The latter cannot be held responsible; but the complaints have been so numerous that the Minister might well bestir himself, and have the grievances remedied. Another case to which I invite attention is that of Mrs. Anderson, Union-street, Newtown, which I brought under the notice of the Department on the 13th August. On the 17th August, I was informed that further inquiries had been made, since when I have heard nothing, though surely the necessary investigation could have been made in a month.
– Has the pensioner heard anything?
– I do not know ; but, as I brought the matter under the notice of the Department, I should have been informed had any action been taken. Another case is that of Mrs. Rogers, 73 Wells-street, Newtown, to which I referred on a previous occasion. This old lady is totally incapacitated, has no one to provide for her, and is in every way eligible to receive a pension. Nevertheless, she has experienced considerable difficulty, and owing to technical objections has not yet received the pension which she deserves. I desire to mention another case in regard to which I have received to-day a letter. It is that of a Mr. Stewart, of Dickson-street, Newtown. This gentleman interviewed me, and from what I could gather filled in his application papers properly, and was entitled to a pension. He had children thirty-five and forty years of age, natives of this country ; he could prove that they were born here ; but he had some difficulty in producing his own certificate of birth. There was no doubt that he was of the required age, but his claim was held up because he was unable to put his hands on the certificate of his birth. He is sixty - seven years of age and a fitter in the iron trade; but he is unable to take his place at the bench owing, not only to the loss of several fingers, but to his advanced years. He has had considerable difficulty, however, in connexion with his claim. I do not think any disgrace attaches to an application for an old-age pension, and therefore see no reason why these names should not be mentioned. All these people have been many years in the country, have reared families here, have devoted all their energies to their work, and, owing to the action of Conservative Governments, have been pretty .well exploited throughout their lives. Instead of placing the cost of government upon the shoulders of those best able to bear it, various Conservative Administrations have contrived, by the imposition of indirect taxation, such as the present Government desire to continue, to place most of it upon those least able to bear it. Money has been taken out of the pockets of the workers by taxing necessaries of life instead of imposing taxation upon those whose properties are increased by public energy.
– Did the honorable member vote against any portion of the Tariff?
– I voted against every revenue duty, and shall always do so. Unfortunately, when the Tariff was under consideration in this House, those who called themselves Free Traders and believers in direct taxation conspired to pass revenue duties, which would be borne chiefly by the working people, in order to save the rich landlords from their just share of taxation.
– They were ably assisted by a number of Protectionists.
– That is so. Free Traders and Protectionists who are Conservatives are to be found banded together on the Government side pf the House. When it is a question of putting a fair proportion of the cost of government upon the owners of wealth in the Commonwealth they come together to save the great landlords. I was asked how long I intended to speak to this question, and can only say that I think we might as well be discussing the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act as any of the Government proposals. I know of no Government measure on the businesspaper that would do anything to help the country. There may be proposals with Democratic titles, but’ that is about as much Democracy as we shall obtain from any of the Government propositions.
– So that the honorable gentleman is simply killing time?
– I am drawing attention to matters of importance. No doubt the Postmaster-General and other Ministers think that questions affecting the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act are of no concern. If the Government had something of greater importance to submit we might in all probability arrange to discuss this matter at some other time. I have no desire to unnecessarily take up the time of the House, but may say in passing that it is not the policy of the Opposition to block the measures which the Government are bringing forward. Believing as I do that the Fusion has been brought about in defiance of election pledges; that the Government measures are not designed to help the majority of the people; that the Government are aiming at Conservative class rule and neglecting the interests of those who have less than enough, I should, if I had my own way, do my best to prevent the passing, of any of the legislation proposed by them. The majority of the electors would indorse my action.
– Why does not the honorable member leave it to the electors to decide the question presently?
– The present Government had an opportunity some months ago to test the feeling of the electors.
– And another opportunity was given them last night.
– Last night the business of the House was taken out of their hands. A motion submitted by the Minister of ‘Defence that, the House should adjourn was negatived, and immediately afterwards the House adjourned on the motion of the Leader of the Opposition. The Government, however, propose to take no notice of the incident.
– That, I suppose, is very disappointing to the honorable member.
– If such an experience had befallen a Labour Government huge headlines in regard to it would have appeared in the newspapers. We should have seen in the contents bills of the daily newspapers the heading, in large type, “ Defeat of the Federal Government.” But since the daily newspapers, like the Ministry, represent Conservative classes, and dare not mete out to the present Government the treatment that they would extend to a Labour Ministry, the whole incident has been practically suppressed. A brief notice of the incident was printed in the smallest type in the morning’s newspapers, whereas other political items were starred out in big letters. We saw big headlines referring to “ Opposition Grievances” and “Obstructionist Tactics,” which were doubtless designed to divert the attention of the public from that portion of the reports which, in very small type, referred to the defeat of the Government. If we had had an impartial press last night’s incident in this House would have been heralded throughout the Commonwealth as the defeat of the Ministry, and they would have been compelled to take notice of it. I do not expect from the Government any legislation of benefit to the people.
– Is that the honorable member’s grievance to-night?
– It is one of my grievances that we have a Government in power who will do nothing for the majority of the people outside. The present Administration have been in power for some months, and I ask, what measure of any use to the community have they placed on the statute-book ? We’ have heard a great deal about the cost of Parliament, the payment received by members, and so forth ; and it is the duty of the Government to see that the people get value for their money. If the Government had the interests of the people at heart, there would have been a general election months ago, and we should now have had a mandate from the people. As a matter of fact, the Government dare not face the electors, but’ are trusting to the short memory of the public, in the hope that, assisted by the daily press, they will float into power again On some good party cry. I may say that I have taken very little part in the debates so far. For weeks at a stretch I have sat here without uttering a word ; and to-day I have occupied only about an hour; and had I not had some matters of great importance to my constituents to bring forward, I should not have risen. There are one or two matters on which I shall have something to say later, unless I am prevented. The Prime Minister, through his Minister of Trade and Customs, induced me to give certain votes on the Tariff, on the distinct understanding that correlative proposals for new Protection would be submitted. We now have a Conservative Government with a Conservative following, and the Prime Minister has gone back on that arrangement. Votes have been secured from me under false pretences; and if the Government come forward with a scheme of new Protection, and it differs materially from the scheme that I was promised, they will, so far “as I am concerned, have some difficulty in getting one line of it passed. I turned up Hansard, and showed the Prime Minister where he distinctly promised honorable members that if they gave certain votes on the Tariff, and the new Protection was not afforded, he would give them an opportunity to reconsider those votes. The half-hearted, hotch-potch new Protection which the Government now suggest has absolutely no relation to what- was then promised.
– Does the honorable member expect the Prime Minister to keep his word ?
– I do not; and in the House I have told the Prime Minister that, after what has occurred, I cannot accept his word. I represent 30,000 electors; and when the Prime Minister enters into an understanding with me, I expect that understanding to be honoured- The Prime Minister has ‘ ‘jewed ‘ ‘ me out of my rights, and I hold that as a bitter grievance against the Government. When the patchworkquilt new Protection of the Government is proposed, I shall have something more to say; and it will not trouble me if I am charged with wasting time. I have spoken warmly on the subject of old-age pensions, because I think that, whatever our differences may be, the .Treasurer ought to take note of the constant stream of complaints, and see that the administration is such that Federal action shall not be discredited as it now is in New South Wales. There are large numbers in that State who are cursing the day the Federal Government took over the administration of old-age pensions and, although we have our party differences here, I am as jealous as anybody of the opinion which is held of the National Parliament by the rank and file of the people. The Treasurer has it in his power to so administer the Act that the old people of Australia, will look to the National Parliament with reverence and respect instead of with disgust and abhorrence.
– This must come to an end at some time, and I move -
That the question be now put.
– I should like to have your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether the closure can be moved on a motion of this description.
– The motion for the closure must be put without debate.
– I was not aware that the Speaker required the assistance of a Government Whip to teach him his duty. The question we have been discussing is submitted under standing order 241, which provides that certain things may be done once in three weeks. The closure standing order provides that, during the discussion of a motion, or an amendment, a certain motion may be submitted for the purpose of stopping discussion on that particular question - a question which is a proposal directly submitted to theHouse.
– The standing order does not say that.
– A Government Whip might have the courtesy, if not to myself, to the Speaker, to allow a point of order to be taken. The closure standing order relates to proposals which have been regularly submitted, and on which discussion may be ended by the action of anhonorable member moving in a particular direction.
– It relates to any question.
– I take it that it was never intended that the Government, on a proposal which is not submitted by them, and is not a portion of Government business, should apply the closure ; in other words that the closure should apply to a motion provided for in the Standing Orders. With all due respect I submit that the closure standing order cannot be interpreted as applying to the position in which we now find ourselves; that is to say, to the motion that you do now leave the chair. That is not a motion submitted by a Minister, but a question which you, in your position as Speaker, take the responsibility of submitting. It is, therefore, I contend, not within your province to accept the motion of the honorable member for Parramatta.
– I am prepared to give a ruling on the question. The second part of standing order 241, under which the question was proposed from the Chair, reads as follows : -
Except that while the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means are open, the first Order of the Day on every third Thursday shall be either Supply or Ways and Means, and that on that Order of the Day being read the question shall be proposed “ That the Speaker do now leave the chair.”
The closure provisions on page 70 contain the following -
After any question has been proposed, either in the House or in any Committee of the Whole, a motion may be made by any member, rising in his place, and without notice, and whether any other member is addressing the Chair or not, “That the question be now put” -
A question has been proposed, and the standing order says that if any question has been proposed the closure motion may be moved. I, therefore, rule that the Minister of Defence is in order, and that the question, ‘ ‘ That the question be now put “ must now be put.
– On the further point of order which I raised, would you mind stating which member of the House proposed the motion, “That the Speaker do now leave the chair?” I submit that it is only upon a question proposed by a member of the House that the closure motion can be moved.
– The Treasurer is the Minister responsible for the motion “ That the Speaker do now leave the chair,” but I would point out to the honorable member that that does not touch the matter at issue. If a question has been put from the Chair, it does not matter who proposed it. Even if it were put on the volition of the Chair, it would still be a question, and the standing order relating to the closure clearly says - “ After any question has been proposed.”
.- I desire to move -
That the ruling of Mr. Speaker- That the closure applies to the proposal under standing order 241 “ That the Speaker do now leave the chair” - be dissented from.
– The motion will be a matter for debate on the next sitting day. I shall now put the question “ That the question be now put.”
– There is no question.
Question - That the question be now put - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That the House will to-morrow resolve itself into Committee of Supply.
No member shall, unless it be otherwise specially provided by the Standing Orders, make any motion except in pursuance of notice openly given at a previous sitting of the House andduly entered on the notice-paper.
As the motion which the Treasurer has moved is not on the notice-paper, and he did not give notice of it at a previous sitting, I am unable to see how it can now be put to the House.
The Committee of Supply must be kept on foot throughout the session, until closed in due course. (See p. 587.)
Accordingly, when the House, by the acceptance of an amendment to the question for the Speaker’s leaving the Chair, has thereby superseded the Order of the Day for the Committee of Supply, that order is revived by a motion, made forthwith, either that the House will immediately, or upon a future day, resolve itself into the Committee of Supply. This course has also been followed on those occasions when, the motion for the Speaker’s leaving the Chair having been negatived, the House could not agree in the amendment that should follow thereon.
The practice of this House is clearly set out on page 57 of the Votes and Proceedings for Thursday, 15th August, 1907: -
Supply. - Pursuant to the provisions of standing order No. 241,
That is the standing order under which the discussion took place this afternoon - the Order of the Day having been read for going into the Committee of Supply -
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair - put and negatived.
Resolved - That the House will, to-morrow, resolve itself into the said Committee.
In these circumstances the Treasurer is following the usual course in proposing the motion which he has submitted.
Question - That the House will tomorrow resolve itself into Committee of Supply - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 8th September, vide page 3200) :
Clause 4 -
The High Commissioner shall -
act as representative and resident agent of the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom, and in that capacity exercise such powers and perform such duties as are conferred upon and assigned to him by the GovernorGeneral ;
carry out such instructions as he receives from the Minister respecting the commercial, financial, and general interests of the Commonwealth and the States in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
– It seems to me that the mission of the High Commissioner will be a most important one, and that beforehe can be properly equipped the Commonwealth ought to open in London a branch of the National Postal Banking System. I was sorry last year that we had to drop the proposal for the acquisition of the building which was selected in Trafalgar Square, away from the financial centre of London, I should like to know whether this clause permits me to discuss the qualifications which the High Commissioner ought to possess, because while I want to examine these matters carefully, I do not desire to break the Standing Orders.
– Under the words “ general interests,” in paragraph b, the honorable member can get in what he desires to say.
– We ought to have in London an establishment which would enable the High Commissioner to carry out the purposes for which he is appointed. If we had a building such as I suggested here several years ago, it could accommodate the State Agents-General, and then we should not have the spectacle of Agents-General abusing some States while praising their own. When I pick up their reports and see that they only talk of their own little section of Australia, I often ask myself how the Commonwealth will ever attain an exalted financial or commercial position in the world. When one meets a Yankee from any part of the United States - from the ice-bound coast of Maine to the golden sands of the Pacific, or from the Arctic snows of the north to the tepid waters of the Gulf of Mexico - he talks of the United States, not of the little section where he was born. When I pick up the papers and find an Agent-General blowing up Tasmania, an Agent-General blowing up New South Wales, an Agent-General praising Victoria, and an Agent-General praising Western Australia, and none of them praising the Commonwealth, I begin to think that the time has come when we ought to have a representative with national ideas - a man with a high order of intellect, possessing financial ability, and appreciating the objects of his mission. Otherwise, we shall have over again the same old muddle that we havehad for fifty years.
We shall have the States borrowing money for building bridges, and when a bridge wears out, building another bridge out of borrowed money. We shall have no depreciation funds, or anything else. The conduct of the finances of Australia would disgrace a New York Tammany Hall, three-card, bunko- steering monte-man. As I may have the gag applied to be, I propose to defer my, remarks until other honorable members have had an opportunity to speak. I am anxious to see that the Commonwealth is represented by a man with national ideas; in other words, by a big man, with a big head and something in it.
.- On the motion for the second reading, some honorable members described the character of the man who was required for the position of High Commissioner, and on this clause we are to have a repetition of what was then said. It has been stated by the honorable member for Darwin that the High Commissioner must be a man of national ideas, and a leading financier. It has also been said that he must be a diplomatist - a man outside the ordinary run of diplomatists who, we are told, are honest men who lie in other countries. The representative of Australia must not lie in other countries : but he must be an honest diplomatist, and tell the truth about Australia wherever he goes. These are some of the requisites demanded by honorable members opposite.
– When the honorable member has said that the High Commissioner must be an Australian he has said everything.
– It has been said that the High Commisisoner must possess Australian ideals, but the honorable member for West Sydney has really put the position in a nutshell. The High Commissioner must not only possess Australian ideals, but live up to them when he is in London. The difficulty in Australia is not to find a man who has national ideas of finance, and can be a diplomatist when he is required, but to find a representative who will remain an Australian after he has coquetted with the club life of London. That is my only concern in regard to the requisites for the position. According to paragraph b of this clause, the High Commissioner shall - carry out such instructions as he receives from the Minister respecting the commercial, financial, and general interests of the Commonwealth.
I suggested to the honorable member for Darwin by way of interjection that the words “general interests” would permit him to speak his mind fully, because under cover of those words the Minister can advise the High Commissioner in England. It would be most difficult, not only in Australia, but even in the crowded cities of the Old World to find all the requisite characteristics in one individual at the munificent salary of £3,000 per annum. How are we to get a man who will approach to the ideals stipulated by the members of the Opposition? Australia is not clogged with patriots who are ready to sacrifice their livelihood in. order to take up a position in London at £3,000 a year. Men of that stamp in Australia are receiving more than that remuneration. I trust that honorable members who are demanding that the High Commissioner shall be a man with national ideals will not forget to vote an ideal salary for the office. The public should be taught that the High Commissionership is the highest post at the disposal of a Ministry. When it learns that, it will be prepared to pay a salary commensurate with the importance of the position. But it requires to be educated in the matter. If not properly advised as to the reputation and character of the man needed to fill this office, it may look upon the salary fixed in the Bill as a high one, and regard any attempt to increase it as extortionate. The High Commissioner should not be appointed because of his friendly relations with Ministers, or for political fidelity in the past. The honorable member for Darwin has described the type of man who is needed. We may not get one who possesses all the qualifications that have been mentioned, but I hope that whoever is appointed will be as nearly as possible the ideal High Commissioner.
.-! do not know why the Government has brought forward this Bill again now. It cannot be that it is anxious to appoint a High Commissioner, because as the Senate has adjourned for. a fortnight, even if we pass the Bill, it’ will have to wait at least that length of time for its consideration elsewhere. As has been pointed out, it matters little what kind of measure we pass if the appointment made under it is bad. Had the Government taken Parliament and the country into its confidence, and made a reasonable proposition, an appointment could have been arranged for within twenty-four hours, but since we do not know who may be appointed, and there is a chance that the position may lie filled to please an ally, .or to placate a toocandid friend, we must scrutinize the measure most carefully. If the provisions of the clause would apply only to men who have qualified for the position it creates,. I would assent to them without further discussion. The clause says “ the High Commissioner shall “ do certain things. He shall do nothing, if I can help it, until I know who he will be.
– Logically, then, the honorable member should ask to know all his successors as well.
– The Attorney-General does not resemble Alice in Wonderland, but there are characters in Lewis Carroll’s immortal work whom he does resemble. He preserves an air of severe detachment from the affairs of this world which I admire, but scarcely wish to emulate. The study of mankind is too attractive to me. I suggest that the clause should be amended to read “the High Commissioner may” do certain things, if directed in a certain way. He is to - act as representative and resident -agent of the Commonwealth.
Those words are surplusage. He will be appointed to act as our representative, but the use of those words cannot make him act in that way. The honorable member for Darwin spoke of the very high and important duties which he will have to perform, but here he is referred to as something a little lower than an Agent-General ; he is to be merely a resident agent. The clause has been framed to meet the appointment of such a man as we all agree should not be appointed. He is to - exercise such powers and perform such duties as are conferred upon and assigned to him by the Governor-General.
Clause 4 provides that he must carry out the instructions he receives as to the States. Why should he be in the first place instructed by the “ GovernorGeneral,” which means the Executive, and in the next by the “ Minister,” which means the Minister acting under his cwn powers? No instruction should be given to the High Commissioner except by the Government. He will represent, not a Department or a State, but the whole Commonwealth, and should be instructed, in so far as it is necessary to instruct him, by the Government of the Commonwealth. If he received improper instructions from the Minister, should he carry them out? Obviously not. There are some gentlemen who, it is conceivable, would carry out any instructions, or would not even wait for them. The High Commissioner is to act as the representative and resident agent of the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom ; but he is to carry out instructions received from the Minister, not only in the United Kingdom, but elsewhere. In the United Kingdom he is to be the representative of the Commonwealth, but outside he is not; yet he is still to carry out the instructions of the Minister. This is a most amazing feat of draftsmanship. I suppose it is useless to ask the Attorney-General whether the Committee is to learn the. mind of the Government in this matter ; but I certainly think it ought to. Will the honorable gentleman agree to strike out the word “ Minister “ in paragraph b and to insert in its stead the words “ GovernorGeneral,” so that the Commissioner will have to take his instructions from the Executive, rather than from the Minister? Mr. Glynn. - No.
– Then I move-
That the word “Minister,” paragraph b, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Governor-General.”
No instructions should be given to the High Commissioner by a Minister. They should be given, if at all, by the Government.
– But the High Commissioner must be under some Department.
– Certainly; but Ministries come and go. It is one of the defects of our present system that a good Government is often brought down by the act of an indiscreet Departmental administrator. In this Department such a man would have wider scope than elsewhere; and he might issue unwise instructions. To my own knowledge, instructions are often given by a Minister without the consent and approval of his colleagues; but under the theory of responsible government, all Ministers are responsible for the acts of one of their number.
– The honorable member would make .all instructions a Cabinet matter?
– I would, and I fail to understand why the Minister will not accept my amendment.
– It is the usual custom to have instructions given through the responsible Minister.
– One might say that this is a unique occasion. We propose to have a representative of the Commonwealth in England, and that representative ought to receive instructions from the Ministry rather than from a Minister.
– I am sure that the honorable member for West Sydney is as anxious as the Government are to make the Bill perfect. The office of High Commissioner is a very dignified one, and it would be a pity if we were, in all cases, to tie the hands of the Government in relation to instructions to an officer of such high importance, having a multiplicity of duties to perform, while in connexion with AgentsGeneral, instructions may be sent through a Minister.
– Does the Attorney-General think that the responsible Minister would send any important instructions to the High Commissioner without consulting the Cabinet ?
– Of course not. The theory of Cabinet responsibility applies to the acts of Ministers, but a Minister is appointed to control those officers who are associated directly with the Department he controls. He is the hand. As the duties of this office grow, it may be necessary to cable instructions to the High Commissioner half a dozen ‘times a day. If on every occasion that we had to send specific instructions it was necessary first of all to convene a meeting of the Cabinet, it would be almost impossible for the Commissioner to carry out his duties with that expedition which modern commercial transactions require. I do not wish to reason a matter which seems self-evident, but would point out that authority goes in the direction we have taken. We follow, to some extent in expression, and, altogether, in effect, the New Zealand Act, which prescribes, as this Bill does, that the duties of the High Commissioner - which are important, and are laid down practically once and for all - are to be prescribed by the Cabinet, or. as in our case, by the Governor-General in Council. The actual operations of the Commissioner under the powers vested in him must be controlled to some extent by his own discretion, but if by any one from this side of the world, by the Minister in charge of the responsible Department. In the New Zealand Act, we have the declaration that the High Commissioner shall exercise such powers, and perform such duties, as are assigned to him by the Government. Then, under paragraph b of the same section, he is to carry out such instructions as he receives from the Government, which, of course, means the member of the Ministry who has charge of his Department. If the honorable member will look into the New Zealand Act, he will see that there must have been some reason for adopting this principle. The honorable member jocosely pointed out that in this case there was an error of drafting.
– The provision in paragraph b of the section of the New Zealand Act to which the honorable member has just referred is what I want embodied in this Bill.
– The Government is not the Governor-General in Council. The word “ Government “ is used in some cases to mean the Minister, and in some cases to mean the Government; and in Canada the same principle applies, and it is the Minister who gives the instruction ; one is merely a generic term to cover the particular person. The honorable member will see the distinction between the GovernorGeneral in Council and the Government, the latter merely meaning whatever member of the Government may administer the Act. The honorable member referred to what he called an error in the drafting of paragraph a; but there is no error. The “High Commissioner is to act as the “ representative and the resident agent for the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom “ ; and, of course, he is not to act as the representative and resident agent on the Continent. But, while his place of residence and agency is the United Kingdom, his duties are not confined to the United Kingdom, but may carry him elsewhere; and hence the drafting is correct. Another point was raised by the honorable member, but whether jocosely or seriously I do not know. The honorable member said he was rather loath to vote for this .clause - owing, I suppose, to what he thought the great responsibility to be vested in the High ‘Commissioner - unless honorable members were told who the High Commissioner was to be. The honorable member apparently does not like to invest such powers and duties in a man of whose qualifications and policy he is ignorant. If that be the objection, the honorable member should oppose the Bill, because, to be satisfied, he ought to know the line of successors, including, perhaps, people yet unborn, who are to be High Commissioners. It would be against all Parliamentary practice to inferentially affect the discretion of honorable members by naming in the Bill a par ticular person to be the first to hold the office, even if Ministers knew who he was-; and I may say that, up to the present, my ignorance on the matter is quite profound.
– Dees the AttorneyGeneral say that the man is yet unborn whom we are going to appoint?
– With all due respect I think that the honorable member was merely playing with the subject.
– The Attorney-General knows that the man who is going to get the office was born a good while ago !
– As I have said, my ignorance as to the person to be appointed is profound; and, at, all events, it would be most injudicious, to put it mildly, even if the Ministry had a suitable person for the office of High Commissioner in their mind, to put his name in the Bill. Such a thing has never been done; and, besides, it would be against the spirit of the Constitution, especially if, as is suggested, the person were a member of the House, for then there would be a constitutional objection. I suppose, however, that the honorable member for West Sydney is more ingenious than serious in his objections.
– I suggest that the honorable member for West Sydney temporarily withdraw his amendment in order that I may submit a prior amendment.
– I -ask leave to temporarily withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I move -
That after the word “duties,” line 6, the words “ except those of a purely social nature “ be inserted.
I am very much afraid that a great part of the duty of the High Commissioner will be to fly round to banquets gorging and guzzling, and that the Commonwealth -is, in consequence, going to be called upon to foot a heavy bill.
– Does the honorable member propose to make attending a banquet a penal offence?
– Certainly not; but I do not desire attending banquets to be part of the official duties of this officer. If he wishes to attend fine banquets in London, let him do so, but not as part of his duty, when he might be in a position to say that he had not the time, in consequence, to attend to other more important affairs.
– Would any HighCommissioner make an excuse of the sort?
– It is all very well for the honorable member to make these innocent interjections; but I have heard honorable members in the lobbies suggest that the main duty of the High Commissioner will be to keep his mouth shut and gorge and guzzle as much as possible.
– How could the High Commissioner gorge and guzzle with his mouth shut?
– It has been suggested that the Commissioner’s main duty will be to keep his mouth shut so far as speech is concerned, but to keep it open for gorging and guzzling.
– Is the honorable member really serious?
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong, with his laugh, reminds me very often of the bray of an ass.
TheCHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I shall not allow the honorable member for Maribyrnong to sit there insulting me !
– I am not laughing. Is it insulting to ask whether the honorable member is really serious?
– Order ! The honorable member for Cook must withdraw his remark.
– In deference to the Chair I withdraw the remark; but how is it possible for anybody to be serious when he looks at the honorable member for Maribyrnong, whom the right honorable member for East Sydney has described as “the most stupendous joke of the century ?” The Agents-General, in their report, make a strong point of the social business; and, after a reference to certain other duties, state that the High Commissioner will - in addition perform such social duties as would naturally fall to a high official.
Further on the report states -
Some allowance would have to be made to the High Commissioner to enable him to discharge the social duties of his office, for living in London is inordinately expensive, and there are many demands oh the hospitality of Australian officials.
I do not think that the High Commissioner ought to be called on to provide a free table for persons visiting London. I desire to see him dealing with serious business ; and I hope that his duties will be set forth at the discretion of the Government.
If the High Commissioner desiresto entertain his friends or himself, he should be at perfect liberty to do so in his own time.The next paragraph requires the High Commissioner to perform certain functions and duties for the States. That would seem to pre-suppose that the High Commissioner will take the place of the AgentsGeneral. There is a strong consensus of opinion that since Federation there should have been a diminution instead of a multiplication of the number of public officials, and we ought to have a statement from the Government as to whether the High Commissioner is to be an addition to the representatives of Australia in London, or whether the number already there is to be reduced. If the State AgentsGeneral are to carry on their present work, the duties of the Commonwealth representative will be of a very, meagre character. If all the AgentsGeneral could be withdrawn and one office established to represent the Commonwealth as a whole, there would, perhaps, be some advantage to the people in appointing a High Commissioner, but there is no indication that that will happen. We have had no statement from the Government in regard to it. I wished to address myself to the subject on the second reading of the Bill, but before I had an opportunity of doing so the gag was applied.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine himself to the clause.
– I do not know whether there is any urgency for seriously considering the High Commissioner’s duties. Some time ago the Government submitted a motion for the purchase of land and the building of quarters for a High Commissioner in London. That proposal was dropped, but it is like putting the cart before the horse to talk of appointing a High Commissioner or to set forth his duties before deciding where he is to be housed.
– We passed a large sum of money on the Estimates for that purpose.
– I take it that the Government will consult the House about the site for any such building, as they did previously.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the duties of the High Commissioner?
– I want to know what those duties are to be. The report of the Agents-General details them as follows
The High Commissioner would manage the commercial agency, instruct the inspecting engineer, obtain and organize immigrants, defend the Commonwealth, and support its interests in the public press, advertise its resources, advise investors proposing to place their capital in Australia, perform the duties usually carried out by Consuls placed abroad, watch the interests of Australia in connexion with treaties entered into by Great Britain with foreign countries, and, in addition, perform such social duties as would naturally fall to a high official.
A number of those duties are being performed by the Agents-General now, but the Government have not told us which of them are to be performed by the High Commissioner and which are to be left to the State officials, or whether the State officials are to be withdrawn and the taxpayers of Australia saved some expense. At present it appears that the appointment will simply mean an addition to our total expenditure in London without the Commonwealth receiving any value in return. When Canada appointed its High Commissioner, twenty-five years ago, it was thought that the representatives of the Provinces would be withdrawn, but they still flourish.
– The honorable member’s remarks would have been in order on the second reading, but they are out of order on this clause, which deals simply with the duties of the High Commissioner.
– I am sorry that we are so restricted in discussing the question, seeing that we had no opportunity of debating it on the second reading of the Bill. The clause deals with the representation of the States, and I thought T should be in order in pointing out that in similar circumstances in the case of Canada, the Provinces were continuing to exercise their representative functions separately from the Dominion. This clause, on the other hand, seems to foreshadow that in the case of the Commonwealth the functions are to be combined. The Government do not explain why the word “ -States “ .appears in the clause. They seem to put the measure on the table and expect us to anticipate what is in their minds without hearing anything about it.
– And the Minister wanted Parliament to choose the man last time.
– I am reminded that the Minister now in charge of the Bill Was prepared on a previous occasion to agree to Parliament selecting a man.
I believe he signed an agreement to thai effect, and has now gone back on it.
– I signed no agreement.
– If the Minister did, it is only iti conformity with the general tenor of the conduct of honorable members on that side of the House to agree to a thing one day and go back on it the next, according to the exigencies of the situation. I am afraid it will not be possible to deal with the broader aspect of the question on this clause, and apparently the only opportunity open to us will be to debate the third reading. I hope the Government will not then take up the attitude of the tyrant and autocrat, and use their majority to compel us to vote on the Bill without an opportunity of publicly explaining our views on it to our constituents. The wording of the amendment is not altogether to my liking, but if we are to have a High Commissioner in London he should go there to do business. There is a general idea in the minds of the public that a good deal of the time of the High Commissioner will be occupied, not with serious business, but with attending social functions. I cannot see the necessity for that. If this gentleman wishes to amuse himself in such a manner, let him do it ax his own expense. It is probable that the High Commissioner will possess considerable private means. If he considers it’ necessary, in order to bring credit upon the’Commonwealth, to loom large in the fashionable world of London, he should not make the cost of doing so a charge upon the people of Australia. We should make it clear that when the money of the taxpayers is to be spent to the extent of many thousands of pounds, a real return shall be had for the money, and that a large amount of it shall net be frittered away on functions where gold lace and silks and satins predominate, while the real business interests of the Commonwealth are overlooked.
.- The honorable member for Cook evidently fears that a large amount of the salary of the High Commissioner will be squandered on social functions. But no man accepting the position will look upon it as an opportunity for going on a wild “jambouree.” He will naturally use his astuteness to get out of as many banquets as possible. He will not desire to go to every beanfeast on the board any more than the GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealth does. His
Excellency shows his astuteness in avoiding social engagements whenever he can. The difficulty is to get him to go to any of them. I should not blame him if he refused more than he does. But there are certain social functions in London which the High Commissioner will have to attend in the interest of the Commonwealth. He will have to entertain as well as be entertained. It is absurd to put in the Bill a stipulation regarding the social duties of the officer. He will not be able to accept invitations without himself giving entertainments; and when he gives them they will not have to be threecoursesforashilling feasts. I can’ understand the honorable member being afraid of public money being wasted on banquets. We certainly do not want to make this a rich man’s post. But the honorable member for Cook, having ventilated the view naturally entertained by some people, might very well withdraw his amendment. He may be satisfied that the person appointed to be High Commissioner will desire to live for a few years. He will not be so young a man as to be anxious to be continually attending banquets. We all know, as public men, that even in our own little way we do not, if we are at all wise, accept every invitation that is extended to us. We show our wisdom in the number of invitations that we refuse. If there is one time more than another when a public man is uncomfortable, it is when he is at a banquet. The honorable member should withdraw his amendment, being satisfied that the type of man likely to be selected will not go the lengths that some people seem to fear.
– I had not an opportunity of speaking oil this Bil Lon the motion for the second reading. Now that we are discussing what the duties of the High Commissioner should be, I do not know whether I shall be in order in referring to the qualities which the Commonwealth representative should possess. In the first place, I . venture to express the hope that the High Commissioner will possess all the abilities and qualifications that we should like to see in a man occupying such an office. I hope that he will be thoroughly Australian in sentiment and aspiration, and will worthily represent the Commonwealth at the centre of the Empire. I have heard the name of the right honorable member for East Sydney mentioned as the man likely to be appointed. I am free to admit that if the Government saw their way to secure the services of the late leader of the Opposition, I, for one, should raise no objection to the appointment. I believe that the Commonwealth would find displayed by that right honorable member, not only all the ability that we are looking for, but that he would also be an exponent of the true Australian sentiment while holding this high and important position. But what I arc chiefly anxious about is that our High Commissioner shall be armed with such powers and functions as will enable him to be a true representative of Australia in London. Indeed, he should discharge the whole of the functions that are now being exercised by the representatives of the six States. 1 hoped that this matter would be discussed at the Premiers’ Conference, and that some understanding would be arrived at which would enable the Government to come to Parliament and intimate the extent of the functions to be discharged by the High Commissioner whom it is proposed to appoint. Unless something of the kind is done, we shall be constituting an office that no doubt will be desirable, but the value of which will be largely detracted from by the fact that the High Commissioner will be only one of seven claiming to represent Australia. We shall thus be repeating one of the least desirable of the features to be met with in our public life, the States claiming equal powers with the Federation in many respects, and being jealous of the exercise of the powers vested in the Commonwealth. We do not want a repetition of that kind of thing in connexion with our representation in the Mother Country. I hope that an effort will be made to secure in London an Australian representative in the widest possible sense, and not an official who will be merely one of seven contending Australian representatives. The Commonwealth must, of course, make a move in the matter before we can ask the State Governments to agree to merge their representation in London into that of the Commonwealth. As I have said, I had hoped that the matter would have been considered at the Premier’s Conference, and that the Government would be in a position to indicate to the Committee the extent to which we are likely to realize the purpose of this Bill. If the attitude of the State Premiers is such that the High Commissioner will be only one of seven Australian representatives in London, we must consider whether we should be justified in spending on this important office the amount of money which we might reasonably expend if the High Commissioner were to be really a representative of Australia. The matter is one which closely affects the interests of the . taxpayers of the Commonwealth. As reports show, and as might readily be understood without any reports, “under the existing system of State representation in London, much of the work is duplicated. So far each State Government has been acting independently. They have been concerned only with the representation of their own State, and have had nothing to do with the action taken by the representatives of other States. This has involved duplication, increased expenditure, and considerable friction between State and State, conditions which might be removed by the appointment of a High Commissioner .to represent the States as well as the Commonwealth. This view of the matter should be pressed home to the State Premiers, and finally to the masters of State and Commonwealth Governments, the taxpayers who will have to pay for the representation of Australia in London. I have no desire to debate the matter at great length. I am not hostile to this measure. If the lines I have indicated are followed, I shall be prepared to assist the passage of the Bill. I do say, however, that when the Bill is passed, the Government should be in a position to take the necessary steps to appoint the High Commissioner, so that Parliament may know who is to be our representative in London. I understand that in discussing that matter, I am going beyond the limit of the debate, but I hope the Government will recognise the wisdom of the suggestion I have made. I hold it to be our duty to pay to the High Commissioner such a salary as will enable us to command the services of a man of ability and patriotism, who will do credit to this high office, no matter what his financial position may be. This office should not be considered as a perquisite of wealthy men in our community. It should be open to the best talent we can secure, but if we are to command the services of such a representative as I have described, the salary set down .in this Bill is, in my opinion, quite inadequate. On the subject of the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Cook, I think that the man fitted for this position would not dream of considering himself merely a social functionary. If we get the right man, we need not be afraid of anything of the kind. Of course, if we get the wrong man, if we appoint as High Commissioner a man who cannot rise above mere social functions, there will be some danger that what the honorable member for Cook fears will take place. There will be nothing to prevent the High Commissioner spending his own means in this way. I recognise that these social functions may be utilized as an important advertising medium. They might be made use of as a means of bringing Australian sentiments and views not merely before the English’ people, but before the world. I ask honorable members to recall the reports we have received of some of these functions, and they will acknowledge that we have derived a great deal of information about Canada from the utterances of the Canadian High Commissioner at gatherings ‘of this kind. What we have to do is to appoint the right man, and trust to his discretion and judgment in this matter.
.- The excellent points the honorable member for Calare has made as to the selection of the best man, and the necessity of providing a salary which will secure the appointment of a representative Australian, whatever may be his private circumstances, have nothing to do with the amendment before the Committee, which is intended to prevent the High Commissioner from attending any function of a purely social nature.
– Certainly not to prevent him ; he can do what he likes in his own time.
– I suggest to my honorable friends opposite that inasmuch as the Government are bound to endeavour to pass this Bill this evening, it might be as well if they devoted the time that we have at our disposal to the consideration of the more important questions involved in it.
– What does the honorable member say ?
– I am suggesting to the honorable member for Cook, who, having delivered his bombshell, is now immersed in the pages of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, that in the interests of the proper discussion of this Bill he should withdraw his amendment. We shall then be able to deal with the serious and controversial questions that are involved in clause 6.
– He would like the High Commissioner to be a Mahatma.
– Exactly, or a Trappist. As, however, we hope that the High Commissioner will not be like a Trappist, but will possess the power of speech, the more social functions he attends in the discharge of his public duties - functions at which he will be afforded an opportunity of speaking of Australian work and Australian people - the better. I repeat that we ought to get to the serious matters which are involved in clause 6, so that we may pass this Bill tonight.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) put -
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I desire to move the amendment which I temporarily withdrew-
– I rise to a point of order. I submit, sir, that under the standing order you must now put the clause to the Committee, otherwise there can be no closure. It clearly contemplates the closure of the debate on the whole question under the consideration of the Chair. It says : -
When the motion “ That the question be now put “ has been carried, and the question consequent thereon has been decided, any further motion may be at once made which may be requisite to bring to a decision any question already proposed from the Chair;
In this case the question proposed from the Chair was. “ That the clause stand part of the Bill.”
– No, the amendment.
– The standing order continues : - and also if a clause be then under consideration, a motion may be made, “ That the question, ‘ That certain words of the clause defined in the motion stand part of the clause,’ or ‘ That the clause stand part of the or be added to the Bill ‘ be now put.” Such motions shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.
I submit, sir, that unless the clause is now put the purpose of the closure will be altogether defeated. Honorable members may go on moving amendments indefinitely, and the closure will become of no effect. The standing order contemplates the closing of the debate on the question then under consideration; otherwise nothing whatever is gained.
– I desire to settle the point of order straight away. It is quite right, as the Minister has stated, that the closure, as it was adopted by the House, is of little use. I have had a good deal of experience of the closure, not only here, but in another Parliament, so that I can speak with some authority. The question before the Committee was an amendment by the honorable member for Cook to insert certain words in the clause. The Minister of External Affairs moved that the question be now put; that motion was carried, and then the amendment was negatived on the voices. It was then open to any honorable member to rise in his place and move a further amendment. The Minister of Defence was quite correct when he said that the question may be put forthwith. Any member of the House may rise, at any time, and move that the question be now put, and that motion will have to be immediately put.
– Even before an amendment.
– Yes. The Minister of Defence pointed out that if honorable members can move amendments continually it will really make the closure useless. I think that if new clauses were proposed to be added to the Bill, honorable members could keep on moving amendments as long as they thought proper. I do not see any power in the Chair to stop them from doing so.
– Then the plain English is that there is no closure.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– On a point of order, sir. I think this is grossly improper-
– Poor little creature !
– The question is, “ That the question be now put.”
– What question, sir ?
– That the clause stand part of the Bill.
– Well, the Minister is a dirty little coward.
– Mr. Chairman, I direct your attention to the fact that the honorable member for Hume has repeated his offensive conduct, by calling the Minister of External Affairs “ a dirty little-‘
– No, coward.
– Mr. Chairman, that is an absolute untruth. I never said anything of the kind suggested by the honorable member for Maribyrnong.
– The honorable member called the Minister of External Affairs “ a dirty little coward.”
– I am surprised at the honorable member for Maribyrnong.
– It is disgusting language.
– The honorable member’s statement is absolutely untrue.
Question - That the question be now put - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Motion agreed to.
Question - That the clause stand part of the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Mr. Mauger. - Yes.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) put -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair, report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
The Committee divided.
Majority… … 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 5 -
Subject to the provisions of the last preceding section, the High Commissioner, for the purpose of more economically and effectively advancing the material interests and welfare of every part of Australia, shall also, at the request of the Governments of the several State’s, perform for the Slates functions and duties similar to those hereinbefore described and similar to those now discharged by the Agents-General of the States, and shall perform the same without discrimination or preference, or to the advantage or disadvantage of any State as regards another State.
– It is very desirable that the High Commissioner shall be the sole representative of the Commonwealth; and, in so far as the functions performed by the Agents-General are those which, in the aggregate, can be performed by a High Commissioner, it is entirely proper that the latter should perform them. But there are some duties performed by the Agents-General which are more in the nature of commercial agency business; and these, I submit, the High Commissioner could not effectively or even properly undertake. I doubt very much whether the States would consult their interests best by asking him to perform them. What will very likely happen is that the Agents-General, as we know them, will disappear, and in their place will be a High Commissioner, plus a commercial agent for .each State. It nowhere says in the clause, that it is the intention to limit the duties of the High Commissioner to those of the character I have indicated, and which are now performed by the Agents-General ; and if the purpose of the clause is merely to empower the High Commissioner to do that which he- could do without this authorization, if the States so requested, I do not see that it is of any use. The financial interests of the States and of the Commonwealth may be opposed in some particulars. For instance, if both the Commonwealth and the States go on the London market to borrow, it may be that their interests will so clash that those of the Commonwealth cannot be served by an agent who represents both it and the States. I can conceive that it would be in the last degree disastrous to the financial standing of the Commonwealth if loans should be placed on the market by the Commonwealth and the States at the same time; and in such case, I do not see how one man could serve two masters. Since the Government do not propose to do that which is obviously right and proper, namely, sever the financial arrangements completely, we must contemplate such a position ; and clause 5, as drawn, is not at all satisfactory. I was not permitted to move to exempt from the instructions in clause 4 those relating to finance; but the instructions of that nature referred to in clause 5 ought not to be carried out by the
High Commissioner unless and until there has been handed over to the Commonwealth the complete control of the finances of both States and Commonwealth, so far as borrowing operations on the British market are concerned. I do not see any prospect of usefully moving an amendment in the clause; indeed, an amendment could hardly be made in the clause as drawn. Perhaps the Minister will consent to such an amendment as would make the clause declaratory, because that is all it is in any case. It does not empower us to do anything we could not otherwise do, because we have ample power in the Constitution to authorize the High Commissioner to do anything we wish to which the States consent. In regard to finance, there should be a clear understanding that, under no set of circumstances, until the complete control is in the hands of the Commonwealth, shall the High Commissioner be asked to perform those duties. If the clause is pressed in its present form, I shall be compelled to vote against it.
– I think we are protected against any such disability as that referred to by the honorable member for West Sydney, seeing that the High Commissioner has to carry out such instructions as he receives from the Minister, in accordance with clause 4, and that clause 5 opens with the words “ Subject to the provisions of the last preceding section.” I, and others, have fallen into the same error; but the Minister will see that the interests of the States and Commonwealth do not clash, and will give his instructions accordingly.
– Is clause 5 necessary ?
– I think so. The States may desire certain work to be done through the High Commissioner; and though the clause may be to a certain extent surplusage, it conveys the necessary power to the High Commissioner under the Minister.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Corio that the clause is not merely only declaratory, but is surplusage. To be of any value, the clause should prescribe a penalty of, say, £100 for any neglect to perform the duties, because that is the only way to make sense out of a provision of the kind. The High Commissioner is appointed under an Act subject to the Governor-General in Council, which means the Minister, so that clause 5 really prescribes what the GovernorGeneral in Council is to do under particular circumstances. A declaratory clause of this kind will have the effect of actually limiting the usefulness of the High Commissioner. Read it again and again, and you will find that it contains nothing. It gives no larger powers. It is simply a string of platitudes. Every man appointed to such a position ought to be, and will be capable of performing those duties. No one could say that the High Commissioner would differentiate between the interests of the Commonwealth and the States. I take this opportunity of reminding honorable members that the present Agents-General consider it part of their duty to extol their own States and reflect on other States. I made a number of quotations in the speech I delivered at Gympie to show- what the Agents-General had been doing in that direction. If the Government want to lay down the functions of the High Commissioner, they should say that he must not speak in disparagement of any State, but it is unnecessary to encumber the Bill with little directions of that kind. The duties might be defined in the Bill as briefly as possible, leaving it to the Government to say from time to time what they should be. This raises a larger question. As the High Commissioner will hold his office for a fixed period at a fixed salary, I see nothing in the Bill to enable the Government to remove or recall him if he carries out his duties in an unsatisfactory way.
– What about “ incapacity “ under sub-clause 2 of clause 3?
– I do not think that covers it. I presume it means mental or physical incapacity.
– What about “ misbehaviour “ ?
– “ Misbehaviour “ would probably mean a criminal offence. Those are very strong words, which indicate something distinctly out of the ordinary run of incompetency or even failure to perform duties. I’ do not think that failure to perform a duty, or dilatoriness, or - what is equally grave - the giving vent by the High Commissioner to his own political views contrary to the views of the people of Australia, would amount to “ misbehaviour.”
– Then the joint address by Parliament comes in.
– Yes, but should that. b3 necessary? It would be far better to give the Government power over the High Commissioner, subject to any action of theirs in that direction being dealt with by Parliament immediately. After all, the more we endeavour to entrench an officer of this kind, the less effective he becomes. The High Commissioner is not in the position of an ordinary Commissioner of Railways. He should be there at the direction of the Ministry to carry out the policy of the Ministry for the time being. We do not want a man appointed for a number of years, and so entrenched in his position by this Bill as to be able to give vent to opinions that are contrary to the wishes of the Parliament and Government of the day. That would be an obvious mistake, and I should be very sorry if any gentleman were intrusted with such powers.
– - This clause is not only necessary, but highly desirable. The honorable member for West Sydney objects to it, first, on the ground that there may be some conflict. As the honorable member for Robertson pointed out, the whole of the clause, with a view to preventing conflict, is subject to the preceding clause. By that the High ‘Commissioner performs his duties upon all occasions subject to the instructions of the Minister. If there were any possibility of conflict in financial or other matters, the Minister’s complete control would prevent it, and the Government of the day would issue their instructions accordingly. It is advisable to retain the clause, because’ we want to declare to the States the relations that we are prepared to enter into with them for the purpose of the carrying out of these duties. It is therefore necessary to state in clear, plain, and unmistakable language what we are ready to do in that regard. We tell the States in this clause that the High Commissioner may perform for them “ functions and duties similar to those hereinbefore described and similar to those now discharged by the Agents-General of the States.” It is our desire and hope that the States will come in and utilize this officer as much as possible.
– Does the Minister presume that the States will withdraw their Agents-General ?
– Judging by the tone of letters written some time ago by the States,
I am of opinion that they will take advantage of this office.
– But still retain their Agents-General ?
– The States will probably keep commercial agents in London, as the honorable member for West Sydney said, but the wisdom of having even commercial agents representing the different States has been questioned by eminent authorities. It is right that this Parliament should state clearly and unmistakably that we are prepared to carry out work for the States if they so desire. But, as the honorable member for Robertson very properly pointed out, in order to prevent clashing, to preserve control, and to obviate conflict between State and State, the whole matter will be subject to Ministerial direction.
.- Notwithstanding what the Minister of External Affairs has said, it seems that this clause is covered by the preceding one. You cannot get anything broader, stronger, or more emphatic than the language of paragraph b of the preceding clause. According to that, the High Commissioner must carry out the instructions he receives from the Minister concerning certain specified interests of the States. It is not necessary to declare it again. If it is necessary, and the Government intend to retain this clause, I propose to move an amendment to the following effect -
That after the word “ States,” line 6, the words “ and with the consent of the Government of the Commonwealth “ be inserted.
I shall move that amendment if this clause is not governed by clause 4. If the clause is governed by clase 4, the amendment is unnecessary.
.- I said previously that it was quite unnecessary to define the High Commissioner’s duties so elaborately. Since then I have looked up the Canadian Act, and find that Canada followed exactly the ideas that I expressed.
– The position is not the same. In Canada they had a number of Provincial Agents.
– The Provincial Parliaments of Canada were, comparatively speaking, as strong as the Parliaments of the States of Australia were when we federated. The Canadian Provinces had their commercial agents in London. “What’s in a name?” Our AgentsGeneral would be quite as important officials, even though we called them commercial agents.
– Some of them have not the slightest idea of business.
– That observation misses the point. Although the commercial agents of the Canadian Provinces were more strictly commercial men than our Agents-General are, they were, nevertheless, the representatives of the Provinces. Let us look at the Canadian Act under which the High Commissioner is appointed. It consists simply of three sections. The first one is formal. The second section is so short that I will read it.
The High Commissioner shall -
How clear and direct that is. The remaining provisions of the Canadian Act are -
carry out such instructions as he, from time to time, receives from the Governor in Council respecting the commercial, financial, and general interests of Canada in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
Instead of a short, simple measure, setting out the duties of the High Commissioner, as the Canadian Act does, we have a long Bill’ containing a number of details as to what the High Commissioner is to do. In my opinion, the power of the Ministry is’ limited by these numerous directions, which may have the very opposite effect from what is intended.
– I think that it would be a mistake to retain the clause in the Bill. During the absence of a State Agent- General, or during a vacancy, the High Commissioner might have to act as the representative of a State. Suppose that a State wished to put a loan on the market. Does any one think that the State Government would allow the Commonwealth Minister of External Affairs to exercise a voice as to how the loan should be floated? When the
High Commissions! acts for a State, he will have to obey the State Government, just as if he were the officer of the State. Under this Bill he will occupy a dual position, and I am afraid that friction and jealousy will be created. Suppose that two States wished to put a loan on the market at the same time. If the High Commissioner acted for one State and an Agent-General for another, this clause would give the High Commissioner authority to write to the Minister of External Affairs, asking him for permission to place the loan on the market on behalf of the State for which he was acting. If the Commonwealth is going to have an officer in London, I doubt whether the States would be wise in allowing him to act for them ; and if he does, he will not act as their agent, but will be under the control of the Commonwealth Minister. I trust that the clause will be withdrawn from the Bill.
.- I trust that the Government will not withdraw the clause. The Bill requires a provision of the kind. I believe that it is necessary for the Commonwealth to have a representative in London, and I also believe that he will have to perform functions for the State. When I was a member of the Tasmanian Parliament, about six years ago, I remember a debate with reference to the AgentGeneral. It was said that he should be appointed only for twelve months, because it was exceedingly probable that the Commonwealth would appoint a High Commissioner, who would then be able to act for Tasmania. If that was the opinion of a State Parliament six years ago, I do not think it likely to have been altered in the meantime. The States will be willing to fall in with any arrangement made by the Commonwealth. I do not think that the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland is necessary. The Bill itself uses the words “ subject to the provisions of the last preceding section.” The High Commissioner will always act under the control of the Commonwealth. It will be well for the Federal Government to work on the same lines as a business man would follow under such circumstances. We should have one principal man to represent Australia in London, and a number of business men to look after the interests of particular branches. The States and the Commonwealth should establish a uniformity of interests in matters of this kind, and we should not have regard to particular geographical boundaries. The Agents-General of the States have done good work in the past, but many of their functions will in future be discharged by the High Commissioner. I trust that the clause will be passed, in order that the States may see that they will be able to utilize the services of this officer, and that the Commonwealth is willing to work in unison with the States in reference to the matter.
– This clause was inserted in the Bill deliberately, in order to enable the Committee to decide whether the States should be afforded the means of direct communication with the High Commissioner, subject, of course, to the permission of the Commonwealth Government.
– Does not clause 4 provide for that ?
– No, the issue is not directly stated in that clause, under which the High Commissioner can only carry out anything subject to the instructions of the Government. This clause was intended to declare in statutory form that the States would have the right to utilize the services of the High Commissioner.
– Is any power given in clause 5 which could not be exercised under clause 4?
– This clause contains a direct declaration. We thought it best to let the States know the exact position. The matter is, however, one upon which the Committee may express an opinion. We felt that it was right to submit the question in this form, though we recognise that the matter is one as to which we should abide by the decision of the Committee.
– The clause amounts to a limitation of power?
– No, it is a. definition.
– To the extent that the clause defines, it limits.
– The preceding provision is wide, This is an additional duty cast upon the High Commissioner. The honorable member for Wide Bay, amongst others, has sometimes complained that our Statutes do not clearly set out all that is intended. The complaint has frequently been made that in drafting Bills too much is left to regulation. The desire of the Government in introducing this clause was to bring this matter distinctly before honorable members.
– The honorable gentleman speaks of regulations, but this is simply a direction of the Executive.
– The honorable member will see that the clause referred to by him relates to “ such duties as are conferred upon and assigned to him by the GovernorGeneral.” That could be by regulation.
– And by direction of the Minister.
– That is additional.
– If the honorable gentleman will look at the Canadian Act he will see that everything is left to the Minister.
– No, to the GovernorGeneral in Council.
– What is the difference?
– One is the Minister administering the Act, and in the other case the Governor-General prescribes duties by Executive action. Our desire was to make what is proposed quite clear in order to get the sense of the Committee upon it.
– I think, this clause is all right. It seems to me that it is absolutely necessary to offer some inducement to the States to federate, because at present they are not federated. I want to provide something which will enable the State and Commonwealth Governments to come together in connexion with financial transactions. The State Governments will not intrust the floating of their loans to the High Commissioner unless some body invested with the power to. deal with financial matters is created which offers them such an inducement as would enable them to float their loans at par under the Commonwealth representative, when they would be obliged to float them below par if they did their business through their own Agents-General. I desire to have a branch of the National Postal Banking System established in London.
– We might make this one of the functions of the High Commissioner.
– I think it might be included amongst his functions and duties. We might insert in clause 5 the words - shall be a representative of the Commonwealth National Postal Banking System when established.
I am most anxious that in this particular respect the States should be federated. From my experience as an old American banker, I know that nothing unites the human family as money does.
– It unites political parties too.
– Political parties are bought, owned and run by money in America.
– We have nothing like that here.
– I agree with the honorable member, but while we do a lot of talking up here a man in a bank down in Collins-street runs the lot of us, and we do not know it.
– I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the;
– If I am to confine myself to the clause I am bound to say that I do not think that there is much in it. I should like to know from you, sir, how I had better propose th®. amendment I have indicated?
– I suggest to the honorable member that he might submit his amendment as a new clause.
– Very well; I have no more to say on this clause.
– I think that this clause should remain in the Bill, because it is desirable that we should hold out a kind of invitation to the State Governments to do as much of their work as they can through the representative of the central authority. I am afraid, however, that the drafting of the clause, as it stands, might lead to some serious difficulty hereafter. I do not think our invitation to the State Governments will have much effect if when at our request they have agreed to intrust their affairs to the High Commissioner, he is in the management of those affairs to be under the direct control of the Commonwealth Government. What we want to do is to invite the State Governments if they have any particular business to transact in London to do it through the High Commissioner instead of through their own representative. But we could not reasonably expect them to accept that invitation if their agent in the transaction of that business, for the High Commissioner would in that matter be their agent, was to be under the direct control of a Commonwealth Minister.
– Surely the High Commissioner must have but one master?
– Not necessarily. For instance, if a State Government desired to float a loan and asked the High Commissioner to take the necessary steps it will not be contended that it would be desirable that the Minister of External Affairs, or any other Commonwealth Minister, should have the power to interfere and advise the High Commissioner as to the steps he should take.
– Paragraph b of clause 4 would not go to that extent. The High Commissioner would merely apply to the Minister for leave to undertake the work.
– The paragraph goes further than that. It provides that in all matters with which the High Commissioner is dealing for the Commonwealth 01 the States affecting their financial, commercial, and general interests, he is to be directly under the control and direction of the Commonwealth -Ministry. The difficulty might be overcome by adopting a slight modification of the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland. I think that in clause 5 we ought not to say “ Subject to the provisions of the last preceding section,” but “ Subject to the consent of the Commonwealth Government.”
– It is purely a matter of taste.
– I think not. The Commonwealth Government should have the right to say whether and under what conditions the High Commissioner should be allowed to accept mandates from the various State Governments, but once he has been allowed to do so he should be able to carry out the work with which he has been intrusted by a State Government without being under the express direction of the Commonwealth Government.
– It is the difference between consent and control.
– That is so. If we are to hold out this invitation to the State Governments we must do so in such a way that they can reasonably accept it.
.- To meet the difficulty mentioned by the Honorable member for Flinders I shall ask leave to withdraw my amendment with a view to proposing -
That the words “ Subject to the provisions of the last preceding section “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Subject to the consent of the Governor-General.”
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– In the drafting of this clause both forms were considered, and it was thought that that which has been adopted would be the less objec tionable to the States. At the same time, [ am prepared to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Gippsland, and if he will permit me to do so, I will move an amendment to that effect.
– Very well.
– I, therefore, move-
That the words “ provisions of the last preceding section “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ consent of the Governor-General.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 - (1.) The salary of the High Commissioner shall be Three thousand pounds a year, and shall be paid to him monthly out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated for that purpose accordingly. (2.) The High Commissioner shall be paid, out of moneys to be provided by the Parliament, the expenses, not exceeding Two thousand pounds a year, of an official residence, and such sums for travelling expenses as the Minister allows.
. -I desire to move that the word “ Three,” line 1, be left out, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word “ Six.” In sub-clause 2 I also wish to strike out the word “two.” In my opinion we should vote the High Commissioner a lump sum, instead of paying him a salary and allowing him a certain amount for expenses. He should be placed in an absolutely independent position. He may desire to live at Brighton or Torquay, and he should be free to do so. We do not require to purchase an official residence for him. The United Slates has maintained, in London, Ambassadors of the highest honour, and yet they have never had an official court at St. James’s.
– Have they not been very wealthy men?
– No. James Russell Lowell was a poor man, so was Baird. Joseph Choate was not a rich man.
– He was.
– He was only an American millionaire - that is a £200,000 man here. Relatively speaking, he was a poor man. The present Ambassador, Mr. Whitelaw Reid, is the only rich man whom the United States has had in London.
– What about Elliott?
– He is a poor man. The very fact that Whitelaw Reid is a rich man has led to his recall, because too much ceremony and grandeur do not accord with the simplicity of the American life. After all the 400 society people ofthe United States do not represent the heart of the American Democracy - the farmers and industrial residents of the back blocks. We ought to make the position of High Commissioner one that any capable man, be he lawyer, doctor, or able financier, may accept. A salary of £3,000 a year is not sufficient for the occupant of that distinguished office. I have sometimes made that amount in an afternoon. I think that a salary of £6,000 would be a fair thing.
– I cannot, accept the proposal of the honorable member because it aims at increasing the burdens on the people.
– I realize that the objection raised by you, sir, is fatal to the honorable member’s proposal. At the same time the Government desire to afford the Committee every latitude in considering this question. We are, therefore, prepared to accept the omission of any word in this clause as a direction by the Committee that we should increase the salary of the High Commissioner to £5,000. We should then ask the Committee to agree to the clause later ; but we would take the necessary steps to put it in proper form should an amendment be made.
– In order to test the feeling of the Committee, I move -
That the word ‘ Three,” line 2, be left out.
If my proposal be carried it will be an intimation to the Government that the Committee do not regard £3,000 as an adequate salary to pay to the HighCommissioner, that the amount should be increased to at least £5,000 and that the allowance for an official residence should also be increased to at least £3,000 per annum.
.- The Minister of External Affairs has had the grace to say that the Government will accept any amendment of the clause as a direction to them to increase the salary of the High Commissioner. He has declared that they are anxious to give effect to the views of honorable members. To what honorable members does he allude?
– To the members of this Committee.
– This is a very importtant matter, and any direction that the Committee may give the Government will have no value in view of the small attendance of honorable members.
– Let the Bill go.
Mr.FISHER.- The Treasurer need not be so peremptory.
– I did not mean my remark to be peremptory.
– Doesthe honorable gentleman object to members of the Opposition saying anything at all? Is that the stage which we have reached? It is no reflection upon honorable members to say that this is not a representative Committee.
– The Committee will have an opportunity of reconsidering this matter in accordance with the statement which I have made.
– I am well aware that it is quite a usual practice for a Government to take a vote upon some unimportant question in a Bill with a view to ascertaining the opinions of a majority of honorable members, because under the Standing Orders only a member of the Government can propose an increase of expenditure.
– Subject to bringing down a fresh message from the GovernorGeneral.
– I do not agree that the Commonwealth could get a better man for £6,000 than for £3.000 a year. My experience is that if the salary were fixed at £10,000 we should get less work out of the officer. Whilst I think that . £5,000 is not an extraordinary amount, still £3,000 is a very fair salary to start with.
– Only a rich man could take the position at that salary.
– The idea that only a rich man would be able to take this office is a grave reflection upon those who call themselves Democrats. Am I to assume that we cannot get an able man at a salary of £3,000. with an allowance of £2,000 per year for expenses, and such sums for travelling expenses as the Minister may allow ? In my opinion the provision for an allowance for travelling expenses is a very lax method to adopt. I would rather increase the allowance to £3,000 a year than have this provision for the allowance of expenses by the Minister. One of the most delicate and difficult subjects with which a Treasurer is called upon to deal is that of the expenses of a high public official. One man will spend four or five times as much as will another man. One man will take a most conscientious view of what he should spend, while another will spend most lavishly when he is travelling. At the beginning of this century, there were some celebrations in New South Wales, and a public officer went to Sydney to represent his State. All the tips and payments to the barber and the chemist were included as part of his expenses. Yet there is no more honorable or capable servant in the Commonwealth than the gentleman to whom I allude. That is an illustration of the danger of including in this clause a provision for the allowance of expenses by the Minister.
– The last part of the clause only applies to travelling expenses.
– Yes. Would it not be possible to fix a salary and let the High Commissioner pay his own expenses?
– I think that the travelling expenses of Federal Ministers should be paid, but the High Commissioner should receive a stated salary and travel as he pleases.
– He would, not travel.
– I do not think it will be necessary for the High Commissioner to travel very much. The distances in Europe are short, and the travelling expenses will be a mere bagatelle.
– His expenses may vary from year, to year, because in some years he will have Conferences to attend. The Judges of the High Court have a fixed allowance of £3 3s. per day.
– My recollection is that the Judges demanded the payment of all their expenses, and won on that point.
– No, they receive a fixed sum.
– If the High Commissioner is allowed to claim all his expenses, whether he will travel like a King or a Prince, or a citizen, will be determined by his own disposition. It would be far better to give him a stated sum. He should have a residence in London, and should not flit from place to place, or live in lodgings. We are dealing with a most important matter at a time when honorable members are thinking more of catching their trains than of the subject under consideration.
.- I submit to you, sir, that the honorable member for Darwin could move an amendment to increase the salary of the High Commissioner to .£5,000 per year. The clause provides for a total expenditure of £,5,°°° per year, and in my opinion the Committee can allocate that sum as it chooses. If the salary were limited to £5,000 instead of to ,£6,000 the proposal of the honorable member might be acceptable to the Chair. I want to support the original decision of the Ministry, because I think that a salary °f £3,000 a year is quite enough. We are dealing with the remuneration of a business man only. The honorable member for Wide Bay quoted from an Act to show that the salary of the High Commissioner for Canada is only ,£2,000 per lear. We want a business man, not a society man, to represent Australia. I do not know how the appropriation of £12,000 per year for seven Ministers is divided, but I should not think that the Prime Minister receives more than £2,000 a year. Considering that we have obtained the best Australian ability for that salary, it would be veryunfortunate for the Commonwealth to have in its gift a better office than the Prime Ministership.
– Why not fix the salary at £5,000, and allow no expenses? I would vote for a proposal of that kind.
– I do not even want that to be done. I rose to suggest a way in which possibly the Chair might accept the honorable member’s amendment. I shall be glad to support the clause as it stands. Whether an official residence is necessary or not, I cannot say. Any official residence that may be provided may be useless to the High Commissioner, just as the official house in Downing-street was to Mr. Gladstone or Mr. Balfour, who preferred their own homes. It would depend largely on the domestic arrangements of the Commissioner whether he could conveniently live in an official residence. In my opinion, it would be better to give him £2,000 for expenses, without binding him to use the money for the upkeep of an official residence. But we must act economically. There is an impression abroad that there is too much spreadeagleism about our propositions. In my” opinion, £3,000 ought to be a sufficient salary for a good man. We should think more of economy in our appointments, and be content to give fair and not extravagant salaries for good service.
– I hope that the Government will stick to the clause as it stands. In my opinion, £3,000 is a fair salary to fix for the High Commissioner, and I am willing to grant £2,000 for the upkeep of an official residence, and to pay reasonable travelling ex- penses. If we vote a lump sum for travelling expenses, some Commissioners may do very little travelling, hoping to save all they can. I disagree with those who have expressed the opinion that it will not be necessary for the High Commissioner to travel. I hold the view that it will be all the better for Australia if he sees a little of what is going on in the world.
.- I am in favour of increasing the salary of the High Commissioner to £5,000, with travelling expenses.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.’]
– The salary paid to the Canadian representative has been mentioned as a precedent to guide us, but it must be remembered that that position has been almost monopolized by one man, simply because he has had money to spend in keeping it up. The honorable member for Wide Bay has said that Australia does not wish to make this position one for rich men. The most certain way to make it one for rich men is to attach a low salary to it, and considering what the High Commissioner will have to do, a salary of £5,000 a year will be little enough. I think, teo, that an official residence should be provided, for which I am willing to vote £2,000. The feeling of Americans is that their ambassador to the English Court should have an official home. It would be undesirable to pay a lump sum for travelling expenses, because while one year a good deal of travelling might have to be done, the next year there might be very little. But in the performance of his duties, the High Commissioner might have to visit various places on the Continent, and even America, and we must be prepared to pay the expenses so incurred.
– I shall support the clause as it stands; £3,000 is a fair salary to begin with. If necessary, we can increase the amount later, but if we fix a large sum now, it will not be easy to reduce it. My experience is that the best brains are not always obtained for the biggest money. We have in Australia men who could do the work satisfactorily for £3,000 a year.
– When last in England, 1 had an opportunity to learn what the conditions are which attach to a position of this kind, and I say unhesitatingly that £3,000 would be a ridiculously small salary to pay the Commissioner. Mr. Whitelaw Reid, the United States Ambassador, does not get a high salary, but he is a wealthy man, while Lord Strathcona, who represents the Dominion of Canada, thinks nothing of spending £50,000 on a week’s entertaining, and does it very often. Our High Commissioner will have to rub shoulders with very wealthy men, and it would not do to have him curbing himself, and perpetually doubting whether his salary would carry him through the year. No man should be placed in such a position that he could not entertain in accordance with his position, though perhaps not as some other representatives do. My feeling is that if the High Commissioner got £10,000 a year it would be little enough. The Governors of “Victoria used to get £10,000 a year and certain expenses paid, but their expenditure always exceeded their salaries’. I know of my personal knowledge that Lord Hopetoun, while here, spent £16,000 more than his official salary. It is not fair to send the High Commissioner to England and give him such a salary that the people may be led to believe that he or Australia is mean. We should pay the High Commissioner a salary sufficient to enable him to represent us properly and reasonably without being guilty of extravagance. Captain Collins has done very well in the position he has occupied in London, but he has not been called upon as the High Commissioner will be to entertain the leading men of Great Britain and some of the most prominent men in the British Dominions. To pay the High Commissioner such a salary as would make it almost impossible for him to live under reasonable conditions would not be right. If the salary paid be that for which the Bill now provides, the appointment will be confined to a few wealthy men. A man cannot be expected to leave Australia for England and to devote all his attention to the position of High Commissioner unless he is well paid. I should not object to the appointment of a wealthy man, provided that he was capable and worthy of the position, but we must have regard for the name of Australia and see that our representative at Home is adequately remunerated.
.- I have no desire to exaggerate the duties or the expenses attaching to the position of High Commissioner ; but entirely agree with those who have said that a salary of £3,000 per annum is absolutely insufficient. I do not think that Australia will expect the High Commissioner to entertain in an extravagant or fantastic way. We have heard of the banquets of the Four Hundred in New York-
– Honorable members opposite are becoming garrulous at midnight.
– I have not had an opportunity to speak before owing to the Opposition having taken up so much of the time of the Committee. The duties of the High Commissioner will bring him into touch with representative people with whom it is his duty to confer, and it may be necessary for him , to return entertainments to a considerable degree. He must reside in London and in ‘ certain surroundings. Those who have lived in London or Melbourne, know full well that it is exceedingly expensive to keep up an establishment there. If the High Commissioner receives only ,£3,000 per annum, he will be unable to properly discharge those functions of his office which involve entertaining and a considerable expenditure; he will have to reside, as our Agents-General have done, in some suburb where he may live cheaply. He must live in town, however, if he is to entertain and play his part with representatives of other Dominions, and his expenses will certainly be more than £3,000 a year. For that reason I shall be prepared to support an amendment providing for a salary of .£5,000 per annum.
– May I suggest to honorable members that we should proceed to a vote as soon as possible ? There seem to be quite, a number of opinions as to the salary that should be provided, and it would be well for us to proceed to a test vote in order that we may determine what the Committee is disposed to do. It is open to the Committee to do what it likes in a reasonable way so far as the question of salary and emolument is concerned. We inserted this. amount in the Bill because we thought it would be a fair salary, but if the Committee thinks otherwise the Government will not object to the amount being increased.
.I agree with the honorable member for Hume that the salary fixed in the Bill as it stands is insufficient to enable the High Commissioner to represent Australia in a responsible way and to discharge all the duties of his position. The salary is designed to enable the High Commissioner to represent Australia properly in London, and my experience as one who has visited England on several occasions is that of the honorable member for Hume. A salary of £3,000 per annum would be inadequate for the occupant of the office of High Commissioner, and )I therefore propose to move an amendment providing that the amount be fixed at £5.000 per annum.
– It is not competent for an honorable member to move , to increase the amount named in the clause, but if the amendment for the omission of the word “three” be carried the Government will take it as a direction that the Committee is of opinion that the salary shall be £5,000 per annum. We will then bring down an additional message to cover the increased amount, and the Bill will be re-committed for the purpose of amending the clause.
.The Minister of External Affairs is creating new complications.. If the Government accept the omission of the word “three” by the Committee as an indication of its desire that the salary shall be £5,000 per annum, and no alteration is made in the next clause, the High Commissioner will receive £7,000 per annum and travelling expenses. I think we ought to be told if that is the attitude of the Government. Personally I do not like the provision as to travelling expenses, because I think a definite sum would be much better. Exception might be taken on the Estimates to an unusually high expenditure under this head, followed by a discussion not at all desirable in connexion with this high and important position. It is clear that if the duties of the office are to include entertaining and social functions similar to those which fall to the lot of a Governor, the salary proposed is very small ; and in my opinion the work which will fall to a High Commissioner calls for more ability than is required in the other position. I favour an increased salary, but I think the matter ought to be more fully discussed than is possible at this hour of the night. The Government proposal suggests that the High Commissioner should be compelled to have an official residence, but I think the suggestion of the honorable member for Darwin would better meet the case. No doubt an official residence would add to the High Commissioner’s importance, and if that idea is not carried out, I suppose the proposal, which appears to have been lost sight of lately, of securing Commonwealth buildings, will be revived. There appears no sign at present of the States Agents-General handing over any of their functions, and, therefore, it may be that a lower salary could be paid at the beginning than subsequently ; but the whole question requires further consideration.
– From the speeches made one would imagine that all Europe were waiting to be feasted by and to feast the High Commissioner of Australia. The great probability is that the appointment will be announced in the English newspapers in a three or four line cable, and that when the Commissioner arrives he will take exactly the position that is occupied by any other representative of a portion of the Empire. It has to be remembered that, although Lord Strathcona receives a salary of £2,000, his position otherwise is one which no High Commissioner for Australia can hope to occupy for many years to come. It has been said that Lord Strathcona entertains Royalty and royally; but he has an enormous private income, and if the High Commissioner is to vie with him, we shall have to pay very much more than £5,000 a year. I take it that we are sending a man to do the work of Australia, and not one to occupy an ambassadorial position. If this is not to be a hard business proposition we ought not to pass the Bill. Our object, I suppose, is not to have a High Commissioner who will enter into rivalry with the ambassadors from different parts of the world, but one who, in return for his salary, will do the work we expect. If we raise the salary to £5,000 in the expectation that he will entertain, we shall place the High Commissioner in an entirely false position, and render it impossible for any one to accept the appointment who has not a large private income. It is proposed to raise the salary, not because we think the work is worth it, but simply because we expect the High Commissioner to entertain and be entertained.
– Who said that?
– That has been the whole trend of the arguments used ; because, if there is no question of entertaining, a salary of £3,000 is ample.
– That would not enable the High Commissioner to give a cup of tea to the Australians who would call on him.
– I hope it is not the intention to make the High Commissioner’s house a kind of sponging place for touring Australians. For some time past, I have thought that the electors would force on us the necessity of considering the abnormal growth of the Commonwealth Public Service salary list; because we have attempted to place the service on far too high a level. When the honorable member for Hume was proposing the first increases of salary, he said that the object was to make the Federal Service the blue ribbon of Australia. But there are two classes directly interested in the matter - the taxpayers and the taxeaters; and I believe that the whole of the service will have to be taken in hand by this Parliament in the near future. We are making the expense of running the machine far too heavy - and now, in what should be a strictly business arrangement, the House is asked to depart from the proper basis. We are invited to increase the salary of the High Commissioner, with a view to imposing upon him certain ambassadorial functions which can only make him appear ridiculous. If the High Commissioner is not expected to entertain largely the salary fixed in the Bill is sufficient. It is the highest with one exception paid in the whole Commonwealth service. I think the Chief Justice of the High Court receives £3,500 a year. For many years to come we shall not require a man of transcendant ability to fill the position. I want to see a good man sent to England, and if this is made a fair commercial transaction a. salary of £3,000 will enable the Government to secure the pick of all Australia for the position. If our representative were expected to meet the ambassadors of the great nations of the world on an equal footing a salary approaching £25,000 would be required, but to attempt anything of that sort would be to make ourselves the laughing stock of civilization. Our representative will have no ambassadorial functions to perform, and for many years to come this will be a kind of honorary office and largely a sinecure. Until we take over the State debts or embark on a large immigration policy there will be practically nothing for the High Commissioner to do. To make the total cost of the office run into £12,000 or £15,000 a year will be to pay far loo high a price for the work that we shall get in return.
– I think we ought to have a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– I hope that the Committee will be satisfied with the liberal provision proposed by the Government. I trust that Ministers will show a little backbone, and insist as far as they can upon the Bill being passed as it stands.
– I protest against the proposal of the Government to accept whatever salary the Committee is pleased to fix at this hour of the morning. I suggest that if on division “ £3,000 “ be struck out, the clause should be left with a blank in it until we have a more numerous Committee to decide what amount shall be inserted. Many honorable members went away tonight under the impression that the salary would be fixed at £3,000. I am not taking exception to a larger salary, but an opportunity should be afforded to deal with the question in a larger Committee. The remaining clauses could be taken quickly and nothing would remain but to insert a figure. I did not expect that a Government, whowe had every reason to believe intended to adhere to every word in the Bill, would at this hour of the morning go back on its intention in such a vital matter. I should be sorry to move the gag on any honorable member on that side, but I shall have to do so if I am not allowed to proceed.
– What does the honorable member say ? Why does he not mind his own business?
-I amminding my business. The honorable member has about as much manners as a back-country bandicoot.
– May I speak to the Attorney-General ?
– Let the honorable member hold his tongue.
– I have repeatedly called the Minister of Defence to order. I ask him now to cease these continuous remarks.
– I rise to order. The honorable member has no right to make such remarks as he has been making. Nothingwas taking place over here except thatIwas speaking to the Attorney - General.
– The same thing has occurred frequently. The Minister of Defence rises ostensibly to a point of order, but really to rebuke an honorable member for doing something that he does not approve of. That is not treating the Chair properly. My dutywas to call on the hon orable member for West Sydney, but the honorable member rose to order and I allowed him to speak. I ask him not to pursue that course.
– The honorable member for West Sydneywants to take charge of the House.
– The course I suggested will expedite matters.
– I said that if a division were taken and theCommittee deleted the word “three” Ave should have to bring the clause down again.
– Then the proposal is merely to take a division on the question of striking out the figures? That is satisfactory to me.
– That is all that the Committee can do to-night, but I said that the Governmentwould vote to retain theword “ three.”
– I feel the force of the argument that it is our duty to decidewhether or not the Commonwealth is to pay to the High ‘Commissioner the salary stipulated in this clause. But I feel at the same time that we are not at present in a proper position to settle the question. Very few members of the Opposition are here now. Most of themwent to catch their trains before 12 o’clock. Many Government supporters have also gone home. The suggestion of the honorable member for West Sydney that the clause might be postponed is one that should be favorably considered by the Government. The remaining clauses,which are principally of a formal character, would very likely be takenwithout debate.
– Did the honorable member say “very likely”?
– In the event of the clause under consideration being postponed, I have no doubt that the remainder of the Billwould be passedwithout debate. The question of salary could be settledwhen the House re-assembled, and when, in all probability, therewould be a representative gathering of members. Though Ave have had differences of opinion on many questions, Iwould appeal to the Minister in charge to recognise the suggestion as a reasonable one. There is a difference of opinioneven among Ministerial supporters on the point at issue. It would be far better to postpone the clause than to go to a division now, with the object of creating a blank which the majority of honorable members to-morrow may consider ought not to have been created. If the Minister is not prepared to take the view of the situation which I have submitted, it will be necessary to review the possibilities in relation to the men who are likely to be able to fill the position successfully on the lines laid down in the Bill.
– The honorable member means that it will be necessary to “ stonewall”?
– The Minister of Defence is ever courteous and truthful.
– That is practically what the honorable member said.
– It is not what I said. I believe that the Government are well acquainted with the fact that the clause is not going to be carried in a form embodying their present proposal.
– If the honorable member is of that opinion, why not allow the matter to go to a vote?
– Apparently the numbers have been arranged for amending the clause to-night.
– Does not the honorable member see that if there is a majority for an amendment of the clause, there would be nothing easier than to insist upon a recommittal to-morrow.
– The honorable member’s Parliamentary experience is sufficient to show that it is the most ‘difficult thing imaginable to secure a recommittal when once a particular provision has been decided upon. The question is one upon which at least one-half of the members of this House ought to express’ an opinion. But if the vote is taken now, not half of the representatives of the people will be present to vote.
– Why are they not here?
– Why is the honorable member so frequently away? Being here now, he is apparently anxious to advertise the fact. I am one of those who hold that Australia is not necessarily called upon to provide for a social butterfly. We ought to pay for brains, and to get the best man available, paying him an adequate salary in order that he may be able to maintain the dignity of his office. But we are not called upon to pay thousands of pounds for lavish entertainments. The opinion of those who have had experience of London, and who are acquainted with the duties of officers similar to the High Commissioner, are in the highest degree valuable. But those honorable members who have had such experience, and who can advise the Committee on the point, have gone home to bed. If a blank is created we are given to understand that the Government will come down with another message to provide an increased salary for the High Commissioner. That is a most objectionable method of dealing with the subject. The Government ought to have afforded us an opportunity to discuss the question at a reasonable hour. We ought not to determine so important an issue, affecting the satisfactory representation of Australia in London, at a time when at least half the members of this ‘Chamber are absent.
– If a further message should be required to increase the amount of the salary to be paid to the High Commissioner that might be considered to-morrow, but I hope the Government will not on any account yield to the wish expressed by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. They have been taunted with not getting their business through, and with neglecting to ask the House to sit late at night. Now, when they have asked honorable members to sit later than usual in order to get on with business which they were taunted with having postponed, it is claimed by those who previously taunted them, and expressed a desire to sit late, that it is not a proper thing to decide this question with a small attendance of members, and at this time of the night. If they yield to the appeal of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, in these circumstances, the Government will abrogate their powers altogether. The fact that there is only a small attendance is due to those who have delayed the passage of the Bill by their opposition. If honorable members who have opposed the Bill from the other side believed that they had good reasons for doing so, they should have remained while it was under discussion. So far as the salary of the High Commissioner is concerned, I may say that I would prefer to vote for that provided in the Bill rather than for the amendment, though I think that it would have been wise to offer another £1.000 a year. I am not prepared to increase the salary to the extent which has been suggested, and if a division is taken I shall vote with the Government.
– I am afraid that if Ministers vote against the proposal to increase the salary, their followers may vote with them, and so an inadequate salary will be provided. I remind honorable members of the difficulty of reviewing the action of Parliament in passing a Bill of this kind. They will remember that it took us some years to secure an increase of our own salaries. If a low salary is decided upon,- we shall not get the best brains in Australia for this position. We require as. High Commissioner a man who will be able to shine alongside the great men with whom he will be associated. Our country will be judged by the intelligence and knowledge of the man who represents Australia in London. I should prefer to vote for an allowance of £6,000 in a lump sum, and let the High Commissioner do as ,he pleases as to the expenditure. The day is gone by for official residences. The High Commissioner could secure a suite of rooms at the “Cecil,” the ‘‘Langham,” or some other hotel, which would be his head-quarters. If we establish an official residence, we shall probably bankrupt the High Commissioner, because he will be unable to keep it up. Later on. when we have our own Commonwealth building in London, we can provide the High Commissioner with an official residence.
. I understand that the proposal is to create a blank. If I thought that that would lead to a reduction of the amount of salary to be paid to the High Commissioner, I should be prepared to vote for it. I find, however, that those who desire to create a blank wish to increase the proposed salary by ,£.2,000, and I shall therefore vote against the proposal. I would rather not vote with the Government on any question, but I shall be compelled to vote on the same side with them if a division is taken on the question now before the Committee. I have already said that it is not likely that for some time the duties of the High Commissioner will be of a very responsible nature, because the State AgentsGeneral will continue to carry out their functions. In the circumstances, the salary proposed by the Bill is ample. If the responsibilities of the office increase, the salary can be increased later on. We are paying the Chief Justice of the High Court a salary of £3,500 a year ; and it seems to me that he is charged with duties that are quite as onerous and responsible as those which it is proposed that the High Commissioner shall attend to. Tt is, of course, a matter for themselves, but I find it difficult, to understand why some honorable members should be so ready to vote away the taxpayers’ money. As we have gone so far with the Bill, I think it ought not now to be postponed. I believe- the Government have made up their minds as to whom they will appoint to this position, and the increase of the proposed salary by £2,000 would not be a matter of much importance to the gentleman who is likely, to be appointed. I feel that in asking that the proposed salary should be increased, honorable members are really asking the bulk of the taxpayers, who have little or nothing, to give more money to a person who will already have more than he will know what to do with. The honorable member for Franklin referred to the social side of the duties of the High Commissioner, but I did net notice that the honorable member was present earlier in the evening, when special reference was made to that aspect of the question. When I tried to have it considered, honorable members endeavoured to cast ridicule upon my proposal.
– The honorable member desired to exclude the High Commissioner from all social functions.
– No, I did not desire to prevent the High Commissioner attending any functions he pleased .at his own expense, and in his own time. What I desired was that his attendance at social functions should not be regarded as. part of the duties for which he is to be paid. As I believe that the object in creating a blank is to increase the salary, I shall be compelled to vote for the clause as it stands.
.I think that the Government would be well advised if they adhered to the proposals contained in this clause. In my judgment, the class of work that the Commonwealth will require to be performed at Home is of a utilitarian rather than of a social character. There is no need to offer special inducements to capitalists to invest capital in Australia, as capital always finds paying outlets. What we more urgently need is the settlement amongst us of men who are possessed of small means. I shall support the clause in its present form, with the full knowledge that when the duties of the High Commissioner increase, his salary can be increased.
Question- That the word “ Three “ proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative. .
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 -
A person appointed to be the High Commissioner shall not, during his tenure of office, ex. cept as prescribed or allowed by the Minister, be or act as director or agent of or hold any office in any company or syndicate, whether incorporated or unincorporated, or hold any other office or employment, whether within or without the Commonwealth.
– This clause embodies a proposal which demands some attention at the hands of this Committee. I believe that if we could take a division upon the merits of the clause, certain words in it would be eliminated. It is either a good or bad thing to permit the High Commissioner to act as director or agent of any companyor syndicate, but it is in the highest degree undesirable that he should be allowed to so actor be prevented from so acting at the dictation of the Minister. It is practically making the Minister a censor of the High Commissioner. We ought to be told why this oower is reserved.
– Does the honorable member think that the acceptance of these offices ought to be prohibited?
-It ought to be either prohibited or allowed. It ought not to be left to the discretion of the Minister.
– There are some innocent offices which have been held by the AgentsGeneral. For instance, an Agent-General has been Treasurer of the Committee of the Royal Military Charities Fund, and filled other positions which help the Imperial movement.
– Does my honorable friend think that we are going to send to London a man, at a salary of , £3,000, with an allowance of £2,000 and expenses, in order that he may take honorary offices on the Committee of a Royal Military Charitable Fund, and do all that sort of. thing ?
– The Agents-General have done so in the past, because they represented Australia in the Imperial movement.
– The Minister ought not to be allowed to say whether the High Commissioner may accept particular offices or not. It ought to-be laid down in the Bill whether or not such offices can be held. I think that when an officer gets a decent salary, he should keep himself clear of the offices covered by this clause, or offices of the character indicated by the honorable member for Corio. I feel disposed to move the omission of the words, but I should first like to hear an explanation from the Minister.
– The object of the clause is to prevent the High Commissioner from being on a number of syndicates, and, perhaps, using the position for the purpose of personal gain and advantage.
– Does the honorable member think that the Minister should have the power to allow him to do that ?
– No; the object of the clause is to prevent it.
– But the Minister could give permission.
– There are certain corporations formed for literary or scientific purposes which may be to the advantage of Australia, and it may be desirable that the High Commissioner should take a position on the directorates or act as agent in some capacity or other. Before he left Australia he might have been a member of a literary corporation, and whilst in England he might want to act in the capacity of agent or representative of it, and perhaps do good work. Again it might be necessary for him to keep in touch with his private business here for a certain time.
– Could not all these matters be dealt with under the word “ prescribed “ ?
– Sometimes it is hard to frame a regulation to meet all cases. The idea would be to frame such a regulation ; but individual cases might arise where the High Commissioner would wish to continue in the office for a period. No Minister would ever give a general authority to the Commissioner to be a director for a number of financial or trading corporations. The idea is to have that amount of elasticity which is essential in the practical working of affairs. I think, speaking from memory, and subject to correction, that in connexion with public servants we do not allow payments to be taken, but where a public officer acts as an executor we make an exception in the interests of the family and bis own interest. The general intentionof this provision is to prohibit the High Commissioner from taking paid positions.
– I remember that one. State in the Commonwealth had a Minister who, after he had reached almost every position, was sentenced to a term of years. Suppose that a man who was mixed up in everything came to be the Minister under this Bill, and found that it would be a good thing to have the High Commissioner to run the show, and so bring wealth to his syndicates? He might not tell his colleagues what he was doing. I want the High Commissioner to be put in the same position as an ambassador, because the time is coming when all the British dependencies will become separate nations within the Empire. I do not want the Minister to have any power over this officer or the slightest possibility of collusion.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to to agreed to.
– I move -
That the following sub-clause be added to clause 4 : -
Shall be the representative of the Commonwealth National Postal Banking System when established.
God knows when it will be established.
– The honorable member has submitted this provision as a new sub-clause, but it will have no meaning in the place where he desires it to be inserted.
– Then I will move it as a new clause, and take a test vote.
– It would be much better if the honorable member raised the question at the report stage.
– There is not a hope then, sir.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
House adjourned at 1.6 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 September 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090916_reps_3_51/>.