4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from t he Minister of Home Affairs whether, as Geelong is acknowledged to be the leading centre in Australia for the manufacture of woollens, and has every facility for the prosecution’ of the industry, the Government will ‘ take into consideration the advisability of erecting its mill there?
– When we start to build our mill, there is no doubt that the Athens of Australia will be considered.
– Will the Minister, before deciding on the site of the Government woollen factory, visit Lobethal, in South Australia?
– No doubt Lobethal also deserves well of Australia.
– Will the Minister also visit the salubrious and well-known district of Marrickville, which is famous for the production of the best tweeds in Australia?
– There can be no doubt that Marrickville makes good rugs.
– I ask the Minister not to forget the Cooerwull mills, at Lithgow.
– Lithgow is also a progressive city.
Mr. SPEAKER announced that the High
Court had dismissed the petition of Richard Armstrong Crouch against the return of Alfred Thomas Ozanne as member for the electoral division of Corio.
Letter Sorters’ Promotions - Communication with King Island.
-In reply to the questions asked yesterday by the honorable member for South Sydney, respecting the promotion- of letter sorters, the Common wealth Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following information -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the ship Carnarvon Bay was wrecked on the south-east corner of King Island on -Thursday last, and seeing that there are no facilities for communication with King Island - Will he take into immediate consideration the necessity for the construction of wireless telegraphy stations at King and Flinders Islands ?
– Upon the completion of the Sydney and Fremantle. stations, the’ whole matter of establishing wireless telegraph stations round the coast of Australia and Tasmania will be dealt with, and the inclusion of King and Flinders Islands will then be given consideration.
.- I move -
That, for the purpose of enabling the Parliament of the Commonwealth to effectively legislate in respect to water conservation and irrigation, the Constitution should be amended to place under Federal control the Murray River and its tributaries.
This motion has been on the notice-paper for several months. I have brought the matter forward because I regard the proper control’ of our waterways as essential to the prosperity of Australia, and believe that it can be effective only if exercised by the Commonwealth Parliament, the Parliaments of the States having failed in the last forty years to deal with the subject as a national one. The Federal Convention exhaustively discussed the subject, and arrived at the compromise which was inserted in the Constitution, but the advantages of irrigation were not so well known then as they are now. Section 51 empowers this Parliament to pass laws respecting trade and commerce between the States, while section 98 provides that -
The power of the Parliament to make laws willi respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping, and to railways the property of a State.
The power to regulate trade and commerce has been held by the judicial authorities of the United States to be very elastic, and capable of considerable expansion, and, no doubt, the power given in our Constitution, which is not clearly defined, will be similarly interpreted by the High Court. Section 100 enacts that -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of any State or the residents therein to the reasonable use of the waters for conservation or irrigation.
That is an obvious limitation of our power to legislate respecting navigation, subordinating it to the right of the States and of the people to use the water of the rivers for irrigation. No doubt the High Court will, ultimately, be called upon to decide whether our power to legislate respecting navigation is paramount to that of the State Parliaments to legislate respecting irrigation; it is not advisable to enter now upon the academic discussion of the abstruse and intricate questions of riparian law. The Roman law respecting the rights of land-owners to the water which flowed through their property was graduallyadopted by the various European nations; became largely the common law of England, and was in part accepted by Napoleon. It was framed largely to meet the exigencies of navigation and fisheries, the importance of those industries largely bringing into prominence the law of riparian rights. In modern times, however, the value of water for irrigation has become more and more recognised, with the result that riparian law has been materially modified, especially in the United States, where it has been proved that the application of water to the soil is productive of great benefits. Of course, the whole interpretation of the law hinges upon the phrase “ the reasonable use of the waters.” But a reasonable use of water for irrigation has been proved to be of more importance to the national life of a community than its use for navigation. We have it on the authority of the eminent Chairman of the Victorian Water Supply Commission that this tendency on the part of irrigation rights in the United States to gain a paramountry over the rights of water supply for navigation has been of constant growth, so that there is at present very little doubt as to which would be ruled by the Courts to be the superior use in the national interests. Mr. Mead is a gentleman who at one time occupied the position of chief engineer of the Federal Department of Agriculture in the United States. He has also written a work, setting out the water law of the various States of the Union and the great difficulties and disadvantages that have arisen in those States through a divided control in the regulation, supply, and distribution of water, which has considerably retarded the progress of irrigation. In his evidence before the Victorian Water Supply Commission he states that it is his belief that the need for water for irrigation is imperative, and that its value for this purpose is so great that navigation ‘should be made subordinate to irrigation. He points out that the waters of rivers which, in the early stages of the United States, were declared by the Supreme Court to be navigable,, have since been utilized in the upstreams by the irrigators. Mr Mead also states that for transportation purposes the railways of the United States have superseded the ships on the rivers. That has been, I think, the tendency in most countries where railways have been constructed to any considerable extent. The products which are grown on irrigation areas are mostly perishable articles, and it is necessary that they should be placed upon the market at the earliest possible moment, so that the more rapid the means of transit the more suitable it is. It has also been found that the railways are more reliable. Our experience at Mildura gives proof of that. In that settlement there was a constant agitation for the construction of a railway, although steam-boats were running past it during the greater portion of the year. Since the railway was constructed nearly the whole of the produce has been conveyed to the market by that means.
– What is the difference in time?
– I have not taken out the figures, but the railway takes the products several times as quickly as did the steamer. In his evidence before the same Commission, Mr. Tait, the Chairman of the Victorian Railways Commissioners, stated that in 1899 the tonnage carried by boat on the Mississippi - one of the most important navigable rivers in the United States - was 29,000 tons, and that in 1906 it had fallen to 19,000 tons, showing a decrease of 31 per cent.
– Was that through competition by railway?
– Yes. Mr. Mead justifies his contention that in modern communities the transcendent value of irrigation as a producer of wealth has got beyond the stage of controversy. He cites numerous decisions in the United States which have generally laid it down “ that the use of the streams in arid country for irrigation purposes is of paramount importance to their preservation for navigation purposes.”
– Is that a Supreme Court decision?
– This information is taken from Mr. Mead’s evidence, in which he quotes Supreme Court decisions. He also states a decision that “ No restrictions are placed upon the Po river, in Europe, and its tributaries, for irrigation purposes.” In giving his own opinion, he states that with a paramountcy in irrigation the Murray must rank with the Po, the Euphrates, and the Sacramento, among the irrigation valleys of the world, but that this result will only come by making irrigation superior to navigation.
– What about the (Danube? Navigation is primary on that river.
– That is right. But even . on the Danube - probably the only river in the world on which anything like the volume of trade by boats has been sustained - there is a tendency for the railway competition to decrease the amount of traffic.
– What about the Nile?
– In the case of the Nile, beyond Khartoum., the railway competition has not been felt very much. Of course, it furnishes a magnificent example of the success of irrigation.
– It is proposed to spend ^30,000,000 or ^40,000,000.
– And Western America beats the earth now.
– I do not know that it does. I believe that India will run even the United States very closely in that re gard. I believe that India furnishes, not the most up-to-date example, but the best example, of the great benefits which maybe derived from a proper system of irrigation. As briefly as I possibly could, in the time at my disposal, I think I have given a sketch - probably not sufficient to satisfy legal minds - of the law in respect to the control of waters generally, and the development in nations which have acquired by experience the knowledge of the relative value of the two systems, showing that irrigation has been proved of immeasurably greater advantage to the needs of a nation than has navigation.
– Why does the honorable member confine the motion to the Murray river? Are there not other streams in Australia ?
– Because, so far, the Murray is the only river which runs through the centre of Australia, and on which irrigation colonies have been formed. I think that for practical purposes the Murray river and its tributaries, extending as it does over such a wide watershed, furnishes a more simple method of bringing about nationalization.
– If it is proposed to alter the Constitution, why not include other rivers ?
– That is a matter which can be debated at another time. I think that it should be almost unnecessary, even with our limited experience of irrigation, to deal at any length with the advantages of irrigation as it has been applied, not only in Australia, but in other parts of the world. But. perhaps, it might be advisable in dealing with this important question, that I should make a brief reference to the success of irrigation in some countries where it has been practised extensively. Irrigation, probably, had its genesis in Egypt. For thousands of years irrigation, in its crude and primitive form, was practised in that country, and yielded forth very abundantly. But it was only in 1882, that Mr. - now Sir William - Wilcocks, the engineer, was sent there for the purpose of reporting on a comprehensive scheme of storing and distributing the waters of the great Nile river. At Assouan there was constructed from his design one of the greatest storage works in the world. During the last few years the Assouan dam has been the means of almost doubling the population of Egypt. Out of its total area of 12,000 square miles, with a population of 10.000,000, it has at present 5,000,000 acres of land under active irrigation, and besides feeding that huge population from the produce of the soil, chiefly brought about in a modern and scientific way, it has exported over £20,000,000 of primary productions as the result of irrigation. In the United States there are at present no less than 15,000,000 acres under cultivation. That is, I admit, a magnificent achievement for a comparatively young country, that is, compared with countries where irrigation has been practised for many hundreds of years. The productivity of that area is Sufficiently explained when it is stated that the value of land has been increased from its old prairie price of from 5s. to 10s. to from ,£20 to .£100 per acre. Within the irrigated valleys of the United States we find cities containing no less than 100,000 persons as centres of commerce for great irrigation works. As regards India, the leader of the Opposition reported on its irrigation system twenty years ago, and one of the most eminent engineers whom we have has described it as an exhaustive and voluminous work and one of the ablest ever written on its irrigation system. When the leader of the Opposition wrote his work there were 30,000,000 acres under irrigation, but that area has since increased to 50.000,000 acres. The system of irrigation obtaining in India is of a composite character. Very large areas, indeed almost provinces, are irrigated with water obtained from wells. This, of course, will appeal to the honorable member for Maribyrnong, who believes, as I do, that a very much larger area in Australia will be found to have subterranean water. If it can be brought to the surface, as in India, and utilized to such tremendous advantage in watering arid areas, why should it not be applied in the same way here? I have not the exact figures as to the area which is watered through the agency of wells in India, .but I know that it is a very large proportion of the total area of 50,000,000 acres. They have channels and water storages, and the total outlay of ,£30,000,000 on storage works and principal head-works is yielding more than 6 per cent, interest. That is a wonderful achievement. At present no less than 200,000,000, out of the total population of 300,000,000, are supported, directly or indirectly, through the agency of irrigation works. The same tale of transcendent progress might be told of southern Europe. In Australia most of the work is yet to be done. We already have examples which show that we have a soil which is specially adapted to irrigation, and that the highest results obtained by any nation are capable of achievement in the arid areas of this continent. Throughout the Gunbower, the Cohuna, the Kerang, the Goulburn, and the Swan Hill districts, we have examples of what can be achieved through an ordinary system of irrigation. We have in some of these districts on the Murray flats small areas devoted almost exclusively to the production of lucerne and butter, which bring forth more abundantly than do whole provinces in the northern parts of Victoria, given over to wheatgrowing. We offer the world a unique and perfect example of the value of irrigation. Notwithstanding the great difficulties that had to be encountered in the early stages of its history - difficulties inseparable from early pioneering work in Australia - that settlement has progressed by leaps and bounds. It was established on what was formerly a barren scrub, probably not worth is. per acre.
– A shilling a mile.
– Some of it could be taken up at 2s. 6d. per square mile, yet no application was made for it. By the intelligent and scientific application of water to the soil of that territory, especially adapted as it is to fruit-growing, we have achieved results that furnish an object lesson even to the irrigation districts of the United States. We have in Mildura an area of 11,000 acres under intensive cultivation - equal to about a dozen ordinary wheat farms - and it is supporting in comparative prosperity 5,000 souls, or a population of 300 persons to the square mile, whilst it provides employment for fifty workers to every square mile of country cultivated. The value of its yield last year was £250,000. After much agitation a railway was built for the exclusive benefit of the settlement, and last year there was collected in respect of passenger freights upon it £5.000, whilst ordinary freights yielded £30.000. Mildura is therefore supporting not only 5,000 souls, but is finding employment for a number of people in connexion with the carriage of its dried fruits, which are equal to any that the world produces.
– And better in many respects.
– In the matter of flavour they are superior to any that can be produced by any irrigation settlement oversea. I look upon the honorable member for Cowper, who has just interjected, as an authority on whom the most complete reliance may be placed. This territory which has proved so suitable for the production of dried fruits, and whose production per acre is equal in value to that of the most highly tilled plots of irrigation land in the world, has been found especially suitable for the production of butter, whilst the salubrity of its climarp is highly favorable to fattening stock for export. We have in the London market an unlimited demand for our dairy produce and stock, and by the proper application of tha irr.rrense volume of water now largely running to waste, we should be able to establish some of the greatest dairying districts in Australia along our river valleys where the soil is excellent and the climate most salubrious. The productivity of the soil when water is applied to it is well known to every honorable member, but to justify my motion I think it wise to invite the House to glance for a moment at the problem involved in the control of the Murray and its tributaries. Numerous attempts have been made by State Parliaments to deal effectively with this most important question, and the records furnish us with the story of a series of bungles. Let me point, first of all, to the tremendous catchment area of the Murray and its tributaries. According to the report just issued by the Royal Commission, the basin of the Murray is 414,253 square miles in extent. It will come as a surprise to some honorable members to learn that the Murray has so great a catchment area and gathering ground.
– Its gathering ground heads up in Queensland.
– Queensland is also a very big contributing factor to the Murray waters. The Commission reported that -
The general boundaries which form the watershed of the streams flowing through this basin are on the east, the Coast Range of New South Wales and Queensland ; on the south and north the Dividing Range of Victoria and a line of low hills stretching north-westward from Toowoomba, in Queensland, respectively : on the west the Mount Lofty, Harrier, and other lower and less-defined hills. The areas of the various States that go lo make up the basin are-
Queensland - 104,525 s-juare miles.
New South Wales - 234,362 square miles.
Victoria - 50,979 square miles.
South Australia - 24,387 square miles.
Broadly speaking, the basin of the Murray River can be divided into -
Undulating and mountainous country.
The undulating and mountainous country varies in elevation from Mount Kosciusko 7,256 feet, to where it merges into the plains, at a general elevation of between 500 feet and 700 feet above sea-level. The plains then fall gradually from this level towards the main stream and towards the outlet of the river system at Lake Alexandria, the average slope being approximately 1 foot per mile, “although it becomes less as the sea is approached.
The undulating and plain areas are practically coincident with the contributing and noncontributing division of the Murray basin. It is only occasionally - and that principally in Victoria and in small isolated areas - that the plains contribute to the flow of the rivers. The following are the contributing and non-contributing areas of the Murray basin : -
– Victoria and South Australia contribute the least, and yet they are fighting the hardest over the Murray waters.
– Although the gathering ground in the other States is greater, the chief consideration relates to the volume of water that actually flows from the tributaries into the Murray. The principal rivers that go to make up this supply are the Murrumbidgee, the Goulburn, and the Darling, together with their respective tributaries. The report sets out that -
The Murray River rises in the highlands about Mount Kosciusko, and enters the plains between Albury and Corowa. The distance from Albury to the mouth is 1,366 miles. The slope or gradient of the river bed increases from 3 inches per mile lo about 1 foot per mile at Albury j thence, as the valley becomes more restricted, the gradient increases to 10 feet per mile till the small tributary streams at the source of the main stream, and its upper tributaries in the highlands, have a slope of up to 200 feet per mile. The area of the watershed above the Goulburn that is contributory is 9,673 square miles, of which only 2.373 square miles are in New South Wales.
The Murrumbidgee River has the same characteristics as the Murray itself, and, if the Goulburn River be excluded, is little inferior in length and flow to the main stream. The watershed of the Murrumbidgee that is contributory is 13,000 miles in area, but the river receives practically no additions to its flow below the junction of the Tumut River, near Gundagai.
The Goulburn River rises at Wood’s Point, in Victoria, and has an effective contributing area of about 5,000 miles. This river has a much shorter course than the Murrumbidgee, but in flow and effective catchment, as the recent gaug- ings of the two streams show, is really superior to that stream.
The Darling River has a total catchment area of 300,000 square miles. Of this, however, only 100,000 could be considered as effectively contributing to the flow. Rising as it does in Queensland, it is some 2,000 miles long before it junctions with the Murray. When fed by the heavier monsoonal rains in Queensland, for shorter periods it contributes as much water as the Murray does when in flood. On the other hand, it frequently almost ceases to flow.
The importance of this question is my excuse for making these quotations, which show what an enormous catchment area the Murray and its tributaries have. If only the flood waters were conserved - and they could be conserved far more advantageously than they are at the present time - it would be possible to distribute them over our arid plains, to the greatest advantage, even although every acre were not devoted to intense cultivation. The quotations I have made show how important it is that some control of an effective character should be exercised by the National Parliament over these great sources of water supply. According to the estimates of engineers, the Murray and its tributaries command no less than 50,000,000 acres which could be irrigated if the water supply were available.
What has been done by the States to bring about some kind of effectual control of these great inland rivers ? We have a record of a long series of ineffective attempts in that direction by Parliaments and Commissions. A judicial statement of the case, free from any colouring, is given in the report of the Royal Commission which was appointed in 1902. Following the conference at Corowa in that year, the Chief Engineers of New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria were appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole question of the catchment area, the water available for irrigation, and the area that could be irrigated ; and to recommend some form of effective control over the waters of the Murray. In the preface to its report, the Commission gives a brief history of the negotiations which had taken place between the various States interested in the question up till 1902. It is only necessary for me to quote what is said in this connexion in order to show that the State Parliaments have utterly failed to grapple effectively with the problem. The report of the Commission says -
The River Murray, judged by its length of channel and area of catchment, should be one of the great streams of the world ; and, although its volume of water is small, relatively to its immense gathering ground, it is yet the greatest waterway in Australia, and its utilization is of the first importance to the inhabitants of the States through which it flows. It is, therefore, matter of surprise that the problem which it is the function of this Commission to investigate still remain unsettled.
The history of the rivers question for the past eighteen years is, briefly, as follows : -
In 1884 a Royal Commission was appointed in New South Wales, under the presidency of the Honorable W. J. (now Sir W. J.) Lyne, M.P., “ to make a diligent and full inquiry into the best method of conserving the rainfall, and of searching for and developing the underground reservoirs supposed to exist in the interior of this Colony, and also into the practicability, by a general system of water conservation and . distribution, of averting the disastrous consequences of the periodical droughts to which the Colony is from time to time subject.”
This Commission presented three reports, a prominent feature of which was the utilization of the waters of the River Murray. Two conferences were also held, in 1886, with a Royal Commission on water supply, appointed by the Government of Victoria. The result was the adoption of the following resolution : -
That a joint Trust shall be constituted, equally representative of the Colonies of New South Wales and Victoria, in which shall be vested the control of the whole of the Murray River and its tributaries, from its source to Howlong, to be known as the Upper Murray ; and of the whole of the Murray River, from Howlong to the eastern boundary of the Colony of South Australia, to be known as the Lower Murray ; and such Trust shall have power to regulate all diversions of water from the river and tributaries within its jurisdiction.
That recommendation has been repeated since by Royal Commissions, and yet we are now no nearer a settlement of this question than we were forty years ago. The Commission made several other specific recommendations regarding the control and distribution of the waters of the Murray between the various States, with which, however, it is not necessary for me to deal. These recommendations were submitted to the Governments of South Australia and Victoria, but no Bill was prepared by either for the constitution of the suggested Trust.
The birth of the Commonwealth has brought into existence a new authority vested -with powers which, within certain limits, are supreme. The introduction of this new, and, to some extent, controlling factor, made it more than ever necessary that the States interested in the disposal of the waters of the Murray Basin should come to some conclusion as to their respective Tights and interests in the river and in works for the utilization of its waters. Several successive years of drought, too, had made the residents in the Riverina district of New South Wales keenly anxious for the realization of some of the projects for the irrigation of their lands, already so long under discussion. This anxiety found public expression in March of this year, when an organization, called the Murray River Main Canal League, invited the Federal Premier, the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and other representative men, to a conference at Corowa. At the conference several resolutions were passed, the principal of which are the following : -
Then follows a further very important recommendation, which reads -
That, in the opinion of this Conference, the circumstances of Australia demand that all natural waters not already appropriated under legal sanction shall be declared public water, and made, subject to a suitable system of law, applicable to the whole of the Continent, and that the Commonwealth and State Governments be respectfully asked to consider such legislation as would provide for its regulation and disposal in such manner as shall secure its fullest possible use in the interests of the whole of the people.
But what has been done to give effect to that very important recommendation ? Absolutely nothing. It is clearly pointed out by the Commission that unappropriated water should become public water, and that the Commonwealth Parliament should be approached by the State Parliaments with a view to securing the utilization of that water to the best possible advantage. I recognise that the navigation claims of South Australia have an equal right to be considered with the more important claims put forward by the other riparian States in respect to irrigation. But even the Royal Commissions which have investigated this Murray waters question have failed to recognise the immensely superior claims of irrigation over navigation, especially in view of the probable extension of our railway systems into the interior of the continent. The next point which we have to consider is, “ What are the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with this question ? “ In the early portion of my remarks, I stated that the Commonwealth is hampered because of the superior powers in respect of irrigation which are vested in the States. These powers almost dwarf our own authority to deal with this question effectively, because, under section 100 of the Constitution, the Commonwealth cannot abridge the right of a State or the residents therein to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation. We know that the whole question of the exercise of power by the Federal authority depends upon the “ reasonable “ use of waters. Therefore, it merely needs to be stated that the claims of irrigation are far greater than those of navigation to show that we cannot deal effectively with this important question. So far, however, there has been no conflict between the Federal and State authorities. The States have made heroic attempts to establish large irrigation works. The Barren Jack scheme, in New South Wales, is one of the engineering triumphs of the world, and, when completed, will not be very much inferior in capacity to the first Assouan storage in Egypt. In Victoria, a considerable extension is being made in the construction of irrigation works, and we believe that those works will rapidly attract to this State the population that is so urgently required. I repeat that, so far, there has been no conflict between the Federal and State authorities over this Murray waters question. But had this Parliament taken in hand the locking of the river in order to secure the effective navigation of that stream - a matter upon which engineering authorities are very much divided - a conflict would have immediately arisen as to which power was paramount. I hope that I have made clear the evolution of the law in respect of the claims of navigation and irrigation, and also the lamentable failure of the State Parliaments to deal effectively with this important question. It seems to me that there should be no difference of opinion regarding the necessity for effective control being exercised over this great national asset by the Commonwealth Parliament, especially in view of the fact that the Murray and its tributaries, which are all inter-dependent, extend into four States. Of course, it may be urged that my proposal is a step in the direction of unification. My own view is that our Constitution ought not to be tampered with except in the interest of the people as a whole. I can see no prospect of stability in our national system of government unless we pay some regard to the permanency of our Constitution, but the framers of that Constitution - eminent men as they were - and notwithstanding that they evolved one of the finest pieces of constructive statesmanship that has ever been produced by a deliberative assembly, could not be expected to foresee all the contingencies of’ the future in respect of the need for the expansion of our constitutional powers. Regardless altogether of the question of Socialism or of unification, I think that sober common-sense and a due appreciation of the growing needs of the people suggest that it is our duty to ask for an extension of our legislative powers, so as to enable us to discharge our national functions in the best interests of the people. At the same time, I think that any amendment of the Constitution should be made only after it has been conclusively shown that the question upon which we seek an extension of _ our legislative powers is too large for the States to successfully handle. Then is the time for the Federal Parliament to step in. We have not the constitutional power to touch the question at present. It will be necessary before we can have effective control of our great national water-ways to ask the people to extend our powers, and that is the object of my motion. ‘ There is nothing extraordinary in such a proposal. In Switzerland, which cannot be regarded as a Socialistic Federation, but which is one of the highest developments of Democracy in the world, it was found necessary, only a few years ago, to place under Federal control the water supply for power purposes in the large rivers. There was a great agitation over the question. The proposal was submitted to the people, who rejected it. There was a good deal of conflict between the Federal and State powers, but eventually the people sanctioned the transfer of the control of the question to the Federal authority, when it was clearly shown to them that Federal jurisdiction was necessary in the public interests. I have always believed that the future of Australia was bound up with the extension of irrigation projects, and, therefore, at the earliest possible moment, an opportunity should be given to the people to invest this Parliament with the necessary power to control our great water-ways. Australia is a country with a rainfall which is probably not quite so low as some people believe, but we are fortunately situated in having nearly the whole of our rivers taking their rise close to the coast line, and running for the most part through arid areas which can be made most fertile by the application of water. In order to provide against our comparatively low rainfall we must make the best possible use of the water flowing along the water-courses through the dry interior.
– We can increase the rainfall by an extensive system of irrigation.
– That is quite true, as has been proved in the United States of America. When the water is distributed over the country it has been shown conclusively that it soaks into the soil and percolates back into the rivers. Intermittent streams in the United States of America have become perennial through the spreading of the water over the land. The question of irrigation should commend itself to every patriotic citizen. If we properly utilize our water-courses and make the necessary storages, whole areas that cannot now be placed under intense cultivation might be flooded with water at certain seasens of the year, and I am confident that we shall find that , the yield in cereal growing and many other forms of cultivation will be vastly increased. It is absolutely necessary, if we are to fill Australia with a sturdy yeomanry, which has been proved to be the backbone of every progressive nation, that we should effectively control the water supply, which is the great source and foundation of wealth. At present tens of millions of gallons of water are flowing to waste every year into the sea, when it could be placed upon the soil to the best advantage. It is an unpardonable and almost criminal neglect on the part of this Parliament and the State Legislatures to allow those great volumes of valuable fluid to be wasted. They should be applied to the soil to create wealth, promote settlement, and so produce the very best class of citizens that any nation could have. In this way we could help the other agencies of commerce, and assist in building up a civilization to which we should all be proud to belong.
– - This is a question in which I took a great interest in 1882, 1883, and 1884, and in which I am still interested.
– Why did not the honorable member do something then?
– I shall tell the honorable member what we did, and why we could not do more. Very few people know what was done then. The report from which the honorable member for Wimmera quoted was produced by a Royal Commission appointed in New South Wales in 1882, and sitting in conjunction with a Royal Commission from Victoria from 1882 to 1884. That investigation concluded with the best report that has ever been made on this question in Australia. The reason why nothing could be done, especially in reference to the Murray, was that it was found that New South Wales had no power to touch the southern bank of the river. She could do little or nothing with regard to the Murray without the full concurrence of Victoria. Thus it was that the great scheme recommended was not carried out. The sum of ^250,000 or ^300,000 was spent in the contouring of the whole of the watersheds of New South Wales, and a map was prepared, and is now in the Home Affairs Department, showing the heights of the rivers and the land all over New South Wales. The intention was to carry out a great scheme of irrigation, and the map showed how every river in the State could be diverted by gravitation. It was advised that there should be six weirs erected across the Murray, from Howlong upwards towards the head of the river, but New South Wales could not build them without the concurrence of Victoria, although, technically, the water belongs to New South Wales.
– New South Wales claimed both banks.
– No; New South Wales claimed the water in the bed of the river. We were prepared to do and would have done the work at that time, but we did not and could not claim the Victorian bank. That was how the. whole scheme was stopped. Those weirs would have conserved, not only the flood waters, but the snow waters from the Kosciusko and other ranges. The map to which I have referred shows that between the Murray and the Mumimbidgee, from Howlong on the one side and about 20 miles below Wagga on the other, there is a depression of about 100 feet all through the Riverina, so that the water from those two points could be taken by way of gravitation, and the whole of that large district irrigated from each river without pumping. It was the desire of a syndicate, if they could have got the offer of nearly all the country that was alienated in the Riverina, to go to England with a project to irrigate the whole of the dry portion. That would apply not only to the centre of Riverina, but also to the areas down below, even as far as Swan Hill. The Edwards River and other streams could be brought within the scheme of irrigation, and, if the project could have been carried out, there would not have been a finer piece of country in the world for wheat-growing or any other form of production. I must, commend the New South Wales Government for taking the action they have done in regard to the Barren Jack water scheme. They are running a canal between the Lachlan and the Murrumbidgee, to irrigate the country between those two rivers. The land is good enough, but is very dry, and that work will do a great deal of good by bringing into profitable occupation a large area of country. So far as I can gather, however, the contour of the country between the Murray and the Murrumbidgee is different from that between the Lachlan and the Murrumbidgee. In the latter case a ridge runs along the middle, and the canal is being run along the ridge to distribute the water on each side. If such schemes could be carried out in many places, we should never hear anything more about droughts. The land would be turned to the best advantage, and, incidentally, would be made more capable of bearing taxation of any kind. My impression is that the new land taxation will have the effect of compelling land-owners to turn their attention more towards improving their properties by means of irrigation and in other ways. That is the only way by which they can secure returns which will enable them to pay large sums in taxation. No question is more thoroughly Australian than that which relates to utilizing the water of this country after conserving it on the watersheds. We have the main watershed of the Murray, and in connexion with it there are the watersheds of the Murrumbidgee, the Lachlan, the Darling, the Mclntyre, the Namoi, and the Thompson, which receive an enormous volume of water. At the time of the Commission of 1882 to 1884, complaint was made that South Australia was not represented. South Australia considered that the waters which converge from various points into one great stream flowing down by Murray-bridge should not be used so much for irrigation purposes - except on the fiats - as for navigation.
– Oh, no; South Australia was favorable to assisting in the conservation of the water for both purposes.
– At any rate, South Australia at that time laid great stress upon navigation. In my opinion it is better to run railways alongside our principal rivers than to use their waters for navigation. I am satisfied that the time will come in Australia when water will be regarded as being so necessary that railways will be run alongside all our principal rivers. I do not say that the rights of South Australia ought not to be considered. I am satisfied that that State should have a voice in determining the question. But left to themselves the States will never be able to agree to deal with the waters in a proper manner.
– South Australia was represented on the 1892 Commission.
– I know that she was, but she was not represented previously. I think that this Parliament and not a Commission ought to take action in the matter. Parliament should deal with the control of the whole of the waters, including those of the Thompson, the Maranoa, the Condamine, and all the other streams that run into the Murray.
– The matter should be controlled by an Inter- State Commission.
– Such a Commission would practically emanate from this Parliament. But if a word is said about the Commonwealth assuming this power, some people say that we are interfering with State rights. I do not say that we can take action without an amendment of the Constitution, but that, after all, is a subject which lies within the control of the Federal Parliament.
– Is not the whole question intimately associated with land settlement ?
– It is, but the waters of our rivers are so distributed amongst the States that the question will never be dealt with on a firm and fair basis unless the Commonwealth takes action. At present we have power to see to it that the navigable rivers are kept open for that purpose. But that is only a makeshift way of dealing with the question. For that reason I am inclined to think that the motion under discussion is a placard. It simply asks that certain things shall be done.
– A resolution of this House would be a direction to the Government.
– But nothing could be done unless the Government would take the matter up, and they can only take effective steps by referring the question to the people by way of referendum.
– This House can affirm a principle.
– That is quite right, but we can only take effective action by securing an alteration of the Constitution. That will take time, and unless the matter is pushed vigorously forward - as I think it should be - there will be great delay. If we want the lands of Australia to be made as productive as they should be, we must bring the water to them. This is a far more vital question than many people think, and it is intimately bound up with the prosperity of Australia. What is the British Government doing in Egypt? It is conserving the water, and applying it to the rich plains that have hitherto been arid. We have to do the same sort of thing in Australia, and, until we do, we shall not secure those returns from the land that we have a right to expect. The continent of Australia is almost as large as the United States, and I am satisfied that when irrigation is properly applied to oui land it will be as rich as that of America. Important things are being done in Tasmania in regard to the use of water. An Act of Parliament has been passed, giving power to a company to utilize the waters of the lakes situated high on the mountains. The company is applying for rights and privileges all over the island, and intends to supply electric power for mining and other purposes.
– It will be the cheapest power in Australia, supplied at 1½d. per unit.
– I had a conversation with the promotor of this enterprise, who explained to me what the intentions of the company were. . This question of utilizing water power is intimately connected with that of irrigation. If the power which could be generated from our water sources in the higher parts of Australia were utilized as Niagara is being utilized in America, we should secure great developments in regard to manufactures. There is convincing logic behind the motion submitted by the honorable member for Wimmera, and I have very much pleasure of seconding, it, because I have been stirring in this matter all my political life, and I am more convinced of its necessity now than ever I was that this is one of the great questions that Australia has to face. Some years ago
New South Wales spent£300,000 upon contouring and the preparation of a map, which is likely to be brought into use now. That expenditure will not have to be incurred over again. I always thought that the money was well spent, and the investigation then made will be found to be of use to the whole Commonwealth.
– I am fully in accord with the motion. The honorable member for Wimmera has delivered a most instructive speech, which showed that he has been most energetic in searching for facts in support of his contention. Personally, I do not think that the motion goes quite far enough. I agree with the honorable member for Hume that the Commonwealth should exercise full control over the whole of the waters of Australia. More particularly is that the case since the Commonwealth proposes to impose a land tax, which will necessitate a more intelligent application of water to the lands by way of irrigation. It is most essential to our national growth that steps should be taken to conserve the waters of Australia, with a view to enabling people to make better use of the lands. We know what droughts have meant to this country. In the years 1902-3, practically everything was abandoned in the Wimmera District of Victoria. Away back from Horsham and Warracknabeal scarcely a soul was left in the country within, perhaps, a radius of 100 miles. In order that people may be encouraged to settle, and remain in these districts, it is necessary to supply them with a sufficient supply of water for domestic as well as for stock purposes. They should be enabled to irrigate their land, and make it as productive as possible. I am aware that both New South Wales and Victoria have done good work in this direction within the last few years. The Victorian Government, through the agency of their irrigation expert, Mr. Elvvood Mead, are, at present, doing their best to attract people to settle in the Goulburn Valley, and other parts of the State. Mr. Mead has told me that the lands available in the United States are not to be compared with those which could be improved by irrigation in Victoria. He has assured me that there are lands in this State now selling at from £5 to£6 per acre, which would soon become worth from £15 to £20 an acre, if they were irrigated. What we want is the right kind of people to settle, and a policy that will supply them with water. Now that we are going to impose a form of taxation, which, in my opinion, is most drastic and unjust in its incidence, we ought to devote any surplus revenue from that source - a revenue which we may be sure will be much larger than the Government expect-
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss that question.
– I am in order, I think, in saying that we, as a National Parliament should devote any surplus revenue from the land tax to promoting settlement by the construction of channels so as to assure a proper supply of water for domestic and stoqk purposes. Water could be conveyed to the arid lands outside the rainfall belt, just as it is supplied from Lake Lonsdale along past Warracknabeal, in the Mallee, and thus secure permanent, peaceful, and prosperous settlement. That would be a policy of progress, in which the motion of the honorable member for Wimmera is a step ; but that motion, in my opinion, is not sufficently far-reaching. It is only right and proper that we should take over the full control of the waters, particularly in view of the land taxation proposals now before us. I should like the honorable member for Wimmera to press this matter to a division, because it is essential to our national growth that the people on the land should be provided with facilities to enable them, not only to retain their holdings, but to contribute to the prosperity of Australia as a whole.
.- This is a very important question, and the honorable member for Wimmera has undoubtedly undertaken considerable research’ in obtaining the information which has enabled him to make out a case from his point of view. We are all fully aware of the great benefits that would result to Australia from a system of water conservation and irrigation. No one doubts for a moment that such a system would be the means of promoting intense cultivation, and that it is most undesirable that the plentiful supply of water which falls at certain times in our arid regions should be permitted to go to waste. However that may be, my opinion is that unless we decide for complete unification, this Parliament is not justified in passing a motion of this character. The control of water conservation and irrigation must be accompanied by control of the land policy - the two cannot be separated.
– Why not?
– The Commonwealth, if it undertakes, at considerable ex- pense, the work of water conservation without having control over the land, will be placed at considerable disadvantage. Many undertakings, which mean considerable outlay, are before this Parliament; and, in view of the embarrassment thereby caused, we are compelled to raise further revenue, probably from the land tax.
– The honorable member must not discuss the land tax.
– Especially as what the honorable member says is not correct.
– The honorable member, and probably others, do not seem to be quite consistent in believing that the States should continue to control the lands, while the Commonwealth undertakes the expense of water conservation.
– The Federal power could at least control the distribution of the waters.
– That is the point 1 am about to deal with. My great objection to this proposal is that the Commonwealth, whilst it would be involved in considerable expenditure, would not have any control whatever over the lands that would be greatly enhanced in value. When once we’ begin to build weirs and conserve the water, we undertake an obligation amounting to some millions of money, and we have to ask ourselves what the Commonwealth will receive in return for irrigating the lands belonging to the States. lt has been proved by honorable members opposite that there is a large territory in the arid west still remaining in the hands of the various States, and we are asked to irrigate these lands, without a prospect of any benefit to the Federation. Then, again, millions of acres of privately-owned land along this particular river would be greatly enhanced in value; and if we undertake water conservation and irrigation, we ought to have the power to resume.
– What expenditure would there be in the distribution of the waters ?
– The expense would be in the building of the weirs and so forth.
– That is not involved.
– Once we adopt the principle of water conservation and irrigation, we must build weirs and lock the waters ; and all who own land within a certain distance will get the full benefit of the enhanced value without there being any power on the part of the Commonwealth to resume one acre. Of any such enhanced value the people as a whole, and not individuals, should have the benefit.
– The motion does not prevent resumption.
– There is no power under the Constitution to resume.
– The motion proposes to amend the Constitution.
– But not in the direction I have indicated; and, if it did, honorable members opposite would be very much opposed to the idea.
– Not 1 1
– The honorable member might not, but, judging from the general tenor of the remarks we hear, the majority of honorable members opposite would be opposed to such a proposal. Then, why should this motion be confined to the Murray? Does this not suggest provincialism? If we believe in water conservation and irrigation, why should the principle not be extended right through Australia? Why should people in one part get the benefit of this huge expenditure of Commonwealth money, while those in other parts receive no benefit? If once we adopt the principle, we ought to have full powers over the whole of the waters of the Commonwealth. For the reasons I have given I am opposed to the motion. Instead of constantly trying to filch powers from the States, we ought at once to go in a straightforward way for unification. Personally, I do not believe that the time for unification has arrived. The States have large duties to perform ; and instead of this gradual encroachment, it would be much more manly to submit a motion testing the views of honorable members on the question , of unification. If we once take up the question of water conservation and irrigation there must be unification, because we must control the land policy of the Commonwealth; and the present motion, to my mind, is putting “ the cart before the horse.” At present we are compelled to look round for some means to increase our income; and until Federation is more firmly established, and the road seems clearer for unification, we are not justified in passing motions of this character. It is true that this motion, being only an expression of opinion, does not bind the Government; but I should not like to see it adopted unless it be generally applied and we are given the right to resume, so that the Commonwealth as a whole may reap the benefit resulting from the enhanced values.
.- The honorable member who has just sat down seems to be totally unfitted to regard any matter in the light of compromise. He has told us that if we desire to take any powers now vested in the States we ought, straight out, to ask for unification. In his opinion there must be no “ filching “ of the powers now in the hands of the States, but we must take over all the powers holus-bolus before we attempt to operate any of their agencies. The honorable member in this respect is an “ out-and-outer,” like the man who will not drink whisky and water. In the case of the land tax proposals, he is ready to take all the State whisky.
– Order !
– No doubt I am transgressing, but I only desire to say that the honorable member is unwilling to mix the State’s water with other State ingredients of a more intoxicating character to a man of his political temperament.
– I wish to be consistent and secure the enhanced value for the Commonwealth.
– If so, the honorable member would not in any way invade the broad rights of the States under the Constitution, but would regard any invasion of those rights, whether direct and open, by an amendment of the Constitution, or indirect by an Act of Parliament that has to be deviously worded in order to escape the penalty of the Court, as one for which he personally would not . allow Himself to be heldresponsible. If the honorable member is the man I take him to be he would regard the word “ filching ‘ ‘ as applying infinitely more accurately to an action of an underhand nature, by surreptitious means, than to a straightforward action, such as is suggested by the honorablemember for Wimmera, who proposes, in the full light of day, to amend the Constitution, and thus give the Commonwealth powers which we do not exercise to-day.
From whom do we get our powers ? From the people of Australia who sent us here, and who send members to the State Parliaments. Nothing could be more honest and open than to ask our common masters to judge whether we or the State Legislatures are best fitted to deal with this matter. This is not a question of “filching”; but there is “filching” if we know that we have not a power, and we so frame our legislation as to exercise that power while pretending not to do so.
The honorable member asked why we should propose to deal only with the waters of the Murray and its tributaries. He characterized this as provincialism, but I fail to see that there is the slightest trace of provincialism in the motion. The interests of the four States which are copartners in the waters of the Murray and its tributaries are divergent. The interests of South Australia are almost entirely those of navigation. The interests of New South Wales are partly those of navigation, and partly of irrigation. The interests of Victoria in the Murray, and the rivers flowing into it from the southern border, are very largely those of irrigation ; whilst the interests of Queensland, which are small comparatively, are entirely those of irrigation. The difficulty is that these divergent interests may operate as an obstacle to the advancement of Australia by preventing a reasonable compromise between the States concerned, which would enable God’s gift of water to be utilized as it might be for the irrigation of lands and their closer settlement.
Another reason why I am justified in saying that there is no provincialism in this matter is that the States of Western Australia and Tasmania have an interest in the settlement of the question, because the larger the population carried by any district in Australia the better for every section of the Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Hume contended that we should take over the control of all the rivers of Australia, but I venture to differ from him on that point. The control of the waters of the Murray and its tributaries is obviously a matter with which we are better fitted to deal than are the Parliaments of the different States concerned, who have, so far, shown no disposition to work together harmoniously.
– This is an Inter-State problem.
– That is so. The control of the coastal rivers and of rivers whose course is entirely within the boundaries of one State is not, however, a matter in which we should seek to interfere. The people on the spot can best deal with them. I do think, however, that in connexion with the waters of the Murray and its tributaries the time has arrived when we should seriously face the problem before us, and ask the people of Australia whether this National Parliament is not better fitted to deal with it than are the Parliaments of the different States.
– Should we not be interfering with State rights?
– I do not, like honorable members opposite, regard State rights as a fetish to throw bricks at. I am here neither as a defender of the special privileges of this Parliament, nor a special pleader for the privileges of the State Legislatures. I regard myself as a trustee for the well-being of the Australian people. If, in my opinion, they can be better served in any matter by their State Parliaments and local bodies, I am not prepared to allow considerations of the prestige and advancement of this Parliament to influence me to take such matters out of the hands of the local authorities.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say that.
– That is the position Itake up, and the position assumed by 99 per cent, of the Liberals of Australia.
– The’ honorable member seldom gives expression to such views.
– I have said the same thing on several previous occasions.
– - It is a harmless saying.
– If so, I can understand the honorable member for Adelaide violently objecting to it. We are bound to consider the well-being of the Australian people, and not merely the kudos to be gained by this Parliament.
– Has not the honorable member previously said that we should leave the States alone, and let them work out their own destiny?
– I have not said that. I have always regarded myself as sent here to consider broadly the interests of Australia. In my opinion, they can be best conserved by allowing local authorities and local administration to deal with matters of local concern. I have pointed out that the conservation of the waters of the Murray and its tributaries is not properly dealt with under existing conditions, because the States immediately concerned are pulling against each other. It is for this reason I think this question should be taken in hand by the Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Hunter contended that it would be madness for this Parliament to assume this power without having the right to resume land which might be irrigated by the waters concerned. It seems to me that it is this policy of seeking to get all the profit that can possibly be derived from any work that is keeping the Commonwealth back. I ask permission to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That, in conformity with the Union principle of eight hours’ work per day professed by the majority of members, this House, is of opinion that no sitting should be extended beyond the period of eight hours from its commencement. And that the carrying pf this resolution be an instruction to the Government .to enforce its observance throughout the session. And this House is further of opinion that the principle of eight hours’ work should apply to all officers employed in connexion with the work of the House in whatever capacity engaged.
As the Orders of the Day will be called on in a few minutes, I can do little more than formally submit this motion. The eight hours principle is well recognised throughout Australia as applied to industrial occupations. In my opinion, this Federal Parliament should set an example, by the application of the principle to its proceedings,, but it has been left for a Labour Government to flout that principle, and at the beginning of the session to adopt sweating conditions of the worst kind. I might remind honorable members of the fact that the atmosphere of this chamber is so very bad that it is really too much to ask any one to remain in it continuously for even eight hours. More than one member of the House has noticed that you, Mr. Speaker, do not appear in as robust a condition of health as you enjoyed when the session commenced. Long sittings have an injurious effect, even in the case of honorable members, some of whom are able to absent themselves from the chamber for more or less prolonged periods. In the interests of the health of honorable members, as well as in recognition of the general principle which we think ought to be applied to all occupations in Australia, I submit the motion for the consideration of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. King O’malley) adjourned.
– I move -
In view of the fact that we have almost reached the moment for the consideration of the Orders of the Day, I can now only formally submit this motion, and ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1st September(vide page 2419), on motion by Mr. W. Elliot Johnson -
That this House is of opinion that a pension system should be forthwith initiated in the Defence and Civil Services of the Commonwealth.
– I have great pleasure in continuing this debate, because I should like to see some scheme of pensions or superannuation for the Defence and Civil Services of the Commonwealth provided for as early as possible. I have an objection to the use of the word “ pension “ as applied to the Civil Service. I wish to dissociate the scheme proposed for the Civil Service from that to be proposed for the Defence Force. The warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the Defence Force have informed me that they do not desire the establishment of a superannuation scheme. They wish to have established a pension scheme, such as is in operation in the British Army. I wish honorable members and the Minister to be aware of that fact. The House will remember the speech made by the honorable member for Gwydir two or three years ago, in advocating the appointment of a Commission to investigate the administration of the Department of the PostmasterGeneral. He spoke of men dying at their post, and of others being carried home to die, leaving their dependents with only the few shillings of pay due to them, the salaries, in many instances, being discontinued before the deaths of the breadwinners. His statement made me think that we might well provide for a superannuation scheme, to which the public servants could contribute. It has been objected to such a course that our officers have fixed positions at regular salaries, with increments, and other privileges, and should, therefore, be able to make provision for their old age ; that, at any rate, the ordinary citizen, who has to battle for himself, should not be asked to pay to a fund to make life easier for our civil servants in their declining years. Now, it has been my ambition, and yours, too, Mr. Speaker, to make the path of the aged, infirm, and invalid, as easy as possible. It must be remembered that the public servants are not asking something for nothing; they merely wish the assistance of the Government in providing for their declining years. I know a gentleman, who for years occupied quite a high position in our service, but who had been called upon to spend so much in connexion with family troubles, that when he had to retire at sixty-five years of age, there was only a month’s salary between him and starvation, and now he has to depend on the little that his wife can earn. Had there been a superannuation fund, he would have contributed to it while in office, and would now be in the enjoyment of a pension of at least£200 a year. It must be remembered that the average salary of our officers is£140 a year, and those who have wives and families know that that is inadequate for present necessities, and the making of provision for declining years. Our officers are prevented by law from engaging in outside occupations of a remunerative character, a restriction which does not apply to those in other employment, who, as secretaries to friendly societies, agricultural societies, or in other temporary work, are enabled to augment their earnings, and thus put something by for a rainy day. Failing the establishment of a superannuation scheme, many officers and their wives must become dependent on the old-age pensions fund. The establishment of a superannuation scheme would relieve that fund. When one falls into the sere and yellow leaf it is not easy to obtain employment. The young man who can hustle is always preferred to the old man.
– The honorable member’s remarks would apply to the position of politicia’ns as well as to that of public servants.
– I recommend the honorable member to provide himself with an umbrella while he is young, so that he may be able to shelter when the rainy day comes. It is urged that the present system involves the retention of officers who have become inefficient by reason of age and physical infirmity, who would be replaced with younger and more capable men could they be retired on pensions. Many men who have done good work over a series of years at length become infirm, and lose their capacity, but they have to hang on to their positions to get bread mid butter for themselves and for their wives and families. The retention of incapable seniors has a demoralizing effect on the younger men, who say, “ Why should we live strenuous official lives when all avenues of promotion are blocked by incapable seniors?” Incapacity is very hard to prove. I remember once in Queensland telling an officer that if he would apply for a position of lower status he would be given a chance. His reply was that such an application would be equivalent to an admission of incapacity for the work of his present office, and he said that it would be better for him to wait to be charged with incapacity, throwing the onus of proof on his accusers. For want of a superannuation scheme, it is becoming increasingly difficult to secure the best type of men for the public service, and it is urged that the country cannot afford to allow the intellectual standard of the service to fall. The more attractive the service is made, the better will be the men who will form it. The provision of a superannuation allowance would make the service more contented, because the men in it would know that their old age is provided for. The most prosperous countries provide pensions and superannuation allowances for retired members of their public service. In some cases, the funds are provided wholly by the Government, and in others contributed partly by the Government and partly by the officers. I think that if our officers are willing to pay something towards a superannuation fund, the Government should assist them. I may say, in passing, that the Public Service is not wedded to the scheme which I am submitting. The Government or the Minister of the day asked the public servants to make a suggestion. They set to work and provided a scheme which has been proved to be actuarially sound, and which I shall outline later. Not only have a very large number of Governments provided pensions and superannuation al lowances for their officers after long and faithful service, but a very large number of commercial, industrial, municipal, and financial bodies now recognise the principle, and the fact that it solves one of the most difficult of public problems- how to get out of a large labour force the most efficient service. It is becoming universally recognised that to secure the highest service reasonable provision must be made for old age. In Australia the principal banks, insurance companies, shipping companies, and commercial houses subsidize pension funds for their employes, in some cases to the extent of £1 for £1. The subsidy which the public servants are asking for is comparatively small, but small as it is, some honorable members seem to baulk at it. The Government should not be the last to offer superannuation to its employes. The Commonwealth (Central Staffs) Public Service Association has formulated a scheme : It is proposed that contributions ranging from 3 to 10 per cent, on the salaries of all permanent officers shall be made to a trust fund.
– Ten per cent, is pretty stiff.
– That is on the salaries of officers between fifty and fifty-five years of age. I think that the average is about 4J or 5 per cent. Under thirty years of age it is 3 per cent., and then the percentage rises with the age of the officer. This graduated scale has been proved to be actuarially sound, but, as I said before, the public servants are not wedded to the scheme. All that they are anxious about is that the principle shall be adopted, and that something effectual shall be done. The trust fund I referred to is to be administered by trustees representing both the Government and the officers. The Government is to make an annual contribution of 3 per cent, on the salaries of contributing officers. The officers’ contributions would increase with the increase of their salaries, in accordance with a scale. Officers who are now in the service will be given the option of becoming contributors, but a contribution to the fund will be made compulsory upon all entrants. I hold in my hand, sir, a copy of the scheme, but as it is printed in small type, which I cannot read, and contains nothing of an objectionable character, I crave your indulgence to be allowed to include it in the report of my speech. If you cannot accede to my request, I shall have to ask an honorable member to read it to the House.
– Hitherto I have not allowed unread matter to be inserted in
Hansard, but, as this is an exceptional case, I shall relax the rule.
– I thank you, sir, very much. -
Officers at present in the Service to be given the option of subscribing to the fund. Such option fo be expressed within six months of the passing of the Act. Compulsory contribution to the fund to be made a condition of entering the Service.
Telegraph messengers to be excluded from this scheme, until promoted to another position.
Returning allowances to be computed on the average salary paid for the last three years of the officer’s service. Officers receiving salaries between the rates set out above to receive proportionate retiring allowances.
Surrender value in respect of contributions to the fund to be paid to : -
One of the most significant features of the scheme is that the proposed allowances range from a minimum of £,60 to a maximum of £200 per annum, based upon the salary of the officer at the time of his retirement. Proportionate provision is also made for payments to widows, young children, and orphans. One reason which makes me support the scheme is that an officer with a large salary is not to obtain a benefit from the fund to the detriment of a young officer or an officer in receipt of a small salary. No matter what his salary may be, no officer will receive an allowance of more than £200per annum, and no man, however low his salary may be, will get less than £60 per annum, which -I think is none too liberal. Although the percentage which is asked from the Government may seem high, still the . proportionate provision which is made for widows, orphans, and young children up to 14 years of age should commend it to all the members of the House, including Ministers. The scheme is under actuarial examination in the office of the Federal Statistician, and it is anticipated that his report will be furnished at an early date. The honorable member forLang gave notice of his proposal shortly after the beginning of this session, but the Federal Statistician has still a scheme under examination. It is only fair to ask the Minister when he thinks that Mr. Knibbs will have -finished his inquiry.
– It would be very interesting to know exactly what he is doing with it.
– I cannot get any information. It is likely that the scheme will prove to be actuarially sound - at all events if certain provisions for the return of contributions to officers resigning before the appointed time be eliminated. On 31st December, 1908 - the date on which an exhaustive return was taken - the salaries of male officers in the Administrative, Professional, and Clerical divisions amounted to £951,647, and the salaries of male officers in the General division to £783,407, making a total of £1,735,054. A contribution of 3 per cent, on that sum will amount to £52,050 a year. The total sum is probably larger at the present time, especially when female officers are taken into account, but a 3 per cent, contribution by the Government will not, it is thought, exceed in any case £63,000 per annum. That seems a large amount, and at first it was a bit of a staggerer to me. With a growing service, I wondered where the cost to the Commonwealth was likely to end if it was to be £63,000 a year at the beginning. But when we take into account the amount of good which will be done, and the amount of suffering which will be alleviated, that is, in the direction of maintaining young persons until they are able to take their places in the world, it is not, after all, an extraordinary amount. The Commonwealth is establishing a scheme of invalid and oldage pensions whereby it will relieve the sufferings of persons who come within the provisions of the law. The proposed pension scheme for public officers is something similar, only that it will help a public officer to make some provision for himself, instead of waiting to come on to the Commonwealth for an old-age pension, or, as has happened in many cases, of putting the Minister in the position of applying to Parliament for some compensation to his widow, or to himself.
– Not very much has been granted, I am sorry to say.
– No, but the fact remains that, in many cases, Parliament has been asked to grant compensation to officers’ widows and to officers. I am satisfied that the establishment of a superannuation scheme would obviate that necessity. I agree with the honorable member for Swan that we have not done enough for those who have been injured in or have died in our service. A superannuation scheme which was initiated, backed and worked by the Government would, I feel certain, alleviate a considerable amount of suffering, and put an end to the applications for compensation grants. In New South Wales an amending Act - No. 11 of 1910 - has recently been passed, to provide superannuation allowances and gratuities for persons employed in the railway and tramway services. It provides for a Board of Management, to consist of seven persons, three to be appointed by the Governor for a term of five years, three to be elected for a term of three years, namely, two by the railways, and one by the tramways, and the Chief Commissioner to be Chairman, ex officio. A deduction not exceeding per cent, is to be made from the salaries of officers, and placed to the credit of a special account in the Treasury. An annual appropriation is to be made by Parliament of such money as may be required to meet claims on the account from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The allowance payable is one-sixtieth of an average taken of the annual salaries of the officer during his term of service, multiplied by the number of complete years of his service, but is not to exceed two-thirds of the average of such annual salary. If an officer dies whilst he is in the service, his widow, or, failing that, his personal representative, is entitled to a refund of his contributions, plus interest. If he retires upon superannuation, and dies within six months of his retirement, his representative may receive a sum equal to the difference between the actual1 amount of superannuation received by him and the total deductions made under the Act in respect of his salary and emoluments. Officers dismissed for serious misconduct are not entitled to a refund of their contributions. And an officer voluntarily retiring after not less than fifteen years’ service is entitled to a refund of his contributions, but without interest thereon. In other quarters of the world there have been numerous movements in this direction, and it is a significant thing that, in all other civilized communities, particularly in Europe, the Government has established a superannuation or pension scheme in connexion with the public service.Tn Austria, ten years’ service entitles an officer to a pension, which varies according to the length of service. Ten years’ service gives 40 per cent, of the salary,’ while forty years’ service gives a pension equivalent to the full salary. Officers’ widows get pensions, as well as do orphans. The fund is made up of a 3 per cent, deduction from salaries, plus a contribution by the State. In Belgium, the pension fund is created partly by contribution and partly by grarit. One-sixtieth of the average salary during the preceding five years, multiplied by the number of years of service, is the basis of the pension. In Denmark, officers and their widows receive pensions. In France, a 5 per cent, assessment is made on all salaries, in addition to which each official has to contribute his first month’s salary on entering the service, together with one-twelfth of each subsequent annual increase he receives. Pensions are granted up to three-fourths oi the average salary. Widows and orphans receive pensions. The existing scheme has been in force for over fifty years, and has worked satisfactorily. In Natal, there is a compulsory contribution of 3 per cent, on the salaries. The pension varies from onefourth to two-thirds of the average salary for the preceding three years. Widows, children, and dependent relatives are entitled to a gratuity. In Italy, officers and their widows and minor children are entitled to a pension. In Holland, officers pay onehalf of the first year’s salary in four annualinstalments. When he is promoted to higher rank, an officer must again contribute, in four annual instalments, a sum equal to half of his salary. The pensions granted are equivalent to two-thirds of the annual salary, subject to a maximum of£300. A widow gets one-fourth of the salary of the deceased officer, with an additional onetwentieth for each child under eighteen years of age. When there is no widow, each child gets one-twelfth of the father’s salary. In Norway, a scheme is in force under which the pension varies from onefourth to one-half of the officer’s salary.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– I propose now to give further information regarding the superannuation schemes in force in various parts of the world. In Portugal the pension fund consists partly of deductions from salaries and partly of an appropriation from the National Treasury. The deductions equal from 4 per cent, to 5 per cent, of salary, with an increasing pension up to the equivalent of full salary after thirty years’ service. Formerly the pension fund was contributed wholly by the National Treasury, until the burden imposed by this practice upon the finances of the State led to the introduction of the present system of compulsory deductions from the salaries of the future beneficiaries of the fund. Russia has a pension scheme varying from one-sixth to . onethird of the officer’s salary, and the Imperial Treasury supplies the pension. In Germany ten years’ service gives fifteensixtieths of the last salary, and onesixtieth extra for each additional year up to a maximum of forty-five-sixtieths. Service under twenty-one years of age is disregarded. Widows and children are paid out of a fund created by an assessment of 3 per cent, on the salaries of married officers. A widow gets one-third of the pension to which her husband was entitled, a minimum of £10 and a maximum of £100 being fixed. Each child gets onefifteenth of the father’s pension, but a child who is an orphan gets one-‘fourth. In Great Britain all pensions are paid out of the National Treasury, ranging from ten-sixtieths for ten years’ service, up to forty-sixtieths for forty years’ service. This is practically the same as the Victorian Pension Act. I now come to Canada, where, prior to 1898, officers contributed 2 per cent, of salaries, if appointed prior to 1893, and 3½ per cent, if subsequently appointed, and received pensions varying from one-fifth to seven-tenths of their annual salary. By the Act of 1898, officers have to contribute 5 per cent, of salaries, and this is refunded to them on retirement, with 4 per cent, compound interest. The scale of pensions in Cape Colony is the same as in Great Britain, but provision is made for widows, children, and dependent relatives. The fund is raised partly by contributions. The Dominion of New Zealand has attempted various solutions of the superannuation problem. The Civil Service Act of 1866 provided for the payment of pensions entirely out of the funds of the Dominion, without contributions from the members of the Service. This section of the law was repealed in 187 1. By the Act of 1886 a deduction of 5 per cent, was made from the salary of each employe;, and deposited with the Public Trustee, to be returned with the accumulation of interest at the time of the retirement of the employe from the Service. This system was superseded in 1893 by an Act requiring every person admitted to the Service to effect a policy on his life with the Government Insurance Commissioner, providing for the payment of a sum of money on his death, should it occur before the age of sixty years, and the payment to him of an annuity should he survive that age. This form of compulsory insurance was the method of oldage provision in operation prior to the introduction of the recent Superannuation Act, which .provides for payment by the Government of a subsidy of £20,000 annually, with such further contributions as may be found, upon actuarial investigation, to be necessary to insure the solvency of the fund. A maximum pension equal to two-thirds of salary is payable under the scheme. Referring once more to the position in Canada, I find that, by an Act passed in 1906, it is provided that superannuation shall be payable to officers with not less than ten years’ service, and who have attained the age of sixty years, or become incapacitated by bodily infirmity. A preliminary inquiry is instituted by the Treasury Board in all cases prior to retirement. From officers appointed prior to 1st April, 1893, there is a deduction of 2 per cent, on salaries of $600 and upwards whilst in the case of officers appointed prior to that date and receiving salaries of less than $600, a reduction of lj per cent, is made. The sum so deducted forms part of the Consolidated Revenue, out of which superannuation allowances in these cases are payable. From the salaries of officers appointed on or after 1st April, 1893, however, there is a deduction of 3^ per cent, in the case of those receiving $600 and upwards, and a deduction of 3 per cent, in the case of those receiving less than $600. The deductions are credited to the Civil Service Superannuation Fund, to which the Government adds annually such an amount as, at the rate of 6 per cent, per annum, will be sufficient to make the fund able to bear the annuities payable therefrom. The deductions in both cases are made during only the first thirty-five years of service. The retirement is compulsory in the case of a person to whom superannuation is offered. That is the Canadian system, and it seems to me to proceed on very good lines. The Commonwealth Government has plenty of material upon which to work in framing a superannuation system, and since older countries have seen fit to make such provision for the benefit of their public servants, we ought not to lag behind. We ought to make some effort to provide for the aged and infirm officers, and those retired as unfit for service on reaching the age of sixty or sixty-five years. Let me deal now with the position in the United States. I was under the impression, from observations made by the Minister of Home Affairs, that every one there was entitled to a pension, whether he was in the Public Service or out of it.
– That, at all events, is the impression I had gathered from the remarks made by the honorable member. I thought that a man had only to have a title - to be called a colonel, a major, or a subaltern
– And which title he gave himself to begin with.
– And which he gave himself to begin with in order to be -entitled to a pension. The Minister of Home Affairs was in the United States Army for a number of years before he came to Australia, and I should like to know whether he is drawing a pension.
– A Bill was before the House of Representatives of the United States of America in April of the present year dealing with the superannuation of members of the classified Civil Service. It provides for a deduction from the salary of every officer to whom the Act applies of an amount that will suffice, with interest at 3J per cent, per annum compounded annually, to purchase from the United States an annuity - payable quarterly throughout life - equal to 1 1/2 per cent, of his annual salary for every full year of service between the date of the passage of the Bill and the arrival of the employe” at the age of retirement. Such deductions are to be paid into the Treasury to the credit of an individual account for each employe” so contributing, and credited with interest at 3 J per cent, compounded annually. These moneys are to be dealt with by a Board consisting of representatives of the Government and of the employe’s. On reaching the retiring age an employe may withdraw his contributions, or “ savings,” - as they are termed in the Bill - either as an annuity payable quarterly throughout life, or as an annuity payable quarterly throughout life, with the addition that in the case of death before he has received annuities to the value of his savings plus interest thereon, the balance shall be paid to his legal heirs in one sum. The refund of deductions is provided for in certain cases, e.g., resignation before retiring age is reached or death. For new appointees there is a deduction of one-fifth on the monthly salary during the first six months’ service, and, in case of promotion, a further deduction of an amount equal to the increase made by such promotion during the first three months from the taking effect thereof. These amounts are to be paid into a special fund. Officers from whose salaries these deductions have been made will be entitled, in addition to the annuity provided for by their own saving, to an annuity from the Government equal to 1 1/2 per cent, of the total salary in each case during service prior to the taking effect of the Act, but not to exceed, together with the employes own annuity, $600 per annum. This legislation applies only to officers in the district of Columbia. I do not think anything is to be gained by labouring this question, but I wish now to draw attention to a statement in the Argus this morning, that Mr. G. H. Knibbs, the Government Statistician, has prepared an actuarial table relating to this matter. The Minister told me, by way of interjection, that that table would not be ready for another fortnight.
– The Government Statistician has not yet put it before me. He is not quite ready, but as soon as he is I shall inform the honorable member.
– I would impress upon the House the point that this provision is entirely apart from any arrangement made with regard to warrant and noncommissioned officers and the rank and file of the Army and Navy of the Commonwealth. In an Act assented to on 4th May last, Canada has made provision for the widows and families of deceased officers an 1 seamen. That Act provides that -
When any officer or seaman is killed on active service, or dies from wounds or disease contracted on active service, drill, or training, or on duty, provision shall be made for his widow and family out of the public funds at the prescribed rates.
It also contains the following provision in regard to compensation for disability -
Every case of permanent disability, arising from injuries received or illness contracted on active service, drill, or training, or* on duty, shall be reported on by a Medical Board, and compensation awarded under such regulations as are made from time to time by the Governor in Council.
I am entirely in accord with these provisions, believing that the Government should do something for the widow and children of a man who lays down his life for his country. Such provision, however, would be quite apart from any Public Service superannuation scheme.
– It should be additional.
– Yes, and I for one intend to make an effort to secure its insertion in the Defence Bill. No one can say that I have any political interest in bringing this matter forward, because in my electorate I am perfectly free from the influence of public servants. But I have known men, after spending a life-time in the Service to be cast adrift without means on reaching the age of sixty or sixty-five years. There are two in Brisbane at present who have my greatest sympathy. It is all very well to say that public servants should make provision for their old age, that they receive good salaries, and have comfortable jobs, and so forth-
– But thousands cannot save.
– Having been an insurance agent for many years, the Minister of Home Affairs must know how difficult it is to get some of these men even to assure their lives, and, -seeing that, they now come to us and ask for a compulsory superannuation system, I think that we should assist them in that direction. Will the Minister of Home Affairs state what is the attitude of the Ministry with regard to the establishment of a Superannuation Fund.
– The matter has not been considered by the Cabinet, but Ministers individually are very sympathetic.
– I thank the honorable member for his information. What I want is not mere individual sympathy, but corporate action. I want something like practical sympathy. Minister after Minister has asked the Public Service to prepare a superannuation scheme on actuarial lines, and has promised that upon such a scheme being submitted every consideration would be given to it.
– But this relates to a pension scheme.
– If the honorable member had been present at the start of the debate, he would have heard me say that I did not believe in the motion as tabled. The honorable member for Lang is not wedded to any particular system. This proposal is simply put in a crude way.
– The Government can ,’call it by any other name they like.
– The honorable member for Lang does not seem to know the difference between a pension and, a superannuation scheme.
– It amounts lo the same thing in practice, so far as the recipient is concerned.
– The difference is that a pension is given wholly by the Government for services rendered, while in a superannuation scheme the officer himself contributes towards the payment, and the fund is subsidized by the Government. I think the majority of the House are in favour of some such system. I asked the Minister to give the matter his earnest consideration, and he has promised to let us know in a fortnight the determination of the Government. We are not wedded to this particular scheme, but it has been asked for by successive Ministries, and has now been brought down. The Committee that waited on me said they were quite willing to take any scheme, so long as the Government affirmed the principle of superannuation, and started the ball rolling. They could not make a fairer offer than that. The sum of £63,000 a year, with a growing Service, seemed an abnormal amount to me, and I think so still, but if the matter can be dealt with in such a way as to alleviate the sufferings of old and tried officers, who have to retire at the age of sixty, or sixty-five, I shall feel that I have done my little bit towards putting them on a little rosier bed than some of them are lying on at present.
– I wish to give my very hearty support to the proposal of the honorable member for Lang, and its development by the honorable member for Maranoa. Very little remains to be done now, in view of the speeches already delivered on the subject, except to indicate one’s opinion to the Government. I hope the House will give a very definite expression of opinion so that the Government may be encouraged to develop their somewhat nebulous sympathy for the proposal, into a practical and distinct form. As regards that portion of the speech of the honorable member for Maranoa, which referred to a fund for providing for the widows and children of soldiers and sailors belonging to the Commonwealth, I think every one will have only one opinion. A scheme of that sort should have been instituted long ago, and now that we have plenty of money to operate upon, the duty devolves upon this Parliament of carrying it into effect at the earliest possible moment. When, however, we come to the Civil Service proper, there may be some hesitation on the part of honorable members in committing themselves to a scheme of pension or superannuation. Amongst the outside public die civil servants are regarded by many as somewhat pampered individuals, and this scheme may be considered as unnecessary generosity towards persons who are already fairly well paid, and in a rather enviable position generally. I am not one of those who regard the civil servants as persons who are fit only to be the butt of a certain clumsy sarcasm. In many quarters they are depicted as the veryquintessence of ineptitude and idleness. That may have been the case in the past, and it may be that something of the kind pertains to some of the State Services now, but there can be little doubt in the minds of members of the Federal Parliament, looking at the careful organization and control of our Departments, that nothing of that kind pertains to the Federal Service. We may feel quite certain that, with the effective organization of our Commissioner and his inspectors, every public servant performs work of a character at least equal to its remuneration, and is diligently employed throughout the whole of his office hours in carrying out his duties. It may be said that outside of the Civil Service no funds are provided to give pensions or superannuation to persons in employment who have to be retired by reason, say, of old age. But I think most public bodies have already instituted a system of this kind, while among private employers, even among some of the capitalists - who are, according to honorable members on the other side of the House, so highly objectionable - I have found instances of wellarranged methods of superannuation as applied to old and faithful servants when compelled to retire. I do not say that that is always the case. I regret that there are many instances to the contrary. I have known men who have worked for over fifty years for one set of employers, receiving only a bare living all the time, to be dismissed when old age had overtaken them, without even a thank-you or a handshake. But in every civilized community we are developing a better ethical spirit than that indicates. In this connexion, I consider it the duty of every Government to give a lead and example to all other public and private employers. The higherpaid officials are well able to provide for their old age without assistance, but only a small percentage of the total number of our civil servants ever attain to the higher ranks. The majority of them have to spend their lives in the lower grades where the remuneration is sometimes barely sufficient to keep a family in those circumstances that we aim at as regards the Australian level of life. That being so, the duty undoubtedly devolves upon us to meet the public servants of the Commonwealth in giving effect to some such scheme as is proposed by the motion. I am very pleased to know that our civil servants do not ask that the country shall provide the whole of the money for the fund, but are prepared to contribute a substantial proportion themselves. I hope that before very long a scheme that we are given to understand is under consideration by our authorities will be produced and laid before Parliament. If it is a practicable scheme, as I believe it will be, and at all in touch with the proposals of the civil servants themselves, this Parliament should have very little hesitation in adopting and giving practical expression to it. With some such scheme in operation, our Service would be even more effective than it is. Even under present conditions, we have almost the pick of the young men, and to a certain extent of the young women, of the country for our Public Service. If weadded such a bonus as this motion proposes to the remuneration we give, I have no doubt that there would be an additional attraction to many to compete for the positions that are open. Above all, I think it would give to those in our employment that feeling of contentment which always tends to efficiency of service. Knowing that the future of their families would be provided for to a considerable extent, the men would undoubtedly apply themselves to their duties with a thoroughness which would make for increased, efficiency, and therefore for the benefit of the community as a whole. For those reasons, in addition to others that have been already expressed, I have much pleasure in supporting the motion.
– I have to admit that my considerations are more for the lower than the higher paid men in the Public Service. Those who receive fair salaries are better able to make provision for their old age than many of the lowly-paid men. Unfortunately we have in our Public Service men who are paid very small wages, and to the large majority the chances of promotion are not very great. Just as in the Army we cannot have all generals, so in the Public Service all cannot be supervisors, and naturally the great majority receive a very low wage. That was recognised in the past. When earlier Governments inaugurated the system of pensions on the retirement of civil servants, the argument advanced was just the same as may be advanced now - that men in the Public Service, or in the Army and Navy, had not the same opportunities as those outside to make a competence. I claim that those outside the Service have many disadvantages which those inside the Service do not feel. A man whose wage or salary is assured, however small it may be, does not suffer that disturbance of his peace of mind which is experienced by many outside. At the same time, the outside man, with vim, pluck, and opportunity, may acquire a competence; and we must not forget that we demand from our public servants the whole of their time and energy. We do not permit them to enter into competition with outside workers - and that, of course, is as it should be.
– It is the best paid Service in the world.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. However, that question would necessitate an appeal to many statistics, and so forth.
– There is the cost of living to be considered.
– Quite so. Earlier Governments in this country made some such provision for the public servants, but, subsequently, it was thought fit to change the policy. Whether that was or was not a wise step it is not for me to debate just now.
– Was the change not made because of public opinion?
– I believe that public opinion had some influence; but, in my opinion, it has since been realized that the course taken, was somewhat too drastic, and that some other system should have been introduced. Our Army and Navy we intend to increase considerably, and the remuneration paid in those Services, while more than that in the case of Great Britain, is nothing like that which prevails in the United States. For instance, a first-class A.B. at the maximum in the Australian service, is paid about 5s. per day, though I believe that some arrangement has been made for extra payment for good conduct. We all know that in a place like Victoria it is impossible to rear a family, and, at the same time, make provision for old age on such a wage, unless a man is penurious to an extreme, and exercises that much-lauded thrift, which, if carried to its logical conclusion, would reduce us to the level of savages. In our permanent Military Service men receive about 17s. 6d. per week and rations. We may be told that men with such a wage have no right to get married ; and I admit that one who does so has an enormous amount of pluck.
– And so has the woman !
– The girl, I think, has a great deal more pluck than the man, but we know that such marriages do take place, and that some men are even married when .they join the Artillery, which, I believe, is as fine a body as could be found anywhere else in the world. Further, a man who has completed a long term of military service is usually unfitted to earn a livelihood in any other way. There are positions in the Public Service generally for which they would be eminently fitted, such as might be found in the Customs House, but, according to our Public Service Act, there can be no transfer from one Department to another. Even if a man has been a mechanic before he joined the Service, he finds great difficulty in obtaining employment afterwards, and all his experience is therefore lost. Men in the Military Service are compelled to retire at the age of fifty-five,- and their position altogether is a most unfortunate one. As I say, there are many positions in the Public Service which they might very well fill, without interfering with the promotion of others, but the rules of the Service stand in the way. I do not agree that such men should contribute towards the pensions, for the very simple reason that the greater number of them are quite unable to do so. I know that the majority of the men in the Public Service of the country are willing to accept what they can get; but a man with £110 or £120 a year cannot both rear a family and contribute. We are wasting money on immigration when our population might be considerably increased by other methods; and it is a disgrace to Parliament that more progress has not been made in this direction. While talking about peopling our waste lands, we are neglecting our duty by not placing our public servants in such a position that they can take upon- themselves the responsibilities of life. It is recognised that the cost of living is rising ; and it is our duty to look after our public servants. I believe we have as good a Public Service as any country in the world, and we ought to see that fair wages are paid, and something done to insure them a pension at the retiring age. I hope the House will carry the motion, and that the Government, at an early date, will make provision to carry it into effect.
.- The motion is not one to be treated lightly. No doubt, the Commonwealth has some excellent officers, but we must not forget that this Parliament decided that no pensions should be paid to the High Court Judges. That, I take it, was a principle laid down for the future government of the Public Service. The party opposite voted against a pension scheme in the first Parliament.
– At that time the Commonwealth could spend only one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– I am of opinion that the salaries paid to our officers should be such a$ will allow them to make provision for their old age, and that, after paying such salaries, the Commonwealth should not be called upon to provide pensions in addition. It must be remembered that the public servants of the Commonwealth and of the States have constant employment. They are not, like the wharf lumpers, seamen, carpenters, miners, and others, called upon to cease work from time to time in consequence of a slackness in trade, nor is their business a precarious one. In some years the miners of the Newcastle district have earned only £90 or £95 for want of continuous employment, but a public servant never suffers losses through that cause. No provision is made for the old age of persons in the building trade, nor of employes in the pastoral industry, nor of those in the engineering trade, nor of domestic servants, and why should they be called upon to contribute to the payment of pensions to persons who are able to make provision for their old age? I am willing to support any scheme for assisting the public servants to insure against infirmity and retirement, but I know that the decision of this Parliament not to provide pensions for the Justices of the High Court was a very popular one, and that the pension system generally is in discredit in British communities. As I said before, we should pay proper, rates of wages to our public servants, as we compel private employers to pay such rates to their employes, but I am not prepared to support a pension fund.
– A pension fund is not proposed.
– At the beginning of every new Parliament, honorable members are so desirous of getting their names on the businesspaper that sometimes it would appear they put down notices of motion without having thoroughly made up their minds as to what they wish to propose. The honorable member seems to be ignorant of the fact that the motion under discussion asks the House to affirm that “ a pension system should be forthwith initiated in the Defence and Civil Services of the Commonwealth.” When the privileged classes ruled, and Democracy was not represented in the government of the country, the pension system was so much abused that no one would like to see it re-established. Our public servants, knowing that they must retire at a certain age, should make provision for the after years, and every honorable member is prepared to help them to do so. I am sure that the public servants do not expect the rouseabouts, coal miners, and other persons whose employment is precarious, and whose earnings average less than theirs, to provide pensions for them. I understand that the Government.is prepared to support some superannuation scheme which will assist the public servants in making provision for their old age, and we should wait for a proposal from Ministers. The passing of this motion will effect nothing, though it may obtain credit for those who support it. There comes a time when public men should have the courage to express their opinions, even though these may seem unpopular, and I have felt it my duty to express mine on this subject openly and fearlessly. As I have not time to conclude my remarks before the debate will be interrupted by the operation of the sessional order, I ask leave to continue them on a later day.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 8th September (vide page 2836), on motion by Mr. Finlayson -
That, in the opinion of this House, the sale of intoxicating liquors should be prohibited within the precincts of this House.
.- As I moved the adjournment of this motion on a former occasion, I do not know that it would be competent for me to do so again, and perhaps, therefore, I had better ask leave to continue my remarks on a future day, seeing that the debate must otherwise be cut short by the operation of the sessional order.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to continue his speech on a future day?
– I object.
– I would point out to the honorable member that the time for private members’ business has now expired.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- Availing myself of the privileges granted by this motion, I wish to draw attention to a very gross attempt on the part of certain honorable members to use as an electioneering placard the enthusiasm of a large body of our fellow-subjects, who place temperance first, and party, so far as all other subjects are concerned, afterwards. The following statement, made by an honorable member opposite, appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of 20th inst. -
Mr. W. F. Finlayson, Labour member for Brisbane in the Federal Parliament, urges all true democrats in New South Wales to vote “ Labour and no-licence “ at the forthcoming State elections.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in quoting from a newspaper a statement concerning a debate in this House?
– I submit that the honorable member is doing no such thing. Heis treating this matter* as a grievance, and he is fairly entitled to do so.
– But even a grievance must be treated in a regular manner.
– And I submit that the honorable member is doing so. He has a grievance to put before the House concerning the conduct of certain honorable members with regard to the business of the country, and I contend that he is entitled to discuss it at this stage.
– I had been listening attentively to the honorable member for Wentworth when the point of order was raised, and had heard nothing that would justify me in ruling him out of order.
– I am grateful to the honorable member for Capricornia for having given me a warning. The newspaper paragraph continues -
Mr. Finlayson said to a Herald reporter yesterday that he felt convinced that the future of the temperance movement was absolutely safe in the hands of the Labour party.
– Hear, hear !
– And honorable members opposite who are now cheering are those whom we heard quite recently talking on another matter to prevent the honorable member for Brisbane obtaining a hearing with regard to his motion dealing with the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms:
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Wentworth has said that honorable members on this side deliberately talked on a particular motion to prevent a certain motion being taken into consideration by this House.
– If the honorable member used those words, I ask him to withdraw them.
– I used them, and believethem to be true; but I withdraw them, sir, in deference to your ruling.
– The honorable member must unreservedly withdraw them.
– If you ask me, Mr. Speaker, to say that I do not believe what I said, I cannot do that.
– The words used by the honorable member in withdrawing were worse than those actually complained of. I ask him to withdraw the statement.
– In deference to your ruling, sir, I withdraw the words. The newspaper paragraph continues - “ Although some members of the party,” said Mr. Finlayson, “ have ideas more or less vague about nationalization, and State control of the liquor traffic, the increase of knowledge that is certain to come of this subject is bound to prove the fallacy of their arguments. Seeing that the evil of intemperance is a national one, I hope that the question of prohibition will eventually become a national one, and furthermore properly under the control of the Federal Parliament. Meanwhile, however, it is a local question, to be settled under local conditions - the surest and quickest way to develop a national sentiment, and to prepare for a national vote on the question.”
The advice of the honorable member to the electors of New South Wales who are now dealing with local politics is - “ Vote Labour and No Licence.” That advice is echoed by men like the honorable member for South Sydney, and cheered by honorable members opposite.
– Do not look at me.
– I am glad to have the interjection of my honorable friend, to whose spun-out eloquence we have had to listen for some time this afternoon. It is a piece of arrant hypocrisy and humbug for these honorable members to be cheering a statement of the character I have read - a statement used in connexion with the State elections of New South Wales. At the very least, honorable members of this House, who take part in State or municipal elections, ought not to go upon a public platform with their tongues in their cheeks.
– Where would the honorable member have them ?
– I do not know where the honorable member carries his, but if he went on to a public platform, and indulged in this sort of talk, what respect would he expect to gain from his fellows? He would not do such a thing, nor would the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, or 90 per cent, of the Labour party do so. It has been left for a new member of the Federal Parliament to go into the political arena of New South Wales at this juncture, and to seek to blind the political judgment of the temperance party by language such as I have quoted. This is a very legitimate grievance to submit to the House. Honorable members should be very careful how they interfere with State elections.
– “ Wade “ in.
– And Mr. Wade is going to stop in. The point is that if my honorable friends opposite are going to try to catch the temperance vote by using the placard put forward by one of their party, and to catch the licensed victuallers’ vote, as they do, by putting forward their own actions in the State Legislatures, then they are no Democrats, for they are seeking to confuse the minds of the electors, and not to help them to reach a sound conclusion upon the evidence submitted to their investigation.
Mr.Mc Williams. - The temperance party do not indorse what the honorable member for Brisbane has said.
– The temperance party have had no opportunity to be in this House, and to see how the motion relating to the Parliamentary Refreshment Bar ‘has- been adjourned from time to time. On one very important occasion the debate was adjourned with the full support of the honorable member who is now, forsooth, the archangel of temperance in the Commonwealth !
– I cannot understand why the temperance party always vote against our party.
-Do they? I received a circular the other day from a temperance body in Victoria, asking me to support the good offices of the honorable member for Brisbane, and another member of the Labour party, the honorable member for Calare. I believe that if Mohammedans were to become a powerful influence in the public life of Australia-
– I contend, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member is now out of order, since he is anticipating a discussion upon a motion by the honorable member for Brisbane in regard to the sale of intoxicating liquors within the precincts of this building. He says that he has received a circular asking him to support that motion.
– I said that I was asked to support the action of certain honorable members.
– Under standing order 274 it is provided that -
No member shall digress from the subjectmatter of any question under discussion ; nor anticipate the discussion of any other subjectmatter which appears on the notice-paper.
– But the motion to which the honorable member refers has disappeared from the noticepaper.
– It is on the notice-paper for to-day.
– I would point out to the honorable member that by the action of the House itself the motion moved by the honorable member for Brisbane has disappeared from the notice-paper.
– Through the action of the honorable member for Parramatta.
– No; through the action of the honorable member for Riverina.
– Order ! I remind honorable members that they must remain silent while the Speaker is addressing the House. The honorable member for Capricornia’s point of order would be a good one if the motion remained on the notice-paper, but owing to the action of the House it has disappeared from it.
– The action of the honorable member for Parramatta.
– Order ! The honorable member must not interrupt. In the circumstances I have no power to prevent the honorable member for Wentworth from referring to, or even debating, the motion in question.
– I am again very grateful to the honorable member for Capricornia for having recalled to my mind the fact which I had for the moment overlooked, that the honorable member for Brisbane’s motion is no longer on the notice-paper, and that it can therefore be dealt with on the motion now before us. I shall, therefore, move -
That all the words after the word “ That “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ in the opinion of this House the sale of intoxicating liquors should be prohibited within the precincts of this House.”
That will give my honorable friends opposite an opportunity to show the temperance people of Australia with what burning anxiety they seek to abolish the Parliamentary Refreshment Bar. It will also give the honorable member for Brisbane an opportunity to again handle the subject, and, I hope, to bring its consideration to a definite conclusion.
– Let us get a vote upon it.
– We have the whole day in front of us, and we ought, therefore, to be able to secure a vote upon the question.
In submitting this amendment, I am not for a moment seeking to take from the honorable member for Brisbane the laurels that properly attach to his brow ! But I am doing all that I can to bring the question to a reasonable conclusion. The question was first submitted to this House on 18th August last, and an hour before the expiration of the time allotted to private members’ business a member of the Labour party - contrary to the protests of honorable members who wished to come to a vote upon it, and to support it - moved the adjournment of the debate. He was upheld in that action by the honorable member for Brisbane.
– Why cannot we come to a vote upon it now ?
– We are going to do so.
– It is important that we should come to a vote upon it before 14th October.
– And. if I am any judge of physiognomy, the honorable member is going to help us to come to a vote upon it by making a four-hours’ speech !
When the honorable member for Brisbane moved for the adjournment of his own motion on the 18th August, it became apparent that no opportunity was to be afforded to honorable members to have this business settled during the current session. Accordingly, I addressed some questions to the Prime Minister, asking if he would give Government time for the consideration of the matter, especially in view of the fact that the support of the no-licence party was asked for the Labour party in New South Wales, on the ground of the burning anxiety of the honorable member for Brisbane. The Prime Minister successfully evaded the questions. He said time would be given for votes om all ‘private members’ business. We have had time for a vote this afternoon, but the action of one or two honorable members opposite prevented the vote being taken. What happened this afternoon, and on two previous occasions, will certainly prevent a vote being taken on it, whatever anxiety the Prime Minister may, or may not, have that it should be taken without debate.
The next point is that the honorable member would have been in some difficulty to adjourn this motion this session to a day on which the debate would have had a chance of reaching finality. He came to me this afternoon with reference to a motion which I had on the paper for 29th September, a matter of considerable importance in my electorate, and, in fact, one of the burning issues in East Sydney and Wentworth. Seeing that he had adjourned his own motion on one occasion, and apparently did not care then how much time was given up to Government business, I did not see why I should let my motion, and the interests of the municipality of Paddington, go by the board, simply because he wished again to present this burning question to the fleeting notice of the House.
I shall now give every honorable member a chance to deal with it by moving the amendment of which I have given notice.
– What is the honorable member’s amendment?
– It is in the same words as the motion of the honorable member for Brisbane. I shall move to omit all the words after “ That” in the motion before the Chair-
– I am sure the honorable member cannot be in order in moving such an amendment at this stage. It would be a travesty on all public business if, on the motion “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair,” any honorable member could bring up such a subject as the honorable member proposes to bring forward. Under standing order 130, any amendment moved must be relevant to the question before the Chair. While honorable members are permitted on grievance day to ventilate grievances, I submit that it is not in the power of any honorable member to test the opinion of the House by getting a vote in the manner proposed by the honorable member for Wentworth.
– Before giving my ruling, I would remind honorable’ members that it is most difficult for me to listen to a point of order while interjections are being made across the Chamber. That sort of thing not only compels me to call ‘ Order ! 1 ‘ but sometimes causes me to ask an honorable member to state his point of order again. With regard to the motion that was dropped from the business-paper to-day, it is a well-known rule of Parliament that when a motion lapses in that way it is regarded as though it had never existed. The House, therefore, knows nothing further of that motion. It has never been dealt with one way or the other, and, therefore, it is quite in order for the same question to be discussed again this session. The honorable member for Wentworth desires to move a similar motion as an amendment on the question “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.” There have been several cases in which most important matters have been tabled in that way. A striking instance was the amendment affirming the principle of old-age pensions some years ago. Standing order 241 provides that any honorable member shall be at liberty to address the House on the question “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair,” or move any amendment thereto. The honorable member for Wentworth is therefore quite in order.
– As a further point of order, will you rule, sir, whether the motion of the honorable member for Brisbane will be really off the business-paper until to-morrow ?
– The motion may still appear, technically speaking, on the printed notice-paper, but from half-past 3 o’clock, when it was talked out, it ceased to exist as a motion of which the House could take cognisance.
– I shall put briefly the reasons why honorable members should support my amendment. I should be the very last to say that this House has ever abused the privileges afforded by the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. I have never known a more temperate’ body of men than I have met since I was elected to this Parliament. I believe that -the vast majority of the members of this and another place do not use the refreshment-rooms for the purposes with which the motion deals j but I submit that a Parliament that has on a number of occasions shown its anxiety to encourage temperance principles - for instance, in the Military Service and in Papua - might at least be asked to set a good example by abolishing its own bar. A good example has been set by every individual member, for I know no Chamber where a more temperate body of men can be found, but let us set an example to the Australian people in our corporate capacity, and show them that we believe that clear thinking, good conduct, and good health can be obtained even in the absence of the adjuncts of the refreshmentroom that are now offered at the Parliamentary Bar.
– If we all had a club house opposite the Parliamentary buildings, like the honorable member has, we should not mind.
– I am not saying anything personal about the honorable member, and he cannot say anything personal about me in that respect.
– Let us get to a vote.
– I desire to do so, and consequently, in order to give the honorable member for Brisbane a chance of voting for his own motion, and the honorable members for East Sydney and South Sydney an opportunity of supporting it. I move -
That all the words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words - ‘”’ in the opinion of this House the sale of intoxicating liquors should be prohibited within the precincts of this House.”
– - I second the amendment. I regret very much that the question was not dealt with and voted on before now. When the honorable member for Brisbane first moved the motion I believe he had the sympathy of the majority of honorable members, and there was nothing to prevent us from going to a vote. We on this side desired a vote to be taken. The’-e was no necessity for the adjournment of the debate, but the honorable member - I believe at the suggestion of his leader - agreed to a postponement of the motion, for some reason which was never made known - to honorable members or to the world outside. I have been puzzled ever since to know why we did not go to a vote on that occasion, seeing that there was no other private members’ business waiting to be gone on with, and we had still more than a full hour available for private members’ business, and the Government themselves were apparently not very anxious to proceed with any very urgent Government business. I believe that we had a change of business on the part of the Government on that very occasion, and the Government did not proceed at once with the business which they had previously declared to be most urgent. We could have, and should have, gone to a vote on that occasion, and if honorable members had voted in accordance with their professions, the motion would undoubtedly have been carried. Before the motion was called on to-day, in order to allow time for its consideration and for a vote to be taken on it, I asked one of the members on our own side who was- speaking on another matter to ask leave to continue his speech on a future occasion. My object was to allow this business to be finally dealt with to-day. The honorable member for Perth, who was speaking, finished his speech on the other matter at five minutes to 3 o’clock, and we could then have gone to a direct vote on that question if honorable members had so desired, or the adjournment of the debate could have been moved. However, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports rose to continue the debate, and was followed by others. This question was deliberately talked out to prevent a vote being taken on it.
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw the word “deliberately.”
– The honorable member must withdraw the whole statement.
– I shall do so, but we all know what happened, and, in fact, all the incidents connected with this matter. The position of affairs is most unsatisfactory, and I am very glad that we have been given another opportunity of dealing with the matter to-day under another heading. Otherwise it would have been unquestionably hung up until the close of the session, and, perhaps, never been reached at all. In any case, it would have been necessary to reinstate the motion upon the business-paper after what happened to-day, and if the honorable member for Brisbane had not done so, I should myself have given notice of motion when the House met to-morrow. When we hear so much about the Labour party and thp no- licence campaign now going on in New South Wales, and see the deliberate attempts made to induce the electors to believe that the question remains safe only in the hands of the Labour party, let me call the attention of the House to the fact that there is not an hotel in the country from which the calico streamers and election advertisements of Labour candidates are not flaunted at the present moment. We know perfectly well that the Labour party have the support of the brewing and liquor interests all over the country. I guarantee that there is scarcely a public house in New South Wales to-day which has not got Labour candidates’ signs flaunting from it. In the face of these facts, honorable members opposite pretend that to their party alone must we look for the safety of the temperance cause. All this is so much moonshine; it is certainly not sustained by the facts of the case, which can be verified by anybody in any tramcar or train. I intend to support this motion so that we may arrive at finality. I appeal to honorable members on both sides who profess temperance principles, and who have expressed sympathy with the motion, to come to a vote, so that the verdict of the House may be known once for all. To that end, I shall close my remarks, only desiring to test the sincerity of honorable members opposite.
– I am sure that honorable members opposite cannot be sincere. The amendment has been moved by a gentleman who has occupied a position in this House for a considerable time, and he must know what it means. The public outside, however, who are not acquainted with the forms of the House, will not be able to appreciate the position until they are told that we cannot possibly have a vote on the merits of the question, because if the amendment be carried it will mean a vote of censure on the Prime Min ister, and the taking of the business out of the hands of the Government. Even honorable members on this side who support the motion moved by the honorable member for Brisbane, cannol vote for the amendment, for to do so would be to displace the whole of the business of the House, and place the Opposition on the Treasury benches.
Motion (by Mr. Chanter) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– I submit that a motion for the adjournment of a debate of this kind is not in order. This is without the category of an ordinary motion ; this is a day set apart for the ventilation of grievances, and I submit that the arrangement cannot be set aside by a mere motion for the adjournment of the debate. To which day is the debate to be adjourned ? It cannot be to any day between now and the next grievance day. The rules which apply to ordinary motions do not apply to a motion of this kind.
– I am following the practice of the House on the occasion when the Prime Minister, as Leader of the Labour party, moved a motion dealing with old-age pensions in exactly the same way as the honorable member for Wentworth has moved on the present occasion. On that occasion the debate was adjourned.
– That does not prove the course to be right, and I ask for a ruling.
– I have not had an opportunity of looking up the authorities, but I can assure the honorable member that I have the practice of the House of Commons behind me in the course I have taken in accepting the motion.
– Does the honorable member for Swan wish the bar to be closed ?
– No, I do not.
– I am glad the honorable member for Swan does not descend to the trickery of a Cook and a Kelly.
– I take this opportunity to ask honorable members to observe the usual practice of Parliament, and not refer to other honorable members by name across the Chamber. This is clone by honorable members on both sides; and I ask that it be discontinued. I do not like to rise in the middle of an honorable member’s speech and call attention to the fact that names are used ; but I must ask honorable members now to cease the undesirable practice.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the resumption of the debate be made an Order of the Day for Tuesday next.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
Division 3, subdivision 6, item 1. New Quarantine Stations, including acquisition of land at Triffitt’s Point - Towards cost,£1,300.
Senate’s Message. - Amendment leaving out “ at Triffitt’s Point “ insisted on.
– The question now before us has no party complexion, but a rather important bearing on the privileges of this House. Apart altogether from the question actually at issue, the Government feel that it is very important that this Bill should be finally dealt with without delay. As honorable members are aware, an item in the schedule of this Bill relating to quarantine stations was amended in another place by omitting the words “ at Triffitt’s Point.” That amendment, I think, encroaches on the privileges of this House, and the Government are unable to accept it. It was rejected by the House yesterday, and a message to that effect was sent to the Senate, which has now transmitted to this Cham-, ber a message insisting upon its amendment. I do not wish to discuss the merits of the item, nor do the Government desire, at the present time, to contest the principle involved, beyond taking steps to preserve the rights of this House by amending the amendment so as to leave no doubt as to our privileges.
– But surely the Committee must know what the item is before it deals with the question of principle?
– The item has already been before the Committee on two occasions. As I explained yesterday, the amendment made in another place is one which this Committee itself could not have made, since it alters the destination of the vote, and is contrary to the GovernorGeneral’s message, under which we had a right to consider it. In these circumstances, we returned the amendment to the Senate, with a message intimating why we disagreed with it. While the question is not one of magnitude, the Government are of opinion that it would be well to omit the whole item. In that way we shall fully preserve the privileges of this House without raising any controversy. There is certainly room for controversy, because distinguished members of another place, while in a position to rule, have ruled in a cer tain way, and on this question have voted contrary to that ruling. I moves -
That the Committee insist on disagreeing lo the amendment insisted on by the Senate, but as a consequential amendment, omit the whole item amended, and make the necessary alterations in the totals in the Bill.
That will mean that the vote for Triffitt’s Point will disappear.
– The Government are knuckling down, then?
– The motion will leave the House free to take any further steps that are thought necessary in that direction at a later period. It will also be necessary to provide for the further amendment of the Bill to bring it into consonance with this amendment if it is accepted by the Committee.
.- I am unacquainted with anything that has happened in another place, or with any action of particular persons there, or any reasons . they may have offered for this proposal. If I were acquainted with them, I should not be in order in alluding to them. We are concerned with only one question. What is the amendment which we are asked to make in the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill? The amendment made by the Senate is to omit the particular locality in which the money is proposed to be spent, and that alters the destination of a vote which had been approved by this House. If it accepted that, it would, asa consequence, part with the power of deter - mining the purpose for which the money was directly ordered to be spent. Whether the place chosen was the best one or not, I have not sufficient knowledge of the locality to say. The situation has been strongly criticised by honorable members of this House, but any alteration in that regard, if made at all, must be made hereafter. We have had a message from the GovernorGeneral covering an appropriation which, whether the locality be well or ill-chosen, is specific. The vote by this House was a specific grant for that specific purpose. The effect of the Senate’s amendment is to leave the specific grant, altering the specific purpose so far as the locality is concerned, no locality being instanced. It is questionable if the message from the Governor-General, which authorized a special appropriation for a special place, could be treated as covering an appropriation which was for no special locality. If there were any doubt upon the matter - and at present I do not conceive it - the
Prime Minister has taken the right course in protecting the privileges of the House in the one set of questions which, above all others, fall within the special jurisdiction of the House. In this regard, very elaborate provisions have been made in the Constitution, in order to establish a new relation between the two Federal Houses. In a State, under an unitary government, the second Chamber would not possess anything like the authority which our Constitution has conferred upon the Senate. But that authority has been expressly and very definitely limited. Nothing can be done by them, and nothing ought to be done by us, to enlarge or alter it. We find in sections 53 and 56 of the Constitution the procedure in this regard laid down very clearly. For some reason, unknown to me, the Senate has in this case, erred in attempting to interfere with this vote. It might have been struck out altogether, but it has been left with a changed destination. Hence the course which the Prime Minister proposes, in order to safeguard the rights of the House, is the course which it is desirable that the House should follow.
.- - We have arrived at a very serious situation. The item, as the Prime Minister points out, is a very small one, but, inasmuch as any recognition of the right of the Senate to make an amendment in a Bill of this kind will be hereafter quoted ac a precedent, and as, to some extent, binding this House in similar situations, the House should seriously consider whether the course recommended by the Prime Minister is the right one to take. When our Constitution was framed, it was intended that the Senate, although it should not have the power to amend money Bills, should have the power to suggest to this House the advisability of making an amendment in such Bills in this House, which is the people’s House. The logic of the Prime Minister’s proposal should be tested by its ultimate effect. A Bill went up from this House containing an item which is not part of !< the ordinary services of the year,” but which involves part of the policy of the Government. The Senate has amended the Bill in such a way as to cut out _ the item. I quite recognise the right of the Senate to “ suggest “ to this House that, as the item is not favorably regarded by it, this House should remove such item in the exercise of its discretion. But if the Senate discovers that, by making an amendment of this sort, it succeeds in eliminating a vote which is made by this House with regard to the expenditure of the country, and if it is once established that all the Senate has to do to eliminate an item of this kind is to alter the direction of the vote, then it will really become a power in the other House to amend money Bills to any extent it likes.
– We have already disagreed with the amendment, and are ‘disagreeing with it now.
– I know. . 1 heard what the Prime Minister said, and recognise that he has made one attempt to induce the House to see the seriousness of the position. I am not suggesting an alternative now, because I have not had time to think out the situation, and advise an alternative, but I am asking this House to consider, as it ought to do, what is likely to be the permanent effect upon its powers. I am not speaking of the effect of the amendment upon the policy of the Government, because that is a small matter compared with the far-reaching constitutional effect. It is a question whether we are now to recognise the right in the other House to amend a money Bill. The Constitution provides that the Senate shall only have the power to make suggestions. I have always held that the power to make a suggestion is not the power of amendment, but merely the power of placing before this House the opinion of the other branch of the Legislature, so that this House may consider whether or not it is desirable to amend its own Bill. But if, in this case, to use an expression which occurred just now in an interjection, we are “ knuckling down” at the first attempt, because the Senate persists in its amendment, I want the House to recognise that we are laying down in the most definite terms a recognition of the right of the other House to amend a money Bill.
– I think they have the right in certain circumstances to amend this Bill,” but not in the way they have done. They can strike out or reduce an amount, but cannot alter the destination of it.
– The other House is seeking to alter the destination of this vote, and is, therefore, going outside the power which the Prime Minister lays down, and now admits to have been broken into. I am not prepared to say at present how the difficulty should be avoided. Tt would require a good deal of attention and thought.
– I think we know, and are ready for it.
– The Prime Minister has put it before the House in too perfunctory a manner ; and, in view of what he now says regarding the powers of the Senate under the Constitution, the House should have an opportunity of thinking the question over before any conclusion is come to.
.- There are two points to- be considered in this debate - the first, whether we are to acknowledge the right of the Senate to amend an Appropriation Bill, and, the second, whether we shall be doing right in accepting the amendment proposed by the Prime Minister. I am informed by the Prime Minister that this Bill is not in one sense an Appropriation Bill, but I contend that it covers the Work’s and Buildings Estimates, and certainly indicates where and how certain moneys are to be expended. Section 53 of the Constitution provides that-
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
– Clearly that is not this case.
– But this is an Appropriation Bill. If we permit the Senate to amend the Estimates, manifestly it alters the Appropriation Bill that we send up to it.
– These matters were separated for that very purpose.
– I do not know about that, but 1 am confident that if we permit the Senate to alter the Estimates in this direction, for all practical purposes it will have altered the Appropriation Bill, because the total of the Appropriation Bill must be less the amount which the Senate’s amendment cuts out of the Estimates.
– There is no question that the Senate can amend this Bill if it so desires. It cannot alter the destination of a vote, but it can reduce or cut out a vote.
– As I read the Constitution, the Senate has not hitherto had the power to amend even in this direction. In this case it amends the Estimates for the year, and controls them to that extent. For all practical purposes, although there may be some technical difference, the Senate will have amended an Appropriation Bill, and whatever this House may say to the contrary, the Senate will have ruled so far as the expenditure of a certain sum of money is concerned. This Bill is a Bill “ For an Act to grant and apply a sum out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the services of the year ending the 30th day of June, 1911, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c.” Manifestly it is an appropriation of this particular amount of money. Clause 1 tells us that the Bill may be cited as the “ Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Act 1910-11”; and how honorable members can urge that this is not an appropriation, I am at a loss to understand.
– It is not urged that it is not an appropriation, but that it is not a part of the ordinary annual services. No doubt it is an appropriation.
– That being so, it seems to me that the works and buildings are constructed out of the ordinary annual appropriation for the ordinary annual services of the Government. The practice of the Parliament is that the new works and buildings are an annual affair, paid for out of the annual revenue; and to that end we make an annual appropriation. We must not endeavour by mere technicalities to get over a difficulty that may so grow as to be positively dangerous. It seems to me that if the Constitution be reasonably construed, the Senate has not the power to amend in this way - that it has not the power, not merely to alter the destination, but, in a roundabout way, to curtail the expenditure and interfere with the annual appropriation for works and buildings.
– The effect might be to hold up the services altogether for want of facilities.
– That is what the effect might be.
– The Senate has altered the destination of the vote.
– The Senate keeps the vote, but alters the destination.
– Quite so; the vote is not affected.
– I understand that, so far as the actual amendment suggested by the Senate is concerned–
– It is not “ suggested “ ; ‘ it is made.
– The amendment of the Senate alters the destination of the vote; the Senate has assumed a power that even this House has not, according to our practice.
– We are conceding to the Senate a right that we cannot exercise ourselves.
– That is just what the Prime Minister’s amendment does not do.
– We. are conceding to the Senate, in effect, the right to alter the destination of the vote, and in the future, acting on this precedent, we shall cut out any vote which the Senate insists on altering.
– Supposing the Senate did this with every item in the schedule ?
– What is the alternative course the honorable member proposes?
– At the present time I am not in a position to suggest an alternative.
– Whatever that alternative might be, the honorable member would find himself just where he is now, and his own objection would apply.
– I do not think we have exhausted the possibilities of inducing the Senate not to assume the power it at present desires to exercise. I admit we could get over the difficulty for the moment by, so to speak, turning our coat inside out ; but that would not give us a new coat, though it might tend to deceive ourselves and the passers-by for the moment.
– The same difficulty might occur every time a suggestion was made.
– If we turned our coats, then every time a person came by and looked at us with a suspicious eye we should have to turn it again. As the honorable member for Parkes says, the Senate might act in precisely the same way every time a suggestion was made, and, on the present precedent, might grow larger in their demands until, as a matter of practice, the Works and Buildings Appropriation would be entirely in their hands, and we should be a mere recording machine. Under the circumstances, I submit that, whatever may be the anxiety of the Prime Minister to get over the difficulty, we ought to think of the future, and of the rights and privileges of this House - to consider whether we shall concede to the Senate the right, not merely to alter the destination of a vote, but to reduce Estimates when honorable senators are not satisfied that the money is to be spent in a way they desire. The Senate, by merely altering the destination of a vote, may cut down expenditure of which this House unanimously approves,, and that without the other House incurring any responsibility. The Senate, in effect, says that it is prepared to approve of the expenditure of this amount, but that it objects to the quarantine station being on the south-east corner, when, in their opinion, it ought to be on the north-east corner. Honorable senators may have had some other place on the Derwent River in their minds ; but, in any case, this House must take the responsibility for the nonexpenditure of the money, and of there being no quarantine stations in that part of the Commonwealth, and that, I submit, isa responsibility that we ought not to take. In my opinion, there is no violent hurry for this vote, seeing that the other works and buildings are not being delayed.
– Oh, yes.
– The honorable member will find that other works and buildings are being delayed.
– Nominally, yes; but in practice, no. I think we will find that those works are not delayed. There is the other point, whether this House has power to do as the Prime Minister suggests. In my opinion, it is not in accordance with the practice, and we shall exceed our powers if we undo our own work under cover of an amendment made by the Senate. As to the amount of money voted, there is no dispute; and if we, at the instance of the Prime Minister, cut out the vote altogether, we shall not merely be reviewing our own work, but reviewing and altering work to which the Senate has agreed. That, I submit, we have not power to do. In May,11th edition, page 506, there is the following: -
In some cases the Lords have left out clauses or words, to which amendments the Commons have disagreed ; but on restoring such clauses or words have, at the same time, proposed to amend them.
If we follow that practice, it will mean that the Senate will first have to restore the words, and then suggest an amendment acceptable to the two Houses. That would be a way out of the difficulty which the Senate might be urged to accept-
A Lords’ amendment has been divided, and a separate question put upon each part of it.
We could do that -
Sometimes one House does not insist upon its amendments, but makes other amendments. When an amendment made by the Lords has been agreed to, by mistake, with an amendment, the proceedings have been ordered to be null and void, and the amendment disagreed to.
An amendment made by one House to an amendment made by the other should be relevant to the same subject-matter.
T submit that, under the circumstances, a proposal to drop the vote is not relevant to the subject-matter brought down from the Senate, namely, the mere destination of the vote. We can make an amendment relevant only to the destination of the vote, =and not to the actual vote, which has been twice approved by this House, and twice :approved by the Senate.
– We cannot make an -amendment as to the destination.
– We should submit to the Senate the error into which it has fallen, and invite it to undo that error, and not attempt to get over the difficulty by a fresh error fraught with such dangerous consequences. I am not so much troubled about ;the particular item as about the precedent which may be established.
– Are not the privileges of this House sufficiently safeguarded by the words of .the Prime Minister’s amendment ?
– Absolutely no. The ^privilege of this House is to deal wholly and solely with appropriation and I submit that our privileges are, to some extent, being interfered with.
– We do not agree with ;their amendment.
– But we go further, and say, “ As you insist, we will do more than you really want, and we will take the responsibility.”
– The Senate desires the (quarantine station to be somewhere else ; and we say, “ You shall have it where we say, or not at all.”
– Then the responsibility for there being no quarantine station is ours, and not that of the Senate.
– Oh, no.
– To my mind, there is no question as to that. When the necessity for a quarantine station does arise, the House of Representatives will have a worldwide responsibility for the fact that there lis not one, , and surely it would be better to have the station anywhere than not at all ? Let me read a little further, because May emphasizes the point which I am putting before honorable members. According to that authority -
If an amendment be proposed to a Lords’ amendment, not consequent on, or relevant to, such amendment, the question will not be put from the Chair.
The Chairman must be confident, beyond the possibility of doubt, that the amendment now proposed is relevant to that of the Senate, otherwise he cannot, according to the practice of the House of Commons, which rules our procedure in cases in which our own Standing Orders are silent, put it from the Chair. To continue the quotation -
A departure from this rule was permitted, under peculiar circumstances, in the case of the Bolton Police Bill 1S39; but the Lords agreed to it with a special entry in the journal, that it was not to be drawn into a precedent ; and a protest was signed by five very influential peers against agreeing to the amendment. lt is also a rule that neither House may, at this time, leave out or otherwise amend “ anything which they have already passed themselves -
We are proposing to leave out something which we have already passed ourselves, and which has been passed by both Houses.
– What is that?
– We have passed the item.
– To leave it unattached would be a dangerous precedent, fraught with possibilities of wrong-doing in the future.
– It is an item at large.
– The honorable member dees not wish me to argue that point. To proceed with the quotation from May - unless such amendment be immediately consequent upon the acceptance or the rejection of an amendment of the other House. In 1678, it was stated by the Commons at a Conference, “ That it is contrary to the constant method and proceedings in Parliament, to strike out anything in a Bill which hath been fully agreed and passed by both Houses “ : and in allowing consequential amendments, either in the body of the Bill, or in the amendments, the spirit of this rule is still maintained. So binding, indeed, has it been held, that in 1850, a serious oversight, as to the commencement of the Act, having been discovered in the Pirates’ Head Money Bill, before the Lords’ amendments had been agreed to, no attempt was made to correct it by way of amendment, but a separate Act was passed for the purpose.
If we do what is proposed, we shall establish a precedent enabling the Senate, not merely to amend an Appropriation Bill dealing with Works and Buildings, but to alter the destination of a vote, and shall be doing a wrong thing by amending an item to which both Houses have agreed.
.- The Senate has no power to alter the destination of a vote, and, by omitting the item, we cannot create a precedent which may be used against us, because we have the protection of the Constitution, in which the powers of the two Houses are defined. In Quick and Garran’s Commentary on the Constitution, a distinction is drawn between ordinary Appropriation Bills, which are described as Bills to provide for - the general work of the Government Departments, such as Customs and Excise, Posts and Telegraphs, Lighthouses, Lightships, and Quarantine, Naval and Military Defence, the money to pay for which is voted by Parliament from year 10 year - and ordinary expenditure, not provided for in the annual supplies, which - do not come within the meaning of ordinary annual services, are appropriations of revenue or loan money for the construction of public works and buildings.
The Appropriation Works and Buildings Bill falls under the latter description, and, by inference, may be amended by the Senate, which has wider powers in this respect than the House of Lords. Rightly or wrongly, a compromise was effected in the Convention, which does not altogether take away from the other House the right to amend these Bills. I was one of three or four who voted against the Senate being given equal rights in these matters with this House, and I think that we should have done well in restricting its powers still further. But it was thought that it should be permitted to express its opinion by making amendments regarding matters of general policy involved in proposals such as the construction of the Federal Capital. I am not certain that we have the power to leave out the item, because I have not looked into the matter carefully, but I think that we have, and if we say that we have not that power, we shall limit, not the power of the Senate, but our own power, by depriving ourselves of a means of getting over a difficulty without a pedantic reliance on the Constitution. Unless we take this step, we may have a big fight with the Senate, creating a deadlock, and bringing into operation section 57 of the Constitution, which provides for a dissolution and a joint sitting. From the point of view of expediency, the Government is acting rightly in proposing to omit the item. Were we to have a dispute with the other House there would be delay in the carrying out of a number of public works, because the only arbiter between us and the Senate, should each House insist on its rights, is the people. Outside money Bills there is a verv wide area within which at any time a deadlock may occur, and we ought not to precipitate crises.
– But in leaving out the item we give way.
– We lose nothing by doing so. Should the Senate assume that its powers have been increased by our giving way, it must eventually stand aside, because, apart from the express limitations of its powers it cannot block the will of the popular House, this Chamber representing the people who pay the taxation in proportion to numbers. Having wished when a member of the Convention to limit the powers of the Senate, I should be one of the last to give way to its dictation, but in this case I think we should do well to follow the course proposed by the Government. If we wished to make difficulty we might assume that the object of the- Senate is to knock out the whole vote, because it is a principle of law that if you do not understand what a Legislature is doing,, you must assume that’ it is acting within its powers. Were a State Parliament to pass an Act which might be read as within or without its constitutional powers, it must be assuir.ed, according to the decision in D’Eviden v. Pedder, that it acted within its power. We have a right to assume that the Senate would not desire to infringe the Constitution, and therefore did not attempt to alter the destination of the vote. If it had wanted to “do that there are words in the English language that would enable it to do it. It cannot alter the destination without telling us what the destination’ is to be. The Senate has stopped us altogether by omitting the only part of the item that gave any significance to it. We may, therefore, assume that it has acted within its powers by negativing the item, and by this amendment we shall merely show it the correct way of doing that which it desired to do.
– Only two points need to be emphasized. The honorable member for Adelaide, regarding this as a grave constitutional crisis, has cited some cases as to the relationship between the Lords and the Commons, and has sought to draw an analogy between them and the two Houses of this Parliament, declaring that what governs the Lords and the Commons should govern us. I submit that there is no analogy. We have to remember first of all that the Senate has in regard to this Bill the same powers as we have-
– Except, of course, with regard to the power of origination.
– That is so. The second point is that it has exercised those powers at least twice in the history of this Parliament. In these circumstances all that we are doing by the amendment now before the Committee is to assert that that which we may not do it may not do. There is no question at all as to what the Lords and the Commons would do in a grave constitutional crisis j but here nothing has happened save that the Senate has done that which it cannot do and which we cannot do. V”e could have a joint sitting about which so much has been said, but regarding which no one could predicate with safety. When a House like this, numerically superior, and whose claims are founded on eternal justice, met the representatives of an effete and debilitated aristocracy, the latter would have to come down. But this question as to Triffitt’s Point is not sufficient to warrant a grave constitutional crisis. Nothing has been, or is being done that could in any circumstances be construed as a precedent whereby this House yields any powers given to it under the Constitution. The Senate” has left out the words “Triffitt’s Point,” and had it pleased it could have omitted the whole item. It can do anything that we can do, but we object to its doing that which we cannot do, and are, therefore, setting out our pretest accordingly.
– There is a well founded anxiety on the part of this Chamber to pay respect to the rights of both Houses of the Parliament. Our rights are firmly and definitely fixed by the charter of the Constitution. Some honorable members opposite have argued as though the Senate had no power to amend this Bill. Their contention is founded upon a misconception. There are two classes of Bills which the Senate may not amend : Bills imposing taxation and those making appropriations for the ordinary annual services. The Senate may request an amendment of such Bills, but it may not amend them. The Bill now before us, however, is not one making an appropriation in respect of the ordinary annual services; it deals with general works and buildings and expenditure thereon, and, therefore, involves a question of policy. For obvious reasons it was determined, as a term of the
Constitution, that the Senate should have a right to discuss and determine questions of policy and, save in regard to theorigination of money Bills, the powers of the two Chambers, with the exceptions I have mentioned, are equal. If we realize that that is the true position as laid down by section 53 qf the Constitution we shall have very little difficulty in coming to a determination. As the Attorney-General has already said, it would have been competent for the Senate, had it so desired, to strike out the whole item. Had it done so, the amendment would have come before us in the ordinary way. and we should have dealt with it just as we deal with amendments made in other Bills by another place. But the Senate has done something which, according to the Prime Minister, would be inconsistent with the message whereon this Bill was founded. If that is so, then there is more than one way of dealing with it. I am not going to take exception to what the Prime Minister has done, because I am sure that he has given the matter full consideration. He has certainly taken care to conserve most completely the rights of this Chamber. He suggests by way of a settlement that we amend the amendment by leaving out the item. I have had to deal with questions of this kind in the Senate as well as in the Parliament of Victoria, and in like circumstances, the practice that we have adopted is that of withdrawing the Bill, and introducing another. That course has frequently been followed with the object of avoiding difficulties in State Parliaments. The Prime Minister could have adopted the one course or the other, but he has at least taken the full precaution of justifying the position of this House, and of maintaining its -rights. I am sure that no honorable member desires to precipitate a crisis as between the two Houses. We do not wish to deal with shadowy matters, and I think we need have no doubt as to the advisableness of adopting the Prime Minister’s proposals. I have pleasure in supporting his motion.
.- I desire to support the action of the Prime Minister. There is no analogy between the Senate and the House of Lords.
– I did not suggest that there was. All that I said was that the procedure of this House is guided by that of the House of Commons in matters respecting which - our Standing Orders are silent.
– The House of Lords consists of a number of very able men, and also of a number of born noodles. There are no born noodles in the Senate. Its members have won their position on adult suffrage, just as we have, and the Senate is certainly more representative of the people of Australia than is the House of Representatives. As long as the Senate exercises its rights, and while the majority of this House exercise their common sense, no trouble will ever arise between the two Chambers. The Senate in this case has exercised its right to revise the work done by this Chamber. It objected to the item “ new quarantine stations, including acquisition of land at Triffitt’s Point, towards cost, £316,” and informed this House accordingly. We are not in a position to point out to it the correct manner in which it should indicate its objection. It has a perfect right to choose its own words, but we may approve, or disapprove, of its amendment. As a matter of, fact, the majority of honorable members are agreed that this item should not appear on the Works and Buildings Estimates, and the Minister in charge of the measure told the Committee on a former occasion that even if it were passed by both Houses, those who objected to the expenditure might rely upon the Government not spending the money. What a mistake it would be for this House to set itself up in opposition to; the Senate on a question of this kind. The honorable member for Adelaide says that it is wrong to suggest that any one desires that we should have a big row with the Senate; but if we are ever to have a controversy with it, we must always be prepared for a big fight, remembering the words of Shakespeare -
Of entrance to a quarrel ; but, being in,
Bear ‘t that the opposed may beware of thee.
If we have a fight with the Senate, let it be on a question on which we can go to the public; but if we had a controversy with it on this question, and went to the public upon it, we should simply emphasize the need of a second Chamber.
– So that as long as the Senate confines itself to small matters of this kind, it may go ahead ?
– The Senate has a right to amend a measure of this kind, and believing that the course proposed by the Prime Minister will preserve the rights of the popular Chamber, I shall support it.
.- regard this question as important. Whether we excise Triffitt’s Point from, or leave it in, the Works Estimates, is a matter of comparative unimportance, but if on countless occasions we allow the Senate to amend our money Bills, instead of “ requesting “ their amendment by us, we set up precedent after precedent until finally an established practice is created. The Senate used to work the oracle in the past by amending our Bills towards the conclusion of the session when we were all anxious to get home. Then the same argument that has been put forward with such earnestness by two honorable members who for many years were in the Senate was used against this House, and this House surrendered its privileges.
Section 53 of the Constitution is pretty clear on the point, but its clarity is not on the side of the position assumed by the Senate, and tacitly indorsed in the past by this House . because the occasions were unimportant, and because the members of this House wanted to get home to their families. Section 53 provides that the Senate may not amend any proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government. What is the meaning of the words “ ordinary annual services of the Government “ ?
– They do not mean works and buildings.
– They mean the carrying on of the Departments of the Commonwealth, and the works and buildings are an inherent part of those services. The honorable member is a senator first, last, and always. He has only just come into this Chamber, and has not yet lost the aroma of the Senate. It is the same with the honorable member for Capricornia. If we allow the Senate to amend the votes for new works and buildings in any Department we must allow it to amend the votes for the salaries of officers who are appointed for the first time. It would be just as logical for the Senate to interpret that section in the Constitution as giving them the right to make a direct amendment as to any new salary appearing on the Estimates, on the ground that, in its narrow sense, the payment was not part of the “ ordinary annual services of the Government.” The salary of a newlyappointed officer could be claimed by the Senate to be a new service, just as much as the Works and Buildings Estimates, which are part and parcel of the agencies of the Departments.
– Would the honorable member saythat a civil servant’s salary was on the same footing as expenditure on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway?
– I should say that a new civil servant’s salary could be argued not to come under the term ‘ ‘ ordinary annual services of the Government.” That phrase would then be held not to cover a new service, whether it is the payment of salaries or the establishment of works.
The establishment of a quarantine station in Tasmania is one of the ordinary agencies of the Commonwealth, and the Constitution says that a Bill for the ordidary annual services of the Commonwealth shall not be amended by the Senate.
We are undoubtedly allowing the Senate to invade our privileges. I cannot expect ex-senators, or members from Tasmania, to take a clear view of this question, but it is of importance from the stand-point of Democratic principle. The other place has a number of things against it; apart altogether from the longevity of its members and their capacity for sleep, it is not elected upon an equal suffrage with this House. This House is the popular Chamber, because it represents the people on a population basis. We should, therefore, be careful not to allow the control of the public purse to be shared by a Chamber which is elected by the States, but not on a population basis. Otherwise the citizens of the larger States will give their control, over the finances absolutely into the hands of the Senate, which is the representative first, last, and always, in theory, of the smaller States of the Union, and can become so, in fact, whenever its members care to take a very keen State view of their duties.
I strongly urge the Prime Minister to ask the House, in the circumstances, to stand by its original position. The time to have struck out the item altogether, if that was intended, was when the matter was first referred back to this Chamber. Since then we have taken up a position in defence of our constitutional rights, and ought not to back down now and allow the Senate to ride roughshod over us. If the ‘ Prime Minister adhered to his original position and sent the Bill back to the Senate in the form in which it left us, I have no doubt that the Senate would agree. The subject of Triffitt’s Point is not of vast importance.
– If we do, the honorable member will lose the whole lot, including the vote for the Federal Capital.
– The honorable member is trying log-rolling by interjection. I am not discussing the constitutional question from the point of view of what any State is going to lose or gain, but I am confident that the venerable gentlemen in another place will be the last to make a quarantine station at Triffitt’s Point the subject of a constitutional trial of strength between the two Chambers.
By constantly giving way to the other place this House is allowing further and further inroads into its powers over public expenditure - powers’ which under section 53 of the Constitution are intended to be pretty comprehensive. When this matter goes out of the Committee into the House again, will the Prime Minister ask the Speaker to give his interpretation of section 53, and especially of the words “ for the ordinary annual services of the Government “ ?
– It has been defined and decided a number of times. It. means the annual appropriation.
– This is the annual Appropriation covering the Works Estimates. I think the Prime Minister will find that Mr. Speaker holds a different view on this subject from the late Speaker. If the custodian of the liberties of this Chamber holds such a view, it is well worth the Prime Minister’s while to look into the matter, so that we may know exactly where we stand. If the honorable member does not care to put the question to Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to do so.
– I feel that we ought not to anticipate the Speaker’s ruling in a matter of that kind.
– I cannot, of course, say what Mr. Speaker’s view is, but the right person to put such a question to Mr. Speaker is the Leader of the House.
– I think this House has the constitutional power to omit the item.
– Yes; but we are omitting it in pursuance of an amendment of the Senate, and I maintain that the Senate has no power to amend our Works Estimates.
– The action of the Government in omitting the item will not settle the point at all.
– It only postpones the trouble. It gives the Senate an opportunity of dragging the question up on future occasions, which may be very inconvenient for honorable members and the House generally.
– Mr. Speaker has already preserved the powers and privileges of this House by his decision on the original amendment.
– But it can be argued conversely that this House gives up its privileges when it recedes from the position which it took up at the instance of Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister’s motion makes the position much worse from the point of view of this House. If the Speaker had given no ruling, it might be said “ This is only another instance of this sort of inroad on the part of the Senate, and we will put off the fight for another day.” But the Speaker took up the position that the Senate had not the power to amend the item in this way. We now recede from that position, and say to the Senate, in effect, “ We will let you have, not only your amendment, but something more.”
– We do not.
– We knock out the item. The Senate does not want the money to be spent at Triffitt’s Point, and so we knock out the whole item, which is giving the Senate more than it asked for. We say, in effect, “ We are so absolutely at your feet that we knock out the whole item.”
– The Senate has the power to agree to knock the item out, in cooperation with us. .
– We ought to have the nuestion threshed out in a proper way. I firmly believe that the Senate has no constitutional power to amend our Works Estimates, which are inherently part of the “ ordinary annual services “ of the Government of the Commonwealth.
.- The position taken up by some honorable members is, “We are in a difficulty let us get over it at any price. ‘ ‘ The whole strength of their argument is “ Peace at any price.” They appear to have greased a portion of the footpath for the purpose of making a slide, and I fear that some one may break ‘his legs and arms on it. Supposing the Senate, in the exercise of its power, declines to accept our amendment upon their amendment, and refuses to knock out the item altogether, will the Prime Minister consider what position we shall be in ? What shall we do, and what will the learned gentlemen on the other side say? What elaborate arguments will they put forward in that eventuality to get over thedifficulty, which will exist then, as it exists now ? I fear that the slide which is being made to get over the difficulty may result in breaking the power of the House even more effectually than would the amendment which we are attempting to slide over.
– Some of the arguments we have heard have been based on views that were held in the old State days in disputes between Legislative Assemblies and Legislative Councils. As several honorable members have pointed out, the Senate, elected on precisely the same franchise as this House, is really more representative of the States than can be members who represent small electorates only. The objection raised to that argument is that, because some States have more population than others, the Senate franchise gives a greater voting power per head to the smaller ‘States. The Senate is elected on exactly the same franchise as the House of Representatives, and has the extra weight of representing the whole of the States as States. I cannot help saying that the Government have themselves to blame for a great deal of the trouble that has arisen. In these Estimates provision is made for quarantine stations in every one of the States, but only in the case of this particular vote was the position of the station fixed. In regard to the site of the Tasmanian quarantine station there has been a good deal of friction.
– The honorable member must not discuss the merits of the site.
– I only desire to show that in the only one case where there was any objection raised to the site was the money allocated, simply because an official of the Department wished to tie the Government down to that site. If neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate has the power to make any alteration in the allocation of this money, then the promises that were made in regard to the site are worth nothing, because the Government could not have made any alteration in regard to the site after the money had been voted. At the late sitting of this House, when these Estimates were under consideration, it was my intention, about 7 o’clock in the morning, to move the omission of this item, but it was pointed out to me that, if it were allowed to pass, it would not commit the Government to this particular site; and it would be a peculiar position if the Administration had the power to alter the site, when neither Chamber could do so after the confirmation of the Governor-General’s Message. We are told that the Senate has gone beyond its constitutional power ; and, in order to get out of the difficulty, the Government propose that, although this quarantine station is urgently required, it shall not be provided. The attitude of the Government is very much like that of the little girl who, because she had not been invited to a party, said she would have a party of her own and invite no one to it. In my opinion, the case presented by the honorable member for Adelaide is an exceedingly strong one. If the Senate refuse to consent to this item being struck out, what position will we then be in? It is a question whether, both Chambers having voted the sum of money, it is within the power of this House to strike out the item ; and it is quite possible that the Senate may refuse to accept the deletion. We should then have to fight the Senate on a constitutional point or lose the whole Bill. It is the old story of half-measures proving futile ; and I hope this will be a lesson to all future Governments not to allow any conflict between the Chambers to arise simply because one official insists on overriding every one else.
– I quite agree with those honorable members who hold that there is no distinction between the items in the Works and Buildings Estimates and those which appear on the ordinary annual Estimates. I can find no distinction in fact, and, if there be one, it is created by law, pure and simple. We are told that votes for new buildings or anything of that kind may be disposed of by the Senate at its own sweet will ; but will anybody tell me the difference, so far. as old and new services are concerned, between provision for another piece of land in connexion with a quarantine station at Hobart, and, say, the purchase of motor vehicles in place of horses for the use of the Post and Telegraph Department? Both are new items for carrying on the ordinary annual services of the Commonwealth ; and I have yet to learn that because a work is new it represents a new service entirely. It may be a replenishment or substitution - the putting aside of one tool of trade for another tool of trade - but according to the definition of the lawyers, we must regard it as a new service. My mind is not equal to distinctions of the kind. Many of these artificial creations of law can have no interest for ordinary laymen, and, at any rate, they are in conflict with facts at every turn. It seems to me that the Government could not have devised a better way of inviting trouble if they had tried. The honorable member for Franklin has told us that, in the case of other similar items, there is no direction at all as to the site on which the building should be placed, and just why that is so I cannot say. I do not believe that the Government had anything to do with the matter, or knew anything about it, but, rather, that the Estimates came from the Department in the ordinary way, and were passed without question. Quarantine is an old-established service that came over to the Commonwealth at the time of Fede-ration, and the proposed vote is for maintenance, if for anything, and cannot be construed as being for a new service.
– Is the vote for a new building ?
– It is for the acquisition of a piece of land, and, in any case, I do not see how even a new building is necessarily a new service. Supposing a post-office falls down or becomes worn out, and it is necessary to erect a new one, can that be regarded as a new service?
– It does not make any difference whether it is old or new.
– The whole question turns on whether this is one of the ordinary services of the year; and, if that be so, the Senate has no right to interfere with it in any way.
– I think the honorable member has in his mind the appropriation for the annual services.
– If the item does come within that category, as I submit it does, the Senate has no right to do more than to politely suggest an amendment.
– It makes no difference in principle whether the .works be repairs or new buildings.
– It makes all the difference as to whether the works are ordinary annual services or not.
– The “annual services” means the annual appropriation for the services of the Commonwealth.
– That is another question altogether. If this vote is for the ordinary annual services, then* under the Constitution, the Senate may not amend it. Why some things may be regarded as part of the ordinary annual services of the year, and others not, I am at a loss to understand. . If we proposed to establish an agricultural bureau, borrowipg scientific paraphernalia and premises from a State, and providing for labour only, the Senate could treat the proposal as i thas treated the item under discussion. It seems to me that it should not do in a negative way what the Constitution declares that it shall not do in a positive way. Most of the votes in the Bill are for the carrying on of services transferred by the States to the Commonwealth. There has been no attempt to argue this question on its merits. We are simply following the procedure adopted on a previous occasion, and in my judgment by doing so are recognising the right of the Senate to deal as it pleases with the financial proposals of the Commonwealth. 1 have always understood that when a money Bill is amended by a Senate, or an upper House, the practice of the lower . House is to lay it aside, and if the desire is to avoid trouble, to bring down a new Bill, in which the proposal objected to is not provided for. The motion does not mean what it says. We are not consequentially amending the Senate’s amendment, but are taking away the item on which the Senate laid its hands. We are saying that we shall not permit that House to do what it wishes to do, in words which do not express our intention. We are not amending the Senate’s amendment, but are merely avoiding a conflict with that body, ‘which it asserts its right to provoke, and, I think, inviting it to do the same thing again on some future occasion. If the Senate can make an amendment such as it has made, it may amend a vote for an ordinary annual expenditure, especially where repairs are concerned.
– Expenditure for repairs would not be provided for in a Bill authorizing the construction of new works.
– The substitution of part of one building for another in connexion with the Postmaster-General’s Department might be called a repair.
– The honorable member is expressing views which differ from those of the legal members on this side.
– I am afraid I am beginning to distrust the lawyers on this side, who seem to be set on keeping the Government going. Why do not Ministers take advantage of the legal talent among their supporters” to keep therm straight, instead of constantly appealing: to our lawyers for help? It mustbe remembered that the Senate, no more than this House, would lose dignity by backing down ; and why should we back down, when it has done what is wrong? That is admitted by the Government, and by the lawyers on this side.
– The Works and’ Buildings proposals have been separated’ from the ordinary Appropriation Bill, for the purpose of enabling the Senate to exercise its constitutional powers.
– Yes; and P have frequently objected to that. In myjudgment, it is wrong. If the consensus of opinion is that the Senate has donewhat it should not do, why should we avoid’ the issue? Were there any doubt, the Government would be right in doing as they propose ; but, as the Senate is clearly in thewrong, we should stand our ground, eventhough the matter be trivial.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– I do not like the wording of theresolution. I do not see how we can betaken to have consequentially amended theSenate’s amendment.
– I think that the resolution is in proper form, and there is a Message to follow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 20th September, vide page 3433) :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention, appears - “ Absentee “ means a person who resides out of Australia ; and includes -
a person who is absent from Australia at the date when the ownership of his land for the purposes of this Act. is determined, or who has been absent from Australia during more than. half of the period of twelve monthsimmediately preceding that date, unless he satisfies the Commissioner that he resides in Australia ; and
a company formed outside Australia ; and
a company of which more than two-fifths of the shares are held by absentees…..
– I should like to make a suggestion to the Government as to an amendment of the definition of “ absentee.” I shall deal now with only one particular definition, because the Attorney-General has intimated that he intends to alter the clause in several respects and really to adopt the principle of the amendment of which I gave notice by making absenteeism, in the case of a company, depend upon the extent to which its shareholders are absent, and not upon the fact that two-fifths of its shares are held by persons residing outside Australia. I do not wish to delay the passing of the Bill, but I suggest that the definition might be amended by declaring that a person who is absent from Australia “ for at least six months immediately prior to the date” when the ownership of land for the purposes of the Bill is determined, and not a person who is absent on that date, shall be deemed to be an absentee. I do not think we need go so far as to declare that a man who happens to be absent on the date of assessment is prima facie an absentee. The idea of absenteeism is that a man is absent for such a period that he receives income from the lands of the Commonwealth without making some contribution, by his presence, to the industrial enterprise of the community.
– But that provision is qualified.
– It includes a man who happens to be absent for more than six months of the preceding twelve months. In other words, an aggregation of absences amounting to six months during the previous year will be regarded as sufficient to make the person an absentee.
– Unless he satisfies the Commissioner that he is not an -absentee.
– A man who happens to be absent on the date of assessment must satisfy the Commissioner that his assessment as an absentee is wrong. Will not the Attorney-General accept the principle of the South Australian Act, in which it was originally provided that two years’ absence from the State was necessary to constitute absenteeism. In 1904’ that term was reduced to twelve months. I suggest that in this case the term be, not twelve months, but six. The matter is not of much substance, so that I shall not move an amendment, but I suggest to the AttorneyGeneral that such an alteration might well be made. It would save shareholders and companies a great deal of trouble, and, as a matter of fact, members of this House who go to the Coronation will be deemed absentees under the provision as it stands.
– I would emphasize the point that a persons who happens to be absent on the day of assessment has to satisfy the Commissioner that he is not an absentee. If the onus is. thrown upon the individual, he may have to gather evidence in the district in which he resides, and to send it to the Commissioner at the Seat of Government, perhaps hundreds of miles away from his home. Is there anything in this Bill which would enable a Deputy-Commissioner to deal with such a matter? A man at Townsville, or Perth, might have to satisfy the Commissioner that he was actually resident there, and the clause, as it stands, simply means a process of centralization.
– Clause 8 covers the point to which the honorable member refers.
– Is this a matter which the Commissioner could delegate to a deputy ?
– The Commissioner might refuse to delegate it. I simply ask for an amendment on the lines suggested by thehonorable member for Angas, and providing that the onus of proof shall not rest upon the individual concerned.
– The honorable member for Angas and the honorable member for Darling Downs appear to overlook the fact that while “absentee” means primarily a person who resides out of Australia, it also includes a person who has been out of Australia for a given time, unless he satisfies the Commissioner that he is resident in the Commonwealth. The answer to the point raised by the honorable member for Angas is that a man is not an absentee because he has been out of the country for six or nine months, but because he does not reside in Australia. He is prima facie an absentee if he has been out of the Commonwealth for a given period ; but he can satisfy the Commissioner that he still resides here. Whether we make the period six, nine, or twelve months, the difficulty to which the honorable member has referred will remain. In any event, the Commissioner will still have to be satisfied. If we declared that a person should be deemed to be an absentee who had been absent for six months immediately preceding the date when the ownership of his land was determined, and a man were away for seven months, he would still have to satisfy the Commissioner that he was a resident of the Commonwealth.
– The only point is whether we should deem persons absentees who are absent at the date of the assessment, or who are absent for six months immediately preceding that date.
– The question is whether, in regard to this matter, we should really fix a particular date. We have fixed upon the date upon which the assessment shall be made, and there is no reason to suppose that more people will come under the definition on that date than would come under it at any other time.
.- The suggestion made by the honorable member for Angas, regarding six months’ absence, is a reasonable one. It seems arbitrary to say that, because a man happens to be out of Australia on the _date the ownership is determined he shall be deemed to be an absentee.
– If any other date were fixed the position would be the same.
– If we fixed upon the six months’ term suggested by the honorable member for Angas, the position would be improved. A man might be passing between here and New Zealand, or he might be away on a pleasure trip to the South Sea Islands, but, because he returned a ., . after the assessment was made,” he would be deemed an absentee, and would have to satisfy the Commissioner that he really was resident in Australia.
– I am very much afraid that we shall suffer a great deal of inconvenience owing to the Attorney-General’s unfortunate infirmity. I observed that the honorable member for Darling Downs had to raise his voice to a high pitch to make himself heard across the table. What will happen to honorable members in the benches far removed from the Attorney-General, unless he is to have beside him some one who will convey to him the criticism from both sides ? Coming to the clause itself, I should like to ask the Attorney-General whether the date, which is the pivot upon which it turns, is to remain a sort of algebraic x for some time to come. People who wish to leave Australia will be at their wits’ end to know when they may be absent without being deemed absentees.
– Clause 11 fixes the date of ownership for the purpose of the tax.
– Then I wish to know whether there is to be a choice on the part of the absentee himself between the two sets of conditions that are joined by the word “or” in paragraph a, or whether it is to be in the power of the Commissioner to determine under which of the two conditions the absentee shall come. I can generally construe Acts of Parliament, that having been my business for twentyfive years, but the phraseology of this clause is exceedingly obscure to me, and will be more puzzling to the average nonlegal citizen.
. -The Attorney-General might achieve all that he desires by substituting “ and “ for “or” in paragraph a. and putting “or” in before the word “unless.” The mere fact that, by an accidental circumstance, a man happens to be away from home on a particular date should not throw upon him the onus and responsibility of going before the Commissioner and satisfying him that he still resides in Australia. It should be prima facie evidence of his absence if he is absent on that day and has been absent for six months prior thereto. My suggestion would make the clause read - a person who is absent from Australia at the date when the ownership of his land or the purposes of this Act is determined, and who has been absent from Australia during more than half the period of twelve months immediately preceding that date, or unless he satisfies the Commissioner that he resides in Australia.
As the clause stands at present, it casts an unnecessary duty and responsibility on the taxpayer. I am sure the Attorney-General is desirous of doing what is reasonable, and my suggestion will make the definition fairer.
.- I urge the Attorney-General to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Kooyong. The mere fact that a man may be absent for one day is hardly sufficient prima facie evidence of habitual residence, or intention to reside, away from the country. The alternative form of the clause is very strange and unreasonable. In the early part of it, if a man is absent merely for a day, it is prima facie evidence that he . resides out of Australia. Then the clause says, “ or who has been absent from Australia during more than half of the period of twelve months.” The points of contrast seem unreasonable, and the suggestion of the honorable member for Kooyong will reconcile the two alternatives. If the man is absent on the day fixed, and for six months previously, there will be some data upon which a reasonable man could decide that the onus ought to be cast upon him of showing that he is not usually resident out of the Commonwealth. Another respect in which the clause is vague and will lead to trouble, and probably to litigation, is in the use of the word “ resides.” There has already been a High Court case on what constitutes residence, and the difference between residence and domicile. We do not want to have any difficulty of that kind raised in connexion with the interpretation of this Act. The matter will be simplified if the Attorney-General will put in the word “ usually “ before the word “ resides.” A man may have two places of residence, and I have heard of people of means who travel northward and southward with the sun.
.- The clause provides that “‘Absentee’ means’ a person who resides out of Australia.” In the Acts Interpretation Act, “ Australia “ includes the whole Commonwealth of Australia. Has the AttorneyGeneral considered whether, in this clause, Australia will include Papua, because we are encouraging many of our people to take up land in Papua, which is our own Territory, and we ought not to penalize them if they are carrying on operations there.
– If the definition of Australia does not include Papua, I am quite willing that it should.
– The honorable member will not make a resident of Papua an absentee for the purposes of this Act?
– The other point raised by the honorable member for Kooyong is important. If a person happens to be in New Zealand on the day on which the assessment is taken, he is to be prima facie a person .who resides outside Australia. A man could be away for four or five months in any other part of the year, but must not be away on 30th June, the date fixed in this Bill for determining ownership, or he will be classed as an absentee. It seems rather arbitrary to fix on that particular day. I presume that the Attorney-General’s intention is not to let a person who is substantially an absentee escape from certain clauses in the
Bill. What we are after is the evil of absenteeism, according to the view put by honorable members opposite. I should not like to see the word “ domicile “ put into the Bill, because “ domicile “ is a much more rigid and difficult thing to prove. “ Residence “ is an easier term.
– It will give rise to more difficulties than “ domicile.”
– Perhaps so; but I am looking at the drafting of the clause in relation to the evil we are aiming at. It is possible for a man to have two or three different residences, and the Courts have held so, for the purposes of many Acts. The Attorney-General would be well advised to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Angas, and make it a certain fixed period before the date of assessment, instead of making it one particular day. If the Commissioner decided that a person did not reside in Australia, would an appeal lie to the Court?
– Unfortunately, it would be difficult to upset the Commissioner’s decision.
– It would only be a matter of’ administration on the part of the Commissioner, and if the taxpayer were wrongly assessed, he might be allowed to appeal to the Court. The Commissioner’s decision would, of course, raise a strong presumption against the man who was away, and for that reason I want to see the wording of the definition altered as suggested by the honorable member for Angas. If the man happened to be away for a period of six months before the date fixed, that ought to be quite sufficient.
.- It seems a great hardship that, because a man is away for one day, he should have to go before the Commissioner, and be put to a great deal of trouble to prove that he is not an absentee. Whether we agree with the POliCY of taxing absentees or not, we all wish to define what an absentee is. The Attorney-General would simplify matters if he made the paragraph read - a person who is absent from Australia during more than half of the period of twelve months immediately preceding that date, unless he satisfies the Commissioner that he resides in Australia.
That would be an absolutely straightforward definition, and would suit the ordinary man very well. We should then have a true definition of “absentee” which anybody could understand ; and as the public have to obey this law, it ought to be made as plain as possible.
– There seems to be some sort of idea that it is possible for a man to go away from Australia for a day and come under this clause; but where is he to go to? This does not happen every day, but only the first time the ownership of the land is determined. Some particular time has to be fixed; and it is very obvious that a man must have gone somewhere, and he must satisfy the Commissioner that hie resides in Australia.
– This question will arise every year, seeing that there is an annual assessment.
– Not necessarily; the question of assessment is quite apart from that of the ownership of the land.
– That may have been- intended, but it is not so stated in the Bill.
– As to what is connoted by residence, for the purposes of the Bill, it is perfectly immaterial whether a man has two residences or ten. This is not like setting up a claim for an electoral right, or under a will, or for nationality ; and the Commissioner has to be satisfied that the taxpayer has his permanent place of abode here. The New Zealand Act defines 1 ‘ Non-resident trader “ as a person who carries on business in New Zealand without having his fixed permanent place of business in the Dominion ; and every person who is out of Australia and does not reside here is an absentee.
– ls that the definition given in this Bill?
– I am now speaking of the New Zealand definition of “ nonresident trader.”
– That definition would not be a guide in our Courts.
– The object of that definition is quite different from that in the Bill, which defines an “ absentee “ as a man who does not live in Australia. No conceivable juggling of words could make a man who lives cut of Australia a resident in the country. As to persons who move about, and are sometimes in England and sometimes here, it is for them to show the Commissioner that they are still resident here.
– Will the Commissioner’s decision as to residence be final? At first I was inclined to the view that it would not ; but after looking more closely into the clause I think it will.
– I suppose a man may appeal.
– It is a question of fact, and, therefore, the decision will be final.
– As a man may appeal from an assessment, 1 should say “he could appeal on this point. I do not know whether he could or not, but it is quite obvious that somebody has to decide, and it would be better that the Commissioner’s decision should be final, it being a question of fact that he ought to be able to determine. I do not think there is the slightest necessity for the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Kooyong. As to “ Australia “ not including Papua, I intend to move -
That after the word “Australia,” line q, the words “ and the Territories under the authority of the Commonwealth “ be inserted.
– This portion of the Bill fairly bristles with difficulties ; and I think we are all anxious to make the measure clear and unmistakable. The Attorney-General has not, I think, disposed of the question raised by the honorable member for Kooyong ; and the position would perhaps be better explained by a concrete illustration. A man may be away in New Zealand for. perhaps only a week. The AttorneyGeneral has treated the absence of an Australian citizen as an event which may not occur frequently ; but I think that if he, on any particular day, were to ascertain the number of citizens temporarily out of Australia, he would find that it amounted to many hundreds. Under this clause, as it now stands, there would have to be an inquiry into every one of these cases by the Commissioner, whereas, under the amendment of the honorable member for Kooyong, a man would not only have to be away from Australia on a particular day, but, in addition, must have been away for six months out of the year prior to that day.
– That is the amendment of the honorable member for Angas.
– Quite so; and if that amendment were adopted it would get rid of all these difficulties. The AttorneyGeneral, however, seems disinclined to accept that amendment ; and, therefore, we have to turn to the alternative amendment of the honorable member for Kooyong. As I say, by this amendment the Commissioner would be relieved from hearing hundreds of cases that must occur ; and it cannot in any way reduce the chances of constituting a man an absentee by requiring that, in addition to being away on that day, he has been absent from the Commonwealth for six months. As to the words relating to an absence of six months out of the previous twelve months, I should like the Attorney-General to consider whether they sufficiently define what constitutes the six months.
– But those words are to be omitted, according to the amendment of the honorable member for Angas.
-I am assuming that that amendment is not accepted, seeing that the Attorney-General has suggested an incompatible amendment. The Bill does not say how the six months are to be made up in a later portion of the clause; and I should like to know what the position would be if a person were absent for two months, then in Australia for two months, then absent for two months, and then in Australia for two months, and then absent for two months more.
– If we insert the word “ consecutive “ it would meet the case.
– I am only now suggesting the difficulties that call for amendment. The Attorney-General will see that it requires some word like “continuous” or “ consecutive “ to make the intention perfectly clear. The Attorney-General seems to think that because “residence” has been very carefully defined in a New Zealand Act, therefore the difficulties of the definition are removed from this Bill.
It has been pointed out that the word “domicile” has already acquired a technical meaning which, I think, all lawyers understand; but the AttorneyGeneral, instead of using that word, is intraducing another, which may give rise to an enormous amount of litigation. The honorable gentleman must be aware that, although the word has been very carefully defined in New Zealand, the decisions of New Zealand Courts would have a very de- sultory, if relevant, bearing in the Courts of Australia. He knows how little notice, even, is taken in one State of Australia of the decisions of the Judges in another; and that argument may be applied a fortiori to New Zealand. Then, again, the definition in New Zealand is not even a decision of the Court, but is a statutory definition, which is absolutely irrelevant in any interpretation of this Bill.
.- There is another reason why absence on a particu lar date should not make a manprima facie an absentee, and that is the difficulty to which the Attorney-General has referred of determining the date contemplated. The Bill defines “absentee “ as a person absent from Australia “ at the date when the ownership of his land for the purposes of this Act is determined.” The AttorneyGeneral says that that means when ownership is first determined; but I agree with those who say that there must be a determination every year. Absence on a particular date should not make a man an absentee, though absence for six months might be held to do so.
– Every subdivision of property will involve a new assessment.
– Yes. There must be a fresh assessment whenever there is a purchase or subdivision of property, and a re-assessment every year.
.- There is considerable legal difficulty in defining “ residence,” and still greater difficulty, as the honorable member for Parkes has pointed out, in defining “domicile.” A man may be domiciled in a place in which he has not resided for ten years, and he may be domiciled where he has resided for only a month. “Absentee” is another difficult word to define, and the Bill leaves its definition to a Commissioner. In the South Australian law an arbitrary definition was adopted, “ absentee “ being taken to include, at first, every person absent from, or resident out of, the State for two years immediately prior to a date fixed; but the period was subsequently reduced to one year. Every man who is absent from the State for twelve months is an absentee ; but a man who resides out of the State for six months, though he may be an absentee, must be proved to be one, and I do not know that there is a case in which such a man has been dealt with as an absentee. The Bill gives no appeal from the decision of the Commissioner, because, as lawyers know, when magistrates are permitted to act at their discretion there is no appeal. The decision of the Commissioner will, therefore, be final. Is it for us to surrender our right of definition to the Commissioner, who will be an interested party ?
– And who may be very arbitrary.
– The Assher Shea case, in which the Admiralty for two years refused to allow a boy charged with forgery to be tried, although he declared that he was innocent, and, when it unbent, had to admit in Court that he was innocent ; the Osborne case, and others, show the need for checking the growth of bureaucratic control. While the Opposition is desirous, subject to proper criticism, of expediting the consideration of the Bill, I ask Ministers to accept an amendment of the definition of “ Absentee,” and move -
That after the word “ Australia,” where first occurring in paragraph a, the words “ for at least half the period at twelve months immediately preceding “ be inserted.
The amendment adopts the suggestion of the honorable member for Fawkner.
.- Parliament should not cause the taxpayer more trouble than is necessary, and the object of the Bill will be met if the amendment be adopted. An absentee will then be defined as a person absent from Australia for at least six months prior to the date when the ownership of his land for the purposes of this Act is determined, unless he satisfies the Commissioner that he resides in Australia. The difficulty of defining the word “resides”- - and the definition of “domicile” is even more difficult, because of the technical requirements attached to the term- could be got over by substituting the words “ his permanent home is in Australia.” Every man of common sense would know what those words meant. It would be very harsh that a man should be treated as an absentee merely because of his absence from Australia just prior to the date of the first assessment. The amendment will improve the Bill, and minimize the friction which all new legislation of this sort engenders. I therefore recommend the Government to give it favorable consideration.
– I hope that the Government will accept the amendment, which will certainly improve the Bill. “Absentee” is defined as “ a person who resides out of Australia,” and there are persons who have never been here, but who have invested money here, and whom it is not fair to penalize because they have done so. I do not think that Ministers desire to prevent the flow of capital into this country, which would be the result of a special tax on persons living out of the country, but connected with companies carrying on business here. I believe in making the investment of capital in Australia as easy as possible. The more money that comes here from abroad, the cheaper it will be j and if there is one thing that, is really essential to the development of a country,” it is cheap money. I should like to see the definition still further improved, but I suppose it is hopeless to expect the Government to take a further step in that direction. I trust, however, that they will, at least, accept the amendment that has been moved.
– The amendment and the suggestion made are quite unnecessary to secure the purpose which we have in view. This is an attempt to treat a person who resides out of Australia, and is an absentee, differently from a person who resides in the Commonwealth. The question of domicile, as such, does not arise. It is a question, not of a right or of a vested: interest, but of fact - Does a man reside in Australia or does he not? The honorable and learned member tor Parkes said, that the word “resides” is vague. For the purposes of this Bill it is most precise. Although a man may have many residences, personally he can reside in only one. For the purposes of this Bill he can be in only one place at the one time.
– It is not simply a question of fact, but a question of satisfying an official.
– Of course it is.
– And there is no appeal.
– The honorable member makes that observation as if it were profoundly original.
– It is not a question of originality, but of equity.
– The honorable member will permit me to remind him that he has not been following this debate, and is, therefore, quite ignorant of what has been discussed. The point that we were discussing is as to what constitutes an absentee. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat says that, under this clause, an official will have to be satisfied. It is perfectly obvious that if the amendment be carried, an official will still have to be satisfied. The honorable member for Angas simply proposes to give the person concerned a longer period of grace. If a man is absent for more than six months out of twelve in any one year, he will still have to satisfy the Commissioner that he is a resident of Australia, and, therefore, this question of equity, on which the honorable member for Ballarat lavs such great stress, will again be violated. This question of equity is to be a question of period. Six months, we are told, will be a violation of equity, and a seven-months’ period will be perfectly satisfactory. Equity, again, is a question of numbers. The honorable member for Kooyong suggests that paragraph a be amended by substituting the word “and” for the word “ or.” How much further would that take us?
– It would avoid the difficulty and trouble of an appeal to the Commissioner to satisfy him, and that is an important matter.
– The Commissioner would still have to be satisfied.
– No; if a man is absent on the date of the assessment he wall, under the clause at it stands, have to satisfy the Commissioner, and the point is that we should fix upon a six-months’ period.
– The honorable member has not read the clause. Under it, the Commissioner has to make an assessment. Is he to take the mere statement of a man that he has not been out of Australia for more than six months? It is a question of evidence, and. under the amendment, the man concerned would have to satisfy the Commissioner, just as he would have to satisfy him under the clause as it stands. Here we have an iridescent bubble ingeniously and laboriously blown. First, we have one and then another difficulty presented. We have a difficulty suggested as to the difference between residence and domicile; then another ingenious honorable member strikes a concrete idea which baffles his power of concrete expression. Other suggestions are made, and finally we have the honorable member for Wilmot, who, having denounced the whole principle of declaring a person who does not reside in Australia an absentee, expresses the warmest approval of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Angas, although it proposes to differentiate between those who reside in Australia and those who do not. Although it is true that each year, if a man is absent, he will have to satisfy the Commissioner that he is resident in the Commonwealth
– I thought the honorable member said that that would have to be done only once.
– If a man is an absentee year after year, and still claims to be a resident, or if he has been so long out of Australia that there is a prima facie case against him, he will have to satisfy the Commissioner that he is a resident in the Commonwealth. One honorable member spoke of a man who was always making excursions. Nothing ought to be easier than to satisfy the Commissioner that a man, although a tripper, resides in Australia; but a man ought not to be able to remain out of Australia for an indefinite period, and still claim all the benefits of residence here, without offering some explanation to the Commissioner. The Land and Income Tax Assessment Act of New Zealand, as amended in 1908, fixes a date as we do, and periods as we do, and proceeds to define an absentee, in section 54, as follows -
Notwithstanding anything hereinbefore contained, every taxpayer who on the thirty-first day of March in any year is an absentee within the meaning of this section shall be assessed and liable for graduated land tax at a rate greater by fifty per centum than the rate at which he would have been assessed independently of this section.
It also provides -
Every person shall be deemed to be an absentee for the purposes of this section unless he has been personally present in New Zealand for at least one-half of the period of four years immediately preceding the year in and for which he is assessed for graduated land tax.
There we have a definition of “Absentee” which is purely artificial, whilst here we are attempting to define what is naturally and obviously an absentee. An absentee,” first of all, is a person who resides out of Australia. There can be no objection to that, and the definition also includes a person who is absent from Australia on the date when the assessment is made, or who has been out of the country for more than half the year in which the assessment is made, unless he can satisfy the Commissioner to the contrary. I cannot accept the amendment.
.- I should like to have one matter cleared up before this clause passes. The AttorneyGeneral told us that he had been settling the basis of absenteeship. After listening to his very lucid eloquence, I am still in a fog as to what is the basis of absenteeism.
– That is not the AttorneyGeneral’s fault.
– No; I think it is his misfortune. The fact remains that none of us seem to know at present what these provisions mean. We have already indorsed the principle that an Australian who leaves Australia to live abroad shall pay an absentee tax, but what I want to know is whether a man who has never lived in Australia, but who has invested money in Australia, is, under this Bill, to be taxed as an absentee?
– Of course he is.
– Apparently he is, but I wish to warn honorable members that, if this step is taken, it .will be subversive of the best interests of the Commonwealth. I5v telling inhabitants of Australia that we propose to tax them as soon as they live abroad, we shall probably tend to induce .them to stay here, and to be in every sense good citizens. But the moment we say that any person who sends money to Australia, whether he comes here with it or not, shall l>e specially taxed for sending that money here to give employment to Australians, we shall tend to drive capital out of the country to develop the industries of Australia’s rivals, South Africa, New Zealand, and South America. The voices of my honorable friends opposite extend far, but I can assure them that the mere fact that they are in existence in Australia, with such provisions as these, will not conduce to “British capital being sent here to be subject to these limitations, in preference to being invested in the Argentine, and devoted to the development of the broad acres of that -country as against our own.
– According to this there is a taint on the British sovereign.
– Apparently there is. “What is this British money doing in Australia? Honorable members know as well as I do that a lot of it is, not invested in landed properties. Yet, under this Bill, if “it is invested in any sort of property it will “have to bear the absentee tax. Is not such money invested in city properties giving employment to hundreds and thousands of clerks and artisans? The Government are deliberately .hitting at the employment of those Australians in hitting at the capital from overseas that gives those men their livelihood.
After this Bill is passed, when those men are thrown out of employment, when we see the Argentine going ahead, while ^360,000,000 of British capital is gradually leaving Australia, I do not want honorable members opposite to be able to shelter themselves behind the pietence that the Attorney-General did not understand his own Bill. Possibly he does not, but he must accept the full responsibility for it. As the Bill now stands, those men who have never been in
Australia, but to whom we ought to be grateful for helping to develop Australia by sending their money here, are to be classed as absentees, while the Prime Minister will not be held to be an absentee when banqueting in South Africa.
I wish to place it on record my belief that this is the most serious clause in the Bill. The Government cannot get away from it.
– We do not want to. We brought it in for this express purpose.
– Then I have lost all hope of the sanity of the Ministry. I could understand that they might have some personal triumph to anticipate through stirring up class hatred among our people, but what personal advantage is it to them to drive money from Australia and prevent the opening up of our still undeveloped territories ? These particular absentees have no votes, so what is the use of hitting them? Of course, the fact that they have no votes may make my honorable friends ready to hit them. I can remember the same gentlemen who are against “ absentee “ capital pleading most piteously for pensions to be given to Chinese, provided that they had votes, and, incidentally, were naturalized citizens.
I hope the Opposition will state their views on all the clauses of the Bill, and on this one in particular. But I do not think it. is our duty to keep hammering along until the Attorney-General hears us, and, hearing us, comprehends us. It is not our duty to do more than enter our protest, but I again warn honorable members opposite that they cannot make a man living in England, who is willing to lend his money somewhere, come to live in Australia, simply by putting on this tax. All they can do is to make him send his money elsewhere, and when that happens their own constituents will suffer in their daily employments.
– It is taxing our own people and leaving the Chinese cook-shop untaxed.
– Untaxed, but not unvisited ! If the Government really desire to make the tax apply so as to prevent persons leaving Australia, I am willing to help them so far as I can in that direction, taxing those who’ are absentee Australians in the ordinary sense as understood in the constituencies. But I hope they will not run mad and try to damage employment in Australia by taxing the capital that is sent to the country.
Those associated with the land know that our virgin country depends on capital for its development. The more capital we get from abroad, the more development is possible; but the Government are now, by hitting foreign capital, hitting at men settled on the land and men working in the cities. They seem to think that if they put on a tax and sign it “ by the grace of Fisher “ they can compel, not only capital, but the capitalists behind it, to come to Australia and live under the domination of a Government which has shown its readiness to confiscate land values !
.- After that noisy appeal to the gallery, we might get back to the subject before us. The honorable member talks about the ^360,000,000 of British capital that is going to be carted away. I do not know how the owners are going to get it, unless somebody else is ready to buy out the interests that they have here. I should like to examine the clause from a layman’s point of view. I presume we propose to find out who are the owners of the land before we impose the tax. Having once found out the owner, so long as he retains the land, the annual reimposition of the tax does not raise the question again. The clause begins by stating clearly that those who reside out of Australia are absentees. There is no difficulty about that, but how are you to know whether a man resides out of Australia or not? When you are looking for the owner of a block of land you have to fmd him. If he is not in. Austral in, is lie a permanent or a temporary absentee? That must of necessity be found out. If an owner is not found within Australia when the assessment is being made, it does not follow that he is not a resident of Australia. If he is absent, there must be sortie evidence that he is only temporarily absent.
– The trouble is that he has to go to the Commissioner and satisfy him that he is a resident.
– He must satisfy the Commissioner. Where is the difference hetween the Commissioner hunting up the man and asking him questions, and the man going tq the Commissioner and satisfying him that he is a bond fide resident? It is the easiest thing possible for him to prove that he is a resident. Where is the risk of litigation over that? A Commissioner charged with administering an important measure like this would not refuse to ac- cept genuine evidence submitted to him. The only point on which technical difficulty might arise is in the operation of the six months’ provision, but the facts there are also easily provable. Australia, being an island, a man cannot get away from it without there being a record of his departure. It seems to me that a great deal more noise has been made about this definition than there is any justification for.
– The honorable member is not within a mile of the question under discussion.
– Perhaps so, but I have not seen such wonderful brilliance from the honorable member. Clever as he may be, I have heard him say some rather stupid things, and on questions of this kind I am prepared to put my common sense against his. The honorable member for Kooyong suggests that the word “ and “ should be substituted for the word “or,” so as to make it necessary that the man should be away on the day of assessment, and also for six months prior. Would not that necessarily mean that both conditions would have to be fulfilled before a man could be regarded as an absentee? A man might be in Australia on the day of assessment, and still really be an absentee under the six months’ proviso.
– What is intended is that if he is absent for six months it shall be prima facie evidence of his being an absentee. The alternative is that he must satisfy the Commissioner that he resides in Australia.
– The clause is simplicity itself as it stands. If a man had to go to any legal expense to prove that he was a resident, it might be a different thing. To alter the clause might make it more complicated. The suggestion of the honorable member for Kooyong would create additional difficulties, and bring about a risk of litigation which does not appear in the clause as now worded.
.- Before we decide this question, I should like to make one final appeal to honorable members opposite on the broader question which has already been touched upon by the honorable member for Wentworth. As a business man, and as an old Australian deeply interested in the country, I can assure the Attorney-General that immense good has been done by the great capital invested here by people who have never seen the Commonwealth, and never can be resident here. Their homes are in the Old Country, where a good many of uscome from; and merely because they do not reside here we propose to impose a special penalty on them. I quite understand that this desire to1 tax absentees arises from the fact that some, though not a great many, Australians, having made money here, have, to the neglect of their Australian duties, spent their money abroad. The history of Ireland has also had some effect in this connexion. In that country there have been many land troubles and evictions by absentee landlords. At the same time, the advantages to Australia of the investment of some £360,000,000 of money have been enormous; and I can give one concrete illustration in a company engaged in pastoral pursuits in Queensland. I may say that I have no objection to give the name of this company to the Attorney-General if he so desires. In the ten years from the 1st July, 1899, to the 30th June, 1909, this company spent in working expenses in Australia £391,963 16s. iod., which the working men of the country received; in rabbit destruction, £21,873 2s. sd. ; in Government rents, £90,327 10s. 6d. ; in income and land tax - and there is a big income tax in Queensland, which has to be paid sometimes when there is no income - £12,231 16s. 6d. ; in improvements - and again the fencer, the dam-maker, and the well-borer benefited - £78,131 2s. 4d. It “will be seen, therefore, that the workers of Australia have received, in consequence of the operations of this company, the sum of £594,527 8s. 7d. in ten years. Now let us see what the English shareholders got from their investment. The total dividends received by the same shareholders in the same period aggregated £75,900.
– Was this company formed outside of Australia?
– It is proposed to strike out sub-clause b.
– And to tax the shareholders individually !
– A great many of the shareholders in this company are resident in England, and, therefore, cannot get any exemption under the proposed amendment. The original subscribed capital of the company was £1,100,000, but. owing to adverse seasons, that was reduced in 1908 to £632,500 by writing off £467,500 as dead loss.
– That loss would not be all on one property - the company would have investments in other properties?
– It was practically all on one property. I am quite with honorable members opposite in regard to the absentee who leaves his property here to live abroad, when Australia is good enough for anybody to live in. I admit that when our forefathers came here their idea was to make enough money to enable them to return and live in England. That was natural enough on their part; but we who have lived here for some time desire to stay here, and it would be a pity if we were to stop the flow of this capital, and send it somewhere else. An enormous amount of capital of this class accumulates every year in Great Britain, France, and Germany ; and if it does not come to Australia it will go to our commercial rivals - the Argentine, Canada, and other countries which encourage such investment. I know that the absentee is a hated individual, but I ask honorable members to pause and think over this matter.
– What ground is there for the accusation that the absentee is a “ hated individual “ ?
-The honorable member knows what a splendid cry “ Let us tax the absentee” is on . a platform, when the absentee is not here to defend himself, and the appeal is made to people who do not think seriously.
– The honorable member has already admitted that the absentee ought to be taxed.
– I think that the man who leaves his property for us to police and defend ought to be taxed.
– There the honorable member gives his whole case away.
– The honorable member himself pays through the Customs, whereas the absentee does not.
– I agree with that; but, in getting at these few absentees, we are striking at investment from abroad. I do not know much about politics, or law, but I do know a good deal about finance; and I can assure honorable members that if a tax is imposed on a particular class of capital, investment will be checked - investors will button up their pockets, and, with the world for their oyster, will send their money to Argentine and Canada, where they are not taxed, but encouraged.
– The capitalist will go wherever he can make most money, tax or no tax.
– I quite agree that capital is most sensitive, and always goes along the line of least resistance - like water, it finds its own level. I hope honorable members opposite will pause before they proceed further on lines which may do immeasurable harm to Australia.
.- I do not propose to devote even a sentence to the important question raised by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, as to a fair method of apportionment by which the absentee may be required to discharge his several obligations to the Commonwealth. This Bill not only does not provide for any apportionment, but makes no pretence to establish any principle on which it could or should be framed. It taxes absentees in a way that, if it can be justified, must be on other grounds from those referred to by the honorable member for Fawkner. But if we- wish to be just, instead of casting the supposed absentee upon the mercy of the Commissioner, who will ‘ 1 satisfy himself ‘ ‘ on good evidence, or bad - on the most imperfect or the most complete information - at a time when he may happen to be’ sanguine or saturnine, and leaving no chance of appeal, no matter how or why he is “ satisfied “ - if the question whether the alleged absentee is, or is not, a resident in Australia, is left to be determined as a fact-
– By whom?
– By the Court.
– Whether it is in a good humour or a bad humour, I suppose?
– The Court is judicial, and adjusts itself to the fact.
– And the Commissioner does not, I suppose?
– The Court will have the Commissioner’s view before it. The decision may be a matter of immense importance to those concerned, and it ought to be given by an impartial tribunal not subject to the hurry and worry of ordinary office business. The Commissioner’s opinion would have great weight with the Court; but the question should be lifted out of the atmosphere of the official chamber, where it would be settled by a single individual on information supplied by subordinates. It should be dealt with in a judicial atmosphere. All this, of course, depends on whether the taxpayer is venturesome enough to go to the Court ; if he does go, and fails, he will, of course, be mulcted in .costs, and the Commonwealth will not suffer. Unless the supposed absentee has good grounds for challenging the decision, he will not, for his own pocket’s sake, take any action. Thus the Attorney-General can get all he seeks by this clause; indeed, he will probably get a great deal more than he thought to have asked, but we have now to do the best we can among many injustices. The Attorney-General can have a tribunal he cannot impeach, and his Commissioner’s authority need not be undermined. There would be the satisfaction which cannot be obtained from any individual who is not judicial by training and habit, not having been chosen for such qualities, but as an assessor of land. There would be a judicial guarantee of a fair and impartial hearing between the appellant and the Government. This is asking a very slight concession which might make the measure a little more acceptable than it is. I understand that the clause has been closely scrutinised, and its various other defects exposed, before I entered the Chamber; and, therefore, do not propose to do more than lay this one suggestion before the Attorney-General.
– In reference to the general objections to the taxing of absentees, I have only to say that the Bill errs in the direction of moderation. The New Zealand . Act taxes the absentee at a rate 50 per cent, higher than that which the resident has to pay, and the Victorian Bill contains a similar proposal. It is a sound principle of equity, finance, and economics that every person should pay something towards the cost of governing and defending the country in which he lives, or from, which he draws his wealth, and it is not unfair to require those living out of a country to pay a little more in special taxation than those who live in it, who, by doing so, contribute in general taxation more largely to the revenue. As an instance of the manner in which landed properties are benefited by the energy of the community, let me say that, whereas the unimproved value of the land of the city of Sydney was assessed about six years ago at ^19,500,000, the authorities expect the new assessment to reach ^25,000,000. That is, the unearned increment has been increasing at the rate of ^1,000,000 a year. Absentees who own Sydney properties have benefited by that increase. The proposal that the taxpayer shall satisfy a Commissioner, and not a Court, that he is a resident, is contained in every land and income tax measure to which I have referred. It was proposed by Mr. Watt that every person should be deemed to be an absentee unless he satisfied the Commissioner that he had been personally present in the Commonwealth though not necessarily continuously, for at least half of the three years preceding that in which he was assessed for tax. It is obviously to the advantage of the country that there should be a speedy and effective means of deciding who must be taxpayers, and at what rates they shall be taxed. If a taxpayer is dissatisfied with an assessment, he can go to the Court, and make out a case against it. Should honorable members opposite be able _ reproduce precedents outweighing those which we have in favour of a Court, and not the Commissioner, deciding who must pay this tax, I shall be glad to consider them; the precedents which I have followed make the Commissioner the sole arbiter, which is a sound and business-like arrangement.
.- I agree with the Minister that it may be desirable under some circumstances to empower the Commissioner to say that a man is an absentee, but the Victorian Bill to which he has referred did not provide that absence on the day on which the assessment was made should prima facte cause a person to be treated as an absentee ; it treated him as an absentee only if he had been absent for eighteen months, and even then gave him the right of showing that he was not an absentee. I should have no objection to the adoption of the South Australian provision, that if a man is absent from, or resides out of, the State for twelve months, he must be regarded as an absentee. My proposal is wholly reasonable, and I have asked for as little as could be asked for under the circumstances.
.- It is a generally accepted principle throughout Australia and New Zealand that absentee land-owners should pay more than resident land-owners for the protection given to their property ; but it seems to me that the proposal to leave it entirely to the Commissioner to determine who is an absentee, and to make it possible for a person who has been away from Australia for only two days to be so rated, is open to considerable objection. No one desires that absence from the country for a few days, or even for a few months, should render a man liable to be treated as an absentee. I am not hostile to the Government, but I wish to understand the Bill.
– If the honorable member comes to understand it, he will not support it.
– The Leader of the Opposition is at liberty to take that view. I understood the Attorney-General to say that the question of ownership occurs only once. So far as paragraph a is concerned, a land-owner who is absent from Australia on the date when his ownership is determined may be taxed as an absentee, but a man who resides out of Australia subsequently to the determination of owner- ship may do so for two years without being taxed as an absentee.
– That is not so. Look at clause 14.
– That clause provides for the annual furnishing of returns.
– There is a fresh assessment each year.
– Yes, but not an annual determination of ownership, which, according to the Attorney-General, occurs only once.
– I did not use the words in the sense in which the honorable member is applying them.
– Once ownership is determined it will, as a rule, remain unquestioned until there is a sale or subdivision. Clause 14 requires the annual furnishing of returns. If a man is absent on the date of the determination of his ownership of the land, or for more than six months out of the twelve months immediately preceding that date, taxation as an absentee is at once put upon him. But if, the day after the determination, he leaves- for England, or elsewhere, he may be absent for two years, and as ‘ long as his attorney furnishes an annual return, and does not disagree with the annual assessment, then, under paragraph a, he will not be an absentee. He will only be an absentee if the Commissioner claims that he resides out of Australia; and as soon as such a claim is made, litigation will follow as to what constitutes residence outside Australia. In these circumstances, it would be preferable for us to clearly ,1/fine what is an absentee within the meaning of this Bill. For instance, I should object to a man being out of Australia for more than twelve months and not being taxed as an absentee.
– If he were away on an invalid trip for twelve months, the honorable member would not make him pay as an absentee.
– I am not so sure that I would not.
– Yet, even if a man were absent for six months, he could satisfy, the Commissioner, under paragraph a, that his permanent residence was in Australia.
– I admit that. I would say right out in the Bill that if an individual were away from Australia lor twelve months he should be regarded as an absentee. That is really the provision in the South Australian Act. Originally two years’ absence constituted absenteeism; but practical experience showed that advantage was taken of such a lengthy period, to the cost of the revenue, and the term was, therefore, reduced to twelve months. Under the South Australian Act, if there be an annual assessment a man cannot iemain twelve months out of the State without constituting himself an absentee, and so subjecting himself to extra taxation. Such a provision is preferable to one leaving the matter to the will of the Commissioner. I ask the Attorney-General why we should impose taxation as an absentee on an individual who is only absent on one particular day in the year - the date on which his ownership is determined ? I am confident that, as the paragraph stands, once the question of ownership is determined, a man may go away for a couple of years, or even for five years, if, in the opinion of the Commissioner, that absence does not constitute absenteeism, without being made to pay taxation as an absentee. That would be wrong, and would be too wide a power to leave to the Commissioner.
– The honorable member for Adelaide is in error in supposing that a man whose ownership has once been determined under paragraph a could go out of Australia, and remain away for two, or five, years, as the case may be, and still pay on the residential rate. Under paragraph a a person who is absent from Australia on the date that the ownership of his land is determined, or who has been absent for more than half of the twelve months immediately preceding that date, is liable to be taxed as an absentee. Then, again, under clause 14, it is provided that every taxpayer shall in each financial year furnish returns, setting forth a full and complete statement of all land owned by him at noon on 30th June - that fixes the date - with such other particulars as are prescribed. I do not think there is the slightest doubt that every year a man will be asked, amongst other questions, “ Do you reside in Australia?” or “How long have you been out of Australia during the last twelve months?”
– I admit that it rests with the Commissioner.
– No; that is another matter. This relates to the furnishing of certain particulars as to facts. A man may instruct another to say for him, “I am not now in Australia “ ; and dien, clearly, he will be an absentee, subject to certain provisions; whilst, if he says that he has been absent for more than half of the previous twelve months, he will come within the same category, and be taxed as an absentee, unless he satisfies the Commissioner that he is resident in Australia. The honorable member proposes to fix an arbitrary period, and to say that if a man is out of the country for more than six months he shall be taxed as an absentee. That would create a difficulty. An absentee for the purposes of this Bill must be one who fails to fulfil certain conditions. And what are they ? We are trying to get at those who really live out of Australia. I suppose that many honorable members, like myself, have been out of Australia for six, eight, or ten months. If the definition suggested by the honorable member for Adelaide were inserted, they would be taxed as absentees if they went away for that period. There would be no appeal, and they would be unable to put forward the fact that they were natives of this country, or that they had been here for fifty years; that all their interests were here, and that they were only temporarily absent. We do not mean to include such cases. We fix a limit, and we say, “ When you go beyond that limit you must satisfy the Commissioner, that although you have been out of the country you are still a resident of it.” That is a very simple thing to do. I remember a case relating to what constituted residence under the Electoral Act in New South Wales. A man had been out of his electorate for something like fourteen months, and yet he established the fact that he was a resident of it. All that a man will have to do under this clause will be to prove that he is an Australian citizen. I hope that there will be no attempt to fix an arbitrary time, and to make Australians absentees merely because they happen to be away on a trip. I am reminded by my honorable colleague the Minister of External Affairs that we propose to send citizens to England to be trained as officers. Then, again, officers of my honorable friend’s Department might be attached to the High Commissioner’s office in London, or officers of the Department of Home Affairs might be sent abroad, and under my honorable friend’s proposal they would be absentees. It is not suggested for one moment that officers sent abroad in this way are absentees, and we ought not to treat them as such.
– The whole question resolves itself into one as to who is to determine what an absentee is. Is that question to be determined by the Parliament or the Commissioner? In the two measures which the Attorney-General has quoted, Parliament itself has fixed the definition of “ absentee.” Under the Victorian Bill the Commissioner has not to decide whether or not a man is a resident. He has simply to determine whether he has been absent continuously from the Commonwealth for at least eighteen months out of three years.
– Not at all. A man’s absence is admitted, and the question is - “ In spite of that, are you still a resident?”
– Under this Bill that is so, but not under the Victorian Bill.
– It is so under the Victorian Bill.
– Under the Victorian measure, if a person can show that he has been personally present in the State for more than one and a-half years out of the three years’ period, he cannot be assessed as an absentee.
– Neither can he be so assessed under this clause.
– Under this clause it is left to the Commissioner to determine whether or not a man resides here.
– Not at all.
– Then I do not understand the meaning of plain English.
– If it means that, then all I can say is that that is not the intention.
– It certainly does. Under this clause, if a man could satisfy the Commissioner that he was resident in Australia he might be absent for five years.
– Of course, he might.
– But that is not the position under the Victorian Bill. If a man has been absent eighteen months out of three years, then the Victorian Commissioner has no choice in the matter, but must declare him to be an absentee.
– That is less liberal than this Bill.
– In one way.
– I put that forward in reply to the honorable and learned member for Ballarat to show that the man had to satisfy the Commissioner and not the Court.
– But, incidentally, the honorable member told us that the man had to satisfy the Commissioner, not that he resided in Australia, but that he was within the limits that had been definitely prescribed by Parliament.
– I did not say so.
– Parliament, both in Victoria and New Zealand, makes its own definition of absenteeism.
– This Bill is better than that.
– Of course, so far as that is concerned.
– In the other case an arbitrary definition is fixed.
– And properly so.
– It is infinitely worse than this Bill.
– At least it is more straightforward. This definition will let people go free from this tax who ought not to be released. I have in my mind’s eye a man who makes it a practice to go away and spend three or four years away, but his home is still in Australia, although he and his family are nearly always absent. That man ought to be treated as an absentee, if we are going to tax absentees, because he spends nearly all his time away. He does not, as has been stated, pay our Customs duties here, or take on the responsibilities of a resident citizen. He is an absentee to all intents and purposes, although his home is here, but under our definition he would be let off.
– A little while ago it was said that this definition was too harsh ; now the honorable member says it is too lax.
– It is too harsh in other respects, -but in that particular regard the Victorian and New Zealand propositions are much more sensible. You cannot properly call a man an absentee if he lias been away for only six months out of twelve. Why not give him a longer time in which to travel whilst still being regarded as a resident of Australia? My point is that we ourselves ought to fix and determine what constitutes residence in Australia, and what constitutes absenteeism abroad.
The honorable member said the Victorian absentee tax was50 per cent. more than that paid by residential taxpayers, but he took good care not to tell us the amount. As a matter of fact, it is still about 25 per cent. below the residential tax fixed in this Bill. The honorable member evaded a proper analogy between the two taxes by betaking himself to percentages. 1 have yet to bring myself to appreciate the necessity in a young virgin country of taxing absentees so heavily.
– The Victorian proposal was4½d.
– Yes, and that meant 4½d. for the absentee, on the highest rates only. The Government’s proposal is fid. for residents and 7d. for absentees, so that our tax on absentees is2½d. higher than the Victorian.
– In New Zealand also it is 50 per cent, more, and there they go up practically as high as we do.
– As the honorable member is very eager to show that this Bill is not such a stiff dose, is he prepared to make it the same as the Victorian or New Zealand measures? The New Zealand tax is much less than ours. Why does not the Attorney-General make this provision a little more liberal, and let the House fix the definition?
– That would make it much less liberal and more arbitrary.
– Let us make the minimum period a little more liberal. This provision will be interpreted in all cases by the Commissioner, and no Commissioner would be safe if he required anything less than six months’ residence out of every twelve to constitute a resident taxpayer. That would be the invariable rule.
– There is nothing in the Bill to determine that.
– I know, but for his own sake and protection the Commissioner would not dare to depart from the’ Bill unless the strongest reasons were shown. Any person reading the Bill with a view to deciding what constituted absenteeism would regard this definition as a direction to demand six months’ residence out of twelve in ordinary cases, and in ordinary circumstances.
– The plain wording of the clause absolutely precludes that construction.
– The clause says the Commissioner has to be satisfied. Why not strike all these things out and leave the decision entirely to the Commissioner? Or why not put in eighteen months out of three years, as in Victoria, and still leave it to the Commissioner ? Let the Commissioner determine whether a man is an absentee or not, but do not give the Commissioner power to make a man an absentee unless he proves the contrary, if he happens to be away from Australia on the day on which the assessment is made. Give the taxpayer at least six or twelve months’ grace. So far from this provision being more liberal titan that of New Zealand or Victoria, it will work out very much less liberally in practice.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Glynn’s amendment) - put. The Committtee divided.
Ayes … … … 21
Noes … … … 28
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Hughes) proposed
That after the word “Australia,” line g, the words “and the Territories under the authority of the Commonwealth” be inserted.
– We have already decided that “‘Absentee ‘ means a person who resides out of Australia,” and, therefore, a person who resides in Papua must be an absentee. This amendment should have been moved in a previous line.
– I shall prepare a definition of “ Australia “ which will include Papua.
.- As we appear to be so unanimous on this point, why not settle it at once? I submit that the amendment can now be made in the previous line, and the view of the honorable member for Darling Downs thus met.
– Under the Standing Orders, we cannot deal with a former portion of the clause, having already accepted an amendment.
– I submit that we have not yet approved of any portion of the clause.. We have merely decided that, in a particular part, certain words shall not be inserted.
– The Attorney-General will draft a new sub-clause to put this matter right, and he will also include public officers of the Commonwealth who are engaged in their duties outside Australia.
– I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
.- I object to the withdrawal of the amendment) because I think the Prime Minister ought to recast the clause.
– I have already arranged to do so.
– Then the consideration of the clause had better be postponed.
– We propose to go only as far as the definition of “Agent” tonight.
– But we are now dealing with the definition of “ Absentee,” and if we proceed to the end of the clause we shall have agreed to the definition before us now.
– We can add to the definition.
– But we shall not be able to go back in the clause, which contains some very doubtful, if not objectionable, features”. Even on this side considerable differences of opinion have manifested themselves, and it would be practical wisdom to postpone the clause so as to replace it with a more carefully considered provision.
– I think the Attorney-General might accept the suggestion to further consider the drafting of the clause. Even the amendment is not properly drawn, because it says “absent from Australia and the Territories.” That is not right. -
– I propose to insert a definition of Australia for the purposes of this Bill, which will include the Territories.
– The amendment should read, “from Australia or the Territories.” I would suggest that progress be reported, and that time should be taken to consider the matter.
– If that be done, the Government will expect honorable members to refrain from traversing old ground.
Amendment (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That paragraphs b and c be left out.
. -Perhaps the Attorney-General will tell us what will be the effect of his proposal. How does he propose to deal with companies ?
– It is not proposed to treat a company which is formed outside Australia differently from one which is formed inside Australia. So that we propose to strike out paragraph b without any reservation.
.- Is not a company whose head office is situated outside Australia, and the dividends of which are sent to London or Paris, to be regarded as an absentee company ?
– Yes. The shareholders will be absentees.
– I notice that the Government propose to insert in the Bill a new sub -clause, which reads -
A company shall in no case be deemed lo be an absentee; but any of the shareholders who arc absentees shall be separately assessed and liable as absentees.
In that case, the dividends which are sent to the head office in London will be liable to the tax?
– If the shareholders of a company are absentees, they will be treated as such ; whereas, if they are Australian citizens and residents, they will be treated as Australian citizens and residents.
– That explanation does not meet my point. The whole of the profits made by a company formed outside Australia may be sent to London.
– The principle which is involved here is this : An absentee company is the trustee for its shareholders and will be taxed in such a way, and at such a rate, that those shareholders who are resident outside Australia will pay as if the whole of the shareholders resided out of Australia, and will pay in proportion to their interests. On the other hand, those shareholders who are resident in Australia - notwithstanding that the company is assessed as if all its shares were held by absentees - will be assessed as if none of them were absentees. The proposal is set forth pretty clearly in an amendment which I have circulated in relation to trustees.
.- I had given notice of an amendment to which effect is really given by the proposal of the Attorney-General. The idea underlying it is to tax only shareholders who are absentees - not to tax the whole of the shareholders of a company merely because twofifths of them happen to be absentees. A similar provision is operative in South Australia. There, the Government tax the whole of a company if three-fifths of its shareholders are absentees, but allow the whole of its shareholders credit for the excess payment. It is a very fair provision.
– I think the honorable member for Melbourne has drawn attention to a very important point. It appears to me that the Government’s intentions may be frustrated unless they are very careful. Take the case of two well-known English companies, such as the Van Diemen’s Land Company and the South Australian Company. They are organized under English law, and they have their head-quarters in London to which the whole of their revenues are sent. How does the Attorney-General propose to tax their absentee shareholders? How does he propose to get hold of their assets? How can the Government tax absentee shareholders who are beyond the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, and who are not liable to its laws?
– Their interests here are liable to the law of the Commonwealth.
– We can exercise control over such a company. If the honorable member will look at the Bill he will see that.
– The difficulty which strikes me in this matter is that to which the honorable member for Melbourne has drawn attention. I understand that the Government propose to tax the company in the first instance.
– How do the Government propose to collect the tax from the absentees in England? Unless they charge the tax to the company as a whole, and refund a proportion to the Australian shareholders, the latter may be placed at a great disadvantage. If the Government charge the tax only on the absentees, when the directors declare a dividend they may deduct from that dividend the whole of the tax on the absentees, and thus charge a proportion of it to the Australian shareholders.
– We cannot prevent that.
– They will declare a dividend, for instance, of is. after deducting the whole of the tax, so that the Australian shareholders will indirectly be called upon to bear their share of the tax as absentees.
– - The moral of this discussion is that honorable members are thoroughly tired after a sitting of thirteen hours. The AttorneyGeneral’s latest observations are an obvious illustration of this. In the circumstances I trust that this matter will be postponed until to-morrow.
.- I take the case of a gentleman in Melbourne having a half-interest in a property. The holder of the other half-interest is a resident of London. He dies there, and not one of his executors or legatees comes to reside in Melbourne. The gentleman who resides in Melbourne having a half-interest in the estate will hold two-fifths of the estate plus one- tenth, and’ as mentioned in sub-clause 5 of clause 33, and may therefore be declared to be an absentee, although he may never have left Australia for more than six months.
– The amendment will relieve him of that.
– If that is made clear, I shall” be satisfied. I take now the case of a company. The head office of the Union Bank, for instance, is in London. The dividends are declared there, and I believe that under this Bill the minority of the shareholders who are resident in Australia will be called upon to pay an absentee tax.
– The honorable member is discussing a subsequent clause on the amendment before the Committee. By no conceivable means can there be any confusion as to the liability of the shareholder under this proposal. It is determined by the fact of his residence. Whether a man is a shareholder in a company or has an interest in an estate outside a company, his liability will be determined in precisely the same way ; that is to say, as to whether in his case the rating is to be that of an absentee or of a resident. If he lives out of Australia and is a shareholder of a company formed out of Australia, but owning land in the Commonwealth, then to the extent of his interest in the property of the company in Australia he will as a shareholder of the company be called upon to pay taxation at the absentee rate.
– How do the Government propose to collect the tax from him?
– If the honorable member will look at clauses 33, 34 and 35 he will find the answer.
– It is very difficult to find it.
– If the whole of this Bill is going to be discussed on every clause, we shall never make any headway. I have moved an amendment to strike out paragraphs b and c and honorable members get up and ask questions as to how we are to collect the tax, and how we are to do this, that and the other, referring to matters which are dealt with in other clauses. By the time we get to those clauses we shall have nothing to do, because everybody will be satisfied.
.- T did not ask the honorable gentleman how the Government propose to collect the tax. Is a company formed outside of Australia to be placed on the same terms as a company in Australia?
Mr. HUGHES (West Sydney- Attor the honorable member twice that shareholders who are absentees will be treated as absentees.
– I am not speaking of a shareholder now, but of a company.
– The question put by the honorable member for Melbourne has not yet been answered. I take the case of a company formed in Australia which is afterwards sold and the head-quarters removed to London. What the honorable member for Melbourne and other honorable members wish to know is what will be the position of shareholders of that company resident in the Commonwealth. Is the company to be treated as an absentee company? I gather from the Attorney-General that a clear distinction is to be made, and that shareholders residing here are to be treated as residents, whilstthose residing in London are to be treated as absentees. But in the case I have mentioned the company will simply pay the tax out of profits and declare the dividend afterwards, and their Australian shareholders will therefore be paying their portion of a tax at the absentee rate.
– There seems to be a good deal of confusion of thought in connexion with this matter. I may be wrong, but it does not seem to be difficult to me. As the Bill was originally drawn, it was provided that a company should be regarded as an absentee company if more than two-fifths of the shares were held by absentees. On closer examination that was found to be inequitable. A clause has, therefore, been very carefully drawn by the legal advisers of the Government to provide that so much of the capital as is held by people who are not resident in Australia shall be assessed at the absentee rate; and as regards the value of the shares held by people who are resident in Australia, it will be assessed at the value of their holdings in the company as residents of the Commonwealth.
– I am content with that.
– That is what we propose to do now. Instead of taxing the whole number as absentees, we tax those who are absentees as such, and those who are resident in Australia on the other basis.
Amendment agreed to.
House adjourned at 11. 1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 September 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100922_reps_4_57/>.