4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at. 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, what is the practice regarding private members’ business on the noticepaper. I had a motion on yesterday’s notice-paper proposing the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the condition of the sugar industry, and without my authority or request some one has had h set down for the 201 October. I had made arrangements with the Acting Prime Minister to have ‘the motion discussed today should opportunity offer, . but apparently this will not now be possible. I ask you whether, should the opportunity arise, I shall be at liberty to bring the matter forward for discussion to-day?
– When a motion is postponed by an honorable member other than the mover, he must have the consent of the mover. The business to whicli the honorable member refers was an Order of the Day, and had no action been taken regarding it when it was called on, it would have lapsed. The honorable member for Newcastle, therefore, moved the postponement of . its consideration until Thursday next. When an Order of the Day is called on, if no one rises to speak, the question is put to the vote, or the postpone ment of its consideration is moved. Yesterday the business of the honorable member was called on within a minute of the time when, under our Standing Orders, the period set apart for private Orders of the Day would have expired, and had no one moved its postponement, it would have dropped off the notice-paper.
– I understood last night that it was not intended to take fresh business after reporting progress on the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill, and therefore I went home. The honorable member for Newcastle had no right to move the postponement of the consideration of the Order of the Day without my request.
– What I said yesterday in regard to private members’ business was that an opportunity would be given for dealing with it before the session closed, and, on moving the adjournment last night, I said that if there was time to-day, after the Northern Territory Bill had been completed, it could be given up to private members’ business. I know nothing of the alteration of the business-paper to which the honorable member has referred.
– I spoke in the heat of the moment just now regarding the action of the honorable member for Newcastle, and express regret for what I said. I was altogether under a misapprehension as to what had occurred, thinking that when I left the House last night there would be no alteration of the business-paper. I was in the chamber yesterday morning until close upon half-past t2, the time when the period allotted to the discussion of private. Orders of the Day expired. The honorable member for Newcastle has informed me that, two minutes before that time, my Order of the Day was called on, and he rose and moved its postponement for the purpose of keeping it upon the business-paper.
– I have been advised that Government advertisements, for insertion in the Tasmanian newspaper;, are forwarded to a news agency, to which the newspaper proprietors have to pay a commission of so per cent. If that is so, will Ministers devise means for sending the advertisements direct to the newspaper offices?
– The more economical and effective control of the newspaper advertising of the Commonwealth is now engaging the serious attention of Ministers. It is hoped that we shall be able to frame a scheme which will give better results than we are now getting. Our efforts are being energetically applied in that direction.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister of Defence received a reply from him to the question I asked about a letter appearing in the Melbourne Herald a few days ago, respecting certain rifles?
– I brought the matter under the notice of the Minister of Defence, who informed me that the rifle invented by Mr. Hyland was favorably reported upon by the Inventions Board of the Department, and the report forwarded to the WarOffice, which did not seem disposed to take action in the matter. Mr. Hylandmade certain proposals for the consideration of the War Office, which have also been forwarded by the Department. Pending the establishment of the Small Arms factory, the Department cannot do anything further in the matter.
Unofficial Post-office Allowances - Minimum Wage - Closing of Postoffices at 6 o’clock.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General if he will read to the House a reply which, I understand, he has received from Sir Robert Scott, explaining the circumstances under which, on the 16th March, Sir Robert approved of an instruction respecting the scale of allowances to country post-offices?
– I shall be very pleased to do so. I sent this letter to Sir Robert Scott-
Melbourne, 22nd September, 1910.
Dear Sir Robert,
Some questions have been asked and statements made in Parliament regarding and arrangement affecting allowances paid to allowance postmasters which was approved by you during the absence from Melbourne of the late Minister, Sir John Quick. I enclose an extract from Hansard, in order that you may see exactly what took place in connexion with the matter, and be in a position to offer any remarks on the subject should you wish to do so.
To that I have received the following reply : -
Parkhurst, Aberleigh Hill,
Brisbane, 3rd October,1910.
The Hon. Josiah Thomas, Postmaster-Gene ral,&c., Melbourne.
I have to thank you for your letter of the 22nd of September withrespect to statements made in Parliament as to the alteration in the scale of allowances to postmasters under the allowance system, and the file enclosed relating thereto, which has enabled me, to some extent, to refresh mymemory with regard to the circumstances. So far as I can remember, the Postmaster-General, Sir John Quick, on the eve of his departure forBendigo - where he anticipated being engaged for some time in connexion with the elections - gave me the usual instruction, namely, to approve of all matters in which I could act without Ministerial authority, and to refer any others to him at Bendigo, or, if I considered it necessary, to take the papers to him for action. In my opinion, the slight alteration to the schedule of allowances was a matter in which I could have acted under the authority given to me under the provisions of section 6 of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901 ; but as the schedule to be thus altered had been approved by the previous Minister, I thought it better to approve of it for the PostmasterGeneral, in accordance with the practice of the Department in many previous instances, and with the instruction given in every instance when the Minister anticipated a prolonged absence from Melbourne. If it is considered that I have exceeded my authority in this instance I must accept the full responsibility for an ‘error of judgment;but in view of the thousands of instances in which I have similarly approved of even more important matters for the Postmaster- General, I may perhaps be permitted to congratulate myself that in this instance only has any exception been taken to such action on my part during my term of office. With respect to the alteration referred to, it may be as well for me to point out that it was an alteration in a schedule of allowances approved in the previous March, but which was only tobe brought into operation either upon a change of postmaster, or in case where it would increase the allowances then paid. As the alteration in no way altered or modifiedthis condition, it followed that there could be no reduction of a then existing allowance except under these conditions. It must also be borne in mind that allowance post-officeswere supposed to be, and were, generally, held in connexion with some other business - usually a shop - and that very few shops opened later than 8 a.m. or closed before
-.- I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether he proposes to take any action to lay clown the principle that a minimum wage of at least 7s. a day shall be paid to all adult employes in the Postal and Telegraph service, as there are employes in his Department over twenty-one years of age who are receiving less?
– Not having had notice of this question, I do not know exactly to what particular cases the honorable member refers. The Public Service Act says that the employes must be three years in the service. If the honorable member will bring any cases before me where a person over twenty-one- years of age has been three years in the service, and! is not receiving the wage mentioned, I shall see into the matter.
– Cannot the honorable member alter the Act ?
– That is a matter for Parliament.
– I want to know whether the Postmaster-General intends to take, irrespective of the Public Service Act or any other Act. any action which would insure to adult employes in. the Post and Telegraph, service a minimum, wage of at least 7s. a day?
– That matter is not under my jurisdiction. The question must be asked of the Minister of Home Affairs, because the Public Service Commissioner, who administers the Public Service Act, is under the- Home. Affairs Department.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether it is his intention to take any action which will insure to ‘all Commonwealth employe’s who are over twenty-one years of age a minimum rate of wage of at least 7s. a day ?
– I should like the honorable member to give notice of that question, so as to enable me to find out whether he means permanent or casual officers.
– I mean all employes.
– Then I ask the honorable member to give notice of the question, and I shall look right into it.
– May I be permitted to make a statement?
– Is it the pleasure of the. House that the honorable member have leave to make a’ statement ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– I have found that in the postal service there are some men who are over twenty-one years of age, but are not getting ^110 a year, because they have not been three years in the service. That has arisen in this way : A number, although perhaps not all, of these men were in the service .when they were young fellows, but when they arrived at the age of eighteen they had to leave because there was no work for them to do. A little while ago, Mr. McLachlan, the Public Service Commissioner, in order to meet cases of that sort, called for applications permitting persons to enter the service- although they were over the age of twenty-one, and beginning, I think, at twenty-four or twenty-five. This gave some of those- men an opportunity- of coming into the service again, but if Mr. McLachlan had started them at a minimum wage of £110 a year, he would have put them over the heads of men who were in the- permanent service, and these would naturally have objected. He therefore said they must start at ,£84 a year, and when they had been three years in the service they would get £110 a year. It seems, however, that quite a number who have got in at £&4 per annum are now complaining that they are being sweated, because they are not getting ;£no per annum. I have seen Mr. McLachlan on this point, and he says that, in order to avoid any difficulty in the future, he will simply say that those who enter the service must be younger. Through his action, a number of men of about twenty -four or twenty-live years of age have got into the service again, and at the end of three- years would be paid ^110 per annum, and’ have a permanent job ; but as there has been such a fuss over t!ie matter, Mr. McLachlan-
– Who is Mr. McLachlan.?
– He is the Public Service Commissioner, and one of’ the ablest and most gifted public servants’ in Australia.
– He is not going- to lay down a policy,, surely ?
– My opinion is- that Mr.. McLachlan is the- best friend the Commonwealth Public Service has..
– Will the action now being taken deprive any one who left the service at eighteen of the opportunity of getting back?
– In future Mr. McLachlan will not call for applications from those who are twenty-four or twentyfive years of age.
– Then it is a case of “save me from mv friends.”
– I have had letter after letter over this matter, and have spoken to Mr. McLachlan about it. He said he only took the action he did to give a number of men an opportunity of getting back into the service, but he would not do it in the future, because he could get all the men he wanted under the age of twenty-one. So far as the Postal Department is concerned, it is better for us to have the employes younger, as we get hold of them sooner, and can train them more as we want them.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether the seniority difficulty, to which he referred, could not be got over by the arrangement of the seniority list on a slightly different basis from the present; secondly, whether he indorses the policy of the Public Service Commissioner and, thirdly, whether we are to receive our policy in these matters from the Public Service Commissioner or from the Minister ?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will give notice of those questions.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say how many of these young fellows have received the concession of appointment after attaining the age of eighteen, and how many are making complaints ?
– I could not say exactly, but will ascertain. I have received complaints indirectly, if not directly, from some of these men. They have received appointments, and are working for £84 per annum. The next stage is, I think, £96, and after that they reach ^110. During the interval they bring the matter under the notice of somebody, who writes to me, saying that I am allowing sweating in the Postal Department, because I am asking persons to work at less than £110 per annum.
– About how many are affected ?
– I shall get the information. I do not think there are a large number, but Mr. McLachlan told me that he took action in order to try to meet the cases of many of these young fellows, who had previously been in the service.
– Do I understand that these young fellows, who went out of the service at the age of eighteen, and have now been reappointed, are the individuals concerned in the question put by the honorable member for Cook?
– I do not say that it is so in every case, but there are quite a number of young fellows who had to leave the service at eighteen. I think that age has now been raised to twenty. In order to meet those cases, Mr. McLachlan called for applications in a certain form. It is quite possible that in answer to the advertisement some came in who had never been in the service before, but there is no doubt that he gave preference to those who had previously been in the service. He told me that he acted as he did in order to try to meet those cases and so as to give the men another start, since he found that he could get work for them. He tells me that he is not going to do it again after all this fuss.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that in his own electorate there are, to say the least of it, several men of twenty-one years and over who have been in the service of particular companies for three years and over, and are not receiving £110 per annum?
– There are not only a few, but a large number. I am sorry to say that at Broken Hill the big majority of men do not average ;£no per year.
– Is the Postal Department doing anything with respect to closing the post-offices at 6 o’clock, as is now done in Queensland and Western Australia, in the other four States of the Union? Six o’clock is a fair time, as all the business houses are then closed, and the post-offices should be closed also.
– I am now getting information from all the Deputies on the matter. I want to see the reports before I take action, but I have already publicly stated that, in my opinion, 6 o’clock is a fair time for closing the post-offices throughout Australia. I shall be very glad if in a little while I can issue an instruction accordingly.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether, when the postal facilities of a district are being tied up, and the heads of the Postal Department are of opinion that the staff is inadequate and overworked, he thinks it is the duty of the Public Service Commissioner to keep those facilities tied up, or that the opinion of the heads of the Department should be taken ? In short, who is to run the Department- the Public Service Commissioner or the Postmaster-General ?
– That is rather an awkward question to ask me. The Public Service Commissioner has certain defined duties under Act of Parliament, and is responsible to this Parliament for carrying them out. I take it that when any action is necessary in regard to increasing a staff he consults the officers of the Postal Department, and meets their wishes as far as he thinks is reasonable.
£ri.o]. - I move -
That on each sitting day, until otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of general business.
This motion is customary at various stages of the session, and has been moved during every session of the Federal Parliament. There is rather a lengthy programme now before Parliament, containing measures of first importance. It is very desirable that the business should proceed uninterruptedly; and for that reason it is in the interests of the House and of the country that Government business should fake precedence. There is no desire on the part of the Government to prevent the measures standing in the names of private members from being discussed, and I repeat my promise that an opportunity will, be afforded to deal with those motions before the close of the session. Under the circumstances, I think honorable members might permit the motion to pass without discussion. As a matter of fact, I think honorable members will be better off, so far as time is concerned, for, at any rate, they will have the opportunity promised, together with the knowledge that they are facilitating public business. I am unable to indicate at what particular stage the opportunity will be afforded, but before the close of the session, and while there is yet Government business to be transacted, there may be time to dispose of private members’ business, wholly or in part. As I said yesterday, it h the intention of the Govern ment to proceed next week with the discussion of the Bills relating to the amendment of the Constitution, and that business will proceed uninterruptedly. Other business of almost equal importance will follow; but there may be. and very likely will be, an interregnum, when it will be convenient for private members’ business to be dealt with. If such opportunity does not occur, private members’ business will be taken at the end of the session.
– I am glad to hear the statement by the Acting Prime Minister, but I should like information in regard to some of the private business on the paper. I happen to be in charge of the Banking Companies Reserve Liabilities Bill, which has been sent down from the Senate; and I ask the Acting Prime Minister to so arrange business that, in case of any amendment necessitating a return of that measure to the Senate, sufficient time will be given to deal with it before the end of the session, so that finality may be reached.
– I have already said that the honorable member will have an opportunity.
.- Any one who knows the Leader of the House as I do, is perfectly well aware that it is of no use entering any protest whatever against a line of action on which he has determined. At the same time, considering that we usually do not rise until Christmas - though I do not think we shall be so late this year - it is really too early to deprive honorable members of the small time placed at their disposal, in order to discuss matters which to them, at least, seem of considerable moment. I have on the notice-paper a motion dealing with the question, on which, if not in 1913, certainly in 1916, every Federal candidate will have to express a definite opinion, for there is no doubt that unification will then, if not earlier, be the leading topic. I did hope to be allowed to make the introductory speech for the edification of honorable members and the people outside. I cannot say that I am very sanguine about the time which will be placed at our disposal. We have already been deprived of some portions of the time, so that, as matters are now, only some three and a half hours are allowed each week. Seeing, however, that this morning, as on other days, halfanhour has been devoted to questions and personal explanations, we may take it that no more than three hours each week is at the disposal of private members to discuss such important motions as that, for instance, of the honorable member for Brisbane, who is so deeply concerned about the moral tone of this Parliament. I have known the Acting Prime Minister to be in a generous mood more than once ; and I hope he will allow not one or two days, but, perhaps, a week for private members’ business before the end of the session.
– I see no reason why the motion should not be carried, subject to the understanding that there will be a reasonable arrangement with private members to give them time as promised. The honorable member for Herbert takes rather a pessimistic view when he suggests that the work of the session will last ;another two months.; for, judging by .the rate of progress in the last week or two, there will scarcely be any necessity for prolonging the session so close to Christmas. I, like many others, have every desire to facillitate the reasonable despatch ©f business ; and I do not think’ that that is promoted a by a long break .for .private members’ business every Thursday, when that business might be .concentrated into two or three suitable .days. Honorable members would then come properly prepared to discuss the various questions raised, and we should not have a collapse such as we witnessed yesterday.
.- Yesterday morning I questioned the Acting Prime Minister on this subject, and I am glad to hear the reply “that he has given. There is scarcely a Parliament in the world where so much time is devoted to private members’ business; at any rate, nothing like the time is allowed in the House of Commons. Instead of taking private members’ business in the ‘casual sort of way we do now, it would be much, better to devote a week to it during the session, when we could all come properly prepared to deal with the various questions raised. To break into Government business on the most important day of the week is simply nonsense, and the Acting Prime Minister is taking the right course. I hope the Parliament will not continue to sit right into December, because we have been here long enough. If Parliament is to be turned into a club where we may stay all the year round, ret the fact be known, so that we may conduct the business under less pressure. It was always contemplated that the Commonwealth Parliament would not sit more than three or four months in each year.
– It sat for seventeen months one session.
– There was then much initial work, which, of course, will not recur. The Acting Prime Minister would do well, after the important business has been disposed of, to close the session as soon as possible, arranging to give private members the opportunity they have been promised.
. - I join in the request to the Acting Prime Minister that he will give an absolute promise that an opportunity shall be afforded to deal with the more important items of private business on the notice-paper.
– Who is to judge as to the importance ?
– Then I will say that if the Acting Prime Minister will allow sufficient time, at the close of the Government business, for the consideration-
– I promise, at least, two. days.
– So far as I am concerned, I am satisfied.
– I have always held the view that honorable members should be exceedingly jealous in surrendering the one small prerogative in relation to business which exists outside the Cabinet. More and more Cabinets are usurping the functions of government ; and, especially when business is conducted on strict party lines, it is almost impossible for honorable members who happen to sit in Opposition to ventilate a question unless a day in the week is set apart for general business. Grievance day gives rise to a series of rambling discussions, which practically have no result ; and if there were a proposal to abolish that institution, it would be much more rational on the part of the Government. Some of the private business is of equal importance with Government business, such, for instance, as the motion dealing with the sugar industry. If the proposal is to simply devote the last two days of the session to private members’ business when the bulk of honorable members have gone home, there is nothing in the promise.
– There will be a thin House, and the honorable member can then carry his motion.
– It is not a question of what I can- carry, but a question of whether private members are prepared, to surrender their right. The Acting Prime Minister should arrange that the two days given shall not be at the close of the session. Year after year there is always a thin attendance at that time; and the arrangement is invariably made between the Government and the Opposition that attention shall not be called to the state of the House when the fragments of the session’s business are being cleared away. I hope that honorable members will receive from the Acting Prime Minister a promise that the two days to be set apart for the disposal of private members’ business on the noticepaper will be, not at the end of the session, but at least a fortnight before its close, in order that it may be dealt with in a fairly full House.
– T am pleased that the Acting Prime Minister is not going to allot more than two days for the consideration of private members’ business. That should afford those having notices of motion on the business-paper ample time to dispose of them. In this National Parliament we are following too slavishly the methods of “State Parliaments, where members are .given opportunities to air all sorts of fads and grievances. This Parliament does not exist for such a purpose ; it is convened to deal with large questions of national importance. I do not know that a private member has succeeded in carrying a Bill through this House.
– But- the debates on private members’ motions are educational.
– We do not come “here to be educated ; we should be educated before we come into Parliament. The only legislation that it is possible to -carry through a National Parliament is that introduced by the- Government of the day. It would be useless to have a Nacional Government if they were not solely responsible for national measures.
– Almost every big national measure that has been passed has been the outcome of motions submitted originally by private members.
– If this is to be a debating society, in which honorable members are to discuss all sorts- of fads-, the outside public will come to the conclusion that there is no need for a National Parliament, and that we should revert to (the old order of things. I am strongly in favour of restricting private business as much as possible. The sooner we close up the better. We have been sitting here for months, and many honorable members, who are hundreds of miles away from their constituencies, are anxious to return to them. They are out of touch with their constituents, and we all know that an honorable member from a distant State was disfranchised because, in attending to his Parliamentary duties here, he was absent from his home for more than six months.
– I think that the Government proposal is very reasonable, and I intend to support it. In the State Parliament, of which I had the honour to be a member for some years, it was the invariable practice, towards the close of the session, to give to the consideration of Government measures the time usually allotted to private members’ business. We sit here from ro.30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and for reasons that are not worth referring to this practice means that honorable members from other States, from the moment they arrive here until they leave for their homes again at the end of the week, have to be constantly in the House. Owing to the strength of the party behind the Government many important measures have been carried this session which have required the close attention of Government supporters, as well as of the Opposition. In the House of Commons it is thought that a good session’s work has been done in passing two measures, but before this session closes we shall have come to the conclusion that we have passed more than two which, from our point of view, are of a very substantial character, and for the benefit of the people. As a new member, I do not think there is very much in this practice of allotting time for the consideration of private members’ business. From the opening to the close of the session, one or two honorable members monopolize the whole of the notice-paper. Their motions are not closured, and week after week the debate upon them is resumed and adjourned. I am inclined to think that many notices of motion are placed on the businesspaper for the purpose of blocking a real discussion of the matters to which they relate; and since we allow private members’ day to be utilized in this way, I question whether the wisdom of the honorable members concerned is worth the tremendous expense which its expression entails on the people. The much-despised .grievance day is far more important. On a formal supply motion it is possible to bring forward a substantial grievance, and to make such an impression on the Government as to secure its redress. After all, it is an old constitutional practice - and I have yet to learn that everything that has come down from our fathers is bad- that the King shall obtain no Supply until he Kas redressed the grievances of his subjects. All sorts of abstract motions by cranks and faddists appear on the notice-paper for the purpose of advertising the National Parliament, and showing that some honorable members think that this Chamber exists to enable them to make academic speeches to enlighten the heathen. I have pleasure” in supporting the Government motion, because I think it is a reasonable one.
.- I suppose that we are expected to listen in silence to the lecture given by the new member who has just resumed his seat as to the practice that ought to obtain in the National Parliament.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh has had seventeen years’ experience as a member of a State Parliament.
– But he described himself as a new member of this House, and declared that all private members who had business on the notice-paper were faddists and cranks. That is the sort of expression that one might expect from a hoary and crusted old Conservative. Honorable members who like myself have taken part in reform movements must be familiar with such expressions. As an old member of the Labour party, the honorable member for Hindmarsh in his time no doubt has been called a faddist and a crank, presuming that- he has ever proposed any labour reform. I am not sufficiently acquainted with his history to know whether he has or has not.
– I have proposed more reforms than has the honorable member.
– Then the honorable member has often been called a faddist.
– I have placed more measures on the statute-book than has the honorable member ; I can confidently place my record against his.
– The honorable member seems to be annoyed, because I am throwing a little light on his reform measures, and his particular sentiments as a re former. I shall not refer to the big railway. I protest against the proposal of the Acting Prime Minister on the ground that it is an interference with the rights of minorities. It would appear that the rights of minorities were never in greater danger than they are to-day. I would remind those who have scofled at private members’ business day of the learned and eloquent speech made by the honorable member for North Sydney on the motion he has submitted in reference to the currency. I would also remind them of the proceedings in this House yesterday when the honorable member for Perm brought forward a matter of such importance that the Minister of External Affairs readily promised to introduce legislation dealing with it. I venture to say that that question would not have been considered by even this Government, anxious as they are to bring about reforms, if it had not been for the honorable member for Perth’s action in bringing it before the House. Then, again, I would draw the attention of honorable members to the motion which I have submitted, calling for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the sugar industry. Nearly every honorable member who has spoken to that motion has urged the necessity of such an inquiry. I have also on the notice-paper a motion that we should avail ourselves of the terms of the Constitution to carry out a certain reform. Is that the proposal of a faddist or a crank ? If the honorable member for Hindmarsh visits my district he will find that the people there regard it as a matter of vital importance, and I certainly consider it of the utmost importance to the whole of Australia. I agree with the honorable member for Herbert, who points out that the Ministry are going to deprive us of the three hours per week which are now devoted to private members’ business. The honorable member for Franklin has shown us that although on grievance day on a formal motion of Supply we may discuss grievances and desired reforms, we cannot come to a vote upon them. On such a motion all sorts of questions are discussed, and the debate is as variegated as a patchwork quilt. After all, I suppose we cannot carry an adverse motion, and I shall not call for a division on this question, although I should like to do so.
.- I wish to record my dissent from the suggestion made that private members should not be given an opportunity to submit motions to the House, and that the Government alone should provide the session’s business. That would mean party Government in its worst form, and it is just that form of party Government that I am most anxious to see done away with. I believe that the wisdom of this or of any other Parliament is not wholly vested in the Ministry. Whilst the control of the business of the House must, and properly should, rest with Ministers, there are nevertheless behind the Government and in the front Opposition benches, members who are able to contribute very much to the work of the House, and to bring forward measures of advantage to the community.
-The Government are offering those having motions on the notice paper two hours for every one now allowed for their consideration.
– The honorable member is overlooking the fact that I am dissenting from the suggestion that private members should have no rights in this regard. I am satisfied to take my chance with other honorable members having notices of motion on the business-paper, and I do not say that my motion is of relatively greater importance than are those of others. My point is that there are certain honorable members who while owing a duty to the Government and the country have a special duty to discharge to their constituents. Many of the most important measures that have been passed by the House of Commons have been brought forward for years previously by private members, and have been the result of constant ventilation of the subject.
– That is the history of much legislation passed by this House.
– Probably that is so. Private members by a constant ventilation of the necessity for a desired reform have succeeded in ultimately inducing the Government to take it up. I speak with considerable temerity because of want of experience; but the two hours devoted on Thursday morning to private members’ business seem to be found particularly convenient by Ministers and many private members for attending to matters of public or private concern, and afford a welcome break in the monotony of the sittings. If it were not for the opportunity thus given to slip into the library, or elsewhere, it would be difficult for some of us to prepare ourselves for the consideration of the business brought forward by the Government. Taking the list on the notice-paper this session as a criterion of the nature of the proposals of private members, it will be seen that a. very solid attempt is being made by those who are not in the Cabinet to legislate for the benefit of the country. A reasonable opportunity should be given for private members’ business, because the right to bring forward legislative proposals is one which private members should and must have. There are many Statutes which have: not found a place in the programmes of Governments, but whose incidence has. proved most beneficial to the community.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Thomas) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to Postal Rates.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 13th October, vide page 4593) :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This. Act shall commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation.
. This seems a suitable opportunity for inviting the Minister in charge of the Bill to say what preliminaries will precede the issue of the proclamation bringing the measure into force. Is it proposed to arrive at an understanding with the Government of South Australia regarding the questions which have been raised during the second reading discussion, and particularly as to the right of the Commonwealth to determine the route of the proposed railway? Until the proclamation is issued, the Government of the Commonwealth will be master of the situation ; but once it has been issued everything will have been done finally and absolutely, and there will be no opportunity for negotiation or concession. There is a latent ambiguity in the agreement which it is most desirable to remove before the issue of the proclamation, and an attempt should be made to arrive at a clear understanding with the Government of South Australia regarding the matter. The Minister would allay considerable apprehension if he would announce emphatically the policy of the Government in this matter. Do Ministers consider that the Commonwealth willhave a free hand in the determination, of the route, of the proposed railway, so that it can. choose such a routeas after proper, survey and examination, of the country may be recommended as the best in the interests of the Territory ?
.- The settlement of the Territory is a very important matter-, and I hope that it will not be allowed to proceed in the haphazard method which has been followed in some of the States, notably New South Wales, where the best land has been picked up in different districts, so that the whole country has been “ peacocked.” Before the proclamation is issued, a precise scheme of settlement should be devised. When I. was Minister of Home Affairs, the secretary had commenced the compilation of geodetic information, with a view to the grading of the country, so that settlers might know exactly where they could get the land they most require. If a proper system of grading were followed, and the land suitable for close settlement made known, the construction of railways for the opening up of the Territory would be much less expensive than it will be if this preliminary work is not done. The Minister might also at this stage inform us how he proposes to people the Territory. You, Mr. Poynton, last night pointed out in your eloquentspeech, the close- proximity of the Territory to countries inhabited by coloured races numbering hundreds of millions; and, while some may laugh at the idea of invasion by any of those peoples-, I look upon the Territory, while it continues- unoccupied, as a menace to the safety of Australia, and a peril to our White Australia policy. I should like to know what system the Minister intends to follow for the settling and developing of the Territory. Those already in Australia cannot be expected to leave temperate latitudes- to take up land in tropical districts. Immigrants will, therefore, have to be obtained from other parts of the world, and to get them a bold policy of immigration is necessary. Although T, as a member of the late Administration, had objections to the Bill, I had. no hesitation in supporting it, because I” felt that defence was one of the most important matters for which we had to provide, and we were advocating a forward system of immigration to bring about the occupation of tropical Australia. Unless the Government is ready to encourage immigration, it will be useless to hope for the settlement and development of the Territory by white races.
– The honorable member for Illawarra and others will recognise that it is rather much to ask me to outline our policy for settling the Northern Territory, of which we know so little, at a time when it has not been transferred to the Commonwealth. Every one knows generally what must be done, but I can hardly be expected to deal in detail with the matter now. Our first business will be to increase our knowledge of the Territory. A geodetic survey is, of course, necessary for the proper understanding of its conditions.
– The information is already in the Department of Home Affairs.
– What information is to hand is very meagre.
– It is, of course, idle to think of settling the Northern Territory without immigration, but to what extent immigration must be encouraged will have to be determined later. The first question which must be dealt willi is land tenure. We cannot continue the annual permit system.
– There must be fixity of tenure.
– There must be fixity of tenure of some sort. Obviously, it would not do to adopt the South Australian land laws.
– Does the Government purpose to interfere with the long leases which have been issued ?’
– Some of them may have to be resumed, but no definite expression of opinion can be given until we have further information.
– The South Australian laws are preserved, pending Federal legislation.
– The South. Australian legislation provides for leases- for terms of twenty-five or forty-two years. The Government do not propose to issue leases for that length of tenure. We want some other legislation, which will’ enable us to people the country more on our own lines, and a short measure with elastic provisions enabling leases to be given on some more moderate tenure than is possible under the South Australian legislation will be necessary at a very early stage. The honorable member for Bendigo asked’, in effect, whether the Government would hang up the proclamation and start negotiations; with South Australia as to the railway. That is not the proposal of the Government. They have all along taken the attitude that their powers under the agreement are to construct the railway where this Parliament deems fit. According to the Government’s view, it is not essential that the railway should be constructed wholly within the Territory. That is the position the Government take up.
– Does the honorable member agree with that opinion?
– I am a member of the Government, and am speaking now for the Government. I have no view on the matter apart from the Government’s view while 1 am a member of the Government.
– It is not quite fair to South Australia. They think the railway must be constructed wholly within the Territory, and are handing the Territory over on that understanding.
– We do not want to discuss the whole question again. Honorable members know perfectly well that the Government view is the view expressed by the Attorney-General. Both the South Australian Parliament and this Parliament having passed identical Bills, we do not think there will be any necessity for further communication about the matter. To raise the question would simply mean an apparent attempt to vary the agreement. It is of no use to do anything of the kind, and therefore the proclamation need not be held up pending discussions which can have no other effect than to delay the settlement of the whole matter, and which may possibly engender considerable friction.
– I wish to know exactly what the South Australian Government are doing with reference to the leasing or sale of land in the Territory.
– Only annual permits have been granted for the last five or six years.
– I am strongly of opinion that the Government should not alienate or give long leases for a single acre. When we come to the question of dealing with land tenure, it will be for this House, and not for the Government, to decide the policy to be followed. I do not think the Minister can at present do more than give expression to what must be simply an idea in the mind of the Government. The land tenure question is a most important feature in dealing with a Territory of this kind. We have the experience of the past in all the States to guide us, and we certainly ought to take advantage of it, and avoid their mistakes. My feeling about the Territory is that, except on the rivers or along the coast, 01 in other places suitable for tropical agriculture in :small areas, the land should not be leased in very small areas, because it is a vast stretch of unknown country, and has to be pioneered. But, in any case, the tenure should not be so long that, when later on we want to deal with the land for purposes of smaller settlement, we shall find ourselves unable to touch it. I think the land legislation of South Australia, small as its .population has been, was the best passed inAustralia. She threw her lands open first in hundreds, or hundreds of hundreds, in small blocks .suitable for smallersettlement. Those had to be filled unfairly well before the extension of smaller settlement or selection was allowed beyond them. Quite a different policy -was followed in New South Wales. Under Sir John Robertson’s Act of 1861, the whole country was thrown open for selection before survey, with the result that “ peacocking “ took place all over .the colony, and difficulty has been experienced ever since in dealing with the lands that were then taken up. When we come to administer the Territory, it will .be .better to deal with it in factions, just as was done in South Australia ; let us alienate or lease a certain portion, and have that filled up, instead of allowing people to go all over -the country and “ peacock “ it. I do .not know what arrangement the South Australian Government have made in .reference to the cancellation of leases that have already been granted, or whether we have any power to cancel .them if required, and, if so, under what conditions.
– I do not think we have. Under the agreement we must carry those leases on.
– I have no objection to our carrying them on, but weought ‘to have as much power as we carr take, without repudiation, to deal with anylands that are let under long leases, and’ without paying too much for them.
– The good lands, are nearly all under long lease now.
– Yes, but .it w,as stated last night that provision had already been made to prevent the Commonwealth having to pay on the resumption of leases any increased value that might be given to the land through the building of the railway. I take, perhaps, more than usual interest in this matter, >having been in the Territory forty-six years ago. I was one of a party who took up land in Queensland, on the Barklay tablelands, in 1864, and, by mistake, two blocks of Northern Territory country were included. I may say that the land in that part, and for a considerable distance into the Territory, is as fine land for pastoral purposes as can be found in Australia. We ought to see that we conserve it properly.
– It is all leased.
– That is why I am referring to the leasing question. I want this Parliament to have power to deal with such land as that, because it is susceptible of great improvement. It has a good rainfall and good rivers. The only difficulty was that it was a long way from Burketown, and, at the time I speak of, there was no communication except by buggy or team. After holding the property for seven years we had to give it up. I think that a great deal of the country in the Northern Territory is very much better than people think. It must be different from other parts of Australia if it is not.
– The greatest difficulty in connexion with the Northern Territory is getting to the markets.
– The development of the Northern Territory by railway is of the greatest importance, in order to enable the settlers to get to the markets. I do not know whether the Government will deal with the question in the proclamation, but it is also most important that we should have a good port on the northwestern coast, in close communication with the Malay and other States, for the conveyance of our produce to them. I understand that a geodetic survey of the Territory has been prepared, and is available in the Home Affairs Department. If so. the House should be given the advantage of it now, because the information would be most useful in dealing with this question. I take it that there is no serious objection to our taking over the Territory. The only difficulty is with regard to details, particularly whether the railway should go outside the Territory or not. Some honorable members who have, perhaps, a better knowledge of the MacDonnell Ranges want the railway carried right through there. I think that such a route would go through very dry country. I hope, in issuing the proclamation, all care will be taken to insure that we have as much control over the Territory as can possibly be given to us. I do not know that the question of the peopling of the country can be dealt with in the proclamation, but I heard the honorable member for Franklin make a very long speech last night on the question, and I hope he will excuse me for saying that he does not know much about the country.
– The honorable member saw only one corner.
– It was a very good corner. I give the honorable member credit for having dug up all the history regarding the Territory, because the information is very useful to the House, but “ the country is so vast that we do not realize what it is, or how it can best be developed. We are told that we cannot people it wiLh a white race, but the same thing was said about the sugar lands of Northern Queensland. If we use proper discretion in dealing with the Northern Territory, the majority of those who will develop the country will be white, though I do not say there will not be some coloured people, half-castes, and so forth. Until we have sufficient population to guarantee the ultimate domination of the white race, we should not allow many aliens to be there.
– But there are some there already, and we cannot get rid of them. Given the advantages of civilization, the Northern Territory is the place where white people can live; and, with the quicker communication to which we look forward, they will, if necessary, be able to periodically come south, for a change. The manager of a station on the borders of the Territory, who has lived there for about thirty years, tells me that there is no better climate.
– I know that manager, and lie does not tell me that; on the contrary, he wishes he were out of it.
– At any rate, that gentleman regards the climate as good, and, certainly, although he is getting an old man, he seems to be in excellent health after thirty years’ residence. I commend the Government for carrying the agreement initiated by the Government of which the honorable member for Ballarat was the head ; but we must take care to safeguard our interests before issuing’ the proclamation to take over the Territory.
.- The Minister of External Affairs was, apparently, unable to satisfactorily respond to the invitation of the honorable member foc Bendigo not to issue the proclamation until he had negotiated with the South Australian Government and made clear the right of the Commonwealth to construct the proposed railway where we think fit. The honorable gentleman said that it would be inconvenient to enter into negotiations with the South Australian Government.
– I did not say that it would be inconvenient, but that it was unnecessary and worse than useless, because it might lead to friction.
– If, as the Minister has told us, the Commonwealth’ is, in his opinion, at perfect liberty to construct the railway where we think best, how could friction arise? I cannot believe, however, that that is the opinion of the Minister.
– I ask the honorable member not to deal with the question of the railway, because he will have an opportunity, on clause 10.
– I confess I was somewhat exercised in mind when the honorable member for Bendigo initiated a discussion on matters altogether beside the question of the proclamation. Then the honorable member for Illawarra dealt with the land question, and advanced arguments in favour of a certain policy, and the honorable member for Hume covered a very wide ground of discussion. I am very anxious to know what particular subject we may discuss under this clause, which refers to the date on which the proclamation shall be issued.
– It is susceptible of very open debate, I think.
– The debate does not appear to be very open, seeing that the Chairman rules that I must not discuss the railway question. I am quite willing, however, to confine myself to the proclamation, and I ask the Chairman to limit other honorable members in the same way. What is intended by the proclamation ? Are we going to keep faith with the people of Australia, and carry out the intention of this Bill when it is passed, or is the measure to be hung up for fifty years, as was suggested Vast night by the honorable member for Ballarat? The clause, as it stands, may mean anything ; and I think we ought to know what the Government propose to do. Is the Bill to be brought into operation within a year, or when?
– The Minister said that it was to be brought into operation immediately - before next session.
– I assume that we mean business, and that honorable members, who have spoken of the great necessity for the taking over and the development of the Territory, intend, that something shall be done. I might ask the superior member for Hindmarsh, who has referred to honorable members with private business as “ faddists and cranks,” to enlighten us as to how he would propose to develop the country.
– At the right time I shall.
– If the intention is merely to satisfy certain people in South Australia by relieving that State of its present burden, and to do nothing more with the Territory, we shall not be keeping faith with the public. I must say that I appreciate the difficulty of the Minister of External Affairs, when he says that he cannot define a policy because w7e know so very little about the country. How long have we to allow the Minister to become sufficiently acquainted with the country to enable him to lay before us a land policy?
.- The Government having deprived us of the time hitherto devoted to private members’ business, and the honorable member for Hindmarsh having told us that there will be no more “ academic discussions,” this is a very good opportunity for an “ academic discussion “ on the great national question of taking over the Territory. It would, moreover, appear that the Minister is not too anxious to get on with the Bill.
– Did the Minister say that he does not wish to get on with the Bill ?
– The Minister “ stonewalled “ the measure from the jump.
– Mr. Chairman, I should like to know whether that argument is for or against the clause?
– The honorable member for Maranoa is not in order.
– Several honorable members have said that the Northern Territory is a barren country, but I can assure honorable members that when I was a young fellow, in the early eighties. I brought across into Queensland cattle which had been fattened on the Barklay tablelands. That fact, from a pastoral point of view, speaks volumes ; and, so far as the fertility of the Territory is concerned, I have no doubt. One thing that has kept the Territory back-
– The honorable member must confine himself to the proclamation.
– With all due deference, I ‘submit that the . proclamation covers the whole of the Bill - that, if we do not carry the clause providing for proclamation, the whole Bill will, in effect, be thrown out.
-The honorable member will see that if I allow a general discussion on this clause, we shall have a repetition of the second-reading speeches.
– I do not intend to make a second-reading speech Had you, Mr. Chairman, carefully listened to the honorable member for Hume, I think you would have found he was making a secondreading speech - that honorable member rambled from Oodnadatta to Palmerston, and back to Pine Cree~k, and at last got lost in the MacDonneli Ranges, where he inquired how we were going to make that country “ wet,” and I informed him that we were going ‘to put matters right with the railway. However, as you have ruled that I cannot academically discuss this clause, I bow to that ruling, and take my seat.
– The Minister* of External Affairs, so far from “stone- walling” his own Bill, has, in my opinion, acted with only proper courtesy in giving the short explanation he did. The House has decided to accept this Bill, and upon the issue of the proclamation a great deal will depend. It is of the utmost importance that Ministers should not immediately upon its issue rush into a policy to which they have not given reasonable consideration. The historians of .the Northern Territory say that it was damned by the first ten years of its administration, and my point is that it is very important that the Government before proceeding to give effect to the proclamation should give the fullest consideration to the policy to be pursued. The Minister of External Affairs will find that South Australia has expended something like ,£300,000 upon surveys and cognate matters, and all the information thus obtained should be available to the Commonwealth. The earliest experiences of South Australia should save the Federation from repeating the errors which that State made shortly after taking over the Territory . As the House has agreed to the principle of the Bill we can only accept its decision, and our whole object now should be to make the measure as perfect as possible. The success or failure of the Territory will depend upon the way in which it is .administered during the first year or two following the issue of the proclamation providing for its transfer.
.- I wish .to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether he has considered .the question of when She liability of the Commonwealth to take over the Port Augusta railway will begin. Will it arise .with the issue of the proclamation? lt would be as well to look into the matter, ‘because the agreement is somewhat vague as to the date from which the sale and transfer of the railway really begins.
– I shall do so.
– It would be well for the Government to satisfy themselves on the point before issuing the proclamation, and to make the necessary arrangements for the management of the railway as soon asthe liability of the Commonwealth commences.
.- Is the Minister to make no reply to the honorable member for Bendigo?
– I have already said that I shall look .into the matter.
– Does the honorable member for Bendigo consider that answer satisfactory? We ought to know what our liability will be under this Bill, and when it will commence. The Minister should be able to give the Committee an assurance on the point. He has told us that he has very little knowledge of die country, but we are entitled to ask him what he knows regarding the liability of the Commonwealth in this respect.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
The agreement is by this Act ratified and approved.
– I move -
That the following words be added : - “ with this proviso that notwithstanding anything lo the contrary expressed or implied the Commonwealth may construct a transcontinental railway along such route within the Territory as may be deemed expedient.”
The Minister of External Affairs, and indeed every representative of South Australia, has agreed that even under this agreement the Commonwealth will be at liberty to make its own choice of a route for the transcontinental railway. The Minister told us this morning that the understanding was that it was not essential that the railway- should be wholly within the Territory, but I believe the understanding in South Australia is that it shall be constructed in the Territory, and I am prepared to recognise that understanding. Does any honorable member seriously believe that it is not essential, as the Minister has said, to construct the railway within the Territory ?
– -I wonder what the honorable member will make me say next.
– The honorable member for Bendigo, to whom the statement was made, will support my contention that the Minister said that the understanding was that the line need not be constructed within the Territory.
– The Minister said that the Attorney-General’s view was’ that it was not essential.
-He said that the AttorneyGeneral’s view was that it was not essential to construct the railway wholly through the Territory, and that the Government took that view. In my brief career I have met with many cases of attempted bluff, but there never was a more glaring example than that now before us. In paragraph d of clause 1 of the agreement it is- provided that the Commonwealth shall -
Construct or cause to be constructed as part of the transcontinental’ railway a railway from a point on the Port Augusta railway to connect with the other part of the transcontinental rail”way at a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper.
That line according to this agreement is to run from Port Darwin southwards. I take it that the word “ southwards “ governs the route of the railway.
– Does not the honorable member think that it could be deviated a little to the south-east?
– - Some of the designing advocates of the proposition to construct this railway have endeavoured to gain support for it by suggesting that it will be carried across to the junction of Western Australia with the Northern Territory, whilst others have said that it will run from Port Darwin to Camooweal, on the Queensland border. Even in this House, the members of which might well be expected to know the ways of the world, there are many simple-minded men, and they sometimes believe such statements. I cannot understand a man who has fought his way into the Federal” Legislature being so simpleminded as to accept the suggestion that this line- may be carried towards the west or the east as- the Parliament thinks fit. Honorable members- who believe that, are very simple, or, perhaps,, it. is those who make the statement who are simple; and misjudge the intelligence of the Committee. Those who have had experience of the- Law Courts- know that the Judges construe- Acts of Parliament in accordance with the meaning of the provisions contained in them, and without reference to the speeches made in Parliament. They would have a very difficult duty in ascertaining from the speeches of honorable members the intention of any Act. Therefore the agreement ratified by this Parliament will be interpreted by the Judges in accordance with its actual text. It may be asked why I refer to the Judges. I do so because they will be called on to adjudicate, if, acting on the statement of the Minister of External Affairs, and believing that the Commonwealth can take the railway out of the Northern Territory, we incur great expense in doing so. If we spend money in that way, the people of South Australia will bring the matter before the Courts, and the Judges will ask to see the agreement. They will then find - unless it is amended as I propose - that the agreement plainly states that the railway must be constructed southwards from Pine Creek to a point on the Port Augusta line. But, as there is little interest displayed in my remarks, I call attention to the state of the Committee,- so that we may have a quorum. [Quorum formed.’]
– Although an expenditure of ^15.000.000 is involved, only two members of the Opposition are present.
– There were only four members of the Government party present when a quorum was called for.
– I am glad that honorable members recognise that there is at stake an expenditure of £I 5’000,000. I direct their attention to the actual wording of the agreement.. It says -
The Commonwealth, in consideration of the surrender of the- Northern Territory. . . . shall. . . . construct, or cause to be constructed, a railway line from Port. Darwin southwards to a point on- the northern boundary of South Australia proper (which railway, with the railway from a point on the Port Augustarailway to connect therewith is hereinafter referred to as the transcontinental railway).
That provision can have but one meaning, and it is that the line- from. Pine Creek must be taken southward through the middle of the Territory and the middle of South Australia, until it joins the Port Augusta railway. There is no other reasonable interpretation of it. The Judges, if called upon to interpret it, will ask, “ What is the reasonable interpretation of the word southwards ‘ ?”
– The agreement is that the line is to be taken “ southwards to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper.”
-But it must connect with the Port Augusta railway, which does not run all along the northern boundary of South Australia, but remains a long way to the south of it, and in the middle of South Australia. We ought not to pass the agreement without knowing exactly what we are doing. We have been told that to propose to negotiate regarding it would cause irritation. Irritation to whom? To the Premier of South Australia? But I am positive that he is willing to deal fairly with the Commonwealth, as is the majority of the citizens of South Australia, who have probably not given more consideration to the matter than has the majority in the other States. This is merely a battle between certain business firms and politicians who wish to do the best they can for South Australia and for the Commonwealth.
– To what business firms does the honorable member refer?
– To the business people of Adelaide.
– The honorable member does not know anything about it.
– Then I shall be very pleased to give way to the honorable member, to hear his opinion.
– The honorable member for Capricornia suggests that the people of South Australia do not understand this question. I think that the representatives of that State know more of it than do the representatives of Queensland. I should not like to say that I know more about Queensland than do those who represent the Queensland electorates. I ask the Committee to view this matter from a broad stand-point - putting aside all suggested South Australian concerns - in the interests of the Northern Territory alone. The Northern Territory, for reasons into which it is unnecessary to enter now, has not developed as it should. I hope the Federal Parliament will carry the agreement as it stands, and take the country over, for I believe the people of Australia as a whole are in favour of placing it under Federal control. This should be done in the best interests of the Territory itself. The agreement simply provides that the railway shall be constructed from the Pine Creek line in the north to a point on the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line, leaving it perfectly open whether the connexion shall be made at Oodnadatta or at Hergott. That is a matter which is entirely in the province of the Federal Parliament to decide; but, as I understand it, the agreement means that the railway shall be constructed in the Northern Territory. That is what the people of South Australia understand. We ought to do what is best in the interests of the Territory itself, and less anxiety should be exhibited to get a line in one direction or another. - What we should aim at is the development of this long-neglected province in the best possible way. The agreement does not bind us to construct the railway on the particular route marked on the map. The Federal Parliament has perfect freedom of action within the Northern Territory, and, with regard to the question of route, I think that, when politicians build railroads themselves, they do not build good ones. It is as well for us to get the opinion of expert engineers as to the best route to take. I should not care about voting for the building of the railway on the precise route marked on the map without having first obtained the opinions of engineers. There may be something in what the honorable member for Fremantle, said in regard to the MacDonnell Ranges, but that question can soon be’ settled by railway engineers. It is highly desirable, in the interests of the Territory, that a main line should run right up to connect the north with the south. Branch lines can then be constructed by the Federal Government to connect with the different States’ systems, according to what the Federal Parliament believes to be best in the interest of the development of the Territory. In the best interests of Australia, we should not be too anxious to spend a very large sum of money for the development of the northern portion of the Northern Territory straight away. If, for the first development of the country, a line were built from somewhere further north than Barrow Creek into the Victoria River country, millions of acres of land would be opened up, with every probability that it could be utilized for agriculture. If that were done, the Federal Government, within a vear or two, would be recouped the money that had been expended. I am anxious not only that the Territory should be taken over, but that it should be developed, and that we should get as quick a return as possible; and for that purpose we should open up the land suitable for agriculture to which I have referred.
– I must ask the honorable member not to go into the general question.
– The agreement is as clear as the noon-day sun. Some may think that the line ought to run into Queensland, but I take it that, even if the agreement allowed it, the Federal Parliament would consider it extremely unwise to build it in that direction. I ask honorable members to look at the agreement, not in the light of every technicality that can be raised, but as it is understood by the people of South Australia, and, I believe, by .the people of Australia as a whole. It means that the railway connecting the two existing lines shall be made in the Northern Territory, and our great consideration, now and hereafter, should always be the development of the Territory. Its interests must be put first, and the wire-pulling and scheming that may be resorted to in the future ought to be put into second place, if it is tolerated at all.
– There is nothing about wire-pulling in the agreement.
– The least said about the very . amusing ‘ ‘ map ‘ ‘ that has been in circulation in this building within the last week, the better. Any man who can believe that that scheme is designed in the interests of the Northern Territory or of the Australian people as a whole must have a faith and imagination that eminently fits him to be a poet. I hope the Committee will adopt the agreement as it stands. We shall make a mistake if we depart from what is fair, just, and equitable. The contracting parties intended that, subject to the railway being in the Northern Territory, the Federal Parliament should have a free hand.
Mr. Mcwilliams (Franklin) [12.52]. - The speech of the honorable member for Hindmarsh was distinctly amusing. He started off with an assertion that we must consider the matter from the stand-point of the interests of the Northern Territory, and immediately afterwards said that we must stand to the agreement, which compels the railway to be built through South Australian territory, right or wrong, no matter what the reports may show. The honorable member spoke of a national feeling, and deprecated the introduction of State questions.
– I must ask the honorable member to discuss the agreement.
– I am doing so, and am dealing with the arguments that have been put forward in its favour. The honorable member for Hindmarsh argues that a national stand -point, and the interests of the Territory itself, demand the construction of the railway within the Territory to some point on the Port Augusta line. I have always claimed that neither South Australia nor Queensland should be considered in this matter. Perhaps the man whose State has no direct interest in this question is in a better position to judge than are the representatives of the States directly concerned. Tasmania will not be affected by the railway, except that she will have to help to provide the money, and any mistake in fixing the route will make her share all the greater. We therefore claim that the Commonwealth must not be tied up under this agreement as to where the railway shall go before an expert examination has been made to determine the best route. If we pass the agreement as it now stands the Commonwealth will be bound, legally and morally, to construct the railway southwards wholly and solely in the Northern Territory and in South Australia. I should be no party, if the agrement is passed, to taking advantage of the agreement to attempt to deprive South Australia of what she would have a perfect right toclaim under it. That would be the meanest kind of repudiation. I hope that if the agreement is passed the National Parliament will not descend to trickery in, for instance, manipulation of the word “ southwards.” I doubt if any Court of law would hold that a south-easterly or a southwesterly course would comply with the stipulation contained in the word “ southward.” Even if that construction were possible, it would not be an honorable or proper position for the National Parliament to take up. We should not in our first agreement start off with a quibble whichwould land us in the High Court. The history of this Territory is going to repeat itself, because the first transaction that SouthAustralia made over the sale of certainlands in connexion with the Northern Territory landed her finally in the Privy Council.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss the transactions of the South Australian Government He must confine himself to the agreement.
– I hope we shall not land ourselves in the Courts as South Australia did over her first transaction, when the verdict was given against her, and she had to refund the whole of the money obtained from the sale of her first Crown lands.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing what happened in South Australia.
– I submit that the honorable member is perfectly in order in endeavouring to show what the fate of agreements has been in similar circumstances, and is entitled to use it to illustrate his argument regarding the agreement now before the Committee. In the interests, not only of the honorable member, but of every member of the Committee, it should be recognised that every legitimate argument relevant to the question of the agreement can be used in this debate.
– I submit that the question before the Committee is the amendment proposed by myself with reference to the powers of the Commonwealth to construct a railway where it is deemed most expedient, and that, therefore, the honorable member is out of order.
– I have already ruled that the honorable member is not in order.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Chairman.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.30 p.m.
– I think the proposed amendment would have come more appropriately in sub-clause b of clause 14, which would have allowed greater scope for debate. The South Australians, in my opinion, are not considering this matter altogether from an Australian stand-point, but evidently desire this line to be brought to Adelaide.
– To Port Augusta.
– Probably it would be more correct to say Port Augusta, though, practically, that means Adelaide. On the map prepared, I think by Mr. Alexander Wilson, the proposed route is further, and, perhaps, too far, to the east, but there is no doubt that, whichever route be selected, the time is not far distant when branch lines from the eastern States will have to be constructed. The population is in the eastern States at the present time, and much of the business of the Northern Territory must be conducted from that part of the Commonwealth ; and, under all the circumstances, I do not think that we ought to be confined to any particular route. As the honorable member for Hindmarsh has said, clause 14, which must be read with the clause now under consideration, provides that the line may be taken in any direction so long as it is when it crosses the South Australian border within the Northern Territory. That is the opinion of the Attorney-General, though the Crown Law officers of South Australia have advised to the contrary.
– What are the opinions of half the lawyers worth?
– Such opinions are some guide, though, of course, not binding; and there ought to be no direction as to the route of the line. There should be investigation, and, I presume, there will be, after the Territory is transferred. The question ought to be left perfectly open. Railways are always acceptable in Australia, wherever they may be made ; and if it can be shown at any time that a railway to the MacDonnell Ranges will develop the country and pay in the future, then one ought to be constructed. I have been in the eastern part of the Northern Territory, and thereI found very good country ; but. on my present information, I do not think that, from Oodnaclatta to Pine Creek, there is much room for development for the time being, and there should be no objection to deviating the line to the east if the conditions warrant such a step. It is ridiculous to contend that the line should under no circumstances be taken out ofthe Territory, because it would in no way prejudice South Australia if it were so deviated in order to strike higher ground,, or for some other reason, and then was brought by way of Hergott Springs. It has been said that the country is too low to the east of the lakes-, and that may be so, but there should certainly be some investigation, and my own opinion is that it would be shown that the line could be taken across. Cooper’s Creek, and constructed in such a way as to withstand any floods that might happen. It might be generally advantageous to take the line through a small comer of Queensland; and the question of a line to MacDonnell Ranges might, in that event, be dealt with as a separate project. It must be acknowledged that the South Australians, who. now possess the Territory and have not done anything with it, are desirous that the trade shall come in the direction of their State, and finally to Adelaide; but that is not altogether a consideration for us, though it is a factor in the question. We have to regard the development of the Territory as a whole from an Australian stand-point.
– Speaking for the people of South Australia generally, outride, possibly, a few interested persons, 1 do not believe they care anything about the trade, but they believe that the proposed line is the only one that can possibly develop the Territory.
– I have had some experience in the past of what die South Australians think and do; and I think .1 can remember the right honorable Sir Edmund Barton speaking of them as “ O.T.M.”- on the make.
– Wholly unjustifiably !
– I think that opinion is borne out by the facts, and, though I am not speaking altogether in a serious vein, I think that “ O.T.M.” is at work in this matter. I can remember when Broken Hill -was discovered.
– Why did not New South Wales do -something then?
– I agree with the honorable member that New South Wales was wanting. I desired, seventeen or eighteen years ago, to take a railway straight through New South Wales to Broken Hill, but South Australia ;got the best of us. I know that South Australia was then in a serious position financially, and that Broken Hill saved her from what was almost bankruptcy.
– - Broken Hill was exceedingly useful !
– It was exceedingly .useful financially, and all credit must be .given to the .South Australians for the energy they displayed in the construction of the railways to Silverton. I know that my idea was that a line should be constructed from Cobar right through to Broken Hill, but in New South Wales there were not men with pluck enough to undertake the work. However, all this is by the way; and I only desire to say that, in my opinion, there is in Australia too much Slate feeling, though it is true that that feeling is not so strong as it used to be, and it- is growing weaker every year. ‘ There is no doubt that a line from Queensland will be taken into the Northern Territory, no matter what the route of the proposed transcontinental line may be.
– And at more than one point !
– Very likely; and it is equally certain that in a very short time there will be a line from Bourke in New South Wales. The country from Oodnadatta north, with the exception of the MacDonnell Ranges, is, so far as we know, arid.
– To the MacDonnell Ranges that is so, but it is not so from the ranges north.
– I am not well acquainted with the country north of the ranges, but, from what I know of Australia, I should imagine that, until the tropical zone is reached, the country is dry. If the Attorney-General is right in his interpretation of the agreement, we have not much to fear; but, at the same time, we ought not to be bound to keep the line within the Northern Territory all the way down. The South Australians would get the advantage, if there were any, of a deviation into the Barkly tablelands, because the produce would be taken to Port Augusta, and thence to Adelaide. Prior to Federation I was as strong a State representative as could be found, .because I was looking to the development of New South Wales; but there is now a Commonwealth Parliament, and State feeling must be tempered very much in view of the development of the whole of Australia. Despite what the honorable member for Franklin has said, it is .absolutely necessary to have railway communication with the north for the purposes of defence. The Northern Territory is a rich country, and it must not be allowed to remain empty and undefended as a temptation to any other nation.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause under consideration.
– I said at the outset that the proposed amendment would have come better in clause 14. We must deal with the benefits which the .construction of a railway is likely to confer on the Territory, although in referring to them I may perhaps not keep strictly within the Standing Orders. It is urged that this line is necessary largely for defence purposes, as well as for the development of the Territory. A large population is sure to settle - and settle more rapidly than many people imagine - along the main water-courses, fronting which there is some very rich land. lt is for these reasons that I think we should not neglect the Territory, and leave it as a gift for some other nation. Lord Kitchener has expressed a very decided opinion as to the need of a railway, and the development of the Territory, arid we ought to give great weight to his views. My own idea is that the railway from Pine Creek should come down as far as the Barklay tablelands, and then stretch across to Cooper’s Creek, and as near as possible to the lakes. I would remind the Committee that Lake Eyre is about 100 feet below sea level, so that the whole of the country in the neighbourhood must be very low. No doubt, however, a route could be found via Cooper’s Creek and the Thomson to the west of Lake Eyre eminently suited for such a railway as we desire to build, and we could bring it down to Hergott Springs. I have never been able to understand why the present railway, on reaching Hergott Springs, was deviated and carried over to Oodnadatta. I should have thought that the South Australian Government would desire to develop that part of the country which was likely to give the quickest return.
– They would have liked to do so, but the flooded country of the Diamantina and the Cooper made it practically impossible to take the course which the honorable member suggests.
– Under paragraph b of clause 14, as well as under paragraph b of clause 1 of the agreement, the Commonwealth is required to -
Construct or cause to be constructed a railway line from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper (which railway with a railway from a point on the Port Augusta railway to connect therewith is hereinafter referred to as The Transcontinental Railway).
The wording of that provision is somewhat indefinite. It does not declare that the line southward from Pine Creek shall be confined within the Territory. It might be necessary for engineering purposes to go outside the Territory, and I think that, as long as we comply with the spirit and intention of the agreement - that the line should be carried to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia - no objection would be taken to a slight deviation outside the boundaries of the Territory. I do not think the honorable member for Franklin would be justified in voting against a proposal to take the railway a little way out of the Territory. All that we are asked to bind ourselves to is to construct the line southwards from Pine Creek to a point on the Port Augusta railway.
– The agreement distinctly says that the railway must be within the Territory.
– It does not.
– There is no such provision in the paragraph which I have just read.
– It is implied.
– There may be such an implication, but I think that the High Court would hold that, even if the railway from Pine Creek were carried slightly outside the borders of the Territory, it would be a compliance with the agreement, so long as we carried it to a point on the Port Augusta railway. Having taken over the Territory in trust for the people of Australia, we must develop it by what seems to us to be the most desirable means, whilst conforming as far as possible to the desire of South Australia. It is not to be supposed that that State should be prepared to hand over the Territory to us without imposing some conditions, but I do not wish to see in this Bill a condition that will hamper us in determining the exact course which the railway shall take. To carry the line to Thargomindah, as shown in the plan distributed amongst honorable members, would be, I think, to go a little too far east. Queensland has already a railway running to Cloncurry and Mount Elliott, which is not far from the border of the Northern Territory, and it is unreasonable to assume that the Queensland Government would not speedily extend that line so as to tap the transcontinental railway, and thus gain a quick means of transit for their stock to Port Darwin. That would give stationowners in the western part of Queensland a readier means of communication with the world’s markets than they now possess. I shall certainly vote to carry out the agreement, but should not object to a reasonable amendment enabling us to take the railway slightly out of the Territory, if necessary, having regard to the country to be served. My chief consideration is that the Territory shall be in the hands of the Commonwealth as soon as possible. The railways are now controlled by the States, but I think that both the railways and water supply would be better in the hands of the Commonwealth.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss the question of the control of State railways.
– That would mean unification of railways.
– It would be a good thing if we had unification of railway and water supply, and the construction of railways in the Northern Territory will be the first step towards making the railways the property of the Commonwealth. The States would find that the Commonwealth could manage them by means of Commissioners as well as they can. Here we have another incentive for taking over the Territory, and building a railway as soon as possible. Railway extensions in any direction are sure to prove of value. It is only a question of building lines a little earlier than they would otherwise be made. A line to develop the Territory can never do any harm, and, if we can only find the money to carry out the work, before many years have passed it will certainly prove useful. Not only the Northern Territory, but Australia as a whole is going to develop, in my opinion, by leaps and bounds. I wish to place on record the fact that I shall not oppose the measure before us on account of the provision in it regarding the construction of a railway, but I do desire that it shall be within the discretion of this Parliament to select what, in its opinion, is the best route. I do not wish to see the Commonwealth Government hound down to building a Hue that must be absolutely confined to the Northern Territory. I should be quite prepared to support a slight deviation beyond the borders of the Territory if that were found necessary, believing that such a deviation would still be in accord with the spirit of the agreement.
– I generally agree with the views enunciated by the honorable member for Hume, but I cannot support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia, because, in my opinion, it would be a limitation of the agreement in a restrictive sense.
– If the honorable member thinks we could gain more support by making the terms of the amendment more general, I should not object to that.
– I think the agreement is capable of so liberal an interpre tation as would allow of the construction of a line as shown on the map from Pine Creek southwards, leaving the Territory at Urandang - still going southward - and then cutting the northern boundary of South Australia. That would come within the meaning of paragraph b of the agreement, to which I invite the attention of the honorable member for Capricornia.
Construct or cause to be constructed a railway line from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper (which railway with the railway from a point on the Port Augusta railway to connect therewith is hereinafter referred to as the transcontinental railway).
I would emphasize the words “to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper.” The reference is not to the “ southern boundary of the Territory,” which would involve a shorter line, but to the “ northern boundary of South Australia proper,” which would mean a longer line.
– Then the line might be taken into Queensland.
– The agreement, in my opinion, allows a deviation into Queensland, but there must be a junction with the railway from Port Augusta. In construing the agreement, stress must be laid on the fact that the line can be taken southwards from Pine Creek to any point on the northern boundary of South Australia, and connected from that point with the line from Port Augusta. There is an ambiguity in the words “ to connect with that part of the transcontinental railway to be built in the Northern Territory,” which are” used under the misapprehension that there is an obligation on the Common wealth to keep the railway running southwards from Pine Creek within the Northern Territory, whereas there is no such obligation. I favour a reasonable and liberal construction of the agreement, rather than the limited interpretation which the amendment sets upon it. The main consideration in regard to the construction of the railway should be the development of the Northern Territory. No doubt the eastern States will be ready to make connexions with the transcontinental line. Queensland will endeavour to tap it at some suitable point, and New South Wales will do the same. The object which we must keep in view, however, is the development of the Territory itself.
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby- Minis
Government cannot accept the amendment. No doubt the honorable member for Capricornia thinks it to be the true Australian view that this Parliament should have a free hand in determining the- route of- the transcontinental railway, and not be bound in respect to it by the terms of the agreement under which the Territory is transferred, lt must be remembered, however, that the Commonwealth is acquiring the Territory by virtue- of an agreement with South Australia, which holds it, and is prepared to hold it, if her terms are not complied with. Australia, generally, thinks that the burden of administering the Northern Territory is too heavy for any one State to bear, and. that settlement and occupation would proceed there more rapidly if the administration were controlled directly by the Commonwealth. But South Australia, as the possessor of the Territory, is entitled to say on what- conditions she will part with it. It is quite unnecessary to suggest that her people wish to bring the trade of the Northern Territory to Port Augusta. But it must be remembered that South Australia, having held the Northern Territory for nearly fifty years, and projected certain railway lines for its development, is averse to the adoption of any other policy. Her people do not take a hard, grasping, and un-Federal view. Their opinion is that a railway, following the route which they desire, would best develop the Territory. Furthermore, they do not wish to see the money which they have already spent on railway construction wasted.
– Does the honorable member think that the railway coming south from Pine Creek could be taken into Queensland ?
– I hold the view of the Attorney-General, that the agreement permits of the line being taken into either Queensland or Western Australia, if necessary.
– Is that the South Australian view?
– It is not to be supposed that the people of South Australia think that the line should be taken out of the Northern Territory.
– Does the honorable member say that it could be taken into Western Australia?
– Yes, but it must touch some point on the northern boundary of South Australia, and connect with the Port Augusta railway.
– Is it fair to require that it shall touch some point on the northern boundary of South Australia ?
– Those acting for South Australia would not be likely to agree to the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth without stipulating that the works on which the State has expended a great deal of money - probably some millions more than she will get back - for the development of the Northern Territory and the opening up of the MacDonnell Ranges country shall be. continued. They feel sure that in the interests of Australia generally the railway’ should be constructed as they propose. The people of South Australia have always held that there should be a connexion north and south ; as to whether the route should . be the straighest possible line, or should deviate a. little to the right or to the left, is not material. We are assured by the AttorneyGeneral and the Crown Law advisers that the letter- of the agreement, does not preclude deviation if necessary. When the Government entered into- negotiations with the present Government of South Australia, a Conference took place, and after the Premier and- Attorney-General of the State had returned to Adelaide, a telegram was sent to diem, stating exactly the opinions of the representatives of this Government at the Conference, and asking their confirmation. Naturally, at the Conference they pressed for an alteration of the Bill which would make it definite that the line- should he constructed wholly within the Northern Territory, but we were not prepared to agree to any modification. The telegram was this- -
Following are terms as understood by this Government : - (i) Bill to be re-introduced without modification and endeavour made to get decision this session. (2) Report and surveys to be obtained after passage of Bill, the route of line to be determined after consideration of reports. Glad have your confirmation.
To that die following reply was received : -
Confirm arrangement your wire to-day. Rely upon Government acting promptly as possible.
That was not a selfish and grasping attitude to take. As a matter of fact, the South Australian Government, if they consulted their own personal interests as a Government, would put every kind of obstruction in the way of carrying out this agreement. They are having considerable difficulty in standing up against the majority in the South Australian Parliament who are anxious to have it repealed.
– This Parliament having rejected it, they would have been perfectly justified in annulling it.
– I admit that they would have been.
– There is a majority in the present House of Assembly for the agreement.
– And a majority in the Council against it. Consequently, if any amendment whatever is made, and the agreement is sent back to South Australia, the majority opposed to it in one House will take the opportunity of closing the whole proceeding. The House in South Australia who are .anxious that the Commonwealth shall reject the Bill or alter it in .such a way as to give them a pretext for rejecting it are not the House that represent the majority of the people of South Australia, but the House that specially represent the commercial and property interests. The property interest in South Australia strongly desires to retain the Territory. I ask honorable members to consider the whole question in that light. Surely we can rely on our Attorney-General to give us a genuine straightforward opinion. His view is supported by the honorable member for Bendigo. I think it would be undoubtedly held that the spirit .and letter of the agreement is that the Commonwealth has reasonable latitude in constructing the .railway, but that it must link up the north and south railways within a reasonable time, so as to enable the whole of the Territory to be developed. It is not a question of the interests of one State as against another.
– Will the honorable member let us put the spirit of those telegrams in the Bill?
– It would just give to the ‘Legislative Council , of South Australia the pretext that they are seeking for.
– We need not send the agreement back then.
– I tell the honorable member frankly that if we give them any sort of pretext they will repeal the agreement. Are we to play into the hands of the Legislative. Council of South Australia, or shall wc accept the verdict of the Legislative Assembly, which represents the people of the State?
– That is only a “ red herring. ‘ ‘
– It is an absolute fact, and it is of no use for honorable members to stick their heads in the sand and declare that the enemy is merely a 1 ‘red herring.” The spirit of the agreement will be carried out if we accept the view which the Government put forward, and also the view which, as shown by the telegram that I have just read, is taken by the Government -of South Australia. They do not take any narrow view, and are not unduly pressing the South Australian view. They are seeking by every means in their power, short of re-submitting the Bill to the South Australian Parliament, to meet the desires of the Federal Government and the Federal Parliament.
.-! should he very glad to support any such amendment as that outlined by the honorable member for Bendigo in order to give more freedom in the matter to the Commonwealth Parliament. The Minister of External Affairs says that the South Australian Legislative Council is only waiting for an opportunity to discard the agreement, but surely it will not be held, by Labour Ministers at any rate, that we must accept as final the decision of a propertied Chamber of that kind, when we have it in our power to appeal by referendum to the people of Australia as a whole.
– We cannot take from a State any part of its territory without its consent.
– We can alter the Constitution to deal with the matter. TB Legislative Assembly of South Australia represents the people of the State on an adult basis. If the people of the State are prepared to let the Commonwealth take the Territory over with much more freedom of action than the agreement now provides for, it would be no crime to appeal from the propertied House to the people of Australia to support -the adult voters of South Australia.
A great deal of misconception seems to exist in the minds of some honorable members as to what a developmental railway line is. All the lines connecting the big cities of Australia have been built for communication, and not mainly for developmental purposes. If we want to spend, say, £10,000,000 in developing the Northern Territory, we can better achieve our object by building a number of short lines in the north of the Territory, so linking up the ports, than by running a railway through from north to south.
– What a’bout the defence scheme ?
– That is quite another matter. I am referring now to railway lines which would develop the Territory from an agricultural point of view.
For the next hundred years we shall not have the coastal lands of Australia properly settled. Why, then, should we seek to- develop the heart of Australia before we have developed the coastal lands, which are much more fertile and much more acceptable as living areas from climatic and social points of view?
The developmental lines built so far in Australia run inland from the coast. It is complained even now that the capital cities have been too much considered, and that developmental lines have been sacrificed in favour of lines for commercial or communication purposes. The Queensland people seem to have followed the sanest course in building their railway lines, which run into the agricultural lands from the coast. If we take the northern half of the Territory, covering a strip of, say, from 200 to 250 miles inland, we get a tremendous amount of country with beautiful rivers and a very high’ rainfall. If anything is to be done in the way of development, that is where it can be done most readily, and will pay the best.
– Settlement always follows a railway.
– In Australia railways, for the greater part, have followed settlement.
– Does the honorable member know that at one station, where formerly 70,000 sheep were shorn, 250,000 were shorn after a railway was made?
– That may be, but I think that if I went into the matter exhaustively 1 could show that railways here very largely follow population instead of preceding it; and on that point I am in agreement with Mr. Foster Fraser in his criticism of Australia.
– He is a bounder ! Why quote bounders?
– I am entitled to put my views before the Committee without interruption.
– I ask that the honorable member be allowed to proceed in his own way.
– The view put forward is that, whereas State-controlled railways follow settlement, privately-owned railways precede settlement; and we can easily understand how that is so. In the case of State-controlled railways, the popu lation have the strength of the vote, and insist on their representatives constructing lines to suit their views.
If we wish to develop the Northern Territory, even from a defence point of view, we shall connect the parts most accessible, with short lines ‘ to the Gulf of Carpentaria and the northwest portion, linking up with the steam-ship services. This will tap the best lands for settlement, and enable produce to be conveyed quickly to the markets of Australia and of the world. I hold that a line for defence purposes and a line for development or for communication with the populous centres, should be considered separately.
– Would not one line suit both purposes?
– I do not think so. If we require a line for transport services, then a line straight up through Australia is not the one. Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Adelaide would have to be connected in some way ; and a line from Pine Creek, through the western portion of Queensland and the north-western corner of New South Wales, around by Broken Hill, would, perhaps, be suitable. But if there were a line, as proposed, straight through Australia, and trouble arose in the Northern Territory, troops from Brisbane, for instance, would have to be brought right round to Adelaide, and then conveyed over the central line, thus sacrificing much valuable time.
– Would not the Commonwealth consider the construction of lines that would promote development, and, at the same time, be suitable for transporting troops? We should not construct a line for the transport of troops only.
– But under the agreement such a power is not given ; and I am urging that it should be left to defence, engineering, and railway experts to advise as to the best routes for the different purposes I have mentioned. I am sure that it would then be seen to be most inadvisable, especially on the scanty information we have, to build a line which will in all probability result in utter waste of money.
– We might try monorailways.
– We do not know what we might do ; and it is because of the unknown possibilities of the future that I plead we should be left free.
I agree with the Minister that a line which deviated to a very small extent into the western portion of Queensland would be in perfect keeping with the agreement.
– Do not be too sure of that !
– Of course, 1 am speaking as a layman, and I defer to the legal knowledge of the honorable member ; but what I have stated appears to me a reasonable construction of the agreement.
The Minister told us that, at some time or other, a line would have to be constructed into the MacDonnell Ranges for mining purposes ; but I remind honorable members that railways are not built into mining districts before it is known whether payable mining can be carried on.
– That is known nowwith the right machinery !
– Mining country must be tested.
– This country has been tested.
– I doubt whether we have sufficient expert information to justify us in building a line to the MacDonnell Ranges now. If so - from a pounds, shillings, and pence calculation - I cannot understand why South Australia did not construct a line to the MacDonnell Ranges long ago, and thus provide the necessary machinery to deal with the lowgrade ores which are said to be there.
– They are high-grade ores !
– Then all the greater reason why South Australia shouldhave built a line long ago.
– lt must be remembered that this agreement has been seesawing between the Commonwealth and South Australia for ten years.
– In any case, South Australia knew that when the Territory was transferred all the assets and liabilities would come to the Commonwealth, and they would have been in the same position as they are now ; indeed, their position would have been considerably improved, together with that of the Territory, from a national point of view.
I should very much regret the taking of a vote this afternoon, when such a large number of members are absent.
– There are twice as many supporters as there are opponents away.
– Very likely; but we ought to have the benefit of the opinions of those best qualified, from their experience, to discuss a matter of such farreaching importance.
– Let us finish the session this year !
– I shall be glad to, but without sacrificing any of the interests of the people as a whole. “ It seems to me that there is an attempt to rush this great proposal through, without knowing to what it commits us. I am sure that no honorable member has the remotest idea of the expenditure which we may have to face under this agreement - whether, if this railway be built, it will ever pay.
– Do not put forward the idea that this proposal is sprung on the Committee, or is being forced through, seeing that it has already been agreed to by this House once.
– I am not saying that it is sprung on the Committee, but merely submitting that, under the exceptional circumstances, members, as a whole, ought to be given the opportunity to vote. Indeed, in my opinion, when questions of such importance are before us, some notification should be sent out as to when a division is to be taken, so that all may be in attendance.
– Let the Bill go through Committee, and take a vote on the third reading.
– I have heard that sort of suggestion before, but we know what small chance there is of a recommittal. I hope that honorable members will exercise their independent judgment, and not be influenced by suggestions as to what certain States may or may not do.
There is a tendency on the part of some honorable members, to be enthusiastic in extending the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. They have great faith in this Parliament, and so have I ; but some of those who claim to be Federalists, as contrasted with Unificationists, are the most enthusiastic in their desire to take over the Territory.
– I must ask th_honorable member to confine himself to the question.
– I admit I am wide of the mark, but not wider than was the Minister in discussing the Legislative Council of South Australia.
– The honorable member has no right to reflect on the Chair.
– Do you think that what I have said -is a reflection on th, Chair?
– I do; and, if the honorable member repeats it, he will have to apologize.
– I can only say that I have no desire to reflect on your action ; but what I said is a fact, all the
– Will the honorable member withdraw that remark?
– Certainly, if you object to it; but interjections are permitted which lead one off the track, though I have been trying my best to confine myself to the railway proposal question.
The proposal before us is in the nature of a “ leg- rope,” the term applied by the honorable ‘member for Flinders on a previous occasion to another agreement. So long as I occupy a position in this House I shall express the strongest objection to embodying, in any .agreement any provision which will limit the jurisdiction or action of this Parliament, either now or in the future. It means the placing of a dead hand upon the actions, not only of the representatives ‘of the people of to-day, but of future generations.
The suggested route through the centre of Australia may be the very best or the very worst. It is because of the tremendous element of doubt - because of the possibility of our perpetrating one of the gravest blunders that has yet occurred in the history of Australia - that I sincerely ask the Committee not to ratify this agreement - made, not between Parliaments or peoples, but between individuals - in its present form. I appeal to the Committee to rely upon the reasonableness of the people of South Australia - to rely upon their recognising that this Parliament, in asking for more latitude, does so only because of a desire to do that which is best for Australia. I believe that, if appealed to, the South Australian people would be patriotic enough not to insist upon the agreement as it stands, and to respect the strong objection which has been taken by honorable members, although those honorable members are apparently in a minority.
– - I do not approve of this Parliament entering into any obligation which it is not prepared to carry out, both in the letter and the. spirit. I have been amazed to hear that the Attorney-General has intimated that this agreement is capable of the construction that the .proposed railway may be built partly outside the Northern Territory. I did not hear the honorable gentleman make that statement, but I am assured that he did.
– The AttorneyGeneral’s opinion was published some time ago-
– I do not know how the Attorney-General could have arrived at such a conclusion as to the meaning of this agreement. There are two paragraphs to which I shall direct attention. Paragraph b, of clause 1, provides that the Commonwealth shall -
Construct or cause to be constructed a railway line from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper (which railway with the railway from a point on the Port Augusta railway to connect therewith is hereinafter referred to as The Transcontinental Railway).
That paragraph, taken by itself, grammatically, is open to two constructions. Grammatically it might include a line which would go outside the Northern Territory. But even that clause, taken by itself, having regard to the nature of the agreement we are entering into - which is an agreement between the Commonwealth and only one State, the State of South Australia - cannot, without an undue straining of the language used, be reasonably held to impose a condition which cannot be carried out as part of that agreement unless we have an agreement with some other State.
– The condition simply is that the two lines shall be linked up.
– We cannot reasonably read this proposed agreement between the Commonwealth and one State as involving an obligation which cannot be carried out unless a third party, that is to say, another State, is brought in. So much for the most ambiguous part of the agreement taken by itself. But when we turu to paragraph c, of clause 2, we find that the whole position is put, so far as the English language will allow, beyond all doubt. Paragraph c provides that the State of South Australia shall -
At the time of such surrender authorize by legislation the Commonwealth to do all that is necessary to enable the Commonwealth to make surveys, acquire the necessary lands, and to construct or cause to be constructed a railway in South Australia proper from any point on the Port Augusta railway to a point on the northern boundary line of South Australia proper to connect with that part of the Transcontinental Railway to be built in the Northern Territory from Port Darwin southwards to the northern boundary of South Australia proper….. -.
If this were a contract between two men instead of between the Commonwealth and a State, could there be any doubt as to the meaning of those words? Assuming that paragraph b, of clause 1, is open to any ambiguity, then I would remind the Committee that where you find in the agreement another expression relating to the same subject matter,, but couched in more- definite language, you- must, in order to read the whole- contract together, so limit the generality of the more indefinite phrase as to bring it within- the more definite expression. We shall simply be endeavouring to blind our eyes to the plain facts of the case if we allow this Bill to go through with the idea that there is any doubt about the matter. We are going to salve our own consciences by holding, out. the view that there is some way of getting out of the agreement - that, in the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral, w<e shall be entitled, if we choose to do so, to connect this line with part of the Queensland territory. In doing so, however, we should be doing something in direct conflict with the express language of the agreement.
– All that paragraph c of clause 2 says- is- that the connexion shall be within the Territory.
– We have, in- the’ paragraph, a distinct definition, by description, of what that portion of the transcontinental railway referred to is. It is that portion which is to be built in the Northern Territory, and to be built in the Northern Territory for its whole length.
– That is my understanding of the agreement.
– That is the conclusion to which any reasonable man would arrive. In this case it is a matter, not of law, but of the plain meaning of the English language. Unless I am entirely wrong - and I appeal to the common sense of honorable members to support my view - we shall definitely bind ourselves by ratifying this contract to build this railway line without any power to carry it outside the Northern Territory. If we enter into a contract we ought to be prepared, not only to adhere to the letter, but to the spirit, of it. I do not believe in our entering into an obligation with the thought at the back of our minds that we may delay it. That would be a dishonest attitude to assume towards South Australia. Let us enter into this compact candidly and. openly, if at all. Let us recognise- that, under it,, we must not only build this line within the
Northern. Territory, but build it within a reasonable time. Those are the two obligations. The question for the Committee is, “ Are those obligations either necessary or reasonable for the Commonwealth to enter into at this stage?” I am emphatically of opinion that they, are not. We are told that the people of South Australia are not willing to allow us to take over the Territory on any other terms. We are told that they insist upon strict, compliance with the letter of the bond ; that they must have these terms, as well, as all the others, or they will not. surrender the Territory, with its obligations, to the Commonwealth. The only evidence of that attitude on the part of South Australia is the almost feverish anxiety with which all its representatives, with one exception, urge us to accept this agreement. That does not carry conviction to my mind. Only one representative of South Australia has ventured to express a different view; but the eloquent enthusiasm of the remaining representatives of the State in favour of the agreement is quite sufficient, to override any inference that might be drawn, from his attitude. I realize as much as does any honorable member the obligation we are under to show a generous front to South Australia, not merely by taking over the Territory, but by relieving her of the big burden that she has laboured tinder in connexion with it. Therefore, although I think this is a very one-sided bargain, I should be prepared to consent to- the Commonwealth taking over, not only the whole of” the indebtedness incurred by South Australia in connexion with the Territory, whether the result of wise or unwise expenditure, but,, as the agreement requires, the whole of the accumulated deficit. I should even go further and assent, although with some reluctance,, to the extraordinary provision that we should take over and become responsible for the Port Augusta, line itself if that were absolutely necessary. But when we. are asked to- bind ourselves as a Parliament, to practically construct forthwith a line over 1,000 miles in length-, through practically unknown country,. I think we come to a point at which wise men must hesitate, notwithstanding all the national surroundings. I, for one, have felt myself on this,- as on a former, occasion obliged to oppose this Bill. We are very prosperous at the present time. We have command of a large amount of money ; and our credit has hitherto been unimpaired. How long these conditions may last is not known. We have had a period of unexampled prosperity, so that taxation and the raising of money seem comparatively light matters, and, therefore, our expenditure has been increased in a hundred directions. But the wave of prosperity may recede, as it has always done in the past, and our finances may be straitened. At the same time, we have staring us in the face the peril which threatens not merely Australia, but the whole Empire. The naval power of Great Britain may be placed in a position which will not permit it to guarantee our security as it has hitherto done, and will require a much greater expenditure on our part for defence than we have ever thought of. Therefore, while I desire to meet any reasonable proposition for taking over the Northern Territory, I cannot support the Bill as it stands, and shall vote for the amendment.
Mr. Mcwilliams (Franklin) [3.58]. - I would remind the Committee that this question has been discussed chiefly as it affects South Australia) the interests of the Northern Territory being largely overlooked. The Minister of External Affairs made what I regard as a threat in saying that if the Bill were amended in the slightest the South Australian Parliament would reject it.
– He said the Council.
– The Legislative Council of South Australia is the same body as passed the agreement.
– -Three years ago. I made no threat, but merely stated my belief as to what would occur if an alteration of the agreement were made. I should have failed in my duty had I not done so.
– The honorable gentleman tried to work on the prejudices or the fears of the Committee. We have heard too much of South Australia in this discussion. If the development of the Territory proceeds, there will be a considerable population settled there, and those who comprise it will demand that the Territory be admitted into the Union as a State. How unfairly will they be situated if they are bound hand and foot to the construction of a line which cannot be a success ! The trade avenues of the Territory may not be identical with the route proposed for this railway, and, therefore, other lines will have to be built, while the Territory may be saddled with a debt of ^8,000,000 or ^10,000,000 for a work from which she gets no benefit. There is a great deal in the contention of the honorable member for Cook that the Northern Territory is likely to be best developed by short lines running in from the coast.
– Short lines never pay. Take the Apsley line in the Derwent Valley, for example.
– The honorable member was speaking of lines running inland from ports, like those of Queensland, which are hundreds of miles in length, though short in comparison with the transcontinental line. Queensland was not developed by a line from Brisbane straight through to the Gulf, but by lines running inland from Brisbane, Rockhampton, and Townsville, which have proved very successful. We have no right to bind the Territory to the construction of a railway by any particular route, when we know nothing about the country through which the proposed line will pass. The reports which we have do not warrant us in believing that the route now being insisted on would pass through the best country, or be the best for the development of the Territory.
– The honorable member should have heard the statements placed before the South Australian Parliament regarding the Broken Hill country.
– The Broken Hill railway was made to serve the mines.
– The mines had not been opened when the railway was made.
– if it were not for the mines, there would be very little traffic on the Broken Hill railway. It is not die traffic between the coast and Broken Hill which keeps the line going, but the enormous traffic to and from the mines. If there be no more traffic between the termini of the proposed transcontinental railway than there would be upon the Broken Hill line in the absence of the mines the project will spell disaster from the outset. We ought to view this question from a national stand-point and not from that of any State. It is not right to commit the Commonwealth to a line which is confined to the Northern Territory, or to lay it open to a charge of repudiation. We know perfectly well that the Crown Law officers of South Australia have declared that the agreement means that the railway must be limited to the Territory itself.
– They are perfectly aware that our reading of it is quite different, and yet they are prepared to go on with it.
Woollen Factory - Portuguese Republic - State Hotel in Papua - Minimum Wage, Post and Telegraph Department.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister of Home Affairs an application which I have received from a very important country town in Victoria - I refer to Maryborough - which desires that when the Department is considering the question of establishing Commonwealth woollen mills its claims shall receive attention. In addition to being centrally situated, Maryborough possesses a large public building which is not now in use. I refer to a large and commodious gaol, which, owing to the law-abiding instincts of the residents, is not occupied, and which might easily be placed at the disposal of the Government. I hope that when the Minister is considering this matter he will not overlook the claims of the town in question.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister representing the Minsiter of Defence a matter which I regard as one of importance. As I have no wish to detain honorable members who desire to catch their trains, my remarks will be as brief as possible. Honorable members have doubtless observed that recently the Portuguese nation has been declared a Republic, and in a newspaper this morning appears the following : -
President Braga, who is at the head of the new Government in Portugal, states that the affairs of the country will be administered by the Provisional Government until a representative Assembly can be elected. The election will be conducted upon a universal suffrage basis, and President Braga says he sees no reason why women should not have a vote.
The Government promises to settle the San Thome labour question, which has caused a scandal in the past, with absolute justice and freedom to the natives. It has ordered- the enforcement of the laws relating to free recruitment and repatriation.
In the same column a suggestion from a newspaper in Germany is reproduced as follows: -
The Berlin daily paper, Taegliche Rundschau, suggests that if Great Britain values a good understanding with Germany, the two powers can give effect to the Anglo-German agreement of 19,08 for the partition between them of the colonies of “decayed Portugal.”
– This is a matter for the Minister of External Affairs, not for the Minister of Defence.
– Since the advent of Federation, Australia has taken up the position of a nation. To all intents and purposes it is a nation to-day. Now, owing to our connexion with the Empire, we may at any time be embroiled in a war. It is understood that if Great Britain becomes involved in war, die Australian Fleet unit will join the British Fleet. Personally, I am opposed to that unit leaving these waters, but apparently the feeling of a majority of honorable members is that it should serve with the British Fleet in the North Sea.
– This Parliament has to decide that.
– I hope that that is so. I understood that the Minister of Defence and not Parliament had to decide it. I should like to know from the Minister whether he has received any official communication from the Imperial authorities regarding the events which have recently taken place in Portugal, because that country has a Treaty of Alliance with Great Britain. If the infamous suggestion of the Berlin newspaper be adopted - if there be any probability of Great Britain joining with Germany to divide up the Colonies which Portugal at present possesses, we may, before we know where we are, find ourselves involved in a European trouble. If it be understood that we are to stand by the Empire I claim that we ought to be consulted in all matters which are calculated to involve us in International trouble. If the Minister of Defence has not received an official communication in regard to the matter, I hope that he will by cable inquire the position of affairs in Portugal. We know that Switzerland and Brazil have recognised the Republic which has been established in that country, and it is quite time that other nations did likewise.
– I should like to ask the Minister of External Affairs for information in regard to a proposal which, I understand, is under consideration to establish a State hotel in Papua. In view of the attitude which this House has assumed towards the liquor question in Papua, I would suggest that before effect be given to any such proposal Parliament should be consulted.
– An hotel for the sale of intoxicating liquor cannot be established in Papua . under the law that we have enacted.
– I should like the Minister to say whether such a proposal is under consideration. The existing Act may enable the Minister to embark on an enterprise of that description under regulation.
– I thought we settled that in the Bill.
– Judging from the Minister’s interjection, he has power to embark on such an enterprise. In view of the importance of the question, and the views that have been expressed by the Commonwealth Parliament, I suggest that before any such proposal is seriously entertained, the matter should be submitted to the House.
With regard to the question of seniority in the Postal Service, and the payment of the minimum wage, the Minister stated this morning, on the authority of the Public Service Commissioner, that the difficulty in the way of paying certain adult employes in the Post and Telegraph Department a minimum rate of 7s. per day was the question of seniority. I have had an opportunity of studying the question of seniority for many years past in connexion with the Public Service, and I assure the Minister that there is absolutely nothing in that contention. The difficulty can be overcome in the simplest possible way, and a practical suggestion can be placed before the Minister if he is prepared to adopt it. At present seniority is being determined according to the rate of wages the employe is receiving ; but in some services it is length of service alone that determines seniority.
In this particular case, it seems that the rate of wages is being made to conform to seniority, instead of seniority being made to conform to ‘the rate of wages. The matter can be easily arranged by reversing die order of things. It could be provided by regulation that seniority should not commence until an employe1 had been three years in receipt of ,£110 per annum. That would overcome the difficulty in this case. It would have just the same effect as bringing the officers in, and leaving them to serve three years, before they got £110 per annum, on the plea that the seniority provision prevented the payment of the minimum rate at an earlier period.
There is no need for the Commissioner to be vindictive, simply because certain employes ask for a minimum rate of 7s. per day. Seven shillings per day was laid down as a minimum wage when the cost of living was much less than it is today, and it is really no longer a living wage. That is all the more reason why no exception whatever should be made to thu rule. The excuse put forward by the Public Service Commissioner is not a valid one. He may raise objections to my suggestions for overcoming the difficulty ; but for every objection that he can raise a remedy can be found. This is at bottom a question of equity and justice. The Department are receiving the labour of an adult for less than 7 s. per day, which is not now a living wage; and, therefore, the Minister ought to take every means at his disposal to overcome any difficulty, instead of accepting the reasons adduced by the Public Service Commissioner against the payment of the 7s. rate. I have been sent into this House as an advocate of a minimum rate of pay being conceded to all employes in the Public Service, and so long as I am here I shall feel that I am not carrying out my promises to my constituents if I rest content while the Commonwealth obtains the labour of adults by paying what is really less than a living wage.
I appeal to the Postmaster-General to try to find some way of overcoming the difficulty, instead of accepting the Public Service Commissioner’s statement that it cannot be overcome.
– It is being overcome by the Commissioner saying that he will only take in younger fellows, instead of older ones.
– That is vindictiveness, and I am absolutely surprised to hear such a statement from the PostmasterGeneral. I desire to discuss these matters calmly, but I have been bitterly disappointed to find what measures have had to be taken in some instances that have come under my notice, in order that employes may even get what is really not a living wage to-day.
Whether or not it causes ill-feeling between myself and other members of the party, I am going to raise the question until justice is done. I would rather go out of Parliament altogether than make promises to my constituents on a question of this kind and not do everything in my power to remedy the wrongs which exist. If I am not able to remedy them, I am determined to show my constituents and the people of Australia upon whose shoulders the responsibility really lies.
We are entitled to a more sympathetic reply from a Minister in a Labour Government than we have so far been able to receive on this matter.I sincerely hope the PostmasterGeneral will endeavour to do justice, and not allow the Public Service Commissioner to exercise his vindictiveness in the way he has indicated. ‘ This is a question of principle that ought to be determined by the Minister, and not by a public servant. I hope we shall get from the PostmasterGeneral that sympathetic treatment of the case which the whole of his life, and all his public speeches, would lead us to expect from him.
I have brought this matter forward with some degree of hesitancy ; but, having raised the question time after time, and obtained no satisfaction, I felt that it was high time the PostmasterGeneral or the Cabinet went into the matter, because if the party on this side of the House is to be asked to carry the responsibility for the existing state of affairs it will be placed in a most invidious position.
– In response to the appeal of the honorable member for Laanecoorie to have the proposed woollen factory put in the gaol building to which he referred, 1 must say that there is no doubt that the gaol would be a very cool place. But at the same time, we intend to build all these factories in the Federal Capital, where we can exercise adequate supervision, and where we can operate them by means of the waters of the Murumbidgee.
. -I think the position has been somewhat misunderstood by the honorable member for Cook and the honorable member for Maribyrnong. There has been no vindictiveness.
– It seems very much like it; and if there is any more of it, more will be heard about it !
– I do not mind how much there is “.heard about it”; but we ought to be fair to the Public Service Commissioner .
– And fair to the men, too!
– Under the Act, these lads were called for at a certain age to join the Public Service, and for nine years that practice was carried out. Under the Act, also, they had to leave the service at eighteen years of age, unless an appointment could be found for them at £110 per annum; and, in order to give them an opportunity of once more joining, the Commissioner altered the form of application.
– They had already been in the service three years ; but, because of the break, they were not paid the rate of wages prescribed by the Act.
– But the Commissioner need not have altered the form of application ; and then these men would not have been able to rejoin. I am as anxious as the honorable member for Cook, or any other honorable member, that every public servant shall have a living wage.
– The living wage provision was inserted by the Labour party.
– Yes; and that was done before the honorable member for Cook entered the House. The Commissioner’s view is that it is better to obtain boys young and train them up for the service.
– These men referred to did enter young.
– But, under the Act, they had to leave.
– But they had had training.
– Why all this heat? If the honorable member for Cook will ascertain the number of men concerned-
– I had the number; but I forget it.
– I think there are very few ; and the number will naturally become less. There is not only the question of seniority to be considered, but permanent officers who, though younger, . have had. five or six years’ experience, and who can do the work better, object to these others coming in and obtaining the higher wage of£110. If honorable members will look at evidence given by an association’s secretary to the Postal Commission, they will see that a protest was made to that effect”. The position has been met by the Commissioner, but with no vindictiveness, by simply resuming the former practice which was followed for nine years.
-If the honorable member for Mernda had made such an explanation, the Minister would have described it as effrontery?
– Then, I shall simply say that I am as anxious as any man to see that full justice is done to all in the service. I was in the Labour movement long before the honorable member for Cook ever was ; and, as one who has always been a member of the party, I have every sympathy with those who may think they are suffering an injustice, and have always shown it.
– And the honorable member has suffered in consequence.
– I have; but I have made it possible for some honorable members to come into this Parliament.
– That does not refer to me!
– The sufferings of those who took part in the early Labour movement have made it possible for the honorable member, with others, to become members of this House. Now the honorable member tells us that we are unsympathetic with those in the Public Service ! I am as anxious as anybody to see the minimum rate of pay applied ; but we cannot control the Public Service Commissioner, any more than we can the AuditorGeneral, except by Act of Parliament. In any case, I cannot see that in this case there is any manifest injustice, in view of the explanation of the Public Service Commissioner, who has simply reverted to the practice that was followed for nine years.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 October 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19101014_reps_4_58/>.