4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that on the 14th inst. the trawler Endeavour fished over the flathead grounds which have been worked by the Queenscliff fishermen for the past forty years? Will he make inquiries as to the operations of the vessel ?
– I have not been informed of the incident referred to, but shall cause inquiries to be made on particulars being furnished. Honorable members can inform themselves regarding the operations of the vessel by referring to the reports which are issued from time to time.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement in today’s newspapers to the effect that at a recent sale of land in the Wimmera the prices given were the highest ever obtained in that district? As there is such a difference of opinion respecting the effect of the land tax on land values, will the right honorable gentleman ask for a report from his officers, to show whether values have increased or decreased since the imposition of the tax?
– I have not seen the report referred to, but shall be very glad to ask the Land Tax Commissioner if he can ascertain the information which the honorable member seeks.
– Any report on the subject would be useless.
– If there is information obtainable, we shall be glad to have it.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence take into consideration the desirability of offering troops to the Government of New South Wales, to put down the rebellion in the local Legislature?
-Only a few days ago, and again yesterday, I reminded honorable members that questions of this nature are not permitted. I hope that honorable members will not continue to ask them.
– Do I understand you to rule, sir, that we are not entitled to ask Ministers for information respecting the disposal of the Commonwealth military and naval forces?
– On the 17th inst.(vide page 271) the honorable member for Corio asked whether the Victorian Government had been requested to permit the free travelling of cadets on its railways when going to or coming from drill, and had declined to do so. The following answer to the honorable member’s question has been sent to me by the Minister of Defences-
No request for the cadets to be allowed to travel free has been made to the Victorian Government; but in December last a request waa sent to the Governments of the States asking for reduced rates to be charged for cadets.
It is. understood that this question was to be discussed at a recent Inter-State Conference of Railways Commissioners; the result of such discussion, however, has not yet been communicated to this Department.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Northern Territory - Summary of report of preliminary scientific expedition.
Defence Act -
Regulations amended (provisional) -
Military College - Entrance examinations - Addendum - Statutory Rules1911, No. 132.
Military Forces - Council of DefenceRegulation1. - StatutoryRules 1911, No. 131.
Licences : Finance
– Yesterday, in putting a question to the Minister of External Affairs, I mentioned that I could not find any ordinance altering the provisions of the South Australian Act, and limiting fishing licences to naturalized and natural bom persons. Was not the honorable gentleman under a misapprehension in informing me that there is such a limitation?
– The answer given was not quite accurate. Before leaving for London inMarch last, I issued instructions for the framing of an ordinance altering the South Australian provisions, and in replying to his question yesterday assumed that that ordinance had come into force, whereas it has not yet done so. But the Acting Administrator has been informed that the police are not to take action under the South Australian Act upon the expiry of the permits. The ordinance has not yet taken effect, but will do so shortly.
asked the Minister ofExternal Affairs, upon notice -
Australian Government are being re-issued by the Federal Government?
– Information on this subject is being obtained from the Territory, and on its receipt the matter will receive consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What arrangements have been made for financing’ the responsibilities incurred in connexion with the control of the Northern Territory?
– The matter is now under consideration, and will be dealt with in the Budget.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to his statement regarding preference in employment to unionists -
Will this apply to the men who are at present employed in the Federal Territory, and is it intended that the nonunionists now employed there are to be replaced by unionists?
Will this rule be applied to all persons seeking employment in the Territory in any capacity?
– It is intended to make it a general rule.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - Whether
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
Interviews with Officials.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
For what purpose has the following form been issued by the Defence Department : - “ Application for permission to interview Officers or Officials, CentralAdministration, Department of Defence. Name and address of applicant. Officer or Official whom it is desired to interview. Object of interview. Approved. Date.” ?
– The Minister of Defence has furnished me with the following information -
The form in question is intended for the use of representatives of the press only.
Officers are forbidden by the regulations to communicate to the press information relating to the Department, unless duly authorized to do so. It follows, therefore, that if a pressman desires information from a particular officer, be must produce to that officer an authority for obtaining it.
The authority is given by the Minister, or, in his absence, by the Secretary of the Department.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. King O’malley), proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for the construction of a Railway from Kalgoorlie, in the State of Western Australia, to Port Augusta, in the State of South Australia, the acquisition of the necessary land, the appointment of officers, the making of charges, and the appropriation of money, in connexion with such Railway.
– I would like to know at once whether the Minister will take steps, before proceeding with the consideration of the Bill, to ascertain, in the light of expert knowledge, what is the best gauge on which to construct the railway. It has been stated in South Australia, even so recently as Monday last, by its Railways Commissioner, that if the 4 ft. 8½ in. gauge be adopted it will be practically disastrous to the management of the railways of that State. I went into this question about twenty years ago in the House of Assembly of South Australia. At that time about a third of its railway mileage was constructed on the 5 ft. 3 in.gauge, and the rest on the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge. If another gauge is introduced at Port Augusta, there will have to be a line running from Port Augusta to Adelaide on the 4 ft. 8½ in. gauge, and the congestion in the yards at Adelaide and all the intermediate stations of any importance will be extraordinary, making it almost impossible to economically manage certain departments of the railway service. As this is a very vital matter, I ask the Minister of Home Affairs, before there is any determination as to gauge, to seriously look into the developing knowledge of the last twenty or twenty-five years as to the relative efficiency of the various gauges. In 1888 or 1889 I carried a motion in the House of Assembly in South Australia in favour of a meeting of the Railways Commissioners of the various Colonies being held to determine what should be the ultimate standard gauge for Australia. I moved in the matter then because Mr. Eddy and others had suggested that it would be well to decide once for all, assuming that the policy of unification ever became a real one, what ought to be the standard gauge. He stated that a great deal of the expense of the conversion was in connexion with the rolling-stock, and that if the Commissioners knew what was to be the ultimate gauge, they could order the rolling-stock so that at any time it could be accommodated to the standard gauge. The great difficulty now is in getting rid of the rolling-stock, because it is incapable of conversion. In report after report to the Government of New South Wales, Mr. Eddy pointed out that if the difficulty in connexion with the rolling-stock were to be overcome in the wav which he had pointed out - by having it constructed with a view to accommodation - a great deal of the expense of conversion would be avoided. I might mention here that an attempt in the direction of a uniform gauge was made even thirty years before 1888. It was recommended by a Committee which sat in England in, I think, 1853, or in connexion with the first draft of the New South Wales
Constitution, that one of the things to be determined ought to be a standard gauge for Australia. There was a movement with a view to having some form of Federal organization, and one of the matters suggested was a similar railway gauge for all Australia, but, unfortunately, we have not been quite as prescient as were our ancestors in this matter. Many opportunities for obtaining uniformity have been given since then, but owing to some lingering want of sympathy between the railway managements of the different States, no step of any consequence has been taken towards securing a standard gauge.
– Was not a gauge of 4 ft. 8J in. agreed upon at that Conference?
– I was going to mention that in 1888 or .1889, on the expert knowledge which guided me, I thought that 4 ft. 8J in. was likely to be the gauge. That was then the gauge of about 80 per cent, of the railway mileage of the world, and if my memory serves me correctly, some of the English railways were converted to that gauge. The Great Western, which was 7 feet, was converted to 4 ft. 8J in. ; and’ in America within a week, having previously altered the rolling-stock, with the view to the accommodation I mentioned, they converted no less than 10,000 miles of railway to the 4 ft. 8J in. gauge, because the actual changing of the rails, assuming that the bridges were capable of carrying the new gauge, is a comparatively trifling matter. In the case of the Great Western railway, I think that the whole work was done in one night by relays of workmen. Since then there has been a growing opinion, which I think has been clearly voiced by some experts here recently - some reports have appeared in the daily newspapers, and I think that one has been presented to the Minister - in favour of the wider gauge, and the 5 ft. 3 in. gauge is again coming into popularity as being the most economical and the most reliable - economical by virtue of the fact thai it allows of the employment of big engines and big haulage. I do not want to discuss the question of gauge at this stage, but I seriously ask the Minister, before he takes the almost final step of introducing another complication into our railway conditions by constructing in South Australia a third gauge, to get the best expert opinions and determine honestly, apart from Inter-State jealousies, what ought to be the gauge on which the transcontinental railway should be constructed.
– Does not the honorable member think that he could more conveniently discuss this question when we get to the clause embodying the gauge for the railway ?
– Recognising that I mentioned that I did not intend to say anything more at present, it is too important a matter not to be mentioned even now, because the judgment which ought to be formed in the light of experience and expert knowledge appears, according to the press, to have been forestalled by the Minister. I would be very sorry to think that that was so; I am sure that there must be some misapprehension. I ask the Minister to afford every possible opportunity for having the Department and the House guided as to what ought to be the standard gauge for our railways.
– I am not aware of what influenced the Minis- . try in deciding that 4 ft. % in. should be the general gauge for Australia, but I do suggest that it will amount almost to a crime if we start to construct a line toWestern Australia on that gauge without having an arrangement with the Government of South Australia respecting the gauge to be adopted in that State. If we adopt the 4 ft. 8J in. gauge it will mean, another break of gauge between Terowie and Port Augusta, and again at Port Augusta to go on to Western Australia. Starting from Brisbane at the present time we proceed through Queensland on a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge, pass through New South Wales on a 4 ft. 8J in. gauge, then travel through Victoria and to a few miles north of Adelaide on a 5 ft. 3 in. gauge. We then have to go for a few miles up to Port Augusta on a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge, and if the proposal of the Ministry is put into operation at once without any understand-, ing with South Australia, we shall start again on a 4 ft. 8J in. gauge. I understand that the Government of Western Australia has agreed to alter the gauge of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Perth so that the main line from Port Augusta to Perth would be constructed on one gauge.
– What is the gauge in Western Australia at present?
– It is 3 ft. 6 in. Between the several capitals we have so many breaks of gauge that it would take about twelve months to transport 10.000 mounted troops from Brisbane to Perth, even if this railway were constructed on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. Under the circumstances, I can scarcely believe that the building of the line would be of great advantage from a defence point of view. I suggest to the Ministry that a definite understanding should be arrived at with the Parliament and people of South Australia respecting what gauge is to pertain between Terowie and Port Augusta, at any rate, as an indispensable condition to proceeding with the proposed line. I understand that the people of South Australia do not suggest that any difficulties should be placed in the way, but are open to conviction, and to all reasonable argument, and will be ready to assist in connecting the several capitals by railway. Up to the present, however, everything is in the air so far as the two Governments are concerned. The South Australian Government have nothing before them that I can gather ; there have been conversations between Ministers, but absolutely nothing definite has been done with respect to another break in the gauge. We ought not to proceed with the expenditure of money on the mere supposition that the building of this line on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge will force the South Australian Government to do something which at the present moment it is not committed to do. If we start, as presumably is the idea on the part of some honorable members, to force the State Government into a particular position, they may assert their authority and undoubted right with results too serious to contemplate at the present moment. I hope ithat, under the circumstances, something definite will be arranged before we proceed with the expenditure.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) (2.54]. - It is remarkable how these questions crop up when apparently it is late in the day to do anything concerning them. I agree with the honorable member for Adelaide that there will be al] sorts of difficulties in regard to the break of gauge, no matter how this question may be settled, or what further inquiry may be undertaken. The two questions are distinct and separate. The construction of a transcontinental railway is dealt with in paragraph 15 of the Governor-General’s Speech, and immediately following there is a distinct proposition with regard to a uniform railway gauge throughout Australia.
– We cannot keep them distinct in practice.
– We can keep them distinct in practice, but we cannot make the line any good for defence purposes without tackling very seriously the question of the break of gauge. Suppose negotiations are entered into now with South Australia, will that help us any further in the direction we desire to go ? There is trouble up Queensland way about the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, just as there is trouble about the gauge in South Australia. All these matters are more or less a State concern ; and self-interest, it seems to me, will lead the States to agitate for the unifying of the gauge the moment this Parliament lays down the standard gauge for all time.
– I suggest that we ought not unnecessarily to force the Government of a State to do any particular thing. The honorable member will remember what took place in the senior State when this Parliament endeavoured to force on it some particular area for the Capital site?
– Exactly ; and ever since the site has been settled, every sort of difficulty-
-It is not settled yet !
– Then we had better settle it. I hope the honorable member does not think he is conferring any favour on the mother State in anything he is doing in respect to the Capital site.
– “ Mother State!” What is the honorable member talking about?
– Order !
– It seems peculiar that the moment these matters come to a practical point we initiate a series of difficulties, which really seem to me, with great respect, to be only causing further delay without getting us nearer a solution of the problem. I submit that the question of the unification of the gauges must go on, and at a very rapid rate; and if the proposal before us accentuates the position, it will be a step in the right direction. To have the whole thing wait for further inquiry now would not, in my opinion, help us in any way to a solution of the question.
– The question raised by the honorable member for Angas, though we are not at this stage called on to decide it, is one the importance of which cannot be overrated. The honorable member for Parramatta has said quite truly that the two questions of the general unification of the railway gauge and of the construction of this particular line are distinct. The only difficulty in adopting that argument is that we are forced, first of all, to deal with the construction of a particular line of great extent. It can hardly be doubted that, if we decide to build this line on the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, we shall practically settle one of the elements of the problem of trie unification of the railway gauge for all time.
– The gauge of this line ought to be the Federal uniform gauge !
– Precisely so. As business men, apart from the formal distinction between these as different political subjects, we are called upon to lay down what is the basis of a future uniform gauge.
– We are now only asked to allow the introduction of a Bill to provide for the construction of a line.
– I admit that. I asked the Minister whether we should have an opportunity on the Bill of discussing this question, and, of course, we shall ; but the point has been raised, and honorable members are entitled to express their views, even .at this stage. My mind is quite open, because, I confess, 1 have not had the opportunity of reading full reports by experts on this momentous question. One or two points, however, suggest themselves to my mind, and may suggest themselves to the mind of the Government. If we choose the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge for this line, it will - though, of course, very expensive - involve a comparatively small outlay to change it afterwards to the 4-ft. 8J-in., should the latter be ultimately selected ; but if we decide on the narrow gauge it will be practically impossible, without enormous expense, to convert it to the wider gauge. For that reason, notwithstanding what the honorable member for Parramatta has said, we are now practically called upon to decide for all time the question of the gauge.
– The Bill has yet to come.
– I do not mean that we shall decide on this motion, but we shall decide when we deal with the question of the construction of the line. As the honorable member for Parramatta said, it is for the States, as States, and not for us, to ultimately agree as to the unification of the railway gauge. But the States’ power to choose will be limited, if not absolutely destroyed, if we adopt one or the other gauge for this line. With us, practically, lies the choice. We are in debted to the honorable member for Angas for, at the earliest moment, not asking us to decide the question, but calling the attention of the Government to the vast importance of the issue.
.- It is rather amusing to hear it insinuated in this House that the Government are unduly rushing this matter forward, seeing that it has taken us ten years to reach the point at which a message is brought down to the House recommending an appropriation for the purposes of the Bill. I have no doubt that the question of gauge will be used to the very utmost by those who have from the first opposed the construction of the railway ; but if the Government are in earnest, as I hope they are, in regard to the work, and to the desirableness of settling this very difficult matter of a uniform gauge for Australia, they will go on as they are now doing. I feel sure that only by the gradual and steady development of a proposal such as that now before us shall we enable the people of Australia as a whole to decide upon a uniform gauge. It is suggestive to read the views of various engineers in the various States upon the question. We find that each engineer is invariably in favour of the particular gauge that has been adopted in his own State. We have in Western Australia a very capable civil engineer who urged arguments in favour of a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge, just as we have in Victoria another member of the same profession, who has recently addressed to members of this Parliament an interesting pamphlet, in which he supports a 5 ft. 3 in. gauge. I take it that there is ample time between the making of the proposal now before us and the point at which the question of gauge will be finally decided to enable the representatives of the various States interested to come to a decision, and that nothing short of some such national proposal as this will ever bring the States to a decision as to a uniform gauge for the whole of Australia. I therefore fail to see why the matter of break of gauge should be introduced at present as a reason for postponing the proposals of the Government.
– I thought that we should have had a few words in reply from a representative of the Government ; but since we have not, I desire to explain that I am not seeking by this method to raise opposition to the construction of the line.
– I do not think that such an imputation is fair.
– I did not make such an imputation against the honorable member.
– We shall give honorable members a full opportunity to discuss the question of gauge.
– I know that when the Bill comes before the House we shall have a full opportunity to discuss ‘ that question; but I know also that if we miss the present opportunity, ,one of our chances to deal with it will have gone for ever. Every Government - and the present is no exception to the rule- on introducing a Bill, invariably displays an overwhelming anxiety to carry it as introduced, and to silence all criticism, even though it be of the gentle persuasive type that usually characterises the criticisms of Ministerial proposals from this side of the House. I do not desire that this opportunity to discuss the question of gauge should be missed. When the second-reading stage is reached, the Minister will probably tell us that there will be a full opportunity to discuss it in Committee, and when we get into Committee on the Bill there will be the same overwhelming anxiety to pass the clause on which the matter can be discussed. Thus the opportunity for effective work in this direction will gradually fade away. It is in these circumstances that I have taken action, in the general interests of railway construction in such a manner as will meet with the approval of a majority, not only of this House, but of the people of Australia. It seems to me necessary that the Ministry should give us now some indication of whether they intend to go on with the construction of the railway on a 4 ft. 8£ in. gauge, regardless of the opinions of the people of the several States, who are deeply interested, and whose finances will be considerably disorganized if they are forced into a position with which, in a monetary sense, they cannot grapple.
– It would be desirable to have the evidence of the best railway expert in America on the subject.
– It would. I do not bring the matter forward from an immediate State point of view, for I like to think that I am an Australian; but I must have regard to the position in South Australia, where we have already two railway gauges. “We have there one line, on a 5 ft. 3 in. gauge, extending a few miles north, while the remaining railways of the State are built on a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge. If the proposal of the Ministry is prosecuted without any reasonable understanding with the people of that part of Australia, then we shall have within the borders of one State railway lines of three distinct gauges.
– Is not that the position already ? Is not the Broken Hill line built on a 4 ft. 8£ in. gauge?
– No; it is a 3 ft. 6 in. line. If this proposal be adopted, we shall have, on what might be called a main line, in South Australia three different gauges. We have at present a 5 ft. 3 in. line from Port Adelaide to Terowie, a distance of 150 miles, and thence to Port Augusta a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge. We should then jump on to a Commonwealth line with a 4 ft. 8J in. gauge. Even if it should involve a delay of a week or two, there ought to be a conference with South Australia with a view of arriving at an understanding that will remove, at all events, one break of gauge, even though it may not determine the general question of a uniform gauge throughout Australia. Such a delay would be well justified if, as a result of it, we were able to do away with one break of gauge within a distance of 200 miles. So far as I am aware, no step has been taken to secure an understanding upon the point. It may be that communications have passed between the Commonwealth and State Governments, but I am not aware of any. 1 intend to avail myself of an opportunity during the session to complain of the way in which agreements are entered into between the Commonwealth and State Governments without the knowledge of members of this House, notwithstanding that those agreements relate to matters closely concerning Federal politics. I do not know whether any communication has passed between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia. I do know, however, that a large number of people in South Australia look with a certain degree of fear upon the prospect of having dumped into their midst another gauge of railway. As representatives of the whole of Australia, we ought not to -complicate an already complex matter by adding a third gauge in the one State. Surely the Ministry, because of the ordinary desire of Ministers to push on with their measures, are not going to allow us to remain in complete ignorance of what they suggest in this direction until it is too late to avoid a dangerous complication. If we had an understanding with South
Australia with regard to the building of this railway on a 4 ft. 8 J in. gauge, and that they should alter that portion of the main line in their territory which is now built on a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge, one difficulty would be removed, and we should be able subsequently to arrive at a general understanding regarding a uniform gauge for the Commonwealth.
– The question of a gauge for the Western Australian railway will practically determine what is to be the future uniform gauge for Australia. The honorable member for Adelaide asked if any communication had taken place between the Federal Government and the Government of South Australia.
– And the Government of Western Australia and other States ?
– So far as I know the Government of South Australia are not in favour of a 4 ft. 8$ in. gauge. I am putting the matter not from any State point of view, but as a question of national interest. When the House deals with the Bill for the construction of the railway, it will expect the Minister to submit the very best available information on the question of what the future gauge for Australia should be. It is a contentious point whether the 4 ft. 8£ in. or the 5 ft. 3 in. is the best. Until recent years the consensus of opinion in the railway world was in favour of 4 ft. 8 in., but during the last five or six years leading engineers, particularly in America, have been revising their opinions, and favouring a wider gauge. A gauge up to 6 feet has been advocated purely on the ground of future economic working. If there is not a great deal of difference in engineering opinion between the 4 ft. 8 1 in. and the 5 ft. 3 in. gauge, another important consideration is the relative cost that will be incurred in altering the existing gauges in each State to a uniform gauge. It must be ascertained which gauge will involve the least hardship to the various States, taking Australia as a whole. I hope when the Bill is introduced the Minister will have the fullest information available on those aspects of the question.
.- No doubt the question of the uniform gauge is inseparable from the question now before the Committee. Will the Minister provide- honorable members with the fullest possible information on the subject? He must be in possession of reports from engineers, and the Cabinet must, have been in possessionof certain information to lead them to decide in favour of a 4 ft. 8£ in. gauge. If that information were made available in a printed form for honorable members, we should be able to see if we could make the same deduction from it as Ministers have done. It is true, as indicated by the honorable member for Wakefield, that engineering opinion is veering round to the widergauge. In America, a gauge as wide as 7 feet has been suggested, the object being to provide greater haulage capacity. I trust the Minister will promise to make available to honorable members all possible information on the subject.
.- Does not the Minister propose to make a statement in reply to what has been said by honorable members? I object to the scant courtesy that is being shown to the Committee. If Ministers are determined to follow a policy of silence, of course I may have no other redress thai*, to call attention to the matter.
– Why ask the Government to commit themselves at this stage ?
– I am not asking theGovernment to commit themselves to anything, but when a point is raised regarding the position of the State railway lines, and the serious complications that may ensue through compelling the adoption of a uniform gauge, which may have been decided upon without due consideration of the position of the State Governments, theMinistry might vouchsafe some reply. If, however, their contention is that their proposals must be carried through in strict: silence and secrecy, the position is unfortunate, to say the least of it. When honorable members speak conscientiously onbehalf of their constituents they have a right to expect some reasonable consideration on the part of the Ministers, especially when they ask for information which canbe ‘given without committing the Government to any particular policy.
– Is not this a case wherethe Government have asked for permission, to introduce a Bill?
– I understand that it is a proposal in connexion with the Western Australian railway, and the present stage- affords an opportunity for honorable members to find out their position and the position of the Government in regard to it. When information is sought the Ministry might give it, if possible, or on the other hand they might say definitely that they do not intend to give any information, that they have a majority on the subject, and do not care two straws what the minority may think, good, bad, or indifferent. If they intend to put the proposal through in silence and in contempt, we ought to be definitely told so. In that case, those of us who consider we have a right to different treatment, no matter what Ministry may be in office, will understand our position, and be able to map out our future course accordingly.
– I trust the honorable member for Adelaide has in his head no such idea as he has indicated. This motion simply asks for authority for the introduction of a Bill. When the Bill is before the House the subject will be discussed in all its phases. The cost of transforming the existing 5 ft. 3 in. gauge lines into the 4 ft. 8J in. gauge will be about ,£2,000,000, whereas to transfer the 4 ft. in. gauge now in Australia into the 5 ft. 3 in. gauge would cost about £5,000,000. That is a difference of £3,000,000 in cost, which it is for honorable members to say whether the Commonwealth shall incur. We have taken action only after the most searching inquiry and consideration of all the information we could possibly get. I can assure honorable members that I have not been asleep during the recess. I have been in communication with nearly every railway president in America, as well as * with the railway authorities in Australia. The Fisher Ministry have done all they could to secure information. If, when the Bill is before honorable members, they think its terms should be altered, it will be for them to say so. All I say now is, “ Let us have the Bill before us.” I can assure the honorable member for Adelaide that we have not the slightest desire to refuse to meet the Premier of South Australia in every possible way.
– Has the honorable gentleman met him ; and, if so, with what result?
– We have communicated with him, with the result that he has his ideas, and we have ours.
– What are the ideas he has communicated to the Government?
– All that information will be given in due time. Are we now to wait indefinitely until there is agreement between the Government and the different States, or should we not carry out the pledges which have been made?
– Is there an agreement between the Federal and the South Australian Governments?
– Matters have been discussed and talked over in the usual official way, and now we have reached the time when, in the opinion of this Government, we must go on with this work or postpone it indefinitely.
.- After listening to the Minister of Home Affairs, I am satisfied that there is something in the contention of the honorable member for Adelaide. In one breath the Minister said that there was an agreement, and in the next that there was not.
– I did not say there was an agreement.
– If there is an agreement honorable members have a right to know what it is. I am not opposed to the construction of this railway, or to the adoption of the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge. If we are to build the railway at all, we should build it on the most approved and up-to-date lines. The impression conveyed by the honorable member for Adelaide, that there is some agreement between the Federal Government and the Government of South Australia in connexion with this matter, has been confirmed by the speech of the Minister of Home Affairs.
– The Munster did not say that there was an agreement.
– I think I am in full possession of my faculties, and I listened attentively to what the Minister said. I distinctly understood him to say, first, that there was an agreement, and then that there was no agreement ; that the Premier of South Australia had his own ideas, and the Federal Government theirs. I do not know what can be made out of that kind of statement. The honorable member for Adelaide desires to know what took place between the South Australian Government and the Federal Government.
– And the honorable member for Swan.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Swan had anything to do with it. We are dealing now with matters which have transpired since that honorable gentleman was a member of a Federal Government. I am satisfied that if the promises made to the honorable member for Swan had been given effect to the railway would be in existence to-day. I think honorable members, in common with the honorable member for Adelaide, are entitled to know what has taken place between the South Australian and Federal Governments in connexion with this matter.
– I do not care to intervene at this stage, but I should like to say that this is a formal motion, and the Minister of Home Affairs has specially asked that he should be allowed to make his speech on the second reading of the Bill it is proposed to introduce. The honorable gentleman does not wish to debate the measure at this stage. With respect to our dealings with the Western Australian and South Australian Governments, I can only say that the most friendly communications have passed between the Federal Government and the State Governments referred to; and the time came when the Government of the Commonwealth had to decide whether they should not proceed, in the best way possible, with the carrying out of this work. They now propose to introduce a Bill under which the Parliament will be asked to approve of the construction of the railway. There is neither agreement nor hostility between this Government and the State Governments mentioned. We are desirous, while regarding every State Government in the most friendly way, to do the best we can for the Commonwealth.
.- I am aware that the motion now before the Committee is sometimes taken as formal. I am also aware that honorable members who make that assertion have themselves, when it pleased them, taken exception to similar motions going through in a formal way. I am aware that the forms of the House permit of honorable members discussing a resolution such as this to the fullest possible extent. I am further aware that opportunities lost, such as we may lose at the present moment, can never be regained ; and the anxiety of the Ministry to carry any particular measure to which they may be pledged should not be sufficient to make honorable members satisfied with a mere statement that a motion is a formal one, and on that ground, should receive the assent of honorable members who may previously have been placed in an awkward predicament, and may have kicked themselves for having displayed too much confidence in these catch phrases. I regret that, for the moment, I should appear to be in opposition to something for which the honorable member for Perth has been unsuccessfully striving for many years. But, even at the risk of permitting the honorable member to remain a moment or two longer in suspense, I must perform my duty to my constituents ; and the honorable member should be one of the first to permit the liberty to do so. The Minister of Home Affairs has spoken, but we may leave the honorable gentleman’s effort at that, so far as any information given to the Committee is concerned. He has said that correspondence has taken place between the Federal Government and the South Australian Government. I think we have a right to know the nature of that correspondence, and what is the present .position between the two Governments. Communications pass between the Commonwealth and State Governments on matters of national importance, and concerning which both State and Federal members of Parliament are entirely ignorant. They may first hear of such communications from some constituent who, more favoured than others, is given information by a member of either a State or the Federal Government, and surprise may be expressed that the Federal or State member for a particular district should be left in utter ignorance of communications concerning an important matter affecting his district. In my opinion, there is far too much communication going on between the different Governments, to the exclusion of members of Parliament, than is right in the circumstances. It is only t fair that the Ministry should take the Committee into their confidence before asking them to accept a motion which, for all practical purposes, may commit the country to an expenditure of over ,£4,000,000. It is only right that we should know what has transpired between the two Governments. If they cannot arrive at an agreement upon the gauge to be adopted we are entitled to understand the position. The fact that the South Australian Government may refuse to do a particular thing will not influence my vote in one way or the other. But I have a right to know whether it is the intention of that Government to prevent, as far as they can, the accomplishment of this undertaking. We are entitled to be told whether any difference has arisen between the State and the Federal authorities which is likely to bring about complications of a time and money wasting character. I therefore ask the Minister of Home Affairs to inform us of what has transpired between the two Governments.
– Ask for the production of the papers.
– If the Minister will give me his word that I may see the correspondence which has passed with the South Australian Government in regard to this matter I shall be satisfied.
– The House is entitled to see it.
– What has transpired ought to be public information. If we allow some form of secrecy to be adopted on the present occasion, it may be that the Government will desire to keep us equally in the dark in respect of other proposals in the future. Thus we may have a Government entirely ignoring honorable members upon matters of national importance. I ask the Minister of Home Affairs if, in the circumstances, he will lay the correspondence on the table of the House, so that honorable members may peruse it ?
– I cannot see any objection to the adoption of that course. Everything that the Government does is quite open.
– There is a vast difference between the Minister saying that he can see no objection to acceding to my request and undertaking to lay the correspondence upon the table of the House. Apparently there is some objection to the adoption of that course, otherwise we should have a more complete statement than has been vouchsafed to us. May honorable members see the correspondence?
– What has been done will be published.
– Before the principles of the Bill are determined.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fisher and Mr. O’Malley do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– With your permission, sir, I would like to ask the
Leader of the Opposition whether, in the circumstances, he will permit the Minister of Home Affairs to move the second reading of the Bill forthwith?
– Most certainly.
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I wish to give a very brief history of the? events which have led up to its introduction. In 1 901 the Government of Western Australia ordered its engineer-in-chief, Mr. C. Y. O’Connor, to prepare a statement relating to the probable cost of construction of a transcontinental railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. That statement was laid on the table of the House on the- 16th July, 1901, and it set out that thetotal cost would probably be£4,400,000, Later on Mr. Muir, the inspector of the engineering services, made a personal inspection of the whole country between Kalgoorlie and Eucla, and submitted the following report upon it -
From the South Australian border for 250 miles in a westerly direction it is one large open plain of limestone formation, fairly well grassed throughout. Taken as a whole, this stretch of country is one of the finest I have seen in Australia, and with water, which can doubtless be obtained if properly prospected for, it is admirably adapted for grazing purposes, and will, without doubt, be taken up some day from end to end.
Again, Mr. Castella prepared a report on the same subject, which was laid on the table of the Senate on the 20th October, 1904, when it was ordered to be printed. The Commonwealth then asked for a general report from the engineers of all the States, and those officers were asked to investigate the probable expenditure that would be incurred in construction, the probable annual revenue after construction, the cost of maintenance, the route recommended, the gauge proposed, the probable time which would be occupied in construction, the probable present and prospective effect of such a railway if constructed, the advisability of constructing the proposed railway, and any other matters in connexion with the scheme which the Commonwealth considered should be brought under notice. From that Conference three reports were received, dated 12th March, 1903, 13th May, 1903, and 27 th July of the same year. The engineers visited Kalgoorlie, and went round to Eucla - in fact, they did all that they possibly could to make themselves acquainted with local conditions. On the nth October, 1909, the engineers reported the completion of the survey, which shows that a good line of railway can be laid down with a 4 ft. 8½ in. gauge, a ruling gradient of 1 in 80, and a minimum curvature of 20 chains radius. Such a line would have a length of 1,063miles, of which 462 miles would be in Western Australia, and 601 miles in South Australia. The estimated cost, £3,988,000, includes provision for water supply and rolling stock sufficient for one passenger train per day and one goods train in each direction every second day. I turn now to the financial estimates. Mr. O’Connor’s estimate was £4,400,000. The first estimate of the conference of engineers was £5,000,000. The second estimate of the conference of engineers was £4,559,000. In the first year after the opening of the line it is estimated that the revenue would be . £205,860 per annum, and the working expenses, £114,400, with interest at the rate of 3½ per cent., £159,566. or a total of £273, 966, leaving a deficit of £68.106 during the first year. But this deficit will be gradually reduced during the first ten years. The report states that if the State continues to progress in the same ratio as it has been doing during the first ten years after the line has been constructed, the estimated revenue will be £411,720; the working expenses, £210.000; interest on the original capital, plus15 per cent, for improvements, at 3½ per cent., £183,501, or a total of £393,501. The net profit over working expenses would thus be . £18,219. Those are the estimates made by experienced men accustomed to the working of railways.
– Can the Minister give the date of the last estimate?
– This is the estimate revised lately by Mr. Deane. I asked for it about a fortnight ago, but the actual date is not upon the document.
– The estimate was made this year ?
– Oh yes; just lately. The latest estimate of cost is £3,988,000 for a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge railway.
– Has the engineer furnished revised estimates of receipts?
– I have quoted the latest available estimates of receipts. Western Australia has promised that if the railway is constructed she will build a 4-ft. 8½-in. railway to connect Kalgoorlie with Fremantle. A Bill for that purpose was carried in the Western Australian Parliament, but has since lapsed through effluxion of time. Western Australia also promised that during the first ten years after the opening she would defray any loss which the Commonwealth might incur upon the working of the road, so far as the Western Australian portion was concerned.
– Is that promise good to-day?
– I think that it will stand good; it is a promise.
– Was it not contained in the Bill ? I think it was.
– The Bill has expired, but I do not think that the promise has expired. Honorable members are thoroughly aware that the various State Premiers practically promised, prior to Federation, that if Western Australia entered the Union this transcontinental railway would be constructed. It is well known that that was a governing factor in inducing the Western Australian people to become partners in the Union. I think that my right honorable friend, the member for Swan, will bear me out in that statement.
– Hear, hear !
– For all practical business purposes Western Australia is not to-day a part of the Federation. In trade, in intercourse, and in facilities of communication, it is as though that State were completely outside the Federation. The Fisher Government hold that Governments cannot make pledges or promises and break them without being considered ignoble and disgruntled repudiators any more than can individuals. We conscientiously believe that this was a bargain - a good bargain, for that matter. I am pleased to say that the Fisher Government are now in a position to fulfil the pledge, not made by them, but by their predecessors years ago. This railway will increase postal facilities. It will enable the delivery of oversea mails into the various capitals of the States to be made in far quicker time than is possible to-day. It will also reduce the cost of maintaining the transcontinental telegraph line. At present there are no means of conveying materials for the repair of the line. except, I suppose, by camel or mule teams. But when this railway is constructed” it will be possible - just as is the case on the railway between Burnie and Zeehan - for the same staff which maintains the road to maintain the telegraph line. In that manner we shall reduce the cost materiallyComing to the defence question, I would point out that at the present- time, although Western Australia, with its immense riches, is close to the hungry millions of Asia, it would be impossible, no matter what number of well-trained men we had in the eastern States, to send them to assist in its defence should our cruisers be destroyed, or driven into port. But with this railway, we could transport soldiers from South Australia to Western Australia in a few days.
– No considerable body of men could be transported from Adelaide to Perth within two weeks.
– Has the Minister read the report published last session, in which the time necessary to transport 60,000 men from Melbourne to Brisbane is given?
– The report referred to was prepared under my instructions to assist in the settlement of the uniform gauge question. The proposed railway will give Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, two large centres of population, better communication with the outer world, by enabling the producers of South Australia to send stock and various products to them, and to the millions who will be settled in Western Australia in no distant time. Honorable members may be inclined to smile at the statement that there will be a large population in Western Australia, but I can remember when people laughed sat the thought of Western America being populated, and to-day 20,000,000 producers are settled between the Missouri and the Rocky Mountains, where we used to run our cattle. The line will open up enormous tracts of fertile country.
– Tracts of sand.
– The sandhills in Australia are nothing to those in Arizona, but the genius of the American people, which is like that possessed by the Australians, has caused the water of the mountains to be brought down into the valleys, and has turned arid plains into a warden of Eden. That is what we shall do in time.
– Where are the mountains from which water can be obtained to irrigate the country through which the proposed railway will pass?
– The water will be obtained from artesian wells. Many Australians are not aware of the magnitude and great resources of their country. Population will spread over these immense tracts of fertile land, and will provide traffic for the railway. I have heard the strange question asked, “Will the line pay?” In America, private companies make railways in wild country, and population follows their construction. Years ago, it was said in the United States Congress that the Union Pacific line would not pay, but to-day there are seven lines crossing the United States and Canada, all of which are paying. The line which I -advocate will be backed, not by a private company, but by the Australian people. As the country to be traversed suffers periodically from drought, the construction of the line will provide means for the rapid removal of stock when necessary, and thus prevent losses which might run into millions. This is the latest estimate of the cost of constructing the line -
It is thought that the cost of water supply will be less than the sum estimated, because Western Australia is increasing the number of her bores. Then, too, we may be able to use internal combustion engines, which will need very little water. They can be operated in units. If you only want to run a small passenger train, you hitch on a unit, and go 60 or 70 miles an hour.
– On a gauge of. 4 ft. 8J in.
– Yes. They do the 90 miles between New York and Philadelphia in a little over an hour.
– Why cannot we run trains at the same rate here ?
– So we can. As to the breaks of gauge on the Australian railways, let me say that it is not the fault of the Fisher Government that a uniform gauge has not been adopted for the lines connecting the capitals. We appointed a council of military officers to consider the subject, and have done everything possible to encourage the States to arrive at an understanding in regard to the matter. At present, in Australia, 3,928 miles of railway have been constructed on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, of which 599 miles are in South Australia, and 3,329 miles in Victoria. In New South Wales, there are 3,623 miles, with a gauge of 4 ft. 8 J in., and there are elsewhere 6,976 miles, with a gauge of 3 ft. 6 in., and 81 miles, with a gauge of 2 ft. 6 in. The total length of the railways of Australia is 14,609 miles.
– Why will it cost more to convert the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge?
– I will tell my honorable friend in a minute. Mr. Henry Deane, the consulting engineer for the Commonwealth, says -
It has been demonstrated that it will be more economical to alter the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge in South Australia and Victoria to 4-ft. 8£-in., which is the standard for New South Wales, than to change the 4-ft. 8-in. gauge in New South Wales to- 5-ft. 3-in., the difference approximately being that between £2,000,000 and ^5,000,000. The difference in the cost is explained by the fact that if the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge of New South Wales were adopted, there would be no necessity to alter the enbankments, tunnels, bridges, and culverts in Victoria and South Australia, whereas if the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge were adopted the tunnels, bridges, and culverts would have to be widened and practically re-made in New South Wales.
– That is a good answer to my question. I am satisfied.
– Do these figures include rolling-stock, or do they refer to only the roads ?
– I believe that the figures cover everything. There are about 300 more miles of 5-ft. 3-in. gauge than of 4-ft. 8L-in. gauge, and yet the adoption of the latter gauge will mean a difference of £3,000,000 in the cost of conversion. But there is another difference to be considered, and I hope that my honorable friends “will consider it very carefully. They must admit that the late Mr. Harriman, who started as a clerk and finished up in a few years by leaving nearly $20,000,000, was a smart man at railways. He converted the narrow-gauged DenverRio Grande line. When he got possession of the road, he laid it down that the gauge ought to be 7 feet, but his best engineers said that that gauge would spread the track too much for the great loads which are carried on American railways. It was not a bad road for an island country like England, but it was not suitable for a continent. What was wanted was not to have the wheels too far apart, but close enough to give strength to the axles to carry the great loads. After the whole thing was done, they converted the American roads everywhere to the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge.
– The honorable member is not talking of recent times, but of twenty years ago.
– I am talking of the time before Mr. Harriman died. I have all the papers on the subject here. I have endeavoured to see what are the prospects of our proposed transcontinental road. As a business man, I want to know how the financial side of the proposal looks. I am sorry that my mind runs in that way ; it may be a great mistake, but I cannot help it. The great importance of Western Australia as a member of the Commonwealth may be gauged by the facts which I am about tocite. The population of the State is now nearly 300,000, having increased by over 100,000 persons in the last ten years. The number of horses has increased from 74,000 to 134,000, whilst the number of cattle has increased from 400,000 to 800,000. My object in quoting these figures is to show honorable members that this is a financial proposition.
– The line is not togo into a desert or a back block ?
– Exactly. The number of sheep in Western Australia has doubled. The number at the end of 1910 was given in the monthly statistical abstract as 5,157,698.
– Are cattle, sheep, and horses grazing along the route of the proposed railway ?
– In time they will be, probably. The production of wool has consequently doubled since 1900, and at the end of 1910 the State exported 26,000,000 lbs. The greatest development has taken place in agriculture. The area under wheat has increased from 94,000 acres to 581,482 acres in 1911.
– Is that for the whole of Western Australia?
– Yes; I think it is marvellous. It is as good as California, proportionately. The area under oats has increased from 9,751 acres to 6 1,9 t 8 acres, and the area under orchards from 6,076 acres to 16,021 acres. The total area under crop has increased from 217,441 acres to 854,837 acres. I think that the railway will carry some of that produce across the continent. The production of gold has diminished of late, but that is of no significance, as the industry is still in its infancy. Last year the passengers to and from Western Australia numbered 55,000.
– Yes. Of course, some went by motor cars, but very few. This shows an immense increase of traffic to and from Western Australia. Practically the eastern States are entirely independent of the western State, and this is the first time that the Commonwealth has attempted to do something to make this one great Federation. As to the water supply, the following figures in regard to the route of the railway are informative -
At about 150-mile point, Ben Ben Well.
At about 225-mile point, Rock Hole, 2,750 gallons.
At about 230-mile point, Rock Hole, 700 gallons.
At about 235-mile point, Waddalynia, 1,100 gallons.
At about 250-mile point, Rock Hole, 1,100 gallons.
At about 345-mile point, No. 3 Bore, 1,372 feet; big supply good water, water stands 420 feet from surface, a little hard, no salt.
At about 420-mile point, No. 4 Bore, 907 feet.
At about 630-mile point, Ooldea Well.
At about 930-mile point, Eucolo Dam.
At about 970-mile point, Lake Windabout Tank.
At about g75-mile point, Oakden Hills Well.
At about 1,005-mile point, Gibson’s Camp Bore, also well and tank.
At about 1,010-mile point, Beda Bore.
At about 1,016-mile point, Canegrass Flat Bore.
At about 1,020-mile point, Kell’s Camp Bore.
– What is the greatest distance between waters?
– In Western Australia there is very good water all the way along to the border, but in South Australia the water is not so good. When we come to discuss the clauses of the Bill, the Government will be prepared to hear every side.
– Has the Minister heard that Mr. Harriman, just before he died, declared 5 ft. 3 in. to be the proper gauge?
– I have heard that Mr. Harriman said 7 feet was the proper gauge, but his engineers were of opinion that the line would spread out too much, and did not give sufficient power for American freight cars, which carry about four times as much as the cars do in Australia.
– That was twenty-five years ago, but before his death, Mr. Harriman changed his opinion.
– Perhaps so; but there is no 5 ft. 3 in. gauge in
America. The mails from London to Australia are at present carried by rail to Taranto, in the south of Italy, and then by contract steamer to Adelaide, and thence by rail to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The time occupied from London to Taranto is about two days; from Taranto to Fremantle about twenty-two days six hours; from Fremantle to Adelaide about four days and four hours ; from Adelaide to Melbourne about nineteen hours; and from Melbourne to Sydney about nineteen hours. A sad phase of the question is that a Western Australian has no tangible evidence at present that he is a partner in the Commonwealth. The right honorable member for Swan said yesterday that I am not a man with big ideas; but the Fisher Ministry has done wonders for Perth in preparing for postal facilities sufficient for the next 200 years.
– They have done wonders in talking about it !
– They have done it 1
– Not a single brick has been put up !
– But we have got the land, and rent is being paid to me as the landlord.
– When will the work be completed ?
– We have started it.
– Who advised the Ministry to do this? Who selected the land?
– It is all right. Here we have two of the biggest things in the history of Western Australia - the transcontinental railway and the provision of postal facilities - and I can assure the right honorable member for Swan that, in this connexion, he owes much to the Acting Treasurer, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. A train leaving Perth for Adelaide will be, to a Western Australian, tangible evidence of his participation in the benefits of this great Commonwealth Federation. He will be able, as I have seen Americans do, to go round and touch it, and to realize that he has some reason to be proud that he is a partner in the Union. He will know that, when the train leaves it will, in a few hours or days, be in the bustle of eastern life. On the other hand, when a man leaves for the east, in a boat, he is for nearly five days out of sight of land, and probably suffers the agonies of the damned on his back in his bunk. I have been through” it; and such a man is sometimes so profoundly moved in portions of his anatomy that he requires spiritual consolation. What sort of feeling can such a man have for the Commonwealth? He naturally hates it, and would be in favour of a railway at once. I ask honorable members to examine the map on the wall, when they will see that the territory which this gigantic national enterprise will traverse, linking up the east and the west with bands of steel and lightning-like express trains, constitutes the precise territorial strength of the whole Commonwealth, This line will traverse territory boasting a remarkable superiority of situation on the very highway between the industrial, commercial, and financial supremacy of the east, and the pioneering, agricultural, and mineral progress of the golden West. It will open up millions of acres of soil unsurpassed in richness, possessing a fascinating, undulating beauty of surface with a healthproducing climate, and capable of nurturing a powerful, generous, and healthy people, and worthy of being either the central pivot or a mighty outpost of Australian civilization. Only a few years have passed since this spacious inland empire was open only to the blackfellow and his lubra, who ran wild in the sage brush and sandalwood. I venture to predict that before many years have rolled by, after the construction of this railroad, it will draw to its spacious bosom a population larger than ever crowded within the gates of ancient Athens, when her fighting men, under Miltiades, won liberty for humanity on the field of Marathon; larger than that of Sparta when she “ bossed “ Greece, and sent forth her sons quickened by the encouragement of their mothers’ benediction to return with their shields, or on them ; and larger, indeed, than that which crowded on the seven hills of Rome when, under her mighty rulers, she commenced that sovereign sway that afterwards embraced the whole world. I have the greatest pleasure in submitting this motion to the House.
Debate (on motion by Sir John Forrest) adjourned.
– In moving -
That this Bill be nowread a second time,
I would remind honorable members that it has already been passed by another place on two, if not three, separate occasions, and that the honorable member for Kooyong, who, as a member of the Senate, then held office as Minister of Trade and Customs in the Deakin Administration, had charge of it. It is a purely noncontentiousmeasure, providing for the ratification of the agreement arrived at with the Premiers of the States that certain lighthouses shall be taken over by the Commonwealth. With the establishment of Federation, the Departments of the Postmaster-General, Defence, and Trade and Customs, practically passed over automatically to the Commonwealth. They were transferred by proclamation, without any preliminary legislation on our part, and, subsequently, we passed legislation by which we provided for the transfer of quarantine to the Federal arena. At each of the Conferences heldin 1906, 1907, and 1908, the State Premiers urged that lighthouses should be transferred to the Commonwealth, and we have power under section 69 of the Constitution to take them over. This Bill will carryout that desire. I have here a list of the lights proposed to be taken over, but it is by no means final and conclusive. It is quite possible that, upon further consideration, it will be found unnecessary to take over some of those in the list, and imperative that we should take over others that are not specified. The present list numbers about 120 lights, the cost of the upkeep of which is about £60,000 per annum. Like my predecessor in office, I have tried, without success, to ascertain from the Department the exact revenue collected in the shape of lighting dues. The receipts are so wrapped up in the revenues of the various State services, such as the Departments of Navigation, or the Harbor Boards, that it is impossible to secure an accuratereturn. It is estimated, however, that the revenue will be practically equal to the cost of maintenance. Dr. Wollaston, who was in charge of the Department for a number of years, estimated that the revenue from this source would be £60,000 or £70,000 a year.
– How is that money collected ?
– In the shape of lighting dues. Under clause 9 of the Bill we take power to levy lightingdues upon vessels r but the amount paid by them will not be in exact proportion to the value actually received at any one point. For example, more ships pass Wilson’s Promontory, in the neighbour- hood of which there are only two or three lights, than along any other point on the Australian coast. On the Queensland coast, on the other hand, a greater number of lights have to be kept up, and there are fewer vessels passing. It is proposed, therefore, to charge according to tonnage in such a way that vessels will have to pay, not in accordance with the benefit received in any one part of Australia, but” in accordance with the benefits which we confer on them so far as the whole coastline is concerned. It is proposed that the staffs engaged in looking after the existing lights shall be taken over. It is not proposed to take over the whole of the lighthouses or beacons throughout Australia at present. The intention is to take over only the ocean lights, although it is quite possible that when the Navigation Bill is passed, and navigation is taken over by this Parliament, and a separate Department created to deal with it, other lights will be taken over.
– Ship-owners will have to pay two lighting rates - one to the States for the harbor lights, and one to the Commonwealth for the ocean lights?
– We shall “charge them only so far as the ocean lights are concerned.
– But apparently there will be’ two lighting rates.
– I am prepared to admit that the harbor lights are very important to shipping, but it is doubtful whether they are as important as are the ocean lights. It is quite possible that ship-owners will not have to pay a double rate, but the rate which they pay will in all probability be divided, part being given to the State, and part to the Commonwealth. It is impossible to estimate accurately how much of the charge is due for ocean lights, and how much for the advantages obtained by vessels from the harbor lights.
– There would be no increase of rate, would there?
– It is not proposed that there should be any increase of rate. I think, however, that the Department should be self-supporting. If only Australianowned vessels used our lights we could say that it would not matter whether the whole charge came out of the Consolidated Revenue or not, but as other vessels use the lights from time to time it is perfectly right that all should pay. We could not say that a person who did not happen to be an Australian must pay, and that the
Australian should be let off. A uniform system of lighting dues will be fixed. The capital value of the lights to be transferred is now being considered by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, to decide whether they shall be taken as transferred properties or not. It is suggested by some persons that the States arc anxious to get rid of the lighthouse service, as it is a costly one, and that all that has ever been claimed for the lighting dues is that they have been equal to the amount charged for the annua) cost of the service, while there has never been any attempt to wipe off the capital cost and interest charges upon it.
– I think a profit is made in South Australia.
– I am glad to hear it. There is already in my Department an unprofitable branch in the shape of quarantine, from which we obtain no revenue, and 1 hope we shall not have another. Whether these works shall be treated as transferred properties is purely a legal question into which, doubtless, the honorable member for Angas, when AttorneyGeneral in the last Government, looked., If it is decided to treat them as transferred properties they will be valued as the other properties were. I always had the idea that the Australian coastline was 8.000 or 9,000 miles in length; but I noticed in an article in last night’s Herald .that it has been ascertained to be actually over 12,000 miles in length. There are portions of that coastline which are not sufficiently lit. We have had six systems of lighting in operation in the past, and the States, knowing that the Department was to be transferred sooner or later to the Commonwealth, did not exert themselves, in many cases, to see that new lighthouses were built. Some States, however, have gone on with the work, and those new buildings will be dealt with in accordance with the law when taken over. In addition to them, experts - the captains trading around our coast, and passengers who have made a study of the question - say that a certain number of other lights are required. In fact, two members of the House have sent many suggestions to the Department as to where new lighthouses should be placed. It was generally agreed by all these experts that at least twelve additional lights were an urgent necessity, four being in Queensland, four in Western Australia, one in South Aus-‘ tralia, one in Tasmania, and one’ in Victoria ; but I am not sure where the twelfth light was to be. Knowing, however, that” even the captains of vessels were not agreed as to where the lights should be, I recommended the Cabinet to appoint a lighthouses expert. It was estimated that the average cost of the new lighthouses would be £15,000 each, and as we were to erect a dozen of them, I thought it most desirable to obtain expert advice from a thoroughly independent man. We advertised for an expert, and I believe the Commonwealth was fortunate in securing the services of the man who was eventually appointed. He was a member of the British Navy who happened to be a resident in Australia. He possesses very high qualifications, and had a remarkable experience, so far as his first report was concerned. It dealt with the Wilson’s Promontory corner, which is considered to be very badly lighted. It was published in the press, and every captain who saw it admitted that no better report could have been written. That testimony in favour of an expert’s report shows that he must have done excellent work. In accordance with the desire of the Cabinet, he is now going round Australia to fix the localities requiring new lighthouses, and to decide the type of light to be adopted. If there is one thing that we desire, it is uniformity, so that captains of vessels coming to Australia may know that they are dealing with one system. I do not mean that every light should be alike, because I believe it is a well-known principle that no two lights within at least 100 miles. of each other should be the same.
– Will the expert report on the lighting of the coast of Papua?
– I think we should deal -with Australia before we deal with Papua. The expert is at present inspecting the coast of the Northern Territory, in the neighborhood of Port Darwin. He has already inspected the Queensland coast, and we shall be fortunate if his report on the Queensland coast, and the coast of the Northern Territory, is as satisfactory as that which he has presented with respect to the south-eastern coast of Australia.
– Does the Minister propose to place on the Estimates a sufficient sum for the immediate construction of the twelve lighthouses he has referred to?
– No, because, in view of the fact that some time must elapse in the preparation and approval of plans, it would be impossible to spend the whole amount within the financial year. A suffi cient amount to begin the necessary work will be placed on the Estimates, and if it is found that it is not sufficient it may be increased when the Supplementary Estimates are brought down, and I am sure that no one would object if it were later found necessary to draw upon the Treasurer’s Advance in order to continue the work to its completion. The fact that, although no provision for his appointment was made on the Estimates, no exception has been taken by members of this Parliament, or by the press, to the employment of the lighthouse expert shows that it is generally agreed that his appointment was a necessary step to take. Having secured a good man we should follow generally the reports he makes, or be able to give good reasons for departing from his recommendations. I think it was the honorable member for Parkes who asked whether’ it was intended to impose higher lighting dues.
– I am not so much concerned about that. I wished to know whether, in future, there would be two lighting dues.
– The honorable member means to ask whether there will, in future, be State, and also Federal, lighting dues? That is not intended, nor is it intended to increase the dues. It will probably be found possible to agree to divide the revenue from lighting dues, but the principal object is to secure a more efficient lighthouse service. I should like to refer honorable members to the following paragraph from the report of Captain Brewis -
It must be borne in mind that in installing a coastal light that a serious responsibility is at once assumed to maintain it efficiently; therefore, in selecting a site, due regard must be given to assuring a certain and unfailing method of supply, which is an obligation that must be carried out, and should be most carefully provided for.
I think we can all agree with that. Since the Lighthouses Bill was originally introduced, by the present honorable member for Kooyong, methods of coastal lighting have altered to some extent. To-day there are being brought into more frequent use in various countries, notably North America, and Norway, and Sweden, what are known as unwatched lights. Some lights are used which burn without attention for as long as four or eight months, and one case was mentioned to me of an unwatched light which burned continuously for sixteen months. I must say that it occurred to me that it might be dangerous to leave coastal lights so long without attention, but I have had competent and independent testimony from captains of vessels that many such lights are established in the Baltic, and on the coast of Norway, and that they have withstood the storms of the Atlantic, and remained as guides or warnings to mariners. On the Australian coast, at the present time, we have four of these unwatched lights in use, and if they could be more generally used the result would be a considerable saving. In all probability it will be found that these unwatched lights can be established for about one-fourth of the amount originally estimated for the establishment of the ordinary lights. The use of these lights will effect a saving also in wages and annual maintenance charges, and, what I think is of very much more importance, it will be possible to reduce the number of persons called upon to serve as lighthouse-keepers. Notwithstanding the fact that numbers of people would very likely apply for such a position I have always felt that the fewer the number of persons called upon to live the solitary life of a lighthouse-keeper the better for themselves and for the community. If unwatched lights will do the work as effectively as lights in charge of lighthouse-keepers it would, on every ground, be better to make use of them. When we get into Committee I intend to propose some new clauses which I now have ready for circulation. They have been drawn up in accordance with the suggestions of the lighthouse expert. One deals with trespasses on unwatched lights. If we are to have unwatched lights, honorable members will agree that any one who injures them in any way should be made liable to very severe punishment. It is proposed also to make more clear the existing clause dealing with light dues. I hope that the Bill will be passed, and that we shall beable to put the lighthouse system of Australia on a better footing than it has been heretofore, not through any fault of the State Governments, but because it has been impossible for six different authorities to arrive at anything like a uniform system.
. -The Bill which the Minister of Trade and Customs has just introduced is, undoubtedly, a very important one; and I think that the incident which occurred at Cape Schanck a few months ago serves to emphasize its necessity. Honorable mem bers will doubtless recollect that the captain of one of our coastal steamers pointed out that the Cape Schanck light, which is one of the most important on the coast of Australia, was not only revolving irregularly, but was not uniform in its action. That portion of the Australian coast is a very dangerous one, and it is generally suspected by shipping people that if other lights on our coast are allowed to fall into a similar condition, they will immediately become a menace to the shipping interests of the Commonwealth. I understand from competent critics that the neglect of the Cape Schanck light was due to a feeling by the State authorities that, inasmuch as the Commonwealth would shortly take over responsibility for our coastal lights, it was not worth their while to look very carefully into their state of perfection. A little laxity in that direction on any part of our coastline may easily lead to the loss of an enormous sum of money - because we know that some ships which are now running cost as much as . £300,000 and £400,000 - not to mention the destruction, perhaps, of hundreds of valuable lives. So that the Government have not taken this question in hand one bit too early. During the course of the Minister’s remarks my attention was directed, not so much to any fear of increased charges, as to the inconvenience to which persons connected with’ shipping will be subjected by being called upon to pay two rates. Although, as the Minister pointed out, the two rates in conjunction may be no greater than the one charge which is now levied by the States, the fact remains that the shipping companies will have to discriminate between the Commonwealth lighting rate and the State lighting rate. The Minister must recognise that the more we can concentrate our charges the more convenient it must be to commerce. Although I quite admit that it is undesirable that the Commonwealth should take over all the harbor beacons and lights for the guidance of ship-owners, I cannot fail to recognise that the shipping community will be inconvenienced by being subjected to two sets of lighting regulations and charges. There is nothing in the Bill which goes to indicate the principle that will be adopted in making these charges. I understand that there is to be a tonnage rate-
– That has not been absolutely determined. But the rates will be determined under regulations.
– I hope that the Minister will consult practical ship-owners, with a view to seeing that the gauge of any new charge which may be levied will not be of so complex a character as to add to existing difficulties. If a tonnage rate be adopted, a difficulty may arise because of the registered tonnage and the gross tonnage of vessels. Then the Minister may experience some difficulty if he imposes upon ships trading along a limited portion of our coast such a charge as they might fairly be called upon to pay if they were availing themselves of the lighting conveniences of the whole of that coast. Consequently, I suggest that he should consult practical men.
– 1 did consult practical men in the persons of both the owners and captains of vessels before I selected the lighthouse expert.
– I am very glad to hear that. I understand that the choice of the Government has given great satisfaction. Then the Minister will require to make sub-clause 2 of clause 5 a little clearer than it is. It reads -
For the purposes of this Act, any lighthouse or marine mark vested in any authority of a State shall be deemed to be the property of the
A distinction of a very careful character will have to be drawn between various lights. For instance, in the case of Sydney and Melbourne there are lights not only both inside the Heads and outside of them, but many lights are placed just at the entrances to harbors. This is an important matter, because the question of responsibility may arise in regard to the condition of these lights. If a dispute occurred as to whether the Commonwealth or a State was responsible for the maintenance of a particular light, it might be attended with very serious results. In such circumstances, all sorts of accidents might happen.
– But the honorable member will see that, in a later stage in the Bill, the Commonwealth takes to itself power over lights which are inside harbors.
– I am not speaking merely in a critical spirit, but with a view to perfecting the measure. I do not think that it is sufficiently explicit in regard to compensating the States. I understood the Minister to say that the question of whether they would be compensated would depend upon the reading that is placed upon the Constitution by the AttorneyGeneral.
– I said that it had been submitted to him for consideration.
– I have very little doubt that, when the question is dealt with, it will be found that compensation is due to the States, because we must remember that the building of lighthouses and of the properties connected with them has involved the expenditure of millions of money-
– Millions of money ?
– I think so. The honorable member will find that the building of a lighthouse sometimes costs tens of thousands of pounds.
– No, no, no!
– I would remind the honorable member of the difficulty which is frequently experienced in transporting material to a bare rock; and there are some such instances around Australia. In such circumstances, the building of an important lighthouse, and of making it perfectly stable, involves a very large expenditure. But whether I am right or wrong in talking about millions of money does not touch the question at issue. Inasmuch as the States have spent large sums in lighting their coasts, it is only fair that the Commonwealth should compensate them for that expenditure.
– Has the honorable member considered whether lighthouses do not come under the heading of transferred properties ?
– That is a question which, I understand, has been referred to the Attorney-General.
– Why should we compensate the States for relieving them of expenditure? The works are not reproductive.
– That is not the test which we should apply. However, I think that the Minister is impressed with that fact, and I need say no more about it. With regard to clause 8, it is very important to provide now for what are called deceptive lights. The growth of electricity during the last few years has been the means of causing the establishment of brilliant lights on many parts of the coast, and these lights may very well be mistaken by mariners for the lights which they have to observe. I know, for instance, that the lights along certain parades can be seen 6 or 7 miles off at sea.
– That is dealt with in clause 8.
– I know that it is, and I am commenting on the necessity for the provision. In various parts of Australia, where very brilliant electric lights are established along the coast, there is great danger at the present time. I have heard mariners speak of the difficulty of distinguishing between true coastal lights and lights established for other merely local purposes. The Minister has referred to unwatched lights, and I think he said that in Sweden or Norway the practice of establishing such lights has been carried on. For my own part, I do not believe that it will ever be other than dangerous to depend on automatic lights. I am aware that in a harbor they can be adopted with success, and it is quite possible that in some countries the risk of trusting to mechanism has been run.
– We have two automatic ocean lights in South Australia and one in Western Australia.
– I look forward with some apprehension to a time when the mechanism may fail, in consequence of which a serious accident may occur. I quite agree with the honorable member for Maranoa that the life of a man who is isolated for years at a lighthouse, even though he has a wife and family with him, is a dreadful one. Only a year or two ago I heard of a case in which a lighthousekeeper on the Australian coast observed, when he saw a sovereign, that he had never seen one before in his life, so long removed had he been from civilization. It should be a matter for consideration by the Minister whether the practice of putting oneman upon a lighthouse in an out-of-the-way part of the Commonwealth, and leaving him there for a long period of years should not be avoided.
– Lighdiouse-keepers always have annual leave, and there are never less than two men at any lighthouse.
– I could tell the honorable gentleman of one or two cases where lighthouse- keepers have been in their positions for years, and where the extreme isolation has led to something like mental derangement. As to clause 6, which deals with the general principle of control, the Minister would do well to consider whether in shifting the ownership of certain lights, we sufficiently shift the responsibility also. I could instance to the honorable gentleman, as the result of experience in litigation, cases in which the responsibility for beacons and buoys was supposed to be shifted, but it had been done with insufficient care, and a serious accident occurred in regard to a ship in consequence of negligence by certain people who did not believe that responsibility rested upon them. I hope that the Minister does not think that his Bill is so perfect that it will not be the better for close examination, and I am of opinion that he would do well to make it quite unmistakable that in taking over these lights, he takes over the responsibility. That is very important. But as far as I can see, there is nothing in the Bill that makes the point perfectly clear. The Commonwealth will have to arrive at a definite understanding as to which lights are taken, and which are left with the States. The responsibility must be quite clearly defined, so that we may know whether it rests with the Commonwealth, or with the States, and so that no light shall be left in such uncertainty of control that there may hereafter be a dispute as to who is or is not responsible for any laxity that may occur. I have looked carefully at new clause 9, and it appears to me that it does not touch this question.
– What responsibility would there be?
– Responsibility for negligence. If you receive payment for doing a thing and do not do it, you may be liable to a claim for negligence.
– I do not think that the States are responsible on account of negligence in lighthouses, unless the negligence be culpable.
– If there be negligence there is responsibility - moral responsibility, at any rate. If you take over the responsibility for keeping a light for the purpose of indicating to mariners which way they may go, or may not go, there is certainly a responsibility for keeping that light in perfect order.
– To do our best.
– There is a responsibility not to do the work in a haphazard way, but to do it in the best way possible by qualified men. Under clause 9 as it stood, and as it stands, I think that the Minister will find it desirable byandby, not only to speak of “ ships passing or deriving benefit,” but of ships “deemed to derive benefit.” Some clay it may be argued that a ship derives no benefit from a light, and it would then be necessary to show that the ship was “ deemed “ to derive benefit. Thereby the Government will be upon a sounder basis for dealing with the ship-owner. There is nothing in the Bill with regard to employes. I should like the Minister to consider whether it is not necessary in taking over lighthouses to determine what position present employes are going to occupy, and whether they are going to lose any of the rights which they enjoy in the service of the States. If the Minister is advised that the Public Service Act covers such cases, I shall offer no criticism, but otherwise I should like him to consider the point. In clause 16 it seems to me that the power taken to make rules is hardly wide enough. There is no harm in making it as wide as possible. The power here taken is to make regulations - prescribing all matters which by this Act are required 01 permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.
I suggest to the Minister that he should also by-and-by add something to this effect - “ power necessary to maintain and improve the coastal lights of the Commonwealth.” With these few comments I am satisfied. When the Bill gets into Committee I shall have an opportunity of suggesting details of these ‘proposed alterations. We should, as soon as possible, avoid such a difficulty as that which took place at Cape Schanck some time ago, where a well-known captain of one of our coastal steamers reported that the light was really not doing its duty as represented to mariners who trade on our coast.
– I do not think that that consideration applies to the Cape Schanck light alone. There are others in the same position,
– I am taking this as a typical case. The difficulty arose from laxity, because the present authorities were looking forward to the time when the Commonwealth would take over the lights, and, therefore, hesitated to incur expense on that behalf, believing the Commonwealth would do what was necessary when the time arrived.
.- I do not think that there can be any question about the moral obligation to compensate the States. The common-sense interpretation of the word “ Department,” as used in the Constitution, must cover something more than the power to pass laws. There must be attached to it something tangible. I think the sense of the Constitution is that when the Commonwealth takes over what is called a “ Department,” it is under the obligation to take over whatever property was used by the States in connexion with that Department. There is, at least, a moral obligation. We can relieve ourselves of this obligation by only exercising a legislative power, which might mean competition with the States. If we exercised our legislative power only, our legislation would be concurrent with that of the States, and there might be two sets of lighthouses on the coast. Unless we take over the Departments by proclamation, we do not get exclusive power to legislate regarding lighthouses. Section 69 of the Constitution says that on a date, or dates, to be proclaimed by the Governor-General, after the establishment of the Commonwealth, certain Departments of the Public Service in each State shall become transferred to the Commonwealth, one of these Departments being that of lighthouses, light-ships, beacons, and buoys. Section 52 says that the Parliament shall, subject to the Constitution, have exclusive power to make laws with respect to, amongst other things, matters relating to any Department of the Public Service the control of which is, by the Constitution, transferred to the Executive Government of the Commonwealth. If we issue a proclamation under section 69, we acquire exclusive legislative power under section 52 ; but, otherwise, we have only concurrent power, and the States may continue to maintain lighthouses of their own, to the confusion of mariners. If we exercise the legislative power given in section 51, we should go further, and take over all the properties used by the States in connexion with the exercise of their legislative powers, paying compensation according to the Constitution, that is, on the basis prescribed by the laws of the States at the time the Constitution was established, though the method of payment is such as may be prescribed by the Commonwealth law. It could never have been contemplated that concurrent jurisdiction in this matter would be left to the States. This makes the obligation to pay compensation almost conclusive. I do not know what the capital outlay of the States on lighthouses has been.
– I do not think that the total outlay has been estimated; but the expenditure of Victoria has been about onefifth of £1,000,000.
– Victoria maintains only one-seventh of the total number of lighthouses.
– A rough estimate was made of the sum which would have to be paid to each State, as well as an estimate of the annual expenditure and income of each State. I think it was shown that South Australia makes a profit of about £9,000 a year. The Ministry will find that it is better to be honest in this matter, and recognise the obligation to pay compensation, than to run the risk of producing confusion by refusing to do so.
– - I had occasion to deal with the question just raised by the honorable member lor Angas. The Constitution provides for the taking over, by proclamation, of the Departments of Post; Telegraph, and Telephones, Naval and Military Defence, Lighthouses, Light-ships, Beacons, and Buoys, and Quarantine. The first two were taken over by proclamation, but in regard to the third the issue of a proclamation would have meant the taking over of, not only coastal or ocean lights, but also harbor lights, beacons, and buoys, and it was thought that this was too large an order at the present time. Requests have been made by the States from time to time, since 1905, for the taking over by the Commonwealth of the coastal lights ; but it was not desired that we should interfere with the harbor lights. We opened up negotiations with the State authorities, with the result that it was decided that the coastal lights to be taken over should be scheduled, all others to remain the property of the States. To leave the matter vague would create difficulties, and make responsibility indefinite. If honorable members will look at the form of the Bill, with whose preparation I had something to do, they will see that the arrangement to which I have referred is to be carried out. This will definitely fix the responsibility of the various authorities. Personally, I should be glad for the Commonwealth to take control of all ocean ligthhouses, beacons, and buoys, so that they might be placed under a common authority and a uniform jurisdiction. But the next best thing is to carry out the definite arrangement to which I have referred. We have a precedent, because the Quarantine Departments were taken over from the States in this way, and also, if I remember rightly, the Meteorological Departments, and it was done with the object of the Commonwealth undertaking only responsibility in regard to those matters which were covered by the definite agreement with the States. Under this Bill it is intended to take over all the public servants attached to the lighthouse services, and all their rights, whatever they may be, will be conserved. It was contemplated in mv time to provide twelve lights of an urgent character, and I would be very pleased to see* this work proceeded with with the utmost despatch.
– We can hardly proceed with the erection of these twelve lights until we receive the report of the expert.
– These are lights which it is acknowledged all round should have been erected a very considerable time ago.
– As regards a light near Wilson’s Promontory, the alternative scheme which we have, and which all captains admit is effective, will cost only onehalf of the estimated cost of a light on the site originally proposed.
– I am aware of that. I am not talking of the question of expense, but pointing out that there are twelve localities where it is absolutely essential that a light should be provided. Evenapart from the valuable report which my honorable friend is obtaining, it is admitted that these twelve lights are urgently needed. Their erection should, I think, be undertaken without delay, quite irrespective of any reports to be received. Of course, my honorable friend is in the best position to know whether the total cost could be expended within the twelve months. As these lights are to be distributed all over Australia - namely, four each in Queensland and Western Australia, and one each in South Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria - one would think that their erection might be proceeded with contemporaneously.
– I propose, as soon as we get the report from Queensland, to have the question of providing four lights considered, and to go right on with the work ; but the honorable gentleman will remember that at least twelve or twenty different sites have been suggested.
– I am aware of that, but if I remember aright, in each case the locality was ultimately decided upon.
– Not in all cases.
– It was approximately decided on in my time, but no doubt my honorable friend has received later information. I regret that this measure was not passed long ago. I put it through another place on two occasions, and I congratulate the Minister upon getting this early opportunity in the session to bring it forward here. I would urge upon him the absolute necessity of proceeding with the erection of these twelve lighthouses at once, and placing the necessary sum on the Estimates for that purpose. <?
– I have induced the Treasurer to put £25,000 on the Estimates for them.
– That amount will not go very far.
– It is a very fair start.
– I do not think so. I believe that the average cost of the lighthouses will be between £12,000 and £15,000.
– The honorable member should know that an expert is now investigating the whole question. This sum is to be expended upon ordinary repairs.
– The expert is mainly investigating as to the position of some of the lighthouses.
– Yes ; and little improvements.
– The expert is investigating, not the question of erecting these twelve lighthouses, but what other lighthouses, are necessary in order to make the coast perfectly safe. The vote of £25,000 will go a very little way indeed ; the average cost of the lighthouses will be between £r 2,000 and £15,000, so that a very much larger amount will be. required.
– Does not the honorable member think that this sum of £25,000 will enable us to touch up the existing lighthouses?
– That will not do much good.
– Yes, it will.
– It is the election of new lighthouses which I am referring to. The question of maintaining existing lighthouses and making alterations is another matter. .£25,000 will be quite insufficient for providing the urgent lighthouses.
– If the Department can spend more than that sum, I guarantee that we can get money from the Treasurer’s Advance Account, and no one will grumble if we do.
– I accept my honorable friend’s assurance that he will proceed with this work without delay. There is no doubt that for a time light dues will be imposed by the Commonwealth, and probably in regard to harbor or similar lights dues will be charged by the several States. That is an undesir able state of affairs, but I do not think it is intended for a moment by the Government that the light dues should exceed the amount required for working and maintaining the lighthouses. I do not think that there need be any apprehension as to the imposition of excessive light dues. We certainly should endeavour at the earliest possible moment, not only to take over the 120 lights agreed upon, but also to make future arrangements for taking over the remainder of the lights, both coastal and harbor.
.- I am very pleased that the Government have brought forward this Bill so early m the session. It is one of those non-contentious and very useful measures which Parliament would have done well to have passed years ago. Numerous matters which have occupied a great deal of time here, and not resulted in very much practical benefit to the community might have been delayed until this measure had been dealt with. I am glad to see that at last action is to be taken by the Commonwealth, but I regret that it is not in a position to take over more ocean and harbor lights than seems to be contemplated under the arrangement made by the Minister.
– It is a question of law.
– I think not. I believe that, under the Constitution, the Commonwealth can take over nearly all the lights which affect shipping, whether in harbors or elsewhere. It is about time that a start was made in this direction, because the States, knowing that this matter would soon pass under the control of the Commonwealth, have been allowing the lights along the coast to get more or less into disrepair. There are several new lights which are needed, and which, no doubt, would have been erected by the States, had they not known that this service was soon to be dealt with by this Parliament. That is one reason why it should at once take the work in hand. I am sorry I was not present when the Minister was dealing with one or two important points, such as how far the Bill enables us to go - what will be the number of lights under our control, and so forth.
– About 120.
– Are these coastal lights, as distinguished from what we might call river or inside lights?
– Yes, coastal lights.
– I am glad we are taking over so many lights as the Minister has indicated. I observe that,” as the Bill stands now, vessels will be subject to both State and Federal dues.
– It is not likely that the dues will be greater in the aggregate than they are at present.
– T was about to express a hope that, in fixing the dues, consideration will be given to that point. We must, of course, have a revenue somewhere near the amount necessary to meet the expenditure; but the shipping trade is so important to Australia that we have no desire to unduly hamper it.
– With the honorable member for Kooyong, and others, I do not think there is a more important Bill than that now under discussion ; and I am very glad that my colleague has had the opportunity to submit it to honorable members. Apart altogether from “the question of how the States are to be treated in regard to payment for the lighthouses, the Commonwealth ought to undertake - the duty, without any delay, of providing for the proper lighting of the whole of the coast of this country. The £25,000 which appears on the Estimates is merely to enable certain repairs to be made to the present lighthouses, and to carry on the work efficiently until, after investigation, a thorough policy has been laid down on the whole question. In my opinion, the Commonwealth should not only provide lights, but also up-to-date submarine signals, of which there are certain portions of the coast peculiarly in need, so as to enable vessels to know their position apart altogether from lights or weather. The duty will, therefore, fall on the Commonwealth when the Bill is passed to see that these more scientific methods are adopted. I know countries no more able to provide funds for this kind of work than we are, where ships, nearing a critical portion of the coast, have been guided purely by submarine signals just as easily as, and even more easily than, if lights had been blazing in front. These appliances are necessary to provide against fogs and bad weather, and even against faults on the part of the manipulators of lights. Submarine signals have been known to carry as far as 15 miles, but they are considered by experts to be effective for 3 or 5 miles. I understand that, generally speaking, if a ship can find its position in between 3 and 5 miles it is comparatively safe. ““Notwithstanding the credit that was taken by some of the States for the lighting they have provided, I fancy that, as soon as the Commonwealth takes over the services, the Government will be urged to undertake an expenditure almost equal to that on the present lighthouses, which cannot be regarded as absolutely efficient until they have been brought up to date. I do not object to such clamour on the part of the public, because it is a guiding principle in national questions. When the safety of the public has to be considered it is quite right that, through the press and other means, reforms should be demanded; and I have no doubt that a larger number of lights is necessary. There is much that I should like to say on this measure, but owing to a cold I am not in a condition to prolong my remarks. It ought to be the ambition of the Commonwealth to see that no country in the world is better lighted, or the shipping better protected than on our coasts - that is the principle that should guide legislation and administration in a matter of the kind. It is only fair, under the circumstances, that those interested in shipping shoul’d be called upon to pay a reasonable contribution’ towards the initial capital expenditure in bringing the lighting of the coast up to date. All shipping should contribute, and certainly over-sea shipping not less than any other. I was interested by the statement of the honorable member for Parkes, that no provision is made in the Bill regarding employes in lighthouses ; but, as most of them are State officers, I Have no doubt their rights are preserved under the Constitution. At any rate, nothing shall be wanting on the part of the Government in the way of full and fair consideration for those heroic creatures who segregate themselves to perform important public duties for the benefit of humanity. We shall have to see that these people get, perhaps, even more consideration than they are getting at the present time. As to whether the Government have power to deal with lights in harbors, and up rivers, I am not legally competent to express an opinion, or to say whether, even if we have the power, it would be advisable to exercise it. From what I have heard legal gentlemen say I think we are on much safer and sounder ground in dealing with the lights on the high seas. On behalf of the Government I may say that, if this Bill passes, we shall spare no pains to discover the best means of lighting the Australian coast efficiently and effectively, and we shall not hesitate to ask Parliament to provide the means to carry out a policy with that object in view.
.- I am very glad that the Government have taken up this measure, because I believe that the money expended under it will be well spent in the interests of the travelling public and the people of the Commonwealth generally. Travelling up the Queensland coast some few months ago, I was struck by its dangerous character, the numerous small islands being, in the dark, an absolute menace to shipping. The same remark will apply to the coast of Papua, where we found it necessary sometimes to anchor -at night. A few lighthouses along that coast would be of great advantage to the people, and mean a saving of much expense to the steam-ship companies. I should like the Minister to make a special effort to have a lighthouse erected at Port Moresby.
– That would be a matter relating to the Department of External Affairs.
– We control Papua, and have a right to see that its coastline is reasonably lighted. Papua is part of the Commonwealth Territory, and vessels trading between there and Australia often have large passenger lists. People going there have as much right to be considered by us as have people travelling along other parts of our coast. I urge the Government to bestow some attention upon the lighting of the Papuan coast. Between Port Moresby and Samarai vessels have to anchor at night, unless their masters are prepared to take great risk. But even captains who have been trading in those waters for years are not prepared to take the risk of travelling at night, because there are neither lights nor beacons to guide them. I hope that when the Bill becomes law the Minister will lose no time in supplying this want. I congratulate the Government upon the measure and the efforts which they are making under it to secure that the lighting of the Australian coast shall be as perfect as possible, in the interests of the travelling public.
.- I hope that when the lighthouses are taken over by the Commonwealth they will be effectively controlled. The State administration of the Department, on the whole, has been satisfactory, and I do not think the proposed consolidation will result in any saving.
– We do not claim that it will result in any saving; but we do say that the outcome will be a uniform system of lighting.
– Whilst improvements are necessary, it must be admitted that great care has been exercised by the States in connexion with the erection of lighthouses, and that the best expert advice has been obtained. I believe that we have no two lights of the same character within 50 miles of each other ; .and, granted that the new Federal Department is controlled by a man having a full knowledge of the subject, the transfer should be a success. The knowledge that the Commonwealth contemplated taking over the lighting of the Australian coast has, perhaps, resulted in some delay on the part of the States in erecting necessary lighthouses, and I think no time should be lost in effecting the transfer. Coming around from Western Australia by mail steamer the other day, I was told by the captain that the Cape Borda light, on Kangaroo Island, was quite inadequate. Indeed, he complained of its insufficiency, and since it is one of the principal lights for ships from the westward calling at Adelaide, it ought certainly to be a first-class one. There is a light on the north side which is known as the Neptunes, and which, I am told, is of a more up-to-date character. I trust that the Minister of Trade and Customs will take a note of this complaint, and have it attended to. I rose principally, however, to draw attention to the fact that more lighthouses are required on the Western Australian coast.
– Four are suggested.
– We need, first of all, a light on Eclipse Island, near King George’s Sound. There is a light at Breaksea Island, but it cannot be seen coming from the westward, being obscured by the land. The provision of a light at Eclipse Island is almost certain to be included in the Minister’s list, whilst another is required at Point D’ Entrecasteaux, about 100 miles further on. With” these two additions, the south coast of Western Australia will be well lighted ; and, whilst the State has not neglected its work, no doubt these additions are necessary to make navigation along the coast perfectly safe. Soon after responsible government was granted to Western Australia, and at a time when I held office as Premier in the first Government of that State, we erected a light at
Cape Leeuwin. Such a work had long been talked of, and we decided to establish it. I had the honour, not only of laying the foundation stone, but of lighting the lamp for the first time. The lighthouse bears the inscription, “ Dedicated to the world’s mariners.” Speaking with a sense of the responsibility then attaching to me, I said,, in connexion with the ceremony, that I regarded the light as a tribute to the assistance given to us by the people of the rest of Australia in obtaining selfgovernment, and that I wished to pledge the Government of Western Australia to refrain for all time from making any charge in respect of the light. I understand that no charge has ever been made up to the present.
– The difficulty could be got over by saying, “ We will charge for the other lights.”
– Whatever expedient is adopted, I have.no longer power to keep the pledge that I gave at that time. I hope that no charge will ever be made to the mariner for the Leeuwin lighthouse.
– Why not move to exempt that, light ?
– I do not know that that is necessary. It should be quite sufficient for me to mention it.
– Perhaps the State might endow it.
– We might, perhaps, see whether the State would do that.
– I do not think that you could charge on separate lights.
– Light dues are charged mostly upon those who use the lights. If a ship does not come into a port in Western Australia no charge is made to her, but when she comes into port she is charged so much for services rendered. There is generally a fixed charge for light. It is about twenty years since that promise was made in regard to the Cape Leeuwin light, so that I am not in a position to say if any charge has ever been made for it. We should take the bull by the horns and insert a clause in the Bill to provide that the Commonwealth shall not be liable for any loss through defective lights. I cannot believe that, when the beneficent work of providing lighthouses for the safety of the travelling public is undertaken by a Government, a tremendous responsibility should also attach to it, if by some accident, for which the Government are in no way responsible, or through some default on the part of an employe, or through death, or other reason, a vessel meets with a mishap. fi seems to be absurd to say that the country should be liable to be mulcted in probably hundreds of thousands of pounds in such a case. I do not think the law is so, unless some local Act makes us liable. I remember a case that occurred in Western Australia. A ship was wrecked through, it was alleged, a wrong signal being given by a lighthouse:keeper. An action was brought against the Government, and was finally settled out of Court by the Government paying something. I very much regretted this, because I wanted a Privy Council decision on the matter. I thought it was a terrible responsibility for a financially small State, as Western Australia was in those days, to be liable to be saddled with the payment, it might be, of halfamillion pounds in damages on account of the negligence of some employe. We do the best we can by providing lights, and make certain charges, which are not always sufficient to make the work reproductive. It need not necessarily follow that the Department must be self-supporting, but to say that we must face an immense liability for doing what we regard as our duty, but what, after all, we need not do, seems to be altogether absurd. I do not think that the British Government are liable for anything of the kind in regard to their lighthouses, or that other countries can be held responsible, but in the Western Australian case there was something in the- Public Works Act of the State which gave the plaintiffs a slight hold. The provision created some liability for accidents in connexion with public works, and this was seized on. I was told by our legal adviser that that was the basis of the claim.. Similarly there may be something in our local Acts regarding public works in the Commonwealth, and lighthouses may be considered public works under that Act. In that way we might be made liable, and so I hope the Minister will look carefully into the question. The Government will be doing their duty to the country, and at the same time doing no injury to any one else, by declaring in this Bill that, while we do our best to provide lights along our coast for the benefit of those who travel on the sea, we shall not be liable for any accident that may occur. That is the best way to avoid complications such as were very properly pointed out by the honorable member for Parkes. I again urge upon the Minister to set to work to put our ocean lights on a good footing. When the honorable member for Kooyong and myself went to North Queensland some years ago, we were told by the masters of the ships all along the route that more lights were required. When I returned I wrote to the Department of Home Affairs, giving a list of those that were recommended to me, and that commended themselves to me. We ought to be able to avoid all danger on the coast of Australia. Where there is open sea we need not have a light for hundreds of miles ; but where there are points to go round, and reefs to avoid, several lights may be necessary. It is our duty to insure that those who travel by sea shall be as safe as- possible. Many people have an erroneous idea as to the accuracy with which the position of ships can be ascertained at sea at night in rough weather. As a matter of fact, the officers cannot always tell where they are, because the winds and tides and currents carry them out of their course. We therefore need lights all round Australia to protect the mariner, where there are points of land, or capes, or reefs. I trust the Minister will proceed at once in this matter. He must have all the information at his command by this time, because a great deal of trouble was taken to get it, and it is to be hoped that the Department will show considerable energy in putting the lights on the Australian coast in as good a position as possible.
– I am very glad that this measure has been brought forward. It ought to have been dealt with years ago. In fact, it should have been one of the first taken in hand after Federation was established, and the Parliament settled down to serious work. The subject is one of the most important with which we as a Federation can deal, and it has always been a cause of surprise to me that it has been allowed to remain in abeyance so long. I am glad that the Government propose to take steps to rectify the mistake that has been made by allowing the matter to be hung up so long, with risk to property, and, what is still more important, to life and limb. Along the Queensland coast, and, in fact, along the whole of the north of Australia as far as Port Darwin, there is a great stretch of very dangerous coast-line, as several honorable members who have made trips inside the Barrier Reef can testify. That coast is very inadequately lighted, and some of the lights that already exist are in positions where they are not seen to the best advantage. From some positions the lights are obscured by intervening points of land. The passage inside the Barrier Reef, along the North Queensland coast, is particularly dangerous on account of the prevalence of heavy mists or fogs arising from the tremendous rainfall on that part of the coast, and because of the presence of innumerable reefs, and of currents which run very strongly, but by no means always in the same direction. It is quite a common occurrence for mariners to find that, whereas to-day there is a current running four or five knots in a certain direction, to-morrow, steering exactly the same course, on the same voyage, they will find an equally strong current running in the opposite direction. When I was making ‘ the trip to Port Darwin, a couple of years ago, opportunities were afforded me by the captains and officers of vessels to study the charts very carefully. They entered upon an explanation of the dangers with considerable detail, and, as one who is not without some nautical experience, I was able to appreciate the difficulties they had to encounter. I am glad this measure has been taken in hand. The adoption, as far as possible, of the most modern methods of submarine signalling will probably be found particularly useful in waters likely to be affected by fogs, where reefs, and often coastal lights are obscured by the murky condition of the atmosphere. In my opinion, we cannot take too much trouble in insuring, as far as possible, the safety of navigation in the vicinity of our coasts. There is one matter which I should like to bring under the notice of the Minister. It is not dealt with in the Bill, and can, perhaps, be more appropriately dealt with by departmental regulations. I refer to the length of service to be provided for in the case of lighthouse-keepers in charge of isolated lighthouses. The term should certainly be as short as possible.
– It depends entirely where the lighthouses are.
– I speak particularly of lighthouses and lightships in isolated positions, and, in some cases, at some distance from the coast and sei dom visited . The unfortunate people who are compelled to live the isolated life of a keeper of one of these lighthouses are often affected by a species of madness. I do not think that any people should be subjected for any length of time to the severe mental strain involved in the charge of lights in these out-of-the-way places.
.- It is indeed gratifying to find that this very important matter is at last being dealt with by this House. I share the surprise expressed by the honorable member for Lang that it was not dealt with many years ago. Evidently the members of the Federal Convention anticipated that it would be one of the very first matters that would be dealt with by the Federal Parliament, since it is included as one of the four services which the Constitution specially provides may be taken over by the Commonwealth by proclamation, and without waiting for legislation. There is, to my mind, no matter more important than the proper lighting of the coast of Australia. As other honorable members .have said, we have in very many places a dangerous coastline. Any person travelling and receiving explanation of the charts and currents from officers in command of vessels, must agree with the remarks of the honorable members for Swan and Lang as to the very dangerous nature of our- coast. One is surprised, in view of all the circumstances, not that there have been so many wrecks, but that there have been so few. I should like to see the Commonwealth Parliament take over the whole of the lighthouses, lightships, beacons, and buoys, on the Australian coast by proclamation, as I have no doubt was intended by the Federal Convention. The efficient establishment and management of a lighthouse service is undoubtedly a matter of expense, and it is one of the matters for which Australia federated, and with’ which the Commonwealth, as a whole, can deal much better than can the individual States. Nothing is more important than that the approaches to our coast should be made as safe as possible. The isolation of lighthouse-keepers is greater in some cases than in others. Many comparatively isolated lighthouses are connected with our telegraphic systems, whilst others are entirely isolated. I have always held the opinion that, wherever at all practicable, lighthouses should be connected with the telegraphic system of the country. In Victoria we have one lighthouse which is only 30 or 40 miles from the nearest telegraphic station, and yet for years it has remained without being connected with the telegraphic system of the State. It has been, on more than one occasion, the scene of a wreck, when lives might have been saved if the people in charge of the lighthouse had been able to communicate by telegraph with the nearest port from which assistance might have been sent. I am referring to the Cape Everard lighthouse. I can inform honorable members that in the course of a search for a missing boat along the coast in the neighbourhood of that lighthouse those engaged in the search were surprised to fin«l that the lighthouse-keeper was ill, and that the light was being attended to by a member of his family. When the Bill appeared on the business-paper two or three years ago, I was so impressed with the necessity for telegraphic communication with lighthouses, which was brought under my notice by a deputation that waited upon. the PostmasterGeneral and afterwards upon the Victorian Ports and Harbors Department, that I then gave notice of the insertion, in Committee, of a new clause, providing that it should be a direction to the Department that, wherever practicable, lighthouses should be connected with the nearest telegraphic or telephonic station, at the expense of the Department administering the Act. In connexion with the Cape Everard light, I may say that there were several deputations from shipping firms interested in that light, and in others along the same coast, requesting that it should be connected with the telegraphic system of the State. The reply from the Post and Telegraph Department always was that they established telephonic and telegraphic communication only where it was likely to pay, and there was no possibility of such communication to the Everard light paying. The deputation then waited upon the Ports and Harbors Department of Victoria, to ask that the State Government might inquire into the matter. It has been hung up now for several years. The inaction of the State Government has been due, no doubt, as has already been hinted by other honorable members, to the fact that it was felt that it was only a matter of a year or two when the lighthouses would be taken over by the Commonwealth. The State Governments have, therefore, avoided, as far as possible, State expenditure on these establishments. Now that the Bill has reached this House, having passed in the Senate, I hope that no time will be lost in carrying it into law ; and, further, that the Department concerned will set to work at once in taking over as many of the existing lighthouses as possible, and make them as fit as they can be made, to render service to those having vessels trading in Australian waters.
.- I desire chiefly to ask for some information concerning the Bill. The point about -which I am doubtful is whether marine marks, such as beacons, apply to marks on land, or on sea only. There are a number of signalling stations in my electorate that are not immediately connected with lighthouses. I should like to be informed by the Minister as to whether clause 5 of the Bill will cover beacons of that kind? Will the Bill cover signalling stations as well as lighthouses at the entrances to rivers ?
– If the honorable member can cite a case in point I may be able to give him the information which he seeks.
– At Tweed Heads there is an extensive signalling station, and 4 miles south of it a lighthouse has been erected.
– Does the honorable member know the name of the lighthouse?
– I do not. The lighthouse is opposite a small island, which is a mile or two from the shore. There is telephonic communication between the lighthouse and the signalling station, and all the shipping news emanates from the signalling station. I should like to know whether such a station would come under the designation of a “ marine mark,” and whether it would be taken over by the Commonwealth under this Bill.
. - I wish to congratulate the Government upon having introduced this Bill thus early in the session. It relates to a very important matter which should have been dealt with years ago. Our lighthouses should never have been left to the State authorities, but ought to have become Federal property from the inauguration of the Commonwealth. I notice that in this Bill the Government propose to take over our minor lights, and I observe that they intend to do this very extensively in the State of Tasmania. I congratulate them, too, upon having secured the services of a lighthouse expert. It is characteristic of the present Labour Government that they are welladvised by experts before they attempt to deal with technical measures. Hence I am sure that honorable members will not require to give such earnest attention to this Bill as it would have been incumbent upon them to bestow in the absence of such expert advice. 1 wish also to compliment the honorable member for Gippsland upon having outlined a very important proposal which he seeks to embody in the Bill. Personally, I believe that every lighthouse should have telephonic or telegraphic communication with some centre of population. Without that means of communication, it is incomplete. I recognise that in the near future, wireless telegraphy will play a very important part, not only in connexion with our lighthouses, but also as a medium of communication between vessels passing along our coast and the mainland. I was delighted to find that the Prime Minister, during the course of his recent travels, paid this matter a great deal of attention. That circumstance, in itself, evidences the wisdom of members of the Ministry going abroad occasionally.
An Honorable Member. - The honorable member himself was abroad lately.
– But I do not claim to be an important member of this House. Nevertheless, I kept my wits about me, and observed the contrast which exists between the lighting of our shores and that of the coasts of the Old World. From the moment the traveller passes Colombo, he sees quite a number of lighthouses, and one point which impressed me was that in Australia we do not require such powerful lights as are needed elsewhere on account of our atmosphere being much less dense. I am of opinion that in the immediate future, submarine signals will fulfil a more important function even than that which is discharged by our lighthouses. Indeed, it is difficult to say what part the signalling apparatus recently invented by Mr. Edison may play in that connexion. Therefore, in the words of the old Spanish proverb, we should make haste slowly in the matter of erecting and equipping lighthouses. Still, I commend the Minister for having introduced this Bill, in which he seeks to secure legislative authority for the erection of lighthouses which are absolutely necessary for the safety of ships in Australian waters. Recently, owing to the trade which has developed via South Africa, the west and south-west coasts of Tasmania have become very important highways of commerce. Hitherto they have been poorly lighted, and I am sure it will be a boon to mariners to have them better lighted.
– Is that where the Government propose to erect the lighthouse which is contemplated?
– I cannot say. But I have every confidence in the Minister and in the expert advice which he has received. I cannot credit the statement which has been made in reference to lighthouses being allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. I know that that cannot be a fact, because up to the present time lighthouses have been under the supervision of Marine Boards which are fairly wealthy. The Hobart Marine Board is a fairly wealthy body, and it has always been under the control of a most efficient officer. Indeed, no better officer than the late Mr. J. R. Meech could be found. I can say that from personal knowledge, because I have worked under him in installing telephone communication with certain lighthouses. I refer to this matter only for the purpose of enabling the honorable member for Wilmot to put himself right in regard to it when he discusses the measure in Committee. I feel sure that mariners throughout the length and breadth of Australia will be delighted to find the Commonwealth assuming responsibility for the protection of ships coming to our shores.
– I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this Bill, although I candidly confess that I do not expect to see very much improvement effected in the fighting of our coasts, on account of the extremely creditable manner in which that function has hitherto been discharged by the State authorities. But I wish to draw attention to the urgent necessity which exists for erecting a lighthouse on Rocky Point on the west coast of Tasmania near Macquarie Harbor.
– Is that the lighthouse of which the honorable member spoke previously ?
– No. Unfortunately the State Governments have been expecting the Commonwealth to proceed with a measure of this description for some time past, and as a result a few lights which are urgently required have not been erected. I think that there is not in all Australia a place where a light is more seriously needed than at Rocky Point, between Port Davey and Macquarie Harbor, on the West Coast. The question does not affect Tasmania only. Several vessels that were not voyaging to Tasmania at all have been wrecked there. Ships bound for the mainland of Australia have made rather too much southing, and instead of going up between the mainland and Tasmania have run ashore. There have been some horrible cases, in which the crews of wrecked ships have absolutely starved after reaching the shore. It is not creditable that a lighthouse has not been built there; but that does not relieve us of our responsibility. I urge the Minister to make inquiries into this matter.
– I desire to thank honorable members who have taken part in the debate for the reception that they have given to the Bill. They have almost unanimously congratulated us on bringing it forward. Of course, the Bill is noncontentious, but, nevertheless, I am thankful that it has been so favorably received. I admit that when the Leader of the Opposition, early this afternoon, suggested that we should postpone the debate on the second reading, I thought that we might very well proceed; but, having heard the advice given by honorable members, and having particularly noted one or two points raised by the honorable member for Parkes and the honorable member for Gippsland, I see that there are matters which will have to be inquired into, and that, therefore, it will be advisable to postpone the consideration of the Bill in Committee. I will look into the question of signal stations, to see whether we have power to take them, as well as lighthouses, over. The honorable member for Kooyong can rest assured that the Government are absolutely in earnest in this matter. Although we have placed only £25,000 on the Estimates for new lighthouses, that must not be taken as covering our full intentions. That sum is sufficient for the lighthouses which have been suggested as being required as soon as possible. The fact that no exception has been taken in either House of Parliament, or by any person outside, to the appointment of an expert without parliamentary authority,” indicates that the Government have done right in that respect. We were anxious that this work should be proceeded with as soon as possible. The honorable member for Parkes suggested that, before fixing the expert’s duties, it would be as well for us to consult outside persons. Personally, I do not mind consulting any person who is able to assist me in improving the work of my Department. When I found that it was necessary to appoint an expert in reference to lighthouses, I did consult the Chairman of the Ship-owners’ Federation, and the Secretary of the Officers’ Guild, or Union. I got them together, and laid before them the names of the half-dozen persons who had been picked out from amongst the applicants. They stated that any one of those selected would have been a good man; but agreed that the officer who has been appointed stood out above the others. I mention that in passing, to show that I do not mind going outside if I think that I can secure good advice by doing so. As to the point raised by the honorable member for Wilmot, I do not think it probable that lighthouses have been permitted to get into a state of disrepair in view of their probable transfer to the Federal Government. It is possible that States have not made alterations in their lighthouses, or brought them up to date, as, perhaps, they would have done, in some instances, had it been intended that they should retain control over them. But I do not believe that any State Government or harbor authority has willingly allowed a lighthouse to get into disrepair.
– That was a wrong word to use.
– I do not think that the honorable member meant what his words will probably appear to convey when he sees them in print. I desire again to thank honorable members for the reception that they have given to the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and considered in Committee, fro forma.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.^5 -p.m.
– I move -
That this Bill be now re’ad a second time.
I regret the absence of the AttorneyGeneral, who, had he been here, would have explained the provisions of the Bill, lt is a small and comparatively simple treasure, designed to get rid of a difficulty that has arisen under Commonwealth administration regarding the making of statutory declarations and affidavits. The laws of the six States in regard to this matter differ from each other, and inconvenience has arisen in proving that a declaration taken before a competent person under a State Act was a statutory declaration for Commonwealth purposes. The Bill provides a uniform law for the Commonwealth for the taking of declarations and affidavits. It is not proposed by it to give any person any power other than may be necessary for the purpose of taking declarations. We propose a slight amendment of clause 2, which, as passed in its amended form, will define “ Commissioner for Affidavits “ as a person autho rized under the law of the Commonwealth, or of a State, to take affidavits, “ Commissioner for Declarations “ as a person appointed under this Act, or under a State Act, to be a Commissioner for Declarations, and “ Statutory Regulation,” as a regulation made in pursuance of any Act or Ordinance.
– Will any person authorized under a State Act to take affidavits be authorized to do so under this measure ?
– Yes. A statutory declaration may be made in accordance with the form in the schedule before a police, stipendiary, or special magistrate, or a justice of the peace, or a Commissioner for Affidavits, or a Commissioner for Declarations, and the Attorney-General may appoint persons to be Commissioners for Declarations, who shall hold office during his pleasure.
.- I have looked through the Bill, and it seems to accomplish what the Prime Minister says is its intention. There are great differences between the State Acts governing the making of statutory declarations. In South Australia we passed a Statute providing a very concise form of declaration, but some of the other States adhere to the old English form, which is extremely long. It is as well that we should have uniform legislation on this subject. The intention of the Bill appears to be to provide a short form for all statutory declarations, and to enable them to be made before those at present authorized to take them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time. / 11 Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 - “ Commissioner for Declarations “ means a person appointed under this Act to be a Commissioner for Declarations.
Amendment (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That, after the word “ Act,” the words “ or under a State Act “ be inserted.
– Are there, under State Acts, persons who are Commissioners for Declarations ?
– Yes, and that only.
Amendment agreed to.
– Is it intended to keep alive the State Acts governing the making of statutory declarations?
– We have no power to repeal them.
– Whenever there is any doubt, this legislation can be used. We never repeal State legislation.
– Is it desirable that persons appointed under State Acts, and whose powers vary, should be authorized to take statutory declarations for Commonwealth purposes ?
– The Bill is to make the law uniform in regard to Commonwealth declarations.
– Why not make it uniform in regard to all declarations?
– This is a uniform law.
– It does not seem to do away with the State laws on the subject.
.- If it were proposed to confer vast powers on Commissioners for Declarations, there would be considerable force in what has been pointed out by the honorable member for Parramatta, but this important item in the Labour party’s programme merely declares what persons shall enjoy the high honour qf taking statutory declarations.
– And protects the interests of the Commonwealth.
– I suppose it is inevitable that there should be different descriptions of persons entitled to take declaration;, seeing that the State legislation, which authorizes the appointment of such persons, differs. I can see nothing objectionable in the provision ; in fact, it is the sort of legislation which might have been initiated and passed by Mr. Willis in some excess of inventive genius. I think that the clause might be allowed to stand.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 5 agreed to.
The Attorney-General may appoint persons to be Commissioners for Declarations who shall hold office during his pleasure.
– I think that this clause affords a good opportunity to the Prime Minister to state the Ministerial policy in connexion with appointing these gentlemen. We know that in the States a system has grown up of appointing justices of the peace wholesale, very largely in return for services rendered to political parties. It is not a desirable system, I think, to establish under the Commonwealth jurisdiction. The Commissioners for Declarations should be appointed for reasons of special fitness, and not because of particular services which they may have rendered to any political party. Are my honorable friends opposite going to give these appointments to persons who, whatever else they may be, could not aspire, possibly, to the appellation of having anything to do with the peace?
– Not to Labour members ?
– No, but to some of the Labour men to whom certain of my honorable friends are most indebted - some of those revolutionists who go round preaching the doctrine of taking up arms to keep by force what the law will not give them.
– Would the honorable member exclude members of the Parliament of New South Wales?
– I would exclude any one like my honorable friend, who does not know exactly when to kick up a fuss, and when not to do so. Whoever is made a Commissioner for Declarations under this measure ought, I think, to be a person chosen for the reason of special fitness, and not a person who has succeeded in obtaining a certain amount of political notoriety by making very untimely declarations on political questions of moment from time to time. I suggest that the Prime Minister might state now that he does not intend to use the measure for the. purpose of patronage. I do not wish to insult my right honorable friend by suggesting that he might do so, because we all know that he does claim, with considerable conviction in his face, to be above such a thing.
– He would give preference to unionists.
– Yes. I hope that the right honorable gentleman does not intend to use the measure for the purpose of political patronage. It is undesirable that such a custom should be introduced into the Commonwealth jurisdiction. I think that if he would disclaim any such intention at once, it would be pleasing to the community as a whole.
-Iwantto know what is the distinction between a Commissioner for Declarations and a Commissioner for Affidavits. I also want to know whether the Government is taking power, under the measure, to appoint Commissioners for Affidavits ; and, if not, why ? We are asked to give power to the Attorney-General to appoint Commissioners for Declarations, but the Bill, apparently, stops short of taking the power to do for those individuals what the States now do.
– No; in New South Wales a justice of the peace cannot take a sworn declaration now. .
– I think it is proper for the Commonwealth to appoint Commissioners for Affidavits. Why should we put ourselves in an inferior position in regard to the States? Either let us do trie thing thoroughly or not at all. Has there been a reason urged for the Bill? If this work is now being done satisfactorily in the States, why should we interfere, and interfere for the purpose of creating a status altogether inferior to that which is held by a number of persons in the States, for I take it that a Commissioner for Declarations is inferior in some way to a Commissioner for Affidavits.
– A Commissioner for Affidavits gets a fee of is.
– It seems to me that the Bill only half deals with the matter, and I should like to know why a distinction is made.
.- I think that the scheme of the Bill will not necessitate the creation of any special officers. I have never seen the measure before, but I understand what the scheme is. What the Executive will do will be to proclaim the officers of the States Commissioners for Declarations. There will not be a necessity to have an army of justices of the peace to take declarations. There is a slight doubt under the existing administration as to whether the Commonwealth could safely make the officers who take declarations under State laws officers for the purposes of Federal Acts, because we have no law on the subject of declarations, and would be applying conflicting legislation as to their duties. We are now engaged in passing a uniform law as regards declarations, and investing the administration of it in State officers. A Commissioner for Affidavits will, therefore, be declared to be a Commissioner for Declarations, and there will be no distinction.
– He may, or may not.
– There is no necessity to add- to the army of officers. We have not appointed any justices of the peace, but have simply used the State justices of the peace for the purposes of our Acts.
.- I think that we should not create a fresh order of officials in the country. I hardly expect that from my honorable friends on the other side.
– Why should we not create a Commonwealth order?
– I know that in Victoria the appointment of justices of the peace is one of the most difficult matters which the Legislative Assembly had to deal with. If a member got one man appointed, he invariably found that many other persons were rather disappointed. Under this measure, I think that we will probably have to create a number of C.D.’s, which is, I suppose, what the Commissioners for Declarations will be called. I do not see why the State officers cannot do all that is required. There has never been any trouble, as far as I know, in getting a Commissioner for Affidavits, for a certain remuneration, to witness a declaration.
– Oh, yes; there is a difficulty in country districts.
– I agree with the honorable member that sometimes there is a difficulty there, but that is because the State “Governments have not appointed enough justices of the peace or Commissioners of Affidavits. In Victoria we are suffering from a scarcity of justices of the peace. The late Attorney-General would not do more “that appoint a very few, and we had several very violent scenes in the State Parliament on that subject. There certainly were not enough to carry on the machinery of Government, but I think that defect has been rectified. It seems to me that it would be quite superfluous to create a new order of Commonwealth officers. I hope that the Prime Minister, who does not like honours, will give attention to that point.. What is the object of this new brand, anyhow ?
– The honorable member did not hear the few words I said on the second reading.
– I am sorry I missed that speech ; but still I cannot see the object of this new peerage. !Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime Minister and Treasurer) [8.5]. - The Committee is at a disadvantage owing to the regrettable absence of the AttorneyGeneral. So far as I understand the matter, as a layman, the intention is not to appoint any justices of the peace at all, but to take advantage, for Commonwealth purposes, of the services of certain gentlemen in the States who have been appointed to take affidavits and declarations, and thus make it possible to have Commonwealth’ business expeditiously and cheaply transacted.
– The provision is confined to statutory declarations.
– A statutory declaration in the Bill means a declaration regarding a Commonwealth matter, and I presume that, when we speak of affidavits, we mean certain documents which have to go, or may have to go, before a Court, and be attested in order that they may be made valid at law. The desire, especially, is to have a uniform system, and thus put Commonwealth business of this nature on a sound and satisfactory basis. There is no intention whatever on the part of either the Attorney-General or of the Government to confer honours or titles.
.- I am gratified to hear the Prime Minister’s undertaking that there shall not be appointed a new order of officials in the Commonwealth. There is, however, another point which is worthy of some consideration. The persons appointed are to hold office during the pleasure of the AttorneyGeneral; and I do not know that that is altogether a desirable innovation.
– Ordinary commissioners in the States hold office only during the pleasure of the Court, or of the Chief Justice.
– A Chief Justice is outside political influence; and such appointments as will be made under this Bill ought to be given more stability than the temporary good-will of a person occupying the position of Attorney-General. The question really is whether we should in this regard introduce an innovation into the ordinary law of British communities. The honorable member for Riverina has pointed out that, at present, persons hold this sort of appointment subject to the good-will of the Court; but the Court or Judges have certain statutory rights, and cannot be displaced except by resolution of both Houses of Parliament. An Attorney-General might remove a person because he was personally distasteful to him, or for some other reason altogether unconnected with the office or its duties. It would be desirable to place such commissioners under the jurisdiction of the Court, and thus frame this legislation on the lines of State law. The Chief Justice of a State would be less likely to have any strong party bias than is even the present Attorney-General. If these officials are worth appointing they are worth giving some guarantee that they will not be subject to the dictation, perhaps on political grounds, of the person who happens for party reasons to occupy the position of AttorneyGeneral.
– I think the clause is quite safe.
.- The honorable member foi Wentworth did not, perhaps, quite catch what I said. Commissioners for Affidavits in New South Wales are appointed by the Chief Justice, as the head of the Court; and those commissioners become officers of the Court, removable only by the Court, the Government having no power to interfere. On the other hand, the State Attorney-General, or the Government, may remove a justice of the peace, because these justices are appointed by the Government.
– This clause deals only with Commissioners for Declarations.
– These officers are to be appointed for the purpose of taking sworn declarations. Under the clause we have just passed justices of the peace will be entitled to take sworn declarations, as I understand is the case in some of the States, amongst them Victoria. In New South Wales, justices of the peace are not so entitled; and, although there are thousands of these magistrates, that fact is not generally known. During the political contest of 1903 a declaration in connexion with it was made, and a justice of the peace innocently administered the oath to the declarant, as thousands of other justices of the peace have done. For political purposes that justice of the peace was cited to appear before the Court, and the then Chief Justice, Sir Frederick Darley, fined him £50, and removed his name from the roll. This Bill will remove a difficulty which should have been removed before, so far as Federal business is concerned. The Government, I take it, find that it will be necessary, all over the Commonwealth, to have certain sworn declarations in connexion, for instance, with the business of the Customs and other Departments; and the desire is to give certain officers the necessary power so that the declarations may hold good in all the Commonwealth Courts. That, in my opinion, is a wise and judicious thing to do. The honorable member for Fawkner, who has interests in the country, knows that in some cases it is necessary to travel from 50 to 70 miles, and pay certain fees, before the services of a Commissioner for Declarations or Affidavits can be obtained. If an ordinary official of a Commonwealth
Department is invested with power to take declarations, he can be reached without great trouble or expense. This reform will be a matter of great convenience, not only to the Departments, but to the people as a whole. I take it that there is no intention to make any new appointments.
– We have had a long and learned explanation from the Honorable member for Riverina, but we are setting up an inferior kind of creature by this precious Bill, clothing him with a little brief authority, and making him altogether inferior to State officers. No provision is made in the Bill for the framing of regulations under it. The honorable member for East Sydney stated that a Commissioner for Affidavits was a man who was paid is for taking an affidavit, but there is no provision in this Bill that he shall get the shilling. This Trades’ Union Government is cutting the rates down. Where does the Bill make it possible to charge for taking a declaration ? Does the honorable member for East Sydney, who is a good union man, intend to knock off the is charge? Where is the power to make regulations to fix the charges ?
– It will probably be found in the Acts Interpretation Act.
– I should like to see it pointed out. I do not believe in doing a man out of his job, or out of his shilling. It is bad enough to set him up under our Commonwealth law as inferior to a corresponding officer under a State law. We are making him merely a Commissioner for Declarations, and apparently he will have to do the work simply for the honour and glorv of it.
– I have no desire that any one in New South Wales, or other States, shall lose the is. fee. I would point out to the honorable member for Parramatta that, under clause 2, a Commissioner for Affidavits is defined as a person authorized under the law of the Commonwealth, or of a State, to take affidavits.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 and 8, schedule, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), by leave, proposed -
That the report be adopted.
.- The penalty for making a false declaration is four years’ imprisonment. On what basis has the penalty been arrived at? The Prime Minister can doubtless inform us what penalties are fixed in the various State laws for similar offences.
– I understand that the penalty provided in this Bill is rather below than above the penalties fixed under the State laws. Under our criminal law the term of imprisonment provided for in any measure of this kind is simply the maximum.
Question resolved in the affirmative; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), by leave, proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– The Prime Minister has just told us that these penalties are, under our criminal law, the maximum penalties. I have yet to learn that we have any Commonwealth criminal law. I understand that it is one of the matters put forward for consideration in the Government programme for the session. I have heard with alarm that in this measure the Government propose to reduce the penalties already enforceable under the laws of the different States. It is time we made a protest against this whittling down of the penalties already provided for the preservation of law and order in Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motions (by Mr. Frazer) agreed to -
That the request of the Senate contained in its message No. 3 for the resumption by the House of the consideration of the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill be complied with, and that a message be transmitted to the Senate acquainting it therewith.
That the second reading of the Bill be made an Order of the Day for this day.
– By leave, I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
In introducing this Bill to the House, I may state that it is an old friend. I think it was originally introduced in the Senate, in 1904, by the late Senator Nield. Its provisions were subsequently approved of by different Governments. The object of the Bill is to secure, by statutory authority, that the will of this House shall be given effect to. On various occasions it is found necessary, in the public interest, to appoint Committees or Commissions to take evidence as to the doings of persons, or associations of persons, outside this House, so that we may be in a position to arrive at some definite conclusion as to the action which should be taken by Parliament. When, in the past, such Committees and Commissions have proceeded with their investigations, it has been found that, whilst either House of the Parliament has power to summon witnesses and secure their attendance, in order to give evidence, should the summons not be obeyed, or, being obeyed, should the person summoned refuse to give evidence, the House has no power to inflict penalties, unless an application is made to a Court. This Bill is introduced to overcome that difficulty. The necessity for such a measure was brought strongly under the attention of Parliament as a result of the proceedings of a Committee presided over by the honorable member for Bendigo. That Committee was appointed to consider certain serious reflections cast upon this House. The honorable member for Bendigo, as Chairman of the Committee, when endeavouring to bring those responsible for these reflections to book, found that the Committee had not the necessary power. He reported in this way to the House, and the matter was practically abandoned, because of the inability of the House to defend its own honour.
– I do not think that was the point. This House has the power to do that.
– The House has the power to bring persons charged with contempt of Parliament before the Bar, and to impose upon them certain penalties. The House may restrain such persons within or without the precincts of Parliament until it goes into recess. But as soon as the House goes into recess, the persons charged with contempt are at liberty, and it becomes necessary, should it be considered desirable to proceed with the charge, to renew it when the House meets again. This Bill is intended to provide that when the House has deliberately made up its mind that certain information should be secured in the public interest by a Committee of its own members, or any Commission, such Committee or Commission shall be given the specific power to call witnesses, make certain inquiries, and insist upon answers to those inquiries within reasonable limitations, and impose penalties for refusal to answer such inquiries. The interests of persons likely to.be brought before such Committees or Commissions are protected in the measure where the inquiry involves the disclosure of trade secrets, or where special request is made that information given shall be regarded as confidential. If the Parliament is to be in a position to assert its authority, the passing of such a measure as this is an absolute necessity.
Debate (on motion byMr. Deakin) adjourned.
– In the absence of the Prime Minister, I move -
That on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday in each w.eek, until otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business; and that on each Thursday, until half-past 6 o’clock, until otherwise ordered, general business shall take precedence of Government business.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta [8.35] - I notice that the Government are proceeding in quite the usual way to fix the same days of sitting’ and order of business, and to adopt the arrangements which have been followed during the pasV ten years. This is a strange commentary upon the statements of the AttorneyGeneral during the recent referenda campaign, that, unless the referenda proposals of the Government were carried, this Parliament would have little or nothing further to do. That statement was repeatedly made by the honorable gentleman. He said that’ we had already passed into law, at any rate, the more important matters provided for in the Constitution. Yet here we are, with an immense programme before us, and a proposal to sit, as previously, tour days a week, which is a day more than any State Parliament sits. I believe I am correct in saying that every State Parliament in Australia sits upon only three days a week. In the way we are going, it seems to me that the Government will have nothing to submit to the country at the next general election, and I am very anxious that they should still have a. shot in the locker when that fateful time arrives. I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether there is any serious objection to the House adopting a similar rule to that which has been adopted by the Senate in respect tn the cessation of business on Friday afternoons. The other branch of the Legislature has, I understand, agreed to a sessional order which provides that automatically at 4 o’clock on Friday afternoons, all business goes by the board. When that time arrives, the question is put by the President “ That the debate be now adjourned,” and “ That the Senate do now adjourn.” It seems to me that it is a salutary rule, the adoption of which would save many heartburnings and much trouble in this House. We all know that on Friday afternoons a good deal of finesse goes on amongst members on both sides of the Chamber. This is a question which particularly concerns the representatives of other States, who sometimes get very anxious about 4 o’clock on Friday afternoons lest they should miss their trains home, and who, as a result, occasionally lose their tempers. I would strongly suggest to the Prime Minister that he should incorporate a similar provision in this motion.
– In regard to the request preferred by the honorable member for Parramatta, I wish to say that I am quite in agreement with him, but I do riot desire the practice of adjourning at 4 o’clock on Fridays to be made the subject of a sessional order. However, I pledge my word, as head of the Government, that at that hour on Friday afternoons, unless honorable members have ample notice beforehand, the business of the House will close in the usual way. Honorable members in another place seem to be able to dispose of their business very expeditiously - much more expeditiously than we do. Consequently, it may be necessary, on occasions, for this House to sit a little later than 4 o’clock on Friday, and that fact has always been recognised. But we shall do our best to close the proceedings a little before that hour rather than after it.
– What does the Prime Minister mean by “ample” notice?
– I mean that we shall close at 4 o’clock on Friday afternoons unless honorable members are given a day’s notice to the contrary. I merely rose to mention this fact. It would be unwise to make such an adjournment the subject of a sessional order, because, occasionally, financial matters or a crisis may arise which may render it necessary to sit later.
.- The promise of the Prime Minister is excellent so far as it goes, but I would point out that it may not prove to be effective, because, at 4 o’clock on Friday afternoons, any honorable member may upset the right honorable gentleman’s calculations, unless he takes the extreme course of moving that “The question be now put.” We have had many instances of members being so earnest in their remarks on Fridays that they have continued to speak until twentyfive minutes past 4 o’clock, when they have suddenly ceased, with the result that some representatives of distant States have been detained in Melbourne for three or four days. I have no desire to recall anything unpleasant, but in a large measure the death of a very prominent member of this House was due to his exceptional haste to catch a train, consequent upon his having been delayed here for a few minutes longer than was necessary. Those honorable members whose trains do not leave until 5 o’clock on Friday afternoons are not concerned with leaving the House until halfpast 4 o’clock. On some occasions the honorable member for Lang has prevented certain honorable members from returning to their homes at the week end.
– Surely the honorable member does not suggest that.
– I recollect what the honorable member did in the early hours of this morning, when we pleaded with him in vain. On the other hand, the Government always possess the power to prevent the House from adjourning at 4 o’clock on Fridays, if the business engaging attention is of an exceptional character. But, save in such cases, it would be infinitely preferable tha.t we should adopt a sessional order under which, automatically at 4 o’clock on that day, the business of the House should be terminated. As the honorable member for Parramatta has remarked, this House sits upon four days a week, and no State Parliament in Australia meets so frequently, except during the last week or two of the session, when business has to be disposed of with more than ordinary alacrity. It would be better if honorable members knew that at 4 o’clock on Fridays they would be at liberty to leave for their homes, and that there was no chance of their being detained by reason of some honorable member not being in a happy frame of mind.
– The matter will be considered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That on Thursday in each week, until otherwise ordered, general business shall be called on in the following order, viz. : -
On one Thursday -
Orders of the Day.
On the alternate Thursday -
Orders of the Day.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher for Mr.
Hughes) proposed -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an -Act to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-10.
– I desire to take advantage of this motion to invite the attention of the Government and the House to a very important matter partly dealt with in replies made by the Prime Minister to questions submitted by me at the opening of the proceedings to-day. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which it is now proposed to amend again, has already been amended in some very important particulars by the present Government and their supporters. The Act of last year, substituted for section 40 of the principal Act, a new section, in which special power was given to grant preference to members of organizations. The new section will be found-
– Order ! I am sorry to interrupt the honorable member, but it appears to me that he is dealing with something which is totally foreign to the question before the House. The question of preference to unionists may, or may not, be implied in the motion submitted by the Prime Minister. I am not in a position to know. That motion, however, is simply one for leave to introduce a Bill. The honorable member will have ample opportunities of dealing with the question to which he has referred on the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
– I am aware of that, Mr. Speaker, but notice that the terms of the motion submitted by the Prime Minister are a Bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-10.” I submit that it is perfectly within my right to call attention to the existing state of the law, and to alterations which may appear to me to be necessary or unnecessary in that regard. If my memory serves me rightly, it has been previously held that the course I am about to take is quite authorized under the circumstances. We have as yet no precise proposals from the Government before us, but that does not preclude us from considering how the measure which the Government are asking leave to introduce should be shaped. It is for a general consideration of that question - having Immediate regard, it is true, to one particular connexion - that I now propose to submit to the House and the Government some considerations in regard to the proposed amendment of the law.
– If I were to permit the honorable member to take the course indicated by him, it would be quite possible for any honorable member, upon a similar motion, to deal with any question that appeared to him to be proper. The motion before the House simply asks leave to introduce a Bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That Bill may, or may not, have anything to do with the question that the honorable member for Ballarat has raised. But if I allowed him to discuss that point, might I not reasonably assume that the debate would turn on the question of preference to unionists, and that the question of leave to introduce the Bill would be lost sight of altogether? Under the circumstances, while a general reference to the matter to which the honorable member has alluded, may be permitted, I must disallow a long statement upon it.
– On a point of order, I submit that this is the proper time to discuss the principles of the measure proposed to be introduced. I believe you will find, Mr. Speaker, that nearly all the more important Bills introduced into the House of Commons are discussed at this stage. This is the time of all others when the whole field is under review. For instance, the House might, or might not, be prepared to approve the bringing in of this Bill if it were believed that it would affect the principle of preference to unionists or otherwise. That point alone might determine our action. It is proposed to amend an Act which clearly, provides for’ preference to unionists. We want to know how the Government stand in relation to that provision before we give our consent to the introduction of amending legislation. Why are the Government bringing in the Bill? The Prime Minister has not told us. What part of the Act is it proposed to amend? Is it proposed to amend the part dealing with preference to unionists? I submit that this is the proper time to ask such questions. How are we to give an intelligent vote unless we know exactly for what purpose the Government propose to amend the Act ? I submit that the scope and purpose of the Bill are clearly debatable at this stage, and that y6u will find plenty of precedents for the cOurse proposed to be taken by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has. stated that, in his opinion, the scope and purpose of the Bill are now under review. But we do not know what the purposes of the Bill are. We know nothing as to its scope. Therefore, those matters cannot possibly be under review.
– That ruling shuts us out from discussing whether we will have -the Bill introduced or not.
– Not necessarily. The “Prime Minister has submitted a motion for permission to introduce a Bill to amend a certain Act. What the contents of that Bill may be it is not for me to say. I do :not’ know. I have not seen it. I shall not see it officially until the first reading takes place. But there will be ample time for honorable members to “discuss the “whole of the provisions of the Bill on the motion for the second reading. It is not usual in this House to discuss the principles of a Bill on the motion for leave to -introduce. In this case, the honorable member for Ballarat rose, and said that he intended to refer to a matter that the Prime Minister had mentioned in reply to certain questions. If I were to permit a debate to proceed on such a point at this stage, discussion might take place on any matter that had been the subject of a question by an honorable member, and had been answered by the Prime Minister. Consequently, I could conceive of a debate taking place on almost anything on a motion for leave to introduce a Bill. Unless the House distinctly directs that I must take a broader view of the position, I must rule that the honorable member for Ballarat is not in order.
– May I point out that, in -one important respect, Mr. Speaker has misunderstood me. I was drawing attention to the fact that the motion before the House is for leave to introduce a Bill “ to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-10.” I had that Act in my hand, and was about to refer to it in order that I might call the attention of the Government to its nature, and to the effect of any proposals submitted for amending it. I also direct attention to the fact that a paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech informs us that a Bill is to be introduced “ for the purpose of giving the public servants of the Commonwealth the right to appeal to .the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court.” My purpose is, therefore, to deal with the motions that we have before us and what appearsupon the face of it - that is, a proposal to’ amend the Act which I hold in my hand, in accordance with a promise made in the Governor-General’s Speech. I propose to address myse’lf, therefore, to a measure which has been distinctly foreshadowed. Under these circumstances, Mr. Speaker, you probably misapprehended what I wasabout to do.
– I quite realize the position that the honorable member takesup. As far as relates to the allusion to the subject in the Governor-General’s Speech, I point out that there have been ample opportunities for discussing that subject on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. Consequently, that point is disposed of. I adhere to the ruling which I have given, and unless the House distinctly instructs me to take a broader view of this matter, I feel bound to protect our procedure by ruling that the debate must be confined to the motion for leave to introduce the Bill.
– I rise to a point of order. The Prime Minister has moved for leave tobring in a Bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. As a layman, I wish to ask this question : How is any honorable member who “feels disposed to do so to oppose leave to introduce the Bill unless he is allowed to indicate certain grounds of objection ?
– To show cause.
– Unless he is allowed, as the honorable member for Gwydir says, to show cause? I think we shall, otherwise, be in a very queer position indeed. The ruling has been given against the Opposition, but what concerns me is that the party that supports the Government to-day maybe the Opposition of to-morrow. Therefore, we have to see to it that the privilegesthat honorable members possess are preserved to them. I hope that, although we have a? big majority, we shall be merciful. That ishow the matter appeals to me. How inHeaven’s name an honorable member canoppose leave without giving reasons is be:yond my comprehension.
– I should like to make asuggestion. Assuming your ruling to becorrect, Mr. Speaker, you have thrown out a suggestion that the honorable member for Ballarat might be allowed greater latitudethan you consider the Standing Orders give- to him. Though it may not have been our custom, it has been our right to discuss matters that are pertinent when a motion has been submitted for leave to introduce a Bill to amend an existing Act, and not a specific clause of an Act. If the Government had desired to confine the debate to a particular matter, they could have done so by saying that they intended to bring in a Bill to amend specific provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. By that means, they would have prevented honorable members from discussing any sections of the Act except those mentioned in the motion. I further point out that in the House of Commons some of the most important Bills have been discussed on the motion for leave to introduce. For instance, Mr. Gladstone, on the motion for leave to introduce the Home Rule Bill of 1886, made his famous three and a half hours’ speech ; and that was done in accordance with the usual practice..
– We debated the Financial Agreement on a similar motion.
– It has been our practice hitherto to debate such matters when the motion was for leave to introduce a Bill to amend an Act in general terms. We were at liberty upon such a motion to discuss anything pertaining to the Act it was proposed to amend. Under these circumstances, I suggest that the honorable member for Ballarat should be given the opportunity to discuss the question to which he was about to refer.
– I call attention to the fact–
– Order ! I do not wish to enter Into a debate with the House. I have already distinctly stated that I have given my ruling. I would therefore ask either that the House shall support that ruling, or, if there be a desire for a broader interpretation, that it shall say so clearly. Under these circumstances, if it be the desire of the House to have a general debate on the motion, any honorable member may move that my ruling be disagreed with.
– With a view to furthering the business of the House, I suggest that this and the succeeding motions for the introduction of Bills be allowed to pass ; and, on the motion for the adjournment, I do not think even you, Mr. Speaker, will prevent me from expressing my views on the subject.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for aft Act relating to compensation to seamen for injuries suffered in the course of their employ ment.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Frazer, for Mr. Thomas) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the acquisition of purchase telephone lines.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, what value you think the motion for leave to introduce a Bill has, if honorable members are debarred from discussing the merits of the proposal. May very clearly lays it down that in the case of any important Bill the motion provides an opportunity, which is frequently taken, for a full exposition of its character and objects by a Minister or other member. The stage is of no practical value if honorable members may not be informed as to what they are being called upon to vote for, or ask for a statement of the objects and purposes of the measure which it is proposed to introduce.
.- The replies of the Prime Minister to certain questions put to him this afternoon demand, at the earliest moment, some criticism inviting the attention of honorable members to the grave and serious nature of the departure about to be made by the Government. It is unnecessary to recapitulate the events leading to the passing of the original Conciliation and Arbitration Act - a measure which I had the honour to introduce on the retirement of my late friend and colleague, Mr. Kingston - nor shall I speak of the form taken after many battles by the provisions empowering the High Court to grant preference to members of organizations, or, in other words, to unionists. I ask attention now to a novel development of the application of this principle, and the extraordinary results likely to flow from a project apparently adopted without sufficient examination of the consequences. The legislation providing for preference to unionists was revised last year. It is to be found in section 40 of Act No. 7 of 1910, paragraph a of which allows preference to be granted in such manner as is specified in the award or order of the Court, other things being equal. Let me here point out that the law respecting conciliation and arbitration is administered by an independent Court, clothed, not merely with the ordinary judicial authority, but with large and exceptional powers, in order to enable it to investigate to the utmost every plea submitted, and to give its decisions only after a full and perfectly impartial investigation of alf’ the facts. Only under these circumstances, and after these inquiries, is the Court authorized, other things being equal, to grant preference to members of organizations. In the third sub-section it is also provided that - for the prevention or settlement of the industrial dispute, or for the maintenance of industrial peace, or for the welfare of society, the Court may direct that preference shall be given to members of organizations as under the paragraph to which I have just alluded. The considered attitude of the Parliament was clearly indicated by this very recent legislation. The grant of preference to unionists was to be at the hands of a judicial and impartial authority, only after the fullest, research and investigation. Having made that particular point as clear as time will now permit, let us notice next the latest formal proposition of the Government, submitted in the Speech of the Governor-General. Re-reading once more the paragraph already quoted in argument -
A Bill Will be introduced for the purpose of giving the public servants of the Commonwealth the right to appeal to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court,
I need not remind honorable members that this question has already been the subject of an appeal to the Court, in which it was decided that, as regards railway servants of the States, it was not competent for this Parliament to deal with them, as it proposed, by an amendment made in the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill introduced in 1902. This proposition in the Governor-General’s Speech marks a new departure - a new departure in the development of the powers of this Court, and a new departure in our treatment of the
Public Service. For the first time it empowers the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to deal with all the questions which may be raised by public servants claiming increases of pay or any other concessions from the Government of the day. Apparently, it covers both permanent and other employes. That was, therefore, up to yesterday, and expressly for this session, the policy of the Government. Extending the area of possible preference, they retain the judicial proceeding ; they retain the impartial and independent Court; they retain the conditions under which the Court makes its examination of the facts. They then authorize the public servants of the Commonwealth to go to the Court as against any decision of the Government or its Commissioner for the Public Service with an appeal which the Court, if it thinks fit, will be competent to grant when once this legislation is sanctioned. My point is this ; having the past policy of the Government in mind, and also its policy for this session just laid before us, requiring that in all matters in which public servants are concerned, and in which there is a dispute, an appeal shall lie to this high tribunal under these several safeguards, by certain well-established methods, we were suddenly surprised yesterday by a statement in a newspaper made after the Prime Minister had received in private a deputation consisting of unionists and others.
– Not in private by my desire.
– Perhaps not, but it was private, and therefore I refer to the fact. As to evidence, I have none other than the statement made by the Prime Minister to the press after that interview. This was a very serious statement, because in it he indicated that it was now the intention of the Government to provide for the granting of a further preference to unionists under utterly novel conditions and without safeguards.
– I did not say “ now.” I said that it is. and has been for over a year, the practice in some of the Departments.
– I will leave that question for the present. I do not know that it affects my argument, and, in any case, it will be a matter for special discussion. I do not see anything to alter in the statement I have just made. Yesterday I put certain questions, without notice, to the Prime Minister, and, as a result of his reply, which was not precise, I put them again to him to-day. When asked to-day to define “ the classes of Government employes within which members of unions will henceforward be given priority of appointment over all who are not unionists “ he replied, “Other qualifications being equal, preference will be given in all cases.” To my fifth question, “Whether if preference is to be granted to unionists’, other things being equal between the applicants, who is to determine, and on what evidence, their comparative qualifications,” the Prime Minister replied, “ The officer charged with the duty of selecting.”
– Who is he?
– There are a great number of officers who would be empowered in this way. Honorable members will therefore realize the gulf which exists between our existing practice, conducted under the determination of a highly qualified and impartial Court, authorized to grant preference to unionists, and the conferring of the same authority upon a great number of persons, who are not judicial, who may not be impartial, who are not necessarily qualified, but who are to be endowed with this great power over large numbers of those engaged in our Public Service. The important answer in this regard, though it contradicts the reply to the first question, is the answer to my fourth question, whether this new practice would affect the permanent employes in the Public Service. The answer is short and to the point - “ No.” So that all the permanent employes of the Commonwealth are ruled out. They will not have this opportunity afforded to them. The answer to the first question might have led one to suppose that they were included. The point to which I wish to direct the attention of the House is that it is the employes of the Commonwealth other than the permanent employes who are now to be dealt with in this manner. Who are these employes? I have refreshed my memory by turning to the Acts, and find that, under section 40 of the original Act, temporary employes can be appointed to serve for terms not exceeding nine months by either the GovernorGeneral or the permanent head of a Department, or the chief officer of a Department, whoever he may be, or, as I find in practice, by officers whom they may depute in different parts of the country to discharge this function for them. Consequently we have now, instead of a great and well-equipped Court, either the Ministry - that is, the Governor-General, on the advice of his Ministers - or the permanent head of a Department, or the chief officer, or the deputies whom they may think fit to appoint to deal with the claims of members of organizations and others in any part of the Commonwealth.
– A nice position of affairs that will be.
– I am at present concerned to bring before the House, if I can, in the clearest possible way, the enormous rebound which this represents from the present well-founded and elaborately guarded system to a new, untried, and unjudicial system - from a carefully constituted tribunal we know to the haphazard tribunal of a high officer, or of very minor officers, on whom this great responsibility and authority is to be suddenly cast.
But still more important are the extremely numerous casual employes of the Commonwealth. These consist mostly of what would ordinarily be termed daily or weekly paid men, such as are engaged in the construction of buildings, or as thousands have been in Melbourne lately in the construction of telephone tunnels or works of that kind. It is inconvenient to deal with them as temporary employes, and they are, therefore, directly engaged by a Department, and, so far as he thinks fit, by its Minister. They are wholly and solely under his control. As a matter of fact, I understand that the Ministers - the PostmasterGeneral in regard to the tunnels, and other Ministers - have been in the habit, in most cases, at all events, of delegating to their officers the duty of dealing with casual employes. In the case of large outdoor work this means to foremen, or subforemen, or, what would be termed gangers.- Has it been realized that the effect of the proposition now submitted, is to clothe each and all of those persons with the power to grant preference to members of organizations, a preference which, hitherto, has only been granted under our Acts, by that tribunal of the highest possible standing, with whose decisions we are familiar?
– The persons referred to have always selected their men.
– But hitherto they have had no authority, other things being equal, to grant preference to members of organizations.
– No authority, and no instructions.
– So far as I am aware, they have had no authority and no instructions. Although complaints have been made from time to time, under the existing system, in regard to favouritism, these, so far as my knowledge goes, are, as a rule, only such complaints as are inevitable. When a certain independent authority is granted to subordinate officers, it is bound to be exercised to the prejudice of some of the numerous applicants and on the complaints of favouritism I am not now dwelling.
– The same men will select in the future as hitherto.
– But- hitherto they have not had authority to enter at all on this extremely delicate ground. They may do so how in an offhand and inconsiderate fashion, without taking any of those many measures which the Court adopts in every instance, to satisfy itself, and to make itself complete master of the whole situation, having regard to all the circumstances of the respective claims of the persons involved. These have been made the subject of the same careful treatment which is given in Courts of Law to the ‘ smallest claims that any man maintains on behalf either of his rights or property. The amount at stake may be trifling, or the injustice almost infinitesimal, and yet each claim receives from the Court the most exhaustive consideration, in order that, under no circumstances, if possible, will an inequity be permitted. Now, on the contrary, without any precautions - without any machinery or preparation of any kind - it is proposed to extend this judicial system of conceding preference to all sorts of even casually employed officers. This amounts to a complete revolution in the character of the legislation which we ourselves have passed, in the character of the legislation for which the Ministry has made itself responsible, and even in the legislation which the Government itself is at this moment proposing to us this session. So far as one can judge, this highly important and most serious step - with its long train of consequences which none of us can venture to forecast - has been entered upon on impulse and offhand, without any consideration or realization of what it means.
I have spoken of the Commonwealth service so far in general terms ; but we must recollect that’ there are vast areas outside the rule of the Public Service Com missioner or of the Public Service Acts. There is the Northern Territory, for instance. In that vast area these principles are to be applied as elsewhere. How, no one can guess. Then, there is the Federal Territory, which, through the GovernorGeneral, so far as appointments are concerned, comes into the hands of the Minister of Home Affairs. We see, therefore, that, in addition to the six States, there are vast areas in which this principle is to operate in a new and wholly autocratic fashion. Thousands of miles distant from the present Seat of Government or the coming Capital, this power is to be placed in the hands of men, who, for whatever purpose they were appointed, and whatever may be the other qualifications they possess, were never chosen because of any judicial qualifications, or for their capacity for dealing with problems of the kind. This appears to me a very serious matter, involving perpetual heartburnings, complaints, and grievances, which, to whatever extent they may be exaggerated, are bound, in one form or another, to find their way to the representatives of the people ; that is, to find their way into this House. Consequently, it is no exaggeration to forecast a revolution in our practice as well as in our principle in this regard. That is not an exaggerated way of putting the effects that must follow the proposal if it be pursued on the lines laid down, and in the manner indicated to this Chamber.
It is not necessary to detain the House longer, except to say that one reply of the Prime Minister may have been misunderstood. My third inquiry was whether it was proposed to distinguish between unions when making appointments, and the answer was that the Commonwealth law now provided a means of determining the question. That was net exactly a direct answer.
– I think so.
– Although the Commonwealth law may provide a means of distinguishing between unions, the right honorable gentleman did not say whether he proposed to adopt the existing dividing line so as to restrict the new practice to some unions, or whether it was intended to embrace all unions.
– The Registrar of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court determines what is a union.
– Exactly. I am satisfied to accept the right honorable member’s reply, if I understand him to say that all unions so registered will be treated in the same manner.
– If it is a lawful union.
– Every union registered with the registrar is to be put on the same footing as to preferences. Is that perfectly clear?
– Will members’ of a union that has not been registered get preference ?
– As I understand the Prime Minister, he says that this will apply to all those unions which are registered with the registrar, I suppose of the Arbitration Court ?
– I understand that all unions so registered, and no other unions, are to receive this preference.
– That was not the honorable member’s question.
– I now complete ‘the question. Are unions, which are not so registered, to receive the benefit of this preference ?
– They may or may not under the circumstances ; but my answer was a complete cne to the question cf the honorable member. He is putting a new question.
– Then, why not say so?
– I have said so; I derive my new question from suggestions made. I wish to know whether the members of unions, not registered, will be able to claim this privilege as members of registered unions ?
– They will be treated on their merits.
– When I asked the question last night the Prime Minister said that he was incapable of denning unions. I take it from his replies that he is not yet clear in his own mind where the line will be drawn between those unions whose members will be enabled to claim this priority and some other unions which may or may not be added hereafter to the list.
– Why not ask the Prime Minister straight out whether the scab union will get in?
– I do not know a “ scab “ union.
– They have the honorable member as their President.
– I assure the honorable member that I have not the honour of being president of any union. I have never been a member of any union except that of the profession to which I belong. I have not been elected to any office in that union, and have never received preference from it, perhaps because it cannot give any preference.
The Government are now introducing a principle of great importance, of great novelty, and immense fruitfulness. The granting of preference to unionists has occupied the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and many of the State Legislatures. It has been coped with by them stage by stage, but only by the most elaborate machinery defined after long debate and often amended, as it is now being proposed to be altered once more after further debate. The whole road that we have travelled so far, has unquestionably been surrounded with safeguards and all those carefulconsiderations which it was our duty to supply. We have willingly given much time and thought in order to find a solution of this most difficult and intricate question, but now we are brought face to face with a departure from the old methods, launching us upon an entirely different sea of troubles, in which the application of the principle will be enormously more onerous and difficult. Yet the responsibility of applying it will be necessarily intrusted in hundreds of cases to unpractised, if not unqualified, hands. !Mr. Bruce Smith. - With no oath and no evidence.
– True. It may be decided upon the grounds of a mere personal prepossession. A man may say to two applicants, in whom any other eye would detect transparent and marked inequality, “ So far as I can see, you are equal in all respects, and I am going to exercise my right to grant preference.” There is no appeal or hint of appeal. No redress is possible. Instead of judicial inquiry, caution and equity, any man seeking to earn his bread may be dealt with despotically, and finally out of hand. Those who have supported preference to unionists, including many on this side, have done so carefully and cautiously, taking every possible precaution against abuses.
– I think the honorable member is the only one on the other side who supported it.
– There were a number of others, and some of those who supported it thoroughly and most cordially are unhappily no longer here.
The Government are now of their own accord imperilling the whole structure of preference. They will provoke a large amount of ill-feeling, dissent, and complaint, which we all desire to avoid. The seriousness of the step and the actual range of its influence can scarcely have been properly assessed. Have the Government realized what it will mean if all the casual and temporary employes of the Public Service, as well as those engaged in the Northern Territory and elsewhere under direct Commonwealth control, are to have this principle applied to them by the hands of any and every kind of subordinate who may be in authority over a small area? No more fruitful cause of dissent or dissatisfaction could be imagined.
Nor can we neglect our responsibility to the public. The great bulk of the men who will be affected are engaged fpr longer or shorter periods in constructing the public works which the Commonwealth has undertaken. These works are paid for out of the public Treasury. We are the guardians of the public purse. It is our duty, after seeing that a fair rate of remuneration, is paid, to assure ourselves that a fair day’s work is given in return for it. Without that, we fail in our duty, deplete the public revenue, and diminish the number of public works which ought to be established. Neglecting it, we shall find ourselves properly held responsible by those who elect this Parliament.
Our Departments are, at present, administered by very capable men. I think the permanent heads, and many of their principal officers, reflect the greatest credit upon Australia. How we shall replace them when they are gone is a question into which I shall not enter to-night. But to have the ablest men that ever filled such offices living in Melbourne or Canberra, as the case may be, and exercising authority over the whole of Australia, through, perhaps, thousands of subordinates, many scores of them endowed with such authority as this, and with endless possibilities of the misuse of that authority, is to impose upon the Departments and their heads burdens which no one can pretend they will be able to bear. Out of sight is out of mind. Many of these grievances will arise hundreds, and some may be thousands, of miles distant, and may occur under all kinds of differing conditions. In those circumstances, it will not be possible for us to insure a sifting out of the facts or to apply those numerous precautions which we have hitherto adopted in order that every step of the kind taken with the sanction of this Parliament shall, as far as possible, be just and right. We are parting with an indefinite and most important authority to all kinds of persons, whom we have never yet chosen or considered with any regard to their qualifications for the grave responsibilities now proposed to be placed upon them.
– And all of whom have full power to put on whom they like now.
– And, as I have said, a certain amount of friction has already manifested itself. I venture to predict a very much greater amount of friction if this new practice is applied. There must be, of course, some friction in all human affairs, but we do not wish to create more or scatter it broadcast over the Continent. As we have been amongst the first civilized communities to establish the principle of the minimum wage, it becomes us to establish, also, the principle of the minimum efficiency, excellently expounded in an able address recently by Mr. Woodward, of Bendigo. As he said, minimum efficiency and minimum wage must go hand in hand. If they are dissociated, and we are blind enough to pursue the new policy outlined by the Government, there is no other prospect before us than failure. We shall have to face extravagance in our great public undertakings, and a natural reaction of distrust on the part of the public. Members of this House have always shown themselves fully sensible of their obligation to recognise the humanitarian principle adopted throughout in our legislation. There is no desire to reduce and no thought of reducing wages j but we have always an obligation to the public to get money’s worth for the public money paid. There will always remain our obligation to the taxpayers, and all are taxpayers, to insist upon efficiency in every branch of the Public Service ; but the Government are now introducing a new practice, which may be widely applied, so as to bring in the inferior instead of the superior, while we pay the inferior exactly the same, or, in actual fact, a much higher rate of wage. One cannot pretend to touch more than the fringe of this subject, but I have fulfilled my task if I have indicated to honorable members some aspects of the new departure which are well worthy of the most serious reflection before we indorse any definite proposals of the kind when the Government lay them before us. As the project stands at present, it is cloudy. nebulous, and uncertain. It will be for the Government to explain their policy and principles, and define their methods of action, the safeguards they intend to employ, and the various means they will adopt for controlling the operation of this particular power, so that it shall at least retain some of the judicial quality and fairness that it has possessed hitherto in any Statutes we have passed. But when their plan of action is laid before us, there will be very few problems which we shall face this session as prolific of heartburnings, and possible disturbances, as those which are likely to arise out of this proposal, unless, indeed, it is safeguarded and surrounded on all sides, as it ought to be, with every possible assurance that can be given that the principles of justice and equity shall obtain as they have obtained in “the Court which we have established for this very purpose.
– I am not quite sure that I have even yet grasped the full import of the answers which the Prime Minister has given to the questions submitted to-day formally, or by interjection, by the honorable member for Ballarat. But I am sure that the impression which the right honorable gentleman has allowed to get abroad, not only in this House, but in the country, is that his Government is prepared to give what is ordinarily known as “ preference to unionists.” I say frankly that I believe that those who look for the establishment of something like industrial peace in the future of this country will find it in some development - a greater development than we have ever yet seen - of organizations both on the part of employers and employes. I think that is likely to be the inevitable course of events ; that, in order to control the improper actions, so far as they are improper, of combinations of capital, as well as of combinations of labour, both will have to be organized in a way that will enable them, not only to properly voice the aggregate opinion of both sides, but will make them both responsible for obedience to the law of the land. Either industrial peace will be established on some such basis, or we shall have a continuation of industrial warfare. That is the only direction in which we can hope for the ultimate establishment of any conditions that will lead to industrial peace. But the recognition of any such organizations by law, or by the Government - who I take it, for such a purpose, represents all sides in the House - must surely be a re cognition only of organizations which are regulated and controlled by law. On this point, the answer of the Prime Minister to an interjection by the honorable member for Ballarat was to me particularly vague. If the preference were limited solely to organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, we should at least have a guarantee as to some of the results. The Prime Minister has allowed the impression to go abroad that, generally speaking, preference is to be given to unionists because they are unionists. I should like now to ask the right honorable gentleman whether he is prepared to say “Yes” or “No” to the question ? Is he going to instruct his officers to give preference to members of any unions other than those which are registered under the law ?
– What unions are there which are not registered under the law ?
– The honorable member must know that there are numbers of them. I should like the Prime Minister to say whether he is going to do this or not. If he is not, the question we shall have to solve will be somewhat simplified. If preference is to be given to members of unions merely as members of unions, it must be remembered that most of the unions claim two rights, which are entirely inconsistent with any propriety in granting preference to them at present. One is the right, on their own account, and even by secret ballot, to exclude any person whom they choose from their ranks. Another right which is claimed, and openly claimed by unions, and which, I think, honorable members on the other side are prepared to indorse, is the right to strike.
– Hear, hear.
– God help them when that right goes.
– According to one reading of what the Prime Minister has stated, if I understand the right honorable gentleman, he is prepared, under certain conditions and according to their merits, to extend preference to these unregistered and unrecognised associations, which still claim the right to exclude anybody whom they choose - and whom they commonly describe by opprobrious epithets which we need not use here - at their own sweet will. Under conditions, for which they are responsible to nobody but themselves, these unions claim and exercise the right to boycott large numbers of competent and willing workers, who offend against no law and against whom there can be no objection except that, forreasons of their own, they do not desire to become members of these associations. They also assert, and if, in their opinion, the necessity arises, exercise the right, to break the law which this Parliament has made, by striking. I do not suppose that honorable members on the other side would care to admit that they desire that any part of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act should be treated as a dead letter. I quote this provision from the forefront of that Act I think it is contained in the enacting section, and is the foundation and introduction of all this legislation and the huge machinery which we have created to give it effect -
No person or organization shall on account of any industrial dispute do anything in the nature of a lock-out or strike, or continue any lockout or strike.
Is that to be a dead letter, or is it not?
– I am afraid that, to a large extent, it is a dead letter. I shall be very glad to have an assurance from my honorable friends opposite that they are not prepared to countenance or support the claim frequently put forward on behalf of these very unions, that they should have the right to strike. I should like to hear a single honorablemember opposite deny to these unions the right to strike.
– I support unions in their right to strike.
– Then there is at least one honorable member opposite who has the courage of his opinions.
– That is not a fair way of putting it.
– I am going to point out, in contrast to these unrecognised unions, the conditions under which this -Parliament has laid those unions to whom alone it will accord its recognition. First of all we find that the only unions which can be registered under the Act are unions which comply with certain conditions, that is, any association of not less than 100 employes or any association of employers.
Provided that no such organization shall be entitled to any declaration of preference when and so long as its rules or other binding decisions permit the application of its funds to political purposes, or require its nembers to do aaything of a political character.
– That is not the law now.
– That part of it has been repealed. Then the Government are prepared to say that, in industrial matters and in Government employment, preference shall be given to members of an association which is purely of a political character.
– No use. The honorable member is pretty tricky, but we are alf alive.
Mr.W. H. IRVINE.- I am glad to hear that the honorable member for Maranoa is alive, although I never entertained1 the slightest doubt of it. Now I wish to point out that all associations must conform to schedule B of the Act, which sets out the conditions to be complied with by associations applying for registration as organizations. So that the authority created by thu Parliament - the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court - has complete control of the conditions under which such associations shall admit persons to their membership. But now the Prime Minister proposes to extend a preference to unions which are not compelled to comply with the provisions of that schedule.
– He never said anything of the kind.
– He was challenged on the subject, and neither he nor any Minister has declared that it is not intended to do so. I understood the Prime Minister to say that the Government were prepared to extend a preference to unionists beyond the range of registered associations ; but that they would consider each case on its merits, whatever that may mean.
– Are there not some local unions which could not possibly come within the purview of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court - unions which are not registered ?
– There are. With regard to them, the law has imposed no restriction, so far as I am aware. They are not required to freely admit competent persons to their ranks. If the Government will say that they are prepared to restrict the granting of a preference to the members of such unions as will undertake to comply with the provisions I have indicated - to registered associations under the Act - and if they will also declare that such unionists must not strike, they may very well be said to be carrying out the general spirit of the legislation upon our statute-book.
– Does the honorable member include unions which are registered under State laws?
– Seeing that there are six States in the Commonwealth, and as many laws upon this subject, I am unable to answer that question. But, as far as my memory serves me, I do not think there is any provision in the State laws imposing the obligation upon trade unions that they shall admit qualified persons to their ranks or that they shall not have the power of rejection.
– There is in New South Wales.
– It is not the case in Victoria. There is no provision in any of the State laws rendering it unlawful for unions to exercise what they have always considered to be their right, namely, the right to strike.
– They cannot lawfully strike in New South Wales.
– Yet we find that, from one end of Australia to the other, these organizations are claiming through their spokesmen, not only outside but inside of Parliament, the right, to enforce their claims by striking. I do not think that the machinery provided in the Act is by any means perfect - to a large extent, it has been a failure - but if we can perfect if -so as to create organizations which we can compel to obey the law, we shall remove all difficulties in the way of their recognition.
– Does the honorable member refer to the control of combines and trusts?
– Combination, in itself, is not an evil, but a good. It is the methods adopted by combinations which are evil, and those methods are not confined to combinations of capital. They are just as rife and powerful in combinations of labour. If we can, by any legislative machinery, create laws which we can enforce upon combinations, either of capital or labour, we shall then be able to properly recognise such combinations.
– I wish that the honorable member would help us to do it.
– I am prepared to. help the honorable member on every occasion when he is doing right. I do not think that the Government have fully understood the position which they are taking up. Upon that aspect of the matter 1 entirely agree with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. If we can create associations which will be subject to the control of Parliament, and be obliged to obey the law, we may find some path that may ultimately lead to industrial peace. But if the Government are going to enter upon the fray because it is a fray by offering a preference to the members of unregulated unions, that is, unions which are unregistered, and which are not subject to control by any Act of Parliament, they are perhaps thoughtlessly, and perhaps with design, throwing their whole force, which should be devoted to the maintenance of industrial peace, into the scale on the side of one of the combatants. If the Prime Minister, before we deal with the amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, is prepared to assure us that the announcement which he recently made public, and which he has repeated here with certain modifications, is intended to apply only to such organizations as can be controlled and made to live under the law, a great deal of the objection which can now be urged against it will be removed.
.- I do not propose to traverse the arguments against the Prime Minister’s position in the way that they have been traversed by the Leader of the Opposition, and the honorable member for Flinders. I have risen for the purpose of submitting to honorable members opposite a practical instance of how this new proposal will operate with regard to a large number of our fellow citizens, and to ask whether it is a fair thing under the circumstances? If honorable members will just think for a moment of the temporary employes of the Post and Telegraph Department, they will remember that those persons can only join the Department for a certain time, the maximum being nine months. The vast number of them are employed for less than six months at a time. Indeed, the larger proportion are employed only for a few days at Christmas time. Those persons are to be asked to join a union, and to pay fees and subscriptions, for the sake of getting a few days’ work, without knowing how long they will be employed ! It is well known to be a universal complaint that these temporary employes have not been kept on as long as they expected. Yet they are to be asked to pay union entrance fees and subscriptions for the mere chance of getting into th* Public Service for a few weeks. We all know that for every vacancy in the Public
Service of a temporary character there may be a hundred applications. Honorable members of both sides of the House are aware that what I am stating is an actual fact. So that not only is a man to be compelled to pay the union entrance fee and subscription for a temporary job, but to do so for the mere hundred-to-one chance of getting a few weeks’ employment in the Post Office. Is that a fair thing? Do honorable members opposite suggest that it is fair that this - I may say it without offence - extortion should be put upon a number of our fellow citizens ?
– We want the very best workmen in our Public Service.
– This proposal will restrict the opportunities of temporary employment in the Public Service to members of trades unions. Now trade unionists, generally speaking, are in fairly regular employment as contrasted with the outside community.
– Simply because they are the best workmen.
– The honorable member admits that trade unionists are generally in more constant employment than are the rest of the industrial community. What is going to happen as the result of this proposal ? It means that those men who have, relatively speaking, constant work, are to be given these opportunities of temporary employment in the Public Service at the expense of men who have no regular calling, and who know not from week to week when Heaven is going to find them work. Honorable members opposite talk to us about “ equality of opportunity.” I ask you, sir, what sort of equality of opportunity “ is it that denies to those persons in this community who are in most need of work the right to work unless they subscribe to my honorable friends’ organizations? I go a stage further, and say this : What are honorable members opposite doing with these organizations, when they refuse, under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, to give the unions of Australia a free Government audit? They will force these men, who can ill afford it, to subscribe to unions, the funds of which they know will be used to put my honorable friends back in the places they do not -adorn in this House.
– What about auditing the funds of the employers’ unions ?
– I am quite willing that there shall be an audit of the funds of every union into which our laws force any person in this community. This is a great principle, which I believe will be popular with all those members of unions who do not control the union purse, lt is well known that the laws of this country are forcing into industrial organizations, at the peril of their livelihood, large numbers of workers. I do not quarrel with that if the object be the attainment of industrial peace. But if you force men to join unions, if you force them to subscribe to your funds, surely you ought to guarantee to them an efficient audit of those funds to insure that they shall not be used for purposes which do not appear on the articles of the union. Do we not know that every member of the Labour party voted against providing a free Government audit for the books of the unions of Australia? They are now going a step further, and compelling every man who at Christmas time seeks for a week’s employment in the Public Service, to subscribe to the funds, not of one union only, but of a dozen; because such a man cannot know when he applies for work into what branch of the service he will bie drafted. On the chance of getting employment of some kind, he must subscribe to the funds of unions whose books Labour members will not allow to be examined by a public auditor - to funds which will be used for party propaganda work. The smiling philanthropists who decorate the benches opposite will benefit themselves in pocket and place by thus tyrannizing over the industrial classes. It might be thought that if they insisted on victimizing temporary Government employed, they would for very shame allow the free auditing of the books of the unions to whose funds the men will be compelled to devote part of their scanty means.
– It is a shame that they have scanty means.
– Yes, and it is time they gave up voting for persons like the honorable member, who show so very little consideration for them on obtaining the means provided by a position in this House. I ask members of the Labour party to seriously consider whether it is fair to require temporary employes to bear this load. It is hard enough for a man to have to put his name on a roster on the mere chance of getting work for a week or two, but it is ridiculous to require him, in addition, to subscribe to the funds of half-a-dozen unions.
What is proposed will not allow officials to choose those applicants for employment who are best suited for the work to be done. It will instruct them to appoint unionists; the words “other things being equal “ are used, but what will take place? At present applicants for work have their names placed on a list, the officials who appoint them have no opportunity to inquire minutely into their qualifications, and the man whose name is first on the list gets the first position vacant. That system is to be altered. It is not the man whose name is first on the list, but the first unionist on the list, who is to be first employed. If ever there was a case of greasing the fat pig this is one. A special privilege to get work in the Government service is to be given to men who have better chances than others in the ordinary competition for employment. That is contrary to the principle so loudly enunciated by honorable members opposite before they got into power, and opposed to the fair play which the Australian public hold dear. The Labour party will bitterly rue its attitude in this matter when next its members submit themselves to the people.
.- The principle of preference to unionists is one for which the members on this side have contended for years, in and out of Parliament. It was one of the leading principles submitted to the people at the last two general elections, and indorsed by a majority at the last election, in such circumstances that we are merely acting in conformity with our public pledges in putting it into practical operation. Roar they never so loudly, our honorable friends opposite can hardly say that we are wrong in doing this. The remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth were given such exceptional consideration by honorable members, that even he, eager for notice as he is, will not expect me to pay further attention to them. To the honorable member for Flinders I offer my sincere congratulations and thanks for his dispassionate sentences, uttered, I believe, with a view to a better understanding of the question by the House and the country. If I understand his position, it is that he raises no serious objection to the giving of preference to unionists, provided that they are members of organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and have given some sort of guarantee that they are prepared to conform to its provisions.
– That is a most important thing, because even those registered have not conformed.
– I understand that the honorable member has no serious objection to preference to unionists, provided that the preference be given only to those members of those unions which have registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and provided, further, that such unions have given some guarantee that they will conform to the provisions of the Act. May I ask him to explain what those provisions are?
– The most important is that requiring men not to strike.
– When the honorable gentleman, who transcends in ability most of the members of his profession, can give us a reasonable interpretation of the meaning of the provisions of the Act, it will be time to ask the average trade unionist - shop assistant, shearer, mechanic - to conform to them. When debating the referenda proposals of last year, the honorable gentleman clearly indicated that it is almost impossible to understand the provisions of the Act.
– Some of them. There is no difficulty in understanding the prohibition against striking.
– As the honorable gentleman has informed us in unmistakable terms that it is well nigh impossible to understand the provisions of the Act, ordinary laymen are to be excused if they make mistakes regarding it. The language used by him on the occasion to which I refer impressed itself on my memory, and is to be found on page 77 of the report of the debates of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the Constitution Alteration (Legislative Powers) Bill. He said -
A not unreasonable proposition, and one which should receive the careful attention of the House, is the amendment of that very illogical and impracticable provision, paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution.
In that paragraph this Parliament is nominally empowered to pass laws in respect to conciliation and arbitration. The honorable member went on to say -
Within the short space of four or five years each of those words, with the exception of “ beyond the limits of any State,” has been the ground for endless battles, with their accompanying delays and expense. If the provision disappears, I shall naturally shed a tear of regret at parting with an old friend, but no doubt others will take its place. Under the circumstances, I may reasonably ask my honorable friends to define the provisions of the Act before asking the ordinary citizen to give a guarantee that he will conform to them, more particularly since the Act, after being handled by the Court, does not embody the wishes of those who framed it, or the desires of those who sought for legislation for the prevention of industrial disputes. May I suggest that these provisions should be denned with reasonable clearness before men are asked to give up their liberty in order to conform to them? Whenever an attempt has been made to give practical effect to them, to obtain momentary relief for those hard pressed in the industrial strife, there has been litigation, which has nigh always ended disastrously for the workers. May I ask which provisions they should conform to? So soon as they have endeavoured to give effect to any provision, in order to secure some slight relief, they have found their money spent, and their time wasted, in litigation, at the end of which their industrial condition has been worse than it was at the start.
– The words which the honorable member just quoted were not directed to anything in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but to paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution.
– That statement appears to me to be a mere juggling with words.
– Is it?
– Yes, because under the provision I quoted the whole of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was framed and placed on the statute-book.
– My position is that there is no difficulty in understanding the provision in the Act - which is the foundation of it all - which says to those who are to receive its benefits that they are to give up the right to strike.
– My honorable friend puts me on a new track when he wishes me to infer from his remarks that there is no difficulty in understanding the provision of the Act - which says to the industrial worker that he shall give up his liberty to use the one little weapon with which he has been able in some small measure to improve his industrial condition, but there is difficulty in understanding the provisions which purport to give the industrial worker some slight benefit for the immense advantage which he is asked to give up. I am sure that the honorable member’s love of fair play is such that he will not ask even industrial workers to give up the one little weapon which they have, most dangerous as is its use, in order that they shall take something which is of a chimerical nature, and which will be the subject of litigation which, if precedents are anything, will invariably go against them. I, as a trade unionist of twenty-five years’ standing, say that it has been absolutely impossible to understand the provisions of the Act, and in these circumstances we ought not to be faced with the additional difficulty of saying to trade unionists, “ You must not only understand the provisions, but you must give a guarantee to conform to something which you do not understand, before we will give you the particular thing which a majority of the people throughout the Commonwealth have indorsed at a general election.” I submit that, with all due respect to the honorable member, for his consideration, because we have his broad words which indicate very clearly that the section of the Constitution under which it was framed is of such a character as to render the Act entirely nugatory. I was not able to take notes while the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, but I arrived at the conclusion, from his remarks, stripped of what I might call their periphrasis, stripped of that linguistic cloud with which he enveloped his lament at first, that a new proposal is on the board, and therefore we ought not to accept it, or, if we have such an idea, we ought to make it the subject of very prolonged consideration. That seemed to me to be the burden of his remarks. I know that the time seems seldom ripe for any change which will be of any material benefit to the bulk of the people in the industrial world. This has on very many occasions prevented an Act from being brought to a condition of perfection, and made such as people desired it should be. Shall we prevent any particular thing from coming into operation because it happens to be new ? May I suggest that each Ministry in this, or any other House, has given place to another because, in the opinion of the people, their conduct, either administrative or legislative, has not been such as to meet with approval, and that the people desire some change, or, in other words, something new. If the administration of to-day is to be somewhat in advance of the administration of the past, why complain merely because it is a change? Personally, I look forward to many changes taking place before I leave Australia, in the hope that they may be of some use to the community. I believe that the putting into practical operation of preference to unionists will be of benefit to Australia. We had a statement from an honorable member a moment or two ago to the effect that a majority of the permanently employed men are unionists at the present time. Why? Because they happen-
Mr.Hans Irvine. - To be forced to join.
– No. There practically is no compulsion as far as trades unionism in Australia is concerned.
– There is a little moral suasion ; that is all.
– These men are so employed, and they have the cream of the situations in the ordinary industrial world, because they happen to be the better workmen, because, in the language of the Leader of the’ Opposition, they give a fair day’s work for a day’s pay, whatever it is, and can be relied upon as men of honour in their occupations, as in other walks of life. That is illustrated distinctly after every industrial struggle by the gentlemen who object to this principle being put into operation. While in the midst of an industrial struggle they metaphorically embrace the so-called “free” labourer ; the very moment that it is over he is scarcely thanked for the position which he has occupied. He is, if not. immediately, at any rate within a week or a month or so, quietly informed that his services are no longer required, and the trade unionist gets back to the position, not because these gentlemen love the trade unionist - no, they detest him with a detestation which they find it impossible to express in words - but because the trade unionist earns more money for them, and so the free labourer, so-called, goes. I agree with the statement that the majority of the men in permanent situations are trade unionists. But I want to go a little further, and say that the organizations of casual labourers are such that at present a majority of them are members of trade unions, and the numbers are gradually getting larger. There is a comparatively small number of persons, termed by our opponents free labourers, but termed by us by a different name. But in so far as the putting into operation of this principle is concerned at present it will merely be a direction. In fact, for all practical purposes, although there may be a little friction here and there - and friction is inevitable in the industrial world, it appears to me - it will be an indication to those who are responsible for giving them employment, that the best class of workman will be given a preference. If honorable gentlemen on the other side, who tell us that they are the custodians of the public purse, ask that there shall remain in existence a condition of affairs whichpermits these thousand and one irresponsible persons to place in employment whomsoever they desire - it was alleged, for all practical purposes, that they do place in employment men who do not give a fair return for the wage given to them - then they can scarcely be credited with being the custodians of the public purse. On the contrary, they suggest that these foremen, these gangers, these managers, or these heads of Departments, or whatever they happen to be, should be allowed the liberty to continue to engage men whose services are not so remunerative as they ought to bc to the public generally. I do not intend at the present stage to go into details. But instances can, and no doubt will, be given, if serious objection be raised, of where certain persons do distinctly, with a good knowledge of what they are doing, sacrifice the better class of workmen and engage others of a type that do not give satisfactory results, so far as the public are concerned. That, however, is perhaps a detail which may come on for consideration later. I remind honorable members again that, if this principle is put into operation, there should be no misleading or misunderstanding, no great furore or clouding of the issue. The question of preference to unionists was before the electors at the last general election.
– It was one amongst many others!
– It was made a prominent issue by the majority of members on this side of the House. We have it on the word of the Leader of the Opposition that it is a principle supported by honorable members opposite. The only difference between the two sides lies in the question, “ Shall the principle be put info operation?” With, perhaps, one or two minor exceptions, all honorable members are in agreement respecting the principle.
We, on this side,’ who have pledged ourselves, say that the principle should come into operation ; but honorable members opposite, while they approve of it, and would continue to approve of it for ever and ever, say, “ But in Heaven’s name do not let it be put into practical effect.” The Government axe putting the principle into operation, and I have great pleasure in supporting their action.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 September 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19110920_reps_4_60/>.