4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the statement of the Minister of Home Affairs the cither day that certain papers on the file relating to the Chinn case are private, I ask which of those papers he regards as private, and what are his reasons for doing so? Will the honorable gentleman ask for a report from the permanent head of the Department in connexion with the matter, and lay it on the table ?
– I think there has been nonsense enough about this business in the House.
– In view of that answer, I ask the Minister if he thinks it fair to make a serious imputation against some officer or officers in his Department, and to refuse to give them an opportunity to be heard in their defence?
– In reply to the question, I should like to ask the honorable member if he can give me any evidence as to how private and confidential letters got on to a public file? Too much outside interference with public officials prevents the carrying, out of business activities on business lines.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs kindly say when the lighthouses now under the control of the Hobart Marine Board are likely to be taken over by the Commonwealth ?
– I hope that when Commander Brewis has visited all the lighthouses, and finished his inquiries concerning their condition, the remuneration of the employes there, and the other matters on which he is reporting, all the lighthouses of Australia will be transferred to Commonwealth control.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if his attention has been drawn to the following statement in the monthly share register of Messrs. Joseph. Palmer and Sons: -
Automatic telephone shares (5s. paid) are quoted about 9s. The system has been installed at Geelong, we believe with success, though little has yet been published; some good parcels of shares have been bought on Melbourne account. We regard the shares as a good speculation.
Is it true that an automatic installation has been made at Geelong; and, if so, has the installation had the successascribed to it?
– My attention has not been drawn to the statement. The Geelong exchange is being subjected to tests by officers of the Department, but their report has not yet been presented to me.
– Is it a fact that the Treasurer is bringing from London a gentleman to control the printing of the Commonwealth notes, and that he is also importing lithographers? Will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to the fact that we have men here who could do the work ?
– A gentleman is to be brought here to take charge of our note printing, and to produce the plates from which the notes will be printed. He is a qualified man, and a statement of his attainments will be Laid on the table. I do not think that he is bringing with him more than one or two minor officials.
– There has been promulgated to-day a new statutory rule fixing the fees to be paid to the chairmen of boards of reference at £2 2s. a day, and the travelling expenses at15s. a day, and it is stated that when a public servant of the Commonwealth acts as chairman of a board of reference, he shall be entitled, if his appointment has been approved by the Minister, to receive the same’ payments as chairmen who are not public servants. Does this mean that public servants who act as chairmen of boards of reference will be paid fees in addition to their salaries, and two travelling allowances ?
– If the honorable member will give me a copy of the statutory rule I shall reply to his question to-morrow.
Military Stable - Victoria Barracks, Sydney
– According to today’s newspaper it is the intention of the Defence Department to build some stables in my electorate, and I desire to know whether it is not possible to have them erected in the Federal territory?
– All buildings associated with the Defence Department are placed just in that locality which will best serve the interests of the Commonwealth.
– Yesterday the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, in reply to a question put by me, said that the information as to the availability of a certain property in Sydney for military barracks was obtained by the Minister of Defence personally from private sources when in Sydney. I desire to know whether the Minister went to the owners or the owners’ agents, or whether the owners, through their agents or some politician, approached the Minister ?
– I am not acquainted with, the Minister’s movements when in Sydney. He, no doubt, will furnish all the details if notice is given of the question.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence a question bearing upon an answer which he gave in the House yesterday to the effect that the Minister himself drew up the memoranda, setting forth the alleged advantages of the Double Bay site for a barracks in Sydney, as the result of his own inquiries when in Sydney. I desire to know whether the ‘Minister drew up, in addition to the memoranda, the plan that accompanied them, showing the water to be reclaimed ; and, if so, how he can explain the fact that the plan showing the water to be reclaimed gives a much less depth than is shown in the Admiralty chart accompanying the report?
– The answers given to questions asked in this House yesterday were fairly full, and were in accordance with the questions put.- If the honorable member will place his questions on the notice-paper, he will obtain equally full replies.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs to a paragraph in to-day’s Age, in which it is stated that prosecutions are likely to be instituted where persons have not had their names placed on the electoral rolls. In view of the fact that the rolls have not yet been published, and it is not possible for persons to know whether their names are or are not on the rolls, would it not be better to defer all prosecutions until after the publication of the rolls ?
– Under the new, up-to-date system of business inaugurated at the Home Affairs Department, every elector gets a notice telling him that his name is or is not on the roll. An elector who receives such a notice will know whether or not he is on the roll. We have endeavoured in every possible way to persuade certain people to sign the cards, but they say that they are not going to be enrolled, and we propose that the law as set forth in the regulations shall be carried out.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs if he thinks it possible for every elector in Australia to communicate with his Department in order to ascertain whether he has been enrolled ?
– As I informed the honorable member for Grey, we have sent out to the electors notices intimating that they are or are not on the roll. We do not intend to be harsh, but we are going to see that the compulsory enrolment provisions of the Act are carried out to their full extent.
– Following up the question put by the honorable member for Grey, I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs if the fact that a person’s name is on the roll will be taken as evidence that he has complied with the Act?
– Yes. There will be no prosecutions until every opportunity has been given to secure proper enrolment.
– I do not think theMinister quite understood my question. In Queensland a number of names are transferred from the old to the new rolls, and the point that I wish to ascertain is whether, if an elector’s name is on the newroll, although he has not signed an applica-.cation form, he will be liable to prosecution
– Under the new system, in order to do away with duplication, we require that every person over twenty-one years of age shall sign his or her name to a card. Cards so signed are placed in a cabinet in the office in the capital city in each State so that the signature of any elector claiming new enrolment may be compared and duplication prevented. Unless these cards are signed we shall not be able to identify, when necessary, the signatures of persons who wish to record their votes while away from their own electorates. Our desire is to see that these cards are signed.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether it is correct, as I understood him to say, that the Department is going to prosecute people for nonenrolment “ just for the fun of the thing “ ? Does he think it fun for a working man or working woman to lose a day’s work in order to attend a police court to answer a charge of refusing to be enrolled?
– My honorable friend is mistaken. In some cases when the police called on certain persons they declined to sign the printed cards that had been left with them, and they laughed at the police. We propose now to see whether or not the law of the Commonwealth is to be observed.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs state what steps he has taken to acquaint the people of Australia of their liability in regard to compulsory enrolment ?
– We have done all that can possibly be done. We have issued notices, and have also advertised in the newspapers. We now propose to prosecute a few incorrigibles who will not sign the cards.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether proof that an elector has not received a notice, and has not been called on by a policy officer, will be regarded as sufficient justification for his non-enrolment..
– I ask the honorable member to give notice of his question,so that I may have time to look into the Act.
– Before initiating legal proceedings, will the Minister give a final notice to those whom it is proposed to prosecute, so that they may have a last opportunity to comply with the law before a summons is issued ?
– Yes, we shall do that as regards any failure by the person concerned in connexion with the electoral canvass.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs be good enough to explain how it is that I have not yet received one of the notices to which he has referred ?
– We are not going to prosecute the honorable member.
– Why not?
– We shall prosecute only those who refused to sign the cards sent out to them, and who declined to be enrolled. I do not think that the honorable member will come within that category.
– I do not think that the Minister of Home Affairs quite apprehended the question put by the honorable member for Moreton. Is it not a fact that an elector who moves from one district to another must notify his transfer so as to secure enrolment, and is not an elector who fails to do so liable to a penalty ?
– Yes. Every elector who changes his place of living from one subdivision to another must send to the registrar a claim for re-enrolment in due course. Temporary absence does not involve re-enrolment.
– This matter might just as well be cleared up, although to me it appears plain enough. The honorable member for Moreton has brought under the notice of the Minister the fact that there are many names on the new roll for Queensland which have been taken from the old roll. That state of things obtains in my own electorate. There are no cards for those names ; and the honorable member for Moreton desires to know if those persons so transferred will require to have signed cards before they are allowed to vote.
– I must ask my honorable friend to give notice of the question.
– If persons are placed on the rolls without signing cards, what check is there under the absent voting provisions of the Act at the time of polling?
– The law is such a complex institution that I desire to make sure before giving an answer; and that is why I asked the honorable member for Maranoa, and now ask the honorable member for Wentworth, to give notice. I shall give honorable members the law on the matter to-morrow..
– Is the Electoral Department drawing up a handbook for the information of electors and members of Parliament, and, if so, when will it be ready ?
– If the Department is not doing so, I shall see that it does.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether it is proposed, in accordance with the practice now being followed in New South Wales, to appoint a sanitary inspector to lay out, and inspect the camps along the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway line while the work of construction is being carried out?
– Yes. Such inspection will be carried out under medical supervision. The camps will be conducted like a military camp.
Questions without Notice.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, as head of the Government, a question in reference to a statement in the newspapers this morning to the effect that there has been a reallotment of duties in the Defence Department. Parenthetically I may say that it is quite time that there was a re-allotment of duties owing to the growing importance of the Department. It is stated that the Honorary Minister has been given work to do in the Department, although I understood he had been doing work there all along, and otherwise helping the Minister in many ways. What fresh step has been taken?
– I made a request some time ago that questions without notice should be limited. I ask the honorable member for Parramatta to give notice of his question, and suggest that my colleagues should also ask for notice of questions.
– On the 19th July the honorable member for Bendigo asked for certain information regarding the telephone line at Laanecoorie. The answer is as follows : -
The Deputy Postmaster-General, Melbourne, has furnished the following information on the subject : -
The principal causes of delay have been -
Failure on the part of the parties concerned to lodge the required deposit until 6½ months after they had been notified (on the 21st January, 1910) of the financial conditions,
The Department staying action for three months in connexion with the preparation of the Bond and Maintenance Agreement. (This delay was occasioned by its having been considered necessary to ascertain whether an application to connect Laanecoorie with Bridgewater would affect the proposed line from Kangaroo Flat.)
The persons who were acting for the residents concerned having failed to properly execute the Maintenance Agreement until a period of ten months had elapsed.
The above delays cover the period 21st January, 1910, to the 16th September, 1911. Since the latter date the delays are accounted for by -
The time required to lay out the work, prepare details, and call tenders for the poles required.
Failure on the part of the tenderers to submit offers for other than ironbark timber.
The necessity of calling fresh tenders for the cheaper classes of timber only, in order that the estimated cost for the poles might not be exceeded.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 to 4. I lay upon the table of the House a return embodying replies to questions 1 to 4. 5 and 6 A close scrutiny of the rolls for certain selected electoral divisions was made after the General Elections of 1906 and 1910. No case of double voting was disclosed by reason of such scrutiny. The case of J. W. Renhard, referred to in the return I am tabling, was detected during the polling.
Return showing : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will furnish a return showing -
The number of motor cars imported during the year ending 30th June, 1912 - also the value thereof?
The number of motor lorries and wag gons imported during the same period - also the value thereof?
The number of chassis for motor cars during the same period - also the value thereof?
The number of chassis for motor lorries and waggons imported during the same period - also value thereof:
The number of motor car bodies imported during the half-year ending 30th June, 1912 - also value thereof?
– All the information desired by the honorable member cannot be supplied. The answer furnished is as follows : -
The number of motor cars, motor lorries, and waggons, chassis, and bodies imported is not recorded - value only is available.
A separate record is not kept of chassis or bodies for any particular class of vehicle.
Values of importations of chassis and bodies are : - For twelve months ending 30th June, 1912 - Chassis,£1,289,914; bodies, £217,703. For six months ending 30th June, 1912 - Bodies, £124,628.
Conditions of Employment
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. These matters are now under the consideration of the Attorney-General
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Debate resumed from 18th July (vide page 1013) on motion by Mr. Mcwilliams -
That a Royal Commission, consisting of Members of this House, be appointed to inquire into and report upon the most prompt and effective methods of developing the natural resources of the tropical portions of Australia, and of establishing therein a permanent population.
.- .1 had almost concluded my remarks when this matter was last before us; and it is not my intention to occupy much time now. I pointed out that I disagree with the motion, believing that, if the highlypaid officers, whom the Government have sent into the Northern Territory, are not able to make inquiries and report fully, their appointment has been to a large extent useless. Since the question was last before us, I have noticed, as I dare say others have noticed, that one of those highly-paid gentlemen has made the great discovery that there is a large area of good pastoral country near the McDonnell Ranges. That is a fact which has been known to every observant citizen of Australia for the last fifty years; yet it has been put forward as a wonderful discovery on the part of the Government official. The Royal Commission appointed by the Queensland Government in 1886 made the fullest possible inquiry into all the circumstances and conditions of the tropical parts of that State, the climate of which is precisely similar to that of the Northern Territory. That Commission reported on the advisability of establishing experimental farms, on the prospects of tropical agriculture, and many other matters of interest and importance. In view of those facts it will be an absolute waste of public money to appoint a Commission of the character asked for by the honorable member for Franklin.
– I may say, on behalf of the Government, that we are not prepared to agree to the motion, as we think it is quite unnecessary and not justified.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, legislation should be introduced to provide a system of pensions to the members of the Defence Forces, and that the resolution be communicated to the Senate, with a request for its concurrence.
I have no desire, and it would not be very pleasant for me, to attempt to make this an annual motion, because that sort of persistence does not always reap the reward that it, perhaps, deserves ; nor do I wish in any way to harass the Government by persisting in this matter with a view of getting them to do something in this direction, especially when I feel that their opinions on the matter ought to coincide with mine. I am aware that the Government last year - and I have reason to believe that their opinion is still the same - said that they did not intend to take any action to provide pensions for the Defence Forces until a general system of pensions for the whole of those employed by the Commonwealth Government had been considered. That is very good as far as it goes. I am quite in accord with the view that the rest of the Public Service deserve pensions after serving for many years, and that when they reach the age at which they have to retire many of them are not in the position to maintain themselves, and are too old to take up any other occupation. But I am also aware that that principle can be extended much further, and that it can be claimed that the whole of the community deserve pensions much larger than we are giving at present under our old-age pensions scheme. If, therefore, any exception is taken to the fact that I have included only the defence forces in the motion, my reply is that we could go further still in the direction I have just mentioned. I do not wish to go again over the ground I covered last year, or enumerate again the many reasons why pensions should be granted to members of the defence forces, because I think those reasons are still fresh in honorable members’ minds, and it is patent to everybody that they are unanswerable. The defence forces are on a somewhat different plane from the rest of the community, with the exception of the police force. The members of the defence force and the police are men whose very vocations make their lives altogether different from that of the ordinary citizen. They are liable at any time to be called out in the defence of their country.
– So is every man.
– That is so, especially in the case of those who have been trained, but I would draw the attention of the honorable member to the fact that my motion is sufficiently wide to embrace the whole of the Defence Forces, permanent or militia, and that is my desire and intention. They are liable to be called out for the defence of their country at any time, and there is no doubt the permanent men will be the first called out, and constitute the first line of defence. I wish to include also in the motion those who are compulsorily enrolled. I endeavoured last year to describe to the House the pitfalls into which other nations had fallen through not being prepared for cases of this character. The most flagrant case was that of the United States of America. By blundering and not being prepared with a pension scheme, the authorities of that country caused the taxpayer to be mulcted in millions and millions of dollars. A faulty system of pensions was brought about, but if the country had been prepared with a proper scheme it would probably not have been necessary to expend one-third of the money that was expended. I am simply asking the present Government to make the necessary preparations. A private member’s Bill will not meet the case at all. It is necessary to induce the Government to bring in a. Bill, and. I am asking the present Government to do so. We are at the initiatory stage of a proper defence system, and it is very evident that the Government, either because of information received from the Imperial authorities, or through their own farseeingdiscernment, believe there is a possibility of hostilities in the somewhat near future between the British Empire and some otherPower. I think that our extraordinary preparations for defence warrant me in coming to that conclusion. In fairness to that section of the community who are in the Defence Forces, whether regulars or compulsorily enrolled, we ought to be prepared for the contingencies that always occur when hostilities begin. It seems peculiar that, while we are making great preparations in enrolling men and providing munitions of war, clothing, and horseflesh, we are making none whatever for the men to whom death or injuries may occur during a war, and I think flesh and blood ought to be considered first. This is all the more peculiar in view of the fact that the military calling is not the means of living- of the men who are compulsorily enrolled, or who are volunteers. Their work is in the outside world, and can take advantage of the opportunities which occur to improve their position. The members of our regular forces, whether naval or military, have not these advantages for providing for their old age, and, unfortunately, as I showed in detail last year by placing the list of salaries on record, they are paid at lower rates, comparatively, than are persons of the same rank of life outside the service. They are paid less, and have none of the opportunities for improving their position that occur to persons outside the service, and they are retired at an age earlier than that at which ordinary public servants are retired. A soldier is not much good after he has reached the age of fifty or fifty-five, or, at least, a younger man would probably be more useful in war time. We should be foolish, therefore, to keep in the service men who had reached an age at which they were less useful than younger men would be. I admit the need for retiring the men of the Defence Forces, at a certain age. But we must not forget that they have to retire early, and that they are taken into the service before they have been able to learn any trade. During their period of service they are paid at low rates, have no opportunities while serving for improving their position, and must retire early, and, to my mind, it is inhuman for us to make no provision for the period when they will be thrown on their own resources. 1 do not take the attitude that it is only those who support the motion who are capable of humane feelings in this matter.
– Does the honorable memBer propose to apply his scheme to all the compulsory trainees?
– Yes. Last year, the honorable member was of opinion that my motion did not meet the case, and I agreed to alter it. Having since given the matter further consideration, I am now of the opinion that pensions should be provided for all combatants who are wounded during hostilities in such a way as to make them unfit to afterwards follow their usual occupations.
– Does the honorable member mean that every compulsory trainee should be entitled to a pension?
– Yes, if he be so injured in war time as to be incapacitated from any longer following his usual occupation.
– A stiff land tax will be needed to pay for that.
– I think the honorable member agrees with me that men who are disabled in fighting for their country should receive pensions. He and I were reared in a position of life in which the need for such pensions was made very apparent. I have made the motion as comprehensive as possible, so that the whole of the Defence Forces may be covered, but, of course, the permanent men will have to be treated differently from the compulsory trainees and the volunteers or the militia. In respect to casualties received in service, however, I think that every man who is disabled permanently should be pensioned. There seems to be an impression abroad that hostilities are not far off, and it is as important to make provision for alleviating the distress war must cause as to make preparations to resist attack. The foolishness of the United States in not providing a pension fund in advance has cost that country an immense amount of money. Excepting those in the ranks, the noncommissioned officers in our service receive less pay than those of similar grades in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States, and everywhere, except in Australia, some provision such as I suggest is made for the members of the Defence Forces. 1 do not believe in thumping my chest, and saying, “ I am an Australian, and Australia leads the world,” but I am proud of my country none the less, and wish her to be as civilized as the rest of the world. In this matter she is lagging behind. I feel strongly that something should be done with a Labour Government in power, because the party with which I am associated’ has always shown a desire to help those least able to help themselves. Let me now point out another difference between the men of our Defence Forces and the ordinary public servants. Parliament has provided that public servants of the Commonwealth may go before the Arbitration Court, and make such representations as they pleasein regard to rates of wages, conditions, of employment, skill required of them, dangerous character of their occupation, cost of living, and so forth, with a view togetting their remuneration increased, or their conditions improved. But the members of the Defence Forces cannot do this. They are justified, therefore, in coming tcParliament for redress.
– Is this a proposal; for a superannuation scheme?
– For a pension scheme.
– That is, a free scheme ?
– I am not now concerned with details.
– Is it to be a contributory scheme?
– That is irrelevant to my present argument. So long as I remain a member of this House, I shall impress upon the Ministry in power the need for improving the position of the men of the Defence Forces, who are at so great a disadvantage compared with ordinary public servants and those outside. I may be told that our defence system is only in its inception, and that it would be proper to wait until it has been further developed, but I would point out that already some provision has been made for the future ot the men of the Naval Forces by the adoption of a system of deferred pay. I should be willing to accept that system, if I could not get any other, but I do not consider it a good one. I understand that many of the men like the system because it gives them an opportunity to retire after a few years, but these retirements are not to the advantage of the Commonwealth. We are spending an enormous sum of money in training instructors at the Military College, and are told that the training staff is not yet large enough. In view of the enormous cost of this training, it is bad economy to allow men whom we have been training for five years or more to leave just when they have become fit to make a return for the expenditure on their training. Our system should be such as will retain those men whom we train so long as they are fitted to do good service.
– How would the honorable member build up the reserves?
– We have two systems. We are building up a reserve with those who are compulsorily trained and then retired; but it is not with them that I am now concerned. I am dealing with the permanent men. In the Navy a man of twenty-one or twenty-two signs on for five years. The training of a soldier and a sailor to-day is not what it used to be. Our Defence Forces to-day are trained now to work like a piece of mechanism rather than as human flesh and blood. A man joins our permanent Defence Forces for five or ten years, and, because he has only signed on for that period, he is then allowed to go. He is retired, and receives the deferred pay that has accumulated during his period of service. The point that I wish to make is that as soon as a man has become properly trained he has to make room for a raw recruit, and that raw recruit, having been thoroughly trained, in the course of a few years has also to give way to another. And so the system goes on.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the trained man leaves the country?
– No; I say that the trained man leaves the service. We must not forget in this connexion that the methods of fighting are constantly changing, so that a man who had an up-to-date knowledge of naval or military tactics five or ten years ago might be quite out of date to-day. Arms and military and naval evolutions change from time to time, and the trained man, if kept in steady employment in the service, will assimilate those changes more readily than will the raw recruit. This is a phase of our defence system that I view with disfavour from the stand-point, not only of the individual himself, but of .industrialism generally. We take a man eighteen or nineteen years of age, and appoint him to a position in the permanent naval or military forces, and at the end of ten years’ service we retire him and give him his deferred pay. Trained as he is in defence methods only, he is cast on the world to seek a living amongst men who have been trained in various industries. How can he hope to succeed? His very training unfits him to compete fairly with such men in his effort to obtain a living, and his position is a most unfortunate one. I remember once saying in this House that there were not enough positions as commissionaires to go round amongst such men. We sometimes see ex-military men,’ wearing the uniform of a commissionaire, helping ladies in and out of carriages at the doors of big establishments, and practically that is the only position that many of these men are fit to occupy. A man who has been in the Military Forces for ten years is not fit to work as a navvy ; at all events, he suffers many a pain and ache before he becomes accustomed to such work. Men so cast adrift are a danger to others following various trades and callings, because in order to secure a living they must take work at any price. I hope that we shall have a statement as to the intentions of the Ministry in this regard. I am, perhaps, unfortunate in that this motion has come n for consideration before the delivery of the Budget statement, but I trust that we shall have some information from the Government. I have heard honorable members on both sides of the House express opposition to this proposal ; and I recognise that they are justified in taking up whatever position they please. I do not think, however, that those who are antagonistic to this scheme have considered it from the point of view of the individuals who are in the service, or thought of what must be the effect upon industrialism of throwing into the ranks of the unemployed men who are quite unfitted by their training to follow ordinary avocations. Every other civilized nation provides for a pension for the members of its Defence Forces, and is enlarging the payments to its soldiers and sailors. Even in a country where the people do not move very quickly - in what we sometimes describe as the dear old Mother Land - it is being recognised that better wages than have hitherto prevailed must be paid. Those who have followed the speeches and actions of Mr. Winston Churchill during the last few years must know that he is determined that something shall be done in this direction ; and surely we, too, ought to consider this question, so that men who occupy what is really a unique position shall receive better treatment. I ask ‘ honorable members on my own side of the House, in conclusion, to bear in mind the fact that the members of our permanent Defence Forces cannot resort, as other men can do, to the Courts to secure the redress of their grievances. The National Parliament is the only Court to which they can appeal to redress their wrongs, and to place them’ in this regard on a footing with the permanent Defence Forces of other civilized countries.
– I give the honorable member , credit for having submitted this motion, but I certainly do not think that finality will be reached by bringing forward such a proposal again and again in the name of a private member. If the Government are sincere in their desire to grant pensions to the permanent forces of Australia they have only to come down with a measure to give effect to such a scheme. In the absence of any such proposal we must assume that they are opposed to a pension system for the Defence Forces. I hope that they will seriously consider this question, and either submit to the Parliament a pension scheme, or endeavour to propose something in the nature of a contributory superannuation fund. I for one would not agree to a contributory scheme being adopted until the present rates of pay in connexion with our permanent forces had been increased. The payment of the men is not sufficient to enable them under existing conditions to contribute to a superannuation fund; but if we cannot secure for them a pension scheme, then some arrangement might be made to increase their pay, and at the same time to bring into operation a contributory superannuation fund. It is absolutely essential to the efficiency of our permanent forces that there should be some encouragement for long service and some inducement for the best material amongst the young men of Australia to join the Army or the Navy. At present there is none. I know many estimable young men who would like to join the military force, but who say that under existing circumstances “it is not worth the candle “ - that the life of a man in the permanent forces is wasted. That is practically true.
– It will be a good job for the world when that time has arrived.
– If honorable members opposite think that a man’s life is practically wasted in the military forces why have they supported the great scheme of compulsory service, for the introduction of which they take credit?
– I mean that it will be a good job for the world when the defence forces have nothing to do.
– If we could do away with armaments and live in peace it would be well.
– We cannot do that amongst ourselves, must less amongst nations.
– Quite so. So long as we are compelled to make provision for our own protection, so long must we make thevery best possible provision, and to do that it is essential that we should give every encouragement to our permanent forces. T think that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, in submitting this motion, suffered from a little confusion of mind. At the commencement of his speech, he stated that his motion was intended also to cover the militia and the compulsory trainees.
– That is quite true.
– But the honorable member said later on that it was to apply only to the members of the militia and to compulsory trainees who were incapacitated or wounded in the service of their country. As a matter of fact, the motion simply provides for a scheme of pensions to apply to the permanent forces, so that when members of the permanent forces arrive at the age of retirement they may demand a pension as a right.
– 1 said that I did not want to go into details. I simply wish the House to affirm the general principle.
– I think it would be well to deal for the present only with our permanent forces, because ‘it is necessary that we should make those forces as efficient as possible. It is our desire that they shall be an example to the great citizen army that we hope to build up. We wish them to be the nucleus of our great citizen army, and to be able to draw from them thoroughly trained instructors. Unless we have the best material and plenty of it in our permanent forces our defence scheme will fail in this respect ; and. therefore, it is essential that they should be kept up to their full strength. At the present time, however, great difficulty is experienced in inducing desirable young men to join, because most of them realize that they can do much better for themselves in civil occupations. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out, more encouragement should be given to our permanent forces, both officers and men. The pay they receive is less than that in any other part of the world. The actual amount paid in England may be less, but living there is cheaper, and there are concessions which make the pay here actually lower- than it is, not only in England, but in any part of the British Empire or the United States. We pride ourselves in Australia on the fact that the wages paid here are as high as or higher than in any other part of the world. It is true, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports says, that men employed in civil vocations in Australia always have the right of appeal to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court for the settlement of wages and conditions; and that is a privilege not enjoyed by the members of our present permanent, forces, whose only tribunal is Parliament. The Government would be well advised if they were to introduce a pension or a superannuation scheme, with provision for increase in the rates of pay ; for, unless the two go together, I could not agree to any proposal made. In the -case of the trainees for the Navy, there is a -deferred pay scheme; and no doubt our naval men are paid better than, are the men in the military branch of the. Defence Forces. The pay given to the lads when they first join is such that they can afford to contribute under the deferred pay scheme; and I, for one, cannot see why better conditions should prevail in the Navy than in the Army. We ought to do everything in our power to make compulsory training a success; and, personally, I have, from the platform in many parts of New South Wales, exhorted both lads and parents to cheerfully put up with any little inconvenience that may be caused by the new system. It would be lamentable if the plan for the creation of our great citizen army should turn out to be a failure; but I can see that there is some danger from the fact that we are unable to secure sufficient qualified instructors. Personally, I prefer a straightout pension scheme to any contributory or superannuation scheme. We know that every other nation in the world has a system of defence pensions; and this is mainly because men who spend their lives in the Army are on a different footing from almost every other section of the community. A member ‘of the permanent forces has to devote the whole of his time to his duties; and the training and knowledge he receives are of practically no value in civil life. -A man, through no fault of his own, may have to leave the Army when he is practically in the prime of life, and he finds himself utterly at a loss to know what to do for his own support ; he is outstripped in the race of life owing to his ignorance of everything but military matters. It is true that some of the artillerymen or submarine miners might be able to do pick and shovel work, but the bulk of the military men find themselves utterly at a loss. A master gunner, for instance, has to undergo .a most severe training, and, in order to pass the many stiff examinations, has to devote much more than eight hours a day to study. I undertake to say that there is not an honorable member, including myself, who would be able to answer a single question on some of the examination papers I have seen ; indeed, the stiffest examinations in the world are those in the military service, especially those relating to gunnery. Such a man as I have instanced is, however, absolutely unfitted to compete in commercial or industrial life. Of course, it may be asked why civilians, who have to leave their situations, should not also be given pensions; but such men are able to find other situations, whereas a military man is fitted for nothing but a military life. If tlie Government were to come down with a pension scheme, it would doubtless be passed ; and I can only take it that if they do not do so, they are unfavorable to such a proposal.
– I do not think the honorable member is fair in making such an assertion.
– There can be no doubt that if a pension scheme were made a Government measure, it would be passed. At all events, I hope something will be done, because encouragement of the kind would have a most beneficial effect on the permanent forces. The cost would not be such a great deal, seeing that we have not many permanent men ; at any rate, we can well afford to pay pensions to those on whom we may have to depend to defend our hearths and homes from foreign aggression.
– This is no new question. Similar proposals were made last session and the session before ; and the question has been fairly well debated by various honorable members, including the honorable member for Maranoa. When the matter was under discussion on a previous occasion, a scheme of pensions was suggested as the result of a conference’ representing the forces of all the States. That scheme, I understand, was submitted for the consideration of the Minister of Defence; and the honorable member for Maranoa strongly urged the Government to submit proposals on the lines suggested by the Conference. Nothing so far as I can learn has been done in the matter since that time. This, however, is a question which the House is not in a position to determine in the absence of a definite Bill. It is essentially a question for the Government. Action should lie initiated by the Minister of Defence in die form of a direct proposal to bs submitted to the House. It is all very well for us to occupy even private members’ time in discussing more or less academic motions which have no binding force when passed upon the Government of the day, but these opportunities for discussion only allow the Government to know what is in the minds of private members who have no administrative power themselves. Such motions can at most be only taken by the Government as a guide -to the opinions of the members of the House. If honorable members on the Ministerial, as well as on the Opposition, side of the
House are favorable to a scheme of pen-, sions such as is proposed in the motion, I can see no obstacle to the Government laying a measure definitely before the House, when it could be discussed with some promise of practical results. If this motion is carried, it will amount to no more than an expression of the opinion of the members of the House. It will not carry the House one jot further forward with regard to a pension scheme.
– If the motion is carried, there will be a moral obligation on the Government to give effect to it.
– The “ moral obligation “ part of it is a matter of Ministerial opinion. Ministers often take the view that such a motion in no sense commits the Government to the adoption of a policy. We must remember that the Government of the clay are saddled with the responsibility for financing the scheme, and must, therefore, thresh the matter out in a much more thorough manner among themselves, and with their officers, than we, as private members of the House, can hope to do in the time at our disposal.
– Have you considered the financial aspect of it before helping to commit the House to it?
– I realize that the financial aspect of it will assume very large dimensions, but I can see other directions in which expenditure is being lightly undertaken with far less justification. However, that is a matter for Ministerial consultation and action. It rests with them to make it part of their policy if they believe in it, and to bring down some practical measure for the consideration of the House. There may, of course, be some practical outcome from this debate, but none of us can say that there will be, because the Government are dumb upon the motion. They preserve the cold silence of the grave. The subject certainly ought to occupy the serious attention of the Government, and some steps should be taken to investigate the scheme which has been put into the hands of many honorable members, although I do not think it has been laid officially before the House. I have a copy of it among my papers, and it seems to me that, with certain emendations, it is worthy of serious consideration. In fact, at the time it was brought forward it was promised serious consideration by one of the Ministers in this House. I think the
House might also, with advantage, hear from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence the views of the Government on the motion.
.- I wish to give my most cordial support to the motion. Some years ago the honorable member for Parramatta, when Minister of Defence, informed me in the House, in answer to representations on this very question, that the Government of which he was a member proposed to take the whole question of pensions into their immediate consideration. Unfortunately that Government did not secure a continuance of public confidence, and at the subsequent elections were deprived of the opportunity of fulfilling their promise.
– Dp you remember the date of the promise of the then Minister?
– I think the Honorary Minister will find it in the debates on the Defence Bill, or at the close of them, during the session of .1909 - a few months before the present Government came into office. However, this subject of pensions, like defence itself, is above all party considerations, and I am delighted that the privilege of moving the motion has rested with a member of the party opposite.
I cannot help feeling that a member of the Defence Forces, when he passes out of the employment of the State, is not in the same happy position as an ordinary member of the general public with regard to his capacity to earn his own living. The whole secret of the discipline of the Defence Forces is to combine a certain amount - I am afraid, perhaps, too small an amount, although I speak as a layman with great humility - of initiative with a vast amount of subordination of individual will to the general idea. In the subordinate ranks this demands an almost absolute and entire suppression of self for the benefit of what I may term “ the show.” That suppression of self after a year or two practically unfits a man to earn his living in the. ordinary battle of life, although during all those years it has been of enormous benefit to the State.
There is also the wider question of pensions affecting the families of those in our Defence Forces. We propose to spend enormous sums in making safe the bases of our Australian Fleet, so that the Fleet can go about its business of finding the enemy, secure in the knowledge that it leaves behind it its own haven safe. The same principle applies to members of the Defence Forces in time of war. If a man can feel that if he falls those who are near and dear to him will be looked after by the State, he will do this duty, to some extent, more cheerfully and readily than he would if he could not help thinking that they might starve through his self-sacrifice for his country.
– Surely that would not happen in a British community ?
– 1 hope not; and that is why I am confident that the House, when it considers the matter, will pass the motion. At the present juncture it might happen. No provision is made against it, and the whole question of pensions ought to be comprehensively gone into.
– Surely if a man lost his life, or was permanently injured, his relatives would be compensated.
– There is no provision for it, and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is asking that provision in that direction should be made, as well as provision for an ordinary pension for the man who has practically surrendered his capacity to earn hie own living by subordinating self to his regiment and regimental idea, when he passes out of his sphere of physical usefulness into the declining period of his days. On both these grounds there are serious reasons why the Australian Defence Forces should immediately be given ordinary pension rights such as obtain in every other country of the world of which I have any cognisance.
I should like this question to go to a vote this afternoon. I shall give the Honorary Minister time to look up the quotation; but even if no previous Government in Australia had ever thought of this matter, it would be all the more honour to the existing Government that would carry it through. I hope that the Government, urged on by their own supporters, and, in fact, by every man in the House who has the interests of the Australian Defence Forces at heart, will proceed, even at this late hour, to deal with this question of pensions, in order that our Forces may be given a chance of thorough efficiency in peace and in war. This can be done by adopting the ordinary sane provisions that apply to every other Defence Force throughout the civilized world.
The very best safeguard that the State has against inefficiency is a pension system. I remember a case in Australia where a man, very high up in the Defence Forces, WAS recommended for retirement because it was thought that he was past his usefulness. Within twenty-four hours of the Minister getting the papers before him, he was approached by the Leader of the Government, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Leader of the Labour party of those days, with the plea that that man’s services should be retained. They were retained for another two years. Without entering into the merits of his services, the fact remains that the responsible persons in the Defence Department thought the interests of the Forces would be best served by his retirement, and yet he was retained because three soft-hearted gentlemen in this House - all the more honour to them - realized that, if dismissed, he would have to go out into a cold world to face starvation. They thought, “ We have the interests of the Defence Forces to consider, but what are this poor fellow and his family going to do in the meanwhile ? “ And the interests of Australian defence were subordinated to the charity shown by members of Parliament to a single individual !
– And that was not a single case, either.
– That is so. Now, if, with your eyes open, you keep inefficient persons in charge of your Defence Forces, and send men into action under their command, you are exposing yourself, perhaps, to the charge of murder. The efficiency of a service of this character can be only really soundly tested in time of war, and there can be no remedy if it fails. It absolutely depends on the capacity of the Government to get, rid of a man without any feeling of compunction, knowing that he has his pension rights to maintain him for the rest of his life. The efficiency of the whole of the Defence Forces of Australia depends upon having a pension system. Otherwise the soft-heartedness of Ministers, or that Christian feeling that _ we see displayed for the individual, will rise supreme, instead of the duty which ought to be displayed towards the State. Inefficiency will remain rampant in some places, with no chance of getting rid of it. In the interests of the men themselves, and of the Forces as a whole, this motion is urgently necessary, and I commend it to the House. I am grateful for the opportunity to support a Labour member in a proposal of this kind. I trust that his colleagues will rally round him, so that this nonparty matter may be dealt with at the earliest moment.
.- Quite a number of honorable members, including myself, spoke on this subject last session, but if it is to come up year after year, as it will if nothing is to be done, it will become a hardy annual. Pensions often play an important part when the Government desires to obtain men for the Public Service. In such cases salaries and allowances have to be fixed on a scale covering pension or similar rights previously enjoyed. I supported the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports on the last occasion, and shall do so on this, but I do not wish to repeat all the arguments which have been advanced in its favour, because that would be mere repetition, and would delay the taking of a vote. I hope that the result of the division will be such as to intimate to the Government that it is necessary to formulate a scheme to provide for the retirement of members of the Defence Forces, and the establishment of a fund to provide for those injured in defending their country, should we ever have a war.
– I wish to signify my complete approval of the motion. The military service is a dangerous one, and in every civilized community the military forces are treated as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports desires that ours should be treated. It is scandalous that men may die fighting in the service of their country., and leave wives and families unprovided for. That consideration alone should influence honorable members to vote for the motion. Further, if we desire to make our Forces as efficient as possible, we should do all that we can to induce the best men to enter them. The members of defence forces are prevented by the nature of their occupation from giving attention to the improvement of their positions financially, and we should make provision for the time when they will be called upon to retire. The defence service requires the employment of men who are in the prime of life, and therefore compulsory retirement at an early age is necessary. The honorable member for Wentworth has rightly pointed out that often men have been allowed to retain positions for which they had become too old, because of the feeling that to retire them would practically mean their starvation. From the point of view of efficiency as well as of humanity, the motion should commend itself. In dealing with the affairs of commercial institutions in which I am interested, I have always pointed out that without old-age pensions, or a superannuation fund, inefficient men will often be retained, to the retarding of the enterprises with which they are connected. I hope that the Government will take up this matter, and not permit the motion to become a hardy annual, to use the words of the honorable member for Maribyrnong. Ministers, if they do nothing, must be regarded as opposing the motion.
– I should like to hear the views of Ministers on this subject. The motion is moved year after year, and discussed by members, and then nothing further is heard on the subject.
– How would the honorable member view a proposal to provide a pension fund for wharf lumpers, coal miners, servant girls, and others?
– If I were to tell the honorable member, I should be charged with being opposed to old-age pensions. That was a charge made against the Liberal party during the Werriwa election, and it was made because we had stated that we favoured a pension scheme which would apply to every member of the community. I consider that the coal lumper, the servant girl, and every other worker is entitled to something for his or her old age.
– Then why did not the honorable member’s Government bring in a pensions scheme?
– Could that Government revolutionize the world in eleven months? Why has not the present Government, which has been in office three times as long, brought in such a scheme?
– Your crowd was in for ten years.
– “ Crowd “ ! A number of gentlemen sit on these benches.
– I should have said “ the great Liberal party.”
– A colleague of the Minister was very much perturbed at Goulburn by what he termed the vulgar abuse of the Opposition, but we have the Minister indulging in vulgarity in this chamber.
– Was not there a Liberal Government in power for ten years ?
– There has never been a Liberal Government in power in the Commonwealth in the sense in which this Labour Government is in power.
– Was not the last Government a Liberal Government?
– It held office for eleven months only.
– And passed only one measure !
– It did more than that. I shall have something to say at the first convenient opportunity about what was done in regard to military and naval preparations.
– I do not think that the honorable member is quite in order now.
– Honorable members have occupied time in trying to show that everything has been done by them, and it is right that the facts should be made public, so that it may be known to whom credit is due.
– It is time that the honorable member addressed himself to the motion.
– Both sides have made a mess of the defence scheme.
– Perhaps matters will not be put right until the honorable member takes a hand. I wish to know the mind of Ministers in regard to the proposal under discussion. This matter has been before us on a number of occasions, but we hear nothing from Ministers of their intentions, and they do nothing. One of my last acts before leaving the Department of Defence was to instruct the secretary to obtain from London information to enable a pensions scheme to be framed for submission to Parliament. Has anything come of that instruction? If not, we should be informed. Has the Government prevented the collection of the information? If it has been collected, we should know what is to be done with it.
– Is this the first time that the honorable member has mentioned the matter in the House? It is the first time I have heard him say this.
– It is not the first time that I have mentioned it.My intention was to make a pensions scheme part of the defence scheme, as Lord Kitchener advised. Admiral Henderson also stated that a pensions scheme is necessary for an efficient Navy. He said plainly that there cannot be an efficient Navy without rapid promotion. The officers must either pass up or pass out, and those who pass out must be enabled to live afterwards in decency.
– How many Australianborn men are in our Navy?
– I do not see the relevancy of the question. Under the present enlightened and intelligent administration of the Department, the construction of the Fleet Unit is years in arrears. This Government is now discussing with the Government of New South Wales matters of theoretical Socialism, previous to settling an arrangement on which the creation of the unit depends. I should not have made these remarks had not the Minister of Defence in another place spent an hour and a half in going through the records to show that I did nothing for defence, and that his Government has done everything. As a matter of fact, there are cruisers still to be built, find the order for the construction of one has still to be placed. I understand that the Government is going to arbitrate as to the time when one of the cruisers shall be commenced. Fancy an arbitration between two Governments as to the time when they shall begin to build a cruiser, and when they have settled the date twenty-six months more are to elapse before the contract is to be fulfilled. That will bring us to a period of nearly six years from the time when the Fleet Unit was projected. All was to be done within two and a half years, and we now see that six years will elapse before this Fleet Unlit will have been completed. This shows some defect ip the administration of the naval side of our Forces, and I am glad to hear that there is to be some re-allocation of duties in the Department. It is about time they were divided, for they are heavy enough to warrant a naval side and a military side, the one separated from the other. To come back to my point, I should like to hear what the Government are going to do with this proposal. It is about time that we had from them a definite pronouncement. Some time ago deputations waited on the Minister of Defence, and were told that the matter was to engage the serious attention of the Government. Senator Pearce and Senator McGregor both admitted the importance of this question, but since then nothing has been heard as to the intentions of the Government. Two years ago a motion similar to that now before us was moved from this side of the House, but nowadays the moment a session opens a political Springheeled Jack on the other side gets in ahead of us. Honorable members opposite have taken this question into their own keening, and it is time it was brought to an issue. We know what this kind of bluff means; the people outside ave beginning to understand that this question is being trifled with by the Government. There is no more important matter than the provision of means whereby promotion can go on in the Department without undue severity to those who are the victims of it. It is for the Minister to tell us whether the Government have in their mind any pension or superannuation scheme, and, if so, what it is, and when we may expect it. It is not enough that? we should have an honorable member opposite getting up year after year and airing this proposal. No one but a responsible Government can propound a scheme to the ouse, an and it is time that the present Government, who claim all the virtues from the point of view of defence, attended ‘ to this important matter of defence which has been gravely impressed on their attention by two of the greatest naval and military organizers of the Empire. Both those organizers made such a scheme as this a vital part of their recommendations, but their recommendations in this regard are being ignored, so far as we know, by the Government. We cannot have an efficient naval or military defence unless provision is made for a scheme of retiring allowances, and if the Government will do something in this matter they will receive, I believe, the support of honorable members on this side of the Chamber in connexion with any reasonable scheme. The constant and persistent neglect of this important phase of naval and military obligation cannot be too strongly emphasized. I incline to the view that we ought not to have a system of free pensions in connexion with either our Naval or Military Forces. The trend of events is rather in the direction of insurance or superannuation, whichever you like to call it - in the direction of placing upon every individual in the community the personal responsibility of providing for his old age and making him an adequate payment with which to do so. I should infinitely prefer that to a pension system which might develop into abuses.
– As has been the case in connexion with the Victorian Public Service pensions.
– Quite so. That, however, is an argument, riot against pensions per se, but against a defective system. It is an argument in favour of a wise and intelligently thought-out scheme. The more I think of this matter, the more it seems to me that an insurance scheme would be better than a free pension scheme.
– Does the honorable member mean that the members of the forces should pay the insurance?
– Yes, and that their pay should be so adjusted as to enable them to do so. I know what is at the back of such a question as that just ‘put by the honorable member.
– Do I understand from the reply that the honorable member suggests an increase in salaries to meet the contribution: to a pension fund ?
– My reply is that the Permanent Forces should be paid sufficient to provide for a reasonable wage or salary for the work they do, plus their retiring allowance. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has eloquently pointed out this afternoon, the case of the military or naval officer is not on all-fours with that of the ordinary employ^ outside. He has to devote himself to a particular class of work, and the more he specializes the more he becomes unfitted, in some respects, to betake himself to other duties.
– The honorable member wants to treat him as other men are treated ?
– I wish him to be sure that when he has given his best services to the defence of his country he will not be turned out to the cold mercies of a cold world. I want him to have something substantial on leaving the Service. When I put that view of the case to the honorable member another member of his party says “ Why should not every one be treated in the same way? “
– Why not?
–And I say “Why not?” I have already stated that I am in favour of every one receiving a reasonable retiring allowance after it has been provided for, and my desire is that a scheme shall be evolved to enable that to be done. But the moment the honorable member for Melbourne began to frame a scheme of that sort he would find the nimble little gentleman beside him denouncing him as being opposed to the present old-age pension scheme.
– The honorable member, perhaps, would not denounce a member of his own party for doing something to which he would take exception if it were done by an honorable member on this side of the House. Honorable members opposite cannot attach much importance to this question, or they would not allow the Government to refrain from saying one word, good, bad, or indifferent, in regard to it. Had I not risen to speak the consideration of this motion would have been adjourned in the usual way ; the people would have thrown up their hats for the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and there the matter would have ended.
– And now, according to the honorable member, the people will throw up their hats for him.
– No: I try to do my duty, and if the people choose to throw up their hats for the honorable member they are at liberty to do so. Whenever this proposal has been brought before the House during the last two years I have endeavoured to obtain from the Government a definite statement as to their intention.
– Why did not the honorable member make a definite statement of his intentions regarding this matter when he was in office?
– No doubt honorable members opposite have learned their little lesson very well in caucus. Every one of them, as soon as he enters the Chamber, asks, “ What did the honorable member do when he was in office? “ lt is really time that they stopped trifling with the matter in this way. What we did is immaterial to the issue. We did not have an opportunity to carry out the Kitchener scheme. We secured it for this Government, and they ar& not carrying it through in this particular, as well as in other particulars, which could be mentioned if they were relevant to the motion before the Chair. The obligation is upon the Government to do something in regard to this proposal, rather than to talk about it, as they have done during the last two years. It is true, as has been stated, that there is a disinclination to turn men out of the Service to beggary. Only last year, specially created billets were found for three retired officers; and, in my opinion, the position is degrading To those men. There are other officers, however, of equal status and ability, and longer service, for whom no positions have bien found ; and I should like to know why there should be this discrimination. Of the three officers, one was from “Victoria, one from South Australia, and one from Queensland ; and the positions they were given enable them to earn about ^£300 a year ; but, as I say, there are others with equal claims who have not been treated even in this belated way. Such favoritism ought not to be attributable to a Government who profess to deal out even-handed justice; but they are trying to escape from their obligation to bring down a pensions scheme. I do not blame the Government for looking after the three officers, for such a step was only humane.
– What were the positions created for them?
– I do not remember the technical designations, but one of them is Inspector of Ordnance.
– Who are the men?
– Colonel Stanley, Colonel Lee, and Colonel Lyster. In my opinion, it is not proper that these men, who have been years in command, should be taken from their high positions, and placed in subordinate posts in their own Department. Had I to provide a haven of useful occupation for the declining years of these gentlemen, I should try to secure positions for them in some other Department, and not make them submit to the present rather degrading arrangement. I know that these officers do not like the position in which they are placed; and none of us would.
– Does the honorable member not think that the Government are to be commended for giving the officers these positions ?
– I said it was only humane to find them positions; my complaint is that the same has not been done in other cases. There is an officer in New South Wales who retired about the same time with longer service, and not a farthing, nor a position, has been found for him.
– Will the honorable member mention his name?
– I shall tell the honorable member privately ; he knows the officer very well. Something must be done to get rid of those anomalies, even as a matter of practical administration. We never can have an efficient force, either military or naval, until a system of retiring allowances is provided; and I think the firmer basis would be that of a superannuation allowance. This was a point on which
Lord Kitchener laid special emphasis. I often discussed the matter with him when he was here; and his idea was that there should be a system of compulsory deductions, or, in other words, a system of insurance or superannuation.
– On increased rates of pay?
– I should adjust pay in order to enable the men to make this provision, and let the scheme- work itself out in the future.
– The honorable member means a readjustment of pay in all ranks to meet the extra expenditure?
– It all depends. Having no particulars before me, I can only lay down the principle. The pay to officers and men of all ranks should be such as to adequately remunerate them for their services, and give them something to retire, on. The details must be left to those who work out the scheme; but the principle is a sound one, and the more it is extended, as a matter of Government policy and administration, the better it will be for all concerned. In a matter which is supreme and vital to the nation’s safety, it is above all, necessary that some such scheme as that suggested should be carried out at the earliest possible moment; and the proper time would appear to me to be when the new defence policy, both naval and military, is being put into operation. When I am taunted, as I have been a dozen times by honorable members opposite, about what I did do or did not do as Minister of Defence, I reply that it was my intention, had I been permitted to- carry out the scheme, which, with the aid of my Government, I succeeded in getting formulated, to adopt the recommendations of Lord Kitchener in their entirety, so far as concerns the allowances to men of all ranks. Even now, the men are not being paid according to Lord Kitchener’s recommendations. I believe that the rankers are not being so paid ; and there is no more pressing subject of inquiry than the pay of our Army and Navy, as compared with the pay of the forces in other parts of the Empire. I believe that many of the men in the Service are now underpaid ; and I may say that, as Minister, I tried to adjust some of the cases which came under my notice. I increased the pay of a number of men, and, in the case of others, I re- arranged the classification, with the result of providing increased pay. That, however, was only desultory or tentative action; something more scientific and thorough is needed, and it should surely have been done at this time of day, after two more years of this so-called up-to-date Administration. As a matter of fact, however, the treatment of this question is becoming more casual in the House. Honorable members opposite now take very little interest in the matter; and this motion would have gone through, to-day without one word from the Minister, had I not risen. I do not know whether the Minister will say anything here, or what he will say in caucus ; but the least he can do is to favour honorable members on this side with some statement as to the mind of the Government on this important question.
.- I am absolutely against any system of pensions other than the old-age pension, the invalid pension, and, possibly, a child pension in the future. The State of Victoria affords one of the most infamous pages in the history of pensions that the world can show. Some years ago I had a return prepared, which can now be consulted in the Library, showing that this little State of Victoria paid more in Public Service pensions than all the rest of Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand. New South Wales, with 300,000 more in population at that time, paid infinitely less to its retired public servants. Nothing should be decided as to military and naval pensions until the question has been submitted to the people by way of referendum. I am far from feeling any enmity to the soldier; but if I am asked which troops I most admire, I point to those of the Emperor Hadrian, who not only led the disciplined legions of Rome, but taught them trades, and caused them, in their spare time, to cover the earth with palaces, and with temples to every religion, the remains of some of which are to-day the admiratiion of the artist. If this motion is persisted in I shall certainly submit an amendment that any scheme of pensions shall not come into force until it has been made the subject of a referendum. In Australia we have the most munificent of all pension systems for the old people, and if it is desired to increase those pensions, by all means let us do so; but our soldiers are paid more per unit than are the soldiers of any nation in the world. Adams, in his book on Switzerland, in dealing with the cost per unit of the European soldiers, shows that England heads the list with £64, while in Switzerland the cost is only £7. At the same time, that great authority states that England, with all her vast expenditure, could riot do what the small federated States of Switzerland, with their three different languages, can do - namely, mobilize 250,000 men within seven days. England might be able to effect such a mobilization now, but she could not do so when that statement was made by a man who had been a soldier, and knew what he was writing about. Then, again, our officers are highly paid. The CommanderinChief of the Swiss army, in time of actual warfare, when lie commands 250,000 men, receives only £2 a day; and yet one officer who was sent from England to command the Forces of Victoria alone, received .£1,500 per annum.
– Our Chief of Staff receives .£1,250 per annum.
– The great Von Moltke, when in command of over 500,000 German soldiers, received only £1,500 per annum, though, of course, we know that attached to the salary there was a. retiring allowance. The honorable member who introduced the motion must have sympathy with the soldier, because, if I am not mistaken, he, in his early years in England, heard the tap of the drum; but we must not forget that such a. scheme will add considerably to our defence expenditure. Would any honorable member care to go outside and advocate a pension or a retiring allowance for any special section of the community? It may be said that soldiers follow a very unhealthy and dangerous occupation ; but the history of the world shows that the occupations of those in the great army of labour are 50 per cent, more dangerous. For instance, a shunter on the railways follows one of the most dangerous of employments. Let honorable members read Oliver’s Diseases of Occupation, and compare the death rates given there with those of a soldier’s calling. A soldier’s life, after all, is a healthy one, because on his health depends the efficiency of the regiment or the army to do the necessary work. Is it not possible for members of the Permanent Forces, who put in so many hours of training, to learn a trade or calling? It would not take them as many hours as the Emperor Hadrian made his soldiers put in. I shall vote against any pension for a class or a party. I hope that some day we may raise the old-age pensions ; but I cherish still more the hope that the childlife which cannot help itself will have a pension. Let honorable members consider the terrible death-rate among children. In one district alone outside of Manchester, of every 1,000 children born, 700 odd died in their first year. What is the death-rate of the most deadly battle ever fought compared with that? I will assist the mover to have this motion put to the people of Australia, and if the people say that there shall be a special pension for the Defence Forces, they have the right to decide, because they have to find the money ; but I shall do my best to persuade them against it. When the man who earns his living by his sinews and muscles passes the age of fifty, there comes the dangertime for him. Many a man has burst a blood-vessel in the brain through trying to do work that he was not fitted to do. That is my answer to those who say that when a soldier is retired from the Forces he is not able to do anything else. Many men over fifty should not be permitted to do the bard work they have to do; and we have recognised that principle indirectly by providing for the payment of invalid pensions. It is to the honour of this Government that legislation making invalid pensions possible was passed. Mr. John Burns, who is now a member of the British Cabinet, showed in one of his lectures the dangers of toil, and facts in that regard can be found in any book of statistics in our Library. If honorable members consult them, or write to the splendid man who controls our Statistical Branch, they will find that many callings are deadly in comparison with the occupation of a soldier. I have no objection to soldiers, and, personally, I have found them fine fellows; but, after all, who are the real heroes of life? A French writer who visited England noticed that in Trafalgar Square there stood a pillar erected to the memory of a man-killer; and that in Westminster Abbey monument after monument perpetuated the memory of men who destroyed life, although possibly they did it for the best of reasons - in the defence of their country - but where ir* London are the monuments to Shakespeare, or Milton, or Chaucer? There is only one twopennyhalfpenny little fountain in Park Lane. So far the soldiers and sailors have had all the honour, but when the victories of England have been forgotten in the abyss of time, the names of other leaders of men will still live. Personally, I should like to see the names of the great inventors re- membered. I speak as one who hates war as I hate hell, because behind every soldier I see the woman and the child. I give the greatest honour to those who defend our county, like the Citizen Forces who defend the Swiss Confederation, but a soldier goes into battle with the blare of trumpet and the beat of drum; he loses his life, but what is it? Is what he does comparable with the daily heroism of the mother of a large family, who has only a small income, who feeds and clothes her children, and never loses one life that has been born to her ? She has to meet daily the claims of the landlord, and the tradesmen’s bills, and see that the little feet are all shod, and the little limbs warmly clothed, and she is ten thousand times more a hero than the man who risks his life in the glamour of war. I say, therefore, “ Give pensions to mothers of large families, who cannot provide beds for each of their children, and give a special pension to the man who forces himself to go to work when he is not fit, and who cannot provide sufficient to keep his large family.” I tell honorable members that children are littered to-day like pigs in stables in some places in our cities. I know honorable members opposite would change that condition of affairs as quickly as I would, but I want them to look further than the men who come immediately under their control. If the soldier has to leave the service at the age of retirement, I do not believe that he cannot turn his hand to other work. I have not such a pitiful opinion of the Australian soldier. Those who believe that of him must base their views on the conditions of older lands, where the worker has not had the same opportunities of learning and improving himself as he has in our splendid country. I move as an amendment -
That the following words be added : “ and shall not come into force until the people who pay shall vote ‘ yea ‘ by means of the er.endum
– I have not had the advantage of hearing the discussion that has taken place on the motion, and ami therefore unable to enter into the controversial part of the debate. Perhaps that is an advantage. I did not hear the speech of the mover of the motion, but I commend him for making it purely abstract, leaving the question of the amount and the conditions to be debated in the House. I have always favoured the idea of giving a pension to our soldiers and sailors, not on any grounds of sentiment, but because the soldier and the sailor enter a service which may at any time involve great risks to life, or bodily injury, although that might not occur to them for years, and also because it is a recognised principle that die payment of the soldier and sailor can never be equal to that of an ordinary worker in the usual occupations of life. The strongest fact that can be cited with regard to the motion is the following paragraph in Lord Kitchener’s report upon our Military Forces -
If men of the right stamp are to be attracted to the corps, the pay of each rank must be good ; and in this connexion it must be remembered that the circumstances of an officer’s services prevent, and rightly so, his participation in commercial ventures. For the Staff Corps to be successful, its officers, must concentrate a.11 their energies on their profession, and their pay should, therefore, be sufficient, not only for their keep while serving, but also to insure to them a competence when retired.
In view- of these conditions, I recommend rates of pay shown in Table IV., with the proviso that in each rank a compulsory deduction should be made sufficient to assure an adequate provision for maintenance on retirement.
I know from my experience of the debates in this House, and in the New South Wales Parliament, that there is, and always has been on the -part of the Labour party, a strong prejudice .against anything in the shape of pensions ; but I think that if that were analyzed carefully it .would be found that there was a sort of general belief that the pension was something in addition to the pay. Honorable members will notice that Lord Kitchener points out that the soldier, whether an officer or a man - and the same thing applies to the sailor - as precluded from taking part in any other occupation. I am referring only to those who give their services to the country for purely military and naval purposes, so that they cannot, as an area officer can sometimes do, proceed’ with their ordinary occupations and treat their military service as an addition. I am assuming that the pensions which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports proposes are intended for the regular permanent soldiers and sailors. If, as Lord Kitchener points out, the precaution were taken, after fixing on a reasonable remuneration for their services, of making a compulsory deduction, enabling the Government to invest that money in an insurance fund in order to give the members of the Forces a pension, they would practically be paying the pensions themselves. It would be merely putting into practice that system of compulsory insurance which, I believe, the Labour party favour, following the lines of the law which has been placed on the statute-book of the Mother Country by Mr. Lloyd-George.
– Is not that grandmotherly legislation ?
– I do not think that that which I am advocating is so.
– I thought you were an individualist.
– I shall be happy to discuss other questions with the honorable member in the Library at any time. The members of the Labour party may not like to be reminded of an inconsistency in their policy, but it is fair to state that, whereas they are in favour of an insurance system, guaranteeing each man against poverty, want, and various other vicissitudes of life, they are here opposing, and always have opposed, a system of pensions, which is practically identical with a system of insurance, as recommended by the great officer whose advice we are endeavouring to carry out to the letter in other respects. I could quite understand the Labour party laying down the rule that they were against pensions, if the pensions were to be in addition to the pay; but, as proposed by Lord Kitchener, the pay is to be “ good,” and the pensions are to be the result of a compulsory deduction from that regular “good” pay. Surely it is a fair thing that the Government should adopt that advice. Lord Kitchener was invited to make a complete set of proposals for the constitution of an army, and we cannot do better than adopt the scheme he gave us. The honorable member for Melbourne claimed that many other classes of this community are as much entitled to pensions as are soldiers. I agree with him-. Here, as in other countries, there are cases of women, who have .brought up their families respectably against the most adverse circumstances - against terrible “odds”; no one knows what their sufferings have been. Such women are often morally better entitled to the Victoria Cross than are soldiers who have accidentally fallen into circumstances, as some of them have admitted, in which their human nature drove them to the performance of deeds which were afterwards recognised as “ acts of bravery.” However, we are not now on that subject. The honorable member referred to the Red Sea, to the Emperor’ Hadrian, and to the payment of soldiers hundreds of years ago.
– I spoke of the present rates of pay, and quoted Adams’ book on Switzerland, which is recent literature.
– There is great danger in going away from the circumstances of your own country in regard to a proposal affecting it. The conditions of life, money values, and services of other places may differ so greatly from ours as to have no value by way of comparison. The honorable member was wrong in speaking of soldiers and sailors as well paid, it being notorious that their pay is considerably less than that of other persons in their walk of life.
– Who said that they were well paid?
– I understood the honorable member to say so. I am basing my remark on a note which I took when he was speaking.
– The honorable member is wrong again.
– I certainly heard the statement made. I contend, however, that soldiers and sailors are not so well paid as those who follow the trades which they would probably follow were they not in the Defence Forces. It may be objected that they do not work hard, but, on the other hand, it must be remembered that they give the whole of their time to the service of the Government, and engage not to enter upon any other occupation ; that is,, of course, the permanent men. I am not dealing with the area officers, who are in the nature of militia men. Lord Kitchener advised us to give “ good “ pay in order to get good men. A few months ago it was very difficult to obtain men for these services, because wages were so much higher outside. How can we get men if we do not make the services attractive ?
– Do without them.
– That is a paltry observation. The honorable member may be so philosophical that he would dispense with war, but fortunately the people of the country, who read the signs of the times, recognise that in order to be » safe they must, however peaceably disposed, be prepared for war. I do not think the honorable member would be wise if he tried to put his views into practice, seeing that all the world is of an opposite opinion. The onus is thrown on us, if we ignore Lord Kitchener’s sound advice, of giving good reasons for doing so. He counselled the giving of “ good” pay, and the making of a deduction for a fund to provide against retirement. I do not see that we can take part of his advice and reject another part. Of course, if the Government are luke- warm, evasion can be understood ; but if we intend to seriously provide for the defence of Australia, and of the Empire, we must make these services attractive. At the present time they are not attractive. Most of us recognise that to be healthy and to enjoy long life we must be continually active, mentally and bodily. Action, enterprise, and energy are the sources of vitality. An occupation which, in times of peace, at least, is not strenuous, lacks attraction for many men, and we must make it attractive to secure the men we need. The honorable member for Melbourne, with his usual philanthropic feeling, drifted into a discussion of the dangers that beset child-life. I sympathize with many of his views, though I do not regard them as apropos of the subjects to which he applies them. He spoke of the large number of children who die at early ages, but I would remind him that those who die cannot needpensions, while the survivors come to be able to look after themselves. I hope that we shall not blow hot and cold in this matter. To obtain a strong service we should adopt, not only Lord Kitchener’s methods of administration and training, but also his advice in regard to pay and pensions, making the pay “good” and deducting from it sums which will create a fund to provide for their retirement.
.- While I have the best feeling for those in our defence services, I would point out that no party has a right to pledge the country to a pension system without consulting the people, and this question was not raised at the elections. I shall, therefore, support the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne. Since this Government took office, the pay of the rank and file has been increased by1s. a day, namely, from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. These men are fed, clothed, and sheltered, it being estimated that they receive the equivalent of 8s. a day. Outside the service there are many working men who, after paying the expense of maintaining their families, have nothing like 24s. 6d. a week clear, and Parliament must consider them. We have been told that the men of the Defence Forces follow a risky occupation, and there is some risk in handling ammunition; but when the sewerage of Sydney was under construction, strong, able-bodied men died rapidly because of the dangerous nature of the work on which they were employed. They contracted what was known as sewer consumption, and died when quite young. They were really greater heroes than soldiers are, because they were fighting against disease, and engaged on work which has made the city healthier. But there was no outcry for a pension for them, or for their wives and children, although hundreds of families lost their breadwinners. The coal miners, too, take their lives in their hands every day, to supply the coal which keeps our industrial machinery in operation. Their work is not clean, easy, safe, or regular, but they do not receive pensions. Soldiers have a clean job, are not hard worked, and in some cases lead a gentleman’s life. If this pension scheme is to be inaugurated there must be some discrimination. I availed myself of an opportunity to look at a return placed upon the table of the House on the motion of the honorable member for North Sydney, and was astounded at the number of large salaries which it showed were being paid to military officers in this country. At the Military College at Duntroon, where we have eighty-four cadets, there are no less than twelve men receiving salaries ranging from £900 to £350 per annum. One receives a salary of £450 per annum as a professor of physical culture, and three or four others receive £350 a year for giving instruction in physical culture in different parts of the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, every school teacher in our public schools is compelled to give such instruction in the ordinary course of his every-day work. I am sure that the people will be surprised to learn the great expense which our military system involves, and that they will not tolerate an all-round pensions scheme.
– Even if certain salaries are excessive, that fact has nothing to do with the claim of others for consideration.
– I recognise that.
– And the cadets at the Military College are to increase enormously in numbers.
– We must recollect that the cost of our military system has been enormously increased. At the present time our cost of defence is about 23s. per head of the population. In this respect we are third on the list of the nations of the world. Our naval and military expenditure per head of the population exceeds that of Germany and England, and it is still growing; so that we have a right to be very careful in dealing with this matter.
– But not at the expense of men who are already in the service.
– I do. not think that the honorable member was present when I mentioned that since the present Government came into office the rank and file have received an increase of is. per day, so that their pay is now equivalent, having regard to the standard of living, to about 8s. per day. They receive 24s. 6d. per week, in addition to food, shelter, and clothing. I do not say that that is too high a rate of pay, or that it is enough. My contention is that we should pay the members of our Defence Forces a sufficient salary, and allow them to provide for their own pensions, the same as all other workers have to do. We have already declared, and properly so, I think, that pensions shall not be payable to our Judges, and we have no system of pensions for the Public Service. It seems to me that the adoption of this proposal would be the thin edge of the wedge to the introduction of a system of Public Service pensions, which, I believe, the people would not tolerate. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne is a democratic one. He says, in effect, “ Let the people decide this matter.” Let us submit the question to a referendum, and let the people determine whether or not there shall be a pensions system in connexion with our permanent Defence Forces. The policy of the British Empire to-day is that of short service, and I believe that that is the best system. Why should a man be called upon to make sacrifices by spending most of his life either on board ship or in barracks, where he can have none of the comforts of domestic or home life ? As a Parliament, we ought not to encourage that sort of life. A man who is compelled to spend years in barracks, or on board ship, is not in a position to perform the proper functions of citizenship. Men should not be required to undergo long periods of service. We should adopt the system of short service, and allow our men, at the expiration of that service, to go out into the world and assist in increasing the industrial wealth of. the country.
– We cannot do that.
– We are doing to-day many things that we were told, a few years ago, we could not do. I should like to remind the House that we have inaugurated a system of compulsory training, which, if it means anything at all, is going to displace the present system.
– We shall never be able to displace certain men in the Permanent Forces.
– I know that we shall never be able to displace all the good things, in the way of military matters, in the honorable member’s electorate; but the compulsory service system is designed to secure the training of our lads over a certain number of years, and with such a system it ought not to be necessary to have a permanent force and to provide pensions for that force. I hope that every man in the community will be trained and drilled, so that we shall never have a standing army. We ought all to be trained to defend our country, and then we shall never be afraid of any military caste or power controlling us on any particular occasion. I should hesitate to vote to bring about a system of pensions for the Defence Forces, because I believe the people have not been consulted. We shall do right in referring the matter to the people, and if they decide that such a system ought to be inaugurated, then, undoubtedly, we must give effect to their will.
.- The reasons that have been put forward by honorable members opposite against the humanitarian scheme which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports desires this House to recognise have occasioned me considerable surprise. We have had the honorable member for Melbourne, in the first place, holding out as a fit example for this country to follow the slave-driving methods of a Roman Emperor, concerning whom history has told us sufficient, I think, to make us desire not to pursue the lines followed by him in getting his work carried out. The honorable member has also given us the example of certain European countries, which pay: their officers a miserable pittance, and the rank and file of their defence forces practically nothing whatever. He told us that these were the examples which we ought to follow in endeavouring to build up our Permanent Forces, and to secure the fullest measure of efficiency. It is certainly not possible to secure the necessary efficiency in certain branches of the Service by the methods which the honorable member for South Sydney has just suggested. The honorable member has stated that one reason why he is opposed to the payment of pensions to ‘the members of our permanent
Defence Forces is that he believes in a system of short service, and thinks that we should never have a standing army. Surely the honorable member knows that the short service conditions of which he spoke do not apply in the Old Country to the particular branches of the service in which we have permanent men.
– They are trying to instal it.
– It cannot be installed in certain branches of the service. It takes many years to train men in certain branches in which only highly- trained men are of any use. This scheme is designed to benefit, not only the rank and file, but officers whom it is absolutely necessary that we should have - highly -trained men on whose education we are now spending large sums of money in order to give them that grounding in military science which is absolutely necessary if we are to have any efficiency in our Forces. The honorable member for South Sydney also declared that this question had never been before the country. I submit that it has been. Honorable members of the Opposition, and also, I believe, honorable members ‘opposite, went to the country pledged to carry out Lord Kitchener’s schema-
– I think honorable members opposite did. I have Heard it stated a good many times that they were pledged to it, and I maintain that a system of pensions for our Permanent Forces is an integral part of Lord Kitchener’s scheme, lt is one of the matters on which that great soldier expressed a very decided opinion. He declared that it was absolutely necessary that we should have some definite scheme of retiring allowances for our Permanent Forces if we were to secure the right class of men. Honorable members opposite have sought to draw comparisons between the members of our Permanent Force and people who are working outside ; but I hold that no such comparison can be made. I fully admit that there . are many walks of life in which men are exposed to great dangers, and that it is possible that greater sacrifices for the country are often made by persons outside than are made by men in the Military Forces. That, however, has nothing to do with this case. Each case must be considered on its own peculiar merits. The members of our Permanent Forces, whether they are called1 upon to do active service or not, are always liable to active service, and to all the risksthat it entails. We ask a certain number of men in this country to give up the best years of their life to the service of Australia, and they are deserving of the fullest measure of consideration. We insist that they shall retire from active service when they reach a certain age, and when that time comes, Australia should be in a position to say to them, “ You do not leave the service penniless.” The position I take up is that we desire to obtain thoroughly efficient men, and that we must therefore hold out a sufficient attraction. I do not believe in a system of pensions in the sense suggested by some honorable members this afternoon. I do not believe in the old style of pensions such as have prevailed in Victoria, but I do believe that it is essential to have in connexion with our Permanent Forces - and I would extend it to every branch of the Public Service - a properly drawn up system of contributory pensions; so that, on retiring from the service, men would have something to fall back upon in their declining years. There are several reasons why this should be done; and, first, I desire to emphasize the position that our soldiers may be placed in at any time, particularly if they are married men. They may be called on for active service, and, in consequence of wounds, lose their lives, and leave their wives and children utterly unprovided for. I have in my mind the case of an officer who was left for dead on the field in South Africa, with something like eight or nine bullets in him. Although one of these wounds was in the lungs, he recovered sufficiently to return to Australia, grow quite strong, and able to continue to perform active duties as a member of the Permanent Forces, and marry. When he had been married eight or nine months, a cold which he received through getting wet in camp, settled on his lungs ; and, though he is not, perhaps, in a dying condition, it is very doubtful whether he will live for any length of time; at any rate, his wife is left without a single cent, so far as he is concerned. This is only one case of which I happen to know. We call on these men for a special kind of service, which, at times, exposes them to special danger: and it is the duty of this Parliament to make special provision for them. Whatever we may do should not be in the way of a dole by the State. Parliament has the right and the duty to make provision for its servants in their old age, or, in the case of death through accident, for those, whom they may leave behind. This is what is done iri many commercial institutions.
– Even by the Sugar Company !
– Even by the muckabused Sugar Company, and also by banking companies, of whom honorable members opposite can scarcely say sufficientlyhard things.
– Those institutions terrorize their men in this connexion.
– I have had more ex- ‘ periencethan has the honorable member,, and I have never, in all my time, heard of a single case of the kind. But even if there were such a case, that does not affect’ the fact that provision is made in this way’ by firms to provide for the old age of their employes; and the Government might wel> have a scheme prepared by the GovernmentStatistician, or any competent actuary, notonly for the Defence Forces, but for themembers of the Civil Branch of the Public Service. As I say, any assistance of thiskind should not be in the form of a dole, but rather something in the nature of a con-‘ tributary pension, and the salaries paid’ should be sufficient to enable proper contributions to be made. So far as I can see,,’ only about z per cent, of the salaries ‘ would be required to enable members of our Defence Forces, when compulsorily retired^ to live at all events in comfort. There is a great difference between the position of ‘ members of the Defence Forces, and the! position of people outside those Forces. lathe ordinary walks of life, a man may en-> gage in many occupations, and invest money in ways from which military men are debarred under the regulations. A man at fifty or fifty-five years of age may be hale and hearty, and, indeed, may be in the very prime of life ; and yet, as in the case of the three officers referred to by the honorablemember for Parramatta, he must retire from the service. Two of these officers I know: very well ; and I am sure they are strong,and would be well able, in an ordinary vocation, to continue to earn their own living. Instead of creating special billets toenable them to keep the wolf from the door, they should have been able to retire and live in comfort for the rest of their daysunder some contributory pension scheme.
.- The debate, so far as I can gather, discloses a con-; sensusof opinion, not in favour of a scheme1 for any particular class of men, but infavour of a scheme to cover all kinds of’ risky occupations. That being so, I caro put in a strong claim for the miners of Broken Hill, who suffer greatly from the pernicious effects of lead poisoning. Of course, it may be said that these men undertake this work voluntarily but, at the same time, they are doing an important part of the work of production in this country. The same may be said of coal miners, who, on occasion, are exposed to dreadful disaster while doing good service to the community. A vast number of gold miners are incapacitated by miners’ complaint ; and it is difficult to see why they ought not to be taken into consideration in any pension scheme. In fact, the whole discussion opens up something like a Lloyd-George insurance scheme.
– Does LloydGeorge’s scheme apply to the Military and Navy ?
– I do not know.
– It does not.
– Any scheme inaugurated ought not to apply to only one particular class of risky occupations. A walk through the Broken Hill Cemetery would show at what a very early age many miners died some years ago. I admit that greater sanitary precautions are now taken, and that improvements have been made in the working of the mines ; but there were personal friends of my own, all fine types of men, who, after a short time in the mines, became physical wrecks. Many of them died, some of them, incapacitated for any exertion, lingering long before their release. Then, again, we have the smelters at Port Pirie, as fine a set of men as could be found anywhere; they, in a few years, become paralyzed and absolute wrecks as a result of lead poisoning. My sympathy goes out towards men such as I have mentioned ; and we must remember that a man, in whatever industry he may engage, is doing something for the good of the country. I am not prepared to vote for the motion on the present evidence ; but I trust that the Government will inaugurate some scheme covering all dangerous occupations.
.- The arguments against the motion appear to be entirely of a negative nature. It is said that there are numbers of men who follow dangerous occupations, and to whom no consideration is given in their later years, and that, therefore, no consideration should be given to the members of our Defence Forces. That argument does not appeal to me. Outside employe’s should, of course, receive proper consideration, and that can be obtained by means of some scheme of national insurance to which they could contribute out of wages decreed by- the industrial Courts. Members of the Defence Forces, however, are on different ground; they are the Government’s own employes, and to pay them a higher wage to enable them to contribute to an annuity appears to me to be a round-about method. They are the particular servants of the Government, and they ought to be paid a wage to enable them to live decently and comfortably, and then given a pension as part of the contract. These men are our first line of defence, and they practically devote their lives to the country ; and, under the circumstances, they deserve special consideration, or, at any rate, as much consideration as is claimed for those who follow other dangerous occupations. There is something of the heroic about the members of our Military and Naval Forces, and that fact probably tends to mould public opinion, though I am not particularly affected by that aspect of the question. Regarding the motion as a practical business proposal, I think the Government have an obligation cast upon them to secure a competence in their old age to the men who give the best of their lives to the service and defence of the country. When they are retired they are practically disqualified for other forms of occupation. They know practically nothing of the world, for it has taken almost a lifetime for them to become effective soldiers. These special facts demand special attention, and I intend to vote for the motion.
– However much some of us may be inclined to support a national system of insurance, on which our old-age pensions scheme might be engrafted, and which would make the old-age pension a much larger amount than it is now, and to urge that it should be introduced at the earliest possible opportunity, if we attempt now to merge the motion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports into such a system, it will be tantamount to shelving it altogether. I make that reference without saying a word to interfere with the old-age pension system as it exists now. I know that, whenever one mentions any way of improving the old-age pension system, he always run the risk of being charged with a desire to abolish it. I do not think there is a man in the Federal Parliament who has the slightest idea of interfering with the old-age pension system as it exists to-day, or of depriving a single person of the10s. a week which we now give him. I agree with the honorable member for Macquarie that the members of the Defence Forces ought to be, and must be, treated as a special body, apart altogether from the general mass of workers. I hope to see introduced a system of compulsory national insurance, not only for old-age, but for unemployment also, and covering every person in the community, but the proposal ot the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is for something entirely different. It applies to a body of men who are prohibited by their very occupation from taking part in any other work which would give them a sufficient remuneration to make proper provision for their old-age. If we areto make our Defence Forces a reality, we can only do it by telling our young men that, if they enter the Army or Navy, and give the best years of their lives to their country’s service, hold themselves in readiness to be called out when necessary, and always to form the first line of our defence, the Government and the people of Australia will not allow them to be turned out to starve like worn-out bullocks, or to go to the workhouse, or receive an old-age pension. I have always advocated the establishment of a general system of compulsory national insurance for the whole of the people of Australia, hut it is our duty now to make special provision for our Defence Forces. We ought to have done it when we introduced our first Defence Bill. I was one of those who said then that a pension system should be inaugurated with it. I agree with the honorable member for Macquarie that to increase the pay and stop the increase to form a pensions fund is only a round-about way of doing the thing. It is simply hypocrisy to say “ We are not prepared to introduce a system of pensions, but we will grant you a pension by giving you an increased wage, taking the increase from you, and returning it to you afterwards.” This is a matter in which the Government ought to take the lead. It is impossible for any private member to bring in a scheme and carry it into operation. The Government, who are responsible for the finances of the country and for the management of the Defence Forces, have it as their duty, and it should be their privilege, as it certainly is their responsibility, to take the lead. I shall vote for the motion, because I believe the Government should take the question into consideration at the earliest opportunity. Those who enter our Army and Navy should know that, after giving the best years of their lives to the service, they will not be left to the mercy of a cold world in their old age. With the Navy this is especially necessary, because we note, with regret, a considerable hesitancy on the part of the young men of Australia to enter it. A large proportion of the men on our warships are not Australian born, and there is not a great desire among Australians generally to take to a seafaring life. It will be found that a considerable proportion of those who work around our coasts are British born, and that a large percentage of the remainder are foreigners. We shall never have a real Australian Navy until it is manned by Australians, and if it is to be manned by Australians they must be given some encouragement, such as is proposed in the motion. That there is a difficulty in manning the few ships we now have with our own people is not a very hopeful sign, but when we remember that there is a much easier and more remunerative life ashore, it is scarcely to be wondered at that the young men of Australia do not rush for berths in our Navy. In addition to that, they know that no. provision is made for our sailors in their old age, and that the rates of pay are not sufficient to enable them to make proper provision for themselves. I ask those honorable members who favour pensions for the Defence Forces not to cloud the project with a general system, of national insurance, because, by so doing, they will only be shelving the matter once more. This is a line of life that is totally apart from that of the ordinary worker, and, therefore, should receive special consideration from Parliament. I hope the Government will accept the motion, and at the earliest opportunity submit to the House a proposal on the lines laid down by the mover.
Motion (by Mr. Roberts) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– I should like to know what the meaning of this is. Is not the Minister going to make any statement at all?
– There can be no debate on the motion for the adjournment of the debate.
Question put. TheHouse divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- As I have been advised that the provisions of the Constitution would render inoperative the proposal embodied in the notice of motion which I have given, even if it were agreed to, I shall not waste time by discussing it, and desire to withdraw it from the business-paper.
. -i move -
That a Royal Commission be appointed forthwith to inquire into the operations of the Tobacco Trust in the Commonwealth.
I have always understood that it is the desire of honorable members opposite to “ down “ the trusts, and to endeavour in every way to prevent the exploitation of the Australian people by combinations in restraint of trade, and monopolies. They profess to be ready to prosecute with the full rigour of the law all combines; trusts, and monopolies. There is no combination so well organized as the Tobacco Trusf, and none lays a greater tribute on the community. I propose to put before the House only a few facts to show that no time should be lost in authorizing an investigation of the most searching character into the methods of this Trust, and if honorable members opposite are in earnest, they will support my proposal. If there is any subject in regard to which an investigation should be made by a Commission, armed with the powers which the Attorney-Generallast night asked us to vest in all Royal Commissions, it is that to which I now call attention. Those who control the operations of the Tobacco Trust in Australia put into the business a few years ago a capital of between£30,000 and £40,000, and to-day their profits exceed£600,000 a year. Furthermore, the companies which compose the Trust are constantly watering their stock to make their profits appear smaller.
– Where are the sharesheld ?
– That I propose to show presently. I ask honorable members to agree to a searching inquiry into the methods of the Trust. Is it possible for any corporation which trades on right lines to make a profit of £600,000 a year on a capital of between £30,000 and £40,000? No other trading concern in Australia makes such a profit, and I doubt if in any other part of the world have such results been obtained. I admit the good business methods of the Trust, but those who control it have used power obtained in other parts of the world to crush all competition. The shares in this concern are almost all held out of Australia, most of them being held in Germany and in London.
– And in America.
– Some in America.
– Are none held in Australia?
– A few, but nearly all are held out of Australia. This state of affairs calls for instant investigation, and I cannot understand why the honorable member for Gwydir, who last session had a similar motion on the notice-paper, withdrew it. He must have had this information to induce him to give notice of his motion, and that being so, I cannot understand his action.
– I have already explained it.
– The Trust is a foreign corporation, and its methods have been cunningly hidden. If honorable members could get hold of the share lists of the companies which form it, they would find that one company holds shares in another, and the holdings are so intermixed that, while nominally there are several companies in the business, virtually there is only one company. I cannot disclose the sources of my information.
– We know that the Trust is in existence, and that it has been in existence for years.
– Then why will not honorable members support the investigation for which I ask?
– There has already been an investigation by a Commission?
– The records of that Commission’s work do not contain any mention of the facts that I have just put before honorable members.
– The honorable member’s party was represented on the Commission.
– The information which I have just given to the House was not elicited by its investigation. It is necessary that an inquiry should be made, and that a Commission should be appointed without any further delay. As the time allotted to the consideration of private members’ business has almost expired, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
– The honorable member can talk on till half-past six.
– I would point out that if the honorable member continues his speech until half-past six, his motion will lapse, as he will have no time in which to obtain permission to continue his speech on a future date.
– I again ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Tudor) read a first time.
– I desire to inform the House that the tellers for the “Noes” have stated that in the division taken in the House on Tuesday last, on the motion referring back to the Commissioners the report on the electoral divisions of Queensland they accidentally recorded the name of the honorable member for Cowper, instead of that of the honorable member for Mernda. I shall direct thatthe records bc corrected accordingly.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Savings Bank Department - Provisional Regulations - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 140.
Papua - Financial Regulation No. 77 Amended - Statutory Rules 1912, Nos. 60 and 131.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 24th July, vide page 1232) :
Clause 1 (Short Title and Citation).
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45p.m.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 2 of the Principal Act is amended byomitting therefrom the words “ material to the subject-matter of the inquiry,” and inserting in their stead the words” which he is required by the summons to produce.”
.- This clause raises a fairly important matter concerning which I desire to ascertain the view of the Attorney-General. I take it that this amendment of the principal Act is proposed because, in the case that is now pending, one of the pleas entered is said to be that the matter on which the witness has been summoned is not material to the issue. The question is whether, if we make this amendment, a witness will be able to refuse to attend on a summons on the ground that the evidence he is asked to give is not material to the matter being inquired into. I am convinced that under clause 6 of this Bill a witness arrested could not set up, as a defence, that the matter on which he was summoned had no relation to the subjectmatter of the inquiry, or was not material to the issue. It seems to me, however, tobe an extraordinary proposal that a police magistrate shall have power to issue a warrant to arrest a man who has not been tendered his expenses, who may be 200 or 300 miles away from the place of inquiry, and may be unable to give any evidence material to the inquiry. Proposed new section 6 (b) provides that if any person served with a summons to attend a Royal Commission fails to attend, the President or Chairman may issue a summons for his apprehension, and he is also’ to be liable to the penalties for non-attendance upon the summons. The arrest of the witness is not to purge any offence that he has committed. The effect of this provision is that such a man may plead, if he is not arrested, and does not attend, that the matter upon which .4… was summoned was not relevant to the inquiry. Section 5 of the principal Act is retained. That section provides -that if any person is served with a summons to attend before a Commission and fails, without reasonable excuse to -do so, he shall be subject to a penalty which is increased under this Bill to £500. Are we to understand that, although we strike out these words in section 2 of the principal Act “ material to the subject-matter of the inquiry,” a witness may plead that he has a reasonable excuse for non-attendance ? I think he would be able to dc so under section 5, but he ‘would not be able to raise the defence that the matter on which he was asked to give Evidence was not material to the inquiry. He would simply be able to plead inability to attend, because of want of funds, illness, or some like cause. If that is so we are proposing to allow a witness to plead any -of the ordinary excuses for non-attendance before a penalty can be imposed, but not to allow him to plead that the matter on which he is asked to give evidence is not material to the inquiry. A witness, however, may say, under section 6 of the Act, when “‘he is called on to give evidence, that the particular question he is asked to answer does not touch the subject-matter of the inquiry. The position, I think, will be that he may plead a reasonable excuse if he does not attend; that he cannot plead that he did not attend in obedience to the summons because the matter did not touch the subject of the inquiry ; but that if he does attend he may say that a question -asked of him does not touch the subjectmatter of the inquiry. The same witness, however, will not be able to plead any exCuse whatever if a warrant is issued against him, because, under section 6 of the Act, together with proposed new section 6 (b), if he does not attend on the summons of a Royal Commission he may be arrested and kept in prison at the will of the President or Chairman of the Commission.
.- Last evening I said that, in my opinion, the only effect of striking out the words “ material to the subject-matter of the inquiry “ was to throw upon a witness the onus of proving that the books or documents were not material to the subject-matter of the inquiry. The honorable and learned member for Angas has called attention to the wording of section 6 of the Act, under which it appears that any person who declines to answer a question touching the subject-matter of the inquiry shall be liable upon conviction 1o the increased penalty of £500. What I said last night, and what I hold now, is that no Commission is entitled to put a question outside the subject-matter of the inquiry. When we come to clause 4 of the Bill I shall be prepared to move an amendment which will, I think, meet the honorable member’s objection, although I do not think it will make any alteration in the liability of a witness. It will set forth in a kind of declaratory way what the effect of the amendment in the Act will be.
– I ask the Attorney-General to consider the full effect of this clause. The GovernorGeneral has power to appoint a Commission and the Chairman of that Commission- has power, under the present Act, by writing under his hand, to summon any person to produce any books, documents, or writings in his custody or control material to the subject-matter of the inquiry. Under proposed new section 6 (f) a Royal Commission will have power to inspect any documents, books, or writings produced before it, and may retain them for such reasonable period as it thinks fit. It may also make copies of or take extracts from them. To some extent, under the Act as it stands, a Commission may have that power now by implication. When a summons goes out it will, under the Bill, be in a general form asking the witness to produce any books, documents, and so forth, and these may be inspected and extracts taken. At present, a witness is asked to produce only such documents as are material to the subject-matter of the issue. When the witness produces the books and documents under the general summons, they will be in the custody of the Commission, who will have full power over them; and we must remember that the witness will not be represented by a solicitor or counsel to advise him as to his particular rights and duties. T would remind honorable members opposite that, when we give an extreme power like this, it may some time get into the hands of an enemy, and be used against them. Let us suppose for a moment that a Commission were appointed by a Government or party hostile to trade unionism, and that a summons was sent out requiring a union to produce all its books and documents, including minutes and accounts.
– That can be done now.
– But the documents have to be material. A similar position might arise in regard to the private affairs of a merchant or trader; and, seeing that the power of the Commission is being widened, the Attorney-General ought to see whether it would not be possible to limit the disclosure of private affairs, as in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
– The amendment I intend to propose will, I think, meet the honorable member’s objections, excepting that the onus will be on the witness.
– The object, then, is to throw the onus on the private individual who declines to let the Commission see certain books and documents, because he does not think that they are material.
– That point has actually been taken. I think the amendment I have just mentioned will be quite satisfactory.
– If the Attorney-General is quite sincere when he says that this clause will make no change in the working of a Royal Commission, what is the object of amending the phraseology?
– Why do we bring in any Bill?
– To effect some improvement.
– There can be no other justification; and the onus is on the Attorney-General to show that he is not introducing this Bill for nothing.
– I have said all along that the clause throws on the witness the onus that is now on the Crown; but only the same kind of questions can be asked, and only the same kind of documents are askable and producible. When we come to the clause I shall explain the matter.
– We are now on the clause which concerns the materiality qf the documents to be produced. The Attorney-General desires by this clause to considerably enlarge the scope of a Royal Commission; that is to say, he desires to make a man produce books and give information which could not be asked for before. That, surely, is a great difference. For instance, a Royal Commission can, under the clause, ask the witness to produce any private books, although they may have nothing to do with the question.
– What has been said by honorable members opposite really bears all on the one point - what alteration does the striking out of these words make? Under the Act, the President, Chairman, or Commissioners are empowered to summon a person to produce books, documents, and other papers, which must be “ material to the subjectmatter of the inquiry.” The order may be general or specific, and the witness with twenty or thirty books may say, “ I shall not produce these, because they are not material to the inquiry.” In such a case, under the law as it stands, a Royal Commission has no means of knowing whether such books are or are not material. The simple statement by the witness that they are not material ends the matter. Surely no one will contend for a moment that a Royal Commission ought to be placed in such a position. Again, it may be that two of the twenty books called for are material, while the others are not, but until the Commission is able to examine them, how is it to be ascertained whether they are or are not material? A Royal Commission has no power to issue a search warrant and take the books into custody.
– The Commission can lay an information against the witness, and get him fined £500.
– It might.
– Then the witnesses’ word would not be final in the matter.
– The President or Chairman of the Commission would have to make a sworn statement that he believed the books and documents to be material, and it would be very hard to say that twoout of thirty or forty books were material’, when the witness declared that they related to his private affairs, and were not material. At present the witness is the judge of what is material. I propose to make a Royal Commission the judge of what is material. That, surely, is the better and, indeed, only way, for the Royal Commission’s powers are in turn limited by the scope of the inquiry. In order, however, to render the matter perfectly clear, and’ make perfectly plain to every person called on to produce books and documents exactly where he stands when he declines to produce them, I propose to add a new subclause to clause 4, in the following words -
It shall be a defence to a prosecution under this section for failing without reasonable excuse to produce any documents, books, or writings, if the defendant proves that the documents, books, or writing were notrelevant to the inquiry.
If the defendant does not produce the books and documents, the onus is thus on him to prove that they are not relevant.
He ought to be able to prove that, or, if he cannot, he ought to produce the books ; and, if he does not produce them, he ought to suffer the penalty.
– The trouble which I see arises from the distinction between a Court of law and a Royal Commission. The AttorneyGeneral desires that the witness shall prove that what he does not produce is not material to the inquiry, and the onus of proof is thrown on the witness. But the proof can only be ascertained by investigation; and by whom? By every member of the Royal Commission.
– By the Commission - not by everv member.
– By the Commission ; and, therefore, by every member, who may insist on seeing a witness’s private books, or any documents asked for. And this has to take place in an open inquiry.
– If they are relevant he ought to produce them. If not, he will have a good defence under this sub-clause.
– In a Court of law or an Arbitration Court the Judge looks at that kind of thing first. He has the sole determination of whether it is information that should be made public or made available. If he thinks it is not, then it has not to be produced. Here, however, there may be ten men on a Royal Commission and every one of them has the right to investigate the witness’ private affairs.
– The Commission can only speak with one voice. See section 2 of the Act.
– Some discretion should be left to the Chairman.
– There is no discretion left to him here. Every member of the Royal Commission is equal, so far as the right to get information is concerned.
– He can do it only with the permission of the Chairman under the Act. No witness need produce anything unless the Chairman puts the question or asks for the production of the document.
– Otherwise a man must produce anything that any member of a Royal Commission asks him for?
– Certainly, but if he thinks that what the Commission are asking for is not relevant to the inquiry he may decline, and he has a good defence.
– It seems to me that the Attorney-General is asking powers for a Royal Commission which are now confined to a Judge, and the Judge always treats them as confidential.
– This relates to a Commission of inquiry, whose very nature precludes the idea of the information being confidential.
– Therefore, it ought to be an inquiry concerning the matter to be inquired into, and not an inquiry into all the details of a man’s private business and undertakings. The honorable member is giving these huge inquisitorial powers into the keeping of a member of Parliament who may be full of prejudice and preconceived notions, and who may be trying his best to make a case for a particular policy. Such allegations cannot be made against a Judge, but they can be made concerning a Royal Commissioner without the slightest derogation of him as a man. Is it right to allow six men, who are trying to make a case upon which to found a policy-
– The honorable member is slandering a Commission.
– I am slandering nobody. I will give the honorable member some facts, and he can call them slander if he likes. I heard a Royal Commission at work the other day and any man with eyes to see and ears to hear knew that many of the questions were directed to one particular point of policy alone. That is not slandering the Commission; it is simply stating a fact.
– You might name the point of policy.
– I shall name it.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing anything that takes place in the proceedings of a Royal Commission.
– I am using this as an illustration of the advisableness of safeguarding these powers of inquiry. Here is a Commission already at work. It is intended to investigate the details of a certain business. Certain honorable members have been appointed Chairman of different Commissions, not because they are the ablest members of the House - no man by any stretch of imagination would think that - and not because of any special ability, but because they are members of a particular party.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing the personnel of a Commission in that way.
– I am trying to show the difference between a Royal Commission such as is frequently appointed, and a Court of law. A man is appointed Chairman by the Government because he happens to belong to a particular party.
– The honorable member is not in order in referring to any member of an existing Commission.
– The question of Royal Commissions is relevant to the Bill. An authority quoted last night lays it down that they are fair subjects for parliamentary criticism. Here are two Commissions already at work, consisting of members from both sides, but with a majority from one side, and a Chairman in each case from one side.
– I rise to a point of order as to the line of argument the honorable member is now following. He is referring to Commissions which have been appointed, and his remarks, I submit, are not relevant to the clause under discussion.
– The honorable member foi East Sydney has not realized that the measure deals with the powers of Royal Commissions, and the honorable member for Parramatta was using, to illustrate his argument, the undoubted fact that inquiries instituted by Parliament in the shape of Commissions are often of a political nature. The honorable member for Parramatta is quite in order in referring to Royal Commissions and their composition on a measure which relates to the powers of Royal Commissions generally.
– I submit, in support of the point of order raised by the honorable member for East Sydney, that the matter introduced by. the honorable member- for Parramatta is quite extraneous to the discussion of clause 2. If he were to say that he knew at one time of a Royal Commission which had been appointed, perhaps no exception could be taken; but his references to Royal Commissions now in existence are, to say the least of it, uncalled for. There are occasions when Royal Commissions have a preponderance of members from one side of the House, but that preponderance is from the side which is numerically the stronger In one particular instance, it is no fault of the Government that the Opposition side of the House is not more strongly represented, because there was a difficulty in finding any member of another place who would accept a seat on the Commission. 1 have my own ideas of the reasons that actuated honorable senators in refusing to act. The honorable member for Parramatta, in casting reflections on the constitution of a Royal Commission-
– I was casting no reflection on the personnel. I was simply describing the composition of Royal Commissions.
– I submit that their composition is quite justified by the strength of parties on either side of the House.
– Todd’s Parliamentary Government in England lays it down that “The composition of a Royal Commission is a fair subject for parliamentary criticism.” The honorable member for Parramatta was discussing the composition of Royal Commissions. The question raised by this clause is - What power ought to be given to Royal Commissions? and the honorable member for Parramatta submits that the amount of power that we give to a Commission must be considered in connexion with the personnel of that Commission. Surely that is relevant to the issue. The honorable member for Herbert may not agree with the criticism of the honorable member for Parramatta, but his right to offer that criticism is clear and undoubted.
– At the proper time and place.
– This is the proper time and place.
– I submit that all I am doing is to show the kind of tribunal that we are clothing with these extraordinary powers. I cast no reflection upon any Royal Commission. I believe they are all doing their best according to their lights.
– You said they were asking improper questions.
– I made no such statement. I said that party considerations entered into their composition, and in proof of it I point to all the Commissions that have been appointed in recent years. Two members of the Government party are at present presiding over two Royal Commissions. A while ago we had the Navigation Commission, presided over by the present Attorney-General. It has been the rule ever since I have been here, and 1 am not reflecting on it, that whatever Government have been in power have generally appointed the Chaiirman of the Commission. I therefore say that party elements enter into the make-up of these bodies. Keith’s
Responsible Government in the Dominions has just been put into my hand. It contains this passage -
The same question was hotly discussed in 1910 in Western Australia, when the Government, as a result of attacks on the Lands Department, set up a commission of inquiry It was protested by the Opposition that this was a flagrant violation of the freedom of parliamentary discussion, and an abrogation of the responsibility of Ministers for parliamentary criticism. lt was pointed out that the powers given by the Act of 1902 would enable the Commissioners to call upon the members of the House to give evidence, under penalty, and that such action, logically, was a denial of the privilege of free speech.
Honorable members are wrong when they accuse me of attacking Royal Commissions. All I have done is to show that party considerations almost invariably enter into the appointment of these bodies.
– By whatever party they are appointed?
– Of course. That is a reason why we should not, without safeguards, intrust inquisitorial powers to their keeping. Powers that it would be proper to give to a Judge possessing a legal training and free from ‘ party bias cannot safely be placed in the hands of Commissions appointed for party reasons.
– I rule that as this is a Bill to amend the’ Royal Commissions Act, a reference for the purpose of illustration without dealing with the personnel of any particular Commission will be in order.
– A very satisfactory ruling, and one in accordance with all the authorities.
– I wish to direct my remarks to one point only. Honorable members urge that these powers should not be given to persons who have no legal training, and who have been appointed for party considerations, because they are likely to be abused. In answer to this, I repeat what I said last night about the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill introduced by the honorable member for Darling Downs in 1:908. That Bill provided that any person who did not answer a question, or did not produce books or documents when called upon to do so by any Select Committee, would be liable to two years’ imprisonment. The criticism directed against his Bill was almost identical with that used against the present Bill. The honorable member for Wentworth, speaking upon the Bill, made practically the same objections as he has against this Bill, and repeated what the honorable member for Parramatta has just said -
I do not know that an unoffending and innocent person who has been dragged before a Parliamentary Committee - “ to the bull-ring,” the Treasurer would say - would regard it as unimportant to be sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for refusing to answer a question.
The honorable member for Flinders said -
It gives to a Committee responsible only in a political sense to this House, larger powers than are intrusted to the ordinary legal tribunals appointed to try criminals charged with definite offences against the laws of the country.
Those were the criticisms directed against the measure introduced by the honorable member who, to-night, is leading the attack against a provision of an exactly similar character, though the penalties in this case are not half so drastic as those in his Bill.
It must be remembered, too, that the drastic penalties of the honorable member’s Bill related to proceedings by Select Committees. I ask honorable members, “ Which, is the more responsible and reliable body, a Select Committee or a Royal Commission ? “ I have had eighteen years’ parliamentary experience, and have never known inquiries of first importance intrusted to, and completed by, a Select Committee. However an inquiry may have originated, when it has become important the Committee has been made a Royal Commission. Therefore, the arguments against the proposal to intrust Royal Commissions with these powers apply with ten times as much force to a proposal to intrust them to Select Committees. I cannot understand the present attitude of the honorable member for Darling Downs and the honorable member for Bendigo. On the former occasion the honorable member for Bendigo said -
A joint committee of both Houses has reported to-day that, in conducting inquiries intended to vindicate the honour of Parliament, its action has been absolutely paralyzed by the absence of power to administer oaths and compel witnesses to answer questions.
– Relevant to the inquiry.
– Of course, questions, must be relevant. This is the definition of relevance given by the honorable member for Darling Downs when in charge of the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill -
Mr. Irvine. ; What is the meaning of “lawful” in this connexion? Does it mean anything more than “relevant”?
– A Select Committee having been appointed to make a certain inquiry, questions within the scope of that inquiry would be lawful.
– We stated that we were prepared to amend the Bill to limit its provisions to relevant questions.
– All Commissions are limited in the scope of their inquiries by the terms of their commissions. A Commission to inquire into a harvester case would be limited to that subject; a Tariff Commission would be similarly limited. And to use the honorable member’s own words -
Questions within the scope of that inquiry would be lawful.
Let us apply this to the present case. This is a proposal to compel witnesses before a Royal Commission of inquiry to answer questions that are relevant and lawful. Witnesses need not answer questions that are irrelevant and unlawful. I have offered to move an amendment which makes that clear. When the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill was under discussion, part of the present Opposition was supporting the Government of the day, and that section supported the measure, while the other section denounced it. To-night we have a similar state of affairs - honorable members who formerly supported the proposal are now denouncing it, for no better reason than that for which the Opposition of that day denounced the Bill of the Deakin Government - that it is brought in by the Government of the day
Nothing that honorable gentlemen have said touches the point, which is this : that Commissioners are limited by the nature and terms of their commission. They cannot ask unlawful or irrelevant questions. Witnesses are safeguarded by section 6 of the Act. The questions asked must touch the subject-matter of the inquiry, and the same safeguard will be given in regard to demands for the production of books and documents by the amendment which I propose to make. Under these circumstances, opposition becomes factious, and I hope it will cease.
.- The Attorney-General argues that we should not object to this clause because there was a similar provision in the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill. Apparently he would have it thought that Parliament has already enacted a provision such as the Government now asks us to consent to. As a matter of fact, the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill never became law, and no proposition such as that of the Attorney-General has ever been affirmed by this House. In my opinion, clause 2 goes altogether too far. The Royal Commissions Act empowers the Chairman of a Commission to summon a person to give evidence, and to produce books which are material to the subject-matter of the inquiry. It is proposed to amend the Act by substituting for this provision the words “ which he is required by the summons to produce.” That means that a Royal Commission may require a witness to produce any books for which it calls. Under a later clause, a Commission will have power to make such extracts as it thinks fit from those books, whether they are material to the inquiry or not. That is an unnecessary power to give to any body of men, especially a scratch lot such as usually constitute a Royal Commission. Commissions are selected in a haphazard fashion, and whilst those acting upon them, may do their best, according to their lights, they may be very fallible. They are interested in the subject of their inquiry, and some of them may be tempted to unduly press a witness so that, instead of confining their questions to matters material to the issue, they may elicit private information that ought never to be disclosed. A witness might be compelled to disclose private matters concerning his business, which ought to remain secret, and such a disclosure might result in his. financial ruin. We have to-day industries which a few years ago were in a very critical condition, and if those conducting them had been called upon at that time to make public their actual financial position they might not have been able to secure that assistance by means of which they have succeeded in building up what are now substantial enterprises. It is altogether wrong that we should empower men, who may not be capable of judging what they really require as evidence, to draw from a witness nil sorts of information merely because they think, perhaps, that he is hedging. Why does not the Attorney-General so amend the clause as to provide that nothing shall be taken from books produced before a Commission that is not material to the issue, and that irrelevant questions shall not be asked.
– The honorable member has not heard the amendment which the AttorneyGeneral proposes to move.
– He has not read it while I have been in the Chamber ; but I am glad to learn that he does propose to ‘ submit an amendment that will be in accord with my views. If such an amendment is moved, I trust that it will be carried.
– This clause is vital to the measure, and I hope that it will be agreed to. I am astonished at the attitude taken up by those who oppose it. They seem to think that since the Chairman of a Royal Commission is always appointed bv the Government of the day, he will naturally be in sympathy with that Government. Are we to assume that they object to this clause because they see the writing on the wall, and believe that all future Commissions are going to be appointed by their opponents? It seems to me that, in the near future, in order that justice may be done in connexion with many of our industries and commercial undertakings, it will be necessary to appoint Royal Commissions to inquire into them, and that, unless some such power as this is given, the object of such Commissions will be frustrated. It is interesting to hear honorable members opposite talk about legal training. If there is one profession more than another in which men are trained with a bias, it is that of the law. Throughout the whole of his professional career, a lawyer or barrister has to take sides. Then, again, it has been urged that Royal Commissions are likely to put irrelevant questions to witnesses. Surely politicians who are required by Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman of Committees, to observe relevancy when speaking in this Chamber, ought to be competent, as members of Royal Commissions, to determine what is relevant to their inquiry. I cannot conceive of a Royal Commission prying into matters that are irrelevant to its inquiry. I would ask the Opposition whether it is not a fact that the proceedings of Commissions are usually open to the press. I do not object to the pleasantries in which the honorable member for Parramatta has indulged in regard to his visit to a Commission over which I have the honour to preside ; but if any grossly irrelevant questions had been put to any one, I think that the honorable member would have had the right to castigate us in this House.
– If a Commission proposed to examine private books, could it not direct that that examination should take place in private?
– There is nothing to prevent the Chairman of a Royal -Commission from acting as a Judge would do in obtaining evidence in a Court of law. The Chairman of a Commission is supposed to possess a little common sense. The fact that a man is a Judge does not necessarily mean that he has a monopoly of common sense. Surely honorable members, after fighting for years on the floor of this House, or in any other Parliament, ought to have some knowledge of the due fitness of things, especially when they, are making inquiries. Too much stress has been laid on the contention that politicians do not properly appreciate the meaning of relevancy. A member of a Royal Commission would hesitate to do anything that would subject him to hostile criticism either in Parliament or in the press. I repeat that this clause is vital to the measure, but I admit at the same time that the amendment foreshadowed by the Attorney-General is a reasonable one, and I think that it should be regarded as a sufficient safeguard by those - who fear that the clause as it stands is too drastic.
. - I am willing to admit that the amendment which the Attorney-General has intimated his willingness to move cuts away at least half the -ground from the objections that were raised last night. Our complaint last night was that the AttorneyGeneral proposed under this clause to omit from section 2 of the principal Act words limiting the President or Chairman of a Royal Commission to questions material to the subject-matter of the inquiry, and to insert in their stead words which provided that if the Chairman or President merely “required” a question to be answered, it must be answered. The legal members on this side of the House pointed out that in every Court of law materiality, or, in other words, the fact of a question put to a witness being material to the issue, is a sine qua non. I have never heard of a Court in a British community in which materiality was not indispensable. I am bound to say that half of the fight I put up last night was against the proposal to substitute the requirements of the Commission for the materiality of questions asked. If the Attorney-General is prepared now to require that all questions must be material to the issue laid down in the Commission itself, a large part of my objections is gone. But the proposal of the Attorney-General to insert the words he has indicated seems to me to lead us into greater difficulty. Clause 2 of the Bill provides that the words “ material to the subject-matter of the inquiry “ shall be omitted from section 2 of the Act. These words are the safeguard, the bulwark, by which witnesses could resist a question and take a Commission before the Court, as is being done now ; and it is now proposed to provide that all that is necessary is that the Chairman shall “ require” the question to be answered. It has been pointed out that if all that is necessary is that the Chairman shall require a question to be answered, whether material or not, it will open the door to endless trouble and endless irregularities on the part of a possibly partisan Chairmen. The Attorney-General says he is now willing to impose the condition that questions shall be “ material ;” but, if that be so, why is he not prepared to leave in the principal Act the words “material to the subject-matter of the inquiry “ ?
– I have already explained that.
– I quite admit that the principle the Attorney-General placed before the Committee is a perfectly good one; but if he is willing that all questions shall be material, why not leave in the words ? The Attorney-General has told us that in the case of prosecutions he shall do so, but he knows as well as I do that one of the objects of this alteration is to prevent witnesses from raising, as a point before a magistrate or a Judge, the admissibility of a question because it is not material. If he introduces this qualification, and is going to make it general in its application, he will, by-and-by, have the same difficulty that faces him now. Does the Attorney-General propose to make this qualification of materiality a general one, or is he going to limit it to a particular kind of offence under the Act? Does he intend to apply the qualification of materiality to one part of the Act, or to the whole of the Act? If he proposes to apply it to the whole, why cannot he leave in those words? A weak point in the Attorney-General’s argument was the analogy he drew between a Select Committee of this House and a Royal Commission. A Royal Commission may be appointed, which is not made up of members of Parliament, to inquire into some trade, calling, or industry, and it may be presided over by a stranger outside who is supposed to be an expert on the subject of inquiry. Such a Chairman would not have the same liability to subsequent criticism as to his conduct in the management of the Commission as would a member of Parlia ment. A member of. a Select Committee of this House would know very well that if he misconducted himself as Chairman of the Committee, he would have afterwards to face his fellow members, and subject himself to the criticism of this House; and this would be a very considerable check. If, on the other hand, a Royal Commission is made up of people who are interested in a particular industry, the Chairman might very easily abuse his power to ask questions which were not relevant, and thus obtain the information he desired, trusting to the forgetfulness of the public in regard to his misconduct. I do not wish to elaborate’ the point ; but if the Attorney-General recognises the right of a witness to refuse to answer a question which is not material, why not, I repeat, leave in the words “ material to the subject-matter of the inquiry “ ? It is of no use taking them out of the original Act and putting them into a new Bill.
– Does the honorable member not think that the Attorney-General’s amendment will cover that objection ?
– I quite admit that the suggested amendment cuts away a great deal of the criticism offered last night ; but, so far as I understand, the AttorneyGeneral proposes to leave the clause as it stands, while introducing words to provide that questions must be material as a basis for a prosecution. The honorable member for Riverina made some observations which led me to suppose that he thought we could trust to the President of a Royal Commission to limit himself to material questions.
– Is the President not bound by his oath to limit the scope of the inquiry ?
– Certainly not; he may, under this clause, ask questions that are not material, seeing that the qualification is being struck out of the Act.
– The object is to obtain all the things mentioned in the summons.
– That is a very important point. The summons may require a witness to produce books ; but, under clause 2, he has to produce everything, whether material or not. Let us suppose that a witness showed on the back page of his ledger that he had a big overdraft at the bank; in such case, the Royal Commission might be entitled to look at the ledger, but not at the page disclosing the overdraft, unless it was material to the issue. If the question was whether the witness was carrying on a business while insolvent, such information would be material ; but, if the inquiry were merely into the nature of a particular industry, it would net be material.
.- The honorable member for Parkes has put forward two points. The honorable member appears to be under the impression that, by omitting the words “material to the subject-matter of the inquiry,” from section 2, and making the amendment in clause 4 of the Bill, we apply to a part of the Bill a restriction which at present governs the whole Act - he is under the impression that the amendment I propose will qualify only a particular part of the Bill, whereas the qualification applies to the whole of the Act. The honorable member is in error. The amendment proposed will have exactly the same effect, so far as the scope of the inquiry and the position of the witness are concerned, as have the words proposed to be omitted in the Act at present. A witness now, under section 2 of the Act, if he is called upon to produce any books material to the inquiry, may decline to do so; and, under the Bill, he will also be able to decline. The only difference is that, whereas now, under such circumstances, the Crown has to prove that the books are material, the witness under the Bill will have to prove that they are not material. That applies equally through the Act.
– I am quite satisfied.
– Then the honorable member, referring to my analogy between the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill and this Bill, drew a distinction to the disadvantage of Royal Commissions by pointing out that members of Parliament are responsible persons, while those outside who might be appointed to Royal Commissions are not responsible. While that is very true, it seems to me entirely destructive of the line of argument resorted to this evening, by which it was sought to show that politicians, of all men, are the least reliable or fit to take responsible positions. But on the merits -of the objection I submit it is not sound. Nothing can remove a Royal Commission away from the cognisance and power of Parliament. A Royal Commission has to be issued by the Crown, and the Crown has its representatives in this House, who must stand or fall, not only by the report, but by every act of the Commissions. Ministers have, at any moment, at their command the power to dissolve a Royal Com mission, and if they decline to exercise that power in a proper case, they are responsible and can be punished.
.- When I read the clause first, I thought the difficulty of the Attorney-General was this - and I believe it was his difficulty, but he is attempting now to cure things which are not difficult - that when a witness is summoned he ought to come. If he has an objection on the ground that his evidence is not material, he ought to put that objection in Court. That is the practice in Courts of justice, and I think it is fair. It is not’ for the witness to pre-judge whether what he has to say is relevant or not. It is right enough for the Attorney-General to cure that difficulty. The amendment which the Attorney-General foreshadows in clause 4 has already been brought in under our criticism, which, therefore, has been perfectly justified. The position now is this : If the person summoned does not attend to give evidence, he can, if sued, plead some reasonable excuse. That reasonable excuse is no longer as to the materiality of the matter upon which he is asked to give evidence, but he may say that the train broke down, or offer some other excuse which would be acceptable to the simple people who sit in Courts of justice. If he does attend, and is asked a question under section 6 of the Act, that question must touch the subject-matter of the inquiry ; but if he brings in his books, he can no longer object to allowing them to go in as evidence.
– Yes, he can.
– He cannot decline unless the amendment which the AttorneyGeneral foreshadows is made. The qualification of “ touching the subject-matter of the inquiry “ applies only to questions ; but if he is in Court, and the books are there, he can no longer plead that the books are not material, because that qualification is taken out, and there is nothing in section 6 to say that the books themselves must touch the subject-matter of the inquiry. That is the point of our criticism, and the justification for our criticism is that the amendment which the Attorney-General has proposed will remove that imperfection from the Bill. The Attorney-General, who is a very clever debater in addition to his other abilities, tried to turn the tables on members on this side of the House by saying that the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill when before the House was in the hands of the honorable member for Darling Downs. He did not mention that a good many members on this side of the House attacked that Bill. We did so, not because we were in opposition, but, in the first place, because it was littered with penalties ; and, by the way, no Government have yet had the pluck to put it through as it first stood. It has hungfire in this House for four or five years. When Attorney-General, I set to work to cut down the penalties which seemed to me rather staggering. Under the criticism of those days, the Bill was kept back by the honorable member for Darling Downs for improvement. We also said the Bill was not necessary, because an Act had been passed in England to enable the House of Commons, on the report of a Committee, to call recalcitrant witnesses before the bar of the House. Until then, it was questionable whether the House of Commons could do that, because it was not, like the House of Lords, a judicial tribunal. The trend of our criticism was that, as we had under our Constitution the powers of the House of Commons, it was not necessary to pass the Bill. In any case, it was too severe in its penalties to put upon the statute-book; but how the history of that Bill turns the tables on the honorable member for Darling Downs, I do not know. I hope the Attorney-General’s amendment of clause 4 will be ample; if it is, it will largely discount the objections to the Bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
After section1 of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted : - “1a. Without in any way prejudicing, limiting, or derogating from the power of the King, or of the Governor-General, to make or authorize any inquiry, or to issue any commission to make any inquiry, it is herebv enacted and declared that the Governor-General may, by Letters Patent in the name of the King, issue such commissions, directed to such person or persons, as he thinks fit, requiring or authorizing him or them or any of them to make inquiry into and report upon any matter specified in the Letters Patent, and which relates to or is connected with the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth, or any public purpose or any power of the Commonwealth. “1b. In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - reasonable excuse ‘ in relation to any act or omission by a witness or a person summoned as a witness before a Commission means an excuse which would excuse an act or omission of a similar nature by a witness or a person summoned as a witness before a Court of law.”
.- Will the Attorney-General explain the reason for including proposed new section1a? Is it becausethere is any doubt as to our powers to appoint a Royal Commission? What is the reason for using the phrase “ or any public purpose or any power of the Commonwealth “ ? Is it intended that “ public purpose “ should mean only a public purpose of the Commonwealth ? If so, it would be better to make the phrase read “ or any public purpose or power of the Commonwealth.” I should be glad if the Attorney-General would give the Committee a few illustrations of what the “ reasonable excuse “ is that is going to be recognised as an excuse in a Court of law. We have in Australia six different States, with their different Courts sitting. Will the AttorneyGeneral explain exactly what he means by “ a Court of law “ in the definition ot “ reasonable excuse “ ?
– Section1a is inserted, not because we were in any doubt as to our powers, but because some doubt has been expressed lately as to the extent to which ancient Statutes limit the power of the Crown, or interfere with its exercise. I quoted last night two Statutes that have been held to refer to this matter - 43 Edward III., Ch. 7, and 16 Charles I., Ch. 6. Both of these start with the recital of some of the provisions of Magna Charta, and both aim at the dissolution or limitation of the power of unlawful Courts - Courts acting under the King’s authority to try and punish misdemeanours, instead of allowing the ordinary Courts of law to do it. It has been held in New Zealand, in Cock v. The Attorney-General, that the prerogative of the Crown is limited by these Statutes. To remove any doubt - and no doubt ought to exist, in the face of the very clear statement of the principles of the law in Clough v. Leahy - we have put in statutory form the prerogative power of the Crown.
With regard to the last words of the section,” or any public purpose or any power of the Commonwealth,” I take it that a “ public purpose “ may not have direct reference, to a power of the Commonwealth. We are a Government quite apart from the powers enumerated in section 51 of the Constitution. We have the executive powers of all Governments. We are concerned with the interests’ of the nation. And, in any case, we are not limited to the enunciated powers of the Commonwealth, because, under the Constitution, we may not only exercise those powers which we now have, but we may, under section 126, take steps to enlarge them. Strictly speaking, therefore, it would not be proper to describe as an inquiry into any power of the Commonwealth what, as a matter of fact, might be an inquiry into some question the solution of which might lead to the enlargement of our powers.
So far as the meaning of “ reasonable excuse” is concerned, we know that the only reasonable excuse to which a Court of law listens is physical disability. If a man is prevented by some accident or illness, or physical detention by another person, from attending the Court, he has a reasonable excuse ; but it is not a reasonable excuse to say that the tribunal is not to one’s liking. If any honorable member desires to question my interpretation of the phrase, let him disobey the first summons directed to him, and he will find how far those excuses which have served before Royal Commissions will hold good in a Court of law.
.- It is scarcely of any use to discuss the power of Parliament to create Royal Commissions, because that has been decided by the case of Ciough v. Leahy. I simply wish to draw attention to one constitutional matter connected with the clause. There is the express declaration that the Crown may do certain things. There is a sort of implied recognition of a practice that has been objected to at Home, namely, the appointment of Commissions without a resolution of Parliament. Parliament ought to control the appointment of Commissions. In many cases, in the Old Country, a Commission has been appointed by the Executive, and in Western Australia, as recently as 1910, one was appointed by the Executive for its own purposes. Such appointments have been challenged as practically a usurpation of the privilege of Parliament. Keith, in his Responsible Government in the Dominions, draws attention to some of these cases. He mentions that, in a Canadian case, a Commission was objected to on the ground that its issue was an improper interference with the privileges of Parliament. I ask the Attorney-General to think over the question whether we should not insert a provision to the effect that the Executive shall not appoint _ a Commission merely on an Order in Council, but that Commissions shall be appointed as machinery for carrying into effect a resolution of Parliament. It is generally on an Address to the Crown that a Commission should be appointed. The Commission should deal with a matter of public interest, and the expediency of its appointment should be discussed on the floor of the House. I am afraid that the proper etiquette may not be altogether respected, and that the obligation on the Executive, that Commissions should not be appointed except on the suggestion of a House of Parliament, may be ignored by reason of the terms of this provision.
– Does the honorable member mean that Commissions may be appointed without consulting the Executive?
– No; the GovernorGeneral takes his powers In this matter from the Constitution. Under it he exercises such powers as the King may choose to give him. 1 shall be satisfied if the Attorney-General can show that my fears are groundless.
– No Governor-General would attempt to issue a Royal Commission without the advice of his Executive Council.
– I do not assert the contrary. Under the Acts Interpretation Act, the Governor-General means the GovernorGeneral in Council, and one of the questions at issue in the Court case to which reference has been made is whether a Commission was issued by the Governor-General in Council.
– The power to issue Royal Commissions is independent of the Statute.
– I do not deny that, neither have I asserted it. The matter is at present sub judice. The powers of the Governor-General are exercised under the Constitution, and that being so, it may not be necessary for the appointment to be by Order in Council. It is the English Acts Interpretation Act of 1889 which must be applied to the interpretation of the Constitution. If the Governor-General alone can make an appointment under the terms of the Constitution, it would not be necessary for the appointment to be by Order in Council. The point to which I am directing attention is that we may be giving sanction to an objectionable practice which is growing up in the Old Country, and in Canada, and has been resorted to in Western Australia, and, perhaps, in some of the other States, namely, that of issuing Commissions without a resolution of a House of Parliament. I ask the Attorney-General to consider whether we should not pass some such provision as this -
It is hereby enacted and declared that the Governor-General may on a resolution of either House of the Parliament- and so forth. The resolution would determine the matter of the inquiry. A Commission might be appointed by a Government to inquire into the doings of the party opposed to it ; there might be an inquisitorial investigation, under the stress of political passions, into the workings of political societies, and so on. My contention is that the appointment of a Commission should be for the investigation of a matter of public interest, and should follow on a resolution of either House of the Parliament. I would also direct attention fo the fact that, under the definition clause, the word “Commission “ includes the members of the Commission. Therefore, for the purposes of the measure, any one member of the Commission would be equal to the whole Commission. For example, there might be ten members forming a Commission, and whatever penalty was attached to contempt or criticism of the Commission would attach to contempt or criticism of one member of it, unless the wording of the clause shows the contrary. I do not say that the wording of each clause may not show some contrary intention. There are other matters to which attention might be drawn, such as the need for appointing Commissions only for some public purpose. I suppose that no Commission will be appointed to inquire into some matter altogether outside our powers. In this matter, it is hard to see where a line could be drawn, so many things being relevant to our executive and legislative powers, and to powers that might be asked for under an- amendment of the Constitution. I would suggest that the language of section 51 of the Constitution should be followed, and line 5 should be made to read - and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to any public purpose or any power of the Commonwealth.
That would confine the appointment to our legislative powers, or things ancillary to them, or to our executive powers. As they stand, the words are disjunctive, and may not mean what the Attorney-General desires.
.- I was interested to hear the Attorney-General define the meaning of the second part of the definition clause. He said that the only “ reasonable excuse” for not attending before a Commission would be physical infirmity making attendance impossible. But there may be other reasonable excuses. Owing to some sudden bereavement, a man might be mentally unfit to afford the Commission the assistance it desired from him. This provision, however, would drag a witness from the death-bed of his wife or his child. The Attorney-General said that the fact that a witness did not like a Commission would not be a “ reasonable excuse,” but who has ever suggested such a reason for disobeying a summons to attend ? On the other hand, it would be a reasonable excuse, from the point of view of a witness, that he believed that he would not get a fair trial from the Commission.
– That is what they say.
– It has been said only once is the history of Commonwealth Royal Commissions, and it is greatly to be regretted that it can be said. Unless safeguards are inserted in the Bill guaranteeing that in future the Commissions that are appointed will be such that the public generally will have as much faith in them as in Courts of law, we should be very careful not to abolish this safeguard of “reasonable excuse.” Suppose a Commission were appointed to inquire into the business of the honorable member for East Sydney, and he knew that it was intended to attack him. Suppose he knew that it had been furnishing to his opponents copies of its secret records, to enable them to bring their charges against him, and that it had contradicted itself in public upon an absolute matter of fact on that very point. In other words, suppose that he knew, as any sane man would know, that he would not get a fair trial from the Commission, might he not reasonably say to himself, “ If I go before the Commission, I shall not be given a chance to put my views and position fairly; the Commission may refuse to hear anything more from me when it has got replies to one or two catch questions “ ? That would be a reasonable ground, from his point of view, for the honorable member absenting himself. The fact that he disliked the appearance of the Commissioners, or distrusted them, would not be a reasonable excuse. But it is because he has a profound conviction that that Commission, inquiring into his affairs, has been appointed for the special purpose of “ getting to windward of him,” and because, from his knowledge of what it has done, that he believes that it will not give his case a fair trial or himself a fair opportunity, that he absents himself. That is the position with regard to the question of a reasonable excuse.I have paralleled the position of one of our great industries with that of the honorable member for East Sydney. That is the argument upon which that particular interest has based its claim for absenting itself on the ground of reasonable excuse. I do not canvass its claims. I do not know how far its claims are accurate, but I do know that that was the reason it urged. I have learned that from the public press, and the AttorneyGeneral was also aware of it from the public press when he tried to pass over this matter with an idle joke. Indeed, this Bill, with this particular clause in it, has been introduced in order that the verdict that he anticipates from a Court of justice shall be made valueless for the protection of people who may have to appear in the future before a Royal Commission.
– Is not this Bill to be retrospective?
– I thought at the outset . that clause 8 would make it retrospective, but the Attorney-General says that it will not, and on some matters I am prepared to believe him.
– But it applies to the present Commission.
– It seems to be intended to nullify the verdict of a Court which the Attorney-General obviously anticipates - that the unfairness of a Commission appointed by this House has justified the nonattendance of an Australian citizen before that Commission.
– The honorable member is not in order in reflecting on the doings of that Commission.
– I am not reflecting on any Commission, and should be the last to wish to do so. I am simply pointing out to this Committee what is happening at present.
In considering a measure of this kind we ought to make it practically impossible for any person to refuse to give evidence before a Royal Commission appointed for purposes for which this House sees fit to ask that it be appointed. But in order to enable us reasonably and rationally to do that we ought, in other parts of the Bill, so to regulate the matter of the appointment of Commissions, and the conduct of their business, that it would not be possible for any person to say that he would not get a fair deal before a Commonwealth Royal Commission. I should have no objection to this clause in itself, provided that we laid down rules of court for the governance of Royal Commissions, and provided the Government showed a little greater sense of its responsibility in the matter of the appointment of these bodies- than it has done. A good deal has been said about the difference between a Royal Commission and the Judges in a Court.
– And a Court of justice.
– I will not say “ a Court of justice,” because a Court of law, with the best intentions in the world, is occasionally not that. The danger, to my mind, of these provisions placed in the hands of a Royal Commissioner is that the moment his Commission lapses this Parliament ceases to have any control over the actions of that erstwhile Royal Commissioner. A man is appointed on a Commission - arid we have known of instances where this is suspected to have occurred - and deliberately tries to find out information that will be valuable to some interest with which he is connected after the inquiry has terminated. If we are going to pass this clause this Bill ought to contain provisions making it penal for a Royal Commissioner to use for any purpose other than that for which he took his Commission, any information he had obtained, under all the penalties that may be imposed in this measure.
– The information obtained by a Royal Commission is published.
– Some of it is published. A member of a Royal Commission, however, has a right of search. He finds out what documents ‘he requires to see, but he does not necessarily enclose them all in his report. Books are produced from time to time before a Commission on the understanding that their contents are not to be made public, and that they are purely for the information of the Commissioners.
– I do not know of any where that is done.
– If the honorable member reads the records of the Sugar Commission he will find that the Chairman has exercised that discretion in a number of cases.
– Very improper.
– And that from an honorable member who criticised me just now for traversing the actions of the Commission ! I do not think it is improper that such a discretion should be exercised. A Royal Commission should have power to refrain from divulging information which it may require in order that it may arrive at a reasonable conclusion, but the publication of which would not be just to the parties concerned.
– What I wished to convey was that whatever information a
Commission obtains belongs to the public, and that a Commission has no more right to it than the public has.
– A Royal Commissioner, when all is said and done, is a servant of the High Court of Parliament appointed to inquire. He has every right to do everything which this Parliament gives him power to do.
– All the documents accepted by a Commission are recorded.
– They are recorded as, for example, “ Ledger A,” “ Ledger B,” or “ Ledger C,” and so forth, but the contents are riot. My point is that since there is no excuse short of absolute physical infirmity to enable a man to decline to appear before a Royal Commission and to produce all his secret information - information which may bankrupt him if improper use is made of it - a Commission should be empowered to exercise a discretion and to refuse to divulge information so obtained. I heard only to-day from a gentleman known to honorable members, of a case in Australia where information obtained with regard to an industry, had it been published at the time, would have bankrupted that industry. The mere fact that it was not in a financially solvent state, if published to the world, would have led to its bankruptcy. The main creditor, realizing the dangerous footing upon which that industry was, forewent the interest on his mortgage in order to tide it over its difficulties. It was tided over its difficulties and is now one of the most flourishing industries in Australia. In that case an industry was labouring under a temporary difficulty and the publication of that difficulty would have led to its bankruptcy. Appointing Royal Commissioners as criminally carelessly or, as, in one instance, as criminally carefully, as some recent Commissions have been appointed, we might have a Commissioner who’ might find it very much to his advantage to be possessed of trade secrets after his Commission had lapsed. This is not a slight matter ; it affects every one, whether a man be big or whether he be small. I am not bothered so much about the big man - he can either protect himself, or get the best advice to protect him - as about the man whose industry may be tottering, and who may be dragged before a Commission and bullyragged by some man appointed carelessly by the Government of the day, and over whom the Parliament of Australia will have no control so soon as he has furnished his report.
I wish to enter a most emphatic protest against this amendment in the absence of any amendments to limit to some reasonable purpose the conduct of Royal Commissions. We ought to expressly lay it down that a Royal Commission shall treat all witnesses on exactly a similar basis, so that we can have no attack made, no tittle of justification for an attack being made, upon the honesty of a Royal Commission. This provision, and similar provisions governing the rules for the conduct of Royal Commissions, ought not to be included in the Bill unless it is merely going to brand itself as an effort to deal with a case sub judice in New South Wales with a view of influencing public opinion at a time when the House ought to be very careful not to interfere, and with the view of strengthening the Act, not for honest inquiry, but for political inquiry by a packed jury.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section 5 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “be liable, on summary conviction, to a penalty not exceeding Fifty pounds” and inserting in their stead the words “ be guilty of an offence.
Penalty : Five hundred pounds.”
.- There is one matter which I wish to bring under the notice of the Attorney-General which arises in connexion with this penal provision. Taking into consideration the amendment to this clause which he has foreshadowed- .
– No, a new clause.
– I thought that the honorable and learned member intended to move his amendment as a proviso to this clause.
– It will follow clause 4.
– It ought to be moved as a proviso to this clause.
– Here is the proposed new clause, which the honorable member can read.
– It reads as follows-
It shall be a defence to a prosecution under this section for failing without reasonable excuse to produce any documents, books, or writings if the defendant proves that the documents, books, or writings were not relevant to the inquiry.
Suppose that, in response to a summons, a man produces his books before a Commission, and then, when the Chairman asks that he may be permitted to look at the books, the witness raises the objection that they are not relevant to the inquiry, and the Chairman says that they are. There we have a conflict at once, and if the witness persists in raising what he believes to be an honest objection, the only way in which he can test its legality is by allowing himself to be prosecuted, and if he is found wrong he will be convicted and there will be a record against him. There ought to be a method by which an honest objection of a legal nature could be tested without having a conviction recorded against a witness. I would call the attention of the Attorney-General to the procedure which is laid down in section 10 of the New Zealand Act of 1908 - (1.) The Commission may refer any disputed point of law arising in the course of an inquiry to the Supreme Court for decision, and for this purpose may either conclude the inquiry subject to such decision, or may at any stage of the inquiry adjourn it until after such decision has been given. (2.) The question shall be in the form of a special case to be drawn up by the parties (if any) to the inquiry, and, if the parties do not agree, or if there are no parties, to be settled by the Commission. (3.) The decision of the Supreme Court shall befinal and binding upon all parties to the inquiry and upon the Commission.
If we had some procedure by which any disputed point of law which the Chairman of a Commission felt was honestly raised could be referred for summary decision by a Supreme Court or High Court Judge who happened to be near at hand, the whole difficulty would be settled. At the same time, I recognise that ultimately there must be power to deal with a witness who, after a decision has been given by a Court, persists in refusing to produce his books to the Commission. I believe that the AttorneyGeneral desires these Commissions to be simply Commissions for the investigation of truth, and generally for the investigation of public matters. As a rule, most persons are willing and eager to go before a Commission and give all the evidence they can on a matter of public interest. Cases of resistance are not very frequent. If there is a persistent refusal without a question of law being raised, there must be some procedure laid down, and some penalty fixed ; but I ask the Attorney-General to seriously consider the advisability of having an intermediate method of getting a summary decision on a bonâ fide dispute. I also ask him to consider whether £500 is not an excessive penalty. It will apply to the rich and the poor alike. In Queensland and New South Wales the fine is £20, while in New Zealand the penalty is a fine not exceeding£20. I ask the AttorneyGeneral to consider whether, in making this heavy penalty to apply to every case, he is not really altering the scope and purpose of the executive acts of a Commission. The Government are, by this Bill, practically establishing new tribunals, and safeguarding them by all sorts of exceptionally heavy penalties. The tendency in barbaric times was towards the infliction of extreme penalty ; but the whole tendency of modern legislation is towards the imposition of moderate penalties, for the purpose of deterring persons from the commission of crime, rather than with the object of inflicting vindictive punishment. I think the Attorney-General would enable justice to be done under this clause if he adopted an amendment on the lines of the New Zealand precedent to which I have referred.
– First of all, the honorable gentleman complains that the penalty is too high. I say that it is not. A magistrate or Judge may make the penalty just what he pleases. It is a reflection upon our Courts to say that, because a maximum penalty of £500 is provided, that penalty will, in every case, be imposed. I take the case of the innocent struggling farmer referred to, and suppose that he has committed, quite inadvertently, a very mild and venial offence. He is taken before a magistrate, and, if he shows clearly that his offence was inadvertent, no one will suggest that any magistrate would impose the maximum penalty. Honorable members may tell me of the many powers the Commission has, and how these may be abused. Judges have great power, too; but we all know very well that Judges do not do unreasonable things. I submit that Judges will not do anything but justice, even under this Bill, and so will not impose heavy penalties for trivial or inadvertent offences.
The honorable member for Darling Downs has suggested that a point of law might arise, but I do not know how that could be. A witness, for instance, raises a perfectly bonâ fide objection to produce certain evidence. He says to the Chairman of the Commission, “ I do not agree with you that the evidence is relevant.” The Chairman says that itis, and there is an honest difference of opinion. But it is not a difference of opinion on a point of law. Surely a question of relevancy is a question of fact ? What else is it ? If a question of law could arise, I should be quite willing that the Chairman should state a case, if he is capable of doing so, or that the matter should be referred to the AttorneyGeneral for him to state a case; but the question of the relevance of evidence is merely a question of fact, and, that being so, I think the clause should be allowed to pass.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
President or Chairman of the Commission, or the sole Commissioner, may authorize the payment of such sum as he deems reasonable.
.- I shall only suggest amendments to these proposed new sections included in clause 6, but shall not move an amendment. Provision is made that a witness must attend, and may be arrested if he does not do so; but there is no provision for the payment of his reasonable expenses in advance. In one Act which I have seen, provision is made that if a person asks for a witness to be summoned, he must deposit sufficient to cover his reasonable travelling expenses; whilst if the Chairman asks a witness to attend, provision is made for his expenses from Government funds. A witness need not attend unless reasonable travelling expenses are tendered to him. That is the practice followed in all Courts of Justice, and it would be a reasonable excuse for the non-attendance of a witness in a Court of Justice if he could show that he was not tendered the prescribed expenses. I think that travelling expenses, at least, ought to be provided for witnesses who may be asked to attend the Commission from a distance of 200 or 300 miles.
– Has the honorable gentleman looked at the proposed new section 6g?
– Yes; but that does not make provision for a tender of expenses in advance. Under the Act to which I have referred, a witness must be tendered travelling expenses in advance, or he may not be arrested. I am not going to move any amendment, but I hope the AttorneyGeneral will consider the suggestion.
– I shall look into the practice.
– Does not the honorable gentleman think that the proposed new section 6g means a payment of expenses in advance ?
– It does not say so.
– It is the usual practice, is it not?
– It is the usual practice in ordinary Courts of Justice. But there is no power, for instance, to compel the payment of witnesses’ expenses in the Arbitration Court. In ordinary Courts of Justice it is it sufficient answer to an information for non-attendance that a witness had not been tendered his expenses. In arbitration proceedings a witness may be called upon to attend a conference, though he may have to travel 300 or 400 miles to do so. I find that in the Queensland Justices Act there is a provision preventing the arrest of a person summoned as a witness, except in the case of an indictable offence, it a reasonable sum has not been tendered for his attendance. I am sorry that, in regard to the penalties, the AttorneyGeneral did not see his way to reduce some of them. Lawyers are aware of the discrepancy that often appears in the penalties meted out in different Courts. Where a maximum fine of £500 is provided for, some Courts will impose a fine of£20, and others a fine as high as £250. In a recent case I was almost shocked to learn that an extremely severe penalty was imposed for a trifling offence under the Licensing Act. If we fix the maximum penalty at £500, there will be some inducement to magistrates to impose a penalty of nearly that amount.
– I should like to ask the Attorney-General to consider whether the words “ continue in attendance “ in the proposed new section 6a should not be altered, because they seem to suggest that a witness should remain the whole day about the Court. I was going to propose the substitution of the words “ appear and report himself from day to day.” The words “ continue in attendance “ in the case of a very busy man might mean that he would have to wait for days and days until he was required as a witness. It seems to me to be sufficient if the person summoned reports himself to the Chairman.
– Very well, I have no objection. Where does the honorable member want the amendment to come in?
– I move-
That the words “ continue in attendance,” lines 4 and 5, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the words “ appear and report himself.”
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That after proposed new section 6d the following new section be inserted : - (dd) A statement or disclosure made by any witness in answer to any question put to him by a Royal Commission, or any of the Commissioners, shall not (except in proceedings for an offence against this Act), be admissible in evidence against him in any civil or criminal proceedings in any Commonwealth or State Court, or any Court of any Territory of the Commonwealth.
– Has the Attorney-General considered the advisableness of inserting another clause to enable confidential information to be protected ?
– The proposed new section that I have just moved does that. I inserted the word “ disclosure “ for the purpose of making it cover extracts from books or documents.
– No; that would only mean that if a witness gave an answer to a question that answer could not be used against him subsequently in any criminal or civil proceedings. But a witness might say to a Commission, “ I am bound to give you this evidence, but it is of a peculiarly confidential nature, and I ask you not to make it public. You may use it in coming to your findings on matters of fact, but as it is confidential, I ask you to protect me, and not allow it to go out to the public.” I think there ought to be some procedure to protect confidential information wherever necessary. That is done in connexion with the Arbitration Court, and the AttorneyGeneral himself said last night that he had no objection to its being done.
– Has it been done any where else? Is there such a provision in any other Royal Commissions Act?
– No; because in other Royal Commissions Acts, the clauses are different from these. But, irrespective of that consideration, I am asking the AttorneyGeneral to deal with this suggestion on its merits. Not long ago, the AttorneyGeneral told us that we were to lead the world in our legislation.
– Quite so; but I am getting tired !
– The most confidential matters may be inquired into, and under this Bill there will be no protection for witnesses. I again remind honorable members that this provision, when once placed on the statute-book, may be used against those to whom they might not desire to see it applied.
– The Chairman of a Royal Commission can now decline to allow evidence to be published.
– What I am seeking now is protection for the witness.
– In what way would the honorable member suggest further protection ?
– I suggest such a provision as there is in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– Is it suggested that on the request of a witness, the Chairman or President of a Royal Commission shall at once direct that the evidence must be private? Such a suggestion is, in my opinion, absurd. If it is not proposed that we should go to that length, then the Act as it stands is amply sufficient, because, as I have already said, the President or Chairman may now, if he chooses, prevent the publication of any evidence. I have said over and over again that this Bill does not increase the scope of inquiry, but merely enables Royal Commissions to be made effective, so that when there is anything to inquire into, a Commission may be able to make the inquiry, and not sit down and look at it. We are all reasonable men here; and we are not to suppose that the Chairman of a Royal Commission will be other than prepared to listen to any suggestions put forward.
– I suggest that in proposed section 6 there should be inserted after the word “summons” the words “ after having been paid, or tendered, a reasonable sum for expenses.” No witness can be compelled to attend a Court of law unless he is paid or tendered reasonable expenses ; and the suggestion I have made would meet objections that have been raised by honorable members on both sides.
– By section 8 of the Act the Governor-General is empowered to make regulations prescribing a scale of payments to witnesses as travelling expenses and maintenance while absent from their usual place of abode. The suggestion is that the payment shall be made in advance; and, while there are circumstances in which that might properly be done, it would, in my opinion, be fatal to the usefulness and effectiveness of the measure if it were compulsory in every case. If a man lives in Carlton, and is summoned to appear at the Court in Lonsdale-street, is it suggested that, before we can expect him to attend, he must be given a 3d. tram ticket? “That, of course, is carrying the argument to an absurdity ; but nevertheless a witness would be legally entitled to the tram ticket or to refuse to attend, and there are many persons who would take all sorts of points of this kind. I assure the honorable member that section 8 of the Act will . be given effect to ; and that is as far as we ought to be asked to go.
.- The provisions in the Act and in the Bill are all right, so far as they go, but we may have the case of a witness who is not possessed of means to reach the place where a Royal Commission is sitting. The AttorneyGeneral has referred to the fact that a witness may require to be handed a tram fare; but I may tell him, as a matter of practice, that I never heard of a subpoena being served unaccompanied by the payment of at least is., and no one connected with a Court would think of handing a subpoena without tendering sufficient to bring the witness to the hearing. I do not press the matter, but I think the suggestion a reasonable one. If a witness is entitled to be paid the money afterwards, he might as well be paid or tendered it before he starts.
– I hope the honorable member for Gippsland will press bis very reasonable amendment. The Attorney-General is going, to extremes when he cites the case of a man who lives up the street and requires a tram fare. Why does the honorable gentleman not take a reasonable view, and have regard to the man without means who has to travel a considerable distance? In any case there is nothing derogatory in the Department offering a tram fare, which would safeguard a man who is bond fide in want of money.
– Section 8 of the Act and the proposed section 6g are sufficient.
– What harm is there in the suggestion of the honorable member for Gippsland?
– In cases where witnesses have to come from a distance, I say they shall be tendered their expenses. When they live near at hand, they ought not to be.
– I do not see how the honorable member can guarantee it unless it is put in the Bill.
– Under section 8 of the Act the Governor-General may make regulations “ prescribing the scale of allowances to be paid to any witness summoned under this Act for his travelling expenses and maintenance while absent from his usual place of abode.” I say that in cases where witnesses at a distance are called to appear before a Royal Commission, when they so desire they shall have their travelling expenses tendered to them before they come.
– And maintenance.
– Witnesses in such cases will not be punished because they do not attend on subpoena if their travelling expenses are not tendered. We have power to provide for that, and I make that statement publicly ; but I am not going to make a general rule with regard to all witnesses. As a general rule witnesses do not come from great distances to the Commission. The Commission goes to them. A Commission travels from place to place. The Navigation Commission went to the witnesses all round Australia ; the witnesses did not come to us. If we summoned a man from Perth to Melbourne, it would be most unfair not to give him his fare before he started; but when I go to Perth to examine him, it would be absurd to tender him his expenses just because he lived at the other end of the city, and had to travel a few hundred yards.
.- As the honorable member for Gippsland says, the universal practice in regard to the service of subpoenas of all kinds is to tender the conduct-money with the subpoena. It is immaterial whether it is a very large or very small sum. I cannot agree with the Attorney-General that in cases where the witness is close at hand he ought not to have his conduct-money in the usual way. We generally give a witness a shilling with his subpoena. Honorable members opposite seem to think that sub-clause 1 of clause 6g is not sufficient to insure the tendering of conduct-money, but I should have thought it was ample to insure it. I cannot imagine any penalty being imposed on a man who can say, “ I was not tendered my expenses, and therefore I could not attend.”
– He may be arrested under clause 6a, and you cannot cancel an arrest.
– He may possibly be arrested. The Attorney-General, apparently, has no objection to giving the witnesses this protection, but he thinks they are already sufficiently protected.
– They are not.
– I should have thought they were; but if they are not, there ought to be no objection on the part of the AttorneyGeneral to making that slight variation of the Bill, because in spirit it is the same as he is offering. He has told us that he wishes witnesses to be paid their expenses of attendance, and 1 think he expects those expenses to be tendered when the summons is served. If there is a danger of any one being penalized for not attending before a Royal Commission when his expenses have not been paid in advance to enable him to attend, I hope the risk will be removed.
– The honorable member for Gippsland and the honorable member for Batman have said that there is an implied undertaking that a witness shall have his expenses given to him as a matter of course ; but if the amendment is a desirable one it ought to go in, because, otherwise, the Chairman can issue his warrant and have the witness arrested, and break into his house for the purpose. It is all very well to tell a man, after a warrant has been issued, and he has sustained the ignominy of practically being taken prisoner by the Chairman, that he is entitled to his expenses when he gives his evidence. I understand that the honorable member for Gippsland wants to impose upon the Commission the obligation to tender the witness his expenses when he is subpoenaed to attend, and that otherwise he shall not be bound to give his evidence.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That after the word “ convicted,” in proposed new section 6e, the words “ on information by the Attorney-General “ be inserted.
That will have the effect of making the penalties between£500 and£1,000 payable only in proceedings instituted by the Attorney-General, who, we have to assume, will not institute proceedings unnecessarily or without sufficient thought.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the words “ Five hundred pounds and not more than One thousand pounds “ be left out of the proposed new section 6e.
Apparently, not only may a person, convicted of an offence, be fined in this manner, but he may also be imprisoned for a period not exceeding three months.
– A fine and imprisonment may be imposed, or merely a fine.
– It seems to me that a man who has been already punished for an offence should, on committing a second offence, be sent to gaol. The AttorneyGeneral has his eye on the big corporations ; I am thinking of the small man who may be recalcitrant, and for whom these penalties are altogether too severe. It would not injure a big corporation to fine it a sum exceeding£500 and not more than£ 1,000, though its members would not like to go to gaol, but to a small man such a fine would mean the taking away of all his worldly possessions, although the offence might be due to a sheer fit of wrong-headedness in an otherwise worthy citizen. The penalties should be fixed to meet the ordinary normal case. It is the small men, traders, and others, who, because of the want of legal training, are most likely to offend.
– The introduction of the small, struggling man, overwhelmed with difficulties, who will get into trouble under the Bill, is becoming monotonous, and I protest against it. The honorable member has been on Select Committees and on Royal Commissions, and knows that it is only rarely that persons treat these bodies contumaciously. But occasionally, persons do so act, and this ought not to be allowed. If they offend against sections 5 or 6 of the Act, they may be fined1s., or any amount up to £500, at the discretion of the Court. A second offence would be a deliberate flouting of the law, and the community’s efforts to obtain information cannot thus be made impotent. I do not think that these offences will be committed a second time. No Court is likely to impose a heavy penalty for the first offence. We know that there are rich men in this country who would sooner pay£50 a day than attend before a Royal Commission, but a fine ranging up to£1,000 is calculated to give the boldest pause. For the first offence there is a maximum penalty, but no minimum, and for the second and subsequent offences the penalty is properly much more severe.
– The Attorney-General knows that it is the small men, often men working for wages, who have time and again set the law at defiance in vindication of what they believe to be a principle. It is not a mere inaginary case that I have put. It is the men living out back on the land, or men who work for their living, and not those who are familiar with the procedure of law Courts, who, .in vindication of what they believe to be their rights, are most likely to prove contumacious, and thus to offend.
– A man who commits a second offence must know what he is doing.
– In the honorable member’s experience, men have offended, not once or twice, but even oftener, and he has pleaded for mercy for them. I shall not press my amendment if the Attorney-General is determined that these penalties shall remain, because it would be useless, in view of the support behind him. I must be content to enter my protest against this proposal.
.- Throughout this Bill a very wide discretion is given, and given very properly, I think, to Commissions; but, in regard to this penalty, the powers of the Court are limited in a very strict and arbitrary manner. The minimum penalty is fixed at ^500 and the maximum at ^1,000. A Commission, being familiar with all the circumstances, and anxious, as an honorable body of men, to preserve its dignity, might be of opinion that the offence committed was not so serious as to warrant a penalty of £500; but the discretionary power given under this clause is limited in the most arbitrary manner.
– It is the Court and not a Commission, that is given the discretion in this case.
– Quite so; but my point that the discretionary power given is limited in the most arbitrary way remains good. I do not put this matter before the Attorney-General from the point of view of the poor man or the rich man, but I think it is a pity to limit the discretion of the Court in this arbitrary manner.
– I think that the point made by the honorable member for Parramatta is exactly that which has been put before the Committee by the honorable member for Batman. The honorable member for Parramatta says that a heavy penalty might be imposed in a serious case, but that the Bill is so arbitrary 111 its limitations that a fine of not less than ^500 could be imposed for a second offence, even if the Commission in question thought that the offence’ was a comparatively trivial one, and de-_ sired that the offender should be let down lightly. Assuming the penalties are disjunctive, the only alternative is imprisonment. The honorable member for Parramatta has pointed out that -a rich mart could pay such a fine, but a poor man, would be unable to do so.
– Pleading for the poor man;
– I have always done that, “ even if honorable members opposite havenot done so. Surely the case of the poor man is entitled to some consideration. The Attorney-General has been trying to consider it, and I ask him,” if not now, at all events, before the Bill is sent on to the Senate, to endeavour to provide for some elasticity in this provision, so as to meet cases of hardship.
.- 1 move-
That the word “ three,” ia proposed new section 6e, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ two.” 1 have heard jeering references to ‘ the pool man,” and I wish to say that I am not here advocating the interests pf the poor man as such. I am only pointing out that the man who is likely to get into trouble under a provision of this kind is one who has not much of this world’s goods. Such a man is more likely to get into trouble than is a man who has plenty of money. The fact that a Court is to impose these penalties makes the position worse than it would be if Royal Commissions were to be empowered to exercise a discretion in regard to them. The Court will not be aware of all the circumstances. lt will not know what has given rise to what, in many cases, may be a mere fit of wrong-headedness. A man appearing before a Commission may feel that some principle for which he contends is being assailed, and he may come under the lash of this law in the . simplest way. The Attorney-General laughs, but he knows that my statement is correct. He knows that there are men who would sooner go to gaol than compromise on what they believe to be a matter of high principle.
– That has been provided! foi.
– It has not; but, as the fates are against me, I shall have to submit, and ask leave to withdraw my, amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- Proposed new section (f), which is embodied in. this clause, empowers a Royal Commission to inspect documents, books, or writings produced before it, and to take extracts from them. Whilst we should empower Royal Commissions to obtain all necessary information, we should also endeavour to give those who may be summoned before them an assurance that they will be protected, as far as possible, so that they will have confidence in the conduct of inquiries. I move -
That after the words “ copies of “ in proposed new section 6f the words “ such matter as is relevant to the inquiry “ be inserted.
– I have no objection to that amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the word “ appearing,” in proposed new section 6c., be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ summoned to appear.”
If this amendment be agreed to, a man who has been summoned to appear before a Royal Commission will be paid a reasonable sum for the expenses of his attendance; whereas, under the clause as it stands, a man might not receive his expenses for some time.
– I have already explained what I am prepared to do, and I think my proposal is perfectly fair.
– If the honorable gentleman is prepared to do what he says he is, why should he not agree to this amendment ?
– Because I wish it to apply to those cases which I have mentioned, and not to all others.
– There can be no case that is not genuine.
– This limits the number of persons who may appear.
– Practically it would reduce the proceedings to a farce.
– The money ought to be tendered if it is only 5d.
– Does the honorable member say that a man who travels on a penny section should have a penny sent to him ?
– The summons nas to be sent to the man. We are told by practising attorneys, that it is the rule to send a shilling to a person when he is served with a subpoena.
– I have been very unlucky then. I have been served with many subpoenas, but not once have I received anything with them.
– I think that there is a middle course which can be followed. I understand that the Attorney-General wants, when a summons is issued, to compel the witness to come, and that the honorable member for Parramatta wants to justify the witness in not coming until he gets his expenses paid. When I heard the honorable member for Gippsland put his contention before the Committee some time ago I framed an amendment which reads as follows -
Any witness appearing before a Royal Commission shall be entitled to be paid a reasonable sum for the expenses of his attendance before giving evidence, in accordance with the prescribed scale.
– Suppose that he has to come a distance ; he wants his conduct money.
– I am quite ready to meet that case. If this amendment were adopted a man could go to the Commission with the most perfect confidence that he would not be called upon to give evidence until his expenses had been tendered to him. It is a middle course. It recognises the force of the summons, and when he attended he need not give his evidence until his expensps were tendered. I submit the suggestion as an alternative.
.- I would point out to theAttorney-General that a witness may be a man without sufficient money to pay his travelling tare. He may, for instance, have to come hundreds of miles. In such a case a. man should be tendered his travelling expenses.
– The Attorney-General has publicly promised that the man shall have his travelling expenses.
– Why does not the Attorney-General put a provision to that effect in the Bill ? What is the good of a public promise in a Court of law? A Court cannot take notice of what he said here, but must be governed by the Act. Again, suppose that a man is summoned to attend from a great distance, and his evidence is not wanted. Is he toget nothing simply because he was not called as a witness? This matter deserves better treatment than it is receiving. The AttorneyGeneral ought to pay a little more attention to the wants of the witnesses who will be summoned to appear before
Royal Commissions, because in many cases they will be in necessitous circumstances. A little more consideration from a professed humanitarian like the honorable gentleman would be more to the credit of the House.
– I hope that the Attorney-General will see the force of the argument which has been put forward. It must be patent to everybody that many witnesses will be summoned to attend before Royal Commissions whose evidence may not be taken, and who really may not have the wherewithal to come from any great distance.
– The Attorney-General has already explained that their expenses will be paid.
– The Attorney-General has essayed to explain many things to his own satisfaction, but those explanations, unfortunately, do not coincide with the facts and provisions of the Bill. There is no getting away from the clause itself. If it is passed a witness will have to appear before the Commission before he can claim any expenses. What the amendment proposes is that he shall be tendered his expenses before he comes, because in many cases men of insufficient means may be summoned to attend. Are persons whose evidence is not wanted when they appear to go without their expenses? What the amendment seeks to provide for is that any person who is summoned to appear before a Royal Commission shall be tendered his expenses before he appears. That is surely a reasonable proposal. The amendment would be but a very slight alteration of the clause, but it would mean a great deal to a man who may not have the means to attend the Commission after he has been subpoenaed.
– I do not think thatthe amendment would secure a witness being tendered his expenses with the subpoena.
– Though that might be so, he would be entitled subsequently to receive his expenses, and as the clause stands he would not. This point must have escaped the notice of the Attorney-General. Surely the honorable gentleman does not desire to inflict such an injustice upon a man who may not have the means to attend a Royal Commission from a distance at his own expense.
– I ask leave to amend my amendment by inserting the words proposed before the word “ appearing,” so that the clause will read, “ Any witness summoned to appear or appearing before a Royal Commission,” and so on. If only the words “ summoned to appear “ were used there would be no provision made for the tendering of expenses to those who appeared when summoned, and I wish to include both.
Amendment amended accordingly.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
We may have to sit a little later than usual to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 July 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120725_reps_4_64/>.