4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
- Mr. Speaker, I wish to ask you the following questions : - 1. In view of standing order No. 128, viz., “ A. question having been proposed may be amended (1) by leaving out- certain words only ; (2) by leaving out certain words in order to insert or add other words ; (3) by inserting or adding words,” was the amendment “ That the report be referred back to the Commissioners for further consideration,” moved by the honorable member for Herbert, on the 23rd of July, in order? (See Votes and Proceedings of 23rd July.) 2. If the said amendment was in order, should it not, when carried, have been put to the House as a motion ?
– The honorable member gave notice yesterday of his intention to ask these questions, but they do not appear on the notice-paper, because it is not customary to put upon the notice-paper questions addressed to the Speaker: Strictly speaking, an appeal cannot be made to the Chair by means of a question, save on a point of order, and the question should be asked when the point arises. The honorable member will, see that, were I liable to be called upon at any time to give rulings in regard to past occurrences, so many questions might be put to me that a great part of the time of the House would be taken up in ‘the answering of them. Appeals for my ruling should be made when the occurrences which call for them arise. Although I propose, to reply to the questions which the honorable member has asked, I wish him to understand that they should have been asked when -the business to which they refer was under the consideration of the House, and I wish the House to understand that my present action is not to be taken as a precedent. I propose, in the future, not to answer questions on points of order, unless raised at the proper time. My reply to the honorable member’s questions is that the standing order to which he refers deals only with themethods by which the terms of a questionproposed by the Chair may be amended ; the standing order does not deal with the- disposal of such questions. When a motion has been proposed from the Chair, it is competent for an honorable member, whether an amendment has been moved or not, to move the previous question, or that the debate bo adjourned,- and it often happens during the consideration of Bills., when a motion for the adoption of the report from the Committee of the Whole has been moved, that another motion for the recommittal of the Bill follows. In these and similar cases the original motion is not dealt with, but is superseded. In the case to which the honorable member has called attention, the motion was made that the House approves of the distribution of Queensland into electoral divisions, as proposed by a majority’ of the Commissioners in their report, and, subsequently, another motion was moved, to the effect that the report be referred back to the Commission. This second motion was a definite instruction, complete in itself, and plainly superseded the original motion, settling the question before the House.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the report in this morning’s - Age to the effect that in the metropolitan area of Sydney the increase in factories for 1911 - 173 - and the increase of employes for 1911 - 6,420 - is the greatest during the currency of the Factories Act passed in 1897, and will he have the statement brought under the notice of the High Commissioner for the information of those having capital to invest in colonial enterprises ?
– I have not seen the statement, but it is eminently satisfactory.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY laid upon the table the following paper: -
Lands Acquisition Act. - Land leased to G. A. Boreham, parish of Canberra, county of Murray, Federal Territory.
Redistribution Reports - Enrolment
– Does the Prime Minister consider the present procedure for dealing with the reports of Commissioners appointed to rearrange the boundaries of electorates satisfactory ? Does he not think that the time has arrived for amending the law, so as to make their decisions Bnai ?
– This Government is not responsible for the existing law on the subject, but I admit that after it has been allowed to operate for a little while it might well be considered by Ministers.
– - Can the Minister of Home Affairs say for the information of the public what it is necessary for electors who move from one division to another to do .in order that they may be qualified to vote at the next election.
– I h I have had the following statement prepared : -
A qualified person who has not already furnished a claim for enrolment is required to do so. Any person already enrolled, who has changed his place of living, so as to render change of enrolment necessary, is required to send in a claim for re-enrolment.
Action must be taken after a qualified person has had his place of living in a subdivision for a period of one month. Temporary change of residence does not involve re-enrolment. Failure to comply with the law within twenty-one days after the person concerned becomes qualified for enrolment or re-enrolment involves a penalty not exceeding Ten shillings in respect of a first offence.
To avoid prosecution, all qualified persons should satisfy themselves that they are enrolled. It U not proposed to take action to enforce the law until the rolls prepared as a result of the recent electoral canvasses are printed and placed on exhibition at public buildings throughout each State.
Forms of claim may be obtained at any post office, and persons who are in doubt as to the names of the subdivisions in which they live may obtain . information at any post office or from the nearest police office.
Full information is being given in posters exhibited at public buildings throughout the Commonwealth as to the franchise and the operation of the law in relation to compulsory enrolment, and electors have been, or are being, notified by post of their enrolment and advised as to future action in the case of change of residence.
– What precautions are taken against double enrolment?
– The The. card system prevents double enrolment, because the cards have to be signed.
– I ask the Minister to take into consideration the statement of the honorable member for Moreton that in Queensland a large number of names - I think he said about 13,000 - were transferred from one roll to another without any signing of cards. How will double voting and personation be prevented in such a case as that ?
– The The statement shows the need for being very careful to enforce the signing of cards by every elector. In Victoria, 95 per cent, of the electors have signed cards; there is only trouble here and there. I have asked the returning officer to have a careful inquiry made into the statement of the honorable member for Moreton.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs discovered in his office any documents indicating that the honorable members for Swan and Darling Downs felt any anxiety about double voting when in power ?
– I hope that the Minister of Home Affairs will place on the table the correspondence in which I told his Department my suspicion that there had been illegal and double voting at the last elections, and asked him, as well as his predecessor, to make a scrutiny of the votes polled, for that purpose.
– I - I think that all that stuff should be buried. It is true that the honorable member for Swan asked us to make an inquiry, and we made a very careful one.
Commonwealth Woollen Mills
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Illawarra that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The action of the Government in regard to the establishment of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I am taking this course because, not only on this, but also on the Ministerial side of the House, there is a great amount of dissatisfaction with the action of the Government in fixing the site of the Commonwealth woollen mills at Geelong. I wish to dispel at once any idea that I am taking this action on account of the decision to establish the mill within Victorian boundaries. The time ought to be long past in this Federal Parliament when matters of this sort could be considered from a provincial or parochial point of view. All these big questions, affecting the establishment of factories or other undertakings necessary to the defence of Australia andother purposes, and belonging to the Federation, ought to be dealt with from a national point of view, independent altogether of the particular State affected. I take exception to what has been done in this matter, first of all, in connexion with the visits made by the expert appointed to recommend a site. He received his instructions from the Government, and, according to his report, which has been issued to honorable members this morning, he visited thirtythree places. The first spot to which he went in New South Wales was the Federal Territory, and in his report he states that he was unable, for various reasons, to find at Y ass-Canberra a suitable site for the establishment of a woollen mill. It must come as a great surprise to honorable members to learn that he gave as one of his reasons that there was no water there. That used to be said here by honorable members five or six years ago, and also by a section of the press, but the gaugings which have been taken by Commonwealth officers since that time have absolutely proved the absurdity of the statement. Mr. Smail said, in his report, that it was absolutely impossible to visit all the sites which were suggested to him. What I consider one of the finest sites in the whole of the Commonwealth, in accordance with the conditions laid down by Mr. Smail himself, was not visited by him at all. I refer to the site at Port Kembla, about 45 miles south of Sydney. He lays down the following eight conditions to be kept in view in choosing a site : - Water supply, drainage, climatic conditions, proximity to wool markets, railway and shipping facilities, condition of labour market, geographical position as a distributing centre, and local conditions for efficient and economical working. While not expressing, an opinion on the climatic conditions necessary for the establishment of a woollen mill - that being a matter for an expert todecide - I consider that the site at Port Kembla absolutely fulfils, better than any other place in the Commonwealth, the other seven conditions which Mr. Smail lays down.
– In your opinion, but not in that of the expert.
– How can the honorable member say so, in view of the fact that the expert has never been there ? There was no delay in bringing this important site before the Commissioner, but as he never visited it, he is not in a position to pass an opinion upon it. I, however, who know the site well, and have had a great deal to do with it ever since the district was opened, a good many years ago, can speak confidently of it with regard to seven of the conditions laid down by him as necessary for the establishment of a mill. The other places visited by the Commissioner are fully reported upon, and it will be for other honorable members, who have a better acquaintance with them than I have, to deal with what Mr. Smail says about them. After visiting the thirty-three sites enumerated, he has undoubtedly come to the conclusion that the Geelong site is in all respects the best of them j but, whilst it may be absolutely the best amongst those he visited-
– It is not.
– Other honorable members, and particularly the honorable member for Nepean, will be able to say something about one or two sites. All I contend is that it is absolutely impossible for the expert to have chosen the best site when he neglected to visit the one at Port Kembla. Another complaint which I have to make regarding the action of the Government is that, after this definite report, signed by the Commissioner on the 25th June, and stating that the Geelong site was the best, had been received by them, different honorable members in this House, notably the honorable member for Denison and myself, have received answers to questions, and have also received letters from the Department, which, to say the least of it, have been absolutely misleading. Two letters which I have received, dated 19th July and 25th July respectively - bringing the matter right up to date - would lead any one to believe that the Port Kembla site and others would receive careful attention from and consideration by the Government, when, as a matter of fact, the Government had already decided on Geelong. This was simply fooling, not only with honorable’ members, but their constituents. I can imagine the indignation which the people of Port Kembla and the surrounding district - one of the largest industrial centres in the Commonwealth - felt when they learnt that, without their place having been visited, and without the slightest inquiry having been made regarding it, another site had been selected. I feel sure that all honorable members must object, with me, to the way in which we have been treated by the Minister in the answers that have been given us from time to time about this matter. The next point to which I wish to refer - and it is, after all, the principal consideration from my point of view - is the national aspect. When the fixing of the site for the Naval College was under consideration, the deciding factor, so far as honorable members on the opposite side of the House were concerned, was that it should be placed in Federal Territory. Many honorable members on both sides of the House were under the impression at the time that the land granted by the State of New South Wales to the Commonwealth at Jervis Bay was to be Federal Territory. It was found, however, on reference to the schedule to the Act by which the property came over to the Commonwealth, that, while the land in the Federal Capital area was Federal Territory, the strip at Jervis Bay had only been “ granted “ to the Commonwealth, and therefore did not constitute what was known as “territory.” When that position arose the Government fought the Government of New South Wales for all they were worth. They threatened to place the college on some other site unless the State of New South Wales agreed to give them absolute sovereign rights over the area at Jervis Bay. Although the New South Wales Government fought them for some time, the Prime Minister and his colleagues were able to secure, over the 15,000 acres which the Commonwealth now holds there, absolute sovereign rights. The reason given was that it was absolutely necessary for the Commonwealth to be able to govern its own factories and establishments independent of any possibility of State interference. What applied to the naval college and other places applies with equal force to such factories as the clothing factory, the harness factory, the small arms factory, and the cordite factory. The position has been taken up very strongly by honorable members opposite - I shall not use the word “caucus,” because I found the other day that it was regarded as offensive - and by members of the same party in the Senate, that Commonwealth factories should be established in Commonwealth territory. A resolution to the following effect was carried last year in the Senate, on the motion of Senator McDougall, seconded by Senator Rae : -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, all Government establishments for the manufacture or supply of goods for the Federal Public Service should (when practicable) be located in the Federal Capital Territory.
That motion was strongly supported by Senator Givens and others. The mover, Senator McDougall, said -
No doubt it will be necessary to continue to have warehouses in all the Capital cities of the ‘
Commonwealth. It must be obvious that factories for the manufacture of all the requirements for our military service should be established in Commonwealth Territory, whether in view of possible aggression from outside Australia, or of trouble which might arise within the Commonwealth. Such things have happened in other parts of the world, and they may happen in Australia. I do not say for a moment that they will, and I hope that they never will happen ; but he is a wise man who can foretell the future. Our factories for the supply of rifles, ammunition, and other requirements of our Defence Force could be easily cut off from the coal supplies which are necessary to keep them working. That will be admitted to be very undesirable. There are in the Federal Territory all the fuel and other requirements necessary to keep them going……
We shall require to establish factories for the manufacture of electrical appliances for the Post and Telegraph Department, and of field guns and waggons; and I am of opinion that all our factories to supply Commonwealth requirements should be located as closely as possible to each other, and within the Federal Territory, that they may be controlled by the Commonwealth authorities.
That was similar to the strong position taken up by the Government in connexion with the Jervis Bay territory -
If all our factories were established close together in the Federal Territory, the labour might be made interchangeable. Men might be worked in one factory until its output had met requirements, and they could then work in another. It would not be necessary for them to go, as they may have to do now, from one State to another, looking for work. It is necessary that we should adopt some means of keeping our hands constantly employed, and my idea is that we should have our factories established close together within the Federal Territory.
I come now to a statement made during the same debate by Senator Givens-
– What State does he represent?
– He is a representative of Queensland. He said -
So far from furthering the establishment in our own territory of our own works, not a single thing has been done by this Ministry since the site was selected to establish anything in the nature of a Commonwealth work there. The Government have been put to great expense in purchasing or leasing offices and sites for the establishment of factories. By-and-by, when we move into our own territory, those factories will be scattered all over the face of the continent. They will require separate supervision and separate power to work them. We shall have nothing in our own territory at all. I privately expressed my opinion to the Government at the time when the clothing factory was going to be established that it ought to be placed in the Commonwealth Territory.
Later on he said -
I venture to say, however, that when the time comes to shift these factories Cain will be raised about our ears by indignant people, who will want the factories to be retained in other parts of Australia to increase the value of their own property and add to their own importance…..
Holding a strong opinion on the subject myself, I feel sure that if that opinion is indorsed by the Senate it will have a powerful influence upon the present or any other Government.
It does not seem to have had much effect on the present Government, notwithstanding that this motion was unanimously agreed to by the Senate. Senator Givens went on to say -
We cannot exercise sovereign rights over those factories unless they are within Federal territory.
That was the strong point made by the Prime Minister when negotiating with the Government of New South Wales for territory at Jervis Bay. Senator Givens continued -
I believe also that if we have a sincere desire to make a capital worthy of the Commonwealth we should do everything in our power to immediately set about the business, and build up a large populous, wealthy and prosperous city at Yass-CanDerra which is practically a waste place at present. . . I venture to say that if those factories and others which are projected are located in Commonwealth territory, and also all the employes with the people dependent upon them, and the other hundred and one persons who will be called on to administer to their wants by setting up accommodation houses, building private factories and running stores and shops, we shall very soon have a very considerable population there.
Senator Rae, speaking to this motion, said
I am in hearty accord with the motion, and with the sentiments expressed by the mover and the seconder of it.
He proceeded to indorse, in very strong terms, the principle laid down in the motion -
I take it that the main reason why a Federation requires a territory specially dedicated to itself and placed under its own sovereignty is not merely to avoid the jealousies of the States one with another, but to have a home of its own and to there concentrate the national departments.
Let me now direct the attention of the House to a statement made by Senator Gardiner.
– What State does he represent? .
– He is a representative of New South Wales ; but he, like the honorable member, I understand, is a. Nationalist.
– I wish I could say the same of the honorable member.
– I challenge the honorable member to point to anything I have done or said in this House during the last eleven years which could be described as being of a provincial character. Time after time the honorable member, however, has given expression to provincial ideas.
– The honorable member is just now a shocking example of provincialism.
– The honorable member, seeing the possibility of this factory, as a result of the present motion, being taken away from Geelong, is up in arms about the whole business. Senator Gardiner said -
I indorse a great deal of what Senator Givens, Senator Rae, and Senator McDougall have said. I particularly wish to congratulate my colleague, Senator McDougall, on having brought the question forward.
– Was there a division on the motion ?
– No. No one opposed it, and it was carried on the voices. I come now to statements that have been made concerning this question by honorable members of the Ministerial party in this House. During the consideration of the Estimates on the 8th November last, the honorable member for Coolgardie, in referring to the Naval College, said -
It must be admitted that Commonwealth industries and institutions of this kind ought to be located within Federal territory. . . It may be well to remind honorable members that this is not the first occasion on which Governments have departed from the healthy principle of establishing all such institutions on Federal territory.
He proceeded to point out the mistakes that had been made by establishing the Small Arms factory at Lithgow, and the Cordite factory at Maribyrnong ; but I would remind the House that when those factories were established by the Government of which I was a member, the question of the Federal Territory had not been finally decided. The honorable member for Coolgardie went on to say -
As I have said, this Government are taking no new departure; but seeing that the Capital Site has now been definitely selected, which was not the case when these other works were established, we ought to be given reasons for the choice of a site for this college.
Then we have the statement made during the debate by the honorable member for Melbourne -
Why have a national territory if we are not going to plant there everything pertaining to the central authority ?
– He does notsay that now.
– I do not know that, he has gone back on his national ideals. I do not think he is the sort of man to do so.
I propose now to quote the views of another representative of Victoria - a member of the Opposition - for the special benefit of the honorable member for Maribyrnong. During this debate in regard to the establishment of the Naval College, the honorable member for Maribyrnong interjected while the honorable member for Laanecoorie was speaking, “ Westernport would be an ideal location.” To that the honorable member replied -
Yes, but notwithstanding its claims, there is a higher consideration, namely, the desirability of placing within the Federal Territory every Commonwealth establishment that can with safety and advantage be placed there.
The honorable member resisted the suggestion made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, and was determined to adhere to his national ideals. The honorable member for Macquarie was the next speaker, and he said -
I wish to support the protest against putting the Naval College near Sydney. I do so mainly upon general principles, because where other things are equal - and I think they are fairly equal in this case - all our big Federal institutions should be placed on Federal Territory.
The honorable member was followed by the honorable member for South Sydney, who said -
I feel inclined to support the motion in order that we may have the college erected in the Federal City, and, if possible, every building for Federal purposes should also be built there.
Finally, let me quote a statement made by the honorable member for Hunter, Mr. Charlton, on the same date -
I am as desirous as most people to see our Federal Territory developed by the establishment of industries and of such institutions as’ that under discussion. ‘
Having made that general statement, he proceeded to set out that there must be certain exceptions. I think I have quoted sufficient to show that honorable members of the Labour party in both Houses have taken up the attitude that, where possible, all Federal factories and institutions should be established within Federal Territory. That, I think, is a national stand taken up by honorable members opposite. The expert in this case has said that he could find no suitable site at YassCanberra for the establishment of the woollen mills, but I should like to know what is the matter with Jervis Bay. The Government fought hard and long for a piece of territory running down to Jervis Bay, and I should like to know why the territory acquired there was not visited by the expert. Every one who has visited Jervis Bay is aware that it is a magnificent harbor, and would be a magnificent centre of distribution. The Jervis Bay territory fulfils all the requirements which the Commissioner has declared essential to the successful establishment of these mills.
– Is there any fresh water there ?
– Any quantity, but I will not say that there is a running stream. Honorable members opposite should insist upon the Government expert inspecting the Federal Territory at Jervis Bay before it is finally decided that this factory should be erected outside Federal Territory. With the exception, perhaps, of a running stream, the Jervis Bay territory fulfils all the requirements, and I trust that it will be inspected, and a site selected there. With a view to securing effective administration and avoiding interference by any State authority, I hope that the supporters of the Government will insist upon the expert being asked to see if he cannot select a site in Federal Territory. All who view this matter from a national stand-point must recognise that the woollen mills should be established in our own territory, but, apart from that fact altogether, I think that sites which have been brought under the notice of the Minister by myself and other honorable members, but which have not been inspected by the expert, should be visited by him before a final decision is arrived at, if it is to be placed outside of Federal Territory.
– At 9.45 this morning the honorable member penned a note to myself to the effect that he intended to submit this motion. I did not receive that note until 10.28, or two minutes before the House met. I suggest to him that if in future he has a similar motion to propose, it might be useful to allow the Minister concerned a little more notice.
– I handed it to a messenger, and as the honorable member was not to be found here what was I to do?
– The honorable member’s letter was not written until 9.45 this morning. Apart from that, however, the honorable member’s reference to the fact that he sincerely hoped honorable members on this side would insist on the Government sending the expert to the Federal Territory to report as to its suitability, drives me to the conclusion that he has not read the report of the expert, which is in print, and was laid on the table two days ago.
– I was particularly careful to point out that I only, referred to that portion of the Territory at Jervis Bay, which the expert never went near.
– The quotations read by the honorable member were, with one or two exceptions, from speeches by senators and honorable members who support the Government ; and his approval of the sentiments expressed shows conclusively that he regards the supporters of the Government as Nationalists in the true sense of the word.
– The honorable member was born within 5 yards of the parish pump. .
– The honorable member for Parramatta is the very first to object to interjections, and to ask for the withdrawal of anything he considers offensive; and I suggest, while not asking him to withdraw his words, that he should not further indulge in such comments.
– I persist in withdrawing, Mr. Speaker. Had the honorable member not better proceed without all these airs ?
– Will the honorable member cease his continuous interjections?
– Apparently, the honorable member cannot help being disorderly. In regard to the quotations read by the honorable member for Illawarra, I may point out that a resolution of the Senate, or expressions of opinion from either side of this House, do not necessarily bind the Government. All honorable members, particularly those on this side, are free to express their opinions ; and it is very cheering to receive a certificate from the other side that the speeches delivered by Government supporters are of a truly national character. The honorable member for Illawarra has overlooked the instructions given to the expert by the Government. This is a matter wholly and solely for an expert, and not for myself, whose opinions may be influenced owing to the fact that’ I represent a particular district. An expert of undoubted ability was obtained from England, who could have no local opinion, and who has not been long enough in the country to be influenced in any way by local opinion. He was sent out to visit various parts of the Commonwealth with an absolutely free hand. We relied on his expert knowledge, and expressly instructed him that the factory would be under his charge, and that he would be held responsible for its safe, efficient, and economical working. If I gather anything from the remarks of the honorable member for Illawarra, it is that if he and his party had been in charge they would have directed the expert to put the factory in a particular position, irrespective of its efficient and economical working, with the result that, subsequently, they would have had to foster it by continual subsidies of one kind or another, or they would have gone to the country and declared that another Socialistic institution was not paying, and that reliance should have been placed on good old private enterprise. I ask honorable members opposite, if they would, in public, differ from the instructions which were given to the expert. What I understand by economical management is that the factory shall be conducted on ordinary business lines, and, unaided by any Government subsidies, shall be made a paying concern in the best interests of the Commonwealth.
– That is consistent with establishing the factory in the Federal Territory.
– As to that, the fact that the general trend of thought was in the mind of the Government is evidenced by the expert’s report, in so far as it shows that, acting under instructions, he first visited the Federal Territory.
– He went only to the YassCanberra portion.
– The report of the expert contains the following: -
My first visit was to Yass-Canberra, the site of the Federal City, embracing from Quean- beyan to the junction of the Cotter River with the Murrumbidgee, Duntroon, and Acton.
That is a clear indication that he acted under the instruction to first visit the Federal Territory and report on its suitability. He goes on to say -
Although the climatic conditions are not up to my idea of the requirements, it would be quite wrong to say that a woollen factory could not be established there, because; with the development of the city, it is certain to have factories of all descriptions, and, no doubt, conditions will then prevail whereby cloth manufacture could be fairly successfully accomplished.
He is very explicit in his reasons for declaring that it would be impossible, inthe circumstances, to select a site in the Federal Territory. He says -
However,I can only report on the conditions existing at the present time, and I have no hesitation -
That is very emphatic language - in saying that the idea of establishing a factory there is a long way in advance of the economic conditions that must prevail for its successful establishment.
Another paragraph is -
I think I have demonstrated that it is not a practical proposition, and further, the manager could not be expected to be held responsible for compliance with Rule 3 of the Regulations for Government Factories, viz. : - “ Each manager shall be responsible for the efficient, safe, and economical working of the factory under his charge.”
Under the circumstances, the charge that the Federal Territory was not visited falls to the ground.
– Did he visit Jervis Bay?
– It would have been for myself or other Ministers impossible to follow the expert to every little site he visited. Whatever opinions may be held by myself and others respecting Jervis Bay, an opinion on a question of this sort had to be obtained from an expert of undoubted ability and knowledge, by whose recommendations we must of necessity be guided.
– There is no particular ability shown in the report.
– I am sorry to hear the interjection of the honorable member. It does not follow that, because a man is not an expert in writing a report for submission to Parliament, he is not an expert in the manufacture of woollen materials. There are not many of us, even in this House, after long years of parliamentary experience, who can claim to be experts in writing reports ; indeed, many of us have to apply for legal assistance when we desire to be particularly careful. However, the report of the expert was such that the Government had no option but to accept the definite recommendation in favour of Geelong. I know that honorable members, particularly on this side of the House, desire that such factories shall be successfully established on efficient, safe, and economical lines; and that they shall not be interfered with later on by persons who are only too willing and glad to seize any opportunity to say that enterprises of a Socialistic character ought not to be undertaken. Under all the circumstances I hope that honorable members will not permit a motion of this description to be passed. Although the proposal has, to some extent, in the able remarks of the honorable member for Illawarra, been freed from the parochial element, it has in it all the elements of parochialism; but be that as it may, the Government have decided to accept the report of the expert.
– I desire to assure the Honorary Minister that in all matters of behaviour I appeal to the standard set by himself ; everybody knows that he is a perfect Chesterfield in this House. But may I suggest that when next he sets out to deliver lectures on behaviour, he should address himself to some of his own colleagues? In my wildest flights I never described honorable members as “miserable, sulky, paralytic, one-legged, one-eyed muck worms.”
– The honorable gentleman in his remarks, and the expressions to which he has given utterance, is going beyond the question before the Chair.
– I am quoting the expressions of a member of the Government.
– T - That is not so.
– There are so many remarks and interjections across the chamber that it is very difficult for me to follow what is going on ; and I regret to say, without mentioning names, that there are some honorable members who interject more freely than others. I must ask honorable members not to interject. If it is the desire of the House that I should take a strong hand to prevent this disorder, I shall be prepared to take a very strong hand indeed.
– Hear, hear, Mr. Speaker, I hope you will ; and if you do-
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the matter before the Chair?
– When a gentleman criticises my behaviour I claim the right to reply.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the matter before the Chair or I will take such steps as will compel him to do so.
– I shall bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as I always do, no matter what my opinionmay be of it.
– The honorable member is now casting a reflection on the Chair, although he was just now offering a lecture on behaviour. I ask the honorable member not to follow that course.
– I am much obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for your lecture on my behaviour; Ishall leave the matter at that.
We are all nationalists in this House. For instance, the honorable member for Corio is a great nationalist.
– I am a greater nationalist than is the honorable member !
– Interjections are distinctly disorderly, and I ask the honorable member not to interject.
– The honorable member has received encomiums, plaudits, and thanks from the townspeople of Geelong, and I congratulate him on his fortunate position in this matter. The complimentary references which have been made to him are, of course, all based on national grounds. We are all Nationalists, and do not need to parade the fact, but it is rather a strong dose to be told that there is a monopoly of Nationalism among the supporters of the Government. We shall see before the debate is finished how much Nationalism there is on the Ministerial cross benches. I can see the Nationalism of some of the members sitting there oozing out of their finger tips almost. I shall be glad to hear the Nationalist notes sounded by the honorable member for Nepean in this matter. I hope that it will not be regarded as a departure from Nationalist ideals if I claim that the report is entirely inadequate, and tells us nothing. It lays down principles, and then dismisses one place after another in a single line. For instance, we are told that Parramatta is “ more suitable than Lithgow, but not at all in the running against Liverpool and Geelong.” That is not an enlightening description of the advantages of the district for the manufacture of woollens. The expert was in Parramatta for only an hour or two at the most. He speaks of running water as a prime qualification, but appears not to know that there is alongside the retaining walls of the Parramatta Woollen Mills a stream of water equal for that purpose to any in Australia. I do not say that the Commonwealth Woollen Mills should be erected at Parramatta, although the mills now there have been so successful that they are being duplicated. Clothing for the Government Departments of the State is made there, and I believe that its qualities have never been called into question. On the contrary, it has received the highest approval from experts. Therefore Parramatta should not have been dismissed in a single line. I hope I may make that statement without being taken to cast the slightest reflections on the expert. It is a justifiable complaint in regard to a proposal for the expenditure of ^”60,000 that we have not sufficiently full information. If’ Geelong is the best place for the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, by all means let them be put there ; let them be put in the best place for them. That is my Nationalism. But Parliament should be told why Geelong is better than any other place in the Commonwealth. This Government has completely reversed its policy regarding the selection of sites for national institutions.
The plea for abandoning ‘ the Naval College site near Sydney, and adopting another in the Federal Territory, was that it was intended to concentrate all the Federal institutions there. That policy has now been departed from, and the reasons for the departure should be fully and adequately set out. It is evident that the Federal Territory was not properly examined to find a site. Only the site of the city was looked at, and districts where there is water and facilities for distribution were not examined. _ The expert lays it down that geographical position for distribution, local conditions as to efficient and economical working, railway and shipping facilities, and proximity to wool markets are the important considerations, but he did not go to that part of the Federal Territory in which shipping facilities could be provided, and the geographical position of which is advantageous for distribution. A report which deals with thirty-six sites in two pages cannot be regarded as adequate. Of Lithgow it is said that “ the only advantage here is proximity to coal. In all other conditions it does not come up to Liverpool.” That may be true enough. Yet there has been a successful woollen mill at Lithgow for many years, one of the oldest mills in the State. If the disadvantages of these places were explained, we should be in a better position to judge of the advantages of the Geelong site. I do not say. a word against Geelong, which must have many advantages, being close to the sea, and pretty central ; but I do not know that it possesses a better water supply than some of the other sites, nor a more suitable climate. The invidious comparison of
Parramatta with other places would justify the inference that there is not a water supply there, whereas there is an excellent water supply, as good as is to be found in the State. I hope that the Minister will obtain a fuller report from the expert, so that Parliament may come to a proper decision. The comparisons in the report before us leave us entirely in the dark as to the merits of the various sites. If in the end it is shown that Geelong is the best site, I shall be ready to say “ Good luck to her; let her have the prize.”
.- I was surprised” at the moving of the adjournment to discuss this matter. The chief complaint of the honorable member for Illawarra seems to be that Mr. Smail did not inspect Port Kembla. Mr. Smail came to Australia about six months ago, when the possibility of establishing Federal woollen mills at Yass-Canberra was freely discussed. Every honorable member had an opportunity then to bring under the notice of the Government sites which he would like to have visited. Why did not the honorable member for Illawarra avail himself of that opportunity? He waits for six months, until a site has been selected, and then asks why Port Kembla was not visited. Apparently, he has been asleep. I have always understood that Opposition members are great believers in experts, because from time to time I have heard them condemn the Government for not accepting expert advice.
– They do not hold that view when the expert advice is against New South Wales.
– In listening to the honorable member for Illawarra, I hardly knew whether he was a Nationalist or a parochialist. We gave Mr. Smail every facility to see for himself the advantages of Geelong. In establishing a factory, it is an advantage to have it in a town where labour is available. If a man were establishing a woollen factory in England, he would put it in Bradford, because there he would get men and women who had been trained to woollen manufacture from their infancy. Similarly, a cutlery factory would be established at Sheffield. At Geelong there are three big woollen mills, and the number of persons acquainted with the manufacture of woollens is twice as large as in any other district in Australia. Furthermore, we have there a cord and textile college, fitted up with the latest machinery for training persons in every branch of the woollen industry.
– You have no coal at Geelong.
– But we have shipping facilities far superior to any offered by other sites. We have several big mills, and the water is excellent for this purpose. We have a fine river, called the Barwon; and, in addition, we have one of the finest water supplies in Australia. The pipes are laid right on to the block which has been generously given to the Government free of cost toy trie Harbor Trust.
– That is a bribe.
– It is riot. The Harbor Trust is an up-to-date body which wants to encourage the establishment of factories at Geelong, and is quite willing to be generous. In tact, generosity is a feature of Victorian public bodies. The honorable member for Illawarra said ihat the mill should have .been established in Federal Territory, if the views of members of the Labour party were considered.
– The expert visited only one part of the Federal Territory. Does not the honorable member know that there are two Federal territories?
- Mr. Smail was told by the Government to visit the Federal Territory first, and, if it were possible economically to select a site for the mill there, he was to do so. He gave one of the fullest reports on any site on that at YassCanberra. He wrote - 1 am of opinion, governed by historical and scientific facts, that climatic conditions have a very material influence in the successful manufacture of woollen cloth, and I am also of opinion that it is almost a necessity to be in close proximity to a running stream.
He said that his first visit was to YassCanberra, and that the climatic conditions were very good there; but that, unfortunately, there were certain drawbacks, which he enumerated, as follows : -
There is no definite lay-out plan of the city, no water supply, no drainage, no railway, no population ; in fact, everything is against the establishment of an isolated factory.
Surely that is definite enough, coming from a gentleman specially engaged in Great Britain to come here and place our woollen factory on a successful footing. He deals further with the Yass-Canberra site in these words -
Presuming we did establish it there in spite of the present conditions, we should be up against abnormal cost on every preliminary item towards erection of buildings and fitting of plant and machinery.
The Opposition only recently condemned the Government for extravagance and waste fulness, but now they are condemning the Government for endeavouring to spend the taxpayers’ money to the best advantage. I cannot follow that sort of logic, but it is in keeping with many of the statements made by the Opposition in the past. The site selected is magnificent. It is one of the best that could possibly be obtained in North Geelong. It is situated on a small inlet called Corio Quay. There is a magnificent supply of water there; and if it is necessary to transport any of the woollen material by sea, barges can be brought right up to the factory. It is next to the Harbor Trust works, from which the factory can be supplied with all the electricity requisite. It should, therefore, not be necessary for the Government to establish an electric plant of their own, because the Harbor Trust, a Government institution, are quite willing to supply all the electricity that is wantedSo far as the employes are concerned, we have a number of highly-trained men and women available to do the work of the factory. With all this evidence in support of the site chosen, I am sure the House will have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the Government were quite justified in adopting Mr. Smail’s report.
.- I am quite in accord with the action of the honorable member for Illawarra in moving the adjournment of the House. I think the question is of sufficient importance to warrant the course he has taken. The Honorary Minister told us that the Ministry had been guided by an expert specially appointed to select a site for the woollen mill, and that they wanted to establish a mill which would be a paying concern and a credit to the Commonwealth. I quite agree with those remarks, but I blame the Ministry for not having taken the slightest trouble to send the expert to the best places. They allowed him to go about the Commonwealth, apparently, just where some honorable member or other wanted him to go.
– The Victorians have him “nobbled.”
– The Government have not treated the Commonwealth as they should have done. I quite agree with those honorable members who contend that nearly all the industries which the Commonwealth is going to establish should be in Federal Territory, provided that there is not some particular reason for placing them elsewhere. I do not want to bind myself down too rigidly in that regard, because we are legislating, not only for one little bit of Australia known as the Federal Territory, but for the whole of Australia, and it may be necessary at times to go outside of our own territory for the purpose. The Defence Department have handled this matter in the most casual manner. They brought out the expert, but, while professing to try to find the best site in Australia, they took no trouble to do anything of the sort. They practically allowed Mr. Smail to be at the beck and call of anybody who liked to approach the Government. When he was in Tasmania, I did not approach him when I might have done so, simply because I saw that he had been instructed to go to Hobart and Launceston, and I felt that it would not be fair to him or the Government to approach him behind their backs and ask him to go somewhere else on my initiative. The next day, I noticed by the press that some one had spoken to him, and that he had said that he did not feel himself at liberty to go to any places other than Hobart and Launceston, because those were the limits of his instructions. On the following day, I noticed that some one in another part of the State had telegraphed to the Minister, and that Mr. Smail was going to be sent to that particular place. I then tried to meet him on the train, and tried also to get into touch with him by telephone, so that he might spend at least an hour at one site which he had not seen, but I could not get him. I placed myself in communication with the Minister of Defence, and was told, by letter, that Mr. Smail was going to visit Tasmania again. Consequently, I informed the public bodies who, I thought, were interested, and they have been expecting to hear from me the date of Mr. Smail’s arrival. I was not told by the Department that he was not going to Tasmania again, although they must have known perfectly well by that time that there was no intention of sending him there.
– Why did you not get him when he was there?
– I tried my best to get him, but I did not run after him, seeing that he was bound down by certain instructions.
– How did I get him to go to Hobart?
– I suppose the honorable member had some means of “ knowing a bit,” and that is another complaint that I have to make. If honorable members in one part of the House were informed that Mr. Smail was about to peregrinate Australia in this haphazard manner, we ought all to have had a similar opportunity of knowing it. I do not think it redounds al all to the credit of the Government to allow themselves to be approached by individual members, and then to send their expert where those individuals wanted him to go. Is that the way to find the best site ?
– You are making the most absurd charge without the slightest warrant.
– Everything that I . have said will bear scrutiny. The way the Defence Department have acted in this matter is only too patent to everybody. It is on a par with their beautiful action in connexion with the Naval College. When they had made up their minds that they were going to use Osborne House, at Geelong, as a temporary site for the college, they allowed an expert to go round the Commonwealth hoodwinking the people into the belief that they were trying to find the best site. They knew all the time where they really intended to start operations, but they allowed public money to be spent in that way. Another illustration of the conduct of the Department is the recent placing of a contract for material required by them at Westernport. They made a bargain, and then called for tenders to save their face. It is about time the Defence Department was looked into.
– That statement is grossly inaccurate.
– Putting these three cases together, I think honorable members will make up their minds to scrutinize the Estimates of the Defence Department a little more closely next time they come before them.
– Instead of going home, as you do.
– The honorable member might withdraw that remark, because it casts a reflection on me, by suggesting that I ran away from the House on a particular occasion. I am in my place here as often as the Honorary Minister is in his.
– I ask the Honorary Minister to withdraw the remark which the honorable member for Wilmot regards as offensive.
– What remark do you require me to withdraw?
– The honorable member made a statement to the effect that the honorable member for Wilmot was not in his place.
– I did not.
– The honorable member used words to that effect.
– I used no words to the effect that the honorable member was not in his place.
– You said I went home.
– I think the honorable member does, and we all go home.
– Do I understand that the honorable member for Wilmot regards the explanation as offensive?
– Not if the honorable member means it in that harmless sense. When he tries to put the matter off in that way, of course, if you, sir, are satisfied with the way in which he has treated the Chair, I do not wish to take any further notice of it.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! A few minutes ago I was appealed to to ask honorable members to cease these continuous interjections. I promised the House at that time that I would do so, and I now ask honorable members to assist me to maintain order.
– I am not saying anything against Geelong as a site, but I notice that Launceston ran it very close. Seeing that the Tasmanian woollens and the Tasmanian water are the best in the Commonwealth, the report is scarcely satisfactory in placing Geelong first. The expert’s report is a scrappy production, and does not suggest that some of the sites were very closely inspected by him. As to the suggestion that he should pay a second visit to Tasmania, Mr. Smail states that he is satisfied from the information that he obtained on- his first visit that there is no place in Tasmania to compare with Launceston, which he has already reported upon as the most suitable in that State. I should like to know, however, from whom Mr. Smail obtained this information as to sites in Tasmania which he did not inspect. I have heard men who have had practical experience in the woollen mills of Scotland declare that certain sites in Tasmania which were not visited by the Government expert are ideal ones for woollen factories. One of these might readily have been visited by Mr. Smail if we had had the same chance of obtaining his services as certain other honorable members and public bodies have had. The site in question is on what is really one of the finest running streams in Australia. It is easy of access to shipping, wool can be brought there freely and cheaply, and it possesses a domestic water supply superior, with the exception of that of Launceston, to any in Tasmania of which I know. The Ministry claim that they have obtained expert advice, but they did not take the trouble to see that the expert was sent to some of the best parts of Australia to make the inspections for which he was engaged.
– I strongly object to the absolute farce in which the Ministry indulge in regard to what they describe as questions of national importance. The farce that we have seen in connexion with the selection of a site for the woollen mills was also played in connexion with the selection of a site for a Naval College. An expert was paid a high fee to make an inspection, and to recommend to the Ministry the most suitable site on which to establish the Naval College, but when he submitted his report the Government promptly disagreed with it and asked him to make another recommendation. In the first place a site at Burraneer Point was recommended, but that site was objected to on so-called national grounds, and Geelong was at once brought to the front. The price of Nationalism in that instance was the offer of a large house at Geelong for use as a Naval College. In this case we have had a precisely similar experience. I have a strong objection to “nobbled” experts being paid a high fee to inspect sites in this country and presenting a report which is promptly disagreed with.- The price to be paid in this case is the offer of 10 acres of land, free of charge, at Geelong and a free supply of water for ten years.
– Do not forget the suitableness of the site.
– The honorable member is a little touchy concerning this question. Mr. Smail recommends five places as being most suitable for the establishment of woollen mills. He brackets the Geelong site with four others. We all know that there are no more woollen manufactories in Geelong than there are in several other parts of the Commonwealth. »
– We have splendid woollen mills at Marrickville.
– Quite so. There are many sites equal to Geelong in the matter of water carriage and general shipping facilities. I feel it necessary to say that this continual mouthing of the national spirit is nauseating to me. I have never claimed to be a pure-blooded Nationalist. I am out all the time to get all that I can for my constituency, and I believe that all honorable members are actuated by the same spirit, although we all recognise that there are some questions regarding which that attitude must not be taken up. I cannot help recalling the pressure that was brought to bear upon honorable members in regard to the establishment of the Naval College in Federal Territory. I had rubbed into me the necessity of dealing with the matter in a national spirit, and the Government declared that it was in the national interest that the College should be established in Federal Territory. Mr. Smail’s report, in which he deals with the Federal Capital as a site for the woollen mills, is very interesting, and it seems to be something more than a mere coincidence that it should have been issued at a time when so many “ twopenny-halfpenny “ public bodies in Victoria are passing resolutions in opposition to the building of the Federal City. Mr. Smail writes of the Federal Capital -
There is no definite lay-out plan of the city; no water supply, no drainage, no railway, no population ; in fact, everything is against the establishment of an isolated factory.
Has that not been the complaint of the representatives of Victoria all the time?
– No water supply ! The quotation is an unfortunate one for the honorable member.
– If all that the expert has reported in regard to the ‘ unsuitability of Yass-Canberra as a site for woollen mills were correct, then the sooner the Commonwealth sold out the Federal Capital site, the better it would be. But the Government know in their own minds that it is not correct. I repeat that no expert who is sent out to make a report on behalf of the Government should be “ nobbled “ to start with.
– Who does the honorable member suggest “ nobbled “ the expert in this case>
– The “ nobbling “ process is the same as occurred in regard to the Naval College site. We had the offer of Osborne House, at Geelong, for use as a
Naval College, and in this case we have an offer of 5 acres of ground-
– Ten acres.
– If the Commonwealth Parliament is to consider these matters from a national stand-point, it should not be influenced even by an offer of 2,000 acres. It is a farce to send out experts to report if the whole matter upon which they are to report is decided before they leave Melbourne. While it is true that two sites in my own electorate were reported on, I object to the honorable member for Wilmot attributing to honorable members on this side certain motives in regard to the inspection of sites. I received a letter from the Lithgow Progress Association, in the one case, and from the local Municipal Council, in the other, asking that these two sites should be visited, and I think that an honorable member who receives such a request from public bodies or institutions has a right to forward them to the Minister, and to ask that they be complied with.
– The honorable member spoke of Victorian institutions as being twopenny half-penny bodies.
– It is no disgrace to be poor. In thus referring to the institutions in question I had in mind the measure of their importance, and not any question of their finances. If it is the policy of the party that all Commonwealth factories and institutions are to be established in the Federal Capital I shall say no more. I am prepared to stand by such a policy as long as it is properly observed; but in connexion with both the cases to which I have ‘ referred the Government have gone right in the teeth of that policy. If it be true, as Mr. Small has said in his report, that at the Federal Capital there is no water supply, no drainage, and so forth, then the sooner we shut up shop there the better. But I do not believe that it is true. It is interesting to note the way in which the representatives of Victoria cheered the reading of this quotation from the report. They do not desire that any factories shall be established at Yass-Canberra, and the passing of resolutions by various Victorian institutions in opposition to the building of the capital has a very sinister meaning in connexion with the decision of a question of this kind. I hope the Ministry will rise above these petty attempts to interfere with the establishment of the Federal city.
.- I cordially indorse the general attitude on this question of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. It is known not only to honorable members from New South Wales, but to the Minister of Home Affairs, that a water gauge has been established on the Cotter in connexion with the water supply for drinking purposes, and that it proves that, even in time of drought, all the anticipations of the most favorable reports as to the water supply of the territory are widely exceeded. It is therefore ridiculous to talk of a lack of water supply there. As to the balance of these reflections on the suitability of the Federal Territory for a woollen mill - the statement that there is no definite lay-out plan of the. city, no drainage, and no railway - I think that the fact that there is so little is something for which we cannot blame the site itself, but which we can urge the Government to take immediate steps to remedy. It strikes me that this expert and the Government that have indorsed his recommendation in so curious a way do not realize that there is going on throughout the world to-day a movement to remove industries from dense populations in order to conduct thea more comfortably in suitable surroundings. What is the Garden City movement? It is to take workgirls and workmen away from the sweat areas and to give them comfortable conditions in healthy surroundings of life. We ought, also, to aim at that. Here we have a Labour Government, acting, allegedly, upon an unsatisfactory and inadequate report of an expert establishing a factory in areas where the population is clamouring and struggling and competing bitterly for a mere existence, instead of taking the people they want to a place where they can be well treated under healthy conditions. If private enterprise in England finds that it suits itself to take people away from large cities to start place’s like Sunlight City, where every person has at least a chance of enjoying a healthy life, and knows no slum conditions, should we not expect at least a similar wide comprehensiveness of labour conditions from a Labour Administration in Australia?
I much regret the attempt of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence to crack the party whip in connexion with this proposal. He came to honorable members and said, “ This is’ a proposal to try to make this proposition unworkable. The antiSocialists in the House want to destroy the balances of your woollen mills so that they will be able to say that this is only another instance of the failure of your schemes.” Did honorable members hear the cheers with which representatives of Victoria, no matter on what side of the House they sit, greeted that statement? Did they hear the honorable member for Fawkner wildly cheering this reason for establishing the factory at Geelong? This is only another endeavour to “pull the legs “ of supporters of the Labour Government - to deceive them into bolstering up the parish-pump influences brought to bear from time to time in this Chamber.
I protest against the way in which the Honorary Minister has dealt with the question. If we had had an adequate report, and the Minister had, after mature consideration, acted on that report, and his representative here had given the House full and honest information with regard to the exact posi-‘ tion, I should have no complaint to make. But we find the House deliberately shut off from’ information to which we are entitled. The Honorary Minister talks about experts, and I think I may describe him as an expert in affording inaccurate information in reply to questions. Only last Thursday, the day before this report was accepted by the Minister, the honorable member for Denison asked that some site in. Tasmania should receive consideration, especially in view of the water power available ; and the Honorary Minister replied that there was not the slightest doubt that the Minister would make a comparison of the cost “ before he decides where the woollen millsshall be situated.”
– I have every confidence in the Minister doing so.
– Every honorable member who heard the reply had that confidence in the Minister. It was conveyed to us that the matter was a. long way from’ settlement, but, as a matter of fact, this report was signed by Mr. Smail on 25th June last. On the 1 2th July, however, there was an addendum, and, on Friday last, the very next day to that of the Minister’s answer, the report was given Executive authority by the signature of the Minister, without any such comparison of cost having been made, so far as we can judge from the report itself.
– It is.” bluffing” the House all the time.
– It is something more than “ bluff,” or, at any rate, it is very regrettable “ bluff.” “A further question was asked, also on Thursday last, by the honorable member for Wilmot, and the Honorary Minister, this expert in answering questions, said that he understood Mr. Smail had finished his inspection of the various sites suggested throughout the Commonwealth, and was “ now preparing his report for submission to the Minister.” We have seen that, as a matter of fact, the report was submitted to the Minister on the 2,5th June last. Then, again, in order to still further trick honorable members into- a sense of false security, the Honorary Minister, on the same occasion, said that he was quite unable to say why certain towns had been visited. When pressed, however, he admitted that some honorable members had taken “ the trouble to write suggesting that certain places should be visited,” and that municipal councils and other institutions had “ made similar representations, all of which were met by the Minister.” It will be seen that the Honorary Minister did know exactly on what basis the inquiry had been conducted.
I agree cordially with the honorable member for Nepean that this is a most unsatisfactory way in which to conduct an inquiry of the kind. An expert ought to be given discretion as to what places he shall visit, and. how he shall arrive at his recommendations. It would seem that there were honorable members who happened to know, and some municipalities which were “ given the wink,” and it was they who got the advantage of Mr. Smail’s presence, and not, generally speaking, the public of Australia, who have a right to a reasoned report from a Government expert.
– I ask that the distinctively offensive assertion by the honorable member to the effect that the Ministry gave “ the wink “-
– To save time, I withdraw the phrase ; but, at the same time I again direct honorable members’ attention to the remarks of the Honorary Minister in reference to members and public bodies who made representations. Innocent municipalities and innocent members, who thought that Australia’s suitability was to be inquired into, made no representations, while members and municipalities, which were not innocent, made representations, “ all of which were met by the Minister 1 ‘ ‘
I desire to deal with another statement by the Honorary Minister, the expert in answering questions. On Thursday last, in answer to a question by the honorable member for Capricornia, suggesting that Mr. Smail should visit the central districts of Queensland, the Honorary Minister said, “ I shall submit the question to the Minister of Defence.” I have searched the departmental records, and I cannot find any sign of the matter having been dealt with, at any rate by Mr. Smail. All that we have on the 19th July is a letter from Mr. Smail assuring the Minister that he had got all the information he required when he visited Portland ; and that he did not consider it necessary to revisit the district. That is all Mr. Smail said, or was asked to consider, in spite of the definite promises and misleading statements made in. the House by the Honorary Minister.
I regret exceedingly that the Government have succumbed to the parishpump influences of Victoria in connexion with this proposition. I fancy that if we were to undertake an investigation of the influence of the brain on physical development we should find the right biceps of the average Victorian member of Parliament very much enlarged by constant exercise at the “parish pump.” Those gentlemen call themselves Nationalists; and we saw how violently national they can be when they tried to take the Naval College away from the place advised by the expert. Even then they did not propose to place the college somewhere in Tasmania, as suggested alternatively by the expert, but insisted that a temporary building, which might become the permanent building, should be erected at Geelong. This sort of thing has gone far enough in the Chamber. I s:and on the principle of having Government agencies wherever they are most needed in the interests of the people. I see no objection whatever to the establishment of factories away from the city areas. If private enterprise can do that, with benefit to itself and’ its employes, why cannot the Commonwealth do it in a national undertaking? I protest against the meagreness and inadequacy of this report of Mr. Smail on a work of such magnitude. Great private industrial enterprises, with hundreds of thousands in capital, have actually failed owing to their establishment in wrong localities ; and yet this report dismisses with a word places deliberately and successfully chosen by people already engaged in the woollen industry. The expert ought to have been given latitude, and not directed as to where he should go.
.- I enter my protest against honorable members opposite talking until the last possible minute, in order to prevent honorable members on this side expressing their opinions.
– I must asK the honorable member to withdraw that statement. Honorable members have a perfect right to the time allowed by the Standing Orders.
– The honorable member for Wentworth spoke for twenty minutes, and I understood that the time allowed was a quarter of an hour.
– The honorable member for Cook is distinctly wrong; I put down the exact time when the honorable member for Wentworth rose.
– I also put down the time.
– Then the honorable member put it down wrongly. I am the sole authority as to the time limit. The honorable member for Wentworth spoke exactly fifteen minutes.
– As there is no time now to discuss the question, I shall defer what I have to say until the Estimates are before us.
.- I must express my great disappointment at the treatment my district has received at the hands of some person. 1’he honorable member for Maranoa and myself waited on the Minister of Defence this month, and placed before him the advantages of the central district of Queensland. We were then informed that Mr. Smail, the expert, would consider the matter. We find, however, that although Mr. Smail’s report is dated the 25th June, there is an interpolation referring to Rockhampton and the Gladstone districts. The interpolation is as ‘follows : -
I did not visit these places, but have made exhaustive inquiries, and find that the climatic conditions are no more suitable than those of Ipswich and Brisbane.
The Government would be perfectly entitled to establish this factory in Federal Territory, but when a selection has to be made outside that territory, it is only reasonable that districts where the best wool in the world is grown should be visited by the expert. Some explanation ought to be forthcoming why it was that, in a report dated 25th June, Mr. Smail is able to say that he made exhaustive inquiries in regard 1o Rockhampton and the Gladstone districts, seeing that the honorable member for Maranoa and myself waited on the Min ister in July. From whom did the expert make the “ exhaustive inquiries “ ? He certainly did not make any inquiries from the honorable member for Maranoa, myself, or any other representative of Queensland. I should very much like to know who supplied Mr. Smail with the answers to his “exhaustive inquiries.”
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Hughes) read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Hughes) read a first time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from the 25th July, vide page 1232):
Clause 6 -
After section six of the Principal Act the foi lowing sections are inserted : - “ 6h. Any witness before a Royal Commission who knowingly gives false testimony touching any matter, material in the inquiry being made by the’ Commission, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
Penalty : Imprisonment for five years.
Amendment (by Mr. W. Elliot Johnson) proposed -
That the word “ five “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ three.”
– It seems to me that the penalties provided in the various sections which’ it is proposed to insert in the principal Act are strangely apportioned. Under the proposed new section 6j, the penalty for practising any fraud or deceit, or knowingly making or exhibiting any false statement, representation, token, or writing to a witness, with intent to affect his testimony, is imprisonment for two year.s, and yet for giving false testimony, a very similar- offence, the penalty is five years. Why is the distinction made?
– The person- referred to in proposed new section 6j is not one who has been sworn.
– I make no distinction morally between one who makes a’ false’ representation after . he has been sworn and one who does so without having been sworn.
– I agree with the honorable member that there is no distinction in the moral guilt, but it is generally considered more serious to make a false statement -when on oath.-
– I should say( so. In my opinion, the Government is on the wrong track. The inquiries of Royal Commissions are not like trials in Courts of law, affecting the lives and liberties of. individuals. We are now asked to impose for civil offences penalties which in many cases are greater than those imposed for criminal offences. The trend of civilization’ is in the direction of diminishing punishments, and there is ho brighter page in - our history than that which deals with the amelioration, of our criminal code. A distinction must be drawn between a Court of Inquiry, such as a Royal Commission, which : is investigating business methods and obtaining information as to industrial business’ generally; and Courts of law dealing : with penalties against person’s and property. It must not be considered that in trying to fit the penalties to the crimes we on this side wish to condone wrong-doing. The. man who knowingly makes false statements should be punished. We differ as to the amount of punishment which should be inflicted.
Question - That the word ‘ ‘ five ‘ ‘ proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - .resolved in the negative.
– - There appears to have been a mistake, in consequence of which the five years’ provision has gone out.
– I did not hear anything, nor .did the Honorary Minister.
– It has always been the rule, when there has been a mistake, to put the matter again.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the question be put again?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear. The- CHAIRMAN. - The question is that the word “ five “ proposed to be left out stand part of the clause.
– I very much regret that” I did not hear the Chairman put ‘the ques-tion, but my mind was concentrated on! looking up information for which I was’ asked. I ‘cannot see why there should be any difference between’ the penalties;’ for false testimony before a Royal ques- sion and false testimony before a Court of law. We have taken the penalty it* this Bill from the Queensland’ code, but’ as an honorable member representing1 ; a’’ New South Wales constituency has moved; the amendment, I propose to quote the pen,alty in the Crimes Act of New South’ Wales for offences of this sort. ‘_”’
– Do you believe in long terms’ of imprisonment?
– I think the longer the better for some people. I hold that there, should be- uniformity of treatment. A. lie. is a lie whether it is uttered before a Court of law or before a Royal Commission. I, do not see why people who deliberately give false testimony should be treated more leniently because it relates to matters of. first public importance on which legislative; remedies for great public wrongs are to be founded than persons giving evidence in a, matter that concerns the rights of private, individuals. They should not be encouraged by a spurious and rotten humanitarianism to give false testimony on a matter of fun- damental importance to the community,:’ whereas a poor devil of a fellow, who has stolen a pair’ of boots- - .
– That is not a fair way. of; putting it.
– A man who tells a. lie on- such a relatively trivial matter in a> Court in Queensland gets five years, .but; if the honorable member had his way = .!» man who told a lie in a matter affecting every citizen in the community would get off’ with three years. “
If imprisonment is wrong, three days is! as bad as three years. The clause does, not compel the Judge to award five years.”, imprisonment. He can award anything up to five years which he thinks the’ offence deserves. The laws of Australia furnish us with ample precedent as to the length of term,. Section 330 of the Crimes Act of New South Wales provided that whoever, before any person authorizedto administer an oath, wilfully makes, 011 oath, any false statement knowing the same to be false, shall, where such offence does not’ amount in law to perjury’, be liable ‘to penal servitude for five years. Where perjury is committed, the offender is liable to penal servitude for fourteen years, so that on the wholewe have made a very moderate provision. Section 124 of the Queensland Criminal Code provides a penalty of fourteen years for perjury, and section 126 provides a penalty of seven years for fabricating evidence. The crime is identical, whether committed before a Commission or a Court of law. We cannot permit perjury; we cannot permit false testimony which stops short of what the law calls perjury, although in effect it is perjury before Royal Commissions any more than before Courts of law. If the honorable member is against imprisonment altogether, that is a sound and logical position to take up, but it is an impossible one in a civilized community. The difference between three years and five years will in practice not be substantial, because in a great majority of cases the maximum penalty will not be imposed. In drawing up this Bill we had to be guided by some principle, and we cannot be guided by a sounder principle than that which is embodied in the criminal codes of the various States.
– Will not the Attorney-General see the distinction between citing a man under the criminal law of the various States and citing a man before a Royal Commission? In the one case a man may be on trial for his life or for some heinous offence against society-
– No, he is on his trial for giving false testimony in a Court of law.
– False testimony in relation to what? In the case of the statute which the honorable member has just quoted, it is false testimony in relation to a heinous crime. In the case of Royal Commissions, it is false testimony only in relation to the formation of an opinion. A Royal Commission’s work is merely an inquiry for the purpose of framing a policy, and therefore penalties which relate to the trial of a man for his life or for some crime against society cannot be put in the same category.
– Is not perjury always the same?
– The lengths some of my honorable friends opposite are going to in this direction is marvellous to me.
– We know where we are going, and, what is more, we know what is coming.
– I am sure the honorable member does, but I do not. I will not permit myself to be obsessed by any outside circumstances in considering this matter. I have to consider it as it will relate to Royal Commissions in general. Royal Commissions are useful institutions for the purpose of gaining information upon which this House may frame its policy and opinions, but their composition will always continue to be a composition that suits the passing party needs of the moment. There is no” complaint to be alleged against them for that, and they make their inquiries with all these limitations surrounding them and all these prejudices entering into their composition. The very nature of a Royal Commission differentiates the offence aimed at in this clause from the crimes with which the Attorney-General has sought to parallel it. I know that perjury is perjury whereever it may be committed; but perjury is something that has to be established by a Court. A man cited for perjury may not be guilty, except in a technical sense, of any attempt to perjure himself. Miscarriages of justice occur even in courts of law.
– If the offence was unintentional, he could be fined1s. or imprisoned for one hour.
– No matter how technical the offence may be, the punishment must be imprisonment. Three years’ imprisonment for this kind of crime is severe punishment, and will act just as much as a deterrent as would a five-year period.I am not against strong sentences, but the trend of our modern humanitarianismis all towards fitting the punishment to the crime. For an offence of this kind against a Royal Commission, three years’ imprisonment would be a sufficient deterrent, and when the very purpose of the imposition of penalties has been satisfied, surely that is as far as we need go.
.- I remember a case of great public importance that occurred in New South Wales, in which flagrant perjury was committed by more than one witness. In one case it was practically proved by documents within twenty-four hours from the time of its committal, and yet the Judge who was chairman of the Royal Commission in question had practically no power to take action to deal with the guilty witnesses. I have a vivid recollection of the way in which the work of that Commission was burked, and I know what it meant to the public of New
South Wales to have an inquiry, which would have been very fruitful in their interests, nipped in the bud because the Judge was unable to force from the witnesses what he could have forced from them in a Court of justice. I feel, therefore, no doubt of the wisdom of the penalties that are imposed by this clause.
Sitting suspended from I to 2.15 p.m.
– I think that even the Opposition will recognise the necessity of making this legislation effective. When we adjourned for lunch I had in mind a case in which serious injustice was done to the country by men, who, knowing that no effective penalty could be imposed for misstatements made before a certain Commission, took the liberty of making statements which they knew to be untrue. They knew that they could not be punished, and they undermined the reputation of men giving evidence before the Commission in question, regardless of what the consequences might be. I trust the Attorney-General will see that the penalties for which this Bill provides are retained, not so much because they’ are fully justified by what has happened in the past, but because of what we know we shall have to provide against in the future.
– I proposed the amendment without making a speech, because I thought that the glaring discrepancy between this penalty and the penalties in the proposed new sections 6j and 6k would be so apparent that the case for a reduction needed no argument. A lower penalty is provided for what ir> my opinion is an equally flagrant offence, if not a greater one. All these penalties are in consonance with the vindictive spirit that seems to permeate the whole Bill. Penalties should be sufficiently high to act as a deterrent; but there is no necessity to provide for punishments that are altogether excessive. The punishment should be made to fit the crime, and a discretionary power should be vested in the Court. The committal of perjury before a Royal Commission, though a very grave offence, may in its consequences to others be much less harmful than a like offence committed in a Court of law. I admit that such offences must undoubtedly be punished ; but the scale of punishment should not be conceived in a spirit of vindictiveness. This provision may have a boomerang effect. It may be more farreaching than its promoters anticipate.
That is always the case when we depart from the principles of equity and justice, and attempt to revenge ourselves on any section of the community. It is our duty so to legislate as to secure even justice between all sections. I would remind honorable members opposite that Royal Commissions to inquire into industrial matters may be hereafter appointed, and working men giving evidence before them may make statements which, upon subsequent’ examination may be found to be at variance with actual facts, and they will be subject to these revengeful penalties as well as others. I hope that a more temperate spirit will prevail, and that honorable members will not be influenced by any desire to go to extremes. We must view this Bill in a calm judicial spirit; but in proposing to provide for five years’ imprisonment for perjury committed before a Royal Commission, we are going beyond the bounds of reason.
.- I support the clause as it stands, mainly for the reason that I gave last night in criticising another penalty for which the Bill provides. It is a mistake to arbitrarily fix a minimum penalty, so as to take away from a judicial tribunal dealing with a case under the clause any discretionary power to determine what the punishment shall belt is wise, however, to make the maximum penalty in this case a very severe one. I was astonished to hear the honorable member for Lang speaking of the crime of wilful and corrupt perjury as a trivial indiscretion.
– What about the way in which the Attorney-General in the New South Wales Labour Government described certain offences under the Electoral Act?
– There is no crime more rife in the community than wilful and corrupt perjury, and no crime strikes more seriously at the very roots of the tree of justice. We all know that the penalty in the proposed new section under consideration is the maximum, so that we are vesting in the Court a very wide discretion. I hope there will be no departure from the power which we are giving here to a Judge to impose a heavy penalty. It is suggested that this penalty is put forward in a spirit of vindictiveness - that there is a desire to penalize certain classes of the community who are supposed to be opposed to the party with which I am associated. There is no spirit of vindictiveness in the proposal.
It shows, rather, a very proper determination to make those who are called upon to give evidence realize the necessity for speaking the truth. Perjury is one of the most serious matters by which the administration of justice throughout Australia to-day is hampered, and I hope that this wise provision, making the maximum penalty a severe one, will be retained.
– I agree that anything in the nature of criminality ought to be severely punished; but I fail to understand in what way the efficacy of this Bill, if it has any efficacy, will be interfered with by reducing the penalty in this case from five to three years’ imprisonment. My reading teaches me that Draconian penalties of any kind defeat the purpose for which they are intended. We can surely recognise a difference between an offence of the kind now under consideration committed before a Royal Commission and such an offence committed before a Court of justice.
– There cannot be any difference.
– I hope to be able to show that there is. We know that Commissions are generally constituted with a political object in view. We have not to follow the Attorney-General to the days of King John and Magna Charta to discover that Royal Commissions are constituted sometimes on the most frivolous pretexts, and placed under the control of addle-pated idiots, possessed of a great sense of their own importance and cocksureness concerning the correctness of their convictions. Bring a man before such a Chairman, and a feeling of antagonism will be created in the mind of the witness that may lead him, sometimes smarting under a sense of injustice, to say something which might technically be regarded, if uttered in a Court of law, as perjury, but which, in view of all the circumstances of the Commission, should surely be taken as something less than that. I fail to see, as the honorable member for Gwydir has argued, that, by reducing the punishment in circumstances of such provocation to three, instead of five, years’ imprisonment, the object of this Bill will be seriously interfered with. I trust that the generous, instincts of the Committee will lead them to bring the Bill into accord with the spirit of the age; and I am surprised to find the enlightened Labour party of Australia emulating the doings of the days of mediaeval ism which we thought we had left behind us.
– In most cases a witness appearing before a Royal Commission is examined, not as to questions of fact, but as to questions of opinion. In a Court of justice, however, a .witness is not allowed to express an opinion, lt is, therefore, dangerous to put a Royal Commission, in the matter of perjury, in the same position as a Court of justice.
– But it is the Court, and not the Commission, that will have the power to determine the punishment.
– It is dangerous to make a misstatement in a Commission material to the issue of perjury ; but if yon are making it perjury, then, by all means, let th« punishment be adequate. I am prepared to go so far with the Attorney-General. I think it dangerous, however, to render a man liable to imprisonment for five years for a misstatement made before a Royal Commission. What I think the honorable member for Parramatta desired to impress upon the Committee was, that this provision is to apply to an offence committed before a Royal Commission, and that in nearly every case a string of questions as to “ what is your opinion “ is put to a witness before such a body.
– A man cannot be prosecuted for giving a false opinion ; he can be prosecuted for giving false testimony.
– I know that ; and it is for that reason that I do not think there will be many prosecutions for perjury in connexion with Royal Commissions. The Government are proposing to mix up matters that ought not to be the subject of these penalties with matters that ought to be. In nine cases out of ten, questions put to a witness before a Royal Commission relate to opinions as well as to facts. In the Excise Procedure Act there is no penalty for perjury, nor is there any provided under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, although I think that, in the case df the Arbitration Court, the law of the States would apply to perjury committed before it. It is significant, however, that, in setting up a somewhat analogous body in connexion with Excise procedure, we have l.ot provided for prosecutions for perjury. I do not feel inclined to strongly object to the proposed maximum of five years’ imprisonment in this case, because the general run of penalties for perjury is from seven to fifteen years’ imprisonment. There is, of course, an opening for a legitimate difference of opinion as to the extent of the penalty, and we are entitled to ask ourselves whether it is not dangerous to allow prosecutions for perjury to be initiated in connexion with mere inquiries by Royal Commissions as to matters of opinion, as well as- of fact. Leading questions are often put to a witness. I know that, in connexion with Commissions of which I have been a member, a number of questions have been written out in advance, and” witnesses have been asked, “ Do you think that so-and-so is the case?” Leading questions are put, and a statement of the question is accepted or rejected by the witness with the words “Yes” or “ No.” The statement of fact contained in the question is often accepted by the witness, and put down as his evidence. I fully recognise that, where there is any attempt to evade the scope of an inquiry, either by perjury or misstatement, the punishment should *h** adequate.
– Does not the honorable member think that the wording of the proposed new section is a sufficient safeguard - the word “ knowingly “ is used.
– A misstatement would not be- perjury unless it were wilfully and knowingly made. We never know when a man’s liberty will be imperilled under a Bill which mixes up questions of .opinion and fact in this way.
– It appears to me that while everybody is in favour of a heavy penalty in case of deliberate perjury or false testimony, there is some idea that telling lies before a Royal Commission is a less heinous crime than telling lies in a Court of law. I do not agree with that idea for one moment ; a lie is always a lie, and a lie in relation to a material fact ought to be punished severely. What is the utility of a Royal Commission of inquiry if it is undermined by a premium on lies? The honorable member for Angas attempted to draw a distinction between lies told before a Royal Commission and lies told in a Court of law ; but I again remind honorable members that, according to the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill introduced by the honorable member’s colleague, the honorable member for Darling Downs, a punishment of five years awaits any one who wilfully gives false evidence before a Select Committee. The offence is the same, and it is proposed to punish it in the same way. Even in the Bankruptcy Court, where a man may be charged with offences which are certainly not regarded as crimes, three years is the least imprisonment for refusing to disclose his most private affairs, or for carrying on business before he gets a certificate.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat) [2.36I.- The Attorney-General is entirely mistaken iri; regard to what was said by the honorable.member for Angas. That honorable mem- . ber reminded us that an examination before a Royal Commission differs materially from the usual examination in a Court of law. Of course, it does. Before Royal Com-, missions questions relate, for the most part, to matters more or less of opinion; they are rarely, in the same manner and in the same form as in a Law Court, direct questions of fact ; and consequently, on the whole, the proceedings offer a much more, confused field in which to find proof of’ perjury or deliberate misstatement.
The honorable member further said that, in regard to matters of fact, the circumstances being the same, the same accuracy was called for; in that I cordially agree. One can imagine cases in which a term of five years, although high, is by no means too high for a flagrant breach of the truth. The consideration which weighs with me is that to which the Attorney-General himself referred - that is, the importance and value of Royal Commissions. But if truthfulness is abandoned a Royal Commission becomes worse than useless, it is absolutely misleading; hence we need the absolute assurances of truth required elsewhere. This is not a matter of theory, we require them for good, sound, everyday reasons in all; matters of actuality; we must have Royal Commissions, and the evidence must be within the bounds of truth to be of any: service.
Personally it seems to me unnecessary to alter the proposal in view of the fact that five years is the maximum. The honorable member for Lang and those whofollow him are pursued by an apprehensionthat the fixing of five years as a maximum will, in some mysterious way, increase the penalties for minor offences. There is noground for any such apprehension, especi-‘ ally when we remember that the penaltywill be imposed by a judicial officer accustomed to weigh evidence. Supposing a Royal Commission had to decide on its own account if perjury had been committed, and to impose penalties, I should hesitate before assenting to a maximum punishment of five years ; as the circumstances are, I cannot see that five years is too high. The- apprehensions of my honorable friends are perfectly genuine, but they would soon be removed if they had enjoyed or suffered the same measure of legal experience as some of us. ‘ Having been members of Royal Commissions as well as participants in the proceedings of the Law Courts, we realize to the full the value of truth to the. whole community, indispensable in all public inquiries and public affairs ; as something on which all our operations depend in our work-a-day life. I do not say there is now any greater or growing laxity ; but we must realize the fact that there are certain dispositions and characters - dispositions more emotional than intellectual, or more intent on some purpose they believe to be good, than on adhering to the truth as the best basis, and only basis, of public action - which, without malignant intention, are capable of making seriously and dangerously misleading statements. Persons of that kind require to be sobered, and brought to a sense of responsibility, as well as intentional perjurers. The value of a maximum of five years does not imply that it will often need to be imposed, but in the knowledge of the fact that it is capable of being imposed. This will steady and sober that class of flighty and reckless witnesses with whom we have occasionally to deal. I see no undue cruelty or oppression in this penalty upon deliberate liars, and believe that it is better the maximum penalty should assume such proportions as to exercise a sobering influence than that out of well-meant pitifulness the penalty Should be made lower, and thus rendered less effective upon those whom only the fear of punishment will keep within the bounds of truth.
.- I have had experience of two cases of perjury. One was a case in which a wealthy man, who is now dead, and whose name I shallnot mention, was known to be undoubtedly guilty of this offence. He had sworn that some property belonged to his wife, and when she died he swore that the property had not been transferred, or that he had not received proper consideration. Sir Henry Wrixon, when challenged in the State House about it, had to admit that the man was clearly guilty. Yet that man, simply because he was wealthy, was never arrested, and never received any punishment. There was another case, in which nearly every witness was guilty of perjury, but they were convicted of that offence, and -one,
I think, of the offence of conspiracy also. That case has given rise to a widespread idea throughout Victoria that perjury, backed up by money, is more rife in this State than it has ever been. I wonder why certain members opposite should desire to reduce the penalty in view of these facts? In this most infamous case which ever sullied the annals of our Courts,no one was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, and such a term would be rarely imposed.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing that case.
– I am using it as an argument against the reduction of the penalty.
– The honorable member is going into details.
– I am not mentioning any names. If the penalty be reduced to three years, honorable members opposite must be held responsible for -giving support to the idea that perjury is rampant, not only in Victoria, but in the other States.
.- I am inclined to agree with the honorable member for Ballarat, that a maximum penalty of five years may have a sobering and deterrent effect on certain people, who might otherwise be inclined to. commit perjury. I am’ not, however, in favour of excessive penalties being inflicted, and, as a matter of fact, they are not often inflicted. i cannot call to mind a case of perjury in which a sentence of five years has been passed. There is no doubt that perjury is very often committed, and a high maximum penalty may be productive of some good. There are. complaints from all over the world by Judges of the prevalence of this offence, and 1 should leave the maximum penalty at five years, in order to be able to meet any specially gross case which may arise., I suggest that the Attorney-General might insert a clause to impose five years’ imprisonment on some members of this House, who go about the country committing perjury and libelling other people.
– Without putting the cap on myown head-
-It is on the honorable member’s head.
– I cannot allow this to pass. I. ask that the right honorable member for Swan be asked to withdraw the word’s he has used, andtoapologize for insulting me by suggesting that I have committed per jury.
– I withdraw the words, but the honorable member has used defamatory language in regard to a member of this House, and so has the honorable member for Melbourne.’
– The honorable member must withdraw unreservedly.
– Honorable members opposite who take high moral ground ought to act up to it.
– The honorable member must withdraw and apologize.
– I withdraw.
– And apologize.
– I apologize for having made the statement in this House,but it is true for all that.
– The honorable member tor Swan has said that he withdraws the words, but that they are ‘’ true for all that.” Is that the correct form in which to withdraw and apologize f
– The honorable member for Swan must withdraw without any qualification.
– Certainly I withdraw the words.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Swan has said that 1 have committed perjury.
– The honorable member has not told the truth, anyway.
– Is such language to be allowed ? The honorable member for Swan ought to be called upon to withdraw and apologize.
– If the honorable member for Swan used such words, I call upon him to withdraw them.
– The honorable member has for years been defaming iae. As, however, what I have said is against the rules of the House, I withdraw it, and apologize to the House.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne alluded to a case, but he did not state it quite properly. In that case, certain men perjured themselves, and acknowledged the perjury. Each one was sentenced to a term of two years, and the Attorney-General of Victoria liberated them in five months.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) “2.52].- I desire to move an amendment to proposed section 6j, to increase the penalty ?o five years, and thus make it consistent with the decision just arrived at. A man who tries to get another to make a false statement is, surely, equally guilty with the man who makes the false statement. It isproposed to impose excessive penalties for statements made concerning matters which arise out of the clash of opinion - statements made, not deliberately or in cold blood, but under excitement, and under the provocation of examination by Commissioners, who ask leading questions in order to obtain certain answers desired. I distinguish between such cases as those, and cases in a Court of law, where a man, with legal assistance available, wilfully perjure:-;, himself. The honorable member for Ballarat suggested that we had to deal with, light and airy gentlemen, who go about making reckless and false statements, but,, really, what we have to provide for is the case of a man who, brought before a partisan Royal Commission, is baited with some specific object in view, and in a moment of excitement brings himself within’ the pale of the law. I see a great distinction.
– So will the Judge.
– But the Judge is not there ; a. statement has to be made by somebody to the Judge.
– I am willing to agree to the amendment suggested by the honorable member ; indeed, if he cares to move it, T shall agree that the term be seven years.
– I have no doubt the Attorney-General would make the term thirty-five years if he had the power. I remind the honorable gentleman that I havenot yet moved an amendment.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member for Parramatta speaking to a definite proposal ? He has declared that he has not moved an amendment, and yet he continues to speak.
– The honorablemember for Parramatta has stated that he intends to move an amendment in proposed section 6j.
– I am quite inorder in speaking to the clause generally. I ask what is the object of punishment? Isit not_ to provide a deterrent from crime ? Will imprisonment for five years, be more likely to deter persons from committing the offence against which we are providingthan a term of three years? The difference between the two terms will have not the slightest effect. A witness who, under time clash of opinions, and in a condition of” excitement, when baited by partisan members of Royal Commissions, makes a wrong- statement, is in a very different position- from the witness who perjures himself in a.-.
Court of law. For absolute perjury I should have no objection to making the term five years ; but wrong statements may be got from a witness by partisan members of a Royal Commission under circumstances which differ greatly from the examination of a law court. However, the responsibility in this matter rests with the Minister.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta and others on that side are greatly indebted to the Leader of the Opposition for having put them right on this matter. The honorable member for Parramatta assumes the extraordinary position that a person who makes an untrue statement when he has not been sworn is in the same position ss the man who takes the Bible in his hand and deliberately swears to what he knows is not true. He has sustained the same position in previous remarks. If there is no difference, the use of bibles for the swearing of witnesses might as well be abolished, an extraordinary step for the honorable member to support.
Although the honorable gentleman, in rising, said that he wished to move an amendment, and thereby secured the call of the Chairman in advance of another honorable member, he sat down, having made a speech, without moving an amendment. This is not the first time that he has adopted such tactics.
In the future we are likely to have numerous inquiries into the operations of trusts and combines, and Parliament must provide for the punishment of witnesses who make incorrect statements when under examination by a Royal Commission.
The honorable member for Parramatta suggested that these incorrect statements are due to the heat and excitement of the moment. There may be heat and excitement during the discussion of the matter here or on the public platform, but an examination before a Royal Commission is like an examination in the ordinary Courts of the country, and there is no warrant for treating a witness who makes a false statement before a Royal Commission differently from one who makes a false statement before a Court.
By the inquiries to which I refer, the possession of immense wealth may be affected, and the persons under examination may be interested in misleading the public. It is, therefore, the more necessary that there shall be ample penalties for the protect:on of the public against attempts to mislead.
Amendment (by Mr. Laird Smith, for Mr. Riley) proposed -
That the words “ calculated to bring a Royal Commission into disrepute,” in proposed new section 60, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ false and defamatory of a Royal Commission.”
– I have already expressed an opinion in regard to the provision in the clause which I see no reason to. alter. The power to punish for contempt should be attached to a proper judicial tribunal having the traditions of the Judiciary to control it. Latterly, the Bench at Home has condemned the process of contempt, even where Judges have been affected. I. had to look up this matter some time ago, and I find from notes made at the time that Sir George Jessel has stated, that these powers are practically arbitrary and unlimited, even in the Courts of justice. Mr. Gladstone, when Sir Dwyer Grey was imprisoned for three months for an article in the Freeman’s Journal, stated in the House of Commons that he thought it about time to alter the law with regard to contempt. In the Privy Council case of McLeod v. St. Aubyn, it was decided that-
Contempt of Court may be “Committed by publication of scandalous matter respecting the Court after adjudication as well as pending a case before it. In England committals for such contempts have become obsolete. In small colonies consisting principally of coloured populations they may still be necessary in proper cases.
I do not suppose that it is desired to put our community on a level with the coloured population of small colonies. In this case the practice of punishing for contempt was regarded as obsolete, it being considered that the right of free criticism should be preserved, even in regard to the Bench, so long as the course of justice was not obstructed, nor injury done to the public interest. It was stated by the Court that -
Committal for contempt of Court is a weapon to be used sparingly and always with reference to the interests of the administration of justice. Hence when a trial has taken place, and the case is over, the Judge or the jury are given over to criticism.
For a long time contempt was not an offence unless committed in the Court itself
It is a summary process, and should be used only from a sense of duty and under the pressure of public necessity, for there can be no landmarks pointing out the boundaries in all cases. Committals for contempt of Court by scandalizing the Court itself have become obsolete in this country.
This is the first British community to reenact a law that has become obsolete, and to attach a privilege to a Royal Commission which is being given up in regard to the Judicial Bench. It must be remembered that a Royal Commission is not, like a Bench, constituted of men who hold their positions subject only to the possibility of removal for misbehaviour on the address of both Houses of a Parliament, and who are affected by the restraining influence and esprit de corps that always attaches to continuous bodies. In the case from which I am citing the Court went on to say -
Courts are satisfied to leave to public opinion attacks or comments derogatory or scandalous to them, but it must be considered that in small colonies, consisting principally of coloured populations, the enforcement in proper cases of committal for contempt of Court for attacks on the Court may be absolutely necessary to preserve in such a community the dignity of and respect for the Court.
The case dealt with came from the Bahamas. It was held that very vituperative words, expressing the statement that it would be well for the community if the man maligned were to die, did not constitute contempt of Court.
– Does the . honorable member say that ‘any person in the community may say what he likes of a Court?
– No. But it should be open to every man to criticise the members of a Royal Commission, so long as he does so honestly, and is prepared to sustain any defamatory statements of opinion before a Court of justice. One of the wholesomest things that can be brought to bear on Parliament, or even a judicial tribunal, is proper criticism, so long as it does not tend to interfere with the course of justice or the public interest..
– A Royal Commission is not sheltered from criticism in Parliament.
– No; but to criticise outside may bring upon one the charge of contempt. In my opinion, we are dealingwith the non-essential in the proposed amendment, and I do mot know why it should be accepted by the Attorney-General, seeing that the words in the clause are those in the Arbitration Act. Of course, by the Arbitration Act, it is a Judge, acting in his judicial capacity, who is concerned, but he cannot imprison except for contempt, which’ must be contempt within the meaning of the Privy Council’s decision, and the. fine is £zoo. The words which the honorable member for South Sydney proposes, to’ in sert have no effect, because the protection which he wishes to give is already given by the common law. Any person who makes use of words held to be libellous or defamatory must be prepared to defend his conduct in the Courts.
– The Commission would have to prosecute in the Courts.
– Yes ; but if the criticism of a Commission were such as not to obstruct the Commission’s investigation, it should noi be considered contempt. It is very dangerous to make a man the judge of defamation in his own case.
– That is not done.
– If the Commissioner happens to be a Judge of the High Court, a. Supreme Court, or a District Court, he can deal with the contempt at once, and inflict the penalty provided for. This is a suspension of trial by jury. Are honorable members prepared to agree to that? Members of Commissions are only appointed for certain inquiries; they do not hold their positions permanently. Even a Judge may not be perfectly conversant with the methods of eliciting evidence by the investigation of a Commission. I again protest against the severe penalties in the Bill in regard to the criticism of a body which is not a’ judicial tribunal.
– The arguments of the honorable member for Angas have been directed against the clause as a whole. Whatever doubt there may be as to criticism outside, I think that a Royal Commission ought to have the right to commit for contempt in the face of the Commission. “ It is entirely impossible for a Commission to carry on its business if it is liable to open and deliberate insult. Every Court, every Select Committee, every body of inquiry, if its inquiry is going to be anything more than farcical, must have power to secure order, and’ to punish those who deliberately flout its authority. The honorable member for Angas has sought to draw a distinction between a Royal Commission and an ordinary legal tribunal in this case, as in others. But in Commissions of inquiry not less than in legal tri.bunals the first essential condition to their very existence must be the power to carry on their proceedings in an orderly fashion, uninterrupted by insult or foolish’ or deliberate attempts to disturb them. It is asserted that this clause attempts to stifle criticism. I do not think so. I. do not wish to stifle criticism, but there ‘is a clear -distinction to be drawn between criticism and abuse. Surely it will not be contended, for instance, that an article appearing in to-day’s issue of the Argus is criticism. What is it but abuse? It is simply an attempt to belittle both the fountain from which Royal Commissions spring - the Parliament and the Crown - the personnel, and the proceedings of Royal Commissions. That is not criticism any more than abuse of parliamentary institutions is criticism of them. Every one should welcome criticism ; but I do not think that any one will say that personal abuse of the members of Royal Commissions ought- to be permitted. While we believe in criticism, plain, outright defamation ought not to be permitted.
It is provided in this Bill that committal by the Court for contempt in the face of it can be exercised by a Commission only when the Chairman is a Judge. In all other cases, the charge of contempt is to be heard by an ordinary Court of law. In section 83 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904, which my honorable friend said, the other day, he amended, we . have a provision almost similar to that now before us. That section provides that -
No person shall wilfully insult or disturb the Court, or interrupt the proceedings of the Court, or use any insulting language towards the Court or ‘by writing or speech use words calculated to improperly influence the Court or any assessor er any witness before the Court or to bring the Court into disrepute, or be guilty in any manner of any wilful contempt of the Court.
Penalty : One hundred pounds.
That was considered at the time to be a proper protection for that Court, and the President of that Court it was known would be a Justice of the High Court who had power, as a Justice of the High Court, to commit for contempt. It has been held recently, however, that criticism of a Court is not necessarily contempt of Court. There must be an interference with the administration of justice. The Chief Justice, in The King v. Nicholls, laid it’ down that criticism, even going to the extent of bringing the High Court into disrepute, is not contempt of Court. It is not sufficient even to charge the Court with lack of impartiality. There must be an interference with the due administration of the law in the High Court before contempt arising out of criticism can be substantiated. That being the law, we are not to suppose that a Royal Commission ought to get greater protection than a
Justice of the High Court sitting as President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. I am, therefore, in favour of striking out the words “ bring the Royal Commission into disrepute “ ; but I do most emphatically say that Royal Commissions must be protected, both from contempt in the face of the Court, and contempt and defamation by so-called criticism outside the Court. There is no attempt in this Bill to stifle proper criticism. Criticism may surely be detached from personalities. The High Court itself, subject to its great power to commit for contempt committed outside the Court, has no greater protection than Royal Commissions would have, or ought to have. It appears to me that this provision to. protect (Commissions against defamation is very necessary. A member’ of a Royal Commission, as an individual, has ample protection from defamation under the ordinary laws of the country. As an individual, you may not defame him, whether you defame him falsely or not;, but a Commission is a public body appointed for a public purpose, and criticism-, is a public weapon, and a weapon verynecessary in democratic communities. It is essential that criticism should be free, and that there should be upon it no limitations other than are imposed by the ordinary decencies of civilized debate, which experience has shown to be absolutely necessary. But there should be no indulgence in personalities, and no imputation of motives. If an imputation- of motives is made, it should be well founded, and any defamation falsely made ought to be punishable. Beyond that, the clause, as amended by the honorable member for Denison, I think will not go.
.-^ I trust that the Attorney-General will seriously consider this amendment before he agrees to accept it. It is necessary that Commissions should be given full power to perform their duties and functions, arid anything calculated to obstruct them in their task of getting at the actual facts which they are commissioned to ascertain is to be condemned. That being so, any one who, in the face of such a tribunal, tries to interfere with its proceedings, ought to besubject to punishment. Any one who tries to impede a Royal Commission in its actionsought to be punished. According to the decisions of the Courts, Colonial Parliaments can expel persons who are interfering with their proceedings; but their powers to go beyond that and interfere with persons outside are limited. The Attorney-General knows -of the recent case denning the limitations of the Parliament. The power to punish for contempt is a power to preserve order and to control the proper conduct of the proceedings of Royal Commissions. But what does the AttorneyGeneral propose to do by accepting this amendment? He proposes that Royal Commissions shall have power to control proceedings altogether outside those tribunals. Because one or two members of a Commission may be subjected to criticism, and may resent it, we are going to provide this extraordinary protection for Royal Commissions - a protection that is not accorded to any Court of law. Why should a Royal Commission have higher privileges and greater immunities than a Court of law has?
– Royal Commissions will not have higher privileges under this Bill.
– They will have greater protection. The Chief Justice, in the case of The King v. Nicholls, said -
With regard to what Lord Hardwicke, L.C., characterized as “ scandalizing a Court or a Judge,” it was pointed out by my brother O’Connor that in McLeod v. St. Aubyn (2) Lord Morris stated that prosecutions for that class of contempt .ire practically obsolete in England. The article in question in Reg. v. Gray (3) was of a very gross character, and the case might very well have been put under the other heading. In one sense, no doubt, every defamatory publication concerning a Judge may be said to bring him into contempt as that term is used in the law of libel, but it does not follow that everything said of a Judge calculated to bring him into contempt in that sense amounts to contempt of Court.
Every defamatory statement does not mean a contempt of Court.
– Nor would every defamatory statement concerning a Commission be contempt under this Bill.
– Every defamatory statement will be under this amendment. All words, whether used in writing or in speech, that are defamatory of a Commission will be contempt. Under this clause, a defamatory statement will be regarded as contempt of Court, and the man who is defamed is to be the judge of his own cause if he happens to be a District of County Court Judge.
– Not unless the contempt complained of is contempt in the face of the Commission.
– -The honorable member is quite correct. But, generally speaking, criticism which would not be contempt of the High Court of Australia will be con tempt of a Royal Commission under this Bill.
– The honorable member cannot show that that is so from anything in the judgment in the case of The King v. Nicholls?
– Yes. Every statement defamatory of the High Court is not contempt of that Court; but here the Government is making every statement that is defamatory and false contempt of a Royal Commission.
– So it ought to be.
– In that respect, the Government are putting Royal Commissions in a position different from that occupied by the High Court. I say that that is excessive. Let us realize what we are doing. A Royal Commission may be appointed to inquire into the matters which are the subject of heated political controversy. . Men whose interests are, in their opinion, affected, may in the heat of political passion make statements which they would not think cif using in their calmer moments. Our judicial tribunals, sitting in a. cooler atmosphere, have the common sense to take those facts into consideration when a case is brought before them. They say, “In a matter of this kind, what we have to remember is that men engaged in controversy, when passion is up, use words which would never be employed at other times. That is a factor, which ought to be taken into consideration.” But under this Bill a purely political Commission may -be appointed, and because men in the heat of passion may say things reflecting on that political body they may be cited for contempt. Does the AttorneyGeneral say that a single Commission which has been appointed since the inauguration of Federation has been hampered in the transaction of its duties simply because defamatory statements were made about it
– Why do we appoint Royal Commissions?
– To investigate the truth, and therefore a Royal Commission ought tn be clothed with all the powers necessary to enable it to pursue its investigation. But as to all such matters it should be open to criticism. To resent criticism indicates a sensitiveness which it is not wise for us to display. The honorable member for New England has said that this House is free to criticise anything it likes. Of course it is. But a Royal Commission is not always constituted of members of this House. Frequently persons outside are appointed.
– Even those persons can be criticised.
– We have a perfect right to criticise Commissions in this Parliament, and is that right going to be denied to persons outside? 1 cannot help feeling that the whole procedure seems to have been adopted with the intention of stifling criticism.
– There is power to stifle criticism in this House, and the honorable member’s party used it when they were on this side. We do not use it.
– That was a “ contempt” committed in the presence of this tribunal.
– It was no “contempt”; the honorable member’s party did it.
– Yes, before I could get “ boo “ out of my mouth they shut me up !
– If something of the kind had not been done to the honorable member, I do not know what would have happened. If a member of this House is defamed outside he has to seek his remedy in the ordinary manner. He brings his action for defamation. But if a member of this House who is defamed happens to be a member of a Royal Commission, we are going to give him protection which he would not otherwise have.
– The honorable member’s argument is that members of Royal Commissions are all scoundrels..
– If that is the honorable member’s idea of logic I am amazed. Such an observation shows the danger of putting great powers into the hands of some human beings. The honorable member is, as a rule, one -of the fairest, most judicialminded, and most logical members of this House. Yet when his mind is inflamed by party passion, see what results we get !
– The honorable member inflamed him.
– I have been speaking in the quietest and most peaceful manner possible. I am asking honorable members to recollect that we are creating a tribunal and endowing it with great powers. It is going to become a part of the permanent machinery of our government. It will remain there till a time when honorable members opposite may not be in power. The weapon they are forging will pass into other hands which they may have reason to regret. When we legislate we ought always to observe the principle that we should not put upon the statute-book measures simply because we want to attain some present political object, but should always have .the future in view. We are not doing that in this instance. We are now endowing Commissions with powers and privileges which are not absolutely essential for the purpose in view. The effect of this amendment must be to prevent that honest, fair, and just criticism which is all for the good of the country.
.- I welcome the opportunity to see embodied in the statute-book of this country some power that would limit the pernicious influence which has been used against institutions that have been brought into existence by the action of this Parliament. As far as the clause under discussion is concerned, I admit that I do not altogether agree with it. It does not go far enough for me. I would make the terms . used “either defamatory or false,” instead of “false and defamatory.” I speak with some experience in these matters. There has never been a case where the utility of provisions of this kind was illustrated more clearly than in the instance of the Commission appointed by the honorable member for Ballarat when he was Prime Minister. That Commission, of which I was a member, was hunted day after day, and week after week, by the press of this country. It was calumniated, libelled, and misrepresented morning, afternoon, and night. Men were paid to produce articles writing it down, and bringing it into disrepute and disrespect. These articles were circulated throughout the country districts with the object of prejudicing the minds of those who might be called as witnesses. They were published wherever some country newspaper could be induced to print them. Extracts from them have been kept by members of the Commission. The honorable member for Darling Downs has alleged that the Government are attempting to suborn some one by means of this Bill. I say that the action of the press at that time had such effect that people were afraid to give evidence. Many persons were so impressed with the continuous attacks of the press in all the States that they came to the conclusion that the Commission was a dead letter, and gave up preparing their statements which they intended to make as evidence. In New South Wales, witnesses, in consequence of press criticism, came to the conclusion that the Commission could not possibly complete its work, and was never intended to complete it. Not only so, but a sort of intimidation was used. It was falsely represented that members of the Commission were men who had no respect for their fellow men. Witnesses were led to believe that persons who were examined by the Commission were regularly brow-beaten and bullied. It was not true, but the reports were circulated to such an extent that witnesses hesitated to come forward from the fear that they themselves would be so treated. Many of the witnesses afterwards admitted that the reports in the press were calumnies upon the body that had the duty and opportunity of examining them. I admit that such things may never happen again in our history. It is scarcely likely that another Commission will be appointed as was that one by a Government which never intended that it should do any work, and which tried to bring it to an end before it had completed its task. Such a state of things can only be met by creating some power to bring those persons before some tribunal, and inculcate in them some respect for public bodies created to carry out great public duties. We shall, doubtless, have more Royal Commissions than in the past, because, as industrial and commercial life becomes more complex, more inquiry will be necessary ; and some protection must be provid’ed in order that Royal Commissioners may fearlessly perform their duty. I cannot see that the proposed amendment will, in any sense of the word, impede the functions of a Royal Commission.
.- Almost the whole of this clause is unnecessary, and most of it injurious. Only the first part is strictly before us ; but, in order to save time, taking the clause as a whole, the second part appears to. me decidedly more objectionable and open to misuse. If it be necessary To protect Royal Commissions against wilful insult or disturbance - against the _ use of insulting language - I do not think honorable members would offer any objection ; in fact, if that be necessary, it is desirable that such conduct should be punishable. But, even there, the language of the clause appears ambiguous. For instance, any person who uses any insulting^ language towards a Royal Commission is to be liable. Does that, in the opinion of the Attorney-General, apply only to language used in the face of the Commission, or does it extend to language used outside by the public or by the press?
– It means in the face of the Commission.
– And only in the face of the Commission?
– Certainly; yes.
– If that is certain, I need not deal further with that part of the clause. The next part aims, and is, apparently, intended to aim, directly at all outside criticism of a hostile character. No matter how well based, how justifiable on principle, how sincere on the part of the critic, or whether in accordance with views always expressed by a person or a newspaper, the effect is to abolish any adverse criticism of a Royal Commission.
– I cannot see any objection to making this an offence ; it ought not to be encouraged, surely ?
– No violence of language ought to be encouraged ; but, on the other hand, we all know that a man who feels or thinks strongly is apt to speak strongly. In a community which preserves individuality, and cherishes independence of opinion, it is better to endure some extravagance than to shut the mouths of all who criticise. If we wish to close the mouths of aggressive critics, we should close our own ; and debate would then resolve itself into a mild, benevolent, tea#table proceeding. Such a state of things”, however, is not likely to occur in a country with a warm-blooded people like the Australians.
We all regret our own, and especially other people’s, indulgence in violent language; but practically that is an indispensable concomitant of a full and frank discussion of any stirring question. A good deal of language going beyond wisdom and moderation is sincerely used by men strongly convinced of the opinions they express, however erroneous their ideas may seem. This clause also appears to me to promise a series of operations which will not stand to the credit of Royal Commissions in general, or of those who may come into conflict with them. I fear that we shall have no great diminution in the heat, intensity, or force of political comments by either one side or the other. In this country, as in most countries, except New Zealand for a long term of years, there are frequent changes in the colour and opinions of those who occupy the Ministerial benches, and marked changes in the growth and development of the opinions of the people. That being the case, we are confronted by the necessities of some expressing those opinions and others criticising their soundness and applicability to our conditions. If we take away all possibility of those opinions being discussed by men of strong convictions and of strong feeling, as they will insist on discussing them, we shall be brought to an anaemic political condition such as we have not yet experienced, or are likely to experience, in Australia. I admit that all parties indulge more or less in excesses which it would be well to cure, but this clause, the words of which are extreme, will have the effect of crippling even wellmerited censure.
– There may be criticism without false or defamatory statements.
– The falsity may be 1 per cent. or 100 per cent., and criticism may be defamatory in public opinion, or defamatory only in the opinion of those who are its victims. Where will the line be drawn? The words of the clause are unqualified and unwarranted; we should have to go back several centuries in English history to find their parallel.
Mr.Fenton. - It will be a matter for a Judge.
Mr.DEAKIN. - There is no reference to a Judge.
– There must be subsequent proceedings in a Court before that provision can apply.
– Certainly, but this will still mean that not only the press of the country without exception or qualification, but the public without exception or qualification, in Parliament or out of it, will be subject to prosecution and punishment if they use language which is afterwards thought to be false or defamatory. By a mere process of prosecutions you may seriously and gravely limit the freedom of criticism hitherto enjoyed by this community, which, in the hands of newspapers not willing to run the risk of paying costs, even if they escaped punishment, would seriously detract from that full current of enthusiasm which we certainly desire to control, but not altogether to diminish or check.
– If it is “proved” to be false or defamatory?
– If it is proved to be false and defamatory in any degree. The comment may have been false, although the man who wrote or uttered it sincerely believed it to be true at the time ; and it may have been defamatory, although, with his information or want of information, it may mot have been defamatory in his intention at the time he uttered it. These words stand absolutely, and carry all these consequences. Even sub-clause 1 is, I venture to submit, unjustifiable unless it be amended in the manner which I have briefly indicated. Sub-clause 2, I have the temerity to say, is in no circumstances justifiable. Although the offences under the provision are committed in the face of the Commission, and although I consider it a perfectly legitimate thing for the Chairman of the Commission to have the power to deal with any such offence by way of referring it to another and independent tribunal for its adjudication, I do not think that justifies our making him a judge in his own cause. That is a very unwise departure from sound precedents.
– It can only be given to a Judge.
– The point is that it should be given to another Judge, not to the same Judge. If there had been any such offence to a Commission or its Chairman the latter should have the power to commit the offender, but the question of the contempt and the punishment, if any required to be meted out, should be determined by another Judge. Very few, if any, Royal Commissions can be conducted by the same methods as a Court of law. They are constantly going far outside its province.
– This is the practice in a Court of law.
– There are many distinctions between any Court of law, even the widest in its jurisdiction, and a Commission which is free to traverse the whole universe, to look at its issues from any point of view. The bulk of its members are without judicial experience, are perfectly free to raise any issues they like, to pursue them in any way. They are not bound by the rules of evidence, or guided by long experience of men and methods. They will constantly provoke, or, at all events, not discourage, attitudes and criticisms on the part of witnesses who do not fully realize the responsibility of the position which the Commissioners occupy. It does not follow that every brush or breeze between a witness and a Commissioner ought to be treated as an offence committed in the face of the Commission, and, certainly, if it did, it ought not to be dealt with by any Judge presiding over the Commission as he would deal with such a matter in the harmonious and orderly sanctity of his own Court.
The difference in the two spheres is enormous. Even in the very Commission which is in every one’s mind, and to which these provisions are particularly intended to apply, there was a case recently when the Chairman felt it necessary to offer an apology to the Court for certain language which he had used. That distinguished gentleman has occupied a seat on the Bench of the Supreme Court of a State for many years. Never before in the course of his experience, I believe, has he been induced to use in his Courts a single word which he desired to recall. I use that illustration because it emphasizes the entire difference of atmosphere, of methods and surroundings, before a Commission, compared with the awe due to the responsibility which all men feel who are associated with that solemn transaction of proceedings traditionally sanctioned for the administration of justice in a Court of law. You cannot make a Commission a Court of law by this clause you cannot create the atmosphere; you cannot induce the deference which is paid in their official character to Judges, and those associated with them in the administration of the law, even if claimed outside by the same men. It is well known that the formalities, the wig and gown, which seem to so many persons idle trappings, count for a great deal in preserving order and good behaviour in Court. It is because Royal Commissions are not, and cannot be, turned into Courts of law that the proposition which certainly ought not to be made in regard to this particular tribunal appears in the second part of this clause.
I hope that we shall take a division on each of these proposals, but it is especially on the second part that I appeal to honorable members. The liberty of the press is, I freely admit, exercised with great licence in some British communities; but in spite of complaints which public men have to make of the Australian press - and the complaints made by men on both sides of the House in regard to newspapers opposed to them, are made very often, it seems to me, with good reason - I hesitate even to attempt to cure, for this is -only an attempt to cure, that undue severity and partiality of criticism which we too often regret by the sacrifice of that liberty. We Should enable men who feel strongly and honestly to speak strongly their honest opinions through the press, or any other channel open to them.. I say most distinctly and emphatically that it is better to bear the abuses of the liberty of the press than to sacrifice its independent criticism. The first to discover the extent of the sacrifice will be those who are now pleading for the closing down of sluice valves which, although they are opened sometimes unwisely, and not for the clearest water, yet, on the whole, are very often of high value for cleansing purposes in relation to our public life and its varied procedures.
There is a great deal more to be said on this head, but I shall not detain honorable members, except to point out that a portion of the remarks of the honorable member for Gwydir seemed to me in one sense to require me to call his attention to the facts. I will accept for the purposes of this argument, all the statements he made, although I think that some of them were very highly coloured in regard to the appointment of the Postal Commission, and! the severity of the criticism to which it was exposed. I will even accept for the purposes of the argument his statement as to the unfairness of the criticism directed’ against himself and others. He pointed to> this, and demanded its suppression as injurious. On what ground ? Has not every recommendation by the Commission assailed* which could be practically dealt with ire the opinion of the Ministry of the daybeen dealt with as he desired? Is he not aware that more than three-fourths of therecommendations of the Postal Commissionhave already obtained indorsement? Has he not therefore gained, and is he not in the way to gain the actualization of the whole of the recommendations, so far as practicable? What, then, has he to complain of, even if he had to face a fierce, or even an unfair, fire of criticism? He has his party with him; he has had Parliament with him legislating in the direction he desired. The cardinal facts onwhich he relied to prove the notoriousabuses and losses occasioned by press criticisms pushed to an extreme only go to show that they had no effect, except possibly todelay the matter by some months or, it may be, a year. He completely disproveshis whole case against adverse criticism. We have nothing to fear in this House, and no party has anything to fear when it has a good cause. The suppression of criticism, or the checking of the free expression of public opinion, would create a-. tepid and twilight atmosphere, in which criticism in chains would diminish the public interest, already too dull. Under its constraint advance will not be as rapid as under existing circumstances. The present system has its defects, which should be tactfully corrected, but let us not, in the attempt to abolish these, plunge into a worse condition of torpor.
.- The anxiety of honorable members to safeguard the interests of wealthy corporations likely to be brought before Royal Commissions is extraordinary. By this clause we aim at preventing the pollution of the press by the wealth of the country. A few months ago large sums of money were spent in this way with the object of misleading the people. In six big Sydney newspapers a full page was devoted to what purported to be a letter, commencing “ To the Editor, Sir,” and signed, but this statement had been paid for by the inch, as an advertisement, by interested parties. At the same time, leading articles were published supporting the statements made in this letter, and leading articles in the
Herald and Telegraph on the same day were practically to the same effect. There was’ also a column of “points” published in the same six papers. These advertisements cost at least £1,000.I understand that similar advertising was done in all the State capitals, so that the total expenditure, if it were all on the same scale, must have been at least , £5,000. One newspaper, I believe - the Melbourne Age - took an honorable stand in refusing to publish the statement for which money was offered, but it was the only prominent newspaper in Australia that did so. We have heard something of the American methods. In America many thousands of pounds are spent by the trusts and combines in influencing the press, and buying up the columns of the newspapers, or keeping out of the newspapers the statements made before Commissions of Inquiry, so that the public may be misled, or left in ignorance of the facts. If necessary, the wealthy interests in America go to the length of buying up newspapers to secure their ends. Now that we are faced with a similar position in Australia, we find the Opposition fighting with its back to the wall against a clause for the protection of the public interests.
Question - That the words proposed to to be left out stand part of the clause - resolved in the negative.
Question - That the words “ false and defamatory of a Royal Commission “ proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 18
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the clause as amended stand part of the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … …18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause. 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
The provisions of this Act shall apply in relation to any Royal Commission issued before the commencement of this Act as well as in relation to Royal Commissions issued after its commencement. ,
– I move-
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ Provided that this section shall not be construed to authorize the application of this Act to proceedings in respectof offences committed before its commencement.”
This will make it clear that the Act shall not apply to current proceedings of any sort or kind.
Amendment agreed to.
.- It appears to me unfortunate that this measure should apply at all to any existing Commission. I shall not delay the Committee, further than to say that a certain Commission in existence has a history and established political relations. To some extent it has been involved in difficulties, and it seems to me extremely unfortunate, under these circumstances, that there should be any attempt to alter the law in regard to a Commission which, I hope,willin a very short period conclude its labours.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “4a. Section 5 of the Principal Act is amended by adding thereto the following sub-section : - (2.) 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 de fendant proves that the document books or writings were not relevantto the inquiry.’ “
I have explained to the House andthe Committee that the effect of the proposed amendment of the Act is to throw the onus on the witness. This clause will explainto the witness that, that is so. It will dono more than that.
.- This seems to me to be a very dangerous alteration. A person who is called upon to produce books or papers will simply haveto say that they are not material to the subjectmatter of the inquiry.
– He will have, to prove that they are not.
– Not unless legal action is taken against him. That being so, the Crown will not know whether proceedings taken against him will be maintainable. It seems to me that this amendment will mean that a prosecution will have to be instituted in every case in order todetermine whether the books and papers that have been withheld are material to the inquiry. This is an unnecessary limitation, and certainly will not, improve the Bill. “
– I wish only to say that the proposed new clause will do. no more than put the law info form. It. will not alter it. No person can be prosecuted for not producing books that are not relevant to the inquiry; and this proposed new clause simply sets forth that fact in plain terms, so that every person in the country will know exactly where he stands. Books must be produced when called for, and the onus will be on the witness to show that they are not relevant.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move - .
That the following new clause , be inserted : - “ 7A. Section 7 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting therefrom sub-section . 3.”
All that this does is to strike outa subsection that has been exhausted by the appointment of the High Court. The. principal Act was passed . before the High Court came into existence. ‘’
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– After we have disposed of. the Royal Commissions Bill, we shall deal with the electoral divisions.
– Messrs. Foggitt, Jones, and Company, of Herbert-street, Brisbane, have written to me, taking exception to some statements made during the debate on the AddressinReply by the honorable member for Moreton. They desire me to read a copy of the letter which they have addressed to him.
– Do I understand that the honorable member is going to read a letter by some outside person commenting on the action of an honorable member in this House?
– That was my intention.
– The honorable member would notbe in order in doing so any more than he would be in order in reading a newspaper extract commenting on the proceedings of this House.
– I wish to say that the honorable member for Moreton made certain statements concerning-
– The Prime Minister, who moved the adjournment of the House, has already replied, having, in answer to a question by the honorable member for Parramatta, stated the Business to be taken on Tuesdaynext.
– I understood that the question was asked only by way of interjection. I was on my feet at the time.
– The Prime Minister has replied, and but that I thought that the. honorable member was going to make a personal explanation I could not have allowed him to speak.
– I should like to make a personal explanation, in order that the House may understand why I desired to read the letter in which complaint is made of certain statements made by the honorable member for Moreton concerning this firm.
– The honorable member is now going beyond my ruling.
– The statements were not true.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 July 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120726_reps_4_64/>.