4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs if the Board appointed to consider the designs for the laying out of the Federal Capital has made a report, it being necessary, I understand, to get such a report before the actual work can be set in hand. If the Board has not reported, will the Minister ask its members to fix a definite date for the presentation of its report?
– The Board had a meeting yesterday, and I told the officers this morning that it must be the last - that now we want business. I think that in a day or two something will be done.
– Has the Government taken definite steps towards placing any of its contracts for steel rails within the Commonwealth ?
– We are considering the matter very carefully.
– A cablegram was published in the press yesterday purporting to contain the gist of an interview with the Prime Minister on the subject of the extension of the Committee of Imperial Defence, obtained by a representative of the London Daily News. The right honorable gentleman is represented to have said that he cannot see the advantage of having representatives of the Dominions upon the Imperial Defence Council, who would sooner or later be out of touch with those they represented, and would thus become dead channels through which the policy of their Governments would not flow. Does that represent the views of this Government on the matter?
– The statement isa substantially correct epitome of what I said. I have always expressed the view that a live Minister alone can reflect the opinions of an Australian Government, and that no delegated person remaining in
Great Britain could do what is necessary to provide the safeguards required for Australian and Empire defence.
– There are live Ministers on the Committee now.
– It is correct to say that we are represented on the Committee of Defence, but that representation is not the sort of thing referred to by the Daily News. What the cablegram refers to is the delegation of power to speak for Australia to a person not possessing Ministerial office.
– I wish to know from the Minister of External Affairs whether, if a new Ordinance is substituted for the Crown Lands Ordinance relating to the Northern Territory which has been under review, it will be published in time to enable the House to have an opportunity of dealing with it before the session closes?
– Has the Government received or accepted tenders for the conveyance of mails between Melbourne and Tasmania ? If so, what is the nature of the contract made?
– A tender has been received, but as negotiations are proceeding, it would be inadvisable to publish its terms at this stage.
– With reference to the statement made yesterday by the honorable member for Kooyong that there was prepared during his term of office, and is now in the Department of Trade and Customs, information upon which a general scheme for insurance against unemployment, accident, death, and the contingencies of maternity could be based, I ask the Minister whether the statement is correct, and whether there is a memorandum or information on the subject which would permit of a scheme being brought forward at once. If there is, will he give the House an opportunity to become acquainted with the details?
– I did not hear the statement made by the honorable member for Kooyong, though I believe that when he was at head of the Department he employed a Mr. Taylor, the secretary of a friendly society of this city, to obtain information regarding insurance questions and other matters, and that the Commonwealth Statistician, at the honorable member’s request or at my own, published a statement about insurance for unemployment. If the honorable member for Cook will repeat his question on Tuesday, I shall try to obtain all the information in the possession of the Department on this subject. I do not think that a definite scheme has been prepared, or that the last Government gave instructions for the preparation of anything more than a memorandum.
– In the event of the inquiry disclosing that the information referred to by the honorable member for Cook has not been compiled, will the Minister take into consideration the advisableness of having it compiled, and laid before the House?
Flax. - Cotton Piece Goods
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs whether it is intended to renew the bounty on flax?
– It is the intention to renew all the bounties which expired on the. 30th June, including the bounty on wool tops, about which the honorable member for Moreton asked a question yesterday.
– In considering the renewal of bounties, will the Minister give attention to the advisability of fostering the manufacture of cotton piece goods in Australia ?
– There is already a bounty for ginned cotton, and the advisability of providing one for cotton piece goods is under consideration. I should like to add that there may be some slight modification of the bounty provisions of the Act which terminated last June.
– A number of questions have been sent to members by persons from different parts of the country interested in bounties. Will the Minister, as soon as he has arrived at a decision in regard to the subject-matter of those questions, make the fact known to the members who have brought them before him, so that they may inform their constituents ?
– I shall be pleased to reply to all members who have brought matters pertaining to bounties before me.
I think that I could give off-hand a reply to any particular matter about which information might be needed.
– As the Minister is throwing bouquets to a number of industries, will he throw one to an industry already established, which does not ask for a bounty and claims only fair treatment? Will he alter the regulation regarding the moisture content of export butter by reducing the percentage ?
– That regulation cannot be altered without the consent of the Cabinet, and I shall submit the matter to my colleagues for consideration. Personally, I think that we are following right lines in keeping the standard high.
– A few days ago the Prime Minister was asked whether the Constitution does not empower us to prohibit the employment of coloured labour in the sugar industry. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he and his colleagues have considered what power is given to us by the Constitution to prohibit the employment of aliens, and whether we can prohibit their employment in the furnituremaking trade and other industries, as well as the sugar industry, in which it is desirable that they should be prevented from competing with white workers ?
– I am not in possession of a legal opinion on the subject, which, considering its importance, will take some time to consider. Subject to what the Attorney-General says, as soon as I have received an opinion from him it will be laid on the table.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2, and 3. This Government have continued an arrangement made by the South Australian Government with the Eastern and Australian Steam Navigation Company, by which vessels of that company, and of Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company and the China Steam’ Navigation
Company call at Darwin. The Government have in contemplation the improvement of the existing service, but are now asking the companies to continue the present arrangement, which is on the point of expiry, for a further three months, when it will be seen how the Navigation Bill will affect the position.
– My leader, the honorable member for Ballarat, has the following notice of motion on the notice-paper : -
That the ruling of the Honorable the Speaker that the amendment of the member for Kooyong is irrelevant to the motion that the Bill for an Act to provide for payment of maternity allowances be now read a second time be and is hereby disagreed with.
In the absence of the honorable member, who is, unfortunately, unable to be present to-day, there is nothing left for me but to move the postponement of the motion until Tuesday.
– I cannot allow the motion to be postponed. Between now and Tuesday I may have to give halfadozen important rulings on a similar point; and, under the circumstances, the motion must be dealt with at once.
– I should like to ask the honorable member for Parramatta through you, Mr. Speaker, whether the Leader of the Opposition last night did not desire to withdraw this motion, and whether he does not still desire to do so. If that be the case, why not simply withdraw the motion and put an end to the matter ?
– Personally, I have had no information from the Leader of the Opposition that he intends to withdraw the motion. In my opinion, the motion must either be dealt with now or discharged from the notice-paper.
– Under the circumstances, I ask leave to withdraw the motion. I wonder if it is possible for an honorable member on this side to say anything without being greeted with a chorus of guffaws from honorable members opposite. It is about time, Mr. Speaker, that you stopped that sort of thing, which is becoming intolerable, and rendering it impossible to do anything in the House.
– Order ! The honorable member is reflecting on the Chair.
– I am reflecting on the House, certainly ; but it is time somebody did say something. To proceed with the motion to-day would consume the small amount of time allotted to us by the Government.
– The honorable member cannot discuss the motion; he must take either one or other of two courses.
– It seems to be almost impossible for me to discuss anything - that is the conclusion I am coming to.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark. He must see that I cannot allow an honorable member to discuss the motion. He must proceed with the motion on behalf of the honorable member for Ballarat, or ask leave to withdraw it.
– I should like to say, in reply, that I am not discussing the motion, but explaining the reasons why I propose to withdraw it. If you, sir, will not extend that courtesy to me, I shall have to forego even that explanation, and say that, unconditionally,I withdraw the motion.
Order of the Day discharged.
In Committee: (Consideration resumed from 26th September, vide page 3555)
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This Act shall commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation.
.- I have not addressed myself to this Bill before, but I have taken a great interest in the discussion on the second reading; and, in my opinion, there is room for amendment in this clause. During the debate the opinion has been expressed by those well qualified to judge, that there is grave doubt as to the constitutionality of the measure.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the constitutionality of the measure on this clause, which deals only with the commencement.
– The amendment I propose affects the constitutionality of the Bill, its object being to postpone the proclamation until the High Court has had an opportunity to say whether or not the Bill is constitutional. The amendment, if carried, can cause but little delay; and it would be far better to have that delay than to have the Bill passed and put into operation, and then declared to be ultra vires.This would place us in a far worse position than if we take the precaution I am now suggesting. Honorable members opposite ought to listen to my reasonable proposal, because it will be remembered that in the session of 19 10 there was passed, at the instance of this Government, a Bill amending the Judiciary Act in such a way as to permit measures to be submitted to the High Court for an opinion as to their validity. One section in that Act is as follows -
Whenever the Governor-General refers to the High Court for hearing and determination any question of law as to the validity of any Act or enactment of the Parliament, the High Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter.
I do not know that that is a very wise piece of legislation, and I did not approve of it when it was introduced ; but it is now the law, and I contend that, under the circumstances, the Government ought to make use of it. So far as I know, the amended Judiciary Act has never been put into operation; but this, in my opinion, is a very fitting occasion to do so. There does not seem to be much conflict of opinion as to our power to appropriate money under the Maternity Allowance Bill ; but, so far as I can gather, every lawyer in the Chamber is satisfied that the Commonwealth will experience great difficulty when they come to provide machinery for the distribution of the grant. Under all the circumstances, such an amendment as I suggest would be preferable to rushing forward headlong with this measure only to find subsequently that it is unconstitutional.
– But the honorable member does not regard the amended Judiciary Act as a piece of wise legislation.
Mr.ATKINSON. - The amended Judiciary Act is in existence, and I cannot understand why the Government do not seem at all anxious to take advantage of a law passed at their own instance. Even if the amended Judiciary Act is not commendable in a general sense, it may possibly be of use in some cases such as the present one. It would seem, however, that honorable members opposite have forgotten that such an Act is on the statutebook. If the High Court hold that the Bill is of doubtful validity it would be the easiest thing in the world, after the debate we have had, to pass an amended measure to carry out the object we have in view. We are all in favour of doing something for the womanhood of Australia at the time of childbirth, and no one recognises more than I do the value to the country of healthy children. I thoroughly approve of immigration, but the best immigrant is the native-born child. I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “but not sooner than the date of the determination of its validity under the provisions of the Judiciary Act 1910.”
– I cannot assume that this Bill is improperly before the House. The Attorney-General is quite as capable as any previous AttorneyGeneral of giving an opinion as to the powers of this Parliament.
– Then what is the good of the Judiciary Act?
– If the amendment is necessary in the case of this Bill, it is necessary in the case of every Bill introduced. Who can tell, after the decisions that have been given, what is a valid and what is not a valid piece of legislation in this Parliament? At any rate, this proposal is a part of the settled policy of the Government. We shall not allow an attack to be successfully launched against a piece of beneficent legislation for the purposes of delay. Imagine what honorable members opposite would say if a Conservative measure that would do injustice and restrict the liberties of the people was going through Parliament, and we asked that it should be delayed for the purpose of being referred to the High Court ! In this particular instance, the value of this Bill is that it may become law as early as possible. Any one who feels offended or aggrieved at its becoming law has a legal and logical way of discovering whether it is valid or not. When that step is taken we shall have an opportunity of appealing from one tribunal to another in order to get the powers necessary to validate the passage of legislation of this kind by this Parliament.
.- I regret that the Government will not take this very simple course of settling whether the Bill is within our powers or not. I suppose that even those who are most in favour of the measure will admit that that question is not free from doubt.
– None of our legislation is.
– There is a great deal of doubt in this case. I am of opinion that the Bill is not valid. I submit that the power to appropriate revenue given to us by the Constitution only means a power to appropriate revenue for pur poses handed over to us in the Constitution. Cases in which there has been a difference of opinion as to the constitutional power have been cases where the Commonwealth had the enumerated power, but the question arose whether it was exercising that power in a constitutional manner. In this case it is admitted that the Commonwealth has no enumerated power under the Constitution to make amaternity allowance any more than it has to make appropriations for any other beneficent purpose. It has also been laid down by those learned in the law in this Chamber that even if there were power to appropriate, there is no power to administer, no power to follow the matter up, to impose penalties, or to make any regulations as to the management of the fund. I have not heard any one learned in the law attempt to show otherwise. We are not unqualified possessors of the revenue of the country as the United States may be said to be. As the honorable and learned member for Bendigo put it, the States are residuary legatees, and it is important, as supporting that view, that when the payment’s to the States were altered from the three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue to 25s. per head, provision was inserted in the very Bill introduced by the present Government for that purpose, that the 25s. per head should not alone be the contribution to the States, but that any surplus revenue that might arise should be distributed to them. Those words were probably surplusage, because the Constitution makes provision in regard to the surplus revenue in section 94, but still they showed the mind of the Government at the time they introduced the Bill.
– You should have let that be known.
– I do not think it strengthens the case because the Constitution, and not an Act of this Parliament, gives the power. The proposal of the honorable member for Wilmot merely does what the Attorney-General urged us to do in the session before last when he introduced the Judiciary Bill. Quotations from the speech he delivered clearly show that he then thought it necessary, in order to avoid difficulty and uncertainty, that Bills should be referred to the High Court for decision as to their constitutionality. He said - Hansard, page 6489, of 1910 -
Under Federation, the Judiciary occupies, as it were, a position of lofty and superior censorship of our legislation. And, of course, obviously, it must also exercise those functions which belong properly to the highest judicial Court in the country. It is, on matters of law - and to this no possible exception can be taken - the last Court of Appeal. But in another direction it exercises functions of quite a different nature. Although nominally inferior to this Legislature, in reality it has shown, over and. over again, not merely in this country, but more particularly in the United States of America, that it is above and superior to, not only the Parliament, but, what is yet more important, the constitutionally expressed will of the people. I admit at once that it is inevitable that there must be such a body to determine the respective limitations of the States and the Commonwealth, and that it will never do for us to contemplate for a moment a condition of things in which the Stales and the Commonwealth may make what laws they please irrespective of the extent to which either may trespass upon the other’s sphere.
Consider how absurd and unnecessary is the position that has arisen whereby a Court created principally - and I speak now not of its functions as a Court of Appeal for private litigants - to determine the constitutional authority of State or Federal Statutes is unable to move until some private individual who considers that he has suffered an injustice, or a State authority which is interested, brings an action which the validity of a Statute is incidentally determined. As a fact, the Court never directly determines the validity of any Statute; it merely deals with it in connexion with the facts of the case brought before it. A litigant thinks that he has suffered a wrong, and appeals to the Court for a remedy. If the wrong be one for which there is a legal remedy, and one it is in the power of the Court to apply, and the plaintiff deserves relief, he will succeed, and incidentally the Court may declare that a particular Statute is or is not ultra vires. That is to say, that the Court especially created to determine the validity of Commonwealth and Slate laws, does in fact never directly decide the constitutionality of any such laws. This is not a proper and sensible procedure for a great and growing nation like ours to continue, and it is the purpose of the measure to substitute for this cumbrous, antiquated method of determining the validity of any Statutes, one which, on the face of it, will more speedily and effectively inform us as to the constitutionality of a measure, enabling the Court to give a calm, dispassionate, and impartial decision upon this one point, without the complication of personal relations and personal wrongs.
The Attorney-General will be able to ask Ihe Court the plain question, “ Is this measure one which it is within the power of the Parliament to nass?” and we shall get from the Court a straightforward answer.
I ask honorable members to consider the net result of ten years’ experience of the present system, and the amount of money spent and time wasted on sporadic efforts to determine what the law really is.
If there has always been need for a simpler method of testing the validity of Statutes, the present need is twice as great. We have a crop of new legislation as important at least as any that preceded it, and in many cases inviting questions as to validity.
Obviously, the plain, sensible, business-like course, where a Court has been created and charged specially with the duty of deciding what are the limitations which the Constitution imposes, is to empower the Commonwealth to go straight to the Court, and ask whether a Statute is or is not valid. This Bill has for its object the giving of the necessary authority to enable that course to be taken.
But even if we admit for a moment that these duties are extra-judicial duties - not usually thrown upon the Judges of a Court - I submit that we have a perfect right to ask the Judges to perform them. For clearly they are functions that cannot be exercised by any one else. And assuredly they ought to be exercised bv somebody.
But the Bill supplements existing rights, and does not take any away. It removes uncertainty, obviates delay, and prevents injustice being done to the Commonwealth, to the States, or to individuals.
I think I have quoted enough to show that, when he introduced that Bill, the AttorneyGeneral thoroughly approved of the procedure there proposed. He said the Court was specially created to determine the validity of Commonwealth and State laws. I believe that if this Bill is referred to the High Court it will be proved to be beyond our powers.. It appropriates where it has no power to appropriate. It is not similar to the Surplus Revenue Act, where the appropriation was for purposes authorized by the Constitution. This Bill appropriates for purposes not enumerated among our powers in the Constitution. I believe that it is not constitutional. I assure the Committee that I am not taking this attitude for party purposes. It is simply because I believe the Bill is not within our powers. It deals with a matter that is not given to us to legislate upon, and therefore I feel very strongly that it is an attempt to invade an arena of usefulness or political activity that does not belong to us. Believing that, I regard it as my bounden duty to support the amendment. We should, at any rate, have the opportunity of obtaining a decision removing all doubt and all chance of litigation, because, depend upon it, it is open to the State Governments, if they like, to question the validity of the Bill. They are particularly interested, because they are being deprived by the Bill of some revenue that might be surplus revenue to them; and it is being devoted to a purpose which they may fairly and rightly claim belongs to them. 1 have much pleasure in supporting the proposal that the Bill, before it comes into operation, should be referred to the High Court for its decision under Act 34 of 1910, which was introduced by the present Government for the very purpose that we are now seeking to accomplish.
.- It is remarkable that, whilst so many members are in sympathy with the measure, every means is being adopted for the purpose of delaying it. For the first time, I suppose, in the history of the Federal Parliament we have heard that it is desirable to make application to the High Court to test the constitutionality of legislation before it is put into operation.
– Did not your Government pass that Act?
– Certainly our Government passed it, and, strange to say, the Opposition, who never thought of it before, now that it suits their purpose are endeavouring to have it applied to this Bill. Why? Because in this case there does not appear to be any possibility of an appeal being made by any outside person. This is humane legislation. It does not come up so much against vested interests. Had it done so we should not have heard this plea put before the Committee. There would have been sufficient private interests affected to test the legislation in the High Court, but in this case what individual or company or syndicate would be likely to bring an action in the High Court against the measure? The answer is that there is no party that would consider it desirable to test its constitutionality.
– I said the States would.
-The honorable member for Swan has consistently held that the Bill is an interference with the privileges and rights of the States; and that it is unconstitutional, inasmuch as its purpose is not enumerated among the powers of the Commonwealth in the Constitution. He has throughout taken up that position. But does he think that a” measure of this kind will not be beneficial to the States as well as to the Federation? Does he think that any State Government would take exception to .the Government of the Commonwealth spending money in connexion with a maternity allowance? I do not think that there is in Australia any Government so inhuman as to raise an objection with the purpose of testing this legislation in the High Court. If any State Government is prepared to do so, it must be prepared to take the responsibility. It will have to reckon with the people of the State if it takes up any such attitude in respect of legislation of this kind, and I have no doubt that in the end it will be called upon to pay the penalty. In the circumstances, therefore, I believe that there is no likelihood of any appeal being made to the High Court as to the unconstitutionality of this legislation. I am advised by the Attorney-General, and the Department over which he has control, that we have the constitutional power to pass it, and, if that be so, it is time enough for honorable members to suggest that the decision of the High Court should be obtained when some one outside is prepared to make an appeal to the Court. If this Bill were likely to affect any particular outside interest, no doubt its constitutionality would be tested in the High Court, just as the constitutionality of other measures has been tested by the Shipping Combine and various other bodies. In this case, however,, the question would not be raised except by a State Government, and even that is a very remote possibility. It has been urged that the granting of the maternity allowance will interfere with the surplus revenues of the States. I think, however, that the State Governments may make up their minds at once that there is going to be very little surplus revenue. The obligations of the Commonwealth are so expanding that we shall require all that we get to carry out our undertakings. The State Governments, therefore, may make up their minds that they are not likely to receive anything beyond the present per capita payments. There is no prospect of any appeal being made to the Court against this humane piece of legislation; and for that reason, and that alone, those who endeavoured last night to defeat the Bill, are now bringing forward this amendment in order to delay its coming into operation, because they do not wish to see it made law.
– Is the honorable member in order in imputing that the Opposition are endeavouring to delay this Bill, and are bringing forward this amendment solely with that object in view? It is very offensive.
– The honorable member would not be in order in imputing motives; but he is in order in saying that the adoption of the amendment would delay the coming into operation of the Bill.
– I have no wish to impute motives, but it is fair comment to say that the only effect the amendment can have is to delay this measure. There could be no hope of obtaining a decision of the High Court for some time, and the coming into operation of the Bill would thus be delayed. In my ‘opinion, it should come into force at the earliest possible moment, and I trust that as soon as it has been passed by the Senate the necessary proclamation will be issued by the Government. I fail to understand why, if honorable members of the Opposition, like those supporting the Government, are in favour of the principle - as they say they are - they should raise this question for the first time, unless it is that they hope to obtain a decision of the High Court which would destroy the Bill, and probably have some effect in connexion with the next general election. I believe that the amendment is brought forward because the Opposition anticipate that no outside body or individual is likely to make any appeal to the High Court in respect of the Bill, inasmuch as it does not affect any particular individual or corporation. They believe that the constitutionality of the Bill is not likely to be tested unless the Commonwealth Government refer it to the High Court. I am sure that the Government will not do anything so foolish. I hope that they will bring the Bill into operation as soon as possible, leaving the Opposition, if they wish to test its constitutionality, to appeal themselves to the High Court.
– The attitude of the Prime Minister in holding that the Government must accept the conclusions of the Attorney-General as to the constitutionality of a Government measure is one with which no one can quarrel. The responsibility of the Attorney-General with regard to the limits of our constitutional power is greater by far than is that of any other member of the House. But I think that the Attorney-General, being clothed with such responsibility, ought not finally to make up his” mind regarding the constitutionality of any measure until he has had an opportunity to hear and give effect to other legal opinion in the House. He himself will admit, I think, that if, during the discussion, any serious doubt is thrown upon the constitutionality of the measure it is his duty, nol merely to the Government, but to the whole House, to give consideration to the arguments that may be advanced. I am not enamoured of the Act which was passed by the present Government to enable a request to be made to the High Court to express opinions in a nonjudicial capacity as to the validity of Acts of the Commonwealth Parliament before questions have arisen in connexion with them for determination in the ordinary judicial way. The judicial functions of the Court are entirely confined to the determination of questions which arise in the ordinary judicial way.
– Surely a decision givenby the High Court on such a reference as is now proposed would be just as binding as would a decision given in the ordinary way.
– I express this opinion subject to some doubt, but it is open to question whether the High Court would undertake the functions thus imposed upon it, and whether, if it did, those functions could be called judicial. A similar question has arisen under a Canadian Act by which, if I remember rightly, the Privy Council is authorized to determine matters of this sort or to answer questions put to it. My recollection is that the Privy Council has declared that any opinion which it might give under that Act would not be a judicial determination, and would not bind any one if a question were raised in the ordinary way for judicial determination.
– Then is there any value in the Act?
– But little value except as a means of obtaining an opinion to guide the Parliament.
– But surely a decision given, in a non-judicial way, by the High Court, after hearing evidence, would be the same as one given in a case coming before it in the ordinary way.
– Probably it would be, but not necessarily. It would not bind judicial decision. That is the weakness of the Judiciary Act of 1910. But the point that I wish to make is that if that Act is of any value the case now before us is one eminently suitable for its application. I am as reluctant as is any honorable member to express an opinionthat would curtail the powers, and especially the financial powers, of the Parliament. During the whole time that I have been a member of this House I have been particularly desirous to assert to the full the financial rights and privileges of this Parliament. But there arises in connexion with this Bill a matter concerning which I am not going to express an opinion, but regarding which I am going to show there are reasons for serious doubt, and that there are strong practical reasons why that doubt should be settled during the financial year. The American Constitution gives Congress an express power to appropriate public revenues for “ the welfare of the United States.” There is no residuary provision, no right given to any one to any surplus revenue or any money not appropriated. The question whether that general power authorizes Congress to appropriate moneys to any purpose it chose has been a matter of considerable discussion in the United States of America. No judicial decision has been given so far as I am aware, but undoubtedly from the time of that great jurist, Mr. Justice Story, to the present day, the great bulk of authority has been in favour of the proposition that the United States Parliament, once the money goes into the exchequer, has unlimited power of. appropriation. . That is undoubtedly so. There are some writers who dispute the view ; but the great authority of Mr. Justice Story, and of subsequent writers, has been urged in its favour.
– That Congress is not limited within the enumerated powers ?
– Yes. It is also true that we have adopted the general scheme of the American Constitution, and that is a strong argument in favour of the contention that the principle which has practically been sanctioned by all the leading writers in the United States should apply to this Parliament, and that we too should have a general and unlimited power of appropriation of moneys once they come into the exchequer. So far, the arguments are strongly in favour of this unlimited power. On the other hand, we have certain express provisions in our Constitution giving the States a clear and legally enforceable right to the payment of surplus moneys not appropriated to Commonwealth purposes. Section 81 of the Constitution provides that -
All revenues or moneys raised or received by the Executive Government of the Commonwealth shall form one consolidated revenue fund, to be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities imposed by this Constitution. and the question arises whether that means any purpose whatever to which we choose to apply them. Prima facie, one would think that it does not, but still there is the great weight of American authority to support such a position. When we come to the sections dealing with the rights of the States we find that in the first place section 93 provides that -
During the first five years after the imposition of uniform duties of customs, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides - the duties on goods passing from one State to another shall be adjusted, under paragraph 1, in a certain way, and -
That is to say, during the first five years after the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, and thereafter until Parliament otherwise provides, there is to be an express payment to the States of the balance of the unappropriated revenue of the Commonwealth. Section 94 says -
After five years from the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, the Parliament may provide, on such basis as it deems fair, for the monthly payment to the several States of all surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.
Having regard to that specific residuary right given to the States, there is some reason for thinking, and it is considerably fortified by the expressions of some of the learned Justices of the HighCourt in the Tasmanian case, that the States possess an absolute right to all moneys not appropriated for Commonwealth purposes, and that therefore a limitation is necessarily imposed on Commonwealth purposes. To see what Commonwealth purposes are, you have to look to the legislative powers given to the Commonwealth Parliament. I should be sorry to express a definite opinion on the subject, and do not say that the view which I have put forward would necessarily be the determination of the High Court. But the Attorney-General, in the highly responsible position which he occupies towards this Committee, as well as towards the Government, might have favoured us with more definite reasons for assuming that the provisions of the measure are included within the Commonwealth powers. He merely gave us the bald statement that the measure is constitutional, and there was an end of it. We are entitled to more than his mere ipse dixit. As a lawyer I am prepared to pay the utmost respect to his opinion, but I desire that it should be supported by some definite reasons. This is not a light matter, and I entirely repudiate the suggestion that the question has been raised to delay the consideration of the Bill. The delay occasioned in making a reference to the High Court would be extremely short, because the matter could be brought at once before the Court to be determined during its present sitting, to which, no doubt, as a matter of urgency, the Court would agree.
– Does not the honorable member think that the States weakened their claim on the surplus revenues of the Commonwealth by accepting the annual payment of 25s. per head of population?
– The Surplus Revenue Act is an Act of this Parliament.
– That is an answer to the question, and another is that that Act expressly reserves to the States the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth not appropriated by this Parliament, in addition to providing for the payment referred to. It all comes back to this : What is the meaning of “ appropriated “ under section 81 ? No Act that we may pass, even though the States may assent to it, can deprive them of their Constitutional rights. The question is : Have we given a sensible reading to the Constitution? Our reading may be the only one. We may be absolutely governed by the expression of opinion df American jurists on a similar Constitution. But is it certain, or almost certain, that the States have no power whatever to say that we must confine our expenditure to Commonwealth purposes. Are we so sure of that, that it is not desirable to obtain a definite opinion on the matter? I have very little hope that the AttorneyGeneral will reconsider his definitely pronounced opinion, but I have considered it my duty to place the difficulties of the situation before the Committee. This Bill is not like an ordinary measure, which might be ultra vires, and in regard to which measures Ministers have more than once asked Parliament to chance their constitutionality. If we are wrong in assuming the Bill to be constitutional, and during this financial year spend money in giving effect to its “provisions, the States will be entitled to compel us, through the High Court, to repay to them the sums so expended.
– If they did, we should quickly get Unification.
– If we found that it was illegal, we could pay the money into a Trust Fund for general Commonwealth purposes.
– I think that I am responsible for the first suggestion that a Trust Fund should be created. It was on my advice to this Chamber, subsequently fortified by the High Court, that the power to make general appropriations was adopted and exercised, and I do not intend to attempt to cut down that power. We, undoubtedly, have the right to appropriate for some other purpose, provided that purpose is within our constitutional powers, but if we proceed with this Bill, any State may have the right to say, “ You are bound to pay to the States the balance of the moneys not appropriated by you for Commonwealth purposes.” The States may have a right enforcible at law to compel the Commonwealth Treasury to repay to them the sums paid out by way of maternity allowances.
– As an unappropriated surplus.
– Yes. If the AttorneyGeneral is not right, if his view is not certain to be right, can we contemplate any case in which it would be more desirable to have the matter determined before the Exchequer proceeds to make a payment ? I should think that the Government, to secure the stability of its financial operations for this year, ought to embrace theopportunity to obtain an authoritative opinion on the point. Opinions have been expressed by lawyers on both sides of the chamber which are contradictory. I have not expressed any definite view.
– Could not the question be decided without the carrying of the amendment ?
– I have not a copy of the Judiciary Act before me, but if the Government promised to do what we ask, it would remove all difficulty, and I would advise the honorable member for Wilmot to withdraw his amendment. Ministers might reasonably, before committing themselves to this course, ask for an opportunity to ascertain whether the High Court would promptly determine the matter. Seeing that a considerable body of legal opinion entertains the strongest doubt as to the constitutionality of the Bill - and I am aware that some very high authorities outside strongly hold the view that it is unconstitutional - this is surely a case in which it is desirable to fortify our position by an appeal to the High Court before any payments are made from the Treasury.’
– The amendment is one with which I cannot agree, and which I hope will not be adopted. It is proposed that before the measure takes effect it shall be referred to the High Court under the provisions of the Judiciary Act of 1910 to determine its validity. There appears to be doubt in the minds of some honorable members as to our power to appropriate moneys for the purposes of the Bill, and we are asked to invite the High Court to declare its views on the matter. Let us first consider the practical effect of accepting the amendment. It was the intention of those who oppose the measure, , and support the amendment, to make provision for a much larger expenditure than the Bill proposes. They wished to engraft on the. measure a scheme involving an expenditure quite unknown, but certainly very large, and with possibilities infinitely greater than those with which we are confronted.
– Is that relevant to the amendment?
– I think so. We are asked to say that there is doubt as to our power to appropriate money for the purposes of the Bill. To agree to the amendment would be, in the first place, to cause delay. To that we may fairly take serious exception. But there is another objection to the course proposed which should be emphasized. It is only in the last extremity, when the Parliament and the Crown have grave doubts as to the constitutionality of proposed legislation, that the High Court should be invited to express an opinion upon it. Under a Federal Constitution the Judiciary has its well-defined place, and performs necessary and valuable functions, but for Parliament to legislate under the censorship, as it were, of the High Court, would be, in effect, to make that body a third Chamber of the Legislature, which I decline to allow. When the Judiciary Bill of 1910 was before the House, honorable members opposite expressed grave doubts as to its constitutionality, but a recent Privy Council case has, I think, placed the matter beyond doubt.
– I hope so.
– It is, I think, determined that the High Court may fairly be asked to give an opinion under the circumstances set forth in the Judiciary Act. In’ doing so, the Court merely de clares the law, and advises the Crown. The Judiciary Act provides an excellent and necessary expedient, and I do not apologize for having been responsible for it. But it ought not to be resorted to unless there is the gravest reason for doubting the constitutionality of a proposed law. To invite the opinion of the High Court upon every measure, the constitutionality of which is questioned by its opponents, would be not only improper, but dangerous to democratic government.
I now come to the question of the validity of this proposal. The honorable member for Flinders, whose opinion on points of law I always accept with, the greatest possible respect, has stated that in the United States the power of appropriation is unlimited ; and I have no doubt in my own mind that that is also our position. No doubt duties and limitations are cast upon us by the Constitution, but, subject to these, we may appropriate money for any purpose we please. Let us assume for a moment how a case under this Bill may come before the Court. A woman applies for the money, and is refused ; the matter comes before the Courts; what has the High Court to consider? It has to consider whether the woman is within the Statute, and whether the Statute is a valid exercise of our power. If the point is taken that the appropriation of this money is for a purpose not within the Commonwealth’s sphere, the Court has to determine what that sphere is. It is not contended that if this money be not appropriated for the present purpose it will be handed over to the States; because, by an Act passed during the currency of this Parliament, there was substituted for the provisions of section 87 of the Constitution, a payment of 25s. per head to the States, and, I take it, all the rights of the States to unappropriated Commonwealth moneys are thus satisfied. It is perfectly true that there must be an appropriation - that there cannot be moneys at large, but they must be appropriated and for a lawful purpose. The only purpose that could be unlawful is one under an illegal appropriation ; that is to say, an appropriation which had been agreed to by this Parliament in some other way than that which it is proper for this Parliament to agree to. For instance, it might be an appropriation which was not covered by a message, or was not passed by a majority, or there might be some defect, in other parts of the legislative machinery.
Mr.W. H. Irvine.- Surely the AttorneyGeneral does not suggest that under this Act for reference to the High Court, that Court would have any power whatever to inquire into our procedure within the House ?
– I did not say so.
Mr.W. H. Irvine. - I thought the AttorneyGeneral did say so.
– I do not think that the High Court can go behind an Act of this Parliament where there is a mere defect.; and I confess I cannot conceive of a concrete case where an appropriation, properly made by this Parliament, which could be inquired into in the face of the Statute passed by this Parliament which commutes any rights that the States have to Commonwealth revenue, excepting is regard to moneys at large. When money is not appropriated that is a different matter. The question is whether an appropriation for any well defined enumerated power, such as lighthouses, quarantine, or defence, falls into a different class from that of an appropriation which this Parliament has agreed to outside the enumerated powers.I say most emphatically that it does not. This Parliament may spend its money as it pleases; and I say that without qualification.
– That settles it!
– A Parliament is in exactly the same position as a private citizen ; it may not break the law, but otherwise it may spend its money as it pleases. There is nothing, so far as I know, to prevent this Parliament from spending its money in any direction. Since the power of appropriation seems plenary, and there is nothing unlawful or uncertain about the object for which we propose to appropriate the money, I am certainly of opinion that we should not agree to the unavoidable delay that would follow a reference to the High Court. I am certainly opposed to the principle of inviting the High Court to interfere in political matters - and legislation in the making is surely largely a political matter - except as a last expedient, when, for instance, there is such confusion in the minds of the public as to whether they must obey the law, and perform certain acts - such as pay taxes, under it - as may throw public matters into chaos. It was a class of taxation measures that the Government had in their mind when the
Judiciary Bill was introduced, and when it was suggested that the land tax was unconstitutional. A class of persons who owned land may be asked to pay a certain tax, and they decline to do so on the ground that, in their belief, the tax is unconstitutional. The Government, on the other hand, requiring revenue, insists on the tax being paid. It may be that until there is a definite refusal - which definite refusal cannot be acted on until the last date for payment has passed - nothing can come before the High Court, by way of litigation, until an offence is committed under the Statute, and the Treasurer is inconvenienced, the people do not know what they should do, and the affairs of the country may be seriously upset. Under such circumstances an early reference to the High Court would be of the highest possible advantage in the public interest. I submit, however, most emphatically that the measure under discussion is not of that class. The Government have no doubt as to its constitutionality - none whatever. I do not say for one moment that this legislation has to be regarded altogether as outside our enumerated powers. For example: We have the power to make laws in reference to the payment of invalid and oldage pensions. “ Invalid “ is a generic term, and, although it has been particularly applied to persons who are incapacitated generally and completely, it by no means follows that it is to be confined to such a condition.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that a woman, in the exercise of her highest natural function, is an invalid ?
– The point I have raised may cause the honorable member much surprise.
– It does.
– But it is by expressing surprise at suitable intervals that the honorable member has attained the position he occupies in the legal world. I have no doubt at all that invalidity covers a very much wider ground than that which is attached to it in the invalid and old-age pensions legislation of this Parliament, and it might be fairly argued that under that power this Parliament could make a law with regard to invalidity on a temporary matter.
– Then the AttorneyGeneral would also argue that the grant of £5 is a pension?
– I merely put this forward to show that, apart from the general power of appropriation that this Parliament possesses in common with all other Parliaments, the enumerated powers are ample for our purpose. Under the circumstances, I shall ask the Committee to reject the amendment. It can only delay the measure to invite the Court to express an opinion on a matter on which the Crown has no doubt.
.- I am sorry the Government are treating this amendment seriously, because I regard it as part of the plan of campaign of honorable members opposite to delay the measure as much as possible.
– Does the honorable member agree with the ‘Attorney-General that this grant is an invalid pension?
– I shall deal with that point presently. Evidently honorable members opposite are anxious to divert me from the charge of causing delay, but I may tell them that, if I now go on to deal with the point raised by the honorable member for Flinders, I shall not forget that charge. I ask that honorable member whether he thinks white Australian women are like some women of the aboriginal and other coloured races, who can give birth to a child one day and be on the march the next? According to the highest medical opinion a mother must, for the protection of herself and child, remain in her bed for a period of at least nine days; and surely a woman so placed at a doctor’s orders is an invalid ? Does the honorable member for Flinders say that such a woman is in full possession of all her faculties, and can go about her ordinary work?
– She is certainly not an invalid.
– She is incapacitated from work.
– She is; and, to all intents and purposes, she is an invalid, and sometimes very seriously ill.
– The honorable member is incapacitated for serious work when he is in Parliament, but he is not an invalid.
– The honorable member must admit that many mothers have died as the result of maternity. It has been said that there are more lives lost in child-birth than on the battle-field. However, let us consider the constitutional point. The honorable member for Flinders desires that this Bill shall be referred to the High Court ; and I suppose that he is animated by what, in other circumstances, would be a very noble desire - to find work for the unemployed. Many a time, when I was a member of the Queensland Parliament, and it was moved that a report be printed, I have said to myself that, though the document was hardly worth the trouble, it would, at all events, find employment for a few compositors. Apparently, the honorable member for Flinders is not satisfied with the glorious harvest that the legal profession has been reaping since the establishment of Federation. Some Australian barristers must now be earning many thousands of pounds per annum; and never before, I suppose, were such large incomes so earned. Is that what the honorable member proposes? Is he not satisfied with the number of cases appearing before the Courts - with the £10,000 spent in connexion with the Boot Trade Union, and other arbitration cases? I think the honorable member ought to be satisfied.
– I do not think my reputation is likely to be affected by your insinuations.
– I do not suggest that the honorable member has any personal motive in the matter.
– Then what were you suggesting?
– I want to know if the honorable member has an idea that he can help some of the profession who have not got anything to do. I do not say that the honorable member wants a case out of it. ‘
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in imputing motives of that character.
– If I am imputing improper motives, I admit that I am doing wrong, but I am not. The honorable member may believe that it is a motive of the very highest character to endeavour to find work for briefless barristers. I’ know the honorable member is not one himself, but is at the highest point in his profession. I wish to know if he is not unconsciously endeavouring to find work for some of the barristers who are not now employed.
– Too thin ; why do you not apologize?
– I do not think an apology is necessary, and I am sure the honorable member for Flinders does not think so. An apology is due from honorable members opposite to the Committee for the delay they are trying to effect. Babies are being born every day, and every day mothers are in want of the assistance which the Government desire to give them, yet the Opposition are trying to hold the measure up. What a spectacle we may anticipate if their desire to refer the measure to the High Court is carried out ! Under one section in the Act of 1910 the High Court must inform every person who is affected of the case; and every person affected is entitled to appear before the Court. What sort of a building should we require if every person interested in the Bill wished to attend the hearing? Every person about to become a mother may approach the High Court, as she has an interest in this Bill. Where does the honorable member propose that the High Court should sit to inquire into the case? To deal with the matter from another stand-point - I find that we spend a lot of Commonwealth money on various things. If honorable members will turn to the Estimates, page 57, they will find that we are spending money on a Commonwealth literary fund. Where is there any provision in section 51 of the Constitution that we shall spend money in helping literary men who happen to want assistance? Are they invalids?
– What section does the honorable member rely on when he says that every one interested in this matter must be notified by the High Court, and that there would be endless delay in consequence ?
– The honorable member will see the provision at page 91 of the Commonwealth Acts, volume 9, 1910, as follows : -
The High Court or a Justice may direct that any person, or class of persons, or association claiming to be interested in the matter shall be notified of the hearing of the matter, and be entitled to appear or be represented at the hearing.
– That does not say that the High Court must do it.
– At any rate, I am on another question now. I find, among other items of expenditure, an annual payment to the International Agricultural Institute at Rome. If we can spend money to help an institution of that sort in Europe we can surely spend it to assist the mothers of the Commonwealth. Another expenditure is for the advancement of the study of diseases in tropical Australia. Under what heading is that money spent? There is a contribution to the funds of the Imperial Institute. By what section of the Constitution is that authorized ? There are items for an international bureau of public health, an international congress on entomology, and the British Association for the Advancement of Science, arid we are paying no less than ^5,000 towards an Antarctic expedition under Dr. Mawson. There are expenditures for the repatriation of distressed Australians, and for the Hague Congress on social insurance. If we search the Commonwealth Constitution weshall not find a single one of the thirty - nine articles to which any one of those dozen items can be attached, if, as the honorable member for Flinders tells us, we cannot connect the question of a maternity allowance with the question of invalid arid old-age pensions. I am inclined to accept the view of the AttorneyGeneral that there is a general power given to the Commonwealth to spend its money as it likes. That seems to be a commonsense view. It is generally claimed by the legal profession that the law is the embodiment of common sense, although we know that Charles Dickens had a different view when he wrote that “ The law is a hass.” It is surely the embodiment of common sense to say that the Commonwealth can spend its money as it likes, after making due provision for that part of the Consolidated Revenue which must be returned to the States. The honorable member for Flinders has said that if we spend this money the States may -take action against us. Is it reasonable to assume that they are likely to do so if we spend money in this way?
– I should think that they would collar every penny they could get hold of.
– It is not reasonable to assume that they will take action in this case, because during this debate I notice that neither the honorable member for Flinders, who outside the House described the proposal as political flypaper, nor any other honorable member on that side of the House, while using gross expressions outside, dares to come here and make use of those remarks where they may be replied to. The honorable member for Flinders keeps them for the suburban campaign. The honorable member for Parkes, another professed individualist, who does not believe in Commonwealth action of this kind, but thinks that the expenditure of money in this way will sap the independence of the individual and destroy the fibre of the race-
– I must ask the honorable member to confine himself to the amendment.
-I am urging that it is not reasonable to assume that the States will attack us if we spend this money, and am using as an argument in support of that contention the fact that men like the honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for Parkes and other strong individualists have not the courage in this Chamber to vote against the measure. They did not vote against it yesterday. They certainly recorded a. vote that the second reading should not be carried until something else was done. If courageous men like the honorable member for Flinders - and we know he has an element of courage, or otherwise he would hot have exposed the hollowness of the platform of honorable members opposite - dare not vote against the Bill, it is not likely that any State Government will attack this Parliament for helping the mothers of Australia within their territory.
– The anxiety of the Opposition is to give the people something better.
– Honorable members opposite are always going to do something. They were going to pass old-age pensions, but never did. They were going to do a number of other things, but did not. Their proposals are all for delay. Thisis a Bill which they know is likely to appeal to the people. They have said so themselves, and have called it a political bribe.
– Is that why you are so anxious to pass it?
– No; it is why honorable members opposite are afraid to oppose it openly, and they get the honorable, grave, and reverend seigneur, the honorable member for Flinders, in his best forensic style and most imposing manner, to raise a constitutional point, of which, even in his most profound moments, he indicates that he is not quite sure.
– Do you think this amendment will delay the measure?
– I am happy to say that, in spite of the Opposition, the Prime Minister has said that we are going to get the Bill through the House to-day.
– Yes, if we get to it.
– The honorable member is trying to get in a second-reading speech.
– If honorable members opposite take up the time of the House by raising constitutional points, there is no reason why I, having refrained from making a second-reading speech on the measure, should not occupy a little time to expose the hollowness of their professions of sympathy with the motherhood of Australia. They have no sympathy of that sort. It is not in keeping with their policy. The Melbourne Age recently said that the Leader of the Opposition was willing to wound, but yet afraid to strike, and also asked honorable members opposite why, if they had so many objections to the measure, they did not vote against it.
.- We have now another proposal before the Committee withthe object of defeating the Bill. The same gentlemen that wished last night to hang it up for three, four, or five years, now desire to refer it to the High Court. They have been expressing their opinions outside in opposition to it, and the honorable member for Flinders has expressed himself as opposed to the proposal root and branch. He has said that it is a scheme to sap the self-reliance of the people. He thinks that the womanhood of Australia should be left to struggle with their own infirmities and through their own difficulties as best they can, and that for the national Parliament to offer them any assistance at this crisis in their lives is to do something which will injure, not only them, but succeeding generations.
– I ask the honorablemember to confine his remarks to the amendment.
– The amendment is a backstairs method of attempting to defeat the Government proposal. We know that when a barrister appears in Court to resist a claim for money he always considers that he is winning as long as he can put off the decision of the Court. If he can secure a postponement for three months without any explanation he thinks that he is succeeding, because he is putting off at least to that extent the demand for payment. And so with the Opposition. They desire to delay this proposal by a reference to the High
Court. Let us see whetherthey will have the honesty and moral courage to proceed to a vote on the amendment to refer the Bill to the High Court.
– No, they will withdraw it later on, just as they have withdrawn other proposals.
– If they do they will show that the amendment was simply put forward to be ‘ debated for a couple of hours and so to delay the passing of the Bill to that extent. I rose merely to ask honorable members opposite whether they have the courage to vote for this amendment - whether they are prepared to place on record their votes in support of an amendment which means indefinitely hanging up this proposal with the idea of ultimately defeating it altogether.
– I must congratulate the honorable member for Cook, who has appealed to us to show our courage, upon the courage and wisdom he has displayed, because, although he opposed last night an amendment to provide for a scheme of general insurance he has since thought the matter over.
– He did not say he was opposed to the principle of insurance.
– He made the general statement that he was in favour of the principle, and it is interesting to find that he is prepared now to address to the Minister a request amounting practically to a direction that he should prepare a scheme of general insurance on the lines suggested last night by the Opposition. I admire his wisdom, judgment, and humanity, as well as his courage in taking this action; but I regret that he did not help us yesterday by voting for the amendment to provide for a general insurance scheme. I have no desire to elaborate this question, for I am anxious to see the Bill passed as soon as possible. I have only to say that if this is not the class of Bill intended to be referred to the High Court under the Judiciary Act of 1910, I cannot understand why that Act was passed. It was brought in by the present Government. The Prime Minister himself said, at the Hobart Conference, I think, that he doubted the constitutional power of the Parliament to carry measures of this kind, and if that is so I fail to see why he should object to the course we now suggest.
.- I fail to understand why the Attorney-General should objectto refer this measure to the
High Court for an opinion as to its constitutionality. I strongly supported the Judiciary Act of 1910, believing that it would give us an opportunity to test the validity of Acts passed by this Parliament before trouble, and perhaps loss and injury to the Commonwealth, as well as to individuals, had arisen in connexion with them. For private reasons I have not spoken on this subject this week, but I wish to say that I am a whole-hearted supporter of the Bill. I should be very glad to give my reasons for supporting the Bill in its original form if I would be permitted at this stage to do so. I favour the submission of the Bill to the High Court for the reason that I have heard that one very high constitutional authority believes that it is beyond our powers. That points to the fact that, sooner or later, the Bill will go before the High Court. An honorable member has said this morning that no State would dare to test the question and run the risk of being credited with the destruction of such a law. Knowing the feelings of some of the State Governments towards the Commonwealth, I am quite prepared to believe that they are prepared to do anything to destroy legislation passed by this Parliament, and to secure as much of the revenue of the Commonwealth as they can possibly obtain. We cannot forget their action in the wire netting case; we know also that they raised a test question with regard to the Surplus Revenue Act. We know the lengths to which they went in those cases, and we may be perfectly sure that they will test this question. They cannot do so, however, until the end of the financial year, when they may claim the surplus which they hold to be unexpended. If they do, and if it be held that the appropriation made for the purposes of the Bill was ultra vires, the money we shall have spent under it will be held to be surplus revenue, to which the States are entitled, and we shall have to pay it over to them. I, as a strong antiStates righter - as a strong supporter of Australian interests - would be very much aggrieved if the , £250,000 that we had expended under the Bill between this and the end of the financial year, and which, if we had known beforehand that we had no -power to expend it, would have been applied to other purposes, had to be handed over to the States. It has been said that this amendment is submitted to bring about delay. If we are to look for the motives of honorable members opposite, I think that this is a very clever move on their part. They are hand-in-glove with the State- rights party, and, anticipating that the State Governments will attack this measure, they recognise that if it is held to be unconstitutional, with the result that we have to hand over to the States a large sum as surplus revenue, they will be able to say to the public, “ We did all we could to prevent the Commonwealth being placed in such a position that it would have to hand over this money to the States.”
– We should have Unification pretty quickly if that came about.
– That may be; but, meantime, we should lose a “quarter of a million. It would riot take more than three months to have this question settled by the High Court. I know that every day lost in passing this Bill means that some one is losing an opportunity to secure the allowance for which it provides; but if we are to take that point into consideration honorable members on this side of the House should not have uttered a word with regard to the Bill, because to the extent to which they have discussed it they have delayed its passing. The High Court, if it desires, can make provision for quickly bringing on a case. Once they started the hearing of the Vend case, they did not take long to come to a decision.
– In spite of the Government.
– That interjection is absolutely incorrect and unwarranted, and the honorable member knows it.
– That remark is untrue. I know that my statement is warranted. The Chief Justice has said so.
– He has not.
– Another reason why this reference would be brought on quickly is that it would be the first made to the Court under the Judiciary Actof 1910. As a strong supporter of the Bill, as one who believes in its constitutionality, I think that it would be well to submit it to the High Court in the first instance. If it were held to be illegal, it would be but another addition to the many cases that are hastening on the time when the public, without any request from the Labour party, will demand an amendment of the Constitution. The decision of the Court in the Vend case, the possible decision in the
Royal Commissions Act case, and a possible decision as to the unconstitutionality of this Bill will make the public wonder whether there is any reason for keeping this Parliament in existence. They will come to the conclusion that if it is to be maintained it must be given the power that a Parliament should possess. I think that the opinion of the Court should be obtained before instead of after the expenditure for what the Bill provides takes place ; otherwise we may possibly have to pay over to the States a large sum of money, and that, as I have said before, would cause me much disgust.
– I do not wish to follow the honorable member for Gippsland in his desire to find motives for proposals that he is supporting. I think that he is in a difficult position this morning, and must be treated with some consideration.
– Order !
– I am dealing with the insinuation of motives.
– The honorable member must deal with the matter before the Chair.
– If I am not to be given a chance to refer to motives - if I am not in this respect to occupy the position of honorable members opposite - I shall not attempt to do so; but the honorable member for Gippsland did make charges and insinuate motives while he was professing to support the amendment.
– What is the matter with the motive if it is a good one?
– What is the objection to my replying to such an insinuation. However, you, Mr. Chairman, have ruled that whilst honorable members opposite have every right to cast insinuations-
– The honorable member must not reflect on the Chair. I have given no such ruling. I have directed the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair, and he must do so.
– You did not ask the honorable member for Gippsland to do that when he was casting insinuations atthe Opposition.
– The honorable member is not in order, and must withdraw that remark.
– I cannot withdraw the fact that the honorable member cast reflections on the Opposition, but I will withdraw, if you like, any suggestion that you realized at the moment that he was not speaking to the amendment. If the Bill is held to be unconstitutional that will not prove that the Federal Constitution is ineffective for our purpose. We have undoubted power to make laws with respect to insurance, and had this Bill been drafted on the scope of a general insurance measure, no question could have been raised as to its constitutionality. This, however, is not drafted as an insurance measure, and cannot be held to be passed by virtue of our insurance powers. For that reason it may be declared unconstitutional by. the High Court. In justice to those affected by the measure, we ought to know at the earliest moment how we stand. It is useless to act like a bull bursting through a gate, to find afterwards that our work is regarded as unconstitutional by the Court established by the Australian public to determine such questions. If we wish to provide for maternity allowances at the earliest possible moment, we should test the constitutionality of the method proposed by the means created by an Act passed by the present Government. If the Bill be found unconstitutional, a measure instituting a general insurance scheme, including maternity relief, should be brought down. If the Government is in earnest, and does not merely seek an electioneering advantage, let it proceed in this way.
– The honorable member is now imputing motives.
– I bow to your ruling that we, on this side, are not free to impute motives.
– The honorable member must withdraw those words.
– I bow to your ruling that we are not allowed to impute motives. If the Government is in. earnest, and wishes to introduce far-reaching reforms of social legislation, it should have the constitutionality of this measure tested at the earliest moment, so that, should the Bill be determined to be unconstitutional , a measure covering a big insurance scheme might be introduced. Such a measure would undoubtedly be within our constitutional powers of legislation, and we could achieve the objects aimed at without the possibility of interference.
– Iask honorable members to restrain their eloquence on this point. As a layman, I suggest that we could call the Bill an Invalid Pensions Bill, relief to mothers being really relief to invalids.
– Does the Bill provide for the payment of pensions?
– I think that such an alteration would remove any doubt as to unconstitutionality, and prevent the delay inseparable from a reference to the High Court.
– Could the grants provided for be properly described as pensions ?
– With so much lay and legal talent in the Committee, I express my opinion with diffidence. Personally, I am satisfied that we have the constitutional power to provide for the payment of maternity allowances, and I hope that honorable members will curtail their arguments on the legal point, so that we may as soon as possible obtain the determination of the Committee regarding the details of the Bill.
– Although the Prime Minister says now that he has no doubt that the measure is constitutional, and suggests that to get over any difficulty the Bill might be called an Invalid Pensions Bill, when speaking at the Hobart Conference in January he definitely and decidedly expressed the opinion that this Parliament had not the power to grant pensions to widows and orphans. At Hobart he was emphatic that such legislation would be unconstitutional, and that all such measures would have to be watched very closely, or the Constitution would be destroyed.
– That is not correct.
– I shall presently read exactly what the right honorable member said. The honorable member for Cook made a speech which was merely a series of statements describing the amendment as a proposal put forward to defeat the measure, and to prevent the payment of maternity allowances.
– Hear, hear.
– Although the honorable member’s speech was a series of imputations, he was not called to order.
– He was called to order, and so was the honorable member for Capricornia.
– Not even one sentence of the kind of which his speech was made up could be uttered from this side of the Chamber. The honorable member for Gippsland desires that this measure should be referred to the High Court, because of the motives which he believes to actuate the State Government. He thinks that their opposition and hatred of the Commonwealth will impel them to challenge the constitutionality of the Bill.
Ministerialists. - Hear, hear.
– I am glad to know that the members of the Labour party “hear, hear” every statement conveying the hatred of the Commonwealth by the States; that they think that even the Labour Governments of Western Australia and New South Wales are actuated by hatred to this Government.
– Not every member of this party said “hear, hear.”
– Nearly every member did. I wish to know why these allegations are made against the State Governments. At the Hobart Conference, the Honorary Minister moved that pensions be granted to widows and orphans.
– That was a different proposal from the provision for maternity allowances.
– Not in effect. The Prime Minister’s suggestion is that this Bill might be called an Invalid Pensions Bill to get over any difficulty.
– But he said that there is no difficulty.
– I presume that he thinks that a proposal to pay invalid pensions would be constitutional. That, however, was not his opinion in January of this year. This is what he said when speaking on the proposal of the Honorary Minister at the Hobart Conference -
No one would be readier than he to exercise a power of that kind, but he was afraidthat it was not within the Constitution. An amendment of the Constitution would have to be brought forward to meet this end, and it should not be limited to widows and orphans. He did not know that any good purpose could be served by putting this on the platform if there was no constitutional power to carry it into effect. He believed in the principle, but he must vote against it.
He was followed by Mr. Griffith, and it was agreed that the Commonwealth had not the power. Why, then, does the right honorable member suggest now that the constitutional difficulty would be removed by terming the measure a Bill to provide invalid pensions? Every one knows that he makes the suggestion merely to get the measure through. I should like to know why improper motives have been imputed to the State Governments? The Govern ment of New South Wales has embarked upon a scheme of maternity relief which goes much further than the proposals of this Government.
– Our proposals have stimulated a good many people, including the Labour Government of New South Wales.
– It will be news to that Government that it is acting under the compulsion of its confrères in the Federal arena.
– At their suggestion.
– The honorable member for Gippsland thinks that there is a doubt as to the constitutionality ‘ of the measure. If there be doubt as to the Commonwealth power to provide for even this small instalment of social reform, why should the States be regarded as actuated by hatred of the Commonwealth in carrying the matter to the High Court, so that the respective spheres of legislation may be determined, and that they may be allowed to proceed with their own scheme?
– They will not proceed.
– The New South Wales Government is proceeding with its scheme.
– It is only talking about it.
– Well, I leave honorable members to settle the matter themselves. It is a change to see them flinging stones at their brothers in New South Wales instead of at us. They gird at every effort made by others, andeven at the efforts of their confrères in the States.
– I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the amendment.
– Why should improper motives be imputed to the States if they are exercising powers as to which there can be no cavil or question, and demur to the exercise by this Parliament of similar powers which it is doubted that it has the constitutional right to exercise. I take it that the Labour Government and their supporters in the State of New South Wales are as much entitled to credit for sympathy towards those in trouble in the community as are the Commonwealth Government and their supporters. If that be conceded, then the gravest and calmest consideration should be given to this question. The State Government are anxious to do the work, and they have the necessary machinery and resources; and it is probable that the question will arise with them as to whether or not the constitutional power of the Commonwealth Parliament to pass this Bill should be tested.
– Mr. Beeby, a New South Wales Minister, has stated that he has no objection to this legislation.
– And Mr. Griffith has written an article in favour of it.
– Yes; why not?
- Mr. Griffith is willing that the mothers should have all they can get from both Governments.
– Then why not propose a grant of £105 instead of one of £5?.
– I wish we could give more.
– I have not the slightest intention of bidding against the honorable member. I firmly believe that it is time that we had some workable and lasting scheme, financially and constitutionally sound, to deal with the whole question.
– The honorable member’s scheme is that the poor peoplemust provide for themselves.
– Does the honorable member object to that?
– I object to the honorable member’s scheme.
– Was the honorable member hypocritical, then, this morning when he was directing the Government to proceed as early as possible with a similar scheme? It is very difficult to know what the honorable member does desire; he seems against any scheme proposed on this side.
– As the honorable member for Parramatta is against every scheme proposed on this side !
– The Government keep on cheerfully passing measures which the High Court bowls over like ninepins.
– Is that why the honorable member desires this measure sent to the High Court?
– The object of honorable members opposite is to be able to say in the future, “ Look how the High Court is ruling out our measures; we must have more power.” The reply to that is, that it is not the Constitution nor the High Court that is wrong, but a foolhardy Go vernment, who keep butting their heads against the limitations prescribed in the Constitution.
– The honorable member seems to have butted his head against something !
– I submit that I ought not to be subjected to such interjections from the rude and uncultivated Honorary Minister, who, as the representative of the Government at the present moment, sits over his supporters like a mother hen.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Parramatta is subjecting me to vulgar references, and I ask that he be made to withdraw the words he has used.
– I also rise to a point of order. Is the Honorary Minister at liberty to make allegations of vulgarity against me when he rises to a point of order?
– If the Honorary Minister takes exception to words that have been used, I ask the honorable member for Parramatta to follow the usual practice and withdraw them.
– I shall withdraw the words when I am requested to do so in parliamentary language, but I decline to withdraw them when I am charged with vulgarity.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the words in accordance with the usual custom.
– The moment the request is made in proper language I shall be prepared to withdraw the words.
– If the honorable member for Parramatta takes exception to words which have been used by the Honorary Minister, I can deal with the Honorary Minister afterwards. In the meantime, I ask the honorable member for Parramatta to withdraw the words to which exception has been taken by the Honorary Minister.
– I shall do so if you, Mr Poynton, first rule that the manner adopted by the Honorary Minister is in order.
– The honorable member for Parramatta must make no conditions whatever, but must withdraw the words he has used.
– I do not think so, sir.
– The honorablemember must withdraw the words.
– I shall do so when the Honorary Minister withdraws his allegation of vulgarity.
– I shall deal with the Honorary Minister’s allegation afterwards. As I have already pointed out, the ordinary rule is to withdraw any words to which exception is taken.
– I know ; but I refuse to be humiliated when I am asked to assist the Chair in maintaining order. The Honorary Minister in calling attention to my language charged me with vulgarity.
– The honorable member knows that he is not in order in refusing to withdraw the words complained of.
– I withdraw any words which are out of order. Now may I direct attention to the remarks of the Honorary Minister?
– I ask the Honorary Minister to withdraw any words to which the honorable member for Parramatta takes exception.
– If, in calling attention to the references by the honorable member for Parramatta to myself,I used any words which were offensive to him I withdraw them unconditionally.
– The Honorary Minister ought not to have been allowed to use the words. It is time that somebody called attention to the rightsof honorable members on this side so that this kind of thing may be stopped. I am not going to put up with it, sir.
– Does the honorable member for Parramatta wish to be made a “ victim “ ?
– It seems to me that it is intended that we should be made “ victims “ on this side.
– I must ask honorable members to cease interjecting.
– I decline to address a Committee that is allowed to proceed in this way.
.- As to the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta in regard to the attitude of the Government of New South Wales, we on this side realize that this measure will apply generally to Australia. The Labour party are in favour of legislation of this kind, and I have no doubt that the Government of New South Wales not only have no objections to, but will hail with pleasure, a Bill which assists the work they are themselves trying to do.
– I am not sure that the honorable member for Hunter has stated the position accurately, because I am rather inclined to think that the State Governments view with some concern the invasion of their legislative domain by the Federal Government. In some of the States, and particularly in New South Wales, the Government have evinced a desire to deal with this question, and they are certainly in the position to attain, in a much better way, the end in view. This legislation seems to savour of a desire - though I do not say that such a desire exists - to push this Bill forward with undue haste in order to anticipate anything the States may do in the same direction. In my opinion, the States should be encouraged in this work, seeing that they are much better equipped for it in the way of administrative machinery.
– The question before us is whether the Bill should be referred to the High Court.
– And I am submitting reasons why a little delay, assuming there be any, will not seriously jeopardize the operation of the measure, but will, on the other hand, be beneficial in permitting the States to perfect any measures they may contemplate. A reference to the High Court would give us an official pronouncement on the validity of the Bill, and, in the meantime, the States would be enabled to introduce what measures they may deem desirable. If the States undertake the work it will relieve the Commonwealth of an obligation, and even should the High Court rule that the Bill is perfectly constitutional, the reference will afford an opportunity for co-operation with the State Governments who have all the necessary machinery at their command.
Clause agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Clause 3 (Administration).
.- This is one of the most important clauses in the whole Bill, because the success of the measure will depend on its administration. The Bill contains no instructions as to the way in which it is to be administered. It has been suggested that the money shall be paid by postal note, or by some other means, and I should like to know exactly how the payment is to be made.
– It has to be made by post-office order, according to clause 8.
– Yes, but the gentleman appointed to administer the Act can alter that by regulation.
– The regulations must be in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
– This is a matter relating entirely to women; and, while it may be helpful to the Government to have a strong man to administer the Act, it would bie a good thing to have some ladies associated with the machinery part of its administration.
– We do not need anybody. The machinery which is already in operation is not going to be duplicated.
– Is it proposed to give the administrator power to use the machinery now in existence under the Oldage Pensions Act?
– Yes; and the Post. Office, and any other machinery which may be useful.
– That is satisfactory to me. What kind of inquiry is to be made by the officers who are to administer the Act? I do not believe there should be too much inquiry made. On the production of the certificate of birth, will the money be forwarded without any other inquiry? I want to make the administration of the Act as simple as possible, consistent with the protection of the revenue, and I believe that the certificate of the registrar of births should be sufficient, so long as ‘ it is presented to a postmaster, or whoever is appointed for the purpose, to warrant the money being forwarded to the mother. The whole success of the scheme will depend on sympathetic administration, associated with care that the money is properly distributed amongst those entitled to it.
– This clause is the whole Bill, so far as the administrative side of it goes. It has been argued here by those learned in the law that we have not the machinery, and cannot create it under the Constitution, to carry through this maternity grant. If there is to be no discrimination, then the administration of the Bill is going to differ very materially from the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act, for instance. The strictest and most particular inquiries are instituted under that Act be fore an old man or woman is given any benefit. Do the Government intend under this Bill to exercise the same powers of inspection and control ? They do not- give any one a pension if it is thought that he cannot use it properly, but care is taken that somebody is set over the pensioner to see that the money is expended wisely on his .behalf. Are the Government going to set up any machinery of the kind in connexion with this Bill ? To put an extreme case, which I do not know is so extreme after all, it is unfortunately too true that there are plenty of people who have no respect for themselves in these matters. I am speaking now of the submerged tenth, who will have children under the terms of this Bill, and therefore be entitled to the grant. Unless great care is taken, the money in those cases will not get near the mother at all, except in the most formal way. It is very likely to go into the hands of the husband or some other person delegated by the mother to receive it, and be spent in vice, not reaching her at all. If the husband is a confirmed drunkard he will contrive to get hold of it, and there will be an end of it. There are other ways in which the money can be squandered, the mother getting absolutely no benefit from it. What machinery have the Government ready for dealing with such cases? Under the Old-age Pensions Act, if the Conduct of a pensioner is not what it should be, the Government have power to stop the pension. There are all sorts of aribitrary police powers under thaiAct to punish people who mis-use the vote, but there is no such machinery in this Bill. The payment is to be apparently an unconditional grant, irrespective altogether of the merits of the case. It is not an answer under this Bill to say that the production of the child is to be the authority for the payment of the money, because the Prime Min- ‘ister expressly repudiated that idea. He said it is not a baby bonus at all, but is for the mother - to help and assist her. What guarantee has he that the mother will get the money, or that it will be spent for her benefit and comfort?
. The Deputy Leader of the- Opposition, has put his finger upon a weak point in connexion with the whole Bill, and especially with this clause. Assuming that the appropriation of the money is constitutional, putting the doubt as to that question entirely aside, there is not only no discrimination iri the Bill, but there is no constitutional power to discriminate. We have not here, as we have under the special power to grant invalid and old-age pensions, the power to make laws incidental to the grant. That power includes power to create all the machinery necessary to discriminate between those to whom we grant old-age pensions and those to whom we do not grant them. In this case,’ assuming that we have the power of appropriation, we have no other power, and we cannot have discrimination unless we have the power to compel people to make returns and the power to punish those who make fraudulent returns. Therefore, even if we have the power to appropriate the money, we have no power to impose penalties on anybody for fraud in connexion with the Bill. We have no power to do anything which imposes any obligation whatever on anybody in connexion with the Bill. AH we can do is to shell out the money - to give it out indiscriminately - assuming that we have that power. We cannot create machinery in this connexion imposing an obligation on any person. Under the Canadian Constitution the central Parliament is invested with a general power of making laws with regard to criminal offences. We have no such power. Therefore, we can justify the creation of an offence or imposition of a penalty only by some special power given to us by the Constitution. No special power is given to us by the Constitution to grant maternity allowances. If the Attorney-General’s bold argument, that maternity allowances come under invalid pensions, was correct, then we should have the power, because we have power to do everything incidental to the granting of invalid pensions. Unless, however, the making of the allowance comes under any of our stipulated powers, we have no authority to impose any civil or criminal obligation on any person in the community in connexion with the payment of it. The most favorable interpretation of the Constitution is that we have power to dole out this money, but we have no power to impose any penalties in connexion with frauds regarding it, or to oblige any person to make a return as to his means or circumstances, or to punish him for false returns. Not only does the Bill not discriminate, but we have no power to provide for discrimination.
.- The Bill provides that regulations may be made for giving effect to it, and I have no doubt that the Government, in framing the regulations, will do their utmost to see that the money reaches the mother’s hands.
– The Act says so.
– I hope it will be provided that, where possible, the mother shall collect the money with her own hands. The objections that are being raised to this Bill could be raised1 against the Old-age Pensions Act. If an old-age pensioner is under somebody else’s influence he can collect the money and hand it over to such person, and have no control over its expenditure afterwards. It is not possible, even under the Old-age Pensions Act, to provide against abuses of that kind. It is all very well to raise objections, but the thing is to find some means of obviating them.
– That is what we cannot do.
– The objections from the Opposition, therefore, do not help us.
– You will not take them when they do help.
– Any number of suggestions are accepted by mis side of the House, but it is admitted in this case that all the Opposition can do is to point out difficulties which, no doubt, we see ourselves. They cannot provide any means of overcoming them. The honorable member for South Sydney referred to the administration of the measure. In the payment of old-age and invalid pensions, and in various other directions, the Government takes a paternal attitude and seeks to offer assistance to various classes of the community.
– Regulations cannot ‘ be made to do anything that can not be done by Parliament.
– I have no doubt that when the difficulty arises we shall be, able to handle it. We have, first of all, to find some one sufficiently interested in this proposal to take action against it. I do not believe such a person will be found. As to the question of administration, I fear that some of our legislation in this regard’ has given to it the touch of charity by the manner in which it is administered. The same remark will apply to our friendly societies’ dispensaries. I have been in an old-age pensions office, as well as in friendly societies’ dispensaries, and have heard women addressed by officials in a way that leaves much to be desired. There is; an air of patronage that is calculated to make a person feel that he is receiving something for nothing. That might be overcome. I have not gone about like a policeman with a view of making charges and having them investigated, but I do think that there should be given to the officers administering this law, as well as the Old-Age and Invalid Pensions Act, a general intimation that they are to adopt a friendly and ‘sympathetic attitude towards applicants.
– That instruction was given years ago, and if the honorable member can give any instance where it has been disregarded we shall see that the matter is remedied.
– The right honorable member will recognise that one does not go about looking for instances of the kind.
– This is the first complaint that I have heard. I have never heard a complaint, even in private.
– The Prime Minister cannot deal with any save specific cases.
– Exactly, and I think that there should be a supervising officer to see how the system is being administered.
– The administration of the old-age pension law and of this measure will not come in contact with each other.
– The allowance under this measure is to be received by post?
– Certainly. The Bill provides for that.
– I was under the impression that, in our cities at all events, personal application would have to be made, but if the allowance is to be posted in each case the situation to which I was referring will not arise.
.- This clause relates to administration, but I see in it no reference to the extension of this system to Papua. The Bill as drafted does not seem to apply to that Territory, although it will apply to the Northern Territory.
– The Northern Territory is part of Australia.
– Papua is a part of the Empire vested in Australia.
– But it has a Legislative Council of its own
– That does not get over the difficulty.
– But the position of Papua in that respect is quite different from that of the Northern Territory.
– If we were to constitute a Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, should we immediately deprive all the women there of the benefit of this law? In New South Wales we have a wealthy State with a million and a half of people, and we are saying to that State, “ We are going to give you a maternity allowance,” but the small handful of white people in Papua - people who are carrying the burden of Empire for us up there - are to be told, “ Because we have given you a nominee legislative” Council you are not to participate in the benefits of this Act.”
– What mock heroics !
– The honorable member sneers.
– Yes ; the honorable member is talking rubbish.
– These honorable members opposite talk about mock sympathy, and yet when we put to them the case of a handful of white people in Papua, who are to be treated differently from the people of a wealthy State like New South Wales, they say we are indulging in mock heroics.
– What are we giving Papua already ?
– What are wre giving New South Wales? Are we not giving New South Wales 25s. per head of her population of 1,500,000 people?
– But New South Wales contributes to the revenue of the Commonwealth.
– Surely honorable members will be prepared to give sympathetic consideration to a plea on behalf of the white women of Papua. We must remember that some of them are probably Australian women - the wives of Australian public servants - who have gone there to carry for Australia the burden of governing that part of our territory.
– I do not think there are more than about ten white women there.
– Then why not extend this privilege to them? Will the Prime Minister view this matter sympathetically?
– I answered the honorable member by interjection on a previous occasion.
– I hope that the Prime Minister will favorably consider my suggestion.
– When the honorable member raised the same question on a previous occasion, I said that this allowance would be extended in another form to the white women of Papua. The proper way to extend it to the white women of Papua is through the agency of the Legislative Council of that Territory; and we are quite in favour of giving that Council an appropriation sufficient to cover the payment of the allowance for which this Bill provides. The honorable member should not allow his enthusiasm to run away with his discretion. He was a member of the Government which brought in the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Bill, but it did not occur to him to make in connexion with that Bill the provision that he suggests should be made in this to meet Papuan conditions.
– We did.
– Before I conclude, I should like to say that there is no proposal to create under this Bill a new administrative staff. It is proposed to ask Mr. Allen, Secretary to the Treasury, to act as Commissioner, and the Assistant Secretary to the Treasury - Mr. Collins - to become Deputy Commissioner. They will carry out their duties under this Bill in addition to those which they are at present discharging. I do not believe that the administrative expenses will amount to much more than½ per cent. They certainly will not amount to1 per cent. The revenue of Australia is collected at a cost of less than 3 per cent., and the administration of the old-age pensions law costs less than 2 per cent., so that honorable members will recognise that no proposal could be on a more sound economic basis than is this, under which 97 per cent. of the people’s money will reach those whom the Bill is designed to assist. We intend to use the machinery at present available through our own officers, and, to make doubly sure that the women who are entitled to this allowance shall actually receive it in their own hands, it will be sent to them in the shape of a document which can be negotiated only when their signatures have been attached to it.
– Although the Prime Minister said that the position of Papua had been considered by the Government, this important issue has not previously been raised during the whole of the debate on the Bill. I wish to point out a remarkable inconsistency on the part of the Government. Very strong objection has been taken by honorable members opposite to the State Governments, which are elected upon the same franchise as our own, being used in any way in connexion with the administration of the maternity allowance, yet the Prime Minister now states that it is intended to hand overt to a nominee Legislative Council - members of which are appointed for life - the entire control of these payments in Papua. We are told that the State Governments are not to be trusted to administer the Act sympathetically, yet this course is to be followed in Papua, which is certainly a part of Australia. If there is one part of the Commonwealth where this grant, if it is to act as an encouragement, should be given, it is the tropical portions of Australia, where the population is so limited and the birth rate very low.
.- I am surprised that the Prime Minister has not answered the question raised by the honorable member for Parramatta, who requested him to inform the Committee what machinery he intended to bring into operation to insure these payments reaching their proper destination. The right honorable gentleman told us that the allowance was to be paid in each case by postal note, and he has said that the cost of administration will not be much more than½ per cent. He proposes, however, to administer this law by adding to the already very onerous duties of the Secretary and Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, who have quite enough to do if they are to manage the finances of the Commonwealth efficiently. These gentlemen have already had imposed upon them the duty of administering the old-age pensions law, and they are to have the further duty of seeing to the proper application of maternity allowances. This is absolutely beyond their ability, especially if the point of the honorable member for Flinders can be sustained. They cannot look to the proper expenditure of the money, because they have no power to make inquiries into applications, or in other directions, to see that the intention of Parliament is carried out. The Prime Minister’s friends may say, “ We accept your expression of good intentions,” but we are entitled to more than that. We are all capable of good intentions, but as business men representing the taxpavers we have a right to an explanation from Ministers as to how they will prevent the possible waste and misapplication of the taxpayers’ money, so that discredit may not bs cast on this movement. The Prime Minister may know of some means by which effective distribution can be obtained. If so, he should inform us of them. Our request for information is reasonable.
– I have given an answer to the question about constitutionality, and the exercise of the powers provided for in the Bill.
– I am not now dealing with the question of constitutionality. It is, of course, easier to set up a straw man and knock him down -again than to reply to an argument. I ask how will this money be distributed so as to make sure that the object of Parliament is achieved.
– What cases are in the honorable member’s mind?
– It is not my business to put forth hypothetical cases, but it is the duty of the Prime Minister, he being responsible for the Bill, to tell us how he will provide for the attainment of the object which Parliament has in view in passing it.
– How is he going to protect the taxpayers from fraud?
– That is one question that might well be asked. When a woman is too ill to look after her own affairs, she may give her husband or other relative or friend an order to collect the allowance, and he, possibly, not being a desirable member of society, misappropriates the money. As .practical men, we know that many such cases will occur. Again, a family may be in debt, and the creditor may be unscrupulous enough to insist on the maternity allowance or the bulk of it being paid to him. How will that be prevented ?
– Suppose a man is prosecuted for fraud, he may ask under what power of the Constitution he is charged with an offence?
– That raises the constitutional question again.
– The wrong person cannot collect a post-office order.
– The collection of the money might be quite in order, but in many cases it might be entirely misapplied.
– Money is not always applied properly.
– That is quite true, and when misapplications occur under the Bill the object of Parliament will be defeated.
– Does the honorable member say that there are women who should not be allowed to handle this money?
– I have not said that.
– I prefer to hand the allowance to each mother.
– Allowing her to do what she likes with it.
– That I understand to be what is proposed. What I wish to know is what means are provided for insuring that the money will reach those whom we desire to relieve, and will be applied for their benefit. Unless adequate means for insuring that can be provided, we cannot regard the proposal of the Government as one to do more than make a grant of ^5 indiscriminately to every woman bearing a child, careless of whether the intention of Parliament to afford relief in maternity cases is achieved. I think that Parliament has a further duty, and that is to see that the object with which the allowance is made - the relief of the mothers - is attained.
– This discussion would come better on a later clause. As I understood the honorable member for Mernda, there are women who, when they become mothers, cannot be trusted with, money.
– I did not say that at all. My argument was that, in some cases, others would get the money, and that it would be misapplied.
– I prefer to think that all mothers should be treated alike, with the exception of those who have been adjudged by proper authorities incapable of looking after their estates. That is the most reasonable way of dealing with this matter. If we take any other view, we must provide, for inspection and supervision, a sort of benevolent authority, which may involve an unjustifiable casting of reflection upon the characters of some of those to whom relief is granted. I have no desire to create a body to ascertain whether the applicants for the grant are fit and proper persons to receive it. Provisions exist in the Bill for safeguarding the interests of estates where mothers die. I ask the Committee to assume that every person becoming a mother may be intrusted with a grant of without serious disaster to the community.
– The Prime Minister has a very happy knack of getting away from the point at issue. In a previous speech he made a very unfair attack on the honorable member for Darling Downs because of his criticism of the Bill respecting the omission to apply its provisions, to Papua. He taunted the honorable member with having been a member of a Government which neglected to apply the provisions of the old-age pensions law to Papua. But, in so doing, he showed that he is not acquainted with the provisions of the Act which he is administering. In 1909 the Fusion Government took steps to declare a white resident of Papua to be a resident of Australia for the purposes of the old-age pensions administration. Section 13 of that Act says -
Continuous residence in Australia shall not be deemed to have been interrupted by absence in a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, or in any British possession which becomes a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth.
– The provision was not in the original Bill introduced by the Deakin Government to which the Prime Minister referred.
– The honorable member said that the provision was not in the law. We are informed that the consideration of these clauses must be completed by 4 o’clock to-day.
– There is an agreement to that effect.
– Yes, an agreement under duress; and I shall have something to say about it shortly.
– It was a voluntary agreement.
– No, it was an agreement made in the face of a declaration that if the clauses were not to be put through by 4 o’clock to-day we should sit all night. I am surprised that Ministers should make statements for which they know there is no justification. In the Oldage Pensions Act provision is made for such cases as have been alluded to by the honorable member for Mernda. It is provided that when the Deputy Commissioner is satisfied that it is expedient, owing to age, infirmity, or improvidence, that the pensions should be paid to another person, a warrant to that effect is issued to the person so authorized. The underlying meaning of that is that the money shall be applied to the purpose for which it is intended; and there is no such provision in the Bill before us. In the generality of cases, of course, the mothers and fathers will no doubt apply the money usefully ; but there are, for instance, drunken parents, and it should be our duty to see that the grant is used for the comfort of the mother and the nutrition of the child.
– What does the honorable member propose?
– I have no proposal to make. Every statement or proposal I have made so far has been greeted with a grin of derision from the other side - with some contemptuous statement on the part of members of the Government or their supporters. There has never been a humanitarian subject under consideration here in connexion with which so much party feeling has been imparted on one side of the House.
– The honorable member is getting away from the clause.
-I simply raise the question and ask the Leader of the Government what he is going to do about it.
– I have made a statement.
– Does not the honorable member think that mothers may be trusted to spend the money for the benefit and advantage of themselves and their children?
– Do not honorable members opposite know that there are women in the community who will not get hold of the money at all ?
– We do not.
– I am sorry to say that there are men who will take care that the mother does not get the money; and the Government ought to see that it reaches its destination and is applied to the purpose intended.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta has completely misrepresented the position in regard to old-age pensions so far as regards Papua. According to the Act the residents of Papua are not entitled to pensions; but if a person has resided in Australia for the necessary number of years, and fulfilled the other conditions, and has been for some time in Papua, the break in the residence is not counted against him ; and under this Bill mothers similarly circumstanced will have the benefit of the grant. I have listened very carefully in order to ascertain what is in the minds of honorable members opposite in the way of safeguarding the money paid under this Bill. So far as I can gather, they desire that certain discrimination shall be exercised, and certain control given over the spending; and, in my opinion, their idea cannot be carried out unless there is an inquisition in a small way. Every applicant will have to be put through her facings; inquiries will have to be made into her private life and conduct, and as to how it is proposed to dispose of the money, and further, it will have to be seen that the money is spent in the way directed. In short, the grant is reduced from a free gift to the level of a charitable dole.
– That was never suggested.
– It was not, but it is the logical outcome of the suggestions made. Any searching inquiries of the kind would be very undesirable, more especially in the case of those mothers who are not within wedded bonds, and they will go a long way towards spoiling the effect of the whole legislation. For these reasons I certainly think that the £5 should be given as a. free gift without any conditions.
– I desire to say a word or two in favour of the suggestion of the honorable member for South Sydney, that the Assistant Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner should be a woman.
– We do not propose to appoint any Commissioners.
– The offices are provided for in the Bill, and if they are filled I do not see why one should not be held by a woman. The progress of woman from the period when she was a mere slave, has been extremely slow and arduous ; and only of recent years has she, so to speak) come into her own. We are now beginning to recognise that women are largely what men make them, and that it is from the women we must expect the regeneration of. the race. I see no reason for the appointment of men exclusively, seeing that this is certainly a woman’s question.
– The officers have merely to send the money - that is all that there will be to do in the office.
– Surely a woman can send money as well as a man? The honorable member, however, belongs to the legal profession, which has in some States-
– The legal profession is not before the Chair.
– I merely wish to suggest the appointment of a woman for the reasons I have mentioned, and the honorable member for Wilmot objects to the suggestion.
– I am not objecting; I merely said that the work would be clerical.
– I understood the honorable gentleman to object to the appointment of a woman because the work would be only the sending out of the money. Does the honorable member favour my proposal ?
– I do not, as the Bill stands.
– The Prime Minister has stated that it is not the intention to appoint Commissioners, and I hope that he will not appoint any until the women of Australia have had an opportunity to place their case before him.
Clause agreed to.
Clause ft (Grant of maternity allowance).
– The clause contains a general provision for every woman who gives birth to a child under certain conditions. I think this is perhaps the first occasion in our parliamentary life on which a direct grant of money has been paid to a certain class of persons without any discrimination, and with only the one condition, viz., that of motherhood. In our other Acts we provided a good many conditions, especially in that relating to oldage and invalid pensions. A great many qf those conditions are based on the assumption that there is need for the payment. A limit of income is fixed above which the pension is not payable; but in this measure there appears to be no such provision, and every mother, whether rich or fairly rich, moderately well off, or iti need, is to receive the amount. It is quite true that application has to be made for it, but I wonder that the Government went even so far as that. I wonder it is not provided that people must take the money. The reason for this policy, as stated by the Prime Minister, looks on the face of it fairly good, but it will not stand examination. He seems to think that if the payment is not made general there will be what he called a taint of charity about it. I do not think it is any disgrace to be poor. At any rate, we are always saying that it is not. We cannot all be affluent, and from the beginning to the end we shall have those who are in need as well as those who are not. It is, therefore, a piece of charlatanism for us to pretend that we can by legislation remove the knowledge that some are poor and in need, and that others do not require assistance. The public hospitals of the country are free to every one who is not able to pay, but every one of them, so far as I know, makes it a condition that those able to pay shall pay.
– We have State hospitals in New South Wales in which no one is asked to pay.
– Do they admit those who are well off?
– That is a piece of extravagance of which I do not approve. I see no reason why those who are able to pay for anything they want should not be made to do so. I do not see why the people of this country should pay for them. We often hear that the humbler classes of the community - I mean those who are not so rich as others - pay most of the taxation. If they do, I do not see why they should be taxed to support people or the children of people who are wealthy enough to pay for themselves. I should not legislate in a direction that would give the latter an opportunity of accepting such assistance. It is only a pretence to say that they will not take it. If they will not take it, why put it into the law? Why hoodwink the people by saying that this is a law applicable to everybody, but that only a few will take advantage of it? But in this case I cannot see why we should go out of our way to provide money from the public chest for those who have no right to take it, and ought not to have the opportunity to obtain it. So far as I know, this very generous, open-handed Government are giving that which no one has asked for. I have never heard that those who are not in want have asked for legislation to give them a maternity allowance, nor have I heard that the people who are in need, and who will probably take the allowance, which I hope will do them good, have asked for it. The Government seem to have been looking about for something beneficent to do, and determined to do it, not caring whether it was within their power or not. We have asked that this matter should be investigated, but our request was refused. The Prime Minister says he is quite satisfied that it is all right. He takes no more notice of the opinion of the eminent authorities that he has heard here as to the law than if that opinion was vouchsafed by some one with no knowledge of the subject.
– Yes, I pay their opinions the most profound respect, but I stand by the Attorney-General in this matter.
– The honorable member does not seem to pay any respect to their views. If ever there was a volte face in this House, it is that of the AttorneyGeneral in his speech to-day as compared with the speech he made two years ago when introducing the Judiciary Bill. On that occasion he seems to have said exactly what I should have expected him to say, but to-day he throws his previous utterance to the winds. The reference of a measure to the High Court was all right, in his opinion, so long as it was used in the way that he liked ; but now that it is proposed to be used in a way that does not suit him, it is quite a different story. I hope that those who are not in need, and who have no right to receive assistance from the general public on the occasions to which the Bill refers, will not apply for the allowance. If I had my way, I should not give them the opportunity ; but, as I cannot have my way, I hope the Prime Minister will be able to announce .later on that what he thought would be the case has happened, and that the right has not been availed of by such people. If that is so, there will be no harm done from my point of view, because we shall not be taxing the people of the country to provide for those who do not require it. We must remember that we have other things to do with the money that_ we raise by taxation. We have a great obligation to subjugate the adverse conditions in this country, and make its lands wealthproducing. We want taxation to be as light as possible. We want to leave as much money as possible in the pockets of the people, in order that they may use it for their individual enterprises.
– If you were out of Parliament to-morrow, would you object to draw the pension to which you are entitled?
– I am dealing with the maternity allowance, but, generally speaking, pensions are given for some service rendered.
– Is not this a service?
– It may be; but the cases are not at all parallel. We want as much money as ever we can get to give public and individual effort every opportunity to develop this great country, and we want a great deal more than we are able to get. I am, therefore, very anxious not to spend the taxes raised from the people in any way which will give those who have not asked for it, and do not need it, a. grant which, in my opinion, they ought not to receive.
.- If the idea of the honorable member for Swan were given effect to. it would mean the creation of a great amount of machinery to investigate individual cases, and the division of the whole community into different grades and classes. The question would be whether a man earning ,£200 a year, or ^300 a year, or £500 a year, should be entitled to the allowance or not. Where are the Government going to draw the line? When it is drawn, there are bound to be many hardships. Six months after it is drawn a man who was previously above the line may be underneath it, and there will be all sorts of complications. Some people may say that the wife of a man in constant employment should not have the right to receive the maternity allowance, because her husband can provide for her and their family. If that were given effect to, there would be continuous appeals from one end of the country to the other. The simplest and fairest way is not to discriminate between rich and poor, but to give the allowance to every woman in the Commonwealth who brings a child into the world. That is the policy of this party; and, when the Bill is passed, I am sure that the members of the Opposition, who have on the whole treated the Bill very fairly, will see that it is the simplest way to bring about even-handed justice.
– I presume the intention is to adopt the existing machinery so as to obviate the necessity of a person in Western Australia having to send an application to Melbourne.
– Under the preceding clause, I understand power is to be delegated to various deputy commissioners, so that, as far as possible, the Act will be administered on the spot, so to speak.
– I am glad that the honorable member has raised this point. He will see that in the clause just passed authority is given to the Commissioner to delegate authority to others, and the intention is to delegate power to every convenient centre, so that not more than a week will elapse between the date of an application for the allowance and its receipt by the applicant. The whole of the machinery of. Australia will be used to administer this Bill just as effectively as it has been, and is being, used in connexion with the old-age pension law.
. - Under clause 10, we have a series of provisions relating to offences, and I take it that it is the desire of the Government to see that everything is lawfully done. I should like the Prime Minister to state if the Government have in view any procedure by which it is intended to secure that the money shall not be improperly appropriated.
– In a matter of this kind, we must be guided by the advice of the Crown .Law authorities, and they hold that we can exercise the powers which we propose to exercise, under the Bill, to prevent and discover fraud.
– Has the Prime Minister in his mind any procedure by which he is going to investigate?
– This clause sets forth the conditions under which the maternity allowance will be paid. There will be a birth registration certificate in nearly all cases, and we shall provide Commonwealth copies which will have to be filled in, and will be attested in the ordinary way. These will be a sufficient warrant for us to pay. The fraudulent production of such a certificate would, of course, be an offence under the Act.
– I suppose that it is useless to attempt to second the remarks of the right honorable member for Swan with regard to the indiscrimination of this grant ; but the more I think over it, the more does it occur to me to be an absurd way of dealing with public money. It is often claimed by the Government, and members of their party, that the workers are contributing most of the taxation of the country. Only the other night, in another place, the same argument was developed. It was said by one of the members of the Caucus, that the workers were paying up to 20 per cent, of their total earnings toward the taxation of the country. In view of the heavily laden condition of the working people of Australia, it strikes me as absurd that the Government should begin to dole, out of the money so raised, gifts to the rich who do not want this money, who do not ask for it, and to whom the offer of it would be an affront.
– They can buy a silver cup with it.
– One conjures up delightful pictures of the honorable member, groaning under his load of taxation, taking it to the Treasury and saying, “Here, give this to the millionaire women.” This serves to emphasize the need for a national scheme of insurance to which every one in the community would contribute, ami under which every one would be entitled to an equal benefit. That is the only way to put this indiscrimination on a logical footing. The sooner we set about removing the anomalies to be found in every clause of the Bill, the sooner we shall come to a rational condition of affairs in Australia. Give this money to the people who need it. See that it goes to the purpose intended, but there is no need to offer it to the people who are rolling in wealth, and who could better afford to give away thousands than to take this allowance of £5-
– Will the honorable member vote against the third reading of the Bill ?
– Will the honorable member vote against a scheme of national insurance?
– I think I will if people have to contribute to it.
– I do not see how a man who believes in Socialism could logically give any other answer. The honorable member believes that the Government should do all these things for every one ; but I do not know of any scheme of Socialism which, through a Socialistic Government, has set out to make unconditional gifts to persons who have millions of money. I know of no Socialistic tenet requiring that to be done. The sooner the Government seriously undertake a scheme which can rest upon some basis of equity and logic, the better for the workers and the taxpayers as a whole. Meanwhile, it is useless, apparently, to argue for any differentiation. The Government have made up their minds that the Bill must pass unaltered. That being so, it is useless for us to further urge this matter which has been raised in a timely way by the right honorable member for Swan. Ca’ll it what you like, this is a gift from the Government to the womenfolk of the country.
– Not from the Government, but from the people to the people.
– Then the honorable member makes a distinction between the Government and the people. Does he admit that the Government does not repre sent the people ? That is my view ; and we shall see a few months hence whether or not it is true. Meantime, I point out this anomaly of making gifts to people who do not want them, out of taxation which the Government say is contributed more largely by the workers than by any other section of the community.
– I should be very sorry to think that any woman to whom this gift is offered would consider it an affront. To my ‘ mind, the popularity of the Bill throughout the country - a popularity which has rather surprised members of some political parties - is due to the approval with which it has been received by the mothers of Australia. It has been opposed by some women who, unfortunately, are childless, and it has been opposed by others who are not likely, having regard to the age they have reached, to bear children.
– I ask the honorable member to deal with the clause.
– 1 am dealing with the question of this indiscriminate grant of £5 to every woman in the community. Such a grant is, to my mind, of far greater significance than would be the mere making of the allowance to those who may be in want. We talk about nation building and patriotism, but this is the first time that the nation has ever recognised the great trials and sufferings, of its women, and the lives that the women of the British Empire - the real “ nation builders - have sacrificed in giving birth to their children. That is why the Bill is becoming so popular with the women of Australia. Although there may be many women who may never want the money, and who thank Heaven that they never will, it will be found’ that they are just as proud of this recognition, by a Parliament of men, of their great act of maternity, as are those to whom the allowance will be a very great help in time of trouble. It is surprising to hear the honorable member for Parramatta talk about general insurance. When the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill was before the House, the same arguments were used against it that have been used against this Bill.
– By the honorable member for Parramatta.
– No; he distinctly stated that the old-age pensions system was really an insurance system to which every one in the community was, by means of taxation, contributing. This is to be a gift, not from the Government, but from the nation. It is a gift enacted by this Parliament of men, who have at last recognised what their mothers have done for them, and what their wives are doing for the people of Australia.
– I listened with surprise to the remarks made by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. To say that the women of Australia who are opposing this Bill have come within the category mentioned by him, is to display either an absolute want of knowledge of current events, or to make a deliberate attempt to slander a body of women in Australia who are as far above the reach of the honorable member’s slander as it is possible to be.
– What body of women?
– The honorable member said that the only opposition to the Bill came from women who were childless, or who knew that they would be childless. That is an absolute slander on the womanhood of Australia. It is strange that some honorable members cannot speak of political opponents without jeering at them, and slandering them.
– The women who object to this deserve all that they get. I doubt if they are women.
– The honorable member for Gippsland did not say what the honorable member for Franklin has attributed to him.
– The honorable member did say that.
– Is the honorable member for Franklin in order in attributing to the honorable member for Gippsland a statement that he did not make? He said that it was opposed by some women who are childless.
– It is not in order to misrepresent a speaker, but the honorable member for Gippsland can make a personal explanation later.
– I have no desire to misrepresent the honorable member for Gippsland, and hope for the credit of the Committee that the meaning which I put on his words was not intended. The honorable member for South Sydney was quite correct in saying that no member of the Committee objects to giving maternity relief where it is needed. The line of difference is drawn between those who would give relief only where it is wanted, and those who would give an allowance to all mothers whether they need it or not.
The Minister of External Affairs has said that the bulk of the taxation is contributed by the poorer classes. We levy duties on everything consumed or used by the mother and her child, and in addition it is proposed to tax the community as a whole to make a maternity allowance to all the mothers of Australia, four out of ‘ five of whom do not need it. The view was expressed in regard to old-age pensions by some honorable members that there should be no discrimination, but that the pension should be available to all.
– Whydoes not the honorable member vote against the Bill?
– Why not vote against the Bill. Because I think it unwise to pay away£500,000 in maternity allowances, when at least £400,000 of the money will go to persons who do not need it, and a grant of £100,000 would be sufficient. We are taunted with the parrot cry : “Why not vote against the Bill?” The Government has a solid majority behind it, and will not accept improvements of the measure, and its opponents unfairly twit those of us who wish to improve it with being opposed to its principle. Apparently, the Bill will pass with all its crudities and imperfections. But time will show that those who fearlessly criticised the measure were right. It takes courage to oppose the inconsistencies in a Bill with whose principle one is in full sympathy. No honorable member is totally opposed to the measure, but the Opposition regard it as imperfectly drafted.
– The honorable member is now making a second-reading speech.
– In my opinion, it is a mistake to provide for an indiscriminate grant. The Government proposal means the wilful and wanton waste of public money, and must be regarded merely as an electioneering placard.
.- As the attitude of the Liberal Women’s Organizations have been brought into the debate, it would be well to have first-hand their opinions on this subject. Mrs. F. G. Hughes, President of the Women’s National League, is reported in the Melbourne Herald, of 18th June, to have said -
As a member of a Political League which was called into existence to oppose extreme Socialistic Government and to uphold individuality, and the spirit of independence of private enterprise in all its aspects,I unhesitatingly condemn it…. If, on the other hand, you ask me, as a citizen, who is proud to number very many of her poorer sisters among her dear and valued friends, I say that to many of these a£5 note at such a time would indeed prove a blessing.
That sums up the spirit of the opposition to the Bill. The measure is opposed because it comes from a Socialistic Government. The opposition comes from professional politicians, but individual honorable members, having sympathetic hearts, feel bound to admit that it will prove a blessing to the people.
– If I conveyed to the Committee the opinion that the only women opposing the measure are childless women, I conveyed an opinion that I did not wish to convey. Although the Bill has been opposed by women who are, unfortunately, childless, I did not say that all the women opposing it are childless. I know that some of them are not.
– I wish to remove a stigma that the honorable member for Cook and others have tried to fasten on the Opposition, whom they accused of inhumanity. I have always resented attempts to charge those on this side as being less humane than the members to whom they are opposed. Honorable members opposite cannot point to a single instance, in connexion with this or any other measure, where any honorable member on this side has exhibited a lack of human sympathy. Indeed, if we examine the legislation of this Parliament, we find, as a matter of fact, that there has been more genuine humanity shown by honorable members on this side than by honorable members opposite. The criticism of this measure is not directed against relieving necessitous mothers in time of child-birth, but to indiscriminate largesse with public funds to others who are already amply provided with means, and to its crudeness, slovenly drafting and the failure to provide proper safeguards that the money shall find its way to its proper destination. I further desire to draw attention to the utter illogicality of honorable members opposite when they declare that they will not support any measure based on a contributory system. What is this but a scheme based on a contributory system, and in the worst form? It is proposed to levy a tax on the poorer classes in order to put money into the pockets of people who do not require it ; and that is one of the imperfections we desire to remove. Poor and rich alike are to have it, we are told, and so the Bill pro vides. The Prime Minister, and others who followed him, have declared that the underlying principle is that of humanity - a wish to help mothers to tide over a period of trouble - but how does that declaration apply in the case of people with large incomes, who have servants and motor cars, and own or pay heavy rentals for their houses? Either the Bill has not the humanitarian purpose claimed, or it has not been properly drafted; and the Opposition would be remiss in their duty if they did not call attention to its defects. We realize, if the Government do not, that if the Bill passes in its present form it will have to be amended in a very short time, for, as it stands at present, it opens the door to wholesale abuse. There is no desire whatever, on the part of honorable members on this side, to oppose any humane legislation, but we do desire to safeguard the taxpayer, on the one hand, and the poor mothers on the other.
Clause agreed to.
Clause5 (Cases in which allowance payable).
– This is one of the most important clauses in the Bill.
– Would the honorable member like me to say a. few words on it?
– I was about to say that there is not time to say anything on the clauses.
– Too much time has been wasted previously.
– Apparently all time is wasted, except that taken up by the sententious member for Hindmarsh. The time occupied by the honorable member in roaming over Europe, and discussing the philosophy of all the nations, is the only time that is not wasted. There has been no time wasted over the measure today; and, although it is one of the most important with which we have to deal, we have only touched the fringe of it. I shall keep to the agreement which was made last night under duress, but the position is that we cannot discuss the Bill any further - the “ gag” has been applied.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 9 agreed to.
Any person who -
– It is utterly hopeless to discuss these clauses in proper detail now. I desire, however, to make a final appeal to the Prime Minister to take into serious consideration the points raised by the honorable member for Flinders, and others, in regard to our power to deal with such a provision as this. There is nothing to be gained by passing absolutely doubtful clauses.
– Honorable members know me well enough to understand that whatever differences of political opinion there may be, I desire to ascertain the proper legal position of any measure that is introduced. This Bill has not been submitted without the most careful examination by the Attorney -General and the law officers. In the light of the discussion of the constitutional, and other aspects of the question, I am quite sure that the Attorney- General will give these clauses full consideration before the Bill goes through another place.
.- It is most desirable that this allowance should reach the mothers. The speech of the honorable member for Mernda has apparently been misconceived by one or two honorable members opposite, but I must say that it is one with which I am in agreement. Though we should like to believe otherwise, we know that, if this money got into the hands of some husbands, it would be the last of it, so far as the mothers were concerned.
– That applies to old-age pensions.
– It applies to all payments of the kind ; but that is no reason why we should not provide proper safeguards. To that end I move -
That the following new paragraph be inserted : - ” (d) intercepts or obtains a maternity al lowance payable to another person.”
– Is that not already covered by another paragraph in the clause which provides a penalty for obtaining payment by means of any false or misleading statement ?
– Hardly ; a husband, or other person, may go to the post-office and obtain the money.
– In such case there would have to be forgery.
– Not necessarily; the husband or other person may be appointed to receive the money, and, having received it, may misappropriate it.
– The amendment relates to persons who may obtain a maternity allowance payable to another person.I think paragraphs a and b of clause 10 cover such cases. In any event, that would be a criminal offence, and is provided for without this Statute.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 and 12, preamble, and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
– I ask leave to move the third reading to-day.
Opposition Members. - No.
Mr. SPEAKER announced the receipt of messages from the Governor-General transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for the year ended 30th June, 1911, and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ended 30th June, 191 1, and recommending appropriations from the Consolidated Revenue Fund accordingly.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Will the Prime Minister state what business he proposes to go on with next week ?
– The third reading of the Maternity Allowances Bill will be the first business on Tuesday, and then, I think, we shall take the Navigation Bill.
– I urge upon the Prime Minister the necessity of proceeding at the earliest possible date with the electoral distributions for Queensland and Western Australia.
– We were hoping to take a. group of them together, including New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia.
– There should be absolutely nothing contentious in cases where the divisions have been referred back to the Commissioners. Meanwhile, the printing of the rolls and the preparation of the elec- toral machinery is being delayed.
– If we can take the three together, we can get that business out of the way.
– So far as Queensland is concerned, it will be the end of October-
– Then we will say the week after next.
– If the Prime Minister can see his way to do that, it will be satisfactory.
– The Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Customs have both described an agreement made last night as a voluntary one. That is true in this sense, that the Prime Minister, or some other Minister representing him, informed us that unless we made an agreement to put the Bill through to-day, they proposed that the House should sit on last night.
– Hear, hear !
– Does the Minister call it a voluntary agreement when a pistol is pointed at the other fellow’s head? The Government applied the gag to the debate on the BUI last night, by declaring that the House - would sit on ‘ then unless an arrangement of the kind I have mentioned was made. It was owing to that arrangement, which was come to under duress, that we did not proceed with the motion standing on the notice-paper this morning, as .that would have taken time which otherwise should have been given to the measure.
– I wish to bring under the attention of the Postmaster-General the fact that, although public telephones are erected at many of the railway stations in Queensland j they are available only for the network of the particular exchange with which they are con- . netted. The travelling public would like to make use of them for trunk-line purposes, and I should be glad if the PostmasterGeneral would look into the regulations and see if that reasonable demand cannot be met.
– If the honorable member will give me any particular case which be wants investigated, I shall look into it.
– Take the case of Esk, Southport, or Toowoomba, or any other station where the train stops for fifteen or twenty minutes. The travelling public could use the telephone during that time.
– Do you ‘think you could get a connexion in twenty minutes ?
– Sometimes we can get it in a minute or two. In Queensland, the conditions in that regard are much better than they used to be.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 September 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120927_reps_4_66/>.