4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– A little while ago, when the Prime Minister moved to take for the discussion of Government measures the time formerly allotted to private member’s business, I opposed the motion for reasons that I then stated, and said that I should vote against it; but, as the debate lasted through the afternoon and into the evening, the division was taken whenI was absent. I. have since discovered that, although I did not vote, and intended to vote against the motion, I was paired as voting for it. I have seen the Whips on both sides, and learn that it was the Opposition Whip who recorded my vote in the pair-book. No doubt the mistake was made inadvertently, but I feel it my duty to- draw attention to the error.
– I made the pair referred to after consultation with the Government Whip. The desire was that the honorable member for Corio should not be left unpaired. The pair was made in’ a perfectly friendly spirit, and with the best of intentions.
– I desire to make a personal explanation in regard to some remarks made the other evening by the honorable member for New England respecting a statement of my own in criticism of himself. The honorable member said -
I thought when the last scheme was rejected by the Senate - a. body which it does not concern, because it does not change the Senate electorates - that the Commissioners would nave amended it in the light of the views expressed by the majority of the representatives of New South Wales in this House, who voted against it, but they have not done so. ‘
That is exactly what I said, namely, that the honorable member desired an amendment of the electorates to suit the majority of honorable members here.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. When I came to read my Hansard proofs, I found that I had somewhat tangled my speech, and had not been as clear and definite as I should have liked. Under the circumstances, I can quite understand the honorable member attaching a wrong meaning to my words, and he does not appear to yet have got the Tight impression. I thought the Commissioners ought to take notice of the objections made by the majority of New South Wales, members in this Chamber - not by the majority of the members, but only the majority of the New South Wales members who voted against the distribution.
– Does that not make the position worse?
– No ; and I desire to have the correct position stated. It was pointed out that there had been neglect to consider community of interest and so forth in the distribution of the electorates, and I expected to see, not a new distribution, but an amended one. I did not expect an amendment on political lines, but an amendment on fair lines.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : - .
Sugar Industry - Further telegrams (dated 6th and nth December, 1912) between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premier of Queensland.
Ordered to be printed.
Papua- Annual Report, year ended 30th June, 1912.
Public Service Act - Department of Home Affairs - Promotion of W. G. Chapman, to new position of Clerk, 4th Class, Public Works Branch, New South Wales.
– I wish to know from the Minister of External Affairs, if be has any information regarding the recent referendum in Ohio, a State with a population of 4,500,000, or about the referenda taken in the other States, about which I asked a question, on Friday last.
– I do not think that we have any official information on the subject, but I shall be glad to have notice of the question.
– I wish to know, from the Minister of Home Affairs, if he has asked the Commissioners appointed to redistribute the electoral divisions of New South Wales whether they can submit a fresh scheme before the end of next week ? If he has not asked them, when will he do so?
– Mr. Oldham has wired to the surveyor, Mr. Poate, but had not received a reply when I left my office this morning.
– What was the subjectmatter of the telegram sent by Mr. Oldham to Mr. Poate?
– The telegram asked precisely what the honorable member has asked, but there has been no reply as yet.
Cadet Prosecutions : Fines : Solicitors’ Costs - Naval and Military Forces : Pensions - Fitzroy Dock : Commander Barnes
– I wish to know, from the Honorary Minister representing the Minister of Defence, when effect will be given to the decision of the latter in the case of the son of Mr. Edward Gray, of Alexandria, Sydney. I wrote to Mr. Gray on the 8th August, informing him that the Minister had decided to have the’ fine inflicted reduced to 2s. for each hour of training missed, but have received a letter from him, dated 4th December, saying that nothing has been done. Why is it that there are these interminable delays in the settlement of simple matters by the Defence Department?
– I am unable to explain the delay referred to, but, no doubt, the circumstances have rendered it unavoidable. If the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper, I. shall obtain a definite reply.
– Has the Honorary Minister any reply yet to the question which I asked in relation to cadets being called upon to pay costs in a recent prosecution?
– I take it that the honorable member refers to the case where an Area Officer acted as solicitor and secured costs. The honorable member for Cook has also asked some questions in relation to this matter, and his inquiries and replies are amongst the papers. The Minister of Defence has made inquiries, and, as the report of the officer responsible was not considered satisfactory, he has been requested to refund the costs to the paymaster in New South Wales. Recently, several honorable members have asked questions in relation to pensions for the Naval and Military Forces, and some slight exception was taken to my suggestion that they should look up the Act for themselves. I have now the desired information to the effect that no pensions are provided for any service under the Commonwealth. “Active service” is defined by the Defence Act as “ service in or with a force which is engaged in operations against the enemy, and includes any naval or military service in time of war.” Section 57 of the Defence Act reads -
When any member of the Military Forces is killed on active service or on duty, or dies, or becomes incapacitated from earning his living, from wounds or disease contracted on active service or on duty, provision shall be made for his widow and family or for himself, as the case may be, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund at the prescribed rates.
The rates have not so far been prescribed. Regulations provide for compensation at certain rates for members of the Defence Forces who are retired or discharged on account of injuries received, or diseases contracted, while in the performance of duty.
– Is it correct that Commander Barnes has been appointed the Commonwealth representative at the Fitzroy Dock in connexion with the construction of war vessels? If so, what are his qualifications as an expert in that matter?
– I am not aware that the appointment has been made. If the honorable member will give notice of the question, I shall obtain a definite reply from the Minister.
– Is Commander Barnes employed by the Commonwealth Administration in any capacity at the Fitzroy Dock?
– Not to my personal knowledge, but if the honorable member will give notice of the question, I shall inform him how and where Commander Barnes is employed.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement in this morning’s Argus that the Premier of Queensland says that he sent a telegram to the right honorable gentleman regarding the proposed sugar legislation, to which he has not received a reply. Has the Prime Minister sent a reply, and, if so, has he any objection to telling the House the nature of it?
– I had not seen the statement until my attention was drawn to it by the honorable member. The Premier of Queensland sent a telegram on Friday, but it was not replied to until last evening. If honorable members will look at the printed correspondence which has been laid before Parliament, they will see that the negotiations between this Government and that of Queensland were practically completed by the Premier’s telegram of the 5th instant. On the 6th instant, he wired raising new issues. That telegram has been replied to. I shall have pleasure in laying a copy of it, and the reply, on the table, so that they may be printed. According to the reported interview, Mr. Denham has shifted his ground altogether ; but the original agreement will be carried out.
Press Reports and Advertisements
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the following advertisement, which has appeared in the Bealiba Times, a Victorian country newspaper -
Owing to the embargo placed by the Electoral
Act upon the freedom of the Press, and the imposition of fines ranging from £50 to£500 for the most trivial offence in connexion with reports and advertisements relating to the Federal elections, we have decided to charge 3s. an inch for any report published in connexion with a candidate’s speech, and 6s. an inch for advertisements relating to the election of any candidate - both charges to be paid in advance.
Editor and Manager
– The honorable member has answered the question ; his chickens will come home before long. After seeing that advertisement, the secretary of the Political Labour Council, Victoria, who is a candidate for the House of Representatives for the electorate in which Bealiba is situated, wrote to the editor.
– Is the honorable member in order in making a speech ?
– Will the honorable member ask his question?
– It is the question. If the honorable member for Lang is allowed
– The honorable member must proceed with his question. If honorable members continue interjecting it is not possible for me to follow the honorable member.
– As it appears that the Opposition do not desire to hear any more I shall simply ask the Attorney-General whether anything can be done to protect honorable members on both sides against this cruel imposition of 6s. an inch for advertisements.
– The question that the honorable member has put to me is partly one of law and partly one relating to trade and commerce, particularly that branch of trade and commerce that concerns itself with the business side of newspapers. With the business side of newspapers I regret I am entirely unfamiliar. I understand, however, that it is the practice of the. press to know no party so far as advertisements are concerned, but to insist on its pound of flesh with all that enthusiasm and. vigour which characterizes its business policy. On the question of law I may venture to speak with some greater assurance. I know of no law passed’ by this Parliament that in any way limits the freedom of the press to say what it pleases. So. far as I know, a newspaper, according to the law, may do exactly as any citizen may do - it may say what it pleases, but must put’ up with the consequences of what it. says. A printer, publisher, editor, or writer, unless his liability is restricted by Statute, is, and always has been, liable for anything he may publish of a libellous nature-. All that this Parliament has done is to provide that the person who writes an article in relation to an election after the issue of the writ shall put his name to it. That does not increase the liability of a newspaper, but merely enables people to know who writes an article.
Correspondence : Farriers - Electrical Engineering Staff : Annual Leave - Contract Post-offices - Many Peaks Post Office.
– On the 8th October I wrote to the Post and Telegraph Department on the subject of the wages paid tofarriers at the General Post Office, Sydney, and I received an acknowledgment onthe 1 6th of the same month. I should like the Minister to make inquiries as to why a final reply to my letter has not been, sent, in view of the fact that this matter has been delayed so long.
– I shall make inquiries.
– 1 desire to ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General a further question relating to the electrical engineering staff. On a previous occasion I asked whether thetemporary employes in New South Wales, who were subsequently placed on the permanent list, would have the period of their temporary employment considered iri connexion with their annual leave, and theannual leave reckoned upon that basis. I was informed that that would be done, but have since learned that it is not being carried out at present. Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General request his colleague to look into the matter and ascertain why the promise has not been fulfilled.
– r wish to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether the sum which he promised would be set apart for contract postoffices has yet been allocated?
– I am not familiar with the matter to which the honorable member refers, but I will bring his question under the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– In view of the fact that the Minister of Home Affairs this morning promised to give deliberate and prayerful consideration to another matter, I wish to know whether he will give deliberate and prayerful consideration to the question of at once erecting the post-office at Many Peaks ?
– I had the matter before me yesterday, and -gave instructions that the building should be erected by electricity, if possible.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that certain honorable members, including myself, have notices of motion on the business-paper which are regarded as very important, and whether he will give us, at least, an opportunity before the session closes toplace our views with respect to them before the House.
– I am aware that there are a number of motions standing on the notice-paper in the names of private members, and I think that the most convenient time to take that business will be when the Estimates have been passed. The desire is that the Estimates shall reach the Senate by Wednesday next.
– It all depends upon the return of the New South Wales electoral distribution scheme.
– I presume that the business of the country will have to be transacted, irrespective of anything that is going to happen.
– I presume that that is the most important business that New South Wales has to considerjust now.
– Honorable members of another place have always complained of the late arrival of the Estimates, and I think that, on this occasion, they should receive them not later than Wednesday next. The most convenient time to take private members’ business will be alter we have disposed of the Estimates. Notice will be given to honorable members, and I may mention incidentally that it will probably be necessary to meet on Saturday, as well as on Monday next.
Prosecution of Cadet Cook : Remission of Fine - National Phonograph Company v. Nicholson.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the AttorneyGeneral, whether inquiries have been made respecting the remission of a fine imposed on a cadet named Cook, who, since his prosecution, has made up his arrears of training? I referred to this matter on the motion for the adjournment of the House on Tuesday evening, and it has been hung up in the Attorney-General’s Department for some four or five months. I should like to ask the Prime Minister, with regard to another case-
– The honorable member must make that the subject of another question.
– I shall ascertain from the Attorney-General the position of the matter in his Department, and the Honorary Minister will also bring the inquiry before the Minister of Defence.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister tothe fact that, on 31st July last, I wrote tothe Attorney-General with regard to the caseof the National Phonograph Company v. Nicholson, whichdisclosed a very obvious defect in the law. I asked that some steps should be taken to remedy the defect. On 6th August, I received from the AttorneyGeneral a reply that the matter was being considered.
Mr.Webster. - An acknowledgement?
– Yes. I wrote again on 4th September, but to that second communication have had no reply whatever. I desire to know what steps I am to take to obtain a reply to urgent matters of the kind, seeing that nearly six months have elapsed since I first communicated with the Department on the subject.
– I am quite sure that if the attention of the Attorney-General has been drawn to the matter, it will receive his attention.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether ‘he has received any report as to the discrepancy between the number of persons on the electoral rolls for New South Wales and Tasmania, and the figures of the Government Statistician in those States?
– The honorable member was good enough to inform me yesterday that he intended to ask this question. I had the Government Statist and the Chief Electoral Officer in my office this morning, and, as the result of their deliberate and special consultation,I have obtained the following reply : -
It is now alleged by the Government of New South Wales that the figures supplied by their officers to the Commonwealth Statistician as migration out of the State, and at first stated to be correct after the question of their accuracy had been raised, are really incorrect.
It is understood that this alleged inaccuracy is accepted by the Victorian Statistician, and the basis of the conclusion of the State Statisticians is expected to be submitted to ‘the Commonwealth Statistician for his consideration. Pending the receipt of this a definite answer cannot be given ; but it is understood that
Victoria is prepared to admit a very considerable reduction in the estimate of its population, and New South Wales will receive a correspondingly large increase. Inasmuch as a large proportion of the border migration is adult, this will materially affect the voting numbers.
– I desire to make a personal explanation with regard to an incident which occurred yesterday, and in which I had the honour to be named. I see in Hansard, sir, a statement attributed to yourself which reads as follows: -
The honorable member for Parramatta made a remark referring to myself to the effect that the House was being muzzled.
I desire to state that I did not make that remark.
– The honorable member may say that he did not, and the matter, of course, is a very difficult one ; but I leave the House to judge between him and myself. I say distinctly that the honorable member did make the remark, and that he addressed it to the honorable member for Wentworth.
– As a matter of personal explanation, since my name has been mentioned, I desire to say that the remark was addressed to me, that I heard it, and that it was not, Mr. Speaker, what you said it was.
– Notwithstanding the honorable member’s statement, I say distinctly that the remark was made, and that a great deal more was said regarding myself.
- Mr. Speaker, I was sitting immediately behind-
– The honorable member for Parramatta and I desire to say that the statement-
– Order !
– Attributed to the honorable member-
– Order !
– Was not made by him.
– I name the honorable member for Richmond for disregarding the authority of the Chair.
– The honorable member for Richmond having been named in circumstances that are amongst the most unfortunate that I have experienced, it is my duty to submit a motion. I hope, however, that that honorable member will avail himself of the opportunity of following the usual course.
– He simply said-
– Order !
– That he was near me-
– Order !
– And that what I say is the truth.
- Mr. Speaker called the honorable member to order-
– What for?
– He has been named by Mr. Speaker.
– But what for?
– I presume for disobeying the Chair.
– May we ask, Mr. Speaker, in what way the honorable member disobeyed your ruling?
– It will be remembered that the honorable member for Capricornia a little while ago adopted a course similar to that just followed by the honorable member for Richmond when, in asking a question, he refused to obey the call of the Chair to order. He persisted in putting his question whilst I was on my feet calling him to order. The honorable member for Richmond deliberately followed the same course. He saw me on my feet, turned from me and, instead of obeying my repeated call to order, went on with the statement that he wished to make. His action constitutes one of the gravest offences, for if an honorable member is to be permitted to disregard the Chair, all authority in the House must cease. In the circumstances, therefore, I ask the Prime Minister to take the necessary step, as he did in the case of the honorable member for Capricornia.
– I wish only to say, sir, that I was under the impression when you, sir, called “ Order,” that your call was prompted by the interjections of honorable members. I very much regret what has occurred.
– Is this a party matter ?
– I would point out that, on an occasion like this, honorable members must be silent, and I specially mention the honorable member for Parramatta, who is in the habit of hurling interjections across the chamber. Order must be maintained, and, so far as I am concerned, it will be maintained. In the circumstances, I cannot accept the explanation of the honorable member for Richmond.
– You, sir, have addressed a certain remark to me upon the question of maintaining order-
– What is the honorable member’s point of order ?
– My point of order is that it is not in order for honorable members on your right in chorus to prevent an honorable member from making an explanation.
– The honorable member is perfectly correct. It is not in order for honorable members to interject while an honorable member is making an explanation. Nor was the honorable member himself in order in arrogating to himself authority to chastise honorable members for their interjections.
– I am the only one who is mentioned.
– The honorable mem- ber must not interject while I am on my feet. I have repeatedly called the honorable member to order for pursuing that kind of conduct. The honorable member for Richmond saw me on my feet, but, despite that circumstance, he continued his remarks. If such conduct is to be tolerated, all authority in this House will vanish. I insist, therefore, that the amotion must be proceeded with.
– I was watching the honorable member for Richmond, and I can safely swear that he is right in the statement which he has made.
– As you, sir, have named the honorable member for Richmond, it is my duty to move-
– Hurry it through.
– The honorable member for Richmond has expressed his regret.
– You, sir, having named the honorable member for Richmond, and declared that the motion must be proceeded with, I, as Leader of the House, am in duty bound to submit it. I therefore move, with regret -
That the honorable member for Richmond be suspended from the service of the House.
– For how long?
– As provided by the Standing Orders - for this sitting.
– When you, sir, interposed, I was about to express my regret to you and the House in connexion with the incident which has occurred this morning. But, as when you rose you did not ask me to resume my seat, I assumed that your appeal for order had nothing whatever to do with myself. I had not the slightest intention of disobeying you, or disregarding your authority, in any way. If you had asked me to resume my seat, I would have immediately obeyed you.
– Occasionally I have to ask honorable member to resume their seats, but that is because they did not obey the standing order which provides that when Mr. Speaker rises, it is the duty of the honorable member who is addressing the House to resume his seat. As the honorable member regrets the circumstances which have arisen, I am prepared to accept his apology.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– When an honorable member affirms that he did not make a statement which has been attributed to him, it is the invariable rule that his statement must be accepted. That has been the rule ever since I have been in Parliament.
– Is the honorable member rising to a point of order?
– Yes. My point of order is that, having made a statement this morning, you, sir, should have accepted my statement, and not have repudiated it.
– I assure the honorable member that if I could conscientiously accept his statement I would willingly do so. But the remark to which he called attention was made alongside me. It is impossible for me to maintain order and to uphold the dignity of the Chamber, and my own self-respect, if I am to sit here and allow such statements concerning myself to pass unchallenged. I am in the hands of the House. If I do wrong, the House can deal with me. Indeed, it can, on a specific motion, go so far as to remove me from the Chair. I thought that the incident of yesterday was closed. I regret very much that I have had to take the course which I have taken, but, in the circumstances, I cannot possibly withdraw the statement which I have made. The statement was made that an attempt was being made to muzzle the House.
– I did not make that statement.
– Under the circumstances, I regret very much that I cannot accept the honorable member’s statement.
– What you, sir, now say is that three honorable members are stating what is not true. That is the plain intimation which you make to the House.
– May I, sir, put this view to you : The three honorable members who were sitting close together-
– Is this a point of order?
– Yes. The statement of Mr. Speaker is a reflection on the personal honour of three honorable members.
– What about the personal honour of Mr. Speaker?
– This question has nothing to do with the honour of Mr. Speaker. He may not have heard what was said. The remark was intended for me, and possibly was not properly heard by him. But I am willing to make a statutory declaration
– What is the honorable member’s point of order. He cannot discuss a question like this - he must state his point of order definitely.
– My point of order is that the three honorable members who are immediately concerned have absolutely disclaimed the accuracy of your recollection of the remark which was made yesterday. In persisting that your recollection is absolutely accurate, you, sir, are reflecting on the honour of three honorable members, and I submit that that reflection ought to be withdrawn.
– As I have already said, if I could conscientiously withdraw it, I would do so. But the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Wentworth must not forget that they came to the House this morning and attempted to make it appear that I have told a deliberate falsehood.
– The honorable member for Franklin was not here, and knows nothing at all about it. He must not interject. I regret very much that I have to take such an undignified course. There seems to be a desire on the part of some honorable members to make a disturbance in this matter. I regret very much the disturbance that occurred yesterday, but I must protect myself. Under the circumstances the whole matter must drop.
– I have a personal explanation to make.
– I understood you to say, sir, that I was not in the House when the incident to which reference has recently been made occurred yesterday. I wish to state that I was in the House where the incident occurred yesterday, and I was; also here when the matter was revived today.
– May I make an explanation?
– When I came into the House to-day I had not the slightest idea that this question would be raised, and I had not the slightest intention after it was raised of in any way reflecting on your truthfulness. I was merely pointing out the accuracy of the statement made by the honorable member for Parramatta.
– I have just had my proofs brought to me, from which it appears that I named the honorable member for Parramatta. The honorable member for Flinders asked me the reason why I took this course. I said -
The honorable member for Parramatta made a remark referring to myself to the effectthat the House was being muzzled.
I went on to say that the Chair must take action to protect itself, Then the honorable member for Parramatta rose in his place and said -
I respectfully submit, Mr. Speaker, that you had no right whatever to hear the remark in. question. It was. not intended for your ears.
– I rise to make an explanation. It is quite true that I made that observation; but at that stageI was not concerned about verbal accuracy. Afterwards, however, when I said what you had said, the position was different, and that is my justification for bringing the matter forward to-day, so that it could be corrected. You, sir, have told me that . ? came here to make a disturbance-
– Order !
– And I have to, put up with this sort of thing.
– Order !
– I desire to ask the
Prime Minister whether the printer, who has been engaged to print the Commonwealth Bank Notes, has yet got his staff together, and whether any information can be given as to when the notes will be issued ?
– I think the machinery is just about to be landed, and that early in the new year the notes will be issued. I do not know whether the staff is quite complete, but it will be completed as soon as the machinery is housed and ready for use.
– I wish to know whether the attention of the Prime Minister has been called to the fact that a large number of dilapidated notes which are in a highly insanitary condition are now in circulation, and whether he will take steps to have them withdrawn?
– For over two years past action has been taken in the direction suggested. We have asked the banks to co-operate with us in withdrawing dilapidated or insanitary notes, and as soon as such notes are sent in to us they are destroyed. We have already burnt some tons of them, and will continue to destroy them as rapidly as possible.
– I understand that some time ago the Minister of External Affairs requested the South Australian Government to supply him with certain plans and surveys in connexion with the transcontinental railway route north of Oodnadatta. I should like to know whether all the details required have been received?
– Yes, we have received the plans.
– I wish to know whether the Minister of Home Affairs will place on the Library table all the papers connected with the electoral redistribution in Western Australia in 1909 ?
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether, in connexion with the maternity allowance, the Committee of the British Medical Association have yet drawn up a circular for the guidance of mothers. If so, will he make copies available?
– I do not think the circular has come to hand yet. When it reaches us we will print and circulate it.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether the new map of Australia, which has been in course of preparation for some years, has yet been completed, and, if not, when it is likely to be completed ?
– I will look into the matter and inform the honorable member to-morrow.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Gow, daughter of the lighthouse-keeper at Solitary Island, occurred on the island on Thursday at 3 p.m., intimation being immediately wired to Sydney ; (b) that intimation was received on Friday afternoon that the steamer Ajax would convey the remains to Newcastle; (c) that the Ajax did not arrive on Friday as intimated, and the Captain Cook, which had to proceed from Sydney, did not call for the body before the early hours of Sunday morning ; and (d) that the desperate straits of the relatives were intensified by an intimation from the Board of Health that the remains could not be moved forty-eight hours after death unless encased in an air-tight shell, while the residents of the island were without any of the usual necessities, including a coffin, in the case of death?
– In view of the fact that the lighthouse service has not yet been transferred to the Commonwealth, I am unable to take the course suggested by the honorable member. I am, however, confident that, if there has been undue delay or neglect in regard to this matter, the Government of New South Wales will make full inquiry and ascertain who is responsible for it.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
B -2? months.
C - Under 1 month.
D - 2 months.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Mr. Chinn’s Appointment ; Postal Department: Mechanical Branch, Sydney, Annual Leave : Country Mail Services : Cancellation of Contract - Tasmanian Steamer and Mail Services - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway : Jarrah and Karri Sleepers, Powellising Process : Rolling-stock and Plant - Federal Territory : Administration : Land Valuations : Naming of Capital : Tent for Mailman - Naval Forces : Allowances - Land Tax Assessments - Cadets : Travelling Expenses - Citizen Forces : Compensation for Accidents.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- I regret very much that, because of developments that have taken place since I last addressed the House on the subject, I must again refer to the appointment of Mr. Chinn. Before I sit down I think that I shall be able to show-
– I call the attention of the honorable member to notice of motion No. 14. I cannot allow him to anticipate its discussion.
– That motion proposes an inquiry, which is not the matter I wish to discuss.
– I understand that the honorable member wishes to speak about the appointment of Mr. Chinn, but the motion to which I have referred deals with that matter, and I cannot allow its discussion to be anticipated.
– The motion proposes the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into Mr. Chinn’s appointment. I do not intend to discuss that proposal.
– The honorable member may not anticipate discussion of the motion.
– I have no wish to transgress the Standing Orders, but since I last spoke on the case of Mr. Chinn developments have occurred which make it necessary to traverse the whole question of his appointment. I have commented on the very significant fact that not one testimonial has been submitted certifying to his technical qualifications.
– The honorable member is anticipating the discussion ofa motion on the notice-paper.
– The matter which I wish to put before the House, although referring to Mr. Chinn’s appointment, has nothing to do with the proposal for a Committee of Inquiry.
– May I ask whether you rule, Mr. Speaker, that on the discussion of grievances-
– Or of Estimates.
– Or of Estimates, a member may not refer to any matter which is directly or indirectly the subject of a motion on the notice-paper? If that be the rule of Parliament, it is possible for a Government supporter, or for any member, to prevent the discussion of Government appointments, or of any act of administration, by putting on the notice-paper a motion having reference to it. Surely no standing order can go so far as that. Because notice has been given of a motion asking for a Select Committee to inquire into a certain matter, are we now precluded from dealing with a subject only indirectly referred to?
I respectfully submit that the question needs further consideration.
– Parliamentary .procedure which I have frequently seen applied both in the State Parliament and here, prevents the anticipation of the discussion of any motion on the notice-paper. We are not now concerned with the consideration of Estimates, but are debating a motion to give opportunity for the redress of grievances. The honorable member for Perth was discussing a motion which may come before the House at a later date.
– lt may !
– I cannot say that it will, but it is set down for hearing. I am guided in this matter by standing order 274, which says -
No member shall digress from the subjectmatter of any question under discussion ; nor anticipate the discussion of any other subject which appears on the notice-paper.
Then May, on page 609 of the nth edition, says, in regard to debate on going into Committee -
The ordinary rules of debate are applicable on this occasion. For instance, a matter already decided by the House, of which notice has been given, or which stands upon the notice-paper cannot be discussed.
I rule, therefore, that the honorable mem ber for Perth may not refer to the subject of Mr. Chinn’s appointment.
– I submit that the object of the motion on the notice-paper is strictly limited, having reference to the ap pointment of Mr. Chinn only “in connexion with the construction of’ the transcontinental railway.” An honorable member therefore would not trangress the procedure laid down were he to discuss Mr. Chinn’s right to be in the Public Service, or Mr. Chinn’s action in regard to this, that, or the other matter not concerned with his appointment in connexion, with the transAustralian railway I submit that we are not prevented from referring to Mr. Chinn except in relation to the construction of the transcontinental railway.
– I cannot allow the anticipation of the discussion of the motion on the notice-paper.
– The Standing Orders say that no member shall - anticipate the discussion of any other subject which appears on the notice-paper.
Therefore what the honorable member for Perth may not do is to anticipate the discussion of a proposal for the appointment of a Select Committee - to inquire into the appointment of Mr. H. Chinn in connexion with the construction of the TransAustralian Railway.
The sole issue raised by the motion is : Should that appointment be inquired into by a Select Committee? That is a matter which the honorable member has no right to discuss now.
– Take for the purpose of illustration the notice of a motion proposing the appointment of a Public Works Committee, to which all proposals of expenditure exceeding £10,000 should be submitted for inquiry and report. If Mr. Speaker’s ruling is to apply, honorable members may not refer to any proposal for expenditure exceeding .£10,000, because in doing so they would anticipate the discus- , sion of that motion.
– Yes. According to the ruling of Mr. Speaker, the subject-matter of that motion is the expenditure of any sum exceeding £10, 000. With all due respect for, and with the desire to assist the Chair, I submit that the real subjectmatter of notice of motion No. 14 is the appointment of a Select Committee for a specific purpose, and that any reference to that proposal would be out of order, but that an honorable member mav discuss Mr. Chinn’s qualification, or the manner in which he is doing any particular work.
– On the point of order - Other Honorable members have been allowed to speak on it.
– Other honorable members have raised distinct points. I have ruled that the honorable member for Perth cannot anticipate the discussion of notice of motion No. 14. He said that he wished to discuss the appointment of Mr. Chinn, and that motion proposes an inquiry into the appointment. I feel, therefore, that what the honorable member for Perth wishes to say would be in anticipation of the discussion of the motion on the notice-paper. If honorable members do not accept the ruling, it is for them to move to dissent.
– Would it be competent at this stage to ask for the removal of the notice of motion from the business-paper, as the right honorable member for Swan will not be here again this session, and therefore it cannot be moved.
– If you rule, Mr. Speaker, that I cannot discuss the appointment of Mr. Chinn, I have nothing further to say on this motion. I do not wish to try to evade your ruling.
– Some time ago, when the Prime Minister was representing the PostmasterGeneral, who was indisposed at the time, I inquired whether the temporary employes in the Sydney Post Office, and particularly those engaged in the Mechanical Branch, would have their temporary service reckoned when arrangements for annual leave were being made. I was assured that that service would be reckoned, but I am informed now that that has not been done, and that advantage is being taken of an award concerning the employes of this branch of the Department to deprive them of holidays which, I understand from the Prime Minister, they would receive. Many of the temporary employes have, as a matter of fact, been appointed to the permanent staff ; but, because they have not been in the latter position for twelve months, they are not allowed any holidays. This is held to be very unjust; and, after the definite promise of the Minister, these men feel that they are suffering under a distinct breach of faith. I do not know whether the Minister himself is responsible, or whether officers of the Department have taken upon themselves to disregard his recommendation ; but it is of the highest importance that all promises of this nature should be respected. It may be, perhaps, that the Minister has not power to regulate matters of the kind ; but he ought to have ascertained that before he gave the definite reply, for which he must take all responsibility. A Minister ought not to endeavour to hide himself behind officers who are under his instructions ; and this, so far as I can learn, appears to be the fact in this case. However, there is no doubt that these public servants have a legitimate grievance, and their case ought to be looked into and adjusted. We ought to promote, by every legitimate means in our power, good feelirig amongst the officers of the various Departments, and encourage them in every way to perform their duties efficiently and loyally. When little matters of the kind to which I have referred are neglected or overlooked - when promises are disregarded or deliberately broken - the elements of discontent are introduced. These matters may appear small to Ministers and heads, but they are of considerable importance to the employes themselves; and it is not surprising that, under such circumstances, there should spring up feelings of resentment, which develop to such an extent as to interfere with the effectiveness of the services rendered. I am loth to occupy the time of the House, but this is the only opportunity now presented, and I make no apology for bringing this matter forward. I do not know who is representing the Postmaster-General, and my previous inquiries were directed to the Prime Minister. It was to the latter gentleman that I was addressing myself a few moments ago, but he has disappeared. I can only hope that the Honorary Minister will make a note of what I have said, and that some attempt will be made to do justice to those men, who have, as a matter of fact, given over twelve months’ continuous service, and whose annual leave should be calculated accordingly.
– This is the only occasion now afforded to bring under the notice of the House and the country important questions which need ventilation. Under our present system, the Estimates are rushed through in an allnight sitting, which practically prevents all discussion ; and, as private members’ day has disappeared, the present, and certainly the least desirable, opportunity has to be seized. Honorable members on the mainland, with means of communication by rail and splendid lines of steamers on the coast, cannot realize the position of the people in Tasmania, who are altogether dependent on anything- but efficient seacarriage. The Government had a splendid opportunity to remove existing difficulties when arranging the mail contract; but that business was very sadly bungled. This did not arise from want of proper representation, because Tasmanian members on both sides of this House, and also of the Senate, interviewed the Minister and urged’ the desirability of not doing exactly what the Government have done; Under a mail contract there are ways in which, not only a State, but Australia as a whole, can be very materially assisted. Oh previous occasions I have pointed out the serious deficiencies in the means of communication between Queensland and Tasmania. Queensland, as the most northern State, is the best market in Australia for Tasmania, while Tasmania, to the extent of its population, is the largest consumer of Queensland produce; and there is every reason why there should be a direct service between the two States. Quite recently, one firm alone in Tasmania guaranteed to ship 30,000 cases of fruit and jam every fortnight if a direct service were provided. At present all cargo has to be transhipped at Sydney, with the attendant risks and cost. As a matter of fact, this transhipment means, I believe, doubling the freight; and there is no doubt that direct communication would enormously increase the mutual exchange of commodities. As to the mail contract, the conditions in the winter, so far as the Rotoma- hana is concerned, are no better than they were twenty-five years ago. That steamer is unsuited for the Tamar River, and has to transfer her passengers to the deck of a small boat ; and the plight of the women and children, especially in the winter, may be imagined. At present the Government are paying a subsidy of , £13,000, and the shipping companies offered, for an additional , £2,000, to place a second Loongana in commission.
– There were conditions attached to that offer.
-There were no unreasonable conditions. The north-west coast of Tasmania is now one of the most prosperous and important portions of the Commonwealth, and the shipping companies offered, in consideration of the increased subsidy, to run a second Loongana to Burnie and Launceston, by varied routes, five days a week. This, of course, would prove an enormous advantage to the north west coast, and greatly increase the traffic between the mainland and Tasmania. However, the Government, for the sake of a paltry £2,000, rejected the shipping company’s offer. I have always maintained that there is a disastrous shipping combine on the coast of Australia. The Union Steam-ship Company and the Huddart Parker Company both run vessels to Tasmania, but they charge the same fares and freights, and act practically as one combination. A deputation of the representatives of Tasmania, sitting on both sides of the House, waited on the Minister and urged that a joint contract should not be accepted. The Government, however, refused our representations, and have accepted a joint tender from the two companies. If there is anything that iscalculated to bolster up a combine, and prevent fair competition, it is the acceptance of such a tender.
– What else could have been done?
– Had the Government taken the matter in hand in time the position would have been different. They should have refused to accept a joint tender.
– Then Tasmania would have been left without a mail service.
– Would the Commonwealth Government allow a shipping company to dictate to them in a matter of this sort? Had the Government shown a little more backbone we should have secured’ a better service. But so long as the shipping companies knew that’ the Government were not in earnest in the matter, and that they had only to present a joint tender to secure its acceptance, what else could be expected from them? The Government should have said that they would not allow any private company to dictate to the Commonwealth the terms of such a contract. There is absolutely no justification for the extension of the existing contract for a further period of two years. The Government were warned by all the representatives of Tasmania that the present service was unsatisfactory, and that, beyond the provision of the Loongana, no attempt had been made to meet the growing requirements of the passenger and goods traffic between the mainland and Tasmania. We pointed out that so far as the Rotomahana is concerned no improvements had been made for the last twenty-five years, and that there was existing, in connexion with the whole service, a state of affairs that should not be tolerated in connexion with a Government contract. The offer made by the Union Steam-ship Company was an exceedingly fair one. It undertook for an increased subsidy of £2,000 a a year to place on the line a second vessel of the type of the Loongana; to give a five days a week service each way between Launceston and Melbourne; a two days a week service direct between Burnie and this port, and an alternate service via Launceston, which would have been of enormous advantage to the people of Tasmania. That improved service could have been secured by increasing the subsidy from£13,000 to £15,000 a year. The Government, however, refused the offer, and allowed things to drift until, at last, they had to accept a joint tender.
– The honorable member is misrepresenting the facts.
– The Minister can see my facts in the correspondence tabled, as I did. The offer made by the company is in the file of papers laid on the table, and the production of which it took us some months to secure. I perused the offer only yesterday, and I repeat that the Government allowed every opportunity to pass. The only reason I can give for their stupendous blunder is that they desired to make the service as unpopular as possible, so that they would be able to come along later with a proposal for a line of State-owned steamers. If that is the object they have in view they are going the right way to achieve it because one section of the existing service is very unsatisfactory. Rather than expend an additional sum of £2,000 a year they turned down one of the most liberal offers ever made in connexion with a Commonwealth mail service. The Loongana. with her three boilers going, does 17 knots an hour, and under four boilers she can do 21 knots an hour. She is fast, clean, well officered, well-manned, and well managed, and the Government could have secured for the service a second vessel of that type by increasing the subsidy from , £13,000 to £15,000 a year. I regret that they did not act upon the advice given by the representatives of Tasmania in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Surely this is not a party question. Senator Findley, who was acting for the Postmaster-General, appeared tobe quite in sympathy with the views expressed by the deputation of repre sentatives of Tasmania which waited upon him; but, for some unexplained reason, the Government have deliberately accepted a joint tender for the continuation of the contract on the existing terms for another two years. During the winter season we have often to travel between Melbourne and Tasmania by a steamer that was running twenty-five years ago. and which cannot go up to the Launceston wharf. As a matter of fact, passengers travelling by her have to be transhipped into a small river boat some distance down the Tamar. When that steamer is running the mail service is delayed week after week. All these facts were put before the Government. In the winter season this steamer often arrives in the Tamar too late to catch the Hobart express, and the mails for the whole of Tasmania are consequently hung; up. Another request made by us was that instead of letters being carried between Hobart and Sydney under the poundage system a small mail contract should be entered into for a- direct service. The tradein certain produce between Tasmania and* Sydney is as large as that between any other Australian port. When I speak of Sydney I include Tasmania’s trade in Queensland. Every ton of potatoes, jam, timber, and other commodities from Tasmania intended for delivery in Queensland has to be transhipped at Sydney. We asked that a small mail contract should be entered into for. a direct service between Hobart and Sydney, so that the Government could determine the time of arrival and departure and do something to accelerate the speed of the service. That request was also turned down, although it was made in ample time to permit of the Government securing the conditions for which we asked. We were much surprised to find that, although the disabilities under which Tasmania has suffered in this regard had been fully explained, the Government had renewed the existing contract for a further term of two years. We shall have to wait for another two years, or until there comes into office another Government that will deal justly with Tasmania.
– This Government have dealt justly with Tasmania.
– I repeat that the Government have not dealt justly with us The people of the north-west coast and particularly theresidents of Burme have suffered a very grave injustice owing to the rejection of the Union Steam-ship Com- pany’s offer. Burnie is the nearest port to the mainland, and if the Oonah, the old boat now trading between Melbourne and Burnie, were replaced, as was proposed, bv a vessel of the Loongana type the passenger traffic would enormously increase. These maritime matters are not of much concern to the people of the mainland, where, with one exception, the State capitals are connected by rail, but they are of vital importance to Tasmania. As an island State, its communication with the remaining States of the Union must be by water, and the offer to provide a vastly improved service for an additional £2,000 should have been accepted without the slightest hesitation. The Government by rejecting it have done an incalculable injustice to the people of Tasmania, and it is one that will be resented by them at the first opportunity.
.-] wish to bring before the House. a few facts and figures in relation to the use of karri instead of jarrah sleepers, and also to contradict some statements made by the Minister in reply to a question put by me - state- . ments that are calculated to do one of the biggest industries in Australia a great deal of injury. I asked the honorable gentleman the following question : -
Is he aware that the export of untreated jarrah sleepers from Western Australia to India has, during the past four years, increased nearly 50 per cent: ?
The Minister was unable to give me any information on the subject. The portion of the Minister’s reply to which I take exception reads -
So far as I have been able to ascertain, the evidence is the other way.
That is a most damaging statement to make concerning the industry, and I wish to show that official figures supply a flat contradiction to it. The statistics which I intend to quote are taken from the annual report of the Western Australian Forestry Department - a report which is not prepared for the purpose of humbugging anybody. But I am afraid that somebody is attempting to humbug us. From the document in question I learn that, in 1906-7, the export of jarrah to India was 2.1,506,759 superficial feet, in 1907-8 it was 20,520,246 superficial feet, and in 1908-9 it was 47,914,855 superficial feet; a- total of 89,991,860 superficial feet. These figures include only the jarrah which was passed and .branded by the Forestry Department. The export of this timber to
India during 1910 was 51,329,365 superficial feet, in 191 1 it was 27,871,434 superficial feet, and in 1912 it was 41,514,618 superficial feet ; a total of 120,715,427 superficial feet during the past three years, as against 89,991,860 superficial feet during the previous three years; an increase of 30,723,557 superficial feet.
– What did the Minister say?
– He said that there had been a decrease. I repeat that these figures do not include hundreds of shiploads of This timber, which have probably gone to India, outside of the timber which has been handled by the Forestry Department. Seeing that these figures are available to me, I submit that they ought to have been available to the Minister. Some explanation is due to the House as to why they were not forthcoming. We are entitled to the best information that is procurable in the Commonwealth. Then, the Minister stated -
There is a motive behind this motion, and a deep-seated one, too. It is the last wail of a dying monopoly’s defence in this House.
That is a very grave charge to make, and I have received a number of letters inquiring why I did not resent it. The Minister went on to say -
I hold that the motion is an attack in defence of monopoly, which is the Jarrah Company of Western Australia, who have all, or a great portion, of the jarrah monopolized. My attitude is against monopoly, and in defence of the interests of Western Australia. . . . It is the last stand of monopoly’s defenders in this House.
I think that is pretty strong language to use, especially in view of the figures which I have quoted. The report issued by the Forestry Department of Western Austrafia for the year 19 12 contains a list of the saw-mill permits which were in existence in that State in June of the present year. [Quorum formed.’] As the Minister of Home Affairs is now present, I will again read that portion of his remarks to which I take exception. He said -
There is a motive behind this motion, and a deep-seated one, too. It is the last wail of a dying monopoly’s defence in this House.
I wish to show from the annual report of the Forestry Department of Western Australia that no monopoly of jarrah exists in that State. The following is a list of the saw-mill permits in existence in Western Australia up to 30th June last -
Whittaker Bros., 20,000 acres,- Murray District.
Ferguson, J. M., Ltd.,’ 2,370 acres, Wellington District.
Bunning’, Robert, 4,700 acres, Wellington District.
Bunning Bros., 10,000 acres, Wellington District.
Vincent, R. P., and Vincent, W. H., 19,800 acres, Nelson District.
Swan Saw Mills Limited, 2,633 acres, Preston District.
Swan Saw Mills Limited, 9,000 acres, Preston District.
Bunning, Robert, 5,300 acres, Wellington District.
Adelaide Timber Company Ltd., 12,000 acres, Wellington District.
Swan Saw Mills Limited, 1,000 acres, Wellington District.
Elkin, John George, 5,300 acres, Wellington District.
Bunning Bros. Limited, 10,000 acres, Wellington District.
S.W. Timber Hewers’ Co-operative Society Ltd., 17,000 acres, Collie District.
S.W. Timber Hewers’ Co-operative Society Ltd., 20,000 acres, Collie District.
Both of the last-mentioned mills are in Collie. They are two propositions which I offered to the Minister. They had been offered to me for sale. They contain more than twice as much jarrah as will be required to build this railway. The list continues -
Bethel 1, George Moore, 10,000 acres, Nelson District.
Port, Honey, & Coy. Limited, 28,510 acres, Murray District.
Bunning Bros. Limited, 10,000 acres, Wellington District.
Timber Corporation Limited, 6,800 acres, Nelson District.
Lewis, J., and Reid, F. W. S., 19,730 acres, Wellington District.
Wilgarrup Karri and Jarrah Co. Ltd., 19,000 acres, Nelson District.
Buckingham Bros., 18,000 acres, Wellington District.
Vincent, Wm. Hy., 15,000 acres, Nelson District.
Sexton, Walter B., 15,000 acres, Nelson District.
Jackman, Herbert Thos., 38,000 acres, Wellington District.
Western Australia Jarrah Saw Mills Limited, 58,000 acres, Nelson District.
Nunning, Robert, 8,000 acres, Wellington District.
All these saw-mills have been established recently. None of them have been working for more than a few years, because permits were not granted until a few years ago. All these mills are working upon permits, whereas Millar Brothers are working or leases. In such circumstances, how can a Jarrah Combine exist?
– I do not think it was suggested that there was a combine.
– It was suggested that there .was a Jarrah Combine. The mills which are held by the Millar Brothers are not mentioned in the list which I have read at all. The former are established on old leases, such as the Jarrahdale, Canning, and Mornington mills, the M. C. Davis’ concessions at the Leeuwin, and the Kirrup concessions and leases. The mills mentioned in the list I have given are being worked upon permits. It is quite clear, therefore, that there cannot be a Jarrah Combine, and it was grossly unfair of the Minister to attempt to mislead the House in- the way that he did, especially in view of the fact that this information was available to him in a Government document. His statements are calculated to do great injury to the jarrah industry. For example, he said that the industry was dying owing to the fact that white ants preferred jarrah to any other timber. That was a most damaging statement to make. In 1909 the value of the jarrah exported was £833,710; in 1910, it was £918,311; in 1911, £913>84i; and in 1912, ,£997,994- Taking the year 1909 as the standard, the total increase in the three years following was £328,916; and yet, by way of explanation for the use of karri, we are told that the jarrah timber trade is dying out. I always look for a motive when extraordinary statements of this kind are made, and I want to know why an absolutely inaccurate representation has been put forward in connexion with this matter?
In contradiction of a statement made by me, it was stated that sleepers 9 feet long were used generally throughout the world on railways of 4-ft. 8L-in gauge. The Minister mentioned that 9-ft. sleepers were used on the New South Wales railways. I say that such long sleepers are not used in New South Wales or in any other country.
– Does the Minister admit that 9-ft. sleepers have been ordered by them ?
– Yes. The Minister stated that 9-ft. sleepers were used on the Pennsylvania line; but when I travelled over that railway I took photographs and measured the sleepers, which are only 8 ft. 6 in. long on those portions of the line over which the fastest traffic passes. On the Canadian Pacific railway line the sleepers are of all lengths, ranging from 8 feet to 8 ft. 6 in., but there are no 9-ft. sleepers. The railway authorities have more sense than to use longer sleepers, because when a sleeper is too long it becomes hollow, and is the worst you can put into a road.
– The engineer says it is necessary to use more 8-ft 6-in. sleepers than 9-ft. sleepers.
– Then the engineer ought to be dealt with. In Victoria, on railways constructed on the 5 -ft. 3-in. gauge, 8-ft. sleepers are being used by the thousand, and they are quite long enough. In South Australia, on the 5-f.t. 3-in . gauge lines, the standard length of sleeper has been 8 ft. 6 in. Thus, it will be seen that if 8-ft. 6-in. sleepers are sufficiently long for use in connexion with lines carrying very heavy traffic in South Australia, they should be long enough on a 4-ft. 8½-in. line. I have here a very valuable report dealing with the different methods of treatment of timber throughout the world. The different sizes of sleepers treated by different processes are mentioned ; but in no case is a 9-ft. sleeper referred to, and the longest sleeper used on a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge railway is 8 ft. 6 in.
– A 9-ft. sleeper is much better than one of shorter length.
– I say it is not. For many years the standard length of sleepers in Western Australia on railways of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge was 7 feet. The South Australian Government adopted sleepers of 6-ft. 6-in. lengths on their railways of similar gauge; and Western Australia altered her standard length to 6 ft. 6 in. That is in the country where the timber grows. If a sleeper is too long, it becomes hollow, and tightens the gauge. Honorable members may see thousands of discarded sleepers lying alongside the Victorian railways, and they will find that nearly all of them are hollow.
– That is the result of the action of the sun.
– No. They come out of the road in that way. 1 want to know whether we are to set on one side the experience of the world in this matter? We have the example of the Canadian Northern line,the Canadian Pacific railway, and the Pennsylvania railway, and thousands of miles of other lines.
– What is the length of sleepers on thePennsylvania line ?
– The longest sleepers are only 8 ft. 6 in., and that railway carries the heaviest traffic in the world.
– My officers must have been furnished with incorrect information from America.
– The only places where 9 feet sleepers are used is on railways of 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, where they have put in brackets round the curves. In these cases they require a longer sleeper. It has been stated that it is not intended to ballast the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta line, but it will have to be ballasted. I do not say that where the line passes through sandy country bottom ballast will be required, but unless top ballast is put down so much sand will be thrown up that the gear of the engines and rolling stock will be cut to pieces. In gravelly country, perhaps, trains may be run through without ballast on the line for years, but the rest of the line will have to be ballasted. If 8 feet sleepers are used instead of 9 feet sleepers, the cost of the line will be reduced by from £170,000 to £200,000, and I claim that what has proved good enough in other parts of the world should be good enough for us. I cannot understand why we should use longer lengths than are employed elsewhere, seeing that we have the best of all timber for sleepers and use a bigger sleeper so far as width is concerned. There is no comparison between jarrah and pine for sleeper purposes. Another element of expense has not been mentioned, namely, the cost of handling. The 9 feet sleepers will weigh 2 cwt. each, and we are told that plate-laying machines are to be employed. I contend that it will not be practicable to work such machines, seeing that they are made to handle only very light pine sleepers, which may be thrown about anyhow.
We have heard a great deal about these treatment processes, and the time they occupy. I find that in the case of green timber the boiling in hot preservative occupies from eight to ten hours, and the bathing in cold preservative eight to sixteen hours, the total time occupied being from sixteen to twenty hours. We shall have to use green timber, because no appreciable quantity of seasoned timber will be available, and honorable members may calculate how long it will take to treat 200,000 tons of timber. In , the case of seasoned timber the boiling in hot preservative occupies from three to six hours, and the bathing in cold preservative four to eight hours, or a total of fourteen hours. With this process, it is possible to impregnate only certain classes of wood even under pressure. It isnot proposed totreat our sleepers under pressure, and it is questionable whether these. processes will be applicable to the hardest timber in the world such as we shall have to deal with. I have here the specification of the proposed Powell process as published in the Engineer in London on September 6, 1912. It reads as follows : -
Patent applied for 9th August, 191 1, and granted in London, 14th August,1912. No. 18,041. “ Seasoning or Hardening Timber.
Powell, 718 Salisbury House,
London Wall, E.C. “ The following example of this process re lates to the rapid artificial seasoning of one inch pieces of newly-felled walnut, but it may be taken as typical. ” Sugar solution - Initial temperature about 120 deg. Fah., for about one hour - (1 inch thick), “The timber is immersed in a 25 per cent, solution of sugar in many of its forms, the initial temperature being about 120 deg. Fah. “ The timber is allowed to remain in the solution at this temperature for about an hour, until a fair amount of air has been given off.”
Honorable members will see that it takes one hour to treat a piece of wood one inch thick. If the treatment of timber 1 inch thick is to occupy one hour, how long will it take to treat hardwood sleepers 5 inches thick, seeing that 2½ inches will have to be penetrated from each side to reach the middle -
The temperature of the solution is then raised gradually at the rate of 100 degrees per hour to boiling point, and maintained for about four hours at from 200 degrees to 212 degrees Fahreineit until most of the air in the wood is exhausted, and the wood is sufficiently cooked.
We shall have 200,000 tons to deal with. So it is cooked sleepers we are going to have after all !
The timber is then allowed to remain in the solution until it has cooled to 140 degrees Fahreineit or thereabouts, when it is removed to a drying chamber, containing moist air, say, at about 140 degrees Fahreineit, containing 80 per cent. moisture. The temperature of the drying chamber is then raised to 180 or 220 degrees Fahreineit, when the degree of moisture is gradually reduced to 30 or 20 per cent, the timber being allowed to remain in the chamber until it has given up the greater part of the moisture, by which time it is seasoned.
If we have to wait until all that has been done, it will be a long time before the railway is finished. Good timber, suitable for the work, could be obtained at much less cost -
If it is desired to treat the wood against the action of white ants or the like, about 10 per cent. of some metallic salt - for instance, a salt of arsenic - is added to the solution before the timber is immersed therein.
We are not told how the arsenic is to be got in solution, or kept in solution. There seems to be no provision for the agitation of the liquid, and if sleepers remain three or four hours in the chamber the arsenic will in that time sink to the bottom. This informationis dated 14th August last, and as I know that many honorable members have an open mind on the subject, I thought it right to put it before them It is claimed by the company that they can turn sapwood into good timber.
– If the company claims that, it will claim anything.
– I have here a telegram from a Mr. Courtaigne calling my attention to the fact that an article in the Mining Journal states -
Limestone country route Kalgoorlie-Augusta Railway obviates powellising sleepers. Therefore, jarrah should be used instead powellised karri.
I do not know who is the author of that article. Parry Brothers were charged in Sydney 7s., per 100 feet super., and their timber was spoilt by being boiled. The same thing happened to some timber supplied by the Victorian Government. There are a few other matters in connexion with this big work which I wish to bring before the House. The first is the statement contained in a publication which is put before us by the Minister of Home Affairs every two months, that he has purchased four locomotives from the New South Wales Government for this job at £1,000 each. Reverting to the locomotives purchased from the New South Wales Government for £1,000 each, I would remind the House that that Government is at its wits’ end to obtain locomotives for the traffic of its own railways, and, I believe, is importing engines as well as making all it can. What are we likely to do with four old engines that the New South Wales Government is willing to get rid of? If I had an enemy who was going to build a railway, I would like to make him a present of these locomotives, and compel him to use them ; it would be the worst turn I could do him.
– As a contractor, have you not used worse engines?
– We have 1,000 miles of track to lay, and the best locomotives that could be bought would not be too good for the work. We require for this work engines that will give the least trouble, and will cost the least in repairs. When an engine may be 200 or 300 miles from the end of a line, and the repairing shops, we do not want any risk of its breaking down.
– Has the honorable member ever seen a new engine used on a job of this kind?
– These locomotives are unsuitable for the work for which they are to be used. Within the last twelve months, I bought an engine for a company in which I am interested, and had to pay £4,500 for it.
– A second-hand engine?
– A new engine. It would be impossible to purchase secondhand an engine good enough for the work that has to be done in the construction of the trans-Australian railway for less than 50 per cent, more than I gave, because the gauge is to be 4 ft. in., and very heavy loads will have to be drawn.
Some time ago, the Minister for Home Affairs promised that he would adopt the centre safety coupling for the rolling-stock to be used on this line ; but tenders have been cai led for waggons framed for outside buffers. If these waggons are built in accordance with the drawings, it will be impossible to equip them with centre buffers. Only yesterday, or the day before, the Argus mentioned that a man was injured in passing between the buffers of some vehicles he was coupling, and many accidents occur in that way. But on the thousands of miles of railway in Canada, there is not one vehicle with outside buffers, and there is, therefore, no dangerous dodging between buffers, to couple and uncouple. We are starting with a clean sheet, and are in a position to adopt the best style of construction. I would not hesitate about adopting centre buffers. I saw vehicles, equipped with centre buffers and couplings, being coupled and uncoupled when trains were being put on to pontoons, and it was evident that the process is quite a simple one. Every railway in the States was required to adopt this coupling by a certain date.
– -Has not the use of the patent to be paid for?
– I do not know, but the Commonwealth can afford to use the best that is used elsewhere. We do not want men to be hut if that can be prevented by using a safety equipment. Yet tenders have been called for waggons framed with outside buffers.
– I thought that the Minister had complied with the honorable member’s request in this matter.
– I thought so, too; but I have seen the design, and it provides for outside buffers. In the- interests of the men who will have to handle our trains, I ask honorable members opposite, who have more influence with the Minister than we have, to get him to carry out his promise. 1 have also seen the plans of some hopper waggons. I believe that some of these waggons have been delivered Their design is a very funny one, though the arrangement will be a costly one for the Commonwealth. A small boy drawing a picture on a slate might show a waggon with a hook sticking out at the end, but that is an absurd design to follow for real waggons. In this case, however, the coupling hook is bolted to the outside. There is no through gear, and no cradle; the draw comes on the outside buffer.
– Does the honorable member think that they are not strong enough ?
– They are not strong enough for a perambulator. With the best gear obtainable, I have had seven headstocks out in one day on a grade. What would be the result when reliance was placed on an outside coupling? Any one in my employment who adopted such an arrangement would not be there long. A number of muck waggons, side-tip and end-tip, are being built in Sydney to be sent to Port Augusta; but usually, when a contractor has finished work in one State, and wishes to remove his plant to another, he burns the woodwork of his waggons, and carries only the ironwork and frames with him.
– The woodwork is not worth the freight?
– No. A good blacksmith and a good carpenter would soon fix up as many waggons as were needed. I have built hundreds of such waggons, and, therefore, know what I am talking about. The strangest part of the business is that hitherto Australian hardwood has been found good enough for tip- work waggons, but these were built of Oregon; and when the first broke down, they were never tried again. Further, these waggons have been built 7 ft. 9 in. high.
– Were tenders called for them?
– I do not know’. We must not blame the contractor, who has no power to design, but only to construct. Of the platelayers’ trolleys, the first one smashed up, and the platelayers’ tools that were sent round could not be used, and. with the other gear, are in the store yet. I am told that the purchase of this obsolete plant was a Godsend to those who had it to dispose of. Then the points and crossings are of the oldest type in existence; and it would be interesting to know who fathered them on the Commonwealth. We are starting with a clean slate, and from the first I have contended that the best machinery and appliances are not too good for us, and must always prove the cheapest in the long run. A Government can surely always afford to buy new gear of the best ; and, in any case, when we have done, it could be sold, half-worn out, to the poor contractors. The most astonishing piece of plant is, perhaps, that which is known by the name of the steam navvy, and I am informed that it is commonly spoken of in the West as “ Deane’s Folly.” This machine has been constructed to run on rollers instead of on rails, and as there is no power strong enough to move it through the sand, it is lying there, half buried, as a roost for cormorants and seagulls. I do not know what to say of an engineer who would purchase a supposed steam shovel that does not run on rails, and then try to pull it, with its 9-in. wheels, through the sand. In America, a company called for competitive ideas for navigating a canal; and, at a Board meeting, they received a suggestion that, as nearly all the freight came into the town* and only empty barges returned, the best idea would be to raise the canal by 17 feet at the other end. The directors were just about to adopt this amazing suggestion when a little red-headed director, who, as a rule, was taken little notice of, pointed out in a small voice that there was great likelihood, if the canal were raised as suggested, of the water, as well as the barges, coming to town. It would appear as though there were some equally eminent engineers in the employ of the Commonwealth. A steam navvy should be constructed to run on rails of the same gauge as the railway, and not, as in the present case, on the natural surface of the ground, especially in view of the fact that the natural surface is sand. It has been said that there are a number of people who, had they been brought up as farmers, would plant their seed with a gimlet; and a representative of New South Wales hassuggested that, in view of our experience, the Commonwealth will require a whole shipload of “gimlets” before this work is finished. This steam navvy has 9-in. wheels and 12 -in. wheels.
– What is it used for?
– As I have said, as a roost for cormorants and seagulls; so that the Minister of Home Affairs has ‘now several more “ roosters* “ in his Department, though slightly differing from the usual breed. It is said that this steam navvy cost the Government about ,£1,500. 1 wish to see this railway pushed to completion; and I hope that the Government will secure the best possible appliances. Instead of a steam navvy, as in this instance, with a J-yard dipper, there should be one with dippers of not less than- 2 yards. When I started railway works I commenced with 2-yard plant and finished up with 4-yard plant; and if I started again I should secure a plant of still larger capacity.
– Poor old contractors ! Western Australia will have no more of them.
– It will not be very long before the people of Australia will be tired of buying .steam navvies for cormorants to roost upon.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
.- I listened with pleasure to the speech delivered this morning by the honorable member for Fremantle, and feel that unless the statements made by the honorable member in regard to the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway can be refuted by the Minister of Home Affairs, an immediate and thorough inquiry should be held. It is well-known that the honorable member for Fremantle is a man of wide experience in railway construction, and in view of the big railway undertakings before the Commonwealth, it is well that we should have such a man in the House. I do not think that the Minister of Home Affairs is to blame for what has occurred. He has to depend upon his officers, and I am convinced that if he found, on inquiry, that the statements made this morning by the honorable member for Fremantle could be substantiated, he would not allow trie officer responsible to remain in the Service another day. The Minister has no axe to grind. He is acting in what he believes to be the best interests of the people, and the position is the same in regard to the honorable member for Fremantle. It can never be said of this Parliament that any of its members have made money out of it.
– Those who have passed away have been mostly poor men.
– They certainly were not rich men. We are indebted to the honorable member for Fremantle for the information he has given us regarding the powellising process - information which must convince the House that the system is altogether too costly for us to adopt. No better timber for sleepers can be found than that which is. available in Australia. We have large supplies of jarrah in Western Australia, and millions of good red-gum sleepers can still be obtained at very small cost in South Australia. If the Minister thinks that an 8 ft. 6 in. sleeper is sufficient for the purposes of the transcontinental railway, I am sure that he will not use a 9 feet sleeper, because he desires to avoid waste. No country has better timber supplies than has Australia, and no country has abused its timber resources more than we have done. I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle that only the best locomotives should be used in connexion with this railway. We have been told, however, that the Government have purchased four locomotives at a cost of about £4,700. I should imagine that one thoroughly good up-to-date locomotive would be worth that amount, and the honorable member for Fremantle has told us that he paid as much as £4,000 for one delivered in Western Australia.
– He might have paid too much.
– He is not the man to pay too much for anything. I trust that the Minister will profit by the advice given by the honorable member in regard to the engine buffers, and do everything possible to save life and to insure good conditions for the men working on the railway. Reference was made by my honorable friend to the fact that high waggons had been obtained, with the result that the material which they are to remove will have to be thrown by the men to a height of 7 feet.
– But a steam shovel is to be used.
– The honorable member has told us that the steam shovel which has been ordered will weigh 20 tons, and such a shovel could not be taken through sand, or used in any part of the district of Port Augusta. The waggons built to suit that shovel will, I believe, remain idle. The Minister of Home Affairs issues every month a very valuable digest of the works that his Department has in hand. The publication is a most useful one, and the honorable gentleman’s name will always be associated with it. It shows that he is not ashamed of the work that his Department is doing. I find by reference to the Digest that the steam shovel cost £1,219,and that an order was given for it some months ago.
– We have not taken it over yet.
– Judging by what the honorable member for Fremantle has said, I think that the Department will be sorry if it does take it over. I shall be pleased if the Minister early next week places before the House a full statement in reply to the charges made by the honorable member for Fremantle in the able speech that he delivered this morning. The building of this transcontinental railway is one of the most important undertakings that the Commonwealth has ever entered upon, and I hope that this matter will not be allowed to rest where it is. We have in the House experts in nearly every branch of industry, and if the Government would only be guided bytheir advice, they would save many thousands of pounds.
– The honorable member for Fremantle would use a new engine on ballasting works.
– I would.
– And there is no honorable member whose opinions concerning railway matters would be taken before those of the honorable member for Fremantle.
– He had only to build one railway to make a fortune.
– The honorable member would not mind making a fortune in the same way. I hope that the Minister will have an inquiry, and I have only to say in conclusion that I feel confident that it is not his desire that there should be any waste of public money in connexion with this vast undertaking.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence to certain matters relating to the Naval Board. We are endeavouring to build up a Navy which we hope will be able to hold its own against the navies of the world, and, in doing so, we should consider our men just as much as, if not more than, the men of other navies are considered. Our Naval Forces have been strengthened by the importation of a number of men, and rightly so, I believe, because Australia has not that experience of naval matte’s which other countries have had. The Minister has imported a number of non-commissioned officers, and I should have been glad had he gone further, and had imported other officers. The Naval Board have just dealt with the question of allowances, which is a matter of importance to the men of all ranks. The pay of a soldier or sailor is made up of, not only wages, but allowances. For instance, men who have perfected themselves in certain branches receive a special allowance, whilst a lodging allowance and other special payments are also made. The consolidated pay thus obtained represents the actual wages of the men. I find, however, that the Naval Board have issued a regulation under which certain men will receive a. lodging allowance, while others will not. Inquiries I have made show that the imported men, and also some of the men on the Australian coast, are receiving this allowance. 1 understand that men appointed to the Tingara receive a lodging allowance, whereas those who are appointed to other vessels do not. Is it any wonder that the men complain of this unequal treatment? I have always maintained that the Minister of Defence should hold a seat in this House.
– The Defence Department is the biggest spending Department.
– That is one reason why the Minister of Defence should be in this House.
– He has a splendid representative in the Honorary Minister.
– I admit that, and the Honorary Minister knows that I am not making any attack upon him. When we ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence a question to any matter, we cannot obtain a direct reply. I do not upbraid him for that, because he is not responsible for the administration of the Department. It is, perhaps, unfortunate that so many of my constituents are interested in the working of that Department, because I confess that, in season and out of season, I am obliged to harass it, with a view to securing redress of their wrongs. At the same time, I am free to confess that 50 per cent. of the complaints which I receive are not in the nature of legitimate grievances, and, consequently, I do not bring them under the notice of the Minister. If I cannot get a satisfactory reply from the Minister of Defence, I shall have to ask the Prime Minister whether he thinks it is fair that the Naval Board should be permitted to select men to whom extra emoluments in the way of lodging allowances are granted. Under the existing practice, some petty officers are granted a lodging allowance of 2s. per day, while other men of the same rank are denied it. I know that it is difficult to draw a line between commissioned and non-commissioned officers; but if a warrant officer is to receive different treatment from a petty officer, some reason should be assigned for it. My trouble is that I cannot get the Defence Department to assign any reason why these fine distinctions are drawn. I think that these men have a grievance which is worthy of our consideration. When the new regulations were framed a short time ago, the men who could not avail themselves of certain conditions were granted a clothing allowance, which they received for a period of two months. At the end of that time the Naval Board pretended to discover that certain warrant officers who had received the allowance ought not to have done so, because they were commissioned officers. I have no hesitation in saying that they were not commissioned officers. All my life I have been associated with, military affairs, and it is idle to tell me that a warrant officer is a commissioned officer, and no order or regulation framed by the Naval Board can make him one. If I knew why these distinctions are drawn possibly I might be satisfied ; but the Department refuses to assign any reason for them, and, naturally, there is a bit of a turmoil amongst the men who are affected. Representing them, as I do, I am abundantly justified in ventilating these two grievances. On my list I have another 107 complaints, but I do not intend to discuss them now, because I have no desire to occupy too much time. What I would really like is the appointment of” a Board to inquire into these complaints. There is nothing so confusing to a service, and nothing which makes so much for inefficiency, as for its members to feel that the Department is making fish of one and flesh of another. If something be not done to improve the existing condition of affairs, I shall avail myself of afurther opportunity of ventilating this matter in the House.
.- This morning we were favoured by the honorable member for Fremantle with a strong indictment against the administration of the Government in respect of the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. To me, the most surprising feature is that, though certain challenges were thrown out by the most practical man in railway matters in this House, the Minister has not seen fit to reply to them.
– The honorable member shut me out.
– I shall be glad to allow the Minister an opportunity to make these statements. Charges have been made, and until they are disproved they must be accepted as true. So far, the only denial of those charges has come by way of interjection from certain honorable members opposite. If the accusations are not refuted they will have a very serious effect on the Labour party at the forthcoming elections.
– Of course they will. But they are unfounded.
– Then let them be refuted . The honorable member for Fremantle has charged the Government with having purchased a number of locomotives from a State which is known to be short of locomotives itself. He has declared that they are of no use, because they are worn out. 1 Mr. Chanter. - He did not say that.
– Practically that is what he said. He stated that the Government had bought those engines tor £4,500, whereas he himself has paid that amount for one engine.
– Has he been a success ?
– He is one of the most successful business men in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– Some time ago a promise was made by the Government that the trucks required in the construction of this transcontinental line should be built with centre automatic couplings, because that is the most approved system, and the one which is least dangerous to the workmen. The honorable member for Fremantle has charged the Government with ignoring that promise, and with having had plans drafted for the construction of those trucks - plans which provide for the double system. The Minister of Home Affairs appears to know nothing whatever about it. Still another charge by the honorable member for Fremantle is that the design of the truckswhich are to be used for carrying the material for earthworks provides for such high trucks that it will be practically impossible for the workmen to shovel the material intothem. Until a satisfactory reply is forthcoming, we must consider that those charges are well founded. I wish now to ventilate another matter of an entirely different character. It has reference to a gentleman who has to pay taxation under our Land Tax Assessment Act. I have the whole of the correspondence here, and it discloses that the Department has taken up an eminently unfair position towards this individual, whose case is typical of many others. The first intimation which he received from the Department was on the 1st May, when he was: informed that his assessment had been increased from £8,189 to £9,35 I. The gentleman concerned - Mr. Stribling- replied as follows -
I have yours of ist inst., notifying increasein valuation by departmental valuer. Kindly inform me if I am entitled to particulars of this valuation in order to compare it with mineto see how the increase is arrived at.
– Was that increase made by the checking valuator ?
– the communication, came from the Department, and intimated: that Mr. Stribling was entitled to pay, under the increased assessment, the sum of £6 is. 2d. The reply of the Department, which is dated the 8th May, reads -
I am in receipt of your communication of the and inst., requesting that particulars of the valueof your property adopted as a consequence of’ the inspection made by a departmental valuer besupplied, and regret that it is not possible to accede to your request, as the information is theproperty of the Department.
In other words, taxpayers are to be told that their assessments are increased, but they are not to receive any information as to the basis on which the increased assessments have been arrived at. I maintain that this is a very unfair position for the officials of any Department to assume. Surely every individual who is “ billed “ is entitled to be supplied with particulars of his account. The Department then go on to point out: that if Mr. Stribling considers his assessment excessive, he can lodge an objection, and that his representations will be fully investigated. The reply to that communication , which is dated10th May, reads as follows -
I have yours of 8th inst., stating that if I consider the assessment excessive I can lodge an objection, and that my representations will be fully investigated. Unless I know how the assessment is arrived at, it is obvious that I am unable to represent where I consider it inaccurate. What I desire is some means of checking the departmental valuations. It is possible that an error has been made on either side, and without lodging an official objection I should like some means of ascertaining the accuracy of the assessment.
As an instance of how errors occur, I may mention that the plans used by the departmental valuer when valuing my land had several considerable errors in them which may not all have been corrected.
Can you suggest any course without the formality and trouble of officially lodging an objection ?
This was a case in which quite a number of different properties were involved.If there had been only one property, it would have been a different matter, because the owner would then know where the increased assessment applied. But where a number of properties are involved, and the owner does not know of the cases in which the assessment has been increased, he cannot possibly deal with them. I find that property owners are not entitled, to information by means of which they can check departmental valuations. The plans referred to were brought up by the officer from the Department, and later on Mr. Stribling had thrown upon him the responsibility for any errors that might appear in them. On 16th May a letter was sent by the Department as follows -
I am in receipt of your communication of the10th instant, regarding the assessment of land tax issued to you as a result of a valuation being made of your property, and beg to inform you that the decision conveyed in my letter of the8th idem cannot be varied. I can only reiterate, if you are of the opinion that the unimproved value placed upon your property by -the Department is too high, an objection may be lodged, giving reasons in support of your contention.
The error referred to in your letter under reply which is stated to have appeared in the departmental plans was owing to insufficient information being given in your return. The matter has now, however, been adjusted.
That was an inaccurate statement of the position. The plans were departmental plans, which contained many errors. Mr. Stribling is an estate agent, who has a good knowledge of the district, and has corrected many of the errors in these plans. Therefore them is a special degree of unfairness in the action of the Department in taxing him with the responsibility for the errors and stating that they arose owing to hishaving failed to give sufficient information-.. The Department were evidently dissatisfied with this reply, because, on 29th May, they wrote a further letter, as follows -
With further reference to your communication of 10th inst., and my reply thereto of the 16th idem, I beg to inform you that if you are in a position to give the Department the values you claim for each class of improvement on each parcel of your land, these values will be compared with those arrived at by the departmental officers, and notification given you of the instances where there is no substantial agreement.
I may add that the Department will also consider any further argument you may be disposed to advance in favour of the values you assert.
That is a fair letter, and if the Department had acted up to it, and had fulfilled their promises, there would have been nothing to complain of. But. it will be seen that they varied their attitude to suit the altered circumstances until they beat Mr. Stribling, even though he was on solid ground. Mr. Stribling’s reply to that letter was as follows -
I have yours of 29th ult., and as requested forward you the estimates of each class of improvement placed on each parcel of land as per my return. It is possible that the departmental valuer may not have parcelled the land as I have done, but, if not, you will probably be able to adjust the various lots.
He furnished a return, showing eight lots in all, and gave details of the capital value, deducting the value placed upon the various improvements, and brought out the result previously referred to. This communication was replied to on10th June in these terms -
I am in receipt of your communication of the 1st instant, forwarding certain particulars regarding the improvements on each parcel of land held by you, and have now to ask that you will kindly supply further information, namely, dimensions of buildings, measurements of fences and tanks, and the area of land cleared on each parcel.
Search at the Titles Office was recently made respecting your lands, when it was found that at the 30th June, 1910, you were the registered proprietor of certain land in Templeton-street, Euroa. I should be glad to learn why this property is not included in your returns under the Land Tax Assessment Act.
I consider that is an offensive way to write to a taxpayer.
– I do not think it is. Similar requests are sent out every day.
– As a matter of tact, the information was furnished in the ordinary course, and, although the Department subsequently discovered that they had made a mistake, they did not tender an apology, as they should have done. Mr. Stribling replied, on 13th June, as follows -
I have yours of 10th inst., and will endeavour to supply the additional particulars you ask for.
In reply to your inquiry as to why my land in Templeton-street was not included in my return, I beg to inform you that it is included, being portion of parcel 3, part of allotments1 and 3, section 21, township of Euroa, C/Ts., vol. 3022, fol. 604348, vol. 1978,fol. 395499, vol. 3219, fol. 643618, as stated in the return.
There is the refutation of the charge made by the Department, and yet nothing in the nature of an apology was forthcoming, and I consider that throughout the attitude of the departmental officers was so unfair that they should be called to account. Altogether the case wears an ugly complexion. I maintain that property owners who make returns, and disclose all particulars so far as they know them, should be treated with fairness and consideration. Mr. Stribling fulfilled his part of the contract as required by law ; but, for some reasons best known to themselves, the departmental officers materially increased the assessment, and then refused to give the taxpayer the information necessary to enable him to check their assessments. They said that they would consider any representations that might be made, but there is nothing to indicate that they ever fulfilled this promise. I desire, in the strongest way, to protest against what I conceive to be a grievous wrong. I have to make another complaint of a totally different character. This has reference to a postal contract which was’ cancelled, and in connexion with which the contractor complains that the Department have involved him in a loss of £200. I do not know anything of the merits of the case, but I can vouch for some of the statements made by Mr. Nelson, who was the contractor for the construction of the line of railway between Wallan and Seymour, which will probably be in my electorate after the next election. For a number of years Mr. Nelson has been doing the class of work in respect to which his contract was cancelled, and he states that he has never previously had any complaint made against him. The contract was cancelled before any opportunity was afforded to him to make an explanation in regard to his position. I am not prepared to say whether he is right or wrong ; but I submit that, in all cases where there are disputes, the whole position should be inquired into before extreme action is taken. The correspondence seems to indicate that Mr. Nelson is justified in asking for an opportunity to put his case fairly and squarely before the Department, in order that justice may be done. All we ask is that every individual shall have fair play. His complaint is that the delays which led to the cancellation of his contract arose through the failure of the Department to supply materials within a reasonable time. He states that he has been put to the loss of£200. That is the gravamen of the charge, which I consider sufficiently important to ventilate here, especially as it is stated in writing that, so far as the Department is concerned, the matter is closed. I bring it before the House in order that the mistake made may be corrected by the Minister.
– Although, like the last speaker, I have some complaint about the Land Tax Act, I have none against the officers of the Land Tax Department, who seem to me most courteous. Mr. McKay collects£1, 000,000 a year, under a most intricate Act, and does good work.
– That is admitted by every one.
– In New South Wales we looked upon Mr: McKay as one of the best public servants we had. Although I have had a lot of bother in connexion with the tax, the officials of the Department have been most courteous, and I recognise that the trouble is due largely to the Act. They are doing all they can to minimize difficulties, and I should be wanting in fair play if I did not acknowledge that, especially as I have known so long the gentleman who presides over the Department. He is one of the best public servants in the Commonwealth. I have a word or two to say regarding the administration of the Post Office. My complaint is that the country mails are carried too slowly. Why cannot they be carried by motor car, instead of by coach, and horses? We are told that the expense would be too heavy; but if expense is to be the only consideration, the mails will be carried by bullock dray, because that would be a cheaper conveyance than the coach. The mails should go at least as fast as ordinary travellers; but now a commercial travel ler may arrive in a town in my district at midday, and have to wait until midnight for his invoices and advices. In districts like Eden-Monaro, where there are not many railways, some effort should be made to improve the mail service, and I urge the Postmaster- General to do something in this direction. My main grievance concerns the administration of the Federal Capital Territory. I shall not go back to the manoeuvring which occurred in connexion with the choosing of the site, because that is ancient history, and the matter is now settled ; my complaint regards the present administration. The men who live in the Territory are without representation in Parliament, being in the unique position of having to pay taxation without being allowed a voice in the expenditure of the money raised.
– They are represented by the honorable member.
– They are voteless, and the honorable member would be one of the first to stand up for them, as he did for his own people the other day when he thought that he would have to represent Echuca. Those to whom 1 refer are not getting fair play. The Minister wishes to be a czar, and to do everything himself ; but, in my opinion, we need a different system of administration. At present no one seems responsible for anything. There is an Administrator, but no salary has been provided for the office, and it is filled by the Secretary to the Department, who has no real power. We need Home Rule there. Everything should not be governed from Melbourne. What is being done is not for a week or a month, but for all time, and the expenditure of hundreds now will affect the expenditure of millions later. According to the Department, a railway from Canberra to Jervis Bay will cost about , £1,200,000, but no one seems to be responsible for determining the direct route that should be followed. There are good officers in the Federal Capital Territory - the Administrator, Mr. Scrivener, Mr. Hill, Colonel Owen, and Mr. Oakeshott, men whose names stand high, and in whom the public have confidence; but they are shackled, and have no real power. What is the Minister going to do in the matter of administration, and in regard to the resumption of land? Quite a number of persons have received notice that after a certain date they will be called upon to pay rent for their land. They have been asked to furnish valuations of it, but when they ask the Minister what valuation he puts on it, they cannot get any information. They are to be charged rent on an unknown valuation. I understand that the owner of Acton was offered about half what he asked, but, being a man of money, he was able to fight, and brought a case in Court at Sydney. Barristers were employed, and about twenty witnesses were summoned from Queanbeyan, when the Minister settled the case. The settlement should have been effected before the case went to the Court. How could an unfortunate selector or small landowner holding 200 or 300 acres fight the Government in regard to its resumption? It is all very well to say, “ Go to the High Court,” but the honorable member for Riverina knows what the expense is. 1 would find it cheaper to give my coat to the man who tried to claim it from me than defend my possession at law, and many cannot afford to fight on principle. Why does not the Minister say what he proposes to pay for these properties? I know that there is an Act requiring him to give the value of the land in 1908. That Act was passed so that land-owners in the Territory could not compel the payment of unearned increment created by the expenditure of the Commonwealth. But since then there has been a great increase in values all over Australia, and it is questionable if it was intended that the land-holders in the Federal Territory should be deprived of that increase. I think that that view will be generally admitted as a reasonable one. These persons have no right to be penalized. Does not the Minister think that they should receive same of the increase which has come about in the general advance in values, not, of course, any increase due to the expenditure of the Department? Furthermore, it is customary when resuming property to add 10 per cent. to the valuation as compensation for dispossession. These persons are entitled to some such consideration,, and the people of Australia can afford to treat them fairly. We can afford to give them a square deal. Although the Minister wishes to be a czar, I believe that he is a fair man, and if he settled this matter himself would treat these persons fairly. He should either create a tribunal for the settlement of their claims, or deal with them himself, and not leave it to the High Court, which is too expensive. It is complained that he has even resumed the church and surrounding graveyard. Does he propose to pull down the building and tear up the graves? If is an old historic church, on the old-fashioned plan, and with God’s acre surrounding it, and it would be an act of desecration to disturb the graves of persons whose relatives live close by. Why has the Minister permitted this act of sacrilege? He could have, easily said that the holders of the church property would have to accept the same title as all other land-holders in the Territory. The other day I was asked by residents in the Territory to move the adjournment of the House to discuss their grievances, but when I told the Minister what I thought of doing, he protested that a day could not be spared at this stage of the session, and 1 courteously gave way. I hope that the honorable gentleman will show these people some consideration in return for the consideration that I have shown him. Will he inform me why Colonel Miller has not been properly appointed as Administrator, and given real power? Will he tell me, also, whether the Capital is to be administered from Melbourne, or on the spot. Then, is the tenure to be freehold or leasehold, and what is to be the name of the Capital ?
– Eleven years ago the honorable member voted for a motion moved by me, affirming that there should be no freehold in the Territory, and that motion was carried.
– That motion has no legal effect, and the Parliament which passed it has long since expired. Does the Minister say that his powers are so extensive that he can settle the question of tenure?
– Does the honorable member think that the tenure should be freehold?
– No; 1 think it should be leasehold, but the matter should be settled without doubt by Parliament, and those holding land there should know whether they are to have perpetual leases, ninety-nine-year leases, cr twenty-one-year leas.es. Is there to be a periodical valuation of the land? The people living in the Territory should know. Then what name is to be given to the Capital? I understand that the Minister proposes to call it Shakspeare or Captain Cook. If he does, Parliament and the people will censure him.
– Parliament will have something to say about the naming of the Capital.
– The Minister will name it during the next recess.
– What does it matter?
– Would the honorable member suggest a name?
– Radiance would be a good name.
– I think we should call it “ Austral,” to signify that it is the Capital of Australia. The Minister’s proposed name is an absurd one.
– Would you like Federalia
– I. understand that the Minister would like to have the place called O’Malley Town. He assumes the right to be a king there, and what he says passes for law. I enjoy the joking spirit of honorable members, but this is no joking matter, as they would find if they were in the position of the unfortunate men in the Federal area.
– They are not worrying about our taking their land, because, apparently, they would like us to take more.
– I do nob think the Minister is correct. It has been ‘ announced that the Government are going to take a certain area at once and the balance later on; and it is only fair that the occupiers both inside and outside that area should be informed what value the Government place on their land. As it is, the Minister is promoting a sort of lottery or gamble, ‘because the man who can find out the Government value is placed in a position of advantage. The occupiers have no security of tenure, and, as a matter of fact, I think it would pay the Minister to take the whole lot of the Territory, as men in temporary possession are not likely to make much improvement, and their position is a very unsatisfactory one.
– Will not the present occupiers be given preference?
– Only at the good-will of the Minister, who, apparently, as in the case of the Northern Territory, is going to administer the lands by means of Ordinances, and not under law. The Minister, I believe, will act fairly and reasonably, but the people in the Territory do not know him as well as I do, and as their homes and their all are at stake they naturally, prefer to have some guarantee in black and white; besides, the Minister is not permanent, and another Minister may come along with very different views. I should like to draw attention to the case of an unfortunate mailman who runs into the Territory, and who has asked permission to put up a tent in which to shelter during a few hours wait that he has.
– The Minister of Home Affairs asked for a tent himself once !
– Quite so; and, I thought that the mailman’s request was sure to be granted ; but the Minister has replied that he cannot allow any temporary occupation. At present, the Minister has only£100,000 at his disposal, but the expenditure now means the expenditure of millions hereafter; and I think the House ought to be able to exercise some check or control. We have been promised a direct railway via Bungendore and Braidwood from the Capital Site to Jervis Bay, but nothing has as yet been done in this direction. No doubt, as I say, the Minister means well ; but I am not prepared to give him full liberty during recess, unless he takes us into his confidence, and makes some statement now.
– Have I not made things “ hum “ ?
– The Minister has done good work, and has good officers there; but, all the same, we are entitled to know his intentions. Are the people of the Territory to be dragged to the Courts in Sydney, as in a former case, and the expenses of numerous witnesses and lawyers met by the Government?
– Does the honorable member think that the Government ought to pay these occupiers anything they ask ?
– No ; but treat them fairly. I understand that the Government had to pay the costs of the previous case.
– That is not so. The Minister only pays on behalf of the public what he would pay himself privately.
– That sounds all “ very fine and large,” but the men on the land have to be considered.
– The men on the land ought not to try to take advantage of their position.
– Will the Minister tell the people there the value of their land?
– I shall tell every man before the deal closes, but I will not show the joker before’ we start playing cards.
– Then it will be seen that the Minister is going to play a game of “ bluff.”
– No, but I will not let those people think that they are dealing with a fool.
– At any rate, they are entitled to know the value that is placed on their land.
– And I shall tell them when I am dealing with them.
– What does the Minister mean by when he is “dealing with them”?
– If I offer a man £500, that is what I value his land at.
– But the Minister will not tell a man what he values his land at.
– Should these people not put in their claims ?
– They have done so.
– They have not done so, not one.
– The claims are in the Department.
– I am in the Department, too.
– Apparently the Minister wishes to arrogate the whole power to himself, and be a regular, blooming czar. A church and ground have been resumed ; andI think that was a mistake without fair notification of the intention of the Government. I know that the Minister has tried to do his best, and I do not wish to move the adjournment of the House, but if he does not take us into his confidence now, I shall feel myself compelled to take that step.
– The honorable member for Fremantle has simply repeated the old worn-out story about karri and jarrah. About a week ago the engineers in Western Australia sent me over several specimens of karri, which are now on the table, and some of which have been treated for six years. We never claimed anything beyond the six years’ test, and the best engineers in Western Australia lay it down that there is no wood that contains such magnetic power to hold a dogspike as treated karri. It is remarkable that in the twentieth century we should have it contended that it is impossible to do anything that our great grandfathers did notdo; but it is that retrograde spirit that has stood in the way of all Governments and business in Australasia. George Washington never rode in a railway carriage, and nobody dreamt of the electric light until Edison’s marvellous discovery a few years ago. The phrases of to-day are the platitudes of tomorrow ; and it requites some man of courage to make a move. In my opinion, this treated karri will outlive every man in this House, and, perhaps, his children, too.-
– Six years is no test.
– It is a wonderful test. If a man can stay under water for six years he will stay there for ever. The Government bought four locomotives from New South Wales; and the trouble is that the honorable member for Fremantle, like the flying apostle in ancient Egyptian history, has only a superficial grip of the question. In New South Wales the grade is 1 in 30 to1 in 50, whereas in Western Australia it is only 1 in 80, or practically level ; and when we have a level road we can hitch the engine on, and pull to Hades or Purgatory unless the couplings break.
– An engine that will not do 1 in 50 is not much good.
– These engines are not old, and are quite perfect for the work in Western Australia; indeed, they were good for heavy work in New South Wales, even on the mountains. Mr. Deane, under my direction, had them thoroughly tested, and to have bought similar engines new, and equally adapted to the work, would have cost us from three to four thousand each. I have always been a very successful man in the management of my own affairs. Though I found the Home Affairs Department in a state of business chaos, and immediately introduced a modern system of Digests which enabled the supplying of bimonthly schedules to all the members of Parliament, and contained all the information relating to works, &c, yet I seem not to be able to satisfy any one in this House. My successor will find the Department in a high state of economic efficiency.
-I hope that the honorable member is not anticipating events.
– If the Commonwealth is so unfortunate as to lose the services of the business men now administering its affairs, those who follow us will find that the public Departments are now highly systematized.
– After all, it is the duty of an Opposition to criticise.
– I know that it is, and I am sorry for my honorable friends opposite, because they know that their political prospects are hopeless. The honorable member for Fremantle had a lot to say in regard to a steam shovel ordered for use in connexion with the transcontinental railway, and which he declared we had put aside, because it would not work. His statement rather surprised me, because the machine is one of the best that could be obtained. I therefore communicated with the Engineer-in-Chief, and I have received from him the following reply -
In view of that report, do honorable members think that the criticism indulged in by the honorable member for Fremantle was fair, reasonable or honest. He has sought to ridicule my Department because the machine was broken in transit to Port Augusta. I am not omnipotent. I could not control’ the men on the railways or elsewhere who had the handling of this machine on the way over.
– What is the size of the steam shovel ?
– I cannot say. I have never done any shovelling. I have found it easier to organize others to do that sort of work for me. I regret that the honorable member for Fremantle is absent.
– He had to leave to catch his boat.
– It is not fair for him to come here, make charges, and leave without hearing the reply. The honorable member for Parkes, when a Minister of the Crown, appointed Mr. Deane Engineer-in-Chief of the New South Wales Railways some twenty years ago. Mr. Deane resigned that position to take up private practice. Before I appointed him as Engineer-in-Chief of Commonwealth Railways, I made inquiries all over Australasia, and found that he was generally admitted to be one of the ablest and most up-to-date engineers in Australia. He visited America in 1904; and has made two trips all over the world in the study of his profession. As Engineer-in-Chief, he has a free hand in regard to all these matters, save where I think that I am more up-to-date than he is. I am an experienced organizer.
– Who is?
– I am; and if the honorable member will visit my Department he will find that it is very different from what it was when his party had control.
– I may be there again next year.
– I shall not object. If the honorable member does succeed me I hope that he will keep the Department going on the lines that I have laid down. Leaving the question of the transcontinental railway, I wish now to reply to some statements made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, for whose business sagacity and judgment I have the keenest admiration. No one could be more careful than he was as a Minister in safeguarding the public funds and conserving the interests of the people. A Minister, whether he be a Liberal, a Labour man, or a Conservative, is, after all, a responsible public trustee, and cannot play with other people’s money as he would with his own. I take no chances with the money of the people, but in days gone by I did not hesitate at a financial “flyer” when I was handling my own money.
– Is not the honorable member speculating now in the matter of powellising?
– I am not. as the specimens on the table will show. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro referred to a mailman and his desire to erect a tent in the Territory. I have only to say, in reply, that I shall not object to his pitching his tent at the spot named, providing that he signs an agreement to shift it when I desire him to do so, and to claim no vested interests.
– Then I have scored something, because I received this morning a letter from the honorable gentleman, in which he said that he would not allow anything of the kind.
– If this man will sign an undertaking that he will shift when I desire him to do so, because of the expansion of the city, and will not claim any vested rights, I am prepared to let him put up his tent, but I am not going to allow any one to interfere with the building of the city. I hope, on the 15th March, or perhaps before that date, to have the opening ceremony. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who virtually represents the Federal Capital, says that I am spending millions of money there. Does he desire that I should discontinue the operations at present in progress?
– I say that the honorable gentleman is paving the way to an expenditure of millions, and that we should have some check on him.
– Has there not been a sufficient “check” in this regard during the last elevenyears? Until lately nothing had been done. Are we to keep our pledge to the people of New South Wales, or are we to break it? If we mean business we must spend money in building the Capital.
– The Minister is practically spending nothing there.
– We have to spend the shillings to pave the way to the spending of the necessary amount to make it habitable. A considerable amount will be spent on the Capital, so that it will measure up to Australia’s greatness. I come now to the question of land valuations in the Capital Territory. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has said that I should show my valuations to those with whom we are negotiating. When buying a property, has he ever gone to the vendor, and said, “ This is my valuation.”
– The Minister is not buying, but resuming the land.
– I am trying to settle all these matters without putting the parties to the expense of going to Court.
– The Minister is squeezing them.
– Not a bit of it.
– When will the Ministertell the men concerned what his valuations are?
– When they have put in their claims.
– They have put them in. a
-All the claims are not yet in. I have here a list supplied by Colonel Miller, and whatever feeling there may be against me there can be none against him.
– There is no feeling against the Minister, but the people up there say that he is a regular czar.
– I am not. I simply desire to maintain law and order in the Territory. As to the Acton property, we tried to settle the matter without going to Court, and the price we offered was not much below the price paid.
– Will the Minister give us the figures to-morrow ?
– I have no hesitation. There is in the Territory a Vigilance Committee which has practically decided to take this business out of the hands of the Minister. It decides what is to be asked for these properties, and wishes to tell the Minister what he must pay for them’. These people seem to have got it into their heads that we ought to pay abnormal prices - that the Government is a sort of philanthropic institution, and should pay whatever they ask. I would not do that even for my own father.
– They only suggest that each side should appoint an arbitrator with an umpire to decide where the arbitrators cannot come to an agreement.
– If we cannot arrive at an amicable settlement, we must go to the High Court.
– The High Court is a nice place to which to take a settler.
– The Vigilance Committee, and not the settler, would go to the High Court.
– The settler would be fighting with his money, while the Minister would be fighting with public money.
– No; I am taxed as others are to pay for the government of the country. I do not wish to take these people to Court if they are prepared to meet on a reasonable basis.
– Will the honorable member consent to arbitration?
– It will be time enough to discuss that when we are unable to settle. I settled out of Court in Western Australia for £166,400 claims amounting to £254,000 against the Government. Do honorable members opposite think that I ought to pay any price which the land-owners in the Territory may demand?
– Why not tell them what the Minister is prepared to pay ?
– If they wish to sell their land, all they have to do is to tell me what they will accept. So far, I have resumed only a few estates.
– The Minister has given notice of the resumption of forty-two.
– There are a few more items in the schedule.
– Why has the Minister resumed the church?
– I will deal with that matter presently. So far, I have resumed only 85,000 acres. The Government have settled for the “ Acton “ estate, which contains over 2,000 acres. The other estate has been resumed only a few months.
– That is a long time in the case of men with small homes. Naturally they wish to acquire new homes.
– The two estates which have been resumed contain, approximately, most of the land resumed.
– Has the Minister settled for them?
– Not for all. I would ask my honorable friend whether, if he were Minister of Home Affairs, he would build a line of railway to Jervis Bay merely to carry sandflies and grasshoppers ?
– Surely the district produces more than that.
– The men to whom I am speaking have no votes.
– But they have influence, and they have relatives) who have votes in the honorable member’s electorate. However, I do not suggest that that consideration weighs with him. But is it reasonable to talk about constructing a railway to Jervis Bay when we are only just building a line from Queanbeyan to the Capital?
– What have the Government done?
– We have arranged for the construction of that line. The New South Wales Government are going to build it. Mr. Deane was in Sydney the other day in reference to it. The New South Wales Government are going to construct la railway to the Federal Capital. We will leave it to the party with which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is associated to build the line to Jervis Bay. Now, in reference to the resumption of the church about which the honorablemember asked me a question ; does he desire that a church in the middle of the Territory shall possess the freehold on which it stands, when nobody else can own a freehold there? I am willing to give the authorities connected with the church any reasonable terms.
– They only ask for a title.
– We are not interfering with them. We will deal with them very fairly. Here is what the Administrator of the Federal Territory says-
– Who is the Administrator?
– Colonel Miller.
– How was he appointed ?
– He was appointed by his “ boss,” the Minister .
– I thought that there were no “ bosses “ in Australia.
– The honorable member is “ boss “ of his own business. Colonel Miller says -
There are certain persons in the Federal Capital Territory whose properties have been acquired by the Commonwealth. Each of them has a claim for compensation in respect to the property so acquired, and should submit a claim. It is unreasonable to expect the Minister to disclose the valuations which have been made. Each claim will receive immediate consideration, and wherever an agreement may be arrived at, there will be prompt settlement, provided that the title is clear and that the claimant is entitled to compensation. I would suggest every claimant to confer immediately with me, who have the Minister’s authority to effect settlement where considered reasonable and within Government valuations.
I told him that wherever the price asked by land-owners is reasonable, to endeavour to effect a settlement, as I do not want any Court cases. I desire the administration of the Department of Home Affairs during my tenure of office to stand out in bold relief through all time. But I did not tell him that -
But this does not imply that the valuations will be disclosed.
The Administrator is affording claimants every assistance, but the requirements of the Lands Acquisition Act must be complied with. I cannot arrange these matters in a few minutes. There is a Crown Solicitor and an Auditor-General.
– But the Crown Solicitor and the Auditor-General have nothing to do with fixing the price.
– Has the Minister ?
– Who has?
– The seller and the Minister. The seller may ask one price and the Minister offer another. In order to secure a settlement, there must be a compromise. Rarely have I secured a. property at the first tender and offer -
There is no necessity for concern respecting the acquisition of the Canberra church ana grounds; in fact, I have already informed the Diocesan Registry, Goulburn, that I am prepared to lease to them these premises for a considerable period. In the interests of the public health further interments in the charch grounds must, in the near future, cease.
We cannot allow interments to continue, because the population is growing -
I would remind the honorable member that I have done everything in my power to meet the convenience of the persons in the Territory affected by the acquisitions, and consider that they will be well advised to follow my suggestions.
Did I understand the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to say that though Parliament has declared that the Government shall pay land-owners in the Territory on the basis of the value of their lands in 1908, they ought to be given the increment which has since taken place?
– No. I said that they have effected certain improvements to which the Commonwealth is not entitled.
– I claim that the £200,000, of which, most has been spent on the Territory, is responsible for that increment.
– If a man has made improvements since 1908, will not the Minister consider them?
– Yes. But we are not going to pay for the increased value of the land since 1908. I would remind honorable membersthat we have constructed in the Territory the finest system of roads in the world, and this has materially assisted towards indirectly creating the increment.
– The residents of the Territory do not ask for that increment.
– The taxpayers of Australia have created it. The honorable member will recollect that in 1901 I submitted a motion to this House which affirmed that the fee-simple of the lands of the Territory should be preserved to the Commonwealth for ever, and that we should resume those lands, and let them on perpetual lease. As a matter of fact, the honorable member assisted me to draft the motion, and he also voted for it. It would be a terrible thing for him, eleven years later, to fall from grace, and to advocate, the freehold system.
– I have not done that. But how will the Minister settle with the land-owners - on the basis of the resolution which was adopted eleven years ago, or on the basis of an Act of ParSi ament?
– We are going to have a system of level-land premiums. We intend to have the city laid out like a chess board- As soon as the design has been accepted a start will be made to survey the Capital Site, and we shall devise a system under which the blocks of land there will be let. The compensation to be paid will be based on what those blocks would realize at public auction, and there will be a reappraisement probably at the end of twenty-one years, or some other fixed date-. At the end of that period, if the proprietor of that property and the Government cannot agree,, the Government will have to pay compensation for the improvements, and take the properties over. I trust that this explanation will be satisfactory to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and that he will go back to the people of the Territory, and tell” them that they are absolutely safe. If he looks at today’s newspapers he will see that a manager has been appointed to the Commonwealth Bank at Yass-Canberra.
– Will that institution be only a Savings Bank?
– I think that it will do all sorts of business.
– When does the Minister expect that the design of the Federal Capital will be accepted?
– I am partial to the American design, but I am told that the design which has been recommended embodies the best features of all the designs.
– Will the Minister submit it to the House?
– I do not know.
– Why not have courage, and back the departmental officers ?
– I have plenty of courage, but I recognise that I am mortal., and that Australia is immortal.
.- I would like the Prime Minister to bring under the attention of the Minister of Defence complaints which have reached me from the parents of cadets to the effect that the boys have to travel long distances to attend drill. I asked the Minister some questions on this point, and he said boys were required under the present regulations to travel any distance up to 5 miles to attend the parade grounds or rifle ranges. Several fathers have represented to me that, whilst they have no objection to compulsory military training, they consider it very hard that the boys should’ have to travel 5 miles, or, if they are conveyed to the parade grounds or rifle ranges, pay their own expenses. One father told me that he had to pay is. per week in this direction. If we desire to secure, the hearty support of parents in connexion with our compulsory system of military training, we ought to make their obligations as light as possible. Many fathers approve of the system of military training, because they think it does the boys good, but they consider they are subjected to unnecessary hardship under present conditions. We shall have to deal with a sufficient number of problems in connexion with compulsory military training at the next election, and any objections that may be fairly removed! by administration should be disposed of. With reference to compensation to members of the Citizen Forces who may meet with accidents in the execution of their duty, I desire to point out that the present position is unsatisfactory. ‘When the Bill dealing with compensation to Commonwealth workmen was before us, I suggested that provision should be made for members of our Citizen Forces as well as for members of the Commonwealth Public Service, and the Minister then said that the matter was otherwise dealt with. Of course, it is otherwise dealt with by regulation.
– Yes; but we have corrected that since. We intend to make provision in the Bill.
– I hope that something will be- done to remove present causes of complaint. I have had brought under my notice the case of an officer of the Citizen Forces who had his leg broken, at the last camp at Kilmore, and was laid up for three months.
– Did he not get some compensation?
– Yes. But he was a medical officer, and the compensation he received was very small. He had to employ a locum tenens at a cost of £110, and lost his practice for three months, and yet he received only £30 by way of compensation. Thus he has been subjected to serious loss, and I would ask the Minister to look upon this as a typical case of hardship and make liberal provision for compensation.
– I have taken a note of the honorable member’s statement.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time. As honorable members will see, this Bill is intended to amend the Act of 1908-9. When we initiated the Old-age Pensions Act, we began in a comparatively small way, but we have since advanced in a satisfactory manner, so far as the accomplishment of the wishes of the advocates of the principle are concerned. In the Act of 1908-9, we made important amendments in the way of liberalizing the law, and the amendments now proposed are in the same direction. If honorable members will look at clause 2, they will see that it deals with a difficulty that has arisen in administration in regard to contributions by relatives to recipients of old-age pensions. As a rule, these contributions are very spasmodic, and sometimes they are embarrassing to persons of tender conscience, especially to widows, who consider that if they are receiving contributions from members of their’ families, they are not entitled to the old-age pensions.
– I know of cases where the pension has been refused.
– As the law stands, if a contribution is made to a widow by the eldest member of the family, no matter how greatly in need a family may be, she cannot obtain a pension. It is not expected that this provision will materially add to the amount of money paid away in the form of pensions, but it is anticipated that it will afford relief to a very deserving class of persons. It is proposed to add to the list of exemptions provided for in the principal Act anything received “ by way of gift 01 allowance from a son, daughter, step-son, stepdaughter, grandson or grand-daughter.”
– Does not the Prime Minister consider that adopted children should be included.
– That can be considered in Committee. Another point dealt with in clause 3 is the omission of paragraph b, and the proviso from sub-section 1 of section 16. This relates to the payment of pensions to persons who are naturalized. We have from time to time broadened the provisions of the law relating to aliens who have been good citizens, and who, apart from the question of naturalization, ha.ve been fully qualified to receive pensions. We propose with regard to aliens, who would otherwise be qualified by residence to receive the pension, to recognise their claims to the pension immediately upon their taking out naturalization papers. At present a naturalized citizen cannot receive a pension until three years after naturalization, and we consider that aliens who become naturalized should not be subjected to the bar now imposed. We have communicated with the consuls of foreign countries, and have asked them to inform their people who were likely to become eligible for pensions as to the provisions of the law in regard to naturalization, but very few persons have availed themselves qf the opportunities offered, and although fully qualified in every other respect have been unable to claim the pension because of their failure to take out naturalization papers. We propose to get over this difficulty by widening the provisions of the law as I have indicated. No doubt arguments may be used against this proposal, and it may be said that if a person comes here and accepts the protection of our laws, he or she should become naturalized, and assume the full responsibilities of citizenship ; but I think it is preferable to take the more generous view we are now adopting. In regard to the amendment proposed in clause 4, I would point out that for nearly three years the Treasurer has been taking the responsibility of paying pensions to blind persons without the direct authority of Parliament. The money has been paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance Account, and the appropriations have been certified to by the Auditor-General. Although this action has not been’ in conflict with the law, because Parliament has voted the money with a full knowledge of the purposes to which it has been devoted, it is deemed desirable to make provision for the payment of pensions to persons who are blind, although they may not be invalids under the law as it now stands. I doubt very much whether it would be wise to bring blind people within the category of invalids. 1 certainly would not advocate it, becauseI hold that it is better for the community and for the blind persons themselves that they should be trained to work at some occupation, and earn something towards their support. But it is proposed to make statutory provision under which pensions may be paid to them in order to supplement the wages they receive. We propose to insert the following provision - “ 20A. Subject to this Act, every permanently blind persun above the age of sixteen years who is not qualified under section twenty to receive an invalid pension and who is not receiving an old-age pension shall, whilst in Australia, be qualified to receive an invalid pension.”
– Does it mean that persons must be absolutely blind before they can get a pension? There are some persons who can see just a very little, and yet are practically helpless.
– The degree of blindness will be determined by experts. If persons have to associate with blind people, or to be trained as blind people are trained, they will be eligible for the pension. That is the way in which the law is now being administered. The point I wish to emphasize is chat it is not to be assumed that blind per sons are to receive pensions if they are capable of doing work. Section 22 of the principal Act is to be amended by omitting paragraph c and inserting in its stead this paragraph -
He has, whilst in Australia, become permanently incapacitated or blind,
And by adding the following new subsection - (2.)For the purposes of an invalid pension, a person whu is alllicted with a congenital defect ami who is rendered permanently incapacitated or blind thereby shall be regarded as having become permanently incapacitated or blind whilst in Australia if he ‘was brought into Australia before attaining the age of three years.
It may he suggested that this provision is unnecessary because the Commonwealth intends to examine medically and otherwise all persons intending to emigrate from other countries to Australia; but, on consideration, honorable members will see that a family may desire to come here, most of whose members are sound in constitution, one alone being weakly, and we may prefer to have that. family, notwithstanding that one of its members would be, for some reason, an undesirable citizen. Under this provision a child who is under the age of three years when brought to Australia, and is afflicted with a congenital defect rendering him permanently incapacitated or blind, will be eligible, on reaching the age of sixteen, to an invalid pension; but a child so afflicted brought here over the age of three years will not be eligible in later life to a pension, the responsibility for his support remaining with his parents. The term of three years has been fixed because it should be possible, when a child has reached that age, to determine easily whether he will or will not be invalided. for life. Section 23 of the principal Act is to be amended so that if a claimant resides at a place remote from any duly qualified medical practitioner the Commissioner may dispense with the medical certificate. That is necessary in a vast country like Australia, where medical men are not always procurable, and is merely an administrative amendment.
– Is provision made for meeting the difficulty caused by a difference of opinion among medical men?
– At the present time a referee is appointed by the Department. The majority of the members of the medical profession give their best attention to the examination of persons claiming pensions, but errors have been made, some doctors being too strict and others too lax. The departmental administration is sympathetic without relaxing the rules laid down by Parliament. Section 24 of the principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section 2, and inserting the following provision in its stead - (2.) Where the pensioner has accumulated pro perty, the amount of a pension shall be subject to a deduction of One pound for every complete Ten pounds by which the net capital value of the accumulated property exceeds Fifty pounds :
Provided that, where both husband and wife are pensioners, except where they are living apart pursuant to any decree, judgment, order, or deed of separation, the deduction in the case of each of them shall be One pound for every complete Ten pounds by which the net capital value of the accumulated property exceeds Twenty-five pounds.
– Provision should be made for those cases in which a man and wife have been separated for several years, and one does not know where the other is.
– We seek to give the Commissioner power to deal with such cases. Section 25 of the principal Act reads -
From the capital value of such accumulated property there shall be deducted all charges or encumbrances lawfully and properly existing on the property, and the residue remaining shall be deemed to be the net capital value of all accumulated property.
By clause 8 that section will be amended to read -
From the capital value of such accumulated property there shall be deducted the capital value of a home in which the pensioner permanently resides, and all charges or encumbrances lawfully and properly existing on the property other than the home.
– Is the home excluded, no matter what its value?
– The intention is to exclude entirely the value of the home.
– And the furniture?
– A home includes the furniture and everything that makes it a home. The representatives of the people can be trusted to see that effect is given to that interpretation of the law.
– At present furniture is counted as property.
– The home is now counted as property.
– A deduction is made on account of even a mangle or a piano.
– My view is that such articles would form part of the home. What my legal friends think about that interpretation, I do not know. It is proposed to amend section 26 by inserting the following proviso -
Provided that, if for any special reason the Commissioner is of opinion that this paragraph (i) should not apply in any particular case he may direct that it shall not apply. and to add also the following paragraph -
Every blind male person under the age of sixty-five years, and every blind female person under the age of sixty years, shall be deemed to be earning wages equal to the amount which he or she could earn by reasonable effort.
– That is a bad provision !
Mr. FISHER__ It is an excellent provision. Every one acquainted with blind people, and appreciative of the necessity of their enjoying life as it ought to be enjoyed, knows that, if they are capable of performing useful service to the community, they should be trained to do so, and ought to do so. I appeal to honorable members, above everything, to have regard to the benefits that will arise, not only to the community, but to the blind people, by helping them to help themselves.
– It simply places blind people on the same footing as all other people in regard to pensions?
– Quite so. Blindness is not a physical infirmity in the ordinary sense of the term. A blind person, like a deaf person, is usually able to do something for himself j and the desire is to see that the blind make a reasonable effort to earn their living, and to assist them in every possible way to that end.
– Their pensions may be reduced if they do not work.
– Of course, there may be a difference of opinion as to the proposed amendment. By an amendment of section 27 it is proposed to remove the word “ indictable,” and also the provision for five years’ imprisonment, and to provide instead that offences may be tried summarily, and that the penalty shall be a maximum fine of £too, or imprisonment for one year. This is rather an important amendment. As the law stands at present any one charged with fraud under this Act has to be charged with an indictable offence ; but there is no desire, I am sure, to send aged people or invalids to prison for a number of years. There have been many fraudulent applications by people possessed of private means-; and my opinion is that a substantial fine would meet such cases.
– The question is whether persons charged might not prefer to go before a jury.
– In cases which I have in my mind the persons charged would have been sure to be convicted by a jury.
– Have there been any prosecutions ?
– Yes.. In one case an old lady between seventy and eighty years of age was practically convicted of having applied for a pension when she had money hidden away. It was only because ot a family quarrel that the fraud was discovered, a pension having been granted and received in the meantime; and this is the sort of case which I think would be met by a substantial fine. Nobody would have the heart to send an aged lady to gaol for a number of years; and, therefore, it is now proposed to vindicate the law by summary process with a penalty of £100, or, as an alternative, imprisonment for a maximum term of one year.:
It is proposed to amend section 40 by omitting a portion, and inserting instead the following sub-section -
It shall not be lawful for the Deputy Commissioner or a Registrar to waive the forfeiture of any fortnightly instalment unless the waiver of such forfeiture is applied for within the prescribed time.
At present the Commissioner has some difficulty in this connexion, and the amendment is intended to give him wider power. Many pensioners du not draw the allowance within the prescribed period, and, at present, the forfeiture can only be waived so far as every second fortnightly instalment is concerned. The amendment will permit the Commissioner to waive the forfeiture of all the instalments. The next amendment deals with penalties, and it is proposed to provide that a maximum fine of £100, or a maximum term of imprisonment of six months, shall be inflicted on any person who wilfully makes any false statement or representation to obtain a pension certificate, or pension, or any instalment of a pension, or to deceive any officer, or to affect the rate of any pension. At present it appears that it is possible, under the law, to deal only with a person who wilfully makes a false statement about a pension for which he is . a claimant, and not with any person who makes a fraudulent statement to increase a pension already granted ; and the object of the amendment is to remove this anomaly. The last amendment is in section 50, and provides that all offences against the Act shall be punishable on summary conviction. The amendments cover a very wide range, and will have farreaching effects. It is estimated that the cost thereby incurred will be from £.150,000 to £170,000 a year.
– We should like to go much further than the Bill proposes.
– I presume that if the finances permitted ‘ we would gladly give a pension to every one, or, at any rate, increase the present amount, and provide for widows. That, however, is not proposed by the Bill. It is a sound principle, I submit, to leave the home entirely free, irrespective of its value; and the soundness is proved by the fact that one home does not compete with another. Those who have built up a home, and have been overtaken by misfortune, are entitled to keep that home, and live in it if they can find the means. A home is a home, whether it be a hovel or a palace, and it may be dearer
than life to those who have built it for themselves. Doubtless much will be said about “extravagant “ expenditure on invalid and old-age pensions ; but I am of opinion that this money is not only well spent, but has helped to promote the prosperity of the country. Hitherto the best members of families have been called upon to contribute a most unequal proportion towards the support of aged or invalid parents and other relatives, and have thus been prevented from directing their means into productive channels. On the other hand, the ne’er-do-weels of families, who take no practical interest in the welfare of those who have most claims upon them, have contributed practically nothing, leaving all to voluntary effort. Under the national scheme, each and every person Kas to contribute his portion through the general taxation. By that means we are able to make the recipients of these pensions practically independent of their relatives, and to do so more economically than is possible under any other system. It is a noteworthy fact that the money expended on these social schemes is being collected at a cost of less than 3 per cent., whilst the cost of distribution is less than 2 per cent. That being so, over 95 per cent, of the money contributed by the people of Australia for such purposes is conveyed direct to the recipients. On the other hand, the cost of management in the case of ordinary charitable institutions runs up to something like 40 per cent. Another point worthy of consideration is that the administration of the old-age pension system, as well as the payment of the maternity allowance, practically does not call upon the withdrawal of any individuals from productive industrial occupations. The number of officers in the Public Service has been increased to only a very small extent in connexion with the administration of the system, whereas many people are withdrawn from productive occupations to carry on the work of charitable societies. This extension of the system of invalid and old-age pensions will mean relief to a great number of our fellow citizens. It will me’an relief for the blind and the maimed, and a larger measure of assistance to our aged poor, who will be able to retain their little homes without having any deduction made from their pensions. I commend this Bill to the House, feeling sure that it will enable many people to enjoy the closing days of their lives to a greater extent than would otherwise be possible.
– This is one of those measures which raise no general principle to be considered on the motion for the second reading. It is essentially a Committee Bill, and, speaking generally, I think that the Prime Minister was well justified in commending it to the House. Any defect in legislation such as that with which we are now dealing is bound to be discovered as the outcome of practical experience. Sometimes a clause inserted in a Bill with a view to safeguarding the public funds is found in practice to press unduly on the people, and to need amendment. That has been our experience in connexion with the invalid and oldage pensions law. One or two sections in the principal Act which are being amended by this measure were taken from State Acts, but when applied to the whole Commonwealth have been found to give rise to difficulties and to need revision. The principle of the first amendment for which this Bill provides may be briefly described. The principal Act provides for the payment of a pension under specified conditions, but declares that a deduction shall be made in respect of certain incomes received by the recipients. It is now proposed so to amend the definition of “ income “ in the original Act that a deduction shall not be made in respect of ‘a gift or allowance received from a son, a daughter, a step-son, step-daughter, grandson, or granddaughter.
– If the gift would return an income of 10s.’ per week, then this proviso would disappear.
– Quite so. It is intended only to cover gifts that we ought to encourage rather than discourage. Let me give an illustration of the need for such a provision as this. I know of a particularly conscientious widow who has had an exceedingly hard struggle. She took a little home for herself, paying part of the rental herself, whilst the balance was paid by a daughter who boarded with her, and whose income amounted only to a little more than £1 per week. Other sons and daughters occasionally gave her a present of a few shillings, and all these facts she conscientiously set out in the return that she made to the pension officer. On looking at the return, the officer said, “I am- sorry, madam, but I cannot grant you a full pension.’.’ That officer properly administered the Act ; but, no doubt, if this woman’s family had abstained for a week or two from giving her any money, in order that she might claim the pension, he would have looked favorably upon her application.
– I know of a case where a son refused to do that, and he was the only earning member of a big family.
– I think it is well that we should legislate in this way, otherwise the door might be opened to what may well be termed a “ pious fraud.” The children of an aged man or woman might say, “ We shall stop for a week or two the allowance we usually give you, so chat you will thus be entitled to receive a pension. Once you have obtained it, we will renew our allowance.” I confess that when the case of this poor woman was put before me. I felt that I was in great difficulty. I could see that there was an easy way of getting behind the law. but I could not conscientiously advise the woman to adopt it. I may say that this lady, to her credit, is not drawing the full pension today. It is well that we should legislate to render it unnecessary for any one to get behind the law in the way to which I have referred, for little tricks of the kind may grow, and lead to wholesale fraud. This measure is therefore in the interests of honest administration. The second important principle with which this Bill deals relates to the question of who shall receive the benefits of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Are they to be bond fide citizens of Australia, and, if so, how are they to prove that they are ? In dealing with this question in the original Act we adopted a principle that had been embodied in State legislation, although I must confess that even at the time I did not view it with much favour. The principle of the State legislation appeared to be that if a man came to Australia, and sought to obtain the benefit of the old-age pension system, he should become a bond fide subject of the country. Our desire was to pay these pensions to those who have resided in Australia for not Jess than twenty years, and it seems to me that any one who has lived here for twenty years, and has done solid work in the building up of the nation, has given practical proof of his bona fides as a citizen, and of his good-will towards Australia. I think it right hard to require that claimants shall be naturalized three years before they can receive the pension. We desire, as far as possible, to encourage those who come here to become part and parcel of our community. Under the original Act, it is provided that an applicant for a pension must be a naturalized subject of the King, who has been naturalized for three years preceding the date of the pension claim. Under this Bill, that provision will be repealed, and a claimant who can produce his certificate of naturalization will be entitled to the full benefits enjoyed by British subjects. In this connexion I should like’ to refer to a difficulty, arising under section 4 of the Naturalization Act, to which I have already drawn the attention of the Minister of External Affairs. That section pro-‘ vides that -
A person who has before the passing of this Act obtained in a State or in a Colony which lias become a State a certificate of naturalization or letters of naturalization shall be deemed to be naturalized.
The point is that a woman who was naturalized under a State law before the Federal Act came into operation did not get a certificate, so that ‘she would have to make a fresh application for naturalization, papers under the Federal law before she could become a certificated naturalized resident of the Commonwealth. The late Government drafted a small Bill to get over the difficulty, and I should be glad if it could be passed at an early date.
– I think that the policy is sound.
– I hope that the Prime Minister will give the matter his consideration. I am sure that the House will unanimously approve of the provisions of this Bill in regard to blind persons, and also to the proposal to dispense with the necessity for producing a medical certificate where the claimant is living in a remote district. The provision in the principal Act requiring a medical examination is fraught with difficulty in such cases, ‘because it means that a medical man has to make a long journey specially to examine an intended applicant, while the amount of remuneration given to him is purely nominal. The Government should either provide reasonable compensation for the medical man examining an applicant in such circumstances, or to dispense with the medical examination altogether. I understand that the clause dealing with this matter will be brought into operation only in extreme cases, and that where a medical certificate is not produced, strong evidence will be required from persons residing in the district as to the condition of the applicant.-
– The evidence of a magistrate or a clergyman.
– I come now to the provision relating to the homes of pensioners.At the present time a deduction is made from’ the pensions paid to any individual living in a home exceeding in value £100. I think that the Government is right in broadening that provision. We should encourage the home-loving and home-making instincts of the people, whereas the law at present penalizes those who have made little homes for themselves. The Act really penalizes persons who are endeavouring to build up homes of their own. Most people who acquire homes through building societies and other agencies have to make up their contributions out of their small savings. Consequently the acquisition of a home is very often the work of a lifetime. From that stand-point the proposal in this Bill is’ to be commended. But I would suggest to the Prime Minister that the term “ home “ - which he thinks should include household furniture - should be so defined as to make our meaning perfectly clear. Of course, nobody expects that persons living in mansions will receive the old-age pension. But, strictly speaking, the term “ home “ means the land on which a person resides, and the building in which he lives, and does not include furniture. I ask the Prime Minister to consult the draftsman of the Bill on that point.
– I am thinking more of policy than of draftmanship
– And in doing so, the Prime Minister is acting rightly. As a matter of policy, the home should include the land, building, and the usual furniture. I wish now to put a case to the Prime Minister to illustrate a position which I have in my mind. Suppose a man living in the city has a villa residence and furniture which are worth £800 or £900. Under the Act that property would be exempt. But what is the position of a man in the country who owns 30 or 40 acres of land worth perhaps £10 or £12 per acre, upon which he has his home? If he is using his land for farming purposes there will be a small income from it, and a deduction will be made on that account. Will the Prime Minister exclude the whole value of his property because he happens to be in receipt of an income of 10s. per week?
– No, only that portion of it which is returning an income.
– I have in my mind the case of an old man who has a small farm worth about ,£210. His pension is only a few shillings a week, and because of the deduction which has been made he has been saying hard words of Australia, and declaring that it gives him an allowance which only keeps him in tobacco.
– Where would he get more?
– In my opinion, he should be credited with the home. The question is, “ What should be the value of the deduction made in his favour?”
– If part of his home is used for purposes of profit, what ought to be done?
– I would suggest that the Prime Minister should work out a guiding principle as to what allowance should be made. If a man has 50 acres of land, and a portion is being used for purposes of profit, that circumstance ought not to deprive him of the right to call that part of his land on which he resides his home.
– Assuming that one-eighth of an acre in the city were let, it would be used for the purposes of profit, and not as a home.
– The income which this man might receive is perhaps, merely a nominal one. My contention is that persons who endeavour to build up homes in the country should be placed in as good a position as that occupied by persons who endeavour to build up homes in the city. If a man possesses property in excess of a certain value a deduction is made from his pension to the. extent of £1 for every £10 of value, but if he has a home it is altogether excluded from the calculation.
– Could not the two things be separated by regulation?
– I want the Prime Minister to draw some dividing line, so that a man in the country will secure the same advantage as is enjoyed by a man in the city.
– If part of a home is used for purposes of profit, the sum earned by it will be income under our Statute law, and a man may thus be deprived of a pension altogether.
– But suppose that it is returning a nominal income. Although a man may be receiving an income of 10s. per week, he may possess land which is worth £500. The mere fact that he has land of that value which is returning him only 105. per week ought not to exclude him from enjoying the benefit which would, be conferred upon him by the possession of such a home in the country.
– Provided that the income does not deprive him of the right to an oldage pension.
– I know that if he hasan income of £52 a year, he is excluded’ from obtaining a pension; but I amdealing with cases covered by the Act. I now come to another matter. I think it would be rather a serious matter to send old persons who havebeen guilty of making fraudulent statements to gaol. But I do not think, that we ought to allow others who may aid them to perpetuate a fraud to escapethe consequences of their acts. Whileeverybody naturally desires to be as generous as possible, there are financial limitations which must be borne in mind in administering this scheme. I presume theTreasurer is satisfied that this schemecan be financed. According to thelatest official figures available on the 30th- October last, there are 79,724 persons in. Australia who are in receipt of the oldage pensions, and 11,247 persons who arein receipt of the invalid pension, making a total of 90,971. For every 10,000 of our population we have 173 old-age pensioners and twenty-four invalid pensioners. At the end of June of the present year, the average fortnightly old-age pension amounted to 18s. 11d., and the averagefortnightly invalid pension to 19s. 5d. If this Bill be passed, we shall be pretty well up to the limit.
– Not quite.
– At the present time, we are paying £^2,243,942 annually in invalid and old-age pensions, or an average of 9s. 9d. per head of our population. Consequently, it cannot be urged that the Commonwealth is acting in a niggardly spirit.
– The money is well spent.
– It is ; and as the Minister who introduced the Old-age Pensions, Act, I am not finding fault with that expenditure. The Minister estimates the extra amount at from £150,000 to- £170,000. On the whole, the measuremodifies provisions which have been found to require amendment, and does not impose an excessively heavy ‘burden on thecommunity in addition to that which it is now bearing. Therefore, it deserves the support of honorable members.
.Realizing that this is a Bill for consideration in Committee, I shall not occupy much time in speaking on the second reading. I congratulate the Government on the liberalizing of the law that is proposed. Although it means more expense, the money will be well spent. Personally, I should be prepared togo further, and I hope that the day will soon come when the old-age and invaliditypensions system will be liberalized still more. The Prime Minister told us that the waiver clause makes conditions better than they are, but that is not my opinion.
– At present we can waive only every second payment, but the Bill will allow every payment to be waived.
– At present a Deputy Registrar or Registrar cannot waive a payment unless waiver is applied for within the prescribed time, but section 40 of the Act provides -
Except in special cases of the pensioner’s illness or debility, it shall not be lawful for the Deputy Commissioner or a Registrar to waive the forfeiture of an instalment twice consecutively to the same pensioner; and in no case shall forfeiture be waived unless waiver is applied for within the prescribed time.
The Bill contains no reference to illness or debility. What is the prescribed time?
– Sixty days plus twentyone - eighty-one in all. Under the Bill, if a pensioner is prevented by an accident from applying, we can waive a whole series of payments, but under the Act only every second payment can be waived.If there is any doubt about the effect of the provision we can remove it in Committee.
– I have risen to speak more on the administration of the Act, which leaves a great deal to be desired, though in saying that I do not reflect on any of our officers, who, I believe, carry out the law as they find it. To obtain an invalid pension the claimant must present the certificate of a medical man that he is permanently incapacitated, but doctors differ, and I know of cases in which men who will never be able to do another day’s work in their lives cannot obtain invalid pensions because medical men will, not certify to their incapacity. A case I have in mind is that of a resident of Charleston, in New South Wales, who twenty years ago met with an accident to his back, the doctors thinking at the time that it was broken. Silver wires were inserted, and the man was able to get about supported on sticks, but he has never been able to stand upright. Until he reached the age of sixty years he did what work he could in a mine, and then, finding himself unfit for further work, applied for an invalid pension. The medical man who examined him said that he thought that he was suffering from bladder trouble, and that he could be cured if he entered a hospital, but as the applicant would not do that the doctor did not pass him. The residents of the district who know the man regard him as incapacitated, and are subscribing money to keep him. Another medical man was appealed to, but he upheld the opinion of the first. I said at the time that the second reference would be useless, because doctors communicate with each other by telephone, and stand by one another. Any number of medical men outside the district would certify that the man was incapacitated. The Minister or Commissioner should have power to deal with cases like that; the granting of a pension should not rest wholly on the decision of one medical man. Let me give another case. Within the last four or five months a resident of Meath applied for an invalid pension, three doctors certifying that he was permanently incapacitated, but the medical man in the district told him that he would not get a pension, and certified against him. We battled on his behalf for months, and to-day I got news that he passed away yesterday. He should have obtained £8 or £10 in pension money, but, being unable to get it, passed his last days in very poor circumstances. He was suffering from phthisis. I know that there must be safeguards against imposition, but where evidence can be obtained to satisfy the Minister or the Commissioner a pension should be granted, notwithstanding the opinion of the local medical man.
– There is an appeal.
– To the Prime Minister, who is guided by the medical certificate. I speak feelingly, because I know the men to whom I have referred. A man who for twenty years crawls to his work until he can no longer continue his occupation is a deserving citizen who should receive an invalid pension. The people of the district think it a shame that this man has not received a pension.
– The case was referred to a referee, who took the same view as the first medical man who reported on it.
– I said before the reference was made that one doctor would telephone to the other, and that their opinions would agree.
– The honorable member accepted the referee.
– There is no other medical man in the district. Doctors are as strong unionists as any others, and stand by each other. It is all very well for a medical man to say to a claimant that he could sweep a crossing, or do something of that kind, but who will give him such work?
– It is difficult to find employment.
– Yes. Where the incapacity is beyond doubt, the claimant being prevented from continuing to follow what has been the occupation of his life-time, he should receive a pension, especially when he is a man over sixty years of age.
– The case is only one of many.
– I believe that that is so. In the other case to which I have referred, three doctors certified that the man was incapacitated, but one said that he was not, and his certificate decided the matter. In regard to the property qualification, I understand from the Prime Minister that, although it has been reduced from£50 to£25, the amendment makes no real difference to the position. If that is so, I am satisfied; but I would point out that at the present time every pensioner is given an allowance of £50, and a reduction to £25 seems a hardship.
– Where there are two persons receiving a pension living together, the allowance is £50, or £25 each. The present law is not altered in the least.
– There may be hard cases even under the law as amended. Two old people may be unable to get along with their pension of£1 a week, and possessing a house worth, say, . £200, may let it for perhaps 6s. a week, renting another for 4s. a week, thus gaining £5 4s. a year. To allow only £25 instead of £50 would reduce their pension.
– No, the law in that matter is not altered in the least.
– I take it that the Bill will not apply in those cases, and, if so, I am perfectly satisfied with the explanation of the Prime Minister.
– Will the honorable member make a suggestion as to how to get over the difficulty?
– With the evidence before him, the Prime Minister needs no suggestion. He has documentary evidence, in the shape of letters from business people, justices of the peace, and other people of standing, showing that this old man is not getting fair treatment.
– Still, I have referees against me in the two medical officers.
– My point is that it is left to the doctors in all cases to settle whether a person shall have a pension.
– I would not mind calling in a doctor from another district, if necessary.
– Where there is sufficient evidence from residents in the district, with medical certificates in addition, the Prime Minister should have power to decide the matter. If we refer from one medical man to another, the telephone is set in motion, as has happened in many cases. Either the Commissioner or the Prime Minister should have power, in cases which they are satisfied are genuine, to grant pensions.
– There is that power now.
– The Prime Minis- ter says he has not the power.
– If I did such a thing, it would not be in accordance with law.
– It is of no use honorable members writing letters to the Department, and interviewing Ministers, unless there is some power in the Government or the Commissioner to deal with the cases.
.-! recognise, not only the difficulty of the honorable member for Hunter, but the difficulty of the Prime Minister, in striking the mean between what is just to the pensioners and what is just to the public. I do not see how it is possible to ignore the medical certificate as final proof ; but in cases where there is considerable dispute, it ought to be possible to call in an outside man. On a question of capacity for work, we are practically compelled to rely on the opinions of those who should be experts. I should like to direct attention to a class of cases which are very hard, and which are not provided for under the existing law. A little while ago a man who had been permanently incapacitated in Commonwealth employment was granted an invalid pension. That pension, however, has been cancelled, on the ground that his wife has, since his incapacity, managed to get a boardinghouse together, and, by dint of hard work, is now earning more than the statutory amount allowed. It has to be remembered, however, that this woman has six children to support, though, of course, the invalid pension relieved her to some extent, so far as her husband was concerned. I suggest that in such cases there should be an allowance of, say,£25 a year for each child until the age of fourteen years, before the income earned is taken into consideration; and this, I think, could be accomplished by a small amendment.
– This involves the whole question of the husband or the wife having money.
-I hardly think so, and I point out that such cases can arise only in connexion with invalid pensions, and when the pensioners are comparatively young. The case I cite was not one of money put by, but money earned from day to day to the amount of some £95 a year ; and it, and all similar cases, merit the sympathetic consideration of honorable members.
– Would the honorable member confine the amendment to the case of a wife earning money, or would he extend it to the case of a husband earning money ?
– I think the amendment might be extended to the husband, because, where there is total incapacity of the wife and a number of young children, there is necessarily involved additional expense for assistance.
– I know of an exactly similar case.
– It is probable that, under the larger powers of administration given by the Bill, we might be able to do as suggested.
– I simply ask the Prime Minister to look into the matter. The Bill has my full sympathy and support, particularly in that part which enables pensioners to retain their homes. We can all understand how old associations would cause old people to put up with any privation rather than part with the home in which, perhaps, they commenced their married life. I admit the difficulty in differentiating between the ownership of a home and having money in the bank; but still there must be a limit. On the whole, the Act is as liberal as the state of our finances will permit; and no one will begrudge the comparatively small amount involved by this liberalizing Bill.
– I think the power suggested is in the amending Bill, but, if not, we shall see that it is put there.
– The Prime Minister is to be congratulated on all sides on the introduction of this Bill, and on being able to find the money to extend its privileges to the old people. To most of us the Bill simply represents one more step towards the time when the care of the sick and the aged in every regard, and without limitation, will be a charge upon the finances of the country. The remarks I have to make will deal more with the sins of omission than the sins of commission. I particularly welcome, however, the provision in regard to the homes of pensioners, as one which will meet the approval of every honorable member, and secure to very many thoroughly deserving citizens relief of which they are urgently in need. But there is a class of pensioners for whom I desire to say a word. I have already spoken to the Prime Minister privately on the subject, and now desire to repeat it publicly. A large number of pensioners have no homes, and are in a much more trying situation than those who have. The rents of dwellings have risen so much in the last few years that there are very serious inroads on the small pension now paid. I know quite a number of pensioners, who, out of the 10s. a week, have to pay 5s. or 6s. for a house to live in. My point is that a house thus rented is the pensioner’s home; and I desire to know whether, under this Bill, that rental could be allowed to the pensioner.
– I doubt it.
– That is most unfortunate. I would not say a word to detract from the privileges that this Bill extends; but I think that the class of pensioners to whom I refer are much more necessitous, and deserving of much more consideration, than those who have homes. A pensioner who rents a house is as much entitled to an allowance as is the pensioner who has a home of his own to receive the full pension.
– I thinkthere is a flaw in that argument ; some people may have struggled to get a home, and others who have squandered their money would get an advantage.
– Some may have opportunities, while others have none.
– They may or may not.
– I know people of the most reputable character residing in Brisbane who through no fault of their own, but merely because of want of reasonable opportunity, have no homes of their own.
– We all know of such cases.
– Unfortunately, we do. While the Government are so amending the principal Act, that the possession of a home will not militate against the obtaining of a pension, I think we ought to consider the advisableness of providing homes for pensioners who have none. In , other countries, which are not so far advanced as we are in social and humanitarian legislation, hostels - not poor houses or unions but genuine homes - are provided where old people in receipt of pensions may spend their declining days in something like reasonable comfort. The Federal pension is so small that it is swallowed up largely in the payment of rent and by expenses that do not contribute to the comfort of the pensioners in the direction we desire.
– Our pension system is by far the largest in the world.
– I am aware of that, but trust that the Treasurer will soon see his way clear to grant this further relief. I recognise that the difficulty is to find the money, but while this country can spend millions annually on hurtful and unnecessary luxuries we should be able to find money enough to provide for old-age pensions on an unlimited scale, compared with what we are doing at present.
– To what luxuries does the honorable member refer?
– While Australia can afford to spend£16,000,000 per annum on strong drink she can afford to spend more on old-age pensions.
– It is the people who take strong drink that pay the old-age pensions. Teetotallers pay practically nothing by way of taxation. They are the meanest people on earth.
– I think it is sufficient to say, in reply to the honorable member, that teetotallers are the last to need old-age pensions, and the least likely to apply for them. Old-age pensioners come mostly from that unfortunate class with which my honorable friend is asso ciated. On one other aspect of this Bill, I find myself somewhat in opposition to the honorable member for Hunter. My experience is that a Government medical officer’s certificate is accepted in absolute contradiction of the weight of evidence and of the certificates of other doctors in connexion with a pension claim. I know of a man who for the last fiveyears has been unable to do a stroke of work. It is not safe to allow him to cross the street, or to stoop to pick up anything, yet to all appearances he is a. healthy, able-bodied man. But the Government medical officer, who had not seen him before, after putting a few questions to him, certified that he was quite able to work. I had no difficulty in obtaining from the doctor who had been attending this man a certificate that he was quite unfit to work, yet the certificate sent in by the Government medical officer was accepted, and this man’s claim for an invalid pension was refused. My suggestion is that to meet the difficulty in such cases the applicant’s last employer should be asked to make an affidavit as to his state of health. Where possible, the reasons for the man’s dismissal, and the duration of his employment should also be obtained ;.. and if, in addition, the doctor attending: the applicant sent in a certificate, the Department would arrive at the facts. The powers of the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners should be so extended as to enable them to exercise some discretion in such matters. As the law stands at present, they appear to have none ; it seems that they must accept the certificate of the. Government Medical Officer. In many instances, the Deputy Commissioner could.satisfy himself, by inquiry, that the facts alleged by the pensioner-claimant were correct, and in such cases the applicant should receive more favorable attention than he can secure at present. With the exception of these two sins of commission, I think that the provisions of this measure will be hailed with pleasure, and will provide for assistance to those who are most deserving of it.
– I wish to call the attention of the Prime Minister to’ a case of hardship which will serve to illustrate complaints that have been made this afternoon by one or two honorable members. Whilst a very generous movehas been made by the Government in dealing with the deductions made in respect of the homes of pensioners, no relief is given under this Bill to the larger volume of applicants for pensions who have no homes. I have to put before the right honorable gentleman the case of an aged widow, whose only means of support axe provided by her daughter. This widow lived in the country, where she had a house of her own; but as the daughter obtained -employment in Adelaide, she decided to accompany her, and had to sacrifice her home for £150, which she placed to her credit in the Savings Bank. Of that amount£75 represented money belonging to the daughter, and I advised the mother when she- went to town to apply for an oldage pension. She did so, but because she had . £150 in the Savings Bank, a deduction of £10 was made from her annual pension; so that, instead of receiving £26, she received only £16 per year. The cir- cumstances of this lady having been well known to me for many years, I attended with her before the Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Gardiner, and expressed my willingness to make an affidavitthat one-half the amount of£150 was the property of the daughter. Mr. Gardiner said it was an exceedingly sad case, but under the law and the regulations he must make a deduction in respect of the full amount.
– Why did not the mother place£75 to the credit ofher daughter?
– I asked the Deputy Commissionei would it not be permissible for the applicant to do that, but he replied that it would not. Under the law he was powerless to grant her more than he had done.
– If the£75 really belonged to the daughter, it would be permissible; and if the honorable member can prove that it does belong to her we will soon settle the matter.
– I thank the right honorable gentleman, and shall take steps at once to prove that the daughter is entitled to the amount. A little more generosity ought to be shown in dealing with the earnings or savings of applicants. Invariably the disabilities imposed by the Act are felt most strongly by the worthiest and the most thrifty.
– I am prepared to meet that point as soon as we go before the people, and tell them that we require more money for this system.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Government several matters of great importance in regard to the question of invalid and old-age pensions, but beforedoing so I wish to tender them my congratulations on the introduction of this Bill, which I feel confident will relieve a lot of the distress that now prevails. In my electorate, there are a number of blind persons who are denied the full amount of the pension. If they are in good bodily health, it has been the custom to insist that they shall go into an asylum where they may learn a trade, and, if they decline to do so, they receive only5s. or 6s. per week.
– And sometimes nothing at all.
– That is so. I think we all realize that the blind are not capable of earning their living, and that they, of all persons, should be entitled to receive the full pension allowance. The mere fact that a man is blind should not be used to force him to go into an institution against his will to earn a certain amount of- money. There is a blind asylum inWilliam-street, Sydney-
– If the honorable member will pardon me for saying so, I think this is really a Committee matter.
– I may also refer to the matter in Committee. It should not be said to a blind man, “ Unless you go into a certain institution, and learn a trade, we will not give you the full pension.” I have in my electorate blind men who have come down from the country where they have lived in the open, and it would kill them if they had to sit all day in a room making mate and baskets.
– Would it not be better thandoing nothing ?
– Certainly, if a man can do anything. But why stipulate that, unless a blind man does that which will deprive him practically of his liberty, he shall not get a pension. The pension itself is little enough, and it should not be degraded by the imposition of such a condition as that which I have mentioned. I trust that the Prime Minister will see that the persons who are suffering from this disability receive the pension without any qualification. It is degrading to compel a man or woman to enter an institution under pain of depriving him or her of the pension.
– It is not degrading to teach blind persons a trade, so that they may earn their own livelihood.
– It is not right to make the payment of the pension depend upon their entrance into a benevolent institution. I know of dozens of cases of this kind. I have heard it said that when men enter these institutions they earn 16s. per week. I have a suspicion that many persons in Sydney are induced to enter them for the purpose of assisting to maintain them.
– That is not correct ; Australia is bigger than Sydney.
– I hope that the Prime Minister will explain why these persons should not get the full pension because they refuse to enter an institution.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister a matter connected with the payment of invalid pensions. Several cases have come under my notice in which the departmental doctor has declined to certify that an applicant for the pension is permanently disabled from following his occupation. The term “ permanently disabled “ is very difficult to define. I know a lad who is nineteen years of age, and who had the misfortune to fall down stairs arid injure his spine. Two medical officers certified that he would never be able towork again. But the departmental doctor declined to certify that he was permanently disabled, and inquired whether hecould not doclerical work. His reply was that he could not, as- he had received only a poor education. It was not until the second year after his injury that the departmental doctor would certify that the lad was permanently disabled. In another instance a man fifty-five years of age was suffering from chronic rheumatism. He visited two eminent doctors in Sydney, who certified that he was permanently incapacitated ; yet the departmental doctor declined to give a certificate to that effect. These are cases of great hardship. As soon as this Bill is passed, we shall be up against a lot of trouble. Many old-age pensioners are obliged to rent rooms, and they say that, owing to the increase in the rents charged, their pensions are very small, and that pensioners who have houses of their own are in a better position than those who have not. I know that the Prime Minister will soon be worried with a number of applications on that account. In these circumstances, I feel sure that’ the Government will be obliged to make provision for the payment of universal pensions.
– I am glad that this Bill has made its appearance, for one or two reasons. I am pleased to note that under it the disabilities imposed by the principal Act will be removed, and the administration of that Act will be rendered a little more just and a little more generous than it has hitherto been. I am particularly interested in one clause of this Bill. The Prime Minister will recollect that under the existing law there are cases in which men are separated from their wives, and in which, because the wife has an income, the husband is disqualified from receiving a pension.
– We take power in this Bill to deal with those cases by administration.
– Is that the meaning of clause 9 ?
– Yes. I think the matter can be better, dealt with by administration than otherwise.
– I think so. Of course, there may be flagrant cases in which a man does not deserve sympathy. If, for instance, he has ill-treated his wife, there ought to reside in the Minister discretion as to whether he shall be paid a pension.
– The same remark is applicable to the woman.
– Exactly. On the whole, the present law is very inequitable. There seems to be no forgiveness of sins under it. I am glad that the Prime Minister is taking power under this Bill to rectify theanomaly to which I have directed attention.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Section four of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting at the end of paragraph (c) in the definition of the word “ income the word “or”; and
by inserting in the definition of the word “ Income “ after paragraph (c) the following paragraph : - ” (d) By way of gift or allowance- from his son, daughter, stepson, step-daughter, grand son, or grand-daughter.”
– I wish to say a few words upon the question of the invalid pensions in the cases mentioned by the honorable member for Richmond.
– There are two or three clauses in the Bill dealing with invalid pensions.
– It seems to me that in those cases the Prime Minister might very well exercise a little discretion, and make some allowance for the children whom the widow has to support. I admit that the question is a very ticklish one to deal with, because there must always be in the mind of the Minister charged with the ad- ministration of the Act the position of the widow and children who have no claim to any pension whatever. These are the hardest cases ofall. There is no more tragic form of invalidity than widowhood, where children have to be maintained. It seems to me that it will be very difficult for the Prime Minister to provide for equitable treatment in this matter. But I hope that some scheme will be devised for dealing with widows and children who are bereft of their breadwinners, and who find it difficult to make their way through our hard, competitive world. The more we legislate on these lines the more anomalies we shall create, until we establish some guiding principle which will give the people of the community the right to claim the pension under all circumstances, and without reference to benevolence or mercy.
– Hear, hear ! We will face the country together upon that question, and ask the people to provide the money to enable us to give effect to the scheme.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– The clause amends the definition of the word “ income,” by exempting what is paid to the pensioner by way of gift or allowance from son, daughter, step-son, step-daughter, grandson or granddaughter. I think that the words “ adopted son “ and “adopted daughter” should be added. I know of cases in which adopted children have lived on very affectionate terms with their foster parents; indeed, children aresometimes adopted in infancy, and grow to manhood without learning that their foster parents are not their real parents. The gifts of such children to their foster parents should not be regarded as income. Will the Prime Minister accept an amendment?
– if the word “ legally “ is added.
– Then I move -
That the following words be added : “ or legally adopted son or daughter.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Section twenty-three of the Principal Act is amended by adding to sub-section (2) thereof the following proviso : - “ Provided that the examination may be dispensed with if the claimant resides in a place remote from any duly-qualified medical practitioner.”
.- As I pointed out when speaking on the second reading, there is sometimes a difference of medical opinion regarding the incapacity of a claimant for an invalid pension. The Government medical man might certify that a claimant was not incapacitated, and although three or four other doctors of equal standing would certainly say that he was, the certificate of the first doctor determines the matter. I admit the need for safeguards against imposition, but when the balance of evidence is in favour of an applicant, he should not be denied a pension because of the opinion of one medical man. In my opinion, these cases can be best dealt with by being left to the Commissioner. He could make some sort of inquiry, and, if necessary, call wit- . nesses, and if satisfied that the applicant was entitled to the pension, he should be able to grant it. I therefore move -
That the following words be added “or where medical testimony conflicts, the Commissioner shall have power to decide the application.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 (Amendment of section 24).
– I do not know if the Prime Minister can accept an amendment in this clause. It is provided that where a pensioner has accumulated property, the amount of the pension shall be subject to a reduction of £1 for every complete£10 by which the net capital value of the accumulated property exceeds , £50. Under the New South Wales Act the deduction was made for every £15d consequently a large number of pensioners had to accept reduced pensions when the Commonwealth passed its Old-age Pensions Act. I think that it would be fair to restore them to their original position, especially as New South Wales has the largest number of pensioners.
– I ask the honorable member not to press the amendment, because the alteration which he suggests would affect the whole machinery of the law, and would necessitate other amendments.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Amendment of section 26).
.- I ask the Prime Minister if he will consent to an alteration of the regulations affecting blind persons? In Sydney there is an institution which accepts blind men and teaches them a trade. It says to the blind man, “ You can enter our institution, and you will be guaranteed 16s. a fortnight,” but only 4s. is paid. There is nothing in the Bill to justify that. Will the honorable member see that blind persons are not compelled to go into this institution, and that they shall receive the full amount of the pension?
– The Government does not wish to compel any blind person to enter an institution, though had we the power I should like all blind persons to be trained for their own advantage and for the benefit of the community. If a blind person is not incapable of performing useful and remunerative work he is not entitled to a pension as if he could not earn his living. I think that blind persons should have to earn their living where they can do so, but they should be assisted in every possible way.
.- Does the Prime Minister think that the proviso which he intends to insert in section 26 of the principal Act will meet the cases to which I referred this afternoon?
– I rely on the general powers of the Commissioner. The cases to which the honorable member refers are those in which a wife has children and an invalid husband. He desires that what she earns should be protected.
– In the case which came under my notice the Commissioner took the ground that the Act did not empower him to make any exception. Will this clause get over the difficulty?
– I think that the clause meets the case.
– I agree with the Prime Minister that blind persons should be put in the way of earning their living or of doing something for themselves, because without occupation they are apt to brood over their misfortunes, and thus to make their life’s burden heavier than it need be. The Sydney institution referred to does valuable work in teaching useful trades to the blind, and helping them to cultivate their faculties, and improve their talent. I understand that any person entering that institution may obtain a pension which is supplemented by an allowance until he acquires sufficient skill in a trade to earn something on his own account.
– Those who go in there are not given their pensions.
– Under the Act the blind are not entitled to pensions, though the benevolent administration of this Government has enabled them to receive pensions. The principal of one of those institutions told me that some inmates, recently admitted, were receiving pensions of 10s. a week, and a further sum of10s. from the institution for the work which they did. Very often, when first admitted, an inmate can earn nothing ; and I wish to bear testimony to the usefulness of such institutions. There are, however, blind people in the country, so situated that they can make no use of such places, or who are so advanced in years that they cannot assimilate instruction. I should like provision to be made so that the Commissioner may exercise his judgment in the case of such persons as I have mentioned.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 (Amendment of section27).
.- By striking out the word “ indictable,” we make it imperative that all prosecutions must be in a Court of summary jurisdiction, and for this the Prime Minister urges as a reason that it is undesirable to take aged people before the higher Court. I point out that aged people are very apt to make mistakes, and I only hope that this clause will not be used as a means to drag them, on the slightest provocation, before a magistrate - that there will be no abuse of the power thus given. If the object is to reduce the hardship that might be caused by heavy fines and punishments, I do not mind; but it is most undesirable that proceedings should be taken in any or every case of mistake. I cannot see why this change should be proposed, unless there is some reason of the kind I have suggested in the minds of the officials. It is to be hoped that this clause will not cause any change in the administration.
– The honorable member may rest assured that no case will be proceeded with unless there is clear evidence of fraud, or intention to defraud. People who make mistakes will not be prosecuted ; but it is only right that wilful fraud should be punished. The fact that 100,000 applications have passed through the office, and that, in no instance, has any one been fined or imprisoned, should satisfy the honorable member.
– Perhaps there were no prosecutions because the cases had to go before a jury.
– In many instances, had the cases gone before a jury, conviction must have followed.
.- I hope the Committee will be very careful in passing a clause of this kind. In my constituency, there are a number of pensioners who are inmates of institutions, and amongst them a seafaring man, who, in order to get employment, has. in the past, represented himself as much younger than he really is. When the authorities found out that he was registered on ships at a certain age, he was deprived of his pension, and has been forced to become an inmate of the Liverpool Asylum.
– Such cases do not come under this clause.
– I should like to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister the case of persons who, in consequence of leaving Australia for a time, fail to comply with the residential qualification.
– That has nothing to do with this clause.
– I think I have heard the whole case on behalf of such persons.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 13 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill proposes to amend the Judiciary Act of 1903-6 in two respects - by increasing the number of Puisne Judges from four to six, and by providing that, in matters affecting the Constitution, there shall be a majority of all the Judges in favour of the decision, and that, in every case where there is an appeal from a Justice of the High Court, or a Supreme Court, when the Justices of the High Court are divided, the judgment of the Court below shall not be disturbed. I shall deal with these matters in the order I have mentioned them.
The business of the Judiciary, under a Federal form of government, differs in certain very important respects from that of the Judiciary under a Unitary form of government. In a Federal form of government - at any rate, as known in the United States, Canada, and the Commonwealth of Australia - the Judiciary not only exercises those functions usual to the Judiciary in all civilized countries where the rule of law obtains, but also acts as the guardian of the Constitution. The High Court of Australia, which is the supreme tribunal in which is vested the appellate power in respect not only to all matters affecting the Constitution, but also in cases under ordinary law, has wider functions than those exercised even by the Supreme Court of the United State of America. The High Court of Australia not only has jurisdiction as the Appellate Court in matters affecting the Constitution, or Federal matters, but it is the Supreme Court of Appeal in all matters from all Courts - it is the final Court of Appeal, subject, of course, to the right of a litigant to appeal to the King-in-Council in certain matters. The functions of the High Court, engaged as it is in appeal work, is then most important, and the business of the Judiciary demands the most persistent attention, and calls for the very highest legal training, and for men of first class intellectual calibre. The work of a High Court Justice is, in fact, the most arduous and trying of any form of judicial labour. It can only be done at all by highly-trained men with great capacity for work.
The Judiciary Act, as passed by this Parliament in 1903, provided for the appointment of three Justices, ‘but by an Amending Act, passed in 1906, the number was increased to five. It was pointed out at that time that the business of the Court had increased very largely, and that, as was undoubtedly true, the work thrown upon the individual Justices, and the Court generally, was such as to involve a strain that was becoming insupportable. Some figures were then quoted showing to what an extent the business of the Court had increased. During the last six years there has been a very marked influx of population, and there has been an increase in the work thrown upon the Judiciary in its original jurisdiction by reason of the passing of certain legislation. It is only fair to say that the number of Justices is not now sufficient for the work that the Court has to do. One Justice is almost wholly occupied in the discharge of his duties as President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and the recent extension of his jurisdiction to the Public Service will add still further to the business of that tribunal. And as I have said, the original jurisdiction of the Court has also been largely increased. It occurs under the Australian Industries Preservation Act and the Customs- Act, and relates to Customs prosecutions, instances of which are the Motor Car and Fish frauds, as well as other matters of that type, Land Tax appeals, compensation cases in connexion with land acquired, and Patents and Trade Mark cases. In 1911 one case alone in the original jurisdiction occupied the attention of a Justice of the High Court for seventy-three days.
The business of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court is such that one Justice is almost wholly occupied in dealing with it, and when he has to leave that tribunal, as he has at the present time, in order to enable the business of the High Court to be dealt with, its work remains unfinished. That naturally involves the danger of industrial disturbances. It certainly tends to create difficulties, and to deprive organizations of the opportunity of securing the redress of their grievances in the manner for which this Parliament has provided. There are also special constitutional cases of great importance, to deal with which a Full Bench is desirable. At the present time several of these cases are pending. None can be heard, and none will be heard except by the Full Bench. Among these are the cases of the Engine-drivers v. Broken Hill Company; Merchant Service Guild v. the Steam-ship Owners, and the Tramway Employes v. Tramway Trust. All these are special cases waiting to be dealt with by the Full Bench. And the Full Bench cannot be constituted without completely arresting business in the Arbitration Court. There are six cases waiting to be disposed of in Sydney, and there will probably be some remanets, including Benson’s case, for argument before the Full Bench. Of the four constitutional cases waiting to be dealt with by the Full Bench, two have been standing over since January last.
In order to give some idea of the work of the Court, it may be pointed out that the judicial year is one of 200 days, and that last year the full Court sat 161 days, in addition to the time spent by the members of the Court in travelling. I shall show the actual movements of the Court, and and shall prove that it is either sitting or travelling in order to sit, from the beginning of the judicial year to the end.
That the Court has been able to carry on is due to the remarkable capacity for work possessed by the Chief Justice and his colleagues. Without wishing in any way to reflect on any other Court, it is only fair to say that the High Court Justices dispose of more work than. does any other Court of its kind. But, after all, our Judges are human, and we have seen some of the consequences of their attempt to do more than men can fairly do. One of those consequences is irremediable, and this Parliament and the country has every reason to lament it. When the five Justices are working at high pressure, as they have to do, in order to dispose of the business of the Court, there is no opportunity for the hearing of full Bench cases unless the business of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court is allowed to stand over. That much is clear. Now the Conciliation and Arbitration Court work cannot properly be allowed to stand over.
And there is enough work, as I shall show, to keep one Justice going all the year round in that tribunal. At the present time among the plaints part heard is that of The Australian Tramway Employes Association v. Prahran and Malvern Tramway Trust and others. There are also a number of allied tramway cases which, as honorable members know, have been before the Court for months. Their hearing has been interrupted once. or twice - once because His Honour had to go to Perth, and for other reasons. Then there are the cases of The Australian Postal Electricians Union v. The Public Service Commissioner and the Postmaster-General ; The Post and Telegraph (General Division) of Western Australia v. The Public Service Commissioner and the Postmaster-General ; and The Federated Liquor Trade Employes Union of Australia v. Employers in the Brewing Industry in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland._ The plaints now pending, in addition to those which are part heard, include The Federated Gas Employes Industrial Union v. Metropolitan Gas Company and others; Australian Institute of Marine Engineers v. North Coast Steam Navigation Company and others; . and Australian Builders Labourers Federation v. Archer and others, in which there are nearly 500 respondents. Between 400 and 500 have already been served. Then there is the case of The Australian Telegraph Telephone Construction and Maintenance Union v. The Public Service Commissioner and the Postmaster-General - a type of case that is entirely new -Australian Federated Theatrical Employe’s Association v. Brennan’s Amphitheatres and others; Federated Felt Hatting Employes Union v. Denton Hat Mills and others; Federated Tanners and Leather Dressers Employes Union v. Alderson and others; Federated Dredge Workers Union v. Burke’s Hill Tin Sluicing Company and others; Australasian Institute of Marine Engineers v. Union Steam-ship Company of New Zealand and others; Federated Engine-drivers and Firemen’s Association v. Tasmania Gold Mines Limited and others; Merchant Service Guild of Australasia v. Federated Masters and Engineers Association of Australasia. The last is an appeal from the decision of the Registrar. All these cases are either pending, or part heard, and they ought certainly to be heard. But if the President of the Court is to be taken away from that work, to enable the Full Court to get through its ordinary business, it is obvious that the work of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court either cannot be done at all, or, if done, can only be done imperfectly. When the amending Bill of 1906 was before this House the Attorney- General of the day, now Mr. Justice Isaacs, based his case for an increase in the strength of the High Court Bench on this very point, namely, that the work of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court had grown so much that it was practically taking up the whole of the time of one Justice. In support of that statement a report from Mr. Justice O’Connor was quoted, as may be seen by reference to Hansard, of 12th July, 1906. I do not say for a moment that great stress ought to be laid on the mere increase in the number of cases. That, in itself, indicates very little. Ten cases may be disposed of in four or five days, and one case may occupy thirty days. But the number of cases set down for appeal in 1903 was two, whereas the number of cases set down for appeal in 191 2 was eightynine. In original jurisdiction in 1903 there were three cases, whereas in 19 12 there were sixty-four cases. The number of days on which the Court sat in 1903 was thirteen, whereas in 1912 it was 161.
– The Attorney-General said just now that in 191 2 the Court sat 161 days. Does that apply to the Full Court alone?
– I will, as far as possible, distinguish between the number of days on which the Full Court sat and the number of days on which the Court sat as a single Justice. I propose now to quote some figures in reference to the work of the Arbitration Court. In 1905 - which was the year preceding that in which the amending Act was passed - the number of days on which that Court sat was three; in 1906 it was twenty-one. It was in 1906 that the amending Act was passed, and the fact that the volume of business had so increased was made the basis of the argument in favour of the appointment of an additional Justice. But the rate of progress has since increased very greatly. In 1905 the Court sat on three days, in 1906 on twenty-one days, and in 19 12 on 158 days. If the circumstancethat, in 1906, the Court sat on twenty-one days was regarded as a reason why an extra Justice should be appointed - in order that one Justice might devote whatever attention was necessary to the work of the Arbitration Court - it can scarcely be contended that when a Justice sits on 158 days out of a possible 200 days in the whole judicial year, the appointment of additional Justices is not warranted.
Then, again, the ordinary work of the Court is growing, and all the Justices are kept going at top speed all the time. It must be remembered that the Justices of the High Court travel all over Australia. No other Justices do that. The Supreme Court of America does not do it. It sits in Washington only, although some of its Justices go on circuit. But here the High Court travels, not over a State, but over a continent. Let me give the itinerary of the Court for the year 1912, beginning on 19th February. The Court sat in Hobart from the 19th. to 21st February, in Melbourne from 26th February to 29th March, in Sydney from 1st April to 22nd April, in Brisbane from 29th April to 9th May, in Sydney from 13th May to 1 6th May, in Adelaide from 4th June to nth June, and in Melbourne from 13th June to 28th June. Then followed the winter vacation. The Court sat in Sydney from 29th July to 21st September, in Melbourne from 23rd September to 22nd October, in Perth from 29th October to 12th November, and it met in Sydney on 25th November, and will sit there till 21st December. It will be seen, therefore, that during the current year the Full Court sittings total 165 days out of a possible 200 days. During that period the Court has to travel to every part of the continent.
For the information of honorable members, I will now give the number of sittings of the Court when single Justices were present. In 191 1 there were ninetyfour days occupied by single Justices, most of them being in connexion with the Vend case in Sydney. This year single Justices have sat on only twenty-five days, but that does not include the work of the Arbitration Court, which sat on 158 days. So that one Justice has sat 158 days this year, and some of the other Justices have sat twenty-five days in addition to the total Full Court sittings of 165 days.
I come now to the position which has been created by the work of the Arbitration Court,, and by the constitutional cases, the decision of which require a Full Bench. One of the cases now before the High Court awaits re-argument before the Full Court Bench, and cannot be disposed of until the President of the Arbitration Court can take his seat, so as to enable the Full Bench to be constituted. Consequently, if he goes on with High Court business, the work of the Arbitration Court must stand over, and if he goes on with the work of the Arbitration Court the High Court business must stand over.
I lay stress on the fact that this Parliament has approved most emphatically of the principle of arbitration. It has extended it to its public servants. Therefore it must make provision for the speedy determination of the matters which are brought before that tribunal. To delay justice is to deny it ; and in industrial matters, in particular, despatch is the essence of the contract. The work of the High Court, involving as it does an almost constant round of appeals on important questions of law, is the most arduous of all judicial work. When any Justice falls ill, or goes on leave, necessary business cannot be transacted. During this year, and on two occasions, business has been held up owing to the illness of Justices. That, of course, is quite independent of the consequences - whatever they were - of the extended leave which was granted to the late Mr. Justice O’Connor, and his application for leave was, in itself, the direct result of overwork. I say that of my own personal knowledge, because he himself told me so when he put the matter before me before asking officially for extended leave. It is not fair to ask men to do this work upon which so very much depends, and, amongst other things, upon which the very legislation of this Parliament depends, at such high pressure. We have to recollect that all day, and every day in the week excepting Saturday, theseJustices are engaged in listening to closelyreasoned arguments on matters of the firstimportance. They constitute the final Court of Appeal upon all matters in thiscountry, and they have not that relief which comes to Judges in nisi prius, whomay go home and need not bother themselves about the case which they are hearing till the next day. The High Court Justices -must occupy their time after theCourt has risen in looking up cases and’ preparing judgments. They ought to have a fair opportunity to do this if justice is not to suffer through lack of due consultation of the authorities, and calm consideration of every argument put forward.
The number of Justices asked for is not too many. The State Courts are more numerous than the present High Court. The Supreme Court of New South Wales is composed of six Justices, the Supreme Court of Victoria of five Justices, and that of New Zealand of seven Justices. The High Court is the Appeal Court from all the State Courts, and it does seem an anomaly that there has to be an appeal from a Bench of sixJustices to a Bench of three Justices; and’ that a unanimous decision by, say, the full Supreme Court of New South Wales, consisting of six Justices, may be upset bytwo Justices of the High Court of Australia. We must assume that the recruiting ground for Justices is common to bothFederal and State Judiciaries. They are appointed from the same class of persons, and, so far as I know, there is nothing in the High Court Bench to attract a superior class of man. It may be that the honour is greater, but that is all. Certainly, the emoluments are no better. Indeed, at Judge is very much better off in Victoria, so far as the bread-and-butter side of this? question is concerned, than is a Justice of the High Court. I am not arguing whether that should be so or not. I merelymention it to show that we are just as: likely to get men of the first rank on the Bench of Victoria, or of any other State,, as we «re on the High Court Bench. The fact then that, say, two Justices of” the High Court can upset the decision of six Justices of a Supreme Court, who presumably are all men of the first class,, seems anomalous. A final Court of Appealshould not be less numerous than the? Courts appealed from.
Again, since it . is thought necessary to have a Bench consisting of six Justices in New South Wales, and -of five Justices in Victoria, where the travelling is infinitesimal compared with that done by the High Court, and where the nature of the work is not anything like so strenuous, the argument in favour of appointing six Puisne Judges seems to me to be upheld. With seven Justices, it will be practicable for business of minor importance to hold two Full Court sittings at the same time in the different capitals, or to have Justices available to hear cases in original jurisdiction while the Full Court is sitting, and also while the Arbitration Court is sitting. At the present time, neither of these things is possible, and both ought to be. In 191 1, Mr. Juslice Higgins sat in the Arbitration Court 139 days ; during the present year he has sat 158 days, and he has still some days to run. When we make allowance for the time occupied in travelling, it is perfectly clear that he cannot be available to sit upon the High Court Bench for more than twenty days. Honorable members who travel a great deal will appreciate what the travelling of that Court really means. It spends every available day during the working judicial year in travelling from one capital- to another. The Full Court sits the whole time at undue pressure, and this is aggravated by the fact that one Justice is practically not available for High Court work. He is employed all the time in the Arbitration Court. In 1906, when the Judiciary Act was amended by a Bill introduced by Mr. Justice Isaacs, then Attorney-General in the Deakin Government, the cases in the Arbitration Court numbered twenty-one, but the cases this year to 9th December number 158, so that the sittings in that Court are more than seven times as many now as they, were six years ago, when the appointment of two more Justices was urged on the ground that there was. too much work for the existing Bench. Clearly it is no longer possible to do the work of this Court without an additional Justice, while a second additional Justice is required for the ordinary work of the High Court. The present members of the Bench perform their duties under undue strain, no provision for absence through sickness or on leave being possible. The High Court is Australia’s final Court of Appeal, and its Justices should have more time for the discharge of their duties and the determination of their judgments than they now have. That that
Court has earned the encomiums of every citizen who knows the need for the effective interpretation of the law is undeniable; but, despite the tremendous efforts made by the Justices to get through their work, the list shows that a number of cases have had to be held over. The following report of the Deputy-Registrar, dated 12th December, contains the official record of the work of the Justices for the present year -
Melbourne, 12th December, 1912.
I have the honour to submit the following report of the business transacted by the High Court of Australia during the year 1912 : -
The late Mr. Justice O’Connor was on extended leave from’ the beginning of the year until the hearing of the Coal Vend appeal hereinafter mentioned.
Except as hereinafter mentioned, Mr. Justice Higgins has been engaged during the year in Arbitration Court business, having sat as President of that Court on 161 days to date hereof.
The summer vacation ended on the 17th February, and the Full Court sat in Hobart on the 19th February. The sitting lasted three days. The Chief Justice and Justices Barton and Isaacs being on the Bench. Thereafter the Court came to Melbourne, and on the 26th February, commenced a sitting which lasted until the 29th March (25 days). The Bench being the Chief Justice and Justices Barton, Isaacs and Higgins, the lastnamed sitting only on the hearing of argument in special cases, stated by himself as President of the Arbitration Court in the engine-drivers’ and firemen’s and Merchant Service Guild matters. The next sitting, which was held in Sydney, commenced on the 1st of April, and lasted sixteen days. The Bench being the Chief Justice, and Justices Barton and Isaacs. These three Justices then sat in Brisbane on the 29th April, the sitting lasting nine days. After the Bris- bane sitting the Court, as then constituted, returned to Sydney, and sat there for four days, commencing on the 13th May. At the conclusion of this sitting, the Court came to Melbourne, and the Chief Justice and Justices Barton and Isaacs sat for nine days, commencing on the 21st May. Following this sitting the same three Justices went to Adelaide and sat for six days, commencing on the 4th Jane. The Court then returned to Melbourne, and sat from June 13th to the 28th inclusive - twelve days. The winter vacation followed this sitting, and lasted four weeks, from the 29th June to the 27th July.
After vacation, the first sitting of the Court was held in Sydney on the 20th July, and lasted forty days. During this sitting the Bench consisted of the Chief Justice and Justices Barton and O’Connor, for the hearing of the appeal from the decision of Isaacs, J., in the Coal Vend case, and of the Chief Justice and Justices Barton and Isaacs for the balance of the sitting. On the 23rd September, the Court commenced its next Melbourne sitting, which lasted till the 22nd October, twenty days. The Bench consisted of the Chief Justice and Justices Barton, Isaacs, and Higgins, during the hearing’ of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s case; and nf the first three’ Justices named for the balance of the sitting. After this sitting the Court, consisting of the Chief Justice and Justices Barton and Higgins, went to Perth, and commenced a sitting’ on the 29th October, which lasted for ten days. The-Chief Justice and Justice Barton then returned to Melbourne (Justice Higgins remaining in Perth for a further week on Arbitration Court business), and then proceeded to Sydney, where, on 25th November, a sitting of the Court was commenced by the Chief Justice and Justices Barton- and Isaacs. This sitting has now lasted fourteen days, and will probably not be concluded until the 21st inst., when the summer vacation of the Court commences. Mr. Justice Higgins returned from Perth on the 25th November, and resumed the bearing of the Tramway case in the Arbitration Court. He will leave for Sydney on Saturday next to take his place on the Bench for the hearing of the appeal the King v. Smythers ex parte John Benson. The arbitration business will have to be postponed until some future date.
The Court (i.e., single Justice) sat in Melbourne during the year on the following dates : - April 3rd, September 16th, 17th; 18th, 20th, October, 28th, 29th, . 30th - eight days in all. Similar sittings were held in Sydney, Hobart, and Brisbane, and lasted nine, two, and four days respectively. These sittings were held for trial of causes. At the same time, appeals which, bv law, can be tried before a single Justice (Land Tax assessment appeals - appeals under Patents Act, &c), were also dealt with.
The Chamber business of the Court is taken by the Justices in rotation during the sittings of the Full Court, and by whichever Justice is available when the Full Court is away from Melbourne. Mr. Justice Higgins takes this class of business when he is -engaged in Melbourne in the Arbitration Court, and the other Justices are away with the Full Court. I am unable at present to compile any definite return of the Chamber business dealt with during the year, as some of the Justices take their Chamber business records with them .when engaged with the Court elsewhere.
The work there outlined is heavier than that done by any other Bench of. which I have knowledge, and is rauch more for each of the five Justices than had to be got through in 1906 by three, when it was considered that the Court was undermanned. The business of the country requires the appointment of more Justices. The interests of justice demand it.
Let me now deal with the provisions of the Bill relating to the manner in which decisions on constitutional issues are to be arrived at. At present, when the Justices are evenly divided the opinion of the Chief Justice or, in his absence, of the senior Puisne Judge present, prevails. There have been very few such cases, but the decision of the Court was arrived at in that manner in the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company against the Sugar Commission. This is not a sovereign Legislature, but the creature of the Commonwealth Constitution ; it can, therefore, pass only such laws as are within the powers conferred upon it by that instrument. It is foi the High Court to say whether its laws are consti tutional or not, and there is no appeal from the Court’s decision. The High Court is, in this matter, the master of this Parliament. .The Constitution has made it so, and until the people alter it we roust not complain. We nave the right to insist, however, that a law shall not be declared unconstitutional unless clearly and obviously so, and when the Justices are evenly divided as to the constitutionality of a law that law is not obviously unconstitutional. We desire that only those laws shall be declared unconstitutional which a majority of the Justices think to be so. That principle is .perfectly sound, and it ought to be applied in all legal decisions, but in particular to questions relating tome Constitution. Therefore, it is provided in the Bill -
A Full Court consisting of less than all the Justices shall not give a decision on a question affecting the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth, unless a majority of all the Justices concur in the decision.
That is to say, whatever the number of Justices, there shall be a majority who concur in the decision whatever the decision is.: In regard to appeals on matters of ordinary law from the Supreme Court of any State, or from a single Justice of the High Court, where the Court is evenly divided, the decision of the Justice or the Judge shall stand. Where there is an appeal from anr inferior Court, that provision does not apply, but the opinion of the senior Justice or the senior Puisne Judge prevails.
I think that this provision, for decisions, by a majority of the Justices, is a perfectly sound and salutary one. As to the ‘increasein the number of Justices, I submit that it is justified by the facts. The position of the-. Arbitration Court is such as to demand an increase; indeed, it is impossible for’ thework to be carried on without the appointment of another Justice. Deputations havewaited upon me quite recently from variousorganizations to call my attention to thefact that- their causes have been on thelist for a long while without any prospect, of their being reached. In one case, which I mentioned this evening, theexecutive committee assured me that it waswith the greatest difficulty that the meru were prevented from attempting to obtaintheir rights by some other method than thatprovided by law; and they urged that I should do something to get the case heard’ more speedily. Representations were made, but it was found that other organizationswere in exactly the same position, and that, every case must take its place in the order- set down in the list. There ought, however, to be no interruption in the Arbitration Court business. The question of appointing a second Judge to assist in the Arbitration Court work is one already provided for in the Act.
– Is the second Judge to be wholly devoted to Arbitration work.
– I do not say that.
– The Attorney -General’s last statement seemed to imply that most clearly.
– Section 36 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is as follows -
The Court may refer any industrial dispute of which it has cognizance, or any matter arising out of the dispute, to a Local Industrial Board for investigation and report, and may delegate to that Board such of its powers, including all powers of the Court in relation to conciliation and the settlement of the dispute by amicable agreement, as it deems desirable. A Local Industrial Board may be -
any State industrial authority willing to act; or
any local Board constituted as prescribed or as directed by the Court, and consisting of equal numbers of representatives of employers and of employes and a chairman, who shall be a Justice of the High Court or a Judge of the Supreme Court of a State. . . .
As Mr. Justice Isaacs pointed out, it will require an amendment of the Act in order to provide that the Arbitration Court shall be differently constituted. It may be remembered that, as originally drafted, that Act provided for a President and two assessors; but that does not seem to me the most convenient plan. I do not think it would be effective to appoint two persons with co-ordinate authority in such a Court; and the best means to expedite the business is, I think, to allow one Justice to give his whole attention to it. In that way, the work will be done very much more quickly. The work of the High Court is, as I have said, increasing very rapidly, and will, in the future, increase still more rapidly ; and the number of Judges now is not sufficient to enable it to be done except under severe strain. As regards the Arbitration Court, the work cannot be done properly at all under present circumstances.
.- The Attorney-General this evening addressed the House under favorable auspices. Some of his pleas, at all events, touch honorable members more than they are willing to confess. In the first place, the honorable and learned member very wisely adopted something approaching an adequate view of the status, importance, and influence of the High Court; I have heard him very much less appreciative. Australians are proud, and rightly proud, of this tribunal, which has far more than fulfilled expectations. It is a great Federal instrumentality, to which we are deeply indebted. Then, again, however much we may endeavour to divest ourselves of personal feeling, it is impossible to approach this proposal without recollecting the particular and special circumstance which forced it on our attention - the loss, not only of a distinguished Judge, but of one of the most distinguished representatives the Commonwealth Parliament has yet known. Any appeal in this relation is sure to find a responsive echo from every honorable member on either side who was acquainted with him.
While these old associations help to make us only too willing to sympathize with any proposal for the enhancement of the status, functions, and influence of the High Court, yet we are bound, in this House, and under present circumstances, to, as far as possible, regard this Bill in the dry light of actual fact and business necessities. That being so, one cannot fail to recollect the nature of the arguments employed in 1906, when an increase of the Judges, proportionately larger than this, was sanctioned by both Houses. If I recollect aright, that was only after struggle, conflict, and resistance in both Houses, though nothing; like the resistance or opposition that the proposal for the establishment of the Court itself had to face in 1903. The decision hung on a single vote in this House. The Bill was only made law by appeals of a character that are very rarely addressed to members of a Legislature.
Since then the Court has undoubtedly proved in every way worthy of its responsibilities. We were fortunate in the men it attracted, not by the monetary rewards or the prospects offered. These were reduced below what the AttorneyGeneral himself now admits to be a fair recognition of either the standing of the Justices or the immense importance of their work to the Commonwealth.
I notice with some surprise, and more regret, an entire absence from this measureof any proposal to adequately recognise the functions now discharged by members of the Bench. It is not yet too late. As a matter of fact, I fear that it is too late, but, at all events, it is still open to Ministers to reconsider the question whether they are justified in permitting the highest Court of Australia - well worthy of its obligations and its duties, and, as he has admitted, of a status higher than the highest Court in the United States of America - to be overburdened with work, most generously undertaken and thoroughly discharged, and yet with a lower scale of remuneration than any body of the same kind in any civilized country in the world. The AttorneyGeneral has very properly and very wisely recognised what this Court has done, and what it is doing, for the Commonwealth, so that this forces on us the question why that recognition does not take the shape which he himself points out as only fair and adequate under the circumstances.
But let us come to the particular data which the Attorney-General laid before us in support of this view. The facts were drawn from several sources, and were very striking; they faithfully mirrored, so far as figures can, the very heavy burden imposed on the Court,, and, incidentally, the splendid manner in which it has discharged its duties. But almost the whole of the figures were vitiated, and some largely so, by the fact that, during the twelve months, the absence of the late Judge to whom I have referred, has to be taken into account, The extra burdens cast upon the remaining members of the Bench, which are mow put before us as justifying additional appointments, require -to be read in the light of that knowledge. If there had been no such illness, it is possible that the suggestion of an increase in the strength of the Court might still be justified, but it would have had to be by figures and facts not yet laid before us. In dealing with this question, we have to strip ourselves, as far as possible, of all prepossessions, and of the natural inclination to magnify this institution. Our duty, as representatives of the people, is to ask ourselves whether the Attorney-General has established a case for not only filling the regrettable vacancy on the Bench, but appointing two additional Justices. With the utmost good-will in the world, he does not appear to me to have been able to substantiate that case.
He confesses that one of the two additional Justices is to render assistance in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and, in reply to a query, said that the attention of that Justice was not to be wholly devoted to the work of that tribunal. Apparently he is also to discharge general duties. Does that mean that he will, in a sense, undertake duties connected with the Full Court of the Commonwealth, whilst Mr. Justice Higgins remains at his original work as President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court? If so, the question of status appears to have been ignored. I mention such a consideration only because it appears to imply, even in the Attorney-General’s mind, some uncertainty as to the particular duties that will devolve upon the Justice taking the place of the late Mr. Justice O’Connor. Of the work of the other Justices to be appointed, we hear, except in the most general way, practically nothing. It is true that the figures quoted suggesting the work to be done are impressive as they stand. Perhaps they are capable of bearing the interpretation which the AttorneyGeneral, without a moment’s hesitation, put upon them. But I am not in possession of sufficient knowledge to enable me to say whether the facts, as submitted to us, call for the appointment of even one additional Justice. There appears to be an entire absence of proof of the necessity for the appointment of a second additional Justice. That the High Court is overburdened is undoubted; that it is likely to continue overburdened appears probable even after the present vacancy is filled.
– Do the High Court Justices say so themselves?
– They have not said so.
– They have made no request for additional help?
– Not that I know. Casting my eye over the statements made by the Attorney-General of the day, Mr. Justice Isaacs, when introducing the amending Bill of 1906, I find that the case made out by him in support of additional appointments was far weightier and more precisely proved than the case submitted to us to-night. That is one reason why I say that any growth of business disclosed by figures, that are difficult to interpret in the circumstances, need only point to present pressure of a temporary nature.
– Might not the prosperity of the country account for the growth of the business of the Court?
– It might; but there are other causes, such as the industrial.
The plain issue is how far we are called upon at this stage to add to the High Court Bench. I feel disinclined even to appear to turn a deaf ear to any appeal of this character, knowing how greatly the present Justices have been overworked. But I have to proceed on such general sympathies and inferences, rather than upon exact data, to justify me, as a member of Parliament, with a duty to discharge to my constituents, in arriving at the conclusion that there is any necessity for any additional appointment. The proved necessity does not extend to the appointment of one additional Justice, and certainly does not justify the appointment of two.
Among the circumstances that may fairly be taken into account, both in regard to the regrettable loss the Bench has recently sustained and to the appeal of the High Court Justices in relation to their overwork, is the fact that, contrary to the universal practice in Australia, no retiring allowance is available even to the men, who are breaking down owing to their devotion to duty, who, finding themselves crippled by the influx of new business and the illness of a comrade, have spent themselves without stint in the discharge of their duty.
– We shall relieve them by passing this Bill.
– I am pointing out that in this measure should have Been included some recognition of their services, the sacrifices already made, and the work they are now doing. So far as I am aware, no Judges in the British Empire have done such hard work with, relatively, so little remuneration as have the Justices of the High Court. Australia, which is proud of its Court in every way, should at least be satisfied that it is properly remunerating its members.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should add to their salaries so that they may continue to overwork themselves?
– I suggest that the provision of a retiring allowance would be the most acceptable form of recognising their services.
The few remarks I have made require to be supplemented by the fact that we are faced also with the consideration - which I can touch upon only in the lightest possible way - of the choice that is to be made. The strength of a Bench lies not so much in the number of its members as in their quality. It lies not so much in their wealth of learning as in the standards by which they are governed and the influence which they are able to exercise from their exalted position. Consequently, amongst the most embarrassing choices that can fall upon a Cabinet or its chief adviser, is the selection of the best ability available, and particularly a selection which will most effectively supplement the ability and learning already possessed by the Bench. The task that will devolve upon the Government in this regard will be of -the most serious character, and will be attended by the most fruitful results. I shall not, for one moment, assume that Justices chosen for what, in some respects, is the highest office in the Commonwealth, will not be selected from the very cream of the judicial intellects of the Commonwealth, and without partisan aims. Happily, we have never had to look outside our own boundaries for our Judges. But even in these circumstances, and with the liberty of choice open to the Government, it will be an extremely delicate and difficult matter to make such a selection for the existing vacancy, that the Bench we already possess shall be supplemented by the addition of a mind, not only equal to its present standard, but at the same time so equipped as to lend to it, not merely numerical, but special, individual strength. On that point it is not permissible to dwell, although it is necessary to lay some emphasis upon it.
We have to remember that Justices are human, and so are Ministers and those who criticise them. The question whether laws are constitutional and valid, or declared to be unconstitutional and void, is, in itself, a recollection that must sober every serious member of our Legislature. Far more than we can guess depends upon the choice, and the choice made will be all the better, as it seems to me, if it is limited in the first instance to one Judge only. Ministers, of course, may not be responsible for the extra pressure that has been put upon them of late to make additional appointments, but I am confident that, if they added a first-class, capable man to the Bench they could then, with advantage, wait until they had studied the consequence of that appointment before undertaking to make a further -one. At the close of a Parliament, and in the face of a referendum, this would be both just and wise. In any event, we all recognise that the particular Bill before us marks not only a stage in the growth of this Commonwealth, and bf its responsibilities, but a critical event. Having regard to the present division of opinion amongst members of the existing Bench, even one appointment may possibly give a very decisive turn to the interpretations of important questions of constitutional law affecting Parliament and the whole
Commonwealth. In this both sides of the House are deeply and vitally interested. All, I am sure, will sympathize with the Attorney-General in the responsibility that will be cast upon him and his colleagues by this far-reaching measure.
– The Attorney-General submitted this Bill for the consideration of the House with studied care, deliberation, and caution, and I see no reason to complain of any attempt on his part to exaggerate the case or to overstate the arguments in support of his action. So far as he appeared to make them, they seemed to me to be in his favour. I was glad to notice the full measure of justice that he did to the splendid work done by the High Court of Australia. I think that the people of Australia have every reason to be proud of the constitution of our High Court and of the magnificent work already done in the field of judicial interpretation, not only in great constitutional cases, but in the. field of private jurisprudence. With reference to its original jurisdiction the work of the High Court has been comparatively limited. Hitherto the public of Australia have not shown any disposition to rush to the High Court in matters of original jurisdiction when they could obtain justice through the State Courts. It is quite true that with the enlargement of Federal legislation litigants may be forced to go to the High Court, even in matters of primary jurisdiction. But, generally speaking, there has not been any preference manifested for the High Court in matters of primary or original jurisdiction. Its principal scope and usefulness appears to be confined to its appellate jurisdiction. In that arena it has doubtless done, and will continue to do, good work. The comparatively small amount of work done in the original jurisdiction of the Court is shown by the figures which have been supplied by the Attorney-General. These disclose the fact that in 1911 the Court sat in its original jurisdiction on ninety-four days, and that during the present year it has sat only twenty-five days. But as he very properly pointed out there was one great case in 191 1 which absorbed nearly the whole of those sitting days - I refer to the Coal Vend case.
– I do not lay stress upon that. I mentioned it for what it was worth.
– Very little argument in favour of additional appointments can be founded .upon any growth of busi ness in the original jurisdiction of the Court. The main argument for an increase in the_ number of Justices must be based upon the increase of business in its appellate jurisdiction.
– I do lay stress on the fact that the “Court is engaged upon most important work on nearly every sitting day of the year.
– So far as the appellate work of the Court is concerned, it appears from the figures submitted by the Attorney-General that last year the Full Court sat upon only 165 days. The judicial year is said to consist of 220 days
– What about the time that is absorbed in travelling?
– Travelling does not absorb very much time. The Court can get from Melbourne to Sydney in a day, and from Melbourne to Adelaide in a day. I admit that it takes a little longer to visit Western Australia. But last year the number of days upon which the Full Court sat was only 165. That is barely half the whole year. I do not know how the judicial year is made up.
– The honorable member knows very well that it is judicial year we have to consider.
– I am not endeavouring to minimize the number of days upon which the Court sat or the strenuous character of the work which it performed. But there is nothing alarming in the fact that it sat on 165 days. With reference to the arrears of business in the Full Court, the only statement which I heard the Attorney-General make was that there are six cases undisposed of in Sydney, and that there are four constitutional cases awaiting decision.
– I said that two of them had been awaiting decision since January.
– The reason for that is obvious. It is because of the deficiency of the Court, owing to the sad and unavoidable absence of the late Mr. Justice O’Connor. Similar circumstances may not recur for many years to come. Had the Court been at its normal strength there would have been four Justices available for the Full Court, and for hearing cases in its primary or original jurisdiction. There is no very strong argument in favour of the appointment of additional Justices to the Court in its appellate jurisdiction, and we have not heard that the Justices of the High’ Court, outside of the President of the Arbitration Court, have made any complaints that they are overworked.
– Does the honorable member know of any Court which sits as frequently as does the High Court?
– I have not the figures relating to the number of days on which the State Supreme Courts sit. I acknowledge the value and the magnitude of the work done by the High Court, and also its vital importance. I say that there should be no suspicion of hurrying that work.
– The honorable member knows that we could not sit here on six days a week.
– At the same time, the Chief Justice of the High Court and his colleagues, who have been sitting in appellate jurisdiction, have not complained of being overworked. No doubt the most important work done in the appellate jurisdiction of the Court has been work involving the determination of constitutional questions. In that field the High Court has had a most strenuous time. It has dealt with a large number of leading cases which will be landmarks in the history of the development of our Constitution for many years to come. It has grappled with many problems, and it has laid down many leading fundamental principles of interpretation and rules of construction. It may be considered to have laid down the fundamental outlines and development of our Constitution, and it is not likely that as many constitutional questions will arise in the future as have arisen in the past. When it commenced its work there were a large number of problems demanding judicial settlement. These have now been settled until constitutional amendments are made by the people which involve new interpretations. I admit that if the Constitution Alteration Bills which we have just passed, and which involve enlargements of Federal power and conflicts with State rights, become law, there may be renewed activity in the constitutional interpretation work of the High Court. But it is by no means certain that those measures will become law. To do so, they must secure a majority of votes in a majority of the States. If any of the new appointments are proposed with an eye to the future interpretation of Federal law in conjunction with projected constitutional amendments, that proposal is based upon grounds which are not sufficiently tangible to influence the House at the present time. But should those amendments become law, it will be the duty of the Government to strengthen the High Court in its appellate jurisdiction.
– After 125 years’ experience of Federation in the United States of America constitutional questions are still being decided. The possibilities of litigation in connexion with a written Constitution are infinite.
– But the complexity of business relations in Australia is not so great as it is in the United States of America. I do not see any prospect” of such an avalanche of constitutional litigation as to justify the Government in strengthening the appellate jurisdiction of the High Court.
– If the referenda proposals be carried, we shall have the avalanche.
– It does seem tome that the work of the Arbitration Court is increasing, but even there the President has been occupied for only 158 days this year, whereas the Full Court has been occupied for 165 days. I suppose that the President of the Arbitration Court has also sat on the High Court Bench in many of the constitutional cases which have been decided. How many such attendances he has given does not appear. It seems strange, however, that during the 158 days on which the Arbitration Court sat, only about eighteen awards were made. I admit that the work is not to be gauged by the number of cases decided, but by the magnitude of the interests involved.
– The President of the Arbitration Court has pointed out that he has had to hear the Tramway case two or three times over, because he has not power to make a common rule.
– It seems strange that a Court from which the legal profession is excluded should occupy so long a period in disposing of such a limited number of cases. If any case has been made out in favour of this Bill, it is in the direction of strengthening the Arbitration Court. It appears to me that nocase has been made out for any such great increase in the number of Justices as is proposed. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that if a strong Judge were appointed as a successor to Mr. Justice O’Connor, the arrears of work in the Full Court might be overtaken, and the congestion which at present exists might be swept away. That would allow the President of the Arbitration Court more time to attend to arbitration work. I admit- that the work of that tribunal ought not to be allowed to accumulate. But for the unfortunate illness of the late Mr. Justice O’Connor there would not have existed the same cause for complaint, and no ground for the appointment of additional Justices. I hope that I shall not be regarded as endeavouring to obstruct the reasonable expansion of the High Court, but it is the duty of the Opposition to insist on strong reasons being given and sustained for important appointments like these, involving very high salaries and grave responsibilities. The country will require good reasons for an increased expenditure amounting to nearly £8,000 per annum.
– It is unfortunate that this Bill, dealing as it does with a matter of momentous consequence to Australia, wasnot introduced earlier in the session; that we have to debate it now is unworthy of its importance.
– The vacancy which must be filled occurred only recently.
– The Bill is not needed for the filling of that vacancy. I congratulate the Attorney-General on his tone towards the High Court to-night, which contrasted markedly with that adopted by him towards it on a recent occasion. The High Court has a constitutional function with which the people of Australia are only beginning to become familiar. This function is unfamiliar to the people of the Mother Country, and even to some of the learned Lords of the Privy Council. That an Act of Parliament which had received the Royal assent should be called in question was recently treated by an extremely eminent law Lord as in the nature of an absurdity. This state of mind is due to the fact that Great Britain has a Unitary form of government, and the laws of its Parliament are therefore never questioned. We are beginning to get accustomed to a tribunal having the right to question our Acts.
– Has not the fact that it does this tended to make it unpopular?
– That is because the matter is misunderstood. We must get accustomed to the exercise of this right, unless we are prepared to do away with the division of sovereign power between the Commonwealth and the States. It is the bounden duty, not only of the High Court, but of all our Courts, to inquire into the validity of the Acts of this and of the State Parliaments. When the validity of any of our laws is questioned, it becomes the duty of some Court to determine it, the High Court’s decisions being by far the most important, because it is the final Court of Appeal.
– Every Court has not the power to bind Parliament.
– No Court has power to do that.
– The High Court does it.
– No. The statement shows that the Prime Minister is himself somewhat unfamiliar with the essential feature of the Constitution to which I have referred. This Parliament can make laws only within the limits of its ambit.
Mr.Fisher. - Which the High Court determines.
– The High Court does not control this Parliament, but some authority must determine whether a particular agent has, or has not, acted lawfully for its principal.
– The High Court defines the limits of our powers by interpreting the Constitution in accordance with its own views.
– If there were not a High Court, the Supreme Courts of the States would do this work, and the County Courts would do it.
– They would not limit our power.
– No Court can do that. Surely it is time that the members of this House began to have some elementary ideas of the constitutional system under which we live. I do not say this disrespectfully.
– We do not know what our powers are, and the Court does not know.
– I admit that there is a good deal of uncertainty sometimes as to the limits of our powers, but one of the main endeavours of the honorable member seems to be to introduce into the Constitution words of such ambiguity and uncertain effect that the determination of those limits will be still more difficult. The only way in which the limits of our powers can be determined is by appeal to a Court of Law charged with the duty of saying in regard to what purports to be an Act of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of a State whether it is within the power of that Parliament to enact. Consider the other side of the question. Suppose that the Act of a State Parliament is called in question, on the ground that it transgresses on the domain vested by the Constitution in this Parliament. Is not any Court before which the question arises bound to determine whether that Act is, or is not, law?
– The Court can give a contracted dr an extended interpretation.
– A narrow or a broad view may be taken. I should be sorry to imagine that honorable members opposite, in dealing with this matter, will allow their judgments to be affected by recent decisions of the Court on constitutional questions. It is, of course, possible for the Court to take a narrow or a broad view. All that its Justices can do is to form a judgment according to their best ability. It is their imperative duty to determine whether any Act of the Commonwealth Parliament, or of a State Parliament, the validity of which is questioned, is valid, and they can do that only by studying the Constitution, and considering the powers expressly or impliedly vested in this Parliament.
– They express their own opinions.
– Their opinions must be final. I have been drawn aside from what I was going to say by what appears to me a misunderstanding in the minds of some honorable members as to the true functions of the Court. The High Court is the final judicial tribunal of Australia, and a part - perhaps not the principal, but a very important part - of its functions is, when the question is raised, to decide whether an Act of this, or’ of a State Parliament, is within the powers of legislation given by the Constitution to these agents of the popular will. If honorable members can suggest any other way in which the Federal Constitution could be administered, the suggestion might be useful ; no other way has yet been suggested. Wherever there is a Federation, some Court - ultimately the final Court of Appeal - must determine whether what purports to be an Act of the Federal or a State Parliament is, or is not, constitutional. The main object of the Bill is to strengthen the High Court, and as the Leader of the Opposition has said, if that can be shown to be necessary, I shall not object to it. The reason put forward by the AttorneyGeneral is mainly a recent congestion of work, and I am not satisfied that such a congestion would exist had it not been for the unfortunate illness and death of Mr. Justice O’Connor. I admit, however, that if one Justice is to continue to have practically the whole of his time occupied, by arbitration proceedings, congestion of the ordinary work of the Court, if it does not at present exist, is likely to arise.
– It is doubtful if one man will be able to continue to do the work of the Arbitration Court.
– I take a different view of the functions of the Arbitration Court from that of honorable members opposite. In my opinion, the Court has not been a success, and is a cumbrous, heavy, unworkable piece of machinery. I know that honorable members opposite differ from me in toto, but I cannot help expressing the view that the gains which have resulted in certain cases to those whom they especially claim to represent have been more than counterbalanced by the dislocation of business, delay, and expense, which the hearing of disputes has involved. In many, and perhaps the majority, of the cases, the proceedings - not merely those before the Court, but those which have led to the bringing of disputes into the Court - have involved great industrial disturbance and large expenditure, without any corresponding benefit.
– These proceedings are cheaper than strikes.
– We should all like to do away with strikes, and differ only as to the best methods of meeting the evils which cause them. I am not at liberty now to discuss this question generally. Whether the Court must be strengthened by the appointment of an additional Justice, or whether its work may not be considerably reduced by making its functions appellate or semi-appellate, leaving original jurisdiction to local bodies such as Wages Boards, will depend on what will happen in May or June next, which is something that ‘ we cannot control. If honorable members opposite are successful in obtaining a majority at the next election, no doubt they will press their policy and magnify the authority, and extend the operations, of the Arbitration Court. If we on this side are successful, I, for one, shall be strongly in favour of restricting very largely the operations of that Court.
– That is a good admission.
– I seem to be always pleasing the honorable member by my admissions, and possibly I shall make some more. The functions of the Arbitration Court, in my opinion, ought to be confined to work of a more or less appellate character. The main determination, so far as any determination by law can be arrived at, of industrial conditions, ought to be vested in bodies of a totally different character, namely, bodies in the nature of Wages Boards. However, on this Bill we are not in a ‘position to discuss these alternatives ; and I merely put this forward to emphasize my point of view. The main claim tor the proposed large addition to the personnel of the High Court Bench rests on the fact that the Arbitration Court, in carrying out its original, or nonappellate, jurisdiction, will have to extend its operations because it will have more and more original work to do. It was the original jurisdiction of this Court to which I objected, because I recognised that it would be almost entirely of a legislative character. I am glad to see that I am supported by, perhaps, the ‘ highest authority on this question, namely, Mr. Justice Higgins himself, who, if properly reported, has recently stated that what he is called on to do is not to decide cases judicially, but to make law. That is a candid admission on the part of the Judge, who is a clear-headed and able man. He has come to the conclusion to which we must all come, that the functions handed over to him are not so much of a judicial character as they are of a law-making or regulative character. That is the kind of jurisdiction which I think ought not to be invested in an Arbitration Court. If it should turn out that the views, which I believe are shared to a considerable extent on this side, receive the acceptance of the country, then the Arbitration Court, if still existing, will be a Court whose functions will not take up anything like the whole time of even one Judge. Unless we are going to devote the whole time of one Judge to arbitration work, and extend that work, I am not convinced that there is any actual or immediate congestion in the business of the High Court. That business also consists of appellate and original jurisdiction. If honorable members look back on the history of the High Court they will see that it is vested, under the Constitution and the Judiciary Act, with very considerable powers of original jurisdiction, but that very few cases of original jurisdiction have ever come before it. The AttorneyGeneral will admit that the extension of what is called the original, or nonappellate jurisdiction, has been very slow. An 5 immense amount of very strenuous work has, however, been created by the appellate jurisdiction. We cannot have a Court of Appeal with fewer than three
Judges; but I could understand a totally different scheme being adopted, namely, as suggested some time ago, two Full Courts of the High Court. That plan presents difficulties, and would require careful thinking out ; it is, in fact, a totally new scheme of judicial working.
– The Courts might overrule each other.
– That is precisely the difficulty ; the two highest Courts might not be in accord on principles of Jaw, and there would have to be some machinery to bring them together. I am not suggesting that the plan should be adopted, but merely pointing out that such a suggestion has been made. In the United States of America there are Circuit Courts of Appeal, subject to review by the final Court of Appeal. So long as we have appeal cases from the Supreme Courts of the States, I do not know that the present tension can be relieved by the appointment of an additional one or two Judges. No doubt the Court would be strengthened, inasmuch as there would be four or five Judges instead of three ; but that would be the only advantage. The main necessity which is put forward for the enlargement of the Court depends, to a large extent, on whether the extension of the Arbitration Court as at present constituted is to go on; and it might be a very wise thing, first of all, to afford the people an opportunity of pronouncing whether this particular method of settling industrial disputes is to receive the extension claimed for it.
– How shall we test it?
– At the next election. I quite admit that if the present Government # are returned with the extension of the ‘ Arbitration Court as part of their policy, they will be quite justified in appointing one or two Judges.
– From all appearances, more Judges are required.
– I do not think that it is a good thing that this Court should be a kind of centre of attraction - I do not say for what reason - for those engaged and interested in industries, especially when there are tribunals acquainted with all the local conditions which might, if it were not for this magnet or lodestone, very well settle the disputes without leading to those enormous combinations of industries - this coagulating together - in order to form a huge Inter-State dispute, and to bring about a kind of industrial warfare which is nearly, if not quite, as bad as strikes. There are one or two provisions in the Bill which I do not think have received quite, full enough consideration, from what I might call a technical point of view. Clause 3 provides that a Full Court, consisting of less than all the Justices, shall not give a decision on a question affecting the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth unless a majority of all the Justices concur in the decision. The object, of course, is quite apparent, and I can understand the AttorneyGeneral desiring that, before a law shall be declared invalid, a majority of the whole Bench shall be in favour of that view.
– A Court of four Judges could, of course, hear the case.
– But the difficulty is that the clause seems to assume that the decision will be given on the abstract constitutional validity of an Act. A decision is, and would be, very rarely of that kind except, perhaps, under the Act which enables Parliament to remit to the High Court the question of whether a Bill is valid. The question then is - Is this law good or bad ? It is not very often, as I say, that the question arises in this particular way before the Court.
– There has been no such case yet.
– I doubt if there has been. The question for decision before the Court is usually a question, say, between Jones and Robinson, and not whether a law is good or bad. It often happens, and, in fact, it usually happens, that in determining whether, for instance, a fine is lawful, or whether one man is entitled to recover a sum of money from another, the constitutionality of an Act of Parliament is called in question; and it just as often happens that Judges take different views personally on the subject.
– In so far as the decision of a Judge or Court impairs the validity of any law, this section will apply.
– No, because the clause provides that a Full Court, consisting of less than all the Justices, shall not give a decision on a question affecting the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth.. There might be a decision in favour, just as well as against, the validity of a particular law.
– Take the concrete case in regard to the land tax.
– That was one of the few cases which boiled down to the question of whether a certain law was con stitutional or not. That may happen in some cases, but it usually happens that the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of an Act is merely one of the arguments’ put forward in favour of one of the parties to the litigation; and the decision is a decision in favour of one of the parties, and rarely on the constitutionality of an Act.
– The argument of the honorable member is fatal to the section as it stands, as well as to the section as amended.
– I have not the section as it stands before me.
– The honorable member must not go into that matter.
– There will be further opportunities in Committee to discuss the matter.
– I should like to say a word or two before the discussion closes. The honorable member for Flinders has talked very learnedly, and we were pleased to hear him, about the position the High Court occupies, the position it should occupy, and the functions it exercises. Certain gentlemen who occupy eminent positions in the law have a tendency to assume that other human beings, who are not in the legal profession, can have no knowledge of what is lawful or constitutional, and, therefore, that we are in duty bound to speak of a Court, whether it be a minor tribunal or the highest Court in the land, with the greatest possible awe.
– I did not suggest that.
– The High Court is constituted of eminent gentlemen, each’ of whom has had experience in the field of politics. In addition to being members of the legal profession, they have been politicians fighting on the floor of Parliament with as much vim and, shall we say, party prejudice, as does any member of this House. We regard them as distinguished jurists, free from party political bias in the discharge of their duties, and we must assume that they do their best according to their high intellectuality, in spite of the unconscious bias and prejudice which, as human beings, they must carry with them. Our High Court is as eminent as any in the world, and quite as capable of performing the duties allotted to it as is any body of jurists of which I have read. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has tried to impress upon the House and the country the idea that the High Court is to be a purely appellate tribunal ; in other words, that it is not to exercise any original jurisdiction.
– No; I said that it was vested with original jurisdiction, but that, as a matter of fact, it has had very little of it to exercise.
– Quite so. I regret that fact; but the honorable member appears not to do so.
– No. I say that the people have not availed themselves of the Court in its original jurisdiction.
– Why have they not done so? Because,. I presume, of the difficulty of getting to it. The AttorneyGeneral has now introduced a measure that will” enable more sittings of the Court to be held, so that access to it can be obtained more readily than at present.
– There is no difficulty in getting before the Court.
– Why is the honorable member excited? As to the position taken up by the honorable member for Flinders in regard to the Conciliation’ and Arbitration Court, I can only say that that tribunal should undoubtedly be a Court of original jurisdiction. Acting in an appellate character - dealing only with the decision of Wages Boards - I think that it would be an utter failure. I should therefore be very glad if another Justice were available to share, as far as possible, in its work. The honorable member was also good enough to say that the High Court did not limit the powers of this Parliament. It may riot directly limit our powers, but it claims the right to interpret every line of the Constitution, and, whenever it determines that any law is unconstitutional, we have to act upon that decision.
– Does the right honorable member dispute that right on the part of the Court ?
– I do not ; but I would remind the honorable member that a majority of the Court has held, or tried to hold, that a decision given by the High Court determines the question dealt with not only for the time being, but for all time. The honorable member knows that.
– I do not know that.
– The Chief Justice and another member of the Court have held that any decision given by the Court isbinding, and cannot be reviewed by any Court subsequently brought into existence.
– I am not sure that the Court has done so, but the principle is one upon which the Supreme Court of the United States of America has acted during the loo-odd years of its existence-.
– That may suit the honorable member’s argument for the timebeing ; but he spoke also of other Courts. The Privy Council has laid it down that its decisions are binding, and cannot bealtered. Such a position is a perfectly tenable one for it to take up, since theParliament of the United Kingdom is free at any time to amend the law if any decision given under it shows that it is not inthe interests of the public. But what isthe position? -If the High Court gives a decision limiting the powers of the Federal Parliament - a decision which, in theopinion of the Parliament, is not in the best interests of the people - the Parliament itself is unable to act. It cannot help the people unless the Constitution itself, upon which the decision in question has placed a certain interpretation, isamended by the people.
– The right honorable member’s argument would apply just as much to the position of the States in the case of a conflict of powers.
– No. In the case of such a decision given by the Supreme Court of a State, the State Parliament itself can provide a remedy. It has only toappeal to the Imperial Parliament to amend its Constitution.
– We can appeal tothe people for additional powers.
– It is an absolute fact that a judgment of the Privy Council can, in fact, be set aside by the Parliament of’ the United Kingdom. By Act of Parliament it can brush aside every decisionof that tribunal. To that extent, therefore, the people, through their representatives in Parliament, can intervene. Thepeople of Australia! however, cannot doso. I am glad that both sides of theHouse agree that the High Court should be strengthened, but we, as a people, cannot recognise the principle that a decisiongiven by the High Court shall be binding for all time. A great blunder would becommitted if the people did not face that question.
– One man-made law.
– No. I believe that the High Court Bench does its best to interpret the law according to the strict wording of the law, but I hold that there is safety in numbers in this as in everything else. With a greater number of Justices I hope and believe that the Court will not only deal with new questions, but will be prepared, under new circumstances and on new evidence, to review any previous decision that may have been given’ by it.
– Then the law would never be settled. The Constitution would be in a state of perpetual flux.
– The law has never been settled. If it’ could be settled the passing of a few short measures would be sufficient to determine the legal position in every country. The changing circumstances of life demand that laws shall be interpreted according to the wisdom of the people for the time being. That is the burden and principle of all law. Let us therefore pick the best, men that we can obtain to occupy these positions. Let us trust to their wisdom, and, above all things, let us leave it to the’’ people, on whom the burden or the benefit will fall, to decide for themselves how they are to be governed in regard to all political questions. No one has a higher regard than I for the members of the High Court Bench. At the same time, we must not forget that they are men who have been elevated from the political arena, and who possess all the weaknesses and virtues that a political career involves. We hope and. believe that they will be added to, not only in numbers, but in intellectual strength, ant that they will help to guide to a successful issue the constitutional government of Australia for the benefit of the whole of the people.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) £10.40]. - I did not quite follow the Prime Minister in all that he said, but he seemed to complain that the decision of the High Court could not be upset with sufficient frequency to suit him, and for the purposes he has in view.
– He did not say “ to suit him.”
– Well, shall I say “ his party.” As 1 understand the place of the High Court in our Constitution it seems to me that the Justices of that tribunal are simply the boundary riders of our Constitution. They have to see that the pegs which the people have put down are observed. One is not to step from one paddock to another, but each governmental instrumentality is to operate within its own domain. That is the function of the High Court. The Court in the last analysis does not make the law ; it simply proclaims the will of the people as embodied in the law.
– And Courts should not be asked to do anything else.
– That is all they do, and that is the place of the High Court in our Constitution. The Court is not to tell us what we ought to do. That is a duty which rests with trie people, and must always rest with them. All that the Judges do is to try, as far as they may, to tell us exactly what the people intended that we should be able to do. There is only one other point with which I desire to deal. The Attorney-General, throughout the whole of his argument, has been urging that we are fettered now by the High Court. Hence the referenda proposals of the Government are neither more nor less than an appeal to the people from the High Court. The purpose of the Attorney-General, in connexion with these referenda proposals, has been declared on many an occasion to be to sweep .away all limitations. And why? “Because,” he says, “ whatever we do, the High Court keeps upsetting it. We cannot get ahead with our proposals. We are constantly Tunning up against the High Court, and we desire to sweep away this limitation so that the Court may no longer interpose.”
– That is a legitimate aspiration.
– Is it? If the honorable member will but wait a moment he will see my point. If my honorable friends are going to sweep away these limitations, there will be less of this upsetting to be done by the High Court. Consequently, we shall require less upsetters- less Judges. It seems to me an utterly illogical position to say in one breath that we want to relieve the High Court of a lot of the trouble which it is constantly causing, and to strengthen it for the very purpose of doing what we do not want it’ to do. Had not my honorable friends opposite better await the result of the referenda? Had they not better allow the people to decide whether they want the Justices of the High Court to be as frequently interposing as they are - whether these boundary pegs are to be pulled up or not? If they are to be pulled up, we shall not want so many Justices as we have now.
– I can see the fly in the ointment.
– Does not the honorable member see that both positions cannot be maintained ? If we are going to get away from the High Court by means of the referenda proposals, where is the sense of multiplying the number of Justices ?
– The honorable member does not admit that we shall get away from the High Court?
– No; but if the people say, on the invitation of the Government, that the High Court must not do what it is doing, I shall have to submit. Before cramming the High Court Bench in the way that is proposed, had not my honorable friends better wait and see whether it is to be given more or less work ? I suggest that the Attorney-General is already afraid that all he has promised in the way of relief from the High Court is not likely to eventuate. The very fact that he wishes to strengthen that tribunal to enable it to do very much more work shows that he anticipates the loading up of the Court with further business instead of get- . ting away from the limitations against which he has fulminated on so many occasions.
.- I think that we ought to await the fate of the referenda proposals of the Government before appointing further Justices to the High Court Bench. The way in which that tribunal’ has been recently conducted shows that there is no need for any more appointments, apart from that necessary to fill the vacancy which has been occasioned by the death of the late Mr. Justice O’Connor. We should then have five Justices. When the fate of the referenda proposals of the Government has been settled, it will be time enough to consider whether or not more Justices are required. It seems to me that a good many honorable members opposite have rather a misconception of the High Court and its functions. I have frequently heard them use the phrase “Judge-made law.” I think that some honorable members who have used that term do not quite understand what it means. If they will take the trouble to analyze the judgments of the High Court, they will see that it has simply interpreted the laws enacted by this Parliament, and also the Constitution. It has not attempted to strain the Constitution in any way. I have read many of the judgments carefully, and I am satisfied that the Justices of the High Court keep well within their province as interpreters of the law. Of course, 1 exclude the work of the Arbitration Court, the President of which has a chance, to a certain extent, to become something in the nature of a legislative institution. It will be time enough to elevate two more gentlemen, to the High Court Bench when the fate of the referenda proposals has been determined. But whether one or three Justices are appointed to that tribunal, I hope , that the idea expressed by the Prime Minister will be carried out, and that the best men in Australia will be appointed. If the Government are going to appoint politicians only to the Bench, we shall sooner or later degrade it. If they do not follow the recognised rules in making such appointments, this Parliament will do itself and the people of the Commonwealth an injury. I hope that they will keep that fact in mind. We are just at the point in our history when the purest administration is necessary.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and considered in Committee pro forma.
SUGAR EXCISE REPEAL BILL.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to repeal the Excise duty on sugar.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr. Tudor) read a first time.
SUGAR BOUNTY ABOLITION BILL.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to repeal the Sugar Bounty Act 1905-1912.
Bill presented, and (on morion by Mr. Tudor) read a first time.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from the Senate, intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the House of Representatives in the amendment of the Senate.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime Minister and Treasurer [10.57]. - In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish to say that I understand it is the desire of the Opposition that the first business to-morrow should be the consideration of the two Bills relating to the repeal of the Sugar Bounty and Excise Acts. I would again remind honorable members, in order that they may make their arrangements accordingly, that it is proposed to sit on Saturday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 December 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121212_reps_4_69/>.