4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until half -past 10 o’clock a.m. to-morrow.
Newspaper Statements - Administration - Branding of Live Stock - Administrator’s Cow - Transcontinental Railway : Survey from Oodnadatta.
– Has the Minister of External Affairs read the statements in today’s Age, made by a correspondent who writes about the administration of the Northern Territory? If so, does he believe them to be correct, and will he ascertain who the writer is?
– I saw something in the Age to-day, but did not read the whole of it.
– It is about time you did.
– It is about time that persons signed their newspaper articles. If they did that, we might know whether there was anything in their statements. I do not think that an article which is not signed is worth taking notice of.
– Will the Minister during the day read the article to which I have drawn his attention, and let the House know to-morrow whether its statements are correct or not?
– If I have time before the day is out, I shall look at it.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– I should like to know from the Minister of External Affairs whether he proposes to take any steps in regard to the milking of the Administrator’s cow. I see that the Administrator is now paying £1 a day to have his cow milked ?
– I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs if it is the intention of the Government, before the close of this session, to seek authority for the survey of the transcontinental railway from Oodnadatta northwards?
– A statement regarding that matter will be made before the close of the session.
– The following paragraph appears in to-day’s press : -
The Premier (of Western Australia) announced that he had failed to arrive at an agreement with the manager of the Commonwealth Bank in respect to transfer of the State Savings Bank. He considered it inadvisable that there should be two Savings Banks in one State run by different Governments, but must insist on Western Australia having a fair deal. Notifications were being published that after 31st December the State Savings Bank business would be conducted, not at post offices, but at advertised Government agencies.
I wish to know if it is correct that negotiations between the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and the Premier of Western Australia for the transfer of the Savings Banks of the State to the Commonwealth are at an end ?
– The Governor of the Bank has acquainted me with the fact that there was a slight difference of opinion between him and the Premier of Western Australia regarding terms. I do not think that the difference is insuperable, but, apparently, the session of the Western Australian Parliament has closed before an agreement has been come to. I thought that the negotiations were nearly complete, and I am sorry that they have not been completed.
Sydney Telegraphists - Mail Steamers’ Refrigerating Chambers : Thermometers - Post and Telegraph Bill - Public Telephones and Telegraph Officers at Railway Stations - New South Wales Telephone Lines.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral make a statement to the House about the serious position created in Sydney in connexion with telegraphists there?
– I received word from Sydney this morning that the telegraphists there have taken up their duties under the new arrangement of work that has been brought into force. The abolition of roster duty has, at their request, been under consideration for some time. I have given it a good deal of my personal attention, and it has had the attention of the departmental officers. A special officer was sent to Sydney to investigate theconditions of work there, and to arrange a scheme with the intention of abolishing roster duty without increasing the hours of the telegraphists, and for the more expeditious conduct of business at the central office. It is believed that the new arrangement will meet the ends in view without imposing on any officer additional work; and that it will remove what has been considered an objectionable feature of the old arrangement, namely, the eating of meals by the men while at work at the machines. The new scheme will be directed by an officer who has had experience of it in South Australia, the Adelaide manager, and as soon as it is in thorough working order, he will return to Adelaide, and the Sydney manager will be returned to Sydney.
– Is it not a fact that the new arrangement accentuates in a marked degree the broken shift trouble, and that it does not abolish roster duty ?
– As a consequence of the new arrangement, a number of men will be compelled to leave off work for halfanhour during their shift. They will, under ordinary circumstances, work three hours, then have half-an-hour off for lunch, and afterwards work another three and a half hours, if required, in order to complete a maximum day’s work of six and a half hours.
– I understand that an officer from another city has been sent to Sydney to supervise the carrying into effect of some new regulations that have been passed. Are we to understand that the officer in charge of telegraphs in Sydney is so incompetent to perform his duties that an officer has to be sent from elsewhere to perform them?
– I make no charge against the Manager of Telegraphs in Sydney, but, under the circumstances, it was deemed advisable to temporarily have in Sydney an officer acquainted with the conditions now being initiated there. This officer has been taken from Adelaide, and, when the new system, which is working satisfactorily in Adelaide, has been completely arranged, he and the other officer in a similar position will be returned to their own stations. I should like to add that, in my opinion, it would not be a bad idea to periodically transfer the heads of Departments. It is expected by those who are responsible for the scheme that it will relieve the staff in Sydney of the roster duty, and also lead to very considerable expedition in the conduct of the business of those who use the telegraph office, by having the men in the office when the business comes in, instead of having there a number who are either not at times required, or exceed requirements at other times. There was a statement made in the press the other day, alleged to have emanated from the Sydney telegraphists, that the old conditions should apply until such time as they could get an opportunity of approaching the Arbitration Court. The old duties, I may mention, were objected to in the same strain and with the same vigour as are the new duties which are now proposed. I have had no intimation from Sydney of the intention of the telegraphists to go to the Arbitration Court. In my opinion the Sydney telegraphists would not have registered at the Arbitration Court, had it not been for the secession of some members from the association, who called themselves a Telegraphers’ Union, and asked for recognition by the Department. I informed them that I would recognise only one union in that Department, and that was the union which obtained official recognition from the Federal Arbitration Court. An application was then made by the association - twelve months after the Act was passed - to allow them to register under the Arbitration Court, but never by word or deed have they indicated that f they desired to have their conditions investigated by that tribunal.
– On the 22nd November I addressed to the PostmasterGeneral a question which was afterwards referred to by the Minister of Trade and Customs - who intimated that a replywould be furnished at a later date - and which related to the success or otherwise of the placing! of self-registering thermometers in the cold chambers of the steamers of the Orient Steam Navigation Company. I desire to know whether the readings of these thermometers are taken by the Department, or whether the instruments have been placed there according to the terms of the contract?
– Replying off-hand to the question, and being acquainted with most of the conditions of the contract, I am not aware that the contract contains a provision of that character, but should I be wrong, and should the information be available in the Department, I shall supply it to the honorable member tomorrow.
– Will the Prime Minister be good enough to say if the Bill of which the Postmaster-General has given notice to-day will occupy much time? What is the nature of the measure, and is it part of the arrangement which was made?
– It was mentioned in the list of measures to be submitted before the close 01 the session. The honorable member had preferably address a question to the Minister.
– I only want to know if it is new legislation outside that which was mentioned the other day?
– It is a Bill to amend the Post and Telegraph Act, so that certain country telephone and telegraph poles can be reduced in height, as promised in a speech I made to the House some time ago.
-Some time ago I brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the question of making public telephones at railway stations available to the travelling- public on the pennyintheslot system. Has he given any consideration to the matter, and, if so, what conclusion has he come to?
– This matter has been the subject of negotiations between the Railway and Postal Departments. Action was taken in the direction of trying to arrange a scheme whereby the honorable gentleman’s wish could be carried out. It is now being reported upon by the Deputy Postmasters-General, in the light of information received from the Railways Commissioners in the different States.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that at important railway stations in other parts of the world an officer of the Telegraph Department is at the station for the purpose of receiving telegrams from passengers for transmission to different places? Will he consider the advisability of meeting the public convenience at important railway stations throughout the Commonwealth, by having an officer there to receive telegrams from passengers for transmission?
– I am aware that this convenience is’ given at important railway stations in other countries as well as in this country.
– Where are they?
– At many stations. If the honorable member will tell me of any important railway station where the convenience is not given I shall look into the matter. A little time ago the honorable member for Illawarra asked me for a return showing the telephone lines which have been erected and approved of in New South Wales during the last two years. I now lay the information on the table.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs yet in a position to say definitely when the redistribution scheme of New South Wales will be discussed in the House?
– I expect to have the new scheme ready on Wednesday. I will just have a look at the scheme when it gets here.
– I understood that the Minister had already stated that a scheme would be ready for Tuesday. Is not that so?
– It was to be ready for Tuesday or Wednesday, but it will not reach here until the afternoon of Tuesday, when I shall be here. I want to look over the scheme before I lay it on the table. The honorable member asked when would I put it on the table.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed in the press that Mr. Henley, a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, has charged him with being responsible for what is termed the eviction of the Governor-General from Government House, Sydney? Is that statement correct?
– I saw a statement in the press about certain events which transpired in the city of the beautiful harbor on Saturday. It is more amusing than interesting.
– Has the Minister of External Affairs noticed that very drastic legislation has recently been enacted in Great Britain dealing with persons engaged in the white slave trade? Has he power to deal with such persons in Australia should they seek to carry on their nefarious practices here?
– I am not quite sure, but, if we have not the power, the Parliament should be asked to confer it, and if asked, I do not think that it would hesitate to do so.
– I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs if it is not a fact that the entire power of dealing with immigration and emigration is in the hands of the Commonwealth, and whether, under existing legislation, he is not fully empowered to act in connexion with such traffic as that mentioned where necessary?
– We have power in regard to immigration, and, as to emigration, we have full power over persons up to the age of sixteen, under a special Act that we passed, but, beyond that, so far as I know, we have no power. I am not prepared to give information on these points, the questions having been asked without notice.
– Can the Prime Minister tell us whether we shall have an opportunity to take a division on the motion in reference to the abolition of the kilt in the Defence Forces?
– I hope shortly to make a statement regarding the whole of the motions on the notice-paper, and I hope that it will prove as satisfactory as any statement of the kind can be towards the end of the session.
– Will the Prime Minister kindly inform the House approximately when the general election will take place ?
– I understand it will be approximately in 1913.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Whether it is his intention to take action to give effect to the following recommendation of Judge Murray, Administrator of Papua, in his recent report : -
It is probable that there can be no great advance in Papuan civilization until individual is substituted for communal interest and responsibility. This change has already been effected in the administration of the law, and it can be effected also in social and industrial matters, though only by slow degrees.
– The matter is hardly one that calls for Government action; consequently I do not propose to take any steps to alter the present system.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Australia for the protection of Commonwealth growers -
– Inquiry will be made through the High Commissioner, and information supplied as soon as possible.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-11.
Motion (by Mr. King O’Malley) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906-1910.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr. King O’Malley) read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That, for the rest of the session, when necessary, the Standing Orders be suspended so as to allow the remaining stages of any Bills after their second reading to be taken without delay, and fresh business to be taken after 11 o’clock p.m.
.- What is the object of this motion? The Government have practically got all their Bills through.
– I do not wish to force the motion, but I think it may prove useful.
– It is true that two new Bills have been introduced this morning, but there really only remain the Inter-State Commission Bill, which is well advanced, and the Estimates.
– Bills may come from the Senate, and technical objections might be taken to their being considered after a certain hour.
– Is there anything to come from the Senate?
– There are Bills before the Senate that may be sent back with amendments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee: (Consideration resumed from 14th December, vide page 71 18).
Postponed clause 16 (Commission to investigate certain matters).
.- There are one or two points to which I desire to call attention. Last week I pointed out that in the previous Bill there was the following provision : -
When so required by the Minister, the Commission shall consider whether any additions to, modifications of, or simplifications of, any Tariff or Customs or Excise Act may be expedient in order to remove anomalies and to develop preferential trade with the United Kingdom and British Possessions, and shall make to the Minister such recommendations in regard thereto as the Commission may think fit.
The Attorney-General stated that he thought that provision might be covered by paragraphs c and d of this clause, but if not he would have no objection to adding to the clause.
– I think that paragraph d of the clause covers the point raised by the honorable member for Ballarat. It authorizes the Commission to investigate -
The effect and operation of any Tariff Act or other legislation of the Commonwealth in regard to revenue, Australian manufacture, and industry and trade generally.
The words “ Tariff Act “ will cover imports and Excise. Therefore, the first part of that paragraph covers the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition. If the Commission has power to inquire into a whole matter, it has power to inquire into any part of it. It may inquire into the whole effect of any matter, and its relation to the fiscal policy of the country generally, or it may inquire into the relations of any one item to other items. It may, therefore, deal with anomalies. Then, again, paragraph1 provides that the Commission may inquire into -
Other matters referred to the Commission by either House of the Parliament, by resolution, for investigation.
In addition, the Minister has power to refer certain matters to the Commission. Since paragraph d is quite wide enough in itself, and paragraph1 will cover everything which is not provided for in that paragraph, I think that the point raised by the honorable member is amply met. The intention is not to restrict the powers set out in the Bill of 1909, but to increase them.
.- So far as I can see there is no obligation of secrecy imposed on these Commissioners.
– I think there is.
– I mention the matter now so that the Attorney-General may look into it. He will agree with me that it will be necessary for the Commission, in some of its investigations, to press for knowledge on many matters. These demands should only be made, and can only be justified, in the public interest. They ought not to be touched upon in any way or referred to except in the public interest. For instance, the Commissioners may be entitled to inquire into the inmost recesses of all businesses, including the use of particular appliances, or the adoption of particular processes. Clause 57 provides for the protection of a person who discloses a secret process. If the AttorneyGeneral will look at the whole scope and character of the Bill he may, on reflection, agree with me that it would be wise to make the whole of such proceedings by the Commission confidential, except so far as Parliament may require the results of their inquiries to be made public in a general way. These Commissioners must occupy apposition of dignity and authority. Everything will be discovered to them. Under these circumstances the strictest secrecy should be imposed upon them, especially in regard to private, personal, or confidential matters.
– This Commission is to be appointed to inquire into matters, and to carry out its general functions for the benefit of the community, and not for the. purpose of disclosing information obtained during the course of its investigations merely to gratify public curiosity as opposed to the public interest. The one touchstone which should be applied is, “ Is it in the public interest?” There is no obligation on the part of a Judge not to disclose any information which he may obtain in the discharge of his judicial duties. He exercises his discretion. That, I think, should be the position of this Commission. Clause 48 provides that it shall conduct its inquiries in private only when it is in the public interest so to do. That clause and clause 57 cover practically the whole ground.
.- I would invite the attention of the AttorneyGeneral to the advisableness of vesting in the Commission express power to investigate any complaints in regard to trusts, combines, and monopolies affecting
Inter- State or external trade. The clause reads -
The Commission shall be charged with the duty of investigating from time to time all matters which, in the opinion of the Commission, ought to be, in the public interest, investigated.
If it ceased there, no doubt the Commission would, of its own motion, look after these matters.
– I intend to move an amendment to give the Commission power to initiate inquiries.
– I shall be glad if the Attorney General will propose that amendment in this clause.
– I propose to make my amendment clause 26A. As to whether that is the best place to insert it, I do not know j but, on the whole, I think it is.
– Clause 26 reads-
Any of the following authorities …. may make to the Commission any complaint which the Commission has jurisdiction to determine.
The Commission, however, would not have jurisdiction to determine complaints about monopolies unless this Parliament referred those complaints to it. I think it will be best to distinctly provide that it shall be their duty, without Parliament interfering, to look after these trusts and monopolies, and receive complaints regarding them for the purposes of investigation. I strongly urge th’e Minister to insert the words as a paragraph in this clause, and not include them, in a new clause. I think it would be advisable to give the Commission direct jurisdiction by Statute rather than wait for an instruction from the Minister or a resolution of the House.
– I do not agree with the honorable member that any such amendment is required in this clause. Clause 16 is very wide, and under it the Commission is charged with the duty of investigating matters which practically cover the whole gamut of industrial and commercial legislation by this Parliament, either now or under any enlarged powers. As to power being specifically given to inquire into Inter- State monopolies and combinations, I can only say that to include such a paragraph in this clause would be to misconceive the position and mislead the citizens. This Commission can have no earthly power over monopolies, Inter-State or otherwise. All that it can do is to investigate, and the powers of investigation are given under the AntiTrust Act. The object of my amendment is to supplement and reinforce the powers of the Commonwealth, not to duplicate them. The amendment that I propose as new clause 26a is as follows -
The Commission may of its own motion summon before it any State authority, common carrier, or person who it has reason to believe has done anything, or left anything undone, in contravention of this Act, or of the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce, or any law made thereunder, and shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter, and may make such orders in relation thereto as if complaint had been made to it of the contravention.
That is a real and useful power. The existing provision in the Commonwealth for inquiry into matters relating to trade and commerce is in its operation simply farcical, and has reduced projected legislation to the same farcical level. What wewant is the power of Investigation into matters in cases where there is no machinery or power to deal effectively with such recommendations when they are made. This Bill, I think, will do that, and the proposed amendment should be inserted in the place which I have mentioned.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clause 17 - (1.) The Commission may investigate all matters affecting -
.- Experience has shown that this proposal to deal with the question of the control of the Inter-State waters of the Commonwealth is a step in the right direction, and I can see the possibility of the proposal becoming of very vital importance to one of the most important industries in the Commonwealth. This matter has been under the consideration of the various State Parliaments for probably the last forty years, and every effort has been made by the State authorities to do the very best they can to deal with the waters of the Murray River and its tributaries’. Several conferences have been held, and many recommendations have been made regarding the control of this river for navigation, irrigation, and storage purposes, and I can see the possibility of this Commission being of great advantage, not only in that respect, but on account of . the various States, perhaps, delegating certain other powers to it. Various reports that have been made show how little we have, so far, made use of that river, when compared with the uses to which rivers in irrigation areas in other parts of the world have been put. We know the great achievements that there have been on the Nile in connexion with irrigation, and the volume of water in the Murray approximates largely to that of the Nile at its partially low-water state somewhere about Berber. We know that in certain respects our production in Australia has equalled that of some of the irrigation centres of the United States of America, and the future of this continent will very largely depend upon the use that is made of the waters of the Murray River and its tributaries. Mr. Hunt, the Government Meteorologist, has stated that there was from 1895 to 1902 a loss of cattle of 20,000,000, a loss of sheep in eleven years of 253,000,000, and a monetary loss of no less than£226,000,000. If we had had the means of properly utilizing the water of our rivers a great deal of this loss would have been avoided. We have hundreds of thousands of acres of country suitable for irrigation. This land is at present worth probably only £2 or £3 per acre, but it might well be made worth £100 or £200 per acre for productive purposes. Mr. Hunt states -
Do not such figures as these, which take no account of the losses from starved crops, which must have been enormous during these lean years, prove beyond cavil that we, as a nation, are prodigally wasting our wonderful inheritance?
No doubt these statements are absolutely true, and should be taken to heart by every one of us. From the stand-point of production, it is of the utmost importance that we should make the fullest use of our artesian and river waters, and no greater problem than that of utilizing our rivers to the fullest extent could engage the attention of the Inter-State Commission. It will be the duty of the Commission to investigate this question, and to make some definite recommendation. We find that in Egypt an area of country embracing 12,000 square miles has a population of 10,000,000. Five million acres are under irrigation culture, and the exports from this area are valued at ^20,000,000, after the food supply of the large population has been provided for. It has been stated that the United States of America are very much better supplied with water-ways than we are. But whilst they have 1,000,000,000 acres capable of irrigation, they have water sufficient for the irrigation of only 50,000,000 acres. Probably we in Australia would have a larger relative percentage of land which could be brought under irrigation. In the United States of America there are something like 15,000,000 acres under irrigation, whereas in India the area under irrigation is 50,000,000 acres. I mention these figures to show that the possibilities in connexion with our rivers are of a prodigious character, and the importance of the subject which the Commission will be called upon to investigate. We know that we have not power to do anything more’ than investigate at present. Under section 98, the rivers are brought under our control in connexion with trade and commerce, while section 100 gives certain control over our rivers for navigation purposes, so long as navigability is not initiated at the expense of irrigation. That some controlling body is necessary has been emphasized by the investigations made by certain engineers, but the literature on the subject is too extensive to be even casually referred to at the present time. We know that for the last forty years the State Parliaments have been endeavouring to come to something like an agreement in connexion with the control of our rivers in respect to irrigation, navigation, locking, and storage. Some attempt has been made in regard to storage of water, and it is hoped that further control may be exercised, and that the States will be prepared to delegate to the Commonwealth the powers necessary to give it adequate control over our rivers, and enable it to direct that the waters be put to the best use. In Victoria and New South Wales the State Governments have alreadyspent something like ,£5,000,000 upon irrigation works. We have a catchment area of 160,000 square miles for the River Murray, and even a casual glance must “impress one with the immense possibilities before us. As showing that some such, control as is now contemplated would be possible, I may point out that the Conference in 1902 recommended -
That, in the opinion of this Conference, the circumstances of Australia demand that all natura] waters not already appropriated under legal sanction shall he declared public water, and made, subject to a suitable system of law. applicable to the whole of the Continent, and that the Commonwealth and State Governments be respectfully asked to consider such legislation as would provide for its regulation and disposal in such manner as shall secure its fullest possible use in the interests of the whole of the people.*
We know that this question of water control has assumed a different form- in different countries. The question has undergone a gradual development from the old Roman period up to the time of Statute law in Great Britain. We know that in the old days the principal consideration was navigation utility, but in the United States of America the principal matter held in view has been the use of the water to the greatest advantage for irrigation purposes. The reason I touch upon this matter is that with our great river resources and possibilities in the direction of navigation and irrigation we shall sooner or later have to determine the law in so far as the use of water for different purposes is concerned. I am hopeful that it will be found possible to use the waters of the Murray, both for’ irrigation and navigation purposes, without the one interfering with the other ; and I confidently anticipate that the Inter- State Commission, after investigation, will be able to make such definite recommendations as will induce the Commonwealth Parliament to undertake the snagging of the river - as the United States Government have done in connexion with some of their large water-ways - and to establish a system of locks and weirs. Reasonable recommendations from such a Commission might- go a long way towards the accomplishment of the great object we all have in view, namely, that of making the Murray a valuable artery of commerce as well as a great source of supply for irrigation purposes. The Commission appointed by the Victorian Government in 19 10 made a full investigation into every phase of this question. The Commission made some definite recommendations for the control of this river. They say -
A regulated river-system such as the Murray and its tributaries should be in our opinion, makes necessary a regulating authority. It has become obvious to us during the course of this inquiry that much of the misunderstanding which undoubtedly exists between the people of the different States has its origin in ignorance, due to lack of information in one State as to the action, or anticipated action, in the others through which the rivers flow. Unfortunately, though the river controversy has been maintained for many years, joint or co-operative investigation is of very recent origin. We are convinced that such joint investigations as have taken place have had a distinctly beneficial effect in the direction of mutual understanding …. We must frankly state that we have had great difficulty in obtaining reliable figures as to the trade done on the river, the value of the interests depending on this trade, and the real difficulties under which it has had to be conducted. It has been no person’s business to obtain and collate this information.
It should be one of the most valuable functions of the Inter- State Commission to carry out the investigations recommended in this report. The Commissioners further reported -
The Public Works of Inter-State concern which are required for the effective use of the river and the development of the neighbouring country shouldbe fully inquired into. The practicability of locking the rivers, to what extent it would develop the adjoining lands, its cost, its engineering difficulties; all these are vital questions on which little if any investigation has been made. Similarly with regard to railways in the river districts, especially where the trade connexion of a centre lies outside the State in which the centre is situated. In our opinion, to arrive at a sound and consistent policy with regard to the settlement of this vast and important area an Inter-State Board, with power to investigate and report on the matters referred to, and many others, should be called into existence. Apart from this educative work the control of river improvements, such as the removal of obstructions, the construction of wharfs, and the erection of groins for the purpose of restricting the flow to a narrower channel, and other works of a conservancy nature, could be much more efficiently and economically carried out by an Inter-State Board acting on definite lines than it can be by three separate authorities.
We have here a definite recommendation for the appointment of such a Board as we are now establishing under this Bill, and the suggestion that such a tody would be the most competent and economical to deal with this great problem. The Commissioners recognised that -
Storages should be filled from the flood waters; an Inter-State authority should be empowered to direct the times at which the filling of such storages should commence and cease. These storages will have to be used to secure both navigation and irrigation, this should be done under the direction of an independent body.
The Inter-State Commission will have power to make the fullest investigations and inquiry, but will be unable to exercise any direct executive authority, except in connexion with navigation and trade along the rivers ; but I point out that if it is of such a character as to invite the confidence of the State Parliaments, it is quite possible that they will desire to delegate to it the extended powers necessary to give it authority to largely control the storage and distribution of water. I may inform honorable ‘ members that what is practically an Inter-State Commission has been appointed for the purpose of controlling rivers and other waters that are common to the United States of America and Canada, and which might be regarded as of an international character. In this connexion the report from which I have just quoted states -
The constitution and powers of the International Joint Commission of the United States and Canada are fixed by a treaty of last year made between Great Britain and the United States. It consists of six members, three appointed by the President of the United States and three to be appointed by the King of England, on the recommendation of the GovernorGeneral of Canada.
It was proposed that this Ccmmission should have power to deal with -
Honorable members will recognise that the regulation of such matters involving the interests of two independent countries should be more difficult than the regulation of similar matters between States bound together, and having interests in common in the settlement of questions of a purely Australian character. The Commissioners express the opinion that- -
The ordinary uses of a river are for the following purposes : -
These recommendations for the control of the river Murray are included in a report presented to the Victorian Parliament in 1 9 10 by a Commission consisting of members of the StateParliament, and presided over by Mr. Mackinnon, a legal member of that Parliament. We cannot too strongly emphasize the wonderful possibilities of the Murray River, and the urgency of dealing with the question at the earliest possible opportunity. In view of her wonderful climate and the productivity of her soil, it is scarcely too much to say that the rivers of Australia are her greatest assets. Heroic efforts are being made by the States of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia to utilize the waters of the Murray, but, so far, a very small percentage of the enormous flow of the river is being utilized, and a great volume of the water is allowed to flow to the sea. There are possibilities of putting millions of acres under cultivation, and the settlement of hundreds of thousands of people, by the proper storage and use of the waters of this river. At the present time 10,000,000 of the population of the 90,000,000 of the United States of America are being directly supported by the economic use .of the waters of the rivers of the country, and I have already stated what irrigation has done for India. We have even greater opportunities in the Murray and its tributaries, which probably in the future will sustain the greatest part of the agricultural population to ‘be found within the boundaries of Victoria. So that the transcendent importance of dealing with this problem at the earliest possible moment cannot be exaggerated or too much emphasized. I hope that one of the first tasks which the Inter- State Commission will lake in hand will be an investigation into the whole question of the Murray and its tributaries, to ascertain the possibility of using the water for irrigation purposes, the area that it is possible to irrigate from the water flowing down the river system, and the quantity that might be stored if suitable storage works were erected at the head waters. I am sure that the energies of the Commission cannot be expended in a direction that will be more fruitful or likely to conduce to greater success than investigation into the proper use of these waters. I can also see great possibilities from the generation of electric power by locking the river. All these works can be carried out without in the slightest degree interfering with the navigability of the river. The quantity of water that naturally flows along the Murray and its tributaries might, if suitable storage were adopted, enable navigation to be conducted uninterruptedly all the year round, whilst at the same time affording facilities for irrigation work on a large scale and supplying electric power for manufacturing purposes. I believe that in the future we shall have along the banks of the river cities of 100,000 inhabitants, such as are to be found in some of the irrigation districts of the United States of America. I hail with satisfaction the clause under discussion. I hope that the Inter- State Commission will conduct such a full and efficient investigation into the possibilities of this question, and discharge their duties in such a way as will induce the State Parliaments voluntarily to delegate further powers to the Commission, if it is necessary to intrust to it that authority which has been so clearly recommended by the Commission appointed by the State of Victoria.
– I am very pleased that we shall have in the future a body constituted and competent to deal with the Murray waters question. Nevertheless, I feel that we are taking on a very big contract, which will give the Inter- State Commission enough work to do for the next twenty years. I suppose we shall have the Commission travelling all over the country loaded up with a lot of officials. In fact, we shall have what will practically be a new form of Government altogether. I do not know how the Australians are going to maintain all these Commissions. We have Royal Comissions of various descriptions, and now we are to have an Inter-State Commission with very extensive powers. If this sort of thing goes on, there will not be very much left for Parliament to do. We have been elected to do certain work, and we ought to do it. We should not transfer our work to Com-, missions to the extent honorable members now seem inclined to do. I should not have spoken to-day except for the figures quoted by the honorable member for Wimmera in connexion with the loss of stock by drought. I would point out, however, that it is a very difficult matter, even for the most experienced man, to say how many sheep or cattle are lost in a drought. For my own part I feel sure that not half as many are lost as is sometimes reported. The unfortunate thing is that reports of this kind are telegraphed to the Old Country and published under such headings as “ Great Drought in Australia.” In good seasons, such as we have had for the last ten years, information about our prosperity is not telegraphed, because it is not so sensational. Travelling in the Old World, as many of us did last year, we had good opportunities of learning that there is no country in the world to compare with Australia. In spite of droughts, we are much better off than are many other countries. The honorable member for Cowper and myself, when travelling together on one occasion, met a man who, when he learnt that we came from Australia, said, “ That is the country where there is no water. How do you get a drink when you want one?” He thought that we had to distil fresh water from salt water. That is a sample of the false ideas about Australia which are circulated. I am pleased to know that steps are to be taken to conserve the waters of the Murray and its tributaries. We know a great deal more about the Murray and its soil now than we did some years ago. We know that we have some of the best soil in the world along the Murray. I am very sorry that so much water goes to waste, and I hope that the InterState Commission, when appointed, will apply itself to stop this great waste of water. Like the honorable member for Wimmera, I have not the slightest doubt that in future large towns will spring up along the Murray. We shall have railway trains running along the course of the river, such as some of us saw along the banks of the Rhine, in Germany. The Murray has been called the Rhine of Australia, and its soil is capable of producing as fruitfully as does the country along the Rhine. I could not help noticing, when travelling up the Darling to the Queensland border, how canals had been cut by nature for the use of the people. 1 have not the slightest doubt that, before many years are passed, the Murray and its tributaries will be locked right back to the Queensland border. Work of that kind will be of great advantage to Australia generally. The Murray and its tributaries were devised by nature to enable produce to be brought down to the sea easily. I wonder that the old pioneers did not make more use of it and build railways with the idea of bringing produce down to the natural outlet of this great area of country, which, of course, must be Victor Harbor. I trust that in a few years we shall see very great improvements made in reference to the use of the waters of the Murray, and I have not the slightest doubt that such works will be of immense advantage to this country.
– I felt very much interested in the speech of the honorable member for Wimmera, who has helped to throw valuable light on the provision of the Constitution affecting the use of the waters of the Murray, as well as on the operation of this Bill as far as it has reference to reconciling the conflicting claims of navigation and irrigation. The object of the clause under discussion is to vest in the Inter State Commission the duty and responsibility of reconciling the claim of navigation on the one hand with that of irrigation on the other - in other words, of reconciling navigability with riparian rights. It will be a primary duty of the Inter- State Commission, under the mandate of the Constitution, to provide for the maintenance of the navigability of Inter-State rivers. That, of course,- is contained within the trade and commerce power. The Commonwealth has almost unlimited power to deal with Inter-State trade, and to promote facilities, for the maintenance and conduct of it, including all instrumentalities by which tra’de is conveyed or exchanged, among them being, of course, rivers and other means of communication. It will be the duty, as well as the privilege, of the Commission to recommend schemes for the maintenance and improvement of the navigability of all Inter-State rivers, and particularly of the greatest of them, the River Murray. In respect of that great stream there have been for many years conflicting claims.. The lower State on the river, South Australia, has been strongly interested in maintaining its navigability, while the upper States, Victoria and New South Wales, seem to be largely interested in demanding the right to use its waters for irrigation purposes. In the Convention some effort was made to secure ‘the rights of navigation on the one hand and the rights of irrigation on the’ other. The rights of navigation are secured by the commerce section, and the rights in respect of irrigation are secured by that provision of the Constitution which declares that -
The Commonwealth shall not by any law or regulation of trade or commerce abridge the right of a State or of the residents therein to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation.
There is the problem, and the obligation of solving it is properly vested in this tribunal, which is partly judicial and partly administrative in its character. The InterState Commission will have to hold the scales of justice evenly between South Australia on the one hand, interested largely in maintaining the flow of the Murray for navigation purposes, and Victoria and New South Wales on the other, interested in the right to use the Murray, as well as its tributaries, such as the Goulburn and the Darling, for irrigation purposes. It is a tremendous problem to solve - one of great perplexity and responsibility - but this was the best solution of the difficulty that the Convention could find. It is, after all, a question of right and equity. I believe that since the Convention sat and, guided by the interests of the States concerned, put these provisions in the Constitution, investigations have been proceeding with a view of ascertaining the flow and possibilities of the River Murray, in order to determine what would be a fair distribution partly for irrigation and partly for navigation purposes.
– The contention of many is that irrigation on a large scale would never be possible, unless there was proper water carriage for the produce of the irrigationists.
– I believe that that is one of the contentions. No doubt it is” in the interests of irrigationists, on some parts of the rivers in question at all events, that the waters in the upper stretches should not be so wasted as to absolutely destroy their navigability. There should be cooperation to secure such an equitable distribution as would maintain the two interests. I am sure that Victoria does not desire to take an undue share of the waters of the rivers, and so to destroy the riparian rights of South Australia. It should be possible to arrive at a modus vivendi that will secure the rights of these States. Indeed, it would be a miserable and selfish State that would indulge in a game of grab based upon a total disregard of the requirements of its neighbour. South Australia has been threatening litigation unless there is some equitable settlement of the question; but whether she has any legal rights, enforcible in the High Court, remains to be seen.
– The honorable member is now arguing the general question instead of discussing the clause.
– I am pointing out that the clause is intended to harmonize Inter-State rights, and so to prevent the necessity for litigation. I think that I am within my rights in doing so.
– The threats to which the honorable member refers were made only by a few politicians. I do not think that they represent ihe opinion of the people of South Australia generally.
– Under the Federal law, I do not think there is any necessity for litigation. The Federal law is intended to be an equitable one, under which no one shall be given an undue advantage. If the Bill be properly administered, then, within the principles laid down in this clause, there should be no necessity for resort to litigation. In that event, every State will have a fair share of its legal, as well as of . its equitable, rights. No one will be allowed to resort to such diversions of water as would lead to an injustice in respect of navigability on the one hand, and no State will be permitted to make excessive claims -for navigability that might result in an abridgment of irrigation rights. Probably the system of locking the Murray suggested by South Australia, and largely approved of, may result in the reconciliation of all these interests. The locking of the Murray for irrigation purposes in its upper stretches might result in the preservation of water, not merely for navigation, but for irrigation purposes. These locks should not diminish the water supply; they should rather preserve the waters of these rivers by preventing their too ready flow to the ocean. I think, therefore, that this clause ought to be supported on the ground that it is intended to reconcile and harmonize the Inter-State rights of the various riparian States.
.- This clause involves a question of very grave importance to that part of Victoria which I have the honour to represent. I do not intend to oppose it, but I trust . that when the Commission is appointed the right of the States to control the tributary waters of the Murray will not be seriously interfered with.
– The Inter-State Commission will not have any power to interfere with them.
– I notice that the clause simply provides that the Commission may “investigate” certain matters.-
– It is time that the central authority had some voice in the matter.
– Quite so. At the same time, we must not forget that the States have hitherto exercised absolute control over the waters within their own boundaries. This power of investigation will also include the power to inquire into all matters affecting -
The abridgment by the Commonwealth by any law or regulation of trade or commerce of the rights of any State or the residents therein to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation 01 irrigation.
In this connexion, I would remind the Committee that Victoria has already entered into very large commitments that involve the use of the waters of various tributaries of the Murray for what are essentially practical purposes. If this Commission is to be given power to interfere with works that have already been undertaken by the State Government a great wrong will be done. In that event there will be an infringement of State rights, as I understand them, and the Commonwealth will be allowed to still further encroach upon what has previously been the prerogative of the States alone.
– It is specially provided that the Commonwealth is not by any law to abridge the rights of any States in this respect.
– As long as it is made perfectly clear that this Commission will have no power to interfere seriously with the profitable and proper use of the waters of the States concerned, I shall be satisfied. I fail to see why there should be any such power given to the Commission. The proper conservation of the waters of the rivers of the Commonwealth, and particularly of the Murray and its tributaries, should result in less water flowing to waste during the flood seasons, and more water being available for use in dry seasons. That is what I anticipate will result from the proper utilization of the waters of various streams in the great basin of the Murray, and in the Goulburn Valley. The same remark will apply, I think, to the Mumimbidgee and the Darling; but if the Commission is to have power to interfere with the operations of the States in this respect, I fear that this good work will be retarded rather than assisted. The States are the proper agencies, and are likely to do this work more effectively than the Federal authorities. Therefore, I shall be very sorry if this provision empowers ‘ the Commission to retard their work. What we must guard against is mischievous interference with their operations. If the legal members of the Committee are satisfied that that is not possible, I shall be satisfied; but as the representative of a district largely affected, I say that every reasonable precaution should be taken to prevent the putting of hindrances in the way of the conservation and use of water. New South Wales has a very large water conservation scheme at Burrinjuck, while Victoria has the Goulburn Valley schemes, and last week her Parliament passed a Bill authorizing the expenditure of a large sum upon another big reservoir on the upper waters of the Goulburn. These schemes are evidence of progress, and are what Australia needs, because in the dry areas water conservation will enable ten families to live where only one can live now. The importance of the subject is second to none from the practical and monetary point of view. I value a tribunal with power to control the use of the waters of the Murray, a matter that is dealt with unsatisfactorily at present, because three States are concerned, but I fear lest the influence of the Commission may be mischievous in respect to the tributary waters to which I have referred. While I hope that nothing but good may come of the establishment of the Commission, there is in my mind the doubt that the Federal authority may override the States authorities, and do that which we do not desire.
.- I do not think that the apprehensions of the honorable member are grounded on probabilities. Although the clause seems to aim at constituting the Inter-State Commission the policeman in regard to navigation rights, every inquiry that is made will tend to show our people, including the inhabitants of South Australia, who are the main claimants for the preservation of navigability, the absolute necessity of conserving our waters. As the facts are brought more clearly before the public, the necessity of some constitutional change in regard to the control of our waters will be seen, until eventually Australia begins to make a national use of her greatest asset. Section 98 of the Constitution says -
The power of the Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping.
And section 100 says -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of a State or of the residents therein to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation.
The Commonwealth must guarantee rights of navigation over the Murray water system, which is the only river system that is Inter-State. It strikes me as unfortunate that the right of the Australian public to the best use of the land, which in the dry areas can only be obtained by irrigation, is regarded by the Constitution as of no importance, while the right of navigation is regarded as of every importance. Although the right of conservation is looked upon as of purely local concern, it carries with it the extension of population, which is admittedly Australia’s greatest national need. In matters of conservation we are not the policeman of rights. But how best to fill Australia’s empty spaces with people of the white race while there is yet time is Australia’s greatest problem, and one which all of us should seek to solve. The clause will be mischievous or valuable according to the means taken by the InterState Commission to exercise its powers. Any information brought to light by the Commission cannot fail to make the public realize the immense importance of irrigation, though were the Commission to interpret the clause too narrowly - a contingency not to be wished for - it would be one that the Bill would be better without.
– Then the honorable member seems to feel the same doubt that I expressed.
– No; because I think that the Commission will consist of capable men. It will be as big a tribunal as this or any country could appoint. I anticipate that its members will be reasonable, and will, therefore, see the unreasonableness of too narrow an interpretation. If they merely guarantee to the Murray marginal inhabitants of South Australia full navigability, that is, a full stream at all times, they will soon realize the immense damage they are doing to Australian interests.
– I do not think that they would attempt that. It is claimed that navigability can be promoted without interfering with conservation, and it would be the function of the Commission to see that that is done.
– They can deal with navigation, but I regard the question of navigation in these matters as infinitesimal in importance compared with the great question of irrigation. It we take, for instance, the interests which are conserved largely by navigation, they are nearly all interests which can be very readily dealt with by railway extension.
– And much more effectively.
– Yes, and more continuously and satisfactorily. We have an alternative, therefore, in regard to those particular interests. The interests that are concerned in sending produce by the Murray are, I think, largely the pastoral interests. The pastoral industry, while I recognise it to be Australia’s primary industry, cannot expect to keep so large a population on the land as can the other industries which will be served by irrigation, so that, from the stand-point of population and fairness, indeed, from every point of view possible, the interests of irrigation ought to be held paramount. If this power is to be used to snag rivers and to do that sort of thing, well and good; if it is to be utilized to lock the rivers, no one here would be. better pleased than myself. I do not know whether this would be stretching the Federal power a little too far. But I cannot help thinking that by locking the Darling and the Murray at suitable points - there are places, certainly on the Darling, where with reasonable economy locking could be effected owing to the very gradual fall of the river basin, and I think that the same thing applies to the Murray - by such means, I fancy, more than a mere aid to navigation would result. I am inclined to think that if the waters were backed up, and constantly kept there by a series of locks, we should get a slight modification of the climatic conditions of that basin which would lead to precipitation after the constant evaporation from the flooded billa-‘ bongs and rivers, and induce a more regular rainfall due to local storms on exactly the same lines, and for the same reasons, as the slight modification of “the climate of Egypt since the great barrages have beenestablished there.
– Mr. Mead says that has been the experience in the UnitedStates of America.
– It has been the experience, I think, wherever water is conserved in this way. The locking of the Darling or the Murray does not seem to show a quid fro quo immediately; but if we had this great Australian problem to confront in a business sense, it would be worth while to spend a little money on the mere chance of Australia reaping the same reward’, climatically, as has been obtained in. every country in the world where such changes have been made. I would like to see the power exercised. I do not know whether it will be exercised by this Parliament after the investigations of the Inter-State Commission. Paragraph d gives powers to investigate all matters affecting the violation by any State, or by the people of any State, of the rights of any other State, or the people of any other State, with respect to the waters of rivers. The State of Victoria ought, I think, to carefully scrutinize that provision. Victoria has been the pioneer of Australian irrigation, and, although I come from another State, I am the first to be grateful to that State for what it has done in that connexion.
– It has spent a lot of money with no results at present.
– I am really astonished to hear the honorable member make that remark. The results have been phenomenal. Every result has only made earnest men more satisfied that the problem is a real one, and ought to be grappled with. The only cases where there was any element of failure at all about them were the very early schemes. But I challenge honorable members on either side to point to any new scheme that has not been wrong in details when first initiated.
– Nearly all the schemes since then have been proved to be good. There is a better practical understanding of the question now.
– There were slight failures in connexion with the details, but that will ever occur in connexion with such propositions. While some persons will fling a brick at men who lived twenty years before their time, I am prepared to give honour to those whose foresight enabled the original Victorian propositions to be initiated twenty years before the rest of Australia began to think of taking action. If the power of investigation should lead to the Commission - and I do not think it will - spending valuable time in acting merely as a policeman for South Australia as against Victoria, I shall very much regret it. I sincerely hope that the power will not be read narrowly, that the Commission will regard itself as the trustees of the Australian people, and will not adopt too narrow a rendering of the Constitution.
– lt is quite right that there should be some :such body as an Inter-State Commission appointed to carry out a thorough investigation, but we should be careful not to place too great powers in its hands. We do not yet know the personnel of the Commission, but, no matter how it may be constituted, we should be careful not to confer too great powers in connexion with irrigation and the use of the waters of our rivers. If we give the Commission full power to investigate all matters in connexion with obstruction in our rivers - and I take it that “ obstruction “ Would include the Burrinjuck irrigation works - if we give them power to investigate in connexion with works of that kind, which are completed or in the way of completion, I think that we shall go too far. I am in favour of giving the Committee absolute power to control what is to be done in the future. But it would be a mistake, I consider, to empower them to carry out investigations in connexion with works which are completed, that is, if we mean that Parliament shall act upon their recommendations. Suppose, for instance, that, as the result of an investigation, the Commission should come to the conclusion and recommend that the construction of the great dam at Burrinjuck was inimical to the interests of people living on the lower waters of the Murrumgidgee, what would be the p’osition ? Should we be expected to pull down the dam, and to let the water go? I think we might limit the powers of the Commission to what is being done at present, and what is to be done in the future ; because, in my opinion, it would be a mistake to enable them to investigate and make recommendations in regard to great irrigation works now completed or about to be completed. I agree that an Inter-State Commission should have, full power to investigate as to the control’ and the navigation of the waters of our rivers; but we ought to hesitate before we hand to any body of men a power which may be used to the detriment of any, one of the States.
.- I do not propose to repeat the very weighty observations that have fallen from the honorable member for Wimmera and honorable members who followed him. The tribute of the honorable member for Wimmera to the importance of the question, and his short summary of its practical relevancy and practical promise to the peoples of a considerable portion of Australia, has quite sufficiently disposed of those parts of this subject. But the criticism just made by the honorable and gallant member for North Sydney echoes a note recalling some preceding utterances. In the first instance, let me point out - though I do so without any satisfaction - that the only power possessed by the Inter- State Commission is the power of inquiry ; it is not, unfortunately, empowered to do anything.
– Not to make recommendations ?
– It may make recommendations, and can only in that sense do something; but the Commission is not empowered to do anything more than advise - it cannot touch the rights, privileges, or possessions of any persons.
– It has no legislative power at -all.
– And no executive power; its only power is that of inquiry and report.
– If Parliament does not act on the recommendations, the Inter- State Commission will not be of much use.
– In some sense. If every Parliament continued to refuse to act on its recommendations, the Inter-State Commission would be of no practical use; but though it is quite possible that one Legislature may challenge a particuar proposition, there must be reasonable expectation that, so far as the recommendations are wise, appropriate, and timely, they will not long be rejected. There is not much to add to the discussion, although what has been said, in point of length, constitutes a very small tribute to large and vital issues which might well occupy a considerable portion of our time. What, however, appears to have been overlooked is the purpose of the institution of the Inter-State Commission. We found, prior to Federation, a great deal of friction, and marked differences of opinion, between the several States, particularly the States of South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria, not only as to the value of their waters and their several claims to them, but also as to their practical but scientific application to the soil. The rivers, with their great possibilities as carriers of trade, and for the storage of water, opened out. prospects of settlement and prosperity to districts which otherwise must have been abandoned to pastoral purposes only, while even these, without water storage, would in many seasons be perilously placed.
But the outstanding circumstance which led to this particular proposal definitely embodied in the Constitution was the friction in regard to the division of our water supplies and the Inter-State trade closely connected therewith. A state of affairs had been brought about reeking with most undesirable friction and suspicion. The three States I have mentioned were never on worse terms, and never exhibited a more unfriendly attitude than in connexion with the series of questions that arose out of the river problem. The water question represented an attempt to develop new territories by the. establishment of new relations with their neighbours. It was not only desirable, but absolutely necessary, that a better understanding should be brought about, and that common action of some kind should be provided so that those who appeared to be strangers, if not enemies, but who were, in point of facts, friends and citizens of the same nation, should be linked together in amity. It was to overcome the excitement, ill-temper, and suspicion which then barred the way to any progress in this regard that, after a great deal of debate at the several meetings of the Federal Convention, the Inter-State Commission was created. It was authorized for the very purpose of harmonizing these inharmonious conditions - providing for the utilization of the waters of the country, and removing the sources of exasperation associated with our relatively small supply of waters and our relatively unending country suitable for cultivation when water is supplied.
The Inter-State Commission was created for that purpose, and no other. It is one of the most distinctly Federal bodies in existence; the entire impulse which brought it into being was Federal in aim, and can succeed only by continuing Federal in its operations. Yet the Inter-State Commission possesses no legislative or executive power enabling it to give effect to its ideals, however high and admirable these may be. It is simply a body of experts, called upon, after personal investigation of *a searching and scientific character, to lay before the States interested all the facts as to the possibilities of the development of the water resources of Australia. Naturally the Murray system is so much the greatest, so much the most important, and has so much closer relation to large bodies of our people, that attention has been focussed there; indeed, ‘ the other portions of Australia in which this . Inter- State Commission will be able to operate with advantage in connexion with the development of water supply seem almost insignificant. Of course, these portions of Australia are by no means insignificant in themselves, but so appear when contrasted with the great problems which confront South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria in connexion with the great system of which the Murray is the centre.
We have now reached a point at -which this Inter-State Commission, long overdue, can be called upon to discharge some of its essential functions. It will probably have to review the proposals which are about to be submitted by the different States, more especially those which affect the lower Murray and South Australia, and those indirectly affecting Victoria higher up. Progress in these schemes has been delayed year after year owing to the existence of jealousies sometimes based upon misunderstandings - misunderstandings which are perfectly capable of being removed, but which can only be removed by a thoroughly scientific study of the circumstances of this great water basin, and by the application of the latest scientific methods to the utilization to the best advantage of the water to be stored. What is being done withmall s streams of water in the western portion of the United States of America, and particularly in California and the surrounding States, is full of surprises. The estimates which were current when I visited that country years ago have all been more than realized. Then there are the possibilities shown to attach even to very restricted supplies. No matter how insignificant the supply may seem, if it be regular, it is astonishing how,’ in many instances, it has enabled lands of apparently the lowest possible promise to vie with the richest soils in its productions.
However, I do not desire to detain the Committee at undue length, though few practical questions are really more important to use than this, and few have a deeper claim on our attention. My main object in rising was to point out that, if this Inter-State Commission fulfils its proper functions, it will, to a large extent, guide the Parliaments which retain the final decision on this question. It will guide the Governments concerned towards action which will be financially profitable, making for settlement and civilization in the portions affected, and it will remind honorable members that the aim and object of its creation was to provide the basis for a closer and more sympathetic relationship between the States. Any one of them will be able to set this tribunal in motion in order to obtain the reports, the information, and the plans necessary to allow of the utilization of waters that are at present flowing idly to the sea. We have, in this particular agency, one of the best, one of the most direct, and one of the most fruitful, means of bringing home to the people of the different States their Federal citizenship. Here is a body which, without trespassing on State rights, will look into our river problems with the trained eyes of experts, considering them in all their relationships until they assume unchallengeable commercial shape. Once link the States together in common enterprise, and we shall acquire a new tie, thus making for the further population of the country, for its further settlement, for its higher productiveness, and a full recognition of the national citizenship of those affected. Assure an actual conjunction of our larger interests, aims, and purposes, and your line of action will be straight and clear. You can assure an absolute unity of one people when engaged in the same enterprises with the same objects. That in itself, independent of the income and numbers of the Australian people thus increased, will lead us still further on our open path. The application of science to the development of our great original resources which have so far been an imperfect factor in the development of this country, offers golden promises. I do not mean that some brilliant successes have .not been achieved in this direction in different portions of Australia, but I do say that there has been left a field as yet untrodden and unexploited, enormously larger than that we have so far utilized, and surpassing all we have done hitherto. My object iti speaking was to remind honorable members that there is a great federal impulse behind this InterState Commission. It is to be a knowledgable body, and by means of knowledge it is to bring us into closer co-operation with our fellow citizens in making the best use of the enormous water resources which we have, small as they may appear in proportion to the Continent we enjoy, which should be developed to their fullest possible extent, and with the least possible delay.
.- I am pleased to see that one of the objects of this Inter-State Commission is to look into the question of irrigation and the navigation of our rivers, because I hold that the proper irrigation of lands adjacent to rivers, particularly the Murray River, is one of those things which are going to make Australia more effectively occupied than anything else. I know that differences have existed between the irrigation and the navigation interests, but” I think that this Commission might do a lot towards helping to settle those disputes. Irrigation is :far ‘ more important than navigation, because we know that at the last pinch the transport of produce could be carried on by means of railways, but if the country is not irrigated, you will have practically nothing to carry, and the question of navigation, therefore, would be of comparatively trifling importance. The enormous quantity of water that flows in the Murray watershed, if properly stored at its sources, is sufficient for navigation and irrigation purposes for many a decade, if not a century, to come. I have seen it stated, and I can easily believe it, that 20,000,000 people can be settled in comfort on the Murray watershed alone. We know that the partial occupation of the interior, at’ present, is not attended by comfortable conditions. We have people living isolated lives, vast distances from one another, and if we want to settle population in the interior on up-to-date and civilized lines, we shall have to combine with settlement irrigation of some kind, so that those resident in those areas may have the advantage of proper social conditions and the means of education for their children., The present state of things is not conducive to the settlement of that large population which we all desire to see in the interior of this great Continent. In that respect, this Commission may do very good! work. It may reconcile the differencesthat exist between the various interests. I put irrigation first, because without irrigation we cannot have navigation. I mean that the small quantity of produce that would be raised in those districts would not warrant the expenditure of the enormous, sum of money required to make these great, rivers permanently navigable. But if there were proper storage arrangements at the? heads of the rivers, by which water could be stored in times of plenty and released in the dry periods, these splendid waterways could be made permanently navigable and at the same time to supply a tremendous quantity of water for irrigation purposes.. The question of properly providing for the irrigation of our lands is the most important subject that Australians could deal with. We have a fluctuating rainfall. It is ample in one year, and almost a’ negligible quantity in another year. In one year we have plenty, and then we have years of famine. That is the great drawback to Australia, and it is one which, I am sorry to say, has become known all over the world. Those in other parts of the world simply regard us from the point of view of being visited by the very worst seasons. They have no idea what a paradise Australia is in good seasons, and what a paradise it might generally be if we could store sufficient water to make up for the deficiency in our rainfall. In India, where the rivers are no better than ours, I was astonished during a visit there to see the great Jumna irrigation scheme. That river can never become a navigable river because it is tortuous in its course, and its banks are not sufficiently well defined, but they are making the most of it for irrigation purposes. There are 26,000,000 acres of land in India irrigated by these artificial means, while about 13,000,000 acres are irrigated by the old system of wells. We have in our interior similar country to that which is contained in the interior plains of India. I saw there the same grasses and the same shrubs to a great extent, and I believe that by the application of a little intelligence and a good deal of money, we could settle a population on our interior lands which would be a credit to us, and effectively dispose of many questions which are agitating us today. It is ridiculous that we should have a population of four and a half millions only in this continent. That has become a trite saying, and how are we going to alter it? What is desired can only be brought about by intelligently tackling this question of irrigation. If this Inter-State Commission can reconcile those differences between the States which are hindering the development and advancement of Australia, it will do good work. We have pretty well settled the question of peopling- Australia from a pastoral point of view, and we shall now have to deal with the question from an agricultural or intense-culture point of view. Nature has provided bountiful means to do that, anr! it only requires intelligence and capital to settle perhaps 30,000,000 on this great river basin in the interior. For that reason alone this Commission ought to be constituted. I hope it may harmonize those conflicting interests which are now hindering development in this direction.
.- I omitted to give during my former remarks some figures in regard to irrigation lands in Australia. I mentioned that in the United States of America there were 1,000,000,000 acres of land that were suitable for irrigaton, but that only 50,000,000 acres could be irrigated on account of the limited supply of water. According to the estimates of our engineers, which, of course, are only approximate, we have iri the basins of the Murray and its tributaries an area of 50,000,000 acres of land that could be irrigated if we had the water necessary for that purpose. The schemes now in progress, it is estimated, will provide for the irrigation of not less than 5,000,000 acres. Experience in the United States of America shows that irrigationists readily pay from £3 to £12 per annum for water, and that they do well. We have land suitable for irrigation purposes equal to any in the best irrigation settlements in the United States of America, and the results achieved at some of the irrigation settlements on the Murray have surpassed some of those obtained in America. Taking £6 as an average figure to be paid for water for irrigation purposes in the United States of America, we could look for a return from 5,000,000 acres of ^30, 000,000 per annum. Basing the value of the produce at five times that of the water charge, we should, if the schemes are properly carried out, and the water is properly applied, be able to look forward at an early date to an annual production valued at ;£i 50,000,000. These are startling figures, but they are capable, according to American experience, of realization. Exclusive of this 5,000,000 acres referred to, we have 45,000,000 acres capable of being irrigated, and it is in respect to this large area that the investigations of the Commission should be made. The New South Wales Government are going on with their Burrinjuck scheme, and the New South Wales and Victorian Governments have arrived at a tentative agreement with regard to the establishment of a storage basin near the Kow Swamp. Other works are also in contemplation in Victoria and New South Wales. We have a great field open for irrigation settlement if our engineers can only devise means for the conservation and distribution of the water that falls upon our great catchment areas. This is the great problem we have to solve, and in view of the enormous possibilities of settlement and production in the basins of the Murray and its tributaries, too much attention cannot be devoted to the subject. The States have endeavoured to settle the problem, but the question is a national one, and can be dealt with properly only by an investigating body viewing it from ‘a truly Australian stand-point. We know that in all branches of agriculture science has enabled us to increase our yields, and we know further that the irrigation problem is being rendered less difficult every day. But in spite of the progress already made, we have possibilities before us than can hardly be foreseen.
– Have not water rights been the subject of legal investigation quite recently?
– No doubt, important questions of law will have to be settled so far as Australia is concerned. The decisions of the English Courts have been largely based on considerations relating to navigation; but some cases have been dealt with in view of the reasonable use of water for irrigation purposes. Most of the decisions bearing on the use of water for irrigation have come from the United States of America, and it is now generally .recognised that the question of water rights has been reduced to one of reasonable use, and that navigation occupies a place secondary to irrigation. I believe it would ‘be possible to bring about such conditions that the waters of our main streams could be used for irrigation purposes to the fullest reasonable extent without interfering with navigation. If any attempts were made to preserve our streams for navigation purposes to the detriment of our irrigation colonies it would be trie duty of this Government, and the State Governments also, to interfere. But the whole question will have to be dealt with by the Commission. Our engineers inform us that no part of the world offers greater facilities for storage than are to be found on the upper reaches of the Murray and its tributaries. In addition to inquiring into the possibilities of water conservation and distribution, the Commission might very well investigate the latest methods employed in irrigation colonies,, the extent to which science has aided production, and how far the methods of exportation in connexion with perishable goods such as are mainly produce on irrigated lands might be improved. It is impossible to forecast the immense value of the work which may be done by the Inter-State Commission in the vast fields of investigation which will be open to them in connexion with inquiries as to the application of water for irrigation purposes, the productions of the soil, and the transport of products of a perishable character.
– I think we should have received a little, more assistance in the consideration of this Bill than we have so far received from some honorable members who represent constituences bordering upon our principal navigable rivers. We are indebted to the honorable members for Echuca and Wimmera for their contributions to the debate, but I think we might have had something from the honorable members for Riverina and Darling, who represent constituencies directly interested in questions of water conservation, irrigation, and mer navigation. These are amongst the most important questions with which the Inter-Sta,te Commission will have to deal, and for many years past they have been vexed questions amongst different States’. The Inter-State Commission will have to consider how the rights of various States may be affected by proposed works for irrigation and the diversion of the waters of Inter-State rivers. I take it that the idea underlying the clause is that the Commission, in addition to other multifarious duties, will make inquiries extending over the whole scope of the matters here referred to. Unless its investigations are entirely impartial and non-political in character the value of the work of the Commission will be seriously discounted. It should be composed of men of experience and knowledge, entirely lacking in bias or party or State interest, and absolutely impartial so far as the interests of the different States are concerned. Such a Commission should be able to make reports and recommendations for the benefit, not only of one State, but of all the States concerned, and the community at large, and should be of great assistance in determining one of the most complex questions which has been discussed in this or in the State Parliaments. There is nothing in the clause to indicate the scope of the powers of the Commission. We do not know whether they will be merely a Commission of inquiry, reporting to Parliament, or whether they may in any matter take action upon .their own initiative. I take it that they will be able only to inquire, report, and recommend to this Parliament, and that their reports and recommendations may subsequently be embodied in legislation framed in the light of information they supply. If the Commission be composed of men such as I have described, their reports should be valuable documents, and should materially assist future Parliaments in dealing with these very complicated and troublesome questions.
.- I do not intend to delay the passage of this Bill, but I fear that honorable members generally do not appreciate the great importance to the people of Australia as a whole of the work which the Inter- State Commission will be called upon to perform. They are to be asked to deal with ? matter which has been the subject of differences of opinion for the last forty years in Australia. If the Commission is to give its attention to this vitally important question, I am afraid they will have to neglect some other very important matters with which we are asking them tomake themselves busy. An enormous amount of investigation is still necessary in connexion with the subject of irrigation. A great deal of research will be necessary before it will be possible for any one to express an opinion worth having. This shows the necessity for the Commission to be composed of men who will be really capable of dealing with this question. I do not think there can be any doubt as to the technical knowledge that is required. Though it is quite true that the Inter-State Commission will not have any power to do anything on its own initiative in regard to irrigation, and that it will not have power to carry out its decisions in any way, still, I venture to say that, if it be composed of such men as I have in my mind, it is more than likely that the States, which in the past have been unable to come to an agreement with regard to these matters, will be disposed to place the Commission in a position to arbitrate between their various claims. Although the powers of the Commission cannot be used to any appreciable extent beyond investigation in regard to the waters of the Murray and its tributaries, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the Murray will, in time to come, prove one of the greatest factors in the development of this country and its settlement. I do not know of any portion of Australia which holds out such bright prospects and possibilities as does the valley of the Murray. Probably, it is along the course of that river and its tributaries that we shall eventually find a population more dense than any we have at present on the coastal areas. Because, though in our coastal districts there is in some portions very good soil, nevertheless, there is not even there the same certainty with regard to production as there will be in the valley of the Murray under a properly-controlled system of irrigation. One has only to turn to Mildura for an object lesson. There, about 11,000 acres are under cultivation, from which produce to the value of about ^500,000 a year is being obtained. I do not think you can point to any other portion of Australia where, on a similar area, so much is being produced. It is clear that, upon irrigation and the settlement of irrigation areas, a great deal of the future development of Australia must eventually depend. When the Inter-State Commission comes to investigate the matters committed to its care under clause 17, it will not only recognise the advantage of irrigation to Australia, but, I trust, will be able to find that the waters of the Murray and its tributaries can be conserved for those purposes without interfering with the navigability of the river. As far as I can understand, South Australia has always approached the question from the aspect of navigation; and, whilst it is more than probable that, if the Murray were locked as some rivers have been in the Old World, it will be possible to maintain navigation even to a greater extent than is at present the case, it is mainly from the point of view of irrigation that the InterState Commission will be likely to approach the question. Because, although the maintenance of traffic on the river means a few thousands pounds a year to South Australia, nevertheless the amount involved is a negligible quantity compared with the possibility of development by irrigation, and the actual possibilities of wealth which this water properly spread over areas of rich country will bring to Australia if it be used to the fullest possible extent. We must never lose sight of the fact that proper storage is necessary. Take the case of the Burrinjuck reservoir. There are times, from year to year, when the volume of water flowing down the Murray is simply enormous. Heretofore, the greater part has simply run out to sea without being utilized in any way. If we are able, as time goes on, to build a number of Burrinjucks or their equivalent, to store even a portion of the water that flows down the river system in such volume, portion of the States on the lower stretches of the river will, in the long run, have nothing to fear. I think that it will be by means of locking the river that the difficulty of navigation will be overcome. At present, I understand, navigation, at all events on the upper stretches of the Murray, is, during a portion of the year, doubtfully possible. Very often, the boats are tied up for months at a time, unable to proceed. Cargoes liewaiting for long periods. At the same time, we are not properly utilizing the waters. I hope that when the Commission does get to work - whilst 1 admit that it may be overloaded with responsibilities - it will find sufficient time to go into this question thoroughly, to investigate it in all its aspects, and to assist the States to come to some final determination as to their several rights. Presumably, several of the States have rights in this matter, and they should be able to ‘ come to a determination which will ultimately be in the best interests of all Australia. Our South Australian friends are no doubt deeply interested in this matter, but I trust that they will recognise, that it is also of vital importance to Australia as a whole, and that the Commonwealth has very much to gain from the proper use of the whole of the Murray River waters. I do not wish to detain the Committee. I rose only to draw attention to the magnitude of the question, and to express the opinion that the Commission will be over-burdened with work. It will probably take years to investigate this one question alone if it is to be dealt with as thoroughly and effectively as it ought to be. It must take a considerable time to inquire into and to determine to what extent these diversions of water will affect the lower stretches of the river, and whether, by the diversion of water in the. upper reaches the States lower down the river will really be deprived of their rights. There can be no doubt that as irrigation schemes in New South Wales and Victoria develop,, so further questions as to the riparian rights of the States will arise. A number are at present on the tapis. Some, I understand, are actually before the Court, and whilst a determination will doubtless be arrived at. this question must always remain a live one. I hope that those who will compose this Commission will inspire such confidence in their ability to deal with these questions as will induce the States to submit for their final arbitrament the difficulties that will in future crop up between them. If the Government select men who are really suitable for the position - men who by their experience and training are well fitted to deal with these great questions - I have sincere hopes that the Commission will be able eventually to occupy the position of arbitrators between the States in all questions of this kind, and to ascertain what is justly right for the individual States, and what will really be beneficial to Australia as a whole.
.- It has always been a surprise to me that the Commonwealth Parliament has never found sufficient time or discovered the necessary incentive to carry out the constitutional obligation cast upon it to create an Inter-State Commission which should have the control of that fundamental principle of the Federal system: the free intercourse of trade and commerce between the States. Had it not been for the provision in the Constitution for the creation of this Commission, I make bold to say that South Australia, at least, would not have entered the Union. Its representatives in the Convention, in advocating the acceptance of the Constitution Bill, assured the people that their rights in respect to the great river system which ends in that State, had been conserved, and that as a low river State it had nothing to fear from Federation. I join with the honorable member for Richmond in approaching this question from a strictly Australian point of view, and as one who claims to have given some study to this question, I do not hesitate to say that there is no antagonism between the claims of irrigation on the one hand and the needs of navigation on the other. The people of South Australia have contended that those two great services of the people, irrigation and navigation, should go, so to speak, hand in hand. We have always urged that the locking of the Murray, in order to insure its continuance as a commercial channel, would in no way reduce its flow or its capacity to supply water for irrigation purposes. When we remember that the Murray and its tributaries represent a drainage area twice the size of a country like France, and that in the valley of the Murray and its tributaries there are comparatively few people scattered over an area thrice the size of Japan, which carries a population of nearly 50,000,000, we must recognise that with the full utilization of these waters it should be very easy for us to largely increase the population of the Commonwealth, and to increase it in a. direction that would make for progress and prosperity. J am sure that the Inter-State Commission will not be long in realizing that these channel ways are in certain seasons capable of being navigated for a distance of 3,000 miles, and we obtain in perspective some idea of the extent of country served when we realize that 3,000 miles represents a journey from Adelaide through the heart of the continent and half way back again. When we remember that the engineers have reported that the three rivers with which we are concerned can be locked and rendered permanently navigable at an expenditure of about £%, 000, 000, we begin to understand what an important factor these waterways must be in the progress of Australia. Such an expenditure would be considerably less than would be incurred in building 3,000 miles of railway, and there could be no comparison in respect of the cost of upkeep of the two systems of transport. Looking at the question from this point of view, and having regard to the great advantage that would be secured to producers and traders generally by this cheap means of transportation, we begin to have some conception of the possibilities thus presented of development in the valleys of these great rivers. It has been contended that it is not worth while for Australia to go to the extent of locking these rivers, that since railways are being constructed to touch these commercial arteries at so many points, their “ navigation is no longer necessary. We have, however, only to look to the history of America, Germany, and France to see that they are just about to enter upon a new era of waterway traffic. America, notwithstanding that it has private railways competing against one another, and making for the carriage of goods at rates far below those prevailing in Australia, is finding that its railway systems are not adequate to cope with its growing trade. The American Congress is facing a great expenditure for the improvement of such water-ways as the Mississippi. A Waterways Commission, created by Mr. Roosevelt when President, recommended, after taking evidence in various States, that Congress should devote more attention to the improvement of the water-ways, and to the keeping of them open to navigation. I have just received a paper from Germany in which it is stated that the Reichstag recently voted a large sum of money for the construction of more canals and the improvement of water-ways. Those who read the history of the development of the canal system of France and Germany will see that the cheap water carriage provided is largely responsible for the industrial position, of Germany in particular, but also of France. There is a distinct movement for the improvement of the national water-ways of those countries, and the creation of more artificial water-ways to provide cheap transportation.
– Has there not been a very important German report on the water-ways f the country ?
– The subject has been treated in a very illuminative report, the Government being recommended to spend still more money on the improvement of both artificial and natural water-ways. The fact that the Inter-State Commission will give attention to the locking of rivers will not prove detrimental to irrigation, and it is absurd to suggest that the Commission will be antagonistic to irrigation. We, in South Australia, are as much interested in irrigation as are the people of any other State, and it should not take the members of the Inter-State Commission long to realize that we have done more for it than any other State, with the possible exception of Victoria. We have on the Murray an irrigation area, consisting of 250,000 acres, granted to the originators of the irrigation movement in the State, and its progress has been steady and wonderful. In 1896, 2,700 acres at Renmark were being irrigated,; and their produce was worth £6,800; but, in 1911, 5,175 acres were being treated, and the value of their produce was estimated at ,£100,000. Previous to 1887, the land was only carrying a few sheep. Water is pumped at an expenditure of id. per 19,000 gallons, and to the majority of the settlements along the river averages, in cost, from 30s. to 40s. per acre per annum - figures which, I believe, compare favorably with the irrigation charges in any part of California. What has been done in a small way on the Murray can be increased indefinitely. I welcome the appointment of a Commission which will look at the rivers’ question strictly from the national point of view. We have no need to fear this in South Australia, because we have never asked for favours, and we regard it as unthinkable that the National Parliament would allow the great gift of nature which we have in the waters of our rivers to be wasted or ignored. When the Murray is in flood, it is, in -place’s, from 5 to 10 miles wide, and from 15 to 20 feet deep, but a few months afterwards you will see produce stacked on its banks awaiting another flow to be transported elsewhere. The fact that the Australian people have not placed a yard of masonry in the bed of the water-way to check this vast flow to the ocean evidences almost criminal neglect. Various South Australian Governments have given consideration to the locking of the Murray, and the Verran Government asked for an engineer to be sent from the United States of America. He, having examined the river, has submitted a report stating emphatically that it can be controlled at a comparatively small cost by the construction of locks. The cost is comparatively small, taking into account the mileage provided for transportation in comparison with the cost of railway construction. The Murray is one of the slowest rivers in the world, its flow being steady and regular. lt can be easily controlled by means of locks which will raise the river to an average depth of from 5 feet to 6 feet, and thus control navigation, making it permanent, and also provide an additional supply of water for irrigation purposes. If the Inter-State Commission should accomplish nothing more during the next ten or twenty years than to give a permanent navigable water-way in place of the present intermittent stream it will have justified its existence. This Parliament cannot fulfil a more national obligation to the people of Australia than by creating a Commission which will guard and control, for the interest of the whole Commonwealth, and not of one State, a great natural water-way which belongs to the Australian public. No clause in this Bill is of more striking importance than the one under consideration, since it gives to an independent Commission the right of supervising the river systems of Australia. It is right that this Parliament should fulfil its national obligation Ito deal with this question from the Australian point of view, and I, for one, most heartily welcome the measure.
– The people of Australia will, I think, view with great satisfaction anything which may be done by the Inter- State Commission in making inquiries into the necessity for the better management of the Murray waters in the interests of Australia. One of the drawbacks, unfortunately, at this stage of the session is that the. debate must of necessity be confined to one side of the House, because if we were to depart from that practice I do not believe that the session would ever have an end. I cannot, however, allow this important question of giving the Inter-State Commission a supervision, not a control, of the Murray waters to pass without saying a few words. It is rather surprising that a question of so much importance has never been debated here on a specific motion instead of being dealt with by casual references. I agree with the honorable member for Boothby that if South Australia had not been to a certain extent assured by the leaders of Federation that its rights in connexion with the Murray River were protected it would not have joined the Federation. I believe that a certain amount of information can be collected by the InterState Commission, but for practical purposes I am afraid that we are not likely to get very much farther ahead. I recollect that it was a distinguished lawyer who, after some debate in the Convention, framed a proviso which seemed to give satisfaction to its members, and also to a great number of South Australians, though it did not please me at the time, and I pointed out the danger from which South Australia was likely to suffer.
Under that provision, we in South Australia are entitled to a reasonable amount of water for irrigation and navigation. I should like to know if there are any lawyers who will define, not to-day, but at some other time, what is meant by the word “reasonable.” We have a beautiful prospect in view. By the time the word “reasonable” has run the gauntlet of the High Court, I am inclined to think that South Australia will not have got very much out of the deal. What is the position to-day? According to the volume to which my honorable friend has just referred, a tremendous flow of water comes down the Murray in flood years and escapes to the sea. As honorable members readily understand, there are certain years when the flow is considerably lessened; there are flood years and drought years. I have always had a doubt about the boundless and inexhaustible quantity of water which, it is said, can be taken from the Murray Valley. It appears to me that the policy of the States is to get all the water they possibly can out of the river. In the course of a few years there will be no question about navigation, because there will be no -water on which to navigate vessels. Whatever the quantity df water may be, it is not unlimited. There is no law at present in regard to the Murray; it is simply a. case of lawlessness. We have been told what has been done in France, Germany, and other continental countries, where one Government have the power of control over the river system, although subject to the riparian law which originated with the Roman Empire, and is ‘recognised by the Courts in all Latin and Teutonic countries, but which is utterly unknown in Australia, and is not wanted here. If there were an authority here which would exercise the same jurisdiction as the Courts of France and Germany have in regard to this question, there would be a basis on which we could argue; but the policy of to-day in Australia is for a State to grab all that it can, nobody else apparently having any right to the waters of the river. As regards irrigation, it is of no use for us to calculate the quantity of water which comes down the Murray valley in a flood year, because, if we do, we shall ruin the people who are put on the irrigation blocks. Our calculation must be based upon the average quantity of water which comes down the valley in a mean year. That matter was gone into by the Royal Commission which dealt with this subject. I warn honorable members who are irrigation-mad, that if they are not careful they will ruin some of their own settlers, because there is a time to which you can carry the quantity of water which has been, and which will be, taken out of the Murray. It is of no use for honorable members to get into a state of ecstacy about the wonderful solution of the difficulty which we are to get from the InterState Commission. lt may have great powers, but the exercise of those powers must be subject to the right of my State to the “reasonable” quantity of water to which it is entitled under section 100 of the Constitution. Honorable members, no doubt, can form a good idea of the probable solution of the difficulty by the High Court. I do not suppose that the Courts know the meaning of the word “reasonable”; indeed, I have heard some legal gentlemen say that the word has no meaning. We should not permit ourselves to be taken up into the clouds and filled with illusions. Under our Constitution there is no authority that has legal control of the rivers. I am not speaking of advisory control such as an Inter-State Commission may exercise, but legal control such as there is in Germany and France; and reference to those countries in this debate can only tend to mislead us. This is one of the questions which I hope will be settled by the forthcoming referenda, because at present everything is in a state of chaos that is a disgrace to this Parliament, the State Parliaments, and the public men of Australia.
– Will any power be given if the referenda be carried?
– I am not prepared to say at present, but the tendency will be that way. It is very nearly time that this ceased to be a party question. It is monstrous that one or two States should be permitted to enter upon huge works of diversion to the detriment of another State ; and I repeat the warning that the waters of the Murray are not infinite in quantity. This, of all others, is certainly a question that ought to be settled on a national basis.
.- The discussion, which has been very valuable, has centred the attention of the Committee on the one outstanding fact that the only way to properly guarantee the navigability of the Murray and its tributaries, without interfering with the still more important work of utilizing for irrigation ventures the waters precipitated on the rainfall area, is to lock the rivers we desire to lock, and so insure their navigability. The clause as drafted does not so expressly mention locking as to lead an Inter-State Commission to regard that as one of their functions. The Commission has to do a vast category of things, from governing prices to finding markets outside Australia. When we think of an Inter-State Commission carrying out these diverse duties, and exercising those enormously intricate and yet broadcast responsibilities, we cannot fail to come to the conclusion that, reading the clause, it will be governed more by the desire to secure the navigability of the rivers, as they are at present, than by a desire to inquire into new means of making the rivers really valuable, by utilizing the processes of the world. The clause sets forth that the Commission may inquire into all matters affecting the extent of diversions and their effect on navigability, the maintenance and improvement of navigability, any abridgment by the Commonwealth of the rights of any State to the reasonable use of the water, and any violation by a State of the right of any other State to the water. This is a policeman’s job, and not a constructive job. I take it that the intention is that the Commission shall place before the country, as a result of its investigations, some practical means of insuring the navigability of the rivers by some locking process; and as, in my opinion, I think that a new sub-clause is necessary to this end, I move -
That after paragraph b, the following new paragraph be inserted :– “ (ba) The locking of such rivers.”
The only way in which these rivers can be satisfactorily dealt with is by locking, and I hope that the Government will accept the amendment. It will be a distinct guide to the investigation of the Commission.
– The High Court will settle that.
– The High Court will have nothing to do with it. The honorable member stated a little while ago- that if the referenda proposals of the Government be carried, the problem of the Murray waters will be solved. As “a matter of fact, it will remain just where it is now.
– Look at the constitutional power we have.
– The Constitution provides -
The Commonwealth shall not by any law or regulation of trade or commerce abridge the right of a State or of the residents therein to the reasonable use of the waters or rivers for conservation or irrigation.
That provision will still remain if the referenda ‘proposals of the Government be carried. What is the use of the honorable number for Hindmarsh dragging King Charles’ head into a discussion of this character ?
– The honorable member is glad that we have not the power to control the Murray waters.
– In this House I have already advocated the handing over to the Commonwealth of the whole question of the Murray waters. I do urge that the Inter-State Commission should . be empowered to inquire into the question of locking that river and its tributaries. This afternoon the .honorable member for Boothby delivered a speech which must have struck fire into the imagination of every honorable member who heard it. He referred to the immense waterways which could be opened by the expenditure of £3,000,000. Is it not worth our while to expend that amount in the direction indicated, when by so doing we could guarantee the use of the surplus waters which now run to waste for irrigation purposes? I cannot see any objection to the insertion of my amendment in this clause. The locking of the Murray is an Australian subject, and one which ought to be dealt with by the Inter-State Commission,. Does not the Honorary Minister desire that the Commission shall inquire into this question? I have asked the Minister a reasonable question, but he remains silent. The impertinence which one can meet with from those who have achieved some measure of success is wonderful.
– The impertinence of silence.
– It is an impertinence. I have submitted a proposal, the adoption of which would improve the Bill, and one which any man who is capable of leading the House would decide to accept or reject offhand..
– The honorable member’s face puts him away even to a new chum.
– Why should this subject be made one for reflections on mv personal appearance? This Inter-State Commission will look to the Bill for guid.ance as to how its members are to proceed. Is there any honorable member opposite who does not want the Commission to inquire into the locking of the River Murray?
– I want to get my Christmas dinner at home.
– The honorable member thinks more of his dinner than his duty.That is the desire which underlies the conduct of every honorable member opposite.
– Any one can see the honorable member has fixed up a “stone wall.”
– That statement is absolutely and must be knowingly incorrect. I have fixed up no “stone wall.”
– Oh, we know.
– If the honorable member is so erratic upon a statement like that, it shows what reliance can be placed upon what he says. I appeal to the honorable member for Boothby to say if I have fixed up a “stone wall.”
– Absolutely incorrect.
– I appeal to the honorable member for Richmond.
– Absolutely incorrect.
– If honorable members opposite reject my amendment, it will show the public how much sincerity there is behind the boast of” the Government that they ire really grappling with these big questions.
– The question of dealing with the waters of our Inter-State rivers will, next to the Tariff, be the most important duty which the Inter-State Commission will have to perform. It is a matter which vitally affects the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and has been the subject of more than one Conference which I have attended. The locking of those rivers is also of transcending importance, and might well be specifically mentioned in the clause in the same manner as the diversion of waters from these rivers. It is contended that the locking of the rivers is covered by “ the maintenance and the improvement of the navigability of such rivers “ ; but I would point out that, while the locking of the rivers may have nothing whatever to do with navigation, it may have a very great deal to do with irrigation. Those who have had the opportunity of seeing the systems of locking which have been adopted in other parts of the world, must have been struck by the neglect of the people of Australia to avail themselves of the splendid opportunities which they have for the establishment of such a system in this country. Rivers which form chains of waterholes in dry seasons could be kept bank-high with water by a proper system of locking in the most excessive drought. We have opportunities for conserving water that do not exist in other parts of the world, because we have an enormous number of billabongs which could be kept filled and be made storage basins for the purpose of maintaining at its proper height a river which had been locked. I shall not deal with the various estimates that have been made of the cost of locking the Murray River, but I do urge South Australian members to give every support to this proposal, because it is only by locking that the navigability of the river can be secured- The very first work which the Inter-State Commission could profitably enter upon is the consideration of the question of conserving and properly utilizing the waters of our great rivers. The future of Australia depends in no small degree upon availing ourselves of the opportunity which we have in times of plenty of conserving that natural life blood, so to speak, of the continent. Scientists have told us that enormous quantities of water leave the surface of Australia, and emerge again miles out alt sea We are told that in the Australian Bight, and other parts distant from the coast-line, large volumes of fresh water are being constantly discharged. In the interior, and particularly in a portion of the continent which is represented by you, sir, an enormous quantity of water is wasted in this way. Large quantities of water from the tropical and sub-tropical rains sweep down that portion of the continent, and are lost not only to view, but to the people of Australia by soakage and by disappearing in the manner in which I have indicated. As regards the unfortunate jealousies which exist between the States, I venture to say that there could be no more effective way of wiping them out than by showing those concerned how intimately their welfare is bound up in the question of locking these great rivers. Victoria would be the greatest immediate loser, and South Australia the greatest gainer, if a proper working arrangement were entered into in regard to’ the use of the river waters. By reason of the fact that she has not tapped that portion of the Murray to any great extent, New South Wales would not suffer to any appreciable degree. Those who are responsible for the welfare of Victoria would cheerfully put up with the initial loss, because they recognise the enormous advantage that would accrue in the future. Victoria is a long way ahead of the other States in the matter of irrigation, and every time the channels are set going with water from the southern tributaries of the Murray we feel that there is a possibility of our doing some injury to South Australia. But with a proper system of locks we should be able to give proper facilities for navigation, whilst at the same time making reasonable use of the water for irrigation purposes. Any one who has travelled along the Murray, and has noticed the inadequacy of the provision made for water carriage, must have been struck with the utterly insufficient supply of water, and the dangers attached to the shallows and the sharp corners. The difficulties under present conditions are .such as to preclude those who have merchandise from taking the risk of sending their goods along the river, and at the same time they discourage investors from placing a better class of boats in the trade. South Australia seems to be anxious to maintain “the present condition of affairs, but if the State were alive to the great possibilities of the river it would not rest content for a moment until a change had been brought about.
– We have been trying to push Victoria on for years.
– We have made agreement after agreement, and Victoria has torn them up.
– I do not think it lies in the mouth of South Australians to talk about agreements.
– What did you do with the Price agreement?
– I would point out that South Australia has gained more than any other State since Federation. She has been treated handsomely. I would most earnestly direct the attention of South Australian representatives to the golden opportunity now presented to place on the face of an Act of Parliament a specific indication of the desire of Parliament, which would act as a direction to the Inter-State Commission that they should, as early as possible, take into serious consideration the question of locking the Murray. If this work were carried out it would give a tremendous impetus to trade with South Australia, which would be in a position to drain the trade from- a very large area of the Murray basin.
– Under the clause as it stands the Commission would have the most ample powers to inquireinto the question of locking the rivers.
– I believe that; but that affords all the more reason why we should give the Commission a specific direction in the matter.
– The more words the more law, and the more litigation.
– We do not anticipate that any litigation will result from the use of words which would merely express the desire of Parliament, and which would have a great influence on the members of the Commission.
– The more you specify, the more you exclude.
– That is all very well ; but my experience shows that it is better to express in unmistakable terms the desire of Parliament. Surely it is the desire of Parliamentthat these great waterways should be controlled for the benefit of the Commonwealth as a whole, and that we should put an end to the unfortunate jealousies between State and State which have militated against a settlement of this great question. It is one thing to pass an Act conferring power, and another thing to pass an Act which not only confers powers, but also gives unmistakable directions to the first body which is to administer it. If we give the Commission a specific direction, it will be in a position to put behind it pressure which might be brought to bear upon it to give preference to some less important matter. No more important question could engage the attention of the Commission. I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh that it is much to be regretted that the suggestion of the late Mr. Price, when he was Premier of South Australia, did not receive more consideration. I do not say that his suggestions should have been adopted, but I regret that opportunities were not given to the States more immediately concerned to enter into arrangements which would at least have paved the way for a satisfactory solution of the important problem with which the Commission will have to deal.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– The improvement of navigation is not the only benefit to be derived from the locking of rivers. Although the artificial canals of the Old Country and the Continent of Europe are used mainly for the conveyance of merchandise, and even of passenger traffic, in Australia those would possibly not be the most important purposes served by the increase in the volume of water made available as the result of a system of locks. In Victoria there has been some compunction exhibited with regard tothe amount of water drawn from the southern tributaries of the Murray, but by a proper system of locking those rivers, without lessening the volume of waiter allowed to flow into the main river, millions of gallons of water might be made available for the residents upon their banks where now they are able only to use hundreds of gallons. Some reference has been made to the, cost of establishing a proper locking system, but that need not be seriously considered in view of the enormous returns which might be derived from a proper utilization of the waters, which such a system would make available. Along the whole length of the river Murray there is some of the most fertile soil in the world. It needs only irrigation at the proper time of the year to give the highest results of intense culture. I am glad to note that in New South Wales at the present time strenuous efforts are being made to make up for a previous neglect of the important matter of irrigation. We should lose no time in impressing on the Inter- State Commission the urgent necessity of practical suggestions on the question of the locking of Inter-State rivers. It is useless to expect the members of the Commission to delve into the speeches made in this Parliament on the question if we neglect our clear duty to indicate by a provision in this Bill the desire of this Parliament that the Commission should take into early consideration the practical question of locking the rivers which will come to some extent under their control. I regret that so important a matter should be passed over by some honorable members, who seem to prefer to discuss other questions.
– This means an “ allnighter “ if it goes on.
– I consider that it is distinctly unfair that honorable members in the Ministerial corner should endeavour to prevent me making remarks which I consider it my duty to make.
– The honorable member knows that this is all “ stone- walling “ business; the whole Opposition know it.
– On account of State jealousy and other considerations, the paramount importance of the locking of the rivers and the proper use of the waters of the Murray has not been allowed to have anything like the attention devoted to it that it deserves. We should have had before this a system whereby we should not only have conserved water for irrigation, but should also have secured the navigability of our main rivers even during times of drought. Honorable members who have been in State Parliaments know that from time to time valuable suggestions have been made. Every one who has studied the question realizes the importance of not allowing so much valuable water to run to waste.
– The honorable member’s time is up.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON (Lang) [&.15)’. - I should not have risen again except that there has been an attempt to coerce members of the Opposition into a course of action which does not appeal to them. I think that this is one of the most important questions that we could deal with. The speeches upon it have not been long. Yet we have been charged with all sorts of things.
– “ Stone- walling.”
– The evidence will not bear out the statements made. At any rate, we have a duty to perform, and we shall discharge it irrespective of any accusations which may be made by honorable members opposite. The amendment before the Chair proposes that in addition to the sub-clause in the Bill, a new sub-clause should be inserted providing for locking. I was under the impression that clause 6 covered the question of locking, because paragraph b provides for the maintenance and improvement of the navigability of rivers. Therefore, I do not know that the amendment is really necessary. But it will be interesting to quote from a very valuable work by Mr. David J. Gordon, entitled The Nile of Australia: Nature’s Gateway to its Interior. This book deals exhaustively with the whole question of the navigability of the Murray, and contains an interesting chapter treating with locks, weirs, and storage basins. I commend it especially to those honorable members who are interested in the business now before the Committee. Rather than that they should go to their constituents uninformed, I propose to quote a few passages. At page 41, the writer states -
Most of the leading experts of the three States have recommended the construction of locks and weirs, and the utilization of the natural storage basins to be found at various points on most of the rivers. In 1886 Mr. J. W. Jones, when Conservator of Water in South Australia, favoured locks, and he has continued to advocate their construction. Mr. Darley, when Engineer-in-Chief in New South Wales, and Mr. McKinney, of the same State, warmly supported locking the river, in order to save a portion of the flood waters. The Royal Commission of Experts reported in 1902 : -
. An important factor affecting the duration of navigation has been the natural storage in certain lakes - a great part of which flowed out as the river sank, so maintaining its volume, sometimes for one or two months beyond that at which it would otherwise have ceased. Some of these natural storages are capable of improvement and regulation, their beneficial effect upon the navigability of the river being thereby extended.
Lake Victoria, between Renmark and Wentworth, covers an area of 30,000 acres. The outflow from the lake has been known to keep the river navigable to South Australia for four weeks. At a cost of about £84,000 some 22,399 millions of cubic feet could be stored - “ A volume which, while allowing for evaporation, would provide, in times of low river, 100,000 cubic feet per minute for a period of nearly four months.”
The statements contained in that quotation show the great importance of this aspect of the question. Those of us who have visited other countries and have seen the magnificent system of locks adopted in connexion with rivers, know that streams which in ordinary circumstances would not in their upper reaches be easily navigable can by this means be made navigable for great distances. In the same way surplus waters which might otherwise be running to waste over weirs can be diverted into irrigation channels to the inestimable advantage of districts where the rainfall is comparatively small. The writer of this book continues -
The engineers, also said : - “ The Murray is navigable to Albury, or beyond ; the Darling to Walgett, the Murrumbidgee to Wagga Wagga - over three thousand miles of navigable waterway The Murray could be locked from Blanchetown to Echuca for £1,330,000; the Darling to Walgett for £920,000; and the Murrumbidgee to Hay for £321,000; or a total of £2,571,000.” “Thirty locks and weirs,” a member of the present Federal Government has observed, “ could be constructed for about £3,000,000; but what was that for a great national work?” That is precisely the South Australian contention, and the true Australian view of the question. “ If these rivers were all locked, from beginning to end,_ there would be immense quantities of water available for irrigation, and yet enough left for navigation,” is an opinion expressed by Captain W. R. Randell, the pioneer navigator of the Murray. It has already been shown that large sums are yearly being laid out in Germany, France, and other countries, and the following resolution recently passed by the Associated Chambers of
Commerce of the United Kingdom shows that the artificial improvement of the inland waterways of England is receiving attention : - In view of the improvement of international waterway communication made during recent years by foreign nations, the keen competition with British trade everywhere existing, and the necessity for cheap transport, this Association urges the Government to provide facilities for the passage of a Bill to extend the powers already conferred on the Board of Trade in respect of derelict canals to all existing canals and to authorize the formation of canal trusts. It further resolved that the President of the Board of Trade be asked to receive a deputation on the subject.
The clause is directed mainly to the settlement of this great question, which has been exercising the minds of State Governments for the last forty years. Although portions of the work from which I have been quoting were written evidently with an eye to the interests of South Australia, taken as a whole, the book shows a general regard, on the part of the author, for the interests of Australia as a whole. All who have given even the most casual study to this question recognise that the provision of these irrigation channels, which, I think, could be facilitated by the construction of locks, would have a greater commercial value for the whole of Australia, and would more than repay the cost. We are spending money lavishly in ways that are not by any means comparable in their beneficial results with the good that would flow from the construction of works of this kind. The honorable member for Wentworth, in moving this amendment, doubtless considered that a valuable portion of the work of the Inter-State Commission might possibly be overlooked unless it was specifically given the power to inquire and make recommendations in regard to the construction of locks ; butI think that sub-clause b, which deals with the maintenance and improvement of the navigability of rivers, must necessarily involve the power to investigate all questions affecting river improvements, including that of the provision of locks.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clause 23 agreed to.
Postponed clause 24 (Jurisdiction of Commission).
.- Paragraph a speaks of -
The provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce, or any law thereunder.
Are the last four words necessary? Are not the words “ provisions of the Con stitution relating to trade and commerce “ sufficient? What is the purpose of the addition ?
Mr. HUGHES (West Sydney- AttorneyGeneral [8.33]. - The words “provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce “ are not sufficient in themselves, because they restrict the jurisdiction of the Commission to those sections of the Constitution which relate to trade and commerce, and, in particular, to sections 101 to 104, which relate to the functions of the Inter-State Commission.
– How will you prove that the whole of a particular law is under the trade and commerce provisions? May not the question be open to dispute?
– Take a specific case. Were this Parliament able to pass a valid law, such as the Excise Act relating to agricultural machinery, the Inter-State Commission would be charged with the duty of seeing it effectively carried out, but had it jurisdiction only under the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce, its jurisdiction would not extend to a specific measure such as that.
.- The addition of the words appears to be quite legitimate, but they are very wide. “ Any law made thereunder “ would mean any law made under the trade and commerce provisions. Is it not probable that Acts may be passed - have not Bills been proposed - partly under the trade and commerce provisions and partly under other provisions? Is a law to be regarded as wholly under the trade and commerce provisions if any part of it is so? What is to determine the application of this clause? If the honorable member will consider the matter, he will understand the point that I raise, desiring to remove any possible uncertainty.
– Nothing that we can do can extend the jurisdiction of the InterState Commission beyond what is conferred by the Constitution. To the extent to which the words transgressed, or might transgress, in the case of a Statute embracing subjects beyond the trade and commerce provisions they would be ultra vires.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clauses 32 and 53 agreed to.
Postponed clause 54 - (1.) If any person served with a summons to attend the Commission, whether the summons is served personally or by being left at his usual place of abode, fails without reasonable excuse to attend the Commission, or to produce any documents, books, or writings in his custody or control which he was required by the summons to produce, he shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty : Five hundred pounds.
.- I did not challenge the preceding clause, although the endowment of power in it might judiciously be provided with safeguards. In this clause a practice to which exception has been taken from time to time has again been followed, the imposition of a maximum penalty - ^500 - being at the discreation of the Commission when any one in a very wide range of offences has been committed. It does not indicate distrust of the Commission to call attention to the fact that this wholesale method of penalizing private persons is becoming a feature of measures of this kind. The procedure is short and summary ; there is no restriction on the discretion of the judicial body, and no appeal. When penalties of this kind are imposed by a clause in general terms, from which a departure may be the slightest possible, yet there is apparently no redress for an excessive penalty, it is worth considering whether there should not be drawn up for these measures a series of penalties graded according to the character and degree of the offence. The same offence may be committed in many ways, and appeal is extremely difficult.
– The maximum penalty is heavy ; but if a tribunal is to be of service, respect must be paid to its summonses. These penalties can be imposed only by Courts of Law which, of course, would have regard to the circumstances. It is not to be supposed that they will fine a man £ 500 unless it is a very flagrant case. But that the power given should be such that even the most wealthy person in the community would be deterred is, I think, obvious.
Mr. AGAR WYNNE (Balaclava) [8.41L - This penalty seems to be very excessive, especially considering that the summons may be left at a man’s house. Generally all witnesses are served personally, and the Courts know that a person who is required to attend has been served, and has had conduct money paid to him. But no provision is made in this measure for tendering conduct money. A man in, say, North Australia, may be served with a subpoena, or one may be left at his house, to go to Melbourne or Sydney. He may not know of the summons having been left at his place; it may have been left with his wife, or a child, or some other person, or it may have been thrown upon the counter of his shop. The clause does not say that the summons is to be served on any person living there, but it is simply to be left at the place. The process-server may go into a man’s house, or shop, or business place, and leave the summons on the counter; a stranger may take the summons away, and a statutory declaration may be made that the summons was left at the house, and the man, if he does not attend, will be liable to a penalty of ^500 without being guilty at all. To say the least, the man will have to prove his innocence. If he is brought a distance of 600, or 700, or 1,000 miles for having committed an alleged offence, of which he has not been guilty, he will be put to all that expense. A fine of £ 500 may not be much to some persons, but it may mean ruin to hundreds of people. There are very few men in Australia who can afford to pay that penalty.
– That is the maximum.
– In all cases of this kind there should be personal service ; otherwise honorable members will do a cruel injustice to a large number of persons, especially poor persons, who are asked to attend the Commission. The summons will be given to a policeman or a process-server, who will be paid mileage for serving it, and he will leave it at the man’s house. The same rule should apply in the case of the Inter-State Commission as obtains in the case of the High Court or the Supreme Court of a State. The summons should be served personally, and conduct money should be tendered. No person is liable to a penalty before the Supreme Court of a State or the High Court, unless he has had tendered to him sufficient money to pay his expenses from his residence to the Court. Why should the Inter-State Commission be authorized to act in a more Star-chamber manner than the High Court or a Supreme Court of a State is empowered to do? I suggest the omission of the words “ by being left at his usual place of abode.”
– All right.
.- It will be necessary to make a prior amendment before those words are omitted. I move -
That the word “whether” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ when.”
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Agar Wynne) agreed to -
That the words “ or by being left at his usual place of abode” be left out.
Amendment (by Mr. Fuller) proposed -
That after the word “ personally “ the words “ with conduct money “ be inserted.
– Before the clause was amended I would have been willing to accept this amendment. It then appeared to me a proper thing to tender expenses in all cases, as suggested by the honorable member, but as the clause has been amended, it seems calculated to invite difficulties, rather than to disperse them, to tender conduct money. In these circumstances I am unable to accept the present amendment. Witnesses are not always to be readily found. I do not know whether the honorable member for Illawarra has had any experience of attempting to serve summonses on witnesses who were not precisely willing to attend.
– I have not had personal experience ; but I have been told that looking for the Holy Grail is a comparatively easy task compared with the serving of a summons on a witness.
.- This measure will operate over the whole of the Commonwealth. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Inter-State Commission is sitting in Sydney, and that a man summoned is in Port Darwin or Perth. It may not be possible for him to pay his passage. Is there no way to meet that position? If the Commission is sitting in Sydney, and a person whose attendance is required is resident there, there is no need for conduct money ; but Australia is a large place, and travelling is very expensive. A person summoned to attend from a remote part of the Commonwealth may be earning only a few shillings a day. How can such a person find his own travelling expenses?
– The practice of Commissions must be considered; and it is not their practice to sit, say, in Melbourne, and summon witnesses from Port Darwin. As a “matter of fact, the very opposite is the practice, because Commissions go to where the witnesses are, and suffer all the inconvenience. In this country Judges travel to places to suit the convenience of litigants and witnesses. Supposing a man lives in Collingwood, and is required at the Parliament House here, is he to be chased after with the necessary 2d. or 3d. for his tram fare, although he is within walking distance? Has the summons to fail because such a man refuses to attend on the ground that he has not been tendered his expenses ? Some room must be left for the exercise of discretion by the Commission, which may be expected to act as Courts usually do. In some cases the expenses are tendered, and in some cases they are not. Clause 69 provides that the GovernorGeneral may make regulations prescribing a scale of allowances for travelling and other expenses ; and I think that should be sufficient.
.- Perhaps the Attorney-General will consider the wisdom of amending the Bill in another place, so as to fix the distance which will render it necessary for expenses to be tendered.
– I am willing to make provision where the expenses are a material item.
.- The Attorney-General has told us that we must consider the practice of Commissions, and no doubt that will have to be done; but what if this Commission is sitting in Melbourne, and two or three witnesses are required from Port Darwin? Does the AttorneyGeneral suggest that it would be in accordance with the practice of Commissions to go to Port Darwin, where those witnesses are? It would be absurd for the Commission to incur all that expense, when it could be avoided by tendering the witnesses the amount of their expenses. Apart from any question of fairness to the witnesses, the amendment ought to be accepted on the ground of expense alone.
– The amendment is a fair and reasonable one, and ought to be accepted. No one would suggest that a witness should be brought from one end of Australia to the other, and, under a heavy penalty, with the alternative of imprisonment, be compelled to pay his own expenses, when, perhaps, he is not in a position to do so.
– There is no such possibility.
– Then, why not accept the amendment ? The habit is growing much too strong in this House of leaving such matters as this to regulations,or to a promise on the part of a Minister. We saw this in the Navigation Bill and in other Bills; and though the Ministers no doubt, act in good faith, it is a bad practice. Laws are not passed for one Government, one House, or one Parliament; and on the present occasion we are creating, perhaps, the most important body, with the exception of the High Court, that has been created in the Commonwealth, and investing it with enormous powers, from which some of us almost shrink. This clause, unamended, may press very heavily on those least able to bear the burden.; and, as the honorable member for Illawarra has said, the amendment is desirable in the interests of the Commission itself. If the Commission were sitting in Sydney one important witness might be at one end of Australia, and another important witness at the other ; and surely it would not be suggested that the Commission ought to travel to where those witnesses were.
– I have already said that if an important witness, or any other witness, is wanted from a distance, he will get his expenses provided.
– That ought to be set down in the Bill.
– I have said that it will be so provided in the Bill. Any witness at a reasonable, or, if honorable members choose, an unreasonable distance, will be paid his expenses.
– If the AttorneyGeneral says that such a provision will be placed in the Bill, I am quite satisfied.
– The Attorney-General ought to state definitely what his intention is. He admits that the point is worthy of consideration, and that some provision should be made for paying the expenses of a witness at a reasonable, or, perhaps we should say, an unreasonable, distance. Does the Attorney-General propose to recommit the clause ?
– What I propose is to see that the Bill provides that, where a witness is at a distance, he shall receive his expenses before he is asked to attend.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 26A. The Commission may of its own motion summon before it any State authority, common carrier, or person who it has reason to believe has done anything or left anything undone’ in contravention of this Act, or of the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce or any law made thereunder, and shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter, and may make such orders in relation thereto as if complaint had been made to it of the contravention.”
Clauses 25 and 26 lay down the manner in which matters may be brought before the Commission in the exercise of its judicial functions, and the proposed new clause will give the Commission the same powers in relation to matters which it initiates itself.
Proposed new clause 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.
It is a very simple measure, and provides only for empowering the Government to send out to the electors the arguments on both sides relating to the referenda proposals. It is, in fact, a Bill to authorize an expenditure of money in sending out to the people the kernel of the speeches which have been delivered on the proposed amendments of the Constitution.
– If the Bill does not mean much, it doesnot matter much. Why, then, should we be detained in considering it ?
– And that is my feeling in the matter.
– This measure has been introduced in order to enable the electors of the Commonwealth to be informed of the case both for and against the proposals to amend the Constitution. It is based upon sound common sense. The people will naturally want to know why the Constitution Alteration Bills have been introduced. I submit that they will be quite unable to ascertain that by attending public meetings, because on the platform the honorable member for Ballarat and myself will say quite a. number of most interesting things that have no relation whatever to those Bills. Under this measure, it is proposed to tell them the plain facts of the case, as set forth by each side. The proposal, although novel here, is not without precedent. And, in any case, the referendum as grafted on to representative government is itself new. As its application has become more general, it has been found necessary to approach the elector in various ways. In Switzerland, the referendum has shown itself to be a most conservative instrument. Quite a number of measures, admirable in themselves, have been rejected by the Swiss people; and to a large extent this has been due to the lack of precise information at the disposal of the elector. In America, the referendum and initiative have been grafted on to the Constitution in several States, and many of them have adopted this method of approaching the elector. The arguments on both sides of the question are set forth, and posted to the electors. The States of Oregon, Oklahoma, California, and Montana have passed Acts on those lines, and it is proposed to pass similar Acts in Ohio and Washington. I am not going to enlarge upon the matter. The Bill speaks for itself. The principle, as applied here, involves the preparation by each side of a statement of the case. As this is a general law, it will apply to all future referenda. In this particular case, it is proposed - as there are six Constitution Alteration Bills - that there need not be 2,000 words of argument in favour of or against each of them, but it will be sufficient if the whole case is concluded within 12,000 words. Subject to that, honorable members may put their case before the public, provided that it is put in an impersonal, reasonable, and judicial way. There is to be no imputation of motives. In short, the argument is to be one which appeals to the reason rather than to the emotions and party sentiments. The subject necessarily covers a wide field, but no irrelevant matter must be introduced. In order that these conditions may be observed, it is suggested that two impartial persons shall be appointed to act, one for each side of the House, the matter being submitted to each party by these gentlemen before being forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer. These persons will be selected by the different parties in this House. All that the selected individual will have to do is to see that the matter is treated impersonally, that no motives are imputed, and that, withinthe very wide scope which the subject covers, no irrelevant matter is introduced. Of course, there is no law of the Medes and Persians about it; but I put the suggestion forward as the basis upon which the principle in this Bill ought to stand. I feel persuaded that the electors of this country will thus be better educated in regard to the proposals to be submitted to them than they can be in any other way.
.- I should like to ask if it is not the intention of the Government to issue some thousands of volumes containing the speeches that were delivered on these referenda?
– That is not the same thing at all. This is a statement explanatory of the Bill from different points of view.
– If all those volumes containing the debates are going to be sent out to the people, and it is now proposed to issue additional volumes-
– The volumes containing the debates will not be sent out to all the people. I understand that each member will have a certain number.
– It seems to me that these volumes will be very bulky, and the general public will not find time to read them. If you are, in addition, going to issue pamphlets containing about 12,000 words each for and against the proposals, you will not get the public to read them either, and you will be entailing a great deal of needless expense. It is stated that if you want arguments in favour of the referenda distributed to every elector in the Commonwealth, those who favour the proposal’s can send a pamphlet to the Chief Electoral Officer, who will distribute it amongst all the electors, and those who are against the proposals can authorize the distribution of a similar pamphlet explaining their side of the case.
– It will be contained in one pamphlet.
– At any rate, it is going to make a very bulky volume, and will apparently cost a lot of money. If I could get a guarantee that the people would read it, and make themselves conversant with the proposals upon which they will be asked to vote, I should have no objection, but it seems to me that this proposal is going to* put the Department to a lot of trouble, add considerably to the expense of taking the referenda, and may not achieve any good at all.
.- Because the proposal is somewhat novel, it evidently fails to commend itself to some honorable members who have heard the brief but clear exposition of the AttorneyGeneral. But we need only to consider the wide sway of mistaken opinions, and we must appreciate this new departure. I cannot believe that any of us have been satisfied with the amount of information conveyed to the people in regard to the previous referenda. All of us felt that even with the aid of the press, with the aid of Hansard, and with the aid of hundreds, probably thousands, of meetings, held in all parts of this continent, a very large section remained very imperfectly informed of the arguments for and against the proposals submitted.
When, however, this course is submitted to us, although it is open to some obvious objections, although the rather pessimistic criticisms of the honorable member for Wilmot are applicable in certain cases, although it may fail to arouse many of its readers, it is not to those circumstances that we are looking. It is to the whole body of the people, and our duty to them, that we should recur. It is our duty, when we ask the electors to vote for or against momentous proposals of this kind, to give them the best material we have in order that they may form- an independent judgment.
I have made a rough, and, no doubt, inaccurate, calculation which leads me to think that it will be possible to apply to each and every one of the six referenda measures about three or four pages of Hansard. You have the choice, if you choose to exercise it, of giving more than that space to the one or two proposals which you think the most important, if you diminish the space for the other proposals by exactly the same amount. Altogether, I calculate that it will take about thirty pages of Hansard for 12,000 words. Those thirty pages are not more than any person who is really interested in . the fate and future of this country could spare time to read. Whether he will understand them is another matter. That will depend upon the gifts of expression and illustration that are possessed by those who compose them, and upon the experience of the reader.
– Anybody can compose one, I understand, so long as a sufficient number of members will authorize it.
– There is only to be one manifesto for each side. It will differ from a parliamentary debate inasmuch as there are to be no personal reflections or imputations. I understand that there are to be no names of members mentioned.
– I would not say that honorable members are not to be referred to.
– If that is not so, I would suggest that it would be as well if it were so - that the argument should be one entirely on the merits of each question - “ Shall this be accepted or rejected? These are the reasons why it should be accepted ; these are the reasons why it should be rejected.”
– I hardly think that that should be so. Surely one may quote names in relation to Acts. A man may pass an Act of Parliament.
– He cannot do it by himself.
– A man may issue a memorandum.
– He may do that. I am not dogmatizing, but suggesting.
– The whole thing must be treated in quite an impersonal way.
– That is the point. There is another matter which the Minister did not refer to, because it is not yet embodied in this proposal. I understand that there is to be an addition providing for what may be termed a court of appeal.
– I did refer to that; I read from the document which I have in my hand.
– What the AttorneyGeneral read was -
In order that these conditions be observed -
They require that irrelevant matter shall not be introduced, that the subject shall be treated impersonally, and no motive shall be imputed - it is suggested that two impartial persons be appointed to act, one for each side of the House, the matter to be submitted to each party by both of these before being forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer.
That does not make the Chief Electoral Officer an arbiter if the other two persons differ; each party will be unaware of its opponent’s statements. The arbiters take each separately.
– Who, then, is to act if it is suggested that some of the matter proposed to be introduced is irrelevant, or that personal motives are being imputed? I think there must be some third person whom they could consult.
– If the two differ, let them appoint a third.
– Exactly ; I think that would meet the case. The arguments should be stated in the simplest and plainest form. Under the circumstances, I have no hesitation in recommending the course proposed to be followed to my honorable friends on this side of the House. None of us would wish to stop any member of the public from obtaining any and every information on a matter of so much importance. They should be invited to hear all they can, to read all they can, and to think as much as they can in this regard. The more thoroughly they do that, the better it will be for us, and the better for future Parliaments. The preparation of a document of this kind, in which arguments for and. against the referenda proposals are set forth, may be a means of further education to many, including some of us who are members of this Legislature.
– It is pleasing to find that both sides of the House are agreeable to this proposal. Honorable members will recollect that, when the draft Constitution Bill was passed by some of the State Parliaments, copies of it were forwarded to each elector. This proposal is akin to the action taken on that occasion. The object then was to make the electors acquainted with the Constitution which they were about to adopt for the government of their country. The proposal here is to enable the electors to obtain in a concise form the arguments for and against the referenda proposals.
– Where do the independents come in ? _
– The independents “need not be considered in connexion with the matter. They must be for or against the proposals, unless they are straddling over both sides. It is not suggested that there are any honorable members here who are in that position. If there should be, no injustice will be done to them by the case for both sides being set out fairly. There are, approximately, 2,300,000 electors in Australia, and I presume that there are 500,000 other people who will be interested in this document when it is issued. Therefore, I think that, on the score of expense, the publication will be well justified.
– Has the Prime Minister any id.ea as to what it will cost ?
– Perhaps it will cost a considerable sum of money. It may cost about id. per copy. But the usefulness of what is proposed is well worth that ex penditure. Indeed, I hope the time will come when important measures passed by this Parliament will be circulated throughout the country as legislative enactments are in other enlightened countries. There can be nothing worse for a country than to expect the people in it to vote for or against the alteration of their Constitution without knowing what they are doing. It is no reflection on honorable members to say that those who have gone through the debates on these referenda proposals, if they were put’ through a catechism as to what they mean, would, in many instances, find it difficult to successfully pass the examination. Therefore, it is all the more necessary that, when the electors are asked to vote on these proposals, information concerning them should be placed in their possession. The document will be couched in judicial language, and the object will be to enable the reader to get at the merits of the question as rapidly as possible. I was very glad indeed to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that he had no objection to what is proposed, and that, indeed, he approved of it.
– Hear, hear.
– I am delighted to hear that. I have no doubt at all that the case will be put from both sides impersonally, and free from any suggestion of bias or misleading on the one side or the other. Let it be a document that Parliament will be proud of, and from which Australia will benefit.
.- I agree to some extent as to what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition and by the Prime Minister. I think it is highly desirable that the people of Australia should have placed before them the fullest information in connexion with the votes which they will be called upon to give on the important questions that are to be submitted to them next year. But, at the same time, I should like to draw attention to the position in which we shall be placed. Under clause 2 of the Bill, paragraph a, it is proposed that the pamphlet to be issued shall contain -
An argument in favour of the proposed law, consisting of not more than two thousand words, and authorized by a majority of those members of both Houses of the Parliament who voted for the proposed, law.
Paragraph b provides that the document shall also contain - an argument against the proposed law consisting of not more than two thousand words and authorized by a majority of those members of both Houses of the Parliament who voted against the proposed law.
That may seem to be a very easy thing from the point of view of honorable members opposite, because they adopt whatever is determined upon in their Caucus, and that is explained by the Attorney-General. But how are honorable members on the Opposition side going to get a majority to authorize arguments to be stated against the proposed law? The honorable member for Gippsland laughs at that question, but he himself voted against one of these proposed alterations of the Constitution, and he may find himself awkwardly placed in connexion with the matter. I do not know whether the honorable member would be prepared, in connexion with the proposal against which he voted, to accept arguments approved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I might not, but I should have to put up with the position.
– The honorable member would have to accept the view of the majority in that case?
– I wish to point out that several members of the Opposition who voted against these proposals have left Mel? bourne and gone to Western Australia, Queensland, and elsewhere. We shall have to call them together again.
– We are not in the same position as are Ministerial supporters. We like to have our arguments considered by the whole party. It will be impossible to get together those members of the Opposition who have left Melbourne in order that they may consider the arguments to be embodied in the 2,000 words containing the objections of the Opposition.
– If they do not come back there will be all the less dissension on the Opposition side.
– I do not like being placed in this position. Of course, the honorable member for Capricornia is prepared to accept whatever is done by his party. But we are not in that position. We like to consult with each other in connexion with such important matters. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will forgive, me for saying that I rather regret that he has given support to this proposal. I feel sure that if it is accepted we shall be placed in an extremely awkward position. It will be impossible to get the members of our party to come together in this city to con sider the arguments which will have to be embodied in this pamphlet.
– The honorable member could put in a minority opinion of his own.
– I have no desire to do that. The opinions expressed in this House by the Leader of the Oposition, and other members of the party, including myself, accurately represent my views, and I shall take an opportunity of explaining what I think from the platform whenever an opportunity occurs. What I am concerned about is that the arguments put forward with the approval of the majority shall be such as will not be objected to by some members of the party.
– Trust your Leader.
– That is all very well. I trust my Leader, but I like to have a say in regard to matters of importance such as this. This is not a matter for the Leader, but for the whole party. We are asked by this Bill to decide by majority as to the arguments to be put forward, and I am prepared to abide by the arguments approved of by the majority. But this Bill has been brought down at the end of the session, when a number of honorable members are away, and it will be difficult to obtain an expression of the opinions of the majority. I am very much mistaken with regard to the honorable members who are away if they express themselves as content to accept the arguments put forward by those who are available here.
– A rough draft would be sent to each member.
– But matters of this kind cannot be considered in that way. T have seen rough drafts sent out before, and my view is that, in matters of great importance such as this, those who are concerned should be brought together. However, I suppose the matter will go through ; but I object to it, because I believe that a number of members of our party will be placed in an awkward position. If the effect of the Bill is to give light and leading to the people, I feel satisfied that the more light that is thrown on the subject, the more strongly the people will express themselves against the proposals.
– This proposal does not appeal to me at all. In spite of what has been stated by the Leader of the Opposition, I do not approve of the Bill in any shape or form, because I believe that, in the long run, we shall be tricked by honorable members opposite. There are difficulties in the way of arriving at the decisions of the majority on each side, and even if these are overcome, a still greater difficulty will have to be surmounted. The two individuals chosen by the respective sides to decide what is relevant matter or fair criticism, will find it impossible to agree. I know that the arguments put forward by honorable members opposite will be of the most extravagant nature, whilst the fair arguments brought forward by our side may not be accepted by the Government representative. For instance, if the honorable member for Capricornia were chosen by his side as referee, and our programme contained a statement that the ultimate object of the proposals put forward by the Government was Unification, he would not agree to that. I think the whole thing is a lot of rubbish. Honorable members opposite have always held that we stand at a great advantage in connexion with the press, and they hope to get even with us by making the people pay for their advertisement. I think we can safely leave the matter to the press. If we sent to every elector a copy of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Worker, The Catholic Press, and The Watchman, it would be sufficient. The proposal is unworkable, and, moreover, I do not trust my honorable friends, and I think we shall be tricked at the finish.
.-I agree with the honorable member for Illawarra that it is utterly impossible for us at this stage of the session to consider this question in such a way as to insure that the arguments put forward will really represent the voice of the majority of the parties - for the reason that the majority are elsewhere. We had no intimation that this proposal was to be brought forward, and I do not consider that the House has been fairly treated. Whilst I believe that the electors should be afforded every opportunity to understand the referenda proposals, I consider there will be very little gained by issuing statements such as those contemplated. They would be equivalent to sixty pages of Hansard, and the average elector would not read such a large volume of matter. The document would be altogether too bulky. The case would be by no means analogous to that mentioned by the Prime Minister, in” which the Constitution Bill was sent to every elector.
– I mentioned this Bill when I announced the business that would come before the House.
– The Prime Minister mentioned the Bill without stating anything as to the nature of its provisions. Two days ago I heard that there was to be a Referendum Bill, but the Minister of Home Affairs said it would be a mere machinery Bill . That is not a fair way in which to treat the House. I gather from an interjection of the Attorney-General that he proposes to set forth a number of statements that have been made by honorable members. If these are to go forward without our having an opportunity of answering them, we shall have no means of combating them, except from the public platform.
– You may put in any new points you may think of.
– If it were a matter of educating the people as to the true meaning of the referenda proposals - as to the ground covered by the trade and commerce proposals, for example - there would be no objection. If the document were to be limited to a legal exposition of the ground which will be covered by the referenda proposals, no one could object, but I take it that what is contemplated is something very different from that. I understand that it is proposed to state the matter first from one political stand-point, and then from the other. That should be done as a part of the propaganda work of the different parties, and not at the expense of the State. Whose views are to be stated first in the pamphlet? Are the views of those who support the proposals to be put first, and of those who oppose them put last. The first ten pages of the pamphlet may be read by a small percentage of the electors, but only a very few indeed will read through sixty pages of closely-reasoned political argument on these proposals. The measure will lead to the waste of a considerable amount of money. I do not think that what is proposed can be done for £10,000. In my opinion, it will cost nearer £15,000. It will cost about£1,200 alone simply to have the envelopes addressed and the circulars enclosed. Most of the money expended to give effect to this measure will be wasted.
– If this were a non-party matter, and it was proposed that independent constitutional authorities should explain the referenda proposals, and weigh the balance fairly for and against them, there might be something in it. But as set out by the Attorney-General, the proposal is that the 2,000 words should represent the political propaganda of the two parties in connexion with these referenda proposals. As this has been dealt with as a party question, let us fight it out as a party question.
– The honorable member’s party made it a party question.
– No, the Hobart Conference made it a party question. This seems to me to be but a cheap way of doing the work which should be done by the candidates who will represent both sides. If the preparation of the pamphlet were left to a Committee of half-a-dozen members on each side, there would be many on both sides who would disagree in some respects with the statement put forward on behalf of their own party. If we take the question of Unification, for instance, whilst one honorable member opposite has repudiated all idea of Unification, three or four others have said that they are in favour of it.
– That is not correct.
– It is perfectly correct; but, as my criticism appears to gall honorable members opposite, I will take the case of honorable members on my own side. I say that there are divergences of opinion on this question on this side, but the difference between the two parties is that honorable members on this side are free to express them, while honorable members opposite are not. Any one who knows anything about the drawing up of political manifestos is aware that such work must be done by a committee. I believe it would be impossible to get three or five members on this side who would be able in a statement to voice in every detail the opinions held by all the members on this side with respect to these proposals. It would be just as difficult to find a committee on the other side who would be able to reconcile the differences of opinion amongst honorable members opposite. The debates which have taken place in this House on the question have shown that. And it must be so. Surely no honorable member supposes that it is possible to have a political party numbering thirty or forty members so wooden as to have no differences of opinion amongst them?
– Does the honorable member mean to say that there are not three honorable members on the other side who agree as to whether honorable members opposite are opposed to these proposals or not?
– The honorable gentleman knows as well as I do that I had no intention of saying anything of the kind ; but he is cute enough when he finds an argument going against him to get in 1 more or less absurd interjection to put people off the track. What I said was that it was impossible to get a committee of three or five members on either side who would be able to voice completely the opinions held by all honorable members on either side.
– Each member might send in his own opinion, and we might appoint an editor.
– The Prime Minister’s interjection shows how utterly absurd this proposal is. But we know that when a Bill is introduced by the Government the numbers are up. and no doubt this measure will be carried. I say that whatever statement is issued in the way proposed, the referenda proposals will have to be fought out on the public platforms from one end of Australia to the other, and it is that work that will tell. This proposal will do very little good and very little harm, and if it were not for the unnecessary expense involved, would not be of much consequence. I do not think the expense will be nearly so great as some honorable members on this side have suggested. The postage will cost nothing, because it will be merely taking money out of one pocket and putting it into the other. The cost of printing will be comparatively trifling when such an enormous number of leaflets are to be published.
– How would it do to let honorable members, who feel themselves unable to write anything on the subject, contribute illustrations.
– I am somewhat Scotch, but the Scotch jokes of the Prime Minister are beyond me. This proposal will be of little practical use. If it is to be carried into effect, however, let us have a fair deal. That can be secured by printing the case for the “Ayes” first in half the number of copies circulated, and the case for the “Noes” first in the remaining half. That is an eminently fair suggestion, and I hope that it will be adopted.
– I can conceive of no more important proposal than that now before the House. If there is any subject in respect of which the electors need to be enlightened, it is that of the amendment of the Constitution. Every facility should be given them to ascertain the facts, so that they may cast an intelligent vote. No elector is justified in voting for an amendment of the Constitution without clearly understanding its purport, lt is claimed by honorable members opposite that the people can be educated in re- gard to the effect of the proposed amendments by means of platform work. I can safely say, however, that not 25 per cent, of the people could be reached in that way. Only a limited number will attend public meetings; and another point is that candidates cannot travel into every nook and corner of the Commonwealth. That being so, a large proportion of the people are not likely to hear what is to be said for and against the proposed amendments of the Constitution, unless some such course as that now contemplated be taken. That should be sufficient to warrant us in passing this Bill, and I am certainly pleased with the- stand taken up by the Leader of the Opposition. It has been said that what cannot be accomplished by means of platform work in this connexion can be done through the medium of the press. We know from experience, however, that the press do not put the true position before the electors of Australia. They state that which suits their own ends, or that of their party. It is admitted that the proposed amendment of the Constitution is a party question, and I should like to know who is prepared to argue that the press do not take sides in regard to such matters.^ We all know that they do. Already, in order to serve party, objects, statements that are not in accordance with facts are being published in regard to the proposed amendment of the Constitution. I do not blame the press. They have a certain policy to support, and they are entitled to do the best they can for their own side. But as representatives of the people we should riot permit only one side - and, in some cases, no side at all - to be put before the people. The only way out of the difficulty is, I think, to print, as is proposed, a statement for and against the proposed amendments. I do not care whether the case for or the case against be put first. If a concise statement be submitted to the people, they will read it, and will thus be placed in a better position than they would otherwise be to vote on the questions submitted to them. If, in addition to the publication of this statement, we give expression to our views from the public platforms of the country, no one can take exception, to our action. It is not reasonable to urge that, a statement from the stand-point of both parties in Parliament should not be placed before the electors. As to the cost, I think it will be very little. A copy should be posted to every elector, and, judging from what the honorable member for Franklin has said, I do not think that the pamphlets would cost more than Jd. each. But, assuming that the cost will be id. per copy, and that 2,500,000 be distributed, the expenditure will amount to only £10,400. That will be money well spent ; for, if the statement be not too bulky, the people will read it, and, having read it, debate the questions with each other. They will thus be enabled to form their own conclusions as to the best course to pursue in the interests of their children and themselves, and the future of Australia. I feel -confident that the circulation of a printed statement of the case for and against the proposed amendments of the Constitution will induce many people to go to the poll who would not otherwise do so. It will lead to an intelligent vote being cast, whereas, if this course were not adopted, many would be left in doubt, or would refrain from voting because of want of knowledge of the question.
.- The Government are not to be congratulated on the way in which they have introduced this measure. The Prime Minister stated that he indicated some little time ago his intention to submit such a Bill to the House; but I am quite sure that not one member of the Opposition had the slightest idea that it would take the particular form of the measure now before us. I am inclined, also, to think that, until very recently, many of the supporters of the Government had no idea that this Bill was to be submitted. If they had, I feel sure that I should not have had to sit here day after day listening to some of the perfervid oratory with which they sought to woo the electors, believing that a bulky volume, embodying the reports of their speeches, would be issued, as promised.
– Nearly all the speeches came from the Opposition side of the House.
– I beg to differ from the honorable member. The debates on the proposed amendments of the Constitution would have occupied much less time, so far as the supporters of the Government are concerned, had they known that this Bill would be introduced. Honorable members, who, like myself, come from the most distant State, are entitled to a little more consideration than they will receive if effect be given to this proposal. I actually heard one honorable member, by interjection, remark that we could remain in Melbourne to prepare our respective statements. I would tell the honorable member that it will take me all my time to get home for Christmas, even if I leave Melbourne, as I hope to do, a couple of days hence-
– Some of us will not be able to spend Christmas at home.
– Doubtless the country will require the presence of members of the _Ministry at the Seat of Government for a little while longer ; but I think that private members have a right to anticipate a little leisure before Christmas after such a strenuous session as that which we are now bringing to a close. Even if the very ablest members of our party drew up a presentment of the case for the Opposition as it occurred to them, I should like, perhaps, to have a voice in the settlement of some of the details. But I am asked either to remain here for some weeks longer, or to write “ Yea “ or “ Nay “ from Western Australia in regard to the statement drawn up. Nothing passed by this Legislature since its inception is more likely to bring our parliamentary institutions into contempt than is this suggestion. The speeches made on the several Bills to amend the Constitution have been reported fairly well in the public press throughout Australia..
– Fairly well?
– It is idle to suggest that bias has been shown by the press in reporting the speeches of honorable members. My experience of the daily press is that most newspapers confine their partisanship to their editorials, and that, as a rule, the reporters are prepared to give to their readers all statements of interest and moment that may be made in this Parliament, irrespective of party. That is all that we can reasonably expect, and, so far as my observation of the press goes, that is what has been given to us during the whole of the debate in question. For the Government to come down with this proposal, which puts aside all the oratory and all the reporting of that oratory during the weeks that these debates have lasted, is calculated to bring Parliament into contempt.
.- The proposal is a novel one, but, to my mind, exceedingly fair; and I was not surprised when the honorable member for Ballarat expressed approval of it. We are putting questions before the people for their decision, and they must understand those questions before they can vote upon them intelligently. It would be impossible for them to ascertain all that is to be said for and against the proposals of the Government, even from the reports of our debates which have appeared in the Melbourne journals, which are able to report at greater length than any others. I do not accuse the newspapers of unfairness, but they cannot, with the space at their disposal, publish the onehundredth part of the arguments that have been used. In March last, I heard the Leader of the Opposition, speaking at Castlemaine, advise his hearers to read the Commonwealth Hansard. He said to them, “ After you have read it, you may not understand Federal politics, but you cannot understand them unless you read it.” I cordially indorsed then what he said, and I do so now. An elector cannot know the arguments for and against these proposals unless he reads the speeches of honorable members, and in preparing a summary of the arguments there need be no repetition. To my mind, it will not bring Parliament into contempt to send such a summary to the people, but it will be the right course to follow. An official manifesto from each party might well be sent to each elector. As a matter of fact, manifestos signed on behalf of the Government, and on behalf of the Opposition, will probably appear in the newspapers.
– What about the Independent party?
– As the Prime Minister has said, there is no Independent party so far as these questions are concerned, because every member of the House has voted for or against each proposal. There should be no difficulty in preparing a memoranda of 2,000 words each, or 12,000 in all, briefly setting forth the arguments for and against the proposals. The intention is that these should be regarded as official manifestos, and should be sent to each elector at the expense of the Government. I am not prepared to say that such pamphlets would be read by all who received them, but a great many electors would read them. The honorable member for Hunter is right in saying that there are thousands of electors who will not hear a speech made from the platform, but many of them would read any manifestos that were sent to them. The proposal might have been brought forward earlier, but I do not think that any great harm has been done by bringing it forward now. Let the Opposition be as divided as I say it is, or what is worse, as divided as the honorable member for Franklin says it is, there is similarity in all the speeches of its members in regard to these proposals. The right honorable member for Swan is the only leading member of the Opposition who is now away.
– What about the honorable member for Darling Downs?
– I do not understand that he is a leading member of the Opposition.
– Who set up the honorable member as an authority on the subject ?
Mi-. Atkinson. - The honorable member for Darling Downs is an ex-Minister.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Perth comes within coo-ee of being a leading member of his party. The Leader of the Opposition can be safely taken to voice the opinions of the honorable member for Darling Downs, because there are no two members of the party who are more closely attached. Either could be left to speak for the other. The proposal that a manifesto should be prepared, fairly setting out the views of those in favour of the proposed amendments of the Constitution, and the views of those against them, is a good one; and if such a manfesto is sent to each elector, it cannot be said that we have taken no steps to inform them on the subject on which we ask their decision. Something has been said about putting the negative view first in some of the pamphlets and the affirmative view first in others. Had I my choice, I would prefer to have the last word, and not the first, because any one who reads the pamphlets at all will read right through them. That it is generally believed that a large portion of the public reads what is sent to it is evidenced by the fact that an immense quantity of literature is distributed during a referendum or election campaign. I have here the Speaker’s Handbook.
– Is it a pamphlet issued bv the honorable member?
– It is too misleading to have been issued by me. Its contents cover thirty-one pages, and it was, in addition to a great deal of other literature, distributed widely. A great many persons read what is sent to them, and every person who reads a summary of the arguments for and against will be in a better position for voting on the referenda proposals. Those who hear what is said from the .platform will be at a still greater advantage. I think that it can be fairly left to the Leaders of both sides to prepare statements that will reach every elector.
– When the Prime Minister indicated the sources of. this innovation, I felt some misgiving, because I remembered a description given to me by an eye witness of the procedure in one of the State Legislatures of America, where, when a member rose with a bundle of manuscript in his hand, another member, catching the Speaker’s eye, would say that he noticed that the member for such-and-such a place had his speech written, and he would therefore move that it be taken as read, and printed. In that way, members would have put before their constituents speeches of which they had not uttered a word. I agree with those who say that the people should be fully informed with regard to any proposed alteration of the Constitution. No matter how they may be hoodwinked with regard to matters of legislation, it is the bounden duty of this Parliament to use every effort to give them full information in regard to any proposed alterations of the Constitution.
– Yes; but not party propaganda.
– Certainly not. I do not agree that the revenue of the Commonwealth should be used for the purpose of party propaganda. Some honorable members, I feel sure, have a knowledge of Pros, and Cons., which is brought up to date and printed from time to time in the Old Country, and which contains most useful information with regard to arguments that have been used in favour of or against all proposals brought before the Imperial Parliament. If this statement is anything like that production no one can possibly object but if it contains party propaganda, I feel sure that no one would object to it more readily than would the Prime Minister himself. It will be his bounden duty to see that nothing of that sort does occur. I hope that, in following this American precedent, we shall not drift on to that which I have already mentioned as an illustration of what has happened there.
– If one could be quite sure that this was to be an impartial statement of the case for and against the referenda proposals, there might, perhaps, be little to be said against the document being circulated at the public expense. But we have no guarantee, either in the Bill or from anything which has been said by members of the Government, that it will be of that character. On the contrary, from what the AttorneyGeneral has said, there is a pretty fair indication that a distinctly party tone is to be imparted to the document, so far as the presentation of the case of the Government is concerned. If so, its value for the purpose of giving correct information to the public will be considerably impaired. In these circumstances, I do not think we should be justified in spending a farthing of public money on either the printing of it or its circulation. The only justification for printing and circulating such a pamphlet as the Government propose would be that it should contain a judicial statement of the case for and against the referenda proposals, dealing with them absolutely on their merits, and without any trace of bias or party politics. But I do not know that politicians on either side of the House should be intrusted with the carrying out of work of that kind. Consciously or unconsciously, their own party bias must tinge their views on a question which has been so much the subject of party strife and discussion in this Chamber and elsewhere. Moreover, we have to remember that this will mean a triplication, if not a quadruplication, of reports of practically the same matter. First, we have the ordinary Han sard, which is supposed to be available to the public, and from which they can obtain the fullest information regarding the debates in this House and also in the Senate. Second, we have the newspapers, which have reported pretty fully the essential points in the debates, and the principal features of the Bills, the ground which they cover, and all that is involved iri them. Third, the Government propose to issue several thousand volumes of reprints from Hansard of the whole of the debates, for the information of the general public. And fourth, we have this” proposal to print a pamphlet containing a statement from both sides of the House. If, with all this information available to them, the public are not able to arrive at a clear understanding of what the referenda proposals entail, l think that the reason of it will be found in having, not too little, but too much, information on the subject. I presume that even this pamphlet will be handed to the newspapers, which, doubtless, will publish large extracts, showing the main arguments for and against the proposals. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that, if it is really a fair and impartial statement of the case, there is the fullest justification for printing and circulating the proposed pamphlet at the public expense ; but if the gentleman who writes “The Case for Labour “ in the Daily Telegraph is to be the principal figure or the controlling influence in preparing a statement of the case for the referenda proposals from the point of view of the Government, then I fear that we shall have some very highly coloured and greatly exaggerated statements going forth to the public, instead of a judicial, dispassionate statement of the case. It is rather confusing to have two members differing as to the probable cost. We have no statement on that head from the Government of the country. The House is entitled to receive from the Attorney-General or the Prime Minister a statement which could easily have been ascertained from the officers of the Department. Had that been done, the House would have been in a better position to judge whether the proposed expenditure is justified or not; but no such information has been forthcoming from the members of the Government. One member- on their side has estimated the cost of the pamphlet at about ^10,000, while a member on our side has said that it will cost nothing. Which of these two members is correct? Both of them, I suppose, are entitled to equal credit.
– One has had a long journalistic experience.
– Journalistic experience is no guide in this matter.
– Nor is parliamentary experience.
– We have had the statements of two members who, I suppose, will pass as being equally entitled to give a rough estimate of the cost. I venture to believe that the honorable member for Franklin is very far out in his reckoning when he .tells us that it will cost nothing to print or to circulate the pamphlet. To send a copy to every elector must involve a great deal of expense, and whether the expense is justified will depend mainly on the character of the publication. We do not know who is to be the judge of whether it is a judicial publication or a party publication, and we cannot know that until the book is published, and the country is saddled with the cost of printing and circulating a statement which it may be discovered afterwards is of such a character that it should have been paid for by the different parties concerned. I also object to the manner in which the Bill has been submitted. We had no opportunity to consider the measure amongst ourselves prior to dealing with it on the floor of the House. Like most other Bills submitted by this Government, it has been flung down on the table like a bone flung to a dog, and we have had no time to ascertain its nature. That is not a fair way to treat members of the Opposition. Of course, it may be that honorable members opposite have had an opportunity to consider the details in caucus, and, indeed, may have had a hand in framing the measure. Personally Iknew nothing whatever of the measure until it was sprung upon us a few minutes ago in this extraordinary fashion, to the surprise of every member on this side. I know it is of little use protesting against the slipshod and discourteous method of the Labour party. As to the Bill itself, provided that the declared intention is carried out as embodied in the speech of the Prime Minister, I see no great objection, but some steps should be taken to see that this volume, before it is issued, is purged of every tinge of a party political character.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill toad a second time.
In Committee :
ClauseI agreed to.
Clause 2 (Distribution to electors of arguments for and against proposed law).
.- I understand that the Attorney-General is quite satisfied that eight weeks is the longest possible time that can be allowed. But the Christmas and New Year holidays will reduce that period to six weeks.
– I have gone into the matter very carefully. It was considered at first that only four weeks should be allowed owing to the fact that the Printer stated that he required eight weeks. to do the work of printing. That period of eight weeks, however, has now been reduced by three weeks. Over 500,000 of these volumes will have to be printed, wrapped up, addressed, and despatched all over the Continent, and that in itself is a monumental work. The publication must reach the electors at least one month before the election - it must not be too remote from, nor yet too near, the election. Allowing for a week or so after the New Year, there is absolutely no margin, and eight weeks is the longest possible time.
.- I should like to know who is going to select the 2,000 words.
– That is a question that ought not to be asked without notice.
– Who are the members to be selected from either side? All this is very unsatisfactory to me.
Clause agreed to.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral not another clause to add to the Bill ?
– Was it not agreed that the suggestion I made would bind both sides?
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Frazer) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-10.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr. Frazer), read a first and second time.
ClauseI agreed to.
Clause 2 (Amendment of section 85).
– Some time ago I made a statement to the effect that I believed a number of necessary telephonic works could be undertaken in country districts if we were able to use shorter poles in lieu of the 20-ft. poles, which are probably available in only one portion of a State, and which in some instances have to be brought from one State to another. The principal Act provides that the height of the wire from the surface shall be at least 20 feet. It is not proposed to introduce shorter poles in populous centres where the lessening of the height of the wire would be likely to cause trouble. But in other districts - which can be determined by regulation - 18-ft. poles will be provided at all crossings, whilst along the side of the road 12-ft. poles will be used. I believe that the Bill will permit of a number of desirable telephonic works being carried out which cannot be undertaken under existing circumstances on the ground of the -expense that would be incurred.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr. Fishes), read a- first time.
House adjourned at 10.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 December 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121216_reps_4_69/>.