5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the temporary hands employed in the Land Tax Department at Sydney did not receive their wages on the last fortnightly pay-day? Will the right honorable gentleman inquire why the permanent hands were paid and the temporary hands were not paid ?
– I shall be glad to make inquiries. I have no knowledge of the facts stated.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Speaking on the adjournment motion on Friday last, I referred to the small-pox epidemic in Sydney, but was called out of the Chamber to attend to a very important matter before the motion was put. I understand that the Prime Minister, in replying, referred in a disparaging way to my absence, suggesting that the small-pox epidemic was of no importance to me, as I was not then present. If such a remark was made, it was disparaging to me, and unworthy of the Prime Minister.
– I made no remark disparaging to the honorable member. Some one must have been “ pulling his leg.”
– My attention has just been called to a paragraph appearing in the Melbourne Argus of Friday, 12th September, and reporting an interview on ‘’ The Federal Deadlock “ with the honorable member for Werriwa, who suggested a “ way out.” The last sentence reads -
Mr. Conroy adds that he has obtained from a number of Labour members, including Mr. Fisher, assurances of support for his scheme.
I hope that the honorable member will be able to put the matter right.
– By way of personal explanation, sir, I might mention that I had not even seen the honorable member for Wide Bay on that occasion. I was referring to Mr. Fuller, the late colleague of the Prime Minister. I mentioned that he had approved of the scheme, and spoken at Bulli in favour of it.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs if it is the intention of the Government to continue boring operations in the Northern Territory. If so, where is the boring to be done, and does the Department intend to call tenders for the work, or to do it with day labour?
-If the honorable member will give notice of his question, I shall obtain full particulars.
Plate Laying - Powellized Sleepers : Contract - “Castle’s” Track-former.
– Is the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs yet in possession of information regarding the possibility of proceeding with the plate-laying on the Western Australian section of trie transcontinental railway?
– I should like my honorable friend to put the question on the notice-paper. The Railway Department is at present necessarily rather busy on other matters.
– That is a flippant answer on a serious subject.
– I am making a statement of fact. The Railway Department is at present very busy indeed in connexion with other matters, and special clerks have had to be employed to meet obligations. If the honorable member will have the courtesy to place a question on the notice-paper, as I have already asked, I shall do my best to get him an answer.
– Is the contract entered into with the Western Australian Government for the supply of sleepers being carried out; and, if so, will the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs kindly lay a copy of the contract on the table?
– I take it that the honorable member refers to the agreement with the Western Australian Government for the supply of powellized jarrah and karri sleepers ? I shall be glad to get the honorable member full particulars, and lay a copy of the document on the table of the House, if he will give notice of the question.
– I desire to put a question to the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, and, in doing so, to explain that, on 11th instant, Senator Pearce, in another place, asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether he was yet in a position to give him any information respecting a contract between the Federal Government and the Government of Western Australia for the supply of sleepers for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway? In reply, Senator McColl, Vice-President of the Executive Council, said -
I have been able to get the information which the honorable senator desires. According to a memorandum I have received from the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, some 60,000 jarrah sleepers have been supplied under the agreement. The Powellized karri sleepers are not due until November next. There has been some delay in agreeing to the exact wording of the deed of contract, but the document is now with the West Australian Government for signature.
In view of that answer, I wish to read the following telegram received by Senator Pearce from Mr. Scaddan, Premier of Western Australia, and to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he is in a position to explain this apparent discrepancy -
Sleeper contract not in hands of State Government. Not aware that it has yet left hands of Federal Government. Have wired and written continuously without satisfaction.
– I shall make a statement to the House to-morrow with respect to it. Information given by any Minister comes, of course, from the Department concerned; and if there has been any mistake made, I shall, no doubt, be able to give an explanation of it to the House.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– I am obtaining the information, and will lay it upon the table of Parliament in the form of a return.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that trade between Tasmania and Sydney is being blocked ? I ask the honorable gentleman, as the custodian of the Commonwealth Constitution, which provides ‘for free intercourse between the States, if it is his intention to take steps to see that trade is made free ? May I explain that by the last sailing of the Wimmera, 21,000 cases of fruit, mostly from the cool stores, were shipped to Sydney, that that fruit is now being left to lie on the Sydney wharfs, and will rot unless it is immediately handled.
– Why is it being left to lie there ?
– Because of a strike there. I ask the honorable gentleman if he does not consider it the duty of the Government to take such steps as may be necessary to maintain freedom of trade and commerce between the States ?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will place the question on the notice-paper for tomorrow.
– Meanwhile the fruit is rotting.
– I do not know that anything can be done in the meantime. We shall have to look into the matter carefully. It is a serious thing to have perishable products delayed on their way to market, and a strike is serious for all parties. I regret to learn that there is a strike. I thought that the terms and conditions of employment on the wharfs had been settled by the Arbitration Court, and that no strikes were possible under its awards. We are frequently told that no award of the Court has ever been disregarded.
– - Is there a Commonwealth award in this case?
– I take it that the wharf labourers are working under a Commonwealth award.
– No, they are not.
– If the honorable member for Franklin will give us time to look into this very important matter, we shall give him an answer to his question later.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs when we are likely to get the Bill dealing with the Excise revenue for sugar, which either has been lost or is at present in the pockets of persons who have no right to it?
– The Bill is in course of preparation, and will be submitted at an early date.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs a question relating to the arrangement which
Was made between the ex-Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland when it Was agreed that the Sugar Excise Act and Sugar Bounty Act should be repealed ? It was laid down that certain conditions should be complied with before proclaiming the repeal of the Acts, and I have been informed that the conditions are not being complied with. Will the Minister communicate with his responsible officers - that is, the Sub-Collectors of Customs at Mackay, Lucinda, Innisfail, and Cairns - and find out from them the rates of wages being paid in the mills and elsewhere ?
– It was laid down in the original agreement that the State Parliament should pass legislation providing for certain industrial conditions. The State Parliament has passed those laws dealing with the industrial conditions, and the effect of the legislation is that “the schedule of wages prescribed by the Act is regarded as an award of the Industrial Court. Therefore, any breaches of the award, or any failure to fulfil the conditions, is a matter for administration by the State authorities in connexion with their enforcement. It is not within the scope of the Federal authorities to inquire into the conditions or any breach of them. However, if the honorable member will give me specific instances of any breach or failure to fulfil the con ditions, I shall be glad to make the necessary representations with respect to them.
– Two days ago, when I asked the Prime Minister a question in regard to the sugar Excise and bounty, the Prime Minister said, in effect, that my statement was merely ex parte. I now ask the Minister of Trade and Customs to assure himself whether or not the conditions are being observed, by referring to his own responsible officers, the sub-collectors, in the various places I have mentioned.
– The honorable member will see the difficulty of sending the officers on a roving commission of the kind indicated. If the honorable member will give me specific case? which may be within his knowledge, I shall be only too pleased to have them investigated.
– The honorable gentleman can ask his officers whether the conditions are being carried out.
– The right honorable gentleman will see that it is impossible for the officers to go about investigating the whole of the operations. I presume that the honorable member for Herbert is asking the question on some information, and if he will give me that information I shall make the necessary investigations.
– Has the Treasurer any objection to giving the House an idea of when he will deliver the Budget-speech ?
– I hope to be able to deliver my speech towards the end of this month.
– This month?
– I think it will be very near the end of the month.
North Sydney Post-office Clock - Telephone Construction - Letters Posted on Trains - Marconi Company’s Litigation - State-owned Atlantic Cable.
Colonel RYRIE. - I ask. the PostmasterGeneral if the municipal authorities of North Sydney refuse to put a light in the clock tower of the local post-office? As North Sydney is a most important suburb, will the honorable gentleman make inquiries, with a view to having a light put into the clock tower? It is very inconvenient to have no light there.
– It is not the practice of the Department to provide clocks for post-office towers. That is left to municipal authorities and local residents. Clocks have been so provided at Geelong, and in many other places.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether he is evolving any scheme whereby he will be able to expedite telephone construction? He may be aware that in some cases construction has been postponed owing to the alleged congestion of work in the Department.
– If any honorable member will furnish me with particulars of any case of the kind, I will have it inquired into. But I cannot answer a general question very satisfactorily.
– I think that, on Friday last, it was announced that the PostmasterGeneral had decided to discontinue charging late fees on letters posted at railway stations. I should like to ask the honorable gentleman whether any calculation has been made as to what increase of staff will be required, or what the obligation to the Commonwealth will be, as a consequence of taking action in that direction.
– -I do not think that any increase of staff will be required. The sorters on the trains will sort the letters, as far as they can, and if the public post more letters than can be sorted, they will be carried on to the capital cities of the States, and will not go out until later deliveries. In announcing this change, we have asked the public not to take undue advantage of the concession.
– A considerable time ago, when I asked the Minister of External Affairs whether he could inform the House of the relationship then existing between the Marconi Company and the Commonwealth, the honorable gentleman assured me that he was prepared to give me privately certain information which I did not seek. I should like to know whether he is now in a position to inform the House of the relationship and the differences between the Marconi Company and the Commonwealth Government?
– There is no relationship at present existing save “that of litigants. The position is that an examina tion was permitted, by the order of the Court, to be and has been made. We are simply preparing for trial, and doing all we can on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral any objection to placing on the table of the Library the file relating to the overtures between the Commonwealth Government and the British Government with reference to the State-owned Atlantic cable.
– I have no objection.
– On the 10th instant, the honorable member for Hunter asked w’hat was the quantity of explosives imported during the year ended the 30th June last. The answer to the question is as follows:–
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that complants have been made in the Supreme Court of New South Wales that decisions of the High Court cannot be obtained in print, and that, therefore, the administration of justice in that State is being delayed? Is it possible to take any steps to see that the reporting of the judgments is undertaken by the Commonwealth ? I refer to remarks made in the Supreme Court with regard to the case of Fremiti v. Fremiti.
– It has often been the subject of complaint that the authorized reports of the judgments of the High Court are not published immediately after the judgments are delivered. But I would remind the honorable member that that is impossible, because the authorized reports have to be carefully scrutinized by each of the Judges who have taken part in giving them, and that can only be done at times when their other duties will enable them to do so. The corrected proof is the final record of the decision of the law, but there are available to lawyers and Courts, some considerable time before the revised reports come out, reports which are usually quite accurate. For instance, there are the Argus Law Reports, the Australian Law Times, and other reports which are very largely used.
– Only the Argus report.
– At all events, there is the Argus Law Reports, which gives a very full, and usually accurate, account of the judgment.
– Does that apply to all the States?
– I believe that the Argus Law Reports usually gives all the decisions in the Supreme Court, as well as the decisions in the High Court.
– I think there is no report published in New South Wales, and that is the trouble.
– It would be a desirable thing to do, but I do not think that the Commonwealth ought to issue anything that is not an authorized and certified report. In my opinion, it would be foolish to do so, and the difficulty might be got over by fuller newspaper reports, or by some other means. For the reasons I have stated, the authorized Commonwealth reports cannot be published immediately after the decisions are given.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether the Government have considered the desirability of forwarding to the British Parliament and people a message from the Parliament and people of Australia conveying their regret at the disloyalty of Sir Edward Carson and his ilk in threatening to train men to resist His Majesty’s Government if a certain law is placed on the statute-book of Great Britain?
– No; I have not considered it.
– I think you ought to do so. You ought to show our loyalty, at any rate.
Cockburn Sound Naval Base: Appoint ment of Expert - Small Arms Factory - Prosecution of Defaulting Trainees : Confinement in Barracks.
– At the request of the honorable member for Fremantle, I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he is yet in a position to inform the House as to the appointment of an expert, or experts, to deal with the merits of Jervoise Bay or any other site in Cockburn Sound ?
– The engagement of an expert is not with a view to settling questions for Western Australia alone, but to obtain his advice generally on all the larger naval public works in the manner recommended by Admiral Henderson in his report.
– That does not answer my question.
– I was going on to say, if I may, that we hope in a day or two to be able to announce the name of the expert, whom we expect to be here at a very short date.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether the expert whom the Government are bringing out in connexion with naval base work is already in association with the British Navy or associated with some engineering firm that has been intrusted with the carrying out of similar harbor work?
– I hope to answer the question fully in the course of a day or two.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
How many trainees have been confined in barracks or elsewhere as a result of prosecutions instituted for neglect to attend drill, giving number in each State?
– The answers are -
Number of Trainees Confined in Barracks or Elsewhere to 31st August, 1913. 1st Military District (Queensland), 155. 2nd Military District (New South Wales), 250. 3rd Military District (Victoria), 273. 4th Military District (South Australia), 127. 5th Military District (Western Australia), 130. 6th Military District (Tasmania), 48.
Total in Commonwealth, 983.
– When I asked the Prime Minister the other day whether he had
Ascertained the estimated cost of the proposed Bureau of Agriculture, he said that he had not, but that a sketch had been made of the probable duties of the Bureau. Will the honorable gentleman lay that sketch on the table, and cause the same to be printed?
– I shall make inquiries and endeavour to do what the honorable member suggests.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs prepared to make a statement to the House in regard to revoking the proclamation for the quarantining of Sydney ? Does he know that as long as it is a quarantined area the business of Sydney will be congested and unemployment created ?
– I have already made several statements on this point to the House. We all regret deeply that there should be any suffering or loss in Sydney, but I would repeat that the loss being sustained in that city is chiefly due to the existence of the disease there. The Commonwealth regulations only deal with the passage of persons from that city to other States. All that we require, with the intention of preventing the spread of the disease, is the vaccination of persons going from the quarantined area to other States,
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that there is no similar quarantine area in the world, and that the proper practice now recommended by all medical authorities is isolation and disinfection of the premises? Will he take steps to remove the quarantine, and see that the proper practice, now recommended by the local governing authority in London, is carried out?
– The area was fixed by the authorities to meet the necessities of the case in Australia, and it was defined.
– Who decided it?
– It was decided by the medical experts advising the Department. Isolation, in itself, is not regarded by the authorities as sufficient.
– Which authorities?
– The medical authorities.
– By the local authorities?
– No, by the expert authorities of the Department, who consider that isolation is not enough. The actual remedy is vaccination and revaccination.
– Who told you that?
– That is the opinion of the experts. I am guided by the experts in this matter.
– You ought to be guided by your own common sense.
– So long as the disease continues to exist in Sydney, and spreads, my advice is that it would be unwise, in the interests of the rest of Australia, to revoke the proclamation.
– You are spreading the disease.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that every day in New York, New Orleans, and other cities, more people are suffering from small-pox than are now suffering in Sydney, and that the only steps taken in those cities is to isolate the patients, and hang out a red flag. In view of the summer coming on, and the great things that are going to happen in Sydney shortly, is it not possible to remove the present ban of exclusiveness, so that honorable members may be able to go to that city by the 4th of next month?
– I have only the honorable member’s statement of the condition of affairs in the United States, but if the disease of small-pox is always there, it is probably because the authorities do not take the same precautions that have been taken in Australia. My information is that all immigrants to the United States have to be vaccinated, and that in the Philippines, and other areas, the authorities, by vaccination and revaccination, have completely eradicated the disease from very seriously infected districts. Experience shows that panic vaccination is not enough, but that a steady course of vaccination and revaccination is the best method for completely eradicating the disease.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that in Sydney there is a growing feeling that the quarantine area should be reduced to the small districts in which the disease is known to exist? At present, 650,000 people have an embargo placed upon them and are prevented from travelling into other States, whereas the suggestion made would confine the quarantine arrangements to a small number of people, as was done in the case of the plague.
– The experience of the administration shows that the disease is not confined to any particular suburb, and we have had to deal with the whole area.
– Neither was the plague confined to particular suburbs.
– But small-pox has been breaking out in different parts of the city.
– So did the plague.
– This shows the necessity to quarantine the whole area.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether, in his desire to stop the spread of small-pox, he recognises that the extension of the quarantined area to the whole metropolis of Sydney instead of its limitation to that part of the city which is infected, is calculated to spread the disease to other suburbs?
– I am not aware that that is so. Our regulations, as the honorable member knows, apply only to persons going from Sydney to other States.
– But the Minister, by his regulation, is enabling persons to carry the disease from the infected parts to other suburbs.
– Many residents of Sydney, such as tramway employes and others, are constantly moving about the whole city area, and it is impossible, therefore, to quarantine any specific area in the manner suggested.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he will consult his officers as to the possibility of adopting the isolation system as against that of vaccination and the proclaiming of areas, with a view to reducing the injury which is now being done to life, health, and property in Sydney ?
– I can assure the honorable member that the officers engaged inthe administration of the Federal law are doing everything possible to prevent the spread of the disease, whilst the State authorities, acting within the State’s sphere of control, are, according to the information supplied to me, doing their best in various ways to prevent its spread. Persons discovered to be suffering from small-pox, as well as contacts, are at once removed to the quarantine station, and disinfection and other steps are being adopted to try to prevent the spread of the disease.
– Does the Minister of Trade and Customs contend that the whole of the contacts are removed to quarantine and isolated by the health authorities of the State when a case of small-pox is discovered ? Does he contend that that has been done?
– I do not contend anything. All that I know is that the State authorities in Sydney are acting on the lines I have indicated.
– The Minister has been there recently?
– Certainly ; but I have not been inspecting the detailed work of the State officers. They are under the authority of the State Government and the Chief Health Officer of New South Wales.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs supply honorable members with copies of the questions which are being asked by the Inter-State Commission with regard to Tariff alterations ?
– Certainly; I shall bo pleased, if honorable members so desire, to post a copy to each.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs also lay a copy of the questions on the table, so that they may be printed and incorporated in the records of Parliament and not lost, as so many documents are?
– I shall be pleased to do as the honorable member suggests. Our desire is that, not only honorable members, but the public generally, shall be possessed of the information.
– Is it a fact that the questions are a copy of those laid down by the previous Government?
– I am afraid that I am not in the position to answer that question. I am inclined to think that they are really an amplification of the questions prepared by the previous Government.
– Some of them are word for word the same.
Erection of Public Buildings - Mr. W. B. Griffin - Use of Designs
– I desire to ask the Acting Minister of Home Affairs whether he is aware that, about seven or eight years ago, Mr. Vernon, the architect of the New South Wales Government, advised the Federal Government that the whole of the parliamentary and public buildings at Canberra could be erected in two and a half years for £250,000? Will he have that matter brought under the notice of the officers who are likely to take the first step in the matter of the erection of buildings ?
– I believe that Colonel Vernon did make some such statement as the honorable member for Parkes has referred to, some years ago.
– He has made it
– If my honorable friend will give me a clear indication of the exact nature of the statement I shall be only too happy to bring it under the notice of the departmental officers. I should like to take this opportunity of saying that the Commonwealth is under a deep debt of gratitude to Colonel Vernon for the great and disinterested services which he has rendered to it throughout.
– I wish to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs when he proposes to proceed with the erection of Parliament House and other permanent buildings at Canberra?
– So soon as the lay-out of the city is definitely decided, as I hope it will be very shortly, we shall be in a position to make such arrangements as will secure the widest competition for the principal buildings at the Federal Capital.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Purchase of Books
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. New books are received from the booksellers on approval, and the Librarian examines these and makes three lists of them, recommending such books as he thinks should be added to the Library. In addition, he and his principal assistant receive certain newspapers devoted to literature, which are examined, and recommendations made from them. Booksellers’ catalogues, which are sent to the Library by all the leading London booksellers, are also examined for second-hand books whose acquisition is desirable. All recommendations of the Librarian are laid before a book selection committee appointed by the Library Committee, which indorses, rejects, or adds to the recommendations as its members see fit. In addition, members’ recommendations of books for purchase are also decided upon by the subcommittee.
MINISTERS laid on the table the following papers : -
Bounties Act - Return of Particulars for 1912-13 of Persons to whom Bounty Paid, Amount Paid, Goods, &c.
Public Service Act -
Promotion of P. V. Leonard as Clerk, 4th Class, Postmaster-General’s Department, Central Staff.
Variation of Approval of Promotions as CleTks, 4th Class, Accounts Branch, Central Staff, Department of Home Affairs, of- D. E Aikins, H. R. Whitelaw.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members will notice that in this Bill expression has been given to the policy of building up from existing things, and remodelling existing things, rather than of destroying and starting anew; and that, in order to endeavour to avoid any confusion that can possibly be avoided, we have made as few changes in the original Act as possible, consistent with administrative efficiency, electoral security, a free franchise, and a free press. I hope that honorable members will not be in any way discouraged by the number of clauses contained in the measure. A very considerable number of them are clauses of a purely consequential nature. Indeed, sir, this Bill in one respect is suggestive of those daring ladies who are at present taxing the endurance of American magistrates by “ bumping up against “ the dress regulations of some of the States; because by means of these consequential amending clauses, the Bill, like the ladies to whom I have referred, has a pretty extensive covering of immaterial things.
In order that honorable members may be able to separate, in their minds, the consequential clauses from the remainder of the measure, I will give a bare recital of them. Clauses 3, 4, 6, 9, 16, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 34 are either consequential in a verbal way or consequential upon some alterations effected by other portions of the measure under review.
The clauses which aim at administrative efficiency are as follow - numbers- 5, 7, 11, 13, 14, 15, and 17. I may add that all these proposals would necessarily have been suggested by the Electoral Office whatever Ministry had been in power. No. 5 deals with the appointment of electoral inspectors. I do not desire at this stage to emphasize the point - whichI am sure needs very little emphasis amongst honorable members; but I may say that- the Chief Electoral Officer hasreported strongly in regard to this matter. Consequently, I think it is rather a matter for supplying honorable members with information from his report if they desire to have it during the Committee stage. Clause 7, dealing with the appointment of emergency officers to the position of Returning Officer and assisting Returning Officer, is a proposal that has become necessary owing to a defect that has been found to exist in the original Act. Under the principal Act an appointment could be made only when a vacancy had occurred,and in cases where a Divisional Returning Officer or an Assistant Returning Officer had become suddenly ill it was not certain in law that a vacancy had occurred. The result was that the Electoral Office was placed in a very awkward position in the absence of the immediate opportunity of securing Executive action. The amendment proposed will obviate that- difficulty. The next proposal of a machinery nature is that set out in clause 11. It aims at preventing the glutting of the rolls immediately prior to a general election. The Chief Electoral Officer reports on this matter as follows: -
Unless the law is amended as proposed, it will always be impracticable, on the eve of an election, to make the necessary adjustments consequent upon duplications resulting from the errors of electors, and upon transfer and changes in the rolls to be used at the elections. Under the existing law, the Commonwealth Electoral Officers are unable, in the limited time at their disposal, to adjust a large number of these duplications (the result of errors by ‘ electors), which occur during the period immediately pieceding the issue of the writ for an election, and the Electoral Registrars are unable, in many cases, to remove the names of persons who have secured change or transfer of enrolment immediately prior to the issue of the writ.
I may say that the statistical returns, when contrasted with the number of persons actually enrolled at the last general elections, show the pressing need for some such alteration in the machinery of the Act as is indicated in this Bill. If honorable members will bear with me for a moment, I would like to point out that whilst on the 31st May last there were no less than 2,885,000 names on our electoral rolls, only 2,710,000 persons of adult age, and eligible for enrolment, were estimated to be in the Commonwealth. So that there was the great surplusage of 175,000 persons to be accounted for, and it is to prevent any repetition of that sort of thing that the Electoral Office desires this provision to be included in the measure.
– It will prevent the names of persons who are entitled to vote being placed on the roll, too.
– I think that I can disregard that interjection. We do not want persons to be enrolled who have no right to enrolment. We desire every person whose name ought to be on our electoral rolls to have every chance of recording an honest vote, but we do not wish our rolls to be inflated with the names of persons who do not exist in fact. Nor do we desire our rolls to be swollen by voters’ names being duplicated. .
– It is better that a man’s name should appear twice on the rolls than that he should be robbed of his vote.
– What we wish to insure is that no man shall have two votes. I hope that the honorable member for East Sydney will not interrupt me, because I do not wish to be too painfully reminded of the courteous and distinguished gentlemen who used to represent that electorate.
– The Honorary Minister ought not to be insulting. Did he learn that at Oxford ?
– No, I learnt it at nightschool. I am sure honorable members will see that the measure is a fairly comprehensive one. I wish to give them all the information that I can, but I do not desire to be interrupted by an honorable member who is not seeking information, but who is merely endeavouring to establish as a fact that which does not exist. The next amendment aiming at reforming electoral administration deals with the abolition of the 5s. deposit required in connexion with objections to names which appear on the rolls. Other safeguards are proposed in its stead. The abolition of this deposit is intended to bring to the Electoral Department the assistance of every person in Australia in regard to these objections. It marks a very important step, but it does not wipe out a section of the Act which has been availed of to any appreciable extent. Indeed, I am informed that the only case in which an elector has paid 5s. with the object of securing the removal of another person’s name from the roll is that of a lady who felt it worth her while to prove that an elector whose name was given on the roll as Mrs. Jones was not, in fact, Mrs. Jones. Every other person has shirked the trouble of lodging a deposit of 5s. for the exercise of what, after all, ought to be a civic duty-
– Has the clause been framed on account of the experience of that lady ?
– No. The Electoral Department realizes the value of getting, and desires to get, the help of electors generally to insure the removal from the rolls of the names of persons whose names ought not to be there. All the clauses with which I am now dealing have the entire concurrence of the Electoral Office.
– Are they not suggestions of the Government?
– I can assure the honorable member that I am not in any way endeavouring to distort the facts. If he will do me the justice of hearing me throughout he can surely deal with these matters when the Bill has reached the Committee stage. The alternative proposition in this connexion safeguards the rolls and the rights of electors quite as effectively as does the old Act. Honorable members will see that clause 68 is to be amended to provide -
The objection may be in the prescribed form, and shall be -
signed by an elector registered on the same subdivision roll in the presence of a returning officer, an electoral registrar, or a postmaster, and attested by such returning officer, electoral registrar, or postmaster.
In other words, before an elector can take the initial steps to get another elector’s name removed from the roll he must see a highly responsible officer and make the necessary statement of fact, and any person who without reasonable cause signs such an objection will be liable to a penalty of £5. The Department holds that this is sufficient to cover unreasonable and frivolous objections; but that it will not deter persons from coming bond fide to the assistance of the Department, with the object of assisting in the purification of the rolls. We have endeavoured to introduce another reform in the Bill relating to objections to registration. As honorable members will perceive, enrolment and transfer are in the original Act placed upon a subdivisional basis. In this measure we have followed the logical course by placing objections upon a similar basis. As a result, any person residing in a particular locality, and being aware that another elector has quitted that locality, will be able to assist the Department with his knowledge. I would remind honorable members that, in a country like Australia, some such provision is absolutely essential if we are to secure the assistance of the public in such matters.
– What does the Honorary Minister mean by “ the public “ ?
-I mean the public. The term is a very clear one, and is, I understand, one which is in common use.
– How many of the general public have the time at their disposal to permit of their going round to look for objections ?
– If the honorable member does not want the Australian public to take any interest in the purity of our electoral rolls, by all means let him resist this proposition. He will then be in the position which he ought to occupy if he is honestly of that opinion. If, however, he does wish the public to take an intelligent interest in the purity of our electoral rolls, he ought to give them every possible facility to object to the names of persons improperly appearing there. If he does not wish to see double enrolments, if he desires an honest electoral system, of which the public may be proud, I take it that the only course that can be properly adopted , is that in which the Electoral Department now concurs. To draw attention to the size of some of our electoral divisions, I might mention that Dampier embraces a larger area than the United Kingdom, Prance, Germany, and Austria. Manifestly, it is impossible for an elector residing in that division to be certain that another elector who has left his neighbourhood has gone out of the division. Under the Act, an elector lodging an objection must make sure that the person whose name is objected to has departed from the division, but under the amending provision the person objecting will be asked to make sure only of a matter that can reasonably be expected to be within his knowledge - that is, of departure from the subdivision - and the Department will, under such circumstances, welcome assistance. Another administrative amendment which I am afraid will occasion my honorable friends opposite some displeasure, but which is none the less urgently necessary, provides for the abolition of Saturday polling.
– The Minister has no chance of doing that.
– It is naturally proposed by the Minister to abolish Saturday polling, because Saturday is the day on which the electors have most time for voting.
– We have taken the advice of our experts on this question, instead of using our political power against their advice, and against the interests of efficient administration. This is what the Chief Electoral Officer says on the subject
– The Government have no hope of passing the Bill, anyhow.
– Is that a statement of fact?
– It has no hope, so far as I am concerned.
– We have no hope of passing an electoral measure!
– The honorable member did not say that.
– I ask the country to take particular notice of what the rank and file of the Opposition says, and of what ex-Ministers are only too anxious to have contradicted at the earliest possible moment. This is what the Chief Electoral Officer has to say regarding Saturday polling -
Experience ,has shown that Saturday is not a satisfactory clay for the purpose of polling, from an administrative point of view, inasmuch as -
A large number of ballot-papers have to be held over Sunday uncounted, and a considerable risk run of fire or other untoward accident, and difficulty is experienced in safeguarding the Custody of the ballot-boxes containing the ballotpapers.
That statement alone should be sufficient to make any decent patriot seek the earliest possible amendment of the Act. The Chief Electoral Officer continues -
The transport, telegraphic, and postal facilities are practically suspended on the following Sunday.
Further he says -
A very large number of persons are released from their avocations practically from midday, and other persons leave their homes for various reasons, with the result that the polling is very unevenly distributed, and congestion at certain hours is almost unavoidable.
Those statements are worthy of the respect and consideration of honorable members, and I hope that what has been said in advance by honorable members opposite as to their determination to prevent this Bill passing will not be proved by our experience in Committee.
– Wait a little.
– The clauses that I have briefly run through aim at better administrative efficiency, and would have been suggested by the Electoral Department, whatever Government chanced to be in power. I come now to the two main policy provisions of the measure, by which we destroy nothing, but by which we hope to recreate principles which are essential to any Liberal electoral measure. That flower of Democratic initiative, the freedom of the press, is sought to be reinstated in this Federal measure; and the franchise is again to be extended to a large body of persons, from whom it ought never to have been taken away, persons who, lying on beds of sickness, or who, pioneering far from polling booths, are laying the milestones of our country’s progress.
There was never a more foolish nor more wanton thing done in this Parliament than the attempt of the last Administration to “gag” the press. Honorable members opposite have often told w since the purpose for which it was done. But let us consult the pages ot Hansard to see why it was sought to rob the press of its liberty. Let us take first the statement made at the time by the present Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister. He said -
The honorable member for Ballarat wonders why a proposal of this kind should be made at all, but I will give him the reason.
The honorable member then proceeded to describe the rise of his party, and the increase of its numbers, and added that it was “ practically without a press to defend it.” For no nobler purpose, then, than to hit at a press that was criticising his party, the honorable member for Wide Bay struck at that basis of free institutions, the freedom of the press.
But what could he be thinking of when he said that the party had no press to defend it? Did he forget that throughout Australia there are newspapers specially subsidized by Labour organizations which turn out, week by week, the most glaring betrayals of the truth that have ever been consistently published in any part of the world ? I do not wonder thathe sought to deny the Labour press; but it, nevertheless, exists, and is paid for by the same forces that return him and his followers to Parliament. It was because he wished to curb the criticism of the other unsubsidized newspapers in Australia, Liberal and Independent, that he supported the electoral “ gag.”
What the honorable member put in a guarded way the honorable member for Gwydir expressed unguardedly. He admitted that the Labour Administration was fearful of any criticism whatever regarding its methods. “The press,” he said, “ cannot injure a party that is fighting to win a position, but it can, by ite misrepresentation of words and actions, injure the reputation of a party in power.” I can only say in regard to that naive admission that the present Administration fears no criticism. Ministers regard a free press as the basis of free institutions, and we would rather lose our positions as the result of unjust criticism than deny the right of criticism to the press. Here is another statement by the honorable member for Gwydir -
If we were to say outside what the journalists write of us, we would be called to account by the Courts of the country, but those who control the newspapers are too wealthy, and can command too much legal talent for it to be possible for us to attack them with much chance of success.
What is that but an admission that the press “gag” was specially provided to give the honorable member and his brethren the opportunity to intimidate individual newspaper writers. These comparatively poor men, who have not financial support commensurate with the wealth of the organizations supporting the Labour party, are to be victimized, or to be driven by fear of consequences from expressing what they believe to be the truth. The statement shows that the press “gag” was devised deliberately by the Labour Administration as an engine of terrorization and victimization, and it is, therefore, one of the first duties of this Liberal Administration to wipe it off the statute-book. The honorable member for Capricornia said -
We are not afraid of criticism, but let us know the man who utters it, and then, perhaps, we shall be able to put a little of the acid of criticism on him, and defend ourselves the better.
That statement is a further advance towards comprehension of the position of the Labour party The honorable member forCapricornia is going to put on the acid. We have seen him putting on the acid in connexion with the reporting of the proceedings of this House, and most ofus have regretted the exhibition. The Liberal party has been returned to power to put the acid on the Labour party’s vitriolic methods, which will find no place in our dealings with the electoral law of the country.
– The Minister knows what he was going to do if he had not been successful in the recent campaign. He was going to spend some money on the press of Australia.
– That is the first news that I have ever had of it, and the statement is just as wild and reckless as many of the other statements emanating from honorable gentlemen opposite in regard to the press. I think the very intelligible phrases of honorable gentlemen when they imposed this gag are sufficient proof that we are doing eminently the correct thing in taking it off, and I repeat that I would rather be on the opposite side, the victim of unfair criticism, than deny to the press that free criticism which is really the basis of free representative institutions.
I now come to another question of policy involved in the Bill, and that is the postal vote. Honorable members oppo site professed the greatest earnestness in connexion with this matter towards the end of last week.
– They will not vote against that.
– I am glad to think they are beginning to weaken a little on this matter ; but the honorable member will remember the confidence with which they wiped out that privilege to the sick and the infirm only a few years ago. Why did they do so? For no better reason than that, out of 84,000 votes cast under this system in 1910, 49,000 odd were cast for the Liberal party, whilst only 33,000 odd went to honorable gentlemen opposite. For no nobler purpose than merely to abolish a vote that was of no party advantage to them they actually denied to the sick people of this community the right to express their verdict on the country’s affairs.
– Where is the secrecy of the ballot when you can tell how persons vote?
– The attempt that was made by my honorable friends, and, unfortunately, for the time successfully made, to rob these persons of their vote had no nobler origin than a very selfish ambition to benefit themselves as the result of the power with which the people had intrusted them for another purpose.
– Are you sure that the Electoral Office confirms that?
– I will say that the Electoral Office cannot see, and never has been able to see, any other means of giving the sick and infirm a vote than by the use of the postal vote : and I believe that the position of the Electoral Office in this regard was put perfectly clearly and fully before the last Administration, which took its action, not because of expert advice, but rather in spite of it.
Who are the persons now to be given the franchise ? If we endeavour to estimate their numbers we shall find, according to a rough estimate of the Statistician, taking the sick and the infirm into account, that no less than 77,000 persons in Australia may at any day want to use the postal vote or be deprived of their franchise. Of women expecting within two months to be confined in Australia there are, on a daily average, 22,000: there are 30,000 sick persons, and 25,000 infirm persons, or in all 77,000 persons, whom for very decency this Parliament ought to be the first to consider and extend the franchise to.
If honorable members will look at the Bill they will see that the classes of persons to whom the franchise is now to be extended are not only those who will be sick, but also those who will be absent from a polling place. The actual words of the provision are -
An elector who -
has reason to believe that he will not, at any time during the hours of polling on polling day, be within five miles of any polling place for the division for which he is enrolled ; or
being a woman, will on account of illhealth be unable to attend the polling place on polling day to vote; or
will be prevented by serious illness or infirmity from attending the polling place on polling day to vote, may make application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballot-paper.
There are two classes; those who are pioneering the country’s progress and are far removed from polling booths; and those who are sick or expecting to be ill.
– The third paragraph will assist your party ; why do you not say so ?
– Honorable members opposite say that this system of ours is open to fraud. Let us examine it. We have now seen the persons who are going to derive a benefit from the system.
Let us now see the safeguards which the Administration proposes to wrap round the proposal in order to see that it is not made an instrument of fraud. In the first place, to safeguard the system, authorized witnesses are created, and these, with but two exceptions, are in the Government service. So that, with those two exceptions, any person who exceeds his authority, or does anything wrong in connexion with the postal voting provisions, can lose his permanent means of livelihood. Who are the authorized witnesses ? Honorable members will see that they are put on the most broad and extensive basis. We propose, not only all Commonwealth electoral officers for States; all Commonwealth Returning Officers, and all Commonwealth Electoral Registrars; but, also -
All Postmasters or Postmistresses or persons in charge of Post-offices; all Police or Stipendiary or Special Magistrates of the Commonwealth or of a State; all Commissioners for Declarations; . . all Head Teachers in the employment of a Slate Education Department; all officers of the Department of Trade and Customs.
– What about J’s.P. ?
– I shall come to them later; and I chink the honorable member will be sorry that he spoke -
All members of the Police Force of the Commonwealth or of a State ; all Mining Wardens and Mining Wardens’ Clerks in the Public Service of a State ; all legally qualified Medical Practitioners.
Do honorable gentlemen opposite object to them ?
– Yes; I do, for one.
– The honorable member must object, then, to the sick being permitted to vote, for who is to decide a question of that kind better than a medical practitioner - unless we are to have, under the inspiration of honorable gentlemen opposite, as much “ quackery “ in medicine as they have given us in politics?
All Officers in charge of Quarantine Stations; all Officers in charge of Lighthouses; all Pilots, in the service of the Commonwealth or of a State, or of any local governing body ; all Telegraph Line Repairers permanently employed in the Public Service of the Commonwealth who are in charge of working parties; all Railway Stationmaslers and Night Officers-in-charge who are permanently employed in the Railway Department in any of the States; all Superintendents of Mercantile Marine and their Deputies while permanently employed in the Public Service of the Commonwealth or of a State; and -
If that is not wide enough, I ask honorable members to listen to what follows. all persons or classes of persons employed in the Public Service of the Commonwealth or of a State, who are declared by proclamation to be authorized witnesses within the meaning of this Act.
I have left out justices of the peace because I want to put that question straight to my honorable friends. Is there one of the various classes specified in that provision who could be properly chargeable with being partisans? Honorable members are silant. They know-
– It is entirely beside the question.
– Is it ?
– It is a silly question to ask.
– Why do honorable members opposite want to abolish the justices of the peace as authorized witnesses ?
– What is the time limit?
– I think I am entitled to say that, if honorable gentlemen can allege no suspicion of partisanship against any of these persons, they ought to concentrate their opposition, not against the postal voting provisions as a whole, but against the inclusion of justices of the peace as authorized witnesses.
– What is the time limit? How long before an election can a person vote?
-I think that, if honorable members opposite do not give us a chance of doing business, they will have an election very quickly, but I hope that we shall first have a chance of putting our electoral law in order. I have read to honorable members the list of authorized witnesses. Why do we specially choose these persons? Because, in connexion with this vote, we place very material responsibilities on their shoulders. Take, for instance, the first duty of an authorized witness. Under the Bill, subject to a fine of £50, or one month’s imprisonment, he has placed upon him the responsibility of seeing that the postal voter makes proper application for his vote. He has to know personally the applicant, or satisfy himself as to his identity. He has to satisfy himself as to the facts set out in the application, and he must witness the proper signature of the applicant. The applicant, I may say, is equally liable to a fine of £50, or one month’s imprisonment, if he exceeds or evades any of the obligations under the Bill. Now, honorable members who have been saying of recent weeks that the electoral affairs of Australia are absolutely safe in the hands of the most honest public, I believe, that exists throughout the world, must surely be making a somersault with extraordinary celerity if they now say that specially authorized witnesses, subject to these fines, pains, and penalties, will deliberately do a dishonest thing to secure for some other person than themselves a benefit. Unless honorable gentlemen had their tongues in their cheeks during the last few weeks, they must recollect that it is nothing but hypocrisy and cant to suggest that these persons cannot be trusted in this regard.
Let us see what next happens in regard to the postal vote. After having been specially witnessed by an authorized person, with all these safeguards, the application is sent to the Returning Officer, who, after he satisfies himself that no previous application has been put in, whether for an absent voter’s certificate or for a postal voter’s certificate, can send to the applicant a postal voter’s certificate and ballot-paper. When the ballot-paper reaches the applicant, he again has to call in an authorized witness, and to show the ballot-paper and the envelope to the witness. The witness is to see these things, but is specially instructed, under pains and penalties .amounting to a fine of £100 or three months’ imprisonment, that on no account must he see or know how the voter votes j and - if it is a question of having to help an illiterate person - under the same pains and penalties he is bound down not to betray the information.
– We had that in existence before - in Queensland.
– My honorable friend has not had this measure in Queensland before, and he knows it.
– A similar one.
– This is one of the things which are most laughable in this connexion. Honorable members opposite spent days and days in tirading against a Queensland Act when what they have to deal with is a Commonwealth Act, which, in the past, has been practically without abuse.
After the placing of the ballotpaper in the envelope and its despatch by the voter in the way set out, the vote is to go to the Returning Officer for the division, and his duty is to compare the signature on the application form with the signature on the outside of the envelope covering the ballot-paper, to see that the applicant is really the person who is voting. Right from beginning to end, therefore, the system is thoroughly safeguarded, and it is the safest method in electoral law of which I personally have ever seen or heard. But, in order that the last remaining shadow of doubt may be taken away in connexion with the measure, we have introduced one reform in these proposals. Now, the voter himself may post his ballot-paper; he may make himself responsible for posting the document which he gets under the provision.
– Will a sick person have to post the ballot-paper?
– No; but he can give it to his father or his mother to be posted. In the old days, we were charged with being responsible for the Act under which a justice of the peace - the class that is held up to universal ridicule, contempt, and contumely - could collect these ballot-papers in their envelopes, could know pretty well how the voters were voting, and then go away and lose the votes that were cast against their party.
– Is it not a weak spot when we find that interested persons do the posting ?
– That is why the provision is taken out of the Act, and as the honorable member agrees, I hope he will look into the postal voting provision with an open mind. That is the only variation in tlie Bill so far as the postal voting clauses are concerned, except certain amendments consequential on the retention in part of the absent voting provisions, with a fresh penalty in order to still further tighten up the latter.
Honorable members opposite declare that it is almost inhumane to ask persons who are sick to interfere in party politics; and we have heard the honorable member for Cook make use of that argument with great force. It might be a fair argument, and worthy, at any rate, of passing consideration, if it were not for the fact that we do not propose to force people to vote, but only to give them an opportunity to do so. Further, the argument comes with singularly bad taste from a party that, at every election for the last six years, has consistently endeavoured to worm its way to place and pay by appealing to the fears of the aged poor. If honorable members opposite think that the aged and infirm ought to be left free from party conflict, why do they constantly endeavour to work on the fears of old-age pensioners? We do not propose in any way to invade the sick room, but we do propose to give those who wish to exercise the franchise the right of which they ought never to have been deprived - the right to take an interest in the affairs of the country, which means so much to all of us.
We have heard a good deal about justices of the peace as being men who, according to honorable members opposite, are a particularly dishonest class.
– Who said that?
– If honorable members require exact quotations I shall give them some. For instance, the honorable member for Bass said -
Who are the people throughout Australia that can afford to pay broken-down justices of the peace to canvass electorates? … I do not think the police would lend themselves to anything wrong, and I do not think any State-school teacher, who is privileged to do that work, did anything wrong, but I do believe that justices of the peace have done that which was wrong with regard to the spirit of the Electoral Act.
Do honorable members opposite indorse that statement ? Well, then, let us for a moment look at what has actually happened in the way of corruption in connexion with the postal vote. I have given honorable members some indication of the enormous scope there is for corruption, and it was to be anticipated that there would be some few cases of malpractice. As a matter of fact, those cases are very few. From a return that I hold in my hand I find that the first charge made was against Henry Ellis, J. P., of Melbourne, but the case was dismissed. The first conviction, though the conviction was not ultimately upheld, was that of Stephen Barker, J. P., who is a member of the Senate, and a colleague of honorable members opposite.
– What is there marvellous in that?
– I am giving every case where malpractice was charged.
– Tell us them all, including the case of the Jew “bloke” at Hamilton.
– I shall give them all. I hope the honorable member will not be guilty qf the indiscretion of “ blacklegging “ his own class, because he is a justice of the peace himself.
– How does the Honorary Minister know? Is he “game” to putany money on it.
– The honorable member may have resigned for the purpose of this Bill, but, so far as my advice goes, he is one of the many justices of the peace we have in this House, and most of them on the Opposition benches.
– I am always J. P. - James Page.
– The honorable member is also James Page, J. P. The next case I have is that of personating an elector to secure a ballot-paper. A lady was charged with this offence in Melbourne in 1903, committed for trial, but found not guilty in the Supreme Court; and in another case of a lady the charge was abandoned. It will be seen that, at the 1903 elections, when the safeguards were not so well known as they have been ‘ since, there were only four cases, without a single ultimate conviction. As I have already pointed out, the first person to be fined was a colleague of my honorable friends opposite.
– Surely it is only fair to say that that fine was not enforced ?
– I said so before the honorable member came in.
– Very reluctantly !
– Honorable members opposite do not seem to like these references to Stephen Barker, J. P. In connexion with the general election of 1906, a man was fined in the Gwydir electorate for attempted dual voting under the postal voters’ provisions. It is obvious that anybody who plays such tricks under the system must be caught; and this, apparently, was a person who tried it on. Another man was fined £5 and costs, under section 1096, for having failed as a witness to satisfy himself as to the identity of an applicant for a postal voting paper.
– Why not give his name ?
– It was C. Goldspink J. P.
– Where was that?
– In Victoria. It will be seen that all the charges of corruption that were hurled against the honorable member who used to represent Melbourne boil themselves down, apparently, to one case. What a slander on the electors of Melbourne ! The next case is that of a man named Noakes, in Calare, who was fined £5 for failing to satisfy himself as to the identity of an applicant. That is a pretty heavy fine, but one that is properly imposable for such an offence. For improperly assisting an elector, a man was fined in Victoria, and another was fined for permitting an elector to be improperly assisted - for looking on at the fault of another person. For making a false statement as a witness, a constable was fined in Victoria, and a charge was made against a lady, but was withdrawn on the advice of the Law officers. In connexion with the 1906 election, there were seven cases, and five where penalties were imposed, but the offences arose obviously from a lack of appreciation or understanding of the provisions of the Act. For interfering with an elector, in relation to a postal vote on the referenda of 1911, a man in Queensland was fined £5, and another man was fined for failing to be present when an elector voted, and for failing to take charge of the postal ballotpapers. In the Wannon electorate, the very heavy fine of £25 16s. was imposed on a witness for failing to satisfy himself as to the truth of the statements of an applicant. I have given honorable members the whole of the records that we have in connexion with malpractices under the postal voting provisions; and because of those few trifling cases, honorable members opposite would disfranchise 77,000- electors.
We are told that justices of the peace are persons who cannot be intrusted with work of this kind. Let me inform the House that, so far as I can ascertain, out of forty-one justices of the peace in the Federal Parliament, thirtytwo are members of the Labour party. In Victoria, for instance, we have Senator Stephen Barker, who was the first person to be fined; and, in Queensland, there is a regular nest of them. There are Senator Ferricks, Senator Maughan, Senator Mullan, Senator Turley, Senator Stewart, the honorable member for Brisbane, the honorable member for Kennedy, the honorable member for Herbert, the honorable member for Wide Bay, the honorable member for Capricornia, and the honorable member for Maranoa.
– The Honorary Minister is not “game” to take up that wager!
– If I am doing the honorable member an injustice, I shall be the first man to withdraw the accusation, but I find him on the register, and, so far, he has not denied the fact. In the caseof South Australia, the justices of the peace in this House are the honorable member for Hindmarsh, the honorable member for Boothby, the honorable member for Grey, the honorable member for Adelaide, Senator Guthrie, Senator McGregor, Senator Newland, Senator O’Loghlin, Senator Senior, Senator Story, and last, but not least, the honorable member for Darwin. In the case of Western Australia, every member of the Labour party but one in the Senate is a justice of the peace, and amongst the brethren is the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. My point is that justices of the peace are carefully selected as men worthy of confidence and credit at the hands of their fellow citizens. I read those names to prove that honorable members opposite recognise that the position is indeed one to be desired and greatly sought after, even by gentlemen who profess to be scornful of all honours. Yet, in the face of the fact that thirty-two out of the forty-one justices of the peace in the Commonwealth Parliament are members of the Labour party, honorable members opposite have the impudence to say that justices of the peace are a discreditable class who cannot be trusted with the exercise of the highly responsible and important duties to which I have referred, and whose political inclinations apparently are all on the side of the Liberal party ! We now see how evenly those positions are distributed over the Labour party, and yet how unevenly they are represented in the Federal Parliament. I do not say, because of the fact that so many of them will be exercising these privileges, that the electors of Australia are not able to look after themselves if they do occasionally meet a justice of the peace who is not honest. There is only one member of the House whom I have not mentioned as being a justice of the peace, and that is the honorable member for Bass, who, most appropriately, appears on the register as hailing from Beauty Point.
I come now to the steps taken under this Bill to safeguard the rights of a selfgoverning people to have a safe, sure, and clean electoral system. Honorable members will find in clauses 8 and 10 the first of the provisions taken by the present Administration to safeguard our electoral system. Under those provisions we seek to escape a repetition of the spectacle that some of us saw in the last Parliament, when the majority sent here for other purposes did its best to escape the obligations resting upon it under the Constitution and the Electoral Act to give the electors of New South Wales equal electoral boundaries so as to secure the principle of one vote one value. We saw the Electoral Commissioners for New South Wales sending up scheme after scheme, and scheme after scheme being sent back to them, until the then Opposition publicly announced that it would hold up all public business until the rights of the electors in this regard were given a chance of expression by means of legislation. That was the only time that the party to which I have the honour to belong, during the whole of the life of the last Parliament, took such a step; and that step had to be taken because the Government of the day disregarded its plain and simple duty to the Australian people - the duty of giving, under the law of the land, the principle of one vote one value to the people who intrusted them with the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable gentleman is speaking so loudly that we cannot hear him.
– When my honorable friend speaks, he speaks so timorously that one wonders why he is here. Clause 20 of the Bill seeks to surround the absentvoting provisions with reasonable safeguards. I believe that, whatever Government had come into power, it would have been forced to deal with this question. Under the absent-voting provisions, as proposed to be amended by this Bill, any person who wishes to vote as an absent voter will have to put in a prior application for an absent-voting certificate, and having done that he may vote wherever he likes under the absent-voting provisions. But there is this guarantee against any possible reckless abuse of the system - a guarantee welcomed, I believe, by the Electoral Department, and one that will be thoroughly appreciated by all persons desiring that we shall have, as far as possible, an absolutely faultless electoral system.
– Why leave to regulations the provisions covering this matter ?
– Under our present methods of conducting business in this House, surely it. would be a serious mistake to make this Bill too large. I can see my honorable friends opposite welcoming with the sort of broad smile with which the walrus welcomed the oyster, this very measure. They see unlimited opportunities to hold it up. I do not want to give them too many opportunities. My honorable friend will see that, so far as regulations are concerned, another clause of the Bill gives the Parliament penal powers in regard to breaches of administration - a position which the Administration of the day has not hitherto occupied. Clauses 30, 32, and 33 provide penalties for wrong-doing under the Act; but clause 19 is the principal provision to secure the proper recording of the national verdict in Australia.
We do not say that we introduce this provision because it is necessary, by virtue of the Australian public being a dishonest people. On the contrary, I believe the Australian public are the most honest on the face of the globe.
– That is a new discovery.
– This is a revised version.
– Have I ever said anything else ? I am sure that neither I nor any member of our party has said anything else. What I do say is that the Leader of the Opposition must indeed be a disingenuous person if he can ask the people of Australia to believe that there is no occasion to safeguard the rights of the honest many from the invasion of the dishonest few, with regard to a general voting system, when he says, practically, that no justice of the peace in Australia is fit to be trusted with postal voting - when he says that the postal-voting system is an engine for enormous and tremendous corruption. Although that system is hedged about with restrictions it is capable, according to him, of widespread abuse! A nian who takes up those two positions shows that his opinion is no longer worthy to be seriously regarded.
If the postal-voting system, hedged about with these restrictions, is pregnant and bristling with possibilities of fraud, I ask honorable members to consider the possibility of fraud under the present electoral system. Under the Act as it stands to-day, any man on polling day can go to a polling booth in his own subdivision, and without signing a piece of paper - without leaving any trace of his identity - he may, by merely saying that his name is on the roll, and that he has not previously voted, obtain a ballotpaper and record his vote. He can then go to another polling-booth ‘ in the same subdivision - and in many of our city divisions there are five or six polling places in one subdivision - and vote again. He can walk from polling place to polling place, and record a vote at each with absolutely no check except his own honesty.
– Must he not make an affidavit?
– Only when he is challenged. And who is able to challenge a man in a booth in which practically hundreds of persons are walking in and out? After recording a vote in each separate polling place in his subdivision, a man an then vote as an absent voter outside his own subdivision. Thus any person who is dishonest can vote as many times as there are polling places in his subdivision, and then cast an extra vote for luck as an absent voter.
– Have people done such a thing ?
– In my humble judgment, it has not been done, although there are some dishonest persons in the community. The records of the Courts bear witness to that fact. This country is the most honest on the face of the globe, yet, as in every other country, there are in Australia a certain number of persons who are ready to- commit offences against the law. We had in 1811 - the last year for which particulars are available - 144,764 convictions in the Police Courts of this country, and 2,631 committals for trial. These were not serious offences; they were trifling Police Court offences. But the fact remains that a proportion of these men who will commit trifling offences against the law, might be led to commit what they might regard as trifling offences against the electoral system if they thought that honorable members opposite were in danger. Nobody believed at the last general election that honorable members opposite were in danger. The honorable member for West Sydney himself told the people, as reported in the Sydney newspapers, that his party, instead of losing any, was going to win more, seats; and people who did not know him believed him. They thought they were in no danger. There was, in other words, no inducement to do any of the improper things that can be done with absolute safety under the existing electoral system. Since then some of these people have, unfortunately, found out the way to commit these petty crimes, and have learned of the safety accompanying any such breach of the law. We have had the newspapers full of the opportunities for fraud given by the present electoral system. Every one is now educated up to the opportunities for fraud which it offers.
– Educated up to them by the honorable member’s party.
– I have not opened my mouth in regard to this matter. Honorable members opposite, until they had the result of the recent inquiry - which, after all, was not an inquiry into electoral fraud - dared not open their mouths. They maintained a silence which could be felt during the first period. They did not know these opportunities had not been availed of.
– Incorrect !
– Until they had the result of the inquiry they were perfectly silent.
– That is a lie.
– Order !
– We did not believe you were such liars over there.
– I call upon the honorable member for Illawarra to withdraw the expression.
– I shall withdraw the word “ lie “ and say that the statement made by the Minister is incorrect.
– The point I am making is this: Admittedly honorable members opposite will see that it ought to be worth the while of a man who, perhaps, takes a drink too much, and gets into trouble with the “ beak “ in the morning, to give an extra vote, or to give a vote, and do his best for the Labour party. Honorable members opposite will agree that they are of more value to these people than is the mere extra drink which gets those people into trouble. I am not saying
– The honorable member is playing it pretty low down.
– I do not say for one moment that there is any connexion whatsoever between honorable members opposite personally and these particular people. I am only snowing that there is an immense number of people in Australia - the number is small proportionately to the number in other countries, but still it is a very considerable one - who from year to year, commit trifling breaches of the law. 1 think that these people would be more likely to believe that honorable members opposite would benefit the country than they would be to think that honorable members on this side of the House would do so. They are enthusiastic-
– Is that statement in order ?
– The Minister is an insulting brute.
– I call upon the honorable member for East Sydney to withdraw that remark.
– I decline to withdraw it. I was driven to make it by the statement of the Minister, who accused me of being connected with these people.
– Order !
– Cannot I defend myself?
– No; not by acting in a disorderly manner. The honorable member is out of order in making a statement.
– I shall not withdraw the remark.
– The honorable member must withdraw it.
– No. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs made a statement which so aggravated me as to cause me to make the remark complained of. He has been insulting from beginning to end.I therefore decline to withdraw the remark.
– The honorable member is disorderly in interrupting the Speaker when he is on his feet. I would remind him that it is the custom for a disorderly expression to be at once withdrawn.
– I will put it right.
– I am willing to withdraw the remark if the Minister will withdraw his remark.
– If the Honorary Minister has made a statement that is offensive to the honorable member, he must withdraw it.
– I think some apology might be given.
– If I had made such a statement as that attributed to me, I think there ought to be a public apology for it. But I said, as clearly as possible, that I did not associate honorable members opposite with malefactors, or any persons likely to break the law, in this respect. I should be the last to accuse the honorable member for West Sydney of being in any way connected with that class.
– I have lived an honest life. I was not brought up, like the honorable member, with a silver spoon in my mouth.
– These repeated interjections are disorderly. I ask honorable members to maintain order, and to allow the Minister to make his speech in silence. I would remind the House that every honorable member will have a right in turn to speak. These interjections across the chamber are most disorderly.
– I can assure honorable members opposite that I do not make any personal reflection upon them, nor do I intend any reflection upon the party to which they belong. We say, however, that the mere existence in this country of a number of persons who are prepared to commit petty offences makes it absolutely essential that when the shortcomings of the electoral system have ‘been displayed and the loopholes for fraud have been advertised throughout the land, both political parties shall see that the law is put right. I therefore ask honorable members to join with the Government in endeavouring to amend the existing Act in this regard. I do not say that any fraud has been committed. I do not know. All that I do know is that there was no inducement for fraud in Any sense or form at the last election. There was on that occasion no keen or intense bitterness of feeling. But I do say that in the future, judging from present indications, we are. likely to have a far more bitter and intense display of feeling than we have ever had in Australia before; and I therefore ask honorable members opposite to assist the Government in putting the law right by adopting the provisions which we have inserted in this Bill.
Under the measure, when an elector comes into the polling booth to vote, he or she will simply have to sign his or her name on the butt of the ballotpaper. He will make one signature for the ballot-paper for the Senate and the House of Representatives. The ballotpaper will then be given to him, and, after he has voted, it will be deposited in the ballot-box. The purpose of the signature is to insure that we may have no double voting. We shall be able, on the order of the Court of Disputed Returns, to contrast the signature on the butt with the signature of the claimant for enrolment, which will be kept at the central Electoral Office. This is simply an extension of the card system. We have not turned down the system already in force. We have engrafted on to the existing card system a means of attaining electoral security. The new system will, undoubtedly, give rise to a certain amount of trouble in the Department.
– Would it not be better to have the signature of the elector on an elector’s right?
– There are difficulties in connexion with electors’ rights associated with the difficulty of keeping them securely. Under this system the elector’s right to his own vote is absolutely safe guarded. The actual nature of his vote can only be revealed before a Court of Disputed Returns - in other words, when there is an appeal against an election to the High Court. In no other way can the votes in question be traced. But where double voting is suspected we shall be able to check the signatures on the butts of the ballot-papers with the signatures on the application forms, and shall very easily be able to tell who was entitled to vote and who voted wrongfully.
Mr.Fenton. - Do I understand that the signature of the elector is to be on the butt of the ballot-paper ?
– Yes, on the butt. These butts will be kept by the presiding officer. We shall have a long ballot-paper. The butt will be 6 or 8 inches long. The balance of the paper will be small. As soon as the elector has signed his name on the butt, the ballot-paper will be torn off, and taken to the ballot-box, and when the elector has voted he will fold it, and drop it in the ballot-box, with the same secrecy as prevails at the present time. The change which this system will make is that a comparison will be able to be made between the signature on the butt and the signature of the elector when he claimed to be enrolled. Furthermore, if an election is challenged before the Court of Disputed Returns, the Court will have the right to examine the ballot-papers and to compare them. This is a right which is necessary in order to check the purity of any election in this country. Honorable members must recognise that, without a secure system, you cannot guarantee representative government. With a system such as exists,, which is capable of abuse - even if it has not been abused - you will, undoubtedly, eventually have persons of a mischievous nature who will utilize that system to influence elections improperly by the recording of bogus votes, by impersonation, by double voting, treble voting, and quadruple voting.
– Suppose that an elector is impersonated and afterwards comes along to vote, it seems that, under this system, there will be no ballot-paper for him.
– The honorabh- member will recollect that, under the Act as it stands, no person can be deprived of his vote by reason of the fact that any other person has voted in his name.
– But the impersonated elector’s vote in this case would have gone.
– Oh, no ! The honorable member is thinking of the English system, where every man’s ballot-paper bears the number opposite his name on the roll. But that is not to be our system. The number on the ballot-paper will be quite independent of the elector’s number on the roll. He will get a ballot-paper in exactly the same way as he gets it to-day. Suppose, for instance, that the honorable member went to vote, and found that some one else had voted in his name before him, he would, nevertheless, claim his right to vote. The presiding officer would say, “ Some one has voted in your name; are you the Sir Robert Best whose name appears on the roll?” The honorable member would say, “ I am,” and upon that declaration a ballot-paper would be given to him. He could not be deprived of his vote under this provision. But if, after that, the election was disputed and the Court of Disputed Returns ordered the ballot-papers to be examined, it would then find which vote had been improperly cast in the name of Sir Robert Best, and would reject the vote of the impersonator. Thus, by opening the ballot-papers afterwards, the Court would find out and discard the vote illegally and dishonestly cast.
– Suppose that an elector’s number is twelve; that he comes in to vote, and finds that some one else has voted in his name. His ballot-paper will then have gone out. What ballotpaper is he to have, and what will be its number ?
– He will have the next consecutive ballot-paper available. The number of the elector on the roll is quite independent of the number on the butt of the ballot-piper. The two have absolutely nothing to do with each other.
– How can any one identify the man who has voted improperly ?
– I think there will be a difficulty in identifying the voter, certainly. But the honorable member has to recollect that there will be no difficulty whatever in identifying the vote wrongfully cast. The Court of Disputed Returns will be able to throw out that vote, and by that means we shall secure an honest vote in that particular electorate.
That is all we are endeavouring to do by this provision. But I think that we shall actually do a little more than that. By asking for the signature of the voter, we shall impose a serious bar against persons endeavouring to impersonate at all. A person who is inclined to commit a fraud is shy in signing his name.
– Has the honorable gentleman any proof of impersonation at the present time ?
– Only the statements that are frequently made in one’s own electorate.
– By whom?
– By quite irresponsible persons, I admit. But you hear persons say that they have been impersonated, and you have to leave it at that. I do not say that there was any impersonation at the last election.
– I know of none.
– I think that, on an average, there must be a certain amount of this sort of thing going on in every electorate ? You cannot help it.
– I quite agree, and that is the reason why I am against postal voting.
– The honorable member cannot have listened seriously to the checks we intend to impose on postal voting. There must necessarily be a certain amount of abuse in connexion with anyvoting system. The honorable member for Boothby, speaking in the AddressinReply debate, admitted this. He said -
I do not say that it is not possible for fraud to take place under the Commonwealth or any other electoral law.
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in quoting from a report of another debate during the present session.
– I invite honorable members to look at the speech of the honorable member for Boothby delivered on the 13th August, where the honorablemember clearly expressed the view that you must look for a certain amount of abuse. I believe that there is less in Australia than in any other country in the world.
– The Minister’s point isthat, under this new system, every person will have to sign the butt of a ballotpaper ?
– Unless he cannot write.
– When will an election becompleted under this system ?
-I think I oan satisfy the honorable member on that point. A presiding officer conducting an election is, under the present system, able to serve 350 electors during the course of the election day. Under the proposed system, his limit will be brought down from 350 to 225 or 250. The experts hold that view.
– Will the Government make provision for appointing more presiding officers f
– Of course we shall. The main trouble and difficulty will be in the administration; but the administrative officers do not shrink from any trouble and difficulty that will give us a secure and pure electoral system. In 4,000 polling places, at present, there are no assistant presiding officers at all. These are the country places, where “not many votes are cast, and there will be plenty of time for devoting the little extra trouble which the new system will entail. But we shall require an additional 1,500 assistant presiding officers, and 1,500 poll clerks. Those officers can be provided, and will be provided. It is desirable that they should be provided, in order to obtain the additional security which we shall get if this Bill becomes law.
– Does the Minister mean to say that every elector will have to sign his name on the butt of the ballot-paper?
– Good heavens’! It will be endless !
– It is estimated that the actual cost of inaugurating the new system will involve an increase of less than one-eighth. That is the estimate of the Electoral Office. But as against this the Act as a whole will lighten the duties of presiding officers very materially. At present, delay is caused in attending to infirm persons. Under the new system, those persons will be able to vote by post. We have all seen a polling booth held up for a considerable time while people who, actuated by a sense of public duty and patriotism, have, though infirm, come out to vote, were attended to - persons who have been driven by the action of our friends opposite to come to the polling booth and register their votes in person. These persons will now be able to vote by post - a privilege which any humane Government would have accorded to them before, instead of compelling them to drag their misfortunes out into the public gaze before they could discharge a public duty.
I am afraid that I have made a somewhat rambling speech in introducing this Bill. I am deeply indebted to honorable members on this side of the House, who, despite constant interruptions, have accorded me a patient hearing, which, under the circumstances, I could hardly have expected. I regret that my honorable friends opposite have not given me so free an opportunity as I should have liked to place so comprehensive a measure before them in proper consecutive order. But, at any rate, I have been perfectly frank. I have given honorable members opposite the fullest information within the time at my disposal, and I ask them most seriously to consider the dangerous position which the country will occupy if, after a public advertisement of the faulty nature of our electoral system, we do not tighten it up, with a view to preventing the interests of the vast majority of Australian electors being invaded by a dishonest infinitesimal minority. In this Bill the Government seek to make our electoral system safe, our press free and fearless, and our franchise the widest in the world.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fisher) adjourned. “
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
In 1909 the honorable member for Darling Downs, who was then Minister of External affairs, introduced into this House a Bill for the taking over of Norfolk Island - a Bill which contains a great deal of information that honorable members will find helpful in considering this measure. I will endeavour, as far as possible, to keep clear of the ground which he trod on that occasion. I am sure honorable members will excuse me if, with a view to completing the information which they should have, I refer to some documents connected with Norfolk Island. The preamble of this Bill is a long one, and fairly expresses its object and the title of Norfolk Island. But to supplement the synopsis there given, I must touch on certain events and OrdersinCouncil. In 1788 Lieutenant King took possession of Norfolk Island under Royal proclamation. On the 28th February, 1814, it was abandoned. In 1826 the island was again occupied, and maintained as a place of detention until 1844. Then, by Act 6 and 7 Victoria, it was placed under the control and administration of Van Diemen’s Land, as Tasmania was then called. That Act was described as “ An Act to amend so much of an Act of the last session, for the government of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, as relates to Norfolk Island,” and under it the island was. severed from New South Wales and annexed to Tasmania. In 1855, just before the penal settlement of Norfolk Island, the Australian Waste Lands Act was passed. It contained a provision empowering the separation of Norfolk Island from Tasmania. An Order in Council was issued in accordance with the Act of 1855, dated 24th June, 1856, which in effect declared that from Che date of the proclamation, which was subsequently issued on the 31st October, the said island, called Norfolk Island, should be separated from the said Colony of Van Diemen’s Land, now called Tasmania, and made a distinct and separate settlement. The Order in Council goes on to state, “ the affairs of which should, until further Order in that behalf by Her Majesty, be administered by a Governor, to be for that purpose appointed by Her Majesty.” The Governor in New South Wales was appointed by the Order, as the Governor for the purpose. Speaking generally, from the date of that proclamation till 1897, the Order in Council remained unchanged. During that period Norfolk Island was under the administration of the Governor for the time being of New South Wales. In 1896 Sir George Reid, who was then Premier of New South Wales, agreed to pay the cost of government/ - that is to say, in effect, any deficiency between the revenue and expenditure of the island. About this time, 1897, the Imperial Government contemplated a change, and some little trouble occurred in the island. Its settlers did not know exactly what was contemplated. Some thought that the titles of the lands vested in the original settlers were to be interfered with. In a few years, however, their anxiety, I think, was allayed by their actual experiences. On the 15th January, 1897, a proclamation was issued, from which I desire to quote a few sentences. It states -
And whereas by an Order in Council dated the fifteenth day of January, 1897, made in pursuance of the said last-mentioned Act, Her late Majesty, after reciting that it was expedient that other provision should be made for the government of Norfolk Island, and that, in prospect of the future annexation of Norfolk Island to the Colony of New South Wales or to any Federal body of which that Colony might thereafter form part, in the meantime the affairs of Norfolk Island should be administered by the Governor of New South Wales as therein provided, was pleased to revoke the said Order in Council of the twenty-fourth day of June, One thousand eight hundred and fifty-six, and to order that the affairs of Norfolk Island should thenceforth, and until further Order should be made in that behalf by Her Majesty, be administered by the Governor and Commander-in-Chief for the time being of the Colony of New South Wales and its Dependencies.
That was modified by an Order in Council on the 18th October, 1900, which was published 011 the 1st January, 1901, and the effect of which was to change the word “ Colony “ into “ State,” so as to bring it into line with the fact that Federation had been accomplished. That is about how the matter stands at present, so far as title is concerned. In 1897, the question was raised as to what should be done with the island, and it was pointed out that there could be no annexation by New South Wales or the Commonwealth except by an Act of the Imperial Parliament. But, by an Order in Council, the island can be placed under the control of the Commonwealth. When that Order in Council is issued, the administration of Norfolk Island will be transferred from the Governor of New South Wales to the Commonwealth, and become a Territory which will be administered by the Commonwealth in accordance with section 121 of the Constitution.. In 1909, the second reading of the Bill for the transfer of Norfolk Island to the Commonwealth was merely moved. It did not reach another stage. Subsequently, some communications were exchanged in regard to it between the Governor of New South Wales and the then Minister of External Affairs. The Imperial Government was also communicated with by the Governor of New South Wales as to the establishment, on transfer to the Commonwealth, of freedom of trade between Norfolk Island and Australia. The Bill, as it is now drafted, was finally submitted for the approval of the Governor of New South Wales, and it has recently been revived. It contains a provision which satisfies the Imperial authorities that we desire to allow the produce of Norfolk Island coming direct to Australia to be admitted free in all cases in which there is not an Excise duty on similar commodities here.
– What is the area of the island 1
– Norfolk Island comprises an area of 8,528 acres. It is of a fairly mild and equable climate, the temperature ranging from 56 to 82 degrees, giving an average of 68 degrees. The rainfall is 43 inches, the population 985, being composed of 568 males and 417 females, a disparity in the numerical proportions of the sexes that, according to the- law of supply and demand, or to speak less profanely, of proposal and acceptance, naturally gives the ladies, whenever the inevitable and fateful question is popped, a position of advantage. The island is compact, salubrious, and, I believe, in parts beautiful. It is no mere -
Shadowy isle of bliss
Mid-most the beating of the steely sea, but the home of a race of somewhat romantic traditions - sailors, expert whalers, men of the stamp of those whose seamanship, proverbial amongst nations, has extended the trade and the bounds of Empire. ‘ I think honorable members are fairly familiar with the history of Pitcairn Island. About 1787, the Bounty, a sloop of about 250 tons, was commissioned by George III., who desired to transplant some of the bread-fruit tree, of which a favorable account had been given by Captain Cook, who was in Tahiti in 1769, to the West Indies. On going Home, Captain Cook reported that in Tahiti he had found an amiable, peaceful population, a fertile soil, and a genial climate, and that there flourished there a fruit which was exceedingly nutritious. Bligh was commissioned to transplant some of this fruit to the West Indies. He reached Tahiti, remained there about six months, and then started on his voyage. We all know that soon after a mutiny occurred on board his vessel. Some say that it was brought about by the stern and Draconian discipline of Bligh himself. Others say that it was due to different causes. At any rate, Bligh and his companions were turned adrift, and eventually reached the Island of Timor, and Christian, a man of virile and at tractive character, although chief of the mutineers, some of whom belonged to the best and most adventurous blood of Great Britain - as might be said of many of the officers associated with Bligh - went to Tahiti, and, after calling twice at Tau.bonai, returned to Tahiti, and eventually, with seven or eight companions, started on the ocean to seek some uninhabited land - one of those -
Summer Isles of Eden, lying
In dark purple spheres of sea- there to spend, as Morrison’s Journal said, the remainder of his days without seeing the face of any European except those who accompanied him. Honorable members may recollect that Byron’s poem, The Island, was based on this episode of the mutineers of the Bounty. It is the poem which caused Ruskin to pay one of the greatest tributes ever paid to Byron. Ruskin extolled the poet’s concision, directness, and sincerity, quoting in support of his opinion the passage -
A little stream came tumbling from the height
And straggling to the ocean as it might. . . . While far below the vast and sullen swell Of ocean’s alpine azure rose and fell.
In 1856, Norfolk Island was vacated. Tb.3 Pitcairn islanders, finding that their island had become too small for them, petitioned for another home, and Norfolk Island was given to them. The island is about 480 miles from Auckland, 450 from New Caledonia, and 9*04 from Sydney, and is in latitude 29.3.4, longitude 167.58.6, the latitude being about that of Brisbane. Ite area is 8,528 acres, of which 5,400 have been alienated in fee simple.
– As it is twice as far from Sydney as from Auckland, would it not be better if New Zealand were to take it over ?
– I do not believe in surrendering what seems to be our domain. I hope that the interests of Australia in the Pacific will be more manifest in the future, and I say it with the greatest respect to other nations, whose ideas of government, if applied, may tend as much to the amelioration and advancement of the natives as our own. Placed as we are, the greater the control we have of islands like Norfolk Island, the better it may be for the people there and here. And we must look ahead. In addition to the land alienated in fee simple, 967 acres are locked up in reserves, 850 acres have been leased, and 1,311 acres remain Crown land, and unused, but 80 per cent, of the area is hilly, and part of it is heavily timbered. I find from looking at the map that in 1859 the island was parcelled out by Governor Denison into allotments of about 50 acres.. Only 400 acres are under agriculture. I do not wish to enter into the reasons for the backward state of agriculture, but I hope that under our fostering care it may develop; though it should be possible for people to be happy if they are secure, even where the population is comparatively small; and we do not wish to carry the fret and worry of modern life to Norfolk Island.
– Why not leave the islanders in their native happiness?
– As I have pointed out, it was stated in an Order in Council that when the Federation was formed, responsibility for Norfolk Island should be shifted to it from the Government of New South Wales. The following is an extract from an interesting letter received by a colleague from a lady living on the island. The letter is dated 16th July last, and speaks of the principal crops -
They can grow anything in any quantity - oranges, lemons, guavas, pineapples, yams, Kumeras, potatoes (three or four crops a year), strawberries, bananas, coffee, maize, wheat - anything; but what’s the use? It costs 4s. per case to send a case of oranges to Sydney, and 2s. a case duty.
In 1903, Mr. Oliver, appointed by, I think, Sir Harry Rawson, visited the island, and, reporting on its production, said -
However, maize, among grain crops, and oranges, lemons (Lisbon), bananas, guavas passion-fruit, melons, and custard apples, among fruits, are at present the staple products of the soil, and with encouragements such as might fairly be claimed by the farmers, could be grown over very much larger areas, and in much larger quantities, than now. Without encouragement of any kind, and, indeed, with the certain prospect of producing what he cannot profitably sell at home or abroad, or find some profitable use for, it is hardly reasonable to ask these farmers to increase their output of any State-taxed commodity. Since the establishment of the Australian Com’monwealth, Norfolk Island exports have, as might be expected, shrunk in value in a very marked degree, and at present the excess in value of imports over exports is very nearly, if not quite, as 10 to 1. The island, therefore, is very far from being self-supporting, economically considered, and but for the Melanesian Mission and Cable Station, expenditure on local products would exhibit a most unsatisfactory balance-sheet from a business point of view.
The island has a capital of £5,700, of which £4,800 is invested in the funded stock of New South Wales, and bears interest at the rate of 3 or 3 £ per cent, per annum. The stock is redeemable only with the consent of the New South Wales Government, but possibly, as in taking over the island we shall relieve the State of an expenditure of more than £1,500 a year, its Government may consent to the redemption of the stock, in which case it should be possible to re-invest it on terms giving a return of I or 1 per cent. more. The revenue from all sources for the financial year beginning 1st July, 1912, and ending 30th June, 1913, was £2,520 0s. lid., and the expenditure £2,319 lis. 5d., showing a surplus of £202 9s. 6d. I need not give figures for other years. The revenue of the island was made up in this way: - Interest on funded stock, deposits, and loans, £273; Customs duties, £460; postage stamps and postal notes, £197; land revenue, £108; timber royalties, fees of Court, and other revenue, £182; and an annual grant from New South Wales, £800; making the total £2,020. When the necessary deductions and additions are made, we get the total revenue for the financial year £2,520. New South Wales, besides making an annual grant of £800, pays the salary of the Chief Magistrate of the island, £450; that of the principal teacher, £250; and that of the teacher’s wife, £30; so that the minimum outlay which we shall be called upon to meet if we take control of Norfolk Island, and of which we shall relieve the State of New South Wales, is £1,530. For the financial year ending 30th June, 1912, the imports from New South Wales were valued at £8,296; from New Zealand, £810; a total of £9,106. The exports were, to New South Wales, £798; to the South Sea Islands, £432; and to New Zealand, £135; a total of £1,415. I think that the Customs collected in Sydney amounted to £375. The two principal exports were, I think, whale oil, £399, and skins, £287. I have not the other figures, but those figures, with the quotations I have already given, show their general character. As stated by Mr. Oliver, in his report of 1903 -
The volume of Norfolk Island trade can never be considerable. Any increased output must be considered more particularly as of benefit to the producers of the island rather than as coming into competition with the productions of the Commonwealth.
They cannot touch us ; and, as I said, the amount of Customs duties realized is exceedingly small for a place of our standing to seriously consider.
– How are the Customs duties levied ?
– By the Governor of New South Wales, who has absolute power. As I mentioned, in 1896 New South Wales took upon itself the responsibility for the deficiency in the revenue, and since then I think the Governor has always consulted the Government of New South Wales. As a matter of fact, under the documents I have referred to, the Governor really is Administrator of Norfolk Island, but, I think, he does recognise the essence of responsible government through the Governor in Council, although “responsible government” is not absolutely mentioned in any of the documents. The communications are principally in the hands of Burns, Philp, and Company, and are not very frequent. I might give honorable members some idea of the class of legislation which has been passed. A sort of Constitution was established by the Order in Council of 1897. The first clause provides for the appointment of a Chief Magistrate -
That practically means always, visits being necessarily infrequent.
The Governor may from time to time appoint some person who shall, if the Chief Magistrate should die or be absent from the island, or become incapable of acting in his office, have the powers, and perform the duties, conferred and imposed on the Chief Magistrate until a successor is appointed, or during such absence or incapacity as aforesaid.
I now come to the Council clause, which, subject to the Governor, controls the affairs of the Island.
– Will freehold be allowed there ?
– The Bill contains no provision on that point. I gave the figures deliberately to show how comparatively small a question it is. There are only a little over 1,100 acres of land unsold. As the area under freehold is 5,400 acres, practically, the freehold has gone. I wish that had not occurred. I do not believe in small places being handed over to outsiders; but that is not the case in regard to Norfolk Island, and I hope it will not be. I deliberately went into their history to show that these men were transferred under exceptional conditions to Norfolk Island, and that they did regard it as their place of settlement, and not subject to outside exploitation.
– They would not be prepared to forfeit the freehold?
– We could say that the 1,100 acres shall not be alienated.
– I do not think there is much in that suggestion, with all due respect to my predecessor and his ideas in the matter. When we find that 80 per cent. of the unsold land is fairly good, but hilly and partly timbered, there is very little left for us in a Parliament like this to quibble about. The total area of the island is, as I said, 8,528 acres, of which about 5,400 have been sold in fee-simple.
– The holders are not prepared to forfeit the land, are they ?
– Why should they be asked to do that? Let us not be led into digressions on a point of that sort. The Executive Council consists of a president and six other members. Two of the six members are required to be elders - an elder, I believe, is a person twenty-five years of age - and must be of the age of thirty years or upwards, elected by the elders. The president and the four other members are appointed by the Governor. There is a secretary to the Executive Council, and as to its powers, shortly stated, these include -
The Council may, with the approval of the Governor, delegate its powers to any person or corporation with respect to any specified roads, commons, or reserves.
It has ample power to make by-laws.
– It is just like a shire council.
– Of course, it is.
– Will the residents have any votes for the Federal Parliament, the same as in the case of the Northern Territory and Papua ?
– Not unless we provide to that effect.
– Do you not think it would be a good idea to give them a vote ?
– I think we may proceed too quickly. I am a thorough believer in responsible government. If there have been any troubles at Norfolk Island to an extent it may have been from the lack of a sense of local responsibility, which comes from the outside control of the Governor, who cannot, in the nature of things, often visit the island.
– Then they are the descendants of mutineers, too.
– Yes, but in a good sense. I hope that that word “ mutineers “ will not be attempted to be used invidiously. I have such a respect for honorable members opposite that I hesitated to pay a compliment to them by taking a quotation from a book on the character of descendants about 1856, of these so-called mutineers, which I read a few nights ago. Perhaps I ought to read the extract, and as they listen, honorable members will see almost the counterfeit presentment of themselves -
Their modesty of demeanour, urbanity of manner, affectionate disposition, and personal appearance-
I am looking direct at the honorable member for Barrier - have won for them the esteem and admiration of all who have visited them. Their extreme absence of suspicion-
Which, of course, never characterizes the Opposition in regard to any matter of administration at present - renders them peculiarly liable to fall a prey to designing individuals, and it is sincerely to be hoped, now that they are to be brought into contact with more of the evil existing in the world, they may be preserved from its injurious effects. They place implicit reliance in every word that is said, as they have not the slightest idea of anything in the shape of a joke, and if they do afterwards discover that anything has been told them with this intent, it is set down as a falsehood.
At all events it is a very high tribute to the character of the islanders. A man who speaks the truth is less likely to suspect others of falsehood.
– That is why we hesitated when your side was charging us.
– That, perhaps, is why questions are asked sometimes for threequarters of an hour nowadays. The Deputy Administrator gets a salary of £450 per year. The Deputy Administrator was a Mr. Murphy, in Sydney. Captain Elliott, the Chief Magistrate, is, I think, about to retire, and Mr. Murphy is to take his place at £600. There is a Government medical officer with a salary of £200 and quarters, and the right of private practice. Dr. Patton also receives £12 10s. a year for acting as Government auditor. There are teachers of schools, &c. It will be seen that there is not a big staff. As regards the legislation that has been passed, I went through the documents and found that about sixty-four Orders in Council have been issued. They deal with such matters as Customs, registration of titles, births, marriages, and deaths, commons and public reserves, liquor permits, pasturage, enclosure of lands, extirpation of noxious weeds, and public schools.
– How many hotels are there ?
– None; it is a model place in many respects. I think I would weary honorable members by mentioning the jurisdiction of the Court. There is a provision that a question affecting land cannot be finally dealt with by the Chief Magistrate, whose jurisdiction otherwise is fairly wide.
– Who deals with it?
– It must be dealt with by the Governor on report. As a matter of fact, the appeal provision is that, if there is an appeal - and that lies in all cases where £30 in value is involved - the appeal is sent by a sort of case stated to the Governor, who nominates some one to hear it, probably one of the Judges in New South Wales. The Bill contains a provision vesting jurisdiction in the High Court, and doubtless all these cases will go before the High Court or, if necessary, some other Judge appointed by the Executive. The question of land title would be dealt with similarly by the Governor. He would get his advice from the Judges on the matter.
– I suppose there is very little litigation?
– Very little, I think. There may not be the same necessity for lawyers there as here. The Ten Commandments were not created for that purpose - only on account of the prevalence of sin. As regards the lands, the leases are for twenty-eight years, subject to renewal under certain conditions. No one can hold more than 25 acres for cultivation and grazing unless the Governor, in special circumstances, permits that to be done. And there are provisions against aggregation beyond the declared area. There is a provision - I have not been able to find the Order in Council - that every person after a residence of six months must pay a tax of £3 to the Council or do fifteen days’ work on the roads. As regards the liquor Ordinance, honorable members may wish, perhaps, to take some guidance from it. Regulations were issued on the 21st September, 1904, as follow -
It practically means the existence of a teetotal island, so far as I can see. A good deal of development may have to take place.
– There is no suitable harbor yet, is there ?
– No. I do not know what has been done since the report of 1903, which laid stress on that matter.
Two wharfs have been put up, but I do not think that the wharf and jetty contemplated then has been erected. There has been some, but there seems still to be a good deal of work to be done in the way of keeping down noxious weeds, and in general development, so as to encourage the slight use made of the soil; but the people have been hampered by the fact that they could not compete with Australia under theduties that obtained, and I hope that by allowing the produce to come in free we shall remove the chief obstacle to commercial development. As regards the Bill, there is very little that I need tell honorable members. It provides for acceptance of Norfolk Island as a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, as provided in clause 3. That will take place when the Order in Council has been issued by the Imperial Government and a proclamation accordingly made. The existing laws will continue until modified or repealed. There is a provision for a jurisdiction in the High Court, which I have also mentioned.
– What Acts do the Government propose to extend to the island ?
– That, I think, is a matter to be dealt with in an administration Bill; at any rate, I do not see any necessity to enter upon it at present. The existing Acts are the Imperial Acts adopted, together with some of the State of New South Wales, supplemented by sixty-four Orders in Council. It will not be necessary to apply many of our Acts at present, though I must say that the people of Norfolk Island have kept fairly up to date in some respects. They have adopted our Copyright Act of 1911, and have also passed legislation for the protection of young girls. I have already dealt with the chief provisions of the Bill excepting clause 15, which provides that duties of Customs shall not be chargeable on goods imported into Australia from Norfolk Island if the goods are the produce or manufacture of the island, are shipped direct to Australia, and are not goods which, if manufactured or produced in Australia, would be subject to any duty of Excise. As to the reason for taking over the island, one is ample, namely, that it was an obligation contemplated in 1897, when the Order in Council was passed placing the island under New South Wales. Then the island is an important repeating station of the Pacific Cable Board, and the operations of the cable we hope will extend when the Panama Canal is opened.
– Does the honorable member regard his first reason as a strong one, in view of the fact that Mr. Wade refused to allow the island to be taken over?
– I do not know that it was Mr. Wade who did that, but the Governor, of course, was anxious that the Imperial suggestion to allow imports to come in free should be carried out. There was some doubt’ at Home as to what we were doing, there being an idea that we must provide for freedom of trade between the island and the Commonwealth.
– Are the exports from the island considerable?
– They are comparatively small.
– Then why not let them come into the Commonwealth free?
– They are to come in free. I have already mentioned, as a reason for taking the island over, our interest in the development of the Pacific, and there is, of course, the consideration that there should be vested in the Commonwealth the control of all islands at present under the control of the States - that dependencies of the Commonwealth that are not part of a State ought to be passed over to the Commonwealth.
– Has any attempt been made to discover mineral wealth in the island ?
– I have seen no indication of that in the reports. This Bill, of course, is a non-party one, and I ask honorable members to accept it. I hope, as I have already mentioned, that there will be no exploitation, no breach in the moral and material relations of the people to the land that time and memory have taught them to regard as home and their own.
– Have the people of the island been consulted?
– They know what is going on ; but they have not been consulted by the Government.
– They strongly resented it being taken over by New South Wales.
– That is the very reason I express the hope that there will be no exploitation or breach in the moral and material relation of the people to the land.
– Does the Minister not think it would be advisable to give the inhabitants votes?
– We must take our bearings first; and the matter is one that can be afterwards considered in connexion with an Administration Bill.
– Is the island not already attached to the King Division for the New South Wales Parliament?
– I do not think so. Our aim is to maintain - and, as the founders of the most advanced and beneficent system of responsible and Democratic government, in some respects to better - the traditional working of British administration, which, in the main, is ever directed to the welfare, security, and rational freedom of those to whom, in many places and forms, but wjth one spirit and efficacy, its principles extend. The system has been a success elsewhere, and there is no reason why Australia should not make it an equal success in the case of Norfolk Island.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Thomas) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) pro posed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- Has the Treasurer, at any time during his long parliamentary career, and especially in this House, ever taken into consideration the desirability of altering the date for the ending of the financial year ? I understand that in Great Britain, the financial year finishes on the 31st March; but, apparently, the Commonwealth has simply followed the lead of the States in ending the year on the 30th June, which, in my judgment, is a very awkward time. It is the coldest time of the year, when employment generally is very slack. Unfortunately, State Treasurers, and some Federal Treasurers, show a great desire, towards the close of the financial year, to cramp operations, and to suggest that applications for money for public works made by heads of Departments should be held over until the new year. This means great delay, for, before money can be made available in the new year, two or three months may elapse, during which time there is considerable want of employment.
Under the circumstances, I think the Treasurer might consider the feasibility of altering the date, because it so happens that private employers seem inclined to take the cue from the Government, and also curtail operations. I understand that the Treasurer has some further information to impart to us on the third reading of this Bill, and we know that he usually gives us the fullest information possible in regard to financial measures of which he may be in charge. When the Treasurer came into office, towards the close of the last financial year, there was a big surplus in prospect; and I understand that he himself gave orders that all possible accounts should be paid prior to the 30th June. I say that, not so much by way of criticism, as to show how sometimes, even for party political purposes, it is desirable to have as big a surplus as possible, while on other occasions it may be desirable to limit the surplus. If the honorable gentleman had been in office all the time, and knew there was the possibility of a fine surplus, he might, under the circumstances, have felt inclined to request the heads of Departments and others to wait until the year had closed for the money they required. There is too much of a desire on the part of Treasurers, both State and Commonwealth, to show what wonderful financiers they are by finishing with as big a surplus as possible; but this often entails considerable hardship. In the States, large numbers of men are thrown out of employment at the coldest and most severe time of the year, and an alteration of the date would obviate considerable distress. My own opinion is that it would be most advantageous to observe the calendar year, and finish on the 31st December, when the weather is more genial, and employment, as a rule, plentiful. Our harvests are then being reaped and garnered, and there is much other work of the kind that can be carried on only in the fine months.
– Why not finish the financial year at the end of March ?
– That would be much better than the present arrangement.
– When would the honorable member have Parliament -meet to discuss the accounts ?
– I fail to see why we should not meet as soon as the cool weather sets in. If we did so, then, assuming that we had the usual session of six months’ duration, we should prorogue before the hot weather was upon us. If the financial year closed on 31st March, there would be no reason why we should not meet in April, except the position created by the Constitution in regard to the election of senators. But I am looking at this matter from the point of view of employment. During the winter through which we have just passed there was a great deal of unemployment, due to the cheese-paring policy adopted by the State Treasurers throughout Australia. I shall not say that the Federal Treasurer adopted such a policy-
– That could not be.
– The new Administra- . tion came into office just prior to the closing of the financial year, and, apparently, in order that the previous Administration should be shown to have finished with as small a surplus as possible - although it proved to be a large one - the present Treasurer ordered that all accounts should, as far as possible, be paid up to the 30th June.
– I think that we were in office only six days before the end of the financial year.
– In these days of telegraphs, telephones, and wireless, much can be done in six days. Within that time the Treasurer’s order requiring that all accounts be paid as far as possible by the end of June could reach to the uttermost bounds of the Commonwealth.
– That is the law.
– I do not think that orders for prompt payment should be exceptional. Against every Government, whether Federal or State, the charge can be justly brought, I think, that they keep the contractors and others from whom they obtain supplies waiting too long for their money. As a rule, even when a work has been passed, the Government are the last to pay.
– That is why we have to pay so much more for our public works in the States, because only a few contractors can afford to wait for their money.
– I have just pointed out that the present Treasurer issued a special order that all accounts were to be paid by the 30th June.
– There was no special order issued by me.
– I accept the right honorable member’s disclaimer. I should like to see such an order go out at the beginning of the year - an order that, as soon as work has been completed and passed, payment shall at once be made for it.
– There is an excellent practice in this State, enabling the Treasurer to pay all moneys appropriated up to 31st August, although the financial year ends on 30th June.
– It is remarkable that the Auditor-General has not rebuked some of the Government Departments for keeping contractors and others too long out of their money. Why should there be any delay? I should like the Treasurer to give us his opinion regarding my suggestion that the financial year should close on 31st March. I do not think there are any insuperable difficulties in the way, and I believe that if it were adopted we should not have so many people out of employment as we have had during the winter months.
.- I do not object to this measure passing, but I do object to members of the Ministry going into the country and telling the people that the Opposition are holding up the Audit Bill. It is the practice of the Prime Minister and other members of his Government to go through Victoria telling the people that the Labour party are holding up non-contentious legislation. Ministers seem to attend a banquet every other night. I wonder where the funds come from to supply the gorgeous feasts in which they indulge? It is the Treasurer’s duty to contradict the statement that we are holding up his Audit Bill. He knows that he brought the Bill into the Chamber in an imperfect condition. He, with other members of his Ministry, was so busily occupied with something else that he had not sufficient time to give to the preparation of an important measure like this. It is more important than it looks, and I have yet to learn what is the reason for its introduction, unless it be that the Treasurer wants more time in which to prepare his Budget-speech. If I had thought that the Melbourne newspapers would publish a letter from me, I should have written to them, pointing out that the Bill was brought down in such an imperfect condition that it had to be amended, and that it was the consideration of its amendment that had occupied our time.
– The Treasurer himself is not anxious to get it through. He said that he hoped it would not be wanted for some time.
– But the right honorable member, with “ an eye on the main chance,” said that it would be a mistake to make the principal provision in this Bill apply only in a year in which there was a general election. The Government wanted it, he said, to apply every year. It seems to me that the Ministry are steering the ship of State straight for recess, and that, having once got into recess, they hope to have a fine old time until next August. I rose, however, principally to object to the slander uttered by the Prime Minister as to the opposition shown by our party to noncontentious legislation. What took place this afternoon ? Was any objection offered to the Norfolk Island Bill ? None at all; and there has not been a protracted debate on this measure. Have we done anything to warrant the statement that we are opposing noncontentious legislation ? All our protests are against what the Attorney-General knows is legislation likely to make a political cry for him in the country. He wants a battle-cry in regard to the postal vote and preference to unionists; and the Government are bringing forward such legislation as soon as possible, so that there can be a row about it in the country.
– Would not the same cry suit the honorable member’s party ?
– After the violent and unjust speech made this afternoon by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, in moving the second reading of the Electoral Bill, the Labour party, I venture to say, are prepared to go to the country with honorable members opposite at any time they please.
.- I wish to supplement the remarks made by the honorable member for Capricornia regarding the slanderous utterances of people iu high positions who ought to know better. While I do not agree with the honorable member that the whole blame rests with the Government for not agreeing promptly to the amendment of the Audit Bill that we suggested, I consider that there is no justification whatever for the statement of the Prime Minister that the Opposition are opposing non-contentious legislation. The debate on this Bill has been largely due to the inexplicable manner in which the Treasurer introduced it. I followed the right honorable member very closely, and, just when I thought I was about to get a grip of the purport of the Bill, I found that I had lost it. The Minister of External Affairs-the Assistant Attorney-General, as he is now known - tried to make clear that which the Treasurer had diligently attempted to explain; and, after he had laboured very hard to give us the legal interpretation of. the Bill, the Attorney-General himself, to whom I gave way, came to the rescue.
– It is unfortunate that we did not also have the views of the Minister of Trade and Customs, who is also a lawyer.
– And those of the Postmaster-General, another Minister who is a member of the legal profession. If we had had the opinions of these legal gentlemen as well as those of the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister of ExternalAffairs in regard to the effect of this Bill, I am afraid that we should have been still further at sea than we are at present.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I have already mentioned that I listened with interest while the Attorney-General was trying to throw some light on this measure. I did so with all reverence for his keen legal acumen. I fully expected that he would be able to remove the mysteries surrounding the subject in my mind. But after he had spoken I quite realized that if four lawyers had addressed themselves to the question instead of two I should have been, not merely mystified, but paralyzed. The Treasurer has a habit of looking over to this side of the House with a reproachful air as if we were of the moleskin pants, the flannel shirts, and the slouch hats order, who represent the views of the multitude, understand nothing about finance, and therefore are not competent to discuss the merits and demerits of a Bill ofthis character. I should like to remind the right honorable gentleman that there are none in this community who understand more about finance than those who have been reared by a mother who has had to spend the wages of a toiler. There are no greater financiers than the wives of the workers, who are practised in making thirty shillings go as far as two pounds will go in the hands of others. We have a practical acquaintance with finance that is not enjoyed by honorable members opposite. The Treasurer has tried to make it appear that to embody provisions regarding a Supply and Tender Board in an Audit Bill is quite consistent with ordinary usage. I can only say that I am sorry that, having had time since last week to reflect, the Treasurer has not had the wisdom to withdraw the Supply and Tender Board clauses from the Bill. He would be wise even now to apprehend the responsibilities of his position, and to realize that by forcing the Bill through he will be making a serious mistake. What makes it worse, the Supply and Tender Board is to be established by regulation. Honorable members know what that means. We all know that departmental regulations are poured in upon us by the hundred. To read them all is more of a task than it would be to follow Jack Johnson through his peregrinations in the fistic world, or the Prime Minister in his perambulations through the country when he is denouncing this party for wasting time on non-contentious measures. This Bill non-contentious ! Does any member of this House think that it is ? To put provisions regarding a Supply and Tender Board in an Audit Bill is a departure from the custom and usage of Parliament throughout the British Empire. It is our duty as the watch-dogs of the people to be on the alert and to protect their interests in matters of finance. The Treasurer professes that the Bill is only required to enable him to tide over a time of difficulty which may arise when Parliament is not in session. But he has not told us whether he_ wants to use the power next year. Is it possible that the right honorable gentleman has some premonition of disaster threatening his occupancy of his present noble position ? Surely he does not imagine that next July it will be necessary for him to get Supply in order to enable him to carry on till August. Surely this is not a covert move to protect his party and keep it longer in recess than the country would wish ? 1 see the, Prime Minister sitting there, cool, calm, and collected. He has been recently charging the Labour party with obstructing legitimate, business. If he had a shred of conscience left he would apologize. Now the honorable gentleman is leaving the chamber. There is one thing that always marks the course of a man who has not the courage to face his opponents. As soon as he is confronted with them he turns tail. The Prime Minister goes out and leaves the Treasurer, the weak man of the Ministry, to bear the brunt of the battle. With all deference to you, Mr. Speaker, I can imagine you occupying the position where I now am. Suppose that a Treasurer of another party were in the position that the right honorable member for Swan now occupies, I venture to say that you would not be slow to point out to him the error of his ways. I am sure that you, sir, sympathize with me in my desire to discharge my duty to the people, as you always did, with a determination–
– Order ! I must ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the Bill.
– This is not a matter for levity. It is a serious matter of finance. We are asked to empower the Treasurer to expend, in July of any year, a sum of money which may be out of all proportion to the amount which has hitherto been expended during that month. Fortunately, we have been able to limit that expenditure to one-twelfth of the expenditure for the whole of the preceding year. The only virtue which the Bill possesses is to be found in that amendment. We have no guarantee that the Treasurer will not use this money to suit the purposes of the political party to which he belongs.
– The money must be expended in accordance with the items.
– Is the Treasurer a believer in legislation by regulation ?
– He was not when he occupied a seat on this side of the House.
– I know that. He has attempted to ‘bullock” this Bill through-
– He has “bludgeoned” it through.
– I will not use the word “ bludgeoned.” This Bill will apply, not only to the people of to-day, but to posterity ; and, on behalf of posterity, I protest against such legislation. If the Treasurer wishes to bring his grey hairs with honour to the grave, he will not attempt to foist upon us legislation which will open the door to maladministration. Whilst I respect the honorable gentleman as a man, I am deeply sorry” that he has fathered a measure of this kind. Thank God there is a Senate, which, I hope, will see the wisdom of preventing him from inflicting this injury upon the people. If the proposal to establish a Supply and Tender Board had been embodied in a separate Bill, it would have passed through this Chamber without any opposition. The Treasurer, having put his hand to tlie plough, will not turn back. With that, I shall not say stubbornness but, persistency which is characteristic of the race from which he sprang, he tries to force tlie Bill, which he does not understand, through the House. There are a good, many reasons why it should not be carried .
– Let us have a few more.
– The honorable member might repeat some.
– It is not necessary to repeat any, because there are hundreds of reasons; indeed, there is no exhausting the arguments against the measure. Who are the persons who will constitute the Tender Board?
– Are they to be heads of Departments?
– The Treasurer has not told us. Both the Attorney-General and the Minister of External Affairs have tried unsuccessfully to explain the position.
– Perhaps the Women’s National League is to be called in to assist.
– I do not know much about the League, but God forbid that that should be so. Are the appointments to be political, or are the persons who will be appointed persons who will not be personally interested in the matters coming before them?
– Will the Auditor-General sit on the board ?
– I should like to know whether the Auditor-General is to be chairman of the board.
– What is an auditor?
– A man who is able to add correctly, to compare figures, and to see through the wiles of those skilled in finance.
– Not always.
– He is supposed to be able to do so. The honorable member may know more about the subject than I do, and I am waiting to hear him upon it. Our Auditor-General, Mr. Israel, has a name that suggests some knowledge of finance. If a name counts for any-‘ thing, we should have the best auditor in the world.
– He was born in Scot-* land.
– Then he should be unequalled in the world. Now that the Prime Minister has returned to the chamber, I ask if he will agree to the elimination from the Bill of its contentious provisions. If he will do so, my criticism will cease.
– We have not come to any contentious matter yet.
– The Bill is full of contentious matter. I remember how the Prime Minister, when in Opposition, used to condemn the Labour party for making laws by regulation. I wish I had his talent for logical, but cruel, denunciation. Yet his first act on assuming office is to introduce a measure perpetuating the evil which he has condemned so strongly. Did inconsistency ever go further ? The honorable gentleman goes from place to place in the country, protesting that we, the watch-dogs of Parliament, are delaying legislation by preventing non-contentious measures from passing. I wonder that his words did not freeze on his lips when he tried to utter them. No one knows better than he does that every man on this side would have justification for protesting against this measure until he could no longer stand.
– The Prime Minister is like a lamb to-night.
– He could never be like a lamb. His erstwhile leader used to speak of the tiger on this side, never realizing the tiger that was with him.
– Mr. Speaker will not permit me to interject. I cannot stand this any longer.
– I am glad that the honorable gentleman is not permitted to interject, but it is unkind of him to leave the chamber, because I had something important to say to him. The PostmasterGeneral must have been warned by telepathy, and informed his chief. However, I am glad to see the honorable member for Parkes here, because, although he has never known it, I have knelt invisibly at his foot-stool, studying the words of wisdom that fell from him on questions of finance, and I thought, when this measure came before the House, that my education would be advanced a further step; but I have waited in vain for his pearls of wisdom. He has protested time and again against legislation by regulation, but now he sits still as a statue. What has frozen him into silence? If there was one man who might have been expected to assert himself, it was the honorable member. I have always felt that when I failed he would succeed; but now we listen in vain for his utterances. Is the Treasurer prepared to remove what is objectionable from the Bill ?
– I understand that he will get the Leader of the Senate to do it.
– If he will promise that, I shall consider whether I ought to proceed further. Am I to appeal to him in vain?
– He is considering the matter.
– The Treasurer has grown callous to the welfare of the people. Nothing but callousness could produce such a characteristic as we see in the Treasurer to-night. Will he tell me who are to constitute the Tender and Supply Board; will he give me an insight into the -personnel of the board ; will he say whether any outside persons are to be appointed, or whether it is to be composed of public servants or not? Not a word will he say. That is the sort of treatment we get when we plead for information. We are trying to solve the problems of this community, to understand the provisions of the measure, and to ascertain what is in the mind of the Treasurer, but a corkscrew will not draw the information out of him. I do not know whether he is looking for the information or not, but I hope that he will find it very shortly, as I am getting tired of appealing to him. In my judgment the Government has started off in a manner which is destined to overwhelm it. Any Government that begins by resorting to legislation by regulation is foredoomed. If the Treasurer would only hearken to the words of wisdom which fell from the honorable member for Capricornia, the pleading way in which he put his case, and the logical manner in which he represented the equities of this proposal, he would announce to the House, I feel sure, that he intended to get this Bill amended in another place.
– Or withdraw it.
– We could not expect a withdrawal of the Bill, because that would be undignified for a Government of this character. I would not like to submit the Treasurer to any indignity. With a majority such as the Government has - and when I look at you, Mr. Speaker, I think of the majority-
– With a majority such as the Government has in this House I would not submit Ministers to the indignity of withdrawing the Bill. I would not ask my worst enemy to submit to a proceeding of that kind. I have too much respect for the Treasurer, even though he is fathering a piece of legislation which I would not like to father, to ask him to withdraw it. He takes my remarks quite calmly. The country may go, the finances may go, and the AuditorGeneral may take control of everything. Here is a Bill which hands over to that officer, not only the right to audit the public accounts, and give a true representation of the finances, but also the right to regulate the purchase of all supplies for the Commonwealth, and their distribution through ihe different Departments. Here is a man who, while on the one hand he is to be charged with the duty of directing the way in which’ purchases shall be made, stores be issued and checked, has to audit that which he directs. What an anomalous position that is ! The Treasurer is not acting fairly to the AuditorGeneral. I have met that officer. He is only an Auditor-General; he knows nothing about anything else ; he has devoted his whole life to the question of auditing. When it is proposed to hand over to a specialist a foreign duty, of which he knows nothing, there is a danger to the community. It is not fair to the Auditor-General to tell him that he is to be “ boss “ over the purchasing of stores, the distributing of them, the checking of the audit, and the analyzing of the provisions of this great measure. I ask the Treasurer, out of his humanitarian sympathy, to have a little thought for that officer. Has the Auditor-General indorsed this Bill as the head of the Electoral Department has agreed with every provision in the Electoral Bill ? ‘ Has this Bill been drawn by the Auditor-General as the Electoral Bill has been drawn by the electoral officers, according to the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs? If the Auditor-General has told the Treasurer that this measure is necessary, he must have been not quite in his right mind, because he is taking upon himself a responsibility too great for any man, or dozen of men, to be charged with. I want the Treasurer to think over this matter. In days gone by, I have appealed to him, and he has not only listened, but paid attention. He has been open to conviction at times.
– Very seldom.
– I hope that my honorable friend will not misunderstand me. The Treasurer has been open to conviction as a statesman, and now the idol whom I had lifted on to the pedestal of statesmanship, and who I think ought to be the Leader of this Government, has crumbled into clay at my feet. Is the Prime Minister back; will he ever come back?
– Not while you are up.
– I ask the Treasurer, has the Prime Minister gone to another meeting to proclaim the opposition of this party to non-contentious legislation ? Has it become a disease with the Prime Minister to ever go on prating about the action of the Opposition in that regard ? The Treasurer may well look at me. I know that he does not agree with the Prime Minister in leaving his seat in the chamber and shirking the responsibility which is his. I know that the right honorable member is quite prepared to carry the whole load on his broad shoulders; but I do not want him to bear a load which he is not entitled to carry.
– He is carrying the whole of the Ministry.
– We shall soon get rid of the Ministry if he has to bear the whole load. Through you, sir, may I make one final appeal to the Treasurer before he commits this act irrevocably? May I ask that he should retrace his steps, and that a Bill of this character should be put into the waste-paper basket at once, and another measure prepared more in accordance with the necessities of the times ? If he cannot for shame’s sake consent to back down at this stage, will he consider the advisability of asking another place to cut out the objectionable clauses, to tri-n the measure in such a way that it will be acceptable to the people ? Will he do credit, to the Government, or will he allow the Government to go down to posterity denounced as one that had indorsed, when in Opposition, the principle of legislation by regulation? With all seriousness, I say that this is one of the most perplexing problems that have ever been offered for consideration by honorable members, and it behoves every honorable member on this side to do his duty. I am unable, apparently, to move the Treasurer. 1 know that I am feeble. I realize that my appeal is not strong enough; but there are on this side honorable members who can appeal with tears in their eyes which will move the Treasurer to submit. How long have I to go, Mr. Speaker?
– Five minutes.
– I feel sure that the Prime Minister has sent the Whip into the chamber to advise the Treasurer to take a certain course of action. I am positive that the Whip would not be here but for an inspiration from the Prime Minister, to indicate to the Treasurer that he would be wise in backing down, even at this late hour. Whilst the visitors from the Mother of Parliaments are in this State, in the name of all that is holy, I ask the Treasurer not to tempt them to condemn us by the action which he is perpetrating here to-night. Think of what they will convey to the Old Country when they find that the Treasurer is prepared to foist upon this Parliament a measure for the auditing of the public accounts which will enable a Supply and Tender Board to be created ! Why, sir, the members of the House of Commons here will feel that we are in our infancy or dotage ; but, however they feel, I appeal to the Treasurer to hide the Bill from their sight, not to allow this discussion to come to the ears of men who belong to the Mother of Parliaments. Let us all uphold our reputation as men of common sense, who understand what sort of legislation should be enacted in this country. My constituents do not, and never will, understand the Treasurer, but they understand their representative, and when they read of my appeal made here tonight to the Prime Minister and Treasurer, they will say, “ What kind of men are these who could withstand the appeal of our member?” While I may not have any effect on the Treasurer, I shall have a wonderful effect on the people who send me here, and who know I am fighting for them and their country.
.- The clause referred to by the honorable member for Gwydir should not find a place in this Bill, but in a special measure ; and my opinion is that we are practically unanimous regarding the creation of a Supply and Tender Board. I am certain that one of the last Acts to which any person would look to find the provisions relating to such a board would be an
Audit Act. We have had three different explanations - one from the Treasurer, one from the Prime Minister, and one from the Attorney-General - and we find one gentleman saying that the Government were not going to make use of this clause, the other saying that they might do so, and the third saying that they would. I do not know how this clause will be regarded and treated by another place; but, at any rate, it ought to be enacted in another Bill. I was very glad to hear the Treasurer say the other evening that it was impossible to spend a penny without the supervision of the AuditorGeneral. 1 have informed .the honorable member for Gippsland that I intended to refer further to his utterances in this connexion, and to show whether or not this or any other Ministry have handled the money of the country in a way that it should not be handled. When we are fighting a political fight there are certain things to which we should not descend. Personally, I have always remembered, both inside and outside this House-
– The honorable member is not too particular here !
– There is not a statement I have made that I am not prepared to verify. The honorable member for Gippsland, the other night, said that the quotations I read were from a newspaper which was practically a Labour paper, and that they were not reliable. On this occasion I shall quote from the Argus, which no one, by any stretch of imagination, can call a Labour paper, and which has never said one word favorable to the Labour party.
– Oh, yes.
– Never. In the issue of 12th May this year the Argus thus reports the honorable member for Gippsland, at Mirboo North, speaking on the Budget -
In that there was an item of £90,000 for contingencies and £50,000 for miscellaneous expenses. What was the difference between those two items? Altogether there was £4,000,000 spent for which there was absolutely no information given.
That is absolutely incorrect, because every penny must be accounted for to the Auditor-General. We have recently had two Supply Bills before us, and the accounts for every penny of the contingency and miscellaneous expenditure provided for in those Supply Bills must go through the Auditor-General’s Department. The first statement I made was that the honorable member for Gippsland said -
Mr. Bennett said he would challenge any one to say he made a different statement at Swan Reach to what he did at Bairnsdale, and quoted figures showing items of expenditure totalling £4,000,000 for which there was no adequate return
– That is exactly what I did say - no adequate return.
– The honorable member went on to say - and there were items of expenditure for petty cash and Prime Minister’s Department and miscellaneous items, and he, in suggestive tones, asked. What was the expenditure for, and where did it go to? Six persons had signed one letter, and he maintained that if they had been able to grasp and remember the item they challenged they would be able to remember all the figures he quoted. Instead, they merely said “ thousands of pounds here “ and “ thousands there.” They evidently had not grasped the figures.
Interjector. - You mentioned thousands.
– I mentioned millions, and the figures I quoted were taken from Mr. Joseph Cook’s, and they were never challenged as being incorrect.
Those figures have been challenged time after time, as the honorable member knows. It is very easy, in little country places, where there are no reporters, to make extravagent statements; but while those statements may be swallowed by some people once, or even twice, it is not possible to fool all the people all the time. I should like to read an extract from the South Gippsland Shire Echo.
– Is that a Labour paper?
– No. That newspaper reports the honorable member for Gippsland to the extent of three columns and a half, which is more space than was given to me during the whole campaign.
– Perhaps the Liberal party paid for that space !
– I do not know whether that is so or not. The honorable member for Gippsland is thus reported -
Mr. Bennett then referred to the extravagance of the Labour party. He quoted the following items from the 1912 Budget : - Items of contingencies, £1,090,000 ; items of miscellaneous, £50,000 ; sixty-six items of petty cash, the sums ranging from £2 to ^6,000, making a total of £45,000. A new item was the Prime Minister’s Department, and that cost ,£50,000, while another new one, items towards cost, totalled £1,000,000. In connexion with these figures, the Auditor-General complained that the balancesheet only came before him nine months after it was due, and the time then at his disposal did not permit of him going fully into the items. The people were entitled to know what became of this money - how it was used.
The Auditor-General has never said that the items only came before him nine months afterwards; what he did say, as the Prime Minister quoted, was, that, on this occasion, Parliament was not in session when he presented his report. The first report of the Auditor-General, for the year ending 30th June, 1901, was presented on 25th May, 1903, a year and eleven months after the expenditure. The second report of the Auditor-General war presented after a similar interval. I have taken the trouble to look up .the dates on which the AuditorGeneral’s reports have, been presented; and all the reports, with two exceptions, have been presented, either on the last day of sitting in the session, or the day before, and only on one occasion has the report been presented in time to have any discussion upon it. I am sorry the ex-Treasurer is not here to explain why the Treasury was unable to make the accounts available earlier for the AuditorGeneral. This delay was not the fault of the Treasurer.
– Whose fault was it?
– From June, 1910, to 1912, the. officials of the Treasury were overworked in consequence of the bringing into operation of invalid pensions - which had never before been paid in this or any other country - and of the land tax. There was also the note issue to arrange for, and, further, pensions had to be paid to women at the age of sixty, instead of sixty-five. We know that every honorable member opposite voted to keep the age at sixty-five.
– I do not think so.
– I am sure of the fact. It was in 1909, when an amendment was moved by the Labour party.
– The honorable member ought to be ashamed of himself for making such a statement.
– It is absolutely correct.
– This is the most unfair fighting 1 have ever known. It was a trick.
– Every honorable member on the other side voted against making the age sixty instead of sixty-five.
– The Labour party were in office afterwards, and never altered it.
– It was before then that we were in office. It was altered immediately we came into office.
– It was only a trick.
– It was not, and I am stating exactly a fact. This seems to annoy the honorable member for Wimmera.
– I thought the honorable member was above that sort of thing.
– At any rate, I am not anxious to labour the point, but the time will come when I shall labour it, so that the honorable member for Wimmera need not worry. This is not the proper time; and I now merely wish to show that the Treasury officials were then overworked.
– I might as well charge the Labour party with having voted against old-age pensions.
– The honorable member has made some extravagant statements in his time, but-
– And the Labour party did so.
– They did not.
– They voted against an amendment moved by honorable members on this side to bring in old-age pensions immediately.
– If I went into that matter, I should be ruled out of order. 1 am now showing why the Treasury was unable to get the accounts to the AuditorGeneral. I wish to quote a letter from the South Gippsland Shire Echo, published last week, a copy .of which has been sent to me by an unknown correspondent. The letter contained the following -
That Mr. Bennett has had the audacity to deny that he ever uttered statements made only four months ago is not a very high compliment to the electors of Gippsland, and is a very serious reflection on the conductors of an old and respected newspaper published at Yarram, the Standard, which reports him as having said: - “Who received this sum no one knows; it amounts to over £3,000,000 sterling.” Does Mr. Bennett deny the accuracy of the Standard report, and, if he does, did he issue a correction of it in the press prior to May 31st? He had plenty of time to do so, but I have yet to learn that he did. If, however, any doubt exists of the accuracy of the Standard report, let it be dispelled at once. I have before me the transcript of a report taken of Mr. Bennett’s speech at Meeniyan, only a few weeks prior to the election, in which he is reported to have said : - “ Altogether, a sum of over three million pounds has been spent, and no one knows where the money has gone.” The honorable member proceeded : - “ If the directors of a butter factory or a bacon factory had done anything like that they would be prosecuted and sent to prison.”
– The honorable member is not in order in reading a newspaper report in reference to a debate of the session, or which reflects on honorable members of the House.
– Does the honorable member for Gippsland remember that at the Meeniyan meeting a Church of England minister, named Watson, when the honorable member made that statement, shouted out that it was robbery?
– I could tell the honorable member something more about the Meeniyan meeting, and the rent of the hall, but I shall not worry about it. I take the word of the Treasurer that every penny spent, from the inception of Federation until to-day, has been accounted for to the Auditor-General. When, for political purposes, a man tries from the public platform to make his hearers believe that millions have been spent by the party in power in a way for which there is no warrant - that they have practically taken the money out of the Treasury and used it for some unauthorized purpose - he must know that he is stating that which is absolutely false, because every’ penny must be, and has been, accounted for. If the honorable member did make this statement, that £3,000,000 had disappeared, and that if members of the Ministry of that day had been directors of a butter or bacon factory, they would have been prosecuted and gaoled, he was stating that which is absolutely inaccurate. Every penny has been accounted for. I rose mainly to refute this statement, because the people of Australia have a right to know that, no matter what party is in power, every penny of public expenditure must be audited by the Auditor-General. I am as bitterly opposed to the present Ministry as they were to the late Administration. They were anxious to get us out of office, and we are anxious to turn them out. We believe, however, in fighting fairly. When statements such as those I have read are made and are scattered broadcast - statements that a set of Administrators are alleged to have made away with millions of public funds - we may expect to find the people saying of Australia that which is said of other countries. It is when the fight is hot, and wild statements are made, that we are in duty bound to step forward and to try to protect the honour of every mal in public life. I think that the Attorney-General, bitterly as he may oppose us, and bitterly as we fight him, will credit the late Administration with absolute honesty. I am sure that he would not say, either inside or outside this House, that a penny of public money had ever been spent by any Administration in respect of which an accurate account had not been kept and audited by the Auditor-General .
– I do not think that anything of the kind has been suggested.
– I have quoted the statements alleged to have been made by the honorable member for Gippsland, and reported in the Argus, as well as in three Gippsland newspapers. Surely all could not have lied.The statements which are made concerning maladministration, bribery, and corruption on the part of political parties in America were, no doubt, uttered in the first place in the heat of political battle, and if they were analyzed, I think it would be found that they had not as much foundation as many imagine. Such a statement as that made by the honorable member for Gippsland - that £3,000,000 of public money had been expended by the late Administration, and that if the members of that Administration had been in charge of a butter or bacon factory they would have been prosecuted and gaoled, is absolutely degrading to public life, and might very well lead the people to believe that corrupt practices are being adopted in Australia. When every member knows that, there is no foundation for the statements made.
– By way of personal explanation, may I be permitted to remind honorable members that, in speaking to the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, I explained the whole matter to which the honorable member for Yarra has made reference. I was under the impression that, in this honorable House, the explanation or denial of a member would be accepted. I stated, in my first speech in this Chamber, that, on the occasion in question, I said nothing at all about the Auditor-General not having audited the accounts. What I said was that £4,000,000 had been expended in respect to which the people had received no adequate return. I repeat that statement. I also asked where the money had gone, and what the people had got for it.
– What about the butter factory ?
– I never referred to it. The honorable member for Yarra made some insinuation in reference to the payment for the use of a hall at Meeniyan.
– I did not. I said there was something about the rent of a hall, of which you might know something.
– The rent of the hall in question was payable to the secretary, and when I left Meeniyan there was no one who could give me an official receipt for the rent. The caretaker, who is a supporter of the Labour party, was so helplessly drunk that I could not get a receipt from him. I have here a letter - and the honorable member for Yarra has a copy of it - written by a Mr. Armstrong, a schoolmaster
– The honorable member must not read anything from a newspaper referring to the current debate.
– Mr. Armstrong specifically states thatthe difference between the report to which the honorable member for Yarra has referred and the words which I actually used is just the difference between fair criticism and misrepresentation. That is the explanation of the whole matter, and I trust that I will hear no more about it, because I think it is playing the game desperately low to make these repeated attacks.
.- Might I remind the honorable member, who seems to take strong exception to what has been said concerning him, that he is not the only honorable member who has at different times made similar statements regarding the late Administration.
– But I have been singled out for special attention by the honorable member for Yarra.
– And as an ex-Minister I shall avail myself of every opportunity to refer to the charge that we spent money for which the people got nothing.
– There seems to have been a conspiracy on the part of certain honorable members to try to blacken the characters of members of the late Ministry in respect to financial obligations. We have had the Prime Minister himself making the statement which the honorable member for Gippsland did, that there was no proper audit of the accounts.
– I never said anything of the kind.
– Such a statement reflects, not upon the late Treasurer, but upon the Auditor-General. If the Auditor-General is capable of allowing accounts to go through without being audited he ought to be dismissed at the earliest possible moment. Coming to the Bill itself, we were told that it was a non-contentious measure, designed merely to enable the Treasurer to carry on the financial obligations of the Commonwealth for some four or five weeks after the close of the financial year without finding it necessary to interrupt the debate on the Address-in-Reply in order to obtain Supply. The Treasurer’s argument was that the Government’s predecessors in office resigned so late in the financial year that they were unable to meet Parliament earlier, and to obtain the Supply necessary to meet certain obligations.
– This Bill can have no effect until next year.
– Such a state of affairs can arise only immediately after a general election. That being so, there is no need for this Bill at the present time. It could have been introduced at a much later period in the session. There is, however, something behind it.
– There is nothing behind it.
– I am not suggesting any unworthy motive. The point which I wish to make is that, if use of this Bill is not to be made every year, there should be inserted in it a clause providing that it shall operate only at the end of the financial year following a general election.
– It can be used every year.
– That is why we object to it.
– There has not been a year in which it would not have been useful.
– Except in a year in which a general election takes place,. Parliament can be called together in June in ample time to enable the AddressinReply to be got out ofthe way and Supply obtained to meet the necessary obligations. Sir John Forrest. - When does, the Senate expire?
– On 30th June. So that in the first week in July the Government of the day could obtain Sup-
– Wages are paid during the first week.
– The Government could come down and obtain Supply on the first or fecond day in July; so that there is noohing in the point raised by the right honorable member. My next objection is that the Government have thought fit to tack on to this Bill a provision for the creation of a Supply and Tender Board - a matter that is totally foreign to the Bill itself.. Both sides of the House are anxious that a Supply and Tender Board shall be established at the earliest moment, so that proper control may be exercised over the purchase and distribution of supplies. But the Government, in tacking on such a provision to the Audit Bill, gave rise to the impression that the Auditor-General would have something to do other than the mere auditing of public accounts in relation to this board. We were led to believe that he was to be the chairman of the board.
– Who led honorable members to believe that? You must have led yourselves to believe it.
-That was the general impression in the House. The Attorney-General explained, however, that the Auditor-General was merely to audit the accounts The Government propose that the board shall consist of the heads of Departments. If there is one set of men who more than any other are - save with rare exceptions - not capable of discharging the duties of this board, it is the heads of Departments. They have enough to do to look after their own Departments.
– The Supply and Tender Boards are so constituted in the States. They have such a Board in Victoria.
– But the practice followed by the States has never been satisfactory. The time has come for the establishment of a board of business men to control this matter of stores. Ours is a large country, and it is because of that that we want to have a board that will be responsible to Parliament, and will see that the expenditure on stores does not exceed a reasonable amount. If such a board had been provided for there would not have been much discussion on. this Bill. But I do object to a board of this kind being established by regulation.
If there is one thing more than another against which this House should protect itself it is legislation by regulation. We ought not to permit to be done by regulation what can be better done by Act of Parliament.
– The late Minister sent out hundreds of regulations under the Defence Act.
– I cannot justify what has been done by others. Hundreds of regulations are issued every year, and I do not think they are read by a solitary member of Parliament, except by the Ministerial heads who are responsible for them. It is one of the faults of our parliamentary system that we allow so much to be done by regulation. I admit that there are some things which cannot be very well controlled by Parliament. The Government should have power to make regulations in such cases; but when we can give a clear idea of what we want, as in this case, it is not wise to provide for doing it by regulation. Under the circumstances, I enter my protest against the third reading of the Bill.
– All the arguments that we have heard to-night,with the exception of a few observations from the honorable member for Maribyrnong, have been stated before, and I do not propose to allude to them again. In regard to what the honorable member for Maribyrnong said, I quite recognise that our system is not perfect, and that the Estimates and the Appropriation Act are passed too late in the year. But we have not been able to overcome that difficulty up to the present; indeed, difficulties will arise whatever we do. If we followed the honorable member’s advice, and terminated the financial year in March, we might have the Estimates brought before Parliament at the beginning of July. But, even then, Parliament would be no nearer to them than it is now. The financial year would be nearly half over before the Appropriation Act was passed.
– The House could then meet earlier.
– The object is to bring the finances before Parliament as soon as possible, but whatever we do there is a difficulty in the way. When I first entered Parliament in Western Australia, the financial year ended on the 31st December. Parliament used to meet in the middle of the year. The Treasurer had to estimate the revenue, not only for the remainder of the financial year in which the Budget was delivered, but for the whole of the coming financial year. That is to say, he had to estimate the revenue for nearly eighteen months. That was very inconvenient. It is necessary that the Treasurer should know the total amount of revenue and expenditure for the past financial year when estimating for the next financial year. I admit that the Commonwealth system is inconvenient from the Treasury and departmental bookkeeping point of view, because the halfyear has gone before the final appropriation takes place. But I am not prepared at the present moment to say that the limits of the financial year should be altered. All the States are in the same position. Their financial year ends on the 30th June. It would be inconvenient if the Commonwealth’s financial year ended on a different date from that of tne States. I do not think that a Treasurer would deliberately hold back accounts from payment towards the end of the financial year for the purpose of making the finances) look better. He could not hide what he was doing from the officers of the Department, and it would soon be apparent to any one examining the accounts, and especially to the Auditor-General. The public creditor would complain that he was doing it for political purposes. The law, as well as the usual custom, is that all accounts that are ready for payment on the 30th June shall be paid then. 1 do not recall any case in which that has not been done. If the revenue of the year is falling off, or is not coming in as anticipated, care is taken not to commence works as early as might otherwise be done, in order that the whole of the expenditure on those works might not fall due within the financial year. That might even be done when works had been authorized by Parliament. Indeed, it is quite right that a Treasurer should not embark on works, although he may have a vote of Parliament for them, unless he can see his way to pay for them. T have myself, as a State Treasurer, delayed works because the revenue was not coming in satisfactorily. After all, the management of the finances of a country is a business affair. A Treasurer should manage the finances as he would manage his own affairs. He should not spend money which he has noli got, and should not authorize expenditure unless he can see his way to meet it. From that point of view, to delay works is perfectly straightforward, and there is no subterfuge about it. Within my own experience as Federal Treasurer, we were short of money in the year 1909-10, owing to the introduction of old-age pensions. In other years we have always had enough money. There was always a balance to spare out of the one-fourth Customs and Excise revenue which, under the Braddon section, we were permitted to retain for Commonwealth purposes; and we always returned to the States more than we were compelled to return. The general desire at that time was to assist the States as much as possible. But a change came over the spirit of the dream. Afterwards all that was available was appropriated. But in the year when the old-age pensions were introduced, the Government were placed in the position of not having quite enough money to meet engagements. Then a new arrangement was made by which the Commonwealth returned to the States 25s. per head of the population, and that left the Treasurer with an immense additional revenue for Commonwealth purposes. I can see no such objections to this Bill as the honorable member for Kennedy sees. There is no objection to regulations for such a purpose. I have before me the regulations made under the Public Service Act of Victoria for the control of stores. A board administers the matter. Here we propose that when necessary a board shall be established for the same purpose, and that the Auditor-General shall have the same statutory power over stores as well as over funds. The Auditor-General has to audit the whole of the expenditure of the Commonwealth. On rare, extraordinary occasions, such as the impossibility of getting the voucher, the Auditor-General reports to the Treasurer and asks him to allow the account to be passed without the voucher. I can see no reason why this power to make regulations for the purpose of the control of stores should not be contained in the Audit Act. It is the power that is needed, and I do not care what A.ct provides the power. In Victoria it is provided for in the Public Service Act. We propose to provide for it in the Audit Act. In any case, the Auditor-General will scrutinize accounts affecting the control and issue of public stores just as he scrutinizes accounts in regard to the expenditure of money. He will have no more power over this matter than he has over any other financial transaction of the Commonwealth. Every Treasurer has experienced inconvenience in meeting accounts which fall due at the beginning of the financial year. If Parliament were summoned to meet a month before the close of the financial year, there would be no need for this Bill. It has been urged, but I do not think seriously, that we desire to force the measure through the House. We have no such desire. Naturally, we wish to carry it ; but to suggest that we are particularly interested in that direction is not justified. Our one object is to make the machinery of government run smoothly, not for our own advantage, but for the advantage of the Commonwealth .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 5th September (vide page 937), on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I rise to support this measure with enthusiasm, and to compliment the Government upon its early introduction. Australia is a land of production. I listened attentively to the remarks of the Prime Minister in moving the second reading of the Bill, and I gathered that its object is, not to establish a costly Department which will be encumbered with demonstration work, but to develop the science of agriculture, and to place at the disposal of our primary producers the best world-wide information that it is possible to secure. It is a measure that brings us back to the genesis, so to speak, of the science of agriculture- to the work undertaken by that eminent man, Sir John Bennett Lawes, at his Rothamstad Estate, some sixty years ago. Then the American States set to work. There, however, the position is rather different from that which obtains in Australia. The first effort in developing the science of agriculture in. the United States was undertaken by the Federation. Here, the first work in that direction has been done by the various States. I wish to place on record my appreciation of the work which they have been able to perform with the limited funds at their disposal. I hope that there will be healthy co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth in this connexion. I am certain that the Prime Minister was right when he said that the object of the Government was not to invade the field which is at present being covered by the various State Agricultural Departments, but rather to widen the scope of the science of agriculture. The States, by reason of their financial position, are somewhat; cramped in their efforts. The operation of each State is naturally circumscribed by financial considerations, so that, under their guidance, there can be neither the acquisition nor dissemination of knowledge that is possible under the Commonwealth. I take it that this Bill has two objects in view. In the first place, it aims at increasing the production of Australia; and, secondly, at dealing with the pests and diseases which are common to plant and animal life here. Take the production of wheat, for example. The most common pests which affect wheat are red-rust, flag-smut, ball-smut, takeall, white-heads, and the wheat grub. I may tell honorable members that I have had a recent experience of the ravages of the wheat grub. It was my bad fortune, on returning home about a fortnight ago, to find that I had lost about 300 acres of self-sown wheat through the depredations of this grub. My experience is not a singular one. In many parts of the northern district this year the wheat crops have been very much affected by the grub, a specimen of which, by the way, I submitted to Mr. French, the Entomologist, who describes it as the climbing cut worm. The ravages of this one pest alone may reduce the value of the production of Australia in one year by hundreds of thousands of pounds. I may be pardoned for mentioning, as an illustration of my good fortune, that, round a paddock of wheat adjacent to that to which I have referred, I seeded a chain of oats, which proved an effective barrier against the grub.
– Were the oats sown with that object in view?
– My action, was prompted first by a desire to obtain clean seed oats, and secondly by the assurance of my neighbours that it formed an effective barrier to the grub. Here is the result of a practical effort. The fact that the grub did. not thrive in the oat crop, when conveyed to the scientist, may lead to some valuable discoveries. I come now to fruit cultivation. We all know that fruit-growers are subject to very many pests, and the last word in the methods to be adopted for their destruction has surely not been uttered. What the little lady-bird was able to do in America in connexion with the scale there illustrates what may be accomplished if science has full play in Australia. I come now to the natural enemy of lucerne. In our district, it is a new arrival, which is known as the lucerne flea. If this little flea gets its way amongst the lucerne of Australia, very serious results will follow. Let me touch now upon the veterinary side of the project. Sheep, for example, are affected with many diseases, notably fluke, tick, maggot-fly, lung-worm, anthrax, and foot-rot; while cattle are attacked with pleuro, tick fever, contagious abortion, and tubercular trouble.
– Are not the States doing anything in these matters ?
– They are.
– Does the honorable member wish to rob the States of their powers ?
– No. I wish rather to increase the opportunities of the States to cope more effectively with these diseases. The point which impresses me most in regard to the establishment of a Commonwealth Bureau of Agriculture is that Australia is competing with many other nations for land users and agriculturists. How are we to attract them to our shores ? By being in a position to put the best proposition before them. There is no patriotism about the man who is looking for the best spot to land upon. If we can increase the production of Australia in any one of the lines to which I have referred, we shall render good service to every one engaged upon the land here. We shall also do good work for others outside, including the supporters of my honorable friends opposite, in increasing employment and cheapening food supplies.
– Where would the honorable member get his experts?
– I would allow the Government to roam all over the world in search of the best brains possible, so that they might be put at the disposal of Australia. We shall have to establish a Department of Agriculture in connexion with the development of the Northern
Territory. Why not let the expense so incurred be of benefit to the whole of Australia? There should be proper cooperation between the State and Commonwealth authorities. The Prime Minister has wisely suggested that we should get the best experts in the world. I do not reflect in any way on the experts now in the service of the States. If the Commonwealth positions are sufficiently attractive, and they are suitable for the work,I hope that they will come to us.
– But where are you going to get the land ?
– The lands of Australia are reserved to the States by the Constitution, and we must co-operate with them. My idea is that the Commonwealth Department should acquire all possible knowledge, and disseminate it, using State organizations to demonstrate its value. I have already spoken informally to State officials, who welcome attempts to throw more light on the science of agriculture. Victoria, for example, should not be confined in matters of research or of demonstration to her own territory, and it seems to me that the widest investigation can be made by a Commonwealth Bureau. What a great advantage it would be to Australia if the Bureau could provide our pastoralists with knowledge that would enable them to make two blades of grass grow where one grows now. It is not sufficient merely to kill the timber on a piece of land ; much more can be done to improve its pastures. Cultivation and the use of manures may produce 2£ tons of fodder where the natural pasturage would not amount to more than 5 cwt. Surely honorable members see what a wide field there is for increasing our knowledge, and thus increasing our wealth in this and other directions. But as I did not know that the Bill would be called on to-night, and as the hour is getting late, I beg leave to continue my speech on another occasion.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned .
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to know if the Prime Minister has anything to say about his remarks at a recent banquet, when he accused the Opposition of obstructing the Audit Bill. He should withdraw his slanders. He continually misrepresents this party to the public, accusing us of delaying legislation. He does not tell them that the Audit Bill was brought forward in an imperfect condition, and that our criticism was necessary, the result being that the Bill was amended. Not only did the Treasurer move an amendment in the Bill as the result of criticism, but after more criticism he moved a further amendment. I think it is time that the Prime Minister told the public the exact truth about what is taking place in this House. The Audit Bill, which is, without a doubt, to a considerable extent, a contentious measure, called for some criticism.
– Yes, contentious. It received that criticism, and the honorable member knows that no speaker on this side took up more time than did some of the speakers on his own side. I hope that the representatives of the daily press who are here this evening will note our objections to the Prime Minister’s remarks at the banquets which are being held all over the country, and that they will point out that we have allowed the Audit Bill to go through and the Norfolk Island Acceptance Bill to be introduced without any opposition. We will allow any measure of a like character, which is calculated to advance the interests of Australia, to go through with reasonable despatch; but, of course, if the Prime Minister, prompted by the Imperial Caesar I spoke of this evening, brings down contentiousmeasures for the purpose of making political capital out of them, he will be met with full and free debate. I trust that he will not make it necessary for me to delay the House on the motion for adjournment in protesting against his repeated slanders of this party.
.- I am sorry that the Honorary Minister is not present, for I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister of Defence that certain boys who have been tried in New South Wales for not putting in a sufficient number of drills have had passed upon them very extreme sentences. Somehave been sentenced to twenty-four hours in the cells, and then fifty-one days in camp, away from their work and their homes. If the system of compulsory training is going to succeed, it will not succeed by harsh treatment like that being meted out to the boys. Not only do the boys feel this harsh treatment, but the boys’ parents do, too. I ask the Prime Minister to favorably consider the question of remitting the sentences on the boys tried in Newtown.
– I shall bring under the notice of ray colleague the representations of the honorable member for South Sydney. In reply to the honorable member for Capricornia, I will say “ guilty,” and I will not do it any more - until the next time. I congratulate my honorable friends upon putting in three days very artistically over a little Audit Bill.
– They have done it well.
– I object to joking in this Chamber. .
– My honorable friends are not satisfied with anything. If I pay them a little compliment they immediately begin to suspect that I am not doing so. I congratulate them upon the artistic way in which they have dealt with the Audit Bill during the three days’ discussion.
– What is to be the business to-morrow?
– The Electoral Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 9.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 September 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130916_reps_5_70/>.