6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received a letter from a Mr. Bates, who served with credit, if not with distinction, with the Australian Forces in South Africa, and is a survivor of the Elands River engagement, in which he states that he has made repeated applications, in reply to advertisements, for employment in the clerical branch of the Defence Department. He says that to these he has at last obtained a reply. Although he has been informed that his name has been brought under the notice of the District Paymaster and the Officer in Charge of Ba’se records “ for consideration in the event of a suitable vacancy occurring,” this sentence follows : -
I have to add, however, that in selecting temporary clerks for this Department, the cooperation of the Secretary of the Federated Clerks’ Union is enlisted, and it is understood that a register is kept by him for this purpose.
I ask the Prime Minister whether soldiers who return from the present war, like those who served in South Africa, will be told, when, in response to ordinary publicadvertisements, they apply for. casual employment in the Defence Department, that if they desire to secure employment they must apply through the secretary of a trade union !
– I have not seen the correspondence referred to, but I should say that applicants for employment would be treated on their merits, and that those who had served their country would receive first consideration.
– I ask, Mr. Speaker, if all members are at liberty to bring under the notice of the House the correspondence which they receive. Are we all entitled to do what the honorable member for Flinders has done? To-day I received -no fewer than ten letters from persons wanting employment.
– Honorable members are at liberty to ask any question they may think proper, provided it complies with the forms of the House.
– Will the Prime Minister seriously consider the advisability of proposing an amendment of the Standing Orders, which will permit of the replies to questions on notice being printed in advance, instead of being read to the House as they are now?
– I think that the time has arrived when we might well follow that practice, which is, I understand, the practice of the House of Commons; but I should not like to move in -the matter without consulting the Leader of the Opposition and other members. I think that the honorable member has suggested a very good reform, the adoption of which would convenience honorable members, and save the time of the House, and that, with Mr. Speaker’s consent, the matter might very well be considered by the Standing Orders Committee.
– I ask the Prime Minister if the Government has considered the suggestion made from this side of the House that an additional Minister should he appointed to control the supplying of munitions.
– That and every other question relating to the war has received consideration, and as soon as an announcement can be made it will.be made to the House.
Casualty Lists: Cable Messages
– I ask the Naval Minister if it would not be possible to supply the press during the daylight hours with information relating to casualties, so that delicate women who have relatives at the war may not have the shock of hearing the newspaper boys crying special editions late at night.
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister.
– One of our Australian soldiers who took part in the actions at the Dardanelles has written to his wife a letter, in which he says that he is “ chancing a note to let her know that all is well,” and that he has “ sent two cables after each battle,” so that she would not worry. Neither cable message has reached the wife, and I ask the Assistant Minister of Defence if he will see that every such message that is received in Australia from the seat of war is delivered, no matter what trouble it may give the Department to deliver it
– I have no knowledge that these cables have ever arrived in Australia.
– I should like to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence a question concerning cable messages to soldiers, and, as the matter is of considerable importance, I should be glad, Mr. Speaker, to be allowed to moke a short explanation. I have sent cables to my son at the front, but do not know whether they have been delivered. I have received no answer to them. I should like to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence whether it is not possible to make some arrangement with the cable company and with the Department’s own representatives at the other end to advise relatives and friends of soldiers at the front when it is useless to despatch cables to them owing to the impossibility of delivery. These cables cost a lot of money, and I, like many others, have none to ‘ waste. It seems to me that a little organization should overcome the difficulty. It is useless to send cables to our sons if we know there is no likelihood of their delivery. Surely this is not a matter that is beyond the reach of the Government. I suggest that the Minister of Defence should arrange to have such cable messages sent through the Department. In addition to that, he should be able to ascertain from the other end whether there is a prospect of any of these cables reaching those to whom they are addressed. Every one knows that there is necessarily a great deal of confusion over there, and that therefore we must not be unreasonable. But the Minister might at least let the public know when it is useless to spend money in sending these cable messages to relatives at the front because of the impossibility of reaching them. I ask the honorable gentleman to take this matter into his serious consideration.
– I shall be very pleased to bring the right honorable member’s request under the notice of the Minister,, with a view, if possible, to effect being given to it.
– Hear, hear !
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
With reference to the question by Mr. Sinclair, M.P., on 28th May last (Hansard, p. 3545), “Whether the policy of preference to unionists is to be applied in making temporary or other appointments to the Electoral Department,” and the reply of the Minister of Home Affairs, “that it will apply in so far as it may be applicable to the employment of tem- porary Service clerks under section 40 of the Public ervice Act “ -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is -
Section 40 of the Public Service Act provides for the appointment of temporary employees in such man nor as may he prescribed, and the Government have issued Regulations under that Act prescribing that preference shall be given to unionists, other things being equal.
– That it not an answer to my question.
– Let the right honorable member say straight out what he wants.
Smalt. Arms Factory : Three Shifts - Steam Yacht “Adele.”
asked the Assistant. Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The Department has adopted the recommendations of the Expert Committee, consisting of -
Colonel W. Dangar, Chief of Ordnance: Major R. Harding, Inspector of Ordnance
Mr. R. Ferguson, Manager Newport Workshops;
Mr. W. Davis, DirectorGeneral of Works, New South Wales; which was appointed to inquire into and report on the quickest and best method of instituting a second shift at Lithgow. Extracts from these reports were laid on the table of the House last week. Full copies of the reports, portions of which were confidential, were supplied to the Leaders of the Opposition in each House.
asked the Assistant Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he intends to call for competitive designs for the Commonwealth Bank in Adelaide to avoid a repetition of such a building as the new Telephone Exchange?
– The provision of premises for Commonwealth Bank purposes rests with the Governor of the Bank, who has not made any request to the Department of Home Affairs for the erection of a building at Adelaide.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will favorably consider the question of paying the retired public servants’ pen*sions bi-monthly instead of monthly?
– If such an arrangement will be more convenient and practicable, I shall be glad to do so.
Letters of Official Press Representative : Pay of Soldiers Taken Prisoner : Equipment : Union Delegates in South Australian Factories.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will have inserted in the letters of the Official Press Representative, printed in the Commonwealth Gazette, the dates on which the letters were written?
– In all cases where dates are given they axe inserted. The date of writing is not usually shown, but ip future the date of receipt her? will be inserted.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
– It is not.
– Do not get excited.
The following papers were presented : - Audit Act - Naval Account Regulations
Amended - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 86. Customs Act - Regulation Amended (Provisi .mail - i-tatu- tory Rules 1915. No. 88.
Regulation Amended - Statutory Rules l!U5 Nos. 69, 70. Excise Act - Tobacco Regulation Amended -
Statutory Rules 1915, No. 67. Iron Bounty Act. - Regulations - Statutory
Rules 1.9.15, No. 83. Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at -
Albury, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Bacchus Harsh, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Charing Cross, Waverley, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Coraki, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Molong, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Moonah, Tasmania - For Postal purposes. Moonta, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
North Fitzroy, Victoria - For Defence purposes. (Pingelly, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Roseville, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Southport, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Surry Hills, New South Wales - For Postal purposes. Lighthouses Act- Commonwealth Light Dues Regulations - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 96.
SUPPLY (Formal). Shortage of Sugar : Duty. Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- Mr. Speaker-
– The Leader of the Opposition is ready to resume the debate on the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill, which is the next Order of the Day.
– I understand that I have the call, and am entitled to speak on the Order of the Day now before the House. If it is desired that the Leader of the Opposition shall be given an opportunity now to resume the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill-
– Hear, hear !
– And that at the close of his speech we shall return to the Order of the Day, “ That the Speaker do now leave the chair,” I shall offer no objection. I do not wish to deprive the Leader of the Opposition of the present opportunity to speak if any arrangement to that effect has been made with the Government. But it is not often that private members have an opportunity to bring forward matters of urgency, and as I have a matter of pressing importance with which to deal, I do not feel disposed to give way. If there is any desire to make an arrangement, I am prepared to give way for the time, and meet the wishes of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
– You had better go on with your speech.
– Well, the Leader of the Opposition now says that he does not mind whether-
– Will the honorable member address the Chair?
– I desire to move -
That all the words after the word “ That “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “in the opinion of this House the duty of £6 per ton be remitted on the amount of sugar necessary to be imported (as ascertained by the Attorney-General) to cover the deficiency between last season’s and the forthcoming season’s Australian crop.”
I desire to refer to a matter of some considerable importance to the public of Australia, included in which public are the persons whom I represent here. It is recognised that the question of the remission or otherwise of the duty on sugar is not a party one. The Prime Minister is present; and I wish it to be thoroughly understood that this is recognised as an entirely non-party question, in no way affecting the Labour platform. In such circumstances honorable members on this side are entirely free to take what action they deem necessary.
– You have not to apologize to the House for your amendment.
– I must appeal to honorable members not to continue conversations across the chamber. It is impossible for me to hear the honorable member for Cook.
– I make that statement because I was met with an interjection, which may not have reached the ears of the reporter, that this is a question affecting Protection.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Capricornia, who made that interjection, now says, “Hear, hear !” ; and the inference is that I am under an obligation not to take any action in this House in regard to this particular matter. I am going to make a statement that I should not have made but for the interjection. . I make no apology for taking the opportunity open to me to protect my constituents and the general public. But I am entitled to dispose of misrepresentation of my position.
– I said that I thought you were tinkering with the Tariff.
– The honorable member for Capricornia knows well that it has already been decided by the party that members have a free hand on this question.
– Hear, hear !
– Where was that decided ?
– I am asked a question, but so many honorable members keep repeating the same question, that I am given no opportunity to reply. The answer is that, as everybody knows, we Labour members are under an obligation to stand together on questions affecting the Labour platform.
– Hear, hear !
– A decision as to whether a matter does affect the Labour platform is given at our party meeting - that is known perfectly well.
– Nothing of the kind. It is on the platform.
– I must again appeal to honorable members for order. If these controversies and interjections continue, I shall have somebody suspended.
– The Labour pledge places us all under an obligation to support the Labour platform, and, on questions affecting that platform, to vote as the majority of the parliamentary party may decide at a duly constituted caucus meeting. Those are the words of the labour members’ pledge. When a party meeting is held to determine what action shall be taken, the party must decide, or at least give a preliminary decision, whether any given question is or is not a platform one. The Prime Minister knows perfectly well that he himself has given that decision on this particular point, and that the party accepted that decision. I should not have said that only there seems to be–
– Say everything !
– I shall not say everything.
– Why not?
– Because it would not be right. You, as chairman of the party, sit here quietly and hear statements made that may place me in a difficulty - you will not stop this misrepresentation of my position. That is why I am compelled to make the statement.
– Surely I may hold the view that you propose to tinker with the Tariff.
– But the honorable member is not entitled, nor is any other honorable member entitled, to make misrepresentations by insinuation-
– I did not insinuate anything.
– No one is entitled to insinuate that I am doing something that I am not free and entitled to do. The opposition of the honorable member for Capricornia, who represents a sugar district, might be fair and open.
An honorable member from the State of New South Wales is ina peculiar difficulty in connexion with this question of the remission of the duty on some 16,000 or 20,000 tons of sugar which it is known cannot be produced in Australia, to enable our people to have a continuous supply. The matter was brought under the notice of the Labour Government of New South Wales, and that Government made representations to the Federal Government, with a request that the duty should be remitted on this parcel of sugar. The New South Wales Government represents the Labour movement as well as New South Wales Labour members in this House.
The Federal Government directed their Attorney-General to make inquiries, and the result of those inquiries is set forth in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 31st May, in a statement by the Attorney-General himself. Referring to the ‘question of the sugar shortage, the honorable member said -
Joint inquiries into the position were made by the Necessary Commodities Commission and the Victorian Foods Board. Mr. Knox was examined, and much evidence given, but no action was taken affecting the above arrangement. A deputation, consisting of Mr. Hall, Attorney-General of New South Wales, Mr. Hagelthorn, Minister of Public Works, Victoria, Mr. Vaughan, Premier of South Australia, Mr. Jackson, Minister of Public Works, South Australia, Mr. Lyons, Treasurer of Tasmania, and Mr. Adamson, Chairman of the Price of Foods Board, Victoria, waited on Mr: Tudor, Minister of Trade and Customs, and requested the co-operation of the Commonwealth Government in this arrangement.
The arrangement referred to was that the Federal Government should remit the duty of £6 per ton on this parcel of sugar, which is necessary to enable it to provide a continuous supply for the people of Australia -
As important revenue considerations were involved, as well as the supply of a necessary food product of the people, the Government decided to ascertain, so far as possible - (1) whether a shortage existed, and, if so, to what extent; (2) when this shortage would begin;
Inquiry has been mainly directed to the imminent shortage arising through lack of supplies to carry on until the new crop is available. The result of the inquiry shows that -
That report of the inquiries made by the Attorney-General occupies two columns of the newspaper. Since the date of its publication three weeks have elapsed,” and no announcement as to the position hasbeen made. The shortage in Australian sugar will occur during the third week in July. The necessary quantities of sugar to make good the shortage have been ordered, and are on their way to Australia, and within the next couple of weeks a decision will have to be made as to whether the duty of £6 per ton is to be remitted or not. Indeed, the first parcel of 1,000 tons of raw sugar is announced to arrive to-day.
I have already said that this is a non party matter. It will be found that there are members on each side of the House who are for and against the proposal I am making. Let us come out of the valley of indecision, and let the public know the faith that is in us.
So far as the public are concerned, the question in a nutshell is - Will the sugar be sold for £25 per ton, as arranged between the various State Governments and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, or will it be sold at £31 per ton on account of the insistence of the Federal Government on the collection of the duty? Atthe present time sugar is being sold at about £22 per ton, and the retail price is 3d. per lb. I am referring to the price in the great cities. If the wholesale price is raised to £25, sugar will be retailed to the public at 31/2d. per lb., and if the wholesale price is allowed to go to £31 the public will be required to pay 41/2d. per lb.
– Where do you get the price of £25 per ton ?
– That is the price arranged between the State Labour
Government of New South Wales and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for the sugar necessary to make good the shortage, but if the duty is insisted upon by the Federal Government the price will be £31 per ton.
At every election in my constituency my attitude has been that I would not be a party to the imposition of what is known as a revenue duty upon the necessaries of the people, and I have moved in this House from time to time for the removal of duties which had not a protective incidence.
In the interregnum between the exhaustion of last season’s crop and the placing upon the market of the next season’s crop, the quantity necessary to supply the public cannot be obtained in Australia, no matter what price is offered for it, and the collection of the duty of £6 per ton upon the sugar imported to tide the public over that interval is nothing more or less than a revenue duty; it has no protective incidence. Its only effect will be to increase the price of sugar. I have heard honorable members say, “ Why not take the same action with regard to every commodity ?”
– What about butter?
– One subtle way of opposing a proposal is to object that the action is to be taken in the wrong way, and another way is to say that the proposed action does not go far enough. A number of people who object to Socialism say, “ You only propose this little bit of Socialism; go the whole hog and I will support you.” In other words, one is told to attempt the thing which is impracticable, and he will get the support of those who know that the thing is impracticable. If any honorable member is opposed to my proposal in regard to sugar, let him oppose it on its merits, and not drag in butter, boots, and hats.
– My point is that the public are suffering more in regard to butter than in regard to sugar.
– If we cannot help the public in regard to both commodities, let us help them in regard to one. If the honorable member for Capricornia will propose any steps calculated to help the public in regard to butter I will support him.
– I am not in favour of taking the duty off at all.
– The honorable member is entitled to his opinion, and I am pleased now to note his straight-out declaration, out I may point out that the Government have already removed the duties from fodder, and are allowing the public to obtain their requirements of that commodity free of duty. I support that action in the circumstances. It cannot be said that just as strong a case cannot be made out for the remission of the duty on sugar. The drought which has been experienced was only partial, and although there is a shortage in fodder in some parts of Australia, an abundance is being produced in other parts.
– That was so at the beginning of the year, but the position is different now.
– Is not fodder being produced now? The crops and the grass are growing-
– And while they are growing the stock are dying.
– And human beings are not able to obtain sufficient of the necessaries of life. I support the honorable member in his desire to help the public, and if what I desired done in regard to fodder had been done, namely, the importation by the Commonwealth of sufficient to cover the known shortage, the public would have been saved millions of pounds. My point, however, is that it cannot be said that the local production of fodder has absolutely ceased, so that fodder cannot be obtained in Australia. Yet the Government have agreed to allow Free Trade in that commodity. On the other hand, it can be said that the 16,000 or 20,000 tons of sugar, which is the estimated extent of the shortage, cannot be produced in Australia before the next season’s crop is marketed, even if £1,000 per ton be offered for it.
Another consideration that weighs with me is that once the price of a commodity is raised it is a mighty hard job to reduce it again, and if, by a refusal to remit the duty on sugar - and by doing so the Government would not lose a great deal of revenue - the retail price is increased by Id. per lb., we may have a difficulty in taking off that increase when the new season’s crop is available. The need of revenue has not been stated to be an urgent matter. But if it is let us get it in a proper way. I should have preferred the sugar to be imported by the Government. It is too late to meet this season’s shortage in that way now.
– How do you arrive at an increase of £d. per lb.’?
– In the cities sugar is being sold to-day at £22 per ton wholesale, and is being retailed at 3d. per lb. Under the arrangement between the State Governments and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company the price is to be £25 per ton without duty, and I have roughly estimated that as being equal to 1/2d ner lb.
– The duty of £6 per ton represents only a little over £d. ner lb.
– I estimate that, with sugar at £31 a ton, the wholesale price will be 4id. per lb. I do not think it will be possible to get sugar at 4d. if the price is £31 a ton wholesale. I had some dealings myself a few years ago in the distribution of sugar, and from the experience I gained then, I think that it will be found that if sugar is £25 a ton the retail price will be 3£d. per lb. If it is £22 per ton the retail price will be 3d. per lb.; but I do not think it is likely to be less than 31/2d per lb. with the price at £25 per ton. I have not my arithmetical calculation with me.
– I suppose you are allowing for any fraction in the retail price?
– Certainly. Sugar will not be obtained at 3d. and so many eighths of a penny per lb. An even price will be charged, with probably some slight reduction on larger parcels. I have only dealt with this matter hurriedly, and I did not stop to work out to the last point what the retail price will be, but I feel quite certain that it will be 4£d. per lb. if the wholesale price of sugar is £31 per ton. I have not included in any calculation consideration of the fact that if duty is charged the sugar companies will require some working margin on the top of the £6 they will be called upon to pay. They will not pay their capital away without getting some return for it. So that the wholesale price will probably amount to something more than £31 per ton.
I feel very strongly on this question, otherwise I would not have taken the action I have taken. The time is one of stress. Meat is going up sky high. Bread is going up to an enormous price. Butter is also up. All this means that a large number of people must get short supplies, and the attitude I take is- that in a time’ of difficulty and trouble it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to save the people anything they can. I feel that I am under an obligation to my constituents, after the manner I have put this question to them time after time, in order to be consistent, to indicate my position clearly. I do not want to occupy much time. The matter is one upon which members of both sides of the House can vote, and I hope no effort will be made to side-track this proposition. If there should be any attempt at this, I hope the House will show a determination to give a vote. Let us be honest and take up our attitude on the merits of the case, giving” a vote so that the Government may know what the mind of the House is. I trust honorable members will give the motion their support, so that people will be assured of sugar at £25 per ton instead of at £31, which must be the price if the Government insist on collecting revenue duty. Let us stand by the masses of the people in their difficulties in obtaining the necessaries of life at reasonable prices.
– I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
I have made an arrangement with the Opposition that other important matters shall be dealt with.
– Let us have a vote on the question without all V talk!
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23rd June (vide page 4257), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– May I begin by putting a question to the Prime Minister, if he would not mind answering it ? He announced last Friday that these proposals were to be all completed ana out of the way by Friday week, and that on that day the Referenda Bills, so far as this House is concerned, were all to be passed.
– We want to send them to the Senate then.
– Yes, I understand that is what was meant.
– That is so.
– I suppose that is an intimation that if the Bills are not through before then, they will be closured.
– We do not want to do that.
– Is the honorable member serious when he says that he does not want to do that?
– I do not like it. I remember my first exhibition. But we want to get the Bills through.
– I take it that the position, as outlined then, still stands. Very well ! I think our position on this matter. is very clear, and can be stated very concisely and without very great debate. We made our protest on Friday last-
– You made it too soon.
– Perhaps it was. You never know whether a thing is too soon or too late in this world. Only time will furnish proof of that. At any rate our protest was made clear, unmistakable, and emphatic. It was unheeded, and to-day we propose to adopt the same attitude, namely, that during this period of war it is unwise, it is unfair, it is a crime against the country, to proceed with the discussion of these proposals.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the proposal before the Chair.
– I am going to do that. But I hope I am entitled to show reasons why the second reading should not be entered upon.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat? I desire to make my position in this matter clear, so that there will be no misunderstanding. When the proposal asking for leave to introduce the Bill was before the House, I allowed the fullest possible freedom of debate. I did not stop any member from roaming where he liked in order to show reasons why the Bill should not be introduced. Since then, however; leave has been given to introduce certain Bills. Not only has the leave been given, but the Bills have been read a first time. Now, this measure is brought forward for the second time, and it is for the House to say whether they approve of what is contained in the Bill on second-reading debate, not whether some matter outside the Bill shall be discussed. If I allowed that discussion to take place, I can readily see that within a short time a discussion might arise on the war, and the Bill would practically cease to be under consideration: ‘
– Is it not competent for an honorable member to give reasons why  the Bill should not now be read a second time? Notwithstanding the fact that the House has given leave for the introduction of the measure, and has advanced it to this stage, an honorable member should ba in order in showing why it should not be proceeded with further.
– The Standing Orders prescribe modes for dealing with the motion for the second reading. I cannot allow a general discussion on the war instead of on the measure before the House.
– Would it not have been better to wait until a general discussion on the war had begun than to interrupt me in this way?
– The honorable member must not talk in that way to the Chair. Were I to allow him to proceed otherwise, I should have to treat every other honorable member in the same way.
– I assure you, sir, that I do not, and did not, wish to discuss the war. I have been in Parliament for a quarter of a century, but lately I cannot rise to discuss any question’ without my speech becoming a dialogue with the Chair. I very much regret this.
I was proceeding to say that I do not think that the discussion of the second reading of the Bill should take place at the present time because of “what is happening outside. These proposals for the alteration of the Constitution have been twicebefore Parliament, and have been twice rejected by the country. Unquestionably, they are most far-reaching, ‘ and, in my judgment, transcend in importance any other proposal that could be brought’ before the Chamber. I submit that proposals for the amendment of our charter^ having to do with the division of powers between the Commonwealth and the States - always a delicate and difficult matter of negotiation - ought to be considered in an atmosphere in which war cries are not heard, and when honorable members are not perturbed by what is taking place in other parts of the world. We ought to discuss proposals of this kind in a calm atmosphere, and at a time when we can give them our undivided attention. It is not fair to. the country to force their consideration now, and to force the measures through, as the Government are evidently bent on doing. It is no time to consider the re-allotting of the powers of the Commonwealth and of the States when We must concentrate every ounce of energy upon other matters of infinitely more consequence. The great outstanding question at this moment is not whether the Constitution should be amended, but how we can prevent the molestation of a foe which would utterly destroy it. I protest against the House and the country being plunged into party strife at a time when war is being waged . across the seas.
I take the view that we in this Parliament are under a contract with the men away in the trenches.
– The honorable member is now going beyond my ruling.
– I assure you, sir, that I am not. We are under a contract with those in the trenches to take no step which will interfere with the preparations for continuing the war, and I submit that we may not discuss the Constitution in the way in which we are proposing to discuss it here and now without distracting the mind of the people from the greatest and most pressing of all duties, and without breaking faith with our soldiers. My point throughout is that we ought to consider proposals for the amendment of the Constitution, not in mere intervals between party squabbles and preparation’s for war, but when we are free to devote to it the “whole of our attention, ability, intellect, and patriotism, and when there is nothing to prevent the full and calm consideration of the subject. That is the position I take up, and it is the position of those who support me. We feel, also, that we are under an obligation to respond to the appeal made by the Prime Minister of Great Britain the otherday, when he radically altered his own course to intimate to the people overseas that at this time there should be no political division, no party strife. We feel under an obligation to respond to that invitation, in the only way that Parliameat can do so, by leaving over all controversial matter until a more convenientseason. I propose to move an amendment embodying this view. It is this -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the following words: - “this Bill be not proceeded with at the present time, as it is expedient and necessary, in tin: interests of Australia and the Empire, that during the continuance of the terrible state of war now raging, there should be a cessation in Parliament of all party conflict, and that measures absolutely necessary for the most strenuous prosecution of the war, and for the proper administration of public business, should alone be dealt with.”
We decline, as a party, to take any further part in the debate now proceeding.
– There are statements in the proposed amendment that I cannot accept as part of an amendment of the question that the Bill be now read a second time. The right honorable member distinctly introduces a new subject for discussion, namely, the war. The question is that a Bill for the alteration of the Constitution be read a second time, and in that question there is nothing relating in any way to the war. Were I to permit the amendment, much of which is irrelevant to the question, to be proposed, the result would be, were a discussion to follow; that honorable members could debate the attitude of the Government in regard to the war, and not talk on the Bill at all. Therefore, until the amendment has been modified, I. cannot accept it.
– I will relieve you of any obligation to accept it.
– It is with considerable reluctance that I intervene, but it appears to me, Mr. Speaker, that, if you carry out your ruling you somewhat restrict the rights of the Opposition.
– The honorable member is now discussing my ruling.
– My point is that the amendment is in order.
– I have ruled that it is out of order.
Honorable members of the Opposition then withdrew.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time. The measure has been before the House on two previous occasions, and yesterday I dealt with its provisions at some length. There is no reason why I should now state in greater detail the reasons for its acceptance. The members of the Opposition have chosen to absent themselves from the chamber at a time when we might have expected their counsel and advice, if not their support. I venture to say - and this is the only reference I shall make to the matter - that this is not the way to deal with a great national question. I invited the Opposition yesterday - and I again extend the invitation to them, though they cannot hear my voice, through Hansard - to say in what respects the Government proposals to amend the Constitution fall short of what is desirable. I had hoped for their aid . We might at least have received from the Opposition the courtesy of suggestions and the benefit of advice. But they have chosen to play the second part in that dramatic performance which they inaugurated on Friday last, and which, although it may satisfy them, will deceive no one.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral not to discuss that matter.
– I shall pass from it with the simple declaration that this Bill is the result of the mature consideration and experience of five years; that it has been before the people on two occasions; has been the butt of a thousand shafts of ridicule, and emerged unscathed; has endured without ill-effect ten thousand misrepresentations, and stands now, presented for the third time to this Chamber, as our carefully considered and matured opinion of what is necessary for our national purposes in regard to corporations. Yet our opponents attempt to evade their great responsibilities by an act at once childish and incompatible with representative government. Honorable members opposite, who arrogate to themselves the right to speak on behalf of the commercial classes in this country, have left the chamber on an occasion when it is proposed to ask the people to give us power to pass a company law to protect the interests of those very classes. On two recent occasions the Chamber of Commerce in each State, and the associated Chambers of Commerce of the Commonwealth, have passed resolutions calling upon this Parliament to make laws or the protection of companies. As the Constitution stands we cannot make a general company law. We cannot deal with commerce in any effective way. We are unable to protect the interests of shareholders, corporations, or the general public. We cannot, in short, do that which is necessary in the interests of com- - 3 merce and progress. And so we ask for this power in a . constitutional and regular way. I cannot think it incumbent upon me to urge any further reason upon men who are above 11 reason, and who, rather than meet arguments which they must consider unanswerable, have absented themselves from the very place which it is their bounden duty, as representatives of the people, in all circumstances to attend. They are returned here not to advocate their own petty interests, but to listen on behalf of their constituents to what is set before them by the Government; to criticise our actions, to condemn them if they think they should be condemned, to use every means at their disposal to prevent the passing of any Bill which, in their opinion, militates against the best interests of the people. But they are not entitled to absent themselves from this chamber, and to deny to the people that representation to which they are entitled under the Constitution, and under the system of parliamentary government by which we are controlled.
.- I had intended to speak at some length on the motion for the second reading of the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill which has just been dealt with. 1 thought that I should have an opportunity to do so within the next two or three days, and did not come prepared to speak to the subject this afternoon, since I did not anticipate for one moment that the Bill would be carried through the second-reading stage, as it has been, without any criticism on the part of the Opposition. I should like in the circumstances to take this opportunity of stating briefly that I have never been able to understand why Bills providing for proposed amendments of the Constitution should be regarded as party measures. I have always dealt with them in an absolutely non-party spirit, regarding them merely as providing for grants of power. I have always been prepared to grant to the Federal Parliament the very fullest powers. I take the view that the risk lies not in the granting, but rather in the exercise of power. The public have the same control over this Parliament that they have over the State Parliaments. They can insure the proper exercise of the powers vested in us just as they can insist upon the proper exercise of power by their representatives in the State Parliament-, who to-day possess many of these additional powers for which we are now asking. If they be granted to us, and the electors become dissatisfied with the way in which they are exercised, they can turn out of the Federal Parliament those who <=riVe offence to the people, and elect in their stead men who will correctly represent their views. My contention that these should be treated as non-party measures has the strongest possible support. Mr. Deakin on a previous occasion declared that they were not party questions, and the honorable member for Darling Downs, in the course of one of the referenda campaigns, said at Toowomba that these were not Bills that should be approached in a party spirit. Above all, one of the strongest speeches ever made in support of the great Trade and Commerce amendment was that delivered, when the Bill was first presented to this House, by the honorable member for Flinders. Those who wish to jus- .tify that highly important proposed amendment of the Constitution, need not go .beyond the honorable member for Flinders for support. He and others of equal standing have .declared that if the Trade and Commerce power which we seek be granted, we shall have practically all the power that is needed. As a lawyer I have always looked at these measures from a purely abstract point of view, and it is from that aspect alone that I propose to discuss them today. We have repeatedly been told by the Opposition that the Constitution requires to be amended. The honorable member for Darling Downs, when AttorneyGeneral, and Mr. Deakin, his then leader, made that admission in the official memorandum which they despatched to the Government of South Africa. A similar admission was made in the paper prepared for the first Fusion Government by the honorable member for Angas, and it has been admitted over and over again by the honorable member for Flinders that amendments of the Constitution are necessary. At the last general election the right honorable member for Parramatta, who was then Prime Minister, distinctly stated that his party were prepared to support the amendment of the
Constitution in certain directions. But it is a remarkable fact that the present Opposition, although they have made this admission, did not attempt, on the two occasions that they held office, to submit’ to the people any amendment of the Constitution whatever. Had they, when last in office, brought down Bills providing for the amendments which they considered desirable, they would have carried them without any difficulty. Whatever the amendments might have been, the Labour party would have regarded them as being at least a step in the direction of progress - as an improvement on the Constitution as it stands - and every member of that party would have been bound to vote for them. The Fusion Government, therefore, would have been able to pass measures providing for such amendments of the Constitution as they considered necessary; and would then have been able to say, with considerable force, that no further amendment of the Constitution should be made until a fair trial had been given to the alterations that had just been effected.- As it is, they have missed that position. They have always been prepared to admit the necessity for constitutional amendments, and to state, roughly, what amendments they think desirable ; but I repeat that they have never submitted any proposed amendment of the Constitution to the Parliament or the’ people. In that respect, it seems to me they have failed in their duty. I am surprised that they should have totally abdicated their positions as representatives of the people by retiring from the chamber, as they have done, this afternoon. Is it the duty of a member of this House to remain here only so long as the procedure of the House pleases him, or should he remain here, no matter what happens, to represent his constituents ? I take the view that we are here to represent our constituents, and that we have no right to retire from this chamber unless we have so misbehaved ourselves as to lead to our suspension. It is a duty that we owe to our constituents, whether we like it or not, to remain here’ in all circumstances, and to protect their interests
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.
– I shall simply say that if the Opposition are to be consistent, there can be no more hostility displayed by them, even on the platforms of the country, to these proposed amendments of the Constitution. If the Opposition are not to discuss them here, then they cannot discuss them outside. It is lamentable that we should have been left by them as we have been. I am not bound to the Government, nor to any particular form of amendment; but I have no hesitation in saying that had the Opposition submitted amendments which were preferable to those proposed by the Government, I should have been ready to vote for them.
– And so would I.
– I have heard the AttorneyGeneral before make the same admission.
– He said so in his speech yesterday.
– As well as on previous occasions. Just as he has accepted from the Opposition amendments relating to other Bills, so I think he would have been prepared to consider and to accept, if they commended themselves to him, any amendments .proposed by the Opposition in respect of these Bills. Ministers, when dealing with questions of legal phraseology, are entitled to the assistance of every honorable member possessing special ability to deal with such matters. I have only to say, in conclusion, that I was not prepared to speak this afternoon, but that I felt that I ought not to allow this question to pass without explaining my attitude”.
– I should have been better pleased had the Opposition remained to discuss the constitutional amendments proposed by the Government. This is not a party measure; but the Labour party are pledged to their constituents to submit to the people proposed amendments of the Constitution. Our word of honour has been given, individually and collectively, to the people of Australia, and especially to those who voted for us that, if returned to power, we should avail ourselves of the earliest opportunity to pass these measures, and so give the people the further opportunity which they sought of voting to extend our constitutional powers to such an extent as would make the Commonwealth Constitution a workable instrument for the protection of the interests of the whole of the people. The Leader of the Opposition, speaking to the measure last before us, said that this was not the time to do the right thing. The right honorable gentleman is, of course, entitled to his own opinion, and I do not challenge his statement as representing the view which the Opposition take of these proposals. But even if they be not unanimous on the point, the fact remains that the Government are not released by the opinions of the Opposition from their pledges to the people. We should be false to the trust reposed in us if we yielded to the opinion of the Opposition - who did not receive the support of the majority of the elector s - that this is not the time to pass such legislation. When is the time to do right ? I like to hear the honorable member for Gippsland speak as he has done. That honorable member is free to speak; and I can assure the House that, as stated by the Attorney-General, the Government are ready to accept from the Opposition any form of words that will give the necessary power, not to the Labour party, or to the Opposition - not to the Liberal party, or any other party - but to this Parliament, to do what is necessary. That is all we ask for. It has been said by way of criticism by the Leader of the Opposition himself that this is not a popular question. We are told that it has been twice before the people and rejected; and we are asked why it should be submitted again. It is to be submitted again simply because we have the courage of our convictions. And, besides, if it were a popular question, honorable members opposite would be for it. It has been our mission in this country, from the time we came into existence as a party, not to advocate “popular” reforms, but to advocate reforms that are right - reforms that mean progress - to enable the people to stand up against privilege and precedent, and themselves to determine their own affairs. I was one of those simpletons-
– No, no !
– Yes; I was one of those simpletons who, with the honorable member for Carpentaria, when the Commonwealth Constitution was presented to the Queensland Parliament, went out and told the people that if this great instrument were accepted they could rely on certain things being done. We were told by those who drafted the Constitution, by lawyers and newspaper advocates, . that there were certain powers conferred on the National Parliament; but we have since been told by that . competent tribunal, the High Court, that those powers are not there. And these proposals, I think I am right in saying, in many instances carry this Constitution no further than the statements made by its draftsmen at the time it was submitted ; the honorable member for Gippsland is aware of that fact. I suppose that on a Hundred platforms during that campaign I said that this Parliament would have the right to pass one Companies Act. for the whole of Australia.
– Everybody thought that; and the honorable member for Darling Downs, as Attorney-General in the last Deakin Government, had a Bill drafted to place before the House.
– That is so; and it was rendered useless by the Huddart Parker case.
– I shall say nothing of Sir Edmund Barton ; but Mr. Deakin was enthusiastic about what could be done under this Constitution. Like a thunderclap came the decision of the High Court, not on this question, but on another question of equal importance to the people. In a dozen other ways has the supposed power to legislate been shattered by the High Court. For instance, the union label disappeared. There are other illustrations that could be mentioned. We are asked to believe that the circumstances are such that we should not again ask the people to give the National Parliament power to do what each State individually did before the Commonwealth Parliament was brought into existence. We are not seeking popularity; if we were, we could have a much easier life; our passage would be made smooth, but the passage of the people of Australia would be much rougher than it is. There is no other country in the world embarrassed as this great Commonwealth of Australia is by lack of constitutional powers in the National Parliament, not only in regard to the war, but in regard to our food supplies, and all the enterprises of life. It is quite true that we may have certain powers under war conditions, but those powers are transitory at best, and ought not to be exercised except solely for the safety of the realm. We have every freedom here; every adult has one vote, and no more; and it is for the people to say what the Constitution shall be, and not for the Parliament to take powers during war time in order to carry out what should be done by the people themselves.
– Order !
– I apologize; it was a merely incidental remark. Mr. Justice” Higgins and the other members of the High Court Bench have expressed their opinions on this question ; indeed, leading men in every walk of life and calling have spoken of the limitations in the Constitution. The people of the South African Union took warning.
– On the advice of Mr. Deakin and the honorable member for Darling Downs.
- Mr. Deakin, the honorable member for Angas - who is a man we respect, and to whose constitutional opinions we pay great heed - and the honorable member for Darling Downs, warned the people of South Africa to beware of the kind of Constitution that we have. And, as I say, the people of South Africa accepted the advice, profiting by our experience and our failures. Are we to stand still under such circumstances? It is quite true that there are differences of opinion. Our States are strong and sovereign; but that sovereignty is not touched except in national matters. The country could not lose by the granting of these larger powers; and I appeal to all who love their country to grant them to the National Parliament. I am not a native of Australia ; but if this country can stand against the outside foe, there is probably no other in the world that will present such opportunities. We occupy, as has been said, a continent for a people ; we are of the same race and language, with the same standard of comfort. But we can only strengthen ourselves as a unit by having national aspirations - by having opportunities for expressing those national aspirations in one Parliament, where the representatives of the people can speak directly on behalf of the people. At the present time this cannot be done. Again and again this Parliament has been returned pledged to do certain things, and has passed the necessary legislation, only to find that the High Court, in the course of its duty as the interpreter of the legal meaning of the Constitution, has denied it the authority to legislate. We are now asking that that authority shall be given to this Parliament, though not in regard to everything. It is not sought to minimize the powers of the States in general, but to confer on the National Parliament those powers that are national, and which it is essential for the people’s welfare that we should possess. In these respects we ask that the Constitution shall be broadened. Speaking for myself, I should be willing to finish my career fighting for those larger powers - I should be willing, if necessary, to lose my political existence - if only the Parliament be clothed with them, and representatives of the people were sent here to exercise them.
– I should have had nothing but contempt for my party and. my Leader if he had not kept his pledge, and brought forward these measures. That pledge was given during the late electoral contest, which, as honorable members remember, took place after the outbreak of this accursed war. It cannot, therefore, be said by the Opposition that these are new measures, likely to cause a great deal of opposition.
– Even if they were, it does not lie with the Opposition to object.
– That is so. We are told that these proposals have been twice rejected ; but I point to the great difference between tie first vote and the last one. On the first occasion the Opposition were assisted to the extent of at least £50,000 by one large corporation. Was that in order to help the people of Australia? No; it was simply to defeat the referenda. And, as I say, we remember the decreasing majorities; and on the last occasion, in regard to one of the questions, only 5,000 votes represented the difference, with a total roll of over 2,000,000 voters. We are told that this is not a “popular” question; but I suggest that the Opposition should consult the mothers of families whose tradesmen’s bills have begun to increase, owing to the influence of combines, trusts, and syndicates. An honorable understanding was made by a Liberal Government, of which Sir William Lyne was Minister of Trade and Customs, with a large manufacturer, who most dishonorably disregarded it. Mr. McKay went to the High Court, and gained his point, -with the aid of legal gentlemen, one of whom would take a bribe, in the shape of a fee, from any trust or company, against this country. If these Bills be passed by the people, we shall be able to control the thieves and enemies within our gates; and I think we all agree that, while we can have some respect for an enemy in the open field, we can have nothing but contempt and loathing for the enemy within the gates, who unjustly raises the prices of goods so necessary to the people. Ask the mother of a family of five or six whether or not this is a popular question ! We shall . all be willing to send what food supplies are necessary to the men fighting at the front ; and we shall be all the more ready and willing when we have crushed these wealthy combinations. I welcome every step that leads to the referendum. When the Prime Minister was advocating the Federal Constitution, I, in company with the late John Hancock and the present Mr. Justice Higgins, sought to have the referendum and the initiative engrafted on it, so that the people might have full control over this Parliament and Ministry. There may be some who fear that the smaller States will suffer; but I can instance the case of Switzerland, where there are twenty-five different States, each sovereign, and some of them so small that their population may be counted in thousands. The rights of these people are preserved by Article 123, which reads -
The amended federal constitution, or the . revised portion of it, shall be in force when it has been adopted by the majority of Swiss citizens who take part in the vote thereon and by a majority of the States. In making up a majority of the States, the vote of a halfcanton is counted as half a vote. The result if the popular vote in each canton is considered to be the vote of the State.
Thus even -the smallest State is safeguarded. As is shown in the work of Sir F. O. Adams, who was one of the finest Ministers plenipotentiary who ever carried the flag of Britain as its diplomatic representative, the vote of the States is not needed in regard to social matters, but on every question pertaining to the alteration of the Constitution the decision of a majority of the States is necessary. While complimenting the AttorneyGeneral on the privilege he enjoys in introducing this measure, I hope to be able to compliment him on a greater and higher act when he gives to the people themselves the right to express their own will by means of the initiative. If the power which is sought in this Bill is conferred by the people, the Commonwealth will be in a position to deal with every combine. We shall be able to deal with men who crowd meat into cold storage. I am not sure that many pf the cases of ptomaine poisoning, that mysterious cause of death which is not too well understood by even the most scientific minds, are not attributable to the consumption of meat which has been taken out of cold storage and allowed to hang in_the butcher’s shop for too long a time. I hope that, later on, we may be able to pass a measure to compel the branding of every joint of meat, so that the purchaser may know the dates on which the beast was killed, and the meat was placed in the cold store. Legislation of that sort would not be new. The Jewish race - -
– Order ! The honorable member is getting beyond the Bill.
– I am referring to combines or corporations which hold meat in cold storage from year to year ; and I am urging that when we have power to deal with them we should also legislate to compel the branding of meat. Too frequently the Australian public have had condemned meat sold to them as healthy meat, a deception which could not have been practised if the meat had been branded in the way I advocate. We have read of one of the wheat kings of Australia leaving at his death a fortune of £1,600,000. Will any honorable member say that one man could have garnered that amount of money if the farmers had been given their proper due ? The farmers have been robbed right and left. Often they have been compelled to sell their crop two seasons ahead, and the trusts and combines have waxed rich at the cost of the farmer on the one hand, and the Australian public on the other.
– Where are the representatives of the farmers to-day ?
– The true friends of the farmer are in this chamber now, and they are willing to carry on the business of the country. When the power conferred by this Bill is possessed by the Commonwealth, it will be possible for the Government to receive the farmer’s meat and wheat and fruit, advance 50 per cent, of the estimated value, and send the produce to England for sale, subsequently paying to the producer the balance of the nett amount realized. Under that system, every producer will receive the value of his by-products as he does in connexion with the Government Export Depot in South Australia. Armour and Company, one of the biggest meat combinations of America, at taches this tag to every carcass which they export from South Australia -
South Australia. This meat has been examined by me, and by ante-mortem and post-mortem veterinary inspection is found to be free from disease, and suitable in every way for human consumption.
B. Brock,. Commonwealth Meat Inspector.
The Commonwealth will assist in brings ing about a co-operative junction of forces- between the producer and the seller, so that trade may be controlled in such a way as to. prevent multimillionaires battening on the produce of the farmer and selling it to the consumer at an enhanced price. . No man orwoman who has experienced the prices of necessaries during the last few months will be unwilling to give the Commonwealth the powers sought in this. Bill; When the Government introduce the- in*itiative there will be no necessity for passing Bills such as this, because the people, in their glorious sovereign power, will have the right to initiate legislation independent of. Parliament. I hope the future of Australia will be based on that democratic foundation.
.- I’ desire to offer a few brief remarks as to how the Bill impresses me as a new member of the House. During the last fifteen years we have seen great combines spring suddenly into existence in Australia. Previously we had free competition in the community; suddenly that ceased, and instead of commerce being’ “allowed to flow freely in its natural channels, a system developed whereby half-a-dozen individuals sitting at a table could control the whole ramifications of commerce throughout the nation. A few individuals by a mere stroke of the pen could “ decree what the people should pay for the necessaries of life. A gentlemanly understanding was arrived at by a few people interested in the jam-making business, with the result that people had to pay an increased price for that commodity, and those few individuals enriched themselves at the expense of the com-. munity. It is time the Parliament of Australia had power to deal with people of that class. An objection has been raised to the submission of these matters., to the people at a time when serious things are .happening in Europe, but I would remind honorable members, that serious things are happening in Australia.
There are people in our midst so unpatriotic that they are taking advantage of the existing abnormal conditions to rob the people, and I say that the people should not be compelled to stand bound and helpless while that sort of abuse is taking place. The people should have power to govern themselves as they desire, and this Bill is based on that dominant principle of Democracy. The widening of the Constitution ought not to be a party question. The issue before us to-day is whether Australia shall be given the opportunity of becoming a great nation, or whether its people are to be obliged to continue manacled. Surely there is ahead of Australia a greater destiny than that. Right through the ages we have heard the gag about not giving the people the right to govern themselves, because they are not able to govern themselves, but the Democracy of to-day is too enlightened to be fooled by a plea of that sort. The Democracy of Australia are going to show by their answer to the questions to be submitted in the referenda that they are enlightened enough to govern themselves. Having regard to the extraordinary situation in this House to-day, I do not think it would be fitting for me to go into details on this , question, but I shall endeavour to outline the broad general principles underlying this Bill. I believe that Australia is about to show a beacon light to the world. To-day we are showing the intellectuals of the world the line that social advancement should take, and we are proving that it is possible, by giving the people wide powers, to build up a higher and better Democracy than the world has yet known. “We stand now at a parting of the ways. We have to’ decide whether we shall give the people an opportunity to take the -road that leads to a higher national life, or whether we shall restrict their powers and retard their progress. My whole being revolts against the idea of telling any people that they shall not have the very fullest and widest powers to govern themselves as they desire to be governed. Surely the ideal of giving the people an opportunity of making themselves into a nation is an ideal that ought to be fostered. That is the ideal that I hold, and if my coming into Parliament can help in the humblest way to give the people of Australia an opportunity of building themselves into a great Australian nation, then I should feel a proud man were I to depart to-morrow, having done that. I shall not delay the House any longer. I hope that all side issues will be dropped in this discussion, and that honorable members and the people of Australia will keep before them all through the one ideal of a united nation.
– Not in my wildest dreams did I ever expect that any proposals of the Government could receive such unanimous support in this House as these have done. I believe it is an indication that when these questions are finally submitted to the people they will be very heartily indorsed. I wanted to quote a few remarks made by certain honorable gentlemen not now present. I would have liked to have addressed my remarks to them, because I want to use the language they used when they were before the electors during the campaign of 1914. In the Argus of 16th July of that year appeared the programme of the then Government party, the present Opposition party, as outlined by the right honorable member for Parramatta, in, a speech delivered in that constituency. The Argus sets out the platform of the Liberal party “ as enunciated by the Prime Minister, Mr. Cook, in his policy speech at Parramatta last evening,” and under the heading of “ Constitution “ says - .
Reasonable amendments in terms of the Federal principle -
The amendments to the Constitution which the Leader of the Opposition foreshadowed on that occasion were of a very modest character compared with those which are now before the House, but they indicated that the then Government party were impressed by the magnificent vote recorded for the proposals submitted in 1913, and were compelled to take action so as to show to the public of Australia that they intended to do something to amend the Constitution, which is now nothing more than a shackle around us. Seeing how the vote on that occasion went, and the very narrow majority by which, the question of dealing with monopolies was defeated - a majority of 8,000 votes in one of the finest polls that has ever been taken in Australia - there is not the slightest doubt that the members of the present Opposition were forced into giving some indication as to their feelings towards the Constitution. Now we find that the very measures that they have declined to discuss contain the proposals foreshadowed to the electors of Australia on that occasion by the ex-Prime Minister. Members of the present Opposition also seem to be very ardent advocates of an amendment to the Companies Act, in order to bring the various company laws operating throughout Australia into something like uniformity.
– Order ! I desire to point out to the honorable member that die original arrangement was that there should be a general discussion on the first Bill, and that if there were to be any discussion on the later Bills, members should confine themselves to the questions before the Chair.
– I have practically said all that I intended to say. I desire, in my own way, to indicate to the country that honorable members sitting on the other side of the House were intent upon giving to the people of this country some amendment of the Constitution, and I thought I would just read out once again what they promised in their election addresses. I know that no lengthy discussion is needed now. The time will come when on the platforms of the country we shall be able to enunciate our views upon these proposals. I do not intend to make use of this platform to do that. I will content myself by saying that the proposal now brought forward has my wholesouled and hearty support.
.- The curious position in which the House finds itself to-day is one that, I think, every admirer of parliamentary government must regard as deplorable. The fact that honorable members, when they cannot proceed in their own particular way, are willing to leave the control of Parliament to those who .sit on either one side or the other, reflects a state of things that the people of Australia will not appreciate. The proposal now before the House is one that deals with company law. Like many of my countrymen in Australia, I am one of those who have been fleeced in connexion with companies, and I think if there is anything that this Parliament ought to endeavour to adjust at the earliest possible moment it is the various company laws in so far as they affect the general public of the Commonwealth. The company laws in the various States, particularly in the State of New South Wales, are very loosely drawn, and the honest commercial man, particularly if he resides in New South Wales, will hail with delight any alteration. I look forward to the time when, as the result of the referendum, we shall be able to pass a suitable company law which will protect the interests of everybody concerned. The anomalies existing at the present time are so widely known that I need only observe, as the AttorneyGeneral did when introducing the Bill, that every Chamber of Commerce, every Chamber of Manufactures, and all commercial people have made a strong and earnest appeal to the Government to put the company law on a uniform basis, so that, for instance, a company registered in New South Wales shall have some opportunity of extending its ramifications beyond the small area in which it is at present confined. At the time of the Federation we got on the hustings and told the people about the united Australia that would be the outcome of the action we then contemplated. Yet we find that the sentiment has been a myth. Reference has been made to the power that Parliament may acquire under these proposals. I am one of those who have no fear as to any action on the part of Parliament. Our trouble at the present time is rather that Parliament is a very slow institution. When anything is brought forward it is dealt with in a manner that involves the lapse of a good deal of time before any final conclusion can be come to, and I cannot understand that members who have any knowledge of public life should have any fear of the effects of granting Parliament increased powers. The State Parliaments now have absolute control over anything and everything. When these six questions are passed I do not think that we shall possess nearly such great powers as are possessed by the State Parliaments. Surely the people can have no fear of delegating powers such as those which are suggested to the National Parliament. The value of any discussion of these proposals has been considerably reduced by the action of the Opposition. If there is anything in Parliament that is refreshing or instructing, it is the view of the man who differs from you. It is only by the opposite view being brought forward that one can understand what a measure really contemplates. One hardly ever gets at the real moaning of words in a measure until its various clauses have been threshed out. The fact that honorable members on the other side of the House have been willing to leave these Bills in the hands of the Government is either a compliment-
– Order ! I must ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.
– I believe that if ever I gave a vote in this House that will meet with the approval of the people of Australia, I gave that vote in supporting this proposal, for I believe that the people now understand what is the real intention of the Government, and that they have learned the lessons taught by the manner in which the Constitution has been tested. They have found that the Commonwealth does not possess the powers which the people thought it possessed. I have frequently been struck by the attitude of the Premiers’ Conferences on this subject. During recent years the Premiers of the various States have met in yearly Conference. Every Conference has admitted that the Constitution requires amending. It has been admitted that an appeal to the people would be necessary to secure these powers, but it has always appeared to me that underlying all this there has been the fear that the granting of larger powers to the Federal Parliament would belittle the State Parliaments. It seems to me that there has been a good deal of selfishness in the manner in which the question has been approached, and that the public interest has never been really considered. At these Conferences, the decision come to has always amounted to the declaration - “ We Will. give this, but we will give nothing more.” I believe that as soon as the larger powers that are to be asked for have been granted, the people of Australia will awake to the fact that they have too many Parliaments, and that this National Parliament should be the sole Parliament, various local governing bodies being constituted to deal with matters of subsidiary interest. I am sure that the people will never be satisfied until the Australian Parliament is the sole law-making authority. Great Britain has but one Parliament for a population of 45,000,000, Germany one Parliament for a population of nearly 70,000,000, and France has one Parliament for a population of about 50,000,000, these Parliaments all exercising absolute sovereign power. Of what use is a Parliament without such power? The people, when they accepted the Constitution, thought that they were conferring sovereign power on this Parliament. As one who assisted to bring about Federation, I may say that I thought that the Constitution, crude though it was, handed over to the Commonwealth Parliament all the powers that the States were prepared to surrender. Now we find that this Parliament has not got those powers. Prior to the last election, the Labour party stated emphatically that if it got the opportunity it would again bring forward its proposals for the amendment of the Constitution, and if there is one thing that we can claim it is that we have always been prepared to carry out our promises to the people. Libera, and Conservative alike will admit that this is characteristic with us; that we are loyal to our pledges, and do not hesitate to submit the planks of our platform to Parliament, and then, if necessary, to the people. This, I think, will be the last time that the measures now under consideration will be before the House, because I feel sure that the people will assent to the proposed alterations of the Constitution by a great majority, and that we shall thus make a step towards the obtaining of h National Parliament possessing all the power necessary to legislate in the best interests of the people.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
– I move - i
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The measure. ,is not a contentious one, and has been introduced merely to give effect to the Lighthouses Act which was passed a few years ago. On the 30th July my predecessor wrote to the Governments of the various States, asking them to agree to the transfer of the control of the coastal lighthouses to the Commonwealth, and enclosed with the communication was a draft copy of an agreement for completion by the State authorities. Certain States have signed the agreement, and only one State has not replied to the communication of the Commonwealth. This Bill will enable the Commonwealth to take over the control of the coastal lighthouses on the 1st July next, even should any State not agree to hand over control of its lighthouses to us.
.^ I should like the Minister to give us some information regarding the light dues that are to be charged. I understand that Tasmania has protested strongly against the dues that were proposed to be charged.
– The charges have been fixed at 8d. per ton per quarter for all vessels except those calling at only one port en route to a port outside Australia, and for them the charge is 4d. per ton per quarter, the maximum charge being £150, and £75 in each case, and applying to vessels exceeding 4,500 tons.
– I am glad to have that information. We should not burden our commerce beyond what is absolutely necessary. The Commonwealth, having gathered all these lighthouses under its wing, should be able to economize and to carry out the work of administration more cheaply than is possible with six separate State Departments.
– But we are erecting more lights, and better lights.
– I recognise that the Commonwealth has taken upon itself the obligation of doing a good deal more than has hitherto been done in the way of lighting our coasts. More lights are urgently required at various points, and I hope that the Minister will direct his attention to that aspect of the question.
– Since 1912, £40,000 has been expended, and we have not yet received a penny by way of revenue from this source.
Mr. GREENE .^1 am aware of that, and that we have before us a considerable expenditure, in respect of lighthouses, which is absolutely necessary; but having regard to the economies which should be possible with the concentration of the work of administration in one Commonwealth Department, we ‘should be able to give shipping in Australian waters a better service than it has enjoyed, and for less money than has been possible while the States have exercised control. I do not propose to occupy further time in discussing this measure. The Ministry has declared it to be strictly non-contentious.
– It is merely one to provide for more light.
– I hope that the Opposition will be given more light concerning many important subjects, and still more, as I hope that light may shine in upon the outer darkness in which the Ministry is living.
– I, with other representatives of Tasmania, greatly appreciate the concession which the Ministry have already made to the lesser ports ; but I should like to have from the Minister an assurance that if, as the result of experience, he finds it possible, he will make a still further concession to those ports, which, even under the reduced lighthouse dues, will be considerably handicapped. I feel sure that when he takes into consideration the points that have been submitted to him, he will endeavour to meet us; and that, after giving the present scale of light dues a fair trial, he will make, if possible, a further concession to the lesser ports. Tasmania is not the only State concerned. I understand, for instance, that Port Pirie stands in the position occupied in this matter by many Tasmanian ports. Those who complain that the dues are too high assert that the purchase of costly coastal steamers for the service of the new Department is responsible for the heavy charges.
– I do not think any have been purchased.
– Tenders, at all events, have been invited for the supply of steamers. It is said that costly vessels are to be put into commission by the Department.
– That is not so. I am sure my predecessor will agree with me.
– Yes; they are not costly vessels. I arranged, when Minister, for tenders to be called.
– I am glad to have the assurance that costly vessels are not to be employed. The only other matter to which I desire to draw attention relates to the position of State officials - clerks and other officers - who have been doing splendid work in connexion with the lighthouse service, Marine Boards, and so forth. The Bill introduced by the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs- protected their interests.
– They were made eligible for appointment to the transferred service.
– Notwithstanding that statement, I am advised that the Tasmanian Inspector or Engineer, Mr. Meech. had to make application, and to undergo an examination before he could secure an appointment under the Commonwealth. I wish to know what will be the position of clerks who have been engaged principally in dealing with lighthouse work, but who, at the same time, have had to do certain work for Marine Boards and like bodies. On the taking over of the lighthouses by the Commonwealth, such Boards might dismiss these men if they were not transferred. That would be an injustice.
– I do not know that my predecessor brought in a Bill guaranteeing, their positions; but I do say that they are entitled to fair consideration. I cannot say more.
– I am glad to have that admission from the Minister of Trade and Customs, and also to learn that the purchase of costly steamers is not contemplated. It is just as well that it should be known that it was . the exMinister of Trade and Customs who invited tenders for the supply of the vessels thought necessary for the service.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether any attempt has been made to improve the lighting of the Queensland coast, more particularly along the Barrier Reef.
– Six new lights are to be provided there. Three of them, I think, are now being placed in position. A party is now erecting a light on the Dhu Reef.
–Are acetylene lights being provided in the cases referred to by the Minister?
– Unattended lights.
– When I last travelled along the north Queensland coast I found that it required a great many additional lights.
– I think, speaking from memory, that twelve new lights are to be provided on the Queensland coast.
– Additional lighting is required, not only along the Barrier Reef, but from Thursday Island to Port Darwin. Some unattended lights might very well be placed in position between those two points. It is a very badly-lighted part of the coast.
– A light has been placed in position at Emery Point, and another light is going up on Cape Don. The work is being actively proceeded with.
– I am glad to receive this assurance from the Minister. The additional lights will ma7terially assist navigation along what is undoubtedly a dangerous part of our coast. In conclusion, I should like the Minister to consider the advisableness of providing a lighthouse either on Norfolk Island or, say, Pitcairn Island, which is in the vicinity. I ask the honorable gentleman to make inquiries, with a view of ascertaining what can be done in the matter.
– Very well.
.- I understand that this Bill is the outcome of negotiations that have taken place between the Commonwealth and the States with the object of arranging for the transfer of lighthouses. In 1909, when the honorable member for Balaclava was Premier of this State, a Conference was held at which it was agreed that, instead of the Governor-General issuing a proclamation, under section 69 of the Constitution, providing for the transfer of lighthouses, lightships, beacons, and buoys to the Commonwealth Government, the coastal lights should be taken over by the Federation, and those which were more of the character of harbor lights should remain under the control and direction of the States. In pursuance of that policy, in 1911 a Bill was passed enabling the Commonwealth to - enter into an agreement with the Government of any State or with any person for the acquisition by the Commonwealth of any lighthouse or marine mark the property of that State or person.
We subsequently approached the States with the object of arranging that all lights to be transferred to the Commonwealth should be specifically defined. Whilst the honorable member for Yarra was Minister of Trade and Customs, an investigation had been made by Commander Brewis, who presented a report
– A splendid report.
– A very excellent report, showing, not only what lighthouses should be taken over, but the points at which lighthouses should be established along the Australian coast over a period of six years. His scheme provided for the removal of the more serious defects in the lighting of the Australian coast. There can be no doubt that after Federation the States, knowing that the lighthouse service would be taken over by the Commonwealth, failed to erect many lights which otherwise would have been provided. The Commonwealth, therefore, very properly made arrangements with the State Governments that it should proceed with the erection of lights before the actual transfer took place. We sent a letter to the State Governments asking them to agree to the transfer of specific lighthouses, and defining the particular areas of land which we desired to be transferred to us. I now understand from the Minister that the consent of all the States has not been obtained to that proposal.
It has therefore become necessary for us to exercise the legislative power under the Constitution which enables the Commonwealth to acquire these lighthouses. I do not think we could refuse the Minister this power, but it would have been infinitely better had the States been prepared to arrive at an amicable arrangement. Under this Bill, if a State should object to the transfer of any light, the compulsory powers of the Constitution will be called into operation. There is one point, however, to which I should like to draw special attention. I presume that the Minister has laid down certain definite principles for the concurrence of the States.
– A Conference is to be held immediately on the lines suggested by the honorable member, and five States have agreed to be represented at it.
– That is very satisfactory.
– Five States have agreed, and Victoria and New South Wales have already handed over their lighthouses.
– And I think that Queensland is also willing.
– I think so.
– However, that is beside the particular point to which I am referring. Five States have by agreement laid down a specific basis of valuation of the properties which are to be transferred. It is provided in the Bill, in the case of compulsory acquisition, that payment is to be made by a sort of perpetual loan - that the mode of compensation is to be the payment in perpetuity of interest at the rate of 3^ per cent.
– That is the weak part in the Bill.
– I am now dealing with the principles of valuation to which five States have agreed, and on which the compensation is to be assessed. In the case of any objecting or disputing State, the case comes under the Lands Acquisition Act; and the difficulty I see is that we are not sure that the method of valuation adopted by a Judge under the Lands Acquisition Act will be on the same principles that the five States may have agreed to.
– I do not see that anything else can be done in this respect.
– I think that something can be done. The Commonwealth has power to lay down the principle of the valuation; and it would be very unjust if, by any chance, a recalcitrant State should obtain better terms than have the States which voluntarily came to an agreement.
– There I agree with the honorable member.
– It is a point that ought to be seriously considered by the Minister.
– The trouble is that I have been waiting for the other States to come in.
– I think that we may rely on a High Court Judge to lay down a pretty fair basis of valuation.
– If so, I think the other States will come in.
– If such circumstances as I have indicated should arise, it might be necessary for the Minister to reconsider the position of the consenting States.
– I agree that a State that shows fight should not have better terms than have the States who agree.
– Another point is suggested by the fact that, under the Constitution, we have power to make laws with respect to the acquisition of properties on just terms -from a State and the mode of compensation for transferred properties.. I remind the Minister that what is really done in the Bill is not to lay down the mode, but to decide the form of the compensation. I am not giving any considered opinion on the point; but for the Commonwealth to lay down what the compensation shall be is very different from its laying down the mode of ascertaining what it shall be; as a matter of fact, we are really determining the amount of interest in perpetuity.
– The capital sum has to be determined by another tribunal.
– But the rate of interest is determined in the Bill. The honorable member for Denison referred to the position of transferred officers. When I, as Minister, looked into this matter, I found that there was# no arrangement under which these officers could be transferred to the Commonwealth, because we were not issuing a proclamation and taking over a transferred Department under section 69. Had we been doing that, we should have taken over these officers just as we have taken over the officers of the Postal, Defence, and other Departments.
– The reason was, I think, that this has never been a complete Department in itself.
– Quite so. I found that there were a number of officers throughout the States who were not legally qualified > to be appointed under Commonwealth jurisdiction, because many of them were not in the service of the States at the date of Federation, within the terms of the Public Service Act. As Minister, I felt that, in taking over any Department, no injustice should be done if it could be avoided. I took the view that every man who had had continuous employment in a particular class of work ought to have . his interests safeguarded in the case of a transfer; and with that object in view, when the Act of 1913 was passed, it was provided that any officer in the railway or other service of the State, whether appointed before or after the commencement of the Act, should be eligible for appointment to a position in a corresponding division of the Public Service of the Commonwealth. The intention was that we should take over officers who were continuously, or, for the most part, employed by a State, and give them corresponding positions. I think that this explanation will answer the question raised by the honorable member for Denison. As to the steamers, it seemed to me, when we took over the Department, that the vessels in the service of the States would prove utterly inadequate for our purposes. There was no uniform practice or regular method of supplying the lighthouses; and, in addition, these vessels were utilized for other work also. Considering that we were taking over the lighthouses of the whole of Australia and introducing new lighthouses, some constructed on a new principle - that is, unattended lighthouses - something better was required. It is estimated that these unattended lighthouses will effect an enormous saving.
– They will probably mean a saving of £250,000.
– Quite that; and, in years to come, more. These unattended lights must, I suppose, be inspected at least once a quarter, though I believe there are some places in the world where they are left for six months.
– That is risky.
– Quite so. It is absolutely necessary that there should be a proper class of vessel in sufficient numbers to do this work; and plans and specifications were drawn out for vessels of a fairlygood size. In view of the exceedingly lonely lives of our lighthouse-keepers, every consideration must be shown to them; indeed, we cannot treat them too humanely or too well; and these vessels are so designed that the lightkeepers can be readily conveyed to centres of civilization as a relief to their loneliness. I have hot seen the amounts -of the tenders accepted, but I believe the vessels were economically designed.
– They are to cost about £50,000 each.
– That is not much for boats of this class.
– The design was modified, but eventually we had to adopt the original one.
– Instead of the provision, of those boats increasing the cost of administration, and, therefore, the amount of the light dues, I think- that, when the Department is in full operation, they will prove to be an economy. We must remember, also, that in case of such a disaster as that which occurred to the Endeavour, we have no vessels for search purposes; and these new boats will, of course, prove useful in this regard in emergency cases.
– Commander Brewis recommended that there. should be four of these boats, but we have arranged to provide three.
– Two would be quite enough.
-1 do not think so. Of course, I do not approve of wasteful expenditure; but these lighthouses, beacons, and buoys safeguard thousands of lives over a lengthy period, to say nothing of property. I would rather be charged with extravagance than run the risk of losing life or property on the coast. The Minister will be able to explain the proposed six years extension for the building ; but it is plain, on the face of it, that the whole of the necessary lights cannot be provided simultaneously, and the policy has been to, first of all, provide the lights most urgently needed, and having ascertained those, proceed to have them erected at once.
– A number of them are urgent.
– Some of them are more urgent than others. The Queensland coast is certainly the one which is most urgently in need of lights. However, the Bill seems to be necessary, and I am prepared to support the Minister in passing it.
– In connexion with the taking over of these lights by the Commonwealth authorities, I hope the Minister will take into consideration the positions of State employees in the lighthouse service. In South Australia the compulsory retirement age is seventy years, but I presume that unless provision is made to the contrary, when the lighthouse employees pass under Federal control they will be compulsorily retired at sixty-five years of age. Such treatment would impose great hardships on those men. It is well known that men who have been engaged in lighthouse work all their lives are still very capable even at sixty-five years of age, and I hope that there will be provision in the Bill to safeguard the existingrights of these employees, and that the Minister will give the matter sympathetic consideration, so that there may not be a repetition of the hardships to which many of the public servants of South Australia were subjected when the Postal Department was taken over by the Commonwealth. I know that one postal employee lost £80 a year, and he was obliged to take his son from school. The same sort of hardship is likely to occur in connexion with the transfer of the lighthouses unless some safeguarding provision is made. I ask the Minister to endeavour to make provision to give transferred employees the same privileges as they enjoy in the State service. In regard to the general scope of the Bill, I agree that we should endeavour to have the coast as well lighted as an ordinary street, so that there may be no avoidable danger to shipping. I rose merely to draw the attention of the Minister to the possibility of injustice being done -to aged employees, and to suggest that provision be made either for the payment of compensation, or to allow the men to remain in the service until they are seventy years of age?
.- There are two phases of the measure in regard to which I should like to make a passing comment. I ‘understood from the speech of the Minister that it has been difficult, if not impossible, to arrive at a united agreement between the States and - the
Commonwealth for the transfer of lights and lighthouses.
– One State has not replied to a letter in eleven months.
– That State is even slower in attending .to its correspondence than is the Commonwealth in some of its replies to the State Governments. I think it is right for the Minister to propose to federate the lighting of our coast. That was the original design of those who drafted the Constitution, and it becomes clearer every vear that the lighting system ought to be under Federal control. I regret to learn that one State has not, no matter for what reason, agreed to the proposition. The trouble is that in reaching out for the power which will give the Minister authority to deal with this matter, we are asking Parliament to take a somewhat extreme step. Clause 3 of the Bill gives the Governor-General in Council power to compulsorily take the property of the Crown. That is to say, the Crown represented by the Commonwealth will, in its exercise of this compulsory authority, take from the Crown represented by the States, certain property. Having argued this question a number of times with respect to other matters, I am extremely doubtful whether that proposal is sound law.
– Oh, yes.
– Sub-section xxxi gives the Commonwealth power to acquire any property on just terms from any State.
– I am quite aware of what the Constitution provides, but we have had a number of contradictory views on this question from eminent legal authorities in Victoria, and I suggest to honorable members that they do not contradict those authorities too readily. In regard to the acquisition of land for ordinary purposes, some of the States raised the point that it was not wise or fair for the Commonwealth to take compulsorily from the States, and successive Commonwealth Governments have accepted that view.. I would remind the honorable members who have been interjecting that the Liberal Governments took the view that they would not operate the provisions for the compulsory acquisition of land from the States for ordinary purposes. That fact is recorded in the archives of the Victorian Government.
– There were certain reservations. *
– There were no reservations. That fact shows that the Commonwealth evinced a desire to work harmoniously with the States. Now we come to the position that, owing to a deadlock, the Commonwealth is unable to act except by the operation of compulsory powers. I doubt the constitutional morality of the Crown, as represented by the Commonwealth, compulsorily taking from the Crown, as represented by the States; but, in any ca&9, I hope, that the exercise of compulsory power will not be necessary. The Minister seemed to indicate, by suggestion, that the mere possession of the power by the Commonwealth will bring about an agreement. I hope that may be so, because it would be wiser for the Government to act in that way than that there should be any resort to compulsory acquisition. I am reminded of the story of a constable who appeared before a local police magistrate in this State. He was a very small constable, and he had arrested a very big prisoner. The magistrate asked, “ Did he give you any trouble?” The constable answered, “ No.” “ Was he obstreperous? “ “ A little.” “ Were you obliged to use compulsion?” “No, sir, I made him come voluntarily.” I think that last answer represents the position in which the Minister will be. He will have the power to compel, but I trust that the recalcitrant, or reluctant Government, to which he has referred, will come into line without any trouble.
– It must be a State in which a Labour Government is in power.
– I have an idea that the State referred to is not 100 miles from that over which the honorable member once ruled.- Turning now to the question of compensation, I suggest to the Minister that he should reconsider the phraseology of sub-clause 4 of clause 3- I think it is beyond the power of the Commonwealth to determine the question as it is asked to do in that clause. The lighthouses will be transferred properties in the meaning of the Constitution. The honorable member for Darling Downs gave that inference when he dealt with that section of the Constitution which relates to payment for transferred properties. The theory of payment for transferred properties under the Constitution was that the States, when handing them over, should receive payment for them.
But as we watched the operation of that provision we saw how inconvenient such a course would be to the Commonwealth if it were asked to make a payment to the States of, say, £10,000,000, the capital value of the properties . originally transferred, in one lump sum. Accordingly, the Commonwealth suggested an arrangement for deferring the payments^ the States, in the meantime, to receive interest at the rate of 3£ per cent, on the capital sum involved. That arrangement was unanimously agreed to by the States, but there is no provision that it shall operate in perpetuity. The idea is that at some date the Treasurer of the Commonwealth shall pay to the Treasurers of the States the amount of indebtedness to the States for transferred properties, and, in the meantime, the States are to receive interest on that sum at the rate of 3) per cent. That is a very sound agreement, if the rate fixed is fair. I have always contended that the rate is too low, and that it should have been 3J per cent., the average cost of the money involved, but we waived that point. In this Bill, however, we do not say that the States shall receive payment for the transferred lighthouse properties, but it is proposed that they shall receive interest at the rate of 3^ per cent, in perpetuity. I ask the Minister to amend sub-clause 4 so that the arrangement in regard to the taking over of the lighthouses shall be on all fours with the arrangement in re-‘ gard to other transferred properties. Let the rate of interest be 3£ per cent., but when the time comes for the Commonwealth to pay the States for the other transferred properties, let the lighthouse properties be included in the payment.
– I do not think we have a right to make a provision for the payment of interest in perpetuity.
– That is the view I am enunciating, and I hope that the Minister will take counsel with his legal brethren in the Cabinet, in order to ascertain if the suggestions I have made cannot be adopted.
.- I remember that when this question arose in 1901, a suggestion was adopted that the Governor-General could provide for payment to the States by transferring portion of the debt of the States to the Commonwealth; but a doubt was expressed at the time as to whether the Common wealth possessed that power. It was thought that we might have the power, either in the Constitution- which enables us to prescribe by Act of Parliament the mode of payment where an agreement is not arrived at, and which conditions anything we may do by the phrase “just terms “ - or possibly under the debts provisions. The matter came up again in 1906, and .there is provision in section 41 of the Lands Acquisition Act of that year, that when there is compulsory acquisition, payment is to be made by cash compensation as agreed upon or fixed by arbitrators, or by transferring to the Commonwealth an equivalent portion of a State debt. I am not sure that the Act of 1901 did not contain a provision rendering this power exercisable only with the consent of the State. I think that the Minister will find that he cannot insist on the payment of 3§ per cent, in perpetuity. It is inexpedient to bind ourselves. I do not believe that we should alter this Act, even if we can, without the consent of the State interested. As a rule, when an arrangement is made by legislation^ it may be altered by legislation, for which reason whenever an agreement is made it is referred to in the schedule to the Act, as is done in the case of the Murray agreement. That agreement is binding as a contract made by Parliament, and is not alterable by an Act of Parliament. What we are doing now is to put a provision into an Act of Parliament which, as a matter of technical power, would at any time be open to review or repeal. I doubt if we can repeal this, or modify it, because the Constitution sets forth that, on acquiring this property, we may do so by Act of Parliament setting forward the mode, and when you have done that I think the Act of Parliament is as binding as a contract. You cannot imagine that, after having held a property for, say, twenty years, you can reconsider the mode of payment decided on twenty years previously. If, therefore, we accept this clause, we shall be merely making an agreement that will be binding if the States desire. If we find, afterwards, that it is desirable not to continue paying for all time the 3£ per cent, as this Bill provides, we ought not to alter the provision unless the States consent. Another matter which may be dealt with is this: A State may at any time challenge the validity of this suggested agreement, because,’ surely, we have no power to say to the State that it must accept 3£ per cent, in perpetuity as the value of its property. I do not believe that the Constitution gives that power. All the Constitution says is that you may acquire property on just terms; and my personal view is that it will be open to the States to at any time challenge the adequacy of the payment of 3J per cent, in perpetuity, especially at a time when the interest rate is so much higher. I do not know when the proclamation was issued-
– There has been no proclamation.
– Then that strengthens my argument. At the time when the rate of interest is at least 4 per cent*., when the banks arc charging ordinary investors offering first class securities 5 per cent, and 5
.- I am almost sorry to intervene between legal gentlemen in this discussion, but the point to which I wish to refer is rather an urgent one. The Bill deals with the acquisition of land, but I cannot overlook the fact that we are also dealing with the transfer of persons; and there is one aspect of this transfer that I desire particularly to dwell upon, though I do not know whether we have power to do what I shall suggest. Positions of lighthousekeepers ought to be filled, largely, if not exclusively, from the ranks of our Naval Forces. It seems to me that the lighthouses afford good opportunities for the establishment of an Intelligence Bureau, wherein each lighthouse ought to be a receiving and distributing centre of maritime information, and the lighthouse- keepers themselves men qualified to supply reliable information at any time, and particularly in times when there may be danger of invasion. It seems to me that the care of lighthouses is, almost naturally, and certainly, very logically, a department of naval work that should ordinarily devolve upon men of naval training. I do not know what the intentions of the Minister are in regard to this matter. No doubt the men already employed will have their rights preserved, and will continue in the enjoyment of their positions, but there are a large number of naval men who may be incapacitated from following their ordinary occupations at sea whose services might be made available in this connexion.
– You mean time-expired naval men ?
– Time-expired naval men, or men who have met with accidents, or who are incapacitated through some other infirmity, from following their ordinary avocations at sea. These men, I think, could be most usefully employed in caring for the lighthouses. In addition to their ability to take care of the lighthouses, we should also secure the benefit of their experience in connexion with naval matters generally. If the lighthouses were connected with the mainland by telephone - and every lighthouse ought to be connected by telephone or by wireless, or in some other way, with some receiving station on the mainland - it can be understood that scarcely a ship would be able to pass along the coast either by day or night without the Commonwealth Government being advised of its movements. Particularly is an arrangement of this kind necessary in connexion with the northern coast. If we were in danger of invasion, the northern coast would be our weak point. Every lighthouse-keeper there should have that naval experience which would enable him, not. only to perform his ordinary duties, but to give to the central depot information which any naval man could give in regard to the probable character of any steamer or ship that might pass his lighthouse, so as to enable the authorities to arrive at some knowledge as to whether the ship was an enemy ship or not. I do not know whether it would be possible to work two Government Departments together in connexion with this matter. My experience is that when two Departments are attempting to manage one concern, the position is ten times worse than when one Department is endeavouring to manage it. One Department is bad enough, in all conscience - I admit some Departments are worse than others - but when you get one matter handled by two Departments, there are great possibilities of hopeless confusion. At the same time, I think some reasonable arrangement might be made between the Department of Trade and Customs, which has to deal with questions of navigation, and the Royal Navy Department, from which I assume the men who might be required to take care of these lighthouses would be drawn.
– What about the mercantile marine ? Are they not to have a say? The mercantile marine is overlooked too much in affairs of this kind.
– Well and good. I see no reason why they should not be included; but naval men have experience, particularly in regard to subjects of coast defence, that men attached to the mercantile marine have not. There is one other matter to which I wish to refer. Yesterday I received a letter from a lighthouse-keeper in this State, bringing under my notice a very peculiar condition of affairs, and, although I cannot see that the Minister of Trade and Customs has any peculiar responsibility in regard to it, I have brought the matter under his notice. A child was born in one of the lighthouses in this State. Soon after its birth, the father was transferred to another lighthouse. He tried to register the child in the new district, but was told that registration could only be made in the district where the child was born. He then asked that the child should be registered as having been born at sea. That was not permitted, and the child, now a married woman, is still an unregistered citizen of this Commonwealth.
– Was the child born in the State?
– Yes, in the State of Victoria.
– And they refused to register ?
– In the district to which the father was transferred they did. I quote the incident as showing that there are many matters in connexion with lighthouse-keeping that have to be borne in mind. They may seem to be little things at the time they occur, and yet they may assume considerable importance to the people directly interested later. Although the Minister of Trade and Customs has nothing to do with the registration of births, marriages, and deaths, yet the circumstances show the necessity for giving every possible consideration to the people who have charge of lighthouses, and whose lives are spent under such peculiarly lonely and disadvantageous circumstances. The Minister will find the House thoroughly sympathetic with any conditions which he may propose, or any innovations he may establish, that would help to make the lives of the men and of their wives and families as easy as possible.
– I quite agree with the honorable member who has just resumed his seat that lighthouse-keepers and their families are entitled to the utmost consideration that can be given to them, though I do not think we need labour the point unduly, because the Minister of Trade and ‘ Customs is, I’ think, already fully impressed with what is necessary in that direction. I think that the honorable gentleman is acting very wisely in securing the steamers referred to. But I think that they should contain, some degree of comfortable accommodation for the wives and families of these men, who at one time or another have suffered a good deal by reason of the wretched accommodation that has been provided for their removal.
– Unfortunately, the vessels have not all been steamers. Some of them have been little ketches.
– That is so. The principle that we have adopted is that no man shall be isolated in any particular station for more than a stipulated period, therefore his removal from one place to another is compulsory, and he is at least entitled to sympathetic consideration by the provision of decent steamers for his transport. I desire to emphasize the points that have been brought forward by my two learned friends in connexion with sub-clause 4. We cannot ignore the legal position. The Constitution says that these properties shall be acquired on just terms. What is now actually taking place ? The Commonwealth desires to acquire certain properties belonging to the States, and we propose not to permit the States to have any say as to the terms upon which we are to- -acquire them. We - the purchasers - say that the property shall be acquired by us upon terms which we - the purchasers - shall dictate. It is most unusual and extraordinary that any person should have power to dictate to the vendor the terms upon which he will make a purchase. It is desirable that a voluntary agreement should be come to between such great public authorities as the Government of the Commonwealth and the Governments of the States; and I regret that difficulty has been caused by the refusal of one State Government to enter into any arrangement with the Commonwealth.
– There has not been a refusal.
– One of the States has failed, or neglected, to enter into any arrangement with the Commonwealth. The point I wish to emphasize is that a measure has been introduced to provide for the compulsory acquirement of those lighthouses which are not voluntarily handed to us. The Bill says that we may take this property on our own’ terms, and we fix the -manner in which it shall be paid for. No provision is made for the payment of purchase money, but the Commonwealth agrees to pay only interest on a nominal principal.
– The Commonwealth proposes to relieve the States of the expense of keeping up the lighthouses.
– Which have never been a paying proposition.
– That, no doubt, is so. But we merely bind ourselves to pay interest at the rate of 3J per cent, in perpetuity on the capital value of the property that we compulsorily acquire, which is unfair, because money is worth more than 3£ per cent.
– Could the States sell their lighthouses t
– That is another matter.
– Money will not always be as dear as it is now.
– No; but we should pay the States for these properties. If we did so, they could get more than 3^ per cent, from the purchase money. At the present time, it would be worth 4$ or 5 per cent. In my view, the provision is unconstitutional, because the Constitution says that we shall acquire property only on just terms, and the terms fixed by the Bill are just only in the opinion of the
Commonwealth. The honorable and learned member for Angas has drawn attention to another matter. We seem to bind the Commonwealth to the payment of Z per cent, interest in perpetuity ; but after the transaction is completed we may hereafter wish to alter the terms by paying off or otherwise. Are we, then, to allow the Commonwealth to alter the bargain at any time it may see fit to do so? That, surely, is unfair. Every effort should be made to put the lighthouses on the same basis as the transferred properties. They are, to all intents and purposes, transferred property, and should not be the subject of differentiation. I emphasize the need for the reconsideration of proposed new sub-section 4, which, in its present form, is unconstitutional.
.- I agree with the honorable member . for Kooyong that we should treat the lighthouses as transferred properties, and be responsible for them as if they were transferred properties. However, it is not my intention, as a layman, to go into the pros and cons of the matter, which is rather one for determination by the legal fraternity. I rose chiefly to draw attention to a want in the administration of the lighthouses. Recently, I visited the lighthouse at the Leeuwin, and whilst there met with an accident, which led to the discovery that not a man on the staff of the lighthouse had any knowledge of first aid, although the nearest medical man was 50 or 60 miles distant. There are a great many places in Australia where the staffs of lighthouses cannot, secure medical service except at great cost and inconvenience; and I urge the Minister to see that when new appointments are made the appointees shall be men qualified to render first aid. It is proposed to appoint naval men to the lighthouse staff, but I do not think that we should restrict our choice to men of the Royal Navy, because I believe that in our mercantile marine there are other men quite as good. But in both services most of the men have some knowledge of first aid, and it would not take them long to secure a certificate of competency. At least one man on the staff of every lighthouse should be duly qualified to render first aid, and every lighthouse should besupplied with all necessary medicines, bandages, and appliances for dealing with sickness or injury. At Cape Leeuwin,. there was not even methylated spirits, and I have a vivid recollection of the consequences of an application of kerosene to my ankle.
.- I wish to emphasize the suggestion of the honorable member for Fremantle, to which I am sure the Minister will give consideration, because he does not desire that the men who occupy posts at isolated lighthouses shall be at a disadvantage. At the present time the lighthouses are unprovided with many things which they need, and this, I think, is due to oversight. I am sure that the Minister will be prepared to do everything reasonable to meet the needs of their staffs. This is the first “ stand-and-deliver “ Bill that has been presented to us for the acquirement of State property. I had not the privilege of hearing the Minister’s opening remarks, and, therefore, do not know what has taken place between the Commonwealth and the States to make it necessary for us to threaten to compulsorily acquire State property, though I hope that in regard to the taking over of the lighthouses the Commonwealth will go as far and as fast as is . prudent. The matter is becoming more important every year. Already a great many lighthouses have been taken over, and I am prepared to support the taking over of more than it was proposed to take over when the Lighthouses Act was passed. I am satisfied that there is good reason for taking power to compulsorily acquire lighthouse property. But I am afraid that proposed new sub-section 4 may cause difficulties, because the Constitution provides that when we acquire property from the States or from private individuals it must be on just terms.
– Do you not think that the terms will be just?
– I hope that they may; but the wording of the Constitution may cause difficulty, and if the Minister has any doubt in the matter he should consult the Crown Law authorities on the subject. If, on reconsideration, they assure him that nothing is to be feared, he could not be blamed, even should they subsequently be proved to be wrong. Another matter to which I wish to refer is this: Some months ago I formed one of a deputation which waited on the Minister in reference to the light dues that it was proposed to collect, which, it was felt, would pre judice the port of Hobart. About twenty-six vessels call at that port without touching at any other port in the Commonwealth, and give opportunities for trade which are not given by any other steamers. For instance, the fruits growers of Tasmania could not send their fruit to South America were these vessels to discontinue calling at Hobart. These steamers carry a large number of passengers who, during their stay of two or three days at the port, spend a certain amount of money, which is of benefit to the business people of the town, and a good deal of labour is given on the wharfs in connexion with the handling of their cargo. According to the local agents, they would have to cease to call at Hobart were the light dues which the Customs Department propose to charge made applicable to them. In some oases where, on entering port, vessels had to pay light dues amounting to £25, they would have had to pay £250 if the Minister’s original charges had been retained. The trade is not developing fast enough to warrant steamship companies paying such heavy dues. The Minister, I know, is giving the matter his sympathetic consideration.
– But the rates have been determined.
– Even if the rates have been reduced far below the amounts which were first contemplated, there is yet room for considerable improvement. As the result of the increased lighting dues, we might lose this trade, and be unable to re-establish it, even if the Minister, after giving the new rates a trial, consented to a reduction. I recognise that it is reasonable that the Commonwealth should deal with the lighthouse service as a business proposition, and that those who use the lights must be prepared to pay reasonable fees for them. But the case to which I refer is a very special one. There is no constitutional obligation upon the Minister to impose uniform dues. The honorable gentleman has a free hand, and, as this is an exceptional case, I hope he will be prepared to give exceptional consideration to it. Whilst Hobart as a port reaps the main benefit of the trade, it does not secure the whole of it; and in the interests of those who are employed on the wharfs as well as of the small land-owners and orchardists who are developing the country, and who have to avail themselves of these steamship services, low rates should be fixed. We should encourage the people to settle on the land, and the Department of Trade and Customs may indirectly be able in this way to do something to promote settlement. I leave the matter in the hands of the Minister, fully confident that he will not come to a hard and fast determination, but give his very sympathetic consideration to my request.
– I am glad that the Minister of Trade and Customs availed himself of the opportunity which presented itself this afternoon to introduce this Bill, since the transfer of the lighthouse service to the Commonwealth has been too long delayed. It has been under the consideration of successive Ministers for many years, and the service has been, to some extent, neglected because the States have not thought it desirable to expend any considerable sum upon it, in view of the fact that it was likely to be transferred in a very short time to the Federation. I wish particularly to draw the attention of the Minister to the Solitary Island lighthouse, which is deserving of special consideration. The name of the island suggests the loneliness of the place. It occupies a prominent position on the New South Wales coast, is about six miles from the mainland, and is one of the most important reporting stations that we have. The lighthouse serves not only to warn shipping of the rock on which it stands, but to furnish information as to the movements of shipping along the coast and the condition of the weather. At the present time, however, the lighthouse keeper can communicate with the mainland only by means of flag signals by day, and by Morse lamp by night. It may readily be understood that in stormy or foggy weather - and the island is on one of the stormiest parts of the coast - it is utterly impossible on the mainland to pick up the signals. The station, consequently, is often isolated for two and three days at a stretch, with the result that much valuable information is not available, and a great deal of inconvenience is experienced. We have asked for a considerable time that the lighthouses shall be connected by telephone with the mainland, but the excuse always given by the PostmasterGeneral has been that, since the light house service is State-owned, such a work could not ba undertaken by the Commonwealth. I hope that with the passing of this Bill steps will immediately be taken to lay a telephone cable between the island and the mainland. It is scarcely necessary to recall to the memory of honorable members a very sad occurrence on Solitary Island a year or two ago. The daughter of the lighthouse-keeper became seriously ill, and ultimately died. The weather was so bad that it was impossible to communicate with the mainland, and the body of the unfortunate young woman had to remain there for several days before a coffin, or the material for making one. could be sent over Further inconvenience was caused by the inability to communicate with Newcastle, but ultimately, after the body, to the distress of the deceased’s friends and to the horror of the community, had Iain for some days on the island, it was eventually taken away by a tug which had to be sent up from Sydney. This distressing incident would not have occurred had there been telephonic communication with the mainland. I ask the Minister to take a note of my request, and to see if arrangements cannot be made without delay to supply this much-needed want. The Solitary Island lighthouse is of considerable importance. A number of men live on this very small rock off the coast of New South Wales, and they should have, at all times, the means of communicating with the mainland in case of sickness or misadventure.
Mr. FLEMING (Robertson) [6.13J.-I wish to add my protest to those which have already been uttered this afternoon regarding the proposal of the Commonwealth to take over the lighthouses from the States at a valuation and only to pay interest in perpetuity in respect of them. We have been told by the Minister of Home Affairs, by way of interjection, that 3^ per cent, per annum is a very fair rate of interest to pay in perpetuity.
– The honorable member was not present when I introduced this Bill or he would know that I am simply trying to give effect to the action taken by the late Government.
– I was about to ask the Minister whether he is wedded to the proposal not to pay for these properties, but merely to pay interest on them in perpetuity? Is the honorable gentleman not prepared to deal in a less autocratic manner with the lighthouse service that we are taking over from the States? It seems to me that in this matter, as in everything ‘else, the Commonwealth is drifting back to the old autocratic principle of the Government doing what they please with any man’s property. Just as they are trying to do as they please with the property of the States, so a few years hence we shall probably have these methods applied by the Government to privately-owned property, and a reversion to the system that was adopted in the days of Charles I. I enter my emphatic protest against the autocratic method of adjusting State claims which is being adopted by a socalled democratic Government.
.- If the honorable member for Robertson had been present when I moved the second reading of this Bill, I do not think he would have given utterance to the sentiments which he has just expressed. As far back as 30th July last, my predecessor - in office, the honorable member for Darling Downs, submitted to all the State Governments a draft agreement, under which it was proposed that the Commonwealth should take over the lighthouses, as it had been asked to do by no less than four different Premiers’ Conferences. The matter was advanced a stage by the Bill of 1911, which was passed into law; but the honorable member for Darling Downs, who succeeded me, found it impossible to induce the States to come to an agreement. New South Wales and Victoria alone fell in with the proposal. Three other States have agreed to the arrangement, with modifications, and have undertaken to send representatives to a Conference which is shortly to discuss the subject. Dr. Wollaston, when Comptroller- General of Customs, settled with the State officers, the question of what lights should be taken over. That was about seven years ago ; but the States have not responded as they should have done. As a matter of fact, although eleven months have elapsed since the honorable member for Darling Downs submitted his proposal, one State Government has not yet replied. Are we to hold up for all time the whole question of the transfer of the lighthouse service?
– Why not pay the States?
– They are going to be paid.’ The lighthouse service will not be a revenue-producing branch of the Department. We shall be losing money on it every year.
– And by taking over this service we shall relieve the States.
– We shall relieve them of a considerable expenditure. I feel confident that had the Opposition been in office they would have had to introduce to-day, or three months hence, the very Bill that I am now asking the House to pass.
– I should have objected to it even if the present Opposition had brought it forward.
– We did not hear the honorable member offer any objections to the proposals of his party when they were in office. He was then as dumb as an oyster. Coming to other question’s which have been raised during this debate, I may explain that during the last three years the Commonwealth has expended on lighthouses £40,000, and has not received in return a penny by way of revenue. Until we take over these lighthouses we shall not receive any revenue from the service. The honorable member for- Darling Downs, when in office, told the States to go on with any necessary work relating to the lighting of the coast, promising that the Commonwealth would pay for any service provided in conformity with the plan proposed by Commander Brewis
– We made such an arrangement with Victoria in regard to the Wilson’s Promontory light.
– We both agreed as to the necessity of the work. In Victoria, a powerful modern optical apparatus has been installed at Wilson’s Promontory, and new lights have been erected at Cape Liptrap and Citadel Island. In the Northern Territory, two new lights have been constructed near Darwin, at Fort Point and Emery Point, and these were lighted only a few weeks ago. At Cape Don, where a light is very urgently required, the construction is now actively proceeding of a powerful modern light, which will be manned by three keepers. In Queensland, seven lights of the automatic, unwatched type, are under construction north of Cooktown, inside’ the Great Barrier Reef, and it is expected that these lights will be lighted within the next few months.
– During the next wet season ?
– Yes. Plans have been prepared for the erection of lights in Tasmania, at West Point, on the west coast, and at Cape Forestier, on the east coast. The lighthouse estimates this year also provide for the establishment of lights in Western Australia, the purchase of lighthouse steamers, and also two unattended light-ships. In addition to this, as I have said,, more than two years ago the Commonwealth advised all the States that all new works of an urgent character which might be undertaken by them, and which complied with the requirements of the Commonwealth Government, would be paid for by the Commonwealth on the same basis as that adopted for the payment for transferred properties. Something has been said about the transfer of the officers; and, as I pointed out when the. honorable member for Darling Downs was speaking, this has never been a complete Department in itself. The men connected with Harbor Trusts, Marine Boards, and other bodies- of the kind have not been exclusively employed, and there is, of course, a difficulty regarding them. I have no doubt, however, that, in the case of men who are exclusively employed on this class of work,it will be possible to do something, though the chances are that, under the new arrangements, there will not be the same necessity for so much clerical assistance. One payment, as we know, will do for the. whole of the six States, and the labour involved may not require the transfer of many officers. As to the rates, it has been decided that there shall be paid 8d. per ton per quarter, with a maximum of £150. This means that a vesselof, say, 4,500 tons, which completes her voyage and discharges all her cargo here, will pay £150, while a vessel which calls only at one port, say Hobart, en route to another port outside Australia will pay only 4d., or £75, instead of the full rate. In view of the very serious dimin ution of traffic at present, it is quite possible that the revenue may be more than £10,000 or £12,000 less this year, though, no doubt, the position will improve when the conditions become normal. The honorable member for Brisbane referred to the employment of timeexpired Navy men, who may have met with accidents or other misfortune; and I can only say that the three sub-branches of the Department, as they may be called, namely, those dealing with navigation, lighthouses, and quaran tine, will, I think, present suitable opportunities for such employment. To this end, it may be necessary to widen the Public Service Act so as to open the way to men who are now prohibited by the age limit, or for some other reason of the kind. At any rate, we should see that these men are not shut out entirely from employment. I quite realize that first aid to the injured is most important, and I shall take a note of the suggestion made. In reply to the honorable member for Cowper, I may say that, in the original Act, it is provided that, where a lighthouse has been erected or acquired by the Commonwealth, it shall, as soon as practicable, be connected with the nearest convenient telegraph or telephone office, the expense to be charged to the Department administering the Act. This, however, can be done only after we have acquired or erected a lighthouse. That provision was, I think, inserted at the instance of the honorable member for Gippsland, when the original Bill was before the House, and I think that it is a very necessary one. The question of the method and the amount of the compensation to be paid was carefully considered, but I undertake, before this Bill is finally passed, to submit the matter once ‘more to the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral, in order to see if any alteration can be made in the direction suggested.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sittingsuspended from 6.30 to 7.45. p.m.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Acquisition of lighthouses by compulsory process).
– I should like to ask the Minister whether, under the agreement with the States, they are willing to allow the transfer of the lighthouses to the Commonwealth, leaving open for later consideration the actual valuing of the property upon lines now agreed upon. The Minister knows that the Department had considerable trouble because in one State a quarantine property was acquired by the Commonwealth without any prior agreement in regard to its valuation having been made. The last Government, desiring to take over the lighthouses as quickly as possible, and knowing that if we first approached the States and attempted to get a basis of valuation, and also have an actual valuation taken, the transfer of the properties might be delayed for years, asked the States if they would agree to a basis upon which a valuation could be conducted. If the basis of the valuations were agreed to, the Commonwealth could take over the properties at once, and subsequently assessors could value the proper-1 ties and payments could be adjusted. Is the Conference, which is to be held shortly, to deal with only the principles upon which the valuation will be conducted?
– Yes, only the principles.
– It would be to the advantage of the States to agree to the Commonwealth proposals. At the present time they are paying between £60,000 and £70,000 per annum for these services, but when the lighthouses are taken over they will be relieved of that expenditure.
– Is it proposed to pay cash for the lighthouses compulsorily acquired ?
– No; and I do not find fault with the Minister’s proposals in that regard. In substance, these lighthouses are only part of the properties transferred from the States.
– This is a transfer under compulsion.
– The only reason why this Bill is introduced is that one State has not yet come into line voluntarily. The idea was that all the States should agree to transfer these properties to the Commonwealth. The lighthouses are to be treated in the same way as the Post Offices, Defence buildings, and other properties transferred to the Commonwealth, and I think the Minister is quite right in trying to harmonize the conditions under which properties are being compulsorily taken over with those under which other properties were voluntarily transferred.
– Which State has not come into line?
– Western Australia. It would be hardly fair to allow this State to claim a cash payment from the Commonwealth when all the other States are prepared to assist the Commonwealth by treating the lighthouses as transferred properties;
– There may be properties where the land has valuable attributes apart from the lighthouses.
– There is no such case. The Commonwealth sometimes desires to acquire a large area for a rifle range; but it requires only the surface rights of the land. Arrangements have been made with the States whereby the Commonwealth acquires the surface rights on the condition that the States will not interfere with the underground rights in such a way as to hamper the Commonwealth’s use of the surface.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- I should like to ask the Minister whether the method of dealing with repairs, renovations, and additions to the properties to be taken over under this Bill has yet been settled. My view is that the Customs Department should only handle such work as its own officers can do more economically than the Home Affairs Department. It might be possible to arrange for local repairs and painting in isolated centres to be done by arrangement with the departmental employees, and when I was Minister in charge of the Home Affairs Department we were contemplating the drawing up of some scheme which would prevent the overlapping of the work of the Department with that of the Customs Department.
– In regard to construction, we have a body of men who have become expert in this particular class of work. Those men have been working in the north of Australia during the last few months, but with the advent of the hurricane season they were obliged to discontinue work and return to Cooktown. Now that the hurricane season is past, practically the same body of men have gene out again to continue the construction work. The Customs Department has been carrying on that construction independent of the Home Affairs Department. I have been inquiring as to whether it would be advisable to transfer the work to the Home Affairs Department; it is a special class of work, and the Customs. Department has very capable officers in charge of it. No decision on the matter has yet been arrived at. Steel towers and concrete are taking the place of the large stone towers which were constructed in former years. I certainly think that the two Departments should not overlap, and there will be no setting up a sub-Department to do work that can be done by the Home Affairs Department.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a third time.
Sewerage Scheme for Flinders Naval Base
Debate resumed from 26th May (vide page 3383), on motion by Mr. Riley -
That the report be printed.
.- When this matter was before the House previously, I asked whether any plans and specifications had been placed, before the Committee, the omission of which from the report would render that document unintelligible to honorable members. It seemed to me desirable that at the inception of the Works Committee, plans which had been placed before that Committee, and which were necessary to enable honorable members to get a grasp of the matters that had been dealt with, should be reproduced with the report. I have looked through this report, and I think there are some plans that should have been included with it; but the case hardly appears to me to be of sufficient importance to call for special action. As I pointed out when I refererd to the matter before, the reproduction of plans is one of the simplest processes associated with the printers’ art. In the present case, I think any honorable member who has not visited the site of the Flinders Naval Base would have great difficulty in coming to an intelligent conclusion as to the location of the various schemes that have been put before the Committee, without reference to a plan. We should either have the evidence printed as an appendix to the report in an intelligible manner, with plans, or it should be excluded altogether, and members simply supplied with the report of the Committee.
– You can never understand technical evidence unless you have plans.
– The very fact that it is necessary to present plans to the Public Works Committee ought to prove that it is equally necessary to present them to the House, if members are to understand the evidence. Without plans and drawings, much of the matter contained in the report represents so much waste of public money. That was particularly the case with regard to the report of the sewage proposals at the Federal Capital. All that is necessary for carrying out my suggestion is for n photograph to be taken of any plan or drawing, from which a simple line block may be made. The process is simpler than that of setting up a page of type. I think the Public Works Committee might have taken some notice of this question, seeing that it originated in one of their reports. Apparently the Committee do not care a rap whether members understand the evidence taken by them or not, or whether their reports are intelligible or not. No one has deigned to make any reply on behalf of the Committee, and apparently the Government, do not feel inclined to trouble themselves, so that I cannot go much further. Bundles of printed matter are lodged in our boxes, and apparently the attitude is being taken up that they are of very little importance to members, and that it does not matter whether it is read or not.
– If you give one drawing you must give the lot.
– Do what is practicable. If the plans are too voluminous to include in a report, make them available to honorable members in some other way. Evidence is submitted to the Committee. A witness comes forward and makes a statement, and he may be questioned by the Committee until any point is cleared up that may linger in the mind of any member. If it is necessary for a witness appearing before a Committee to have a diagram, in order that his evidence may be intelligible to the Committee, how much more necessary is it for the same diagram to be presented to honorable members, who have only a printed report to rely on?
– I agree entirely with the honorable member’s request. It is a very reasonable one. Unless plans are submitted with the proposals that are made, it is impossible for the Committee to consider them intelligently. We should not forget that the purpose of this Committee is not to originate schemes. The purpose of the Committee is to check schemes originated by officers of the Department, and the Act lays it down very clearly that any scheme brought forward for the consideration of the Committee shall be accompanied by estimates and plans. There ought, therefore, at the outset to be plans attached to any scheme.
– There are.
-.- A plan should be submitted by officers of the Department, and that plan should be corrected as it may havebeen found necessary, and presented to the House with the report.
– It is a matter for the House. The House can have the plans if they like.
– We can give you a whole picture gallery in connexion with some of our works if you want it.
– In my opinion, this Committee are already doing excellent work for the country, and I am only anxious that their work should be even more complete. How else, other than by the presentation of plans along with a report, are we to clearly understand any report? We cannot do this from the mere reading of all the minutiae of a complicated and difficult question, and proposals cannot be checked unless some plan is provided. I think we should have, not only the original plan, but any amended plan, showing exactly the changes the Committee have thought fit to make in any proposition, so that we may be in a position to pass intelligent judgment upon any scheme after we have seen and apprehended clearly what the differences are.
– Do you want plans laid on the table, or plans specially printed ?
– A plan laid on the table with the report.
– The honorable member for Cook wants special plans printed with the report.
– It does not matter; the other course would meet the case.
– I would not suggest that every plan be printed in the report.
– That is what the honorable member for Cook suggested.
– If it is a simple plan, why not include it? If the plan is complicated, it might be put on the table.
– I am afraid most of them are complicated plans. All I know is that in New South Wales a plan used to be put on the table with the report, ready for anybody to see. If it is only a small plan, there is no reason why it should not be incorporated in the report. But I think there ought to be a plan of the proposed works on the table, so that any honorable member who desires to examine it may do so. I urge the Committee to make its work even more useful than it is by presenting with their reports and minutes of evidence copies of the plans on which the reports are founded.
– Had we understood when the honorable member for Cook first made his proposal, that all that he wished, for was to have the original plan laid on the table of the House, no one would have objected to it. But what every member of the Committee, and I think all who listened to the honorable member’s speech thought that he wanted was that every plan submitted to the Committee should be attached to its report. Now, the other day we had presented to us a plan of the city of Melbourne, on which for the better understanding of a design for the Federal Capital, diagrams had been drawn to give us the effect of converting a given area of the city space into a lake, and the effect of the construction of a railway. Would the honorable member have the Committee go to the expense of having copies of a plan such as that prepared to attach to the report ?
– The honorable member did not ask for that.
– I asked him, by interjection, if he wanted every plan, and he replied, “Certainly.” If the Committee attached to its report copies of only some of the plans submitted to it, a plan that the honorable member might consider essential might be omitted.
– My suggestion is that copies of simple plans should be attached to the report, and that other plans should be made available to honorable members.
– The questions submitted to us have necessitated the presentation of a number of plans by various witnesses, but though the evidence is clear and concise, I doubt whether any one who had not had a training in draftsmanship would intelligently follow a plan unless the witness who submitted it was present to explain it.
– The sketch of a route on the Federal Capital site would be a simple enough matter to follow.
– No doubt; but all the plans are not simple, and it would mean much labour and expense to prepare copies of them for attachment to the report. I think that it would not be wise to incur a big expense for this purpose. Speaking briefly about the work of the Committee–
– I ask the honorable member not to go into that.
– I regret that the rules of debate will not permit me to say what I wish to say on that subject. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Cook declare that he would be satisfied with the placing of the plans on the table of the House. To comply with that suggestion, all that would be necessary would be to take the plans from the wall of the Committee room, where they are becoming very numerous, and bring them here. This would mean no additional expense.
.- So far as the Works Committee and similar bodies are concerned, the House is in the position of having trusted servants, by whose judgment it must be prepared to abide more or less, because it would be impossible for any one who is not a member of a Committee to satisfy himself on any point as thoroughly as they had had an opportunity of doing. Whilst I am in favour of placing on the table, for the information of honorable members who are anxious to examine them, the plans laid before the Works Committee, apparently, if we accept the statement of the honorable member for Denison, not much would be gained by attaching copies of them to its reports,’ because if the honorable member for Denison cannot understand these plans unless he has an expert present to explain them, I am afraid that the rest of us might be in nn even worse position.
– The honorable member might be. He has never had to work for his living.
– I rose to support my honorable friend, and he throws a brick at me for the only thing for which he envies me. I ask the Chairman of the Public Works Committee, through you, Mr. Speaker, whether it would not be possible to print, in the minutes of evidence, the questions asked by the mem bers of the Committee, as well as the answers given by the witnesses. One can get almost any answer from an ordinary witness, if the question is framed with sufficient acumen; though I do not charge the members of the Committee with framing their questions with a view to influencing the answers of the witnesses. A leading question will draw from most witnesses the reply sought for, and if a leading question were put to a series of witnesses, whose answers alone were printed in the minutes of evidence, any one reading that evidence would think that he was getting the unassisted opinion of these witnesses. What we need is to get at the minds of the witnesses, and we cannot do that unless we have an opportunity to read the questions that are put to them. It would help me enormously in connexion with some of the reports had I been able to know the form in which the questions asked of witnesses had been put. As the evidence is now presented, we have merely the statements of the witnesses, broken up with the bald explanation, “ To Mr. Laird Smith,” “ To the Chairman,” to indicate the questioner to whom the replies were given.
– It is a condensed report.
– Yes ; but it is the worst form of condensation to omit the questions. To do what I suggest would not appreciably increase the cost. I take it that the questions asked are fairly concise, and that even when the members of the Committee are roving through anaerobic processes and other technicalities, their questions are precise and clear. Certainly there would be more human interest in the reports if the questions asked were given in the words in which they were couched ! It is a farce to publish evidence which cannot be read intelligently; and, without cavilling at the Committee, I say that one does not know the value of evidence without knowing the questions which elicited it.
– As a young and innocent member, I am surprised that the House should be discussing a proposal to print a paper that is already printed and in circulation. I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Cook. If we are to read intelligently the reports of the Committee, and its evidence, we must have copies of the plans on which they are based. The honorable member for Denison says that it would be a costly matter to supply these, but we know that in the Commonwealth Gazette maps are published, showing the boundaries of every block of land acquired by the Commonwealth. I do not know by what process these maps are obtained, but it seems to me that what is possible in connexion with the publication of the Commonwealth Gazette should be possible in connexion with the publication of the reports of the Public Works Committee. If the House chooses to say, “ We have appointed the Committee, and leave absolutely to their judgment the matters submitted to them,” it would relieve itself of a certain amount of responsibility.
– In that case, the publication of the minutes of evidence would be unnecessary.
– That is so. But what actually happens? I find that, on a certain question, the members of the Committee were divided, four being in favour and three against a certain proposal, and Labour and Liberal members voting on both sides. How could the mind of the House be expressed in a division of that kind ? Personally, I am not prepared to hand over my responsibility wholly to a Committee of this kind, much as I value the work of the Public Works Committee. I strongly supported the proposal to establish the Committee, knowing the excellent work that has been done by a similar body in Victoria, and I am satisfied that the Committee will save the Treasury thousands of pounds. But members should be able to know exactly what the reports mean, and the expenditure of a few pounds in preparing copies of plans to attach to the reports would be justified by the clearness which it would give to the evidence. The request of the honorable member for Cook is a most reasonable one, and should be supported by honorable members unanimously.
.- I wish to express my personal appreciation of the eulogistic references that have been made to the work of the Committee. I am favorably disposed to the suggestion that copies of the plans presented to the Committee should be attached to its reports, because if the members of the Committee cannot base their reports wholly on evidence, but must be assisted with maps and drawings, the House needs similar facilities for comprehending the questions under consideration. Without this information, an intelligent opinion on any question cannot be arrived at. I hope that the Minister will see his way to spend a little money in giving effect to the suggestion for the printing of plans to be attached to the reports.
– How many Scotchmen are there on the Committee?
– The presence of Scotchmen on the Committee guarantees its success, and assures the Parliament good value for its expenditure on the Committee. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Wentworth is in a different category from that of the honorable member for Cook. I think that, in making it, the honorable member must have overlooked the enormous increase it would involve in the volume of evidence. It would also increase the cost of printing by one-third.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the questions would occupy a third of the space covered by the answers ?
– No. But if the reports were printed in the form of question and answer they would be materially increased in bulk. The Public Works Committee considered the matter, and were unanimous, I think, in the view that, in order to reduce as much as possible the bulk of the reports, and keep down the cost of printing, we should adopt the deposition form of reporting.
– It is the first time that I have heard of a politician who did not desire to have his words reported.
– Our object is to elicit information. We are concerned, not so much with the question of what an individual member of a Committee may try to get a witness to say as with the desire to ascertain the actual views of the witness in each case. I think that the evidence is presented in a very readable form.
– But under the system adopted the reader cannot tell what questions have not been answered.
– The point is that the evidence of the witnesses is clearly given. The reports of Royal Commissions furnish an illustration of the redundancies which occur when the questionandAnswer form is adopted.
– The honorable member does not suggest that each member of the Committee asks the same questions ?
– That is not always so; but different members may view the same question from different standpoints, and may be desirous of obtaining information accordingly. I repeat that our chief desire is to elicit information, and to present it to the House in a form in which it will be readily grasped. The system we have adopted, in my opinion, is the most readable, and certainly the readiest, means of enabling those who read our reports to estimate the value of the evidence and the scope of the inquiry. I think the honorable member for Wentworth will find that I am well within the mark when I state that the expense of producing our reports would be increased by one-third if his proposal were adopted. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Cook, however, is a reasonable one, and might be readily carried out with advantage to all concerned.
.- It seems to me that with every report submitted by the Public Works Committee there should be supplied a plan or plans to make it readily intelligible to the reader. I do not suggest that all the plans submitted to the Public Works Committee should be published with their reports, since that would involve a considerable and quite unnecessary expenditure. The original plans placed before the Committee are always available to us ; but I think that we might have embodied in the report such plans as are necessary to make clear the recommendations that are made, and to give us some conception of the locality or the buildings dealt with I should not be inclined, at present, to go further than that, for I think that to supply the House with lithographed copies of all plans submitted to the Committee would involve altogether too much expense.
.- I rise to support the suggestion of the honorable member for Cook, which, I think, should be accepted by the House in the spirit in which it has been made. In the absence of a plan, it is sometimes quite impossible to follow the evidence reported. Reference has been made to a plan of the City of Melbourne which has been on view in the rooms of the Committee. I would point out that such a plan could be reduced without difficulty, and published with the reports of the Committee. It is well that in the initial stages of the work of the Committee we should determine the basis upon which its reports should be presented. A report dealing with the construction of proposed buildings should be accompanied by a reduced copy of the perspective drawings. Such reproductions, say, in foolscap size, would be useful to the Department, as well as valuable to the Parliament. They would enable us to see at a glance the character of the buildings proposed to be erected. Some excellent sketch plans accompany the reports of the Public Works Committee of New South Wales. I think that the honorable member for Cook has been well advised in bringing this matter, before the House, and that good will accrue from the debate that has’ taken place.
– The honorable member has had considerable experience of plans.
– Yes; I have been connected with the building trade for over fifty years, and have handled thousands of plans. I hope that the House will fall into line with the honorable member’s proposal.
.- There is no desire on the part of the Public Works Committee to withhold any information from Parliament. It is for the House to say whether or not our reports shall be accompanied by plans of the works to which they relate. I would remind honorable members, however, that there are plans and plans. The sketch plan of a proposed building, unless reproduced in colours, would convey no information to honorable members. Different colours are used to indicate brick, stone, timber, and concrete work; so that such plans, if embodied in our reports, would have to be lithographed in colours, in order to make them intelligible. Another point is that in order to properly grasp the details of a plan one must also peruse the specifications, in which the thickness of the walls, their height, and other particulars are given. A plan printed in one colour would not convey an adequate idea of the character of the work proposed. I would remind honorable members that it is quite open to us to exhibit in the corridors of the House, in connexion with any report presented by us, the original plans of the work to which that report relates. The cost of presenting to Parliament properly printed plans in connexion with every report would be considerable. In connexion with some works on which we have reported we have had to examine dozens of plans. We have had to inspect the basement plan, and plans showing the several elevations of the buildings proposed to be erected. We could not undertake the responsibility of reproducing such plans in our report unless Parliament asked for them. Let me now explain to the honorable member for Wentworth why we decided upon the deposition form of reporting the evidence of witnesses. We had seen reports presented to this House by Select Committees and Royal Commissions in which over 5,000 questions were set out, togetherwith the answers given to them, every question being numbered, and the name of the questioner repeated again and again. It seemed to us that that was an unbusiness-like and costly system.
– Was the judgment of the Committee influenced by the difficulty of framing questions on technical subjects ?
– No; we were guided solely by the desire to curtail the work of theHansard staff, and to keep down expenditure. If themembers of the Committee had any desire to see their name in print, they would have adopted the question-and-answer form of reporting. No such consideration, however, weighed with us. Our sole desire is to do the work of the country in the most economical manner possible. We are pleased to have had this friendly criticism of our work, and, if the House desires it, we shall provide for printed plans to accompany our reports.
– Does the honorable member want a resolution on the subject?
– No. We shall present with our next report the original plan as submitted to the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Archibald) agreed to-
That Orders of the Day 10 to 17 be postponed until after the consideration of notice of motion No. 1.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-14, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report thereon, viz. : -
City railway and dams for ornamental waters incident to the schematic plan of Canberra proposed by Mr. Griffin, and dated 20th March, 1915.
When the motion just passed was before the House, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro interjected about the Jervis Bay Territory Acceptance Bill;, but I do not think that that Bill will take any length of time in its consideration; indeed, I hope that the motion I now propose will also be shortly disposed of. At the same time, the matter of the Federal Capital is most important. In the first place, it is necessary, as I have been repeatedly reminded by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, that we should get a “ move on,” and it is, of course, very desirable that we should have the report of the Public Works Committee. There is a phase of the question worthy of’ notice. If we turn our minds back to the time when a Board was formed for the selection of these various plans, and it was decided that what is called the Griffin plan should be accepted, we have to realize a very significant fact. This fact made a great impression on my mind when . my attention was first called to it,, and, though I do not say there is a great deal in it, it is, I repeat, significant. The Board to which I have referred consisted of an architect, a mechanical engineer, and a civil engineer. I can quite understand the appointment of an architect, and also the appointment of a civil engineer, but I confess that I cannot see the object of calling in a mechanical engineer. My own opinion is that no harm would, have been done if the assistance of a surveyor had been sought; indeed, I go so far as to say that, if there had been an architect, a civil engineer, and even, perhaps, a lawyer, the evidence could have been weighed by trained’ men not likely to be unduly swerved from the points at issue. The significant fact is that the planwas decided on by a majority - not unanimously, and the civil -engineer never agreed to it. I do not know what the reason for this was, but I think it is a fair conclusion that the civil engineer was such a man as would not have been placed on the Board had he not–
– Who was the civil engineer ?
– I think his name is Coane, and I understand that he is an engineer of reputation. I do not know the reason for hie dissension, but it is not difficult to guess; and my guess is that he, having a reputation to lose, declined to have it sullied by a plan of this character.
– I believe he is a very high -class man.
– And I understand that he is well known in Melbourne. Personally, I do not profess, of course, to have any expert ability, but the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Went worth will realize that ho honorable member can be placed in charge of the Department of Home Affairs for seven or eight months without, from day to day, and from month to month, having information brought before him, and without, as Macaulay has said, reluctantly being obliged to form opinions which he would not have entertained before he took office. I do not wish to reflect on anybody, but merely ask the House to realize what is as clear as the noon-day sun, namely, that the weak point of the plan is the engineering. We have to face not, perhaps, a difficulty, but the position.
– To what particular difficulty does the Minister refer?
– At present I only desire to indicate the preliminary grounds for the position I take up; and I think that position will be justified by the reports submitted. These reports, I hope, will show clearly that it is most desirable that this work should be referred to the Public Works Committee. As I have said, I regard the engineering side of the question as of great importance. This is not a matter of talking about Mr. Griffin. Rightly or wrongly, I hold that architecture, or town planning, is a profession, and a very able profession ; but architects are not civil engineers; indeed, it is of no use appealing to an architect on any question of civil engineering.
– We should have a big task in these modern days to find where one profession ends and the other begins !
– I do not exactly understand the interjection; but I suppose it means that the members of these professions, like other people, vary in their opinions. But I hold that laymen, with an average amount of common sense, can always weigh expert opinion, and are generally able to come to conclusions which, for economic and other sound reasons, result in the production of satisfactory buildings or other works. According to the requirements of the Act, I have laid on the table the schematic plan of Canberra prepared by Mr. Griffin, and dated 20th March, 1915; and I may say that, after thinking the matter over very carefully, it struck me that there was a defect in that plan. I think it is undesirable, in a city like this, that there should be any tunnelling for a railway, or that open cuttings should exist. I have a report here which has come from Mr. Bell, the Engineer-in-Chief, but which is really a report of Mr. Hobler. When I saw that latter gentleman, I said to him, “I do not want any tunnels, and I do not want any open cuttings unless, as an engineer, you tell me that they must be there.” I realize that it is absurd for a layman to lay down any strict rule in such matters; but the reason I formed that opinion was that, in a city like Canberra, it is very desirable, when you are entering it by train, that you should see what it is like. I submitted the question to my colleagues, and the opinion of the Government was very similar to my own. Some time ago, when this question was under discussion, the honorable member for Wentworth seemed to take the view that I was spoiling or offending the aesthetic taste of the future residents of Canberra, but I take the view that those tastes are better consulted in a plan other than that of Mr. Griffin. All we require is a twopenny tube and a lift, as in. London and other cities, and then nobody’s aesthetic tastes can suffer, because no railway is in sight. All the instructions I gave in this regard were contained in the words I spoke to Mr. Hobler; and 1 should now like to quote from the official report. It may be asked why I first called in a railway engineer; but honorable members will see that, according to the plan, the railway crosses a certain bridge, and it is of importance that the location of the railway should be observed according to the plan. Even a layman can see that this is a very expensive work; but, of course, whether we spend £100,000, £1,000,000, or £10,000,000 is a matter of very little concern to the House or the country, provided it is efficiently and well spent, and we get a due return1. I should object to expending even a £10-note unless it could be shown that the expenditure was judicious. However, the report of the engineer contains the following : -
With reference to the Minister’s desire to have some information with regard to the cost of Molonglo River crossing and general suitability of the proposed railway route through the Federal Capital, as shown in black on accompanying lithograph, I have . marked on lithograph an alternative route shown in red, to which I refer later on.
The cost of the Molonglo River crossing on proposed route, shown in black, for earthworks and bridging, would be approximately £80,000.
The most suitable situation for passenger and goods station is at about point marked A. A. This site is, I consider, altogether’ too far away from what would be the principal and most important part of the city, and is nearly 2 miles from the site of Federal Parliament House. Whilst inspecting on the ground the proposed route for railway, it appeared to me that a more suitable and economical route might he got, as shown in red, and which joins the proposed route at point marked D. After going further into the matter, I consider this route should be brought under the Minister’s notice. The cost, as compared with the proposed route, would be approximately £30,000 less in construction of earthworks, bridging, and tunnelling.
Quite apart; however, from the question of comparative cost is that of situation of station yards to servo passenger and goods traffic.
– Is that £30,000 less than the amount involved in Mr. Griffin’s plan?
– Yes, that is the difference; but we need not worry about that - when the honorable member sees what the expenditure is in connexion with the bridge-
– Who. made , the report ?
– It was made under the authority of the EngineerinChief, Mr. Bell;
– It is Mr. Hobler’s report.
– It is, practically. It is a railway matter, and I referred to’ a railway engineer. The report continues -
There would be a very suitable site for passenger and goods station and land for railway purposes between the 2 and 3 miles. This would bring the passenger station to within three-quarters of a mile of the Federal Parliament House and the principal administrative part of the city. Should it be desired to provide another passenger station or goods station to serve that part of the city situated on east side of the Molonglo River, such could be established at above, on the position marked A.A. This would give the city much betterpassenger and goods station facilities thancould be done on the proposed route. It, therefore, appears to me that, from the point of view of cost and better situation for passenger and - goods station accommodation, the route shown in red is well worth serious consideration.
In estimating the cost for the two routes, I’. have considered them purely as- railway propositions.
Further, with regard to the crossing of Molonglo River on the proposed route, if thedifference of 20 feet in water levels of the twolakes on each side is adhered to, the question of strengthening and making waterproof the railway bank above what is required for an ordinary railway bank would have to be taken into consideration.. This is a matter that I have left, on the assumption that it would be dealt, with by the Director-General of Commonwealth Public Works.
In addition to the above alternative route, I have shown in dotted red an alteration which would place the railway about 5 chains further towards the- river at A.A. This would probably do away with the necessity for any tunnelling at all, and greatly reduce the earthworks generally if the alternative route shown in red were adopted. It will also be noticed, as shown in dotted red on lithograph, that the originally proposed route could be diverted immediately after crossing the Molonglo River to join this route. This would also reduce the amount of tunnelling and earthwork on the originally proposed route.
Having referred to the engineers’ report on the railway which is to cross the Molonglo River, I desire to call the attention of the House to the report of Colonel Owen on the requirements for the construction of the bridge across the lake, which honorable members will see on the plan -
In accordance with the Minister’s instructions, I have had borings made and shafts sunk over the route of the suggested railway crossing at Molonglo, and have prepared an estimate based on the information available which, must be taken as approximate only.
It is found that the average depth of the rock below the surface is ‘about 30 feet, and- on the basis of the levels furnished by Mr. Griffin, giving a railway level of 1,855 feet, that the height of embankments would be from. 20 to 25 feet, or a height above bed-rock of 55 feet, with a length of 1 mile.
The railway bridge is to be 800 feet long, with a capacity of two tracks, roadway bridges to be of similar length, two in number, 40 feet wide (one oneitherside of the railway), the embankment to be water resisting, with slopes of 3 to 1 and 2 to 1 inner and outer respectively, and a waterproof core of puddled clay or concrete:
The discharge notch is to be constructed of concrete, placed immediately in front of the bridges, to have a length of 800 feet, with sufficient depth of notch to discharge flood -waters without appreciably raising the water level of the Upper Lake.
It would appear that the cost, as nearly as can be estimated without the assistance of finished drawings, would be as follows: -
That is the estimate for the bridge and doing the necessary work to make it fit to carry the railway line and traffic, according to Mr. Griffin’s plan. Dealing with the lower lake, Colonel Owen says -
This will involve the construction of a concrete dam, approximately 70 feet high, at a site directly in front of the Yarralumla homestead. The borings and levels are not sufficiently advanced to give a close estimate, but it may be taken approximately at the present stage as at least £75,000.
The above does not include any dredging, formation, of slopes, basins, or protection for banks,, which, in the absence of information as to the proposals, I am unable to estimate.
– There is a statement that Mr. Griffin’s railway runs through a deep cutting and into a deadend in the city.
– I have not time to go into that matter now. The next question to be considered is as to where the water for the lake is to be obtained. I hope honorable members will not think that I am prejudiced in this matter. It is my duty to give the House all the information I have in my possession, and the verdict must lie with honorable mem-‘ bers. It is the opinion of many persons that we shall never be able to fill those lakes-. The sooner we clear up that point the better it will be.
– Has anybody advised the Minister to that effect?
– I have not asked for advice on that point. I have said to my officers, “ Give me facts, not your opinions. I ask you, as engineers, to give me the facts concerning certain things.”
– Have the reports of your officers led you to believe that there will be a difficulty in filling the three city lakes?
– I am of opinion that there will be a difficulty, but the Public Works Committee and the House may judge for themselves. Colonel Owen’s report continues -
The approximate areas of the two proposed ornamental lakes of water are, in round numbers -
Upper Lake, 21/2 square miles.
Lower Lake, 3 square miles.
The evaporation per annum is laid down at 36 inches, of which about half would occur during three summer months.
Data Catchment Areas. - The Molonglo River at Canberra is fed by the Queanbeyan and Molonglo Rivers. The Queanbeyan River has a catchment area above the dam site of 335 square miles, and the Upper Molonglo a catchment area of 150 square miles. The annual rainfall is low, the minimum recorded at Queanbeyan being 10.42 inches, and the minimum for the catchment areas should be stated at 12 inches.
Run-off. - The amount of run-off which can be relied upon during years of prolonged drought is low. The country is sparsely timbered, the soil is not readily absorbent on the hills, grazing and resulting stock tracks have formed small channels, which contribute to a quick delivery during heavy rains; whereas the baked and cracked soil affords no run-off when only a few points fall at a time during dry periods. A comparison between the rainfall and gauging discloses that the run-off has been as low as from 8 per cent to 5 per cent. It would be unwise to assume a greater annual run-off than 5 per cent.
Stream Losses. - There are stream losses about and below the proposed lake sites. The gaugings at Queanbeyan, when correlated with those of the Molonglo (near Yarralumla dairy) disclose a 20 per cent, falling off when the latter is flowing at 15,000,000 gallons per diem.
Hydraulic Deductions. -
The volume of water which would fall on the two catchment areas during a. year of lowest rainfall would be 80,000,000,000 gallons; the run-off would be, say, 4,000,000,000 gallons.
The evaporation over the area of the impounding, basins of the Queanbeyan and Molonglo, assuming this area at 11/2 square miles, would be, in round numbers, 800,000,000 gal- lons. Thus the volume available for flow for compensating rivers and lakes would be 3,200,000,000 gallons.
The evaporation over the Upper and Lower Lakes, assuming the areas thereof at 51/2 square miles, would be 2,650,000,000 gallons per annum.
The volume which would be contained in the Upper and Lower Lakes, assuming an average of 20 feet deep all over, would be 20,000,000,000 gallons.
The seepage and river losses cannot be assumed at less than 10 per cent of the volume discharged from the impounding basis.
Requisite Flow. - My opinion is that the average flow of compensating waters at the junction of the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee should be 10,000,000 gallons per diem ; thus the discharge from the dams, Rivers Queanbeyan and Molonglo, irrespective of volume required to meet lake evaporation, should be 11,000,000 gallons per diem, or 4,000,000,000 gallons per annum.
The flow into the Upper Lake must, however, provide also for evaporation at the rate of 2,650,000,000 gallons per annum - thus the total flow per annum from the two dams for compensating water and to make good evaporation should be -
Evaporation losses, 2,650,000.000 gallons per annum.
Stream losses, 4,000,000,000 gallons per annum.
Total losses, 6,650,000,000 gallons per annum.
As against these figures the average total annual flow which can be counted upon during years of minimum rainfall from the two dams is 3,200,000,000 gallons.
In making the foregoing computations, I have regarded it as a cardinal principle that they should be based on not greater than the minimum recorded rainfall and stated data for run-off.
My deductions are that, if it is accepted that during protracted droughts there shall not be a fall in the lake levels, and that a compensating river flow of at least 10,000,000 gallons must be maintained in the lower reaches of the Molonglo, the Queanbeyan and Molonglo Rivers cannot be regarded asa satisfactory source of water supply for all the proposed lake area.
I do not think the House will desire me to enlarge now my own opinions on the matter. I ask the House to refer the question to the Works Committee, which has already done excellent work, and when the Committee have the matter before them they can call any evidence they desire and obtain opinion from any railway engineer or civil engineer they choose. I am grateful that the House recently created such a Committee, because, ifit had not been in existence, I should have felt it my duty to report to my colleagues the absolute necessity of getting reports from my own engineering officers, possibly with” assistance from engineers outside, in order to give the information that I am giving to the House to-night. 1 have nothing further to add. I ask honorable members to agree to the motion, and when we get the report of the Committee we shall, in the words of my honorable friend, the honorable member for Eden- . Monaro, be in the way to “ get a move on.” We cannot get any move on until we have settled the engineering difficulty that is the keystone to the building of the city of Canberra. When the route of the proposed railway is settled, when we discover whether we have sufficient water for the three lakes, or whether we shall have to cut one out, we shall be able to proceed. It is not for me to suggest anything to the House. It is for the House, on the report of the Committee, to form their own opinion; though I shall, in due time, when I have received the report, be able to submit such proposals to the Cabinet as will, I trust, meet what is the object we have in view.
.- I think it is quite clear to every one on both sides of the House that, unless we can get something like finality in regard to this question of the plan, we might as well tear up all we have done in thepast. I regret, more than anything else that fell from the Minister to-night, the manner in which he referred to the plan which was chosen by the representatives of Australia years ago as the best plan submitted as the result of a great competition.
– The Civil Engineer would not agree.
– What did the Minister say? He said that a man who was a minority on the Committee - and the very reason there were three men on the Committee was that a consensus of opinion might be obtained - would not vote for such a plan because, suggested the Minister, he did not wish his engineering name and reputation to be associated with such a scheme.
– I said no engineer would.
– I venture to say this - and I think I am guessing on a much surer foundation than the Minister was in the guesses he put forward - that that most unworthy insinuation was put into his mind by a man in his own Department whose scheme was turned down by me.
– Absolutely incorrect, and unjust f.o every man in the Department.
– Why should a Minister pay such attention to what was done under a previous Ministry years ago 1 Why should he come back now and rake up the whole question ? Why was he not prepared to accept the verdict of these three men as a fair verdict according to the plans submitted ?
– Because it is against common sense.
– It is against common .sense to make such suggestions as the one the Minister made. I do not want to import any heat into this discussion,; but I do warmly resent this effort, without any justification whatever, to drag in the name of a man who is here, and may be questioned, to make him damn, without evidence or his authority, the plan that was, until the change of Government, accepted by the House as a whole. Mr. Coane is in Melbourne. The Minister could have seen him, and if he had any evidence to give I should not have objected to the Minister producing it here.
– What right have I to go to him?
– What right have you to use his name in the way you have without going to him ? The Minister stated that this man was against the plan, and that he had no doubt he was against it because he did not wish his engineering reputation to be associated, with it.
– It does not follow that he told me so.
– I know he did not tell the Minister so ; but what I say is that it would have been a much more worthy thing for the Minister to have gone to this gentleman, and to have asked him what he did think before making an unwarranted use of his name and reputation to damn this plan. This statement of the Minister, and various other things, which crept out in the statement which he read, most of which was contained in reports by a gentleman who was the strongest advocate of the departmental plan that I turned down, seem to me to show an inclination on the part of the Minister to tear up all that has been done, and to start afresh in the matter of plan-making.
– Absolutely no.
– Is this a proposal to turn down the first-prize plan?
– I can only assume, from the Minister’s introductory speech, that he wants the plan turned down.
– I do not. I want the engineering difficulty to be settled.
– The Minister stated as his opinion that the reason the third man voted against this plan was because, as an engineer, he did not wish to be associated with a “wild-cat” scheme.
– That is my belief.
– Yet he says he does not want the plan to be set aside, but that he will bring it forward whenever he gets the opportunity. I say it is about time we came to grips with- this matter. I believe myself that the plan is entirely satisfactory, but if I wanted evidence against it I should not go to men who had prepared another plan, and who are burning with a sense of injustice at having it set aside.
Let me deal with one or two matters before I deal with the details of the Minister’s statement. Let me take the plan submitted here. We have heard a lot about this, that, and the other from Mr. Hobler, a railway engineer - the second railway engineer in the Commonwealth service - and not a town planner. This gentleman was asked to say where he thought the city railway should go.
– That is right. I asked him.
– And the Minister has stated that in asking him he gave the instruction that “unless there are. particular railway difficulties that cannot be got over” - I am not using the Minister’s exact words, but I think this is the sense of his instruction - “I want you to avoid all tunnels and all open cuttings in the railway that is to be established.”
– Quite right.
– Has the Minister, then, become a town planner all of a sudden ? This new town planner tells us that the reason he wants this railway brought in above ground is that he feels it is a cardinal necessity in entering a town that :t should be possible to see it out of the railway carriage!
– You seem to want a twopenny tube.
– The finest feature of this city is going to be Parliament House., and if the standard of satisfactory townplanning is going to be as suggested, that the city must be seen as it is entered, I submit to the honorable gentleman that he ought to carry the railway right in front of the facade of Parliament House, though he would by that, ruin the city and make it a laughing-stock for all time. The Minister further stated that great expense would be incurred in making tunnels ; but he did not state what is obvious to every elementary student of town planning, that if you are planning a railway through a city where you are eventually going to make roads, it would pay to build your railways in cuttings, because then you would save -money -on every crossing that you would otherwise have to make across the railway. Instead of having to lift the roads up, and naturally add to the cost of the roads, and also’ to the trational road cost .for all time, instead of having to make steep and ugly gradients, it would be cheaper, at the outset, to put the railway into a place where it would serve its purpose of quick transit ^without interfering with any of the .functional uses of the city. It is not only a matter of aesthetics ; it is a matter of making us© of the city you are creating; and you cannot make full use of your city if you commence by building a railway which cannot be easily crossed My honorable friend, as town-planner, gave certain definite instructions to Mr. Hobler, and Mr. Hobler, as a gentleman who in the whole of his useful life has never given a thought to the subject of town-planning, has drawn up a scheme, which is now to be submitted to the Committee, in regard to the railway service.
– He was asked, as a railway engineer, to report.
– Mr. Hobler has never given any consideration to this matter of town -planning, and I think it stands to his credit that, in giving his opinion to the Minister, ‘he is careful to state that it is purely a railway opinion, and must not be taken as a town-planning opinion at all.
– Do you know that Mr. Hobler was one of the most successful engineers in Queensland-1!
– I quite admit the usefulness of his life, and the efficiency of his service; but he is not a town-planner, however valuable his .services may be asa railway engineer.
– Do you know a townplanner who is a civil engineer?
– I know that townplanners have to have a working knowledge: - I will not say an expert knowledge - of a large number of different sciences.
– Jacks of all trades!
– Could we hear anything more absurd or ridiculous? We have listened to the Minister to-night quoting Colonel Owen, who is a military engineer, dealing with questions of water conservation and run-off, and I have not flung the jibe of “ jack of all trades “ at that gentleman. But when we are dealing with any other gentleman than the Minister himself, we are told that the man must necessarily be a “ jack of all trades” to occupy such a position.
I want to ask my honorable friend why he did not produce the other plans. On the only plan produced in this House, there is no sign of these proposed works by Mr. Hobler. or anybody else. There are none of the numbers and identification marks referred to in the Minister’s speech. There is the. plan of a railway, but it is not on Mr. Griffin’s own plan. I refer to the so-called “ Scrivener “ line.
– That is not his own plan. It is what he sent to me.
– I think the city railway marked on that plan is just the “ Scrivener “ line, which the honorable member for Darwin will recollect was circulated at the time the survey of the whole district was made and the original competition invited. I cannot from memory recollect any competition plans which included that railway, nor did Mr. Griffin’s plan include any railway such as that now on the plan before us. But that particular railway has -always appeared on every successive reproduction of everybody’s plan. It is the only city railway we have got on the plan submitted, and it is, I presume, drawn up according to the Minister’s idea.
Let us pass for a moment from this question of the city railway to the question of the lakes. The Minister read a report :from Colonel Owen on the question of water. He said it is a matter of vital interest to know whether the water flow from the Molonglo and Queanbeyan rivers will be sufficient to keep water in the city lakes - with a compensation weir, of course, above-andhe now professes the utmost anxiety upon that score. So far as I could ‘follow hisremarks, he seemed to show an anxiety on the part of the Director-General of Public Works on the same score.
– He was simply asked for facts, not for his opinion.
– But the facts, as quoted by this unbiased officer - the officer whose plan was turned down - seem to show that there will not be enough water for the scheme. Yet the very plan that Colonel Owen drew up and circu- lated, and that the honorable member for Darwin went into very thoroughly, provided for a water scheme, and there is practically no difference between the area covered by the scheme that Colonel Owen suggested and that of the scheme which he is now damning !
– There must be a water scheme.
– One would think so. The only difference between the two schemes in the matter of cost is in the actual formation of the city lakes. In Mr. Griffin’s plan the lakes follow a fairly regular contour; in the plan of the Departmental Board they follow every little winding and backwater that they could be manipulated into. It is a curious coincidence that the contour levels of the site of these lakes would give to them practically, without any outside work at all, the regular character that Mr. Griffin has shown in his plan. That is one evidence of the genius that underlies his work. Wherever “there is a serious objection, he has not pressed his proposal, and with one or two exceptions the actual contours permit the formation of the proposed regular lakes. A lake with a regular outline is obviously easier to keep clean than one that has a great many irregular borders, and, in my humble judgment, is ‘better looking and more in consonance with a city of pretension or one with any right to consideration as a world’s capital. Wherever you have fine architectural features, you do not attempt to blend anything in the nature of purely rural effect with a metropolitan effect. In this case the water scheme tones in with the metropolitan effect, and the lake serves as a mirror to the public buildings which are to rise tier on tier behind it, a noble cross axis of one of the finest city designs that competent designers through out the world recognise Mr. Griffin’s design tobe. I wish to ask, further, why, if -the Minister is anxious for definite information regarding the water possibilities, did not he give effect to Mr. Griffin’s recommendation, made not many months ago, that a consultative opinion should be obtained from Mr. De Burgh ?
– He has been consulted.
– He has been consulted by the engineers. His opinions are well known.
– His opinion was sought by Mr. Griffin in a special recommendation, made to the Minister not many months ago, ‘ that the advice of this expert be asked. What were we told ? The departmental file shows that the Minister’sadvisers within the Department - apart from his proper adviser on such a question, Mr. Griffin - informed him that this was no part of Mr. Griffin’s business. It was no part of his business to know whether his proposed lakes could be kept full of water, or what compensating weirs would be required !
– To the best of my belief, we have Mr. De Burgh’s opinion in theoffice.
– Then, why was it not quoted to-night? I am not throwing bricks at Colonel Owen as an engineer, or in his own sphere, but this is a matter quite outside his particular sphere. It is a new thing for him to tackle. If one had two opinions on a question like this to put to a jury - Mr. De Burgh’s or Colonel Owen’s - any one of common sense would choose Mr. De Burgh’s. Ifthe has Mr. De Burgh’s opinion in his office, whydid not the Minister produce it i Why should we not know what it is ? According to the file, Mr. Griffin asked the Minister a few months ago for a report from Mr. De Burgh as to the adequacy of the run-off water supply from the two rivers for the citylake scheme.
– To the best of my belief that was objected toon ‘the ground that we already had the information.
– No, it was objected to, as the file shows only too conclusively, because it was held to be no part of Mr. Griffin’s business to deal with that side of the question.
– He is a townplanner, not a civil engineer.
– It is a Ministerial townplanner who overrides him ! We have the Minister as the town-planner, and Lord knows what Mr. Griffin is doing in the Department now, except receiving all the kicks that they can give him. I would not have discussed the question at this juncture and in this way, but for the fact that the Minister saw fit, in his introductory remarks concerning the premisted design, to import a suspicion of the capacity that underlies the design, and generally to give a view which I think is distorted, and fair to neither the planner, the plan, nor the city that is to be. If honorable members wish these questions to be inquired into by the Works Committee, well and good, but 1 hope that the Committee in making its inquiry will remember that there has been a great deal of departmental friction.
– That is not correct.
– As truly as I stand here, I do not know anything that has happened in any Department that has given rise to more friction or personal feeling than the rejection of the plan of the departmental Board.
– That may have existed in the honorable member’s time, but it does not exist now.
– I know that it does. When Mr. Griffin came here, I invited a Board to go into his plan with him and study it, and there were signs of friction then. After they had been deliberating for weeks, Colonel Owen came to me with a statement about the city railway, and said that they were at loggerheads, and could not agree, and that if I would settle the matter for them they thought they could get on with their deliberations. I settled the matter for them on the basis of Mr. Griffin’s ideas, without seeing him. Apart from any question of aesthetics, I thought that in the long run it would be cheaper to take the roads over the railway, which was what Mr. Griffin recommended. But weeks elapsed, and nothing was done, so that eventually I had to dissolve the Board, thanking it for its efforts.
– It is essential to do first the work outside the city.
– What work?
– Water conservation and sewerage.
– The Federal buildings should have been almost in process of erection by this time. There has been nothing but delay and procrastination. Why do you want a power-house in full working order, and your water schemes practically ready to supply a working population, when you have not yet started even to get in designs for the first parliamentary building?
– You must have the water supply first.
– Of course, but no: many years before you commence the erection of any building. Colonel Owen’s plan for the progress of the works is an excellent one, but if honorable members will look at it they will see how behindhand we are with regard to the erection of the parliamentary buildings, which should be already in process of construction. Until you settle the city design, you cannot start building the Capital. Therefore, I ask that if the Public Works Committee is going into these questions it shall call its evidence as to the data and facts from outside the Department, and apply its own brains to the considerations involved, without being guided or swayed by this or. that jealous influence or testimony. I ask the members of the Committee to come to a decision with reasonable speed, and when they have done so, I shall ask the House to see that there is no more monkeying or nonsense with the design of Australia’s Federal city.
– I regret that the Minister has seen fit to introduce such a controversial question here to-night. I would not put my opinion against his.
– The honorable member is another town-planner.
– I do not know anything about it; I understand only one game. I would not put my opinion against that of the Minister on the subject of town planning. It is about thirty years since they started town planning. Prior to that, they built their cities in a slip-shod and almost indifferent fashion. The stable was put on the hill, and the house below. The pigs were above and the people beneath, and there was perfect communication between them down hill. We appointed three of the ablest men that we could obtain in Australia to judge the designs for the laying out of the Federal Capital. The Engineers Association of Australia chose as their representative their president, Alexander Smith, who is here in Melbourne to answer questions. The architect selected was Mr. Kirkpatrick, who, twenty-five years ago, when the Mutual Life Assurance Company of New York city called for a design for a building that they were going to erect in Sydney, won the prize against the competition of American architects, among others, and supervised the erection of the building. An American journal said that he was one of the greatest architects in the world.
– He is the designer of the Commonwealth Bank that is now being erected in Sydney.
– Years ago the American journals said of him that he was capable of taking his position beside McKimm, White, and Meade, of New York, and of the great firm in Chicago that stands at the head of the world. Mr. Coane was picked as a civil engineer.
– The weak point about the Board was that there was one mechanical and one civil engineer on it.
– Socrates said many centuries ago that all businesses were managed by men who had served an apprenticeship to them - except Governments, which were run by unskilled labour.
– Sometimes they are run by American bounders.
– They may be run by bounders, or they may be run by wombats ; it makes no difference. Whether they are bounders or not, they have cut their way in this life without assistance.
– So have the others.
– If the Minister wants to have a deal, he can have it: he is not going to insult me. I have not been throwing out insults to any one. The honorable gentleman is dealing now, not with the working men, but with one who can handle him if it is necessary to do so. I rose, not to take part in a row, but merely to give expression to my opinion on this subject. It seemed to me it might be thought I had taken part in a conspiracy to secure the adoption of Mr. Griffin’s design, when, as a matter of fact, it was adopted by the Cabinet.
– Hear, hear I
– I laid before the Cabinet the recommendations of the Board, with the result that Mr. Griffin’s design was accepted. A design from Finland was placed second, and another from France was third on the list.
These three premiated .designs were finally put before the Board. I gave the matter the most careful consideration before I decided to refer it to a Board. I was so anxious to get the Capital started, so that we might legislate there, that I took action. Every one was complaining - the Opposition particularly - and I wanted to do big work. That was one reason why I called the officers together, created a Board, told them to take the best out of all the designs, and to get to work. Why should the Minister cast a reflection on those honorable men ? Everything was done in the open. While I held office as Minister of Home Affairs I did nothing in secret. In fact, the complaint of my colleagues was that the Department was too open. When I took office, the Department, as described by the honorable member for Maranoa, was the fifth wheel of the Commonwealth coach; when I left it was one of the greatest Departments of the earth. Returning to the question of town planning, we know that it is only some ten or fifteen years ago that the famous Town Planning Convention met in London. The foremost town-planner in the world was sent to Manila by the Government of the United States of America to draft a scheme, and he did so. He was an engineer, an architect, and surveyor. Town planning is a comparatively recent innovation. When I was dealing with the architects, I found that they were inclined’ to confuse town planning with building construction. They seemed to think that the two were one and the same. The point that I wish to emphasize is that Mr.. Griffin is a landscape architect. The successful landscape architect must have initiative, which simply means imagination in action. He must have regard to the future, and that is exactly what Mr.. Griffin has done.
– Except that he did not. > anticipate having such a picturesque Minister in the foreground.
– Let us droppersonalities. I never attack unless I am attacked, and then I hit back heavily. We have to remember that Mr. Griffin’sreputation is at stake. He gave up a large practice in the United States of” America in order to come here to take upthis work. I think that he was foolish in. doing so. Meeting him shortly after hisarrival, I said to him, “ Why did you. leave America ? According to the American newspapers, you were inundated with business, and must have made a great sacrifice in coming here.” His reply was, ‘ ‘ I did not look at the matter from that point .of view. The ‘Capital of the Commonwealth is ‘the last great capital in the world to be built, and I would sooner have my name associated with it than all the money that Rockefeller possesses.” I confess that I could not look at the matter from that stand-point. Mr. Griffin was brought to Australia, not by me, but by the present Leader of the Opposition when he held office, and I think that he did well in inviting him here, because, after all, the man who should complete this scheme for building the Federal Capital is the man who laid its foundation. Mr. Griffin did that, and his design won for him praise all the world over. He won the competition fairly. I examined, again and again, the various designs as exhibited at Government House, but was particularly struck by that submitted by Mr. Griffin. In fact, every thinker - every man with great ideas - pointed to it. I was astonished later on to learn that it had been submitted by an American. I did not know by whom the design had been prepared. It is a wonder that some people did not say - in fact, some did - that it was a case of two Yankees working together, and that I had given the prize to Mr. Griffin. As a matter of fact, I am not a Yankee. I am a Canadian, but I found Canada so cold that, when two years old, I persuaded my mother to leave for New York. My fear is that, if we keep on interfering as we are doing with the design for the Federal Capital, we shall make a botch of the whole thing. It will be a pot-pourri - a general mess. I can see it coming. Would it not be better to appoint a Board of departmental officers, with Mr. Griffin as chairman, to deal with the whole matter? The departmental officers are able men. I think the honorable member for Wentworth will admit that there is no better staff in the world.
– Hear, hear!
– But they do not like an outsider coming in.
– Who does?
– Even we resent it here.
– Of course we ido. My honorable friend the Minister of Home Affairs has obtained the opinion of Mr. Hobler who is a ^railway engineer. I had the pleasure of appointing that officer, and know that he is -a very able engineer; but he knows as much about town planning as a bandicoot knows about the Crucifixion. I would appoint a Board of departmental officers, exclusive of the Administrator - not because he is not an able man, but because he is living in the Capital - with Mr. Griffin as chairman, giving him a casting vote, and leaving .the Board to battle out the question for themselves.
– But under the Act the matter must be referred to the Public Works Committee.
– Very well. If the Minister appointed such a Board as I have suggested he would relieve himself of much responsibility, and avoid being charged, perhaps, with the destruction of the design for a fine city. I do not imagine that I shall ever live to sit in a Parliament meeting there.
– At the present rate of progress, none of us will.
– The Minis ter is doing his best. We must not forget that he has an immense amount of work to attend to. Outsiders do not realize what a difficult job it is to control the public works of the Commonwealth. I had to hustle when I held office, and I sympathize with the Minister, because I know that it is impossible for him to please every one. We have a great opportunity to do justice to Mr. Griffin. No member of the Labour party, I hope, desires to lend himself to the ruination of a man’s reputation. That is what is involved in this ease. The successful man in America is the man who is talked about. Whatever business you do there must be done at the top. Mr. Griffin gave up a fine practice in order to come here. The American newspapers frequently made references to various plans that he was asked to prepare, but he gave up his work in that country in order to supervise the building of the Federal Capital, at a salary of £1,050. Why, I have made that much in one afternoon. I shall not tell honorable members how I made it. If, when the time for which he was appointed has -expired, he is allowed to return to the United States of America - if he is not permitted to carry out the work which he was brought out here to undertake - he will be disgraced. It will be said for all time in America that the people out here bad no confidence in him. Is it right that he should be exposed to such a charge? I -say that it is not. What would the Minister say if his son went to America under agreement with the President of the United States of America to carry out a design which he had prepared, and were treated as we are treating Mr. Griffin? Would he not say, “ Look at the way the sneaking, mean Yankees have treated my son “ ? My desire is that we shall not do unto others what we would not have others do unto us. Treat others as you expect to be treated, and you will get justice. Is it suggested that this man did not win on his merits, or that he is not an able man? Is his contract to be no more than “ a scrap of paper ?” I hope that we will not be German in this matter. Here is a man to whom we are paying £1,050 a year, but who, in his own country, could have earned £10,000 a year; and yet we are subjecting him to such treatment as may ruin his reputation both here and in America.
– I am not quite clear as to what the Minister’s intention is with regard to the whole matter. I cannot get it out of my mind that what he proposes to do is to take sections of this plan, which has already received the approval of the best architectural ability in Australia and in the world, and to re-submit it to the Public Works Committee.
– According to the Act I must take action before the money is expended.
– I do not think that the Minister is at all compelled to do that. I think he could readily submit to the Public Works Committee features of these railways which have nothing whatever to do with the plan as a whole.
– You cannot separate the work.
– Are any of us competent to adjudge the place of this railway and those lakes in the whole scheme ? I do not think there is a member of the Public Works Committee who would get up in the House and say that he is competent finally to decide these matters as relating to the whole scheme of Mr. Griffin.
– I do not think that Mr. Griffin will lose anything by the inquiry.
– I hope he will not; but it is possible that he will be lucky if he does not. I believe that the Committee will try to do justice; but is it a fair thing to keep submitting this plan to this, that, and the other Committee, after it has received the unanimous approval of the best ability of the. world? That is the point that I cannot get out of my mind. As to whether this railway ought to cost so much as is stated by the Department is a proper matter of inquiry by the Public Works Committee; but I take it that it is not the function of the Committee to decide whether this railway or the lakes shall be made in a particular place. That is settled as part of the plan, and any alteration may upset the whole scheme. I should like to be clear as to what is in the mind of the Minister in submitting this scheme to the Committee.
– Ought we not to know whether there is any water for the lakes?
– Apparently it is not desired to know whether there is any water at all ^
– I take it that Mr. Griffin has satisfied himself in regard to all these points.
– “Open your mouth and shut your eyes !”
– It is not a question of “open your mouth and shut your eyes “ ; it is a question of whether the opinion of the man who made the plan is to be taken in preference to that of the Minister, for instance. The honorable gentleman told us to-day that he instructed Mr. Hobler to sketch out a railway, and, in doing so, to avoid bridges and other works; in a word, the Minister has set himself to get Mr. Hobler to review Mr. Griffin’s plan, and to alter it in some particular. Mr. Archibald, the Minister, has said, in contradistinction to Mr. Griffin’s proposal, that there shall not be any cuttings - that there shall not be any of this, that, or the other. Upon my word, I do not know whether this is a joke or not; it certainly looks like one, when the Minister says to one of his railway officers, who has never been a town-planner, and never pretended to be one, “ Go and upset this plan, and put the railway where Mr. Griffin does not want it >to be.” Is ‘that the way to get a city planned and built on the most up-to-date principles? If the Minister is going to interfere with the plan, I submit that the House ought seriously to take tb whole matter into consideration. The Minister has told us that he instructed Mr. Hobler to alter this plan of Mr. Griffin, in so far as it relates to railway construction. I am amazed to hear the Minister make the statement that he has taken this step. What does he know about the plan? Just about as much as I do. and that is very little. It would be the last thing I should dream of, to instruct an engineer to interfere in this way with an expert’s work.
– You would not allow the public money to be spent unless you knew how it was to be spent. That is only common sense.
– This “ common sense “ of the Minister will be the death of him yet. He keeps calling out “ common sense” on the least provocation.
– What we require is uncommon sense.
– If you keep calling out a thing often enough, people begin to believe it.
– Exactly. My point is that there is nothing now to be done at the Capital except to get on with the building. If there are suggestions which are thought to be of advantage, let them be submitted to Mr. Griffin, who, I am sure, will always be ready to consider them. The papers clearly show that the Minister now keeps Mr. Griffin at arm’s length, and will not permit him to come nearer.
– The papers show it, sir ! The Minister is treating Mr. Griffin as no man ought to be treated who has come here for the special purpose of seeing a great design faithfully carried out. Mr. Griffin was brought here to overlook the working of his own plan - to study his plan on the spot, and see if any improvements could be made. The object is not to buy a plan all complete and ready from A to Z, for all time to come, but to get the services of a man who has a plan in his mind, and, studying it on the spot, may be able to suggest improvements for the beautification of the city. What the Minister ought to do is to get Mr. Griffin a little nearer to him, because the papers show that Mr. Griffin is not being given a fair deal at the present time. The papers show that Mr.
Griffin has all the work he knows to get the requisite labour to carry out his plans. Only just recently, I believe, his. best man has been taken away from him..
– I did hot take him. away; he belonged to the AttorneyGeneral.
– The fact remains that this man has gone away.
– Do not blame me!
– The Minister could have kept him there if he tried.
– I do not see it.
– Did you try?
– I do not see why I should have interfered.
- Mr. Griffin’srighthand draughtsman has been sent away from him, and he has now to hunt for another. Men cannot be trained for work like this in a day or a week or twoMr. Griffin is not getting a fair deal from the Minister. This assistant draughtsman ought to have been retained; and . such treatment is not fair to Mr. Griffin, to the Capital City, or the House, or the country. If I were the Minister, I should get those able, practical officers of his together with Mr. Griffin - I have done tougher jobs than that myself - and see what could be done. The Minister could get Colonel Owen and the others-
– There is no prejudice on the part of the officers.
– With great respect, I must say that, if the Minister talks like that, I am afraid he knows nothing whatever about the matter.
– I have no prejudice in the matter. What motive could I have ?
– I am not suggesting any motive, but I regret that I do suggest a want of appreciation of the real position. I suggest to the Minister that he ought not to lead men on to tinker with this plan, which has been approved, as I have said, by the best architectural ability in the world. Why should people who do not understand it, and do not even pretend to understand it, be asked to suggest features of which Mr. Griffin does not approve, but which, in his opinion, would upset the whole scheme? Mr. Griffin ought to be kept to look after his plan most jealously, and all the engineering ability at our disposal ought to be devoted to helping that gentleman with the greatest cordiality, in order that the $>lan of the city may be put into execution at the earliest possible moment.
.- I hope there will be no misunderstanding of what is being referred to the Public Works Committee. To me the resolution appears rather wide, because what is referred to the Committee is “ City railway and dams for ornamental waters.” If the question were whether the city railway should be an underground or an overground railway, we could understand such a question being referred to the Committee, in order that the evidence of experts might be obtained. But when we come to the question of the ornamental lakes, what have the Committee to decide ? Is the Public Works Committee to decide whether this scheme shall or shall not be struck out of the plan altogether?
– I think the honorable member will see that, as these works are not going to be carried out next year, or the year after, the opinion of the Public Works Committee is not sought on the ground on which it usually is.
– I understand that the Minister is anxious to push on with the work, and desires to have some data in his own mind before he does 30. I am prepared to take the honorable gentleman’s assurance that he is desirous of getting on with the work.
– All the data is in the Department.
– The lakes, however, are a different matter. I desire as a friend to assure the Minister that if there is misapprehension in the minds of honorable members as to what is to be done by the Works Committee in this matter, if we find later on that the Works Committee is being set up in judgment over the expert Board which decided that Mr. Griffin’s plan was the best, and that it was feasible, and if we find that this reference to the Works Committee is only a means of delaying the matter, and that later on we are to be asked to sanction the calling for fresh designs, there will be trouble in this House.
– My idea is that if we get the report of the civil engineers, Mr. Griffin may be able to modify his plan in conformity with the engineers’ opinions.
– I doubt if there is any authority in Australia who would get himself up above Mr. Be Burgh, of
New South Wales, and we can obtain his opinion. It is not a difficult matter to ascertain what water flows down these water-courses.
– I have given you the data.
– 1 have no doubt that all the data that could be obtained -is available, and it is a simple matter to obtain from an expert like Mr. De Burgh his professional assurance that there is or is not sufficient water to fill those lakes as is proposed by Mr. Griffin. In Mr. Alexander Smith, President of the Engineers’ Association; Mr. Kirkpatrick, of New South Wales; and Mr. Coane, the Victorian engineer, we had a Board of three experts who adjudicated on the plans for the lay-out of the Federal City, and an engineer of Mr. Alexander Smith’s standing would not acquiesce in the award of the first prize to a plan which included something which was not practicable. Surely even the most raw of novices, if asked to adjudicate on a plan for a city, would seek authoritative opinions as to whether the different features in the plans could be given effect to. At first I though, that the Minister was taking the right, course, but as the debate has proceeded a doubt has arisen in my mind as to what is to be done about one of the principal features of the scheme. I object to the Works Committee being utilized for a purpose for which it was not constituted. Already the Committee has been sent to the Small Arms Factory to determine a question of administration under the Defence Department, a work which it was not brought into existence to do.
– And the Committee did good work.
– If a Committee is required for a special work, let us create a special Committee for the purpose. In regard to the matter now under discussion, I would like to be clear as to what is in the mind of the Minister. To refer this matter to the Works Committee without the Committee having an opportunity of knowing what the House desires it to investigate is to give it too large a charter, and to set it up as an adjudicating authority on a matter which was decided long ago. If the designs for the Federal Capital had just been received, I would not mind to what Committee they were submitted for adjudication, because any Committee could call expert evidence.
– The estimate of the cost of the railway and of the cost of the bridges must be considered.
– Then why not say to the Committee, “ What we wish you to do is <to give us an estimate of the cost of the city railway and of the bridges “ ? Such a reference would be all right, but I am troubled in my mind as to what is to be done in regard to the ornamental lakes. What has the Committee to report about? I know that there are members of the Committee who are just as concerned in this matter as I am, and I have no doubt they will be very careful; but it seems to me that we may have a good deal of delay, that fresh doubts may be created, and that this reference may be the beginning of a fresh agitation to call for further designs.
– Oh, no.
– If this is some scheme on the part of the departmental officers to win, tie, or wrangle-
– That is absolutely incorrect ; I give you my assurance. You can remove that idea from your mind. All that is possible is that Mr. Griffin may be asked to modify his plan.
– I have the greatest respect for the officers in the Works Department. I believe them to be the ablest men in the Commonwealth Service.
– They have no more prejudice against Mr. Griffin than I have.
– I am not so sure of that.
– I know that to be so.
– We know what is the attitude of departmental officers when an outsider is introduced to take any hand in -work with which they are dealing. They resent such a thing, and I think the tendency is fop them to combine amongst themselves to down the outsider. However, I infer from the interjections of the Minister that he is alive to the seriousness of this aspect of the question, and I am prepared to take his assurance- that he has satisfied himself that the reference of these works to the Public Works Committee is not prompted by any such feeling.
– I give you my assurance on that point.
– Will you be prepared to go ahead with these works when the Committee has reported?
– Within the next twelve months, I hope. I desire to get. on with the works.
– With that assurance I am perfectly satisfied. I will takethe Minister’s word until I find that he iswrong. I know that there will be a great, deal of friction caused in the House if it. is discovered that any underhand dealing; has been in progress.
– Take the plan as itstands, and assume that the House and the country want it.
– I am satsfied with that statement.
– It seems to me that we are giving too much consideration to Mr. Griffin and the departmental officers and not sufficient consideration to the Capital city. I infer from the wording of the motion that the Minister proposes to refer the plans to the Works Committee, so that they may call professionalmen to give evidence, which will clear his mind in regard to certain matters which have been brought under his notice. I have heard from the Minister, and it is common talk, that there is not sufficient water to keep the proposed ornamental lakes full.
– That is my opinion.
-I am sure the Minister would not offer that opinion unless he had good grounds for it. Therefore, he is quite right in taking every precaution to reassure himself on that point before making any start with these works. On the other hand, I have heard talk of the creation of the largest lake in Australia.
– We have nothing to do with that.
– I hope the reference of this matter to the Works Committee does not mean delay, because I warn the Minister that if there is delay there will be trouble for him.
– It does not mean, delay; it means speed.
– We want to see more speed in connexion with this matter. I have no feeling for or against Mr. Griffin or the officers of the Department, but we should be assured that nomistake has been made as regards the details of the- railway. For instance, it has been said that the railway as designed by-
Mr. Griffin will go into the city through a big cutting and a tunnel.
– That is correct.
– Well, I object to going into the Capital city of the Commonwealth by a railway through a cutting, and a tunnel, and landing at a dead-end. We want a railway that will go in and out and will enable us to see where we are going to.
– That is my opinion.
– We want a railway such as those they have in Italy, from which you can see the great buildings and everything for miles around. We should have the same opportunity at Canberra ; we do not require any tunnels.
– That is only on the actual site. Outside the city, it will be just as in Borne, which you are talking about.
– It would be a great pity to take the railway into the city to a dead-end, and I understand the Minister says that Mr. Griffin’s railway plan shows the terminal station 2 miles from Parliament House. As a layman, I protest against that. It is too far to walk.
– That is right.
– No doubt Mr. Griffin has some good reason for it, but we want to know what the reason is. I support the Minister’s action, because we might as well refer this matter to the Public Works Committee as to any Committee, and we will get the evidence upon which we can form our judgment. I hope, however, that the motion does not mean delay. I notice that the Minister has promised clearly that he is going on with these works within twelve months. I would commend to him the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition that he should get a little closer to Mr. Griffin. That Mr. Griffin is a great man is proved by his plans. I know the Minister pretty well, and occasionally I take him to account, because I think it is necessary, but I feel confident that he is not prejudiced against Mr. Griffin.
– Absolutely not.
– I hope, then, that he will adopt the suggestion of the Leader of” the Opposition, and bring Mr. Griffin and the departmental officers a little closer to himself, so that order may be evolved out of chaos. It is many years since we settled this Capital question, and though I am not as young as some honorable members, T hope to have a seat in the Parliament House at the Capital. But we must get a move on. I hope to see the Parliament House there within five years, and it seems to me that there should be no difficulty about that. Colonel Vernon, the late Government Architect of New South Wales, I believe, said the whole thing could be erected so that we could meet there in two years’ time.
– He was dreaming.
– The whole of the blame for the delay cannot be laid at the door of the present Minister, and since the matter is to be referred to this Committee, I am prepared to take the Minister’s assurance.
– The one thing to do is to stop this friction.
– It seems that some one in the Department is blocking Mr. Griffin all the time.
– That might be so, but it might be just as true to say that Mr. Griffin is blocking some one in the Department. I know Colonel Miller and Colonel Owen very well, and although I have had occasion in this House to criticise them, I believe they are two splendid officers; and if I wanted any. work done for myself, there is no one I would sooner see intrusted with it than those officers. No doubt there is something in the contention that the officers in the Department resent the introduction of an outsider, and probably, on the other hand, an outsider would resent the criticism of an officer of the Department. The Minister is showing earnestness in this matter; and I ask him now will he accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition and try to bring Mr. Griffin closer to him, and so stop this trouble? Will he tell the House that?
– Yes; undoubtedly I will.
– In view of the assurance of the Minister, I think we have achieved something by this debate. If we can bring Mr. Griffin, Colonel Owen, and Colonel Miller together to work without friction, we will soon get to business. I hope that, as the result of this motion, we will see the city connected up by railway. Will the Minister give me his assurance that the railway from Yass via Canberra to Jervis Bay will be undertaken ?
– There is not the slightest doubt that that will be the first railway to be built.
– I am pleased to hear that ; and I hope the Minister will immediately get a move on. It seems we will have to make this Capital question a party issue; we will then be sure of progress.
– Do you propose that the Committee should interfere with the plans?
– No; but if Mr. Griffin has made a mistake in the details of the railway and the dam. it is the duty of the Minister to tell the House so, because, after all, the House is the final court of arbitration.
– Will the honorable member tell us whether there is enough water in the Molonglo River for the dam ?
– If there is not, the Snowy River and other sources could be tapped. I hope the Minister will adopt the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition. We” want to see the plan carried out; and although I am anxious for an early start, I recommend the Minister not to rush in and do something which might prove to be a serious mistake. The Minister should exercise every care and precaution. I am obliged to him for his promise that a start will be made within twelve months. When all this is done, we shall soon be able to get out of Melbourne. Speaking as a New South Welshman, I can only say that the Victorian people have treated us well while we have occupied this magnificent building free of rental; and it is perhaps rather hard to meet some of the nasty remarks that are occasionally made by foolish members. Victoria has treated us well, and we want to take its members up to Canberra as quickly as possible, and treat them there as well as we have been treated here. . Question resolved in the affirmative.
Allowances and Pensions op Dependants of Soldiers - Turkish Outbreak at Broken Hill: Payment of Pensions and Allowances - Pay of Guards of Convalescents. Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Assistant Minister of Defence the case of a lady who has been unfortunate enough to lose her son at the front. Her position is this: She has been informed by the Department that she is not entitled to an pension on the ground that she was not a total dependant upon her son’s earnings during the past twelve months. Her husband is an invalid. There are four children going to school, and two daughters at home out of employment, so that there is not a single member of the family earning a penny. The main support of the family for some years was the deceased boy, who was employed in the State service. Whilst he has been away, he has left an allowance of 5s. per day to his mother, and that money was paid right up to the date of his death. The Paymaster, in informing her that she was entitled to no further compensation for the reason I have stated, said that his decision was based strictly upon the regulation now in operation. If there is such a regulation, the quicker it is altered the better, so that we may be able to give justice to many other mothers who may probably find themselves in exactly the same position as the unfortunate woman whose case I have just related, who was told that she was not entitled to any money because during the preceding twelve months she had received some portion of her daughters’ earnings. There is also another matter: For some time past the authorities have handed to soldiers going to the front a declaration, one of the clauses in which is to the effect that the man signing makes himself responsible for the statement that he has or has not supported his wife and children for the past twelve months. The case brought under my notice is as follows: A man had not supported his wife and children for the twelve months prior to his going to the war. He admitted that he had not been doing the fair thing, but he enlisted, and on doing this resolved to do the fair thing, or at least to do all that he could. He signed the form without paying too particular attention to its contents, and when his wife went for her separation allowance, under the rule brought into operation on 1st May, she found it was denied her on the ground that her husband had not supported her during the previous twelve months.
– That won’t stand; you need not worry about that.
– This system is in operation now, and an injustice is being done to many wives’ and children whose husbands desire to do the fair thing now, whatever they did before.
– I decided that question the other day. The thing shall not stand.
– I am glad to hear that; and I hope the other matter in regard to the pension will receive the closest attention from the Minister.
.- It is not often that I have anything to say on the motion for the adjournment of the House, but I desire to bring a matter under the notice of the Assistant Minister of Defence. On 1st January last, two or three people were killed and some injured at Broken Hill by a number of Turks, and the request was made that these people should be brought under the war pensions scheme. The Government agreed. They might have raised objection, and said that the matter should have been dealt with by the State Government, or that the police ought to have looked after the affair more thoroughly; but they did not take that stand. They agreed to pay the relatives of those who were killed, and the injured, a war pension. So far as I can gather, that pension has not been paid yet, though it is now the 24th June. I have inquired several times, and have been told that the matter ‘ was being investigated. The last information I could get was from the Pensions Board, which informed the Military Department that the pension was to be paid. This Department wanted to know where it was going to get the money from. The Treasury replied that the payment would be all right. Then I heard that on the 31st May the Commandant in South Australia was advised by the Defence Department to pay. I have been waiting to know whether the money has been paid or not. The news I received over a week ago from Broken Hill was that, so far as they could gather, the money had not’ been paid. I was told in the Defence Department over a week ago that a telegram had been sent from the Department to the Commandant in South Australia inquiring whether the money had been paid, but I cannot get any information. I telephoned again to the Department this morning, and was told that no reply had even been received from the Commandant.
– The Department here has done all that it can do in the- matter.
– I think not. If it is a fact, as I was told, that a telegram was sent away to the Commandant last Thursday or Friday, and no reply has yet been received, I think that the Central Administration ought to shake things up. Possibly the money may have been paid, but I cannot get any information from the Department here. I said to the officers at the Department, “ If I cannot have the thing done, I will bring the matter before the House.” I submit that people who were injured, and those whose friends were killed on the 1st January at Broken Hill, are entitled to a pension, and that they ought to have got it by this time. If it takes six months in this case, I want to know how long it will take to get a pension for the dependants of men who have “been killed in Gallipoli. The War Pensions Act is administered by the Defence and the Treasury Departments. I am in favour of handing over the sole administration to the Commissioner for Old-age Pensions. The Board at the present moment is different from the Old-age Pensions Board. There are the representatives of the Defence Department and the representatives of the Treasury Department on the Board, which means that a person has to deal with two Departments. It is bad enough when a man is dealing with one Department; but when he has to deal with two Departments the position is absolutely hopeless, because one Department always says that the fault lies with the other Department. With one Department there is a little hope of being able to do something; but when there are two one tries to put the responsibility on to the other. If the Government introduce some amendments to the War Pensions Act, I hope that one of them will be to abolish the dual control, and to place the administration of the Act under one Department.
– The first business to-morrow will be the consideration of the Estimates of the PostmasterGeneral.
I wish to inform the honorable member for Barrier that special consideration was given to the cases of those who suffered from the unfortunate attack made by certain Turks against citizens of New South Wales in Broken Hill. . It took a ‘considerable time to ascertain what the losses were, and who were entitled to compensation.
– I do not suppose that they were entitled to it at all.
– That is not the point. The Government considered that matter, and came to the conclusion that, as the unfortunate deaths and injuries arose out of the war, we would not be trespassing too far if we granted them compensation.
– It did not arise out of the war, but out of a breach of the peace.
– The right honorable member may be quite right on that aspect of the question; but it would involve no great stretch of the imagination for a legal member to say that these Turks thought that we were the enemy of their country, and that, as war had broken out, they were entitled to attack our people.
– I am not objecting at all. ‘
– I think that the mind of the people of Australia is that compensation should be given; and it was allotted. The fact that it has not been paid-
– I do not say that it has not been paid. I cannot get any information from the Department here.
– I regret that very much, and ask the honorable member to interrogate me about the matter before the House meets again. The money ought t)0’ have been paid.
– The Department here say that they sent authority to the Commandant on the 31st May.
– I thank the honorable, member for bringing up the case, and will take the responsibility if the money is not paid within a very few days. One: of the points raised by the honorable member for Fawkner is important. What he states is quite in agreement with what I think is equity and justice. The mere fact that a husband has treated his wife not as he ought to have done is no justification for her being afflicted and wronged by the State.
– Why was the regulation allowed ?
– The honorable member has been in Parliament long enough to kuow that even the most enlightened Legislatures lay down principles which will not stand a test immediately they are put in operation. I anticipated the honorable member some days ago, when the question came up, and arrived at the decision that it is not equity or justice, but gross wrong, to say that a wife, because she has not been supported by herhusband prior to his going to the war, ought to be deprived of her rights as a wife on the loss of the husband at the front. Therefore she will not suffer; nor will any of the man’s dependants. I think that the Government agree, and I believe that Parliament will agree, that the pension should be given as a right, not as a privilege, to the next of kin. That is the decision of the Government. There will be anomalies, in spite of all that we can do. Every Minister will find at times that we have not had .sufficient foresight to anticipate every difficulty that arises; but cases will be met liberally and equitably, always leaning towards those who are dependants or in need. Of course, we must have regulations; otherwise there would be no end to the difficulties; and we might have the same trouble as obtains in the United States. However disagreeable it may be, it will be the bounden duty of the Minister administering the Act not to; try to gain public favour by yielding in principle in these matters.
– What about the second case I mentioned?
– If the honorable member will put that case, which is rather a more subtle one, before me exactly as I heard him state part of it, I will go into it and get a decision, and action will betaken speedily. I invite honorable members generally to kindly put any cases before me, as Treasurer;, and if a. question of policy is involved in a case, I will bring it before the Ministry and get the case settled. There are sure to be dozens of cases arisingwhich could not be foreseen, but a spirit of equity and justice will be the policy of the Government in this matter, and I think it will be approved by Parliament.
.- May I put to the Assistant Minister of Defence a case which came under my notice last week, and which, although it has been rectified in New SouthWales, may possibly not. have been rectified in other State’s? Owing to the loose way in which a notification was received from the BaseRecords Office in Egypt, a number of men who went to Malta from Egypt, as a guard to convalescent soldiers, were struck off the lists in the pay office, and their dependants were refused their pay for a very considerable period. The notification from Egypt was a list of the men embarked at Alexandria and struck off the strength, and to the pay officers it appeared that they had been dismissed, and consequently the pay of their dependants was stopped. The dependant of one of these men who brought the matter under my notice last week had received letters from her son, who was then at Malta.
– Has the honorable member sent in the names of those concerned ?
– I have had the matter righted, so far as New South Wales is concerned, and I direct attention to it now because probably the same error has been made in connexion with men from the other States. As soon as the New South Wales Pay Office realized that a bungle might have been made, the Central Office was approached, but a decision was not forthcoming, and when I had pointed out the facts to the pay officer in Sydney, he rose to the occasion, and said that he would put back the names on the pay-sheet without further waiting on the Central Office. I think the Prime Minister will agree that that was the right thing to do. I ask the right honorable gentleman if he will see that, not merely the embarkation of soldiers is notified, but that it shall also be shown whether the mennamed have sacrificed their rights, so that an injustice of the kind mentioned ‘ may not be repeated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.57p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 June 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150624_reps_6_77/>.